kais

04/06/20 - kais - Rosewood (L) - 5401 words

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Chapter 1, again! Now with some semblance of plot and hopefully a bit more voice.

Hoping to start moving through the chapters this time, as the book is about 3/4 drafted. This is meant to be a fluffy fantasy romance full of silly tropes, but with adventure, too. It may or may not hit the mark on this. 

All comments welcome!

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If I had a magic genie lamp, one of my wishes would be going towards reading the rest of this book right now. I was already on board with the last draft, but this draft completely sold me. If the rest of the book follows the quality of this chapter, this is the exact type of fantasy romance I buy and finish in one day. 

Thoughts as I go:

Pg 1, "Crrrack." I winced at this. 

Pg 1, "Things were turning around... far longer than normal." I had to reread this sentence twice. The "long summer" part that tripped me up because it took me a moment to realize what it had to do with the highway guild. 

Pg 1, "And crouching in blackberry brambles was horrible for her back." This made me chuckle. 

Pg 1, " the less they had to clean their swords after." I love these little sharp jabs of humor. It's my type.

Pg 1, "Their continent, Y, was small," I like being tossed into the world so quick out the gate. I also like how the following exposition is relevant to M and her current situation. Too often I read poor work that must tell me the entire history of the world straight out of the gate. Thank you for not doing that.

Pg 2, "humidity still hung thickly in the air" Ick! The mosquitoes, the thorny blackberries, the humidity...no thank you!

Pg 2, "purple jelly fungus that looked like brains," I'm glad this made the cut.

Pg 4, " using her thumb to push the berries free" Much better than the thorns. I can totally understand why she wouldn't want to pluck them ahead of time: maximum splat.

Pg 4, "Someone had tipped them off" The soothsayer? 

Pg 5, "He couldn’t even eat fruit." As someone who loves blackberries, it would suck to spend hours in blackberry bushes and not be able to have a snack.

Pg 6, "likely smearing berry juice down his coat." That's going to stain.

Pg 6, " and the horses settled the driver stood" Add comma: " and the horses settled, the driver stood"

Pg 7, " his voice gravelly and tired": I feel like poor C is not getting paid enough.

Pg 7, " An absolute toadstool, with nightflies for brains" Glad that this made the cut.

Pg 7, "they were mostly old draft horses": Much better than before. 

Pg 8, " “C!?” the words came from the carriage": "The" needs to be capitalized.

Pg 13, "M had a sudden pang of guilt."

Pg 13, "A brown comb" "flickered a bright green": I am assuming the comb is brown with green inlays or something.

Pg 14, "N titled her chin up,"

Pg 14, "all but the last one were bottom-heavy." I am so glad this made the cut.

Pg 15, " going to kill me so drop the pretense." Comma between "me" and "so"?

Pg 17, "the horses jerking the reins hard enough to tip the whole thing again." Speaking for experience, horses can definitely yank you out of your seat by the reins, but even four horses couldn't tip a carriage with their mouths. Suggestions: 1) changing reins to harnesses or 2) the horses jerking forward. You also say that the carriage jerks forward, so maybe another verb? The horses shot forward? 

Pg 17, "going back to A.G. we can’t” M said" Forgotten punctuation after "can't"

Pg 18, "which had collapses a few years back" Wrong verb tense.

Pg 18, "“So why be afraid of an entire queendom." Wrong punctuation? Did you mean for this to be a question?

Pg 18, "something of Mother’s And between the gold," Forgotten period between "Mother's" and "And."

Pg 19, "too busy planning to figure out a direction of travel" 

Pg 19, " Jacks lead her to the game trail" Wrong verb tense.

Overall:

I like how M came across in this version much better. She leaped off of the pages for me. I also thought the conversation between her and N was much stronger this go round. It felt much more natural, and I like that M was much quicker to react. I thought that this fit her a lot better than stumbling over the entire encounter. I also liked the inclusion of the comb, and thought that as a whole her motivations were much stronger and more relatable. J took an aside as M become my favorite character. I adore her sharp sense of humor and her confidence.

