shatteredsmooth

20220411 - Junk Junction Resub 2 - 4938 words - ShatteredSmooth (Sara)

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Here is more of the spooky middle grade book, Junk Junction. I'm concerned I broke something about these chapters trying to fix them--made them worse instead of better. The revision was focused on pacing and character reaction, so I'm particularly interested in feedback on those things, but am also open to whatever other feedback you have.
 
 
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This is much improved from the last version I read! There were a couple places that could be cut down a bit, but overall, this moved me through the story well, and we learn a lot about A in these chapters. We also get some powering up for E, getting ready for the final fight, and then a try/fail with going after M the first time. I don't think the chapters are broken at all. You couple maybe combine 9 and 10, but that also might make the resulting chapter too long.

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: "I opened radar on"
--the radar

pg 1: "The first thing I needed to do was make sure I was right about who A was"
--this is vague. Meaning E is trying to affirm his gender? Or is there something else?

pg 1: "went on with the story"
--what story?

pg 3: "He traced the outline of a man and a lanky teenager. The man had a cane, and even in the grainy photo..."
--Confused. Where is the photo?

Chapter 8: I thought the pacing was pretty good here. It's all learning about A. and the arc reflects that.

pg 5: "when our mom’s are mannequins?"
--moms

pg 6: the pacing in here is a bit slower, especially compared to the discovery of the last chapter.

pg 7: The pacing picks up a lot when A emerges again. Maybe cut down the first two pages of this chapter a bit?

Chapter 9: This one stars a little slow, but picks up a lot once we see the memory. We're learning more about A again, so it's got some good character building.

pg 11: The try/fail here seems very quick. E's said they couldn't do it for an hour, and then suddenly they see the energy. What's different this time? Can it be linked to an emotion or something?

Chapter 10: this chapter feels a bit short. I wonder if it can be combined with the previous one to show both the memory and learning to see energy? That might be too much for one arc.

Chapter 11: No real notes here. The story kept me interested and it's a good try/fail cycle to progress things. I think it works.
 

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Overall:

I like the progress here, and am enjoying the story.

I think the biggest pacing note is that Chapters 9-10 are dragging a little bit. I wonder if that learning/training process could either be trimmed back or have some aspect to it that keeps it from just being E and A interacting on their own. Are there other interesting ghostly presences there that E could test their skills on instead of A, or maybe E does go too far and actually harm the ghost by pushing too hard at the magic tendril things? Or something else that lets us dig a little deeper into ghost-magic world in a fun way while E is learning?

Other than that, I think the pacing worked well through here. D also seemed to react far more naturally to things than in the previous section. She still comes across as a little more confident/calm than the average person might seem when her mom has just been turned into a mannequin, but I think with the peril a little more distant, that doesn’t seem as excessive as it did in the previous section.

Pg 1:

Is this set in the same world as the ghost train story? Or do you get attached to the ghosts made of memory concept like I get attached to some of my magic system ideas? :) 

Pg 2:

For someone who is extremely careful to get pronouns correct, the “I’m not entirely sure I would’ve listened” seems a little contradictory.

How much research did E do here? What they have here seems like it would fit onto a page or two, not fill a notebook.

“jolted” seems like not quite the right word here.

“needed to cut right to the important stuff.” Again feels a little off when they took a page to confirm pronouns.

Full-disclosure on where I’m coming from regarding pronouns (since I know others here have different experiences): It’s not as common now that I’m not actively working in an engineering office (though being a woman coaching a boys’ sports team brings it up now and then), but being a female engineer with a non-standard name spelling that is often misread as masculine, I am pretty regularly misgendered by people contacting me through e-mails before we’ve met in person. And while I’m absolutely aware it’s not the case for most people, it’s never bothered me much. I’m always going to do my best to respect that it does bother other people, and be considerate of that as much as I can, but it doesn’t hit home quite as hard for me. Probably because my experience with being misgendered has never had intentional rudeness behind it. Which I know is not always the case.

Given that: If someone were to go out of their way to confirm pronouns for me (I’d certainly appreciate the consideration) then went on to be intentionally dismissive of my concerns in other ways, that would bother me far more than an accidental misgendering in the first place.

