Ace of Hearts

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    Studies Plants, Hates Gardening

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  1. The main two aspects of this chapter that I enjoyed were the BK's character and Ir's found friendship with P. In regards to BK, I think his characterization is on point. I think the key detail is how aware he is of his surroundings even when he seems completely disengaged, such as when he tells Ir she can take more tea. It's both humanizing and makes him seem more competent/threatening, and I hope we see more of him being simultaneously aloof and alert. What made Ir's friendship with P stick for me was how P intentionally messed up the schedule to give Ir more time. The fact that P faced negative consequences for her actions makes me more connected to her interpersonal relationship with Ir than any proclamation could. I definitely think this is a strong dynamic that could be leaned on in future chapters if necessary. Along this note, I noticed a sense of awe in Ir, which interested me. It's hard for me to point to where it comes from, specifically. I think the story realizes that showing only fear from Ir doesn't really give us anything new about her, and I appreciate that it doesn't hammer her fear to death (or that at least it addresses new sources of fear like performing on stage with an instrument... which I felt). That being said, it does feel like there's more room to explore Ir here. Her fear, anxiety, and potential awe feel standard for the situation and therefore don't feel as characterizing for her specifically. In my mind the two paths forward are to either explore how she deals with the fear/awe in a distinct way that helps us see who she is, or to add more emotions to the mix. But I'm sure there are other ways. I'll also echo not getting a strong feel for B here. I can't speak as much to the larger plot (I'm pretty sure I do have the emails for older submissions but I'm too lazy to read through all them right now), so I'll stick to what we have here. I feel like we get a great idea of B's archetype as the hyper-competent secretary and what we're missing is examples, which can also help feed into motivation. Everything P says about B interests me, and we need to "see" her in action to get the full effect, even if it's only in recollection. What's an example mistake she found in a noble's paperwork that forced the others to get their act together? How does she act when she finds these mistakes and gets to blast nobles for them? I don't think the story must answer those questions specifically, but seeing her in action will make her feel alive to us.
  2. Hi! I haven't read the prologue and first chapter but since this is a new PoV I'm not sure how much context I'm missing. Let's start with what I think is working here. I do like the way H is forced into a situation much more dangerous than she initially anticipated. I think the larger structure of "H tries to recruit P, but things go awry and she has to do it herself" is a good way of pushing her character and raising stakes. Also, I really like the detail about the donations, and everyone donating having very little to begin with. That one detail did more than P's talk at showing me how this place keeps the working class down. My interpretation of this is that P is uncontrollably angry about the situation as a whole and acting irrationally in the moment. Which does feel a little convenient, but I can see it working if we're not really supposed to focus on P's character. For this to be the case, we need a bit more about H, which I'd like to see anyway. What's her motivation in all this? Right now we get that she's afraid of angering her father; is that all there is to it? How is that motivation shaped by her past? We don't need all the details now, but right now I don't quite feel like I'm getting enough of the picture. I agree with @Mandamon's comments about the father, which are phrased better than whatever I could come up with. One note I'll add is that I'm not sure how to feel about the "he was fit and skinny before but now he's inactive and fat" trope. I get that we don't have full information about what happened to him yet, but it's important to talk about the topic sensitively. Best of luck in revision!
  3. Hi! I have some extra time this week so I'm jumping into this review. I haven't read any of the other chapters, so keep that in mind for my critiques. In terms of what I like about this chapter, I thought the conflict between "I hate what this place stands for" and "Wow this kitchen is so cool" worked well on a larger structural level. At least, that's what I think the conflict is, not having context from previous chapters. What's making the scene tense despite its lighthearted nature is that we suspect Ir isn't going to be able to keep enjoying this kitchen with everything else going on, so setting it up as something she adores makes sense. This is the main opportunity for improvement I noticed while reading through. In particular, I want to feel like we're in a chef's head while she's looking through these kitchens. Is she excited by the quality of specific tools? What does she think about the stock of ingredients? What does she want to make with them? I also think the dialogue has the potential to do even more work here. Right now, it's letting characters convey information, but it's hard for me to get a lot of personality out of what they're saying since I could imagine a lot of different people saying those lines in the same situations. I think part of this comes from how P is excited by everything, and exclamation marks are used to try and create that excitement when I think it would be stronger if dialogue word choice and character actions conveyed that emotion instead. In general I'd be careful of exclamation marks. When I notice myself relying on them, it often means that I'm trying to push weak writing into the spotlight rather than strengthening it with more specific word choice. Best of luck in revision!