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I think the voice came across better in this one, and I connected to M even better than last time, but I think this chapter might have gotten too long. It's page 7 before the actual robbery happens, and there are several pages at the end after the climax and revelation of the chapter, that I think would do better as the beginning of the next one. There was nearly an infodump at the beginning about the continent and the guild. I think M makes enough mention of the guild during the chapter that this could be cut down to get the action quicker.

Definitely getting better!

Notes while reading:

pg 1: "Thorns skated across her skin"
--I think this is a better indication of powers shenanigans, but I'm not sure if I would have caught it if I didn't know about it already.

pg 1: "She crushed the branch in her hand, thorns and all"
--This too. It's definitely subtle, and I don't think I would know if it's magic or big powerful hero with strong hands.

pg 1: "Retire to management"
--oh, the dream of every adventurer ;-)

pg 1: "the less they had to clean their swords after"
--yes, but this still doesn't have a good punch. It's just cause and effect. Yes, it says she's callous and used to robbery, but I want it to be a little more.

pg 1: "Their continent...was small"
--Not sure this paragraph is needed. I was almost afraid of an infodump for a moment and I think early in the story, I want more about M and less about the guild.

pg 2: "had been colonized only four generations back"
--ah, spoke too soon. Is this needed for the setup right now, or can we learn it later on in the chapter? I want to jump right into robbing the coach.

pg 2: "purple jelly fungus that looked like brains
--ha!

pg 3: "Peasants, peasants "
--why is this repeated?

pg 5: "He couldn’t even eat fruit"
--better not suck on that blowpipe then...

pg 5: "Could be birds, or could be highwaymen"
--birds spit berries in carriages? I would think this is a dead giveaway that it's bandits (weird bandits that throw berries instead of, say arrows) and they should just drive off.

pg 6: "could be bought with, with"
--I guess the word repetition is just M's way of speaking? It's a little weird.

pg 6: “Watch what happens then.”
--I am actually curious as to what the two could do if the carriage just drove off.

pg 6: “Being dropped by birds, I think”
--that's a pretty dumb driver.

pg 7: "She let the dust continue to settle"
--At this point we're seven pages in. Just rob the carriage already.

pg 13: "A comb that had belonged to M’s mother."
--Aha. That's what I've been waiting for.

pg 18: I feel like the end of the chapter went on a little bit too long after the conflict in the carriage. Could be cut down.

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Posted (edited)

Right off of the bat, you had some great lines! 

"I sounded like her blowing the robbery before...At forty-one..." Great voice. Nice details about the character.

"Cicadas and...snoring?" Snicker. More good voice followed by nice characterization of J.

"The few people they had to impale..." Yup. Definitely on board with M.

I agree with @Mandamon that you might have a too much of an info dump. At this point in the story, I don't care that much about how the roads are organized to need this much information about it all at once. Granted, I like the voice enough that I'll tolerate it, but it might be better to trim a lot of it out and sprinkle it in later, and get to M wondering how J could sleep through all the mosquitoes sooner. 

The detaining of the driver worked better this time.

I liked that they were just hitting him with berries and not darts. It was funny and perfect for a fluffy fantasy romance. 

M's attitude towards royals is hilarious. 

The princess knowing her name didn't quite have as big as impact for me as it did for M because up until that point, I didn't know M usually went by a different name. I understood once M's internal narrative explained it, which happened pretty quickly.

The interaction between M and the princess was very tense and had a good build. 

I liked how in this one, M actually opened the trunk, and saw what was in it. I loved the emotion seeing the comb evoked. I am very curious as to why it is in there. I want M to go and steal it back. 

I am 100% on board with this story and looking forward to the next chapter. 

Also, the mention of the soothsayer was a nice touch. It made me curious and cued me in that there would be a fantasy element. 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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Hello!

These are my first Reading Excuses reviews, so I printed out the guidelines and relied heavily on them for this review. I hope my critiques are helpful. ^_^

I agree that there is an info dump in the opening of the chapter. M's reaction to the princess comes off a little juvenile for me considering her age and experience and it being implied that she's been the one to provide for J.

