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Everything posted by Silk

  1. So @Ace of Hearts, @shatteredsmooth, and @kais for Monday!
  2. I would totally be up for a short story called "The Flotilla at the End of the World" if someone wanted to sub that to the group. I'm just saying.
  3. Okay, so I read this correctly while reading the chapter, and am still having a really hard time suspending disbelief, on a couple of fronts: it doesn't make much sense to me that an organization that made any effort at all to reduce the danger of their tournaments would continue using fully function weapons. As far as the idea of the ropes go, I'm still not convinced this would be all that actionable in a fight. I don't imagine most people would be very successful at severing a rope by thwacking their blade at it from the outside; you'd have to get your blade on the inside and pull out which strikes me as ... extremely fiddly and not at all the kind of thing I would be worried about in even a friendly fight. It kinda feels like if I were told to win a boxing match by de-gloving my opponent: we'd both be more likely to fall over of exhaustion five rounds in than win or lose the fight by the rules. For a focus on finesse, you could consider something like a scored system, where points are awarded for proper technique/the execution of certain manoeuvres. Or, it could be as simple as seeing Is strike what would otherwise consider a killing blow because of the padding. Heck, maybe the swords are dipped in dye and everyone but R notices the gigantic neon pink streak across his solar plexus. All that being said... I actually think you need very little. You already have a referee, and a bell that sounds when the match is over. Those are the signals to the reader that the match has been won; that and Is's feeling of triumph, followed by confusion/outrage/whatever when R doesn't play along, are what are going to carry the moment for us. The winning blow needs to feel reasonably definitive, sure, but you in terms of actual description can probably accomplish what you need to in a sentence.
  4. I thought the overall arc of the chapter was great, but it definitely drags in parts. I think some of the banter can go. I also wondered whether the chapter might benefit from shuffling the middle bits around – I thought the order felt a bit off in parts. There were points at which I wasn’t clear about whether S was planning to go to Ard, or straight to Pr. Then, by the time S realizes she’s stepped into a diplomatic mess vis-a-vis Pr, I’m already invested in her going to Ard… which makes the diplomatic stuff less effective as a setback because that’s not where she’s going. I wonder how this chapter would work if S actually decides to go to Pr first, backtracks when she realizes the can of worms (heh) she’s opened and decides to go back to Ard to retrieve At, and that’s when it’s revealed that Pr has its own ideas about S changing course, thank you very much? If nothing else it'd maybe give readers a more intuitive explanation for why the planet is pulling them to begin with to glom onto in the short term. As I read: P2 “There almost to.” I think this is supposed to read “They’re almost to,” but if not, I have no idea what this means. Also, kind of surprised they seem to be going to Ard and not to P? What did lemonade ever do to you?! Maybe WRS because it’s been some time since I’ve read the original trilogy, but I’m sort of lost on the “shoes” thing… So Y just isn’t going to ask about the bodies? Because if I were in Y’s position and just heard that, I would also have followup questions. …huh. Did N always talk this much? “The J Tourism Board has suspended V tours…” Because of course there are tours. Also, the information in the article is helpful but I think it goes on a little too long. Should I recognize the name of the planet L? Because I definitely do not. “Why are we in e-level files?” Why is he just asking now? “N yelped and jumped away from the display…” Seems like an overreaction? She’s not even showing the dead bodies! Oh… it was it was because it was loud? Priutcu seems to be really well-established, so I’m wondering again how the initial discovery of an entire planet blowing up got buried at first. S’s interaction with the volunteer line: She thinks she’ll get there in three days? Is she going to Ard, or P? And S encounters… Bureaucracy. Serves her right I like the idea, but I think this would be more compelling if S didn’t discover it until she was already en route to the Pr. P15 “making the holo projection of her beak wobbling…” should be “wobbles” I think? “Do not come here…” Yy wasn’t nearly this firm a moment ago when S asked if she was welcome. “Bill to MC, general account.” While hilarious, banking security can’t possibly be this abysmal, can it? No verification at all? Y is taking this really quite well… I giggled at the thought of spiked lemonade. “Eyes secreting concern…” Speaking of concern, if his eyes are ‘secreting’ he’s either crying or in need of a physician. “mouth staying resptively shut” respectfully?
  5. Your questions! 1. Is the pacing still alright? Yes – I admittedly missed some of the really high tension of the first chapter but still thought this worked pretty well. Leading into your next question I did think the first page was maybe a bit slow, but other than that this worked well. 2. Is the situation realistic enough? Yes! The groan from the toilet I had more trouble with this time, as you’ll see below, but otherwise this is hugely improved. 3. Are the characters represented well enough? The count in particular was a huge improvement over last time. M improved a little bit, but that was mostly by virtue of her having any lines or characteristics at all; I think she needs to come quite a ways further to carry the chapter and the conflict here, since it’s essentially her future that’s being decided (you’ll see this at several points in my comments below). In fact, I wonder if she shouldn’t be the POV character for this chapter. The parents still seemed pretty two-dimensional to me, the mother in particular, and though A was improved I think we need a lot more emotion out of him to buy into him as a POV character. 4. How bad is the dialogue/word usage? The dialogue is still pretty archaic, yes, and it’s incongruous with the more modern tone of this version. I also think that in a lot of places it could be more succinct – the characters spend quite a bit of time talking – which would probably help punch it up a bit. 5. Would you read on if you opened this book? I might thumb through a few more pages, but I’m not fully bought in yet. The last pages and the encounter with the Count did a fair bit to convince me to keep reading after not a ton of early investment in the characters, but I’m not totally there. I’d also be reading with caution, still, given the relatively little screen time the female characters get, especially in a story that so far appears that it’s going to be about one of them. I think that basically covers anything that I would normally say at the top of a crit. Though there is a ways to go, this is definitely an improvement over the previous version, so well done there. A quick note on the prose: Throughout, I also noticed some confusion around tenses, mostly using past tense when it would make more sense to use past perfect, so watch out for that. There were also a handful of cases of using passive voice when it would make more sense to use active (i.e. “A heard wolves howling” instead of “wolves were heard howling”). As I read: “She was always treated like a fragile doll…” Wasn’t it A up above saying that M shouldn’t have come to this creepy place? If so, that doesn’t seem very internally consistent. P2 “have we still not heard anything…” I get what you’re doing, but this seems a bit shoe-horned; it’s quite the conversational non-sequitur. P3 “I could live in such a house” I like the line but almost wonder if it needs to come sooner, as M’s been talked over a couple times by this point, like A says she shouldn’t be in such a creepy place and she’s like “it’s cool actually” (only, you know, more eloquently than what I just said ;)) p4 “So this was the man who pinned Ma under his thumb…” I have no idea what this means. I know I commented positively on the amazing groaning toilet in the previous version, but it doesn’t feel quite as well earned in this version (to be fair, the inherent absurdity of it means it has a pretty high bar to clear). It’s still got some creepy atmospheric stuff happening, but not nearly to the degree the first version had – which I assume is a deliberate choice on your part given your comments about where the rest of the novel is going, and is not necessarily a bad thing! - so I’m finding it harder to suspend my disbelief this time around. I wonder if this encounter could just be dialed back similarly, like, A thought he heard something and then dismisses it. Bottom of p7/top of p8: M is awfully quiet while the other characters talk about her future. P8: Oh good, she refused, at least. Of course there are conveniently howling wolves. I assume C summoned them while he was drawing little circles on the table? So… how does A actually feel about staying the night with the count? I mean, of course I can guess that he’s not thrilled, but I’m getting no actual emotion from him, except that the family is all feeling resigned. P11 “But, such things are not unheard of.” Okay, does this guy ACTUALLY believe the count doesn’t intend them harm? Because the thought going through my mind at this point is “this guy can’t actually be this dumb.” “...we are not to be pushed around.” Here we go. More of this, please! From everyone, ideally – especially A as our POV character, and M as the person whose future is being decided. Ah, so the meat was drugged? P13: yep.
