884: For Thee I give Mine Breath – Chapters One and TwoPosted: November 12, 2014
As we wind down my one-shot cavalcade, I thought I’d dig out a special request that Herr put up a while ago in the secret clubhouse. It’s a crossover of some kind but, honestly, I have no idea what this is supposed to have been crossed with. There’s no real indication, so my guess is that the author didn’t make it far enough into the story to make the cross obvious. Apparently the author, Herr, and Ert have some kind of history, but personally that isn’t what caught my interest about this fic.
No, what caught my attention in this fic is how badly it’s written and how pretentious the writing is. For such a short little fic, it really, really packs in the unapologetic pretentiousness. It’s also packed to the brim with purple prose, so there’s that too. It accomplishes a surprising amount of awful in only 2,500 words.
Now, I know I’m calling this a one-shot, and it is, sorta, but I’ll actually be tackling it in two parts. I’m coming into a busy week and just don’t have enough free time to handle it all in one sitting.
Before we even get to the bits that specifically caught my attention, let’s start with the title. It’s a mess. There’s modern English, archaic English, and a single misspelled word of German. You could argue that he might have meant “mine” in the form of archaic English for “my”, but given something we’ll see later, I don’t think that’s the case. Just from the title, I knew right away that the guy who wrote this had a very artistic view of himself, which never ends well. We’ll be seeing a lot of that bad-fic trait where authors assume that the idea behind the story will carry the whole thing without any other effort on their part.
Now, on to the summary, which isn’t quite what caught my attention, but it certainly piqued my interest:
What could a human, unconstrained by morality achieve? Amoral: Protagonist, Manipulative: Protagonist, Powerful: Protagonist
Right away this is pretty pretentious. The aim is obviously to be deep and arty by utilizing non-standard composition, but it falls flat because of how blatant the attempt is.
It’s also somewhat clear that the author is going for an anti-hero here; or maybe a villain protagonist. I’ll touch on that after a few more quotes, since it becomes pertinent to my interest in this fic.
Now, into the first “chapter” which actually isn’t a chapter but more of an author’s foreword. This kind of non-chapter is technically against the rules of FF.net, but whatever. There are worse things than a chapter dedicated to a foreword by the author. Honestly, I’d generally rather see a foreword than author’s notes in every damn chapter.
I say “generally” because I’ve found a case where I’d rather not see it. That would be this fic.
For Thee I Give Mine Breath
Mon Führer for thee I shalt gladly give my life! – Triad: Duty, Obedience and Loyalty.
Woof. Believe it or not, this still isn’t what caught my attention.
The furthering of the mish-mash of English and German does not bode well for this fic, but even worse is the not-so-subtle Nazi Germany reference. I’m already having flashbacks to Jedi’s Destiny.
It’s also interesting that the author, who obviously has some kind of literary hard-on for Germany, managed to misspell two out of the three of German words he attempted to use. There is also a glaring inconsistency using “mein.” Let’s take another look, and I’ll highlight something:
For Thee I Give Mine Breath
Mon Führer for thee I shalt gladly give my life! – Triad: Duty, Obedience and Loyalty.
Why didn’t he use “mein” there? It’s just an extended version of the title yet he changed the word from misspelled German to modern English. Even stranger because he tried to use it for the first word, but somehow ended up with “Mon” which is French. And even if he was going for the archaic-English “Mine,” HE STILL DIDN’T USE IT CONSISTENTLY! Asmod is trying WAY too hard, and it shows.
I’m not even going to touch that “Triad” nonsense.
Gods, we’re not even to the author’s foreword and already this thing is awful!
Are you a victim of your thoughts?
Depends on the person. Those with depression or similar mental illness would probably say that yes, they are victimized by their thoughts. Personally, I’m only a victim of my thoughts at two in the morning when my brain decides that it really needs to talk to me about napkin folding.
I will jab you with a Q-tip, brain.
Have you ever thought that if you ceased to exist, the world would be better off? That your loved ones – family, friends, and acquaintances – would be better off without your constant doubts that so plague thy mind?
THAT is what caught my attention. Of all the self-indulgent author-stroking bullshit, he has to whip out: “Everyone would be better off I never existed.” The worst part about that is that people with legitimate depression fight with that thought all the time. And yet it’s being used here as a transparent play for depth.
If you’re going to try to use this kind of thing, you have to do it damn carefully and with respect to the actual content that you’re addressing. Because on the one hand you have self-indulgent teenagers who wangst about wishing they didn’t exist because their life is so damn hard and they want everyone to suffer when they’re gone, and on the other you have people with depression who have to fight off these feelings with every ounce of strength they can muster; and if they lose that fight it can end with a suicide.
