ginger_reckoning

Reading excuses-10-31-2022-ginger_reckoning-changeling ch1v1-2900 words (V, G, L)

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Happy Halloween, all! It's been a while, so thanks for reading this. 

This is the first chapter of what I plan to write for NaNoWriMo this year. (Which starts tomorrow. Eep!) So far I have just the first two chapters and the outline written. Anyway, I wanted to hear your opinions on this piece before I write the main body of the story this month. So, I'm mainly looking for your overall reaction to the piece, and what your questions/expectations are for the rest of the story. 
 
Since the first chapter is one of the most important, I'd also like to hear your suggestions on how to make it really pop. Is it too fast? Are there too many descriptions that bog it down? That sort of thing. 
This story recycles the setting and some characters from one that I subbed here a while ago, but the plot is completely changed since then, just heads up. 
 
There is also one aspect of the plot that is reminiscent of a set of particularly tragic real-world events. Does that pull you out of the story too much, or is it too off-putting overall? 
I plan on subbing the rest in December or January, but I will keep your thoughts in mind for when I do the first revision. Thanks again!
 
(BTW I'm tagging for gore because of descriptions of shapeshifting, the actual gore is pretty low.)
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Here's my reactions as I read through.

Pg 1 - Great first line! I'm already intrigued and wanting to read more.

Pg 1 - "he subtly thickened the calluses on his hands." Interesting, he has some sort of shapeshifting power then?

Pg 1 - "So he does. Cool!"

Pg 4 "since it was extremely difficult to use their abilities to appear younger than you were." Interesting concept, I'm hoping to see this come into play later in later on.

Pg 5 "They had brought a telekinetic." Interesting. Shapeshifters as well as a telekinetic. I'm interested to see more of the world and how people with these powers are treated. So far it seems like there's laws against being a shapeshifter, but not being a telekinetic. I'm interested to learn how this happened.

Pg 6 "All shifters currently living within the borders of the city of E and neighboring territories are hereby required to wear a black metal armband on the right forearm." That sucks for the shifters. I'm hoping to see their reactions. Of course there's the protagonist's, but I'd like to see how the shifters at large react.

Pg 7 "biomages." I'm interested to see what these entail. Shapeshifting, but to others?

Pg 9 "D angrily faced a near-perfect reflection of himself..” This might just be my favorite way of manipulating someone I've ever read.

In answer to your first question, the only question I have is what biomages are. I assume this will be explained later. I'm expecting to see more of the government's interactions with shapeshifters.

In answer to your second question, I thought the first chapter was great! I was immediately hooked and wanted to read more.

In answer to your third question, The similarities to real world events didn't draw me out of the story at all. While reading I was focused on the story, not the similarities to the real world. 

I really enjoyed this. The three different powers introduced are intriguing, and I'm enjoying what I've seen so far of the shapeshifting. Thanks for sharing!

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This is a great start! The two biggest things I found were the original goal being unclear, and then a lack of a good hook at the end of the chapter. The worldbuilding is fascinating, and I think the link to current events gives this a little edge that makes it seem more realistic.

Looking forward to more!

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: "even if you could change your appearance at will,"
--These first two paragraphs are confusing as I thought he was just thickening calluses, but then it said he was pretending to be a different person, which sounds like he's changed a lot more.

pg 2: "one of the many names supplied by his client"
--I'm still unclear on what he's doing, though he and his client seem to be in on it.

pg 3: "Curious, A and several other workers wandered over to take a closer look."
--So now a few things have happened, with the client's wife and now this disturbance, but neither seem to be what A is trying to do. I'm wondering about that more.

pg 4: "a fellow m"
--I missed the reference the first time the word came up, but evidently it's A's species?

pg 5: Well that got dark quickly!

pg 7: "That was older for m than it was for humans, though."
--I assume this means emotionally? Since as far as I can tell, years are years, here.

pg 7: "He knew why someone would hire a m to stand in as themselves for an afternoon, to be witnessed by friends and coworkers."
--this would be useful to have up at the beginning.

pg 10: This is an interesting start, but the end of the chapter is lacking a hook. It needs something to propel readers on from here.

