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hawkedup

07/22/19 - The Turn of Ages 06 - hawkedup - 4800 - L

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Previously:

Z is a 14-year-old girl from a small town. She and two of her classmates, R and M, sneak into an emergency town council meeting. At the meeting, one of the God King's generals addresses the council and reveals that a demon from the Front is loose in the area. 

Later, to Z's surprise, she learns that R and M know where the demon is. They say the demon is friendly They show her the demon, which looks like an egg. When Z touches the demon egg, a recording plays. The recording reveals that soul lanterns (something everyone has) are the product of a virus that is killing everyone years earlier than they should die.

Note: 

Before submitting to RE, I workshopped this chapter with some friends from the NM Autism Society. I showed them Z's previous chapters and your feedback, and they helped me get a better grasp on how to write someone with social-emotional agnosia. They also helped me come up with the list of expressions that features in this chapter (and will be worked into previous chapters later). Hoping this one reads better than Z's last chapter. 

I know there's still a ways to go to avoid Hollywood autism so if we might "Can of Worms" that topic and focus on tearing apart other aspects of the chapter for the time being I'd be grateful.

Thanks for reading!

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This chapter reads a lot better than the previous one. I don't have experience with autism, but this still feels a lot more real to me. I can get into why Z acts as she does and what drives her. She's a much more 3D character, and it's interesting for me to read how she expresses herself.

The only part I had a little trouble with was the kids talking about why they need to go off to tell the God King about the egg. There was some deep rationalization of religion and social repercussions, when I'd imagine young teenagers just saying "Hey--we should go tell the highest authority about this!" and completely skipping over the fallout for their families part.

Overall, I'm a lot more drawn in with this POV than the others. This seems like the real meat of the story.

Notes while reading:
pg 1: I like the expression cataloging.

pg 2: "After what we just learned about soul lanterns? Somebody has to know the truth so they can do something about it.”
--WRS, but I'm trying to remember what the big secret is. Something about soul lanterns are bad?
(Edit: should have read your summary above!)

pg 4: "Papa just lied to me, she thought."
--About searching for a deserter at the front instead of the demon? It took me a couple reads to follow this.

pg 7: "I thought I heard wrong the first time, but… "
--I'm not sure what's going on here. Is this really the time for what?

Pg 7: "but you calling Z..."
--oh, this is M talking. I was very confused. This diversion into Z's name takes the focus away from what's going on.

pg 9: “Bottom shelf under the books,” 
--so I guess there is actually wine down there?

pg 10-11: This is a great conversation on ableism and owning yourself.

pg 15: "And since he always does things for the greater good… some of his laws have to be..."
--This is some heavy rationalization for teenagers...Maybe 17-18 year olds, but I'm not sure I believe 13-14 year olds coming up with this.

pg 16: “We go directly to the God King himself!”
--I thought the God King was on some other plane or something? Or maybe I'm remembering wrong.

pg 17: "Everyone raised their soul lanterns, the things that were secretly killing each and every one of them,"
--ok, this is what I thought they learned last time.

Pg 19: Good ending to the chapter. I'm definitely drawn in to read more.
 

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Overall

Well I am pretty much blown away by the changes in tone and voice in this chapter. You've cleaned like 75% of the issues I had with the piece, and the addition of really solid autistic narrative brought up the tension and buy-in for me. Like, if just reading this chapter in a bookstore I would hands down buy the book on spec. 

So yeah, nice work on this!

 

As I go

- pg 3: That tone was worse than Expression #37 <-- I adore this

- pg4: Papa used that gesture sometimes when Zu felt overwhelmed or her sensory issues kicked in and she couldn’t calm down. I'd rather be shown this first, then get the gesture explanation. Right now it's just telling, I think, more than anything else

- pg 5: I can't remember, was lying to the priest hard for her? It makes sense that lying to her father is, and that's another one of those fairly common autism sets that I'm not sure if you're trying to edge to the autism side, or just keep as a neurotypical response. It's sort of half and half right now

- pg 6: "This is insane!" While the words 'crazy,' 'insane,' etc., are just starting to really come under fire in the writing community for being ableist (and quite frankly I'm not even sure where I fall on that line), in a book with a neurodiverse character, they might be too on the nose.

