industrialistDragon

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About industrialistDragon

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  1. Happy 300th post to me! It's not that big of a milestone to some people, but I've usually resumed full-time lurking well before now. So, thanks for being a generally awesome forum everyone!
  2. Yay, thank you! As @kais pointed out to me, it works because C is portrayed throughout as being none of the possible interpretations of that word (and personally I like that it's P who's the literal man-eater, since he's the cannibal gunning for C). Plus, it comes with its own theme song I am all for D getting a bigger role, but I'm unsure adding more characters is what's needed here. For a longer work, Lady P is definitely ripe for developing, but I think fixing C's handling and reworking P's evil speech will be much more beneficial overall, if that makes sense? Otherwise, maybe swapping some pronouns on a couple day workers, or otherwise showing in the background that women also exist (the fix to the prison scenes of mentioning an entire women's wing and that there were other women prisoners in the yard worked well)? It's close, is what I'm saying. Under number 1 on that "8 ways" link, it has a little paragraph about how just throwing more characters on a story is not necessarily the best answer to this problem. Going through the existing characters and simply asking "Why not a woman in this job?" or "Why does this character HAVE to be a man?" can be more beneficial. Does the head gardener have to be a man? Does the butcher? Is there any reason it can't be LADY P not Lord P who's the cannibal? This is why we love her.
  3. Sorry this took so long, the program I write in kept eating what I'd written... grumble... Bloody C? C the Butcher, Ship's Butcher? Corpse-eater? (maybe a bit too on-the-nose for future plot...) Man-eater? I mean, it would fit in a couple different meanings... C, the man-eater who survived the corpse ship? ehhh... maybe? But if he realizes it's the tiger on his own while it's happening, and maybe ends up unable to control it, it would make the tiger seem more powerful and play to P's throwing shade on D later on a little bit better... And not make J look quite so inept at his special ability as being completely oblivious to it does... >_>; There is; it's really tough. TLDR of it is that the voice of the narrative, not just the characters, need to refute the bad opinions, the racist character themselves needs to be solidly grounded and more than just The Racist (not necessarily sympathetic, but more), and even then there's a high likelihood of missing the mark. I just read Vonda McIntyre's most recent novel, Moon and Sun, that's set in Louis XIV's court (with sea monsters) and that book managed it well I felt. It's also one of the easiest (and often misused) ways to get away with racist characters -- set them in historically racist times. But even then, the book was about what makes us human and standing up to powerful governments when their rules are morally repugnant, so even though slavery wasn't the point of the novel at all, was in fact a very minor sub-plot point and several characters held racist views and weren't confronted about them, the whole novel is going to the idea that an institution like slavery is wrong, or more abstractly, that just because someone looks different from you that doesn't give you the right to treat them like animals. But that's the subtler thrust and voice of the entire novel that's going to repudiate the opinions of the characters. I couldn't point to any one sentence or passage that showed on its face that the entire novel doesn't agree with the characters, it's more the opinion I was left with when finishing the novel, and that's part of what makes it so tough. It's the voice of the author as it comes through the prose as a whole, and unfortunately silence or neutrality will be perceived as acceptance of the racist views. Characterization is also very important. A caricature or badly-done stereotype of The Racist is going to go over as poorly as any other badly-done stereotype or obvious break from reality. Nobody ever thinks they're racist, much less the broadly reprehensible, straw-man The Racist stereotype we're all told to hate. Nobody ever thinks they're a villain. Everyone thinks they're the heroes, saving the good people and upholding order. It's just statistics, you understand. If they just followed the rules. I'm not saying a racist character has to be sympathetic or likable, or even particularly deep. But they need to be more than just The Racist (A Really Bad Thing). I can't offer a lot of concrete guidance for writing racist characters and having them read as "acceptable." A writer is pretty much always going to be swimming in dangerous waters in US publishing with a character like that, imo. It needs to be handled with a lot of focus, awareness, care, probably sensitivity readers if they can be afforded, and frankly, the knowledge that even with all that the writer's likely to get it wrong. It's just plain tough. I can however provide some links to resources for some other takes on the issue that will hopefully help some: Writing with Color on writing racist characters -- Writing with Color is a great blog for questions about how to handle racial issues in writing. This reddit thread from /r/writing -- It's talking about writing a Nazi character, but I think it's applicable here. The absolutely blatant icky stuff, yes, it's gone and that's really good. But C is still the only one whose skin tone is treated as a fundamental part of her character. I did spot more of the side characters in later submissions getting skin mentioned and that's also really good, but with C it's at least once a sub, and then it's usually J marveling about how beautiful, how exotic, the dark tone is. C is still mostly defined