Author, the fact that you’ve pulled it out as the first line of your fic means that you are doing great, GREAT disservice to anyone who is suffering from depression.
It was that sentence alone that made me know that I would eventually rip this pile of shit to shreds.
Have you ever wondered why Evil exists in this world?
Dear gods, man! We get it, you’re deep and arty. CAN WE GET ON WITH IT!?
Can you see past the horizon without pollution clouding your sight? Without the transparent eyelids that filter the color from the world?
Bwa? I… what?
That’s a bit of a sudden shift there, author. I think you almost derailed the fic when you did that. What the hell are you talking about? Are we supposed to be geckos all of a sudden?
Do you wish to change the past for a better future?
WE GET IT! You think you’re deep! Can you just pull this train-wreck out of the station already!?
Do guilt, remorse and regret weaken you from taking the course of action that is necessary?
Um, not really. For instance: if guilt was preventing me from doing stuff, I wouldn’t be here ripping this fic to shreds.
Doth thou wish what may thee achieve without doubt, without guilt, remorse or regret, without empathy to pain thee?
Stop. It. If you can’t use archaic English consistently, don’t try. And, author, you can’t do it.
This is the story of Sven Von Holstein; one unconstrained by the shackles that bind humanity, free from the invisible chains that pierce your flesh to tie you down to earth.
In case getting bashed in the face with it didn’t clue you in, the Author is going to be shooting for an anti-hero (or possibly a villain protagonist). Asmod also seems to be under some kind of misconception that this kind of character is new and edgy and that the audience wouldn’t get it unless it was spelled out for them with a chapter dedicated to spoon-feeding the concept. Because, you know, it’s not like we could ever have been shown who the character is and what drives him. Nope, that would be far too cryptic. And far too interesting.
Now, that said, anti-heroes / villain protagonists can be pretty damn compelling. In a way, they are often more human than a lot of other kinds of more recognized, archetypal hero protagonist. They’re flawed, just like everyone else, and this flaw is critical to their character. The issue is that they are extremely difficult to write well. They require a lot of forethought and balance, both within their own personality and by the circumstances they’re thrown into. Fail at those balances, and they lose their allure very fast. It’s very, very easy for an anti-hero to make the slide into full-on villain and become an irrecoverable ass-bag in the process. It’s even easier for a villain protagonist to slide into that trap, which is why you don’t see them very often.
Given what I’ve seen so far, forgive me if I’m skeptical of your ability to pull this off, author.
From here we launch into the first full chapter. It gets off on a really good foot.
“What do you expect me to do? Save them?” A lightly muscled male, said narrowing his cold gaze, tone reeking of contemptuousness.
*Falls out of his chair clasping his eyes*
Sweet Armory Jesus! That’s what you’re opening with!? A sentence in medias res of a dude being a complete dickbag that ends with a purple description of his gaze and tone? If this is Sven, I already hate him. He’s an insubordinate tool.
And how the crap did he narrow his gaze!? Gaze is your line of sight! You can narrow eyes, but you can’t narrow gaze.
Well, not without a pair of cardboard tubes from your toilet paper, anyway.
I’m going to choose to picture Sven here holding tubes up to his eyes. Probably for the rest of the scene.
A women, an older version of the male; pale blonde hair and the same unnerving piercing icy orbs; stood her ground.
*Falls out of his chair clasping his eyes*
Give it a rest, man!
That would be a good description if you’d done something important with the first character. You know what that thing you should have done is, author? You should have FUCKING DESCRIBED HIM!
Saying the woman looks like female version of dude #1 is only even remotely useful if you’d bothered to describe him! All we have now is that we’ve got two people who are blue-eyed, blond, and lightly muscled; probably inbred Aryn-Race knockoffs were I not to miss my guess. And with the fic boner the author seems to have for Germany, I know I’m not wrong.
Oh, and that they glare a lot. WOOO! Descriptive!
“Yes! I expect you…to…help them! Not…simply walk away!”
the female shouted the volume of her voice steadily increasing in correlation to her anger.
You know you’re in for gripping narrative when you see the word correlation. It’s like a lab report, but with a plot!
“Agnes…I simply cannot understand the cause of your anger” the male unperturbed by the anger in the older women’s voice continued, complete antithesis of the current state of the older female.
*Falls out of his chair clasping his eyes*
For fuck’s sake, KNOCK IT OFF!
Not only that, but telling us that the man remaining calm is the antitheses of the anger-
*Presses the intercom button*
Darkwraiths! Deploy the purple-prose cannon!
