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hawkedup

06/24/19 - Turn of Ages 4 - hawkedup - 4000 - L

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Posted (edited)

EDIT - Just realized I put the wrong date on the e-mail! I'm sorry. Should I re-send?


This is Z's second chapter. 

Previously: 

Z eavesdrops on a town council meeting where it is revealed there is a demon on the loose in the area. To her surprise, a boy named R and a girl named M (who are both with her while she eavesdrops) knows where the demon is.

Thank you for reading!

Edited by hawkedup
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10 hours ago, hawkedup said:

EDIT - Just realized I put the wrong date on the e-mail! I'm sorry. Should I re-send?

Don't worry about it.

 

Well, this entry caught my interest! This has me wanting to read more than anything else so far, and I'm wondering if you can re-edit things so this becomes the first chapter, because this is a heck of a hook!

The biggest problem I had in this section is people telling other people what they're feeling, or personality quirks. It sort of makes sense with the reveal of Z's state, but I don't know why the other characters do it too. Clarifying this and restricting it to Z's character could really bring her out.

 

Notes while reading:

pg 3: “I’m not sure I understand,” Z replied. The truth was that she actually had no issue lying to a priest. Why did a priest deserve more honesty than anyone else?"
--This is sort of a weird thought. I think the larger issue is that she has no problem lying to people, in general.

pg 3: There's a lot of description of the fiesta. Didn't this group have really important information? Why are the sauntering through the festival? I'm trying to remember from a couple weeks back.

pg 4: Ah yes, something about a demon.

pg 5: “I use sarcasm when I should be afraid.”
--There's a lot of this here. Characters tell their personality traits to other characters. You should usually show instead of telling, but in this case, I'm not sure these side comments are even necessary.

pg 6: "This implied that Monique was sincere and her worry was unselfish."
--this is another place. The more I think about it, the more I think it may just be a show/tell thing.

pg 6: "Z didn’t experience emotion like most people, and she had always had trouble reading social cues as Papa called them."
--ah, this is a much better reason for having those remarks I was talking about. Except all of the characters are making them, not just Z. I think you could bring this out a bit more in the description and wording for Z and it could be very powerful.

pg 8: “Abuelita. It means grandmother.”
--That's...a weird explanation. I'm not sure what the "turn of age" is, but people would probably know what a parent of a parent is called, even if they die off quickly or something.

pg 9: "extra years because my father didn’t make it past sixteen"
--I did not get the indication that the whole town was under 40 at all. I feel like this needs to affect the entire village life, if this is the case.

pg 10: Interested in the turn things have taken with the egg...

pg 12: "That wasn’t correct, but Zulema nodded."
--eh? why?

pg 13: "I am… I used to be the God King."
--very cool...

pg 13: “This message will only play for one who is not infected."
--I'm guessing this has something to do with the soul lanterns.

pg 15: Very good ending! I want to read more. Still not really interested in L's POV, but very much so in Z's.

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Overall

Oh wow. Very interested in this story and its development. I tripped over a lot of the ableist language but you can clean it up pretty easily.

At this stage I think the two biggest issues are 1) voice--in that we are getting a lot of authorial voice and not so much Z's voice unless she's had some heavy indoctrination. And maybe she has! But since I haven't been shown that yet I'm doubtful. 2) showing. I'd like more showing and less telling. More description. More time to linger in feelings and smells. The part with the reveal of the demon is so cool and I want that coolness before and after, too. 

As I go

- 'T is here.' I immediately started thinking of Terminator.

- pg 2: 'Mother G stomped...' YES to this paragraph! Reset the default. Call out white skin tones. Perfection.

- I'd like to see Z react to Gloom. Right now the reaction is pretty bland and so doesn't have impact. I want to feel what she feels!

- pg 5: oh the kids aged way up in this chapter. Into it.

- pg 6: +10 for autistic lead, -20 for broad, sweeping autism generalizations and ableism. This deserves some discussion so I'm going to LBL this area.