  6. Overall: I definitely think this chapter could stand on its own as Chapter 1; I don't feel lost reading it, and my brain wasn't drawing a lot of connections to previous material as anything I really needed to know to understand or enhance this one. This got off to a good start with the conversation between Is, A, and R, but I quickly founding my attention start to wander as we got into the tournament setup and even the matches. I pointed out one or two specific places below that I thought could be condensed, but what’s missing throughout is a sense of stakes. Is and R don’t seem more than mildly irritated with each other, which was enough to sustain me for the length of the conversation but not beyond. If this is a first chapter: The “wastrel nobleman” trope is pretty common, and doesn’t provide a sufficient hook, at least not for this reader. If it’s a later chapter, I’m still not bought into the relationship between these two characters enough to care about wanting to fix it – and I’m not totally clear that’s what I is doing, since the chapter often reads like she just wants to prove a point over him for some reason. I think this chapter needs to be clear on why the tournament matters to Is, and really punch up her emotions in relation to it. Is doesn’t emote much. And although I know she wants to win the tournament in order to hold one over R, that’s not sufficient to carry me through because I don’t know why that matters. How are the results of this tournament going to play into later chapters? What does winning mean for Is’s overall goals? What does losing mean? Making it clear how badly Is wants to win the tournament (for example) might sufficient to carry me through the early parts of the chapter, but my investment in the character and how this win/loss changes things for her is what will determine whether I want to read the NEXT chapter. If this is a first chapter, then a lot of that bigger picture stuff can be handled through hints and character emotions. If – and this is only an example, not a suggestion of where I think the story is going or should go – the primary conflict is that R is a wastrel who is driving the kingdom to ruin with his actions and this tournament is somehow one of the only ways Is can fix it – then I want to feel Is’s desperation and animosity, and see the cracks where things are starting to fall apart. If this is Chapter 5, then the need to understand where this chapter fits in the big picture, why it is a tipping point, is even greater – but it needs to be because I’ve already seen the protagonists try, and probably fail, to achieve their goals up to this point. This has been a common refrain in my critiques so far, so I think spending some time focusing on what Is and Al want, why those goals matter to them, and what’s standing in their way will serve you well, because being able to communicate those things is going to be critical no matter where you start your story. As I read: If R’s not going to introduce them, why doesn’t I just introduce herself instead of making the duke figure it out…? Especially if this becomes the first chapter, it would be quite a natural way to tell us who I is. P2 “…pausing for a moment as she stared at the rope.” Is seems to have come to some sort of epiphany here, but not sure what that is. I think a lot of this introductory stuff about the tournament could probably be skipped. The most significant thing so far (at the top of p5) seems to be the conversation between Is, R, and the duke; the rest could be condensed quite a bit to give us just enough: that there’s a tournament; what the place looks like, what our characters look like and a bit about our characters’ positions in the narrative – the latter of which we already have, certainly for R and A. P5 “…the cord on Ai’s right arm…” Are they using blunted weapons? I have a hard time imagining a sword strike being positioned to go right through a cord even if the weapon was sharpened, and using fully functional weapons during a tournament seems unlikely. I’d really like to get some more emotion out of Is about what the tournament means to her. She seems interested in winning, but not like she has a particularly strong opinion about it. P6 “…anticipating a slash to left left side” Just because she knows R’s fight style, or? We don’t get much of an indication that they’re sizing each other up so this comes out of nowhere. As I read the actual fight scene between the two, I’m again coming back to the thought that I need a why for this scene to really matter. Again: What would it mean for Is to win, or lose? What would she think it means for R? “… let her chainmail take the edge off the blow.” Okay, I’m confused. I thought the guard was lecturing her because she’d dropped her guard when she shouldn’t have. If this is the rule about winning then it’s the rule; why wouldn’t it be considered legitimate? Is this just a character flaw of R’s? If so, who cares what he thinks? “Smart or skilled enough to know when to pull a strike…” Again I wonder why they seem to be using real, fully functional weapons for this. I don't feel there's much that was left out. If there are things in later chapters that are introduced too abruptly, we'll find them when they happen. I think this is the biggest drawback of the chapter. Is really doesn't emote much during this chapter, and without feeling that emotion, all I really get about her is that she wants to win to prove a point against R, but I don't know why that's important or have an emotional connection to why it is, so it's not quite enough to get me bought into the character. It's not necessarily just about what you put in versus what you take out, but where you put it. I could see the scene where she's injured easily going on if she's just feeling miserable because she got injured and taking a breather; it would probably be more meaningful if we see her struggle to do something and fail. And I think what's missing here is not the sense that she was badly injured but how she FEELS about losing the tournament and again, why that loss matters to her. That's what I got too, though I was also initially a bit confused. I think this could be simplified somewhat - since there's also a question of him not thinking her win was "legitimate." What if he just didn't realize he'd lost and then got huffy and refused to accept it? I also found the section about the kids section confusing and, honestly, a little uncomfortable, as there's this weird thing fantasy sometimes does with fetishizing women who are small in stature. Maybe she just has customized equipment because she's shorter which can be explained in a sentence, gets rid of the weird kids dialogue, and still leaves you a spot to hang that lantern. I'll say that I ALSO did not catch onto the fact that this was poison. I wonder if the answer is to actually make the injury LESS severe, and make that clear, so that it's more apparent earlier on that something is Up. Plus, you have a couple of spots where you could hang a lantern that you didn't take advantage of; up until the end, it seems like people are just fussing over her because she's royalty and not because she's injured. What if we see her hiding that she's not feeling well while the healer checks her over (or whatever?) What if we actually see her struggling sooner than that, and she's frustrated with herself during the fight with R because she's not performing the way she expects? Etc? If you cut out the padding and really punch up Is's emotions, you actually have the potential for a really solid opening chapter here, I think. Also... is the cousin the one who poisons her? Because that would be my assumption with the setup you've provided. If not, then yes, de-emphasizing the cousin thing is probably in order because right now that feels like it's meant to be the arc. I think this is clear. I don't think you need to add more characters in this chapter; if anything it's a bit too busy already. But even if her motivations change after the poisoning (which they probably should! That's what an inciting incident does!) she wants SOMETHING right now so we need to know what that is, and more importantly, we need to FEEL what that is. Winning the tournament could be the biggest, most important thing in the world to her because nobody thought she could/everyone said she shouldn't/she has a friendly rivalry with her cousin/she has an unfriendly rivalry with her cousin/because that foreign duke is actually really hot and she wants to impress him/etc. The things the character is focused on can be relatively small - but they need to feel big to her, because that's what will make them feel big to us. And THAT is what will get us through to the poisoning and the exciting things that hopefully happen next.