  4. I'll say that I definitely enjoyed this overall! Let's start with what I liked. My main investment at this point in the story is R's character. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be, but I started tracking her after her reaction to T, which was distinct and helped both characterize her and establish how she fits into the world. The fact that she tries to recruit Z more or less out of the blue also makes her stand out. I also thought T's emotion-reading ability was used well. It was established early on so I didn't feel cheated when it was used to de-escalate the tension when Z talked about R being a witch. I also liked how it helped put key info out into the open. Now let's get into suggestions. Right now, I feel like I need a bit more from Z. I'll say that I don't really understand what Z is up to as a seeker, but right now that isn't my primary question and I don't think we need more explanation at this point since the story does quite a bit of explaining worldbuilding elements to us already. Instead of wanting to know what Z does, I'd like to know more about why he's doing it. We know little about his personal motivations, and I think it's important for the story to establish why seeker work is important for him even if we don't completely know what a seeker does yet. This can come in little moments. For example, one of the backstory elements I appreciated was learning that Z's mom taught him basic medical care. Sprinkling in details like that, but about why he's doing what he's doing, what T means to him, what his ambitions are, ect. will help me become invested in his character. Also, there are a few moments regarding magic that are worth talking about. The magical song and T's ability to manipulate emotions were both told to us in a way that halted the story, and I think there's the opportunity for characterization. Filtering the song entirely through Z's opinions of the type of magic, for example, tells us more about Z instead of it feeling like we're being explained to. Also, I'm a bit confused about both powers. The song is supposed to only affect the mind, right? So how can it stand in for sleep, which helps with physical as well as mental exhaustion? As for T, I'm not entirely sure what his "manipulating emotions" ability can actually do. Can he only share emotion from one person to another, or can he actively create/suppress specific emotions in people? The latter case feels too broadly powerful to be interesting to me without specific restraints. Phew, now let's talk about themes. The main one I noticed was a focus on outsiders and how they fit into the world around them. If this is a key theme, I'd recommend playing it up more by giving us more hints of Z's backstory (which I'm assuming is nomadic). I also got the sense of different outsider groups needing to band together when things get tough, since Z and R work together despite seekers and witches seemingly not getting along. Good luck revising!
  5. I'll say that I read the talking cat as being literal. I did end up reading the thing you told me not to read (whoops), which clears up some things but leaves me with more questions in other areas. The two parts about this piece I thought were strong were the concept and how the descriptions fed into the atmosphere. A mute (or just quiet?) kid being picked on and finding a way to weasel out of the situation is a setup that gets us into the action right away without requiring a lot of setup and instantly allowing us to sympathize with them, which is vital in a flash fiction piece. I really appreciated how the descriptions of grime helped me feel what it was like to be that person in the alley. Those elements make up a strong foundation. I agree with some of the constructive criticism from other people (not sure what the arc is, or how it fits the prompt of someone overcoming a weakness), and I won't belabor those points. I will say that I'm not sure what's going on here needs to be as confusing as it is for some of us. The foreshadowing you mentioned could definitely be one element, but for me the larger point is that we should know directly what this character is doing if they're speaking to us in first person. Even if they think about it in an unorthodox way, there's room for the language to give us clues (such as saying, "I make the cat say..."). As a general rule, it's okay for the meaning of a story to be ambiguous at times, but we the details about what's physically happening should be clear and straightforward (though all rules in writing have exceptions, of course). I also wanted to comment on the beginning, which a lot of people praised. I do like the prose, but I think it could do more work by setting up the major ideas of the story. Right now, the first paragraph sets the scene and foreshadows what will happen on a plot level. I think a first paragraph of a flash fiction piece in particular should set up the major ideas and let us track the themes/motifs of the story to create a coherent sense of structure. The ventriloquism is important on a plot level, but the real point of meaning here appears to be the narrator's connection to the stray cat. Setting up this dynamic between the narrator and cats while creating immediate conflict will get us invested in the story and tell us how to read it; key foreshadowing and scene-setting details can wait until after we're hooked. Best of luck in the writing contest!