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On 11/1/2022 at 5:03 PM, FlowerGirl said:

I really enjoyed this. The three different powers introduced are intriguing, and I'm enjoying what I've seen so far of the shapeshifting. Thanks for sharing!

Sweet! I'm glad you enjoyed it. 

On 11/1/2022 at 5:03 PM, FlowerGirl said:

In answer to your third question, The similarities to real world events didn't draw me out of the story at all. While reading I was focused on the story, not the similarities to the real world

That's good to hear. I just think that I can't be too careful, as I don't want to tread on anyone's feelings. It's something I'm going to try to be cognizant of while writing this month. 

On 11/1/2022 at 5:03 PM, FlowerGirl said:

"biomages." I'm interested to see what these entail. Shapeshifting, but to others?

That's basically correct!

Thanks flowergirl! I'm glad you liked it!

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On 11/2/2022 at 11:48 AM, Mandamon said:

he two biggest things I found were the original goal being unclear,

Ahh, right. I think that's one of those things that seems super clear when you write it because it's in your head, so of course the reader knows!

On 11/2/2022 at 11:48 AM, Mandamon said:

pg 7: "He knew why someone would hire a m to stand in as themselves for an afternoon, to be witnessed by friends and coworkers."
--this would be useful to have up at the beginning

I think I'll just cut and paste this parargraph to be earlier in the chapter. Hopefully that will help. 

On 11/2/2022 at 11:48 AM, Mandamon said:

I think the link to current events gives this a little edge that makes it seem more realistic

Hmm that is interesting to hear, thank you

On 11/2/2022 at 11:48 AM, Mandamon said:

"That was older for m than it was for humans, though."
--I assume this means emotionally? Since as far as I can tell, years are years, here.

Yes, while a human in this setting lives to be about 75 years on average, a m lives to be about 55. 

On 11/2/2022 at 11:48 AM, Mandamon said:

Well that got dark quickly!

Does this work well as a tone promise? Is it too much or not enough? Because this story will be a lot darker and more violent than anything I've written before. 

Thanks mandamon!

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10 hours ago, ginger_reckoning said:

Does this work well as a tone promise? Is it too much or not enough? Because this story will be a lot darker and more violent than anything I've written before. 

I think it works, because this gets into the ethical considerations pretty quickly in this chapter. I know what sort of story I'm in for, assuming the tone stays similar.

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Read through this twice, and I think you're overall off to a good start. Visual and plot details are pretty clear. I'd agree with Mandamon that a clearer hook/direction is needed. The bit about the armbands immediately brought the Holocaust to my mind, so if that's what you're going for, I'd recommend being careful about how you treat the subject of prejudice towards an entire people. It's the type of topic where people expect you to tackle it with care and insight. 

Notes below: 

Pg. 1

'...he subtly thickened the calluses on his hands...'—I think you can take out the bit about it being subtle. I can't imagine what un-subtle callus-thickening would be like.

'a breeze brought in the scent of the bay...'—I'd describe what the bay smells like.

Overall, the pier is very easy to visualize. Well done on the sensory detail. 

'One slip-up, and it was all over for him.'—"All over for him" sounds a bit generic. I'd try to specify the potential consequences.

Pg. 2

'One of the many names his client had supplied to him.'—If D wants people to believe A’s disguise, wouldn’t he at least tell him about people like B, so as to not risk giving away the illusion? D seems somewhat careless otherwise.

Pg. 3
I'd give some more detail about the detained m, other than the fact that they're young.

Pg. 4

'Shackled?'—Not sure why that's supposed to be surprising. The m is clearly being detained. 

Pg. 7

A seems a lot older than 18.

'He felt bad about it of course...'—Why 'of course?' I don't think we've learned enough about A's sense of morality yet to earn an 'of course.'

Pg. 8

'D's face peeked into the alley.'—I'd provide more description of D, personally. 

There's a fair amount of repetition of 'the man' over this page and the next. I'd just use D's name. 

