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shatteredsmooth

Reading Excuses -- Shatteredmooth -- 12/17 -- She Wasn't -- 4237 words (L)

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Content Warning: Language
 
Hi All,
Attached is a stand alone short story. I've done some editing, but for big picture things, this is more or less a first draft. I'm aware part of the concept is a cliche. Is the angle I approach it enough to make it okay? If not, do you have any suggestions for making it less cliche? Is the story even salvageable? 
 
In general, I'm looking for big picture feedback. World-building? Character development and arc (I'm aware the mc is grumpy and unlikeable)? Plot? Representation? Whatever you think of.
 
I've let this one rest for two rather long period of time, but every time I come back to it, I just edit on the sentence level, add or cut a few things, and can't figure out what big changes I need to make. 
 
Thanks!
 
Sara
Edited by shatteredsmooth
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I'm on mobile so i can't give running commentary.

I like the werewolf thing but the plot is eh... I haven't (thank god) experienced anxiety but it felt blieveable, and while the MC is grumpy i connected with her, and i think that many people that feel dissatisfied with thier government will too.

A full blown attack in the cell might generate more sympathy towared Molly. 

I personally hated the neighbor. and actually hopped that the werewolf in the end will kill him.

Alex is very generic sweet guy, though that is not necessarily a problem. 

I don't want to end on that note, generally I liked it. (maybe more PoV with alex and the lawyer?)

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Thoughts As I Go:

Pg. 2 – Marvel Civil War is literally the first thing which popped into my mind upon reading this. (Not the movie, the comic arc. The original comic arc.)

Pg. 8 – The government doing something fast, so far, has suspended my belief the most.

Pg. 12 – I’m not sure if I feel more sympathetic for M or the police here. The reason? Lycanthropy typically also entails loss of control, which means a real and immediate threat to anyone around them while they’re a lycanthrope. But lycanthropy is controllable then these regulations are more fear mongering than anything else.

Pg. 15 – Humans are also pack animals. Underrated.

Pg. 15 – So, M isn’t actually a lycanthrope, just someone with anger issues. But M also mentions that she has drugs to deal with the problem that she can’t afford – shouldn’t she also have a prescription for said drugs to show the cops?

Overall: Have you read Marvel Civil War? Because this is similar to it in a lot of ways, but different in others. I’d recommend reading the first part, and only the first part, because once you get past that there’s absolutely no moral gray, but I digress.

The essence of the story is nice, and the method is nothing if not creative, but there wasn’t a lot of information for me to take in at the beginning, so I didn’t get a good feel for the story until halfway through. The ending was a good wrap up for the story’s arc, but since I have no idea what kind of lycanthropes you’re using, I can’t really cheer or boo the protagonists.

Now for the nitpicks. (Skip ‘em if you want, they’re just nitpicks.)

DNA testing – so, if we assume that lycanthropy is a component of a subject’s DNA, then that means said DNA does something to turn the subject into a lycanthrope, probably by producing a violently reactive molecule that is triggered by high levels of a very specific light range (specifically one produced by the moon). I’d guess the molecule does things like accelerated hair growth and possibly permanently spiking adrenaline, while having passive effects, such as producing extra keratin, or something of that nature. So that means (a) they can artificially induce lycanthropic transformation with the right lights, and (b) a skin sample would be better, which they would then check for the agent.

The legal aspect is also odd, normally you can’t arrest people without evidence, and if the evidence was eyewitness testimony on someone’s part (E, I think?) then they’d have him for perjury.

 

Oh, also @Ookla the ingenious - typically we don't use full names, just the first letter or so when referring to characters, because some of us are published authors, some of us are attempting to be published, and we kind of like the anonymity. (I mean, it's not like the characters in this submission have weird names, but there are times, so we just roll with it as a blanket rule.)

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49 minutes ago, aeromancer said:

Overall: Have you read Marvel Civil War? Because this is similar to it in a lot of ways, but different in others. I’d recommend reading the first part, and only the first part, because once you get past that there’s absolutely no moral gray, but I digress.