Once the shock wore off, she was actually quite proud that she had put it together herself.

Good foreshadowing. No issues.

Z didn’t experience emotion like most people, ehhhh borderline. There's ableism creeping here. Prescriptive suggestion: Z experienced emotions differently than most people.

and she had always had trouble reading social cuesas Papa called them. Papa had demonstrated different tones of voice and facial expressions for her over the years so Z would have an easier time recognizing them, but it was still hard--sometimes impossible.

No issues. Very clearly autism coded without ableist language.

Things that were obvious to others often times had to be explained to her in very straight forward terms before her mind made the right connections.

'Right' connections= ableist. Suggest instead: ...had to be explained to her....before her mind made the connection everyone else already had.

Z wasn’t unintelligent and there was nothing wrong with her (Papa was very adamant about this). She could read and do maths better than anyone else her age.

Nothing wrong with the wording but would rather be shown than told this. A nice memory here would work.

But when it came to matters of the heart, she was woefully inept.

This. This right here is what had me stop and back away. Autistic people are not inept at anything. They sometimes have comorbid issues that make life harder, such as sensory processing disorder, but autism itself is not a disability. A neurotypical brain focuses on social over analytical, and thus our societies tend to mirror that. As people skew more towards analytics, social gives. The brain is kind of like pie in that way. Only so many pieces. For many autistic people, the pie is more analytic than social, but that doesn't make the pie any less delicious. A peach pie and an apple pie are both great, just different flavors. 

So Z is not inept. She is different. Her brain has different priorities. A better line would be: But when it came to matters of the heart, everyone else spoke a different language OR, if we want to be really REALLY in Z's voice, But with emotions of the heart, no one made any sense.

Writing an autistic POV is awesome. Just make sure that you are really showing an autistic POV, and not a neurotypical understanding of an autistic POV. Autistic people tend to find non-autistic people absolutely confounding, and that would be great to see here. As it stands we are getting authorial voice. It's compassionate but ableist, and that's not doing Z's character any favors.

She let the words trail off. Any time she heard fascination in her own voice, she had to be careful lest she accidentally say something insensitive.

Suggest instead: ...lest she say something that offended. There was seldom anything behind her words, but people unnecessarily read into every little thing. 

 

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Over all: I tripped up on many of the same issues that @kais did. Z has a lot of what's reading as Hollywood autism, and that's a problem. That she has autism is not the issue, but the way it is portrayed is problematic and ableist. It's coming from the perspective that she is damaged and less-than a "regular" person, and attributing to "autism" a number of behaviors and symptoms that aren't actually part of autism itself. The words that were chosen to describe her actions seem to me to be revealing less about Z and more about how the author thinks and feels about people with autism. Beyond that, I also agree that more description would help immensely. I do think this chapter is the best I've seen so far at integrating the heritage aspects alongside the more general fantasy and science fiction ones. I feel like adding in more description of sights and smells and reactions would help this even more.

 

As I go:

 

"supposed to be fun" -- I was under the impression that healthy juvenile humans moved constantly and have an intrinsic reaction to music, any music. To have no reaction is very strange. Is Z supposed to be sick or otherwise incapable of movement?  
 
 "one of the few emotions" -- So Z is depressed? Feeling numb all the time is a sign of depression. It's also a sign of sickness or extreme fatigue. Does Z have some kind of chronic ailment? 
 
So between L and the mean girls, and Z and the mean girl, the only time I've seen a female interact with another female in this series is to be catty with each other. A gentle reminder here that it is possible for two women of similar ages to exist in proximity to each other without it being a vicious competition of one-upmanship.
 
"didn’t experience emotion" -- Ah, Hollywood Autism. That explains the other things. So, yes. This is a big old case of Hollywood Autism, which as @kais points out is neither realistic nor believable, especially in women, and mostly just portrays the symptoms of disorders that commonly appear alongside autism (comorbid with) but aren't autism itself. It is incredibly hurtful to both people with autism and people with disabilities in general. Claiming that Z can't understand basic emotions infantilizes her greatly, and hamstrings the writer in portraying her as a fully-rounded, human character. 
 