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Thanks @JWerner

11 hours ago, JWerner said:

I'd agree with Mandamon that a clearer hook/direction is needed.

Noted. I added a paragraph that I think should help with that, as it explains a little bit about the threat A perceives. If I were to add this paragraph, do you think that would be enough to make the hook more solid, or do you think that it would still need more?

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1PwR_klzWrW-7lvcSQUR50CGcC92xsfL7Mz6vK1AoPQ4/edit?usp=sharing

11 hours ago, JWerner said:

'One slip-up, and it was all over for him.'—"All over for him" sounds a bit generic. I'd try to specify the potential consequences

Thanks, I agree more specific stakes are probably for the best

11 hours ago, JWerner said:

'—Why 'of course?' I don't think we've learned enough about A's sense of morality yet to earn an 'of course.

Good point

11 hours ago, JWerner said:

The bit about the armbands immediately brought the Holocaust to my mind, so if that's what you're going for, I'd recommend being careful about how you treat the subject of prejudice towards an entire people

Yeah, that's what I was worried about. Did you find that it pulled you out?

Thanks again!

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10 hours ago, ginger_reckoning said:

Yeah, that's what I was worried about. Did you find that it pulled you out?

I'm not sure if it pulled me out necessarily, but it reminded me of the whole brouhaha around Attack on Titan. In case you haven't read it or were unaware, that story pivoted to a Holocaust analogue, complete with characters living in ghettos and wearing armbands. A significant portion of its readership felt that it was exploitative of history, and some interpreted it as the author being pro-fascist. 

Now, you may not have to worry about that because you don't have a built-in readership of millions already. But when you deal with these kinds of themes, you're pretty much expected to delve into it with as much care and respect as possible. And even if you do, there'll always people who think that you're not doing enough, or that you shouldn't be doing it to begin with.

I'd recommend considering whether this is something you have the finesse or willingness to tackle. And if your answer is yes, then just be careful with how you treat the topic.

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You have a fantastic opening line! 

"Still, most humans did not seem to understand that there was basically only one way to beautiful, but a thousand ways to be ugly, old, and crotchety. It was simply more interesting. " Some interesting characterization here

He set his box in the cart and went to fetch another" Hmm so not sure how I feel about this yet. The character certainly is interesting, though when a thing happened, the were passive. Understandably passive, though, so maybe it’s okay. The opening line was enough of a hook, that combine with an interesting character, I’ll keep reading even though  the mc hasn’t done a whole lot of significance yet.

"He set off towards his home, firmness in his step ." This does leave me curious about what comes next. 

Overall, there was more tension in the second scene than the first, and I liked that the mc got his? their? full payment. But I don’t quite feel like I know what direction the story is going yet. The opening line was a good hook, but the chapter didn’t come back to the concept that pulled me and as a whole didn’t seem to have a strong enough hook, in my opinion.

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Thanks @shatteredsmooth!

16 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

But I don’t quite feel like I know what direction the story is going yet. The opening line was a good hook, but the chapter didn’t come back to the concept that pulled me and as a whole didn’t seem to have a strong enough hook, in my opinion

That seems to be the consensus for this chapter. I will really make sure to make the stakes clear, and what exactly A is going to do at the end of the chapter and why. 

16 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

his? their?

Gender is interesting for m but A is he/him. There are going to be a lot of they/thems in future submissions, both human and m, but A is h/h 

16 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

You have a fantastic opening line!

Thanks again!

Edited by ginger_reckoning
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P1

The first paragraph has caught my attention, but I wonder if the first couple of paragraphs could be trimmed a tiny bit. It’s starting to feel like the point about A pretending to someone else is being belaboured.

Nitpicky, and I wouldn’t necessarily say I stumbled on this but it did catch my attention; “sleek bulk” feels somewhat oxymoronic. (I’m not sure it can actually be an oxymoron since neither of those words are nouns…)

“one slip-up, and it was all over…” Aside from the demi-god reference in the first line, this is the first sense I’ve gotten of stakes, or any uncertainty at all from A. To this point, though he’s pretending to be someone he’s not, he’s seemed fairly confident in what he’s doing/made the situation seem fairly routine.