I have not read it. I've read very few graphic novels and comics. I can probably count them on my fingers.  However, I'll add it to my TBR pile. 

This does tie into my main concern for the concept. There have been numerous stories where the government wants supernatural beings to register. 

3 hours ago, Ookla the ingenious said:

I personally hated the neighbor. and actually hopped that the werewolf in the end will kill him.

 

Then he came across exactly how I wanted him too come across. I don't want to kill him in the end, but  @aeromancer had a good point about perjury. I'll think about having E get arrested when I revise. 

57 minutes ago, aeromancer said:

Pg. 15 – So, M isn’t actually a lycanthrope, just someone with anger issues. But M also mentions that she has drugs to deal with the problem that she can’t afford – shouldn’t she also have a prescription for said drugs to show the cops?

 

Yes, but lycanthropy doesn't make people immune to the type of issues M has, so the prescriptions wouldn't really prove she isn't a lycanthrope.

1 hour ago, aeromancer said:

but since I have no idea what kind of lycanthropes you’re using, I can’t really cheer or boo the protagonists.

Thank you! I think this is one of the missing pieces I wasn't seeing on my own. 

1 hour ago, aeromancer said:

Now for the nitpicks. (Skip ‘em if you want, they’re just nitpicks.)

I love the nitpicks. 

4 hours ago, Ookla the ingenious said:

and while the MC is grumpy i connected with her, and i think that many people that feel dissatisfied with thier government will too.

Good to know. I'm not always good at writing characters people connect with. 

 

4 hours ago, Ookla the ingenious said:

Alex is very generic sweet guy,

Interesting. I don't think I used a pronoun for Alex throughout the whole piece. I didn't intend to, but I could've slipped up and thrown a "he" in somewhere. 

 

Thank you for the comments. They're all very helpful. :-)

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19 minutes ago, shatteredsmooth said:

nteresting. I don't think I used a pronoun for Alex throughout the whole piece. I didn't intend to, but I could've slipped up and thrown a "he" in somewhere

Guess i set myself up for it, I'm a straight guy so the default for me is man-woman relationship.

Edited by Ookla the ingenious
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51 minutes ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I have not read it. I've read very few graphic novels and comics. I can probably count them on my fingers.  However, I'll add it to my TBR pile. 

This does tie into my main concern for the concept. There have been numerous stories where the government wants supernatural beings to register. 

I seem to remember reading a novelized version of it as well, so I double checked and it does in fact exist. In fact, I'd recommend the novel over the comics because comic continuity is ... weird, to put it mildly. (As an example, Thor does not appear in Civil War, because Ragnarok is happening at the time, but a clone of him named Ragnarok created by Tony Stark does. What.) The novel does a good job of providing explanation and background when necessary and skipping the fifty-some-odd tie-ins to every comic in the Marvel printing run at the time. I've thrown a brief blurb in the spoiler if you don't have time.

Spoiler

The government (lead by a guilt-tripped Tony Stark) is attempting to pass the Superhuman Registration Act, forcing all meta-humans, even inactive ones, to register with SHIELD, with obvious implications that SHIELD will misuse said list. Steven Rogers, aka Cap, is leading the opposition, being the glorious champion of individual freedom that you would expect Captain America to me. For context, an average meta-human, even a C-lister has the innate danger of say, an automatic weapon and those are outright banned. The whole thing is kicked off when a group of would-be C-listers take on a group of villains out of there weight class (Nitro, who specializes in explosives) and it results in the deaths of several hundred innocents, a large fraction of those being schoolchildren. It should be noted that they did it for a TV series, and they all die in the process, which in it of itself almost sparks a war with the Atlanteans because a member of the group is Namor's niece, or something of that nature, I don't recall offhand.

Tony obviously wants to prevent this from happening again, and he thinks the SRA is the best means to do it. Cap, who also obviously doesn't want this to happen again, thinks that the sacrifice of personal liberty is too authoritative a measure. (Cap does have other solutions, obviously, just ones Tony doesn't think will be effective.) Lines get drawn pretty fast, etc.