  6. My impression as a reader is that if the the vulva requirment is a continued point of discussion/plot relevance, E being intersex might need to play a large role to create conflict between her and the world at large. But if not, and if the cultural setting focuses more on the group E encounters here, E already has a perfectly good setting conflict in being an outsider to this group and the discussion about her sex might not need to play as large a role. I would still be excited to read E's story if she's intersex and allowed to be that way without it being a major "point."
  7. Phew, I'm back on this site but it's grad school app season (blegh) so I'll mostly be lurking around and trying to give as helpful feedback as I can for someone who doesn't have time to read all the chapters to get the full context (I've only read this chapter). On that note... All right, so the main response point is investment in the story and whether or not I care about the characters? I'll say my main point of investment right now is wanting to learn more about how E fits into this world as an intersex woman. I remember when I was reading about the vulva requirement to be on the planet and really felt like I needed to see conflict with E fitting outside the society's defined norm. When I saw that she was intersex, I realized it was exactly what I was looking for. The conflict right now with her place in society as someone who's intersex feels a bit subtle, but I think anything else would feel inauthentic when E's life is on the line for this chapter. I'd recommend seeing if there are ways that same subtle conflict could be woven into earlier parts of the chapter (my favorite part is E bringing up on her own how she doesn't have fundamentally different equipment than the others. It shows how much she's been forced to think about that part of her identity), but mostly I'm ready to read on about the subject (actually reading on with my schedule, we'll have to see...) One part I wasn't quite as invested in was E's relationship with her wife('s death). It's certainly possible that the work to build up that conflict was done earlier and that readers who read the first three chapters would be properly invested in this aspect of the chapter, but I thought I'd comment anyway just in case. Me not being invested in E's relationship with her wife stems from two main points. First, we don't get a lot of specific details about what T meant to E (this is the part that I'm guessing may have been fleshed out in previous chapters), so it's hard for me to get a good feeling for T. This manifests in places such as where E is talking about how she couldn't spend T's last weeks with her. What did E want to do with those weeks? What would they have meant to her? Knowing those specifics would help me understand her emotions better. Second, I'm not clear on what E really wants with regards to T's death. I can see that she's angry (and that does feel genuine!), but it felt like the story's momentum slowed a bit because without knowing E's desires/goals, it's hard for me to track motion towards or away from those goals. Phew! Now, onto other things I noticed. I'm conflicted about the first page and a half. I really like the descriptions and they do a great job of setting the scene (I usually find sci-fi hard to picture but didn't have this problem here), but they don't seem to provide forward motion to the story. To me it seems like the chapter really starts when the suit first speaks to her, so maybe that could come sooner? The back and forth between E and her suit seems to serve a crucial role in this chapter (and I'm guessing the story as a whole). The humor/banter was something I could really latch onto while I was working through a lot of the more technical details. These exchanges are times when I can catch my breath, and I'd like to see more of these dry/witty remarks during other parts of the chapter besides just the beginning to give me some space so I can process what's going on while still being entertained (maybe not during the emotional bits, and it doesn't necessarily have to come from the suit). Hopefully that was still helpful!
