shatteredsmooth

Feb 6.2022_ShateredSmooth (Sara)_ Community Magic Ch. 1_3450 Words (L)

20 posts in this topic

Content Warnings:
L for some swearing
There is no on page violence but there is mention of past violence 
 
Hi All!
I'm sending this tonight so I don't forget to do it tomorrow. Here is the first chapter from my adult fantasy novel, Community Magic. It's about an adjunct professor with a past they'd rather keep hidden. It's also about a community college with a cursed president and a government that wants to shut it down. 
 
This is my second draft, but I changed so much between 1st and 2nd that it might as well still be a first, so I'm looking for all kinds of feedback.In addition to whatever feedback you come up with, I'd love it if you could answer these questions:
 
1. What is working / what do you like about this chapter? 
2. Are there any places where you lost interest and/or got confused? Where? 
3. I have a bad habit of long internal monologues. Did you notice any I need to trim?
 
Also, my non-binary main character uses they/them pronouns, and I haven't found any natural seeming place to explain their gender, and honestly, I'm not sure I want to explain it. Binary cis people don't have to explain their genders in books. I'm not sure if publishing is ready for it, but I want to just have a book where the mc just happens to be non-binary, no explanation needed. 
 
Thanks!!
 
Sara
Edited by shatteredsmooth
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Pg 1:

“They were expensive.” Hah. Yeah. They don’t address student loans in Harry Potter.

“students could learn…where they taught writing.” I’m assuming the “they” here is referring to A-, but my thought on first reading was that it was referring to the students (and that it should be “where they were taught writing”).  Which then made me have to read through the next sentence to make sure that “They” was referring to the students this time.  

You’ll probably want to be careful in places where it isn’t 100% clear whether they/them is referring to A-‘s personal pronouns or has some other antecedent.  Most occurrences should be clear enough to readers, but it seems like something that may create points of confusion here and there if the sentence structure isn’t making the references clear.

Pg 2:

“Messenger bag” typo

Why aren’t they looking at the mural? If what’s on it is important, I’d like a hint of that here. Even if it’s just why they aren’t looking at it.  Is it too off-putting? Too beautiful? Likely to distract him from the class they’re about to teach? Personally offensive?

Ether-tab?  Like some sort of futuristic tablet? It hadn’t occurred to me until here to ask what the time period is.

Apparently  don’t start copying my bad habit of adding unnecessary filler words :P

“spun out of the circle he’s been sitting in” You mentioned that we have a half-dozen people sitting at desks talking. That, to me, creates a different image than “circle”.  The “spun” also seems tricky if D is sitting at a desk.  It gets the enthusiasm right, but I feel like he would have to stand up first to “spin” Maybe have the enthusiastic motion in him jumping to his feet instead?

“nervous” how long have they been teaching? Are they always nervous while teaching? Might be helpful to give some indication of whether their tripping over chairs and being nervous are normal things or if they’re extra stressed today.

“A- had put their bag down” typo

“…question now?” typo

Pg 3:

Is the existence of magic well-known, then? Is it generally considered a part of normal education? I’m curious about what sort of magic we are talking about. If it’s a specialized skill or something most people have some experience with.

“if they were even allowed…” oh, good old liability issues…

All A- had thought…”typo

I like the idea of ambient magic being fueled by emotion.  Especially with a protagonist with social anxiety. Makes me wonder how much of that anxiety comes from the people aspect and how much comes from the magic aspect. It definitely makes me excited to learn more about the world and the characters’ interaction with it.

As a side note, I think out of all of the things I’ve read of yours so far, A- has been the protagonist I’ve related to most.  Social anxiety and frustrations with public education systems? Yup. It might not be flashy, but sign me up.

I am further convinced that I’d like a little more clarification about the public perception of magic.  Is this a class where all of the students happen to be on the same page, where D isn’t worried about mentioning something that might have other students giving him funny looks?  The idea that a student march about magic might be looked at as insurrection seems odd to me without having any idea of where magic stands in society.  You mentioned there are fancy private schools for it, so it can’t be all frowned upon by the powers that be.  What makes it likely to garner police violence here?

Pg 4:

Magic not 100% controllable? I continue to be intrigued.

Definitely need more information about what raising safety standards of the campus wards is supposed to mean in a practical sense. The stakes of slashing funding to magic programs is clear enough for A-. But I’m not sure what the latter part of it means to them. And not having a clear idea of where magic stands socially/what it’s capable of/ etc. makes it hard to get the significance of the back and forth at the end of the page here.

Pg 5:

More information on what the Republic means, please.  I’d started out picturing modern American community college, especially with the bland basement hallway description at the start.  Might need to hang some lanterns to suggest otherwise early on.

Also, it might be worth going through and marking all of the references to their powerful secret identity who no one can know about.  It’s pushing over into “Yeah, we know already” territory.

Pg 7:

I think getting the more detailed summary of the mural here instead of above is good, but I still think we could use a little more information at its first mention above.  Even if it’s just a clearer reaction than avoiding looking at it.   Mentioning that it always makes them antsy, or that it’s one of the newest murals, and they wished the artists had put it somewhere other than their classroom. Just something to give us a hint of *why* they aren’t looking at it.