by her dark skin and her relationship with J. This is tough with J being the POV character, but... it's like, even though she's supposed to have a life of her own, of which J is supposedly a small part, the sense is that she is just sort of frozen or in storage when J isn't paying attention to her. (All the non-J characters suffer from not having outside lives a little bit, but I feel like it's most pronounced with C.) C is treated differently by the story than any of the male characters, and suffers a lot from being the Smurfette of the story. Yes, D is female, but she is treated much more like the rest of the cast. C is different. C is Something Else, and that's the problem right now. C needs to just be one of the cast, not The One of the cast, if that makes sense. J's the protagonist, but C is the one woman, the one dark-skinned person, the one with the most-untouchable reputation, the one heaps-big scary killer, and now the one super-mage, and the one goal of the villain's plot. It might be worth it to try an experimental chapter where you sort of switch J and C -- give J some of C's specialness and just let C be a regular supporting cast member. If that makes any kind of sense? And of course, I have a link for this one, too: Eight Absurdities We Force on Female Characters -- I just discovered this website, and for the most part I like it! Not all of these apply to C, but in particular numbers 3 and 6 I felt made linking it worthwhile.
  4. nasal, flat, sharp, smooth, soft, fast, slow, drawl, rounded, musical, singsong, elongated, brusque, homey, country, urban, thick, thin, back-woods, clipped, muddy, slurred, clear, clean, precise, droll, throat-clearing, choppy, trilled, lilting, breathy, forceful, angry...
  5. I think it has good bones, but you're the only one who can say for sure whether it's time to shelve the story entirely. It might be time to try some different things to mix it up, though. Have you thought about telling the story from another POV, like A or Z or R or heck, even the spaceship now that it has an AI? Maybe experiment writing a chapter or two from a couple different characters to see if one of those works better. Changing the narrative voice can also change how the story is told, so maybe think about changing from first person to third person, or from limited to omniscient? Just to see what happens? Sorry to be such a downer! >_>;;
  6. Wow, this is really rough. I had trouble parsing some of the sentences, just at a syntax level. ^^; I'm not sure what I can say here that would be worthwhile feedback. Things happen, but there is such a paucity of description I had trouble following the action. For Z especially, I'm running almost completely off prior knowledge of his description, characterization and backstory. If I didn't have those prior iterations under my belt, I would have no clue what he looks like, or why he's doing what he's doing, or why he's being described so effeminately (and whether I should take this as good thing or a bad thing). This is true for most of the characters in the story so far. Taking the text on its face leaves me confused and it's only when the minor details and explanations from previous submissions and feedback threads accrete in my memory that I start becoming interested. Yes, too much description or introspection can slow down a story, but too little gives readers nothing to hold on to or care about as names and actions whiz by them. The action is good, and moves along at a very swift, steady pace, but it lacks much of the connective tissue necessary to turn it into a full story. I feel like the characters are untethered from the background setting they're in, and whose direction I can't quite figure out, rather than an integrated story with a destination it's heading towards. Don't get me wrong, I like the characters, they're unique and I'm totally there for well-loved tropes seen through a queer lens. The setting is squarely in genre tropes I enjoy and sometimes tropes played straight can be comforting. It's just... missing the inbetween cells to turn it from a set of iterative pictures into a smooth animation, y'know? I haven't spent the time with D to care enough to feel anything about the father, missing or otherwise; I barely know R at all, so his sacrifice and mission don't really matter to me; the setting doesn't feel deep enough for the existence of a rebellion to intrigue me; my concept of oomph and its place in the world isn't clear enough for me to wonder about the existence of the artifact or why it's so important to deliver in person (since it got to D well enough, why can't it just continue on that way? why did it stop with mom? is there no intergalactic postal service? )... The gas trip falls right into this. I don't really see the point of it, even in its expanded form. Because i'm so disconnected from everything else, it's not landing as either portentous or as part of a try-fail cycle. They're in a spaceship in the far future, so I'm having some trouble believing that the AI didn't pick up on the fire from say, police chatter, or traffic patterns, or news feeds, or heat signatures or anything else. Or why D had to go in person to the warehouse -- are there no secure/pirated communication devices in the underworld? How was D going to get the gas back to the ship? The attack i couldn't quite figure out why it was there. I feel like the conversation at the fire could just as easily happen elsewhere, like the underground party, where I feel like it would make more sense. I am much more interested in the underground party than I ever was about a random warehouse fire. D wondering at the end if being on suppressant really was better than being off it is a good bit of character development. I want to read much more like that, and if a few random cockroach attacks have to get cut to fit more stuff like that into it, I think it'd work out in the end.
