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shatteredsmooth

May 6 2019_Mindless Nine Rewrite Part 1 4932 words (V)

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Posted (edited)

Hi all,
 
A few months ago, I sent a story called the Mindless Nine, and got some fantastic feedback. Taking that feedback into account, I've rewritten the opening. Whether you read the last version or not, I'd like to know what is and isn't working about this version.
 
(Note added May 7, 2019:  After reading the first set of comments, I realize that at a technical level, this is rougher than I thought when I sent it last night. Because I scrapped a good two-thirds of the part 1 I sent back in January, rewrote the opening, scrapped that, then started again, this might read more like a first draft than a second or third draft.)
 
To those of you who read the previous draft: Sometimes, when revising, I tend to swing from one extreme to the other. If you catch me doing this, please let me know.
 
I do plan to change the title since the Mindless Nine are not so big a focus in the story now. At the moment, I have no clue what to change it to.
 
Thanks!
 
Sara
 
A little background: The main character is non-binary and uses they/them/their as a pronoun. This is for a themed anthology where the stories will focus on non-binary characters. In the world of this story, things like clothing and make up are not as gendered as they are in many parts of the world now. 
Edited by shatteredsmooth
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Posted (edited)

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: For demographic information, keep in mind that I am a white male nearing his thirties, married, with two young children, and come from a background of being LDS, conservative, and with a long history of chronic depression, so these things may color what I say during review. I try to be as open-minded and unbiased as possible.

Critique:

Spoiler

Pg. 1

Spoiler
Quote

“the worse the smell got”

What smell?

Quote

“Ulsa had outright refused to have a human bodyguard accompany her throughout during the party and ceremony”

Are we going to have nonhuman people then? If not, no need for the human distinction.

Pg. 2

Spoiler
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Ulsa Ulsa Ulsa Ulsa Ulsa

You’ve identified her as a sister, you can refer to her as ‘she’ or ‘their sister’ to avoid repetition—unless she’s also nonbinary, which would mean you need to use the gender neutral ‘sibling’ instead of ‘sister’.

Quote

They/them/their

I know this character’s supposed to be nonbinary, but you have some work ahead of you in differentiating between Enzi by themselves, and Enzi with multiple other people.

Quote

“Tears pooled in Ulsa’s eyes.”

You established she’s angry, and she snarls right after this. Unless she angry cries (which you’d need to mention), these tears seem inconsistent. Unless Ulsa is constantly bouncing through emotions and unable to control them, which again, we’d need to have established.

Quote

“hot pink”

“bright pink,” “neon pink,” or even “vibrant pink” are better descriptors. Since ‘hot’ has both thermal and sensual connotations, it’s really easy to miss the mark on your descriptor. For example, I read “hot, pink”—and then I was like, “wait, Enzi’s attracted to their sister? That makes no sense.” and then reread that section just to make sure I was understanding.

Pg. 3

Spoiler
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“Their veins popped strained against the skin under the skull.”

That is quite the grip Ulsa has on Enzi, if veins are threatening to burst through the skin. You might be overexaggerating here. Also, the two-verb typo. Second, there’s a nerve cluster in your wrist that is really painful when pressure is put on it. Enzi should have some kind of pain reaction if Ulsa is squeezing this hard.

Quote

“Her dress reminded Enzi of a layer cake.”

You have to be careful with similes and comparisons as descriptors. Readers may imagine something different to how you do, or they may be broken out of their immersion completely if they can’t draw the same conclusion. You could instead, if you want to compare to a cake, phrase it like “her dress was divided into layers, reminding Enzi of an ornate cake, complete with white frosting on the top.” Not only does this paint a more vivid and drawable image, it also adds a certain quirk to the description. Don’t use this example, necessarily, just keep the principle in your mind.

Quote

“They’d pretended to take the night off; mainly to deceive any would be assassins who thought they could predict Enzi’s moves. However, going around telling people that would defeat the purpose of pretending to take a night off. Granted, that ruse was seeming more pointless as the night went on.”

The wording here is a bit clunky.

Pg. 4

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“Eldotch’s cold blue eyes stared at Enzi, looking like if they stared hard enough, they could pierce through the lies and find the truth.”

This is a little wordy. I don’t like the “looking like” part. Perhaps eliminate this and start a new sentence, or reword it to combine modifiers. Maybe “cold, piercing blue eyes gave Enzi the impression that if they stared hard enough, they could see the truth Enzi had hidden behind the lies.” Though that’s actually longer, I think. I don’t know. It’s tricky.

Quote

“this was between their parent’s”

“this was between their parents

Quote

““I take it your conversation with Ulsa did go well?” said Father after taking one look at Enzi.”

conversation with Ulsa went well, or didn’t go well. “did go well” is very clunky and really not common to use.

Pg. 5

Spoiler
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“Ulsa possessed the chilling beauty of a winter storm: shimmering silver, pale purple, and bitter blues.”

What are you describing here?

Quote

“It took everyone once of self-control”

“It took every ounce of self-control”

Quote

“They’d be an alert”

There’d be an alert”

Quote

“Enzi looked around.”

