1. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    A bunch of people read The Tale of Onora

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Jack Asher, Apr 4, 2016.

    Following this thread here from--oh god--nearly a year ago, we all stood aghast as Dylan Saccoccio made an ass of himself on goodreads
    http://www.writingforums.org/threads/author-freaking-out-over-one-star-review.139643/

    Well a year later his first novel is free, so while we might find his personality objectionable, @Steerpike @Tenderiser and @Krispee have resolved to read the novel with an open mind. We'll probably read a chapter a day or week or so (no reason to rush), and post here our thoughts on what's going on.
    The novel is here if you want to read along
     
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  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Unfortunately it's £3 for UK people and I don't want to give this guy my money. :( I will watch with interest though!
     
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  3. Krispee
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    Krispee Active Member

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    Yeah, and it`s only 106 pages. Did I mention that it`s 106 pages?
    Hmm, have to try get a copy somehow.
     
  4. Krispee
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    Krispee Active Member

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    Ok, I`m a-readin`, I`ll let you know.
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe one of the members who has a copy might send you their copy? You could ask.

    Hehe I see the sci-fi dudes reading a romance and now our venture into reading Dune is spawning other cool threads like this one! I shall follow with interest too!

    @Commandante Lemming you are officially awesome for being the pioneer of threads like this :cheerleader:and @Cave Troll too - couldn't have threads like this without more than one reader after all!
     
  6. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Okay, let's start this off.
    Prologue: The Inquiries of Devils
    Oh yay, we have a prologue, the crutch of the fantasy writer. I imagine the chapter titles have to only get better from there. The title has to do with an incredibly clumsy line late in the prologue, which I'll go over later.

    Events:

    Some guy shows up at the gates of nobody cares, and trades insults with the guards, because it's a fantasy novel, and the stranger turned away at the gate is how you start things. Predictably the guy (who is only reffered to as "the cloaked figure" more on that later) is more than he seems, kills the guards, wrecks the gate and goes on to the capital of I'm not gonna write that, and wrecks more shit there.
    There's a horizontal bar at that point, that I had to figure out meant that we were in a different place in time. We find out suddenly that the "cloaked figure" had a name, because he's mentioned in passing. So whatever mystery was being preserved throughout the telling is unmasked with a simply line. There was no reason for it at all. There's a kid standing in the ruins of the capital, looking at the wreckage and...then that's it really. He goes off someplace else and the prologue is over.

    The Writing:
    Hoo'boy. It would be easy to just label this as purple prose and be done with it, but I like specifics. There will be more on this in other chapters, but let's just talk all over this writing style right now.

    For a start, there's a Homeric metaphor in the third paragraph. An actual Homeric metaphor. It's a bunch of stuff about seeds of vengeance in the soil of the soul, and gets more convoluted from there.

    In fact convoluted is the best way to describe the writing style. Saccoccio spends a great amount of time going out of his way to not describe things. Early on one of the guards the "cloaked figure" murders has his eyes pop out of his skull "like projectiles." Well if their being projected out of something aren't they, by definition, projectiles? They then "leave...streaks of slime on the surfaces they bounced off of..." What surfaces did they leave streaks of slime on? What did they bounce off of? Saccoccio goes out of his way to be vague, while at the same time attempting to detail a gory scene. Stephen King his is not.

    And the analogies are thick as a very thick thing here. After their guard buddy dies the other guards try to magic the cloaked figure to death, because why not. Actually they try to "shame the cloaked figure for his insolence..." I would want to kill him, if it was me. Again the convolution prevents Saccoccio from telling the reader simply what is happening.

    Back to analogies though, when the guards try magic their spells "disintigrated like dead dandelions losing their seeds to the wind." The cloaked figure, "closed his fists tight like a spectator celebrating a champion's victory." I know what closed fists look like, Saccoccio, I don't need an analogy to understand this concept.

    As an aside, if you use the word "massive" in any context in your work, I immediately understand that your vocabulary is very small, and you are using the first word for big that you know. But Saccoccio's vocabulary is very large, he wants you to think, so he uses as many big words as he can. Cinder falls from the sky, instead of ash, despite the fact that these are two very different things. Meteors have wakes. It's little weird uses of words that suggest that Saccoccio wrote the book with a thesaurus app open the whole time.

