C_Vallion

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About C_Vallion

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  1. Hah! I wondered how evident it would be to someone who was familiar with the game. Since the first time we played it, my husband and I have been fascinated by the storytelling potential of the setting. Especially with the often-amusing vague implications of stories behind the event cards. Sounds more reliable than 'being from an area where the first day of deer season is basically a holiday' and the related family traditions. All of your information here was super helpful. I was thinking the Luger, actually. Though I am about 90% sure the site I'd found listing the standard WWI pistols for various countries said it was a 7-round magazine. And, of course, I can't find said site again because I don't know what magical combination of search terms led me there. So I have no idea if I severely misremembered or if I happened to stumble across a spot on the internet where something was wrong *gasp*. It also mentioned another manufacturer that would have been more likely for Romania, but I couldn't find specs on it listed anywhere, so I pretended I never saw it... Either way. None of the above misguided internet searching makes up for forgetting the round in the chamber in-story. I wasn't thinking about that aspect of wanting to maximize the number of rounds. Probably also a result of most firearm habits coming from target shooting at camp and hunter safety training, where the risk of a chambered round accidentally discharging isn't worth the extra target shot. We generally also keep the magazine one short, since the spring is stiff enough that it's a pain to fully load. Though the internet tells me that's a pretty standard practice to protect springs? I assume that's mostly when the magazines are being stored loaded? The engineering side of my brain is now going to spend far too much time this evening wondering about the most likely conditions for magazine spring failure. But I digress. Fair. I was thinking more as emergency back-up. If he's carrying a rifle while hunting, that's obviously going to be the primary choice. But I'd imagine having a holstered pistol at-hand would still be safer and more effective than if the rifle has been shouldered and needs to be brought around to shoot or if it's a one-shot rifle and needs to be reloaded or if surprised when camped when a bulkier firearm might have been set aside. I imagine a close range pistol shot still being better than being mauled by a bear while trying to wrestle with a shoulder strap on a rifle. This sounds like a really excellent fit for this. Thanks!
  2. Did anyone have thoughts on the length of the piece as it is now? I'd tried to keep it as trimmed back as possible (still need to cut a name or two if I can) based on the wordcount limit for submissions here, but that definitely reduced the worldbuilding and setting description to some extent, and probably didn't help the general clarity of some of the scene two conversation. Did any of you have thoughts on the current length and whether it can afford the additional explanation and description without feeling too long? Hooray! Improvement! Thanks, all! Huh. This is actually not an aspect I'd even thought much about for whatever reason. I'll definitely have to figure out a better way to tie things together over this transition. I expected there to be issues on this front, and appreciate the notes of what things are still confusing. It's always tricky to keep track of what things the reader definitely knows, what they should think, and what is actually going on at any given time. And while I love the moments of when those puzzles work out in a reveal, it's one of the things I always need input on to know how it comes across to a first-time reader. This should be coming across better, but I apparently need to fix some things regarding his thought process. There is definitely some crazed desperation going on that is interfering, but it should come across more as a combination of wanting to save his family and improve their quality of life by achieving citizenship in the process. I'd trimmed some of the conversation back for word count purposes. I'll have to see if some of that was lost there or if it was missing altogether. This is one of the other things I expected might be clear enough. I'm realizing I didn't do a good job of clarifying what V had been told by the Z and what he figures out on his own, and what is there about that comes in a little too late when the reader has already made assumptions. Ultimately, it's not that the Z set everything up. They'd been planning to send a messenger to M with the ultimatum of "give up the town or we move in anyway" but changed plans to put the matter in V's hands. They want the town turned over. All they know about what M is up to is what K has told them, and she doesn't know anything. So V is sent to have the town handed over, by whatever means necessary. Or they move in. V goes in partly hoping there's some big misunderstanding and partly assuming that he'll be able to convince M to surrender. It's only when he realizes that M has very intentionally betrayed the town and has put K at risk in the process that he wants M gone. He's willing to send him off to deal with the repercussions of his choices, but when M isn't willing to give up the ring, he gets desperate. The Z kick things of by putting all the pressure on V (implying that K and company are at risk if he fails to get them the town), but they aren't doing the plotting themselves. But I can definitely see that it's not clear what information and pressure is coming from where. It is his brother-in-law, not his brother (I assume there being more references to nephews than to a sister and brother-in-law probably make that less clear). So while they have a history, V's loyalty to his sister, and the risk M has put K and the kids draws clear lines for V. I wondered if this might flush out the firearms experts in the group Correct on the rough pistol specs. I'm picturing this to be a roughly WWI time period, though not associated with any specific real world place or conflict at this point. The pistol would have come from V's fur trading with the the Z, for defense during hunting trips where managing a rifle around a charging bear might get complicated. P's rifle would have probably been older. Some sort of hand-me-down from a parent or grandparent. I will admit that I neglected my research there in regard to rifles. I was mostly picturing my grandfather's single shot .22, and had assumed something along those lines would be more common outside military weaponry. But that could very well be entirely wrong. I'd definitely appreciate your thoughts on what might be fitting for basic farm defense at the time. If I ever follow through on the vague ideas for turning the whole thing into some very loose adaptation of a dieselpunk Hamlet (sorry, Vi. You do probably don't deserve to get away entirely clean from this...) so that my husband can make an audiodrama of it, I will have to figure that out. As it is, I might have intentionally avoided that question. The setting (both the general concept of having mechs stomping through otherwise cheery pastoral settings and the rough time period) takes a ton of inspiration from the artwork Jakub Rozalski has done for the Scythe board game and the Iron Harvest video game. https://iron-harvest.fandom.com/wiki/Rusviet_Art . Though the mechs here aren't based on a specific one of those (most of those would be closer to the bigger war mechs that would be threatening to move in later). Something like this is probably the closest to what I was picturing size/style-wise. (https://cdnb.artstation.com/p/assets/images/images/000/491/487/4k/jakub-rozalski-1920-youshallnotpass-new.jpg?1443927757) I'm hoping to add in a little more to flesh out the mech design and dieselpunk feel of the setting (really, I'm not sure that's quite the right description, but it's the closest recognizable genre I could think of). Especially if general perception is that the word count isn't a problem at the moment and can afford some additional length adding to the world building. I still need to figure out how to avoid implying a specific historical conflict with the language. The right answer is probably to make up a few phrases of a language that is close enough to what's common in the region to fit the setting, and to run it past a friend who is a linguistics professor. But I wanted to see how this came across for the early draft. Thanks so much, all!
