Venia Silente

Inspectious. Good for napping.

on the second floor's nest
Seen 1 Day Ago
Posted 1 Week Ago
1,030 posts
12.7 Years
Okay, time to get back to you guys and to all readers, of course.

First, on a note that was added at the end of the original posting: after commentary from Miz-en-Scène, I've changed the typography for the story from Berkshire to Merriweather. Just felt like making note of it again.

One of the things I like most about this story is the way you describe the setting with the various senses, like the smell and sound of the train. Very nice you took advantage of that.
'tis was the best chance to make use of broader sensory focus in a story in a long time. After all, one of the things that is known to trigger (and in certain ways, define) nostalgia is reminiscing thanks to our senses, which have a more direct, hardwired connection to the old, yearning part of our brains (and for a very good reason, mind).

Plus hey, it's deers. Can't really help but somehow getting to take note of how relevant hearing is for them.

You get the impression that Virizion and the rest of the guardians are these kind of ancient, out-of-touch relics in a world that's moving far faster than they can keep up. The traditions like the vote help keep their relevance tenuously anchored to the present, but it seems clear that they don't play a very large role in the day to day running of the region to warrant them being there all the time.
I see you instantly caught on to what I wanted the story to be about, and I have to congratulate you on being able to see past the lacking parts. Virizion and the others have removed themselves from worldly affairs for so long, that they only mostly stayed relevant due to commitments they could not leave behind, such as this "Vote X for Champion" thing. And now they are trying - emphasis on that word - to get back on things, and it is difficult not only because they miss the past, though I'll get back to that point later.

You can kind of see that in the contrast of the way people are looking at Virizion with the way Virizion seems to be all casual about his little walk – like they think that he's a portent of doom simply because he's there all of a sudden rather than because he's a natural part of the world like everything else.
At the risk of spoilers of a sort, this is very relevant for what I intend to do with future stories. If you've read the Pokédex entries on the Muskedeer Trio one thing you'll notice is that unlike other Legendaries, they were known and documented to target and attack human settlements in times of old. Three guesses as to how this particular Trio specimen made their re-debut, which helps explain a bit why they do are seen as a "portent of doom".

There was also something really charming about Virizion's interaction with his entourage. They're basically acolytes to a relic who all kind of sort of understand that they don't/can't understand Virizion due to his immortality, but at the same time they kind of feel a sense of traditional duty to him. Kind of like monarchies in many countries.
Why thanks, I didn't really think I could portray that relationship all too well, which is why some of the gestures from the entourage you might notice look a bit forced. But if it works, I ain't breaking it. Also a good note on the monarchies thing.

That said, Virizion's internal monologue was definitely the best part of this fic, aside from the dialogue. Even though he had kind of an arrogant prince sort of attitude (which I understand is actually canon?),
From what I gather the only sapient Muskedeers we see in canon are the ones in the... well, Muskedeers movie, that and I think one of the trio members is a plot boss in one of the Rumble games?

But overall it is kinda canon yeah that they have princely attitudes. I feel like it makes a lot of sense, as between Pokédex entries and some other elements of flavour (such as their signature moves being specifically called "Swords") it is hinted that the Muskedeers tend to, or tended to, have the closest relationship to humans among all Legendaries barring perhaps Ho-Oh / Lugia. So not only would their behaviour be easier to anthropomorphise, but also it would naturally acquire some traits usually adscribed specifically to humans, such as high-order concepts like loyalty or clanship.

As a warning note tho, not all my Legendaries are like that. You do not want to meet my Weather Trio.

...but I don't really mind the slow pacing as much as I ought to because it lends itself incredibly well in some places to the sentence rhythm.
Glad that it worked for someone, considering the slow pace was a bit of an hindrance in both the editing process (made difficult to find the boundaries of sections to remove) and the judgment of the submission.