They were just making a point of keeping their eyes on their sister. Why the change?

Quote

““You did choose a dreadful profession. I burned myself on the stove once when my poor maid, Filly, was ill. It was terribly painful. I can’t image what laser burns must feel like.” Aunt Eldotch raised a gloved hand to her yellow, silk-clad arm, as if the memory itself hurt.”

Was Auntie talking here? I thought it was Ulsa—there was no mention of a speaker change, and Ulsa initiated the conversation.

Quote

““She’s told me about the ones that aren’t classified. It sounds like, injuries aside, the guard is everything you wanted in life: martial arts, blasters, travel, and never ending psychical activity. You’ve always hated politics and parties. I’m shocked you’re even here,” said Ulsa.

Mmm, this dialogue is a little clunky. Also, “said Ulsa” is archaic. “Ulsa said” is better, but even better would be to give us body language cues before hand and possibly after to tell us Ulsa is the one speaking. “He/she/they/it said” should be used as sparingly as possible.

Quote

“Nothing would make me miss this.” Anger roiled inside Enzi. Couldn’t Ulsa just let this go?”

Direct thoughts should be italicized for clarity. (i.e., “Anger roiled inside Enzi. Couldn’t Ulsa just let this go?”)

Pg. 6

Spoiler
Quote

““They’d be worse fates than marrying those two.” Ulsa sighed.”

There’d be worse”

Quote

“Enzi held a hand out, silencing her. Something had just blurred out of one table and under another. Enzi reached for the tiny blaster concealed in their sleeve. A gray mouse drone darted out from the table, flying straight towards Ulsa. Enzi fired across the table at it. The little mouse juked away. Enzi second shot singed its tail. The third hit the hem of Aunt Eldotch’s poufy yellow sleeve, setting it on fire. A service bought sprayed flame retardant as Enzi leapt over the table, getting between Ulsa and the mouse drone. The mechanical rodent’s back opened. Enzi took a deep breath, steadying their aim as a dart rose up. Enzi fired, melting the thing just as the dart was about to release.”

There are so many problems with this paragraph, and much of it stems from the fact that you do an incredible amount of telling. The paragraph basically boils down to “this happened. This happened. This happened. This happened.”—and that’s tedious to read, especially during an action scene.

Rather than telling us what is happening, show us. Get inside Enzi, talk about their panic, their fear for Ulsa, how that causes them to be less accurate with their blaster.

On that note, why the hell is Enzi shooting across the table, where their sister and aunt are sitting? This is extremely reckless, and presumably as a CSO, Enzi would have been trained in firearm safety. Firearm safety 101: You don’t aim the gun anywhere you don’t want to hit with a bullet (or laser, in this case). The risk is just simply way too high, especially when Enzi misses not once, not twice, but three times before hitting it. Any single one of those shots could have errantly hit Ulsa, and that’s a risk a Chief Security Officer would never take.

Quote

“Reemins voice”

As this is singular possessive, it should be “Reemins’s”

Quote

 

““Do you think anyone survived?” asked Lieutenant Jimmer, the third highest ranking officer in the guard.

“Do you think anyone survived?” asked Jimmer, his gruff voice grounding Enzi in the present. “

 

This is redundant.

Pg. 9

Spoiler
Quote

““It’s unlikely.” Enzi had responded to one of the Nine’s diversions once.”

When you have separate thoughts, separate them by a line break:

          

Quote

“It’s unlikely.”

Enzi had responded to one of the Nine’s diversions once. They’d…

Quote

““Reemins, you’re on Protocol Rockwall,” said Enzi.”

I know Hollywood has made this kind of popular to show a CO in control, but we have no idea what Protocol Rockwall is. It’d be better to just write out Enzi’s instructions, rather than use “Protocol Rockwall,” and then describe Protocol Rockwall in the following paragraph.

Quote

“Still, with bots herding those who hadn’t fled inside after the crash, and Ulsa leading them, everyone but Enzi and a few guards, Phyllis, Devin, and Jax, were inside after thirteen minutes.”

So, many, commas, in, this, run-on, sentence.

Quote

“With Ulsa leading them and bots herding them, those who hadn’t already made it inside after the crash were in after thirteen minutes—everyone but Enzi, and a few guards.”

Something like this is much cleaner to read. Also be careful about listing a bunch of names of people we haven’t met. If they’re important, you can always introduce us to them later.

Pg. 10

Spoiler

I’m really, really confused by this castle sequence. Why is Enzi communicating over radio, to people outside the castle, when she’s outside the castle? Wouldn’t she be able to see Jax and co, since Jax and co were trying to enter the castle?

Quote

“Panic was ice shooting through Enzi’s veins, chilling them, stabbing them from the inside out. Their throat was too tight to let air enter their lungs. Every muscle cramped. Enzi’s family was all in that castle, along with hundreds of other people. Enzi was outside a nearly impenetrable fortress. What Enzi thought was the safest place for everyone was now a death trap.”

Good showing here. But I’m still very confused. Why is the castle suddenly a deathtrap?

Quote

“When the walls were down, they were far deeper than the castles foundation, but when they were up?”