  7. Overall: The presentation of the Alts in Ch2 was a little much for me. I’d easily believe a group of narrow-minded people who are out for their own ends, I think it was the fact that the moment they’re introduced they’re immediately and openly talking about war (plus the octobone – I have been trying and failing to come up with a good/funny portmanteau of ‘bone octogon’ but you get the idea.) I thought chapter 3 started off pretty well but it feels like it’s starting to drag a bit in the middle; the scene with the twins goes a little long, and then it transitions to this scene in the bar that I’m not sure where it’s going yet, but I wonder if we could do a scene change here? As I read: The Alts read as a little… moustache-twirly to me. Just a conglomeration of ALL THE WORST THINGS, even skulls. That said, I think the actual confrontation between them and E is quite effective. “The man leapt into T’s boat… T leapt from her boat to the floating dock.” I like idea, but 1: seems a bit counter-intuitive for T to abandon her own boat and 2: wouldn’t everything already be rocking from the first jump? I do like the way the rest of the scene plays out though. It occurs to me, one way to make the Alts at least a little-less cardboard villain is to have them react to E being so young. It could give readers something a bit more relatable to help fuel the tension. This scene is actually a very effective explanation of why S is so afraid of magic, by the way. “I’ll be shocked if we do [leave today]… acting like it’s a race.” Getting mixed messages here. Is it important that the barge people leave quickly, or not? Was quite surprised to learn the Alts are part of government. I think the presentation as obvious villains, along with the skull-and-bones thing, led me to assume they were just pirates. “Some of the more extreme followers of your religion…” This seems like a non-sequitur. “...not a religion.” The capitalization of She/Her in reference to the elemental in the last chapter definitely suggested some religious undertones. 3rd paragraph on p8: not sure this is deliberate, but there is a reference to T-a-v with an “I” instead of just T-a-v “...and the sisterhood [solar…]” I’m guessing the square brackets are a placeholder that hasn’t been edited yet? Anyway, the sisterhood in reference to the barge people definitely needs to be slipped in earlier in the conversation instead, or even in the previous chapter. “A ringing bell… a second struggled… a third kept overshooting…” Had some trouble with this paragraph. I think that’s partly because some of the individual sentences need to be workshopped, and partly because the chaos very politely waited for E to finish this plot-relevant conversation. I think some of it needs to happen (or E needs to notice it) more gradually; maybe he tells someone who needs help to just hang on a second, or there are people irritably yelling at him, or we see M attempting to help people in the background, or something. Even seeing E deliberately brushing people off because he’s worried about S and wants to finish this conversation would help, I think. Onto chapter 3: “Now they had a purpose…” Yes, this is better. Its effectiveness will definitely depend on the setup in the first chapter but I like S having a much clearer purpose here and the fact that they’ve had a bit of a fire lit under them. P13: “S shuddered.” Paragraph break here that I suspect is probably extraneous, but at first I read it as a scene change, and thought “that’s a great end to the scene…” R is kind of a tool, aren’t they? “...but the kinds of creaks and groans…” Nice. Okay, whoa, it’s possible that I’m overtired and just misread, but I thought S was starting on their journey and was real confused when E suddenly came into the picture. Why does S have an armed escort if they’re just going home? Or… I guess E works somewhere a little farther away from where S lives than I thought? I’m definitely confused about the geography and where S is going vs. where they're coming from.
  8. The guidelines listed here are still current as of January 2021. What is Reading Excuses? Reading Excuses is an online critique group and a spin-off of the popular podcast Writing Excuses (note: we are a fan group and not affiliated with the Writing Excuses podcast). In other words, we read each others' fiction to provide constructive criticism that will help improve your work. Reading Excuses is open to anyone. To join, send a PM to both Silk and Robinski with the email address that you'd like to receive submissions at, and one of us will add that email address to the group's email list. Discussion threads happen here on the forum; submissions are sent out by email each week. I will always respond to your request to join the group. I try to be reasonably prompt about doing so, and usually respond to requests in a couple of days. I do miss things sometimes, though, so if you haven't heard from me within a week, feel free to re-send the request. This group is meant for writers of all levels who intend their work for publication. Writers of any genre are welcome to join, but we're primarily science fiction and fantasy writers, so if you're writing outside of SFF you may find that we're not the audience you're looking for. The posts below tell you how the group operates. Please read the "How Do I Submit" and "Code of Conduct and Critiquing Guidelines" sections before submitting or critiquing. How Do I Submit? Formatting Submissions Length Guidelines Content Tags Naming Conventions How to Submit When to Submit FAQs Code of Conduct and Critiquing Guidelines Code of Conduct Critiquing Guidelines Receiving Critiques How Often Do I Need to Critique? Sharing Work From RE Other Resources RE Administravia Extra Credit Your opinion ... The Writing World
