C_Vallion

1.17.2022 - C_Vallion - Price of Peace- Chapter 20 - RevA - L - 4729 Words

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Hi, All!

This had originally been two chapters, and while I trimmed back the extra detail a good deal (I think it had been close to 8k when I started), but there's probably still more that can be cut.
 
The Ras/Ala dynamic isn't set up as much in the early chapters in this revision as much as it will be next time around. Ultimately, Ras still sees Ala as a kid half the time, and hasn't trusted him with some of the more risky aspects of the political work Ala's mom was doing before her death. And Ala is torn between trusting Ras's judgment and feeling like he's going into things blind (which doesn't play well with his anxiety issues).
 
Content Warning: mild language, mention/brief depiction of panic attack
 
1. Anything confusing?
2. Anything that feels like it goes on too long and could use some trimming?
3. Thoughts on how the characters are coming across?
4. Any specific points of engagement/disengagement?
 
Thanks!
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As I go:

pg 1. It seems like there's been a rapid shift in how C is viewed. And to some degree, yeah killing a royal will do that, but there's something about it that still feels rather sudden. Maybe it's because I never really pictured C being a huge worry before Is and crew were attacked. 

-I like the detail about T not having adequate defenses due to past politicking. Really highlights how caught in the middle of this Ala is

pg 2. I do like the general vibe I get from this chapter so far. This feels like the inciting incident for Ala's character moreso than the stuff with Is back in part one.  

pg 3. I'm sure if this gets published it will have a map to make this clearer, but I feel like I need to understand the geography better here. Is T a tactical landing/invasion point for C? If so I think this makes this whole thing more engaging since Ala is really in trouble. 

pg 4. I don't remember the nuances of what's going on between Ala, Ale, and T, and tbh it's not really a point I'm super invested in to begin with

-insurrectionists in T? And whose mother are we talking about, and what work? 

pg 5. Oh so it's insurrectionists against the throne who are pro-magic? That does make sense. When you mentioned insurrectionists in T I was picturing an insurrection against Ala which would have been a big thing to drop on us here. 

pg 6. I really do like the base dynamics here but something still isn't clicking. Maybe we need more about what his mother's work is, what it means to Ala, and how it connects to the current situation. Right now I don't know what the stakes are.

-I think I also just don't see Ras as being super important in general which is part of my holdup here. What's the reason Ala seems to have no faith in Ras? Yeah we get the thing with the insurrectionists but his distrust seems to run deeper. A lot of these dynamics are good for building conflict but I feel like the setup isn't there. 

-And that comment was before I even got to the part where they plan to dissolve the bond. That's quite a drastic action over what feels like a minor disagreement. I also don't know what the deal is between Ras and Ala's mother so that accusation doesn't mean anything to me.

pg 8. It's been going that direction? Maybe WRS but this was not clear to me. I get that they have different ideas about what to do but dissolving all formal connections in such a turbulent time is a huge decision 

-So I'm gathering that R is super pro-magic, which I'm not sure I even realized before now. What exactly does he want to accomplish politically and why (the why can be a mystery but in that case we need to know it's a mystery)? Consolidating his character around "dude who wants magic to be legal" could help us better understand his role in the story. 

pg 9. This discussion about roads is... actually really interesting! I want to see it come earlier in the chapter so I get a better view of the geography. Ala's dynamic of "I wanted to build up infrastructure to help my people but now it's being used against us" is an interesting one. 

pg 11-12. I get that Ala is confused too but we might need a little more about what's going on. If you betray your oath, does it only manifest in situations like this, or is R actively betraying his oath only now? Ala seems to think the former, but that doesn't seem like a great oath system if you can get away with stuff for years and it only gets caught at this check in. And maybe the most important question of all: If R broke the oath, why is he going along with this if he knows it's going to be revealed?

I trust that you have the answers to these questions but I think we need more insight on them here and now.

On 1/17/2022 at 10:53 AM, C_Vallion said:
1. Anything confusing?
2. Anything that feels like it goes on too long and could use some trimming?
3. Thoughts on how the characters are coming across?
4. Any specific points of engagement/disengagement?

