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CherishLarain

April 27th The Real Monster Killer

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EDIT UPDATE: I hope its not too late to add content tags, but HERE are some! RATED V and S!!
I didn't add any to begin with since nothing was shown and when I wrote the story, besides some forced dancing, nothing actually happens so it didn't bother/upset me, BUT from some reviews they seemed uncomfortable with this so, I am adding some. I am sooo sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable and didn't add the tags before. I will also send out another email.
 
Hey guys! Here is my short story The Real Monster Killer. I will be submitting it for a magazine with the theme of heroism.
 
Its ALMOST 5,000 words but according to the rules they want 5,000+, so I am open to any extra ideas you would be interested in seeing in the story. 
 
Also, please look for any inconsistencies in the characters. While writing I would sometimes mix them up. 
 
I look forward to your reviews.
 
Edited by CherishLarain
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[EDIT: post script at the front. So, I got a bit frustrated while reading. I really wanted to like this, but there were various issues that pushed various buttons. When I get frustrated while critiquing it's usually because I can see the potential in a story, but I'm being prevented from getting that potential as a reader because of... issues. I mean to be helpful and to point at things that I think will hamper the story in finding a market or an audience. I really don't mean to cause offence!! :)]

 

Hi, Cherish,

It's always a pleasure to critique a new member of the group, and excited to read a short story, as we have not had one of those in quite some time :) 

I've taken the liberty of pasting the text into a Word doc, which I will email back to you tracked comments. I hope that will be helpful. It throws the line returns out of whack, but hopefully the comments will still be clear enough. Oh, and I'll try and keep the page numbers the same as the PDF.

I tend towards line level stuff (line-by-lines, or LBLs), because, well, these are often the things that I notice, but you will get a good rounded critique on the forum as there are others that are better than me at themes and arc issues, etc.

So, off we go!

(PDF page 1)

- Format of the submission: this is really, really important if you are submitting for publication. This is a good source, but publishers and markets will tend to automatically 'bin' submissions that do not use standard formatting. I find this a good source as a starting point: https://www.shunn.net/format/story/

- "galloped into the cheers" - Bit disorienting as a first line. Misdirection is okay if it makes some sense, but I was trying to figure out what this meant, and had a read on to get it. (Slight) Confusion at the first line is not necessarily a good emotion to be going into a story with.

- "He rode his stallion into the crowd" - He's going to kill a lot of people that way. We're told he's galloping: a horse hitting people at that speed is highly likely to injure someone severely. Big things horses.

- "And he is good at it" - Tense fluctuation. Watch out for slipping into the wrong tense.

- Ah, the tense is kind of jumping around quite a bit.

- I presume the centring of some lines of text is a quirk of the PDF? That's not a thing in the doc, right?

- "When they noticed M they cheered" - It all seems very cosy and quite stereotyped, BUT I do sense the undercurrent of irony and sarcasm. I do sense that he is heading for a fall, and that you are going to circumvent all this white knight set up.

- "chugged the entire gauntlet" - er, goblet, I presume.

- "grabbed a serving maid" - At this point, I'm going with the lighthearted tone, and that undercurrent of 'too good to be true' in relation to stereotyping of gender politics vs. serving maids. 

(PDF page 2)

- "as he counted coins" - Why would he conduct banking business in the Council hall? Quite odd this, but the style of the narrative is that of a fable, so I'm going with another detail that, practically speaking, seems really unlikely to happen (IMO).

- "filthy g--s" - Eh, even in a light fable style like this, I'm not sure about this line. Okay, it is in character voice, but be careful not to align the narrative with his homophobic viewpoint. HOWEVER, practical point. If M was employed by the villagers, this implies to me they are holders of property in the village. So, are they not in fact gypsies at all, and this is a pejorative term used by the speaker? I took it literally.

- "not until the next harvest" - Yes, okay, these are not in fact gypsies, but the residents of the village, who do not move around, but have farms, shops, etc.

- "It’s a weakness we can’t afford" - Hmm, so they are hiring out their champion, this Council.

