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hawkedup

6/3/19 - hawkedup - Turn of Ages 1 (resub) - 4k words -LV

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Posted (edited)

Hey, everybody. After all your great feedback last week, I decided to start working on the 3.0 draft of my book immediately. (What you all read before was the 2.0 draft.) 

~ 4,000 words

Edited by hawkedup
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Hooray for revisions! Something tells me I'll be in this boat after this week's sub, too. Heh.

Overall

Generally, I didn't have enough world buy-in to feel tension there at the end. That info-dump halfway through needed to be sprinkled earlier. The chapter started really strong and then sort of devolved, I think, into more generic fantasy and info-dumps. I think what it needs is just some tightening and realigning of narrative structure. It isn't that you don't have cool stuff going on, it's just that the narrative keeps getting in its own way.

The major issue I have is with the implicit (and bordering overt) bias in the piece. You've got some problematic descriptions with ethnic minority and neurodiverse people, that must be cleaned up. I've provided some reading links. Do let me know if you have questions.

This is miles better than the first time! I think another good clean up should really get it into shape.

 

As I go

- +1 for two prologues turning into one epigraph

- confused as to why she has to cut her hair?

- I kind of miss the ominous IN THE FACE SHE STOLE vibe from the last one, but this whole section works better all around. Good hook!

- pg 5: our MC is bordering on the Not Like Other Girls trope

- pg 5: Is L actually Arya Stark?

- pg 6: red flag going up with the only hispanic named character being a servant

- pg 10: so page 1 had a great hook but now I'm left wondering what the through line is. Kittens are awesome but what is the point to the story? Why do I care about our face snatching MC?

- pg 10: wow that's quite the info dump. I think I'd rather find the information out organically

- page 11: wooooooah okay. 1) do not describe people using food. It's bad form at best and racist at worst. Here is a great site for alternatives! 2) 'slanted eyes' falls into the same issue as #1. Here's another page about how to code that better.

- pg 12: wait is this narrative...making fun of someone with a lower than average IQ?

- pg 13: of course she does yoga

 

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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.

Welcome back! Glad to see you've made some overhauls to the chapter. Let's get into it.

Inconsistencies/Concerns:

Spoiler

I like that you've consolidated that massive first chapter. You're still telling us a lot instead of showing, however, so be careful of that. Instead of "Her muscles and joints ached and she moved like a woman past the turn of age." try something along the lines of "Her muscles and joints ached, her movements were stiff, and as she moved she felt something pop uncomfortably." It tells us more about how she is feeling, and consequently shows us what it is like to be her. (Don't use what I wrote--use it as an example of how you can improve with few words.)

Second paragraph is better on this.

Mm. I talked about parentheticals like this previously. Exercise caution--I know kais says they're becoming more common but I have yet to read a book from third person that was both well-written and used these. When I see them used, it's usually because the book is in first-person, and even then very rare.

Okay. We're already done with that opening chapter's content. Excellent.

Pg. 3 - "Princess Doody" << This is extremely immature. If these are children, it's fine, but adolescents and adults are usually capable of more refined insults.

Pg. 3 - "futbol" << if this is a fantasy world, don't use a real-world comparison. "The size of her head" works just as well.

Pg. 5 - Mm...this bit about the Faceless isn't a very good sell, and a bit of an info-dump. Not real compelling to just give that away.

Pg. 5 - Yep, you're still using these parentheticals like this. I don't like it. For example, the reminder about Nurse Rosa is completely unnecessary. The way these are used is like you're giving us information as the author, which juts me out of the story and breaks my immersion every single time. And three times in chapter one is not a good thing.

Pg. 6 - " b-line " << beeline

Pg. 7 - Almost all of your parentheticals are unnecessary inclusions of information. This bit about her worn face being prettier doesn't seem overly relevant, and adds into the same "so beautiful it's a curse" trope that can be somewhat problematic.

Pg. 8 - No need for a scene break here, it's a direct continuation of the thought before.

Pg. 8 - Wowww. That's a really huge moment of immaturity. How old is our MC--twelve?

Pg. 9 - Why are we using Justified justification? Use Left-justified to avoid these weird spaces.

Pg. 9 - If he's never, ever given her a reason to doubt his intentions toward her, and she sees his eyes go really wide, why is she suddenly suspicious and worried about him telling her to go into the shed? One would think she'd be more inclined to trust her friend.

Pg. 10 - Holy info-dump, Batman. You completely lost me here.

Pg. 11 - "honey-colored" << avoid food comparisons. It's very unfavorable.

Pg. 11 - Okay. This is a lot of information for us to assume the MC knows. Omniscient MCs are generally undesirable in fiction.

Pg. 11 - C is a giant, then? Fifteen feet? Without any indication that he's an entirely different race?

 

Problems:

Spoiler

Pg. 12 - Ooookkaaaayyyyyy. I know it's a pretty standard fantasy trope that giants are big and stupid. This is not only a dated concept, but realistically, it's really hard to believe that someone with this problem would ever be put in a General's position and then allowed to be made fun of by other generals. And that's saying nothing of the fact that this kind of writing shows an insulting level of bigotry and a whole slew of other problems. It's one thing to include characters who are less intelligent, and even making fun of that can have its merits if it's done in the proper light (as in, the characters doing so are pretty much crembuckets), but it's another thing entirely for what you have here. If I were reading this in the book store, I'd put it down here and not bother reading further.

Critique:

Overall, the chapter reads much better. My attention was gripped much better and I didn't find myself skimming nearly as much, so you get a lot of props for that. There's a lot more that happens in this chapter, which is also a plus. It's a good revision.

That said, there are still some glaring problems. One, is there is a lot of immaturity. Girls squealing over kittens, "Princess Doody", "they're so cute" are all so recognizably tropey that they're bordering on showing the author as immature, which isn't something you want. You can convey immaturity in characters in a lot of ways that aren't quite so overt, but still convey the same thing.

Another issue (and this is a HUGE one), is using neural-atypathy as a punch line. It isn't funny, not even for a second. There are millions of people in America alone--let alone the world--who struggle to be recognized as of equal value because their brains work a little differently. If you want to portray a character that isn't so smart, there are ways to do this that aren't offensive. If you want to portray mental illness in proper light, that's fine. But the minute you stray into making fun of these things is the minute you start becoming a bigoted jerk--which again, isn't something you want to do. If you need help or have questions, ask. There are many people on here who know more about this and would love to help you avoid these pitfalls--myself included.

Finally, I really need something in this story that is unique. What we have so far is a lot better than what we had previously, but it's still very generic. There is nothing compelling about the world to grip me (partly because I've not been given much information about the world itself), the MC is an immature girl (I'm a man nearly thirty), and the magic is seemingly just people whose social class dictates what shape their light takes. There's nothing to really sell me on what makes this story stand out, and so there's nothing to really hold my interest for the long haul.

12 hours ago, kais said:

Generally, I didn't have enough world buy-in to feel tension there at the end. That info-dump halfway through needed to be sprinkled earlier. The chapter started really strong and then sort of devolved, I think, into more generic fantasy and info-dumps. I think what it needs is just some tightening and realigning of narrative structure. It isn't that you don't have cool stuff going on, it's just that the narrative keeps getting in its own way.

