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Ace of Hearts

Feb 1-Ace of Hearts-Red Angel ch 3 (4490 words, V)

11 posts in this topic

Whoops, looks like I forgot to put this up yesterday! Sorry about that! 

Additional content warning for mentions of torture

 
Hi all,
 
I got a lot of helpful feedback over the last couple of chapters that may end up changing how I approach the story, but for now I'm going to keep moving forward. My current plan is to work the ending of ch. 1 where S talks to J about interrogating M into this chapter. Oh, and feel free to give prescriptive advice because my brain works well when it can just bounce different ideas around. 
 
Questions for after reading:
1. Points of interest/engagement? Positive qualities?
2. What's not working for you or is confusing?
3. How are the characters coming across?
4. Does the talk with D at the start feel disconnected from the events later on with M? If so, do you think they should be better connected/split into different chapters, ect. Is there one you see as being more interesting or important than the other?
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FYI I stuck my crit in last week's thread.

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Similar thoughts to @kais on this one. Not a lot happened.

1. I wasn't really engaged with this chapter. Not a lot was happening, and there weren't enough emotions.
2. Not much really happened here. I don't think this progressed the plot or the characters.
3. There's not enough emotion in this chapter to connect. I'm feeling more distant from S than I was in the first chapter.
4. I think you can edit out the first 5 or so pages and have them discuss a pared down version AS they explore the ruins.


Notes while reading:
pg 1: Not a whole lot going on yet. I can't remember what S's goal is--just to help the refugees?

pg 2: "Their homes...are still going to be destroyed.”
--Why will their homes be destroyed? I feel like we're hearing all of the parts around the main issue here. What's the conflict? We're told these words affect the characters, but I don't know why.

pg 3: Three pages in and they've talked about a lot of things that already happened, but nothing has actually happened in this chapter yet. There's no sign of an arc here yet.

pg 4: We're also told a lot about the feelings through the empathic link, and this almost seems like a crutch with describing emotions. We're told what D feels, but I want to see it. And S is standing right there, so should also be able to see it.

pg 5: I think you could start this chapter with going into the gate and give any meaningful information while that happens.

pg 5: "Funny how him not being able to do that made him want to."
--Why can't S trace engravings?

pg 6: So I'm gathering the gate only opens to the royal family? Or can anyone do that?

pg 6: "whatever traits are linked with male body parts doesn’t get mixed"
--eh? I don't think this is how genetics works...

pg 8: I'm not as captivated as I want to be here. This is a holy city only the rulers can get into? I want emotion from the characters, about how awestruck they are.

pg 9: Oh, this is Z's girlfriend? I'm not clear on why this place is used for a jail.

pg 10: There are a lot of names in here and I'm not sure what the aim of the questions are.

pg 12: So M was the one who got the other royal brother killed? I'm expecting more emotion, more revelations here, and everything is presented fairly explanatorily. It's hard to stay connected to the story.

pg 15: Sooo...I'm not really sure what was achieved in this chapter. I don't feel like I know the characters better, and I'm not really sure why S was talking to M. I'm honestly more interested in D looking at rocks down in an ancient ruin that what's going on here. There's not a lot to emotionally connect to, even though the MC is an empath. I would expect vivid descriptions of emotions during this, using body tells and sensations through the crystal to understand M better. But we don't really get that, and I'm not sure what he got out of the conversation either.

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Thanks for your feedback @Mandamon @kais! I was hoping that the story would feel more solidified as we were going in deeper, but it looks like I have a lot more work to do on that front. It sounds like the big issue is that the story really doesn't know what it wants to be right now, and ends up feeling unfocused as a result.

And I think the reason for this is that I'm unintentionally misleading readers as to what it's about. The more I think about this story, it's really not about finding out who the RA is or what happened to the brother, and it's more about how those circumstances pull S and Z apart as they both try to do the right thing in different ways. Which... we get absolutely none of in the first three chapters. So of course there's no emotion in S talking to M not because they're doomed to uninteresting interactions but because Z is really the focal point in S and M's communication--and we're missing that entire piece right now. 

At least, those are my current thoughts. I'm sure there's more to work on as well. I think I'm going to submit the next chapter where S and Z finally interact to get a feel for it, and then rework the opening chapters to revolve more around that. 