- "spoke after she played with her son, the LC’s hair" - Eh? Confused. This makes the LC sound like he is ten, or something. Also, slightly odd grammar/construction. Why does she only speak after playing with his hair? Pretty sure she could managed both at the same time.

- "What would the villagers think of our chivalrous and honorable knight" - Well, clearly he is not chivalrous or honourable, because he is taking payment for a task that, if he was chivalrous, he would have done for the honour of it, not for payment. I'd suggest you need to be a bit careful about using terms like these. Chivalry has a very specific meaning and code in fantasy, originating (or certainly well defined) in the tales of King Arthur, specifically Le Morte d'Arthur by Sit Thomas Mallory.

The wiki page on chivalry looks pretty comprehensive. Here is an extract of the definition of the chivalric code: Gautier's Ten Commandments of chivalry, set out in 1891, are:

  1. Thou shalt believe all that the Church teaches and thou shalt observe all its directions.
  2. Thou shalt defend the Church.
  3. Thou shalt respect all weaknesses, and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them.
  4. Thou shalt love the country in which thou wast born.
  5. Thou shalt not recoil before thine enemy.
  6. Thou shalt make war against the infidel without cessation and without mercy.
  7. Thou shalt perform scrupulously thy feudal duties, if they be not contrary to the laws of God.
  8. Thou shalt never lie, and shalt remain faithful to thy pledged word.
  9. Thou shalt be generous, and give largesse to everyone.
  10. Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil.

This issue with M's behaviour and the queen's reference to it as chivalrous starts to give me concern that perhaps the twist / subversion of the stereotype might not be forthcoming.

- Character names: I'm not going to go an G--gle them, but I was thinking they were beginning to sound familiar as real historical figures. Maybe I will go search for them. It was the pope's name that triggered this comment, because I think there was a Borg who was pope, wasn't there? <goes to search> Ah, okay, at least two Borg popes; El of Acquitaine, I thought that might be her. I'm a bit thrown off by this now, looking for a pattern in the names.

(PDF page 3)

- "I must head out soon" - I'm a big fan of using language that fits closer to the period of the a story, even if that story is a fantasy. Here, 'head out' is a modern expression, I think. If it was me (which it is not), I'd say 'I must depart soon', which is more like the sort of language a knight would use. Fitting the language to the apparent period helps to keep the reader's head in the story, and not think about 'heading out' for a burger (for example).

- "ring of the f" - Now, every time a detail like this comes up, I have to go to the internet a check it, and how it fits into my reality. I had not heard of this, but now I know it's a real thing. So, I'm learning something, apart from anything else, but it's messing with my reading of the story.

- "do the paperwork for you" - Ha. I'm stuck in this limbo of not knowing whether this is a total Westworld scenario, and these are modern people roleplaying or inhabiting some sort of charade, or whether it's a kind of deception in the narrative.

- "Assist him in all his needs" - Meh. Okay, it's the character of DP being a tasteless bounder. I see that Min refuses the suggestion.

- "Waiting for a loving wife?” QE inaccurately concluded" - I see he gets it from his tactless mother: fair enough, but 'inaccurately concluded' is a problem for me. This is the author just flat out telling the reader something. It's not done through character internal voice, because there is almost no internal monologue from M at all.

- "taking the two women" - Gah. For me, this is the narrative supporting the stance of the obnoxious gentry in treating the woman as objects. I don't get the sense it means taking them in a carnal sense, but it does sound like taking them in the sense of them being objects / possessions.

- "How Romantic" - I'm just sceptical all over now. Chivalric romance is a whole other world of behaviour, code and rules. I'm just not connived that is the setting we are in, from M's earlier behaviour. I can't imagine a chivalric night would cheer himself, for example.

- "as he sat between the queen and the pope" - I think you need a scene break here, and forgive me if you already have one formatted in your original Word doc. There is a break, isn't there, where he goes away and gets changed?

- "his battle clothes" - I've never heard this term. Isn't it just his armour?

- "up straighter and improve his posture" - Odd. Seems to me this is a modern concept. I'm back to expecting Jeffery Wright or Anthony Hopkins to appear ;) 

(PDF page 4)

- the Pope's ring being mentioned a second time is too much, IMO. Theres no explanation of the significance of this so it come over as a unnecessary detail to me.

