kais

01/28/19 - kais - Dandelions, Chapter 1 (4180 words)

10 posts in this topic

Second attempt.

 
So this… thing I have here is just over 12K, which is the word limit (submitting in 5K chunks, of course). Hence I’m all ears for any crit, but if you want me to add something I’m going to challenge you to also suggest where/what I could cut to get it in. The first page, in particular, I think could be cut down.
 
My goals for this piece included the following: 
a) trope-filled
b.) fluffy and fun
 
LBLs or generalized comments welcome. I’m especially interested on thoughts on the neopronouns and if you would prefer a different set, or even they/them/theirs. I’m not married to the ones I used, and this is going in an anthology where pronouns are expected to be different, but I haven’t settled on which set works best yet.
 
Thanks! 

(and warning for @Robinski - there's a market scene. Please forgive me!)

 

Edited by kais
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After reading Seeds this weekend and  @Mandamon's sub yesterday, when I ever I saw your O character's name, my brain kept replacing it with the other O character. If I had read this first, it probably would've been the other way around.  This isn't actually an issue that warrants any change. Just an observation.

I have some general comments here. I'm also going to email you LBL's. I the story it once on my kindle and was having a hard time pin pointing what was bugging me, so I started reading again on the computer...deleting things with track changes on since you said you are pushing the word limit. I like deleting things. My deletions are mere suggestions. Please don't be offended by them and feel free to ignore them if you disagree or find them too prescriptive. 

Overall, I think this is off to a good start. The characters are interesting, there is an established through line, and the end definitely left me wanting to read the next part. I love how much detail you put into the dandelions , though on my first read, I thought that section in the market felt repetitive. And while there was a lot that seemed excess, I also didn't quite feel like I had a strong enough grasp on the world. 

I think the first section needs the most trimmed and the end needs the least trimming.  

You asked about pronouns. The first time I read the opening scene, I thought there were three people in the room: O, M, and an unamed person with a neo pronoun. In the LBL's I'm emailing you, I made suggestions for how to fix it. From the middle of page two and on, the pronouns worked fine for me. Personally, I like they/them better, but have no problem with the one's you chose. Neo pronouns do make it easier when editing for clarity. 

A couple as I read notes from the first scene:

"who could eat any food they wanted to because they still had enamel on their teeth" For some reason this made me think contemporary fantasy, though in hindsight, it doesn't really imply that. However, in this section, the only thing that hinted at a secondary world was the name of a kingdom and mention of city guards. At this point, the world could go in many different directions. That's okay for now, though if you do cut some of the things I suggest on the first couple pages, maybe drop a couple more hints.

Page 3

...whispered loudly. “Endless.”  This paragraph I see its purpose but it screams cliche 

"I don’t drink, you see, because these amazing plants take my full attention. Come" This doesn't really make sense to me. 

"and a cloudier version of the blood dripped from the ends." This caught me off guard. I am having trouble getting my mind around bleeding dandelions. I keep going to picking dandelions and the stuff coming out the stem looking like milk.

Page 4

"HPLC " what is this?

Page 5

“Pass. At that price by weight it’d be cheaper to import plastics from Earth.”  So far, most the description has been on the product, and the man with the barrel's face. This earth reference is the most concrete world building bit I've had. I get there is some technology because O making latex from dandelions and there is the purity sheet, but otherwise, a lot of it undefined still. I was okay with that in the opening scene, but by now I want a better grasp.

With all the focus on dandelions and little details like people’s skin, I’m only getting fragments of the world,  and I didn’t notice them all on my first read through. I can’t picture this market at all. I’m only seeing O’s product and this barrel dudes face.

"Fantasies" seemed like an odd word to describe the visits. 

Page 6: "the women waved her off" This should be xir, right? 

"Xie reached out a hand to the woman’s pants, and the woman sidestepped with a glare." I'd glare too. 

"Orin had made no sales today and the crowds stubbornly remained slow and thin." I sympathize with this from my days selling jewelry at craft fairs. From here on out, I was more engaged, maybe because I finally had a way to connect with O.

Page 7

". It made really really good rubber..." This makes me wonder if he had a way to sell this other than the market.  I’m having a hard time  grasping the significance of this because I still don’t know much about the world.