Also, come on, A-… you could have gone a little more subtle on the name change.

“I was there that day.” *cringe* I bet that’s not going to be in any way concerning to A-

“…hadn’t been there” typo

Pg 9:

“wondered how much paperwork…” ugh. I know this feeling well.

Are potions and medications roughly equivalent?

Okay. So these details here are the ones I feel like we needed earlier.  This explanation of why no one is worried about the fancy schools teaching magic would have been really helpful to get more of the social/political circumstances around magic earlier on.  Though I will say that the “wealthy wanting to hoard power” feels very blunt. I always get a little antsy when complicated concepts are painted with too broad a brush.  Especially when A- has already mentioned that he’s at risk of losing control in a crowd and getting a bunch of people killed…that to me says there are some cautions to be considered, even if it’s not a common risk.

“Monologue” typo? Google has weirdly decided in the past week to autocorrect all of my uses of dialogue to dialog, which has been endlessly irritating.  I’m not sure how much of this is personal preference vs. actually correct.  I’m not sure I’ve seen it spelled monolog before, but it’s technically a correct spelling… *shrug* Now that I’ve overthought this, I’m going to leave it with you.

Pg 10:

I like the retired Chosen One concept a lot.

Pg 11:

“supper” oh no. Not the dreaded lunch vs. supper vs. dinner debate.  I will just mention that my general image of “supper” is a big family meal, or the big meal of the day, whether it’s near noon or evening. Dinner feels more fitting to me here, but I’m also aware that this is one of those things that varies wildly depending on region and culture and any number of other things.

Also, I had to go back and check, because I hadn’t been thinking of this as an evening class. Maybe calling that out a little more clearly if it wasn’t (it’s possible I just missed it).

Pg 12:

“wives” plural is another thing I’d suggest some setting clarification for, since it’s another clear “not modern America” detail. Are P and D here B’s wives? I think that’s what it’s getting across, but am not 100% sure. And they all work here and have pretty influential positions at the college?  Something about that seems odd to me, though I’m not entirely sure why.

Pg 13:

I don’t have a really good understanding of the range of thoughts and feelings associated with deadnames, so I found it interesting that A- specifically doesn’t consider Ai- a deadname. They clearly mentioned not wanting to hear it spoken, and don’t want to associate themselves with it anymore. It’s clearly an intentional distinction, and I don’t think it necessarily needs further explanation in-book, but I feel like it’s poking at a thing I don’t understand and would like to understand better. If you or anyone else on here would be up for providing any thoughts on some of the subtleties of the topic (without derailing the topic here entirely, since I’m sure there’s a ton that goes into it)

 

Overall:

1.      I really enjoyed the chapter, and would be excited to read more.  I found the MC and the magic setup especially interesting, though I think some of the details of how magic is viewed could come in a little earlier.

2.      I think the main things that were confusing were just the spots that pulled it out of the modern American community college setting that I’d expected from the opening. As long as there’s a lantern hung on that early on, though, I don’t think it would be an issue.  The only other thing I saw as a potential concern is the very clear lines painted around the Big Bad. That fits a younger audience a little better, but if this is adult, I think there should be a little more acknowledgment of grayer areas of viewpoints. 

Right now we have the split of the fancy private magic schools that cost an arm and a leg to attend and the community college about to be shut down to preserve magic for the wealthy.  Where’s D fit into that, coming from a wealthy family but attending the community college? Was there not a single person from that more wealthy social circle that he could sympathize with or be friendly with, even if they stood on opposite sides of some issues?  And how’s J feel about military ties, or old war buddies who are now part of a police force that A- seems to see as a pure evil? How’s C feel about some random relative who was really influential in her development as an artist, and is a great person as long as you never mention x-political issue?

Obviously this is just one chapter and can’t dig too much into the nuances of all of the characters’ opinions, but I’d make sure you’re leaving room for nuance in the characters’ views of the world.  Not all of the “good guys” (the characters we like) need to be morally upstanding people. And antagonists can be people who love their families and are fun to hang out with, even if they’re pretty clearly jerks to everyone else.

Granted, this is definitely a personal preference for me (probably not shocking, when considering that PoP’s antagonist is more a concept than a person, and isn’t clearly aligned with a “side”), so I’d see what other people’s opinions are on it.  And I could very well be overthinking the couple of lines that made me jump in that direction.

3.      I didn’t notice any points where it caused things to drag, but let’s be real, I’m not the best person to call this out. I’ll gladly listen to a character I like ramble.

4.      In response to “Also, my non-binary main character uses they/them pronouns, and I haven't found any natural seeming place to explain their gender, and honestly, I'm not sure I want to explain it.” : Makes complete sense to me.  I don’t know what publishing as a whole thinks, but I didn’t feel like there was anything missing on that front. I don’t see any need to take a detour from the story to spell it out for people, but, that’s also something that some other people on here probably have more valuable opinions on.  There are far too many things I don’t know about trends and recommendations related to how non-binary people are presented in fiction.

 

Thanks for sharing! I hope to read more!

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@C_Vallion Thank you so much for that critique! It is incredibly helpful. I have a hard time figuring out just how much world building to put into a first chapter. It's such a tricky balance of trying to hook the reader but not overwhelm them with details throughout.

