shatteredsmooth

2.21.22_Magic Seaglass Story_ShateredSmooth (Sara)_2236 Words (D)

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Content Warning: Death, Dead body
 
Hi All!!
So this isn't the thing I originally planned to send. It's something new! A first chapter of a brand new book that doesn't even have a title.  I haven't written too much beyond this and currently have no outline. I'm open to any and all kinds of feedback. 
 
You may notice that one scene is in present tense and the rest is past. I need to pick one. Which do you like better? 
 
Do I have too much before the body being found? 
 
Thanks!
 
Sara
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Heyo! been a while since I've done a critique and honestly, I'm only doing this one because of your opening line. So good job on that! :D

pg 1

-Im already in with the first line

-still have me hooked with the following paragraph, i love it

-”the witch” Is there only one or can this be “a witch”? Edit: I see what you mean now, but upon reading this at first it makes me think “there was no mention of a witch before this so there must only be one”

pg 2

-”something even bigger” also great ending paragraph to this section

-”in addition” another great opener after the break. Im more of a past tense enjoyer, but i didn’t mind the present tense in the first part

“More focused its purpose” this wording confuses me a bit. Maybe “its” should be “the”?

“More could be” more that could be?

pg 3

“It certainly enough power” inclusion of was

“Public-snail” I read this as one word and was very confused

“To check on G” I was very excited to see where this was going, you got me hooked by the first section, but now I'm losing interest. I think that helping this random neighbor look for her wedding ring is a sharp turn from “magic requires death.” I just expected something a bit grittier.

pg 5

“Limp body” ahh now we’re talking, interest returned 

“Because person had died” this person?

“Where it’s life force” would it be more appropriate to say "their" rather than "its"? Im not sure about which is better or more accurate

pg 8

“The poor crustaceans” that's creative

“like a gavel”

 

Overall

I enjoyed this! I think my interest peaked with the first few pages (the beginning was the strongest imo) but I did enjoy it throughout. To answer your question about having too much before the body being found, I think yes, but only because my expectations might have been misplaced. I'm not sure where I expected this to go but it certainly wasnt "murder mystery." not a bad thing though! I really love the idea that magic is fueled by death, great concept. I think the ending could be a bit stronger, but I would continue reading this story to see where it goes regardless.



 

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Overall

Like the last story, there is an interesting premise here. This one needs a lot more fleshing out, however. I think you have about two pages of actual material here, and the rest is more of a writing exercise. There needs to be more world building and investment, and then less time talking and repeating things over and over. Once I get some investment and backstory in our MC, it will be a lot easier to move along with this murder mystery.

 

As I go

it can also be stolen from a killer who doesn’t know about magic <-- this would be stronger without the 'who doesn't know about magic' part

- the beginning page opener is strong, but we lose momentum fast. I think pages 1-2 can easily be condensed down into one page

- pg 3: I'd like to know why she is collecting magic and/or what she does with it at this point

- pg 4: it's hard not to skim. The narrative does not appear to have direction

- pg 5: But this was worse because person had died for the sake of magic <-- I'd rather be shown this, not told

- pg 6: and it was entirely possible that one of the witches in this room was a murderer <-- huh? Why? Is this like, a witch community? If so, could we get some world building on that before they have their Magic Users Anonymous meeting here?

- pg 6: Every cell right down to the gut bacteria was dead <-- would be more powerful if we saw this right when she discovers the body. Then we wouldn't have to rehash here, either

- pg 7: I don't know who these people are and don't care about them, either. Why does everyone care so much about a dead magic body? I need more world building for this to make sense, and I'm not even vested in our MC yet. What is her purpose? What are her goals? What does she do for a job? What does she normally use her magic for?

 

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Pg 1:

I like the opening, but there’s some clunkiness to the first full paragraph that could be smoothed over.

The present-tense is also making it feel a little clunky, but I think that’s more me not being used to it than actual grammar issues.

“still wants to feed the gulls” pov shift?

Pg 2:

Is all death sacrifice? I’d try to echo the phrasing of the opening line here. “In addition to death…”

Why change tenses for the new scene? Especially to have a past-tense scene after a present-tense one? (checking back in after re-reading the questions, I like the past-tense.)

Pg 5:

So how many of these witches are nurses or doctors or hospice workers who might just happen to be nearby? Are they allowed to use magic from people who have just died of natural causes? Or unpreventable ones?