  9. Looks like we have @shatteredsmooth, @kais, @julienreel and @C_Vallion for Monday.
  10. Overall: Oooh, shiny! Space NASCAR! Giant flying squirrel monsters! (that’s what I’m going with, it’s late, shut up.) Okay, so… you said you wanted to hear everything about this story. I, uhh, took you at your word. FYI, I also sent you an email with some suggested LBLs (track changes is so much faster!) I think this is a pretty solid start. The structure is sound, and there’s some good atmospheric stuff around the initial excitement of racing, as well as some of the descriptions of being stuck inside the ship – though I definitely think you could ratchet this up several notches, as you’ll see below. I have to say that I wasn’t expecting what turned out to be primarily a survival story, rather than a racing story, so I think you need to look a little bit at the promises you’re making up-front. Maybe a little more on things like the weather and the difficulties it might cause, why you really don’t want to smash into a cliff (you’ll get eaten by a giant flying squirrel monster before they ever find you among all those trees). OR, a bit more focus on the preparations they make if the worst should happen. Triple-checking the oxygen tanks, the flares, the medical supplies, etc. Second big thing that comes to mind is that I wanted to Z to participate a little more in her own rescue. I know that her actions after being stranded definitely contribute to that, but there is a fair bit of waiting and hoping which is a bit of a hard sell narratively. You have some pretty great building blocks for all that stuff. Last thing is the only thing I think the story is actually missing and that is a sense of character arc. There’s really no growth here because Z is so singularly focused, first on the race, then on survival. We have no idea why she is doing this ludicrous thing: yes, the story is bookended by brief references to her desire to be a professional, but why? It’s probably not money if she and L can just casually rebuild an entire spaceship. Doing it for the thrill is a legitimate motivation, certainly for a short story (might not be enough to power a novel), but if that’s why she’s doing it… does she ever come to doubt? Stuck in a slowly submerging ship while running out air, being battered by wind and threatened by monster squirrels, and watching your friend bleed out seems like a GREAT time to maybe have some doubts about your career path. What makes Z a different person at the end of this story than she was at the start? I’m terrible at titles, sorry. If I think of something brilliant I’ll let you know. As I read: P1 “This was the last stage…” Oh, so they’re already in the race? The “this is going to be a hell of a race” comment above made it sound like the race hadn’t actually started yet. P2 “into a soft turn…” if they’re still waiting for go-ahead, why is she turning the ship? Also, I have some logistical questions at this point. Not sure I need actual answers right now, but this seems to imply that all the racers are grounded at checkpoints and need to be cleared to take off at the same time, which would seem to defeat the purpose of any prior racing. Or is the idea just to do racing on a bunch of different worlds and get the lowest overall time? Is the transit between planets incidental or part of the race? P2 “Rain streaked like comets” nice. “Only Z’s eyes moved, always calculating.” Is she calculating if L is reading her the notes? “Another win closer to being a professional.” Ah-hah. I wonder if this should come earlier. I had assumed they were professional, given the scale of the race and that L is old enough to have children who can make him jewelry. It’s just occurred to me… why do they need space suits if they’re flying in atmosphere? Or do they exit atmosphere later as part of the race? I wonder if Z and L need to encounter one close call in the very early pages, before the crash. While they’re obviously doing something dangerous and the weather isn’t cooperating, things seem to be, broadly, going to plan, so there’s not much tension before the crash itself. p3“Turning off the entire ship…” So… is the race now? If it is, I’d expect that possibility to register for Z sooner than it does, even if fleetingly while she deals with the other more pressing stuff. P4 “the sky to the left” So Z is then on the “top” side of the spaceship with L below her (assuming the pilot’s side is on the same side of the vehicle as the driver’s seat in a North American car)? This isn’t clear at all, either here or in the description below where she’s helping him. “N didn’t have a breathable atmosphere” Okay THIS would have been good to know sooner. When the ship started screaming about a hull breach a page or so ago, I assumed that was an automated thing complaining because the ship was also used to flying in vacuum. I suppose this somewhat explains the space suits, but unless they ARE transitioning from atmosphere to outer space as part of this leg of the race, a rebreather seems like it might be a better bet (depending on the composition of the atmosphere, I suppose). Also… if they have two oxygen tanks that require Z to manually do things, right now in this moment, before they are active… what have they been breathing? Has their oxygen been slowly running out this whole time? Because if so, that’s a thing you should probably mention. P6: if the oxygen was being supplied BY THEIR SUITS then I feel like a giant hunk of metal through it would be a problem, yeah. “The silence meant CT had landed everyone” Oh. It doesn’t mean that Z turned the entire ship off? P7: I’m amazed this dude’s still conscious. Grain of salt and all because I can’t even decide myself if the “medical drama” component of this scene is going on too long. I sort of think it might be? But I’m waffling. The constant reminders of the cold are nice and atmospheric, but each time you mentioned it I am baffled as to why their ship suits wouldn’t protect them from cold. That seems like a necessary thing if they’re going to be flying through places without atmosphere etc. p8: Wait this storm is still going on? I had no idea. I’ve gotten a pretty good idea of what’s going on inside the ship – limited oxygen, dripping water, blood and emergency foam – but not outside the ship. Where is the rain pattering against the windshield? The wailing of wind through the branches or the swirling of debris along the cliff face? The rocking of the ship as it bumps and rattles into the cliff face or whatever is pinning it down, which would make first aid or doing other manual procedures probably pretty annoying and right now probably also hurts like hell? As soon as she opens the door we basically get everything I was just talking about. But I think we should be seeing more of it before she does, so the storm doesn’t seem like it was waiting for the characters to do something to be inconvenient. Z thinking she needs to close the door before the ship floods and then immediately starting to mess around with the distress flag seems like she’s disregarding her own thought process. Not sure why Z’s oxygen levels would be significantly lower than L’s. On the one hand: Hooray for rescue! On the other hand, and I realize that Z’s earlier actions would definitely have contributed to it, but since it’s the crux of the story I think it would be good for that ultimate moment of rescue to feel a little more active rather than the characters waiting and hoping. Does the radio come on and Z give them some landmarks that can guide their rescuers? Does L undergo some further/worsening medical emergency and Z has to scramble to do something further to help? Does the creature decide to go after her instead of the flag, and she has to race to get back into the ship and get the door closed before it munches on her and L? Struck me as a bit odd that Z doesn’t seem to feel/mourn, even a little bit, the loss of her ship.