  7. Over all, I like that it's getting towards a resolution, but I'm a bit confused at this point because we've spent about 7.5 subs setting up a highly enjoyable heist that is now suddenly the end of a murder mystery/political thriller and while I like all those genres, I'm left wondering where my heist went? I still have issues with the Black Witch moniker. Besides the not-great-ness of calling the one nonwhite (and one of only two nonmale) character in the story "black witch," it's awfully generic. It doesn't tell me anything about how or why or where she got it. It doesn't sound all that memorable, especially when her real name is much more unique. I mean, even "blood witch" or "corpse witch" (also still pretty depressingly generic, imo) would at least hint at the carnage she's supposed to have been responsible for. Someone in an earlier sub called her "the butcher of the corpse ship" and while it's a bit of an awkward mouthful, "butcher of" is very evocative to me. Also, it's a weird random bit of foreshadowing that I can't tell is intended or not? Like, how in all the world would the random guy-on-the-street who hears rumors and makes up nicknames latch onto "witch" as part of it? That's one heck of a coincidence, and makes me wonder if J is just out of it, or really that dumb that he missed the possibility all this time. It's in her nickname, so, apparently, randos who've never even seen her know she's a caster, yet the dude who's wanted into her pants and has been working closely with her for months misses it? "despite her rejection of me" -- Except he's the one that dumped her? Kind of? She was, as I understood it, offering him NSA sexy funtimes and he wanted to Go Steady (or Be Exclusive or Settle Down or whatever the kids call it nowadays); she said no and he got all pouty about it. This makes J look like a real jerk to me. I'm going to echo @Mandamon 's wince at "race." "People" is much better. If you still want him to sound kind of slimy, "kind." "an extreme danger" -- Well, that explains the tiger bones, but I think J's attack needs to be more clearly connected to the consumption/use of the tiger to really nail this reveal. It's a bit flat at the moment. Also, if it's a health/immunity/biology issue, I'd expect him to have more physiological reactions to eating something incompatible with his system. The marrow has to pass through his digestive tract after all. Heck, people used to bland food trying new spices for the first time have more of a biological reaction than he did. I like the idea of it being too powerful/incompatible with him, though, and it does make D into a very morally grey character, which I enjoy. "wild and dangerous creatures" ...Is he comparing C, the one nonwhite (and one of only two nonmale) characters in this story to "unlimited" animals, with the implication that there's so many of them they are 1) okay to kill and 2) coming to eat your babies and violate your family so 1 is justified? I know he's the bad guy... but this is my extreme skepticism face. Extreme. Skepticism. (also, even ignoring the massive unfortunate implications of a statement like that, there's never been a lick of an intimation of there being tension between C's nation and J's (and anyway, weren't the king good and the times relatively peaceful?), so he's coming off as less villian-in-control and more tinfoil hat-wearing crackpot here...) All this information about D is just not landing very well for me. She sort of pops up out of nowhere, then vanishes again straight off, and while I like what I've seen of her, I just don't care enough about her to be affected by the knowledge that J's been set up. Besides which, I'm more inclined to believe P's making all this stuff up, since