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shatteredsmooth

Reading Excuses_Junk Junction Sub 7 (Ch 11) _ShatteredSmooth (2697 Words)

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Content Warning: Dialog about a character's past experience with transphobia (second half of page 6 and onto page 7).
 
Hi Everyone,
 
I have a shorter submission this week. I had planned to send more but the second half just isn't ready because I did a major rewrite of this chapter. 
 
I haven't closely read all the feedback from last week, but I did notice some disappointment when Alex disappeared for the fight. There is an explanation for that in this chapter, although the reason behind it is something I know I did not back seed or set up for in the chapters you've read so far. I'm open to revising so he is in the fight, but I want to see your reaction to this part before I decide. 
 
The next time they all confront M, A does do a lot.  
 
I am usually very linear with writing and revising, but that hasn't been the case with this revision. I've been revising chapters out of order, so my draft is all over the place in terms of world building and set up. I was thinking of pausing my subs for a bit, but I think we are only 3 or 4 subs away from the end, and I revise more effectively when I have feedback on the whole piece, so I'll probably press on. 
 
Thanks!
 
Sara
 
Last time:
Ch. 1-2: E's mom gets turned into a mannequin in an antique shop. A haunted doll helps E's and the shop dog escape the same fate. 
Ch. 3-4: E gathers supplies from Junk Junction and does research in a library. Then they venture out to find food and a psychic. They meet D, a 13-year-old psychic whose mom is missing. They think D's mom's disappears is related to E's mom and Mx.R getting turned into mannequins.  
Ch. 5-6: E & D do research in D's mom's office. D tells E more about the circumstances surrounding her mom's disappearance.  In the morning, the two kids return to the shop, only to find the mannequins gone and the phrase "come find me" spelled out with teacups. 
Ch. 7: E & D return to Junk Junction, only to find the mannequins missing along with an assortment of other items. They go to D's house, and find some of the missing items are there along with another message from M. 
Ch. 8-9: E & D get back to the office safe. A makes a mess throwing books around and finds an journal with some potentially useful information. E learns how to more clearly sense ghosts and their energy. The next morning, E, D, and A leave for the mill. On the way, they discover a river full of bones presumably stolen from their graves by M in an attempt to find A's bones. 
Chapter 10: The group gets to the mill. A disappears. The moms aren't there. E and D are ambushed by a group of mannequins that M is controlling like puppets. They defeat the mannequins and escape.
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This was a good sequel chapter to the action in the last one. We get a chance to decompress and find out more about what's going on. I'd have liked some more questions in the last chapter about A so they can be properly answered here. I also felt there wasn't enough time spent on conclusions. A problem would be stated, and then not really followed up on: there's poison ivy, What do we do next, A got outed, A is partially responsible for the deaths... All are stated questions, but don't really go anywhere.

1 hour ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I had planned to send more but the second half just isn't ready because I did a major rewrite of this chapter.

Maybe some of these are answered in the second half?

1 hour ago, shatteredsmooth said:

but I think we are only 3 or 4 subs away from the end, and I revise more effectively when I have feedback on the whole piece, so I'll probably press on. 

I agree. I'd like to see what you have planned for the rest of the story. I can point out what inconsistencies I see without forgetting what's happened up until now.

I do appreciate that you've given M at least some kindness, so she's not just plain evil. Again, I think it will help if we learn  why she helped A, when she was poisoning the girls.

 

Notes while reading:
pg 1: There's a lot of the dog rolling on a dead thing. It was fine as a joke at the end of the last chapter, but I don't know why we need to cover it again.

pg 2: "made my stomach growl"
--After seeing the dead bodies? Come to think of it, there's not a lot of resolution to that thought from last chapter. A kid just sort of shrugs off being in a fight with supernatural forces and dead bodies.

pg 4: "Half of what ghosts are is memory."
--It would be good for D to make this observation in the last chapter as a possible reason why A didn't do anything. Then it can be confirmed here.

pg 5: "Poison ivy grew all around the edges of the clearing, and there was no way to avoid going through it."
--Soooo...what did they do? Just tromp through it? Step carefully? I assume they at least tried not to get any on them.