The set-up is done magnificently, both sides have very strong points, are in the right, and are not at the same time. It escalated when said Act is passed resulting in all out war between the two sides. This gets ... well, less gray when Tony Stark just starts going straight up evil by stuffing his prisoners in the Negative Zone and using Suicide Squad style supervillains, to the point where Punisher joins the fight against him. It should be noted that the mutants, surprisingly, are neutral in this war, mostly because they're still recovering from 'No More Mutants'. 

Also, a last point. I won't say what the ending is, but it's highly controversial among the fanbase, though I thought it was a fitting end.

 

Edited by aeromancer
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@shatteredsmooth you did marked Alex a 'he' in the police scene at their home.

It wasn't just prejudice.

Quote

Molly made eye contact with Alex, weighing her options. Would they force her if she refused to go?

He nodded. “I’ll meet you at the station with our lawyer.”

 

Edited by Ookla the ingenious
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I can see why you're having trouble with this. I think the story concept is good, but there's something about the execution.

11 hours ago, Ookla the ingenious said:

@shatteredsmooth you did marked Alex a 'he' in the police scene at their home.

It wasn't just prejudice.

I also assumed A was a he, which was prejudice on my part, as this came near the end and I've been here long enough to know better. However, since many people will automatically bias that way anyway, why not just call out that A is nb, or female, or whatever gender? Then it's clear.

14 hours ago, aeromancer said:

The legal aspect is also odd, normally you can’t arrest people without evidence, and if the evidence was eyewitness testimony on someone’s part (E, I think?) then they’d have him for perjury.

Yeah, I think one of the problems I had in general was motivation. As @aeromancer said, we don't know how the weres work, so we don't know if they are violent or not. Several people randomly accuse others of wrongs, when they're not really the person who can do anything about it. Then the one person who has done something wrong--the neighbor--gets a sympathetic ending.

As I said below, we get to the crux of the story rather late, and I wasn't really sure where things were going for the first half. You may be able to cut several of the first scenes and replace with more worldbuilding about the weres. I'm prescribing at this point, but maybe something like an attack between a were and a person, but then proof the person was the one who started it?

This could tie into the attacks around the neighborhood. That is, after all, E's motivation for his wrongdoing, and giving us a glimpse of the attacks will help set up why he's covering things up. Did he kill someone? A pet? Cause property damage?

I think the jail discussion was perfect. If you can bring out that emotion through the rest of the story I think it will work a lot better.

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: This starts with a person with a dog they love/hate and nosy neighbors...I"m sensing a theme in your work.

pg 2: "from across the round high top wearing a plaid button up shirt."
--This sounds like the high top (whatever that is) is wearing a shirt.

pg 4: 'I didn’t see you when I came in or I would’ve said hello"
--wait, what? I'm not sure I know what's going on.

pg 4: "Perspective students were lined up"
--There's now been two scene cuts and I'm not sure what's happening. M might be a werewolf maybe? Or is just grumpy?

pg 4: "sets foot" -> "set foot"

pg 5: "nearly tore a whole" -> "nearly tore a hole"

pg 5: "“You’re mean,” she said. “Welcome to reality,” 
--at this point, I'm sort of with the girl. I'm not sure what's making M angry.

pg 6: "finishes reading" -> "finished reading"

pg 6: "It was inability to control her anxious temper, and failure to afford her anxiety medication thanks to the government’s reversal of health care reform."
--ok, here's something that finally explains part of what's going on, but it's not a big enough hook to draw me in, and it's 6 pages in.

pg 7: "who hadn’t really done anything wrong"
--except eat her favorite cookies she just bought? I mean this out everything that's happened would make me the most angry...

pg 7: "realizing she nipped back a little too hard,"
--yeaaaahh...I'm sort of confused by M.

pg 8: "She went around the other side of the house where Eddy couldn’t see"
--Ooooh...Eddy is the neighbor. I completely missed that in the second scene. Probably my fault.

pg 8: “Thank God we aren’t weres,”
--This is sort of hanging like Checkov's gun on the mantle, but this is almost halfway through the story. This plus the title is making me confused.

