shatteredsmooth

Jan 3 2022_ShatteredSmooth (Sara)_Mistbound Proposal V2_5485 Words

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Hi Everyone! 
Here is the revised version of Misbound Proposal. I think I need a different title, but I haven't figured out a better one yet.  I tried to sprinkle more hints about and set up for the haunting throughout the beginning. I also added scenes of J and A working together to clear out the tracks. I think it's getting closer, but still not quite there yet. I'm back at the point where I look at it and think "something isn't quite right but I don't know what."
 
I'm open to any feedback, but a few questions I have are:
  1. Which emotional beats are still missing or still need to be cranked up?
  2. Does the set up work better for the haunting?
  3. Should I add more visual description of the setting?
  4. Is the end more earned now? 
Thank you!
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Well, I think the story is the right length this time! I think I've answered your questions in my notes, but I'll add some quick summaries:

Which emotional beats are still missing or still need to be cranked up?

-The anger about the relationship isn't quite working for me yet. This leads to the next question.

Does the set up work better for the haunting?

- Closer, but not quite. I think a little more information about what A's hiding at the beginning or some snapshots of weird things J remembers could help. Having a concrete reason A didn't want to share will lend her better agency, and a better reason for J being upset with her.


Should I add more visual description of the setting?

- The only place I had problems was when the train first started moving. I wasn't sure what was happening.


Is the end more earned now? 

-Better, but it still doesn't land fully for me. The cat and couch are almost a letdown after the tension of clearing the trees. There needs to be more danger or tension here about what will happen. it needs to be somehow harder than clearing out tree trunks, either emotionally or physically.

 

Much closer though! I think this will be a really fun story with another pass.

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: "Or maybe proposing didn’t feel right because J had this nagging sense A was hiding something from her."
--I know this is on the first page, but I still think this comes out of nowhere. Can there be a statement up where it talks about ghosts leading to this?

pg 2: "but by now she’d gotten used to her appearing out of nowhere."
--so A is also a ghost?

pg 4: "why A was so determined to keep pieces of the train"
--I assume because she needs a tether for her ghostly existence?
--Also, this gets into the secrets thing and supports it well. Some hint of J's frustration at the beginning would help out as well.

pg 5: "and after half an hour"
--They waited half an hour to get to work? Or am I missing something here? It's an oddly specific amount of time.

pg 5: "This must be a dream"
--It's a pretty bland reaction from J. There's nothing in the moment about her reactions to the train moving away from her. Is it moving or not? Some more thoughts from J or description would help the blocking here.

pg 5: "The floor moved as she ran, so she didn’t go anywhere" "What kind of nightmare was this?"
--Yeah, definitely need more explanation or emotion here. This is something that doesn't happen naturally and J isn't wondering about what happened.

pg 6: "but I didn’t know the ghost could do this"
--Ghost, or ghosts? Also, I still don't understand the hallway moving. Is the train itself moving, or are parts of he inside moving around?

pg 7: "Maybe I should’ve told you a long time ago. It’s where I get most of my ideas for my books"
--I still think this needs more setup to pack the right punch. Not sure where, btu maybe more with A being shifty at the beginning, or specific reasons why J thinks she's hiding something?

pg 7: "And you never even tried to tell me.” 
--Also not really believable. Why didn't she tell her girlfriend? What's the reason for it, besides just "you won't believe me."

pg 8: "hoping the ghosts would hear and maybe slow down"
--still confused on whether the train is moving.

pg 8: "let her excitement about the train rise over sense of betrayal."
--I think this artificially tamps down the tension. Her girlfriend's been lying to her for a decade! She has a right to feel betrayed.

pg 9: “Yes. I think it’s technically flying.” 
--I think you could have some description that leads us to this conclusion rather than just telling.

pg 9: "J almost dropped her phone."
--why? And why is this a separate paragraph?