pg 6: “The day someone outed me to the floor supervisor.” 
--interesting that this has a bigger presence to a ghost that death (Not a criticism, but interesting from an outside perspective to know that this has so much impact).

pg 6: "“Most of my friends at the mill knew I was gay. They accepted me as a boy even though I was born with a female body."
--But one is a gay issue and one is a trans/enby issue, yes? Not that they couldn't have accepted both, but one sentence doesn't necessarily lead to the next.

pg 7: "I didn’t ask her about the poison. What she’d just done for me was rare in my day.”
--that's an interesting moral question for a kid's book, or really any book. M is literally killing kids...

pg 8: "when A died I learned the truth"
--how?

pg 8: "“It wasn’t your fault.”
--I mean, it sort of was...

pg 9: "while I looked through my phone."
--I thought with the fuss at the beginning of the chapter, no one had any phones. Was E lazy enough that they didn't take their own phone out to check the time?

pg 9: "How long did we have before M left Mom’s car somewhere and the mannequins?"
--This sentence doesn't seem complete.

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Overall

Good forward progression and good creepiness factor. Really feeling it now. The chapter read smoothly aside from the typos, and I think the characters are reading believably for their ages. Some terminology confusion, as noted below.

 

10 hours ago, Mandamon said:

I do appreciate that you've given M at least some kindness, so she's not just plain evil. Again, I think it will help if we learn  why she helped A, when she was poisoning the girls.

Agree here completely. I'm fascinated by her complexity here.

10 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 1: There's a lot of the dog rolling on a dead thing. It was fine as a joke at the end of the last chapter, but I don't know why we need to cover it again.

agree. In general, while I understand the dog is a secondary character, I feel like it often gets too much focus

 

As I go

- pg 1: WRS? How did we know M left the mannequin?

- pg 2: when did 911 get called??

- pg 5: they're going to walk through poison ivy? Hoping that rash comes into play later!

- pg 5: creepy level high here in the woods talking about ghosts. well done

- pg 6: comparing the death of a dog to the death of her friend's friend seems... kind of callous and not right

- pg 8: terminology confusion: A is gay? Because the narrative indicates he is trans, not homosexual

 

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This was a nice breather after the last chapter. It had good pacing and was pretty clear.
 
The reason A is not there makes sense, but I feel like it maybe needs to be hinted at a little before it happens. Some of it might be WRS, too, but I am once again feeling like this is a good idea that sort of comes up out of nowhere.  Also, now that I know it wasn't voluntary, I think for me it would have helped point out how strange A's absence was if maybe E and D remarked more on it while it was happening. Or otherwise somehow the story pointed out that A was supposed to be there and wasn't. Maybe A tries to come out and is, like, pulled away somehow? or it looks like he runs away?  Or, I don't know. The reasoning is fine here and it's a decent bit of worldbuilding that's consistent with most of the rest about the ghosts that I've seen in the story, but I feel like it's again not really being supported by earlier chapters. 
 
the lost friend scene is really good, but I do also wonder if the comparison to a lost pet is really appropriate. I don't mind the comparison in the dialogue so much, since it is acknowledging that the situations are not the same, and feels appropriately kid-like, but the one in the internal monologue feels like a little much. I think it could be cut and not lose the impact of the scene.

 

19 hours ago, kais said:

Because the narrative indicates he is trans, not homosexual

Both things can be true. If he's transmale and likes boys, he's gay. It's a little unclear in the text which he's being outed for (I think it's the trans?), but either one was basically a death sentence back then, so. The result is the same. 

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Comments!

(page 1)

- "had left her mannequin behind and gone elsewhere" - for some reason, I think I thought that M was fixed to the mannequin.

- "She’d be more prepared" - although M was prepared the first time, because she had set a trap, I still think it's more compelling to be direct here.

- "are all missing persons" - how is D a missing person? It does not seem like that long that they've been running around, is it more than 24 or 36 hours? Who reported D missing anyway?

(page 2)

- "My legs were jelly" - good detail, so easy to relate to. I was at the gym last week and think I rowed from here to Spain and back, felt like it anyway.