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

More information on what the Republic means, please.  I’d started out picturing modern American community college, especially with the bland basement hallway description at the start.  Might need to hang some lanterns to suggest otherwise early on.

 

That is totally the image I was going for. The Republic is very similar to modern America. This world is sort of an alternate version of the present day world, one where magic is something everyone has always known about even though not everyone has it. I can add in a line or two earlier to try and clarify this up front. 

If it was a world where magic was hidden, I would've used a contemporary setting. But since magic is such an integral part of this world and it's politics, I felt like I couldn't just have it be present day America. 

Also, having it be an alternate world also gives me some space to play more with the politics and social issues. Like I can make things a little worse in that world. 

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

“nervous” how long have they been teaching? Are they always nervous while teaching? Might be helpful to give some indication of whether their tripping over chairs and being nervous are normal things or if they’re extra stressed today.

 

I was going for a general "bad anxiety day". I can clarify with a sentence or two, I think. 

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

Also, it might be worth going through and marking all of the references to their powerful secret identity who no one can know about.  It’s pushing over into “Yeah, we know already” territory.

 

Fair point. I will cut some out. 

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

hough I will say that the “wealthy wanting to hoard power” feels very blunt. I always get a little antsy when complicated concepts are painted with too broad a brush.  Especially when A- has already mentioned that he’s at risk of losing control in a crowd and getting a bunch of people killed…that to me says there are some cautions to be considered, even if it’s not a common risk.

This is more of an A issue than necessarily a narrative as a whole issue, though I am not 100% sure how to make that distinction. A has some strong opinions about things but that doesn't mean they're all right or accurate.  Some of it is a coping mechanism to deal with past trauma. 

All magic is dangerous. I'm not sure if it made the cut or not, but the fancy schools can actually be more risky than the cheaper ones. But it's the accidents a the cheap ones that make the news. The fancy ones cover it up.

A's magic is particularly volatile because they're a MUP.

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

Obviously this is just one chapter and can’t dig too much into the nuances of all of the characters’ opinions, but I’d make sure you’re leaving room for nuance in the characters’ views of the world.  Not all of the “good guys” (the characters we like) need to be morally upstanding people. And antagonists can be people who love their families and are fun to hang out with, even if they’re pretty clearly jerks to everyone else.

 

So I have a bad habit of making my big bads not very nuanced. It's something I probably need to work on. Like this story does have a literal magic-stealing murder villain who is behind a conspiracy. Granted, the protagonist isn't necessarily all good either. 

However, I think or hope that future chapters do show more nuance with the social and political issues. Though I admit it will probably take me a few passes to really hit it right. I'll probably need to do a pass over this just focused on the social issues and politics. And I'm toying with adding more chapters from other character's point of views to add more nuance. Right now, it's mostly just A. Though there are a few chapters from the POV of their college friend / ex-girlfriend who is the head of magical law enforcement. And that gets interesting when they have a reunion given A has a bit of an ACAB attitude and still has some feelings for the ex. 

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

Also, I had to go back and check, because I hadn’t been thinking of this as an evening class. Maybe calling that out a little more clearly if it wasn’t (it’s possible I just missed it).

 

It was evening class in draft 1...then I made it a late afternoon class so I could squeeze in a tutoring shift on the same day, and put the class before getting ambushed in the faculty lounge. 

Originally the faculty thing happened first, but the people who read it said I got there too quick and wanted to get to know A more first. So I flipped things. 

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

I don’t have a really good understanding of the range of thoughts and feelings associated with deadnames, so I found it interesting that A- specifically doesn’t consider Ai- a deadname.

So a lot of times when I think of dead names, I think of them in the context of being trans where when the person is transitioning, they choose a name and the name they were given becomes a dead name. And usually saying it is a bad thing because it's not who that person is. Sometimes there is a lot trauma associated with a given name. 

In this case, A was an alias but it's starting to feel more like them than their old name. However, there is a part of them that is still Ai even though they're running from that past. They're not really sure who they are anymore.  Part of it is a coping mechanism. Ai did bad things even if they thought it was for a good cause. So the new name / identity is a way to distance themself from he things they did.

I'm not sure if I'm overcomplicating the name thing or not. 

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

As a side note, I think out of all of the things I’ve read of yours so far, A- has been the protagonist I’ve related to most.  Social anxiety and frustrations with public education systems? Yup. It might not be flashy, but sign me up.

 

Glad to hear this. :-)

Thank you so much! 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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Overall

I like the concept here, particularly the community college aspect of magic school. However I think the pacing is too slow (we don't get to the inciting incident until the last page) and there's a lot of fluff. There's also a loss of wonder in the middle sections that would be so much more engaging with a bit of 'thickening' (suggestions below).

I think if you cut most of the middle stuff, moved up those 'previous chosen one' section, then had A teach (horribly, or with Plot Movement) and then flee the class and meet the dean, that would work. However I'm not sure having A's background revealed in chapter 1 is the way to go. I'd rather see them struggle with this for a few chapters, or have it be the start of the second act. It creates tension, knowing they are trying to keep their identity a secret, and then that tension is gone by the end of chapter 1. 