  8. Hi! What I liked: Idk if it felt over-the-top or too typical to other people, but the bit where we E reflect back on their school experiences on the bottom of page 6 with them not fitting in felt super powerful to me. This was one of the pivotal moments of the chapters to me: we have a pretty good idea of why logically E is doing what they are (rescuing their mom is pretty darn important), but the fact that their emotions and interpersonal relationships are developing adds a lot of meat to the story. And we see perfectly here why E's newfound connection with D is so important to them. By the end of chapter 6, I'm on board with the story. I feel like we're oriented in a good place to move forward and the fact that the protags here are alone is a nice/classic way of upping the stakes. I'm ready to see these characters pushed to their limits, and I'm hoping for them to succeed in spite of the challenges ahead of them. I also really like how all the mannequins left and everything seems completely normal in Junk Junction. It really sells the fact that the protags can't turn to anyone else, because to anyone else things look completely ordinary! But it's still rather chilling for us, and puts the pressure on E and D to succeed. Suggestions: I'll say that I agree about the beginning having a bit more potential for focus and defined motion. Going a bit deeper into the beginning of chapter 5, I'm not sure what the story gains by showing us the logistics of going to the bathroom, storing bikes, ect. The first two and a half pages don't appear to push the central plot ideas forward and while we get a few glimpses of character, I think that the space could be doing more work. The first moment I get invested is when the story starts discussing the disappearance of D's mom, because it connects to events and chars I'm ready to care about right off the bat. Is there a reason the chapter can't start with this? I also agree with some of the additional supernatural details not quite working for me. The creatures are cool, but what I'm really looking for is how they impact the characters. E's mom being turned into a mannequin obviously affects E, so I'm invested in that part of it. The other supernatural workings discussed here don't quite feel as directly connected to the characters I care about. E being good at research feels a bit underexplored to me as well; on a plot level it seems like they just focus really hard and figure stuff out, which feels a little convenient. Tying in specific character/personality traits that aid E here (or showing a bit more about how their thought process when searching for this info would be above and beyond the average person) could help us feel more connected to the character. And with the research again, I didn't exactly understand the stakes of the chapter. The internet is a tricky plot device for revealing information because you can never "run out" of info (can't pull the "this is the last book we have and we need to find something now!), and doesn't place the characters in immediate danger (so no need to sneak in and download data from a computer like in action movies), so it's hard to see what failure would actually mean here. Because of that, the successful info they do get feels a bit less sweet. One option is for the "we're alone" conflict to take a front seat here and propel the story forward (the immediate conflict being that if E doesn't figure it out, nobody will), though there are certainly other ways to raise tension. Considering chapter 6 is pretty short, we spend quite a bit of time with the chars prepping to go into Junk Junction. The real motion starts once we enter (with the traces of what E witnessed being missing), so getting to this point faster might be helpful.
  9. Hello What I liked: Okay, I have to gush a bit over R here. I love the character moments we get with him here. We get a feel for his general personality and academic orientation with him repeating the teacher's lectures, and we also get some really powerful emotional info about his history with the other character whose name starts with R. Importantly, these moments don't feel out of the blue, but are directly prompted by events in the story. Also, they give us a perfect window to show us more about how Z reacts to other people and their unique experiences, which really strengthens the story overall. This chapter does a great job of building Z and R as strong characters and letting the connection come organically. Z's dialogue in the flashback is also amazing. Normally I dislike when characters tell us exactly what's happening, but here Z cutting through the euphemisms is a really powerful window into how she feels about the world. We can feel her pain as someone who knows exactly why she's hurting and doesn't understand why people have to shroud that behind fancy words. It's a great way to characterize her, a technique that lets the story get away with Z telling us directly how she feels, and plays into the ending of the chapter. Which I really liked, by the way! We don't expect the protags here to be masters, so having someone swoop in and save them is totally fine this early on in the story. Suggestions: I think the other comments about the beginning being a bit slow do have some merit to them. Though I do love all the interactions here, and would recommend seeing if you could find a way to make them more relevant to the plot at large instead of necessarily cutting down (because I really did gain a lot of understanding about R, and I wouldn't want to lose this in the next draft). Right now it seems like the main conflict of the chapter is the egg attracting the demon, but we don't find out about this until it happens. Getting across the fact that there's something weird about the egg early on could help build tension from the start. If we feel like something's looming in the background, the character moments might not feel like as much of a lull in the larger plot. Even better is if the character moments can tie into this tension/conflict (crude/bad examples: R's nerdy lecture can be about the egg doing weird stuff, and he's later creeped out by the egg which reminds him how far away home already seems, making him realize he won't be able to say goodbye to other R). I'd recommend not starting chapters in dialogue unless the scene is already set. I see this a lot, where a chapter starts with a snappy line of dialouge but needs to pull back right after to set the scene, at which point the tension stalls a bit and perhaps dissipates. In this case, the story could probably just explain that Z is asking her father about her mother leaving for the first line instead of showing it in action. We still get the hook of her asking about her mother, and it doesn't feel like we need to pull out of a conversation to get a feel for where we are. Though that is rather prescriptive, and there are certainly other ways to accomplish this. The last line break where the battle starts doesn't feel necessary to me. As it stands, I'm not exactly sure why we need to fast-forward/reorient ourselves here. It's hard for me to find combat interesting, either while writing or reading it, so feel free to take this bit with a pinch of salt (more than the usual, anyway). The beginning of the fight could have worked better for me, and I think most of it comes from the fact that the story describes each blow without going into as much of the feel and perspectives of the battle. Seeing Z's general mindset throughout the battle and watching her react to what's going on can be quite characterizing, while us seeing every attack the kids make here doesn't really let me get a good view on any of them. This is why I was more invested by the end of the fight, when we see more of Z's thoughts. Staying in her head from the get-go might be helpful here.