Are these straight or curved walls? Because if they’re straight, then they offer absolutely zero protection against flying bots—which you established exist. If they’re curved and can be raised to create a kind of ‘dome’ over the castle, then A) what’s supporting the structure underneath, and B) why can’t Enzi just go under?

Pg. 11

Spoiler
Quote

““Protocol Empty Rock. Rendezvous Blue Sky Fifty Three.” Enzi cut the call and bolted towards the woods.”

Continually using things like this tells the reader nothing, and often comes across as an author trying to hide behind military terms without knowing what those terms mean.

Good military fiction will use these terms or callsigns, but then also tell the reader what these things mean. One good example of this is the book Halo: The Fall of Reach (excellent military-style science fiction, by the way), especially with regards to the Cole Protocol, which is a protocol enacted when humanity is overwhelmed by Covenant forces. Human ships jump to a randomized vector, and make a few more randomized jumps, before heading back to safety so that they don’t accidentally lead the Covenant to Earth or any of humanity’s other remaining planets. (This is all explained when the Cole Protocol is introduced, and when the Cole Protocol is referenced later, Keyes tells the AI "Cortana, prepare a randomized vector in accordance with the Cole Protocol. This also reminds the reader what the Cole Protocol is.)

1

Thoughts:

Oookay. I think, generally, you have a good idea and story in place. I like the characters you’ve created, though I feel that consistency and dialogue are something you need to work on in subsequent drafts. Your content and concept, however, are generally good and intriguing.

Your biggest problem, however, and the one that kept me from truly being able to enjoy your work, is grammar. I’m not usually a line-by-line person—I prefer to keep my comments to content and consistency, as opposed to grammar. Unfortunately, there were so many grammatical and proofreading errors that maintaining any kind of immersion was practically impossible. I couldn’t get past them, and it made reading this much more of a chore than I would have liked.

I'm sorry if this comes off as overly harsh. I genuinely like your ideas, and I'm interested to see where this story will go.

Edited by Alderant
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Posted (edited)

4 hours ago, Alderant said:

I'm sorry if this comes off as overly harsh. I genuinely like your ideas, and I'm interested to see where this story will go.

Harsh about sentence level problems is the easiest kind of harsh to handle. :-)

If anyone needs to apologize, it's me for sending something so rough.

This is very helpful! Thank you! 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
I was rambling too much.
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This is better than the first draft, especially how it goes into the sibling's conflict early in the story. The M.N. do sort of drop in from nowhere, and everything about them is an infodump. If they are going to be used, I'm wondering if there's a more organic way to introduce them.

I also got pulled out by that big paragraph on page 7 which @Alderant caught. It's a big clump of telling actions, and it's really hard to follow. I also got a little lost at the end with where E was in relation to the wall and where the door was. 

I'm interested to see what you do in the second half, but right there's still two separate stories going on here: the relationship between E and U, and the M.N. attacking. I'm much more interested in the first one, and the second doesn't have a big impact.

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: I like the references to lower gravity that shows this in on the moon.

pg 3:“It’s been two years.”
I thought it had been three orbits?

pg 3: There's much better tension between the siblings this time.

pg 3: "U’s words knocked the air out of E."
--I don't get a real punch from this, perhaps because I don't have enough background yet.

pg 3: "and instead, fell into a prickly bush. "
--lol

pg 4: "the skull, a sign that E had taken a life "
--This sets up a much better conflict with E this time around.

pg 5: "forgoing all the rights and privileges..."
--Redundant. We've already been told this.

pg 6: "Not moving to the lunar capital to immerse herself in the politics she hated"
--I don't see why E is surprised. This is pretty much necessary for U now that E has abdicated, right?

pg 7: "Something had just blurred out of one table..."
--the pacing in this paragraph is off. It's too dense to make sense of while reading and all the action is just listed one point after another. You could break it up a bit to make it clearer.

pg 7: "A service bought sprayed"
--wrong word?

pg 8: "There was a notorious group of ancient bots"
--hmmm...I think this is coming in too late in the story if it's going to be a plot point.

pg 8: "struggling to remembering what they’d read about the Nine"
--all the information about the nine is info-dumped. Is there another way to produce it?

pg 8: “Do you think anyone survived?” 
--This line is repeated.

pg 10: Has Ja been mentioned before now? It seems like he shows up, then gets his arm cut off.

pg 11: "They activated their comm, this time hailing Ji."
--How can they talk to Ji if they can't talk to anyone else? I gather that they're on the outside of the wall, but I think there needs to be a little more blocking here.

pg 12: "E’s feet pounded the dirt."
--This needs some followup with the descriptions of gravity at the beginning. They wouldn't be able to run fast. More of a long lope over the ground.

pg 12: "Ji strangled his. “His screams?”
--Something out of place with this sentence.

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20 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

I also got pulled out by that big paragraph on page 7 which @Alderant caught. It's a big clump of telling actions, and it's really hard to follow. I also got a little lost at the end with where E was in relation to the wall and where the door was. 

Hmm. The telling paragraph on 7 should be an easy fix. 