TLDR: restructuring! 

 

As I go

- the first eight lines are amazing. The next bit steals their thunder. I'd suggest making line nine a zinger, like Poor people didn't go to those magical schools. Something to really cinch what you're trying to say. you set up a one-two punch sort of thing, then didn't deliver the second beat

- pg 1: so this is community college magic school and I think it'd be cool to hang a lantern on that. Directly. The MC is hedging around it and not being clear, and so you're losing the momentum from the great opening

- pg 3: I think you've missed an opportunity to put the magical into this magical community college. As you describe the old building, it'd be nice to get bits of magic info, too. Streamers left up too long and the spell was half degraded and they dangled at head height. Old wizard portraits on the wall, not a single witch, etc. Because by page three there's no magic anymore, just an old community college.

- pg 4: I'm bummed this isn't doesn't seem to be about a community college magic school and more about Al being an undercover super magician etc.

- pg 5: too much political background through here for a world I don't yet care about. Too much talking. I need something concrete to sink my teeth into, and there isn't yet an inciting incident, either

- pg 6: all it required was touching the charm already programed into a dry erase marker. <-- I want more of this type of thing!

- pg 9: really was just A and wasn’t trying to hide the fact that they were a ridiculously over powered burnt-out former teenage chosen one, they would’ve taken some anxiety potion and driven students, because SO66 did need to be protested. . <-- okay this needs to be on page one or two. Here is the buy-in I needed post community college magic school start. This is why I care about A, and makes me want to understand SO66, instead of skimming over it as marginally relevant chitchat for a plot that hasn't started yet

- and then the paragraph after it is also good and needs to be in those first two pages. It's background motivation for A

- pg 10: gets repetitive. We already know this. 

- pg 13: identity revealed, but not in a build up sort of way

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9 minutes ago, kais said:

However I'm not sure having A's background revealed in chapter 1 is the way to go. I'd rather see them struggle with this for a few chapters, or have it be the start of the second act. It creates tension, knowing they are trying to keep their identity a secret, and then that tension is gone by the end of chapter 1. 

I'm not 100% sure either, but I don't think the inciting incident would work without it. The plot is kicked off by people knowing and by delaying that, I would just be adding filler. 

I think I'll wait and see how a few more chapters go before I start with major plot changes. 

41 minutes ago, kais said:

TLDR: restructuring! 

 

The trimming and moving some stuff around makes sense. That should streamline things. 

42 minutes ago, kais said:

- pg 3: I think you've missed an opportunity to put the magical into this magical community college. As you describe the old building, it'd be nice to get bits of magic info, too. Streamers left up too long and the spell was half degraded and they dangled at head height. Old wizard portraits on the wall, not a single witch, etc. Because by page three there's no magic anymore, just an old community college.

 

Making the building more magical makes sense and will be a fun revision. 

 

Thanks for the feedback! :-)

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20 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I was going for a general "bad anxiety day". I can clarify with a sentence or two, I think. 

I figured that might be the case, but having it pointed out could be helpful.

20 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

This is more of an A issue than necessarily a narrative as a whole issue, though I am not 100% sure how to make that distinction. A has some strong opinions about things but that doesn't mean they're all right or accurate.  Some of it is a coping mechanism to deal with past trauma. 

Okay. I wondered if that might be the case.  I think the biggest helpful thing would be to have people A- seems to trust/agree with push against their ideas a little bit.  Maybe have them mention something off-handed about wealthy politicians or the military and have D or J either visibly bothered by it or make a comment that "x thing has its problems. I see them and have lived them, but there's more to it than that" if the relationship between student and teacher here allows for it.  Just something to give an idea that not all of the characters are staunchly of exactly the same opinion, and that A's history gives them some stronger biases on some topics.

20 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I'm not sure if I'm overcomplicating the name thing or not. 

I don't think so. The explanation makes sense, and I appreciate it.  Mostly it stuck out to me because it called out the fact that my understanding of people's experiences with deadnames isn't very thorough, and I figured I'd ask about it since the forum gives me the opportunity to do that. If I came across it in a published book, I would probably just shrug and go with it.  Thanks for the thoughts! 

 

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An interesting first chapter! I have some similar comments to @kais. It's good a lot of interesting hooks, but I think some things are revealed too early.

On 2/6/2022 at 8:35 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

Also, my non-binary main character uses they/them pronouns

I think it's fine through most of the chapter as long as the first time "they/them" is used, it's absolutely clear. Where A is introduced, the pronoun could also be referring to the school, so it's a little confusing.

22 hours ago, kais said:

- the first eight lines are amazing. The next bit steals their thunder. I'd suggest making line nine a zinger, like Poor people didn't go to those magical schools. Something to really cinch what you're trying to say. you set up a one-two punch sort of thing, then didn't deliver the second beat

Exactly the same response to this but I couldn't quite figure out what was wrong. I think Kais nails it.

22 hours ago, kais said:

I think you've missed an opportunity to put the magical into this magical community college. As you describe the old building, it'd be nice to get bits of magic info, too.

Also agree.