pg 11: "they were not stopping again until they reached their destination because starting and stopping the train took a too much energy."
--Sooooo...why did they start the train moving in the first place?

pg 11: "glowered at the line"
--what line? Line of customers?

pg 12: Glad we're getting the emotional response finally, but I still think there should be some hint of it before now.

pg 13: “It’s a miracle one of us didn’t get killed on the train,"
--Why? Just from it moving?

pg 13: “You’re not a ghost, right?”
--Ha! Well, I"m glad she finally asked.

pg 14: The emotional beats aren't sitting right with me for some reason. I think it's because A keeps shrugging off that she's been lying, and J doesn't have anything to bounce her anger off of. Can we have some other reason for A never telling and J never suspecting she could talk to ghosts even though they've been in close contact continually for ten years?

pg 15: "Assuming we is still a thing."
--I think this is also what's bothering me. A talking to ghosts doesn't change their relationship. If she had been talking to and was IN a relationship with a ghost, then yes. But aside from a lie about something that is hard to believe, she hasn't done anything to endanger what they two of them have.

pg 15: "Because if she hadn’t believed, she could’ve ruined it long before..."
--Again, this secret doesn't actually have anything do to with their relationship. Knowing it changes nothing about the two of them except that A has lied. That's a reason in itself, but it has a reason and is something they can talk about.

pg 16: “They’re impatient. And coming. Slowly. But they’re coming.”
--more reason on the train side would also be good. Why are they moving? Otherwise it's an artificial tension in the story. Is something going to happen if the train stays there?

pg 18: The section with the couch and kitten seems rushed. It's much easier to move a couch vs. cut through trees. The kitten doesn't provide an obstacle as they just put it in the truck. I was thinking something was going to happen with the couch that meant they would almost get hit by the train, but nothing did. It's a small problem after the large problem of the trees, and sort of an anticlimax.

pg 18: More reason on why A hid information about the ghosts would help a lot with the resolution of J deciding to pop the question at the end. Right now it's not a big climax because I feel like the stakes aren't high enough.

pg 19: I wonder if it might be better just to end with the train at the museum? Introducing the conductor, how he knows about the ghosts, why he's in old-fashioned conductor clothes, ect all in the last time brings up too many questions for me.


 

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On 1/6/2022 at 11:10 AM, Mandamon said:

Much closer though! I think this will be a really fun story with another pass.

 

I'm glad to hear I'm getting closer, and after I read all the comments, I think I have a pretty good idea of what the story needs. Thank you so much for reading!! 

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Since this is the second version of an earlier sub I missed, I'm going to jump into this one.

As I go:

pg 1. Great opening line! 

-How long has it been since she's met her gf? 14 was the only age we were given so I'll need help seeing them as anything super different from that. 

pg 2. The way we jump from narration into scene makes me confused as to where exactly we are 

-A's line about work feels generic to me, and even though that seems to be somewhat intentional it's hard for me to get a real read on her. The concept has hooked me but the characters have not so far

-Similar note about the book writing. It's definitely more revealing, but we already know she's into girls, steamy romance lit, and probably history too from the train, so this isn't really telling me much I don't know. Imo in a short story format characters need to have striking qualities revealed about them pretty quickly

pg 3. I like the taking pieces thing! 

-I'd like to see more about why J is having such a hard time proposing. Again I think my hangup isn't with lack of sense; it's that it makes too much sense. The fact that almost anyone would be nervous in her situation means that I don't find her challenge here to feel distinct or personal to her 

pg 4. I feel like there's gotta be a way to tactfully ask about why she wants to keep train pieces. I feel like I'm supposed to believe that these people are very connected with each other but their communication difficulty has me... not exactly worried, per se, but I wouldn't have guessed they were close enough to be on the brink of marriage. 