  11. Ah, I see. And yes, I thought I remembered him from the prologue. So this is a ton of information, and I agree with your comment that your narrative is probably not well-served by trying to cram it all in there. The point may be moot for this specific chapter if you cut it, but since this is the chapter we have in front of us, consider these suggestions as examples for future chapters: As much as possible, try to tell these things through the characters' actions and emotions rather than lines of explanation. If R is an advisor and that line was supposed to be dismissive, maybe A needs to tell him off. If the line is supposed to be unusually dismissive, maybe A is too surprised/shocked to tell him off. Readers can and will make a lot of inferences based on little cues like that. Then the only thing we really need is clarity on R's position as an advisor, which can be dealt with very quickly. For the rooms stuff: again, a ton of information here, and not stuff you want to bog the reader down with. The trick is to determine the least amount of information the reader needs and then figure out how to communicate it as simply as possible. It seems to me that the important thing we're supposed to take from all this about room shuffling is that it is supposed to be insulting in some form to A and that he should maybe wonder whether it was deliberate, because those pieces of information will affect A's ability to achieve his goals and probably how he feels about it. (Not actually sure that's what you were going for, but running with it as an example for now.) I actually don't know how I would communicate that with so many little details required to explain why it actually mattered. In hypothetical-you's shoes I would probably just majorly simplify the whole scenario - they weren't expecting him and now he's stuck in a room that is smaller/of lower quality than his stature demands/than the jerk-rival-duke-from-next-duchy-over got/etc. Sometimes the key to communicating things simply is to just make the actual situation simple Even if there ARE details in what you originally envisioned which were planned to contribute to later conflicts, they can then be introduced gradually and as they're relevant to the situation at hand. Edit: It's worth noting that this doesn't negate the need to quickly get to the heart of the tension and move things forward - the characters still need to take action and move things forward - but this kind of balancing can help the chapters arrive to those points more quickly, and make it more impactful when they do.
  12. Yes and yes, though not necessarily "vulnerable" in the sense that "even horrible, puppy-kicking villains feel lonely sometimes." It's more that I have no idea how he deals with adversity, because in the story of his own mind, he hasn't experienced any. He gets turned down and doesn't even pause to re-evaluate. The setback or moment of doubt can be a very effective hook if readers are waiting to see how the character will pull this off/what horrible thing they're going to next, but we didn't get that here - even a moment of frustration that he's going to be delayed/have to do something he doesn't want to accomplish his aims/whatever it is. If he thinks he gets what he wants no matter what happens I don't really need to keep reading to find out that he gets what he wants. And clearer in what he wants to do, yes, but also acting with some sort of sense to achieve that goal, which I think dovetails nicely with your comment about using him as a device to create external conflict. That can totally work, but if he doesn't act according to some sort of internal logic then the conflict is in danger of seeming artificial and being frustrating rather than interesting. Probably a good decision! No doubt there are ways to accomplish this, hopefully we can help you find them Glad you found it helpful!
  13. Congrats on your first sub! I definitely think there’s the bones of an interesting story here. I trust you won’t be offended, though, if I say that I hope the POV character dies at least one horrible, screaming death, because I can only assume how I’m supposed to feel about him. That isn’t necessarily a problem, especially for a prologue, but he did straddle the line between “antagonist” and “cartoon villain” and is unfortunately coming down on the wrong side of it. Assuming that my experience of him was in the general ballpark of what you’re going for, I suspect landing him on the “right” side of this divide could be accomplished by tweaking a couple of things. One, we have no idea what he wants or why he wants it. I think it would be quite natural for the professor to ask him what he wants, or clearly resist the urge to, etc etc. And two, we don’t really see him deflated or contemplating defeat at any point in this chapter. It’s clear that he’ll get what he wants, if only in his own mind, which undermined the tension somewhat. Onto your questions: 1. For the most part, yes, though I suspect I wouldn’t have been if it had gone on much longer. I noted the points where my engagement slipped below. 2. I’m assuming some kind of fae (changeling maybe?) that can't lie. I don’t really think we need more on this point. 3. Yes, hard to tell. Those early chapters would have to continue to lay some groundwork for MA’s appearance in later chapters, and I’d definitely want to see at least one of the characters from the prologue make a reasonably early appearance. 4. Mmm maybe? I don’t think that a throwaway line in the prologue would get me to stop reading on this basis, especially since the dead spouse isn’t somehow dead as a result of being queer, which is kind of the quintessential version of the trope. I’d probably read right over it unless we started getting more dead queer characters. That said, I acknowledge don’t have the same relationship to this trope as some folks do. 5. Definitely! That said, I want to note that this absolutely did not read like a YA romance, so it may be worth adjusting the prologue to give readers a more accurate expectation of the rest of the book. As I read: “...train a chimp to obey traffic laws” this is pretty telling about how M views the professor, it’s the first line that sticks out to me as suggesting the professor is less than human as opposed to other than M seems like he’s antagonizing the professor a bit, which seems unwise since I’m pretty sure he’s about to ask for her help. Edit: Yep there it is! Second edit: A couple pages later, I’m STILL questioning his “start with the threats and antagonism” strategy. I assumed the dead spouse was public knowledge but going through private medical records is a pretty big deal. Also, whyyyy hasn't she just thrown him out yet. The conversation on the second page seems a bit all over the place. Opioid epidemics, institutional bias, dead spouses… it seems there’s plenty of conflict here but I don’t feel quite anchored enough to parse it. Maybe if M says what he wants first and some of the rest of this back-and-forth can happen as he attempts to persuade her? By about the middle of the first page, I was pretty sure I didn’t like M. By the bottom of the second page, I was dead certain. p4 and the “CEO” appellation is getting a bit old. I get that she’s returning some of the antagonism in kind, but repeated often enough it feels a bit silly. “In the end, MA will get what he wants…” I think this would work if we saw him coming back around to this position after a setback, but the fact that he doesn’t seem fazed at all by the professor’s approval deflates the tension somewhat, since it doesn’t feel like a setback happened at all. The last line feels maybe a little too on-the-nose, especially since there’s already been a couple references to “hunting” and “prey,” but maybe it won’t feel that way if some of the other things I mention get addressed.