Agreed, generally.

12 hours ago, kais said:

The major issue I have is with the implicit (and bordering overt) bias in the piece. You've got some problematic descriptions with ethnic minority and neurodiverse people, that must be cleaned up. I've provided some reading links. Do let me know if you have questions.

Hard agree.

12 hours ago, kais said:

I think another good clean up should really get it into shape.

I think so as well. Keep at it.

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Posted (edited)

14 hours ago, kais said:

red flag going up with the only hispanic named character being a servant

A large majority of the cast (80%+) are hispanic or indigenous. Only Gen Y in this chapter is not.

14 hours ago, kais said:

You've got some problematic descriptions with ethnic minority and neurodiverse people, that must be cleaned up.

Which descriptions are problematic so I can look at them? I thought I avoided physical descriptions entirely besides hair, stature and and soul lanterns unless someone was out of the ordinary to L like Gen Y.

14 hours ago, kais said:

do not describe people using food.

I've heard this before and don't fully understand why. This could be a background thing. I come from a huge Mexican/hispanic family and using food to describe people's skin color is the norm. I will keep what you said in mind going forward, though.

1 hour ago, Alderant said:

"futbol" << if this is a fantasy world, don't use a real-world comparison.

It's an item that exists in their world.

1 hour ago, Alderant said:

If he's never, ever given her a reason to doubt his intentions toward her, and she sees his eyes go really wide, why is she suddenly suspicious and worried about him telling her to go into the shed? One would think she'd be more inclined to trust her friend.

This is a good point. Thank you.

1 hour ago, Alderant said:

How old is our MC--twelve?

14

1 hour ago, Alderant said:

"Princess Doody", "they're so cute" are all so recognizably tropey that they're bordering on showing the author as immature, which isn't something you want.

I'll reign it in. I wanted to get across that these characters are young and capable of immaturity without alienating mature readers.

1 hour ago, Alderant said:

If you want to portray mental illness in proper light, that's fine. But the minute you stray into making fun of these things is the minute you start becoming a bigoted jerk--which again, isn't something you want to do.

One of my goals with this piece is to portray a variety of nuero-atypical individuals and the problems and struggles they might face in a fantasy setting. I'll definitely look at the relationship between Gen Y and Gen C more closely going forward because I do not want the book itself to come across as making fun of these people even if there are people in the book who can and will treat them poorly because they are "different".

1 hour ago, Alderant said:

The major issue I have is with the implicit (and bordering overt) bias in the piece.

I'm not sure I understand. Can you expand on the inferred bias? Bias toward what?
 

1 hour ago, Alderant said:

You've got some problematic descriptions with ethnic minority and neurodiverse people, that must be cleaned up.

Besides using honey as a comparison to Gen Y's skin color, can you pinpoint other moments when someone was treated as a minority and how the description was problematic?

Thanks for the feedback, guys! I've already started to adapt the chapter based on your suggestions and I can see marked improvement.

Edited by hawkedup
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1 hour ago, Alderant said:

I like that you've consolidated that massive first chapter.

I’m almost too embarrassed to admit that in the 2.0 draft it took me almost 20k words to get to the same point. 

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4 minutes ago, hawkedup said:

One of my goals with this piece is to portray a variety of nuero-atypical individuals and the problems and struggles they might face in a fantasy setting. I'll definitely look at the relationship between Gen Y and Gen C more closely going forward because I do not want the book itself to come across as making fun of these people even if there are people in the book who can and will treat them poorly because they are "different".

It's not just how other characters react or act--it's how you present the character itself. If the character is clunking around, giving one-word sentences and clearly doesn't have any understanding of grammar, and then runs at a shed because they hear a cat and is threatening to knock the whole thing down, that's displaying some significant bias on the part of the author. If you want to portray neuro-atypical people, then don't be insulting in your depictions. Stormlight Archive is built around this concept, and Brandon handles this really, really well. I'd recommend going back and reading it with a critical eye to see how he handles ideas like depression, addiction, and a whole slew of issues in a respectful and meaningful way.

17 minutes ago, hawkedup said:

I'm not sure I understand. Can you expand on the inferred bias? Bias toward what?

The bias toward neural-atypathy. Your mentally challenged character is a buffoon, and others make fun of him. It's not respectful, it's a caricature, and that's a real problem. If you're not sure why what you've written is wrong, then I would recommend doing more research into emotional, mental, and personality disorders and speaking with people who have these issues before including them in your own writing.

8 minutes ago, hawkedup said:

Besides using honey as a comparison to Gen Y's skin color, can you pinpoint other moments when someone was treated as a minority and how the description was problematic?

So, I had no idea you were hispanic yourself, but keep in mind that in most of the western world, there's a lot of stigma around people of color being servants because of the connotations with slavery and minorities being forced to work for little to no benefit. Since excepting J, there's no one else with a distinctly hispanic sounding name to counter-act this, it sounds like you're putting a minority figure into servitude...which is problematic. If you want the main culture to be hispanic, than go to your world and use hispanic names. Right now, there's no indication of any kind of race (excepting J & Gen Y), and most of the names you use are generally kind of european variants, so the ethnic names and descriptions carry the wrong connotation because there's nothing to tell us the opposite is true. At least, that's my opinion. I'm more on the traditional side of social forwardness in writing, so more forward writers here could probably explain better.

16 minutes ago, hawkedup said:

I've heard this before and don't fully understand why. This could be a background thing. I come from a huge Mexican/hispanic family and using food to describe people's skin color is the norm.

Try describing a white person with food and that might help you figure out why. It has to do with treating other people as equals and not something to be consumed, but this isn't a strong suit of my writing knowledge. @kais and @Mandamon could probably clarify this better.

21 minutes ago, hawkedup said:

It's an item that exists in their world.

Then don't italicize it. If it's a universally recognized object, there's nothing special or unique about it.

As a side note, I might recommend finding a different word, since futbol is actually a loan of the word "football." Generally, if you're writing fantasy you want to avoid drawing real world comparisons as much as is possible, because it breaks the immersion of being in a fantasy world. I've seen numerous fantasy stories have soccer in them, but they don't call it soccer and don't refer to it as a soccer ball. This same thing kind of applies to yoga--which, for example, is in the Wheel of Time! But it's not called yoga there, it's called Posing, and its something shea dancers do for the Seanchan Blood as a kind of show.

That said, when you write fantasy that takes place in an altered version of our world, these terms are absolutely fine to use. But in non-earth fantasy, they generally aren't speaking English and Spanish and generally aren't going to use the same terminology we do. Does that make sense?

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28 minutes ago, Alderant said:

and most of the names you use are generally kind of european variants, so the ethnic names and descriptions carry the wrong connotation because there's nothing to tell us the opposite is true

Spoiler

Rosa, Isabel, Jimenez, Ramirez, Romero, Reyes, Vigil.

29 minutes ago, Alderant said:

Then don't italicize it.

My plan is to italicize all Spanish words, but I get what you mean. This precedent hasn't been set in the story yet, so I see why futbol seems glaringly out of place.

29 minutes ago, Alderant said:

That said, when you write fantasy that takes place in an altered version of our world, these terms are absolutely fine to use.