I did like how obnoxious the princess is percieved by M, its a great setup for a romance for the main character to like someone they initially mocked. I also enjoyed how the princess outmanuvered M. I am a big fan of heists, so I too am on board with reading this story.

 

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Posted (edited)

Hi! 

I'm going avoid doing a line by line critique as I'm really bad at it and I find it rather tedious, all things considered. I liked the beginning of the story the first time around from what I remember  and now it just feels cleaner.

Several things: I'm really curious about M's non-relationship with N. It's kind of like a benign big brother?

Also, the whole thing debating birds and bandits seems rather stupid of C and N. 

One thing that bugged me a bit was when M was describing the continent, it seemed a bit uncalled far, though I can understand that you want to add world building, and when you say that Y is small, right now I'm under the impression that it's a lone continent in their known world, so it feels like a break from reality when you say that. I'm looking forward to the rest of the story though! 

Edited by Turin Turambar
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Fashionably late, as always…

To be honest, this rewrite wiped out most of the comments that I had had on the original Ch1, specifically, that M and J read as much younger than the text said they were, that it seemed fairly inactive on M’s part for a robbery attempt, and that I didn’t quite buy the escalation all the way to “let’s crush a queendom.” I think the only part where I’m still not completely sold is the last part, though I’m much closer with this version. I definitely feel that M has sufficient motivation now; I’m just not quite making the jump from “I really want that one thing” to “therefore I must attack an entire region to get it” when there are probably reasonable alternatives in between, like “target this one person again specifically at a later date.” Especially with J making a reasonably convincing case that this is maybe not the best idea.

That being said, I’m kind of looking forward to watching M convince a bunch of other people to go along with this scheme. There could be some fun conflict there.

Also very glad to see some older fantasy protags. We don’t get enough of those in SFF, particularly women. It was much easier to believe that these were older characters this time, and making that clear also makes the narration much more distinct. Win all around!

As I read:

I miss the opening line of the first version. This opener isn’t quite as evocative.

P2 “...or so naive they’d probably died…” Hah.

“..suffocated in their sleep by their own pillows?” Also hah.

P4 so the blackberries thing. In the first version, I had managed to convince myself that the blackberry thorns would work as a method of, not doing actual harm, but providing sufficient annoyance to horses/drivers to reliably get carriages to stop on the road. (Plus the inventiveness was fun.) In this case, though, would launching the actual berries provide a reliable enough distraction for M and J to find this method worthwhile for stopping carriages? This seems like the kind of thing that one could fairly easily ignore and ride on.

P8 “...was beyond the point.” More usual to say “beside the point, I think.”

P15: “a hand with seashell nails” wait, where did this come from? I assume it refers to painted nails, which one could probably expect from N, except that she’s been pictured as wearing a spectacularly shabby outfit, so this seems pretty out-of-place.

P16 : J seems mightily incurious about what I can assume would be fairly uncharacteristic actions for M, since she herself comments that the “Let me in!” comment is unprofessional (which also gave me a chuckle, by the way). Wouldn’t he know her well enough to tell that she’s perturbed and maybe ask some questions about what M and N have just been talking about? Also, M reveals to J that N has t he comb, but does not mention that N somehow knows exactly who they are, which seems like it would be pertinent.

 

On 4/7/2020 at 9:50 AM, Mandamon said:

but I think this chapter might have gotten too long. It's page 7 before the actual robbery happens

This is a fair comment, I think. Probably could stand some general trimming. I didn't notice because I'd read the original draft originally preceding this one, and was too busy nodding approvingly at how much more active this version felt.

On 4/7/2020 at 9:50 AM, Mandamon said:

pg 1: "She crushed the branch in her hand, thorns and all"
--This too. It's definitely subtle, and I don't think I would know if it's magic or big powerful hero with strong hands.

Gonna go ahead and disagree though that this, and the first line, are too subtle. The later hints paint a much clearer picture, but a sharp reader will remember this and feel clever for noticing; if they don't notice, then no harm no foul I'd say.