1. Mostly the end, as I mentioned in LbLs

2. Nothing too long in particular. Mostly it just feels like the setup isn't quite there for a lot of these beats... which as you said you're already aware of. So it's a little hard for me to assess but I think you're on the right track since you knew to comment on the setup. 

3. Ras isn't coming across for me like he needs to, but again maybe that's a setup issue.

4. How Ala has to prepare for an invasion by C and how he's going to be left out to dry potentially is a big source of engagement for me. If his military is too strong G sees him as a threat, and if it's too weak C just rolls over him. Add in his desire to build infrastructure and help his people rather than dedicating resources to war while his people struggle in the harsh environment. Like I said in the LbLs, for me this is strongest inciting incident in Ala's story I've come across so far because it ties together his ideals, motivations, and political situation (his thing with Is felt more like him stumbling onto something unrelated to his character and then not doing anything regardless since V handles it all). Of course, I'm guessing it's not meant to be because it occurs in chapter 20 when an inciting incident should be in the first couple of chapters we see from a protagonist. 

That all being said, I really do feel like his story is only starting now. I haven't seen the new setup with revisions but I can't think anything else that gets the ball rolling as much as this. Which is true for the court as well. I never really felt super engaged with the court politicking before but now it feels vital since everyone's survival is directly on the line. I know I brought this up before and I'll mention it again: if we start the story in part 2, I think a lot of my hangups with the story vanish entirely. Again, not expecting you to actually take that advice, but hopefully it can be a springboard for new ideas. 

Because I do wonder about the pace of this story overall. It seems like the story is really only getting rolling now and even after a lot of cutting we're 20 chapters in. And it's not like these are short chapters, either. How far are we into the story? 75k words? The word count Brandon recommended for new writers trying to publish epic fantasy is 125-150k in total, so while I don't know how long this is going to be I worry in general that we're getting off the ground too late. 

I do hope this comes across as encouraging since aside from the Ras stuff where I don't have proper context for the setup this is really what I've been looking for in Ala's story all this time. I just think we need to get here (or to an equivalent getting the story rolling point) much faster than we do. 

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Hah. I must have logged on to my computer just as you hit submit. 

Should probably respond to the other chapter first, but oh well. 

12 minutes ago, Ace of Hearts said:

It seems like there's been a rapid shift in how C is viewed. And to some degree, yeah killing a royal will do that, but there's something about it that still feels rather sudden. Maybe it's because I never really pictured C being a huge worry before Is and crew were attacked. 

Some of this is sort of intentional, in that it is meant to be the big thing that the wise-old-king was *wrong* about.  But without much time spent among the court in Part 1&2, we're only really in the heads of people who aren't concerned about it.  I'll have to keep that in mind, and maybe have Ala- a little more cautious on that front earlier on.  Or have Ras- cautious about it, since Ras- should be painted as a Trustworthy Individual earlier on (instead of in this version, where he appears in like one scene and is almost never mentioned again).

18 minutes ago, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 3. I'm sure if this gets published it will have a map to make this clearer, but I feel like I need to understand the geography better here. Is T a tactical landing/invasion point for C? If so I think this makes this whole thing more engaging since Ala is really in trouble. 

 Yes. A map will definitely be necessary. There is a rough one, where I'd penciled in all of the nobles associated with the various holdings (though several of those names have changed).  It's in the Summary doc by the chapter recaps at the bottom of the e-mail I sent out. 

But ultimately, yeah. T is a tactical invasion point. Or at least a good troop landing/rallying point. Lots of exposed coastline to land an invading force with a small population to defend it, and bordered by mountains along one side and a sizable river on another. Getting across the river/mountains to break into the rest of Gil- would be challenging, but they'd be able to hold T without too much trouble if they land a bunch of troops there. In theory.  I need to run this past someone with more military strategy sense, since most of mine comes from board games and vague intuition. 

35 minutes ago, Ace of Hearts said:

-insurrectionists in T? And whose mother are we talking about, and what work? 

pg 5. Oh so it's insurrectionists against the throne who are pro-magic? That does make sense. When you mentioned insurrectionists in T I was picturing an insurrection against Ala which would have been a big thing to drop on us here.

