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146 Cobalt Guard

About C_Vallion

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  1. Good to know. I'll make a note of that for editing. Now I see where the explanation disconnect in our messages was. Is- has two spellstones. The energy spellstone (the bracelet Al gave her) that D references, and the one she actually uses at the beginning of this chapter (a necklace that her uncle brought back from one of his healing trips), which contains a combination of spells to help with muscle strength/pain. I'll have to figure out the best way to deal with this. On one hand, it is scenery description and scene-setting, but the geography of it is really important when they're returning, and in theory, the pacing of that chapter should be quick enough that a scenery/geography description there would be distracting. I'll have to figure out what to trim back and what to hang a lantern on for later. Probably a mix of weekly reading and it being a while since he's been seen/mentioned. And most interaction with him has been indirect, as her specific thoughts on why she doesn't like him are in one of the cut chapters at the start. He's one of the ones who basically called out Al as a foreign spy in the court scene way back when (chapter 5 or 6, I think). He's also the one who hosts some of the parties that Ro- mentioned overhearing concerning conversations at. Most specific to why Is- doesn't like him is in R's chapter, where R is pretty confident that Ar would try to overthrow him if R took the throne before something was done to settle the conflict among the court. As with so many things, it may also just not be sticking well enough if those sections are bogged down in setup... This probably needs more clarification for how drunk she actually is more than anything. Ultimately, Is-n is assuming she's far more drunk than she is, since she's so guarded under normal circumstances. She's had enough to lower inhibitions a bit and be slightly louder/more giggly than usual, but that bar is low enough that you could trip over it if you're not careful. The message boxes were introduced in Is's conversation with Aunt D in Chapter 10. What we get there is that it's new magic-tech. Text-messaging via magic is probably a decent rough idea, though the boxes Is-n and Der- have are a little larger. Probably jewelry box sized. Vows have different procedures than Oaths, and appear on different arms (Vows on the right, Oaths on the left). If they're Judge-bound (so, not the tattooed ones like Al and the other Gil- nobles have), they glow when touched (like a spellstone would) or when the person is using magic. Currently working on the reworked prologue that will detail some of this better than the old one did. Had you read the initial prologue? I can't remember when you jumped in for the reading. I should probably clarify Is's opinion of V earlier on as well. There's a little of that in her talk with Al near the end of Part 1, but that's more based on his interactions with V, not her opinions. I should probably have Al turn that back on her to get her to acknowledge her perspective. She wouldn't consider V cold. She's has no doubt that V loves her. She just also knows that he's practical to a fault (not that she'd call it a fault), and that he is willing to make sacrifices for the good of the kingdom, even if it pains him to do so. She also doesn't realize the extent to which that pain weighs on him - which we got a little of in the interlude (Is-n has a better sense of how torn V is about the whole thing, but likes to think that V wouldn't marry Is- off to someone he knows is horrible). Because Is- is also practical to a fault, she's willing to do whatever that requires of her for the "greater good". Because she then gets the dual-accomplishment of doing what's best for the kingdom and of making Dad proud (or at least being valuable to him when he needs her), while also carrying on denying her own vulnerabilities and fears of failure and uselessness. Ultimately, they both have very serious issues acknowledging the emotional toll that practicality puts on them (or any emotions at all, really). And all of those things need to be brought out a little more clearly early on, because there's a lot of that desire to be useful to V and the kingdom in Is's motivations that just got lost in the mix early on, but that provides more answer to the "Why is she being so stubborn about asking for help?" questions that have come up. Blargh. I feel like my list of things to fix in Part 1 is longer than the text of Part 1, itself. Which, as you are well aware, is not an insignificant feat. Thanks so much! The input is extremely helpful, as always!