I'll brainstorm how to make the fact that it is our world (though generations removed from what we would consider contemporary) more clear without actually coming out and saying it.

31 minutes ago, Alderant said:

It's not respectful, it's a caricature, and that's a real problem.

I see what you're saying. I'll contemplate a rework of the character.

33 minutes ago, Alderant said:

Try describing a white person with food and that might help you figure out why.

Masa, hominy, custard, cream, corn husk, tortilla, horchata.

This is the first time I've chosen to use food with description. In the past I avoided it like the plague for all the reasons you've listed, but I decided I wanted to experiment with it, see if the trope could be broken. I'm going to stick with it at least throughout the 3.0 draft because a] it feels more authentic to me because that is how normal people in my community think/talk and b] I'm not nearly at the skill level I need to be to be published and definitely won't be until long after this book is done and in a trunk somewhere. Please don't take this to mean I'm ignoring or disrespecting your insight. I fully expect my experiment to fail but I'm going to leave that fix until a later draft.

Thank you for conversing with me about this. I hope I'm not coming across as defensive or dismissive. I assure you that's not the case. In fact, I'm just thrilled to be talking to someone about my story. It's something I've never had the luxury of doing before.

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Hi there, @hawkedup! I like the setting you've created for your story, and some of the details you put in made me want to know more. I especially like the concept of the soul lantern, and I find it interesting that people's soul lantern seems to be linked to their social class. So is this a caste system where a person's status is determined from birth based on the form their lantern takes? What happens in the (presumably rare) case where someone manages to change their status, say by "marrying up"? And is it possible to attack/destroy someone's soul lantern? Your premise implies some interesting questions, and I find myself wanting to read more to learn the answers.

That said, I found it hard to sympathize with your main character, largely because some of her behavior in this chapter came off as quite immature. I can understand teenage protagonists acting like teenagers--for example, Ron and Hermione getting into a fight because Hermione went to the Yule Ball with Krum. But L in this story doesn't really come off as someone who would be hand-picked for a critical intelligence-gathering mission to bring down a tyrant.

Here are some more specific thoughts, which I hope you find helpful:

Spoiler

Page 1

“The alarm clock on the nightstand”

As I read through the rest of this story, it gave me the feeling that the setting is a medieval- or Renaissance-era world, so the mention of an alarm clock was jarring.

 

Page 2

Her soul lantern, a disembodied pinprick of light”

Later on, you mention that servants’ soul lanterns are round. I guess a pinprick would technically be round, but this makes it sound as though L’s soul lantern is different from those of the other servants. Of course, the reader soon finds out that she’s not truly a servant, but it seems like her soul lantern being visibly different would give her away! Or maybe “pinprick” is just meant to indicate that it’s smaller than average, perhaps because she uses a lot of energy to maintain her shimmer mask?

 

Page 3

These girls followed Isabel like devotees.”

The next sentence gives us a metaphor to show how the other girls follow I around, so I don’t think it needs to be spelled out here.

 

Page 4

“Most shadows were put down like animals and it was considered a mercy.”

This makes the mention of “shadow farms” in the epigraph at the beginning very chilling. It also helps to draw me into the story by making me wonder who’s “farming” shadows and why.

 

 

Page 5

She bypassed Sub-Basement 2 (where the servants’ mess hall was located) altogether and climbed straight to N.R.’s chamber on SB1.”

 

“Sub-basement” also feels like a pretty modern term for this setting. Also, you mentioned on the previous page that the stairwell led up to the ground floor, which made it sound like L was currently on the first basement level. But now it sounds like she’s going up a stairwell to a floor that should be below that. I’m a little confused about the castle layout here.

 

it was a long hike to and up the East Tower”

It seems a little odd to have the nurse’s quarters so far away from her charge. I would think they’d want her close to PZ in case the latter has a health emergency.

 

 

Page 7

“or bluecoats as they were commonly called”

The earlier passage about them practicing established that the DW and bluecoats are the same group, so I don’t think you need to explicitly state it here.

 

Page 8

She pouted and pointed. “Kitties!””

This feels like very immature behavior for someone who’s supposed to be a spy, and it really pulled me out of the story. I know you establish later that she’s unusually young for this job, but this struck me as a level of childishness that would have disqualified her from such a post regardless of her spectral abilities.

 

Page 10

a behemoth known as the Leviathan”

The term leviathan generally refers to a sea creature, so it feels like an odd name for someone who doesn’t appear to have any connection to the ocean.

 

Page 14

KITTY!” GC shouted.

It strains my suspension of disbelief that someone with as childlike a mindset as GC has would reach the rank of general. I can understand that the God King might want to make use of him in some capacity because of his extraordinary physical strength, but a general usually needs to be good at planning and strategizing as well. Similarly, the head of a ruler’s personal guard should be able to observe small details and discern non-obvious threats to the ruler’s safety, and someone who gets distracted by a cat probably isn’t going to be able to do that.

 

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8 hours ago, hawkedup said:

A large majority of the cast (80%+) are hispanic or indigenous. Only Gen Y in this chapter is not.

That's cool, but we'll need to be given some indication of that since you've set this in Generic European Fantasyland (at least from what I can tell ATM). What country were you thinking the hispanic and indigenous people were from/what culture(s) are you drawing from? For instance, if this was Peruvian inspired there wouldn't be horses so much as llamas, kittens would be guinea pigs (and would be raised for food along with bunnies), and the textiles would be described very differently. You could go into any number of pre-Incan societies for words on rulers that weren't so European military.

If it's Generic European Fantasyland but with hispanic and indigenous characters, then tell us more about their clothes, the foods they like, how they maybe have accents (or maybe not!). How did this large enclave get into, say, the British Isles?

9 hours ago, hawkedup said:

I thought I avoided physical descriptions entirely besides hair, stature and and soul lanterns unless someone was out of the ordinary to L like Gen Y.

And there's the problem right there. You call out differences and so therefore set a default, which is generally not great. It's fine if you want everyone to be hispanic except for some (Japanese?) characters, but it's very othering to assume default and then just describe the people that are different. It's a problematic way to write.

9 hours ago, hawkedup said:

I'm not sure I understand. Can you expand on the inferred bias? Bias toward what?

Overt bias: 'Gay people are gross and shouldn't be allowed outside.'

Implicit bias: 'I love having gay friends!'

Overt bias: Black people are in prison more because they are more prone to violence

Implicit bias: I don't like to ride the bus in the south side of town (wherein the south side is the poor/black/whatever side)

Overt bias: A woman's place is in the home

Implicit bias: Who is watching your kid while you are on your business trip?

You can check your implicit bias here: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/education.html

 

7 hours ago, hawkedup said:

My plan is to italicize all Spanish words,

But why? If most of the characters are hispanic, those words wouldn't be unusual to them. Not-italicizing Spanish words in this case would help with establishing the world

7 hours ago, hawkedup said:

I'm going to stick with it at least throughout the 3.0 draft because a] it feels more authentic to me because that is how normal people in my community think/talk and b] I'm not nearly at the skill level I need to be to be published and definitely won't be until long after this book is done and in a trunk somewhere. Please don't take this to mean I'm ignoring or disrespecting your insight. I fully expect my experiment to fail but I'm going to leave that fix until a later draft.