- "a few miles" - is there really nowhere to hide closer than this? Seems odd that they would not look to hide ASAP after getting a short distance away (half a mile), out of the immediate vicinity.

- "a few streets away in the downtown" - Huh? Ooh, hard stop. They cycled for miles to get to the mill. I thought the mill was out of town in the boonies, but suddenly they are in a residential suburb just around the corner? I don't think this is how the mill was located, was it?

- "She had to be was just as tired as me" - I think because you've flagged that E has seen the sign, you can phrase this more directly, with more certainty, which is more compelling.

- "The barn" - so they've come all; the way back to town?  I just don't see why. That's where people have been looking for them longest, isn't it, or it's where they would have been reported missing from. Also, they have camping gear, and they want to go back to the mill again, but they've still put all the distance between them and it, back where they started. Don't get me wrong, I don't object to the cycling itself, you are pretty light with the description of it, and describe it in an interesting way, with energy, so it's not boring, and always is interspersed with thoughts about other things. It's just the logic of where they choose to locate themselves.

(page 5)

- "conservationist who was murdered by a property developer" - This is a bit 'on the nose' for me, it's a bit too much like the author saying 'development bad', and hitting the reader over the head with it. 

- "only the tiniest weeds" - really? Weeds are pretty darn effective at colonising waste ground. I would think if they can opt their heads out, they would be all over this place in a fairly short time.

- I like the bit about E feeling the inadequacy of the 'adult' condolence phrases. That's very much in voice for the age of the character, I think. I feel that I can remember not being able to say stuff like that at some point in my life.

(page 6)

- "The day someone outed me" - would he know this modern phrase? As a child of a certain era, would he not say a phrase that would suit that era? I dunno, like something about not being a boy, or some other clumsy, inappropriate revelation?

- Wait, confused. I didn't think A was gay, I thought he was trans? I'm not going back to look, but that's the way I remember it. Maybe my WRS?

- "They accepted me as a boy even though I was born with a female body" - But, what about the 'gay' thing? I'm confused.

(page 7)

- "I found arsenic in the cupboard" - Gaaaah! That's ghastly, and gruesome. Bleeeagh.

- "What if it were for people like my supervisor?" - Confused, I don't know what this means.

- "I learned the truth" - About the arsenic? By A learned the truth before, just didn't have it confirmed, but the first death basically confirms it? I don't think this quite hangs together,  logically, it still isn't really proof.

(page 8)

- "killed them" - only one person had died at this point, according to the recollection anyway.

(page 9)

- "left Mom’s car somewhere and the mannequins?" - and the mannequins... what? This seems to be an incomplete sentence.

Overall 

Good chapter, forward motion to some extent (by stating intent anyway, rather than actually doing very much), but also a sequel to the attack where they take stock, learn some news stuff. I like how you emphasise people are looking for them through the messages from Dad at the end. That's important, to show that the outside world is not just sitting around waiting for the story to play out, which it never would, of course. There was some good emotion here, both from E to D, but also in A's reveal, although I thought that could have been tighter. I don't think it was as clear as out needs to be.

Good job though. Looking forward to the next instalment :) 

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On 09/09/2019 at 4:22 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

so I'll probably press on

You'd better!!! I need to know how this plays out!

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On 09/09/2019 at 6:18 PM, Mandamon said:

I do appreciate that you've given M at least some kindness, so she's not just plain evil. Again, I think it will help if we learn  why she helped A, when she was poisoning the girls.

Notwithstanding there might have been an anterior motive behind her apparent kindness, it's a good approach to villainy to show a chink of feeling somewhere there, as if there might be/have been hope for them, in some twisted, highly unlikely way.

On 10/09/2019 at 5:10 AM, kais said:

The chapter read smoothly aside from the typos

Agree. Whipped through the sub, although I gather it's not the whole chapter.

On 10/09/2019 at 5:10 AM, kais said:

I feel like it often gets too much focus

Sometimes maybe, yeah. Like when E held up the dog to D, I thought that was good in that it was as if E wanted to hug D, but was too nervous and dog became her surrogate (or as a non-doggo-ist, am I just reading way too much into that?).