  2. So. Turns out jumping back into coaching with both feet really kills my writing/responding schedule. Definitely need to work this out better. Some of it will come in through changes in Part 1, to make the perception shift here clearer. But some definitely just needs clearer definition here to seem more consistent. This is a thing that should have come across stronger in Part 1, as D is one of the few people Al knew before coming to the capital, and D's father is also one of the people Al is trying to get trade started with, as their holdings share a border. I don't think the framework around who is who was clear enough in the first few chapters for those details to stick, though, so I'll definitely be working on that in the Part 1 revisions. Good to know that it's not quite working as-is. Mostly it's the equivalent of an overwhelmed mother shouting at children for playing soccer or baseball or whatever in the house. Mostly a decorum thing, but also a "you're going to break something or hurt someone and I don't have the time or energy to deal with it right now" thing. This was originally mentioned in one of the cut scenes from Part 1. At the time, I was considering replacing this chapter entirely (cutting out the training), but I ended up reworking it to approach things from a different angle instead. I'll have to make sure that's clarified next revision. Just a few? Unnecessary wordiness and ponderousness are definitely things I need to be working on. It's good to hear that it fits the tone to some extent, but I know it ends up slowing down the pacing of a lot of the chapters where there's already more walking and talking than can be engaging for too long. In general, what you've missed over the past several months is far too much of this.... way too many important things getting bogged down. I apologize in advance if you're reading back through things. Hoping I can do a much better job of trimming on the next round of revisions. Welcome back, though! His political pursuits will be more central in the next round of Part 1 revisions. That will partly be magic law related (which is important to him personally) but also trade and marriage-related (which he thinks are the more important things for ensuring stability for the duchy.) He's assuming that she's hoping to marry Ro-. Or whatever bachelor she can claim who will give her the most power/influence. Because that's what he's seen her tend toward. He doesn't distrust her, so much as he assumes she'll be back to flirting with Ro as soon as he's back in the picture. Until he sees that she actually cares about and has put a lot of work into sword training, it doesn't really occur to him that she's anything more than a power-hungry flirt, so he's a little dismissive of her attention until he realizes that his opinion of her has been misguided and superficial... So, you know. I just need to convey that in the text... Not entirely, though I should have maybe had a stronger indication that it was about the conversation he'd had with V at the end of Part 1. Just need to figure out how to make that work without breaking pov-knowledge. Good call. I'll have to make sure I'm clarifying those details better. Some of it was mentioned earlier on, but it's been ...a while ... since those chapters were submitted, and those mentions probably got bogged down in other things, since that's what happens to a lot of my background information. So, brief summary. Ultimately, A is titled and comes from what was once a powerful family (all of the duchies are coastal, so they have more direct control over the kingdom's naval forces), and everyone assumes he's desperate, so they're hoping they can con him into a marriage with related negotiations that benefit them far more than they would benefit him and the duchy. So as long as they're willing to look past everything related to his father (which some are and some aren't), he's quite the catch for anyone looking to tie themselves to old nobility or a higher-ranking title. The people who would be considering him range pretty widely, since no one is sure what to make of him, or what he might be able to be manipulated into, or whether he knows enough to keep from running the duchy into the ground. So much for making this a quick response to everyone... but what else is new? Thanks, all! Lots of helpful thoughts here for me to keep in mind as I'm figuring out exactly how to approach the situation with T and the political background here.
  3. Hello, All! Man, really sneaking in before the buzzer this week. Whoops. This was originally two chapters, which I trimmed and merged to remove some of my usual walky-talky issues. It likely still needs more trimming in some spots, specifically in discussing the magic mechanics, but after cutting 3k words already this week, my brain needs a little more distance before it decides what else should be trimmed. Content Warning: Mild Language, Mild Drinking (not sure if that quite fits the drug/substance abuse tag, but figured it’s better to mention it) Usual questions plus one: Any confusing/boring sections for this chapter? Thoughts on characters? Points of interest or engagement? Does it seem like this works alright as one combined chapter, or does it seem like it would be better divided into two shorter chapters (Basically split into Campfire Conversation Day and Magic Conversation Day)? Thanks so much!
  4. @Silk for good measure
  5. Am I allowed to grab a tentative spot? First week of school and coaching hit harder than expected this year, but as long as there aren't any fires to put out this afternoon/evening, I should have my chapter set for tomorrow.