"turn of age" -- So this is something specific and not just an oddly archaic, outmoded phrase? People turn 40, and somewhere within the next 5 years, they're dead? Everyone? Always? That's neat, but I'd really like to get a hint of this earlier, as it's really intriguing to me and I feel like it would go towards differentiating this work from all the others like it. Especially if the lack of elderly people matters later on, I would really really like to have had this spelled out much earlier, and more clearly.  This is the kind of thing that would work well as a first chapter, since it intrigues me enough to keep reading.     
 
"We go out there to drink sometimes" -- Why are they worried about underage drinking? 
 
Unfortunately, as cool as the robot was, I feel like the ending didn't really keep me interested. I've seen the "robot plays message from desperate woman in power to the chosen rural youth" before and its inclusion here has turned me off the rest of the story. I'm not interested in what she has to say because she's not saying anything new or bringing any new twist to that setup. Tropes are neither bad nor good, but if they are intended to be used in the work and author should be aware of how their implications change the rest of the surrounding prose. Including this here makes me uninterested because I've gone from thinking "here is something new and interesting" to "I've seen something just like this before." 
 
But like kais has said, edits can fix all of these things Keep at it!
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Thanks for the feedback, guys!

I'll do a quote and respond later on the other stuff, but right now I want to tackle the elephant.

First, I want to say thank you. A little background: I myself am on the spectrum. I've had a hand in raising multiple autistic children as well as being a councilor for others, though I haven't had a formal education on the subject. So, I appreciate you looking out and many of your suggestions (and links) that I've already started applying to the character that will help me going forward. I'm really happy this group is conscious of such things. I've never actually tried to write an autistic (term used very loosely here) character before so I know I'll make some mistakes.

Do try to keep in mind that Z is very much at the beginning of her character arc. Some of the stuff you guys have pointed out are things she simply hasn't yet realized about herself because she doesn't have access to the tools that we do. @kais Picked out the one word I had the most trouble using:

On 6/24/2019 at 4:24 PM, kais said:

So Z is not inept. She is different. Her brain has different priorities.

This is a perfect example of where Z's mindset will end up as the story progresses. At this point in the story, she *thinks* she is inept and there's nothing in her immediate world that would suggest otherwise.

Besides cliche Hollywood autism, another thing I want to avoid is the "Politically Correct autism" stories that seem to be all the rage lately. You know the ones. Where the characters just seem to pop into the story fully actualized and have no room for growth because they aren't allowed to be flawed or insecure.

Hopefully in the end this isn't any type of autism story and just one about a girl.

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I really didn't make many notes on this one. I was very engaged from start to finish. I loved the way the relationship's between the kids are developing and the details unfolding about the world and the demons are fantastic. 

The one thing that threw was the part where Z starts thinking about social cues. Throughout the other chapters, I didn't notice Z missing any social cues or struggling to read them, so even though the narration was telling me this was an issue, I didn't believe it. I don't know if I am forgetting something, or if I missed something because I miss a lot of cues, or if it actually wasn't there to see, but to me, it felt like it just came out of nowhere. I wasn't super happy with the way the issue was talked about or labeled afterwards, but @kais did a fantastic job explaining that and making suggestions about how to correct it.

On 6/24/2019 at 6:24 PM, kais said:

Writing an autistic POV is awesome. Just make sure that you are really showing an autistic POV, and not a neurotypical understanding of an autistic POV. Autistic people tend to find non-autistic people absolutely confounding, and that would be great to see here. As it stands we are getting authorial voice. It's compassionate but ableist, and that's not doing Z's character any favors.

This.

If you are writing Z as autistic, it needs to be shown more. It needs to be more part of her voice and how she sees the world, and right now, I don't think it is, otherwise, I wouldn't have been so surprised when the narrative all of a sudden started coding her that way. 