  10. Hey hey People have made a lot of the comments I had in mind, mostly that I was engaged almost the whole way through but didn't really understand why the plan was so seemingly convoluted. Oh, and the melodrama with T. I picture her as being a lot more savvy than I am with this dangerous business/politics stuff, and it was obvious to even me that following M's instructions wasn't going to go well for her. I will say that I thought many of the descriptions (about the beasts, or even T's breakdown when M first visits her) were wonderfully visceral. Sci-fi tends to feel a bit dense/abstract to me at times, so contrasting these foreign concepts with clear, powerful sensations does wonders for the story. I'll say that my largest comment was that I'm not entirely sure what this whole plan and the fallouts of it mean for the larger story with Q and M. Though I didn't get to read the first couple of chapters, so it's entirely possible that it's clear from the background you gave what this means to our main story. Still, I do wonder how much of this we need to see firsthand in order to get the general gist. If T and M here end up being pivotal characters, I think this chapter works, since we get good characterization of them both. Otherwise, I'm not entirely sure what the story gains from giving us a full 16 pages of an incident that Q and M could reasonably uncover at some point and that we would get the main gist of.
  11. My two favorite colors! Nooooooo Ahem. Oh, and I didn't think the spelling/grammar stuff was that bad at all! I never felt like it actually impeded my ability to understand what was going on. So from a purely linguistic standpoint, you could argue that it's not a huge deal since all language is arbitrary anyway and we can still comprehend what you're trying to get across. Maybe that argument won't win over editors, but it makes me feel better when I look at my own work. Anyways... What I liked: Ch. 3 in particular had a really nice advancement of a bunch of ideas we got introduced to. It really felt like E learns a lot during this time and makes substantial progress towards tackling the larger conflict of this story. I also love how the father and brother are away at a motorcycle rally. That's all I need to know to get a general picture of them that suffices for now. Ch. 4 also really moves the narrative forward and introduces us to a fun new character. I like D overall, and the part about getting a discount at the pizza place was the most relateable thing I've read in weeks (idk what that says about me). In general, I do like how much information we get during these chapters, since I don't really like watching characters flounder in uncertainty. I think concerns about the story running out of things to reveal may be legitimate, but right now I have trust in the story to keep up the pace. Suggestions: You mentioned the tension lagging in ch. 3, so I'll do my best to articulate my thoughts about it. From my perspective, I think the general structure of E going around town to hunt for info is solid, and what might be missing is a force pushing/challenging them to do so. It seems right now that the main force driving E forward is that they don't really have anyone to rely on. This can be kept or changed, and either way I'd like to see it putting more pressure on E to get something accomplished. I'm not exactly sure how long E has to accomplish what the story needs them to, for example, so I don't get a lot of tension from the library scene simply because it doesn't feel like E is rushed. A metaphorical time bomb prompting E to research things quickly certainly isn't the only plot device that can be used here; any force that puts the pressure on E to get stuff done should work fine. Ideally it also connects to some personal motivation/fear of E's. Some of the dialogue in chapter 4 is given to us in pretty big blocks from D. A bit more back and forth with comments from E might let us see more of E's personality and help the dialogue from feeling a bit less expository. I have mixed feelings on the other comments in this thread about E going into detail about pronouns and the dog instead of worrying about their mother, ect. Because I do really like how E buckles down and tries to get things done instead of spending a bunch of time panicking. Unless E worrying about their mom leads to some revelation that advances the story, I don't think we need a whole lot of it. I'll even say that I think it's realistic on some level because fears aren't always rational (people will cite a fact about how public speaking is a more common fear than death). However, I do think that the little worries that E has highlight that the story may need a larger force pushing E forward instead of letting them go through research/conversations at a comfortable pace. In other words, I can see E acting the way they do, and I think because of that we need more challenges/looming threats thrown their way to force them to react in more specific/characterizing ways.