As for the door / losing an arm scene, I'm thinking maybe I need to change that so no one loses an arm, and it involves characters who actually are significant to the story. Maybe U will be the last one through before E.

35 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

pg 3: There's much better tension between the siblings this time.

 

 

35 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

pg 4: "the skull, a sign that E had taken a life "
--This sets up a much better conflict with E this time around.

Yay!

 

29 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

g 8: "There was a notorious group of ancient bots"
--hmmm...I think this is coming in too late in the story if it's going to be a plot point.

 

I was thinking the attack would act as a catalyst for the sibling story. One kind of attack drove them apart years ago, and this one will drive them back together. I can try to trim what comes before, but I was worried that if this attack came too soon, then there wouldn't be enough tension between E and U when it happened. 

33 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

pg 8: "struggling to remembering what they’d read about the Nine"
--all the information about the nine is info-dumped. Is there another way to produce it?

Probably. But now I'm wondering if it needs to be there at all. What type of robots attack is really not significant anymore. Last time, @industrialistDragon had suggested not even naming them and I'm starting to think I should have taken that suggestion. Even if I incorporate in a better way, it might still distract  too much from the main story.

39 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

pg 6: "Not moving to the lunar capital to immerse herself in the politics she hated"
--I don't see why E is surprised. This is pretty much necessary for U now that E has abdicated, right?

Good catch. 

Thank you for the feedback! :-)

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Overall

Much better than before, and I adore the time we spend at the party. I have a much better grounding in the sisters and am genuinely interested in their struggles. With that said, I don't know enough at all about the murderbots or why they are trying to kill the sisters or random villagers, so the action sequences were not interesting because I had no buy-in. Still, this has come a long way and I think if you give us more about the bots, such as taking your time in this chapter to give us set up, increasing events throughout the party, maybe some overheard chatter, that could set the stage for the big alarms going off at the very end, and a battle in the next chapter or so.

7 hours ago, Mandamon said:

I'm interested to see what you do in the second half, but right there's still two separate stories going on here: the relationship between E and U, and the M.N. attacking. I'm much more interested in the first one, and the second doesn't have a big impact.

As always, @Mandamon hits the nail on the head

 

As I go

- pg one, have a typo. Should be 'a' disco ball, not 'an'

- 'past three orbits' throws me. It's so vague when we've just had a disco ball reference. I'd also like more info on what it feels like to fall into a dragon bush and how that might muss one's tuxedo

- "It had five hundred" missing 'been'

- the sentence about terraforming rock, followed by the sentence about tech, are jarring together. I think you either need to elaborate a bit more on the tech, or drop the tech sentence. It hints at worldbuilding I want immediately, and then am grumpy when the paragraph ends

- pg three: 'no way to subdue without killing' feels forced, sort of maid and butler. Is there a more 'voice' way the sister could ask that?

- pg 3: so our MC has gone into two bushes and a stone statue at this point without an pain reaction and I have questions

- pg 5: 'heir to the f flowers' makes me giggle every time I read it. I'm not sure if it is supposed to be a little silly or not, but it sounds so with the alliteration 

- the ace or aro thing threw me. I get what you are going for for sure, but I assume plenty of ace and aro people marry. Maybe it could be a bit more specific about the kind of marriage? 'won't be forced into a marriage for procreation' or something? Though that might not be an issue for aro people. I'm clearly out of my element so will let those closer to the subject add in if they want. Since my partner is ace, and we are married, it sort of struck me as but why wouldn't they, as a rule, want to get married? Marriage doesn't have to have romance or sex.

- pg 7: I see 'peasants' are the redshirts of this story

- pg 8: now that we have info on the murder bots, I'm left wondering why anyone cares to assassinate the sister this much. Sure, minor royal assassination I don't need more background on. But why does a group of murderbots want her dead? I think I need more motivation so I can have buy in

- double questions from J, end of page 8

- pg 9: yes, definitely need motivation since we have left the party. I want to stay with the sister right now, since I know more about her than the peasants and the robots

 

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Posted (edited)

3 hours ago, kais said:

- the ace or aro thing threw me. I get what you are going for for sure, but I assume plenty of ace and aro people marry. Maybe it could be a bit more specific about the kind of marriage? 'won't be forced into a marriage for procreation' or something? Though that might not be an issue for aro people. I'm clearly out of my element so will let those closer to the subject add in if they want. Since my partner is ace, and we are married, it sort of struck me as but why wouldn't they, as a rule, want to get married? Marriage doesn't have to have romance or sex.

 

I deleted that sentence and put it back half a dozen times, and for some reason, I actually thought it was not in the version I sent. :huh:

When I wrote it, I was thinking in way too narrow a definition of marriage...

3 hours ago, kais said:

But why does a group of murderbots want her dead? I think I need more motivation so I can have buy in

U isn't the target of the big murderbot group. I'll work on this. 

