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Reading Excuses - 5/23/2022 - [Unnamned]

8 posts in this topic

Here's the topic for this, I'm exited to hear any feedback you guys have! 


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Welcome, and congratulations on your first submission!


I think what you have here is a great exploratory writing exercise. You're investigating your world and the characters, which is all part of building a good story. None of the segments appear to have a narrative arc, which is something you can address in rewrites. I think a lot of this will eventually be condensed down into maybe the first half of a chapter, and then you can finish the character and world building arcs. For right now it's great exploration of where you want the story to eventually go.


As I go

- great opening line

- pg 4: I am engaged, but all this mention of ash now at page four, and I'm starting to get a touch irritated. I need more info on why it is important to stay engaged

- pf 5: oh, it's a prologue? It ends very chapter like. I'm not sure what its point is. Does it substantially add to the narrative? The beginning might, so it might be that you just need to condense it to maybe two pages or so, have it end with the dad's burial in the water, which was great, and leave us readers hanging on that intriguing high note to head into chapter 1

- chapter one starts around page 8 I think

- pg 8: I don; t understand enough about the world to get what is happening here. The impact is lost

- pg 10: Chapter one doesn't appear to have an arc. It has maybe a page of new information. Can this be condensed with chapter 2 maybe? 

- pg 14: I'm also not sure what the arc of chapter 2 is


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Congrats on your first submission!

I have some similar thoughts to @kais on this. There are a lot of interesting parts, but I don't think it's quite condensed into a story yet. There were a few contradictions in the story that confused me, so I didn't get a very clear idea of the MC's personality.

I don't think the first chapter needs to be a prologue? It does take place significantly before the other chapters, but it still works as a continuation of time. I agree it could probably be condensed into the emotional impact of the moment just to get the point across.

Two chapters into the story, we're still missing an inciting incident. The lava flows aren't (?) threatening the town after all? The MC isn't leaving the town? I keep waiting for an event to happen, and it hasn't. 

All that said, I do like what I've seen of the world so far. It's definitely got potential for a story. A little more definition on the characters will help that out.


Notes while reading:
Pg 1: interesting opening paragraph.

pg 1: "So why did I hate him so much?"
--An odd question. Does the MC really not have any idea? I would think a person would know why they dislike someone that close to them.

pg 1: "wondering what people’s reaction to the statement would be"
--this is the third pause in speech and the third question from the MC. So far, they seem very unsure.

pg 2: "nobody disagreed that his help was precious"
--this is all very vague. We don't know what battles, or why the MC's father's battles were different than the others, or even if these battles are physical or mental.

pg 2: "I hadn’t asked the question that had been bothering me, but perhaps I didn’t need to."
--I guess that's his speech? Didn't he say he wanted to conjure up something good?

pg 2: "but I doubted anyone really cared.
I closed my eyes, ignoring him."
--So far, all the reactions have been of confusion, or ignorance, hatred, or boredom. The characters aren't excited about anything which in turn means I'm not excited about the story.

pg 2: "pain of his ash whip "
--soooo...maybe this is why the MC hated him?

pg 3: "our small town. It was definitely small, but compared to the others it was huge, and ancient."
--so confused here. Is it big or small? If it's "definitely" small, I don't think it could be "huge" compared to anything.

pg 4: "It wasn’t tall, but a small ring..."

pg 4: "lighting up with green light"
--there's several of this sort of thing in here. I'd look for doubled words and meanings and try to cut them down.

Ch 1

pg 6: "back. The workers quietly grumbled to themselves,"
--I thought he was a fair employer and gave out free beer? Why are the workers grumbling?

pg 7: "lazy sternums"
--odd phrase. Also, I realize by this point I still don't know the MC's name or gender.
--Edit: I went back and their name was mentioned once.
--Edit: ah, it's mentioned again a few paragraphs down. They still feel sort of like a blank slate. Aside from hating ash and their father, I don't really know a lot about them.

pg 7: "ones that destroyed our town?" "Our town hasn't been destroyed"
--Are these people from different towns? The same town? Confused.

pg 8: "Spell that my father had cast so many years earlier "
--again confused. At the end of the prologue they thought they only had a year. The MC just referenced their town being destroyed. Now the spell is eternal?

pg 8: “And I expect you to fix it.” 
--does the MC actually have any magical ability? I don't think we've been shown or told yet.

pg 9: "There was a single contact in my life, and that was that I knew who was responsible for our pain."
--Not sure what this means. A single contact? A single goal? purpose? fact?

pg 9: "He deserved to drown and rot..."
--We still don't really know what he did, aside from protect the town.