  6. Pg 1: Would still like some more clarification on the rhythm thing. For whatever reason, I’ve been attached to the metaphor of coats and coat hooks for placing frameworks and reference details for concepts. Every time I come across the rhythm, I feel like I’m standing there holding a coat, looking desperately for a hook to hang it on so that I don’t stand there having to figure out what to do with it. Pg 1-4 I like these little snippets of what happens to those left behind. Pg 5: How far out is it that they start to see these things? They’re at ground level, so it makes sense that most smaller things would be hiding over the horizon, but if they’re seeing mountains on day 1, but haven’t reached them by day 2, I wonder how fast they’re going? And if it’s not that fast, how far out are the mountains in reality and why didn’t V notice them in his scouting flight? Pg 8: What is the landscape like here, that they can round a bend and find wind turbines that they couldn’t see before turning? 1. Nothing boring or confusing 2. No issues with characters’ thoughts or actions. I really enjoyed the story as a whole. I do think there are some adjustments to be made in the overall structure of it (but look on the bright side. It’s far less restructuring than I have ahead of me), but really love the concept and setting and tone of it. You mentioned the main thoughts I had in regard to things you intend to work on. I think the only other thing that I think could use some consideration is the overall kids vs. grown-ups setup. Though part of this is just a pet peeve for me, since I do a lot of mentoring and coaching work and get really frustrated when adults and kids fail to see each other as real people and drawing made-up “Well they just wouldn’t understand” lines when said individuals would probably understand far better than they’d expect. Part of me would like to find at least one adult who is able to get past what they’ve sacrificed for the town to be able to offer some wisdom to the kids. I think the explanation for why all of the adults are sort of horrible people checks out, but I would like to see more acknowledgment from C and company that the adults weren’t always as bad as they are now, and that the reason the adults had to sort of give up part of their decency was because they were trying to do what was best for the kids and weren’t able to keep the aftermath in line. I think there could be a little more time spent addressing the grief of missed opportunities in the parent-child relationships in the town because the parents had to give up aspects of themselves to give the kids what they thought was their best chance. To have that rewarded by the kids abandoning them to their doom in the cursed town feels like it’s skimming over something that could be a really interesting conflict. In many ways, their sacrifices and the resulting personalities did save the kids in that it gave them more motivation to get out of there, but none of that aspect of things is addressed. All of that being said, that definitely puts the focus on different things than you chose to. So feel free to ignore those rambling thoughts Congratulations on submitting through it all! I’ve really enjoyed the reading, and wish you luck with the revisions you have planned!
  7. Pg 1: “Degrading” -> disintegrating? “I wasn’t ever planning on it.” That seems like a pretty clear lie. One that N should be able to recognize. Sidenote. How does N feel about people lying to each other or to him? “…you can tell me the next time I’m being one.” The wording of this sentence is a little clunky. Pg 2: “…the most relatable you’ve been…” also a slightly clunky sentence. The conversation here feels a little off. I know N hasn’t spent a ton of time in modern teenage non-fae social circles, but he’s interacted with people before. I assume the fae also have varying personalities or people who are “emotionally smart” vs. “academically smart”? He just seems a little too naïve here. Pg 3: The transition to “What do you want to do next?” seems like a really sudden shift from the discussion about whether or not N is truly human. “Of course that’s okay.” Is it, though? If he still seems upset about it, does that create issues with his only telling her the truth? Both the spirit and letter of the truth? Pg 5: “That’s not a good thing, N.” “But it has a name.” Hah. “Aren’t you worried about your girlfriend’s ex” This line seems rather un-socially-conscious of E. Like it’s up to N whether he thinks E and W can behave themselves without supervision. Like N shouldn’t trust W to be able to tell E to get out of there if he tries to do anything untoward. Which also seems really weird since everyone involved knows E isn’t attracted to W and doesn’t want to be in a relationship with her. I’d like to see W step in here to have an opinion and not just let the guys talk about whether or not N should be allowed to join a game at her house. Even just clarifying that E is her friend, not just her ex when E is making a big deal about whether or not she wants her ex joining them would be something. It just seems odd that he’s so set on referring to himself as her ex, when they seem to have developed a friendship that stands on its own merit. Almost seems like he’s the one making drama out of nothing here. Pg 6: Why has no one demanded an explanation for why E and B are together? Because every single time he mentions her, it’s some weird ominous thing, and he’s presented as a wise-beyond-his-years character. Like. They all openly acknowledge that she’s possessive and manipulative of him, and he bad-mouths her pretty regularly… I don’t get how neither N nor W have asked if he even likes her. Pg 7: “…good friends…don’t fit will with their partner.” I have no idea what this is saying. If it’s just that B is good to her friends, but doesn’t fit well with E, then why is there no obvious, blunt “So why are you her trying to be her partner?” It also makes it sound like E’s situation is supposed to seem normal. To have some unnamed outside thing forcing him into a relationship with someone he doesn’t like and who doesn’t like him. The “There are people out there…” makes it seem like an acceptable thing that he’s fine with. “She treats me the same way, and I’m human.” 