Pg 6:

“It was why she had moved here.” and “witch who’d killed” tense errors.

The last thing mentioned as “F hated…” was her hating killing things. Using the same phrase here seems…excessive.

Long and maxi say the same thing.

The pronouns used for the dead person change through here.

Pg 7:

I’d be cautious about adding too many named characters here at once.  Maybe have one or two additional named people in this scene, and assign a couple of the lines to unnamed people in the room. Seems like S and H are the key important ones.

“Dead for a few days…”  I’d look up some information on what level of decomposition it would be at by then. Or check with one of RE’s resident medical experts.  I assume a body doesn’t stay all that neat if it’s been in the water for even a few days.

Pg 8:

Ooo. Lobster restaurant. Sneaky. Is the ratio of magic per creature related to size? Complexity?

 

Overall:

This was a fun one! As is often the case, I was hooked by the interesting magic system, and would definitely be interested in seeing it play out. 

I would say that you could trim down the ring-finding scene. It’s a nice chance to show what the magic can be used for, and to get us to the location where she finds the body, but it could probably be trimmed down to a few paragraphs. Especially if G is already aware that magic is capable of helping to find things.  Maybe she even called F over to find it?

There are some little typos and missing words throughout that you could probably catch with a grammar checker or just by waiting a bit and re-reading, but that’s fixable.

Also, I can’t remember where it was mentioned, but when F mentions that she’s only been there a couple weeks, I think having a brief note of why she moved there could be helpful to tie us to her.  Also, I’m not sure how many people are familiar with Mount Desert Island. If the coastal Maine setting/touristy-ness/etc. is important, that might be helpful to call out more clearly.

Looking forward to seeing what you do with this one.

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As I go:

pg 1. I do like the opening though fueling magic with death is a common enough concept that I'm not totally hooked. 

-So far this reads like middle-grade to me based on the word choice, but F seems to be older than most middle-grade protagonists 

pg 2. I don't mind the setup here but it seems unlikely that the story at large is going to revolve around the moral dilemmas of killing animals (does it have to be animals, also?) so I'm not sure what to take away from this scene

pg 4. I'm not totally sure why F harvesting magic is so reliant on snail girl. If bigger animals yield much more magic couldn't she like hang around a slaughterhouse or something?

pg 5. What interests me here is the idea of a second witch lurking around 

pg 6. Ah so there are a bunch of witches nearby. 

pg 7-8. I'm interested by the organization (coven?) of witches here but I think I need to see clearer dynamics about how they fit into society and how they interact with non-witches 

On 2/21/2022 at 0:45 PM, shatteredsmooth said:
You may notice that one scene is in present tense and the rest is past. I need to pick one. Which do you like better? 
 
Do I have too much before the body being found? 

Hmm I like present here because the language is pretty simple and straightforward so it feeling more immediate in present tense is helpful for me

The snail girl scene is good but I think the searching for the wedding ring isn't needed. Overall I do think the story benefits from getting to the body being discovered earlier since that's when it really starts.

Overall, I'm interested in the concept and most of what I want is for the worldbuilding to focus more on the cultural aspects of witches rather than just the dynamics of how magic works. We get bits and pieces of how they seem like outsiders and exploring that seems necessary for the story given how F is the point of contact between witches and non-witches (a setup which I do like). 

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P2 “It certainly enough power” it certainly wasn’t enough power? I think?

I’m curious as to why it makes a difference whether the seaglass is already part of a necklace, but not sure it matters to the story.

P3 “She made due” should be “made do”

Hmm.

p4 so when F noticed blonde hair in the water, I initially assumed it was snail girl. Since F doesn’t react, I now think it wasn’t, but I think we need a confirmation either way.

When you introduced St at the meeting my first thought was “Steven Segall”

p7 “a restaurant that specializes” should be “specialized”

“A lot of it involved spying on the police.” I thought H was asking her to be involved in interviews? Spying on the police doesn’t sound like interviews.

P8 “After they got the time and cause of death for the police…” should be “from the police

Still not sure how this involves spying on the police, though. Assuming that information is not released publicly (which would probably depend on whether or not the police suspected foul play, for cause at least) you already have someone sneaking into the morgue. Couldn’t you get the information from the files there?