  3. Initial thought before reading: I’m probably the exception among the group in that I don’t really enjoy long battle scenes. I tend to skim them in most books. Obviously won’t be doing that here, but it will likely color my perception of the chapter overall, and I would weigh others’ opinions on specific battle-related details over mine. Overall thoughts after reading: I agree that the fight is too long overall, though I would probably think that even if everyone else thought it was perfectly fine, just because of general reading preferences. I’m still really excited about the setting and airships and want to see what adventures C is going to be going on from here, but it is a little frustrating to be this far into the story and still not have the attachment to the MC that I would like. At the moment, I don’t care enough about C to be concerned about how the battle goes, and never really felt like they were in real danger through it. The moment the first exchange had destroyed most of the enemy soldiers, I wasn’t afraid that the Good Guys were going to come to any harm. And being in C’s perspective didn’t help since he wasn’t as actively involved with the fighting. If we were seeing the battle through V’s eyes, I might be more concerned, because I’m more invested in him at this point, and he was more active in the battle. But I still don’t think it has as much tension as it could if there was a real threat of something going wrong. Action is good, and it feels more is happening than in other chapters, but I still don’t have a good idea of what direction the story is going. Which is a problem at 10k words (feel free to turn this specific comment right back at me in a couple weeks when I’m back to submitting chapters for PoP and am wrestling with opening chapter issues). The fact that I’m not generally as excited about battles meant that I also probably focused on more little nitpicky things than most people would, and there were a number of things that stuck out as making it difficult to suspend disbelief (they’re noted below) 1. The sword/axe thing was probably the single biggest thing that seemed over the top, especially because I don’t get the practicality of it. The two maneuvers at the end with the coal mine and the bridge could probably be close to that line, but I think would be fine and a lot of fun with details worked out 2. I think the whole chapter is probably too long, but my opinion beyond that is probably not helpful since I almost always think battle scenes are too long. 3. I think V is the main one who we get any additional characterization from. The reveal on Sa is interesting, and I’m looking forward to figuring out more about what’s going on there, but I don’t know that I know any more about his character, per se. Just what he is. Sort of. Most importantly we didn’t get anything additional on C, since he seemed to just be along for the ride for most of the chapter. Pg 1: “I will do no such thing.” This seems like a good way to suggest that you have things to hide. “Captain V’s eyes turned defiant” Might one say bravely defiant? Hmmmm? Pg 2: “You’re no foreigner.” I’m still a little confused as to why V had C stick around if he’s then going to try to keep any of the navy men from interacting with him. Pg 3-4 “Enough time for-?”, “What-?” (Also “Let us be frank here – this ‘search’…” from pg 2): I only recently had this pointed out to me (from someone on RE, but I can’t think of who. If whoever it was comes across this, Thanks!). The sentence break punctuation for these should be an em-dash, not a hyphen. If you’re using Word, the keyboard shortcut is Alt + 0151 for an em-dash. If you’re not using Word, I’m sure a quick search could get you the right keyboard shortcut for it. “You allowed us to board based on that…?” The ellipses imply he’s trailing off, but this seems like a complete thought, so I’m not sure they’re necessary. “…but even still,” I think this should be either “but still,” or “but even so,”. Likely the latter. There’s also another en-dash that should be an em-dash there, but I’ll stop pointing those out from here. Just need to do a find/replace for hyphens and en-dashes. When did C get a long knife? Did we know he was armed and I just missed it? How is he keeping track of the guy’s sword (knife? It’s unclear what weapon is being thrusted) while flipping him over his shoulder? Seems like a good way to get one or both of them accidentally stabbed. Also, the last place I’d want an unknown armed opponent is behind me. Even for the time it takes to turn to engage again (also, isn’t turning to slash at the man’s arm — at which point, why slash the arm instead of just killing him? — going to turn his back to the other armed soldiers?). Why not just slash/stab him from the front instead of adding a throw that exposes his back to his opponents? Pg 5: I was pretty sure daggers and long knives were definitively different. I’d have to confirm, but the impression I had is that a dagger is defined by being double-edged and a knife is defined by being single-edged. But C’s is referred to by both terms here. “B and V were trading blows with each other…” with each other is understood. The sentence comparing B’s and V’s fighting styles slows things down a little and doesn’t seem necessary. “Reinforcements” Okay. You mentioned having a half-dozen royal navy guys after the initial exchange. So what are V’s crew doing now? They cut down a bunch of the enemy in the first moments. Are all of them actively engaged with the remaining people? Did none of them see the lines and have the initiative to cut them? If they’re used to this sort of battling, I’d assume someone would be manning the crane and keeping an eye out for this sort of thing at all times. Either way, it seems odd for C to be the one to notice it. And it seems odd for V to be both in the midst of the center spotlight fight and trying to command people elsewhere on the ship. It divides his attention and puts him at a lot of risk. “the lines weren’t even caught in it” What are the lines made of? Are they just rope? If airship battles are a regular thing, and methods of attack are similar, I’d assume that both sides would expect certain attack and defense mechanisms. And for any cast-on lines to be reliable, I’d expect them to include some sort of metal cabling for these sorts of applications. Rope is all well and good for ocean-ship-boarding maneuvers, but I’d think the force rating for rope would make it really risky to use between airships. And if it’s metal cabling, I have trouble imagining a crane powerful enough or blade sharp enough to cut through them that easily. It seems to take B a conveniently long time to recover and return while V is giving orders. Pg 6: What is C doing while all this is going on? He is part of the initial attack, but seems to be standing around after that. I don’t have a clear image of what V’s sword is doing. If the blade extends and what he needs is extra reach, why go into pickaxe-mode, which reduces the reach by the length that’s folded over (for lack of a better term). Moving parts and hinges also seem like really problematic failure points from a force distribution perspective. “…impaled through the chest…” this wording, to me, implies stabbing, but the pickaxe idea implies slicing. So I’m not sure what to picture here. Pg 7: “stabbed his pickaxe in the deck” This seems like unwise weapon-care. For this weapon in particular. The amount of force that’s going to take is not going to be very kindly absorbed at the hinge-point. Still unsure why C is still on deck through this if he’s standing around. This chapter seems like it would make more sense to be from V’s perspective. Or to adjust C’s role in the fight. “V rode out the drop…kneeling on the deck…” This posture seems likely to throw him to the ground when they jerk to a stop. I’d think he’d have more control to brace for impact with a slightly-crouched stance to let his legs absorb the impact better. (I probably wouldn’t have noticed this, but I spent part of this week working on impact absorbing jumps with the kids I coach, so it’s fresh in my mind) Pg 8: “…now less than one hundred feet above the ground.” Didn’t it say a few hundred feet a few paragraphs up? “…withdrew his pickaxe…flicked it back to the backsword… somewhere in his coat.” I have questions about how this works. Pg 9: V sure does have a lot of stuff in his coat. I’m not sure what the flare guns are achieving if he’s also shouting orders to the crew. Pg 10: Well… goodbye, maps. I like the idea of this, but am confused by the overall blocking of it and unsure how the flare gun would succeed in getting the coal dust dispersed in the air. What’s propelling it out of the mine shaft? And how high is the risk of them blowing themselves up in the process here? “oxygen-starved air” If they’re far enough above the explosion to not get caught in it entirely, would the air here be oxygen-starved? Where’d it go? Also, as a general airship question (I don’t know how the genre deals with this), how do airship crews deal with sudden elevation and air pressure changes? Wouldn’t they be used to low-oxygen atmospheres just due to altitude? Do writers of airship-fiction deal with things like decompression sickness or anything like that? It seems like that would take a toll on the bodies of airship crews. But that’s more of a general question than one for your story in particular. Pg 11: I thought V didn’t know the area. If the map they picked up was focused on wind currents, I’d think basic land details might be included, but it seems iffy to assume their ship will fit under a bridge they’ve never seen before. Also, why are the other ships still chasing them at this point. What do they think is worth the effort? Pg 12: “At least a hundred years” This brings up more questions about the condition of the abandoned town in the previous chapter. And how does C know this information if he’d only ever been there a couple times to get maps? Pg 13: The forces involved in this maneuver don’t quite add up to me. Good, solid cables (instead of wire) might provide some resistance, but they or some mechanism on the crane are going to give out before the bridge does. I’d expected when V was talking about this that they would go under the bridge and swing themselves around it, using cables as an anchor to rotate around. This would raise new physics questions, but it seems like a more likely outcome than pulling the bridge down. Pg 14: How did they cut cables that were strong enough to not snap under the weight of pulling the bridge free? C suddenly knows a lot more about standard airship setup than I would have expected based on what we have seen from him before. Pg 15: V’s instructions to Ir seem a little odd. How would he have responded if Sa- had been dismissive of the injuries among the crew? And, I mean. V, himself, doesn’t seem all that concerned. Why’s Ir supposed to act more sympathetic than they are when she is the one who isn’t even human? Pg 16: More physics questions with Sa blocking a gun shell. Even if his body can physically withstand the blast, the weight ratios and forces involved would have sent him and V both back through whatever was behind them, and he probably crushed V in the process. Pg 17: Was Ir unaware of whatever Sa is? And isn’t Ir above Sa in the command structure? Does he have the authority to question her like this? I’d rather see C’s internalized thoughts revealed more through conversation and actions. And am still wondering if his PoV is the best option for this chapter, when he’s not doing a lot through most of it. Pg 18: His summary of what the knight is doing there and what must have happened doesn’t seem to match the urgency of telling them to run. And if it is a ground unit, can’t they just fly out of range? Or follow the gorge and keep cover there until they have a clearer escape? I like the urgency of the last line, but I think C’s explanatory paragraph right beforehand takes away from the tension of it.