1. Yeah. Why is he in this relationship? And 2. Didn’t we refer to N as human at the beginning of the chapter? Looking back, I guess he talks about having human emotions, not being human. But In page 1, W says “I’m the one who questioned your humanity” as if he is human and she didn’t treat him like it. “Good to her friends. Not who I click with…” So this just bluntly that he doesn’t want to be with her? Then why are his best friends (I assume?) not questioning it. “Sorry about not being tactful.” / “I expect nothing less…” seems like an odd thing to apologize for on W’s part, and sort of passive-aggressive on E’s. I think just leaving it at “You’re not wrong.” Would be better to get the point across. The whole conversation here with E feels a little odd. I’m not entirely sure what point E is trying to get across, and I’m getting too distracted by everyone ignoring the fact that he and B seem to hate each other. It seems like a roundabout approach to whatever they’re supposed to be discussing, but I don’t really get what the final conclusion is supposed to be. If it’s just that E and B hate each other, but need to be together for mysterious unspoken reasons, so N and W need to support him while he’s dealing with the loneliness and frustration, I think we could have gotten to that far more quickly and directly. Pg 8: “shouldn’t see my boyfriend as competition.” Ding ding ding! Glad to see her finally have this realization. Pg 12: “didn’t learn until recently that there was a name for this.” I thought we already knew that E was ace. Didn’t we learn that in one of the first few chapters? And if he had spent a lot of time interacting with W’s mom and amma, wouldn’t he have known the terminology just from hanging out with their family? They seem like the types to be pretty up front with those sorts of discussions. Pg 15: “like a rabbit going through a wire fence.” I’m not sure what this is supposed to look like. Pg 16 “if this is what I think it is…” this seems like an odd response from W. When she found out her mom was sick again, she ran off on her own in a burst of anger. To be pretty sure that the news is that her mom is dying, and to not only be pretty calm about it but to keep her friends around because it will affect the D&D schedule? I think this approach makes the tone of this page seem a little off. Like they’re gathering everyone in a big circle to hear the news that W has been afraid of, that has caused a good deal of past trauma for her, and that she and her family are probably going to need time to process together. I’m not sure what purpose it serves to have N and E stick around. Also, E and N have both lost parents. Wouldn’t one of them be able to guess what the serious phone call and amma’s tenseness are about? 1. I think my biggest issue in here is the odd back and forth about E and B and the trying to decide whether E should stay or not. I think E processing his sexuality is dealt with well, but couldn’t quite get past the idea that it seemed odd as a big reveal when I thought we knew that already. Not sure if that was just based on reading comment discussions or if there was enough in the text to make it pretty clear early on. My instinct is to say that we should have this a little earlier, but I do like the aspect of N and W sort of working together to help E (giving him the opportunity to talk to W’s parents about it, and the space to reveal it to W), and I think that strengthens the relationships on each leg of the friend triangle. I don’t know if that would have the same weight if the conversation took place before N and W have their big reveal/conflict. 2. I agree that W comes across better in the second half here, where she’s acknowledging that her thought patterns are unhealthy and inaccurate and is trying to work against it. 3. I didn’t notice any particular lack of main plot. We have more of the recovery and rebuilding of trust between N and W, which is certainly main plot. The fact that they’re also working together to help E fits alongside that well, even if it’s not exactly the same. Also, now that the fae detail is out in the open, the snide comments between E, N, and W referencing N’s fairy-ness keep that aspect in the story without the frustrations I was having before where seemingly-obvious clues were being ignored by smart characters. That’s one of the reasons I think moving that reveal earlier would be really helpful. You don’t need to spend too much time talking about the magic for it to be present, but until we have confirmation that it’s canon, the clues that have been dropped are too significant to quite believe that none of the characters would pick up on them.
  8. Hello, All! Note on the wordcount here. About 3800 words are the actual chapter. The first page is a sort of “Things to pretend you remember from Part 1, because I failed to include them or they have changed slightly based on Part 1 feedback”. You’re welcome to comment on that or not, but it seemed a little more honest to include that in the word count than to have 3800 words in a chapter and 300 in an e-mail. Since my e-mails are too long as it is. Anyway. Thanks for the comments on Chapter 11! It definitely seems like there’s more in there that’s echoing what was in Chapter 10 than I’d realized, and there’s also a good deal in both 10 and 11 about the overall magic law situation that I want to have introduced in Part 1 when I go through the next round of revisions. My current plan for the next round of revisions to Part 1 will have Al more focused on trying to get involved with revising the magic laws, in hopes that it will highlight more important plot focuses earlier. That should also remove a little of the info-dump-pressure in 10 and 11, since more of the basic information will have been introduced already. Content Warning: Mild Language Usual questions: Any confusing/boring sections for this chapter? Thoughts on characters? Points of interest or engagement? Thanks so much!