Thanks for your thoughts! I know it's not always the most fun to critique a piece that has a lot of work needed but it really does help--and I am dedicated to fixing these issues. 

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8 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

And I think the reason for this is that I'm unintentionally misleading readers as to what it's about. The more I think about this story, it's really not about finding out who the RA is or what happened to the brother, and it's more about how those circumstances pull S and Z apart as they both try to do the right thing in different ways. Which... we get absolutely none of in the first three chapters. So of course there's no emotion in S talking to M not because they're doomed to uninteresting interactions but because Z is really the focal point in S and M's communication--and we're missing that entire piece right now. 

I'd agree that this is likely causing a lot of trouble.  I am recognizing a lot of the troubles I was having at the beginning of PoP submissions, where the important things were all mentioned in passing, and vague side-stories were taking center stage.  So you have my full sympathy for the amount of work in can take to get things in order. Feel free to message me to bounce ideas off of if you think it will be helpful while you're getting things in order.  I know some of the messages we sent back and forth a while back were helpful for me in many ways, and I'm glad to return the favor if I can! 

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For some reason it wasn't letting me copy/paste my LBLs in the previous message. So they're here: 

Pg 1:
“cross-stitched”  embroidered?
“he heard D knock” how does he know it’s D? 
“he didn’t have much going for him…” Are you familiar with the three-pronged character development idea?  That a character should be 2 out of 3 of competent, proactive, and sympathetic? If he’s going to declare himself incompetent, you’re going to want to make sure you’re really pushing those other two.
https://writingexcuses.com/2014/03/30/writing-excuses-9-13-three-prong-character-development/  
What exactly is D’s position? I don’t have a clear sense of it, but it seems odd for her to be striding in like she owns the place. 
“poured over” -> pored over
Pg 3:
“act fair…” Something about this seems off.  Especially comparing it to treating the captive like a teenager.  Teenagers will generally listen to the adult they’ve been assigned to as long as they aren’t out to cause trouble (thank goodness). An adult revolutionary has already proved that they are out to cause trouble and that they don’t recognize the authority structures that are set in place. 
Pg 4
I think a lot of the conversation through here could be trimmed down to the key details.
Pg 5:
I see the “letting go of the world” part (“letting images and words slide”), but where’s the “connecting himself to the Creator”? Are there scriptures or mantras or rituals that specifically connect him to the deity?
Pg 6:
D’s rebuttal at the end of the page doesn’t seem like an argument for S’s comment that “the creator would just know”. If anything, it seems to support his thought. If it’s a physical trait, it should fade. But if it’s supernatural, the actual passing on of physical traits shouldn’t matter. Her comments support the supernatural cause over the physical one. Besides, having a physical explanation doesn’t disqualify a supernatural one.
Pg 7:
The term powerwalking keeps throwing me off, because in my head it implies ladies in 70s workout clothes with little hand weights.
Pg 8:
I note this because it’s something I’ve been working on eliminating a lot in the past year (so I find myself noticing it elsewhere a lot more), but things like D’s “do you know where she is?” and S not really knowing, but not doing anything important before finding her anyway end up dragging out page time unnecessarily. There are a few detours like this that could be trimmed out to streamline things.
Pg 10:
Who is actually doing the interrogating here?
Pg 11:
I’m struggling to follow what we’re supposed to be learning/hoping for from this information. I keep grabbing on to random details, but there are too many to know what’s relevant and what’s not when we don’t have a good sense of what S’s driving goals are, how the interrogation is going to make progress in meeting them, or what information he’s hoping to get from her.
 

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Thanks @C_Vallion! Seems like more confirmation that the focus isn't really where it needs to be, and there's not a ton more that can be said until it resolves. Funny how it can be so obvious in retrospect but not when looking over it without feedback, huh? 

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On 2/1/2022 at 0:17 PM, Ace of Hearts said:
1. Points of interest/engagement? Positive qualities?
 

For most of the interrogation scene, I was fairly engaged. 

I didn't get confused at all--things seemed pretty clear in terms of world-building, what was said, and what was happening. 

There is a distinct voice. 

On 2/1/2022 at 0:17 PM, Ace of Hearts said:
2. What's not working for you or is confusing?
 

The first scene didn't really work. I didn't find myself super interested in the dialogue and some of the reactions felt missing or blank. 