22 hours ago, kais said:

However I'm not sure having A's background revealed in chapter 1 is the way to go. I'd rather see them struggle with this for a few chapters, or have it be the start of the second act. It creates tension, knowing they are trying to keep their identity a secret, and then that tension is gone by the end of chapter 1. 

This is the other big thing I saw as well. There are several sections with large "tells" in the them rather than "shows," especially when describing people. That combined with completely revealing A's identity robs some tension for me. I'd also prefer the reveal to be in Ch 2 or 3, where we have a picture built up of the Chosen One vs. Al. 

Again, I think it's  a good start and restructuring will help. I am left wondering a bit where the book is going after the first chapter. It's titled "community magic" but it's focusing on the burnt out chosen one. Both are good stories, but I don't think they're the same ones. Right now I'm more interested in the community of students because they all seem really interested (especially J) and finding out how they relate to A as a teacher. I'm not as interested in A suddenly being revealed for what they are under the illusion. Getting to know them for a few chapters before that reveal would help, I think.

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: I like the opening! Reminds me of The Magicians.

pg 1: first pronoun for Al is a little confusing as it could be referencing "the schools"

pg 2: "decidedly not looking at the mural"
--okay, but we're not given any indication of why not.

pg 2: "their fallen books."
--Did they fall when A tripped?

pg 3: there's a lot of references to different types of neurodiversity in a couple pages. Not saying it's bad, but it took me a bit to note that several (?) students and A all had various things noted.

pg 3: "maintain the illusion"
--An interesting conflict!

pg 3: "And with the way their magic reacts to violence when it’s directed at them"
--should be in past tense?

pg 4: "That the celebrity mage"
--okay, glad we got a hint here. The scale was escalating with everything else, making me wonder why A wouldn't risk it. This makes it clearer.

pg 5: "senators have been voting in unusual ways and are being very elusive about it in interviews. Even my father is acting strange.” 
--that...seems very plotful. Like a big neon signed painted at "here's the baddy." Can it be a bit more subtle?

pg 5: "hurting people with their magic"
--maybe a hint of why at this point? Is magic very destructive?

pg 5: "D was eighteen..."
--there's a lot of telling in this paragraph and I think some of it has already been shown in places.

pg 6: "small magics they could do"
--again, a lot of telling here. Could just say they couldn't risk using magic and show it when something bad happens.

pg 6: also, a bit long on the intro here and getting into class.

pg 6: "the mural"
--here we get some explanation, but having A originally not look at it in...fear/disgust/apprehension/etc would help.

pg 7: Uh...A's name change doesn't seem that large, if I'm inferring things correctly.

pg 8: Great anxiety descriptions in here.

pg 9: "ridiculously over powered burnt-out former teenage chosen one"
--again, maybe too much on the telling side. Now I'm wondering what the hook is for the book if we already know why A is hiding.

pg 10: "MUPs"
--maybe don't need this worldbuilding yet? Maybe in the next chapter?

pg 12: "Rumor had it not even the harshest potions could damage it."
--Lol. It's the best Gloss!

pg 13: “Not a deadname,” 
--ok, glad they said that, because I was going to.

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4 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

It's titled "community magic" but it's focusing on the burnt out chosen one. Both are good stories, but I don't think they're the same ones. Right now I'm more interested in the community of students because they all seem really interested (especially J) and finding out how they relate to A as a teacher. I'm not as interested in A suddenly being revealed for what they are under the illusion. Getting to know them for a few chapters before that reveal would help, I think.

So when I really think about it, the plot is about saving college. The story is about A grappling with their past and who they are while trying to save the college. 

Breaking the curse is one step in the "save the college plot" that involves both students and faculty. I don't have any student POV chapters, but I might add some later.

So maybe that scene with A's colleagues ambushing them isn't the inciting incident. I'll have to think about it more and see what the reactions to the next couple chapters are.

I'm not 100% sure I need the other teachers--the students could be the ones who figure out the pres is cursed and figure out who A is, which would push it later. But I'm not entirely sure I want to go that route. I do like having the other teachers in there for a few reasons. 
I have about 40K of readable words and another 20K of incoherent chaos. 

2 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 1: I like the opening! Reminds me of The Magicians.

 

Thanks! :-)

2 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 3: there's a lot of references to different types of neurodiversity in a couple pages. Not saying it's bad, but it took me a bit to note that several (?) students and A all had various things noted.

 

A has some undiganosed neurodivergence as well as depression and anxiety. D is autistic and has anxiety. C, who has been mentioned by we haven't met yet, has ADHD.  J has anxiety and PTSD. They are quite a group, I guess. I might be able to re-word some things here and there to make it a little clearer. 

2 hours ago, Mandamon said:

--maybe a hint of why at this point? Is magic very destructive?

 

A's magic, specifically. But if I restructure I can work that in sooner. 

2 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 7: Uh...A's name change doesn't seem that large, if I'm inferring things correctly.

 

 You're not the first one to mention this. My logic was they picked something similar so they could easily remember it's their name.

2 hours ago, Mandamon said:

--Lol. It's the best Gloss!

 

lol I had to squeeze a reference in 

 

Thank you for feedback!! :-)

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As I read:

p1 “sacrificial parents” uh, I interpreted this a little differently than how I think it was meant, which I think is selfless parents paying for their child’s school and not parents being lead to some kind of altar….