- pg 9: oh wow that whole 'you told me to be normal so I did' section is excellent

- pg 10: Ahhh, hanging a lantern on ableism! YAY!

- pg 11: there are no other autistic people in the whole town? I kind of side eye this since it's so prevalent historically, but this is a fantasy so hey, maybe things are different

- pg 11: Let’s not get crazy now <-- since you called out ableism directly, I'm thinking these words should definitely not be in there unless you explain why they'd persist in the vocabulary of a man who just realized he was being ableist

- pg 13: Someone like you, she noted.. WOW that's a gut punch

- pg 15: I think M is my favorite

- pg 18: the ceremony section is fantastic

 

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I was very engaged with this chapter, and love the changes you made regarding Z. I really felt like I was in her head, seeing through her eyes, experiencing the world like she was as opposed to being told what she struggled with. I felt like understood her a lot more.

The tension was great, and I loved the details around the festival. 

Some notes I made while reading:

"She bent her head at the waist and popped her head around R's torso...."I thought I heard wrong the first time..." "Is this really the right time?"...."Yes, Sir." I was a bit lost in this exchange. I could not figure out what they were talking about. It took me a few reads to figure out that this was all about M trying to distract the adults by making fun of Z's nickname. 

"She hit the word normal hard, and the hurt in..." This, and the exchange before it, was fantastic! I also like the "normal" related conversation that followed later, though I was thinking maybe it could be trimmed a tiny bit in the middle because it is bordering on being didactic. 

"...awkward with her personal space being invaded so...because she knew P needed it..." I'm not on the autism spectrum, but I do have sensory issues, and this paragraph, the idea of being uncomfortable with hugs while understanding their necessity, really resonated me. 

"...didn't like their children play with..." I think there is a word missing somewhere in this sentence.

"And it felt good." I loved this entire section with the Gloom and the screaming.

2 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 6: "This is insane!" While the words 'crazy,' 'insane,' etc., are just starting to really come under fire in the writing community for being ableist (and quite frankly I'm not even sure where I fall on that line), in a book with a neurodiverse character, they might be too on the nose.

Sometimes as a person with mental illness, I love using words like "crazy" and "insane" for certain things, but based on internet discussions, I suspect a majority of other feel otherwise. Personally, as long as you are not using it in a way that links insanity or craziness to violence, I think it is fine, but I think I may be an outlier in the discussion. 

4 hours ago, Mandamon said:

The only part I had a little trouble with was the kids talking about why they need to go off to tell the God King about the egg. There was some deep rationalization of religion and social repercussions, when I'd imagine young teenagers just saying "Hey--we should go tell the highest authority about this!" and completely skipping over the fallout for their families part.

I had trouble with this too. I also thought the recording, from a being who claimed he used to be the God King, might have somehow made them question the current God king and their religion in general. 

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Posted (edited)

First off, kudos to you for having this workshopped for the autism aspect. Second, I think this is the best chapter you've submitted thus far. The pacing's pretty quick, events are clear-cut and concise, and there is a set-out path for our characters, which I appreciate. Though I struggle to comprehend why they think casually approaching the GK is a good idea. I know they lay out their reasoning, but when THAT'S your title, I think most kids would keep their distance. I can't image a teenager in England thinking to themselves, "Well, I got a problem, I guess I'll just visit Buckingham." Other than that quibble and some mechanical errors (listed below), good job. 

Notes: 

(pg. 2)

-“I don’t think it’s General K up there. If it was, this place would be swarming with bluecoats already.”—If Z knows it's Mother G, why doesn't M? 

-“Coming!” M called back and then addressed the teenagers again—This confused me for a moment, as I don't know why she would reply to Z's father. Also, saying she addressed the teenagers makes it sound like she isn't one. 

-The teenagers climbed the ladder, exited the shed and fell into line between two rows of avocado trees.—I'm not getting a sense of where the adults were, spatially. 

(pg. 3)

-Fighting at the Front must be particularly bad today; usually, mage fire was only visible at night.—I don't really have much of a sense of what mage fire actually looks like, though. 

-who was stiff-backed—Added a hyphen. 

(pg. 4)

-I suppose you wouldn’t know, would you?—This is awkward. We know they know, but she's talking like we know they know. 

-The GK’s general, General K—I think his allegiance can go without saying. 