    And then there's the dialogue. Here's that line from which the title of the prologue is taken.

    "When the deformities of your flesh draw the inquiries of devils, I want their questions to elicit this moment for the entirety of your eternal damnation"

    People simply don't talk like that. No one has ever talked like that. There is so much going on in that sentence, it's almost impossible to deconstruct. Why is their flesh deformed? Is this something that devils ask about? That's not the way you use elicit. And "the entirety of...eternal" seems at the least excessive, and at the most double speak. It's an insult that a child would think up to through at another on the playground, after reading too much Conan.

    Thoughts:
    So far this is a collection of fantasy tropes layered on top of one another. Cloaked figure? Sure. Insolent guards? Everyone else has them. Stupid magic descriptions? Why not.

    But Saccoccio brings something new to the table, convolution and superfluous analogy. It's not a good thing to bring. I'm interested to see where this goes, after the prologue it can only improve. I hope.
     
  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I will watch this with interest as well. :D I love this kind of stuff.
     
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  8. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    No free copy for me :(
    I'm sure I could hunt one down but seems like a lot of effort for a book I refuse to support :p

    http://selfpublishersshowcase.com/dylan-saccoccio/
    Seems he is self published?
     
  9. Krispee
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    Krispee Active Member

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    Well, ok, I have read, and re-read, the first chapter. As mentioned above, pretty common use of a prologue in Fantasy. Saying that, they all seem to do it, from Tolkein to Rothfuss, so nothing new or terribly wrong with using one.

    I was going to point out that the first paragraph was not a bad start. If you removed "icy", and "nakedly", and changed "quivering" to something that emphasized that the wind really was blowing, bent say, then it isn`t a bad start. Then I looked at it again. It`s actually full of contradictory statements. You can`t have "winters breath" in one sentence, and then "blistering swells" the next. The problem is that this is a constant throughout the prologue. For me this is all about editing, and it clearly shows that this is something he hasn`t done anywhere near enough.

    I`m also as curious as Jack Asher above about the sudden turn in events he describes as the "horizontal bar". At first the figure`s powers are a little constrained. Then suddenly it`s as if he is the comic villain, Apocalypse, as lightning crashes down and meteors crush the earth.
    To be honest I`m not sure I can make out quite what`s happening at that point. To increase tension and keep the reader hooked you gradually reveal everything until the final showdown, not show it all at once. This villains powers are revealed far too soon with far too much.

    I do agree with a lot of what JA has written about above so I won`t comment on all of those. Except to say that for me the whole thing so far needs the careful attention of a good edit, then another, and another, like we all have to do. It looks to me like he hasn`t had the patience to sit down and keep going through it until it shines. I believe Lee Child is the only one who I`ve heard can write a novel in one draft, all the rest of us mere mortals need to edit. The passage I read feels like a second draft.
    He has a story I`m sure, it`s just not polished enough.

    Anyway, onwards to the next chapter tomorrow.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2016
  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I just sent it to my iPhone. ;)
     
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  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Will be taking a first look at this august text in just a while...
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    First, let me just say that I'm fine with descriptive, flowery writing. Some of my favorite authors write that way, from classics to more modern authors like Mervyn Peake, Tanith Lee, or Angela Carter. It can be very effective if done well, and there are some people who do it very well. This author tries, but in my view doesn't success on that score.

    FOREWORD

    I was left rolling my eyes. The sentiment doesn't bother me in the abstract, but if you're going to do something like this you need to do it in a few sentences that focus in on the point, not some rambling dedication.

    PROLOGUE

    My main problems with the prologue relate to word choice and sentence structure. The author wants to use flowery, evocative writing. OK. That's not easy to do well. You have to make sure your sentences are put together properly, and that you know what words mean. I came across a few places with ambiguous use of pronouns (e.g. they're technically referring back to something other than what the author intended). Other examples:

    A cloaked figure's boots crunched through the terrain with purpose - OK, this is fantasy. Maybe the boots are sentient. But I'm guessing the cloaked figure has the purpose.

    His lips discharged a dreadful smile... - I don't like discharged. I don't think it fits with what the author is trying to convey.