- "We truly thank you for your service" - This feels repetitive to me. He's been thanked already. I'm four pages into the story and I don't know what the stakes are, I don't know what the character motivations are, and I'm confused about the setting. To be honest, if I was reading this story in an anthology, I would have stopped by now for these reasons. There's no inciting incident, no sense of a plot or a story arc. I'm sorry to come down on this so hard, but it's missing a lot of the major components of story structure.

- Wait what? Who is Hu? Where did he come from? This is the first mention of him, and there's no explanation of who he is. Why does he have a shield with him at the dining table? That seems strange.

- Whose comrades?

- Why is Min sitting on the floor below Hu? It was said before that Min was sitting between the Queen and the Pope. I have not idea what is going on.

- Field? Water?

- It's really not a gauntlet, is it? It can't be. It's a goblet, right?

- John? Walter?

- Okay. I sense that there is some kind of illusion being perpetrated on Min, and he is in fact on a battlefield, and he is being deceived by the Council, but it's just not clear. There is not clue, no hint, no clarity that the allows the reader to form a suspicion that as to what happens at the scene change. 

- "I am not a knight" - So, he's dreaming? Ah, he's dreaming. But, the problem is, in this whole scene with the soldiers, there is nothing to say that the setting has changed. Are they in fact sitting out in a field somewhere, or in a tent? The character, Min, will be able to see these things with his own eyes, see the change in the setting, but that is withheld from the reader, and it kind of a dirty trick, I've got to say.

I like the idea of the story, but withholding big glaring details from the reader like what the character can see, is not going to find favour, I don't think. Because we get to see what he sees in the dream, but not in reality. I kind of struggle with that.

- "before yer 25 fer sure" - No numerals, not in fantasy. Maybe in SF if it's a serial number, but this should be 'twenty-five'. When I trot this line out, I'm always inclined to second guess myself, but if you take down any fantasy book from your shelf, I can pretty much guarantee, if its any kind of established author or experienced press, you will not see numerals in text.

(PDF page 5)

- "My father is dead, I have an ailing mother and sister to care for. Regardless if we are right or wrong for invading the Elves forests means nothing to me" - Ah, so, here are the stakes, and the character motivation, but I'm almost half way through the story. I need these much earlier in the story. I get that there is an illusion, a trick played on the reader in the beginning, but I still need to know why I'm following this character much earlier on, so that I can invest in his story, or not, as the case may be. Also, the plot itself... comments at the end.

- "Begged an E woman" - this was a massive jump in setting again. There's no transition from the last viewpoint, and there's not sense of setting, of the world. Are they in a forest?

- "The war on the elves turned into the war" - this is a nice line, and I like the notion of one war becoming another and another, BUT... "Especially if the villagers paid" - In economic terms, there is no way that villagers can p[ay directly to support an army, that's just not how armies for in 'pseudo historical times', so I'm left unconvinced and confused by this detail. Subjects in a kingdom would pay taxes. tithes, whatever to the king, and it would be the king's responsibility to defend them (since they grow his food, mend his shoes, etc., this is in his best interests, not to mention losing territory to his enemies). This premise, it doesn't make sense to me.

- "Never put in a word to defend themselves" - Why would they? Surely, there is no precedent for a monster to defend itself in court. Honestly, that would be an interesting and quite different premise for a story.

(PDF Page 6)

- "but as their soft and smooth disappeared with age" - soft and smooth what?

- "mental illness" - This is a modern concept, I really struggle with it here. I feel it mixes the messages and themes of the story. You have a supposedly chivalrous knight, and he's having thoughts about mental illness.

- "kappa" - What is this in terms of a monster?

- "brought M back to the table" - What? Huh? Oh, was the battlefield scene the dream?

- "the obscene dancing" - I get that things are supposed to be turned around, and the monsters are the good guys, etc., but this is laying it on very thick that the Council are a bunch of amoral louts. It's heavy-handed, IMO.