so far that I've seen "on screen," D's been playing truthfully with J & co. Maybe she just didn't know they'd affect him that way, because she'd only ever heard from people who know how to use them properly? I mean, it's as likely right now as P telling the truth... "put her down" ... Like she's a rabid dog? Whoo. Well. I guess I wasn't wrong about the first part then. In which case: these are very nasty sentiments that can and still do cause very real pain when they are used in a story. Claiming brown people are less than fully human is still done today to excuse any number of atrocities and systemic abuse. I know he is a bad guy, and while the intent may be to show how reprehensible he is, what's coming across is less that he is bad and more that the story has been all this time working towards this idea. C is one of your best characters out of anything I've seen here to date, and I like her a lot, but between J's infatuation and fetishizing of her uniqueness and foreign appearance, and the way the narrative treats her as very much a different sort of creature from any of the men, this big reveal scene reads instead like an indictment of the one brown, active female character, one in which the narrative is tacitly approving P's theory. J, our sole, first-person POV, even agrees with P at the end. It's a really bad look. If the desire is to use such incendiary views in the big bad's Evil Speech of Evil two things need to happen: first, the rest of the story needs to get cleaned up and in no uncertain terms treat C like as fully a human person as any of the male cast throughout the entirety of the story, and second, the narrative needs to be unequivocally crystalline clear that this is the opinion of the character, not the story. Even then I'd still call it thin ice. Frankly, P's whole Evil Speech of Evil is a little too blunt and rough for the smooth operator I think he's intended to be (I want him to be. I have a soft spot for elegant evildoers). I don't believe there's any need for him to bash J over the head with as many verbal hammers as he does, incendiary ones included. J is reasonably intelligent and so are readers, generally, so let P just point J towards the the path to condemnation, not, like, move his feet for him, and J will make the connections on his own. That last line has a lot of impact and I like it, but right now it's just one more problematic statement in a unfortunately problematic chapter.
  8. I'd be happy to offer one of my handbound blank sketchbook/journals as an anniversary prize. The largest size I do is roughly the size of a regular paperback, though.
  9. I don't really have any comments that haven't already been covered here. It has veered a bit too far into the brevity side of things, but it is also a big improvement over the first version, so, maybe just some careful course correction in this regard. I like that this version gets into the plot faster and the explanations feel less bulky. Mom's conniving is shown sooner (if she really did remove the stash of pills) and R is given a real introduction. He feels like a father figure. I agree that the logic of the SE and how they watch for Oomph users is still confusing, and @Robinski's comments about low-hanging fruit in the diner are spot-on. I feel like a pop-up diner ought to have some boho hipster types in there just for the "retro ambiance" or something maybe... The description of oomph is actually clearer in this version, despite the fact that it's being given in smaller pieces over a longer stretch of pages, though I did get confused by the mentions of grids and tentacles. It's not bad imagery, it's just not being laid out in a way that I can visualize quite yet. It's getting there, though!