 

Thank you for the feedback! :-)

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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I'm not entirely sure what happened, but I'm going through making some edits, and the file I have saved on my computer with the same name as the one I sent aren't exactly the same (at least not from p. 5 on). I'm thinking I attached before I had hit save on the document, because there are missing words and typos in the one I sent that are not in the file I have on my computer. There are lines I remember deleting in the one I sent (like the one with the ace/aro marrying reference that @kais pointed out). Those lines are not in the one on my laptop. I'm sorry about that! :(

The big picture feedback is still spot on, and you all pointed out plenty of sentence level things I missed. I think I had caught only a quarter or a third of the errors @alderant pointed out, so it's still all very helpful.

 I'm sorry you had read it with the extra errors. 

 

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This is much improved over the last one, for sure. I like it much better with the tighter focus on E and U. However, the Mindless 9 are still a point of confusion. It's unclear why they're doing what they're doing. I also agree that there's still a lot of telling going on. 
 
As I go
 
I like this tighter focus on the party. I'm already way more invested in E and U. I could use a little more description of the party itself, though. I have a sense of the people, but I don't really get the feeling like they're anchored to anything in the setting. 
 
I'm a little unclear what E is doing at the party. Are they under cover? But not really? But yes really? 
 
I also don't understand why the kill mark is still a secret. I can understand why it was at first, that makes sense. But now that E has been working as a soldier/bodyguard for several years, in a world where assassins and spies and insurrections seem to be common, why is it still a secret? Seems to me that a CSO who's never made a kill would be more suspect than one who has the mark, in this kind of world setup... 
 
""never ending psychical activity." -- Is this a misspelling of "physical," or is there some kind of mental powers training going on here?  I'm all here for mental powers psychic-al activity. ;) 
 
I'm becoming more skeptical of E's abilities in general. So far, they've run into things, tripped and fallen three times, nearly exposed their deep secret, blabbed about a possible undercover mission, and fired into a crowd (missing twice!). This doesn't show a very competent CSO, I feel like, despite what's been said about them.
 
ace/aro -- okay, so  I had an absolute TON of stuff written here, about this really common misconception about asexual people, and the conflation of marriage, childbirth, and sexual identity, but I see that you're already taking the line out, so I'll cut most of it. Being asexual or aromantic (or gay or straight or any other orientation) has no bearing on the ability or willingness to get married or bear children. If you want more information on all of the different identities that get grouped under the asexual umbrella, or just more information about asexuality in general, the Asexuality Visibility Network is a very good place to start. Its FAQ page is well organized and answers a lot of common questions and misconceptions about asexuality in a friendly and accessible way.
 
But besides that, I'm a little confused why U's orientation or personal desire to wed is being considered at all in the setup I've seen so far. U is the last/only royal heir, since E has opted out of all of their royal heritage in its entirety. U is now pretty much required to have a child of her body in order for the royalty to continue to exist at all, isn't she? I mean, there's no one else left to do it... 
 
I like the lack of emphasis on the mindless 9 better in this version, but the lack does make their appearance and apparent importance more jarring when they do show up. The attack on the village still feels very random to me. If they're assassins, why are they not just killing the person they're required to kill and then leaving? A distraction at a high-power public event could be just about anything -- a misplaced backpack, a cat, a flock of birds, a computer virus, an unmarked letter, two very loud people in a frivolous argument who won't simmer down, some kids egging a car or trying to gate crash, a flash mob of fake security people giving out free hugs and terrible advice -- like, literally anything. 
 
I'm also confused by the door/arm scene and what happens after. It's better than it was, by a long shot, but I still don't understand where everyone is in relation to each other and once E starts using random protocol names for things I know nothing about, I'm just completely lost. Also, E panicking and being unable to get themself together just makes me more convinced that they are not very competent and a terrible CSO.  
 
I lost a little bit of interest once the action started, to be honest. I lost track of the people I was invested in, and was getting information for things and people I either didn't know or didn't care about. The ending seems good, but I wasn't paying a lot of attention by then, sorry. 
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2 minutes ago, industrialistDragon said:
I also don't understand why the kill mark is still a secret. I can understand why it was at first, that makes sense. But now that E has been working as a soldier/bodyguard for several years, in a world where assassins and spies and insurrections seem to be common, why is it still a secret? Seems to me that a CSO who's never made a kill would be more suspect than one who has the mark, in this kind of world setup... 
 

I'll clarify. It's not a secret that it's there. The secret it how long it's been there. 

 

3 minutes ago, industrialistDragon said:

I'm becoming more skeptical of E's abilities in general. So far, they've run into things, tripped and fallen three times, nearly exposed their deep secret, blabbed about a possible undercover mission, and fired into a crowd (missing twice!). This doesn't show a very competent CSO, I feel like, despite what's been said about them.

I'm glad you mentioned this here and in a couple of your other comments. Feedback from the previous draft had been that the competency sliders were too high, so I was worried over compensated, but no one else had commented on it this time around. I'll work on finding a better balance. Thank you! 

6 minutes ago, industrialistDragon said:

Being asexual or aromantic (or gay or straight or any other orientation) has no bearing on the ability or willingness to get married or bear children.

That line was a mistake. I hadn't even meant to imply that ace/aro people generally don't get married, just that this society wouldn't force someone to marry and procreate if that was not part of that individuals orientation and identity, but it got all muddled, and really, the best fix to that was not imply that this society had any requirements for it's rulers to get married at all. Because any person, regardless of orientation or identity, might not want to marry. 