  14. Overall: My comments are going to be pretty similar here to what they’ve been on previous chapters, I’m afraid. I’d like a much better sense of an arc and forward motion in this chapter than I got. Related to that, I suspect, is the fact that I don’t have any real ideas of what A’s goals actually are or why they matter, which makes it hard to invest in the character. It also still feels like we’re getting bogged down in minutiae here. The details about having the wrong bracelet could probably be trimmed, I thought it worked well for the first page or two (it definitely sets the stage for an intrigue-type story, so keep that in mind if that's not what you're going for) but after that I found it stretched a little thin. Same with the bit about the rooms – if the setup can be tweaked so it makes sense (you’ll see below I had some trouble with this). Maybe coupled with the part where the servant almost runs A down in the hall – I think that little scene was supposed to get at the same sense of being slighted the wrong-wrongs thread, and could maybe drive home the point that the characters know intellectually that they should be feeling offended. It seems like the central conflict of the chapter is R hiding stuff from A, but it takes us quite a while to get there, and when we do we don't get any substantial information. We have no idea what the thing is, why it’s problematic, or why it matters that R is keeping it from A. My two major suggestions for the chapter would probably be to get to A overhearing this conversation much sooner, and having A overhear something actually important. Without that, there’s no hook to carry us into the next chapter. As I read: I’m confused about R’s position here. As first presented (a new list of people to quiz A on, ask him if we’re overthinking it, etc.) I had him pegged as sort of steward or advisor to A. But the bit about removing R’s possessions from A’s suite is more suggestive that R a local/not-from-the-same-place-as-A noble who happened to get A’s guest bedroom. There were a couple of places where I had to really work to suspend my disbelief: If A has gone over the planned gift several times, then “it was a bright day” doesn’t seem particularly convincing in terms of how it was missed. Does the palace really have dedicated guest suites for different countries that sit unused for, potentially, decades at a time? That seems really inefficient. If someone else is in the room A’s supposed to be in and A knows this, would he really barge in without announcing himself, and would R really wander in without knowing someone was there? “...everything is fine?” “As far as you… concerned” Whoa. Either these two characters have a very good rapport, or R needs to get a very serious talking-to. This line seemed dismissive to say the least. “Why would anyone waste time…” I have the same question. Glad A asked it. “Half will assume that you have come…” I’d probably be more interested in this if I knew why he had come. The reasoning we’ve been given so far seems pretty vague re: trade and the like. The last line of this chapter, or possibly a version of it tweaked for added punch, could potentially work well, but for it to have an impact I’d like to have a better sense of what A’s goal was and how the possibility of R keeping information form endangers that goal.
  15. And then they never heard from him again...
  16. Overall: About the chapter overall, I really don’t have much to add. GF does come off as a little young, here, with her focus on the hero thing, but given she’s spent the last six years alone in a spaceship that’s probably okay. Other than that I thought character and pacing were all good. My biggest issue was reconciling the timeline of current events against GF’s six-years-out-of-date knowledge, especially when juxtaposed against the flashback chapters. I had to check several times to make sure I wasn’t in one. Also… if it took GF six years to get here, is it going to take her six years to get back? Last thought is I am still side-eyeing the structure a little bit, as I think the two flashback chapters are setting us up to expect more of the same. Of course, if there ARE going to be more, that’s not necessarily a problem. I had no particular comments on the epigraphs, btw. As I read: “...only detached eyeballs and…” Okay, as viscerally effective as this is, I have to wonder: would there really be eyeballs LEFT after a planet-sized explosion? Especially if said eyeballs had been drifting in hard vacuum for any amount of time? P2 did GF take a six-year journey not-rescue At? Has At been needing to be not-rescued for that long? P4 “out of the last jump with…” I feel like “with” is the wrong word here Well, I guess that’s one way to collect DNA… “...hammered flat from a previously spherical shape” oooh is that one of the doohickeys? P5 “any questions beyond cost” stumbled on this, maybe “beyond what it cost”? “definitively not transparent” wait how big is this thing if it’s obstructing her view that much? “She need to fuel before her next jump anyway” hopefully she has the fuel…? And a lot of food if she’s waiting around for inertia? P6 “rainbow of frosted metals” nice description here Okay, I’m getting confused about the timeline here. Most of O/GF’s internal dialogue is about At being allowed to go back home, but nothing about that minor detail where At is now one of the three people ruling Ard, which seems like it’d have some bearing on whether or not At gets to go home. (Did they not let At go home after she became an e, btw? I don’t recall but that seems like a thing they might have reasonably revisited.) Also, this is reading very much like O has a crush on At. EDIT: Okay, hang on, think I’ve pieced together the timeline. O left N the planet for years ago and has been out of the loop ever since, hence all this about absolution and rescuing At. If that’s correct, maybe hang a lantern on this because I’ve spent the last few pages getting increasingly confused. I think the flashbacks contribute; I had to check the timestamp at the front of the chapter two or three times to confirm this wasn't one. Also … O must have been relatively close when the explosion happened, yes? Maybe WRS, but what is it in particular that’s lead O to Priutcu? “...passing by in another half hour at her current coast.” My first thought was that her ship must be moving awfully quickly, especially for something that’s mostly intended to be flown on planets. But I suppose if the debris cloud of the planet has been expanding, this could make sense? “...put the remains of her rounds into ship repair” Isn’t this system outside the, uh, Systems? Why is she assuming anyone lives there and that they take the same sort of currency? +10 spaceship name, but I would have expected nothing less Oh, so it’s NOT an unoccupied system. “Can you mine?” At first I thought there was a missing word like “send” but now I realize that’s not the case. Maybe “can you mine them” would clear up the confusion? I mean… they’ve definitely heard of Ardulum. It’s right there in the ship name. I am digging the “not a chance” nail polish. Do I already know what nail polish brand this is? Not understanding the significance of the image though. Is this the personnel on the K ship, or…? P 16 “Heroes didn’t get blown up pirates” by It feels like the conversation between O and B goes on way too long considering the FTL drive only has 50 seconds to engage before they lose the tow and start talking… I am enjoying her yelling at her computer, though. Last line: Well, that figures.