  4. Overall: I still really like the world, and the mystery of the earrings and V’s appearance are interesting, but there’s a lot of repetition in here of things the reader already knows without a clear enough focus on where things are going. I think this section could be trimmed back a lot to focus on those more concrete mysteries, which will help, but we need more than vague feelings from C to know why she’s setting out to figure out the curse. What is at risk if she doesn’t do that? If she just continues to carry on with life as it is, in all its strangeness, like everyone else seems to? 1. I think the pacing is most hurt by the repetition of things we know. Outside of that, it’s fine, but stopping to repeat things we learned last chapter slows it down a good deal. 2. It seemed straightforward enough to follow. 3. I am guessing C and V will be setting off to figure out what the curse is about and fix it, but I don’t have any idea what that looks like in a practical sense, which is unhelpful for me. Pg 1: “Is it… natural?” through “…enchanting.” I like how she processes this. The suspicion about her own mind tricking her. Depending on how much she mulls over the curse in the changes to the first section, covering the same thing here may be a little repetitive, but it depends how much time she spends processing the curse in that section. Pg 2: “…pours out some chicken feed for the chickens.” Repetition of chickens. Can leave it as “pours out some feed…” without losing the meaning. “ashes bucket” -> “ash bucket”, I think. “strange boy…right where C last mixed the ashen compost…” Our essay hero? Brought to life by Wood Stove? “nobody has put numbers to ages since before.” I like this line and concept, but wonder if it might be more helpful when we are first being introduced to C and the other kids. I also wonder if “before” is going to be enough of a distinctive concept to deserve being capitalized? Or italicizing? Or something. It wasn’t jarring or confusing reading through it here, but I also usually read a little more slowly while doing critiques, so I don’t know if I’d think there was a word missing (“before what?”) if I was reading it in book form or not. “Time flowed in one direction…anywhere” I continue to be really excited about this setting. Time misbehavior always intrigues me as a concept. Pg 3: “Ch rolls into the main room-“ The part of my brain that has fully embraced the weirdness of the town of C thinks this is great. (I think @snakenaps mentioned Welcome to Nightvale? I’ve sort of stepped into the level of suspension of disbelief I had listening to those.) But I assume it’s going to be disorienting to some people. Pg 4: “My friends and I have been…” V might not know these things, but the reader does, and being reminded of specific details surrounding the curse too many times is going to get frustrating to readers. Pg 3-5: The dialogue through here is a little clunky and repetitive, and could likely be trimmed back. V’s mannerisms and language seem to be intentional, but the repetition of things the reader knows about the curse and the wordiness of C’s side of the dialogue make the distinction less clear. It might help to have C observe the strangeness of his language to herself. Her confusion and bewilderment are mentioned a couple times, which helps, but adjusting the wording of her responses to reflect that as well would convey the feeling more strongly. Even if she’s the type to go with the flow and just assume that most weird things are part of life in C, we need to get a clear idea of the things she does find odd. And some of that should come across in her dialogue. Cautious pauses. Skeptical looks and phrasing. Pg 6: “C has, thus far, refrained from commenting…cannot pass without remark.” This sort of thing is what I was thinking might be more helpful closer to the initial observations of V. Even if she intentionally doesn’t comment on it before but feels like she has to at this point. Pg 8-9 The chemistry class is distorting my concept of the apparent age of the kids (even if literal ages aren’t really relevant). It’s hard to picture the same group of kids playfully goofing off in the cursed lands outside town sitting down to learn chemistry. And if the specific topic of the lesson isn’t directly relevant to the plot, it could probably be trimmed back a bit. It feels like it’s more detailed than it needs to be if the point of it is to just show that they have chemistry class that day. The fact that any mention of chemistry classes makes me a little twitchy probably doesn’t help on that front. Pg 9-10: The conversation between C and V doesn’t seem to tell us much we don’t already know, and while looking for suspicious things is something in the way of character goals, having a more specific idea of how they plan to go about that, but I’d like to see the goals and motivations be a little more focused. I’m not convinced C has real motivation to dig into the secrets of the curse, and I’d like to see what specific things she’s hoping to do to find her answers.
  5. Hi, All! This is the dieselpunk short story I’ve been working on while taking a break from Price of Peace. Tagged for language and war-related violence and gore. I like a lot of things about how it has turned out so far, but could use some feedback from you guys on things that are confusing or need tightening up. All input is helpful, since it’s been quite a while since I’ve done much shorter writing, but other than general feedback the things I’ve been specifically looking for thoughts on are the following: Thoughts on the title? I’m not entirely sold on it, but also know I spend far too much time overthinking titles. Does the setting carry through? It gets a lot more focus in the opening scene than through the rest, but I’m not sure if it needs anything additional or if it works as is. Do the characters’ motivations and actions seem clear and consistent? General points of confusion? Any concerning loose ends? Thoughts on where the wordcount might be trimmed, or if there are specific things that need to be fleshed out more? Thanks!
  6. @Robinski Can I have a spot for my short story? It's at 6,358 words at the moment, so it's a little long, but I would definitely like some feedback on what pieces are worth trimming back.
  7. I figured it was probably meaning to imply something along those lines, but the concept of imagining uncertainty itself as a friendly face doesn't quite seem to fit religious musing as I understand it. Mostly wanted to make sure the wording was correct as written before I charge in with comments about oversimplification of religious belief.