Ch 2

pg 11: "I always began another story no matter how much I promised to continue an unfinished one."
--and they still listened? I would get tired of that real quick.

pg 11: "seemed strangely tense."
--wasn't there a river of lava coming toward the town? Has anything happened with that?

pg 13: "He didn’t care about making a difference in the world, just in his own life.”
--Didn't he keep the town from being destroyed? I'm still not sure why the guy who kept everyone safe for years was disliked?

pg 14: "but my father’s influence had never ceased to be there"
--so basically the man was a hero. I'm very confused on everyone's reaction to him. He seems to have abused his child? Is that why everyone hated him?


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Congrats on your first submission! I think I'm pretty much in line with what the others have said so far. To the comments!

 “I’d thought it would be easier to conjure up something good…” I like this, very revealing.

“…like many in the line the Arcs call…” this feels a little as-you-know-Bob, like everyone in attendance should already know this. I think you can get away with the rest.

P2 “I had finally reached the uncomfortable part of the speech.” Good timing. We’ve got the setup, and so this feels like a good time to get to whatever comes next.

… except nothing seems to come of the “uncomfortable” part of Z’s speech. They sit down, nobody reacts, the next person speaks, things continue. A bit startling as I felt we were being primed for an inciting incident right here.

P6 “Depends on how quickly you get my field covered..” not sure whether we’re supposed to like G. The narrator does and respects how hard-working G is, but this makes G seem more like an overseer than someone who actually does the hard work himself (aka the thing the narrator respects him for).

P7 “It was his own fault nobody liked him…” Heh. But wait, if they hated him enough to prevent him from entering the afterlife (originally I had thought this was done for ritual/religious reasons, but this makes it just seem like dislike), why have a funeral at all?

“…get your lazy sternums…” I know this is supposed to be read as a joke but it’s definitely solidifying that I don’t like G.

The narrator seems like they’re… drifting a bit. They wander between jobs, and I’m not sure why they’re trying to make small talk with G. What’s the narrator’s aim here? A little more direction would be helpful.

Ooh! Screams! Inciting incident! Yes!

P7 “K, go check it out” isn’t the narrator’s name Z?

C is an old man? From “older than he looked” I had the impression of someone fairly young.

I think for the reveal to have an impact we need a bit… more. More description/emotion, more understanding of what the implications actually are. Is this the thing that was mentioned in the prologue? Because in the prologue they were expecting it to fail and then it didn’t. So if this is the same thing why is it a big deal now, years later?

P9 “and through the insanity…” This seems overstated since we’ve only seen one person get somewhat angry at the narrator.

The jump from Ch1 to Ch2 feels abrupt. We go from dire predictions about the end of the town to the character entertaining people in a tavern.

I really don’t know much about R aside from the fact that she’s friends with the narrator, so I’m not super-invested in her leaving. I think for this to work we either need a lot more characterization so that we as readers feel there is something to mourn—rather than Z just telling us he (I think?) is mourning—or we get the sense that this departure kicks the narrator into action somehow, that it’s an actual change for Z, more significant than just missing a friend.

Overall: There is an interesting setting for sure and what seems like the makings of an inciting incident -but it’s not yet totally clear what the inciting incident actually is. The failure of the spell seems like it should be it but it’s not entirely clear why that affects things or how immediate the threat is, since it seems like these chapters stretch over a long period of time without really changing.

I’m also wondering about need for the prologue. I thought it mostly worked on its own, but it seems to cover a lot of the same ground as the first chapter, so there’s probably some opportunities to consolidate here.

Also, general grammatical note: Once you’re ready for line-level passes make sure you check your grammar and punctuation around the dialogue (generally a dialogue tag is considered part of the same sentence as the dialogue it’s attached to, and is  capitalized or not accordingly).


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Welcome, happy to have another author submitting their work!

Prologue: Really interesting world building.  The ash and river of flame have a really dark melancholy feeling to them and I appreciate that (for the most part) the characters are using terms familiar to them without over-explaining them for the reader's benefit.