So. This is all basically the stuff I'd added in based on what I'm intending to add into part 1. Because in theory it means I might have less work on my next round of revisions (and I don't want to rewrite all these later chapters twice.)
Ala-'s mom was vocally pro-magic, even before marrying Ala-'s dad to spite the old king. This was mentioned in one of the early submissions, but got cut. I intended to bring it in later then...forgot... oops.  So there are a couple references to his mom's work, but definitely not enough to know anything about it. Again. Oops.
So. Next part 1 revision:

1. Ras will almost definitely be gender-swapped (name as yet undecided). Because I don't have enough older female characters, and having more politically active women might help with the patriarchal feel you've mentioned. And because I want there to have been a stronger bond between Ras- and Mom. They had worked together on some of the initial politicking against the old king, and I think having Ras as mentor/political ally/maternal figure all in one to Mom will tie in better to Ras-'s tendency to see Ala- as a child to be protected.  As well as having a bit of a guilt complex about needing to make things right even if the costs are steep.

2. Ala- will have intentionally stayed out of that side of politics because it falls too close to conversation about his parents' deaths, but after watching Is- nearly die because there was no magic available to save her, he realizes that he wants to get involved, which is closer to his inciting incident, though I need to figure out how to frame that to make it work right.  At first he assumes all of their political work is above-board, but learns that several of Ras's associates are less concerned about such things, to the point of supporting a group of insurrectionists that is forming among Gil- citizens who have chosen to study at the mage school.  Ras insists she has nothing to do with that way of doing things.  "After all, does it seem like the king can be threatened or intimidated into changing laws?"  But Ala still doesn't like that Ras is working with them at all, and he feels like Ras isn't telling him the full story. 

3. Somewhere through here, there will be some moment where someone needs to swear something on an oath or something along those lines, to make it clear that 1. oaths are a thing with potential consequences and 2. this is how things are supposed to go when all is well vs. commenting on what would happen otherwise.  

Or, possibly, some random noble swears something on an oath before the king, who doesn't trust them and calls them to account, and said person goes up in flames. Because its seems like a good, clear "this is what happens when oaths aren't kept"  

TBD. 

1 hour ago, Ace of Hearts said:

This discussion about roads is... actually really interesting!

Hooray!  Roads are always more interesting than people think. Says the engineer :P 

1 hour ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Ala's dynamic of "I wanted to build up infrastructure to help my people but now it's being used against us" is an interesting one. 

Yeah. I do want to include a little more of the feeling of this early on. That Ala- sees himself as someone who builds things, not as someone who destroys them. I haven't yet decided if I want this to carry across the four-way foil where R sees himself as destroying things (even if it's not accurate). Is- sees herself as preserving things. Ali- sees herself as.....something. Fixing things?  Trying to think of how her attempts to get her family to acknowledge their issues and change fits into that setup.  Creation/destruction/change/preservation?  That almost works, but I feel like there's a little more forcing the puzzle pieces to fit than I'd like at this point... 

Thanks for sending me off on that thought-process, thought :D

1 hour ago, Ace of Hearts said:

If you betray your oath, does it only manifest in situations like this, or is R actively betraying his oath only now? Ala seems to think the former, but that doesn't seem like a great oath system if you can get away with stuff for years and it only gets caught at this check in. And maybe the most important question of all: If R broke the oath, why is he going along with this if he knows it's going to be revealed?

I definitely need to make it clearer what is expected, and that the confusion here is more that it seems to be some middle-ground rather than a clear innocent/guilty verdict. 

The "does it only manifest in situations like this" and the "doesn't seem like a great oath system if you can get away with stuff" needs some clarification as well. There's some answer to it in the Ali- chapter when Der- arrives with news, in that Is-n had been hoping to request a pardon for his potential-oathbreaking, but I'm pretty sure there wasn't a clear enough framework set up for that to get added into it accurately.

For the behind the page details: The gods allow space for human-negotiation before accusations/confessions/etc. and if those people can reach an agreement on mortal terms, the gods accept that. Usually. Because obviously someone can say "hey...I accidentally did this thing. Forgive me?" And have it agreed to when the person may be hiding more sinister things. In general, the fact that no one quite trusts the gods' sense of justice means that they tend to try to figure things out on their own terms first, but get the gods involved if things are desperate. 