Two things here

1) being in a marginalized community does not absolve you from racism or other forms of bias. Your family uses food-based descriptors, okay. But in material that is reaching a wider audience, when POC as a general whole have come down upon food based descriptors, ignores all of their work. I gave you links earlier and I think it would be good to read what those people have to say. Now, if you want to describe white people with food, go right ahead. Always okay to punch up. My favorite is 'skin like uncooked dough.'

2) being published or not, we are a diverse group of people who are reading your pieces. Using food descriptors is problematic. We have made you aware of the issue. We have provided links. This would be a good time to discontinue use of such descriptors. Otherwise you are ignoring the emotional energy and time we have taken for education, and you are telling other POC on the board that what you want to write is more important than the implications of long standing racist issues in writing. 

To put it another way--you'll have likely gathered from my writing that I am all kinds of queer. If Pretend RE Member 'Sally' submits a piece wherein her character uses the word 'dyke' outside of some sort of 1980s queer culture think piece where a middle-aged lesbian is reclaiming the slur, I'd provide links to Sally about why such a word is charged and not best for just random inclusion in a piece of fantasy. This word causes active harm. It carries cultural baggage. It has a place, but not as Sally presented it. 

Sally then responds that she will continue using the word because it works for her story and she has a friend who uses that word. Or Sally has two moms and they use it. It's a part of her life but Sally herself is not queer and has no ownership of that word. Sally is not being respectful of the history of the word, of the emotional labor that went into attempting to educate, and to continue using the word moves from implicit bias into a thoughtful-purposeful act. The first time it was used was implicit bias. The second time after education? That's something entirely different.

Now, there is a work around. If indeed you want to relocate the world to a cultural surrounding where food is a primary centerpiece, and all the characters get described that way, and it is made clear in the narrative that this is of cultural importance to the story and that it advances the story, and that this is an ownvoices aspect, it could work. The issue here, now, is the othering being done by only food-coloring the non-majority character. 

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45 minutes ago, The Kraken's Daughter said:

So is this a caste system where a person's status is determined from birth based on the form their lantern takes?

Nobility is determined by birth. Theoretically, a servant could have a "noble's" soul lantern, but they'd be seen as someone who thought too much of themselves and probably wouldn't have a job very long. 

Royalty is not determined by birth but instead (spoiler) certain individuals who are powerful enough to be a host for the GK.

45 minutes ago, The Kraken's Daughter said:

What happens in the (presumably rare) case where someone manages to change their status, say by "marrying up"?

Someone can marry into a noble family, but it is rare.

46 minutes ago, The Kraken's Daughter said:

L in this story doesn't really come off as someone who would be hand-picked for a critical intelligence-gathering mission to bring down a tyrant.

Thank you for pointing this out. I think my second biggest failure with this story so far is how I'm portraying L. I'm really trying to get across the fact that she really isn't right personality wise for the job. While that is obviously happening, it's having the side effect of L being unlikable and unbelievable.

47 minutes ago, The Kraken's Daughter said:

it seems like her soul lantern being visibly different would give her away!

Everyone has the "pinprick of disembodied light" up until sometime during puberty and then their soul lanterns coalesce into something physical.

50 minutes ago, The Kraken's Daughter said:

It strains my suspension of disbelief that someone with as childlike a mindset as GC has would reach the rank of general.

And this is clearly my biggest failure. Originally I was going to depict GC a certain way and then in a flashback show him an intelligent man completely in control of his impulses and faculties (GY's treatment of him being a hold over from when they both talked smack to each other constantly) but based on all of your responses so far, I know I'm going to have to change my approach because GC is coming across as both unbelievable and offensive. Definitely not my intention.

Than you for reading and for the feedback! It is very helpful. I've already started tweaking the chapter to balance the characters better (getting rid of most of L's immaturity and reworking GC's character entirely). Man I love this! For the first time in YEARS I feel like I'm becoming a better writer and that's thanks to all of you.

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Hallo hawkedup,

Read your piece, read the previous feedback. Your pacing is much improved, brisk and to the point. Other than that, there's really no other new criticism I can provide that hasn't already been said, so on that note, I'm just going to post the few notes I've taken below, which mostly regard mechanics. Sorry that my critique is brief; everyone else has covered the prevailing issues better than I could have, regarding depictions of race and neural atypathy. 

pg. 1: 

"From the suicide note of Princess Z." Now that's a hook.

pg. 3:

"L said, instead." I would delete instead.

pg. 6:

"At the back of practice yard was a hedge wall about twenty feet tall. This wall separated the regular training yard from the archery range." I would combine these two sentences. 

"b-line." Spell as beeline. 

pg. 7:

"morning and" Add a comma between these two.

pg. 8:

"“Woah, hold it there, friend,” J said, grabbing her around the waist and holding her back." The paragraph break preceding this sentence is unnecessary. 

pg. 10:

"hiding the light from gem." I think you're missing a 'the' here.

pg. 12:

"big not-so-friendly giant" It's redundant to describe a giant as big. 

pg. 13:

"That’s because their leaders use compulsion" Is compulsion in this case a proper noun, for which it should be capitalized? Or are their leaders being compelled? 

"If this is true" Add a comma after 'true.'

 

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@kais Thank you for your words. You've given me a lot to think about.

19 minutes ago, kais said:

Now, there is a work around. If indeed you want to relocate the world to a cultural surrounding where food is a primary centerpiece, and all the characters get described that way, and it is made clear in the narrative that this is of cultural importance to the story and that it advances the story, and that this is an ownvoices aspect, it could work. The issue here, now, is the othering being done by only food-coloring the non-majority character. 

I'm glad you said this because this is exactly what I'm aiming for. All I ask is that you bear with me and possibly help me figure out what I need to do to make it work before asking me to discontinue using the descriptors entirely. At the very least please don't think I'm ignoring the energy and time you've put into providing me feedback. I did follow the links and read the articles (the ones I hadn't read before) and I get where you guys are coming from. I do. It's why I've avoided such descriptors in the past. I appreciate the time and effort you guys are putting in to help me. And, like I said, if I get to the end of this draft and I haven't made this experiment work I will admit failure and go another direction for the next draft. And if it still doesn't work because I dug myself into too deep of a hole, then I'll chalk the book up as a learning experience and do something better for the next book.

I have a clear picture in my head of what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to help people like me who have never really felt included in epic fantasy before feel included. But I don't want to alienate non-hispanic people either. There is a very real chance that I'm simply not a good enough writer to do this the way I have set out to do it, by using these tropes against themselves. Obviously, based on the feedback I've received so far, I am failing miserably. But I still want to at least try to make it work first. Does that make sense?

@JWerner Thank you for reading and responding! I almost never have time to read submissions before Thursday or Friday so I totally understand how it feels to come to a thread after everything I had to say has already been said. No worries at all about the brevity. I appreciate you!

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Well, I think most of the comments I was going to make have been handled already! Definitely an improvement on the first submission and it gets right to the story.

The main problems I had were on the infodumps, how General C. was presented and ethnic details, and lack of details on the setting. I think the first two have been addressed enough and you have gotten enough feedback (thanks @kais!)