- "can take a sabbath" - But the sabbath is a particular day, surely? This makes it sound like a day of annual leave.

(PDF page 7)

- "we have a special mission for you" - This comes very late again for me. This is the plot really, everything before has been set-up, it seems to me. This is more like the structure of a novel chapter, setting put the story proper as the disillusioned hero goes on a hopeless mission, but this is coming alway through the short story.

(PDF page 8)

- "raised his hand with the Ring of the Fisherman" - I'd recommend abbreviating this phrase after it's used first. It sounds odd now with each repetition. All you really need to say after the first time, I think, is 'his ringed finger'. The reader will remember its full title. This takes me back to me point about real historical figures. Clearly this is a fantasy world, although there is very little detail on the world itself. Why are there names of real historical figures? It doesn't seem to have any actual significance.

- "We fear that we will be attacked next, or worse, our families" - But I thought they had already been attacked. Did someone not say that? Also, this is a hard change of mood and tone from the queen. It catches me quite unawares, but there is no outward sign of her struggling with it, emotionally.

(PDF page 9)

- "His body just hung there" - I don't believe an arrow from a bow can carry a person off their horse and pin them to a tree. Not physically possible. While something might make a nice image, it had to be plausible if there are no magical forces involved. I might believe that a harpoon could do this (if he was close to the tree), but not a wee wooden arrow. Nope.

- "tied to it" - Again, how big is this arrow? Did the note pass through his head?

- "They offered a good dowry" - A dowry is offered by the bride's family to the groom's for him to take her, to make her an attractive match. I don't know what the other way around is. I've never heard of that, but it sound like her being bought as a chattel. See earlier comment. Ah, that's interesting. Just looked this up. Apparently, the opposite is something called 'bride price' or 'dower'. I did not know that. That's my learning for today :) 

- General comment: I feel there is quite a bit of inconsistency in capitalisation of various terms (church, queen, king, etc.).

(PDF page 11)

- "Monster Killer" - Is this the signatory of the letter, or is this a reference to M?

(PDF page 12)

- "confirmed list of kills and their identity" - This sounds more like Jason Bourne than a fantasy story. I suggested before using language that suits the tone of the story. Here, for example, this can easily all be replaced by the word 'victims' and be clearer and flow better, IMO.

- "Yes, triple your battle numbers and quadruple the deaths confirmed" - I don't believe this. The numbers dying in battle are thousands, and we're to believe that this thing has undertaken assassinations in ones and twos, over a period of four years, that have amounted to many more thousands? Just not plausible.

- "Women are known for being corrupted" - I know it's the character saying this, so I bite my tongue and like him even less.

(PDF page 13)

- "If she is beautiful too, I can’t go after her" - Excuse me, what?! So if she's ugly he can? This is really too much. I'm this close to stopping reading. 

- "It’s bad business" - I don't understand. Actually bad for business? Why? Also, chivalry has nothing to do with business.

- "Many villagers support the king and the church’s mission of massacring the Elves, trolls, and other creatures because they are ugly" - What?! I don't understand. I thought this was to do with killing women and children? This makes no sense. Isn't this completely contra to the earlier motivation?

- "To go after an unmarried beautiful woman will cause chaos and revolts" - I don't understand this line of reason. She's a proven killer.

(PDF page 14)

- "She might be" - Now he's afraid?

- "How could M kill someone who didn’t look like a monster?" - Shallow. I think less of him now.

- "He had money, he was rich" - Not a chivalrous thing, as far as I'm aware. Also, "he could retire tomorrow and never work another day" - I thought I understood his motivations before, but I think that was just in the flashback when he was a boy. So, what it his motivation now? Is it the fame? I'm confused.

- "wore as little chainmail as he dared to help his stealth" - No. Not stealthy at all. chainmail. Not stealthy.

- How does he find her? I'm confused. They know who she is, but no one else can do anything about it? I don't understand.