 

On 6/27/2019 at 11:52 PM, hawkedup said:

At this point in the story, she *thinks* she is inept and there's nothing in her immediate world that would suggest otherwise.

Can you show her feeling inept then instead of telling us? That word is promoting a stigma, but even if it wasn't, I still feel like the narrative voice is telling me something about the character I haven't seen enough to believe. 

On 6/27/2019 at 11:52 PM, hawkedup said:

Where the characters just seem to pop into the story fully actualized and have no room for growth because they aren't allowed to be flawed or insecure.

You can do this without using ableist language if you listen to what @kais and @industrialistDragon are suggesting. 

And showing the character struggling and being insecure without using words that are strongly connected to ablism would be a more compelling way to develop Z's arc. As it is, that feeling of being "inept" isn't really coming across in any meaningful way. It doesn't feel like Z feeling inept or struggling. It feels like the author thinking Z is inept. 

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4 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I wouldn't have been so surprised when the narrative all of a sudden started coding her that way. 

Yeah, nobody picked up on it at all in her first chapter and based on everyone's comments it seems I over-corrected hardcore in this chapter. I'll definitely work on finding a better balance and showing more than telling as I go forward. Thank you for reading!

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Sorry for the delay in these comments. On the plus side, I know have two chapters to read through!

(page 1)

- Interesting epigraph. I now want to know what Term is, and I'm feeling a sense of tension.

- The use of 'entrance' and 'exit' is rather formal. I didn't think they fitted with the tone of a young girl's thoughts.

- "had both worn matching turquoise dresses" - redundant. If the dresses are matching, clearly they both have dresses on.

(page 2)

- Very much like the tradition of gloom, and the letter sets of a pang of emotion. Nicely done. 

- The opening to this chapter if fairly heavy on scene-setting, but I'm okay with that, because you weave other notes through it, like the statue and its overtones, and the burning of the messages.

(page 3)

- "no issue lying to a priest" - I like what you're doing with the character of the kids, I think it comes through clearly enough. It's not a case of having strong character strokes: I find the notes more subtle, but they are clear, I think.

(page 4)

- I'm trying to think back to earlier chapters and how invested I am in the idea of demons being the enemy and being engaged in a battle with mankind. I'm not sure I'm really feeling the emotion around it that I would expect. Z does not seem in the least afraid and they talk about facing the demon very matter-of-factly.

(page 5)

- Z jokes about the demon threat. All well and good, but I don't get to feel any underlying emotion that I feel should be behind a jibe like that.

- "Are you saying that this demon thing talks to you?" - I think this is a part of my issue. We haven't seen a demon (that I can recall), we don't know what they look like, what size they are, how the organise or operate. Without knowing what they are, it's hard to know how to feel about them. I don't think you've sold us the demon threat which, by this point in the story, is important to the reader's investment.

(page 6)

- I think it's clear that M loves R from the description of her at the top of page 6, yet it feels heavy-handed to me. I think the line "This implied that M..." is straight out telling the reader how to feel and that's over the top for me. I'd try deleting that line.

- "Like with most moments like this" - awkward phrasing, repetition not elegant.

- You're really labouring this M loves R thing. Not sure I see what's so impressive that Z is congratulating herself. Maybe want to make sure that this but is more clearly about Z herself and what this pride says about her.

- "straight forward terms" - this is one word.

(page 8)

- "Even the hands don’t know what’s down here" - confused. What are the hands? They sound like officials of some sort.

- Confused why Z does not know the word for grandmother. You go on to talk about this, but you've never explained what 'turn of age' means, so all I can do is dismiss this is something I don't understand. It's frustrating four chapters into a story, when all the characters know what this is, not to have it explained. I think it's s flaw.

(page 9)

- I'm having trouble believing that there's no tension about the demon. Not recognising the lump in the bed seems unlikely, because it's such a classic. Any tension is completely lost because of the discussion about grandparents.