  12. Hey hey Great to see some epic fantasy! It's been a while since I've read epic fantasy (crossing fingers for Stormlight Archive 4 asap), but I really love the subgenre and this piece helped remind me of my love for it! Strengths: There are some characterization moments here I really liked. My favorite is how L wanders for three miles around the city just to see it even when the blacksmith is close and Ad is lugging around her stuff. It does a good job of setting L apart from any other person walking into the city. A lot of her banter with Ad is quite entertaining as well. By the end of the chapter, we have a clear idea of what the inciting incident is. One of the main questions I ask after reading each chapter is "was there change here?" and we definitely get some by the end in this chapter. Suggestions: I noticed some of the same things that others did about the setting (though not to nearly as much detail). I won't repeat what other people have mentioned but wanted to add another voice to support what they're saying. While my knowledge about issues relating to gender is limited at best (should really learn more about it one of these days... so much important stuff to learn in this world!), I find that many cis male authors (which I'm guessing you identify as?) talk about womanhood in a simplified manner compared to people who have actually experienced having an identity closer to a woman. It's something I struggle a lot with in my writing. In this case, I felt like the conversation with the blacksmith was pretty straightforward in terms of the commentary. L gets different treatment by the blacksmith than a man would have, which is unfair and rightfully aggravating to her. What I feel like I'm missing is hints of how this sort of treatment ties into all aspects of her life: her goals, her interpersonal relationships, her experiences in the past, her outlook on the world, ect. I think it's easy for some people to identify acts of discrimination, and harder to see how the whole picture fits together. Also sorta applies to Ad's reason for becoming a knight; it feels like a simple one to one reasoning that lacks the depth of someone who's been female their whole life like Ad would be (I assume). Not sure if there's an easy fix, but just thought I'd mention it. In terms of suggestions on level of story structure, I felt like we needed more conflict in the beginning parts of the chapter. I think it is pretty standard to have a character doing their own thing before an inciting incident; I just need to see a bit more of L working towards something and having a strong emotional investment in what she's doing. The blacksmith incident is certainly annoying for L, but again I didn't identify that as the main idea that ties the chapter together in terms of conflict. I also thought that the blurb at the beginning (idk the technical term for those) could be even better than it is right now. To me, it reveals a bit too much too early on. I already understand exactly why the person is writing this and by the end of the chapter I think I even know who it is. It takes a bit of the fun and mystery away when we know too much this early on. I also agree with @Mandamon about needing a bit more at the end from L. And I don't think all of this work even needs to be done at the end of the chapter! It seems like a lot of her concern is about duty/lack of freedom as a ruler, so even showing how much her freedom means to her in the events leading up to the reveal could help us feel for her when we see that freedom being stripped away. I know that's a bit prescriptive; it's just the best guess I have as to what the chapter wants to be right now. If the chapter wants us to focus on a different aspect of L when this large event happens, that's certainly fine as well. I think that regardless, the setup cold be doing a lot of the work in making it so that we know how L's feeling right when the reveal happens.
  13. One other thing! I'll say that for me, I definitely interpreted the line about being neither a boy nor a girl as E being non-binary. Though I did hesitate a bit, and I think it's because I'm not used to thinking of kids as being so aware of gender issues (even though many of them totally are!). It sounds tricky to be able to discuss gender in a way that feels realistic for a child E's age, but I do think it's super important to show that kids can be thinking about those things in ways that are just as logical as adults (albeit likely still coming from a different viewpoint). So I think it will be super awesome if E's thoughts on gender are explored a bit more!