- "the Trojan war" - No, wait. How can the Trojan war have taken place? This is a fantasy world, but I hasn't been set up as an alternative Earth. This comes out of nowhere. I made a comment about the names sounding like they were taken from Earth, but how does this fit with the fantasy wars that are mentioned. Does this mean that all the Greek and Trojan characters are real. So does this mean there are Greek gods? How does this fit into the world?

- All this talk of business, I can't reconcile it with the setting.

(PDF page 15)

- "M froze as he saw L’s eyes lock with his" - You don't see someone's eyes lock with yours. Their eyes lock with yours. I moan about this in everyone's work and I'm trying to weed it out of mine, but when you put another layer of serration between the character's reaction and the reader, it's very distancing.

- "the falling net" - The tone of the story... This, to me, is like a cartoon moment.

(PDF page 16)

- "They sold intelligence" - Modern phrase, very disorienting, IMO.

- "to have been framed" - Another one.

- "sawed at the net behind him" - With what? 

(PDF page 18)

- "Then you’re lucky I only kill monsters" - I like the mirroring of his line. That's neat.

- "celebrating their success" - before the deed was done? There's a danger in making the villain's stupid, careless, too actually villainous to be realistic of convincing. It's something I suffer from. Making the bag guys too bad. (Convincing) Villains think they are the hero of their own story (Writing Excuses quote). They think they are in the right. Villains that just act evilly turn out to be less convincing, I think.

- The ending really beats the readers head with the explanation. I'd recommend giving the reader credit for being able to work out what the message of the story is about, which has been really clear for many pages. I just find it really heavy-handed at the end, rather preachy. Bad people do bad things. I get it. It like the message is all rich people are bad, and all poor people are good, which is just not the case.

OVERALL 

I was going to break this own into various elements, but it's maybe more helpful if I just look at it as a whole. I'm going to be completely honest, I think this is a long way from being ready for publication, or even submission. At Worldcon in Dublin, I went to a lot of publisher / editor panels and one thing that John Berlyne of the Zeno Agency said really stayed with me. He said that you need to edit, edit, edit and edit; edit until you cannot make your story a single bit better, and then submit it, and we will tear it apart.

My point being, I think this is quite a few edits away from being ready for submission to a publisher or a market. I don't think the structure is right, and I don't know anything about character motive or plot or inciting incident until over half way through the story. I don't feel any empathy for the main character--that is not essential--but I need to at least find them compelling so that I read on anyway, because I have to find out what happens, but I never really felt engaged with the character, or the story. Why should I care what happens to a bunch of privileged and superior arses when someone is trying to bump them off? I don't care: good luck to the assassins. So, if I don't care for the targets, I need to care about the main character, but I don't know what he wants. I know he wanted to become a knight, but what does he want now?

Something that I am bad for in my drafts (and probably my final drafts :rolleyes: ) is lack of clarity in terms of motivations, but also what is going on in the story, and why certain things happen. I will say that I felt that here, in terms of what was a dream or a flashback and what was not.

I'm not sure how to conclude here, other than to underline I think this needs a number of rewrites before it's ready for submission.

I guess this is not what you want to hear, and I'm sorry not to be more positive. I do thank you for submitting, and I believe you are in a good place here to get lots of good advice on how to tackle this. There is a good idea here, but the message of the story is very clear from an early stage, and yet the ending really pounds it so heavily that I found it quite off-putting by the time I got to the end.

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Congratulations on your first sub! It can be a bit...terrifying at first, but we are all here to help. 

Overall

I only made it through the first six pages due to the consent issues. I'd say, judging from just what I read, that this isn't ready yet for publication. It is mostly narrator exposition and one long feast scene that does not appear to have a narrative arc. 

What is the story you are trying to tell? Could you show it through actions instead of narrator discussion? Why do we need so many big men at the feast? Could the same be accomplished with just our hero and maybe one or two others, and some actions? What purpose do the maids serve, and do we need to see that over and over and over again? That's the one part that is very well shown, but why? Why is subjugation of women the one strong element of a piece about a hero who kills monsters? If you're trying to show that the real monsters are sitting at the feast with him, I think there are ways that can be done without so much 'here go take these servants to bed.'

 

As I go

- there are some pretty severe tense changes in this first page. You started in past and moved into present, then back and forth again.