  10. I like the opening, but I feel like it's a bit wordy. The important part, the release, is buried under three lines of frankly barely-intelligible titles for some guy we haven't met yet. I like the way it's set up, but it's ... just a bit long, especially for so early in the story, when I don't have a clear attachment to the main character yet. Also, why would J-as-a-character give the king the deference of listing all those titles? I would have pegged him for more irreverent... it might be WRS, but what the heck is the Captain's Locker? A ship? A bar? An inn? I don't think it was ever mentioned before this? If it's a ship, i'm pretty darn sure you italicize ship names, which would at least help with a visual distinction... "black thoughts of what I had done" -- Now i know this is partially WRS, but what the heck did he actually do again? I'm super not clear on that and it feels pretty central. I feel like yes, I've forgotten something, but also, that something wasn't hammered home strongly enough for me that I can recall it with the reminders seeded in here... Harbour View -- Okay, this I can surmise is a bar, which would make the Captain's Locker also a bar? Bar-ish food-and-booze thing? I see you've already dealt with the iron issue, which tripped me up as well. But I did still wonder if scrap iron was illegal somehow and that's why it was confiscated? Ahh, from the conversation with the brother, I am now reminded of what he's done. I still feel like maybe it needs to be a more central part of the earlier chapters because the jeopardy and import of losing a house just doesn't resonate with me yet. I keep being left asking myself "So what?" after almost every reference to J's horrible transgressions and this angry reunion is lacking some of the impact I think it's supposed to have with me. Also I am skeptical about the too-pure females in J's family but am willing to take it as the brother's idealized interpretation, for now. Does Ch's nationality have a name? I feel like maybe using a more in-world word instead of the modern phraseology might help things go more smoothly. Certainly references to Ch and her skin tone are better here than they have been, but they still feel a bit clunky. And they're still running right up against new characters (such as the brother and the chef), who don't have their skin tone mentioned. Also, "whirling dervish" when paired with an ambiguously brown (but maybe fantasy mid-east analog?) character is not great. Also-also, dervishes were dancers, religious dancers, iirc, so I was a bit confused at first. If you want a less-than-complimentary word for her maybe "virago?") Also color me skeptical about this "black witch" title. Soup fact time again! Making a good bone-broth takes HOURS. Enthusiasts talk about 12 to 24 hours, or 48 hours or more (or as long as they or their loved ones can tolerate the smell). Thinner bones offer up their nutrients sooner than thicker ones of course, but we're still talking hours and hours. My mom will do 8 or so with a rotisserie chicken carcass out of deference to my dad's sinuses and gets a decent amount of collagen-induced solidification when the stuff cools (you basically want meat jello out of a good bone-broth at room temperature). What J is doing is called blanching. Some bone broth recipes call for blanching before roasting and cracking and boiling/simmering, but that's to get rid of some of the weird stuff that's on bones, apparently. I am pleased his meat-flavored-tea-water tastes gross at least. I know that hessian is a synonym for burlap, but I'm wondering if it makes sense in a fantasy context since it references historical Germans? It's a word that's not all that common in the States so it threw me off, but I know it's more common than our "burlap" over on your side of the Atlantic. "Jute" would be the not-American-and-not-UK term, which just means roughly-woven hemp fiber. Language is such an odd thing sometimes. ", all five of us together" from my reader's POV, it's only been a handful of pages... I guess I'm unclear on how much time has passed. it didn't seem like a lot? I like the spy master. Once she showed up I was really into the narrative.
  11. Making her white or lighter-skinned does not change any of the problematic or racist content being used here. At this point I can only conclude that these harmful, outdated ideas are an intended feature of the story and I will not continue to critique a story that is willfully hurtful.
  12. Frankly, I found this section to be extremely problematic and vaguely racist, which is a continuation and intensification of the problematic and racist themes that were in earlier submissions. I did not want to speak too strongly about it initially, as I had hoped they were things that would work themselves out as the story progressed. It appears the opposite has happened and these issues are intensifying. In this submission it's been stated that M's people live in bare stone huts because the simplicity makes them strong, as opposed to the soft, "civilized" comfort of the mansion. M, a dark-skinned minority who is proud of her heritage, prefers the "civilized" comforts of the mansion. M's people don't marry or have children, they "mate" and "breed," words that are usually associated with animals. M's people have music, but it is "deep," "rhythmic," and too "energetic" for "civilized" conversations. M's people dance, but it is "energetic" and rough, as opposed to "civilized" dance, which is "graceful" and "light." M, a dark-skinned minority who is proud of her heritage, prefers the "civilized" music and dance. M's best friend questions her heritage as a dark-skinned minority when the best friend notices M can wear "civilized" clothing properly. M questions her own identity as a dark-skinned minority who is proud of her heritage immediately after her best friend compliments her ability to wear "civilized" clothing properly. M, a dark-skinned warrior who is proud of her mental aptitude, fails in her attempt to engage her enemy in verbal battle and has to be saved by her pale-skinned