  17. Overall: I think the pacing is probably a bit too gentle, if not in general, than for a first chapter. There is a fair bit of worldbuilding that I think could probably trimmed or maybe just re-distributed. Especially in the early pages, there was a lot of “line of dialogue, followed by brief explanation” that became fairly noticeable after a few times, plus a somewhat lengthier explanation on I think page 4. You could probably get away with it in a later chapter but maybe not what you want here. I also wanted a clearer arc for S, as it wasn’t clear to me that they’d changed their mind about going to to N...S or what prompted them to (maybe?) change their mind. Lastly, and maybe relatedly, I wonder if it would be more impactful for us (and S) to actually see Ambassador F trying to stop the witches, and maybe S even intervenes, rather than being told about it after the fact? As I read: I like the first line! The second line, however, goes on a bit too long and sort of deflates the punchiness of the first, IMO. SOMETHING TOOK THEIR SNACKS?! p2 “Laughter broke out of his mouth” kind of an awkward description I’m assuming S is early-to-mid-teens, btw, based on the “blah blah blah” comment about their mother especially. p5: Is it normal for the els to whisper threatening/ominous things? Because this seems like an escalation from earlier contacts (S fighting against their destiny, and S distrusting the els for their abilities, not necessarily their actions). If it IS an escalation (as opposed to S maybe understating the els’ intent), is there a trigger for that escalation? “...but none felt like ambassadors.” Hmm interesting. I didn’t realize S was expecting to meet additional people on this journey other than Ambassador F himself. Or were they? P6 “Well, at least a part of her.” Not immediately clear that “her” refers to the ocean Also, given S’s reluctant to engage with the els at all, their willingness now to tap into the els and especially what is apparently the boss elemental, seems to come a little quickly. “I will guide you, wordy child” lol Given my comment above, it might be helpful to get the bit about S feeling more at ease with A than other els sooner. P8 “hair reminiscent of cirrus clouds” nice description! Wait, I thought S already knew Ambassador F? “Maybe a little murder” Okay this is a fantastic line “...fertilizer for an apple tree.” I wonder if we need to see this line sooner. It’d go a long way towards explaining S’s hesitance around them and maybe allow you to trim some of the less evocative description. “Do you understand why you have to go?” Since I’m calling the line out anyway, I’ll note that it should be “now” and not “know” at the end, but my main point here is that I don’t think we’ve clearly seen this shift in S from not wanting to go to becoming resigned to it/accepting of it. “There was still a time to find a way out of…” and now they’re back to not wanting it again. How do I become a solar-barge-woman? I am super on-board for this crossover universe, I'm just saying
  18. Looks like we have a full roster this week [email protected], @kais, @C_Vallion, @Snakenaps, and @Ace of Hearts.
  19. A) I'm coming down on the side of "yes." It's a solid piece of character building that fills in the connection between the two of them in a way that a line or two of reminder/summary in the prose doesn't, I think. B) Being late to the party on last week's sub I'll give this question a pass. In general, I'd think this was a "beginning of story" thing, but I'm hesitant to suggest that here because you've got another one of those and that might be a stumbling block for readers. I'm kind of wondering if there's a way to integrate some of the highlights of the two flashback chapters directly into the prose, instead, but that's just a thought experiment at this point... C) Length is good, IMO. Chapter is admirably tight and does what it needs to do, and especially for a flashback, shorter is probably better. As I read: “GF prayed for her to slip and into the river.” One, missing word, I assume it should be “fall in.” Two, HAH. Having a bit of trouble picturing the actual layout of the scene though. The “making love” comment had me assuming that they were inside the settee – but I guess there are two that are outdoors? Also, wouldn’t it make more sense for these two guards to do whatever training thing they’re doing in proximity of all the other guards who are apparently somewhere over the horizon? Edit: Ah, okay, she wandered off from the group. I hope GF did not turn her comm on before muttering about poop and egos. P2 “…the shuttering flowers” should probably be “shuddering”? GF seems a lot more confident than I would be in just doing my own thing if I were at the first day of a new job and one of my colleagues kept verbally abusing me… P6 “memorizing versus for your ceremony” should be “verses” “I have no interest in that” seems a little formal. “A possible sighting” of what? I need to know so I can decide how I feel about GF basically abducting a kid to go take a look. Edit: about 2 seconds after I typed this, I realized it was probably the planet, which is proven to be a good hunch a few lines later so… false alarm, I guess?
  20. Congrats on your first sub! Overall: I’m getting a strong Gothic sense, both in terms of tone and the tropes, which was very clear throughout. I thought this did reasonably well as a slow-burn narrative. I did think it was sometimes too slow, both because my attention wandered in places (see below) and because the Gothic slow burn is at odds with the end of the chapter in which the count very quickly reveals his entire deal (which Gothic narratives generally do not do that early if at all). More buildup in the middle could help reconcile the two and make sure we’re engaged, as well as introduce the actual supernatural aspects a bit more naturally. I literally this wasn't sure this was speculative fiction in the modern sense until the Count revealed himself. I’m not invested in any of the characters at the moment, including our POV. Which, yes, another function of Gothic narratives, but it’s something to keep in mind, if only from a saleability standpoint; modern literature tends to be a lot more character-heavy than your average Henry James novel. On the subject of characters, I would also really like it if the women did, well, anything at all. It’s fine to portray people restricted by their circumstances, but these ones have no personality, to the point that when they appeared in the story my reaction was literally “where did they come from”? Another trope I don’t love: the fat character being the obvious villain. It’s pretty overplayed, and the fact that C is an antagonist is telegraphed strongly enough that I don’t think it adds anything. As I read: A’s sister seems to appear out of nowhere when G falls on her. And is Mrs. L A’s sister, or someone else because if so she also seems to appear out of nowhere. “Welcome, the affluent…” Describing someone to their face as “affluent” struck me as a bit weird. P3 Spellcheck won’t catch this one, “… as the L’s were all accounted for” no apostrophe after the L “Count C… the demon.” I mean if that’s the twist, I’m on board. I question why he would telegraph it like this, though. “I did not invite you here to gossip.” I’ve been wondering about this. I do note the foreshadowing about C being more than he seems, but I think some hint of why they’re here is due or even overdue. My attention is slipping and a sense of what this encounter is driving towards could go a long way. “...looked dotingly at his daughter.” Um, even if she’s not supposed to talk, can she, you know, react at all? Well, you definitely have my attention again after encountering the amazing groaning toilet. I’m very creeped out (which is fine) and also completely baffled as to how the count keeps this a secret (which is less fine). P6 “desert was eaten” should be “dessert” My mind is wandering again. Did they not talk about anything of consequence for the whole dinner? Wild theory time: A was spared from whatever’s about to happen to his family because he’s vegetarian? For reasons? “...though someone vomited on me as I did so.” Hah. I would like a clearer picture of what A actually did in the fight, but hooray, A did something! He’s been pretty passive up to this point. The POV shift on the last page seems abrupt, especially going from third limited to third omniscient. And the Count cackling about his plans is not doing much for me - this all seems to be standard "evil villain" stuff, not actual character development. If the count is meant to be an actual character then I think we need to see some of that - assuming the camera is focused on him. If he really is just a monster who needs to feed... you might be able to get away with that in a Gothic story, but you might need to shift the way you think about him from an antagonist (character) to a plot device (force that acts on the character) - which probably means not giving him screen time to cackle about his evil plans (unless maybe he's doing it at the protagonists). It's definitely a thing in this subgenre, but I did feel it could be trimmed or condensed a bit. This is an excellent point. I wasn't fond of A's parents either - dad seemed like a jerk - but since M is the one who is maybe still alive she's the one who arguably matters most. This does seem like a great setup for lambasting some of the more unsavoury parts of the subgenre, if you're going for something more satirical. No the impression I've gotten so far though. yep good idea to tag this stuff. "SA" for sexual assault is the most appropriate one. Can always qualify that it's implied rather than explicit in your email/post. I think you could possibly marry this to epic fantasy, or at least, to adult fantasy. I definitely do not think you could marry this to YA fantasy without a massive overhaul. Addressing some of the show/tell, pacing, and characterization that people have already brought up will probably "modernize" the ms to an extent and make it feel more like fantasy than Gothic. That being said... it might be worth doing some market research and seeing what is out there for Gothic fantasy - it might be a small niche but there's gotta be some out there. We seem to be unanimous so far in the sense of the Gothic you bring to your work, so it is probably worth exploring further and seeing what other writers do with it.