  8. 1. I’d like to see more about the flowers. We get hints at it being significant and that W has questions about it, but she doesn’t make much effort to have those questions answered. I’m frustrated with the fact that she doesn’t ever question An-‘s opinions of E and N, even when neither of them have given us any reason to trust An’s suspicions. And I’m surprised how much time W spends dwelling on what happened with E. She seems practical and rational, which makes it hard to be convinced that she hasn’t come to terms better with what happened with E. I don’t know that I’d expect her to have gotten past it enough to try to renew some sort of friendship with him, but I’d think she would understand his trying to make things work and enjoying the time they spent together even if his feelings aren’t the same as hers. I’d expect less moping about E and more embarrassment that she didn’t see how things actually were. That being said, it was good to see things moving forward and I am looking forward to seeing what happens with the beach trip. (or coast trip. Is there a reason you only refer to it as the coast? 2. Feelings are mixed… There were a few things in here that were clashing with my understanding of W’s character, but also a few things that really solidify my initial understanding. So I’m not sure what to make of that. Also, I’m not sure if we are supposed to believe there’s anything to what An- is saying, but at this point I haven’t seen any reason to and am surprised that W puts up with her if she can’t stand teen social hierarchy stuff. N comes across as a goofy, extroverted, socially awkward teen, and is the sort of cheery that would drive my cynical, introverted self crazy in real life (I have coached a couple of these kids. I never know what to do with them) but I find quirky and adorable here. Pg 1: It sort of surprises me that W is still spending so much time worrying about E after this much time has passed. In the opening chapter, she’d been wondering if she wanted anything to do with a relationship, but since then she’s done a lot of wallowing in what happened with E. She’s shown as a smart, practical person, and while I would expect a feeling of being hurt and offended to linger, I wouldn’t expect her to obsess over something she sees as definitely over. If anything, I’d expect her to throw herself into schoolwork and other activities to distract herself from the feelings that do linger if she’s used to being practical and rational. But that could be me reading too much of my own experience into the character. (Why deal with feelings when there’s math and physics to be done?) It also seems odd that if N wants to talk to W, he can’t find a single moment when she’s not with An. “…best time to express the curiosity that’s always been in me.” The wording of this is a little awkward. “She talks a bit more…her people.” There’s a lot in this sentence, which is making it hard to process in one go. If the topic is going to be relevant to your story, clarifying and keeping the length would be helpful. If it’s not, it might be worth trimming the description a little. Pg 2: “A flower cut off…” I like this line. “But in this case…” If she has grown up with a better understanding of loving platonic relationships where most people would expect romantic or sexual ones, I’m surprised that she didn’t recognize that in E’s explanation in chapter 1. Maybe not at the time, when embarrassment and offense might have cluttered out anything else, but it makes it harder to believe her insistence that he never had any feelings for her. The feelings just weren’t what she thought they were or wanted them to be. “…people imagine the void of uncertainty as a friendly face.” I’m not sure what this is saying. Pg 4: An- is acting like N is predatory and threatening. And while, yeah, she seems to know more about him than W does, I haven’t seen anything from N to suggest that we should trust An’s opinion about him. He seems extroverted and socially awkward, but I’d expect it to come across as innocent goofiness. It is nice to have a feeling of things moving forward more with this, though. Pg 5: I don’t get what sort of suspicious they’re expecting. “Why?” Hah. Pg 6: “if anything comes up.” -> if anything changes? Pg 7: “Good job, W” …does W actually know what happened or is going on between B and either E or N? An seems to refer to it all the time in these suspicious terms, but I haven’t seen any suspicious or malicious behavior from E or N anywhere yet, so I obviously don’t trust her distrust of them. And it seems odd to me that W wouldn’t have gotten the full story from An and seen holes in it by now. “I’ll bet An- was thinking about this…but made sure I wanted nothing to do with N” so if she sees that An- is being socially manipulative to some extent, why does she hang out with her all the time? Or trust her opinion about E and/or N? Pg 8: “…a large number of people from an age demographic not known for our decision-making.” To challenge Kais’s point above, this is exactly how I approached large group situations in high school. Could use a stronger ending. A trip with B and friends suggests lots of possibility for plot progress and things happening. Focusing on that is probably going to make the reader want to continue right away more than ending on the vague confusion created by what just happened.
  9. Overall: I really like the creepiness and strangeness of the setting. The mysterious Wood Stove. The homework mystery. There are a lot of fun details that spark curiosity. The writing is easy to read and flows really well, but is a little wordy in a few spots where the descriptions go on a little longer than they need to. They do a great job of evoking the setting, but some could use some trimming so that it doesn’t move past that to pull the reader out of the story. (I assume that the balance on this probably changes from reader to reader, and especially by age, but I don’t know what would be more or less engaging for a MG or YA reader) Like the others said, I’d be concerned about the lack of chapter breaks (or some other sub-part breaks) causing trouble with mental pacing for a reader. Part of me feels like the setting lends itself to a slightly more meandering/less structured format, but as a reader, my natural instinct is to read toward a chapter break or scene break and stop there. And I’d probably be a little frustrated without some sort of checkpoints along the way, even if they’re not standard chapters. Maybe it just means more clearly delineated scene breaks, and clearer arcs within the scene? I think readers need something clearer to help mark start/stop points, but I don’t know what that might necessarily be. Similarly, I’d echo the others’ comments about needing a clearer inciting incident. There’s a general sense of smaller mysteries that are intriguing, but we don’t get a good sense of where the story is going yet since C- doesn’t seem notably startled by the strange things we do see (except the homework). So it’s hard to tell what is “perfectly normal life” in a town where things don’t exist quite like we expect them to, especially when C- seems to take it all in stride. Which I also like a lot. I think it really shows just how weird and mysterious the town is when our MC is just like “Oh. My essay literally changed itself to a point where it’s no longer understandable as what I wrote? Weird, but okay.” “Oh. One of the other kids chopped all their hair off out of the blue when she seemed to be pretty proud of it? Huh. And they came over to throw it into the CWS? Seems legit.” The only problem with her being so unflappable about the strangeness is that the reader doesn’t know what’s actually strange (even for the town) and what is actually going to flip the switch to start the story. Why does the story start here and now? What makes this the best entry point for the reader? 1. I really like the MC. She seems practical and straightforward, which I always enjoy seeing. And I like the contrast of her practicality with the strangeness of the world. Though like I mentioned above, it makes it a little harder to tell what’s actually weird and what is just I-live-in-Con level of weird. 2. I really like the setting, and am looking forward to finding out more about the mysteries of the town. 3. I would probably read on for a little longer, but I think I would get a little frustrated by the lack of chapter/scene breaks and more concerned the longer we went without a clear inciting incident. Pg 1: “Nobody has ever told…it weren’t forbidden.” Something about the usage of “forbidden” in this paragraph is throwing me a bit. Not enough that I don’t get what it’s saying or anything, but enough to make me pause and read it again. I think it might just be that the structure of the first two sentences runs parallel enough to assume what isn’t there, but the third sentence doesn’t quite flow with them. First is “children …are forbidden from… the wastes” Second, “they are forbidden…” I’d read this as “[children] are forbidden [from the wastes]” initially, but the change in structure on the third sentence makes it seem like “[the wastes] are forbidden” is also a possibility. Third, “if it weren’t forbidden.” Where “entering the wastes” is what is forbidden. I’ve now looked at these lines far too long and “forbidden” no longer means anything. Oops. Pg 2: “I don’t feel cursed at all!” Me, who has read any fairytale ever: Has concerns. “why they all woke up early…” what makes today special if this isn’t something they do often? [a question that is even more relevant after reading through this section without seeing an obvious inciting incident] Pg 5: Are the kids all the same age? If they’re all doing the same assignments, it seems like it would imply that they are at least close in age. But that seems odd if they’re the only kids in the town. Of course, when it comes to strange, cursed towns, this should probably be the least of my questions, but it doesn’t seem quite to fall under the strangeness-due-to-curses category that many other things would. “…who appears in a remote town one day…” A remote town like C- perhaps? Pg 6: I really like the description of the essay change. Especially the “The ink goes all wobbly…” sentence Pg 7: “…historical people doing past things.” Hah. Nice. I like this line too. Pg 8: Though it becomes more evident that this is a special Wood Stove, it definitely seems odd to see it capitalized the first time. I wonder if there’s a way to show the contrast so that it doesn’t seem like a typo. Or to have C internalize something about it being special here. You do this at the top of page 9, but it’s not clear until then. “Almost anything can be fuel…” That’s not ominous at all. Pg 9: The part of me that is looking for an inciting incident really latched onto the television being off. Like them getting up early this day of all days, it’s suggesting that something is special about today. Whether the odd behavior is triggered by an event or an event is triggering the odd behavior, but for YA or MG, I’d expect an obvious incident by now. Pg 10: Similarly expecting something to go funny after the hero essay gets thrown into the Wood Stove. And again with the hair at the end. Thanks for submitting! Looking forward to reading more!