best friend. M succeeds in her second attempt to engage her enemy in verbal battle only by threatening physical violence. All of these things are extremely problematic tropes and stereotypes that have a deep history of being used and abused by people attempting everything from defending slavery to justifying genocide. I am not exaggerating. Whether or not you-the-author is aware of the significance of the words, and the very racist tropes that come with them, is ultimately immaterial because readers are aware. They will react with those tropes in mind, regardless of whatever innocent intentions were on the part of the author as the words were written. I have done a small, brief, google search. Here are few of the MANY articles out there talking about some of the many "savage" stereotypes that are used to describe dark-skinned minorities, and how the tropes have very real repercussions in today's society. The idea of a "savage" or brutal native american was often used as a reason to condone killings, abuse, and other atrocities committed on Native Americans and other indigenous cultures throughout history Stop Calling People Savage -- "Since [Thomas] Jefferson’s days, “savage” has been used repeatedly as a mechanism of oppression. Several U.S. Supreme Court cases have directly or indirectly referred to Indigenous peoples as savages in order to deny them equal rights." Stereotyping Native Americans -- "Furthermore, from the 17th to the 19th centuries, non-Indian observers portrayed Indians intent on “savage war” more violent than “civilized” combat of European and American governments. ... The ongoing perception of Indians as dangerous contributes to negative expectations, interactions, and consequences. Thus, Indians are incarcerated at high rates, encounter discrimination and hate crimes, and experience other negative impacts. Stereotyped Indian violence also leads non-Indians to fear Native people." When Native Americans Were Slaughtered in the Name of ‘Civilization’ -- "Even more fundamentally, indigenous people were just too different: Their skin was dark. Their languages were foreign. And their world views and spiritual beliefs were beyond most white men’s comprehension. ... all this stoked racial hatred and paranoia, making it easy to paint indigenous peoples as pagan savages who must be killed in the name of civilization and Christianity." (note: this link contains first-person images of the murder of native americans) The idea of "savage" or less intelligent, primitive, or simple minorities was often used as a reason to excuse ideas of eugenics, social darwinsim, and scientific racism. Pseudo-scientific racism and Social Darwinism -- "So-called 'white civilised' industrial nations that had technologically advanced weapons had the moral right to conquer and 'civilize' the 'savage blacks' of the world. Social Darwinism was used to rationalise imperialism, colonialism, racism and poverty." Quora question about the idea of the noble savage and the intelligence of African slaves The idea of "savage" or brutal black men was and is often used as an excuse for lynchings, fear propaganda, and even police killings today. Yes, M is female, but this is still a trope that is very much in the forefront when these stereotypes are used in conjunction with a dark-skinned violent minority in a mostly-white or assumed-mostly-white (since again, only the people with dark skin have their skin tone mentioned in the story) "civilized" society. The Brute Caricature (please note, this link contains brutal and graphic first-person accounts of lynchings, and mob violence) From “brute” to “thug:” the demonization and criminalization of unarmed Black male victims in America And then there is the trope of the "noble savage," which still pervades many disciplines and media sources and is massively harmful even today. 'He Scarcely Resembles the Real Man': images of the Indian in popular culture For Decades, National Geographic's Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It The "Civilized Savage" And these are just a few of the harmful tropes and associations that come up when the these kinds of plot points are used. This is the baggage that comes with "unimportant" words like "savage" and the plot points I listed above. Regardless of whether that was the intent when it was written, these are the ideas and history that will color the work when a dark-skinned minority is treated in such a way as M has been in this section. Regardless of whether or not it was known beforehand, these are things that will be assumed the writer knew about when the words were written. It is 2018. It is no longer 1818. Regardless of what the reality is, an author who uses tropes like these in their work is going to be assumed to be doing so consciously, intentionally, and with at the very least a tacit agreement in the ideas they represent.
  13. Alpha readers as a concept is somewhat more nebulous than "beta readers" and depending on your definition of a beta-reader, the function of an alpha might be encompassed by it. Basically, alpha readers are the ones who go through the very roughest rough of your work and tend to give more "big picture" high-level feedback than a more detailed beta, or line-level copyedit reader. Tends to, being the operative verb there. Again, it's fuzzy. Alpha readers might also be encompassed by the concept of a critique partner, or CP -- someone who sees your early work and helps you work out where it's going, or helps you around early obstacles in your writing. An alpha may-or-may-not come in initially when the whole draft is finished, while a CP usually is with you during the writing of the book, and a beta more-or-less usually comes in after the story has gone through a couple of edits and is ready for more detailed feedback. But of course, people will call alpha reads beta reads and call their CPs alphas and vice-versa. so *shrug* it's kind of whatever works for you. ETA: I believe the purpose of this thread is for whole-manuscript reads as opposed to the chaper-by-chapter reads of the rest of the board here.