I should've known better than to write that at all. I should've not put it back after the first time I deleted it. Because I have researched ace identities (most in an attempt to make sense of my own orientation and identity, something I haven't quite accomplished yet). I am definitely going to check out the links you sent. 

I'm sorry. And thank you! 

26 minutes ago, industrialistDragon said:

U is now pretty much required to have a child of her body in order for the royalty to continue to exist at all, isn't she? I mean, there's no one else left to do it... 

The child would need to have her DNA. The medbots can do something like IVF. Ulsa can still marry whoever she wants. I can hint at something like this on-page if it's necessary, but I'm not sure it is the way I'm thinking of reframing that whole conversation. 

25 minutes ago, industrialistDragon said:

I'm also confused by the door/arm scene and what happens after. It's better than it was, by a long shot, but I still don't understand where everyone is in relation to each other and once E starts using random protocol names for things I know nothing about, I'm just completely lost.

I think that scene just isn't going to work. I have an idea for something to replace it. :-)

Thank you for reading, giving me feedback, and sharing those links. 

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41 minutes ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I am definitely going to check out the links you sent.

AVEN is one of the first asexuality sites and has been around at least 10 years. It's a great place to start, and the forums (while a little hard to find initially) are a supportive and friendly place to help figure yourself out. 

43 minutes ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I can hint at something like this on-page if it's necessary, but I'm not sure it is the way I'm thinking of reframing that whole conversation. 

If the convo moves away from marriage and the implied succession issues, then it needs not be brought up. :)  

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Bah, behind again, apologies.

I'm in the didn't-read-this-first-time-around camp, for what that's worth.

(Page 1)

- Nice first line, nice image, however the following couple of paragraphs leave me... what? Not sure. Unengaged, I think, in the pursuit of the sister, because I don't know enough about E to know if I care whether they catch up to U or not.

- Occasional word choice, grammar, etc., but I'm not doing LBLs, I'll try and switch off my grammar-thalamus.

- I like the details about the smell. Clever to use smell as a hook for background world-building. You don't see that too often.

- <sigh> I'm going to plant a comma tree in my garden I think I could make money selling them online.

(Page 2)

- "under cover" - one word. (No, Robinski, no! You promised!!).

- I'm just confused halfway down Page 2. I don't know why all these girls are blushing, because I know almost nothing about U. I don't know why she's in danger, and needs protection. I don't know who E is.

- She turned to E, excused her (from E), then stormed towards E? There's something missing, I think.

- I like the conflict between the sisters. I like that U is so mean. E seems a bit wishy-washy, so far. Don't know who to side with as I don't know anything factual about their relationship.

(Page 3)

- "pointed at the black skull" - THE DARK MARK!! :o    She's a death-eater!!!!

- The sparks between the sisters are great and finally I know what the conflict better them is. I wonder if this can't come further up. Do we need to see E searching for U? If we do, can it fit into half a page?

- Falling in the prickly bush made me laugh (not out loud though). 

- This is something I've noticed in your writing before. You use E's A LOT. Numerous times on the same line sometimes. It feels so clunky.

- "Chief Security Officer" - I'm not getting any kind of aura of authority from E. Know dealing with family can rob one of one's confidence / authority / etc., but I just don't feel their ability to command a bunch of hard-nosed security agents, let alone killing a couple of assassins. (By the way: hired assassins, is there another kind? I suppose there is. It just always sounds odd to me, like 'hired' is redundant.

(Page 4)

- "leaned their head on their aunt’s shoulder, like they were still a little kid" - Still on duty! Their offices are in the room, observing this perhaps? Again, not feeling the authority, the ability to deal with responsibility that such a position must entail.

- "Only U, her and E’s parent’s" - 'they'?

- Hang on 'abdicated'? That means they were the actual ruler one time. But also, it means that U is the ruler now? I've had nothing to tell me this was about guarding the ruler of the world. I thought maybe U was some kind of celebrity maybe, or a key witness or something. From what I've seen of E so far, they absolutely did the right thing in abdicating.

- "cold blue eyes stared at E, looking like if they stared hard enough, they could pierce through the lies" - grammar. I don't know all the theory, but there's something way off about this. Let me just think out loud... 'cold blue eyes stared at E, as if Eld could pierce the lies if she stared hard enough'. I think it's because it's written as if they eyes were staring of their own freewill, not their aunt staring.

- "did go well" - didn't go well?

- How would E be up there with U? As joint rulers? There's so much that's unclear, imo.

(Page 5)

- a six-foot statue of the goddess:blink: How? What? She's carrying it? Oh no, wait, the platform is laden.

- "a perfect target for a sniper" - The threat feels completely insubstantial, vague and therefore totally non-threatening. There's nothing to explain why anyone wants to assassinate the ruler. For all I know, all these people are slave traders and the common man is in pursuit of a righteous revolt. I don't know what or who I'm supposed to care about or why.