  10. Hah. Yep, you're in the right place. Just a quiet week. Now I wish I'd hurried up to finish my short story edits earlier. Oh well.
  11. Thank you for reminding me of this one! I'd stumbled across it recently and forgot to actually look it up and search the library for it. Overall: I like the setting and world, and I like most of the characters. The jury is still out on C. He seems sort of standoffish and distant, which is going to bother me until I see some reason to excuse it. He obviously has a past that he’s still dealing with, but I don’t think I’m going to be sympathetic to that until I know the scale and significance of the things that he’s facing. It probably doesn’t help that I’m not usually a huge fan of the sort of brooding character with a mysterious past. One general note is that a lot of conversations or descriptions seem to have more time spent on them than necessary, which makes things feel drawn out and meandering at times. The flare gun description. C’s motion sickness. The usage of coal and whether or not that’s normal or outdated. The elevator mechanism. If they’re vital for us to know here and now for this chapter, more description is good, but when they don’t even use the flare gun and the motion sickness doesn’t become relevant, I think they can be trimmed back to keep the pacing up. It seems like most people have commented on the female character situation, so I won’t add too much on that front except to second the comments that I don’t see any reason not to do a gender swap on some of the knights. Or to have more female members of the crew. You mentioned that you’re focusing on basing the characters in the lore, but that can be done with a female variation of the name. Some will probably be easier to swap than others, just because of general gender behavior assumptions, but there’s no reason for your world’s gender norms to match those of our world. They just have to be realistic and consistent within the world. Knights being male in the original legends (and in history) make sense because of general masculine physical strength assumptions and gender roles where the men do the fighting. But if we already have an airship doctor/mechanic (assuming you’re continuing to include that aspect. I hope so. Even if it’s not delved into. The world needs more female mechanics.) of some sort who is female, Arthurian gender roles are already becoming irrelevant. When the world you’re setting up is fine with a female doctor/mechanic, I don’t know why they’d restrict knighthood to men. Especially when the knights are piloting mechs, which makes the physical strength aspect far less relevant. If your keeping with Arthurian lore is the only reason for not having more female characters, you’re going to be putting yourself in a difficult spot, because you’re going to be putting a ton of weight on the statement that those characters are making about women in general. Without even touching on the question of what modern interests and expectations are for publishing compared to the example of LotR. Continuing on to comments: It’s quite possible that I’m overthinking things, but while skimming back through my notes, I realized that the tone of some of the comments could come across as smart-alecky, which I definitely don’t intend. There are a number of things that will be relatively simple fixes, but are currently clashing with my ability to suspend disbelief about the world, so I’m just trying to poke a little at spots where I’m having trouble with some of the details. Especially because I really like the world and setting, so I really want to see it be as cohesive and well-rounded as possible. Pg 1: The first paragraph seemed a little clunky to me. I got what was going on, but it seemed a little jumbled. I think partly because the opening sentence came across to me as them actually docking there, so when it jumps out to the surrounding area then back to there not being a place to dock, it messed with my image of how things were going. Pg 1-2 So it talks about the crane being set up to take two down, and C and Sh are planning to go. The following comments about Sa seem irrelevant if that decision has been made already. Why do they go on to talk about adding a third in? And why is Sa- the one making the call on whether things might be risky or not? Isn’t that something C- would have a better idea of if he’s been there before? If there would be any concern about safety risk, I assume they’d want to keep their doctor on the ship unless she has some skills that would be especially helpful in the task. Or some special interest that makes her insist on going (ruined town related, not looking out for C- related. He seems well enough to not need a doctor following him around for medical reasons). And if Sa- isn’t going with them, why is he standing here? Just to be large and intimidating? Pg 2-3 I’m not sure what to make of the interaction between C and Sa. C seems to be defensive, and I assume that it’s partly because of the secrets in his past that he’s keeping hidden, but since I don’t have a clear idea of why he’s defensive and wary, or to what extent he has reason to feel vaguely threatened by this random very large guy on the ship, it’s sort of just coming across as him being superficially rude and standoffish, which aren’t engaging traits for me. If he has specific suspicions about Sa-, and I knew why Sa- put him on edge, and felt like it was justified, there would be more tension there. But without knowing what he’s being defensive about, it feels a little off. I also didn’t get the sense of any of it being threatening, despite Sh’s comments. I get the sense that they don’t like each other, and they’re being sort of standoffish, but didn’t get the idea that either of them were moving past that to threatening. Pg 4: Why is the flare gun in her bag? Shouldn’t it be in some sort of holster so that it’s at hand in case of an emergency? Not to mention the risk of accidental firing. Pg 5: “…not because the town itself collapsed…” If it’s been quite a while since the coal ran dry, there would still likely be deterioration. Weathering of houses. Animals moving in. Squatters taking up residence (assuming there’s any food source available). If no one is taking care of anything, neglect is going to do a good deal of damage. Pg 6: “Stuck my foot in my mouth again” How? The apology conversation seems odd to me. I haven’t seen enough cultural differences to give weight to that part of it, and I don’t have a good sense of why Sh is so set on helping C. Wanting to be generally helpful, I can see in her character, but why is she so set on helping him when he seems uninterested in being helped. His dismissiveness is also irritating (for similar reasons to the standoffishness above. It’s implied that it’s because of his dark, mysterious past. But if I don’t know anything about that, it’s hard to be sympathetic). Pg 8: “A thick layer of dust covered most of the floor and furniture, save for a trail…” Did everyone just leave all of their stuff when they left? How long has it been since C was here before? From what he’d said, I’d assumed it had been quite a while. [note after checking back: I’d taken the trail in the dust as an indicator that someone else had been there more recently, and that they were at risk of running into them. Or of the map being missing. And expected Sh’s flare gun to come into play in some sort of altercation when they were caught. I was a little disappointed when they didn’t really run into any trouble during their adventure here.] If it’s supposed to be better hidden, wouldn’t they make sure to clear the dust out better when they’ve been through? Mysterious blue glow? Count me in! This is the sort of detail that I want to see in regard to C hiding things. Making vague comments about a past failure (and related defensive pessimism) is far less engaging to me. At the moment, these couple of lines are the thing about him that I have cared the most about. “…was swiftly cut off by torchlight as C lit one up a moment later.” Where’d the torch come from? What’s he lighting it with? Torches in small —likely flammable — spaces seems risky. Pg 9: “…walls were covered…a few buckets…” This is not a good way to store maps. No drawers or flat files? No shelves to stack rolled maps? Stored in buckets on ends? No humidity control? These things are going to be falling apart. How long have they been here? And who built the secret map room? Why in the mining town? Is there any reason they have a secret room instead of just a library that had proper storage? A locked room or vault off an archive? An abandoned secret elevator that no one is doing any maintenance on seems like a recipe for disaster. And if there’s no other way in or out, it puts anything inside at risk if the mechanism fails. Pg 10: “Ag‘s.” The map is Ag’s? Are all of them his? And if C took over for him, are they now C’s? This goes back to the above question of who built the room and why it is where it is. Though if it is a sort of record room specifically associated with the knight-ly role that Ag or C have, that would at least provide some explanation for why C wants to keep most of them there. I hadn’t gotten a clear idea that C has any sort of responsibility for or ownership of the maps, but if some (at least one) had been Ag’s, maybe he would? Pg 11: “I remember it like it was yesterday.” This makes it seem like it’s been a really long time, but I hadn’t gotten the impression that C was all that old. I think the conversation about Ag would be more impactful