On the setting side, I'm getting a strange mix of standard European fantasy and colony sci-fi. We have an alternate world setting with soul lanterns, castles, and royalty, but also things like biotics and more contemporary words like "football" and "sub basement." I'm not saying you can't have this, but right now it's very confusing to read and I don't know what setting to keep in mind while reading. I keep picturing a renaissance setting, and then being thrown off by a current word, or a word like "biotics."

If you can slip in some sort of brief explanation, or setting placement, or even just a hint that things are supposed to be a weird mix of future and past, then I could accept it and read without getting thrown out. Right now I'm spending too much time trying to figure out the setting to get involved in the story. 

 

Notes while reading:

pg 2: Wow, yes, much better. This gets right to the point and keeps pretty much everything important from the last version.

pg 3: why is "futbol" italicized?

pg 4: "L’s primary job as a chambermaid..."
--Bit of an infodump here. I'd like to learn about this organically. You could show L going about her duty.

pg 5: "Spies couldn’t afford friendships"
--interesting.

pg 5: "L was one of the Faceless--the secret name for a resistance group with one goal: To destroy the God King."
--I think this might have more impact if you don't spell everything out. You don't really need to say the people taking down a king are a resistance, for example.

pg 5: "climbed straight to Nurse R’s chamber on SB1."
--I haven't quite figured out the setting yet. Some parts of this say fantasy, and some say science fiction. 

pg 5: "aching muscle"
--just the one? ;-)

pg 6: "b-line" -> "beeline"

pg 7: Not big on the use of parentheses here. It could be reworded with commas or em-dashes.

pg 7: "Do you have a boyfriend"
--or girlfriend, since you've already included females...

pg 7: "site" -> "sight"

pg 7: "Her eyes widened at the site of all the flowers growing up the palace wall"
--the whole thing with picking the flowers seems off. She's presumably been working there a while, so was there something that made her try to pick a rose today?

pg 9: Okay. I was honestly expecting something a little more surprising than kittens...

pg 10: "Those footfalls could only belong to one person"
--though I'm not sure why he's also coming to look at the kittens...

pg 10: Weird break to an infodump at the end of the page... Can we be shown these things instead?
Also, I guess this is going the more sci-fi route, with biotics?

pg 11: "wasn’t the only general in the archery range"
--I thought he was coming into the shed?

pg 11: "C stood over fifteen feet tall"
--That's...a lot bigger than I was expecting.

pg 12: General C. seems remarkably simple for someone who is, I'm guessing, commanding troops. Why is he even in this conversation if his mentality is not on the same level as the other generals?

pg 14: "The whole shed lurched as the Leviathan’s arm..."
--yeeeah....C seems very unsuited to be anyone's bodyguard. The whole "big dumb guy" trope is a bit played out as well. I was honestly expecting the god king's bodyguard to be a very dangerous man of insightful intellect, and instead got a child in a body that's so far outside the norm I have trouble believing he can operate in an everyday setting.

pg 15: Is no one supposed to be in the shed? I assume there are caretakers who use...tools? that are in the shed? Regardless, Y's response seems overblown.

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Over all, this is an improvement from the first version, but I also had the same issues as @kais, @Mandamon, and @Alderant. The general is nothing more than a harmful stereotype right now for me, and it is very strange to only describe one person's skin, and that with food (does L want to eat her? Did L miss breakfast? I'm wondering that more than having that word describe anything useful). @kais has listed my top links for issues around food-descriptors and harmful stereotypes, so I'd like to talk about some of the meta-commentary on this story.

 
I see here you've stated you intend this piece to be an epic fantasy. I don't know what audience you're aiming for, but from what I've seen here, this appears to be a novel aimed at teenagers. I would expect different focus and characterizations from a novel aimed at adults, regardless of the age of the protagonist.
 
So my first question of this work would be, "Is this an epic fantasy?"
 
But, what makes an epic fantasy?
 
From this chapter, I would guess that an answer to that would be "a setting in the past, primarily in western Europe," and while that is certainly a very common choice, I believe that a European or even medieval setting is not necessary to make a story an epic fantasy. Rather, in my opinion, epic fantasy is defined more by its scope. The fate of nations, the salvation of the world, the fate of the universe in the balance, dangers that are grand or large in scope, affecting more than just the protagonist and the protagonist's near associates, are a defining feature to epic fantasy in my mind.
 
Right now, I don't see that from this piece -- the focus so far is very much on L and her daily troubles. The things that are going wrong in this chapter are affecting L and pretty much L only. There are some hints that she's working for something bigger, but I have no context to place them, so I don't feel like the scope of this is epic.  Sometimes on the forum we call this a lack of stakes, but there are stakes here -- L is in danger of losing her job and getting in trouble -- but they are not epic stakes. 
 
You have stated you were wanting to fold aspects of your culture and heritage into your work and that's awesome! However, I don't see much of anything here beyond the typical western European fantasy stereotypes. We have a kingdom, with a king, some miniboss-esque generals, a princess, magic, chambermaids and stable hands so a semi-feudal class system. I see one depiction of skin tone, which is problematic; a couple of italicized words for things that are not plot-essential or character-essential; and some modern-sounding, possibly ethnic surnames. What I am seeing from this chapter is not an integration of heritage into the core of a story, but a veneer of it, thinly laid atop generic western European stereotypes. 
 
You also mentioned that you have been unable to find stories like the one you are writing already extant in the world. And while I can't really help you with something as personal as redoing your worldbuilding to better incorporate your heritage, I can show you books and stories where authors have done that very thing with their own backgrounds and culture. Sometimes seeing how others have solved a problem can help you figure out how to handle it in your own work. 
 
I'm going to start with two novels
 
Shadowshaper by Daniel Hose Older;
and Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova.
 
Shadowshaper is urban fantasy, and Labyrinth Lost is more of a portal fantasy, but both feature Latinx protagonists.  The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson also merits a mention here, since the protagonist in that one is Afro-Caribbean (actually most of Hopkinson's back catalog would likely merit mentioning in a non-European, not-necessarily-medieval fantasy list, despite much of it getting categorized as "magical realism").
 
Unfortunately for epic fantasy fans, a lot of Latin American and Spanish-speaking literature got sort of typecast as "magical realism," to the point that it's difficult to find anything else translated into English. If you're interested in seeing the more magical side of the Latin magical realism genre, I can definitely find you a long list of books, but since you mentioned fantasy and epic fantasy specifically, that's what I looked for and what I'm recommending here. This means I did have to move beyond just a Latinx/Hispanic heritage. I also tried to find books where I could also locate the author talking about using their heritage in their work. 
 
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin tops my list of non-European-centric epic fantasy, sine that's exactly why Jemisin wrote the trilogy. Here she is talking about this series: Link 1 and Link 2 
 
Ken Liu's Grace of Kings, is also epic in scale and decidedly non-European in setting. Liu talks a lot about his heritage and how it influenced this story here: Link
 
More recently, Marlon James' Black Leopard, Red Wolf is out now and being compared to the Lord of the Rings, so it is definitely epic fantasy.
 