I get that E is coming from a place where they’re going to be more sensitive to pronoun usage, but depending on what you’re trying to do with their character, you might want to downplay the “I don’t care if it’s rude, I need answers.” Tone. Or provide some consequences where that rudeness backfires and they have to learn to be more considerate and take conversation more slowly.

Pg 3:

“Photos of Sock-…” is this a place we’ve been introduced to?

“slammed shut” slammed the book shut?

Pg 4:

Think we need a little more clarification here. M killed B and N because they enforced unsafe working conditions? Or M was responsible for killing the workers?

M was a Fair- as well, right?  If E has been researching the history around the accident/fire/etc. I assume they’d be aware of who the owners and their family members were. Does E recognize who B and N are? Do they know how M was related to B and/or N? If they’ve been looking into it, I imagine that would be right at the front of the information.

Not sure who the “them” in “Some of them” is referring to.

Pg 9:

“expected his mother to materialize” Do we know who B’s mother is? Or where the vision is taking place?

Is E recognizing M’s voice? I’m assuming M is B’s mother, but I don’t think we’ve gotten those details in-text yet.  Also, do we know who As- is?

Pg 10:

And do we know who Al’s aunt is or what she taught him?

Pg 15:

“looming blizzard” With the heat/humidity of the day, is this more like a refreshing cold? Blizzard feels a little more threatening than I’d expect. And isn’t something I’d expect E to associate with A.

Pg16:

“As we crossed…” This paragraph had a couple clunky sentences.  I think cutting “the door to open, and for” might smooth out the first one. Especially since they already opened the door. In the second, the “the same slightly….shop” is just really wordy.

“she had still gotten snared by M…”

Might be worth an added couple words to remind us who D is. Also, his name is spelled two different ways on this page (one r and two)

“attic doors…vents” I think this detail just makes things more complicated while describing the room. I don’t think most readers going to immediately guess that the mannequins escaped into an attic, so eliminating the possibility feels unnecessary.  Same with trap doors.  I think confirming that there aren’t closets or back doors for M or the mannequins to be hiding in, or where the moms might have been hidden is thorough enough to get the point across to the reader that they aren’t there.

I’m a little surprised they aren’t suspicious that M managed to magically get past the lock/door. That would have been my first guess. Especially since things were missing from the other part of the shop too. Does E know enough about ghosts to eliminate that possibility? If not, maybe they can mention the possibility and have De correct them.

“fragment” shred? Snag? Scrap? Fragment doesn’t feel like a fabric-y term to me.

Pg 17:

Was Mx. R also turned into a mannequin? I don’t remember.  Though it’s possible I was focusing on being concerned about the moms and forgot about their involvement, since we hadn’t seen them on-page in the sections you’ve submitted (I think).

“teacups on the floor” broken? Or just placed there? If the latter, spelling out a word is going to require a whole lot of teacups.  If shattered, and the pieces form the letters, there’s probably a little less dot-connecting.

“this time next month…” I assume this was introduced in the first chapters?  I don’t remember seeing anything about it in the previous submission. If moving/losing their apartment (or whatever is going on there) is a big emotional point or plot point for E, I think we need a reminder of how that fits into the story events. I haven’t gotten a sense of any “home is where the heart is, not where our stuff is” or “seeking out a place that feels like home” sorts of themes (there’s a bit of “home=family” but not having read the opening, I’m not sure how E’s relationship with mom is set up, if it implies an arc). Mostly this seems like a big detail to have not been mentioned for 7-8k words.

Who do they think the message is coming from? I’d understood it as an angry, ghostly “Get out of here” (though that’s odd, since M is also gone).  If they think it’s some other ghostly force trying to help, it might be worth giving us a hint in that regard.

What dagger?

Is this feeling of purposefulness of the monster hunting kit drawn out when we first see it?  You may want to make sure that’s stressed early on. Maybe even as some sort of sense that the monster hunting kit wants to go out and hunt things, which startles E at first and makes them cautious of it.  But when they come back to it now, it seems like exactly the right tool for the job, even if E isn’t completely sure why/how (and is still a little cautious of its intentions).