(pg. 5)

-We shall see, but either way the festivities will not go on as scheduled, despite the hard work of the pueblo—This feels stilted to me. 

(pg. 6)

-cancelled--—I would look up how to add an em dash on your computer. 

-For a wild moment, Z thought they had actually distracted the adults well enough that they wouldn’t ask about the bunker, but she was wrong.—I'd delete the bolded part. You've already cued us in that her expectations are going to be subverted. 

(pg. 7)

-Like most people, she assumed, Z practiced her expressions in front of a mirror—I don't buy she'd assume anyone would do that.

-Her punishments always seemed to lessen if she accepted them if she put on a good enough act.—I can't tell if you have a missing comma or you forgot to delete one of these. 

-It meant P wanted you to agree with him.—But he didn't ask for her opinion, he asked for information. 

(pg. 8)

-so you using such a bay name—A what name? 

-Z blinked. She had missed... something.

Again

“Like what?” Z asked.—This should all be one paragraph. 

(pg. 11)

-It’s okay that I’m not normal.—Everything after this is a little too on-the nose. And she just happened to have this speech prepared? 

-There are plenty of others that I’m happy to be a part of, though. Smart. Cunning.—Not very humble, is she? If that's what you're going for, then keep at it. Pride's a good character flaw. 

(pg. 15)

-Beyond a few barely remembered spankings when she was small—Added an 'ed'

(pg. 16)

-She snapped her fingers.—I'd add 'repeatedly.' I don't get that she's trying to find something to say. 

(pg. 17)

-“We go directly to the GK himself!”—Well, that sounds like a terrible idea. 

(pg. 18)

-Everyone raised their soul lanterns, the things that were secretly killing each and every one of them—Secretly? How does Z know this? Or are we in omniscient narration now? If so, why? 

-innards.She—Missing space. 

(pg. 19)

-the other parents didn’t like letting their children play with her.—Added 'her'

 

 

 

Edited by JWerner
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On 7/23/2019 at 8:46 AM, Mandamon said:

I'm not sure I believe 13-14 year olds coming up with this.

Thank you for pointing this out. I'm struggling with the maturity levels of these characters. On the one hand they are young but on the other, they live in a world where 20 is middle-aged and they will be fighting at the Front when they are 16. 

On 7/23/2019 at 11:35 AM, kais said:

Like, if just reading this chapter in a bookstore I would hands down buy the book on spec.

High praise! Thank you!

On 7/23/2019 at 11:35 AM, kais said:

- pg 11: there are no other autistic people in the whole town? I kind of side eye this since it's so prevalent historically, but this is a fantasy so hey, maybe things are different

It's more the fact that it's a very small town than percentages being different from the real world.

19 minutes ago, JWerner said:

Though I struggle to comprehend why they think casually approaching the GK is a good idea. I know they lay out their reasoning, but when THAT'S your title, I think most kids would keep their distance.

Good point. I'll try to hang a lantern earlier that makes it clear that anyone is allowed to request an audience with the God King or something.

19 minutes ago, JWerner said:

I don't really have much of a sense of what mage fire actually looks like, though. 

So, in previous chapters I referred to this as bars of lightning in the sky but I thought having two names for the same thing (and one name being lightning which we associate with something else entirely) was needlessly confusing and so now it's all referred to as mage's fire.

Thanks for the feedback, everybody! Glad to see the changes are well received.

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Right then, comments. Sorry these are really late.

(page 1)

- I like the prayer well enough: it's convincingly simple and straightforward.

- I like the first line. It's strong and pulls me right back in.

- "but followed presently" - Cut. It adds nothing. Imo, you can't make something sound like it's done faster being adding 'immediately' (for example), because it takes longer to read. 'Presently' means even less, it's really just repeating that she did it.

- "Are You Stupid Or Something?" - Hah. As you'll see from reading Q and M, I've got a list of named smiles for Q. There were more in the first book than T C C.

(page 2)

- "called back and then addressed the teenagers again" - She's a teenager too, right? This felt wrong to me. Something like 'the other two' would be better, imo.

- Repetition of 'final' was awkward, for me.

- Nice detail dropped in about the fighting.

(page 3)

- "at parade rest" - this sounds weird to me. Are they trained soldiers? If not, how would they know this?