This part in particular I really thought was great, especially your use of onomatopoeia which played very nicely with[...]
Can't claim credit for that one. When I was first trying to figure out how to work the description of the train effects into the long scene in a concurrent / parallel manner, one of my betareaders reminded me that I could just onomatopoeize (is that even a verb? if not, I'm claiming that) the sound and it would give off the intended "in-progress" vibe.

While I can see you have Virizion and the Levanny reminiscing while looking at the train, I think the problem lies, at least for me, is that it’s kinda confusing to track both of their thoughts at the same time. You go from Virizion thinking about the Champion and their time with the other Musketeers, then to Levanny’s thoughts when the world wasn’t as much as advanced before, and then Virizion’s thoughts on how to approach the new Champion. I think it would be easier to focus on just Virizion’s thoughts as you’re on the right track (pun not intended haha) with him reflecting on their times with the Champion.

Having said that though, there was this one thing which I felt could be improved.

For instance, a few times in the fic the narrative jumps back and forth between the thoughts of Caolené and Virizion. It wasn't as particularly jarring as it could have been, but at the same time I felt like it sort of took away from how special the sentence rhythm I mentioned previously was. Mainly because jumping between Caolené and Virizion's internal monologue has the potential to break the immersion the reader has in how the sentences sound within their head (if that makes any sense), and this is crucial in the case of your fic because its sentence rhythm was one its most amazingly well done parts!
These two. So. Much.

The jumping from one perspective to the next was one of the things that the judges, and some of my betareaders, took notice to and gave various advice about it, but I did not have the time to cut and rework it cleanly given that one aspect of Caolené's thoughts (that she wouldn't expect Virizion to have "forgotten" about things) was pivotal to convey for the jump to the "sequence of Champions" to make sense. If I get to rework this story, that perspective jump and the abruptness of the ending are the two highest elements in my list to rework.

I suppose it may be hard as there was not a lot of action, although points like the food pills event (heh) did help break it up. It’s not so easy to pinpoint the causes for the overly slow pace,
Note taken on that and on paragraphs like the one you suggest to check.

One of the main reasons of the particular pacing, although it ended slower than I originally intended to, is that I needed the piece to be "introspection broad" rather than "introspection heavy", and cutting off on action (or more specifically engagement) offered me a wider surface to work with and correct mistakes early than if I had started with something abrupt happening to any of the characters.

For example, the story would have been much more direct if I had Virizion already at his meeting with the Champion, and it would have been much easier to convey the feeling of "missing her", but the overall nostalgia feeling would have become much harder to convey for me because such a meeting would not have been passive enough that Virizion would've stuck to the state of mind to think not about how far back things go, but of how many different things do go back.

It did pay off not perfectly, but well enough that I'm willing to experiment more with it. And I feel like it does fit the characters involved enough to make it worth, I mean, down the line a Virizion or any other sort of long-lived Legendary doesn't really need to concern themselves with "thinking fast" unless their lives are at stake (and even then, I bet they can mostly rely on instinct at the beginning).

Anyway, that was the only part which really bothered me. For the rest though, I really want to commend you on that really spectacular sentence structure up there. In this competition at least, I feel like the cadence of your writing was one of the best.
Thank you, this means a lot for me as sentence structuring is one of the things I have been trying to improve the most from my previous contest endeavours (be it here or in other pastures).

Oh also, before I end this review, I just want to say I noticed this reference, which I thought was pretty funny:

[snip quote about a certain doge]
Aaaaaaaaaaand here I was expecting no one picked up that one, quick everyone we have to switch to plan B. Hey, good work! Glad that you noticed and glad that the Arcanine courier is still remembered. And yes, this story and Playfield do take place in the same continuity, and relatively close together.