- R rising about and shouting seems bizarre to me. Surely they would not want to alarm the demon if it's sleeping or just wakened. Why are they not reading carefully and quietly?

- Interesting about the hearing of the demon. It's beginning to look as if Z is some kind of special one. In all honesty, I'm kind of fed up with special one stories. I think it's far more interesting and involving to see character that are not special achieving things rather than being privileged from the start, but I'm jumping ahead and making assumptions. Let's see where it goes :) 

(page 10)

- "who still has a soul light" - Do you mean doesn't have a S/L? I thought Z did not have hers yet.

- "stopped in mid air" - one word, usually.

- "knew this on an intellectual level" - seems like a very sophisticated thought for her, based on tone previously.

(page 13)

- "used to be the GK" - :huh: :blink:

- "even if I don’t plan on making it through the week" - This is inconsistent wording. Even if someone expects to die, they don't phrase it in these terms, it's not a matter of planning. You might say 'don't expect to make it...', but planning is a whole other thing.

- "one who is not infected" - Ooh. Okay, this would circumvent my 'chosen one' concerns.

- The TV is potentially a good idea, but where did it come from all of a sudden? There's a real problem, for me, with reader disbelief. I can't see the war, I can't see the demons, I can't see the effects of the virus. I'm being told all these things and it not in a particularly graphic or involving way. More on this in my summary below.

(page 14)

- "I am thirty-two" - This is a good gut punch, but see above, and summary below.

- "the sounds of battle filled the bunker" - Same issue. I'm not feeling this, I need to hear the sounds to be affected by them The description that went before needs to be ramped way up, imo. "how much each cough hurt" - this for example is better, makes me feel something.

- "I’m sending this drone through a rift" - confused. Are they fighting on the demon's side of a rift?

(page 15)

- "They’ll wipe our minds" - for me, this is good stakes, good tension/conflict.

- Decent end to the chapter. It reminds us that they are just kids and so reinforces the tone of the story, I think.

Summary 

Once again your prose and dialogue skip along at a good clip. Your work continues to be very easy to ready; I enjoy it, I enjoy not stopping three times per page because of grammar and phrasing issue. Nice work on that, and will continue to look forward to reading your submissions.

As far as content goes, I'm still interesting. There are some instances of telling in this chapter, I think, which is always less compelling. I don't know that I'm really emotionally invested in the whole demon war thing. We can argue the toss about whether or not the demons should be revealed early on, but what I'm not really seeing or feeling is the cost of the demon war, the evidence that these are terrible creatures, or (if they're not) the evidence that is being used to hoodwink the people into believing that the demons are terrible. I know you say people have died, but are there no more visceral and terrible accounts of battle and slaughter that might be 'played' for the reader so we get to the feel the fear that the people presumably do?

I think that is the only major issue. There's not much in the way of description of everyday things. The description's not bad when you stop to pick out some particular tableau, like the preparations in the square for the fiesta, but everyday things being described puts the reader in the scene. For example, was the metal ladder down into the hideout cold or rusted? Little things can add greatly to reader immersion with very few additional words.

In terms of the overall story, I remain interested and invested in this POV, and largely much, much less interested in the other POV. It's like two different stories: one of them is interesting and involving, and the other is not working, kind of incongruous and feels different in tone (L's POV). If this was my story, I would be trying to figure how I could drop L's POV altogether and just write Z's story.

Nice work here though. I'm looking forward to the next instalment.

<R>

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20 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

You can do this without using ableist language if you listen to what @kais and @industrialistDragon are suggesting. 

And showing the character struggling and being insecure without using words that are strongly connected to ablism would be a more compelling way to develop Z's arc. As it is, that feeling of being "inept" isn't really coming across in any meaningful way. It doesn't feel like Z feeling inept or struggling. It feels like the author thinking Z is inept. 

This exactly.