On 2/1/2022 at 0:17 PM, Ace of Hearts said:
3. How are the characters coming across?
 

I'm starting to like S though I would engage more with him if he reacted more to certain things. I like D. She seems like a colorful character. Not sure about M. 

On 2/1/2022 at 0:17 PM, Ace of Hearts said:
4. Does the talk with D at the start feel disconnected from the events later on with M? If so, do you think they should be better connected/split into different chapters, ect. Is there one you see as being more interesting or important than the other?

The talk at the begining didn't seem all  that interesting or important, though for all I know it has some key detail that just isn't registering as important to me yet.

As I read:

P1

"The palace doctors said that his condition [CSA1] was why" Being intersex or does he have a learning disability? I’m not sure which condition you are referring too?

P2

“Might as well put your deadbeat sister to use somehow. Good thing his empath link told him that there was no real judgment there" Could there be a little more reaction to this? It feels incomplete.

P3

"...eyewitness accounts, there could be something to it. Thanks, D. I know you’ll figure something out.” Is d doubting S really saw it here? And if so, does S understand that? And how does S feel about the doubt?

P6

“Let’s go,” S said. “It only stays open for about fifteen seconds, and I’m not about to watch you get crushed by the floor coming back together.” Doesn’t saying this take up a lot of those seconds?

P10

"The feeling was like she was playing a tactics game against a toddler. Wonderful. This line made me laugh a little. Also a moment where the voice felt strong.

P11

"Samai looked up at her."  feel like you could use more reaction here

"Well, if she needed to get this off her chest, stopping her might not do any good." Something felt off about this line.

 P15

I wonder if you end the chapter a tiny bit sooner. It feels like it drags on just a little too long and doesn't quite have enough of a hook at the end.

Overall, I'm happy to see a little more forward motion but I feel like I might be missing something about what the plot / goals are and I'm not sure it's just that I forgot already from Ch 1 or if something is actually missing. However, I'm more engaged now than I had been before. 

I'm also glad the interrogation was humane and did not result in torture. I feel like torture is a little overdone in fantasy sometimes. Though I won't say I'm not guilty of contributing to it's overdoneness. Still, I like interrogation scenes that are conversations where no one is maimed or beaten. 

Looking forward to the next chapter! 
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Thanks @shatteredsmooth! I'm relieved that there's some good to be had here in the interrogation scene. I do want it to work and just have it be better placed in the context of the story rather than cutting this chapter entirely and now I feel more confident that's the way to go. :) 

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As I read:

A bit startled to find us with S and D. I thought we were going to go straight to the person S is supposed to be questioning, since an insurrection seems urgent and that string of events has had a decent amount of screen time over the last two chapters.

p1 “watching as she poured over…” should be “pored”

“...besides royal privilege.” lol.

Also not sure who is looking up at the ceiling full of gemstones, D or S.

When she asks about the refugees, I think this is the first hint we’ve had as to her actual purpose or connection with S’s goals (unless there’s something I’ve forgotten). But I thought she was doing historical research so I’m not quite sure what she’s looking for that would help with current events?

P2 Does D know that Z has rebel sympathies? Why is she assigning tasks to a princess? S’s “be my guest comment” made me chuckle, though – sounds about right.

P3 “That’s the basics of what I have.” I still don’t really understand the significance of what D is trying to do, and the information she had didn’t seem to amount to much. Confused.

P4 “S noticed his shoulders relax…” Hm. “Felt” instead of “noticed” maybe?

“After turning his mind slippery…” I don’t understand what this means.

Was slightly confused by S saying he could touch the gate, only to then touch the gate. I guess he means he can’t kneel on it because it opens when he touches it?

P5 “It only stays open for about fifteen seconds…” He’s not acting with the urgency that this suggests he should be. Shouldn’t he be telling her to hurry up and he’ll explain when she’s safely in? Or better yet, he could have explained it before he opened it.

This section is starting to drag – it’s taking a long time to get to where I assume the action will be, the interrogation, and a lot of the stuff leading up to that seems to mostly exist to establish some worldbuilding.

Maybe it’s because I’m not clear on what her actual role is aside from “scholar,” which is an entirely nebulous concept so far, but D almost seems to be a parody of a researcher, getting distracted by whatever shiny thing is in front of her in order to facilitate some of the worldbuilding info in these pages.