^wishing I could be as well-versed as this guy
...Don't we all ^_^

I liked your take on Virizion and how he was reminiscing about days passed, the now old Champion, and what's to come in the future. The syntax in particular I really liked (y'know, except when you forced me onto
Glad to hear that you liked, and ooh? May I ask where and how did I force you into dictionary? Just to check with my betareaders :p

A good thing that you mention the future. See, one thing about nostalgia is that it's not necessarily about the past, and not necessarily about losing things. In a sense, it is mostly defined by otherness in sensing, by a feeling that it is not the place or the object itself that is missing something, but that your experience of it is somehow incomplete compared to what you had before. One can feel nostalgia about something one has not experienced yet, at least from what I can understand, provided the lack of experience projects itself as an expectation. For example, one can live in a house and feel a form of nostalgia towards it, despite one already being there, because one knows will have to move to another place in a couple of months.

...Or something like that. I'm not really a psychologist, I only read a couple of articles and magazines on the subject soooooomewhat hurriedly. :p

Then, back to the story, thinking about the future is relevant for the Muskedeer trio, as they have to try and figure out how to re-engage in a cycle of tasks, of experiences, such as voting for the next Champion. They are returning to things as they were, hence the title, but they do understand this also incorporates the loss they already had about that, and thus they can never get the feeling of "here-ness", fully back:

Virizion had looked at the morning sky, at the dirt road ahead, at the wheatfields around, at the train that had come and gone; all these things were normal and everyday, yet he felt like he would no longer understand them.

In a certain way, he would not. Once this Champion would leave, Virizion and his peers would have to get used to the new one, assuming this one survived in this rank a couple of decades.
The feeling of otherness they get causes a task that by their standards should be more or less mundane, to become not only alien but also unwelcome. They're back home, except it's not really it, and in a certain way it's because they returned that it feels different. It's because they return to their place, that it is no longer theirs.

A weird sort of quantum mechanics nostalgia if you want.

(Speaking of, a weird addendum: While researching for this story (because why yes I do waste crucial writing time during contests in doing research o_O ) I did read somewhere that there is a specific term in... Psychology? Sociology? for the nostalgia-like feeling of specifically when you *are* at home but the time you've spent in it makes it alien/unrecognizable. I can't remember it ATM but it was an interesting note to realize that such phenomena as nostalgia are studied this deeply)

[...]it matched how I saw Virizion in the story, this regal being detached from the present not because he wanted to be but because he was sort of "outdated,"[...]
Don't worry. He and the others will get better... at least a bit. {:3}

I gotta admit, I don't get the "rain on winter." Maybe because I live in Florida.
Substitute with "crocodiles in a swamp" then o3o - but yeah, what I wanted to convey was that, for Virizion, receiving an answer from one of his subordinates / acolytes is something that is in their nature - it just has to happen, and thus he has the luxury of just waiting it out.

As they did the human who preceded her, who taught them about telephones; and the human who preceded that one, who accompanied them exploring caves and dense forests; and the human before that, who tried to explain what the stars in the sky were like; and the one before that, who was the one to help lay out the railroads; and…
...And many others before.
Always one at a time.
Do I have to say why? I just love this quote.
...Huh. Funnily enough, that paragraph was the hardest to write for me in the entire story. I needed it to convey not only the kinda-unending sequence of people to have gone, but also the variety of things both humans and Pokémon can do in their lifetimes, without making it feel like the Muskedeers would have to care to remember each and every thing learned.

I thought this was funny, maybe because I'm overthinking it as Virizion showing some of humanity.
I refer you to my commentary above about the Muskedeers feeling more human (or at least "humanizable") among Legendaries. In a sense, removing the fact that they are extremely long-lived cervids, one can mostly describe them under the same judgments of ethics and personalities as oe describes, well, the classical Musketeers.

If you're looking for something better-tasting than food pills, guy, you're gonna be sorely disappointed!
And now I'm left wondering if a well-meaning human acolyte would try baking a "dried grass"-tasting food pill and what the ensuing response from the Trio would be. :-p

All in all, thanks for the reviews, also congratulations on the results of your own participation in the contest.
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