    The description of the guard having his eyes popped out was awkward, the phrasing didn't flow together well, words used didn't always agree with antecedents. Some words seemed incongruent, like fountains and oozing.

    And so on.

    I thought the dialogue was overwrought and overly-dramatic, particularly on behalf of the cloaked man.

    Also, I tend not to like prologues. This one left me with the same question so many prologues do - OK, so what? Maybe it will become clear later why this scene had to be dramatized, but I suspect the author would have been better off getting right into the story and just having the backstory be backstory.

    Anything positive? There's some decent imagery splashed about in the prologue, though it is weighed down by poor writing, unnecessary words (adverbs, for example), and incongruencies. If I were just flipping through this book to consider whether to buy it, the prologue alone would be enough to make me say no to it. In most cases like this, Chapter 1 ends up being better than the prologue (even if not by much). We'll see if that's the case here.

    Another positive - hey, the guy has finished two books. Quality aside, a lot of writers stumble when it comes to completing a work.
     
  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Steerpike I'm not sure you can say "quality aside" - the reason why a lot of writers don't finish is because they're trying to write well. The fact that someone managed to finish a piece of junk isn't anything too surprising, nor impressive. I finished a gazillion stories, even with 50k, 80k words when I was a teen - none of them are any good, none of them are edited, and none of them makes sense. Good practice, certainly, but I'm not sure it's admirable to be able to hammer out a poor piece of work. Even a child can do that, in seconds. The difference between my teenage work and this guy's is simply that I know it's poor so I'm not gonna embarrass myself by publishing it! :p

    I have a question though - if you (not you specifically Steerpike) were the author of this Onara book, would you be offended or pleased that this thread exists? Would you follow the thread? Would you be able to hold back from comment?

    If there's one thing this guy has achieved, it is making his book so bad that a bunch of people want to read it just to see how bad it is - in so doing, he got his book downloaded and read! Would that make you happy, if you were the author, even if every reader pans it?
     
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  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know. I have had plenty of people in critique groups who just can't get a work done, even without worrying too much about quality. It's been such an issue for a few people, who have a couple of dozen works started and never completed, that I've advised them to say 'quality be damned' and get that first draft done from beginning to end, then worry about the quality during the editing process (not a method for everyone, but in these cases I think it is needed). Some people have a very hard time finishing their works.

    I'd be happy the thread existed, just to see the feedback. I'd probably stay out of it. I think the notoriety around this book stems mostly from what an asshat he is. Yes, the book isn't very good, but at the same time I've read a lot worse.
     
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  15. Krispee
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    Krispee Active Member

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    I agree with Steerpike, actually finishing a novel is an achievement, a lot of people still manage it but many, many more never do.
    I`m also wondering about the whole marketing thing, is it a brilliant ploy or would it, in the end, blow up in your face? Is the fact that the book isn`t well written actually destroy the whole strategy in the end?

    Given the guys previous problems with reviewers I think he might be really annoyed to see this. If this were me I would never, ever leave a comment.
     
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  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The naughty kid in me wishes the author would :p it'd be hilarious. I'm so mean...

    @Steerpike you're right actually. I have a few friends myself who have entire series planned out but not a single word written. I don't understand these people. I'm stuck because I have no plan. If I had a plan I would be finished writing the first draft in months!
     
  17. Krispee
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    Krispee Active Member

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    I tend to be the other way, I`m a bit too plan orientated. When I have an idea I go to planning with a vengeance, which sounds a bit boring I guess, but it kind of works.
    Well, hopefully it does, lol.

    But would the author reveal himself as he really is or hide behind a psuedo?
     
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  18. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Someone as cocky and self assured as Dylan would definitely reveal himself.
     
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  19. Krispee
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    Krispee Active Member

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    Sadly, I think you`re right.
     
  20. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Alright, chapter 1, lets do this!
    Chapter 1: A Drink to the Past

    Events:
    It starts with "a woman" who bows to her husband and guest and then goes off to have a good cry over...something. Someone might be trying to tear her family apart, but who they are or how that is going to happen is unclear. Whatever it is she'll kill him before she lets that happen, because that's a rational response. We don't know who she is. We don't know who her husband and his guest are. We don't know where they are. It might be a castle, maybe?