  14. @Zay Wolfe -- I'd say go with your gut. If it feels wrong to project a gender onto the character, then don't. My advice would be to look at some of the links in this thread and find a neopronoun that works for your character. Try a couple out in a test paragraph and see which one best fits the character and makes sense to you in conjugation. The Radical Copyeditor link and the nonbinary.org link will probably be of most help to you, as they both include usage guidelines and conjugation tables. nonbinary.org also has a bunch of information about gender identities outside the most common ones, and doing a bit of background reading there might help you figure out what your character wants to be called.
  15. Wow, talk about the slow weeks! Overall, this is much improved over the first version, but it still feels a little dry and emotionless in places. I feel like the first half or so also doesn't do quite as good a job at conveying Moor's character as the back half does. As I go: I'm gettin gmuch more of a sense of personality and flavor form the text in this version and I like that a lot! "suicidally reckless" -- I see what you did there. :3 However, it's a bit of a tell-y statement. The notion that Moor is reckless is covered better elsewhere, so this sticks out. "The scaled robes that one wore " -- There's a little bit of reader confusion when the text switches from "Eff" to "that one." At least here in the beginning, it might need something to define "that one" -- maybe just like "the Eff, caretaker of the N, as that one"? It's a bit redundant, but I feel like there needs to be some kind of connection between Eff, "caretaker," and "that one," especially if the caretaker epithet is also going to be used. It's handled better below (and the use of "that one" is just fine in the other instances in the back half of the story), but it did take me most of a page to get it all sorted out. I'm still a little unclear why Moor's been chosen for this, and what's up with the creatures from the Eff's descriptions. Couldn't the job have been done just as well or better by sending a pair of experienced majii? Why is the Eff in on this anyway? I thought two house people were secret, or is that just the secret society? Also, fridge thought, why is the Eff giving the assignment and the Councilor the one to take the debriefing? Shouldn't that seem weird to Moor at the end? "thick purple blood" -- I would just like to point out that I have a plant whose sap is bright, ruby red. When I cut it, the sap looks remarkably like blood. (It's a philodendron erubescens if you're interested) The scene with the child is much clearer, however, I still picked up some hesitancy to go all-out creepy on it. My vote is to do it! describe the "something unnatural" that happens and if it's too far, then you can walk it back. I do like the greater emphasis on decisions and on actually trying to do something. It's tough, since Moor is basically fighting to keep to a standstill, but it's reading better than the first version because we actually see Moor struggle. I especially like that freeing themself cost Moor so much, but I'm still not really getting the sense that this was an especially traumatizing event, though. And I think it's supposed to be? Like, a defining event of some kind for Moor, since it appears to have so much influence on them the 300-odd years later when we see him next? Knowing the other story, it feels like this should be, however, just going by what's on the page here, it's creepy, sure, and disturbing, yes, but I don't really get from it that it'll have a lasting impact on Moor's personality, if that makes any sense? I like the recruitment speech better as well. it jives more with the story and foreshadows a bit more Moor's personality later on. I'm wondering now, since the infrastructure theme seems to have been largely dropped, if the infodump about the trade wars is still necessary? It reads pretty well without it. If the desire is to foreshadow Moor wanting two houses to do social work instead of the purely defensive/military bent the other councilor seems to have, then maybe instead of the trade politics, Moor could pick up more of the inequalities between their own magi living areas and the squalor of the docks? Something about asking about the disparity and being brushed off because the other races just assume that any city of a certain size will have a vagrant or transient population? Something something idealism something something you Bens don't know how the real world works? Something something what could you possibly do about it/then change the system from within? But I mean, it also works fine without.