8 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

but I feel like it maybe needs to be hinted at a little before it happens

Agree.

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On 9/10/2019 at 0:10 AM, kais said:

- pg 8: terminology confusion: A is gay? Because the narrative indicates he is trans, not homosexual

 

He's a trans boy who likes boys. So he's trans and gay.

6 hours ago, Robinski said:

so they've come all; the way back to town?

No. I need to clarify this. And maybe start using names of towns (something I've avoided because at the moment, one of the towns is completely made up and one is based on a real one, and I'm not sure if I can actually get away with doing that). The woods they're in and the barn they're going to are in the same town as the mill, not the town that they had just come from. They basically rode a couple miles from the mill to the nature preserve, then walked / rode about a mile to the spot with the ruins. The barn is a couple miles away on the other side of the preserve. 

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17 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

The woods they're in and the barn they're going to are in the same town as the mill, not the town that they had just come from.

Right. I didn't really get that. Naming would instantly solve some of the issues I've had with orientation. I see no problem using a real and a manufactured town, although I guess you would want to change the team of the real town?

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7 hours ago, Robinski said:

Right. I didn't really get that. Naming would instantly solve some of the issues I've had with orientation. I see no problem using a real and a manufactured town, although I guess you would want to change the team of the real town?

 If I change the name of the real town, then I guess I don't have to be 100% accurate with it either. 

I think I have very much neglected describing the larger setting. For example, you said

On 9/11/2019 at 3:22 AM, Robinski said:

I thought the mill was out of town in the boonies, but suddenly they are in a residential suburb just around the corner? I don't think this is how the mill was located, was it?

But the mill is in a more developed area than the one they just left. There are old mill building all over New England, most are in cities or larger towns. Very few of them are actually still mills -- most have been converted to housing, restaurants, shopping malls, storage, art space, and/or offices. They're seldom just out in the middle of nowhere. 

That also makes it more appealing to a developer who doesn't believe in it's haunted history and thinks it can use that haunted history as a marketing gimmick / tourist draw. 

I've been so focused on other elements of the story that I didn't realize how little description I was giving it until I read comments about. 

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On 9/11/2019 at 3:22 AM, Robinski said:

- "a few miles" - is there really nowhere to hide closer than this? Seems odd that they would not look to hide ASAP after getting a short distance away (half a mile), out of the immediate vicinity.

 

So I was playing around on Google maps, and if I do change the name of the real town, take some small liberties, then the park they hide out in is about a mile away, and they pass through the cemetery I imagine Alex's friend's bones were stolen from on the way there. On the back side of the park, there is a lot of farm land that would have the abandoned barn they plan to camp out in, and they're not too far from the the next place they go -- the old house Mx. R took the M mannequin from, which I imagine in a neighborhood in Woodstock full of big old houses, some of which would've belonged to mill owners. 

I think having a map of a real place to go on will help me focus more on explaining where things are, and if I'm changing town names, I can change some things. Does that make sense? 

Screen Shot 2019-09-12 at 11.48.32 AM.png

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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18 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I've been so focused on other elements of the story that I didn't realize how little description I was giving it until I read comments about.

For the most part, I think you get away with it,  but a bit more description would be good. It doesn't have to be super intricate.

17 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

the park they hide out in is about a mile away

Cool. Seems to me that is more reasonable. And a cemetery!! Bonus ;) 

17 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I think having a map of a real place to go on will help me focus more on explaining where things are

Totally. It's served me well with W and S.

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Overall, I didn't have much to say about this chapter. It's a needed break after the action of the last chapter. A bit more description of the area would be nice, especially given that this was so well-done in the last one.

As I read:

Ah, so we do get an explanation for A's absence in the last chapter. I definitely think we should see this or part of this on-screen, even if we don't understand what we're seeing at the time. I think it would help the disappointment/confusion some of were feeling at his absence, and done right it could really ratchet up the tension of the last chapter a few notches.

I do like the concept of ghosts as memories by the way. I think some of the earlier comments about more world-building in the early chapters to set this stuff up also apply here.