*Over-elaborate screams of terror-filled pain echo out from the glistening silver, yet coldly spartan, hallway*
It’s bleeding in through the walls! Turn it off, TURN IT OFF!
Agnes, rather childishly stomped her feet on the vintage coated oak plank tiles, followed by a scream of anger, undiluted and pure.
SWENIA! Where are those damn glasses!?
Sweet crap, Agnes, what are you, four!?
I hit closer to the mark with “inbred Aryn-Race rejects” than I thought I would.
Also, author, “vintage” is not a fucking lacquer! You can’t coat shit with it! Vintage is a stylistic term referring to anything old or done in an older style. Originally it was a winemaking term to indicate what year and batch the wine came from, but more modern use has borrowed it to mean anything outdated or done in an old style. So no, it’s not something you can pick up at the store and spread on your floor.
Further, tiles and plank are two entirely different floor coverings. If you’ve got both going on, you really need to pick a better contractor to do your floors.
Even in face of anger, that for all purposes is concentration of killing intent the male stood still, his form lazy, his gaze losing their stern nature, and instead gaining one of perpetual boredom.
*Taco runs out of the room clutching his eyes*
The Library is experiencing prose related technical difficulties, please stand by while we address the situation. Thank you.
*Crunchy wheels a chair into the room with Taco tied to it. Crunchy plops a pair of glasses onto Taco’s face and then slinks out*
“Sven…do you know what differentiates humans from animals?” Agnes said rather heatedly, addressing the male, now revealed to be Sven.
Well, it obviously isn’t the ability to write decent narrative prose, that’s for sure.
Sven dismissively gestured with his hand, in clear indication of ‘No’, the gesture was in Sven’s mind to conserve energy so on later date he could pursue something more productive, than argue with his older sibling about nonsensical concepts such as morality, and the whole ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ debacle.
*Taco thrashes against the bolt-tape holding him to the chair*
That’s one fucking sentence! My brain almost ran out of oxygen while reading that! And the punctuation, DEAR GODS THE PUNCTUATION!
For budding authors out there, if you want to make the audience despise a character, you can have no better example than Sven (Well, you know, not counting Gabriel Hawke, Buster, Thomas Brown, etc). Ever since the first sentence of this chapter, I’ve wanted nothing more than to stab him in his pretentious, condescending face.
Unfortunately for Sven, his body language could be easily misinterpreted as one of annoyance, and perhaps even as a symptom of progressive superiority complex made to incite unworthiness and thoughts of inferiority in others.
What the fuck do you mean “misinterpreted?” Sven did the bare minimum of response because he didn’t want to expend the energy debating something that he thinks is a pointless waste of time. If you want a better definition of annoyed, you won’t fucking find one! If Sven doesn’t think he’s being annoyed by his sister here, he’s a very convincing liar. So much so that even HE is buying his bullshit.
And yes, it is definitely a symptom of a superiority complex. So far we have been shown, in abundance, that Sven has an ego that you could choke a whale with. Sure, we’ve been told he doesn’t have an ego, but what has been shown is a much different, and more convincing, thing.
Sven may not know but as of current in every minute movement, superiority of self, and confidence in oneself was being exuded.
Woof, that sentence is super awkward.
But hey, at least the narrative is acknowledging that, despite Sven’s protests otherwise, he is indeed an arrogant ass. It’s actually rather refreshing to have a narrative that acknowledges how unlikable a character is.
Granted, that means the narrative is inconsistent since it was what told us that Sven didn’t have a superiority complex, but I’ll take what I can get.
In essence with every action conveyed the message: ‘Holier-than-thou’ minus the biblical and religious implications.
Thank you for spelling that out. I can see no way the audience could have figured it out using only the context of a well written scene.
Though I suppose that means Asmod would have to put in the effort to actually write a scene well, so maybe he’s just being realistic about how unlikely that is.
As Sir Isaac Newton has said ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’, and it so happens that the opposite reaction was one of feminine fury.
Narrative, you are doing it wrongest.
And bringing up Newton’s third law in the narrative? Totally not pretentious.
Nope, not in the slightest.
“What! You…I can’t believe this…wait…” Agnes paused, the arm she was preparing, and the hand she was tensing in preparation of indication to convey her fury halted, “No… I’m not going to stoop to the level of an animal, because you for some inconceivable reason believe that humans aren’t any better!”
We get it, author! You think you’re deep because you’re addressing the dividing line between animal and man. Because, you know, it’s not like we don’t already have 2,500 years of philosophers under our belt who have discussed and explored this exact issue in far greater depth with far, far greater care and eloquence.