On 4/7/2020 at 9:50 AM, Mandamon said:

pg 3: "Peasants, peasants "
--why is this repeated?

For emphasis, I thought. Worked okay for me.

On 4/7/2020 at 9:50 AM, Mandamon said:

pg 5: "Could be birds, or could be highwaymen"
--birds spit berries in carriages? I would think this is a dead giveaway that it's bandits (weird bandits that throw berries instead of, say arrows) and they should just drive off.

Agree.

On 4/7/2020 at 9:50 AM, Mandamon said:

pg 18: I feel like the end of the chapter went on a little bit too long after the conflict in the carriage. Could be cut down.

Agree here too. I felt this much more than at the beginning  of the chapter.

On 4/7/2020 at 11:12 AM, shatteredsmooth said:

I liked how in this one, M actually opened the trunk, and saw what was in it.

Yes! I was really frustrated that she didn't step up the threats, or open the trunk, or something in the first version. In this version she does both and I am here for it.

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On 4/6/2020 at 9:34 PM, Snakenaps said:

I feel like poor C is not getting paid enough.

Alas, the drivers never do!

On 4/6/2020 at 9:34 PM, Snakenaps said:

I am assuming the comb is brown with green inlays or something.

This purposefully meant to be a bit weird so yay!

On 4/6/2020 at 9:34 PM, Snakenaps said:

Suggestions: 1) changing reins to harnesses or 2) the horses jerking forward. You also say that the carriage jerks forward, so maybe another verb? The horses shot forward? 

Ahh yes, thank you for this!

On 4/6/2020 at 9:34 PM, Snakenaps said:

J took an aside as M become my favorite character. I adore her sharp sense of humor and her confidence.

Wonderful! And thank you for all the typo catches. It looks like this rewrite worked better for everyone so I'm going to consider that a win and carry on!

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On 4/7/2020 at 9:50 AM, Mandamon said:

It's page 7 before the actual robbery happens, and there are several pages at the end after the climax and revelation of the chapter, that I think would do better as the beginning of the next one.

Hmmm. Okay. I'll think on this. After seeing some feedback on chapter two, I might cut this chapter down, stick the last bit on the next chapter, and cut the berserker thing. I've cut a bit from the start of the chapter, but I still think it'll take a few pages to get to the robbery. 

~~ Hello from the future! I have in fact done as noted above and it worked well! So I'll go with that for now, the last bit of ch1 being the intro to chapter 2

On 4/7/2020 at 9:50 AM, Mandamon said:

yes, but this still doesn't have a good punch. It's just cause and effect. Yes, it says she's callous and used to robbery, but I want it to be a little more.

Alas, this line did not make the last cut

On 4/7/2020 at 9:50 AM, Mandamon said:

Not sure this paragraph is needed. I was almost afraid of an infodump for a moment and I think early in the story, I want more about M and less about the guild.

This whole section has been swapped around. Also it's an island now, not a continent. I need to remember to make a note of that in the next email sub

On 4/7/2020 at 9:50 AM, Mandamon said:

birds spit berries in carriages? I would think this is a dead giveaway that it's bandits (weird bandits that throw berries instead of, say arrows) and they should just drive off.

I think I need to be more clear that they do this to irritate the horses so they stop pulling the carriage.

On 4/7/2020 at 9:50 AM, Mandamon said:

I am actually curious as to what the two could do if the carriage just drove off.

LOL absolutely nothing! M is all talk

On 4/7/2020 at 9:50 AM, Mandamon said:

that's a pretty dumb driver.

I've clarified that he doesn't think it's birds, either

Thank you so much! Many edits now but I think the chapter is a lot tighter!

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On 4/7/2020 at 11:12 AM, shatteredsmooth said:

that you might have a too much of an info dump

It has been deleted!

On 4/7/2020 at 11:12 AM, shatteredsmooth said:

I want M to go and steal it back. 