  9. I'd like a spot for Monday, please
  10. Looking at combining the last chapter with this one for the next round of revisions. Or at least trimming back what's in this one better so that we don't get the repetition. There is definitely an intentional parallel there, so any thoughts on that comparison are helpful as I refine some of the subtleties. It isn't a one-to-one comparison, though, since magic is manipulating the systems of the body directly. For more specific information on what's going on with Is-n (because it's been a while since I've rambled on about how aspects of the magic works, and to give you more things to potentially poke at problems with): The body builds a tolerance against that influence over time and prolonged use, to the point that its "normal" state assumes the additional input of magic. If there's extra energy coming in all of the time to help with muscle function, then the body is going to divert the surplus to other tasks and form new connections in those directions. So when the magic is "out of the system", those new connections hold steady, but the old ones are suddenly not getting the energy they're used to. In extreme cases, where the spells are strong and the person has been undergoing them regularly for years (for example, Is-n), it means that the amplified system is at risk of giving out altogether if there's no magic supporting it, or sort of shorting out when the magic is applied if the body has adjusted enough to be unable to handle the energy input. The real-world comparison would be any medication that's habit-forming or that would involve withdrawal symptoms if removed. But when the "medication" is physically keeping muscles and nerves functioning, its absence is likely to result in catastrophic failure. All of that being said, Is-n is definitely a special, extreme case, which I should probably have him clarify while he's trying to convince Is- of the benefits of healing magic. For example, this would not be the case for all patients. Is, for example, might need the extra boost of the magic to maintain "normalcy" while natural healing processes are working overtime to get everything back in order, but that will still take time, and her body will have to sort of rewire itself once the healing is done to keep from relying on the additional magic assistance. So even once she's "done" with the spellstone, she'll have to continue recovering without it until her body adjusts to going without the magic boost full time. There are divine limitations on this, but like so many of the other moving pieces that haven't been in the right place at the right time, I've failed to make that clear before it's relevant. Ultimately, anyone using magic to intentionally harm or kill another person can be accused before the gods, and if determined to be guilty, is likely to be incinerated instantaneously with their soul condemned to what would be the equivalent of the worst corner of hell. This is definitely not Is-n's most genuine moment. His main goal is to get the laws revised. And if Is- (or the court, if he can get things that far) seems more excited by the idea of saving a bunch of foreign innocents or fighting with C-, he's willing to push that as the main motivation. Yeah. In theory all of this should be tied together in Part 1...obviously that's not working yet. The changes I have planned for Al's early chapters will hopefully tie some of the relevant details of the magic laws and mage rebellion in, which will be a big step of that. She does Most of that is intentional, though it shifts in and out of the main focus depending on where we are in the story. I'm glad you're finding that interesting, and definitely look forward to your further feedback on it. Hope I can continue to do it justice!
  11. Pg 1-4 Insert obligatory nit-picky concern about them boiling alive in the airplane overnight here. Other than that, I really like these first pages as they’re getting ready to go. It has a really great winding-down feel while also maintaining the ominous feeling that things are going too easily and something is going to stop them. Pg 5 “If he swings it at C…” Oh. That seems a bit extreme. Is this meant to be an omniscient pov? My first thought was that it was C’s pov, and that her assuming the mayor might try to kill her was a big jump for her to make. Then I wondered if it’s the mayor’s, in which case, man. Chill out, dude. Then we jump to GM shouting, and I assume we’re omniscient? This seems like the sort of thing that would bother me less if I wasn’t in critique-mode, but it's a little disorienting as it is. I think an omniscient pov might work here as long as it's clear immediately at the scene change, but at the moment the pov feels jumpy. Pg 6 “We’re a commodity…” I do appreciate GM’s willingness to tell it like it is. Pg 7: “Bad guys…” Hah. Nice. The sword hitting the mayor’s tire seems a little convenient. And probably unnecessary if they have a lead and would need to outrun him. Pg 9: I'm glad MD made it back. I was worried he was going to make a heroic sacrifice to stay behind and save them. I had a similar thought. I know some of the closing conflict has been about gathering all of the friends and taking care of last matters within the town, so maybe this would feel less rushed if I'd read the last few chapters in quicker succession leading into this, but this does go rather quickly. Maybe a little more inner-conflict in the kids when the mayor is trying to persuade them to go? Or they have to outrun him in their car? not sure. But something to maintain the tension here a little longer would probably help a lot. I also agree with @Ace of Hearts that a last stand with the mayor would carry more weight if he was a bigger threat from the beginning. Or at least from the middle. We know he's not a great guy, but other than him being the leader of the town, there hasn't really been that much to separate him from the other adults as being the one who should be desperate to make them stay. A little buildup earlier in that regard would go a long way in making their defeat/defiance of him more satisfying. 1. Nothing boring. The jumpy pov was a little confusing. Not to a point that you couldn't tell what was going on, but distracting a bit. 2. Thoughts and actions all seem to make sense