Moving back into a territory I feel is closer to your own story, there's 
 
Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor. Okorafor has written numerous novels heavily based in her African heritage, and they are all amazing. I'm mentioning Zahrah the Windseeker specifically because to me it is the most "fantasy" like of the ones of hers I've read. Akata Witch (and Akata Warrior), the Binti novellas, and Who Fears Death all have a more real-world-feeling setting to me. Okorafor makes no secret of the way she draws on her African heritage to write her novels and interviews with her discussing that are all over the place. Here is one where she's talking about different cultures' views of family, in the context of the Binti novellas: Link
 
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, and Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi are two relatively-recently published fantasy novels that are getting good reviews. Children of Blood and Bone has been something of a sensation, and you can find author interviews in several places. Here's one on Teen Vogue, where she talks a little about using her heritage in making the world and setting for her. Beasts Made of Night is also getting Tolkien comparisons, but here the author used his Nigerian heritage to make his world and setting. Here's an interview where he talks about it: Link 
 
Cindy Pon writes novels influenced by her Taiwanese heritage. Her duo, Serpentine and Sacrifice, are definitely non-European fantasy. She is less epic in scope than the others, but I enjoyed her books. Here she is talking about her Taiwanese heritage (it's in conjunction with her scifi novel, Want, but I believe it is still worth the read: Link
 
Continuing east-Asian, Aliette de Bodard writes amazing fantasy and scifi novels using her Vietnamese heritage as a basis for her worlds. Her In the Vanisher's Palace is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast through the lens of Vietnamese folklore. She also has a trilogy of well-reviewed fantasy books based on Aztec mythology. Here she is talking about her Aztec books, research, and incorporating culture into her worldbuilding: Link
 
One last recommendation is Fonda Lee's Jade City. It's a modern fantasy, which is why it's getting listed last, but it also draws heavily on Lee's heritage and the the way family has a special meaning for her as an Asian-American. Here she is talking about it: Link
 
Getting back to your story, I do believe it has good bones on it, but from what I have seen of this section and what you have stated as your goals for it, it needs some serious revisions in order to meet those goals. I look forward to seeing what you do with it!

 

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1 hour ago, industrialistDragon said:

Over all, this is an improvement from the first version, but I also had the same issues as @kais, @Mandamon, and @Alderant. The general is nothing more than a harmful stereotype right now for me, and it is very strange to only describe one person's skin, and that with food (does L want to eat her? Did L miss breakfast? I'm wondering that more than having that word describe anything useful). @kais has listed my top links for issues around food-descriptors and harmful stereotypes, so I'd like to talk about some of the meta-commentary on this story.

 
I see here you've stated you intend this piece to be an epic fantasy. I don't know what audience you're aiming for, but from what I've seen here, this appears to be a novel aimed at teenagers. I would expect different focus and characterizations from a novel aimed at adults, regardless of the age of the protagonist.
 
So my first question of this work would be, "Is this an epic fantasy?"
 
But, what makes an epic fantasy?
 
From this chapter, I would guess that an answer to that would be "a setting in the past, primarily in western Europe," and while that is certainly a very common choice, I believe that a European or even medieval setting is not necessary to make a story an epic fantasy. Rather, in my opinion, epic fantasy is defined more by its scope. The fate of nations, the salvation of the world, the fate of the universe in the balance, dangers that are grand or large in scope, affecting more than just the protagonist and the protagonist's near associates, are a defining feature to epic fantasy in my mind.
 
Right now, I don't see that from this piece -- the focus so far is very much on L and her daily troubles. The things that are going wrong in this chapter are affecting L and pretty much L only. There are some hints that she's working for something bigger, but I have no context to place them, so I don't feel like the scope of this is epic.  Sometimes on the forum we call this a lack of stakes, but there are stakes here -- L is in danger of losing her job and getting in trouble -- but they are not epic stakes. 
 
You have stated you were wanting to fold aspects of your culture and heritage into your work and that's awesome! However, I don't see much of anything here beyond the typical western European fantasy stereotypes. We have a kingdom, with a king, some miniboss-esque generals, a princess, magic, chambermaids and stable hands so a semi-feudal class system. I see one depiction of skin tone, which is problematic; a couple of italicized words for things that are not plot-essential or character-essential; and some modern-sounding, possibly ethnic surnames. What I am seeing from this chapter is not an integration of heritage into the core of a story, but a veneer of it, thinly laid atop generic western European stereotypes. 
 
You also mentioned that you have been unable to find stories like the one you are writing already extant in the world. And while I can't really help you with something as personal as redoing your worldbuilding to better incorporate your heritage, I can show you books and stories where authors have done that very thing with their own backgrounds and culture. Sometimes seeing how others have solved a problem can help you figure out how to handle it in your own work. 
 
I'm going to start with two novels
 
Shadowshaper by Daniel Hose Older;
and Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova.
 
Shadowshaper is urban fantasy, and Labyrinth Lost is more of a portal fantasy, but both feature Latinx protagonists.  The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson also merits a mention here, since the protagonist in that one is Afro-Caribbean (actually most of Hopkinson's back catalog would likely merit mentioning in a non-European, not-necessarily-medieval fantasy list, despite much of it getting categorized as "magical realism").
 
Unfortunately for epic fantasy fans, a lot of Latin American and Spanish-speaking literature got sort of typecast as "magical realism," to the point that it's difficult to find anything else translated into English. If you're interested in seeing the more magical side of the Latin magical realism genre, I can definitely find you a long list of books, but since you mentioned fantasy and epic fantasy specifically, that's what I looked for and what I'm recommending here. This means I did have to move beyond just a Latinx/Hispanic heritage. I also tried to find books where I could also locate the author talking about using their heritage in their work. 
 
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin tops my list of non-European-centric epic fantasy, sine that's exactly why Jemisin wrote the trilogy. Here she is talking about this series: Link 1 and Link 2 
 
Ken Liu's Grace of Kings, is also epic in scale and decidedly non-European in setting. Liu talks a lot about his heritage and how it influenced this story here: Link
 
More recently, Marlon James' Black Leopard, Red Wolf is out now and being compared to the Lord of the Rings, so it is definitely epic fantasy.
 
Moving back into a territory I feel is closer to your own story, there's 
 
Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor. Okorafor has written numerous novels heavily based in her African heritage, and they are all amazing. I'm mentioning Zahrah the Windseeker specifically because to me it is the most "fantasy" like of the ones of hers I've read. Akata Witch (and Akata Warrior), the Binti novellas, and Who Fears Death all have a more real-world-feeling setting to me. Okorafor makes no secret of the way she draws on her African heritage to write her novels and interviews with her discussing that are all over the place. Here is one where she's talking about different cultures' views of family, in the context of the Binti novellas: Link
 
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, and Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi are two relatively-recently published fantasy novels that are getting good reviews. Children of Blood and Bone has been something of a sensation, and you can find author interviews in several places. Here's one on Teen Vogue, where she talks a little about using her heritage in making the world and setting for her. Beasts Made of Night is also getting Tolkien comparisons, but here the author used his Nigerian heritage to make his world and setting. Here's an interview where he talks about it: Link 
 
Cindy Pon writes novels influenced by her Taiwanese heritage. Her duo, Serpentine and Sacrifice, are definitely non-European fantasy. She is less epic in scope than the others, but I enjoyed her books. Here she is talking about her Taiwanese heritage (it's in conjunction with her scifi novel, Want, but I believe it is still worth the read: Link
 
Continuing east-Asian, Aliette de Bodard writes amazing fantasy and scifi novels using her Vietnamese heritage as a basis for her worlds. Her In the Vanisher's Palace is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast through the lens of Vietnamese folklore. She also has a trilogy of well-reviewed fantasy books based on Aztec mythology. Here she is talking about her Aztec books, research, and incorporating culture into her worldbuilding: Link
 
One last recommendation is Fonda Lee's Jade City. It's a modern fantasy, which is why it's getting listed last, but it also draws heavily on Lee's heritage and the the way family has a special meaning for her as an Asian-American. Here she is talking about it: Link
 
Getting back to your story, I do believe it has good bones on it, but from what I have seen of this section and what you have stated as your goals for it, it needs some serious revisions in order to meet those goals. I look forward to seeing what you do with it!