WELL YOU ARE IN LUCK

On 4/7/2020 at 11:12 AM, shatteredsmooth said:

lso, the mention of the soothsayer was a nice touch. It made me curious and cued me in that there would be a fantasy element. 

I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I've done some cutting and moving around but the voice is still very intact. I'm hoping this ends up being a fun, sexy little tale.

On 4/7/2020 at 7:29 PM, CherishLarain said:

I agree that there is an info dump in the opening of the chapter. M's reaction to the princess comes off a little juvenile for me considering her age and experience and it being implied that she's been the one to provide for J.

Info dump has been deleted! 

Not sure what to say about the princess reaction. I'm drawing heavily on lesbian culture for this, and both the princess and M are specific archetypes in lesfic. I'll take a look back at the dialogue and see if it isn't hitting quite right.

On 4/7/2020 at 7:29 PM, CherishLarain said:

I am a big fan of heists, so I too am on board with reading this story.

Hoorah! Yes, we will have some heisting. Thank you so much for the feedback @CherishLarain! Very helpful!

 

On 4/8/2020 at 0:05 PM, Turin Turambar said:

I'm really curious about M's non-relationship with N. It's kind of like a benign big brother?

Who are you referring to? The princess and M? Or were you meaning Jacks?

On 4/8/2020 at 0:05 PM, Turin Turambar said:

Also, the whole thing debating birds and bandits seems rather stupid of C and N. 

I've clarified this to show that no one actually things its birds.

On 4/8/2020 at 0:05 PM, Turin Turambar said:

bit was when M was describing the continent, it seemed a bit uncalled far,

It has been deleted! Thank you for the feedback, @Turambar!

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20 hours ago, Silk said:

I really want that one thing” to “therefore I must attack an entire region to get it” when there are probably reasonable alternatives in between, like “target this one person again specifically at a later date.” Especially with J making a reasonably convincing case that this is maybe not the best idea.

Ahhh okay, this is a solid concern. I've added some text with J calling her out on this, and a bit more emotional resonance to the comb. 

20 hours ago, Silk said:

Also very glad to see some older fantasy protags. We don’t get enough of those in SFF, particularly women. It was much easier to believe that these were older characters this time, and making that clear also makes the narration much more distinct. Win all around!

Thanks! The lesfic community as a whole has been bemoaning this, too, so I thought I might as well. I mean, I'm almost forty. I think I should be able to write a forty year old somewhat convincingly.

20 hours ago, Silk said:

would launching the actual berries provide a reliable enough distraction for M and J to find this method worthwhile for stopping carriages?

I've added shots at the horses, too, which gets them to stop and act up.

20 hours ago, Silk said:

wait, where did this come from? I

Ah, it was referenced earlier.

20 hours ago, Silk said:

J seems mightily incurious about what I can assume would be fairly uncharacteristic actions for M, since she herself comments that the “Let me in!” comment is unprofessional (which also gave me a chuckle, by the way). Wouldn’t he know her well enough to tell that she’s perturbed and maybe ask some questions about what M and N have just been talking about? Also, M reveals to J that N has t he comb, but does not mention that N somehow knows exactly who they are, which seems like it would be pertinent.

I've added a bit more discussion around both of these. Solid point!

Thank you @Silk! Many good edits. I think this chapter is about set!

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Acht, I finally got back here. Sorry for the delay.

(page 1)

- I'm splitting comments across tracked LBLs in the file (the emails in the post), and here.

- "and their reputation" - What? Was growing, presumably, but the narrative doesn't say.

(page 2)

- "for over a week" - WHHAAAAATTTT?!

- "while the road edges were distinct enough to allow a several kilometer view in either direction" - I don't buy this. Okay, the road may be straight, as in Roman road straight, but that doesn't mean it's flat. The changes of a road, with trees on either side of it (i.e. a forest) being completely flat for that distance is vanishingly small (see what I did there?). A little research suggests that the curvature of the Earth means that the horizon is about 5km away. That certainly qualifies as 'several' of course, but trees routes, variations in moistures, historical geology, tectonic activity (even), glacial action, all would suggest that there would be undulations in the surface over that kind of distance.

