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shatteredsmooth

Reading Excuses - 10/29/18 - Life Minus Me (4675)

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Content Waring: Suicide Attempt 
It's in this section, unlike the one I put the warning in last time. 
 
Hi All,
 
Back with what I planned to send last week. I did a little more proof reading, but not as much as I planned to, so just ignore the grammar if you can. Based on the feedback on the last installment, I suspect I'll be ripping this apart anyway. I asked for LBL's last time because I was little overconfident in the story's content. There is no point in wasting time LBLing something that might need a major overhaul. 
 
I'm still figuring out how to tackle the revision, but I think I need feedback on more than just the first 1/4 before I start tearing it all apart. Plus, at the moment, I'm way too immersed in writing the sequel to Power Surge.
 
So, what am I looking for? 
 
Pleases tell me where things don't make sense (character or plot), where you don't believe the characters, where things from the bigger world the story is set in creep in even though they aren't relevant to this story and whatever else you think of. 
 
And if B turns into too much of a problematic jerk to like in the pet store scene.
 
Thanks! 
 
 
Edited by shatteredsmooth
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First off: interesting to read this now I'm almost finished with Power Surge. It's cool to see M from her POV.

Overall, this certainly had less of the other worldbuilding aspects creeping in than the first part.

The first few pages could probably be slimmed down. I wasn't really that interested until J showed up again at the end.

Character-wise, I don't really believe the interaction between B and J. More details below.

Plot-wise, the whole elaborate plan seems a little over-complicated. Couldn't M just telepathically transmit the new story into B's mind while they were out of it? Is all the VR stuff needed?


Notes while reading
pg 2: Between "Broady," "Baily," and "Brandy," I'm having trouble remembering who's who.

pg 5: The meeting at the end of this section is missing something, but I'm not sure what. Maybe it's because there's not much explanation for why J is standing around outside the shop. It might also be WRS, because I didn't remember that B had been married until it was brought up. I don't think it's been a big issue, so this popping up was a little strange.
The connection between them also seems off. I guess J came there to show off her new look, but B doesn't respond, then collapses after J leaves. I find B's love hard to believe, if they haven't even been thinking of her.

pg 6: Soooo...M has succeeded in her task?
--edit: reading into the next chapter, I guess not.

pg 8: "The fact that after all that time, she hadn’t filed gave me hope"
--Yeah, I think this needs to be much bigger if it's going to be a driving force.

pg 10: Ok, now I'm just confused. How would such an elaborate deception by M keep B from committing suicide?

pg 12: okay, the explanation of why helps some, but I still think there could have been a better way to handle that.

pg 13: is Mi. misgendering B intentional?

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Thoughts As I Go:

Pg. 2 – Is the woman flat-out lying about where she found it, or is she just once again proving that customers are never right? It’s kind of weird that the rest of the customers would take her seriously, though.

Pg. 6 – Wait, does B have clinical depression? It didn’t seem like that from B’s narrative.

Pg. 7 – Punch it, Chewie! I probably shouldn’t joke but using the ‘punch’ line just pops that clip into my memory. If you really wanted to make a depressing Star Wars reference, the asteroid debris of destroyed Alderaan would be a better comparison.

Pg. 8 – Does M have stunt training? The Jeep-sunlight maneuver seems like an improbable series of events.

Pg. 12 – I really can’t help but question the wisdom of lying that you bet on whether the person you’re attempting to save would attempt suicide.

Pg. 13 – Nope. My suspension of disbelief checks out once we bring in VR.

 

Notes: Ignoring grammar, and focusing on what you asked. Like my notes above say, it’s not clear whether B suffers from clinical depression (as classified by the DSM-V) or not. The whole morality thing is also kind of just sticking to me, because (not looking to get into a debate) it seems that a half-angel should have a pretty good handle on the whole ‘good & evil’ thing. (Unless angels in this world are just powerful entities that aren’t created to protect humans, as is the generally assumed reasons why angels exist, which means that the label is just misleading.)

It terms of the ‘whatever else you think of’ - I’m a believer in the ‘one free pass’ rule, which is a writer gets one free pass to set up the background when writing fantasy. Using it to set up demi-angels is a valid use, but then having a different character pull out a fully-functioning immersive VR world with self-propagating algorithms to plug all the holes is too much for my feeble sci-fi mind trained exclusively on hard science fiction, especially when you used the one free pass on fantasy. If nothing else the information space necessary to hold all that information definitely exceeds the trailer they’re in.