if we knew more about C and what he perceives as his failure. Right now, he obviously sees Ag- as the ideal example of the Exp‘s knight, and is comparing their accomplishments. C makes it very clear that he thinks he’s failed to meet the standard that Ag- set, but when we don’t have a good sense of what it means to be the Exp‘s knight, or of what has actually happened in C’s past, it makes it hard to know if we should agree with him and be sympathetic or if he’s just whining and cynical. We don’t need to know all of it, but we need enough of it to stay engaged with his character and motivations. Pg 12: “…it’s not like there’s going to be anyone else who’s going to be coming, right?” This goes back to who made the secret map room with the secret closet elevator access. It seems like a lot of work and a lot of information to be just abandoned. Who technically owns them? Or owned them? And why would they have left them there? Pg 13: “Sh didn’t have to use her flare gun, much to her disappointment.” To my disappointment as well. I’d expected them to have more trouble tracking down the map they’re looking for. But everything seemed to be quite straightforward. “…tell him he has excellent taste.” in maps? The phrasing of that one seems odd. I’d also sort of thought Ag- had made the map (trying to tie together context of what it is that the Exp’s knight’s responsibilities are) Pg 13-14: The conversation about the captain offering help just stresses how little we know about C’s history and what he’s trying to do without providing any additional helpful information to grab onto. The shift in conversation from C describing the queen to V assuming they’re here for his ship is a little sudden. “…the choice is not up to you.” On one hand, C- seemed to be fine enough to go on his map-search adventure. So it seems odd that Sh is getting defensive about his physical health now. Also, he’s not armed in any way that I know of, so what is anyone expecting him to do in a battle? But I’d expect V to have more respect for his doctor’s opinion on the matter of patient health. I’m also not sure why she demands to stay there. Especially if it’s not part of the normal routine. As it is now, it makes her seem a little childish (especially with the dramatic sigh before turning to go) when I’d expect her tendency toward wanting to be helpful to be most useful in preparing to treat anyone who might get wounded. Pg 17: I like the final line. It definitely further solidifies my appreciation of the captain
  12. Overall: When were we introduced to the concept of what flares are? I had remembered vaguely what the term meant, and am pretty sure that if I was reading straight through, it would have been clearer, but I did do a double-take on it the first time the term shows up here. I really enjoy Sal- and Y- in general, so I really enjoyed this chapter. I didn’t get too caught up on technical terms, but I think the “getting pulled through a door” image that Sal- mentions at some point had developed in my head pretty early on, when they started talking about the cellulose not being broken down entirely. That combined with the knowledge from previous chapters of there being passages between planes put those two things together pretty clearly in my head (I’m assuming that’s what our anomaly is). I imagine it would have been far more confusing if I didn’t have that image in my head to attach the vaguer ideas to. Looking forward to seeing where things go! Pg 2: “…tore a new fissure in her chest.” So the computer is falling apart (losing cellulose). She’s looking for more information about what’s going on with Pru? And each piece of information she’s finding is painful? Is that right? With the ship literally deteriorating, the wording in this line makes it hard to tell if she’s experiencing emotional pain regarding what she’s finding or a physical pain from some connection she has with the computer itself and its deterioration. “…read it out loud.” To whom? I assume to Nick, but I didn’t get that he was interacting with them at the moment. His paraphrasing comments are helpful, since it makes the information easier to absorb, but I think it would be helpful to clarify that he’s summarizing the record for Nick. Pg 3: I like the emotion-shift here, but think there needs to be a more obvious to make the point of realization clearer. Some physical pause or shift or something between “There were Ris- flares on Pru.” And “But Pru had exploded.” I’d normally expect the single line “But Pru-…” to be enough to do that on its own if it’s a short, single sentence on its own line, but it doesn’t stand out quite as much when the lines around it are also single sentence lines, so I think it might need something more to make the reader feel how jarring the shift is for Sal. Pg 4: “…captains had to hold it together…” The “WE SHOULD NOT BE CONCERNED” contrasting with her curled up in a grieving/overwhelmed ball seems like a combination of things that have already moved past “holding it together.” Here and into the next page, the sort of false hope that she seems to be trying to portray hits funny. What exactly is her intention of communicating the hopeful message that she doesn’t really believe when her body language is so clearly sending another message? She’s obviously not hiding anything, considering Y’s line about watching her meld with a chair. Does she think her hopeful message is convincing? Pg 5: “Are planets mammals? Fish? Rocks?” Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral. Go. Also, I enjoyed Y’s mental wandering here. I think seeing him work through processing it makes the details easier to follow and calls out the important things. Or at least gives a sense of "We need to know this much at this point" which for me, at least, makes it easier to just go along with the fact that I don't have all of the details 100% in line yet. Pg 6: “The biometal…went cold” Is this an instantaneous thing? There’s no residual heat in the materials? I don’t know enough about what exactly the biometals do or how they work, but that sudden of a change seems iffy from a heat-transfer perspective. Where is all of the heat dissipating to instantly? Pg 7: “…she typed…” on what? Pg 9: “She didn’t need her stomach and intestines ripped apart…” ouchy… Pg 10-12: “a minute of oxygen left” How long has it been since things shut down. Has the oxygen been actively sucked out somewhere else? I wouldn’t think the cockpit would become unbreathable so quickly, even if there isn’t new air being pumped in. I found this useful-looking post on the matter, but have not done any looking-into whatsoever on its accuracy. It at least seems far closer to my general perception of air usage and dispersion, though. Unless there’s something actively pumping in bad air, or the oxygen is actively leaking out, I don’t see things falling apart quite so quickly. https://kimberlymoynahan.com/2012/04/friday-fiction-facts-trapped-in-an-airtight-room/
  13. Yeah. I'll be jumping back in with either a revised Chapter 1 or a short story that I've been working on here in the next couple weeks. Just wanted some of the dust to settle to provide a fresher start after cutting the old opening chapters. And revising took longer than expected because I started in on some of my to-read list in the process, and have probably been doing more reading and writing this past week or so. Oops. I think that would work fine for the first day or two, but when you mentioned that he'd been there for weeks by then, it just seems like he's setting out to get a beating. Having him learn from initial interactions is an option for him to be actively making a decision not to antagonize the guard, and having the self-control to follow through, no matter how much he wants to strike out (verbally or physically) at him. I was thinking this might help you out on that front as well Ultimately, a lot of religion details can be brushed over if they aren't central to the plot of your story. The fact that yours is inherently tied into the history of the kingdom is going to make that trickier (especially if part of the story leads into unearthing the secrets behind what they all believe), but I would still offer the same advice offered to me about not introducing too much at once, and not introducing it before you need to. I'm still pretty horrible at actually applying that advice, but I do recognize it as good advice. You want to use the religion to tell us something about the characters (which is also going to help with having the feeling of more well-rounded characters). If you're changing the scene around, it's probably not going to be relevant anyway, but the possibilities I liked about A- insisting on praying before the execution were that it either shows him as 1. devout about his religion and really believes that prayer for his soul is necessary to make up for his supposed sins (not as much fun, but it shapes his character) or 2. He isn't devout. Doesn't actually believe in it. But he had to learn things about it as a kid and knows some people are devout and that if the guards are in any way decent human beings, they might humor his going through the rituals, which can buy him some time to do something. It seems like the latter point was what you were leaning toward, but the murmuring of the prayer to himself (instead of saying it out loud) and his actually remembering the full prayer contradict that a little. If they can't hear him, what does it matter what he's actually saying (and if he doesn't actually believe it, I'd expect some fudging