And another thing. Indications are that horses drawing a carriage will trot at circa 10/15mph. This is equivalent to 16 to 24 kmh. So, taking a median of 20kph and a distance of 5km, when they first saw a carriageway, in theory, it would take 15 minutes to reach them. That's a long time. What are they going to do all that time?

- "squinted into darkness" - And it's nighttime, so they can't see sh*t anyway. So, what does it matter how long their view is?

- "This was her favorite part—the anticipation right before the score" - Nice, great character building.

(page 3)

- "They knew to toss a bag of pennies" - Another nice detail. Beautiful note of practicality that might be worth drawing out just a little more with one more line. It's about risk management, pain vs. gain.

- "It was the same carriage she’d tagged in the morning" - But they've been here for two weeks, haven't they?

(page 4)

- "Click clack. Click click clack" - I think you need all the commas between all this clicking and clacking, but that's not my main point here. The CLICKING AND CLACKING was louder before on the previous page when it was all in CAPS, now it seems to be quieter again. I don't understand.

- "A yellow light swung back and forth" - If they can see five kilometres, they will have seen this light way before now. Waaaaaay before now.

- "candle having burned to all but embers" - Embers don't give out enough light to make a lantern shine, IMO.

- "stuttered" - I feel like this is an auditory response.

(page 5)

- "nettle tea was expensive" - I can make a cup of nettle tea for the cost of boiling the kettle. This remains unconvincing for me. Nettles are a weed. If you've got brambles, surely you've got nettles. There needs to be something special about the nettle tea, something rare that makes it expansive and not just growning along the roadside and freely available to all.

- "if it was a hole in the road just go around" - This is really obvious. She would not need to tell a driver this. Suggest dropping the first part. She knows they've stopped and the reason is not important to her. "Just go around! We have to be there..." - and the bit about the town sounds maid-and-butler to me. The driver knows the schedule. I think it needs to be in the way of a reminder. "You know we need to be..." or "I told you we need to be..."

(page 6)

- "Pay them off and let’s go" - I was getting worried about the slowness of the action and the fact that the driver is just sitting around as berries fly, but this line kind of rescued the scene for me. I didn't feel there was enough urgency in the reaction of the driver.

- "none of them were desperate enough to take thrown scraps from carriages" - This seems to contradict somewhat the earlier line when she did accept pennies. I appreciate the circumstances were different in that it wasn't worth their time to turn over the penny throwers, but this most recent statement seems to say that they can never be bought off, which is contradictory, it seems to me.

- "When the reins were straight and the horses settled" - I'm really quite flummoxed by the complete lack of urgency. What are the robbers waiting for? Why don't the victims run for it? There's no tension.

- "I don’t hear any birdsong" - Why are they not just riding on? If the driver suspects birds, he would not stop for them, and take all this time looking around for birds. I think highway robbery has some very specific expectations to it, and one of them is not hanging around waiting for...I don't know what we're waiting for. The way I see this is (a) do something to stop the carriage; (b) immediately confront the victims while they are disoriented and before they have a chance to organise themselves for defence; (c) subdue them by force if necessary but, above all, frighten/threaten them in with violence and death in order to keep them quiet; (d) enact robbery; (e) withdraw very quickly before any defensive our counterstrike action is taken. There's good tension in the waiting, and then in the initial strike then--for me--the scene flops.

(page 7)

- "I’m still trying to find all the peanuts" - ROFL.

- "But the carriage hadn’t been attacked" - Does this mean no one else had attacked it? Not really clear, IMO.

(page 8)

- "one very well-placed blow to the head" - I feel like this could have happened a page or more earlier, and that nothing very much has happened in the mean time but M indulging in some introspection. I think there is a pacing issue here for the first chapter of the book. Too much background and pondering.

(page 9)

- M really does prattle on in her speech to the princess. Too much, IMO.

- The moment of the princess recognising her is excellent.