  14. Hey hey, guess who's late to the party? Anyways... What I liked: The first line is great! It's super striking and immediately gets me into the head of the character If I remember one thing from the chapter, it's (weirdly enough) the little scene with the coin flipping. The "let fate decide but wait I actually want to decide" is super characterizing and perfect for the mother as someone I picture as being a bit more free-flowing and eccentric from her occupation. The mother's character overall was fantastic for me, honestly. Her job is the perfect way to introduce us to the paranormal elements of the story. G is best boi 11/10 dog The way chapter 2 ends is super satisfying for me. Having the doll explain stuff and then disappear stops me from feeling super lost without letting me feel too comfortable about the position that the narrator is in. Suggestions: The end of chapter one confused me a bit with regards to the narrator's and mother's characters. I can't really tell what the mother is trying to get out of being so in the middle between the supernatural existing and not existing. It seems like the mother would either want to deny the existence of the supernatural (maybe with a small hint) or confirm it so that her child thinks that she's just some eccentric person. Or maybe it's just that "tell you the truth" is general enough that it doesn't give me (or the narrator!) a reason to latch on. I think that the narrator spends too much time freaking out in chapter 2. Yeah, it's totally realistic that they would be in shock, panicking, calling for their mom. But realistic doesn't always move the story forward, and I felt like the narrative stagnated a bit while they were repeating similar phrases about wanting their mom to stop playing tricks on them. The moment I get back into the story is when the narrator starts to think about how the dog reacted to the different supernatural creatures. Having that moment come sooner might help (though it's still important to convey the narrator's fear, of course!). I can also add my voice to the list of people who felt that the mannequin transformation was a bit sudden/confusing. Because of that, I was floundering a bit for the first part of chapter 2. Which means that unfortunately, I don't have a lot more to say about it since it was hard for me to track what's going on.
  15. I'm totally late, but at least everyone else who already commented doesn't have to feel quite as late in comparison What I liked: -First line is strong. It demands that I pay attention so that I learn more about the situation. -I love the numbered expressions from a narrative standpoint. Can't personally speak as to whether or not it captures autism realistically, but if you've workshopped with people who understand that better than I do then I'm guessing you're good! -The tension about the teenagers feeling like they have to lie is strong. They're backed into what genuinely does seem like a corner and they have to weasel their way out in a way that feels authentic -In addition, I like how this teases potential further conflict when they go see the God King. I think it's clear to us that he's not going to react the same way that they think he will! I also didn't feel like them rationalizing about it was super strange. Suggestions: My main suggestions here are around side characters and dialogue. Dialogue is super important here because Z interprets the world differently than the other characters, so many of the things we would normally look for in characterizing side characters through the narrator's eyes would be more difficult to pull off. As a result, dialogue is the easiest way for us to see the perspectives of other characters, since the words coming out of their mouths aren't really filtered through Z. This is why I think the dialogue has to be even stronger here than it already is. Most of what we get from side characters feels fairly general; it's how I would expect many people to react in the situation and the roles they play fit into categories rather neatly (the teenagers talking to the priests in particular felt to me like a general conversation between teens and priests instead of something that lets me see super deeply into each character's specific personality). In text, this can show up as asking general questions or lingering on existing ideas without adding any new perspectives. I think the dialogue is the strongest between Z and her father, and the reason for this is that Z has specific character traits that influences the way she talks. She doesn't sound like a general person, but rather phrases ideas in a way that is distinctly her own. Finding these sorts of personality traits for the side characters that are integral enough to change what they focus on in speech will let us delve deeper into who they are. And a couple more minor points... -For me the tension in the beginning falls off a bit after the first line. It seems like we linger on the same concept of lying without any progress being made for a while. -I also felt the tension dip after the line when they decide to tell the God King and they go to the ceremony. I think the line about them going to the God King is the perfect punch to end the chapter with, and the rest can be turned into narration in the following chapter. Though that is a bit prescriptive. Any other way to make it feel like the chapter is developing past the point when they decide to see the God King could also work.