Ace of Hearts

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  1. I don't actually think it's about coming in cold. I just need a little bit more from O right here (and I think it doesn't have to be much). "I need to reconnect with At to figure out what's going on and how to move forward together" reads different from "I will find At and she will answer to me about what she's done" and I don't know which one we're dealing with (or maybe neither!)
  2. Glad you're feeling well enough to work on writing/editing As I go: pg 3. I felt my attention waning when the doctor introduces themselves. Any way to cut it down? pg 4. I feel like with all the attention on the fees it's going to bite O in the butt. She's already in medical debt right? pg 5. I think the internality here can be cut down to a paragraph. What's the most important thing we should know about how O is feeling right now? pg 7. Man that's an oof right there (sorry my gen Z is showing) pg 8. This is the internality I like the most in the chapter. Hero on a mission who realizes their mission is useless is a good dynamic pg 11. Seems odd to me that the operator wouldn't have access to the location of a planet. Why does that normally happen? -Good ending! Overall: Emotional impact is good overall. I really liked the part about O realizing that her mission was in vain. The stuff with A didn't really hit me as hard because I don't know why O wants to see her so badly. Yeah they're old... friends? Acquaintances? They know each other but idk what O is looking for from A now. Answers? Closure? A way forward? Practical help? Also, I like the focus on A wanting to live free of Ard and want to see a bit more of how O feels about that. Right now she seems to startled to work through it which isn't the most narratively interesting to me. Is she curious to learn more about what changed for A? Does she feel betrayed? I think there's work to be done to clarify her current relationship with A to us, even if it's not entirely clear to her (always tricky!). I think room could be made for this by cutting some of the internality in the first half of the chapter. I know a lot of authors say that they cut a lot of their internality to better hone their writing's focus and I think that could work here. I care about O's hero mission crashing and burning and her relationship to A. All else is secondary. Overall, though, great chapter!
  3. Woot woot another 8pm critique from lab on a Friday here I go! As I go: pg 1. This is Ala, right? I think we need his name in the first (or, well, second) paragraph to get us grounded. I don't really see what's gained by waiting half a page to say it. pg 2. All of Ala's thoughts and actions make sense, but I don't feel like there's enough to cue me into his personality here. Like he's concerned for Is like most people would (and should) be and so far that's all we've seen from him. We get a bit of what makes this different for him compared to someone else at the bottom of the page, and I think we need more. pg 3-5. Just an idea but Ala's dad died in a freak accident, right? I bet this would bring up painful memories for him that could make him seem like more than "helpful guy who saves princess." pg 6-7. Okay now we're getting somewhere. Honeslty I think the chapter could start here and Ala dropping Is off could be something that happens in the background. -That being said I don't really get why the guard directly attacks Ala. Very risky for everyone involved. I think a standoff where he threatens to call in more guards makes more sense to me. pg 9. Like I'm glad Ala cares but he seems to care a lot about Is. Is there a reason why? Broader implications about sinister plots, maybe? pg 10-11. This is a good introduction to healing stones. This is the most engaged I've been with the magic because it's relevant to the plot, culture, and Ala's character conflict all at once. Good job pg 12. Strong ending to the chapter Overall: As for the first question about Ala, imo it's where this chapter has a lot of room to grow. It's great that he's focused on helping Is, but his single-minded focus on her means that he himself doesn't stand out as much as he needs to. It feels like he's doing all of what he's doing just because he's a good person, which comes across to me as being very nonspecific. I need more to set him apart from standard fantasy protagonist confronted with princess in danger. Idk if the others will agree with me (and maybe previous feedback is why you were shying away from this), but I want more politics here in his internality instead of just worry. Like I've been saying, I don't think the politics are inherently boring. In the early drafts the problem was that they weren't character or plot-relevant, but now they are. I want Ala to think about the politics of this being an attempted assassination and what that means for him as an outsider. At least, if the story is going to focus on that in the future, which it seems like it is. There are other routes here, but the pure worry and concern is not doing it for me. As for the second question, I think the magic and the way it's introduced is awesome. Like I said in the LBLs, it connects to the plot (healing Is is necessary), culture (kinda weird for spellstones to be in the open like this, hints at further secrets), and character (Ala is viewed the way he is because of magic so this directly affects him), which makes it come across as really strong to me. Keep those focuses strong and you'll be golden.
  4. Oh and I hope my comments about being aro didn't come off as trying to negate your experiences. For my first comments I wasn't sure if you were aro or not and a lot of readers might be in that position too so I wanted to give my blunt thoughts about it. And me offering to chat is offering to compare experiences and find stuff that makes sense to both of us, not me saying my experiences are more legit than yours.