pg 6. The train spirit thing is really catching my interest, and I want to see more hints of it earlier on so that it hooks me from the start instead of 6 pages in. I can see where the story's trying to go with the ghost stories, but at the time I didn't feel like I had any reason to take them literally. I want to feel like something's clearly off that I don't know how to place (though other effects could work just as well, of course)

pg 7. Ah so the communication conflict I saw before on pg. 3 was intentional. I think this could be called out earlier. I get that J isn't fully aware that she thinks A is keeping secrets until it happens, but hanging a lantern on the communication barriers or lack of trust there earlier on could still help I think

pg 8. I don't feel like I'm getting enough about the spirits. If they're, like, cognitively equivalent to humans then them moving to drown these two people in the lake (even as collateral damage) is awful. If they're closer to raw emotion and don't think the same way humans do this starts to make more sense. 

pg 11. If J doesn't trust the ghosts, why is she not booking it the moment she gets out of the train?

pg 13. I'm getting a really good feeling for their conflict here, and this is the first time I feel fully engaged by the conflict in their relationship. If these ideas of trust and secrets are as integral to the story as I'm guessing, I need more setup in the early pages to hook me. 

pg 14. Idk if this is the intention but I'm really worried about J. Sticking with someone because you don't see another way to live is, uh, not great. This all kinda reminds me of the time I was in a codependent relationship that was never going to end well. 

pg 15. Random q but why does an author like A have chainsaws lying around? I haven't thought about the physical setting of where they live much but if it's a more rural/forested area it might prevent me from questioning this. Plus emphasizing where they are helps me picture where they are a bit better, which right now I don't feel like I have a great idea of

-Oh so A has ADHD. I'm pretty certain that's an intentional callout. I'd prefer to know something this integral about her earlier on, and nothing before really screamed ADHD to me. Though I don't think it's vital to do so.

pg 17. The kitten appearing feels a little random to me

pg 19. This could be a personal thing (and is an issue I have with a lot of romance tbh) but I'm really not sure I believe they're good for each other.

On 1/3/2022 at 9:52 AM, shatteredsmooth said:
  • Which emotional beats are still missing or still need to be cranked up?
  • Does the set up work better for the haunting?
  • Should I add more visual description of the setting?
  • Is the end more earned now? 

1. In terms of beats to crank up, I think the ideas within the story are solid but could use clearer setup. On the supernatural side, I think we need more about the ghosts early. Hearing that there are ghost stories doesn't give me any reason to think that they're real on their own. This isn't to say that we need to see the ghosts, but there should be something the story is focusing on that tells us there's more going on than meets the eye. On the romance side, the ideas of secrets and deceit, and how J deals with them both in herself and in A, doesn't really feel like a focus until a good deal of the way through, and I think it needs to be there earlier.

2. Hmm can't speak about the last draft but I saw the haunting as more of an aesthetic thing and only recognized it was literal when it happened.

3. That would help me, yeah. 

4. Honestly... not quite. As much as I like romance, one of the gripes I have about the genre is that it's hard to get endings that feel earned because the romance plot demands a showy love declaration over characters actually working out their problems. The conflict here is great! The secrets, lies, and trust dynamics hit hard given how fundamental they are to their relationship. But the characters don't really solve that problem other than (kinda) saying that they'll stop doing it. I think there needs to be a firmer thematic resolution to these strong ideas you've set up. The kitten thing is sweet but imo doesn't really connect to the story's main ideas in its current form. 

I'm going to shill this book since I just finished reading it and it has a lot of the same ideas of trust and lies that I found interesting here too. The singular romance book I've read (out of not a ton tbf) that I feel like has the characters actually work out their problems in a compelling way is called "Hold Me Closer Toni Danzig." Highly recommend if you don't mind stuff that's somewhat sexually explicit. It's a novella so pretty quick read too. 

Another unrelated note about the romance genre is that I want to be more connected with these characters than I am. As I'm guessing you know, romance plots are pretty cookie-cutter so the characters really have to do the heavy lifting. The ones here have a lot of good moments but I think there's room for improvement. In particular what I'm looking for are specific, distinct personality details. Right now I don't feel like I really know them on a deep level as people, which I think comes from how so much of what we learn about them fits neatly into place without telling us too much about who they are. I think there's more room for specific quirks, likes/dislikes, values, memories, ect. to surface. 