  12. Pg 1-2: W seems really casual about all of this at the opening. Like she’s just taking it all in stride. Also, it seems odd that she thinks the conversation with J, of all things, should have been what tipped her off after any number of odd interactions with N and the flowers before. “worldview” seems like an odd word to reach for if this has thrown her for a loop. The second half of the sentence feels like a more fitting response on its own Anticipating the questions about the magic system: the “what else can you do?” and “lots of little tricks” exchange definitely creates a wishy-washy feeling to things. It seems to be trying to create some definition for a magic system (implying a harder magic system), but doesn’t actually follow through on giving any information (which is fine if it’s a softer magic system). Especially since it seems like an odd spot for W to ask that if she’s upset and recognizes that he’s also upset. I think jumping straight to the “are you human?” question would both fit her level of shock better and avoid pushing the understanding of the magic system in an unhelpful direction. The dialogue through here doesn’t quite match the emotions. It’s clear that they’re both supposed to be upset and flustered to some extent, but I can’t tell if W is feeling betrayed or angry or shocked or some blend of all of those, and the dialogue on both sides seems too calm and levelheaded to fit what’s happening. Same going onto page 2 through the end of the scene. There’s a disconnect between what it seems like the characters are supposed to be feeling and what they seem to actually be feeling Pg 3: “What a superpower that would be.” Ugh. Yeah. I’ve had some rough days recently when I would have loved to have that superpower. I’d like to see W trying to fight off some of her self-pity more. She just seems so resigned to it. I know you’re trying to tie it into her sensitivity to rejection and that you’re still figuring out some aspects of her neurodiversity, but I think we can be made aware of her struggles with falling into this pattern without having it spelled out every time. A little bit goes a long way toward getting the point across on this front. Too much comes across as whining and moping pretty quickly, unfortunately, even if we understand how much she’s struggling with things. Pg 4: Good job to E on calling her out here. This is much more engaging than watching her muddle through on her own. “Either someone is in one or they aren’t.” I don’t have as many issues with W’s character as some of the others sometimes seem to, but when she’s been the one pushing for the casualness of her relationship with N, and trying to keep things from seeming too serious, it seems entirely unfair for her to get upset about the “mixture of both” that she’s spent this whole time creating. It comes across as her blaming him or circumstances in general, where she’s been the one to keep things in that sort of in-between stage. It also seems odd for her to find the magic threatening, when all she’s ever seen of it is him telling the truth and making flowers grow and being concerned about iron. If she has some knowledge of some of the darker fae myths, we probably should have gotten the impression of that before now, and she probably should have recognized some of the traits for what they were earlier as well. Pg 5-8 E still seems far more self-aware than I’d expect from a high schooler. And for someone who says he is taking a side, he seems to pretty easily step into the completely neutral, third party, voice of reason role. Ultimately, I think parts of this conversation with E could have come earlier. At least the parts associated with relationships in general. I find it hard to believe that she’s that naïve about relationships, even if she’s not great at social interactions herself. If she’s used to watching people and copying behaviors or social mannerisms, she should have lots of experience watching other relationships and how they go badly due to lack of communication or misunderstandings. She may not be good at actually applying that knowledge, but I find it difficult to believe that she doesn’t see those things. Having some of this calling out earlier in the story could also provide some motivation for her to hold herself accountable to fighting against her destructive thought patterns, which would probably be helpful for general character engagement throughout. To recognize when she’s moping or self-pitying and trying to find a way to deal with it instead of just being resigned to it. Also, I think the conversation with E goes on a little too long in general. Pg 9: “He wants me to do better, and so do I.” Yeah. I want to see some of this thought process a little earlier on in the story so that she has it to fall back on and motivate her to push back against her natural thought tendencies. Pg 10: “I