You just want to make sure it doesn’t feel like a deus ex machina that can be whatever we need it to be in a few chapters. At the moment the “knowing it is important, somehow” feels a little plot-convenient.

“Added weight” how much holy water is this? And are the stakes going to be that heavy?  I’d almost suggest minimizing the physical weight of them. Stressing the mental/magical weight of them in E’s head. Making a point of that contrast.

Also, is this energy different from the ghost-energy? Why is it still here when the other ghost-related things are gone?

Pg 18:

What abilities does D’s mom have as a psychic that other ghost-sensitive people don’t? E is able to see the ghost-magic. Is there more to it than that? I’m assuming some of this is explained at the beginning, but it may be helpful to get reminders through D and E’s planning/learning of what a proper psychic would be capable of that they aren’t.

“a ghost and a dog”  Has Al- had any input on what’s going on here or what they should be trying to do next? I’d imagine his opinion to be important on that front.  Might be worth having them try to check in with him, even if he still needs more rest before he can provide any helpful input. Just to make sure they don’t seem like they’re forgetting one of their informational resources.

I like the closing line :) 

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Sorry I'm late to the party!

P2 “I assumed you were going to start by…” I feel like D should have explained this up front, it seems weird that she’d just assume it. I think you could still get some good tension out of here if they decide to ask anyway, knowing that he might not answer or might react badly.

“And whether or not M was a murder” should be “murderer”

p3 “M was ahead of her time in terms of safety… she killed them.” I’m guessing this is poison, but it’s jarring without further explanation, since these two statements seem contradictory.

P4 “floated like a feather and sunk…” Another stumble here. “floated” and “sunk” also seem contradictory.

P8 “Could he have been a psychic like D…” This seems like an odd conclusion for E to come to based on the things that A can’t do. A hasn’t done anything that seems unusual for being a ghost.

P10 “The memory... had revealed a couple of key details.” Again I feel like E is leaping ahead of us a bit here. It’s certainly a reasonable supposition, but doesn’t feel definitive considering we didn’t even see it happen, so E’s confidence here feels a bit off.

P11 “It felt like putting my hand through slushy soda.” Good reaction from E here, but I’m surprised we don’t also get one from A.

p12 “excitement literally lifting him” is it ghost A being lifted or doll A?

“...just long enough for E to free our moms!” couldn’t D do it too? She can also see the cords.

Overall: I’m glad to see the section between E and A adding some ghost/psychic training, it’s good worldbuiding for the conclusion that I recall being mostly absent from the last draft.

I think my biggest comment is that between this submission and the last one, it feels like we’re spending a lot of time watching the characters go back and forth between different locations—and I think there is more of this to come in the rest of the book. I wonder if there’s a way to reduce the number of trips between places or, at the very least cut down on the description of them (none of the individual descriptions of going from point A to B is noticeable individually, but taken together it feels like a lot.)

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Sorry for being so late.

Overall

It read pretty smoothly! Some comments below but generally it moved well and the chapters arced. This version has moved away from spooky caper and into mysticism, and while I'm not personally as interested in that, if it gets you the agent, do it up!

 

As I go

- pg 1: aww, that's sweet about the deadname

- pg 3: wait, why can he come out of the doll now? I don't understand. This seems plot convenient

- pg 3: A blur of purple slammed shut <-- I don't know what this means/what is happening

- 'ahead of her time in terms of safety' and 'she killed them' doesn't seem like it fits. Is this supposed to be jarring? Because it interrupts the flow of what was otherwise a nicely progressing spooky vibe

- pg 6: there are some great beats on this page, but the interior monologue goes on a bit too long. I'd suggest cutting at least one paragraph, like the one that starts with All my doubts about

- pg 9: she's stealing someone's life I feel like could be more specific. The vagueness makes it lose punch.

- pg 12: there's a lot more magic in this than I remember, a lot more of our MC having special powers and a lot less of solving a caper Scooby Doo style.

- pg 13: but he was apparently out of energy again <-- again, when he is around and when he isn't is very plot convenient

- pg 14: you're missing a period after Junk J on the second line

- pg 15: LOL at the Breyer horse! 

- nice end line to page 18, though I think I'd have liked a little more time and backstory on their weapons. That's the funny caper part I'm here for

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