- FFLH sounds really cool as a name/organisation, but like the threat to the throne, it has no weight, because there's nothing to set it up

- "They’d be part of the ceremony" - How? Not explained. Joint rulers? But from what was said before the implication was that E would have been sole ruler, because U only succeeded when E stepped down. If feel like there's an inconsistency here, but I don't know enough to reach out and point at it.

- "Two hundred and fifty other guests" - No sense of atmosphere, of what it sounds and looks like to be there at that moment.

- "take up my mother’s mantle" - Huh? What position / office does her mother hold? Or... this doesn't mean motherhood, does it? Unclear.

(Page 6)

- I'm just all-over-the-place confused at the political / religious / succession / business / guild / company (holding) setup is. Dare I say it, not enough exposition.

- "I have more scars than I can count" - I really don't believe this. They've been hesitant, nervous and doubting themselves since the start, it seems to me.

- "You did choose a dreadful profession" - Who's speaking?

- "all your adventures" - Still not buying it.

- "martial arts, blasters, travel, and never ending psychical activity" - Nope. This is the person that thought there was a wall behind them and fell into a bush, and they're Chief Security Officer?! A martial arts expert and veteran of a 'hundred' campaigns? Not convincing.

(Page 7)

- "distribute food to the peasants" - World-buliding problem. I have no idea what kind of society this is. I've just learned they have peasants. There was talk initial of 'old Earth', as I recall, but I've got no notion of how they got here, what kind of society they live in socially, politically or anything. If we're talking about a space-faring society, I'm presuming this is some kind of future world, which at least used to have technology (I don't know, I'm guessing). They have drones, and tech and stuff, but they also have peasants, really?

- "ace or aro" - What are these?

- "LB anf GF" - Wait... any do these people have surnames and none of the 'on screen' characters do? Strange and disorienting.

- "A service bought" - bot, presumably?

- "That would’ve hit you if you missed" - Confused. Why is U thanking them? Would it have hit U? Seems in consistent.

- "shouting futile please to get her to turn around" - Not sure what question to ask here. Ah, 'pleas', right?

(Page 8)

- "There was a notorious group of ancient bots..." - What? This seems very random. not foreshadowed, sprung out of the air from nowhere. But it's the name of the story, so we now that it's going to be what the whole book is about. Maybe it's the phrasing, it just seems like a great big klaxon has gone off. Another thing: Robots are tricky things. Are they A.I.s, or just remote control arms and legs? What degree of autonomy do they have? How do they interact with humans? Are they governed by Asimov's Laws of Robotics? I don't feel the robots in this story are well enough defined before now for my credulity to cope with this exposition about an ancient order of robots which seem to have a dichotomy at the heart of their programming. If they can be directed then clearly their programming can be changed, and yet it's practically unchangeable?

- "They’re good people" - But are they peasants, who seemed to be dismissed before? Can peasants be good people? (In U's mind, anyway.)

- Seems like a double sentence at the foot of the page.

(Page 9)

- "In the off chance" - On the off chance.

- "the wall rapidly rising around the castle" - presuming that the castle already has a wall.

- I like the attack. E felt like the character they were supposed to be, almost, for a little while.

(Page 10)

- "but didn’t quite touch" - Why don't the edges meet: why isn't the dome complete? Seems weird. Huge structure, but they didn't design it to close? Is this because they've left a gap as a 'door' which is protected by the forcefield? I didn't think that was clear, if that's the case.

- Why do the people go in one at a time, are they not in a hurry?

- "cutting J’s arm off" - See this? I think it's robbing your shock moment of shock value. By splitting the infinitive, you disperse the two parts of the action, and I think it stands to reason that that will sound less immediate, less powerful and shocking than if you keep them together, as in 'cutting off J's arm'. Second, why did the doors shut? They didn't on the first rumble.

(Page 11)

- "Running wasn’t an option" - I don't think what they describe (getting reinforcements) is running (away), it's a tactical withdrawal. That's different from blind flight.

- I like the idea that the tunnels are open when the wall is up. Although, it's a massive hole in security, because how widely known are the tunnels? A peasant revolt would be all over those tunnels, I would think.

- "Protocol Empty Rock" - all this active, resourceful, taking command is much more convincing of the character you describe E to be in the early pages, but which they does not demonstrate until the latter pages. They're much more convincing now.

(Page 12)

- Good last line, promising imminent action. I like that.

Overall 

I'm sorry, Ssmooth, I'm just not quite feeling this one, yet. For me there were two of three things that did not land and my disbelief kind of snapped like one of those old, dried-out elastic bands, you know, with a kind of apologetic flap. The biggest issues for me were (1) character voice versus supposed nature/job--I did not think they hung together; and (2) the world playing a strong part in the narrative, but the world-building being very sparse, hampering buy-in.

Don't mistake me, there are some super spurts of action and some real tension. The spite between the sisters is strong and powerful, I like that; the attack in the function room; E shouting into their comm and getting no response: very tense. In fact, the whole second half is much stronger than the set up in the first, and by the end I start to be convinced of E's character, but it's taken too long and I wonder, if I'd bought this story, if I would have got past the first half before putting it down. I would, because I hate putting things down, but still...