- pg 1: so...narrative structure in short fiction is of course, different than long fiction. But this page is very narrator-driven, and I'm not getting to see much past the first paragraph. Everything is being told me, which doesn't make me like the protagonist very much

- pg 1: I think the part where he strolls into manner is actually where your story starts

- rich fabrics, best foods--what are these? We don't know anything about this world, so hedging words like these make the story feel flat. You have words to play with it sounds like, so why not use them on some description here?

- pg 1: with a lack of other worldbuilding, I ping pretty hard off of men grabbing serving maids

- pg 2: woah there. Racial slur (G-ps). That needs a content warning.

- pg 2: worldbuilding confusion: this is apparently feudal England, noting the racial slurs and gender imbalance. So why does the queen have her son on her lap? Surely he'd be with any number of nannies?

- pg 3: Assist him in all his needs <-- nope, that's a hard stop for me right there, especially without a content tag for the sub. In this time period in Britain I don't think maids would have had any choice but to follow those orders, which means the duke just ordered a rape. If I was reading this in a magazine, I would put it away and not continue. 

For some clarification, it's not that power plays and dubious consent and whatnot can't be fun in fiction. They can, for sure. But usually when you know the characters, you know the world, the circumstances, etc. Three pages into a feudal monoculture of men and one caricature of a hero, sending women to be raped is not fun.

- pg 3: that he turns down the women would help more if I knew anything about him. Oddly, while this is usually applied to female characters in a male-based narrative, but at this stage our hero doesn't pass the Sexy Lamp Test. 

- pg 4: just as a general note, there are a lot of capitalization and punctuation errors throughout this story as well

- pg 4: wait. Blocking and location confusion. I thought they were dining at a table? But now the hero is on the floor and...they're in a field??

- pg 6: I'm generally confused now. We were at a feast, and now we are getting backstory. So he's killing monsters that are...people? Not people? The witches were just women who got old? Possessed men were just neurodiverse? Is that what the narrative is trying to say? If so, could it show it instead of tell us?

- pg 6: sensual dancing with a maid. Dislike. And I, personally, would enjoy sensually dancing with a maid. It's not the action, it's the consent problems around it the power dynamic.

- pg 6: lap sitting - I have to tap out of this crit now. 

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Posted (edited)

@Robinski Thank you for your edits. I think the tense issues come in with the fact this is a second draft. The first draft was submitted along time ago for a flash fiction piece and was about 800 words. I tend to write it how I like to and then change the format to fit whatever the publisher wants. On multiple occasions they change to different fonts and sizes. Sorry if the formatting threw you off.

When I saw a submission opportunity I thought I could rewrite the old piece and make it new. Thus adding in the soldier scene and actually showing the council (in the original they are only mentioned). I hope the council's names weren't too distracting. I don't normally write fantasy but wanted authentic feeling names and then googled "really bad mideveal people" and got some names from some of the guys on there. M is also loosely based on one of my favorite poems. :D

I had no idea about the rules of chilvary! I will keep them next to me as I do my editing for draft 3. I haven't submitted anything in a long time. I kept getting writers block and being unable to finish ANYTHING, so I stopped writing for a while. So I imagine my skills are terrible right now. I am glad for your honesty, I believe it will help. I only started writing again because of Corona and my classes being cancelled. But I feel motivated and inspired by you guys!

 

@kais I am so sorry that I didn't think to add content tags. Besides people being killed, the lap sitting is as worse as it gets. I can't do anything more than that in my writing. Its a personal thing where I cant put a character through that trauma and make a justified reason for it happening. But, I didn't realise referencing or alluding to a womens lack of choice could be upsetting. I will 1,0000% keep myself aware of that for my next writings. (Which I actually do more of Urban Fantasy than just fantasy but I wanted to try this out).

M is a man made hero that doesn't have motivations and I think I need to go into more explantion wit that. I had so many men because I wanted to be loosely based on history and the Q is only there for her position of power and because she talks of romance and chilvary-kind of like a false narrative where she is smooth talking over the bad and making it look like an honorable thing.