Gods, this damn thing is so pretentious it stings.
Ages paused yet again, perhaps to increase the dramatic flair, or more than likely to decrease her anger to more manageable – controllable – levels so she can actually – attempt – to emotionally scar her brother with emotional guilt.
The fuck is up with this narrative!? Is it attempting to go all Shatner like Agnes/Ages did earlier?
Keep your narrative and your characters separated!
Wait. “Emotionally scar with emotional gui-“
*Taco presses the intercom button*
Fire the pretentious cannon!
*The nebulous ideals of good and evil cannot stand against the power of true pretension! A pure shaft of reason, imbued with the wisdom of the ages, tears into the hallway, bringing enlightenment flavored death to all who dare tread in its path*
Sweet crap, guys, did you fire the purple cannon too!?
Indeed she was the very definition of a German older sibling in a German nuclear family.
Uhhh, no, no she isn’t. In your stereotypical nuclear family, the older sibling is generally the dominant child who would not be so easily baited into displays of anger.
As a side note: You can ask Lyle about how fun it was to argue with me when we were kids. I was kind of an ass. Well, okay, no “kind of” about it.
“Humans we smile in happiness, we laugh in Joy, we sigh in exasperation, we moan in boredom, we groan in mockery or even cry in sadness. We have so much potential, what other creature on this realm can feel compassion, or has kindness racing through its blood other than, or more so than humans?
For fuck’s sake. We’re in the first chapter and already we’re having the age old “the potential of man” message crammed down our throats!? This is reading like a heavy-handed Star Trek episode. With worse dialogue.
Where animals would feast on the carcasses of their own, we respect them, we cremate our dead, and we bury them in ritual rites to entrench the memories of their existence for eternity.
Uh, no. cannibalism of a dead member of your own species is actually very, VERY rare. It’s rare because of how easy it is to get extremely bad diseases that way. Evolution at work.
Whilst animals would simply forget the dead existed at all!
And? You first have to establish that memorializing the dead is better than forgetting them before you can use that as the basis of your argument; otherwise it’s just a random statement with no value.
Can’t you see Sven…humans are the pinnacle of evolution on earth, our potential is simply staggering!”
And respecting our dead somehow proves that, right?
Agnes, you are very not good at argue.
At the end desperation began to creep into the passion which so steadily flowed throughout her speech, as if begging Sven to see reason.
If you have to beg somebody to come over to your side of the argument, then you really need to either re-evaluate your argument, or develop a better arguing strategy. For the “typical” older child, Agnes sure lacks all the hallmarks of the typical older child.
The boredom which was reflected on Sven’s face changed faster than what many may believe possible (that is lest you witnessed a Schizophrenic episode), the perpetual boredom turned into aggression as the boredom morphed into a sneer, one of deadly countenance.
No parenthetical statements in the narrative!
We’re supposed to hate this character, right? I mean, there’s no redeeming qualities here. He’s ego-centric, unstable, and condescending. And apparently prone to either cruelty or violence (likely both). Nearly unsalvageable as a character and it’s only been about 500 words. Not really the best choice as a protagonist. Even as a villain he’s too over-the-top. The guy has no apparent motivation other than being an enormous tool. Sven is 100% pure mustache-twirling, Awesome McEvil fodder.
“Pathetic” spat Sven, Sven’s tone quickly changed to that of casual mockery, “We steal, we lie, we kill, we hit, we hate, we abuse, we discriminate and enslave others because of the color of their skin, sell poison to others so we can profit, we sell weapons to profit from warfare, the list never ends, then we call animals ‘beasts’, how laughable my dear sister of mine!”
Seriously, can we put this guy back into the douchebag and pick out another protagonist? It’s not impossible to write a self-centered character in an engaging way, indeed Robin Hobb managed to accomplish just that in her Liveship trilogy, but this is NOT how you do it. This is how you write a character that makes people wish they were reading something else.
And, author, we get it. Your overwrought, heavy-handed attempt to juxtapose the good and evils of humanity is not new, engaging, or subtle. Rather, it’s pretentious as fuck, not to mention cliché and boring to read. It’s also pretty insulting that you think so little of your audience’s intelligence that you think this all needs to be spelled out.
Sweet crap, is this chapter over yet? I’ve got better things I could be doing. Like staring at a wall or watching paint dry.
At this the last vestige of control within Agnes was destroyed, in her anger the years of Aikido training, and the concepts of using energy and momentum against a stronger opponent were quickly discarded, as she launched herself, like a catapult, forward.