  5. Her going "what's wrong with me?" is an easy way to build good conflict, but it's not the only one. I think in a society that sees romance as normal the anger towards the normal people doesn't make sense to me without additional context since you don't really get mad at people for being normal for the most part unless it fits into the "what's wrong with me? Why can they do X but I can't?" type of thing. If you want to keep the anger I think anger at the world makes more sense, personally. Or, again, adding more context as to why she's annoyed at alloromantic people in general. I think I need to know what she actually wants her life to look like, which is what I was trying to get at when I said her being aro is not compelling on its own. Imo the interesting part of aro characters (and for me, the aro experience) is not that they don't feel romance, but what they replace that with. Does she want to be with B, just not in a romantic way? Does she want to live with a group of friends? Does she want to a hermit in the woods? Establishing this makes the compromise you're going for clearer. And if she doesn't know what she wants... well, that's a whole separate conflict/arc in itself that could use some more exploration. Also, for this to be a healthy relationship she should really tell B about her (lack of romantic) feelings. And if it's not supposed to be healthy, I think I need to see more of the pressure on her to not bring it up. Right now the pressure is on her to bring B into the family, which is not the same as pressure to be in a romantic relationship with him. I could see a perfectly happy ending where D stays with B in a non-romantic way and they raise a family together, but it feels like D isn't even considering that as an option. Again, this ties into the point above. If that's not the life D wants, we need to know that. As I'm guessing you know from your experience, being aromantic doesn't mean not wanting to be close to people. Another thing that might help to establish is D's sexuality, which I couldn't get a good read on. I couldn't tell if she was attracted to him or if the pull of the heart was something else entirely. Maybe it doesn't matter, but I was curious. This kind of stuff is tricky to write out because there's not a lot of good reference material, and I'm happy to chat about any of the romantic orientation/attraction stuff. Though there not being a good list of established aro work (to my knowledge at least) means I'm also not sure how widespread my opinions about it are.
  6. As I go: pg 1. Is the room disorganized? Not sure how to see C's and V's different perspective on this pg 2. "Where do you get your food from?" So does C, like, not know what farms are? I feel like V should dig a little deeper here. pg 5. So... is G-M thinking about human sacrifices? Things are starting to get creepy and I'm here for it. pg 6-7. Really like G-M's voice here pg 8-9. Does G-M think that's going to throw C off of investigating on her own for long? Because I don't. Though C does seem more by the books than I'd expect most kids to be, so maybe? -Oh okay and C doesn't even fall for it wow get rekt G-M -Or... she does fall for it. Whoops. Overall: 1. The most engaging thing to me is G-M's implication that everything C has done so far is nothing in comparison of its potential, that the wood stove has powers and costs far greater than we're imagining at this point. Nothing was really boring. 2. I wasn't sure why G-M went down the route she did. Either C gets full marks and finds out G-M was lying to her, or she gives up trying and goes back to investigating on her own, which puts G-M back to square one. Maybe if it was presented as a way to buy time to make a better plan to throw C off I could see it, but I don't really understand what G-M is thinking here. I'll also say that while I believe that C falls for the bait, I'm surprised V doesn't catch onto the fact that the whole thing is a lie if he's listening in. 3. Good overall! The parts I feel like I need to know more about are: 1. What's up with her relationship with her mom? Why does she feel the way she does about her mom, and why does her mom put up with her bs? 2. A bit more on why she hates C. The stuff we get is good, and I think we need that extra push. Maybe if we get more on why she cares so much that the other kids like C more than her it will make more sense to me. Good luck editing!