- "adding pauses between the words" - Don't do that! Don't tell us there were pauses. Put them in with punctuation so we can just read them. Then you can drop the bit about treating them like idiots, because we'll get that two from the diction.

- "wasn’t directly only at her" - 'directed', I think.

- "Instead, MG spoke to all three of the teenagers at the same." - Clunky. I assumed she was speaking to all three. The don't need to say this, imo.

- All this description of voices and pacing is just word count. I don't see what it's adding, and it makes the discussion really slow. I saps the tension out of it.

(page 4)

- You don't need to tell us who GK is, we know he's the GK's general. You've mentioned this guy ten times already. Don't need the explanation.

- Language is a bit cluttered, but I like the emotional punch of Z catching the lie.

(page 5)

- Not sure I understand why or how she came to this sudden realisation about P not knowing the truth.

(page 6)

- "Shame" - (1) This seems like a really high number for shame, as I would imagine it's a lot more common than that, but I don't know how the system works. (2) I'm thinking maybe this is something you got from your consultants? Is it a real thing with autism?

- "if she accepted them if she put on a good enough act" - very clunky repetition. 'and put on...' would be better.

(page 7)) 

- "M stood on the other side of R. " - You told us this before, don't need to say it again. Recommend cutting this. I can remember from two pages ago! :) 

- "such a bay name" - What does this mean?

(page 8)

- “As in… alcohol?” - This makes P sound really stupid. I get that Z maybe doesn't know what kind of alcohol they would drink, but one of the other kids could back her up by saying 'beer', or something. You really don't need the line from P, imo.

(page 9)

- "I can’t say I’m not disappointed" - This is hugely over complicated and hard to work out. Just say she's disappointed!! She's a minister, and used to communicating clearly, I would imagine.

- "the teenagers" - This is coming up a lot and it feels awkward about every time. Here, you could just say 'got the truth out of them' and it would be perfectly clear who 'them' was. Also, I feel like there is a lot of author-splaining going on. Tell us they looked relived, and trust the reader to know why: it's perfectly clear.

(page 10)

- I like how that scene played out, but I totally forgot there was actual wine down there. It's WRS really, but did they bring it with them or was it already there? I think it was already there.

- I really like the note about Z not being sure if she and M are friends now. Excellent emotional thread, and very much in the age range of your characters. That makes it really convincing.

- The thing about approved words is weird. I don't know what it adds here. Kinda clunky.

(page 11)

- “It’s pride.” - This implies to me the Z has never seen this before. I can't believe that. That's way out of character for P, I would say.

- It feels like it's all about the green chile, and there's never any mention of any other foodstuffs when they are cooking, like beans or tortillas, etc. Cheese? Meat?

(page 13)

- Another really strong character moment when you show us that M's parents don't really care about her (allegedly). Ah, and then you go and author-splain it!! Cut the line about M asking 'What?' It's much better if P just glares. It's completely clear what the context is. Stop explaining thing that are clear!! ;) 

(page 14)

- "expected him to respond to her telling him to shut up" - wordy and awkward.

- "We committed perjury" - No, they didn't, surely. In my assessment this is a legal term and applies to being under oath in court. The only thing I can think of is that they are considering themselves to be under oath to the priest, but that clashes badly for me. It's very clearly defined as a legal term online. I am not unique. If I'm tripping over this a lot of people will, I expect. Also, I don't buy that kids would use this word.

(page 16)

- "world killer" - still don't know what this is.

(page 17)

- shaped like a dragon’s" - like a dragon's what?

(page 18)

- "their children play with her"

- "turned to look at M and R on her right" - doesn't matter what side they're on.

(page 19)

- I love the 'buy them some time' line. On one hand, she's being caring and sensitive to her father's feeling then, boom, there's this really cold and rather mercenary line. I don't think it means she doesn't love him and want him to take the note the way she intends it, but there a sign that she's growing up, becoming practical and maybe even a bit cynical, or rather capable of cynicism.

- "but he followed them" - I thought this meant her father, because G following them was too abstract for me.

- I would seriously consider cutting the last paragraph and ending on the powerful line about it buying them time.