Anyway, I'm glad to have read, and totally will read more based on where we have got to.

<R>

 

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On 07/05/2019 at 7:29 PM, Alderant said:

Unfortunately, there were so many grammatical and proofreading errors that maintaining any kind of immersion was practically impossible.

Yeah, I have the same issues, but have learned to 'press on'. As usual, good, hard proofreading pass required ;) 

On 08/05/2019 at 4:35 PM, Mandamon said:

especially how it goes into the sibling's conflict early in the story

Cool. I think early still would be good. Their argument is strong. The closer to the front the better.

On 08/05/2019 at 4:35 PM, Mandamon said:

I'm interested to see what you do in the second half

I think it feels like a novel opening. It's a short?

On 09/05/2019 at 0:18 AM, kais said:

I don't know enough at all about the murderbots or why they are trying to kill the sisters or random villagers,

Yeah, there's no weight to the M/N, and they're not foreshadowed. They feel like crowbar adversary because story needs a villain.

On 10/05/2019 at 6:48 PM, industrialistDragon said:

However, the Mindless 9 are still a point of confusion. It's unclear why they're doing what they're doing. I also agree that there's still a lot of telling going on

Yup.

On 10/05/2019 at 6:48 PM, industrialistDragon said:

ace/aro -- okay, so  I had an absolute TON of stuff written here, about this really common misconception about asexual people

Right, see I didn't remember (I think in the dim and distant this was included in a story on here once) what this was. I presume the story is intended for a wider audience, in which case a blink-and-miss-it hint at the meaning would be needed for many readers, I think, even just including the word 'asexual'?

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Posted (edited)

9 hours ago, Robinski said:

- This is something I've noticed in your writing before. You use E's A LOT. Numerous times on the same line sometimes. It feels so clunky.

 

Me being paranoid about confusing people with the they/them pronoun.

 

9 hours ago, Robinski said:

- "Chief Security Officer" - I'm not getting any kind of aura of authority from E. Know dealing with family can rob one of one's confidence / authority / etc., but I just don't feel their ability to command a bunch of hard-nosed security agents, let alone killing a couple of assassins. (By the way: hired assassins, is there another kind? I suppose there is. It just always sounds odd to me, like 'hired' is redundant.

 

I'll work on this more as I continue to revise. I think this will be a little better in part 2 since E is away from their family, but next time I go back to part 1, I'll work on this more and make sure I carry it through. And good point about the redundancy. 

I also took out some of the clumsiness. I put it their for humor and because Enzi had everything under too much control in earlier drafts. I went from too competent to too incompetent. 

9 hours ago, Robinski said:

- How would E be up there with U? As joint rulers? There's so much that's unclear, imo.

 

Good catch. I have this all in my head, but it looks what I was trying to convey isn't coming through. Maybe abdicated wasn't the best choice in wording. I was thinking abdicating heirship, not current status as rulers. I'll think on how to rephrase this. 

9 hours ago, Robinski said:

"distribute food to the peasants" - World-buliding problem. I have no idea what kind of society this is. I've just learned they have peasants. There was talk initial of 'old Earth', as I recall, but I've got no notion of how they got here, what kind of society they live in socially, politically or anything. If we're talking about a space-faring society, I'm presuming this is some kind of future world, which at least used to have technology (I don't know, I'm guessing). They have drones, and tech and stuff, but they also have peasants, really?

Took the peasants out this weekend. 

As for tech, have you ever played Breath of the Wild? The "ancient tech" in that game is the kind of vibe I am trying (and probably failing) to create. 

9 hours ago, Robinski said:

- "Protocol Empty Rock" - all this active, resourceful, taking command is much more convincing of the character you describe E to be in the early pages, but which they does not demonstrate until the latter pages. They're much more convincing now.

 

I think improved this a little over the weekend, but might still need to do more. I'm thinking about making it so Enzi actually took the night off instead of being undercover, and try to show them struggling to act like their old self versus their CSO self. But when stuff starts going wrong Enzi switches fully into CSO mode. 

9 hours ago, Robinski said:

I like the idea that the tunnels are open when the wall is up. Although, it's a massive hole in security, because how widely known are the tunnels? A peasant revolt would be all over those tunnels, I would think.

 

Not widely known at all, and I made some changes so not just anyone can actually  access all of them. Though there might still be a hole or two. hmmm

 

9 hours ago, Robinski said:

In fact, the whole second half is much stronger than the set up in the first, and by the end I start to be convinced of E's character, but it's taken too long and I wonder, if I'd bought this story, if I would have got past the first half before putting it down. I would, because I hate putting things down, but still...

I'll definitely do more work on the begining once I get through to the end.

Looking forward to seeing what you think of submission 2 (which does not quite make it to the end of the story).

Thank you very much!

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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8 hours ago, Robinski said:

Right, see I didn't remember (I think in the dim and distant this was included in a story on here once) what this was. I presume the story is intended for a wider audience, in which case a blink-and-miss-it hint at the meaning would be needed for many readers, I think, even just including the word 'asexual'?

Took that out completely. It wasn't really relevant and I was being stupid about it anyway. 

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