P5, "who was murdered by a property developer and college student..." Okay, so it took me way longer than it should have to realize that the college student was the second ghost, not an extremely precocious person with a drug problem who managed to become a property developer despite being college-age...

P6, A says "the day someone outed me..." Nitpicky, but is this terminology they would have had back when A was still alive? Or maybe A has picked up current terminology and this doesn't matter.

Also on the subject of terminology: Is A. gay, trans, or both? The story seems to conflate them here. I see it's been discussed downthread but it's not necessarily clear in A's narration that both are true.

Okay, with this revelation about M and the arsenic, I am now extremely curious about what her motivations are. It's good to see she's not just a cardboard villain, but yeah, I have questions.

I think the last sentence of the chapter is a fragment? I had difficulty parsing it.

On 9/9/2019 at 10:18 AM, Mandamon said:

--After seeing the dead bodies? Come to think of it, there's not a lot of resolution to that thought from last chapter. A kid just sort of shrugs off being in a fight with supernatural forces and dead bodies.

Agree. It certainly feels like the dead bodies etc. would be a bigger deal. Both E and D seem to shrug off the supernatural quite easily throughout the entire narrative, so I didn't notice it particularly here, but @Mandamon's not wrong.

On 9/9/2019 at 10:18 AM, Mandamon said:

pg 8: "when A died I learned the truth"
--how?

Same question.

On 9/9/2019 at 10:18 AM, Mandamon said:

pg 5: "Poison ivy grew all around the edges of the clearing, and there was no way to avoid going through it."
--Soooo...what did they do? Just tromp through it? Step carefully? I assume they at least tried not to get any on them.

Also wondering this!

On 9/10/2019 at 4:33 PM, industrialistDragon said:

the lost friend scene is really good, but I do also wonder if the comparison to a lost pet is really appropriate. I don't mind the comparison in the dialogue so much, since it is acknowledging that the situations are not the same, and feels appropriately kid-like, but the one in the internal monologue feels like a little much. I think it could be cut and not lose the impact of the scene.

I think ID is probably right, here. I didn't really stumble over the comparison since it makes sense that a kid who's never really experienced a comparable loss would reach for the closest thing they can, but at the very least you could probably cut a lot of it and we wouldn't lose much. The only really revealing information in there is "those phrases feel hollow and fake."

On 9/11/2019 at 0:22 AM, Robinski said:

- "a few streets away in the downtown" - Huh? Ooh, hard stop. They cycled for miles to get to the mill. I thought the mill was out of town in the boonies, but suddenly they are in a residential suburb just around the corner? I don't think this is how the mill was located, was it?

I stumbled over this a bit too. I know they biked a fair distance to the park from the mill, and assumed there were restaurants or whatnot on the way, but "a few streets away" from down seems a stretch.

On 9/11/2019 at 7:04 AM, shatteredsmooth said:

(something I've avoided because at the moment, one of the towns is completely made up and one is based on a real one, and I'm not sure if I can actually get away with doing that).

You probably could, though certainly easier if you use both fictional towns.

On 9/12/2019 at 7:33 AM, shatteredsmooth said:

But the mill is in a more developed area than the one they just left. There are old mill building all over New England,

Oooh. Yeah, this isn't clear at all. I think you're spot on in saying the description of the overall area is lacking. We've gotten some great description of individual places, but very little idea of how they all fit together. Another angle of the world-building problem, I think.

On 9/12/2019 at 8:55 AM, shatteredsmooth said:

if I'm changing town names, I can change some things. Does that make sense? 

Certainly, I don't think this would be a problem at all.

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As usual I'm here with my Sunday critique. I didn't make any notes because I was engrossed throughout and I'm really just jumping on the band wagon with this, honestly. Loved the chapter. In a lot of ways I felt like this was more climactic than the previous chapter because it really showcased all the character arcs and direction of the book. The reveal that M helped A was masterful. I really was just expecting a 2D villain and I'm glad there is more depth there. Honestly my favorite thing you've submitted so far. Kudos!

Since it's me and I have to at least say one negative thing, I don't know if it's believable that A's fellow workers during that time knew and were generally OK with him. Also, would he have even been hired?

Edited by hawkedup
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