pg 10: “If you really care, find a way to help,” 
I agree with the sentiment, but the whole conversation seems very strained. It sounds like the girl is accusing M of bringing this new law to pass.

pg 10: "so when M pulled up into her tiny, crushed stone excuse of a driveway and shingled cottage, she was in a good mood."
--Eh? Is this sarcastic?

pg 16: The discussion with T is very good and I think gets to the heart of the issue. But it's almost at the end of the story.

pg 17: E being the were was surprising yet inevitable, but I also think I hated every one of the characters in this story, except for T and the girl with the wristband...

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16 hours ago, Ookla the ingenious said:

@shatteredsmooth you did marked Alex a 'he' in the police scene at their home.

It wasn't just prejudice.

 

I wasn't saying it was prejudice. But it's good to know I did have a "he" in there. 

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4 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Yeah, I think one of the problems I had in general was motivation. As @aeromancer said, we don't know how the weres work, so we don't know if they are violent or not. Several people randomly accuse others of wrongs, when they're not really the person who can do anything about it. Then the one person who has done something wrong--the neighbor--gets a sympathetic ending.

As I said below, we get to the crux of the story rather late, and I wasn't really sure where things were going for the first half. You may be able to cut several of the first scenes and replace with more worldbuilding about the weres. I'm prescribing at this point, but maybe something like an attack between a were and a person, but then proof the person was the one who started it?

This could tie into the attacks around the neighborhood. That is, after all, E's motivation for his wrongdoing, and giving us a glimpse of the attacks will help set up why he's covering things up. Did he kill someone? A pet? Cause property damage?

This is very helpful. 

 

4 hours ago, Mandamon said:

I think the jail discussion was perfect. If you can bring out that emotion through the rest of the story I think it will work a lot better.

I think knowing  that part worked will definitely help me shape the rest.

 

4 hours ago, Mandamon said:

However, since many people will automatically bias that way anyway, why not just call out that A is nb, or female, or whatever gender? Then it's clear.

I think part of the issue was I had figured that out yet and wanted to see what gender people read A as. One way or another, I'll make it clearer when I revise. 

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I agree with a lot of what @Mandamon says. I do like the idea, and also felt like it found its footing fairly late. However, I didn't get much emotion out of this story. I think technically from a writing standpoint it's one of your best, and I also agree that the jail scene was the best part of the story, but I didn't really connect with any of the characters.

I've had trouble putting my finger on exactly why I don't care... I think it's multiple things and so nothing really stands out.

For instance, I just don't care about M, or her rages. We're  told about her rages, using that word, and we don't get a lot of context for why she feels rage. Some of that might be to keep up the is she/isn't she mystery, but I feel like that maybe that mystery is less important than understanding the POV character. I also feel like maybe some of the sensory details about the anger are off? Like, she says she's angry, that she has rage, but we're not given a lot of the, like, body language? distracting effects? of having so much emotion.... I feel like maybe the story is leaning too hard on the words "anger" and "rage" to convey the depth of what M is feeling and not really showing as much as I want it to? 

I also feel like just maybe I don't know enough about the weres or the world in general in the beginning to be worried about M, like @aeromancer mentioned. I feel like I don't have the setting down before the rising actions start and that just, like, shifts everything else off kilter.

With E, I feel like sort of the story is presuming more out of the relationship the readers have with him than is warranted from what the text actually shows. At the beginning, he's just a plot point, a nosy neighbor who calls the cops and sets the real meat of the story into action. The end, though, I feel like treats E like he was an equal character with M almost, and tries to rehabilitate or at least evoke sympathy for him. I think there's just not enough framework in the text to have me even register E as a character, must less interact with him to the point of feeling sympathy for his predicament with some heretofore unknown nephew. 

 

I just have one grammar issue, and that's "Perspective students were lined up "  -- it's "prospective," unless she's talking about how the line of students seems to recede in the distance (and it should probably be "prospective test-takers," now that I think about it, if they are already students trying to take placement exams...)

anyway, it is well done and I don't think it should be scrapped. It just needs a bit of work is all. 