of the words to reflect that)? So we get the full prayer, which acts as a bit of a religion info dump, but we don't get as much about what it means to him, which is what we care more about at this point. I grew up in a very culturally-Catholic area, so most of my friends went through the whole process of being baptized and catechized and checking the related boxes of being a "Proper Catholic", but if I asked them now, I doubt many (if any) of them would remember wording of specific prayers unless they are recited at holiday-related-mass. Because it was more of a community expectation than a devout belief. Even now, they probably like the comfort of tradition surrounding it, but may or may not actually believe any of it. At the moment, the concern I would see is not necessarily offending people of a certain religion so much as implying connections to a certain religion that aren't actually there and confusing people. Most religious fantasy readers are going to expect to come across religions that differ from their own (or ones that satirize their own to some extent). But things like using a Christian prayer or even the name/title of Saint Gab- are going to have people that are familiar with Christianity making assumptions about the world that aren't accurate. Which will probably be really confusing and frustrating when they find out it's different. The main issue I see here is praying to Saint Gab- for forgiveness from sins, which implies a concept of sin and a need to be saved from it. In Christianity, the whole point of the sacrifice of the "enlightened leader" is that Jesus wasn't claiming to be an enlightened leader. He was claiming to be God. And his sacrifice was specifically intended to save his followers from the consequences of their sin. Because when God's law is broken, blood must be shed as a consequence —hence the blood sacrifices in ancient Israel— and the only sacrifice big enough to cover the sins of all of his followers is some form of the sacrifice of God himself, in the form of Jesus. So the sacrifice is directly related to the sin problem, and if Jesus is God, he has the power to offer forgiveness, so Christians pray to him for forgiveness, since it was his death that solved their sin problem. In very rough terms. So by having A- pray to Saint Gab- for forgiveness from sins (basically, by referencing a Christian prayer), it's implying that 1. there is a sin problem in the world, and 2. Saint Gab- is the one who gets to make the final call on whether or not people should be forgiven. Referencing Christian prayers might be relevant if that's what you're going for, but unless it's important to the religion and world, I'd avoid the concept of sin as a whole because I think any reference to it is going to tie things far closer to Christianity than you probably want to. There's certainly room for people sort of deifying a great hero or great mage (the follow-up story to Price of Peace deals with this to some extent, so I've thought about it a bit, and will likely be doing so more as I do the actual writing instead of just outlining it). And if Saint Gab- was part of saving the kingdom from destruction, it would make sense for someone to pray to him to be saved from eternal destruction (this branches off into questions about what awaits in eternity. What A- wants to be saved from. And what greater power is in charge of that. But that's a whole other can of worms). But bringing the concept of being saved from sin is going to tie it far more closely to Christianity than I think you are going to want to do because of the implications it's going to carry with it. The closer it is, the more you're going to have trouble with "But if this is like Christianity, then why does x happen. And how does y work. And what ever happened to z?" Many readers won't really care about the answers to those questions (unless they are me and enjoy poking at these things). But if they recognize it as "sort of like Christianity" the questions will come up, and if the story religion clashes with the understanding they have, they'll get confused or frustrated. Whereas if you're mostly working with a great mage/hero/etc. who is now basically viewed as a god, there are theological concepts you don't have to address directly or at all. When you're starting with a blank page, you can just leave some spots blank. But if you're working from something that already exists (and is something that most people will have an existing understanding of), you have to be careful that the spots you would have preferred to leave blank don't already have things inked in. And now, before I find another rabbit trail to start off on, I'm going to leave it at that. Feel free to stop me if any of this is overwhelming or un-looked-for. Hopefully parts of it are helpful, but I know I tend to ramble when I start on these sorts of things. And if it's sort of helpful and you'd like to direct me at anything specific, feel free to point me in that direction and let me wander that way a bit.
  14. 1 There’s a much better sense of actual danger through the potential execution and the escape, but the ability to just run away is surprising. Weren’t there walls and gates? Did all of the guards show up weighed down by full battle armor for the execution of a malnourished seventeen year old? It seems like it would take more cleverness for him to get away. 2 I like that he’s far more active this time around. Even when he’s stuck in the cell, he’s trying to keep up his strength, and actively pursues something that might give him a chance to escape once he sees it. I still don’t have much of a sense of his personality, but his struggle to escape is far more engaging this time around. 3 Definitely a lot better (really, all of the language is a lot less wordy and stilted). Though some of that might be a general impression because there isn’t as much of it breaking up the rest of the text. There is still spots that need work, but this is far better than previous chapters in that regard. 4 Yes! Focusing in on A- having to make his own decisions and figure things out on his own does a much better job of making him an engaging character. There’s no one for him to just blindly go along with, and we see more of his capabilities in place of someone else’s. Well done on the changes! Pg 1: Still seeing verb tense errors in cases like “he had kept track of the days” instead of “he kept track of the days.” The latter implies he’s doing it in line with the current timeline of the story. But when it’s talking about “in the beginning” you need the past perfect tense. Any time the character is thinking back to something that had happened before the current scene is taking place. “He had lost track after a week”, “hope of freedom had become”, “series of events that had led him there.” If he has been there long enough to know that the guard is going to start beating him, it seems odd that he would antagonize him. If it was the first day or two, and he hadn’t figure out how cruel the guard was going to be, mouthing off makes sense. But I would have expected him to learn better after weeks. Pg 2: Adding on to the previous point, being motivated by hatred is one thing (seems like there’s a lot of hatred to be motivated by), but knowing when to lay low to avoid beatings or having his food dumped on the floor doesn’t contradict that. Pg 3: “…Ordinary stone. Stone.” Is there some realization being made here? The repetition seems odd. The giant paragraph on page 3 could be split up to add some emphasis to certain lines. As it is now, it’s a rather intimidating block of text. So now he’s trying to get along with the jailer. Why not during the first weeks? Pg 5: Seems like he resists what the count is doing pretty easily. “A- felt foolish for ever believing the count, even for a second.” When did he believe him? At the original dinner? It didn’t seem like he trusted the offer to escape, since he acknowledged that he was just playing along. Also, when used as “the count” instead of the full “Count C-“, count should be lowercase. Is the count not going to give any sort of “if you don’t actually bend to my will, I’m going to kill you” ultimatum? Seems odd that he’d bother to hold him that long then just say “meh. He seems stubborn. Kill him.” What was his alternative plan? Was it so important to have spent weeks keeping A- alive? If so, I’d expect him to push the matter more. Pg 7: Five guards seems like a lot to send for one person who’s been underfed for weeks. How many guards does the count have? And what are they doing all day every other day? Seems like a pretty boring job. Hope they’re getting paid well. [note after reading on: especially if they are also all turning blind eyes to abductions and child-murder] Oh. An axe and executioner and everything. Why not just cut his throat in the cell and be done with it? It does make for a very clear, terrifying picture for A-. I do think that is good. But the part of me that likes to poke at little details isn’t convinced that it’s worth the count’s time or effort to set up this formal execution. What’s the benefit to the count to paint this terrifying scene for A? Especially if he’s not even going to be there. I generally assume that formal executions are going to be a sort of power play for the one doing the executing. To make a public display of the death in an attempt to prevent other people from doing the same thing. Or to show a rebel group that their rebel leader is no more. It makes for a solid threatening image for A-, but from the count’s perspective, why