EDIT: Oh, also, is B's dog's name deliberate or is that an accidental reference?

Edited by aeromancer
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I agree with @Mandamon for most of the items he brought up. This section feels less cluttered than the first and I like spending more time with B. However, like Mandamon I had trouble with the B and J interaction, and with keeping all the B-names straight. 

 

As I go:

I'm seeing a lot of grammar errors, word agreement issues, and present-tense artifacts, same as last section. 

Once again, pronoun-antecedent agreement is not matching up in some places, especially around the use of the singular they.

I agree with @Mandamon that I feel like the first pages could be trimmed and streamlined a bit and the action only really starts to get interesting when J shows up. I do like B's continued emphasis on dogs over people. That's a nice bit of characterization there.

J seeming to sit around outside for hours waiting to confront B seems odd. Is there any reason J can't confront B inside the store? I feel like the added humiliation of having the confrontation in public would go towards showing how unbearable B's life is. 

The confrontation itself is... a bit off. It feels stilted, sort of? Also, it feels a bit like there isn't enough foundation laid in the beginning (or maybe with the description of J in the store) to hold the emotional weight of what would be a very wrenching scene? Maybe? I also forgot/didn't pick up on the fact that B had been married from earlier, so maybe a larger lampshade hung on that earlier? Like, the dread B feels getting the mail because they're waiting for those divorce papers and they don't know when/if the papers will arrive, or the guilt/shame of not filing the papers themselves, thus freeing J to live her new life (because B thinks they are such a terrible spouse after all, etc, etc), or just, like, something to lay the foundation that J+B were a thing and now B blames themself for why the split happened earlier in the chapters than where it is now? I'm not sure. I can't quite put finger on why the actual confrontation bothers me, sorry. 

 I don't have problems with the VR itself, but the plan is seeming to me to be increasingly Goldbergian in design the farther along it goes and I ended up wondering if all of it was necessary, since B having the talk with the "angel" seemed to be making real progress... 

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On 10/30/2018 at 1:28 PM, Mandamon said:

Plot-wise, the whole elaborate plan seems a little over-complicated. Couldn't M just telepathically transmit the new story into B's mind while they were out of it? Is all the VR stuff needed?

and @aeromancer

The VR stuff can probably go bye bye. 

 

3 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

I can't quite put finger on why the actual confrontation bothers me, sorry. 

Your questions helped a lot. I think you're right about the set up not being there.

The more distance I get and the more comments I see, the more I get the sense that there is either too much going on with B or too much that I just kind of gloss over. 

3 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

I do like B's continued emphasis on dogs over people. That's a nice bit of characterization there.

Thanks! :-)

On 10/31/2018 at 0:27 AM, aeromancer said:

EDIT: Oh, also, is B's dog's name deliberate or is that an accidental reference?

 Initially, it was a placeholder, but it stuck.  Technically, 'Gannon' is an actual surname...but in my head it probably has one less n. 

 Partially related side note: My spouse and I adopted a dog shortly after playing Breath of the Wild. I thought Calamity Ganon was a perfect puppy name. My spouse disagreed. We named the dog Tavi, because Furies of Calderon was the first book my spouse and I ever read together. 

On 10/31/2018 at 0:27 AM, aeromancer said:

Pg. 8 – Does M have stunt training? The Jeep-sunlight maneuver seems like an improbable series of events

Stunt training, no. Ability to bend light and create illusions, yes.  I'll make sure I address this in the revisions. 

 

On 10/31/2018 at 0:27 AM, aeromancer said:

Pg. 6 – Wait, does B have clinical depression? It didn’t seem like that from B’s narrative.

Not exactly. I think that came out wrong in M's POV. 

 

On 10/31/2018 at 0:27 AM, aeromancer said:

The whole morality thing is also kind of just sticking to me, because (not looking to get into a debate) it seems that a half-angel should have a pretty good handle on the whole ‘good & evil’ thing. (Unless angels in this world are just powerful entities that aren’t created to protect humans, as is the generally assumed reasons why angels exist, which means that the label is just misleading.)

I'll think more on this. M was mostly raised human and has a much grayer sense of morality than an actual angel would. 