Good luck editing! 

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Overall:

I really like a lot of the changes you made here, and I think it pulls together a lot of the things that weren’t quite hitting right before.  I do think you could push some of those additions/changes a little further or hang lanterns on them to strengthen the improvements even more, but the progress is really great.

Apologies in advance for nitpicky things.  I feel like I notice a lot more random little details when I do critiques too close to bedtime.  They probably wouldn’t bother most people.

  1. Which emotional beats are still missing or still need to be cranked up? – I’m still a little iffy on the relationship arc. J processes the break in the relationship a little more, which is a step in the right direction, but they don’t actually take time to work through it.
  2. Does the set up work better for the haunting? Much better. I don’t know if I would have caught all of the hints if I hadn’t read it before (just need to hang some lanterns on a few of the details, I think), but I think there was a lot of improvement in this regard.
  3. Should I add more visual description of the setting? I’d say when the train starts moving, the inside of the train car when J is learning about the ghosts. The layout of the tree/couch clearing.
  4. Is the end more earned now? More earned, but I’m not yet convinced that they’ve successfully addressed the point of conflict in their relationship. Reminds me of various couples I’ve known who are so excited to move in together or get a pet together or get engaged/married that they sort of intentionally blind themselves to behavior patterns or points of conflict that will definitely cause trouble down the road, when there will be a whole lot more baggage to unpack than if they’d dealt with it ahead of time.

Pg 1:

The introduction to the train is much clearer this time. Very helpful.

The “Not yet, anyway” feels a little funny to have in J’s pov. Like we’re stepping out of the narrative for this line.  I think something like it would be helpful, though. Maybe some sort of “no matter what other people said” line.

“had had” this one always catches me up. Probably because I panic and overthink everything when I catch myself using it.  Not sure if that’s the same reaction everyone has or not, but it might be worth reworking the sentence to avoid it.

Introducing both the ghosts and the mistrust on page 1 gets a big thumbs up from me.

Pg 2:

Regarding A appearing out of nowhere: I wonder if this could be used to highlight the supposed supernatural aspects of the train? Maybe having J joke to herself that A is one of the train’s ghosts?

“commented on how real the stories and characters felt” : an extra apostrophe in characters. I assume the realism of the characters is supposed to be a reference to her pulling those characters from the ghosts/memories she encounters on the train, but I definitely wouldn’t get that on a first-read.  It might help to call that out a little more clearly. To imply that the inspiration she’s getting from the train is almost supernatural.

Pg 3:

J’s name is spelled differently in paragraph 2 here.

Glad to see our tools packed here for later tasks.  Also, I appreciate a girl with a favorite reciprocating saw. :) 

“random train pieces”  random seems unnecessary here.

Pg 4:

I like a lot of the changes that hint more strongly at A’s secrets. Just think it might be further strengthened by hanging some big ol’ lanterns on the supernatural elements early on. 

Pg 5:

I like the opening paragraph here. Adds more to the supernatural feel without jumping straight into it. It might be beneficial to stress that even more here.

J is spelled with two n’s a couple of times through here.

I always get a little impatient with “Am I dreaming?” responses to supernatural things happening for some reason. I don’t know if it’s just the idea that I can’t remember a single time when something weird happened, and my first thought was that I was dreaming (granted, having never seen a train start moving on its own….*shrug*).   I don’t know if that’s something that’s unique to me or not, but her figuring out whether it’s a dream or not feels like it goes on longer than necessary.

Pg 6:

“Was A hiding something?” I think this goes without saying.  And I think it would make more sense for J to wonder about the reasons for taking train pieces after A mentions that the train doesn’t want to be disassembled. Since the strangeness hadn’t been tied to the train pieces yet.