bother making a big show of it? And where did he find six guards who are fine with formally murdering a child? Does he have some hold over them? Or are they just normal guys with lives and families who happen to get paid a ton of money to overlook the horrors they see at work? Pg 8: “Saint Gab-“ I know you had mentioned before that this isn’t exactly Christianity, but at the moment, I can’t tell the difference between this and some form of Roman Catholicism. Even if the name Gab- is more strongly associated with Archangel Gab- in Christianity, there’s no way at this point for me to know that he isn’t praying to an actually-existing catholic saint. Which would make me assume that this is some sort of version of our world, or an alternate history, and not something entirely different. It might be helpful to make some minor adjustments to make sure this first hint at A’s religious beliefs falls squarely into one setting or the other, to avoid confusing people later. I can chat about the religious aspect of world building all day long, so feel free to send a message if you want any other thoughts or feedback on that front. Why do the jailer and guards think he’s a criminal? Were none of them there when his family was invited for dinner? “murmured a prayer he remembered from his lessons” Is he praying this out loud? To put on a show while he’s cutting the ropes? The murmuring suggests not, but the “remembered from his lessons” implies that he’s not all that devout. At which point, why is he going through the prayer anyway? Also, the prayer does not help my understanding of the setting. The terminology is too close to Christian prayers for me to see it as anything else, though the theology issues of praying to a saint (or archangel, with the Gab- reference) for redemption from sins immediately makes me cringe. I think you’d said he was the Jesus-figure in the world’s religion. But for him to go by the title of Saint creates a lot of issues if there are additional saints. Unless all of the saints can grant redemption. Ultimately, I can see any Catholic readers getting really antsy about some of this unless there are clearer lines drawn between this and Roman Catholicism. And a lot of confusion for people who are going to label it as Catholicism then find out it’s something different. Pg 9: “Primordial fear fueled him…He jogged up the mountain…” jogged? I know he’s tired at this point, but jogging, to me, implies intentionally slowing his pace. A few questions about the layout of our escape. Are they already partway up the mountain? Seems like if he’s near the bottom, it wouldn’t be steep enough to scramble on hands and knees and be kicking rocks loose for quite a while. Is there no tree cover where he currently is? Where exactly is he fleeing to if there’s no cover? If they’re shooting arrows at him, I assume they can see him clearly enough to aim, in which case it seems odd that he could have lost them.
  15. Pg 1: The second paragraph feels off from a tense perspective. But that might just be my lack of familiarity with present tense writing. “I linger on her condition during that time…” took a moment to confirm that “that time” was the time her mom was sick, not the time during which she was sitting there thinking. It could use some extra clarification in what she is saying she “could accept” now based on the past, or what she “could have accepted” if it’s trying to address the feelings she’d been feeling at the time her mother was sick. “I could have accepted it if my mom had needed to undergo treatment… the fact that it kept getting worse had left me looking down the road to what horrors awaited the next day.” Is the “looking down the road” looking to the future-future? Or is it about past-W looking to her “tomorrow”s, which would still be in the past for present-W? As someone who overthinks the usage of “tomorrow” or “now” in anything written in past tense, I’m sure this probably ends up catching a little more for me than it would for other people, but it’s seeming not-quite-right at the moment. Also, the current phrasing of “if my mom had to undergo treatment” makes it unclear if she actually did or not. I assume she did. Because cancer. But the sentence structure is currently setting “it kept getting worse” up as what happened instead of her undergoing the treatment. “hours playing strategy board games” <3 “…their first relationship.” His first relationship? Or hers? “…I know they apply…” what does? I am guessing that “voice” might have previously been “words” but I’m still not sure what she’s referring to about “meaning it that way.” Meaning what, what way? “Seems like lingering …job.” Pg 2: “I know that when I’m tired…” Coming back to this after reading through, we certainly don’t get any indication that “cranky W” has taken over. Or that the nightmares have that much impact on her day-to-day life. It’s useful to see that she wrestles with this, and to see that her rational mindset has her thinking of it more as a frustrating interruption to her sleep schedule than anything else, but if it doesn’t affect her later in any way, I wonder if it’s helpful to include it here. Pg 4: “I don’t have to deal with my brain nagging me with new ideas…” yeah. Just wait until you have to do some programming or excel or design project in those engineering classes… my husband still has old projects that he digs out now and then to revise or adjust or take sections out of to use elsewhere. And he still gets notices now and then that his grad school papers are being referenced by some student taking similar research in slightly different directions. That all being said, her thoughts here entirely appropriate to her age/mindset/experience. She can find out that the world is more complicated than that in a few years. Pg 6: “Give me instructions and I’ll check all the boxes, but....” Oh hey! It’s me! Right down to coloring squares on graph paper. Pg 8: “I don’t know if I’ve ever been as close…” What about An? Also, I’m willing to chalk some of it up to character mindset biases, because I think a lot of social structures (especially in high school, but also afterward, in many circles) condition their members to think this way, but it always makes me antsy when friendship and romantic love are set at odds with each other. Or set up with the sort of implication that “friends are all well and good, but obviously romance is a higher, more worthy goal.” It also seems out of place when chapter 1 had W questioning whether she even wanted romance, in which case it would make sense for her to be a little jealous of N & E’s friendship, but wouldn’t necessarily draw the romance comparison into it. Pg 10: “I meant that as a crazy hypothetical.” This doesn’t seem all that crazy or hypothetical. If the world runs on natural laws that are reliable enough for scientists to be able to predict or study things, magic had better have a similar set of laws governing them. Because otherwise, scientific study becomes nearly meaningless anywhere it intersects with magic. There might be specific cases where magic overrules or contradicts the natural laws we are familiar with, but if it doesn’t happen in a way that reflects their own natural laws (I’m tempted to call them supernatural laws, but that would push me toward a whole long worldbuilding discussion that isn’t relevant), science being a predictable, observable thing is in trouble. I have…a lot of thoughts on how magic systems fit into worlds and am glad to discuss if you’d like, but I’ll move on for now. “The whole point…make sense out of the chaos.” This doesn’t quite ring true to me… both from the perspective of research being done to confirm, refine, or correct previous studies and because “making sense of chaos” implies taking a bunch of entirely random, unconnected things and tying them together instead of seeing patterns or connections in what seems like chaos and figuring out why they are there. Or seeing the one thing that doesn’t quite fit the pattern and figuring out why it’s different. Maybe something like “finding sense in the chaos” might hit closer to the mark?” “they don’t hire people like me to be scientists” but…isn’t she planning to study engineering? After reading: 1. Even with the concerns I mentioned, I’m definitely still engaged with the story. That probably wavered a bit when digging into An’s digging into high school social structure things, but that may be more a matter of my not generally reaching for books set in modern high schools more than anything more problematic. 2. I like W a lot, but I’m not quite buying her blind acceptance of An’s opinions on N and E. It makes sense that her judgment is a little clouded to some extent by the pain/confusion/embarrassment of how her relationship with E went and ended (not to mention that memories of the relationship are closely tied to her mother’s illness, which must carry its own emotional baggage that I’d expect her to have difficulty navigating). But she seems to place a lot more weight on An’s opinion and understanding of things that have happened than on E’s explanations. And if she and E were as close as they seem to have been, she should probably know whether or not to trust him about such things, even if she is also irritated with him. At least enough to get more information before assuming that An’s explanation is the full story. 3. I would have liked more direct plot progression. We get more information about the characters and social setting, which is nice, but I think it could benefit from more feeling of movement plot-wise.