“Students could learn magic at the school where they…” This is picky, but I stumbled over whether “they” referred to A or the students here. Grammatically the antecedent could be either, and since we haven’t yet been definitively told that A is nonbinary, we don’t have the context to figure it out.

So these are college-age kids? Yes?

J seems… almost like he’s in charge.

Sometimes A’s last name has an e on the end, sometimes it doesn’t.

Oh, whoa, that was a more definite response from A than I was expecting on the community magic question.

P3 “How hard would it be…” This should probably end with a question mark?

Okay, so I kind of adore the PPG club. I’m having a hard time putting my finger on how the relationships work – this doesn’t feel quite like a teacher/student relationship to me. I’m having a hard time articulating why, though, which I know isn’t terribly useful, sorry.

I like the hints we’re getting about A’s identity and their abilities now, and was engaged with their worries all the way up to dead cops – all of that made sense to me. But then we were suddenly on revolution and insurrection, and it felt like a large jump. I’m not even sure that’s a bad thing, but definitely a jump.

On the next page now and reading about the bill. This is starting to make more sense. I wonder if there’s the opportunity to move the bits specific to revolution/insurrection down, after we’ve gotten the information about the bill, to give it a bit more context. Then it will also feel more like an upping of the stakes, as it becomes clearer that A is probably gonna go to this thing.

P4 “A knew they governor” should be ‘the’

I don’t know why, but I laughed at the description of J being built like a tank (in a good way). Maybe it was just the juxtaposition.

And oh, okay, the background on J we’re getting here is helpful. Maybe move, if not all of it, at least J’s age up to earlier in the chapter so we know he’s supposed to feel like the adult in the room.

P6 “A backed up” makes it sound like they’re backing away from the students, i.e. retreating

“why some people even though” should be “thought”

Torn between deciding “famous mage of unknowable power” is too on the nose or just on the nose enough. It definitely brings a bit of a lighter, more humorous tone to the worldbuilding IMO, because it’s a bit over the top. The sparkles and glitter are great though.

P10 I take back my comment about MUPs. This is perfect. Please carry on.

“About time you got here.” Confused. Isn’t this person entering the place where A is, not the other way around?

“The fridge that had A’s supper.” Okay, I adore this detail.

Why, I believe I recognize that nail polish ;)

“G is cursed…” I don’t know what I was expecting from this ambush, but this wasn’t it.

So… this is a fairly modern world, yes? Does A have a completely separate legal identity then, that even the top administrators at the school don’t know? Or does illusion power somehow cover birth certificates, taxes...

Overall: I enjoyed this. There’s definitely some good stuff in here… I almost wonder if it isn’t too much, and should be broken up over a couple of chapters.

You’ve got the march/protest, with an almost immediate jump up to possible revolution/insurrection even before we know context of the protest. It’s probably a few steps, IMO, from “funding cuts” to “insurrection” but here they’re both dangled in front of us at once. And then you’ve got A’s secret identity that they struggle with, which is almost immediately threatened mid-chapter before being outright revealed at the end of the chapter (with a new thread no less, the curse!) and defusing what I had assumed was going to be a major source of tension. Based on the first few pages, I completely misinterpreted what was going to be the inciting incident, which I thought was going to be A going to decide to go to the protest against their better judgment with the threat of their identity (and related bad stuff) hanging over them. Instead they’re discovered right off the bat, by two different sets of people, and I’m left unsure how this ties into the “save the college from funding cuts” thread at all. I think what’s needed is to figure out which of these threads is the inciting incident, with immediate short-term ramifications, and set the rest up as longer-term conflicts that will arise as the narrative goes on (which is why I think some of this might need to be in more than one chapter).

On 2/6/2022 at 5:35 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

and I haven't found any natural seeming place to explain their gender,

I don't think you need to EXPLAIN their gender, but giving us one spot early on where we can identify what pronouns they use would probably be helpful, only because in this specific case you have "they" referring to a bunch of OTHER people and things before we see it referring to A themself.

On 2/7/2022 at 0:24 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

I'm not sure if it made the cut or not, but the fancy schools can actually be more risky than the cheaper ones.

I don't think it did, but this is a great detail, and worth including - if not in this chapter - than in a later one.

On 2/7/2022 at 0:24 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

I'm not sure if I'm overcomplicating the name thing or not. 

I don't think so, FWIW. I thought it was a good distinction, useful characterization for A and for the character who originally called out the deadnaming (sorry, I don't remember who but that's because my brain is mush not because of your writing).

On 2/7/2022 at 1:28 PM, kais said:

- pg 6: all it required was touching the charm already programed into a dry erase marker. <-- I want more of this type of thing!

agree

On 2/7/2022 at 1:28 PM, kais said:

- the first eight lines are amazing. The next bit steals their thunder. I'd suggest making line nine a zinger, like Poor people didn't go to those magical schools. Something to really cinch what you're trying to say. you set up a one-two punch sort of thing, then didn't deliver the second beat

I think this really nails it, yeah.

6 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I have about 40K of readable words and another 20K of incoherent chaos. 