“ghosts, well…” This is the first verbal acknowledgment of ghosts being involved, but A is sort of defining/explaining them as if they’d already been mentioned.

Pg 7:

J crossing her arms is telling me she’s angry at A.  Which makes sense, but seems like it’s lacking a fear aspect that I’d expect to go along with the ghost explanation. Especially with the “Does that mean I believe…?” below. If she is still processing the ghosts existing part of it, I think that should tie into her anger with A.

“There is a lot I don’t know…” I don’t think it needs this line. It feels like an attempt to lead into the next line of conversation, but I think the “How do you…?” question does that just as well or better.

“Maybe I should’ve told you…” This is one clear place I’d want to see more of an indicator of what A is feeling. Standing and pacing suggests nervousness/uneasiness, but does she feel guilty? Is she more concerned about whatever the train is doing at the moment? Does she realize how much her hiding things has hurt J?

Pg 8-10:

This certainly answers the "Why didn't they find a new home for the train before now?" question satisfactorily.

Pg 13:

“I never outright lied.” This, to me, is not an acceptable answer.

“…isn’t haunted.” Hah. Fair question.

“A moved closer to J and winked.” This and the following line could use a little more emotional-description. A seems to think all is well and good between them. Does she realize that J is still upset? Does J get even more upset when A seems to want to just move on from the problem?

Pg 14:

J processing the relationship is good, and a step in the right direction from the previous draft, but I feel like this should be a discussion between them, not just J mulling over things.

“Startling a moose…” True, that.

Pg 15:

“twice the size…” and how big is that? If she specifically mentions that most of the trees are small, is twice the size going to be all that much of an obstacle? If it’s like the pretty old maples on the old farm properties near me, I bet it’s far bigger than the description here is implying to me.  Also, I like the mention of a potential old foundation nearby.  I do love some old New England farm ruins. Probably some good memory-ghosts there.

Pg 16:

The word swarth threw me. I am not familiar with it, and looking it up online didn’t help me get an image for what it’s supposed to imply.

Also, I thought the maple was the only big obstacle. The description of the tiredness here is good, but seems more than what the obstacle-description set up.

Is there any reason that “vintage-looking” can’t just be “vintage”? I had the same thought up where it’s first mentioned early on.

No wonder the train is impatient. Cutting/splitting/stacking wood takes a ton of time. My family uses a gas-powered splitter when they do woodcutting weekend, and it still takes several hours and several sturdy wood-carriers to do that.  Would recommend mentioning plans to come back and get the wood later instead of doing it then and there.  Though if it’s private property, that might also be iffy. Not sure what Vermont thinks of such things. Or whether an old railway would be considered a public right of way. But I digress. I assume most people won’t be too concerned about that detail.

“Less than a mile from the tracks” ? I’m assuming this isn’t saying they saw the couch from a mile away, but am not entirely sure what it means.

Pg 17:

“heavier than expected.” Well, that certainly checks out. Wet furniture is so heavy. 

“kitten poked their head” I’d generally go with “its”, but don’t know what general reader opinion is on that is.

The blocking around J running into the couch and being hurt isn’t quite coming across for me.  And the kitten detour comes a little out of the blue. Of course, I'm not a cat person. I would probably be far less bothered if it was a puppy. So I don't know what that says.

“kicking and biting.” Hope she’s planning to go for a rabies shot…

“twice the thickness of her wrist” again, I’d go with a diameter or circumference estimate. 

Does the couch not have feet/legs? I like the idea of using logs as rollers, but will admit it seems like it wouldn’t be the most efficient way to move a couch a few yards (I reupholster antique sofas in my free time, so I've done more than my share of couch-wrangling). I think having both of them lift one side and pivoting it around, then doing the same with the other side would be more effective if they can’t just lift the whole thing at once.


Lots of improvement on this draft! It's always fun to see that progress happen.

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