Overall 

Good. I enjoyed this. Things are happening, there's tension and there is a plan that gets them out of the village. The plan is immensely audacious, and I did struggle a bit to believe they would take this on so quickly and easily. I'd like maybe to see a little doubt, or argument, but I'm almost there and I can probably accept it as it is, set misgivings aside and go with it. Nice job. Thanks for sharing :) 

<R>

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On 23/07/2019 at 3:46 PM, Mandamon said:

Overall, I'm a lot more drawn in with this POV than the others. This seems like the real meat of the story.

Yes. I feel that this is Z's story, and that the other POVs don't warrant the screen time. It's like you're trying to tell two stories at once. I agree with Mandamon.

10 hours ago, JWerner said:

First off, kudos to you for having this workshopped for the autism aspect.

Yes, really well done on that. I agree with the others about Z's voice. I'm not sure the voice is all the different, but now I understand why it is the way it is, like all that's gone before makes sense. That will roll back from the chapters, I presume, so that we're getting this buy-in from the start of her POV.

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I'm totally late, but at least everyone else who already commented doesn't have to feel quite as late in comparison ;)

What I liked:

-First line is strong. It demands that I pay attention so that I learn more about the situation.

-I love the numbered expressions from a narrative standpoint. Can't personally speak as to whether or not it captures autism realistically, but if you've workshopped with people who understand that better than I do then I'm guessing you're good! 

-The tension about the teenagers feeling like they have to lie is strong. They're backed into what genuinely does seem like a corner and they have to weasel their way out in a way that feels authentic

-In addition, I like how this teases potential further conflict when they go see the God King. I think it's clear to us that he's not going to react the same way that they think he will! I also didn't feel like them rationalizing about it was super strange. 

Suggestions:

My main suggestions here are around side characters and dialogue. Dialogue is super important here because Z interprets the world differently than the other characters, so many of the things we would normally look for in characterizing side characters through the narrator's eyes would be more difficult to pull off. As a result, dialogue is the easiest way for us to see the perspectives of other characters, since the words coming out of their mouths aren't really filtered through Z. This is why I think the dialogue has to be even stronger here than it already is. Most of what we get from side characters feels fairly general; it's how I would expect many people to react in the situation and the roles they play fit into categories rather neatly (the teenagers talking to the priests in particular felt to me like a general conversation between teens and priests instead of something that lets me see super deeply into each character's specific personality). In text, this can show up as asking general questions or lingering on existing ideas without adding any new perspectives. I think the dialogue is the strongest between Z and her father, and the reason for this is that Z has specific character traits that influences the way she talks. She doesn't sound like a general person, but rather phrases ideas in a way that is distinctly her own. Finding these sorts of personality traits for the side characters that are integral enough to change what they focus on in speech will let us delve deeper into who they are.

And a couple more minor points...

-For me the tension in the beginning falls off a bit after the first line. It seems like we linger on the same concept of lying without any progress being made for a while.

-I also felt the tension dip after the line when they decide to tell the God King and they go to the ceremony. I think the line about them going to the God King is the perfect punch to end the chapter with, and the rest can be turned into narration in the following chapter. Though that is a bit prescriptive. Any other way to make it feel like the chapter is developing past the point when they decide to see the God King could also work.  

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On 7/26/2019 at 4:15 AM, Robinski said:

Yes. I feel that this is Z's story, and that the other POVs don't warrant the screen time. It's like you're trying to tell two stories at once.

As I continue to write Z's chapters and listen to all of your feedback, I'm finding ways to streamline the other POVs to avoid just this, so I'm glad you are "feeling" Z's story. Already I've figured out a way to incorporate L's chapters into Z's when the time comes so that even when L does move the plot, it's filtered through Z's story instead of a completely separate story that eventually ties together. It'll still be a few chapters before we meet L in this new timeline, but I think (hope) you'll like how she is handled better. 

On 7/26/2019 at 4:15 AM, Robinski said:

That will roll back from the chapters, I presume, so that we're getting this buy-in from the start of her POV.

That's the plan!

On 7/29/2019 at 6:56 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

Finding these sorts of personality traits for the side characters that are integral enough to change what they focus on in speech will let us delve deeper into who they are.

Thank you for your thoughts on dialogue. I thought I had responded to this earlier, but I took what you said to heart for the dialogue in my next submission.

Thank you guys for reading!

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