 

Id like to add Sabaa Tahir's Ember Quartet to this list, as it also accomplishes this through the inclusion of Muslim and mideastern mythologies and cultures woven into the worldbuilding and narrative, as well as maintaining an epic scope that is built on through each book.

And I second almost everything said with regards to epic fantasy as a genre--Id also like to add that there is generally a greater focus on political turmoil as opposed to adventures or quests, and that the plot usually involves conflict spreading across multiple threads and nations.

 

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@industrialistDragon Hey, thank you for your feedback and suggestions! Some of those I've read, some are on my lists, but there were some I had never even heard of before that sound fantastic. Thank you!

3 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

I don't know what audience you're aiming for, but from what I've seen here, this appears to be a novel aimed at teenagers.

My original intent was to write a YA epic fantasy, so you're not wrong, but I think what I really want is an "all ages" type of story.

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Hey, everyone, I stayed up until like 4AM doing revisions. I don't plan on submitting it again but if anyone would be willing to give this new 3.1 version a quick read so I can figure out if I've addressed the issues well enough to move onto the rest of the draft, I'd really appreciate it. Please let me know. I, of course, won't be hurt if you can't, but I just thought I would ask. Thanks in advance! 

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So, first of all @hawkedup, kudos for rolling up your sleeves and diving straight in. I'm interested to see how that has gone.

(page 1)

- I still like the title of the book. The chapter title causes me to ask questions: good! BUT IT'S STRAIGHT  OUT OF GAME OF THRONES, are you aware of that? The epigraph, I like. If there were a single thing about it that still holds that niggling suspicion of emotionally blackmailing the reader it's the line "I can't go on." For one thing, it's very clichéd, very melodramatic. I think the epigraph would be much stronger without that one sentence.

- I don't know what "the turn of age" is in this context. What would a woman's age turn past? I don't get it.

- Right, the alarm clock and the modern time format 0600 gives me a clear guide to the type of setting I'm in, that's good.

(page 2)

- The writing flows well. I'm in the setting, although it's a bit generic castle, since there isn't much sensory input or description, but maybe that's okay, put get me engaged with the character in the first instance.

- Characters hearing voices? I'll reserve judgement. It's a trope I'm not Kean on personally, because my fear is always that either (a) the character is not sufficiently resourceful, smart or capable to deal with the situation on their own, so they need help; or (b) the writer is not resourceful, smart or capable to write a compelling main character using only internal monologue and NPC interaction.

- "Great, the Voice said. Perfect way to start the day." - Yeah, see this bugs me. Why can't L have this thought? If the voice isn't going to offer some kind of arcane insight, specialist knowledge or great wit (this really isn't great wit, it's a kind of nothing line, imo) then I don't know why it's there. Also, because the Voice gets this line, I don't know what L is thinking, so the Voice distances me from the main character.

(page 3)

- "futbol" - Whaaa? So, this is the Spanish word for 'football'. I can see why you might use this to distinguish from grid iron football, but it's still quite odd. Why is it italicised? I can't believe it has some significance for the story. Are we in a Spanish or Hispanic setting? Odd, but okay.

- Again, the Voice's dialogue is like stating the bleeding obvious. Is L incapable of free thought, is that why it's there?

- "whatever unoriginal quip" - Careful, nothing that the Voice has come up with has been original either.

- "Good one...funnier every time." - Meh.

(page 4)

- "put down like animals" - This is the first line that has really punched me in the gut. It's a good powerful line.

- "The disciples had a rolling membership" - Lol. That a good line. Made me chuckle.

- "Your personality?" - LOL again. This is the snarkiest, most cutting line so far, imo. The fact that it comes from a speak-carrier is a bit disappointing. A cautionary note though. I don't think L has shown much personality so far; she had more in the last version, I think. I'd like to see more of her pain on the first page. This new version just tells us she's in pain. I think you had more showing before (from memory), which is more effective. Is's personality seems to be one note cruel, whereas this disciple has some smarts to come up with that line.

- "This got a bigger laugh" - QED. The problem here is that you kind of invalidate Is as a character by making the nameless disciple cleverer than Is. I want to know more about the disciple now.

- "She hated Is and the disciples" - this is rather pat, low-hanging fruit, BUT the paragraph ends up with the good line, the one about companionship. Writing Excuses talked about this ages back, about turning paragraphs around. Bring your good line to the front, reversing the order of the elements, and try it that way, I suggest.

(page 6)

- Starting this page, well into the story, I've got very little of L's internal monologue. There was some good stuff on how she felt about being alone, but that's it. Not much to build a personality on, or to engage a reader with.

- "a hedge wall" - what's this, is it a hedge or a wall? If you don't call it one or the other, a lot of readers will be confused, I think.

- Wait, what? Vines covered in roses? Confused.

(page 7)

- "how this excited her" - I think I have a notion why I'm not feeling L's personality. She doesn't really analyse or reveal how she feels about things. The bit about her being jealous of the other girls was good.  Here, her emotions--to me--feel superficial. She is excited by J's attention;  she then thinks about amorous attentions, so I presume that is why J's approach excites her. And yet, she knows that it's fake, because he is not seeing her as she really looks, and yet there's no acknowledgment of the dichotomy in her internal monologue.

Also, the Voice, which was taking all her lines before, seem to be completely absent now. I'm confused about what it is, but more about when it deems it necessary to but in and when not. Without any explanation, it seems inconsistent.

(page 8)

- I presume from the fact that there is a lighthouse that they are right on the coast and this is an aid to shipping that might go around on rocks at the foot of the cliffs that the palace is built on. I'd really like to know about the setting, and there's an opportunity to slip in a little world-building here, just a few words would really cement the setting for the reader. Wider worlds are more interesting, imo. Sadly, there is no explanation though.

It leads me to realise that very little is explained other than at a very general level.

- Why is there a break? We continue straight on. I feel cheated, like it's a crude attempt to create tension. And then L is acting like a child. The hardened assassin is complete gone. It makes me feel that the tone is really uneven. "she suddenly realized how ridiculous she was acting" - I agree.

This was an opportunity for her to show regret that she'd had to set aside childish things, be grow up before her time, or whatever. If this is an assassination story, I'm expecting it to be grim, gritty and violent. It doesn't feel like that sort to story to me. the first version had the gruesome rat-pack scene (Didn't it? Tell me I'm not confusing stories.) I feel like all the grittiness is gone.