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On 12/21/2018 at 5:45 PM, industrialistDragon said:

For instance, I just don't care about M, or her rages. We're  told about her rages, using that word, and we don't get a lot of context for why she feels rage. Some of that might be to keep up the is she/isn't she mystery, but I feel like that maybe that mystery is less important than understanding the POV character. I also feel like maybe some of the sensory details about the anger are off?

@industrialistDragon I think you are right about the sensory details being off. Looking at the comments and then back at the story, I see a lot of sensory details are missing, especially things that triggered the rage to begin with. 

On 12/21/2018 at 5:45 PM, industrialistDragon said:

I also feel like just maybe I don't know enough about the weres or the world in general in the beginning to be worried about M, like @aeromancer mentioned. I feel like I don't have the setting down before the rising actions start and that just, like, shifts everything else off kilter.

 

I've been thinking about @aeromancer's comments about the world for a few days, and have some ideas about how to rework the opening. 

 

I'm glad I sent this one. I knew it had problems and I knew it could be better, but I just couldn't get my head around what they were. Now, I have a concrete idea of how I can improve this story. :-)

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Okay so yes, I am once again horribly behind. 

 

Overall

The foreshadowing of M being a were, then turning out not to be for social commentary worked fairly well. However I think the story needs more of a point than that, because outside of a crit group I'd not have read the whole thing. It needs a through line and some greater stakes than what it has now. I agree with @industrialistDragon though that from a technical writing standpoint, this is one of your best. It was a very smooth read!

As a Jewish person, I also want to deeply caution against using labeling systems and camps for stories about the supernatural, especially 'dangerous' supernatural. It draws not-good parallels, and others in a way that sci fi does when it uses aliens as race relations subjects instead of actual people of color. If you're looking to tell a story about Jews or immigrants or queer people, I'd suggest doing so outright, instead of 'other' coding them.

On 12/17/2018 at 4:25 PM, aeromancer said:

The government doing something fast, so far, has suspended my belief the most.

I agree. this happened far too fast.

On 12/21/2018 at 2:45 PM, industrialistDragon said:

but I didn't really connect with any of the characters.

I also had this issue. I need more emotional buy-in, and much earlier. The jail scene was the closest I got to stakes and really caring.

 

 

As I go

- she's going to pick up the dog poo, right?

- pg 3: it's hard for me to care about werewolf internment when I don't even care about the characters yet. I feel like the narrative is moving too fast. 

- pg6: Since I don't know enough about M to have empathy for her, she comes off more really disgruntled and mean than overworked, which is what I assume you are going for?

- pg8: I still don't know what the through line is for this story. Where is it going? Why do I care about werewolves other than that M is probably one? I don't care about M yet though so not sure her being a were matters

- pg9: I have some strong, adverse feelings to using WWII era iconography for supernatural stories. I would flag this if I was sensitivity reading

- pg15: I'm still wondering what the purpose of this story is and where it is going

 

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On 12/28/2018 at 11:10 PM, kais said:

As a Jewish person, I also want to deeply caution against using labeling systems and camps for stories about the supernatural, especially 'dangerous' supernatural. It draws not-good parallels, and others in a way that sci fi does when it uses aliens as race relations subjects instead of actual people of color. If you're looking to tell a story about Jews or immigrants or queer people, I'd suggest doing so outright, instead of 'other' coding them.

That wasn't the story I was trying to tell, but I was worried it might come across this way. As I work on the other aspects of the story, I'll change what the government is doing with / to the weres that lines up more with my actual between the line goal, which does not involve the weres being a metaphor for any specific group. Thank you!

On 12/28/2018 at 11:10 PM, kais said:

- pg6: Since I don't know enough about M to have empathy for her, she comes off more really disgruntled and mean than overworked, which is what I assume you are going for?

M is not super overworked. M is disgruntled and mean. However, I'm going to try and change this as I revise, so at least there is some reason  for M to be so disgruntled. 

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