Chapter 1: I like the menial labor protagonist just trying to get by, somewhat unsatisfied with his circumstances but not enough to do something about it.  Feels like it is setting the scene for him to be chosen and thrust into greatness and machinations beyond his small town.

Chapter 2: The thread of this one lost me a bit at the end.  R leaving made sense as it pushed the protagonist to a new low and meant there was less holding him to the current small town, but I didn't follow the pain in his back and the green glow.  I was sort of expecting the conclusion of this chapter to be the event where he decides he needs to go make something of himself in the world.

Overall: I love the uniqueness of the imagery of hell being water as opposed to flames and fire and all the downstream impacts of that view.  There were some grammar items and some awkward sentence structures, but overall it flowed nicely.  I expect we should be very close to a real inciting incident that kicks off the adventure?  I have pretty high tolerance in stories for revealing the world slowly over time so I appreciate all the unknown terms and events, but something about the story events has to hook me pretty soon to keep investing time building up that context.


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Hey, thank you guys for all the feedback! Hopefully I can get some of these things worked out, but I'm happy to hear the story is doing some of the things I want it to, and I'm glad to know where it falls short. 

I'm a bit embarrassed to say that the inciting incident is... still on it's way. (Or maybe it's an inciting series of events, some of which have already taken place? My apologies for all the pacing issues, because there are a fair amount of them.) 

I'll avoid answering the questions you guys have, in the hopes that my writing can do that for you. 

Anyway hope the coming chapters do a bit better. Thanks again everyone!


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I know I'm way behind on these, but will be planning to get to this one and the other one you posted this weekend or this coming week.  

In the meantime, a belated congratulations on your first submissions :) 


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And after finally sitting down to do this, my computer froze when I was almost done and I got to retype half of it. Hooray, technology.


I really like a lot of the worldbuilding concepts here.  There are some really neat ideas, and I’m curious to see how they’re used.  However, I’m having trouble figuring out how some of them fully fit into the world because there are also a lot of seemingly disconnected details to sort through.  It’s probably worth going through and seeing what details you absolutely need this early on and trimming the extra things back.  It’s hard to juggle too many new details when we don’t have the framework of the world or how the MC fits into it figured out yet.

I also agree with the others’ thoughts that this could all be condensed a good deal.  There are a lot of introspective lines or paragraphs that are bogging things down a bit, where the thoughts are already implied by a dialogue line or a character action. Trimming those parts back is going to be really helpful in keeping the pacing up.


Pg 1:

The opening line is intriguing, but I think I need a little more information in the following paragraphs to not just be confused.  Having some questions is good, but too many without further knowledge of the setting can just be disorienting. 

“I hadn’t been sure…” is the MC just winging this speech? I can imagine this thought process occurring while putting a speech together, but it seems odd to go through it while giving the speech, as if they’re making it up as they go along.

Pg 2:

We have gotten a whole bunch of unfamiliar proper nouns before we know anything about the MC except that their adoptive father died. But I don’t have any knowledge about the setting to tie them to. We need to have some of these tied more solidly into our understanding of the setting and world before more are introduced.

“We were all thinking it” This would have more impact if the reader had enough information to guess at what that idea is.  Or if this was the only question left open to the reader. But as it is, there are too many detached details to have much idea of what this means.

Pg 3:

I really like the information we get here about the funeral rites (and that they’re basically cursing Dad here).  It could be smoothed out a bit, but I like the promise of interesting traditions/religions/etc.

Also, if everyone seems to have hated Dad, I’m surprised they made enough of a big deal of having multiple funeral speeches that seem to try to honor him.

This seems far too late for us to be getting the MCs name.

“I shrugged again.”  You have several lines like this paragraph, where Z’s introspection breaks up the pacing a bit and doesn’t provide much new information.  In many of these places, a single strong sentence would cover everything introduced in several sentences and wouldn’t drag on the pacing.

Pg 4:

“I want to be a hero” Good, clear goal. That’s helpful. But I still know almost nothing about Z to make me want to cheer them (did I miss a gender clarification? Or do we not know that yet) on toward said goal.

Pg 5:

“Shovels…” I like the idea of this sentence, but it’s a little wordy at the moment, and the “them”s and “the ones” make it less clear than it could be

Lots of shoving and shovels at the beginning of Chapter One is a little repetitive.