I was confused by the last line. It feels like it’s supposed to be significant, but the library seems to be unrelated to anything

Overall: I’m going to say this off the top because I think it’s probably colouring my opinion fairly strongly – I actually thought this was the opening to a short story, and it wasn’t until the coven scene that I figured out it was probably supposed to be the opening chapter of a novel. I was expecting a quick escalation that didn’t come (well, sort of did, with the finding of the body) and so wasn’t looking for quite the same emotional touchstones as I would have been if I’d realized I was reading a novel. That being said...

I’m definitely intrigued! The first scene in particular had me pulled in pretty much immediately, and I had almost nothing to say about it.

My biggest question is around the scene with G. I wasn’t originally going to suggest it get cut, but it seems very different than both what came before and what comes after in terms of tone and content, and I’m not sure what it adds to the narrative other than presumably setting up a neighbour who becomes important later. If it stays, I kind of felt like there should be a scene break between it and finding the body.

As for the tense change, honestly, it was so smooth I barely noticed it. I thought the immediacy of the present tense definitely added to the first scene. As for the rest, it’s pretty normal to use past tense obviously and the scene change made it very easy to adjust.

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20 hours ago, Silk said:

I actually thought this was the opening to a short story, and it wasn’t until the coven scene that I figured out it was probably supposed to be the opening chapter of a novel.

Originally, I wrote the opening scene as a standalone flash fiction piece, but then decided I wanted to write more in that world. And accidentally switched tenses and then left it because I could decide which I liked better. So I can see why it you got the short story impression. 

Random question, do you think that opening would hold it's own as a flash piece? 

On 2/26/2022 at 8:23 AM, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 4. I'm not totally sure why F harvesting magic is so reliant on snail girl. If bigger animals yield much more magic couldn't she like hang around a slaughterhouse or something?

 

She doesn't like animal death and only uses very small magic. There certainly are witches in this world though they would hang around or work at a slaughterhouse. I'll try to make it a little clearer sooner that it's not just that she doesn't like doing the killing but also has issues with the death. I'm even toying with the idea or her being vegetarian or pescatarian. 

On 2/26/2022 at 8:23 AM, Ace of Hearts said:

Overall, I'm interested in the concept and most of what I want is for the worldbuilding to focus more on the cultural aspects of witches rather than just the dynamics of how magic works.

sounds good! 

On 2/25/2022 at 4:38 PM, C_Vallion said:

This was a fun one! As is often the case, I was hooked by the interesting magic system, and would definitely be interested in seeing it play out. 

 

Happy to hear this!!

On 2/25/2022 at 4:38 PM, C_Vallion said:

If the coastal Maine setting/touristy-ness/etc. is important, that might be helpful to call out more clearly.

I am planning to add more atmosphere and setting. I'll try to get it woven into the begining too. 

On 2/22/2022 at 5:19 PM, kais said:

I think you have about two pages of actual material here, and the rest is more of a writing exercise.

Not entirely surprising since two of the three scenes came out of writing exercises. 

On 2/22/2022 at 5:19 PM, kais said:

Once I get some investment and backstory in our MC, it will be a lot easier to move along with this murder mystery.

So should I add more world building and background stuff before the body? Or have the body show up a couple pages in then work in more of the stuff necessary to create investment? 

On 2/22/2022 at 3:12 AM, karamel said:

I'm only doing this one because of your opening line

Yay! Glad it hooked you in! 

 

Thank you everyone for the feedback! I really appreciate it. 

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4 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

 

Random question, do you think that opening would hold it's own as a flash piece? 

As a flash piece or compact short story, I do, yes. I actually thought you were going for a short story with "Magic requires X" as a framing device at first. But then I like to play with weird structural things.

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51 minutes ago, Silk said:

As a flash piece or compact short story, I do, yes. I actually thought you were going for a short story with "Magic requires X" as a framing device at first. But then I like to play with weird structural things.

I also thought this, especially since it was repeated.

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59 minutes ago, Silk said:

As a flash piece or compact short story, I do, yes. I actually thought you were going for a short story with "Magic requires X" as a framing device at first. But then I like to play with weird structural things.

So for a week I did daily flash fiction prompts, but kept writing this character and world, so then I combined some of them into a chapter. However...now I am picturing a short story where every scene starts with "Magic requires...." and maybe this is meant to be that. 

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