LOL this sounds about right for a draft.

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7 minutes ago, Silk said:

It’s probably a few steps, IMO, from “funding cuts” to “insurrection” but here they’re both dangled in front of us at once.

A lot of steps but this was supposed to be an anxiety spiral and those don't make sense. I was trying to show Al's thoughts not making sense. but maybe they need to be more aware they are aren't making sense. Or I could cut that part. 

9 minutes ago, Silk said:

Based on the first few pages, I completely misinterpreted what was going to be the inciting incident, which I thought was going to be A going to decide to go to the protest against their better judgment with the threat of their identity (and related bad stuff) hanging over them. Instead they’re discovered right off the bat, by two different sets of people, and I’m left unsure how this ties into the “save the college from funding cuts” thread at al

I'm not 100% sure which really is the inciting incident...the funding cuts and the curse are actually closely related but that isn't revealed for a while so to the reader it will feel like two separate things. I need to figure this out, lol.

 

42 minutes ago, Silk said:

Why, I believe I recognize that nail polish ;)

 

Yup!!

 

32 minutes ago, Silk said:

So… this is a fairly modern world, yes? Does A have a completely separate legal identity then, that even the top administrators at the school don’t know? Or does illusion power somehow cover birth certificates, taxes...

 

Those things had to be forged with a mix of magic and non-magical means. 

 

Thank you very much!! 

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13 minutes ago, shatteredsmooth said:

A lot of steps but this was supposed to be an anxiety spiral and those don't make sense. I was trying to show Al's thoughts not making sense. but maybe they need to be more aware they are aren't making sense. Or I could cut that part. 

Hmm.  I still wonder if moving this bit down might help as Al has more chance to stew on their thoughts and we get a chance for a bit more context. Or maybe you need to spell out the hypothetical steps more clearly for readers so that we can see that they're unreasonable. Or a combination?

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First impressions, might have more later.

I'd like to step in and say I don't really think you need to explain why A is avoiding the mural (at least not in the very sentence it is introduced). The fact that they are purposely avoiding looking at it implies enough that it is an uncomfortable for some reason, and being vague makes me question and read on. I agree with the point that being 'outed' as their former self is a bit too early, but I'm not sure it makes sense to criticize that being too quick while also wanting to find out immediately why the mural is so uncomfortable.

I was a bit confused about why A was picking up fallen books, I felt I'd missed something. I did reread and remembered that they tripped,

There were a few possible typos (e.g. D's name changing, 'A knew they governor', 'they'd be a lot of dead cops').

The idea of A being a 'celebrity mage' gave me a different idea of where the secret was heading before the MUP reveal. More like if Elizabeth Olsen or Michael Fassbender were trying to keep a low profile vs if Wanda Maximoff or Magneto were trying to, if the distinction makes sense?

I see what you mean about the non-binary pronouns being as nonchalant as binary cis people's are, but there were a couple of times where I got confused about when you were using the 'singular nonbinary' they vs the 'plural' they (I'm not sure what the exact terminology would be, sorry). E.g. 'Learn magic at the school where they taught writing'. I eventually figured out that it meant A was teaching, but I first thought it meant 'they' as in 'the school as a whole' and it referred to a school with mundane subjects alongside magical ones. Kind of like how people talk about Hogwarts doesn't teach maths or essay writing, and then a smaller school where magical students actually learned those subjects.

The line near the beginning about 'less sacrificial parents' bugged me. It seemed to be a little closer to a dole-bludger/welfare cheat type of criticism, which is at odds with the rest of the chapter constructing A as an anti-elitist, 'free education for all' person.

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52 minutes ago, jamesbondsmith said:

The line near the beginning about 'less sacrificial parents' bugged me. It seemed to be a little closer to a dole-bludger/welfare cheat type of criticism, which is at odds with the rest of the chapter constructing A as an anti-elitist, 'free education for all' person.

I think that line is going to go. Almost everyone pointed it out and I'm not sure I had really given enough thought to it's meaning initially. 

53 minutes ago, jamesbondsmith said:

The idea of A being a 'celebrity mage' gave me a different idea of where the secret was heading before the MUP reveal. More like if Elizabeth Olsen or Michael Fassbender were trying to keep a low profile vs if Wanda Maximoff or Magneto were trying to, if the distinction makes sense?

 

That does make sense. I'll try to use a different word there. I was trying to get at they had sort of super hero status and gave the wrong impression instead. 

 

Thanks for the feedback!! 

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All right let's get into it!

pg 1. In terms of very first impressions, I like the clear twist on the magic trope here, but I also want to be gripped by the first line and not have it be generic so that it gets knocked down in the next paragraph. 