(page 10)

- "like a child stared at cake" - This is a great line, BUT, the princess spoke hesitantly when she used M's name, with doubt. I do not think that a child stares at cake hesitantly or doubtfully. "her eyes sparkled with… tears?" - Again, I don't see a child crying when presented with cake.

(page 11)

- "searching for jewelry" - Confused here. This bit seems like part of a different sentence. Also, she won't find earrings in the princess' V-neck.

(page 12)

- "Can I knock him out again?" - If they've had such a long association, wouldn't J know what to do in this situation? I feel he would not need to ask her this. It would not have occurred to me to think about the driver if this second bit was cut.

- "had sudden pang of guilt" - Meh. Really? Why, after all the robberies she has done?

(page 13)

- "A comb" - Yes, this paragraph right here. 

This scene, from where M steps into the carriage, is pretty much perfect for me (subject to comments above, obvs! :lol: ). The weight of it, the look of it, the smell of it. It transports me back to the absolute best parts of [alchemist story] which, as you know, I maintain is your best writing, IMO. I feel like the whole story, M's motivations, her relationships, revolve around this moment (or should do).

(page 14)

- "I am not giving you that comb" - LOL. I love that she thinks she has the power to give the comb, or not, in this scenario. This single line is the first time I've really felt anything for the princess, and I really like her now. Right now.

- "money for Js’ medicine" - NETTLE TEA IS NOT MEDICINE, it's a nice cuppa sitting on the porch :P 

- "how many women she’d bedded" - This kind of broke the mood for me. It sounds like the princess is spying on her, or has people watching her. I think it's fine for her to be able to express knowledge from a time when they knew each other, but this kind of weirds me out, and makes the princess look like a weird stalker when she was sympathetic before.

(page 15)

- "You’re better than this" - :lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol: - You won't get this, but I'm big into Premier League Football (soccer), and there is this BBC football shows where one of the pundits (ex-player Chris Sutton) has a catch phrase which actually is 'You're better than that', but this was close enough to make me roll around laughing. Sorry, carry on.

(page 16)

- "A hand with seashell nails pulled the curtain back" - lovely image, but did she not have to pull back the curtain before throwing the coins?

- "the smell of honey" - where did this come from, is it a remanent? N smelled bad before.

- "they’ll have enough lead to be within the city walls before we overtake them" - so, J is completely wrong in his assessment then?

- "They’ve got at least two days" - Confused. Their horses mu st be a long way away if M's assessment is correct.

(page 17)

- "she still had the gold rings in her pocket" - What gold rings? Confused. I don't recall her taking them from N.

- "not even their old home" - I would think this is the least likely thing to have left from them.

- "I’ve got a reason to be afraid of things" - What things? Confused, this is a vague statement. This is an important exchange right her in terms of motivation and it starts with me not understanding what he's getting at.

- "I have absolutely no idea" - Really? Not even a guess or two? I feel like there would at least be some candidates that she could guess at. So, this makes me curious to read on, although I don't think I'm going to get an answer on the one anytime soon.

(page 18)

- the only thing in her life she truly owned" - but it's not really, surely. She owns her horse, her boots, her clothes, etc. It's one of those absolute statements that doesn't really stand up to logical assessment.

- "they wouldn’t hold the same allure" - This feels like a romantic word. It doesn't seem like the right word here, IMO.

- "good training opportunity" - This sounds like modern phraseology to me. I expect her to start thinking about customer-focused outcomes about here.

- "We’re going to risk it…for the only piece of our parents we have left" - I can see the concerns about this. I would need more investment in the reasoning behind this to believe it as the closing line of the chapter, and effectively ALMOST the entire stakes behind the inciting incident in the story. I'm much more invested in the identity of N than M's rationale in pursing the comb. I feel like the components are there, but they do not align at present. J's illness, N's identify, M's parental issues: they are good underlying causes, but they are not properly aligned at present, I feel. Not working together, but rather pulling away from each other, as motivations, I think.

Overall 

Not much to add. LBLs emails separately. I enjoyed this more than the first version, but I think it still needs a more consistent and compelling through line.

It's good writing though. There's definitely something here.