"...people bartering for a fat piglet. " This and the manure did give me a farmers market feel, but that could be present in a number of different worlds.  

"a mutation the original planetary colonists hadn’t had" Much needed detail about the world, grounding it a little more in the future?

You haven't described anyone's clothing yet, other than M's night gown. I want to know what people wear in this world. I know they were pants and sequins get stuck to them, but so far, I don't recall much detail about what kind of pants. 

Page 8

“I hate you.” The dialogue with B is good. I was reading without stopping and getting a better sense of O as a character. 

"Knew he paid in notes and not credit, even for big orders." Good world building detail! It's coming together more, but I am still missing too much for this point in the story...unless you are trying to just make the reader fill in the gaps. 

Page 11

“Oh. F......" Great dialogue. World building is filling in more quickly now and doing so organically. 

"The brick lane" I would've like to have known this at the begining of the market scene since I wasn't trying to figure out what street and space between stalls was like for most of the scene. I was picturing all dust and mud. 

Page 12

"...Left for women, right for men. Forehead for everyone else..." Well done confirmation of gender identity and culture surrounding it... though part of me is annoyed that each gender has a different greeting, even if it does acknowledge a non-binary one. 

 

The last three pages read smooth and I was too engaged both times to make comments. The end definitely left me wanting to read on. 

I think I'll have better overall feedback to offer once I've read the whole piece.

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I enjoyed the characters. O seems rather hopeless, but maybe meeting up with M finally will help. I also liked B as the roomate. He adds a much-needed foil for O.

11 minutes ago, shatteredsmooth said:

when I ever I saw your O character's name, my brain kept replacing it with the other O

Lol, I was doing that as I was writing this up!

I think there's some problem with the setup, saying they haven't been able to trade information in the last 20 years. I think what was happening was O was disoriented and couldn't get across any information? If so, that could be clarified. One minute might be too long as well. I'd sure as heck figure out a way to transmit information in that time, especially if I knew it was going to happen every night.

The sequence goes on for three pages as well, so I think it could be cut down to really show how quick it is and why O isn't able to give any specific information out.

I don't mind the pronouns. I like Xie better than They, simply because it stands out a little more.

I also thought the setting was more medieval in the beginning, until they started talking about plastics and colonies. A few words here and there could place it quicker.


Note while reading:
pg 1: "one minute was just not enough to get any information across."
--My scientific mind immediately goes to planning out an information exchange in that time and how much you could transmit in 20 years...unless there's some inhibitor to their natural function while they dream.

pg 2: “Ridiculous. I don’t even know where you live. I don’t even know your last name.” 
--Again, I'd think they would have at least traded this information over 20 years.

pg 4: Oh, that sales pitch...oh my.

pg 4: "version of the blood"
--Wait, what blood?
"dandelion blood"
--oh...instead of sap, I guess?

pg 5: "Latex from lion fern, sir.”
--That's a very egotistical dandelion...

pg 6: "like their brain was peeling from their skull, settled in."
--pronoun switch here.

pg 7: "had made no sales today and the crowds stubbornly remained slow and thin."
--Ugh. I hate bad sales days.

pg 10: "If it’s M tell her to shove off until we get the order finished.”
--Eh? How does this work? Does B know about M? But O doesn't have any information about her...

pg 12: "I take electronic communications and carrier pigeon, if you prefer.”
--lol.

pg 13: "O pointed to xir forehead."
--Cool custom.

pg 13: Did O not twig to the lady's name? I did...

pg 14: “Maybe M is trying to get me to Met.?”
--Again, I think we need more information on how much O knows.
"Think about it."
--Ok, so at least O got that part.


 

Edited by Mandamon
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10 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

At this point, the world could go in many different directions

This was intentional. I liked the idea of a slow world reveal but if it bugs people I can always change it.

10 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

This paragraph I see its purpose but it screams cliche

Gay cliche or market cliche?

10 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

This should be xir, right? 

yup! Can you tell O has had like four different pronouns at this point?

10 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

You haven't described anyone's clothing yet, other than M's night gown

This is a relatively easy fix to do that I don't think should add too many words. Check.

10 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

though part of me is annoyed that each gender has a different greeting, even if it does acknowledge a non-binary one. 