  7. Wow I'm already late to the party and this is the first one I'm looking at. As I go: pg 1. The idea of vampires giving their hearts away to people who need them is really cool. The fact that the story leads off with this is a really good move as well, since I'm immediately invested. My main question here is why are the vampires doing it? Why not just lock the heart away in a vault where it can never be staked? Is it out of the goodness of their hearts or is something else going on? pg 2. I'd like to get an idea of the soulmate thing even sooner. I assumed the story was going to be about what happens to the heart itself from the first page, and it doesn't look that way not. -Doesn't turning someone give a vampire control over them (granted, all of my urban fantasy knowledge is from a ttrpg so my GM could have been making that up)? Seems really icky for a love thing. pg 3. Don't think we need as much explanation in the middle. I just want to get back to the scene pg 5. I think it's supposed to be but turning someone without consent for the purpose of starting a family seems... really bad. Is D aware of this? pg 6. The fact that he's a grad student and isn't so much of a mess that he can present himself reasonably on a date is a good sign. Btw I'm doing this critique in lab right now after 6 while my PCR is running. pg 7. Can I say that not relating to people talking about romance is a whole mood and a half? Speaking of which is she into B at all? Right now being with him feels more like a physical obligation to her than her being interested in him, if that makes sense. pg 8. So she tells him about being a vampire? About him being her heart? I'm not sure and his reaction is a little odd if it is something like that. I think it's supposed to be but yeah I need a bit more to understand what's going on here. -yeah I thought it seems like she wasn't really drawn to him. But wasn't she the first time she met him, or was it a different sort of feeling? pg 9. What is the way of life that eludes her? Romance? As someone who's aro I can say I've never felt resentment towards alloromantic people and the reaction feels a bit odd to me, but it's not like my experiences are universal so maybe it's fine. For me it was more "what's wrong with me? Why can't I fit in?" and "Why did we build the world this way so that people who don't fall in love end up lonely?" pg 10. The dad is giving off major creeper vibes to me. Is he supposed to? If he's saying to turn B without consent that's really bad, and if he's saying to do it with consent that needs to be part of the talk. pg 12. Okay very glad that D is getting consent. The fact that B seems totally chill with it is odd to me. Should it be? Is D picking up anything weird about him? pg 13. Boy this leaves me with a really bad feeling. D seems like she's going to be miserable going forward (though Idk if I'm projecting my own experiences onto this). Flow is good, though the time does jump rather quickly at the start. Still, I don't want to linger before the meat of the story for too long so maybe it's for the best. Maybe we could use a little blurb about what she's been up to for the tenish years in between childhood and work? Ending is... it just makes me feel down, honestly. And not in a satisfying way. It doesn't seem happy for anyone involved. I also didn't think it resolved much. B is static throughout the story which I think is fine but the fact that D never really challenges this thing that's tearing her apart makes it feel like it stalls for me. There's not really any motion in her story when I think there needs to be. Also, while I don't subscribe by the "it's always bad when queers have sad endings" that some people do (yes I spend too much time on tumblr), I feel like there needs to be some glimmer of hope. Characters: dad gives me total creeper vibes. The fact that he's so insistent that D bring B into the family is bad, and the fact that he's not clear about making it consensual for the first 12 pages is worse. D herself is good with a few things I found odd that I noted in the LBLs. Also I think we might get a clearer idea of what D does want in addition to what she doesn't. Aro people can still have partners and form relationships, it just comes from a different emotional place (sorry if you already know this but a lot of this stuff was a surprise to me so I want to make sure we're on the same page). And yeah, some of us don't do that, but some alloromantic people don't want to be bound by a single partner or partners at all either. Point being that D being aro is in itself not compelling; we need to know what replaces those romantic feelings for her. B is... he really strikes me as odd, and it made me wonder if he was in control at all of what he was doing. The fact that he was so eager about things he should at least take a minute to process makes me agree with some others in saying that it felt like he was brainwashed.
  8. L for mild swearing. I've been spending the last couple of weeks juggling different projects so I still need to finish tweaking Ch. 4, but this chapter has a bit of a different focus so I don't think it matters all too much. For this one, I'm just curious about the usual questions plus one more: 1. Points of engagement/non-engagement? 2. How do you feel about the characters and their actions? 3. Do the exchanges between N and W read as genuine romantic interest? I am aromantic so I wanted to check in about that. Thanks for the time and effort you put into making this story stronger!
  9. Wow this is a ton of helpful info! Thank you so much! I really appreciate the time and effort that goes into educating me about this, and I don't want take it for granted. Yeah I did see that Klinefelter is rare. The reason I chose that one in particular is because in this world a lot of the variation in skin color is linked to the X chromosome so the combination of S having Klinefelter and being mixed race is reflected in his visual appearance. Do you think this would feel like focusing too much on the 'cool' parts? I also read that people with Klinefelter have a nearly identical life expectancy to people without and symptoms can be subtle for many people, so I didn't put a ton of thought into the medical side, but I can definitely do some digging into the medical issues that can come along with it. Though one of the tricky parts is that this world doesn't have the ability to call out S' condition as precisely as we're talking about it here. Do you think that will be a problem? I will say that S doesn't have ambiguous genitals and is "cis" (I think your tweet about the gender thing popped up in my feed a while back actually). He talks about it a bit with the nb character who comes up later. And yep S' sex isn't fluid.