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23 hours ago, Robinski said:

Acht, I finally got back here. Sorry for the delay.

Bah, I get delayed all the time. No worries!

23 hours ago, Robinski said:

I don't buy this

LOL okay. Will change. This is why I need you, @Robinski. The devil is in the details

23 hours ago, Robinski said:

I don't understand.

I've cut a whole additional page from chapter one so I think it resolved most of these issues

23 hours ago, Robinski said:

This remains unconvincing for me. Nettles are a weed. If you've got brambles, surely you've got nettles. There needs to be something special about the nettle tea, something rare that makes it expansive and not just growning along the roadside and freely available to all.

The specifics of this are in chapter 5. I'm trying to weigh specifics versus narrative speed. Don't know how well I'm doing.

23 hours ago, Robinski said:

This seems to contradict somewhat the earlier line when she did accept pennies.

Good point. Deleted

23 hours ago, Robinski said:

I'm really quite flummoxed by the complete lack of urgency. What are the robbers waiting for? Why don't the victims run for it? There's no tension.

This has all been deleted!

23 hours ago, Robinski said:

I do not think that a child stares at cake hesitantly or doubtfully

Ah yes good point. Will edit

23 hours ago, Robinski said:

Meh. Really? Why, after all the robberies she has done?

This might speak more to women than men? It's because M said '...or spend the night in the woods with us.' which implies, in a traditional narrative, sex. Was trying to establish that M may rob people blind but she's not getting into their pants.

Well, yet, anyway

23 hours ago, Robinski said:

The weight of it, the look of it, the smell of it. It transports me back to the absolute best parts of [alchemist story] which, as you know, I maintain is your best writing, IMO. I feel like the whole story, M's motivations, her relationships, revolve around this moment (or should do).

Thank you! Yes, this is a pivotal moment in the book and drives a lot of the narrative going forward. 

23 hours ago, Robinski said:

hat things? Confused, this is a vague statement.

Good call. I've made it more specific

23 hours ago, Robinski said:

I can see the concerns about this. I would need more investment in the reasoning behind this to believe it as the closing line of the chapter, and effectively ALMOST the entire stakes behind the inciting incident in the story.

I've expanded this, and the emotion attached to it in the carriage. I'm hoping it's enough to propel the story forward!

23 hours ago, Robinski said:

Not much to add. LBLs emails separately. I enjoyed this more than the first version, but I think it still needs a more consistent and compelling through line.

Check! It's been through.. at least two more full rewrites since this version and I think its a lot stronger for it. Much snappier now, with more of an emotion punch around the comb.

Thank you @Robinski!!

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For those playing along at home, here are some added sections that should help you move forward along with the story:

This part is chapter 1, right after she finds the comb:

~~
A comb. A brown comb the length of M’s forearm, its tines thick and widely spaced. A comb that caught the candlelight and flickered a bright green, that had soft ridges, like a fingernail.

A comb that had belonged to M’s mother. 

An artifact of her childhood that she actually remembered, that had survived the raiders and the fire and the blood. Her parents were dead. Their lean-to destroyed, their every possession taken while Marani hid with newborn Jacks in a cave and…and the princess had her mother’s comb.

~~

And there's another section at the end, too, that shows' M's determination to get this one thing of her parent's:

It hadn’t been a bad haul, but it didn’t feel settled, either. There was no reason to get so upset over an old comb that had no value, but M had precious few memories of her parents, and nothing that they’d owned. The raiders had taken everything, down to their underclothes, and burned the lean-to to ash. Jacks didn’t even have memories. He’d been, what, eight days old when they died? They had nothing to remember their parents by. No pictures. No bits of cloth. No house. She wanted that comb.

~~

Another addition is the why M isn't chasing them right away, indicating that she knows she's too close to that berserker edge and doesn't want to kill anyone:

~~
“I said no.” She couldn’t go after her. Not just yet. M needed…she need time to think. She needed time to process. The comb brought so many old emotions forward and if she went after them now, with her blood hot, she’d end up killing instead of just robbing.

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