Gendered greetings are so standard in many parts of our world that it seemed... not quite right to ignore them on a colony planet. Who knows what culture colonized it first!

Thank you for the feedback! Will get to the LBLs tomorrow likely.

 

10 hours ago, Mandamon said:

If so, that could be clarified. One minute might be too long as well. I'd sure as heck figure out a way to transmit information in that time, especially if I knew it was going to happen every night.

Ah, I was wondering about this. I've clarified that there's disorientation and nausea for a good part of it, and have shortened the time to thirty seconds. I've also made the first interaction a lot more rushed. Hoping that helps.

10 hours ago, Mandamon said:

A few words here and there could place it quicker.

Okay, that's two votes for this. I've stuck in a mention of solar farms early on. Might do another little thing as well.

10 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pronoun switch here.

Probably about 400 more of those, too, since I keep going back and forth. Ugh. Why are pronouns so hard? Hey @shatteredsmooth can we call an enby conclave and just vote on a standard set, please?

Thank you as always, @Mandamon! Good edits to hit.

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9 hours ago, kais said:

Gendered greetings are so standard in many parts of our world that it seemed... not quite right to ignore them on a colony planet. Who knows what culture colonized it first!

It makes sense to include them for that reason. Fiction or real life, I just grump about this stuff. I need to get out of my bubble and be more open minded to people's culture. 

9 hours ago, kais said:

Why are pronouns so hard? Hey @shatteredsmooth can we call an enby conclave and just vote on a standard set, please?

LOL It would be an endless debate that might never reach a resolution. Language will settle on something sooner or later. But it does it make it hard for us writers trying to help that process along. 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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On 1/29/2019 at 11:52 PM, kais said:

Gay cliche or market cliche?

Market cliche. Anything sales related cliche. 

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1 hour ago, shatteredsmooth said:

Market cliche. Anything sales related cliche. 

Oh that's fine then. Exactly what I was going for.

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Posted (edited)

On 28/01/2019 at 5:43 PM, kais said:

(and warning for @Robinski - there's a market scene. Please forgive me!)

:angry:... :lol: I'm sure it will be novel, intriguing and involving. <begins stropping critiquing switchblade>

So, sorry it's taken so long for me to get here. I'll read straight through to the latest submission.

Page 1 

- Nicely written, as always. I feel involved and intrigued from the start. I'm not going into LBLs. Maybe some phrasing I tripped over slightly.

Page 2

- "but xir hair was far shorter and darker, her skin more tawny" - This seems like a typo.

- "dripping shades of rose..." - nice line, poetic.

- So, they've known each other since childhood, but there are some fairly specific details missing: 'Where are you?' is a big one. If they have done this as children, young people, young adults, surely that question would come up at least once, and once it's come up, remain as an unanswered question for years. I find it unlikely they've never shared this. I'm can just about suspend my disbelief on it though, or maybe that one of them (O by the sound of it, xie seems the more reticent of the two) might have refused to share the information.

- Introducing the suggestion of them meeting is a perfect tension-builder here on Page 2. I like that as pacing.

Page 3 

- "Though the dream threatened... seconds left at best." - Not a complete sentence.

- "what kind of party" - I'm not able to identify what kind of party that is, or why O can't attend.

Page 4

- "clear plastic bag" - Wait, what?!?! I'm totally thrown. I was sure we were in a pseudo-historical time period. I think it was the mode of speech, and the talk of nightgowns. How and where does plastic fit into that? I'm really quite thrown by this.I'm not sure where (or when) is am now.

- Blood, really?

Page 5 

- I don't know what an HPLC is.

- All this talk about latex, is that in reference to the 'plastic' bag? This page is throwing a lot of things at me that I don't understand, not explaining them, and leaving me confused.

- "...plastics from Earth." - Bah, I don't know what's going on now. When you mentioned Earth normal before, I took that as an indication few were on Earth.

Page 6

-  Good pacing. I'm fine with the market, really, because it's very specifically twined with the plot, and our m/c is a vendor, not a person wandering through the market 'buying meat on sticks and listening the hawkers cry their wares' (again).

Page 7 

- Ah good, a bit of geographic context, also some personal context. B makes a good foil to learn more about O's situation.