P2 I like the little detail around him wearing older forms, though “only one way to be beautiful” is awfully telling in its own way and suggests that the narrator is more narrow-minded than he thinks he is

I find I’m very eager for the conversation that’s happening here. I wonder if some of the thoughts from above could be moved into this conversation so we can get to it sooner.

P4 Curious about what the mi are, since they seem to be something between humans and demigods (which A isn’t, yet).

P6 So uh.. how are they planning to enforce this rule on the posters?

Also, as a reader this crackdown seems to come a little bit out of nowhere. I think it comes back to not quite feeling the stakes especially in the early parts of the chapter. 

I’m not feeling much sense of menace or malice from D, so him trying to short A came as a surprise.

Overall: I’m enjoying the sub so far. Plenty of questions, but nothing I’m not willing to have answered in later chapters. Two overall comments: One, the narrator seems to spend a lot of time in his thoughts, and I think there is room for some of that to be trimmed or moved around to get to the action (in this case dialogue) of each scene sooner. Two, it feels like a lot of stakes are back-loaded, made clearer in the second half of the chapter (and even in each scene) rather than being spelled out up front, but those are the areas where I find I’m most engaged.

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16 hours ago, Silk said:

The first paragraph has caught my attention, but I wonder if the first couple of paragraphs could be trimmed a tiny bit. It’s starting to feel like the point about A pretending to someone else is being belaboured

Thanks Silk!

Reading through it again, I agree. I think I might cut the first instance of mentioning he is pretending to be someone else, and let the reader figure that out naturally. Do you think that would work, or would it be less confusing to just establish it very early on?

16 hours ago, Silk said:

Two, it feels like a lot of stakes are back-loaded, made clearer in the second half of the chapter (and even in each scene) rather than being spelled out up front, but those are the areas where I find I’m most engaged.

I think this will be one of the main focuses of the revision, clearly setting up exactly what the stakes are for A and the m at large. 

Thanks again!

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3 hours ago, ginger_reckoning said:

Reading through it again, I agree. I think I might cut the first instance of mentioning he is pretending to be someone else, and let the reader figure that out naturally. Do you think that would work, or would it be less confusing to just establish it very early on?

Do you mean jumping right to the second scene with D? I don't know that this would necessarily be confusing, but I think that the scene where A is talking to B actually works pretty well. It's a good way to see A at work and show some of his capabilities and obstacles firsthand. I would probably be inclined to keep it, but trim it down and make it more focused and action-oriented (again, where "action" in this case actually means showcasing the dialogue) 

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Hey, sorry I'm so late, still trying to get caught up with recent weeks!

(p1) - Great first line, so casual but promises what feels like the entire story :) 

(p2) - "only one way to be beautiful" - missing word.

"heard a voice as be boarded the ship" - typo.

(p4) - "since it was extremely difficult to use their abilities to appear younger than you were" - There's a pronoun disagreement here: either 'your abilities to appear younger than you were', or 'their abilities to appear younger than they were', I think.

"The unspoken rule" - Nice, implies a good deal of background.

(p5) - "official army business" - I thought they were city guard? I know there are no capital letter here, so neither term really is formal and official, and one of these things can be part of the other, of course. Not really an issue; I just felt that maybe there was an opportunity to be a bit more definitive about the background/setting of the story. Not a big deal.

"thanked the woman" - is he not showing an unduly close interest in this subject? If he's trying to remain hidden, I wonder if he must at least flag up to himself that he's running a risk even showing an interest in the 'm'?

(p6) - "A openly scowled" - again, he seems to be revealing sympathy for the 'm' here, which might be unhealthy? I don't know: the woman seemed sympathetic too. Not sure I have quite got a grasp of the place the shifters have in society, not an accurate picture, anyway. Not yet. "hoped that his expression hadn’t been too obvious" - Oh, good. I'm glad he called himself out on this.

"give him something else to think about" - What about the wife comment? Would the others, or at least B, not expect him to react more to that. Would B not expect that A would press him to know what had happened with his wife?