P8 “Did J tell you where she is in this cavern?” Is there not a dedicated section of this place for prisons/holding cells/what have you? If there is, does S not know where it is? He certainly doesn’t seem to.

P9 Wait… how did they smash her crystal if it’s embedded into her hand? Wouldn’t that require breaking her hand?

“It’s still strange to me that the purple crystals…” This dialogue feels very “as you know, Bob”

Telling her he doesn’t have the ability to get her out of there seems like a poor negotiating tactic, but maybe he has a plan?

P10 “How did M know who S was betrothed to?” I think this is the first time we’ve gotten this information. If it’s meant to be a reveal, I’d like to see it played up more, through S’s reactions/emotions. If it’s supposed to be a secret you’ve got ample reason to make more of it here.

P12 I’m not sure what precipitated M’s sudden switch from mocking S and being low-key arrogant to deciding to give him information after all. Aside from wanting a little more clarity on that, I’d also like to feel like S, as our protagonist, did something to facilitate the change – but as things stand, I’m not sure that’s the case.

Another thing that’s changed is the conversation has suddenly shifted to feel like it’s between two people who have an existing relationship with one another. Up until about that same point on p12 it had sounded like a conversation between two strangers.

P13 “...after we get this whole RA business tied up.” Uhh, how well known is this? Because it feels like D could have just given away something pretty significant.

P14 “That was the first time she addressed him by name…” No it wasn’t. She did that at the top of p12.

Overall: After reading this chapter, I find that more than anything I’m confused. I don’t understand whether M thinks D is an assassin or not, or why it this possibility is significant other than in an “assassins are bad” sort of way (S barley even asked questions about this assassin!) I also don’t really understand what S went in here attending to accomplish, or what if anything the conversation actually accomplished. I think the chapter needs a clearer focus and purpose that readers can latch onto.

Aside from the clarity, the thing that I really wanted from this chapter was tension. I think the front half needs to be trimmed so that we get to the interrogation quicker, and the emotions and tension of the interrogation itself need to be punched way up. Understanding what he wants to get out of the interrogation will help. But it’s also – at first she resists him, which helped build the tension a bit, but he didn’t really seem to mind, so it didn’t hit the point of feeling really significant. Then, she seemed to decide that she wanted to cooperate with him after all, but I couldn’t connect the why of that back to S’s actions, so it didn’t really feel like him overcoming an obstacle.

TLDR: I think we need the interrogation dialed up to like 13, emotions-wise.

On 2/1/2022 at 9:17 AM, Ace of Hearts said:
1. Points of interest/engagement? Positive qualities?
2. What's not working for you or is confusing?
3. How are the characters coming across?
4. Does the talk with D at the start feel disconnected from the events later on with M? If so, do you think they should be better connected/split into different chapters, ect. Is there one you see as being more interesting or important than the other?

1. there certainly were points in the interrogation scene where I was engaged, though as I said I think it needs to be punched up. The collegial relationship between M and S in the latter half of it is interesting and I think it could work, it just needs to feel like it comes from somewhere.

2. In general, I think S having a specific idea of what he wants to get out of this conversation would be helpful and then we have a very clear idea of whether he fails or succeeds. The assassin business, which I mentioned a bit ago, was confusing.

3. I quite like S, though I think that's partially holdover from the first chapter where the narrative voice felt more confident. I think we also got more emotion from him in the first chapter than we do in this one.

D I'm unsure about. She brings a certain energy to the narrative that I enjoy, but has very quickly started to feel a little one-note.

M I'm also unsure about. I was more interested in her when she had a real conversation with S rather than being a stereotypical defiant rebel.

4. Yes, it does feel disconnected, and right now the rebellion/insurrection thing seems much more important than whatever work D is doing on the refugees. I think most of my problems with D boil down to the fact that I really don't understand what her role is or what S intends her to do. Mostly she seems to be really good at reading books, and some of those books have to do with refugees and some of them have to do with the RA, but I don't have a good grasp on to what end she's doing these things.

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Thanks @Silk! I'm planning to reframe this whole thing under different plot notes and character dynamics. Hopefully that helps both the confusion/disconnect here and the lack of emotion/motion you're picking up on. 

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