  21. All right, circling back to skim a few of the comments: I did have to suspend disbelief a little. A stack of books makes an absolutely terrible stepladder (which is part of the fun). Having a clearer picture of them being piled high enough to step on top of rather than having to climb them would definitely help. Yep. We're simultaneously getting "magic is very dangerous" and "magic isn't actually THAT bad" (or maybe "the ends justify the means?) and contributes at least a little to not understanding Is's actions or motivations here. Re: @kais's comments about the political info, I'd agree that we're still getting a lot more information than we generally need. I appreciate the need to ground your readers, but I think you can really focus on one or two concise things that don't require giving us a political treatise in miniature to understand. Like @Robinski, getting the information that basic healing magic isn't allowed is helpful. If you can couple that with a motivation - maybe Is really does just believe in making the world a better place, which certainly would tell us something about her! - then that is a very useful grounding tool. I wouldn't have known who Est was if I hadn't read the previous chapter, I don't think. One thing to keep in mind is that we're very fond of critiques that focus on reader reactions, on how we actually experienced the work while reading it. So if someone tells me that they're skimming, yes, it's possible that maybe they'll miss things in the text, but the fact that they're skimming is also extremely valuable information - it's a reaction that says the story is not holding their attention at that point. The single most effective way to give us information is to make sure we're already invested in the information that you give us. Aside from generally being on "team cut what you can," it's also worth considering whether some of the information we're getting that is necessary is just presented too early. Two questions I like to keep in mind when I'm worried that I'm infodumping on my readers are "is this information necessary?" and "is it necessary right now?" In general, I try to err on the side of trusting my readers as much as possible. Yep. I was yelling on about consequences, but another way of thinking about it is that the chapter doesn't leave anything undone. Yep. I'm sorta murky on whether what I's doing is legal or not. Right now it sort of seems like the stones are legal but the spells used to create them aren't, which is not helpful for trying to ground myself in the setting. And as @julienreel has also mentioned, the consequences for her knowing banned magic. What is she risking by doing this?
  22. Opening paragraph: Whatever I is doing sounds like a terrible idea, and I am completely here for it. “Did he not tell anyone?” Still baffled by the duke traveling from a remote area could have been so completely missed. I am starting to get a bit lost as we go into the magic laws and trying to change them. The reason for changing them doesn’t seem to be grounded in anything specific – making things better on a broad scale is all well and good, but I guess I’m wondering why here and why now? What’s the urgency? Similarly, while the opening was great but I’m feeling the tension start to deflate around the stone. Is worries that her maid will take it, but I still don’t know why she wanted it to begin with, and the fact that her father’s caught her in the act seems to be a complete non-issue since he has absolutely zero questions for her. So if Is already knew how to do this… why did she want the stone so badly? Apparently this scene wasn’t about her learning/trying something new. Overall: Really, I think I’ve covered everything already. The first few pages were great – I is doing something illicit! And silly! And potentially pretty dangerous! (Honestly, I feel like she got off light. Really light. I would not object to her showing up to the party with massive bruises or limping from a strained ankle or so forth. Leave a great first impression with that there duke!) But then we started to get into the magic laws and whatnot where Is and her father have this very intellectual discussion about why changing magic laws is good, and it all reads as very abstract, political-platform kind of stuff. I don’t get the feeling that Is personally affected by this, and I don’t get the urgency since this project has apparently been on the backburner for some time. The arrival of the duke to court doesn’t, so far, seem like an especially convincing game-changer. I spent a lot of the conversation between Is and her father wondering “okay, but why? And why now?” I'm also wondering what the arc of the chapter is. We started off at a great point A, but we never get to point B. What are the consequences of her choices? She’s doing something forbidden, but she doesn’t get caught, and it isn't clear what happens (aside from maybe some political inconvenience) if she does. She’s doing something dangerous (and the prologue makes a point of magic being dangerous in the extreme), but nothing bad happens. And I’m not sure what she’s actually accomplished: since she apparently already knew how to cast the spell, she just trashed her study to recharge a lightbulb. How does what’s happening here propel us into the next chapter and the rest of the story? I do think this is a big improvement over the previous chapters in many ways. Now it’s time to take the tension and interest of the first few pages and figure out what goals Is has, what actions she takes, and what consequences she faces in order to carry us through the rest of the chapter and the narrative.
  23. Looks like we have @kais, @julienreel, and @C_Vallion for Monday.
  24. Even "meter" suggests a change in the music's time signature, which I probably wouldn't expect a character to notice unless they are themselves musically trained, so it sounds like general comment about the style of music or the feeling it invokes might serve your purposes best here. In practice, the idea of the lead "offering" their hand is definitely rather dated even in ballroom and the palm up/palm down is the major signifier of lead vs. follow. No doubt it's partially cultural, but it's also because that's the position that allows us to most easily swing our arms up into a frame without having to let go or fiddle with handholds or whatnot. And the basic frame is pretty consistent across every style of dance I've seen, swing included, though admittedly I've less experience there. Even in West Coast Swing, which defaults to an open frame, if I'm leading, I'm offering my hand (or taking hers) with my palm up because that's where I have to lead her from. Ahah, a kindred spirit! Yeah, Shard is funny about text boxes, especially with mobile, I actually won't do crits on mobile at all anymore for this reason. A blank quote box with my name attached to it just sitting there forever seems... oddly appropriate.