(p7) - "went to fetch another" - Okay, this opening section was interesting, and conveyed quite a bit of information. The prose too was smooth and easy to read. My general comment would be that I think the emotion could be turned up higher, and that I want to feel more of the stakes. What is A's mission? What is the job? This is a piece of information that is missing and, since he's employed on the job, I think it would be entirely reasonable for him to consider internally what his goal was. I think that is important for the reader to become properly invested in the story and the character in particular.

Repetition of the word "ground" closely in the same sentence is awkward.

"but what could he do?" - Hmm, this is a bit weak of character, does not endear him to me. Okay, characters have to do what they have to do to survive sometimes, and of course this can be a good source of conflict, but I think it's highly likely that A was giving his client an alibi while the guy went of and confronted, possibly even murdered, his wife. If that's the case, and A knows about this 'sort of thing' happening on his watch, then this is potentially a much darker story than the tone so far suggests. Tone, now, is an ongoing issue for me.

(p8) - "putting a target on each of them" - maybe there should be a target on them if they are basically criminals.

"He couldn’t think about the implications of that right now" - I'm pressed that, once again, something I was concerned about also is of concern to the character. It's satisfying for the reader when that happens, especially when the reader gets there just before the character does. I maintain my concern that maybe A is not filled with sufficient cold dread that he has just aided a murderer. It sounds like this is the sort of thing that happens around the 'm'.

"me not turning you in to be the other half" - Good note. I want to see more grit, more hardship, more anger, fear, etc, in the story. As I noted earlier, I'm not sure that the tone quite matches the subject matter and direction of the plot, yet; for me, anyway.

(p9) - "After a few seconds of adjustments" - (a) What happens to his clothes? (Yay! It's the old Hulk conundrum!); (b) if it takes several seconds, why does the older man just stand around and let him do it? Surely, he's not stupid, and must realise that A is going to resist him in some way, possible even attack him? "The man frowned at him, considering" - I'm just not quite sure why D stood around while A turned into him. Might need to call that out somehow? Dunno.

(p10) - "D considered" - He already considered a couple of lines earlier at the bottom of page 9.

"and roughly handing the money" - suggest 'roughly handing more money to A".

"He felt a sense of pride at his accomplishment, however small, however petty" - Yes, okay, but the word 'accomplishment' bothers me. I say again that A is basically a criminal, but the tone of the narrative, and A's interiority doesn't seem dark enough, wretched enough, to reflect some acknowledgment of what he is.

"grim satisfaction" - Yes, more of this sort of thing, IMO.

"thinking of something" - Nah, we're in his mind, I don't think you get to be this vague. This is a 'nothing' word. Even something a bit more substantial, like 'as a thought occurred to him' is still weak, just extra words that do no work, IMO.

"just as ignorant as he had been this morning" - I've got a problem here. To me, this is a new plot strand coming up at the end, and not something that is satisfying, but something that doesn't seem likely to me. Presumably A had to walk to work on the docks? In that case, he must have walked past a bunch of posters, must he not? Surely members of his kind also would be about in the city, like the girl at the docks, and also could be expected to have known about the posters. I'm not sure that this line of plot holds together under scrutiny.

"He set off towards his home" - I'm not compelled by this as a motivator for forward plot movement. I think it's too vague, unspecific, and doesn't seem to hold that much in the way of stakes personal to the main character. Also, sounds like the 'm' are criminals, and as I say, I'm really not sure that I'm invested in their plight in the way it's written at present. I should feel sympathy for them because... why, exactly? I get that sense that the city guard are reacting to the criminal activities aided and abetted by the 'm', and in doing that are attempting to clean up the city. I'm okay with reading about a protagonist who is morally grey, but I don't think the tone of this chapter really supports that sort of character, at present, as it sets up the 'm' as being oppressed. I'm just not sure how well that comes through.

Will say again though, very well written in terms of form, and very easy to read. Some neat description in the beginnings although that falls away a bit. Some good characters and murky goings-on. Nice work :)

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