Lily was excellent at flying. Better than me, at least. She said it was because I taught her well, but also because she had a bit of time to go through the theory before actually starting. We flew almost sideways over her home, her dad waving at us, before finally ascending towards Valand. As we ascended, I noticed my breath getting shorter.
— Is the air always so thin up here?, Lily asked.
— I had never noticed it before. Either it’s better up the mountain, or you’ll get used to it.
— If you say so…
I was beginning to become antsy. Not much longer, and I’d be home again. We now were at the height of Valand. I warned Lily that there are winds coming from below towards the edge, and just as I said that, we were lifted upwards, just like it was when I started. Lily quickly nosed down, and I caught a glimpse of the edge. The steam boat still was there, so the Captain still hadn’t given up his search. I decided to keep quiet, I wanted to go straight back home, instead of getting scolded by him.
— That’s my city, I cried and pointed towards it in the distance. It was remarkably clear today.
— It’s huge!
— It’s smaller than I thought! It feels bigger when you’re actually inside it!
— Where do I land?
— Wherever there’s a road and few enough people around.
I realized too late that Lily was headed straight to the pompous palace road. Sure, it was mostly empty, but the guards were probably not too happy about having to duck under our wings, and unhappy guards aren’t something you want against you. We finally came to a stop and Lily turned off the engine.
— Hey Dave, I greeted one of the guards storming towards us.
— What in the..? You’re back so quickly? What happened to the crew?
I told the story, first to the guards, then to the king, then to my parents and grandpa. The king was delighted to learn that not only did we find a way beyond the edge, but also found a convenient method to trade with it. My entire family henceforth would be part of nobility, though Lily and me weren’t allowed to live a lazy life just yet – we first had to build a bunch flying machines. Lily in particular would later fly the king to visits of the various lower kingdoms, always making sure to stay low when passing her home village.
As for me, I became an inventor. Always making new things to improve efficiency of processes, because even though we had a whole new world to exploit, resource exhaustion still was a problem, especially now that our fuel was made out of plants that otherwise would become food.
I hope you had fun reading this short story. However, I’m interested in improving, so I’ve collected some criticism both from me and from others.
1. The protagonist is rather forgettable
I think I agree with this. I originally wanted to make them genderless (you know, “I” can be anyone! even you!), but by doing so also made them somewhat characterless. And with the plot going on to let the protagonist find a girlfriend, it’s very probable we’re dealing with a male protagonist anyways, so I completely undermined the first idea anyway
2. My world building is rather weak
I think this is partially because English still is a foreign language to me, so I don’t know the best words. Maybe I should ask Trump if I can buy some of his. Further, I spend too little time on it. For example:
I had forged my fair share of custom tools in the factory, from the smallest springs to the biggest wrench, but I always had access to the never-ending power of steam. Ralph had his right arm. Well, he also had his left arm, a hammer and an anvil, but all in all, if he wanted a piece of metal to be flat, he couldn’t just plop it into a steam hammer and wait for a couple seconds or minutes, he had to work it flat, by hand, and re-heat it often. (Chapter 5)
This part is meant to convey to the reader that in Valand, industrialization is going on while in Greenland, it’s still all muscle power. (I do think the joke in it worked. I’ve written it so long ago, it completely caught me off guard this morning while I was reading through it again)
To make things worse, I did say in the beginning that industrialization is restricted in Valand , so we don’t even know if blacksmiths up there are using hand power usually. Overall, I think my approach this time (write first, think later) hindered me worldbuilding properly. On the other hand, it did allow me to write the story remarkably quickly. I could’ve fixed this in post, writing beautiful and consistent descriptions after the story was done, but I kinda just wanted to get it out.
3) The logo looks like smash bros, and way too clean.
Firstly, it looks like my brand identity, thank you very much, and secondly, I think both me and Smash bros ultimate try the same thing here, showing sunrise from the ISS. In my case, it symbolizes the edge of the world, in SSBU, it symbolizes the world as a whole.
That said, my Logo thingy was thrown together in 15 minutes. Had I wanted to execute my other idea, a view from Valand over the lower lands, I’d have to spend quite some time in Blender making it work. Time which I didn’t have this time around, because there was a deadline. So, have the logo thingy one last time:
4. I’m jumping around somewhat and not bringing ideas to their end.
In particular, in chapter 5 there’s a bit where the protagonist is fixing the machine, and the smith is pleased with the progress. Alice says it’s confusing the smith would say that when they just had started.
In that particular case, I’d agree, I did have a note there this morning saying [[MORE]], but left it as that, so that part was plain laziness. I don’t know if this a problem on a larger scale. Because, I do intentionally jump to skip boring bits, especially between chapters. I kinda write them like L-cuts, with a brief summary of what we as readers missed in the beginning
The question is whether this is as annoying as a jump cut, or not too noticeable like an L-cut.
I think it flows pretty well and is easy to read, but again, I don’t necessarily have the right feeling for the language. It also yelled at me for not using subheadlines everywhere, and for using the same sentence beginnings when I used repetition as stylistic device.
I did not follow Vogler’s Hero’s Journey.
If we take the city episode as approach to the inmost cave and the ordeal as per Vogler, it’s a bit weird that the protagonist gets no reward immediately, and instead Lily is both reward and road back much later on. If (as I originally intended) take the path to the volcano as approach to the inmost cave, it’s lacking a fight between good and evil (ie the ordeal) altogether.
Either way, I break with this scheme further by having the resurrection before the road back.
I did not follow Swain’s Scene and Sequel method
… in which characters have a goal, followed by a conflict, followed by disaster, all of which is the scene, ie the part where the plot develops, followed by reaction, dilemma and decision, ie the part where the character and story develops. I think my character could’ve been deeper if I had used it more.
I dislike my dialogues.
I just default to one character asking all the time and the other answering the questions. I tried to get away from this as often as possible, but the dialogues still feel kinda meh.
I keep shifting into indirect speech and speech summaries.
This probably is because I dislike my dialogues, so rather than improving them, I try to avoid writing them. This of course abstracts the dialogue to the point where you’re not really in the story, and instead reading the summary of the story.
The end comes by too quickly.
This of course is due to limited time and my long training with the flash fiction, which I have to bring to an end super fast when I run out of time (usually <90 mins). I had an entire segment planned with the volcano, with the protagonist meeting people there which help him sail to great heights using the volcano updrafts, followed by an air battle followed by him meeting the captain and the crew again — but all that kinda got binned because I really had to finish this. As with some of my other recent texts, because it’s part of the Creative Writing course of the IDW.
All in all, I think this story went surprisingly well, given the limited time and it being the first time I attempt something in this length. I may do more things like this in the future.
But for now, I’ll probably go back to Blender and video effects for a bit. And I need to redesign my website, too. See you in a few weeks, or a few months!
Oh, before I forget: Comments are open on this post. I typically keep them closed because I’ve gotten nothing but bots so far here, but, you know, maybe some of you would like to share their praise and criticism here. Go ahead, but note that I will keep your data with me if you do comment.