Page 8 

- I also like here getting a bit more around the background and O's situation. Hopefully we move forward on the next page.

- Interested in the use of the term 'errand boys', given the gender neutral terms now in use.

Page 9 

- "knew him from M" - But how, through a detailed description? But in the recent episode, it seems that not only does O see M, but is able to see from her POV. Is this right? I don't think it's very clear. In the beginning, it seemed that they just were able to take to each other, face to face, as it were.

- So, is it a fern or a dandelion? These terms seem to be used interchangeably for the same plant, but that's bothersome because in my (and most people's?) perception and understanding these are completely different plants, in the real world.

Page 10

- "That kind of money was a proper house" - Hmm, struggling with this bit. For one thing, there is no value written on the 'cheque' (Yes, UK spelling :P ). Also, I've had no notion thus far that the plants were so valuable. When O looked like xie might sell a plant to the woman, there was no hint (I don't think) of how significant a sale that would have been. It seems it's like xie has like £100,000 of stock on their stall. I use this value without any knowledge of how much a house costs wherever we are, but I think readers would put it in their own context. Average UK house price is about £230,000.

- "It was also a ticket" - This phrasing seems to equate the price of a house to the price of first class travel, but surely that can't be right.i'm still applying my terms of reference. First class fare to LAX, maybe £15,000? I don't know. I'm not convinced it was the intention to make it sound like the the sale was the whole value of the ticket, but that was how it came over to me.

Page 11 

- I like the easy camaraderie between O and B, it's well done and an excellently convincing medium to convey information to the reader. It comes over with no context other then friendship, and shared tribulation, no doubt. Well done.

Page 12 

- "komodo dragons that pulled the thing" - Huh? Huh. The trail of events and logic (or lack thereof) that results in having these as a mode of transport is so bizarre (I'm guessing) that it drags my train of thought away from the narrative to muse about how this could possibly be. Why would you take Komodo dragons to another planet in the first place? And it sounds like they came in the first wave, so nobody tried horse, oxen, mules, etc. first? Hard to believe.

- "rediculous" - typo.

- "O pocketed the note"- This seems out of character to me. Surely, they're going to agree a value before he drives away. No way does he leave a blank cheque with some unknown vendor, surely.

- "carrier pigeon" - lol, awesome.

Page 13 

- "Left for women, right for men, forehead..." - cool bit of world building, nicely dropped into context.

- "junction where O’s hair began" - This is really awkward description for what is quite an elegant gesture. I think the line would land much better as 'forehead', or 'skin' or something simpler.

- It's so interesting how the biology of the plant is woven into the story, as always the case in your work of course. It's a really strong style and identity, and I find it very interesting.

Page 14 

- "the dragons lurched down the road" - Surely it's the cart that lurched, I don't imagine the dragons did. Also, repetition of 'lurch' in the next paragraph.

- "and is selling it there" - Selling 'them'? Also, if that were the case, why would this guy come all the way to wherever they are from Meth to get the dandelions if he could get them at home? Kind of shaky logic there, I think.

- "fancy word for a party" - Blatant nonsense. The coronation has a very specific constitutional and/or monarchistic function/outcome.

Page 15

- "There’d never been enough time" - I'm not really buying the whole thing about not enough time. One can say an awful lot in 60 seconds if one puts one's mind to it, makes a prearrangement with the other person. Next time, I'll speak for the whole minute, then you the one after that. If they've been doing it from childhood, I just can't believe that curiosity has not come into play before now.

- "a deep breath of air" - Redundant unless you're going to describe the air.

Summary 

Very good. I am in too. Good pacing; intriguing set up; good characters; nice touches of world building (although I'm not 100% getting the tech level). Very keen to move onto the next part.

<R>

Edited by Robinski
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@Robinski Thank you so much for these comments! All duly noted and incorporated. I'm blending these bits in with my first round from my editor and I think the story is shaping up very well. 

On 3/10/2019 at 7:16 AM, Robinski said:

It's so interesting how the biology of the plant is woven into the story, as always the case in your work of course. It's a really strong style and identity, and I find it very interesting.

Hah, well, I guess that's my calling card now?

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6 hours ago, kais said:

Hah, well, I guess that's my calling card now?

Well, I wouldn't say it's a dominant thing. I think it's in the weave.

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