I'm way way over simplifying, but in the larger world this is set in, Angels appear to be mostly just watching humans making sure people-eating demons and demons who feed off of human emotion don't invade and turn Earth into one giant factory farm. There is more to them than that, sure, but morality is a human construction, and they predate humanity. 

However, the way "morality" is talked about in general might be the bigger problem. 

 

 

Thank you all for your comments. As always, they are invaluable. 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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Initial impressions;

No offense meant, but if I were reading this in the library, I'd be putting it down around here. It's a fascinating work, but just so far out of the stuff I like to read that I'm not sure what to do with it. Take all advice from me with extra salt because it's from a pov completely different from your target audience. 

This makes me uncomfortable and unhappy to read. The character isn't taking action and feels like she has no agency, and being inside her head for this long is awful.

Work on the dialogue with J. I get it's probably realistic, but it didn't make sense for me to read. 

Getting to the crash, which feels like the inciting incident, takes wayyyy to long. 

What the hell!? Like what the actual what? Pick a tone and genre please, otherwise it just straight up stops making sense to me. VR?!?!

Other thoughts: There's the conflict with B. and there's this nebulous, ill defined, and hard to grasp thing going on with M. 

Your characters are AWESOME. They are doing stuff for "plot" reasons and jumping between multiple tones, but the strongest piece of the work is the stuff that goes on when you just let the characters shine through. 

 

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Okay so this crit is ridiculously late but I got here eventually!

Overall

I'm having a hard time connecting to the characters. Every time I start to get interested, the chapter and POV change. The voice is so similar between the characters too that I have a hard time remembering who is who. I think the characters are really intriguing, but their world seems fairly cliche and I can't seem to get invested in the short time given. Maybe extend the chapters to give us more time with them? I'd also suggest not character swapping every chapter. Basically every agent I've ever interacted with has talked about this, too. VWR seems to come from nowhere but I could get behind it if it was foreshadowed a bit more that this world had that kind of tech.

On 11/1/2018 at 5:57 PM, industrialistDragon said:

I agree with @Mandamon that I feel like the first pages could be trimmed and streamlined a bit and the action only really starts to get interesting when J shows up. I

I'll third this. Too slow a start.

 

As I go

- golden retriever: neither word is a proper noun

- away is one word, not two

- page one: random tense changes. Is this supposed to be present or past? It jogs.

- page two: the discussion of binder vs. corset bugs me a bit. They're both incredibly uncomfortable for some people, and incredibly comfortable for others. They serve similar purposes. The discussion makes the MC come off as really snobby and elitist when I don't think that was the goal. If the goal was to showcase some mild body dysphoria, I think that could be played a bit more directly

- The two B names are way too close together. Suggest changing one up

- while the dog intro makes a lot of sense, for someone who isn't into dogs (me), it wouldn't have hooked me in a bookstore. Not that that means you should take it out or anything, just noting

- I don't think the voice is distinct enough yet for multiple first person narratives. There needs to be more distinction, because if I ignore the chapter headers I can't tell the characters apart. I had this same issue with Supermoon, an f/f sci-fi romance book that recently came out. Multiple first person POVs are hard to pull off.

- page seven: 'lole'?

- I think the premise of this might be relying a bit too much on those that have seen It's a Wonderful Life

- 12: these people seem really nonchalant for talking to an angel!

 

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On 11/15/2018 at 5:04 PM, kais said:

- I think the premise of this might be relying a bit too much on those that have seen It's a Wonderful Life

Seconded, by the way. I never watched the movie, so I had to look up the plot summary on Wikipedia to get what was going on.

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On 11/18/2018 at 6:04 PM, aeromancer said:

Seconded, by the way. I never watched the movie, so I had to look up the plot summary on Wikipedia to get what was going on.

OK I'll work on that.

 

On 11/15/2018 at 5:04 PM, kais said:

Is this supposed to be present or past? It jogs.

Past. I had written parts of the first draft in present, so I must have missed some places when I decided on past. 

 

On 11/15/2018 at 5:04 PM, kais said:

makes the MC come off as really snobby and elitist when I don't think that was the goal.

Yes and no. There were reasons Jules left, but I'll change this part. B had plenty of other flaws with less potential to offend readers. 

On 11/18/2018 at 6:04 PM, aeromancer said:

Seconded, by the way. I never watched the movie, so I had to look up the plot summary on Wikipedia to get what was going on.

You both are right about this. I think distancing it from the movie more will help in other ways too. 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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