start appreciating his advice more now that it’s harsh. Not that it makes a ton of sense…” This also fits my thought of her having mild ASD. Wanting clarity instead of ambiguity, even if the clear answer would come across as harsh to most people. It actually seems like N would be a really good match in that regard because he sort of has to give her clarity. She just needs to learn to ask the right questions. “It’s past time…” This is true, but feels like an odd conclusion to come to since not much time seems to have passed in the way of page time. They had their conflict at the beginning of this chapter, so it doesn’t feel like she’s been avoiding him or putting off talking to him. I think we need to see more inner conflict on this point for it to hit the right note here. Something about her ignoring texts from him or avoiding him in school or thinking about texting/calling him and deciding otherwise. Something that shows both that she’s intentionally avoiding talking to him and that time is passing. 1. I like that she has a real discussion with E, and that he calls her out about her behavior. I think it ends up falling into the trap of some of my conversational chapters, where it goes on longer than it needs to, or could benefit from some of the conversation happening earlier in the story, but it addresses important things and I’m glad to see W seem to respond well to it. 2. Mostly mentioned in the LBLs. Definitely still some issues with how W is coming across that I think are fixable if she’s more aware of her thought patterns and learns how to confront them earlier in the story (even if she’s not very good at it. That’s a learned skill as much as many other things are.). I like some aspects of W’s character a lot, but I think she needs some better definition in some areas to hit well for most readers. 3. I don’t have too much issue with how the magic has been portrayed up until this point except that I think it needs to be a little more present, and to have W be a little more observant of it (even if she doesn’t know what to make of the observations). This is the first chapter that feels a little more on the nose in acknowledging the magic, but if I’m reading something in a fantasy genre, I want to be able to recognize that it’s a fantasy genre throughout, even if it’s just small touches that make it seem like there’s more going on than a non-fantasy high school romance. 4. I think whichever way you go with this, you’ll want to make things clear enough that people who aren’t familiar with the actual condition will be able to tie things together. I recognized some of the mild autism markers because that’s something I’ve done some looking into, but I don’t know if it would jump out to most readers. I don’t think I would have ever caught on to the rejection sensitivity aspect of ADHD because I’m not as familiar with it. So I recognized the tendency to hold people at a distance to avoid being let down or letting them down, but wouldn’t have tied it to anything else. Depending on how important it is that the reader is aware of her neurodiversity, you may want to call it out a little more clearly so that they can have a better understanding of what she’s working with. If we see paranoia or defensiveness, it might come across as a response to her past trauma around her mom’s illness or just as general whininess if we don’t have an alternative explanation for it. Which might be fine, depending on what you’re aiming for, but might also make the character engagement challenge more difficult on your end. As usual, those thoughts are a little rambling, but hopefully also a little helpful? Looking forward to seeing how our conversation with N goes!
  13. There should be a clearer indication that V has told him not to share information. Which probably just needs to be Is- saying "What? Did Father give you orders or something?" when he refuses to answer her questions. Especially since it would give space to clarify where she thinks her father stands on the matter. Edit: This was supposed to be an edit to the previous post...but now I can't figure out how to delete it. So you're stuck with both.
  14. Hah. I thought the end might feel a little off. I ended up changing the previous end around because it didn't fit some of the other earlier changes, and wondered how this sort of direction would come across. In the early version (ugh, I'm tired of saying that), there was a conversation between Is, V, and Is-n at the ball, where Is-n mentions wanting her to go to Mal- to visit and hike the mountain, and her dad shuts down the idea, then after some half-hearted pushback, Is- reluctantly gives in and accepts that Father knows best. I was hoping I might be able to squeeze some of Is-n's reasons in here instead of back there, but I can definitely see how her response feels like more of a start-of-the-story thing. Yeah. I was afraid of that. I'll probably try to combine chapter 10 and this one into one arc once I figure out what I need to cut out. I get too attached to my chapter breaks, when a lot of them could be combined or condensed. Fortunately, I now have that in mind as I look forward at what I currently have as 13 and 14, which will probably end up combined and streamlined. And 16 and 17 will probably need the same. Meanwhile, 12 and 15 both need almost full rewrites... so I have a few busy weeks ahead of me As always, thanks so much for the thoughts! I feel like I need a checklist for my editing that just says "Cut more out." "Okay. Now cut more out." "One more time." "Fine. But it's still probably too long." Urgh.