(page 9)

- Now here is some good tension, sudden urgency conflict: that's good! But why doesn't J explain the danger to her? There's no reason for him not to say 'C-r-u-x!' That makes it feel like the author engineering a shock reveal.

(page 10)

- 'C-r-u-x', really? I laughed out loud, in a bad way. It makes me think this is a broad comedy.

- Another break? Why? There's no break in the narrative flow. Doesn't make sense to me. Breaks are for scene changes, POV changes, etc.

- I like the idea of her abilities, but I don't see anything of a cost for using them. She's maintain the mask permanently? That must be using a lot of energy, is it not? It does not seem to cost her anything.

(page 11)

- I don't know what the F-less is or are, so this means very little. Also, I would like the explanation of L's mission much earlier in the story, also her abilities.

- Ah, this stuff about her not wanting to put a burden of trust on J is good. This is the kind of internal debate and conflict that we need more of in order to see L's personality.

- Is F/f not with her? I assumed it was like a familiar and stayed with her.

- "made her nauseous" - that's good: a cost to using magic.

- "strangely sl-nted eyes" - Danger; danger. Pejorative POC reference. "a slinky black dress" - Whoa, and you're going to objectify her too? I'm concerned now that you're going for the full set. Sensitivity is watchword here. How do you think this description would make a real, live person feel?

(page 12)

- "stood over fifteen feet tall" - Nope, I'm not having that. Unless he commands an army of giants, which is what he is, commanding an army of normal humans could be completely impractical. He won't fit in any human buildings, or be able to use any human equipment, 

- "pretty flowers, want" - I'm this close to stopping reading. Why is Cr developmentally challenged? There is NO WAY that someone without communication skills can command and army. Just can't do it.

- It's tone again, this throws me out of the story, but not before I've been smacked around the head several times. Why? Why is he 15' tall, and developmentally challenged? If he speaks another language and commands an army of his own kind, that's fine, but there's just no clue of that.

(page 14)

- "So much for luck" - Why? Why the voice? It does nothing, adds nothing to the story and again it takes lines that should come from L, and when it 'speaks' she never replies to it (in thought), never responds or reacts.

- How can L see J? He's hidden.

- Good tension and excitement here. It's just a pity that it's predicated on the inexplicable character of Cr.

(page 15)

- Voice again, annoying; stating the obvious, lacking any insight, not contributing anything useful.

Overall 

The narrative is very clear (for the most part), the style very clean and easy to read. The pacing was okay, although the breaks were completely unnecessary, in my opinion. There was no changes of location or character POV or time line, so they don't need to be there.

The characters are rather one dimensional, not particularly interesting. There is great scope for internal conflict in L, but it's not realised, I fear. It's touched on when she shows jealousy of the other girls, and there is an AWESOME opportunity for internal conflict when she experiences affection (or whatever) from J, but we know he's directing it at someone who doesn't look like the real L. These's huge potential for pathos and emotional weight there, but it's not taken.

A lot of things are dealt with at a quite superficial level, but not deeply enough to be engaging, I thought. I missed the early part where you showed us L's pain. Cutting that out has changed the tone of the story, I don't think for the better, personally.

The V is very frustrating. It appears at the start, takes all the lines that should be L's then disappears. I need to have a clear explanation of why she hears the voice, whose it is, and why it is there. I would stop reading after the first chapter solely because of the voice. Not only does it not contribute anything, but I think it detracts heavily from L's character.

POSITIVE ENDING!!: I think there is a good story in here, I think there is an interesting character, although the Game of Thrones issue is a massive one. I still think you can distance your character from that if you make the effort, and change think to me it different, especially the name. The prose flows excellently; that's a really strength. There are good ideas in there. I just think there is work to be done on the Tone, which is a problem for me, and bringing out L's personality, which is lacking.

<R>

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On 04/06/2019 at 5:35 AM, kais said:

I kind of miss the ominous IN THE FACE SHE STOLE vibe

Yes, me too. Like it said, I think the good, gritty tone is gone now.

On 04/06/2019 at 5:35 AM, kais said:

Is L actually Arya Stark?

Yeah, HUGE problem.

On 04/06/2019 at 7:45 PM, hawkedup said:

A large majority of the cast (80%+) are hispanic or indigenous. Only Gen Y in this chapter is not.

If that's the case, you HAVE to get an explanation of that on the first page, and make sure everyone has a clearly Hispanic name, so that the reader never questions it. Especially the m/c. For example, why isn't Isa, called Isabella? I would assume she was Hispanic. And if you described a little of the furniture / decor that would be another way to make it clear we were in a Hispanic setting. Also, is it an alternative Earth? Why not just tell us we're Cadiz, or Cordoba? Or, make up a name for the city that sounds Hispanic. Lot's of ways to fly the flag very early in the story.

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Posted (edited)

@Robinski Thank you for reading and for the time you put into the critique. It was very helpful!

6 hours ago, Robinski said:

Why is Cr developmentally challenged?

So he wasn't supposed to come across that way but instead like someone with the mental faculties and excitability of a toddler because he had his mind wiped recently. In the 3.1 draft I aged this up so he'd be speaking in full sentences and made sure to let the reader know that he wasn't always that way. I also changed the way Gen Y (she's more caring and patient now) spoke to him, which I hope helps with the negative feedback I got about the way his character was treated in this draft.

6 hours ago, Robinski said:

Unless he commands an army of giants, which is what he is, commanding an army of normal humans could be completely impractical.


That's fair. General is more of an honorary title, though Gen C is (was) a military strategist. I'll try to smooth this out.

 

6 hours ago, Robinski said:

BUT IT'S STRAIGHT  OUT OF GAME OF THRONES

Yeah. It's a matter of me not quite being able to kill my darlings. The idea of the Faceless has been in my head since I was a teenager (long before GOT). I really thought I could make it my own, but you guys are right. The simple truth is that anyone who might be interested in this story will probably be familiar with GOT. I'm leaving it like that for now but will probably change it in the 4.0 draft

6 hours ago, Robinski said:

Is F/f not with her? I assumed it was like a familiar and stayed with her.

It is with her just like a familiar. Which part is confusing? When F lands on the windowsill above her head? I'll look at it.
 

Quote

If that's the case, you HAVE to get an explanation of that on the first page

My original plan was to pepper in the "old ways" since Lee's story primarily takes place in an urban setting that has gone away from the old ways significantly and then later introduce a second plot line featuring a different character from a rural setting where the old ways are far more prevalent. Now I'm wondering if the rural chapter needs to come first since it leans way more on this. Guess I'll find out next week since that's the chapter I'm submitting.

I'll also make sure L's full name is mentioned early (L-o-e-c-a-d-i-a) and I'm gonna expand Is's name like you suggested. In my head the name is spoken with an accent but I see what you mean.

Once again, thank you!

Edited by hawkedup
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12 hours ago, hawkedup said:

because he had his mind wiped recently.

I did not get that.

12 hours ago, hawkedup said:

Which part is confusing? When F lands on the windowsill above her head?

I got the impression she was calling it to her from some distance, and that it arrived at the shed and landed on the window ledge. Maybe I was projecting my assumption on to the situation.

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