In this case, Ras isn't aware that he's done anything to act against his oath. But that isn't revealed until later. Maybe I should hang a lantern on that in Ala- and Tre-'s conversation at some point.  That Ras- wouldn't be so willing to have the oath removed if he thought he'd acted against it. 

1 hour ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Like I said in the LbLs, for me this is strongest inciting incident in Ala's story I've come across so far because it ties together his ideals, motivations, and political situation (his thing with Is felt more like him stumbling onto something unrelated to his character and then not doing anything regardless since V handles it all). Of course, I'm guessing it's not meant to be because it occurs in chapter 20 when an inciting incident should be in the first couple of chapters we see from a protagonist. 

This *is* a shift to Ala- moving more into the spotlight than he'd been earlier on, and should be a pretty clear escalation of earlier conflicts between him and Ras-, but those conflicts don't really exist in the version I've submitted thus far. So we'll have to see how it all pans out in the next round of revisions. 

2 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

The word count Brandon recommended for new writers trying to publish epic fantasy is 125-150k in total, so while I don't know how long this is going to be I worry in general that we're getting off the ground too late. 

This is an issue I've been aware of all along (the version I started submitting through this time last year was close to 210k. :ph34r:)

I think this revision is on track to end up at 160-170k, but it's hard to tell when I'm still shifting later chapters around and trimming things back. I do think there's a lot of room for streamlining the early chapters, but I don't know where that will put the wordcount once I get that in better order. I still don't think cutting straight to Part 2 will do it, but I am aware that Part 1 still needs a lot of work and trimming. This revision, I did a lot of squishing information from the old early chapters into the current Part 1 because I thought it was needed, but I'll have a better sense of what is needed and what's not on the next pass (if only it didn't take so long to do each pass :()

2 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

I do hope this comes across as encouraging since aside from the Ras stuff where I don't have proper context for the setup this is really what I've been looking for in Ala's story all this time. I just think we need to get here (or to an equivalent getting the story rolling point) much faster than we do. 

It's still encouraging. Don't worry :)  I expected to have a lot of issues with the setup on this one because it's the one that has the most shifted around beforehand. Ali- has setup issues as well, but her arc being tied into the family means there isn't as much outside-information to tie in later.  Ala-'s setup is almost entirely separate from that, so shoehorning the changes in now is a lot more jarring. But that will hopefully just be a this-chapter thing. Hopefully.

 

Wow. That was even more rambly than I expected it to be.... I probably shouldn't be surprised by that at this point, but here we are.

Anyway. As always, thanks so much for your thoughts! :) 

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4 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Some of this is sort of intentional, in that it is meant to be the big thing that the wise-old-king was *wrong* about.  But without much time spent among the court in Part 1&2, we're only really in the heads of people who aren't concerned about it.  I'll have to keep that in mind, and maybe have Ala- a little more cautious on that front earlier on.  Or have Ras- cautious about it, since Ras- should be painted as a Trustworthy Individual earlier on (instead of in this version, where he appears in like one scene and is almost never mentioned again).

Yup I think there needs to be setup that C is dangerous even if the characters don't see it. Because while I could put two and two together, it was mostly from meta knowledge rather than anything in the story itself. Idk if you've watched Brandon's lectures but he has a whole section on this which he calls "keeping your promises."

4 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Yeah. I do want to include a little more of the feeling of this early on. That Ala- sees himself as someone who builds things, not as someone who destroys them.

This is a dynamic I like and I think does flesh out his character relative to the others like you were saying. It wasn't until this chapter that I realized how much this story benefits from having someone like Ala who has big dreams about building things up since like you mentioned we don't really have a character with that perspective yet. Tbh if this is his main attribute in the early chapters I think I'll be more invested in him. 

4 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

This *is* a shift to Ala- moving more into the spotlight than he'd been earlier on, and should be a pretty clear escalation of earlier conflicts between him and Ras-, but those conflicts don't really exist in the version I've submitted thus far. So we'll have to see how it all pans out in the next round of revisions. 