  10. Oh whoops I forgot to reply to this lol. For the first draft I didn't use any specific resources, leaning instead on my experiences being mixed-race since he's at the intersection of the two, which as I'm typing it out now I'm realizing may not have been the best way to approach it. The closest thing to a resource was reading the wikipedia article for Klinefelter, which is what he has. Do you recommend any specific sources, or is it better if I start from scratch looking myself?
  11. Yeah I think my problem here is that I'm trying to have my cake and eat it too. I want a fantasy culture that's sorta based off a real life one so I have a foundation that makes sense (I really do feel like many of those "europeans but in a desert" fantasy stories don't make complete sense from a cultural worldbuilding point of view, since physical environment affects culture so strongly), but I also want to do my own thing with it and not be restricted to what that real culture did. I can see why that would cause problems. If I had to pick a real-life civilization that the X empire is based off of, I'd say the Abbasid Caliphate, but there's also a good deal of stuff that's different. From my perspective, I think my two options are either to back off on historical Arabic culture altogether (though again, this is tricky considering many cultural practices are common sense desert precautions) or really hone in on a specific culture. For now I might keep the culture as is and try to get a better idea of what to do with it after more critiques (unless you think it's clear what should be done right now), though it is helpful to know that the headscarf thing could come across as a red flag. No worries! If you're not engaged then you're not engaged. Not your fault. Hmm this is a good thing to bring up. There are characters that walk between both the gender and sex binary set up, but tearing down those ideas isn't a major feature of the story. It's more about how to survive in a world that's hostile to those people but even then it's not a huge focus point for the one intersex and one nonbinary character. They already have so much else on their plate, in addition to other reasons they don't fit in (such as race). Thanks for clarifying! It's interesting to hear about your situations because I really didn't mind those situations as much or suffer from a lot of gender dysphoria, which is part of why it took me 21 years to realize that I'm nonbinary. I wrote this novel back when I was still questioning my gender and I think me being scared of existing outside the gender binary does come off here. Thanks for your thoughts! My edits for the first few chapters are aimed at doling out information more slowly so it's not as overwhelming.
  12. Looks like space is filling up fast. I'll take a slot on Monday as well pending space though I'm happy to step back if someone else wants it because I did sub this week.
  13. I don't know how many people here are familiar with the Ace Attorney video games but I have to share this trailer screenshot with everyone I know. I think it speaks for itself.
  14. Wow @Snakenaps that's... quite the set of stories for someone who's only been teaching for 3 years. Every time I wonder if I want to teach grade school, I wonder if I have the ability to deal with stuff like that. Glad to hear that you've had a bunch of wonderful kids though!
  15. My current idea is to just call it calico and call out that inheritance works in the same way so that it doesn't seem as derogatory (I mean, there's a part of me that wants it to be casually derogatory but if it's uncomfortable then it's uncomfortable) Heh my (nonwhite) race is clear enough that people aren't usually totally off the mark, but yeah I think that's a pretty common experience. What I do also know is that for me and many others I've talked to people from my groups tend to treat me like I'm a part of the other group (white people treat me as Asian and Asian people treat me as white), so I don't really belong in either space. S looking the way he does really encapsulates how that feels to me, even if isn't a one to one connection. Yeah that makes a lot of sense! Characters acting in a way that is natural to them makes no sense without context, and even when I do try to explain it comes off as info-dumpy. I've been mulling this over and I think what I'm going to try to do is simplify the mechanics down to their bare bones at the start so that the story can happen. For example, we don't need to know the complex inheritance behind S's skin color; all we need to know is that mixed-race girls (or, well, assigned female) carry skin splotches from each parent but boys don't, yet Samai has those skin splotches despite being assigned male. Good because that's a lot of what it's going to be! Yeah! And a good reminder that not everyone has studied these types of cultures as much as I have (not that I'm a historian or anything)... because I (personally, anyway) feel like a lot of this makes more sense with certain bits of historical context. Sigh you're right as usual. I'm going to try to see if we can move forward without a prologue by simplifying some of the initial worldbuilding in the first few chapters instead of this sandboxing. The area the characters are in draws generally from Arabic/Middle Eastern culture. My current idea is to not have it be one to one, and sorta be more like how Lord of the Rings clearly draws from European culture despite not really being Europe. As such, I imagine the headscarves as not being the exact same as something like an Arabic hijab (and also the structural design at least is gender-neutral). Do you think this is the wrong approach? The assumption most people in the world make is that S is a girl. I was hoping to convey that he's intersex, since N does say S came out as male at birth (trans people aren't... really accepted in this world. Which I know comes with its own host of issues, since these repressive societies often aren't the queer rep people want to see). Thanks for your comments, everyone!