The issue isn't really the words so much, either, but narrative voice. It absolutely makes sense for Z to have swallowed a larger group narrative. And especially since this is an ownvoices story, working through it with the character is, really, ideal. 

The trick here is to make sure it is Z's voice we are hearing, and not narrator voice (even if narrator voice isn't your voice). At the easiest, this means showing her struggles, not being told about them, as this comes across as narrator more often than not.

Writing ownvoices stuff is tricky. It's unfair, too, because your work often gets held up as THE narrative on a subject, especially if you are successful, but of course no one person's lived experience works for everyone. As always when writing, we have to think about how our work affects potential readers as well. Especially if we're writing for kids. We all have bias of course, even the marginalized, and so it is critically important to be able to interrogate those biases, even if they are around our own marginalization. For instance, the number of cis lesbians who cannot fathom trans women is a HUGE problem... and one that can come out readily in authorial voice in a narrative.

I am absolutely thrilled to have an ownvoices autism narrative on here. I'm looking forward to reading more, especially about the soul lanterns!

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Right then. I'm doing some catching up here, so here are my notes on ch.4, and will be posting notes on ch. 5 right after. 

(pg. 2)

-Not only was Mother G the only person in the pueblo with the pale skin and light hair of a northerner, but, with the exception of her white clerical collar, she wore black from neck to toe.—The 'not only' makes me expect a 'but also,' or just an 'also' at the very least, and it feels odd to me when it doesn't come. 

-On the first night of the fiesta, G was burned to ash while fire dancers spun flaming batons and the crowd cheered his demise.—Some nice world-building right there.

(pg. 3)

-She had already forgotten about them as she turned and shouted orders at someone else.—I would rephrase this, simply because the narration sounds close to omniscient. How does Z really know that the priest has forgotten them?

-“Fine by me,” Z said, feeling her cheeks heating.—Just say 'flushing.'

(pg. 4)

“Even now, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that there will be no fiesta this year.”—I can't picture anyone saying 'even now' un-ironically. It seems awkward. To me, at least.

"They’re the enemy. They’ve done nothing but terrorize humanity for generations.”—Obvious exposition. All these characters would already know this. 

(pg. 5)

-“I use sarcasm when I should be afraid.”—Someone already mentioned this as an instance of telling and not showing; I'd rewrite it to something like "Usually," at the bare minimum.

(pg. 6)

-She didn’t say we, she noticed. She said not to get him in trouble.—I'd delete the bolded part. We did just read that, after all. Also, I'd combine it with the next paragraph.

-She loves him.

-The thought came almost unbidden.—I would combine as one paragraph. They don't quite feel like they need to be their own separate paragraphs. 

(pg. 6-7)

-Things that were obvious to others...Mama was long gone.—All exposition. See critiques above for better commentary on ableist language than I could write. 

(pg. 7)

-Z did as she was bidden, putting a board into slats that would keep the door from opening, and then climbed down the ladder on the inside of the well.—I'd delete the bolded part. What else would the slats do? 

(pg. 9)

-Z and M followed slower—I'd rewrite bolded part to "crept up behind him."

-Z blinked. 

What had that been?—I'd combine these into one paragraph.

(pg. 10)

-Those boys like to run their mouths.—More exposition.

-“It can make you feel things,” M offered.—That doesn't feel like an offering. Try to default to 'said' as much as possible.

(pg. 11)

-It doesn’t know about the rift or the Front or demons—Added 'r'

(pg. 12)

-“Safe?” R offered.—Noticeable amount of offering.

(pg. 13)

-If you can hear me, it’s probably already too late. T is here.—Nice twist, but I think it would have more punch if this chapter's epigraph were much earlier.

(pg. 15)

-Z shivered at the thought.

“We must face it head on,” Z said.—This should be one paragraph.

-“What?”

“There’s no other way out of here?”

The pounding continued.

“No.”—All this dialogue needs attribution. Who's speaking?

 

 

 

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