Hmm this is an interesting idea. That Ala's conflict and plot at the begin is focused on his relationship with Ras, which to me signals that to some degree it's a relationship plot/subplot (whether the story wants it to be or not). This could definitely be a way to set up an inciting incident early on that doesn't have to be a world-shattering political shift like this, though new challenges arise. Happy to comment further but I won't make you read too much more for now since I'm not sure how much the story wants to lean into the relationship between Ala and Ras as the main conflict/plot. 

4 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

In this case, Ras isn't aware that he's done anything to act against his oath. But that isn't revealed until later. Maybe I should hang a lantern on that in Ala- and Tre-'s conversation at some point.  That Ras- wouldn't be so willing to have the oath removed if he thought he'd acted against it. 

I was wondering if this was the case. I think hanging a lantern on it could be a good idea.

4 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Ala- will have intentionally stayed out of that side of politics because it falls too close to conversation about his parents' deaths, but after watching Is- nearly die because there was no magic available to save her, he realizes that he wants to get involved, which is closer to his inciting incident, though I need to figure out how to frame that to make it work right. 

From this alone (maybe there's more context that makes it work) I still think that's a hard sell as an inciting incident. The reason this chapter is engaging to me is because Ala is forced to deal with C and the issues surrounding it. Him realizing that he wants to get involved with magic laws isn't as powerful since there's nothing binding him to it. Knowing that he could back out of it whenever he wants to (even if I'm expecting that he won't) lowers the stakes. Though this is quite solvable if you do want an inciting incident along these lines (which, imo, comes down to something arising that means he needs these magic laws now. Like someone he's close to getting sick and needing magic healing).

4 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Or, possibly, some random noble swears something on an oath before the king, who doesn't trust them and calls them to account, and said person goes up in flames. Because its seems like a good, clear "this is what happens when oaths aren't kept"  

Really like this idea. Pretty tried and true strategy of introducing something as a serious deal is having it kill someone and there's nothing wrong with going back to the basics! 

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19 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

That Ala's conflict and plot at the begin is focused on his relationship with Ras, which to me signals that to some degree it's a relationship plot/subplot (whether the story wants it to be or not). This could definitely be a way to set up an inciting incident early on that doesn't have to be a world-shattering political shift like this, though new challenges arise. Happy to comment further but I won't make you read too much more for now since I'm not sure how much the story wants to lean into the relationship between Ala and Ras as the main conflict/plot. 

I  would probably say that Ala-'s main plotline through PoP is a relationship plotline, though that's also tied into his "trying to protect the duchy" plotline that runs through the series. 

I'm also planning to find a way to set things up early on to have it implied that Ras- and/or his political friends had something to do with the poisoning.  Some of those pieces are in place already (Is-n's interlude and the assassin having ties to magic, some comments between Is and her father about the pro-magic faction potentially trying to force his hand into changing the laws) but there wasn't enough Ras- at all in this round of submissions to get that point across. 

Your related thoughts are welcome. :)

19 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Knowing that he could back out of it whenever he wants to (even if I'm expecting that he won't) lowers the stakes.

In my mind, once the court has confirmed that he's supporting his mother's politics, it's going to be almost impossible to re-draw those lines.  But you're right that it needs stronger stakes associated with it. 

19 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Really like this idea. Pretty tried and true strategy of introducing something as a serious deal is having it kill someone and there's nothing wrong with going back to the basics! 

Not sure if you remember the chapter from WAY back, where Ala- has an audience with the king to act as a witness to whether or not G- broke his oath in letting the assassination attempt happen. 
I'd toyed with the possibility of also calling in the guard who'd (unknowingly) given the assassin access to Is-'s equipment to apply the poison, and introducing that idea there, but there was just A LOT going on in that chapter, and I thought it would be overkill (pun not initially intended, but I'm leaving it).  Also considered shifting that Accusation/Judgment/etc. to the Is-n interlude where they learn the assassin had magic ties. To have Is-n do the fire-spell casting that Ved- refuses to learn. But again, there was a lot in that chapter. 

So there's probably a poor nameless guard who let him/herself get drunk or distracted by a pretty face or both (or something else) on duty who will end up going up in flames, but I need to figure out where to fit that in. And also who Ved- would reasonably invite along for the experience as some sort of intimidation tactic. Since, most realistically, Ved- would probably be personally hurt enough by such a betrayal that he'd want to deal with it privately unless he had a reason to do otherwise. Either as a way of scaring Ala- or having Is-n cast the fire spell to avoid letting even the magistrates potentially see him having an emotion.