  15. I'll have to think about whether this is the feeling I want people to have or not, as there should be some ambiguity throughout over whether or not we trust V. Most of the court definitely sees him as a manipulative, power hungry jerk, but it should also be apparent at this point that the image he presents to the court is largely manufactured. I still have some work ahead of me in figuring out how clear I want those contrasts to be, or how much of it continues to unfold throughout. Since that part of the information would probably be added to one of Al's chapters, it will probably be presented (or interpreted by Al) more as the king wanting to avoid letting the nobility close the power gap between themselves and him. Which should (in theory) seem like it conflicts less with the image V is presenting by that point. But I do want to make sure I get Is's interpretation of V's reasons there as well to contrast that...hmmm... maybe I can add that to Is and Al's conversation after the concert, to begin stressing the point that Is sees V differently than most of the court does. Definitely something for me to think about. This is definitely something I'll be looking to get input on through this revision and those following, since I want to make sure healing magic doesn't become a magical cure-all that erases disabilities, even if it changes the struggles that disabled people face. Should you see any issues with the way things are presented (like the terminology concerns from previous chapters), let me know. It's definitely an area where I can see myself unintentionally misstepping, whether missing things in the haze of editing exhaustion or through general lack of information. So please call me out on that if you see any places where the way things are presented lean toward being problematic. I have a few friends who will be reading through my next revision to provide feedback on how disabilities are presented, but I knew there would still be a lot of changes to Part 1 after this revision, so I wanted to deal with some of the overarching plot/pacing issues first. Good to know. The second scene is mostly to introduce the message boxes, but it may be possible to sneak that into another spot. This should have been clarified a little more in the next chapter, but I needed to call out his intentions a little more clearly there, I think, based on your comments on that chapter. Good to know. This is what I was thinking, so it's good to have that confirmed. Now to go back and work it in... Hah. nice. And now...for this. Sidenote, I love wild ideas. Always feel free to mention them. Seeing some of the big picture things from different angles is always incredibly helpful for figuring out solutions to issues that I might not have noticed before. First off, it's a huge relief to know that things come together better here. So thanks for that feedback. I've definitely considered starting here or having like two chapters before it or several other variations on the theme. 10 chapters in is definitely too far in to have the main plotlines clarified, and there is still a lot of extra/confusing/meandering stuff going on in part 1, but I have some ideas in mind for how to deal with that without losing some of the things I think are important to have before this scene. So. My current plans to fix that in the next round of edits are: 1. Get the prologue in order. I want to open with the scene of Al's parents' deaths, from his dad's (B, for clarification) perspective. B is a foreign mage, basically forbidden from leaving the duchy because the old king hated magic, foreigners, and people who interfere with his plans. So B is sort of the grand trifecta of all that V's dad hated. Starting with this scene from him gives us: A larger scale for the geography of the story, both by being away from the capital and by including a more visible tie to Ket- A sense of how much the kingdom hates/fears foreigners and mages, to add more weight to Al's worries that he won't fit in at court. A clearer sense of the scale of cast magic, and what can happen when it goes wrong, to add more weight to why it was restricted in the first place. Some of the troubled history between Al's family and Is's. Since V's father's strictness over the magic laws led to Al's parents' deaths, and Al's mother had a history of defying the royal family. A high energy opening, in case I find a way to introduce an Is scene before the tournament to show how she perceives and is perceived by the court before she gets sidelined by poison. A little more political-Is, a good deal less bedridden-Is 2. Trim back Part 1 in general, and figuring out what scenes might be able to be shifted forward. 3. Tie Al's Part 1 goals more strongly into carrying on his mother's work to reduce the magic restrictions, both to tie that focus in and to help with the pacing. In this round of revisions, he asks his adviser if he can help and is sort of turned down. I want Al to be a little more involved with that, both to have more short term goals through Part 1 and to better focus us in on the magic law plotline. Those are my current thoughts for where Part 1 will be changing in the next round, which I think addresses a lot of the reasons it might make sense to cut right to here. My biggest concerns with cutting out Part 1 entirely are: 1. I want the scale to seem a little smaller for Is at the beginning, because one of the big parts of her arc is learning that the world is bigger and more complicated than she'd ever imagined. So I'm quite attached to starting with her at home in an environment that she's very willing to accept for what it is because that's just how the world works. 2. There are probably ways to flashback to her interactions with friends and family at home, but I think only seeing her relationships with her family and friends through flashback seems like it will be really difficult, especially since she goes through a pretty massive perception shift before she is reunited with them. 3. I want to make sure we get the pictures of V, Is, and R before things start falling apart. Al as well, but he gets a little more time to breathe than the others. All of their arcs deal with how they respond to being unable to control the world around them to some extent, so seeing the start points for each of them (V's stony composure, Is's stubborn independence, R's flippant carelessness, Al's coping with old trauma) in "real-time" seems important. All of that being said, it will definitely be there in the back of my mind as I'm continuing to get feedback on this revision. After all, I'd thought starting at the tournament would have the same problems, and it's been a huge improvement. I do think I need something before this one, but it's quite likely far less than my brain is clinging to at the moment.