-I don't think the bottom paragraph is necessary, at least as someone living in the US who immediately knows why that kind of education is less prestigious where I live

pg 2. Where are we, exactly? I think magic being involved means I need more info than I otherwise would. It seems like we're on earth?

pg 3. So far it seems like the thematic setup around education and social class is disconnected from the current scene. I'm guessing it connects eventually but it might help to see more of those connections early on

-So the march is specifically a protest? Might be helpful to clarify that as soon as we see it so we know it's not like the equivalent of a march for cancer cure. Does this also imply that mages are being beaten down? Given the first page I assumed mages hold a place of prestige

pg 4. Old identity is an interesting hook

-The funding being cut is the clearest connection we have to the first page right now. I want that to be the first dynamic I understand about this scene 

pg 5. Now I'm guessing we're not on Earth. I know it's good to avoid dropping a lot of names but telling us what places are called would be an easy way of fixing that confusion for me

pg 6. I think the story might be able to be a bit more explicit about what SO66 is, even if it involves exposition. Right now I just want to know what's going on and am willing to read through a paragraph of explanation.

-This might be connected to me understanding it, but I think I care less about this large-scale bill and more what's happening to this specific school. The budget cuts were interesting to me because they connected to the themes on the first page but it seems like that isn't the focus

pg 7. Hmm and now this mural thing feels disconnected from everything else too. I do think there's a lot of potential with this thread though

pg 9. Them being a former chosen one is another interesting thread that also doesn't quite feel connected to the story. Maybe this could be the segway from page 1 into the first scene? It would be easy to bring up teenage chosen ones with the whole magic school thing.

pg 10. Another point of difficulty is that handing power over to the oppressed is a lot more complicated than he's making it sound, in the sense that they probably don't have the proper framework to deal with that power 

pg 12. I think I might need to see more of why this was figured out. And honestly I think it might be more interesting if their identity stays hidden for longer and they have more time to wrangle with it. After all, they can figure out that A's a powerful mage without figuring out exactly who they are. 

On 2/6/2022 at 8:35 PM, shatteredsmooth said:
1. What is working / what do you like about this chapter? 
2. Are there any places where you lost interest and/or got confused? Where? 
3. I have a bad habit of long internal monologues. Did you notice any I need to trim?

1. A lot of the individual threads here are interesting. Off the top of my head:

-Magic education and degrees from community colleges being looked down upon due to classism, budgets being cut: I like

-The bill and protests: I'm not as engaged with

-A being a former teenage chosen one: I like

-The deal with the school administration forcing them out in the open: Not as engaged with

2. Losing interest: Mostly me losing interest was feeling like all of the threads of the story (see above) were disconnected from each other. It feels like we jump around a lot thematically. I think either finding a way to weave different elements together or focusing on one for now and bringing the others in later could work. 

I think one difficulty is that the opening is specifically about economic struggles but a lot of A's deal is about interaction with a vague "system" involving legislatures, police action, ect. The story seems to be acting like these are interchangeable but imo it hasn't actually established that. Obviously there are connections but the story talking about school being expensive and the culture looking down on community college degrees does not prepare us for protests and discussions of a police state. 

And then where we actually get motion is around A's identity, which I feel like isn't the story that was promised from the opening or the first scene. 

Basically, I think the story has a lot of potential and a lot of interesting points but I'm not sure it knows exactly what it wants to be right now. 

Confusion: mostly around the setting. I'm sure the republic and all being unnamed is intentional but it's not doing me any favors. The character names and culture make me think we're on earth but the lack of republic being named and the history makes me think we're in a fantasy world. 

3. I didn't mind any of it though I'm probably more tolerant of inner monologues than a lot of people. Tbh I wanted a bit more of A mulling stuff over in their head because I didn't understand the setting that well. 

 

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13 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 12. I think I might need to see more of why this was figured out. And honestly I think it might be more interesting if their identity stays hidden for longer and they have more time to wrangle with it. After all, they can figure out that A's a powerful mage without figuring out exactly who they are. 

On 2/6/2022 at 8:35 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

This seems to be the verdict from almost everyone. I just need to figure out how to do it without making the opening super slow / delaying the inciting incident too long. 

13 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Confusion: mostly around the setting. I'm sure the republic and all being unnamed is intentional but it's not doing me any favors. The character names and culture make me think we're on earth but the lack of republic being named and the history makes me think we're in a fantasy world. 

 

This also seemed to be a point of confusion for others. I'm intending it to be an alternate Earth. Similar to present day, but a little different, because there has always been magic. I'll work on the world building. 

 

I also need to pick a thread to focus on in the begining, and then weave the others in later as subthreads. But which one to pick...that is the hard part. 

 

Thank you for the feedback!! 

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6 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I'm intending it to be an alternate Earth. Similar to present day, but a little different, because there has always been magic.

One suggestion here is to have country names that are clear references to Earth but are different from what we have. Stuff like "Republic of United American Provinces" (bad example but you get the idea). 

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2 minutes ago, Ace of Hearts said:

One suggestion here is to have country names that are clear references to Earth but are different from what we have. Stuff like "Republic of United American Provinces" (bad example but you get the idea). 

That is a good idea.

In my notes it was The Murican or Merican Republic but I worried it might be too on the nose.

I'm sure eventually I'll come up with something better. 

 

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7 minutes ago, jimswilley1 said:

I am getting some knowledge about fridges. Would you tell me about  which gas is used in the refrigerator currently? 

... what?

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3 hours ago, Thaidakar the Ghostblood said:

... what?

Looks like a spam post. Dealt with accordingly, thanks. 

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Just now, Silk said:

Looks like a spam post. Dealt with accordingly, thanks. 

k.

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