Pg 6:

Not sure why a “water pit” is a bad thing if ash is such a frustration/annoyance.  I’d think water would offer a reprieve from the ash, even if there do seem to be divine associations with the ash being provided by Ir-.   With a line explaining why water=bad, this would probably jump over into something different/unexpected being intriguing, but without that, it’s just coming across as a bit confusing.

There are a few places where you have dialogue formatted like this:

“Something something,” Person A says. Person B reacts.
“Response response,” Person B responds. Person A reacts.

It’s often clearer who is saying/doing what if you keep paragraph breaks separated by the individual involved.  This can also be handy for cutting out extra dialogue tags and adding some variety to sentence formatting.

Consider instead:

“Something something,” Person A says.

Person B reacts. “Response response.”

Person A reacts.

This can help create a visible shift at conversation shifts as well, which is helpful at times when multiple speakers might have the same pronouns.

Pg 7:

“…handing one of the men a bottle…” Are all of the workers here men? Is that confirmation that Z is male?

Also, it mentions in two places on page 6 that G provides beer for the workers, but he hands out wine here.

Also, also. How are they keeping drinks cold? And do they have something against drinking water (still unclear of why the MC wants to get away from the water pit, and am not sure if this is related. And if so, why is tea fine?)?

“I complained a lot” Not a great way to make us care about a character. Same with “I didn’t really care” a little way down.

“sternums” Odd synecdoche choice.  Why sternums?

“G- looked around, wondering…” pov slip.  If we’re in Z’s pov, we won’t know why G’s looking around.

Pg 8:

“K, go check…” Is K a surname? There have been a whole lot of names already, so adding a second for one of the characters before we’ve gotten a handle on who is who makes it hard to keep everyone in line.

Pg 9:

“By that night, I doubt…” tense error

If we don’t absolutely need to know that Z has this list, I don’t think we need it here.  We just had a big event happen, but we’ve gotten pulled away from it without having a clear idea of what it means. Also, if people are likely to blame Z for what happened, how is R the first one to show up here? How hasn’t Z been dragged to the center of a town meeting to explain what they’re going to do to fix it?

Pg 10:

Why would they expect Z to be their savior?  If there’s a reason for it, I think we need that much earlier.  Really, I think we could use a lot of this much earlier (the break in the shield and Z being blamed/expected to fix it).
Z has mentioned wanting to be a hero, and this doubt/fear seems to go alongside that, but the readers haven’t really been given much reason to cheer them on.

Pg 11:

Oh. What happened to the emergency of the encroaching fire that was supposed to make everyone hate Z?

“Leaving…” I’d gotten the impression that there wasn’t really anywhere to go from the town.  Z had mentioned wanting to leave previously, but seemed to feel trapped. Why’s R able to just go? Does the barrier thing entirely circle the town? Is that just a barrier for the fire-river thing? Or does it prevent other things from crossing as well?

“You used to talk about heroes…” I assume this is R talking, but am not sure.

“face didn’t match…” I’m not sure what this is implying about R’s expression.

Scars?  Did we know about scars?

Not sure of the distinction between basements and cellars… My family always used the terms interchangeably.  Granted, if Z is referring to the house as a shack, I sort of doubt there would be any basement at all.  Might be worth considering what effect the geography would have on the architecture. And what the technology level allows for.

Given that ash and fire-rivers have been the main weather features mentioned, I don’t see this as being an area that has a lot of issues with the ground freezing.  A lot of regions where basements are common, it was originally intended to create an insulating space below the main portion of the house that goes below the frostline so that you don’t have foundation shifting during freeze-thaw cycles.  And because it’s nice to not have sub-freezing ground directly underneath your living room floor.  If that’s not an issue, digging a basement for the average home is going to be a lot of unnecessary effort. And in an area with seismic activity, is going to be more of a risk than a benefit.

But I digress. (sorry. I live in an old house, and architecture fascinates me, so I get nitpicky about these sorts of things)

I like the water-hell idea, but it may need some extra explanation for what the significance of needing hydration to survive implies. Is there a difference between salt water and fresh water, religiously?  This also brings back questions about why Z’s dad’s ash magic was seen as evil. Especially since it seems to be protecting the town.


Congrats again on your first submissions! It's not easy, but it's a huge step in learning to improve as a writer!


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