That being the case, she must not have been paying any attention during those lessons; or training very conscientiously. The whole reason you train your ass off in martial arts is to be able to use the moves instinctively; or as close to as possible. Her training doesn’t just vanish when she gets mad. Maybe she’d get sloppy and be prone to mistakes, but the training doesn’t just go away because angry.
And seriously, all that it takes to break Agnes’ control is her brother acting like a dick? You’d think she would be used to that by now. He didn’t even really do anything except be egotistical and call the merits of humanity into question. Talk about catastrophizing. If this was all it took to set people off, Nietzsche would have spent most of his life getting into fist fights.
Sven merely stood still, and in the last few seconds, as Agnes’ fist was less than feet away from his face, he acted; quick chop to the wrist and then whilst Agnes’ arms were diverted, with another arm he quickly targeted the elbow joint, and from their gripped onto the tricep brachii muscles, and began clawing at the muscles, evoking jolts of the pain in the neural system, temporarily invoking confusion and pain, from there Sven merely swept his feet under Agnes.
Wow. Just… wow. Not ONLY was that scene poorly paced, but it was over-described, painfully daybook, pretentiously constructed and presented, and purple to boot! It didn’t even have the basic decency to be properly spelled or punctuated. This is easily the worst fight scene I’ve read, which is an impressive feat given that I riffed the entire Zombie Chronicels trilogy.
Congratulations, author, you finally did something new and surprising.
Sven didn’t even bother to look back at Agnes whilst she moaned in pain, as her ankle twisted upon her fall, and the neural connection in her triceps faded, Indeed Sven walked straight to the door, if he looked back he would have saw Agnes curling up on herself in pain.
Yeah, I can’t wait to read more about this guy. What a good protagonist! He puts the fun in sadism!
Err, he puts the fun in Safudismn.
As he opened the door he muttered something under his breath, which if anyone were to hear would sound a lot like: ‘Humanity has degraded into a pathetic husk of their former glory, something must be done’
If he wanted to win that argument, he could easily use himself as the perfect example of why people suck. Just saying.
Your narrative is fucking horrible. The whole “if anyone could hear” bullshit is just worthless word-padding, author. It’s like you’ve got some kind of misconception that adding more words will always make things better. You don’t need more words, you need more setting! Those are two very, VERY different things. You use a lot of words but have described almost nothing. You’re not even showing us anything; it’s almost all telling!
We’re almost there, people, just four more paragraphs. Hang in there, guys.
That wish, as it was a wish, of deepest heartfelt desire was answered by ambient energy, which upon sensing nearby sentience, began to pull Sven into the forming chaotic portal.
Wow, it’s rare that the SDQF gets an actual appearance in a fic. I guess that time it spent moonlighting as a fairy godmother really paid off in this case.
Once sucked in, the portal ceased to exist, if one were to look closer, some of the ambient energy were slowly fusing with that of one Sven Von Holstein.
Uh, what the fuck just happened? By that description, a portal spontaneously appeared, absorbed itself and, for anyone who was looking closely (whoever would do that), some ambient energy joined with the ambient energy (or ambient portal) that Sven has just hanging out on his person.
What the hell is going on!?
Author, scene better.
Sven didn’t even have the time to form a single coherent thought before his existence was no more. Indeed his very existence on the planet, memories of every man, women, and children who had once known him had been completely erased.
I want to thank all the patrons for being with me during this moment of trium-
His parents would no longer know him; his sister when asked about her injury would blink in confusion for a few seconds before answering ‘I fell down the stairs’.
What stairs? Are there stairs in this part of the void that she might have fallen down? I mean, there must be, right? Otherwise her assertion that she fell down them would be totally crazy.
Fuck, we’re going the “man outside of time” rout aren’t we? Dammit.
Change was upon us. Chaos was upon us. Death was upon us. Destruction was upon us. Renewal was upon us. Life was upon us.
Extremely pretentious sentence fragments were upon us.
For this unexpected anomaly would change the timeline of the galaxy forever.
Unexpected and totally contrived. Don’t forget the contrived part.
With that, chapter one comes to a close. Holy crapbasket was that pretentious! And I’m still not sure if we’re supposed to be intrigued by this character or simply supposed to hate his guts! Thus far he’s been set up as a pretty generic Awesome McEvil of the standard misanthropic megalomaniac variety; not even close to a new concept. But he’s also supposed to be the protagonist according to the foreword. Unfortunately you need a much more compelling villain if you want to go the evil protagonist rout. This guy is just a jackass with delusions of grandeur. Essentially a sadist without a clue. That’s about as compelling as having your plot revolve around a moldy cupcake.
Anyway, we’ll finish this up next week. Until then, patrons!