....hmmmmmm....

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On 1/17/2022 at 10:53 AM, C_Vallion said:
1. Anything confusing?
 

I think the last scene moved too fast, so I got a little confused by what happened there. 

On 1/17/2022 at 10:53 AM, C_Vallion said:
2. Anything that feels like it goes on too long and could use some trimming?
 

Yes. I think I'm going to email you the document with my comments because it's easier to see with it highlighted in a word doc than showing here. But essentially, I don't think you need to show A going to the king and I think his convo with T can be trimmed because it reiterates some things already conveyed. 

On 1/17/2022 at 10:53 AM, C_Vallion said:
3. Thoughts on how the characters are coming across?
 

I like A when he is showing emotion, especially anxiety because it's relatable, but there are also places where it gets lost. I like T. R seems sketchy, which is probably what you were going or. 

On 1/17/2022 at 10:53 AM, C_Vallion said:
4. Any specific points of engagement/disengagement?
 

I was most engaged in the last scene, and wanted it to go on a little longer. However, I didn't find myself disengaging too much either. 

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Happy weekend!

Most of the points that struck me as confusing have already been discussed.

Mainly that I don't have a clear idea of the geography, so the references to how different regions vs countries relate to eachother was lost on me. WrS might also be at play, but I find myself struggling to remember among the names of people and places how everything fits (wait, are they from there? Who was that again?). Especially in the first half of the conversation between AL and R, I was a bit lost.  The references you mentioned including and reading the story over days instead of weeks would help a lot I'm sure.

The most engaging part for me was the end. The oathbands are one of my favorite parts of the story so seeing how one could be removed was interesting. I shared @Ace of Hearts assumption about the oathbands prior to your explaination. I supose I also thought they would burn or flare up durring the act of betrayal rather than durring removal. The idea that both people could be ignorant of the betrayal and it would still act against R is interesting and leaves me wanting to understand what's going on. I would definetly turn the page to the next chapter if I read this in a book. 

I think AL came off well in this chapter. I wasn't 100% sure what he was trying to accomplish some of the time, but I think that was mainly tied to my bad memory for who is who. Regardless, he was vulnerable but proactive so reading about his struggles makes me want to see him succeed 

Thanks for sharing!

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On 1/23/2022 at 4:31 PM, C_Vallion said:

I  would probably say that Ala-'s main plotline through PoP is a relationship plotline

One thing I learned from researching romance stories is that for relationship plots, they generally have to establish two things. 

1. Why do the characters need to be together (typically has an emotional component)?

2. Why can't they be together? What's pulling them apart?

The contradiction here is the key. Advancing the plot requires the characters getting both closer to each other and getting pulled away more and more. And they generally have to happen at around the same time. Because it's not characters getting along or characters not getting along that is engaging, it's the pull between the two. At any given moment the relationship must be vital for the characters' well-being but also teetering on the edge of failure for stakes to be established (after learning this it made a lot more sense to me why so many romance novels depict unhealthy relationships). 

How does this relate to Ras and Ala? Right here we get all of the pulling apart but none of the need to be together (even though they do have a long shared history). So when I read it I'm like "cool. Yeah they should just be apart. End of their dynamic I guess." So why does Ala feel like he needs Ras? Does he feel lost without his mentor? Making sure this is there throughout the whole story is key, and so is ensuring that the dynamic advances both the disagreements and the need to be together. 

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2 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

How does this relate to Ras and Ala? Right here we get all of the pulling apart but none of the need to be together (even though they do have a long shared history). So when I read it I'm like "cool. Yeah they should just be apart. End of their dynamic I guess." So why does Ala feel like he needs Ras? Does he feel lost without his mentor? Making sure this is there throughout the whole story is key, and so is ensuring that the dynamic advances both the disagreements and the need to be together. 

A lot of this is going to be in those part 1 chapters, but it's good to see it described in these terms.  It will be a big help in thinking through what I emphasize when I get back to editing that section of the manuscript.

Thanks!

Edited by C_Vallion
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