    So "a woman" cries a bit and then opens up a book (there's some magic bullshit about how it's inside a box that she has to magic open, and there's no writing, and crap). It's her husband's and he gave it to her on their wedding, to comfort her somehow. Saccoccio makes the bold step of ensuring that the words she reads for comfort are anything but comforting. Her husband describes how lost and alone he is without her (why or what has happened we don't know), and heavily implies that he's close to death somehow.

    And then there's another horizontal bar and we're somewhere else? There's a great hall and "a man" and "a boy" talking. We could still be in the husbands book, in fact that's what I initially assumed. On reading it a second time it could be that "a woman" was the "a man" 's wife, and the child was his guest. It's all up in the air, because (again) no one is named. They could be in the same castle kind of place, but that still doesn't have a name.

    This "a man" and "a boy" talk for a long time about almost nothing at all. The a boy's mother comes up a couple of times, but the dialogue is very realistically full of tangents and segues. We'll get to that in the writing portion. There's a bunch of stuff in the room and the "a boy" just sits there and points to it, says "what's that" and gets a rambling in incoherent story. And after about 10 pages of that it's revealed that the "a boy" is the "a man's" son, who left his mother for...reasons.

    In the last six pages of the chapter the "a man" has the child get a chalice, that takes up two pages in and of itself, and then explains some magic to the boy. Boy drinks some kind of thing happens and he goes into a trance. Or maybe he's dead? Not really sure. End of chapter.

    Writing:
    Well I was hoping after the prologue when Saccoccio was describing events having to do with the actual narrative there would be a little more care put into the work. That either hasn't happened, or his idea of care and mine are very different.

    For a start there's the names, that no one has. I'm 25 pages into a hundred page novel and I have no idea who any of the characters are. I don't know where anyone is, and I don't know why any of it should matter. The "a man" alludes constantly to his life, using weird pseudo-philysopical contexts as Saccoccio says, without the slightets bit of self awareness:
    "The man projected omnipotence and his answers were eloquently laden with rhetorical labyrinths."
    They're not actually. They might sound eloquent or labyrinthine if you don't know anything about philosophy, but a first year philo student could rip Saccoccio to shreds and it shows.

    And no with the weird convoluted word choice there's weird convoluted descriptions. Early on we're told that "The man's eyes were the color of fountains, mixed with dirt and blood." What color is a fountain? A marble fountain? Are his eyes white? A rock fountain? Are his eyes brown? Is it the water in the fountain? Water in a fountain is either clear or white from the foam. It sounds kind of cool, until you think about it for a second, and then it makes no sense.

    The conversation between the man and the boy is weird too, because there's no real tone. The man and the boy talk, and keep having emotions that don't really fit with what they're saying. e.g.

    "The boy's throat was so dry he could barely swallow, 'Why don't people stop them?'
    The man let out a cynical laugh, 'Because people are the problem."
    The boy looked offended. 'What?'"

    The boy goes from scared to offended without an emotion in between, and for why? Why would that sentence be offensive to anyone? And their whole talk is like that. The man and the boy keep having emotions, unattached to the words they are saying, and I have no idea if it's tense, or genial, or whether they like each other, or what.

    I should mention that the "them" in that example, don't have a name or anything. They are referred to once as "Old things...that for reasons beyond my understanding have been allowed to prey upon us." This stunning revelation lasts a page, and is pretty much forgotten (or it would be in events). And the boy's fear at their existence lasts just as long, before Saccoccio moves on to describing how much fun the man had with a grappling hook.

    From a straight structure perspective the whole chapter is a strange plot void. We're told nothing about any preceding events. We don't know what the character's goals are. We don't even know their names.

    At this point I'm 25 pages into a 106 page novel, a quarter of the way, and I have no idea what it is about.
     
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  21. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Were Saccoccio the kind of writer to frequent an online forum, he would have either grown a much thicker skin, or left in a huff after his first critique.
     
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  22. A.M.P.
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    @Jack Asher
    You'll regret not seeing his genius when your grandkids are dissecting his novels in English Literature 101.
     
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  23. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Dear Lord have mercy...
     
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  24. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm incredibly glad I get to enjoy the absurdity of his book without having to read it, or pay for it :D Think at this rate you'll all manage to finish? 'Cause I wouldn't!
     
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  25. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    [​IMG]
     

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