The first draft was actually sci-fi and A LOT shorter but because the submission calls for fantasy, I cut out all the Alien Wars/references. The maids were supposed to show 1: M's inactions at saving them despite being a hero and 2: how the council treats them. I didn't realise I went overboard on treating them badly and will cut that down. Thank you for reading as much as you did. And I am sooo sorry, I hate making anyone feel uncomfortable or gross because of my writing. :(

Edited by CherishLarain
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2 hours ago, CherishLarain said:

I didn't realise I went overboard on treating them badly and will cut that down.

Ah, no worries! I don't think it was necessarily overboard so much as 1) lack of content tag but 2) it didn't fit the narrative. 

Thinking about your story further (and I know I didn't finish it, so take this with a grain of salt), I wonder if the real story is actually in this part, with the maids and such. I think it would be really easy to make this just a feast setting, with the hero coming back and everyone talking about all his great deeds, him accepting the praise, talking about the monsters he slew, the women he saved, etc, but all the while, the background is filled with the serving girls just as you have them, some servants being verbally abused, a dog being kicked, etc. Where the hero does nothing. Just a really simple story with these really deep undercurrents could be really powerful.

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Hey, Cherish, thanks for your response. I'm really interested in what you say, and I'm reassured by your reaction to take on the issues. That's good :) 

5 hours ago, CherishLarain said:

The first draft was submitted along time ago for a flash fiction piece and was about 800 words.

Yeah, I forgot to mention your comment in the covering message about expanding the story to get over 5,000 words. Also, I see you mention the original version was... SF?! :huh: 

The thing is, I feel a story has its own geometry, its own topography, kind of sets its own parameters. The number of characters you have, the number off settings, the number of scenes, these are the things that determine the length of the story. I really don't think you can just squeeze or expand a story to fit a particular market. A writer has to accept that the story will--for the most part--be the story that it wants to be, and just adding or taking out words to hit a certain submission target, or changing genres to suit a market, is a kind of dangerous idea, and would tend to be bound to failure.

Write the story for the story, and for yourself, not to hit a word count. Don't constrain yourself to a market. I think a lot of experience of writing and publishing is required to decide. I'm going to write a 3,000 word short story (say), and a decent amount of awareness of how story works is required to plan that: I can only have one main character and maybe two or three side characters, probably only and handful of scenes at most, and one main theme, and one arc to illustrate it. I don't know, I only use that as an example.

5 hours ago, CherishLarain said:

When I saw a submission opportunity I thought I could rewrite the old piece and make it new.

I've been there certainly, but my thought process would be, do I have a story that fits the guidelines? Or that is close enough that I could prune it to the guidelines? I don't think expanding ever goes well, because one would be 'throwing in' things that one didn't want or think to put in the story the first time, so straight away they are going to tend to feel unnatural, I think. I would always tend to write a new story for a market or call for submissions, if I had time. If it's unsuccessful, you've still got a story in the bank that could be edited for the next time that type of submission comes up.

5 hours ago, CherishLarain said:

I tend to write it how I like to and then change the format to fit whatever the publisher wants. On multiple occasions they change to different fonts and sizes. Sorry if the formatting threw you off.

I hear what you say, but I would urge to you look at the MS formatting guideline in Shunn (the link I pasted). Markets and publishers receive hundreds, maybe thousands of submission when they go to 'open door', for novels anyway. They are looking for any reason to trim the slush pile, so if they open up a doc and it does not fit their guidelines, but also accepted industry standard formatting, they will absolutely bin it without reading it.

External references, like chivalry and the names of historical figures--sorry, I'm going to sound preachy here (so what's new! ;) ). When a writer references something that is real, be it chivalry, or the name Borgia, or even uses a particular word, we absolutely have to understand what it means, its significance and the impact it will have on the story, and the reader, because one has to assume that there will be reader who know more about that than we do. The chainmail armour, for example, which is referenced. We have to assume that people will read our stories who know a lot more about period armour and fighting than we do, so we have to do our homework, and do enough research to convince a reader that we know enough to use the word, term, or make the reference.

Take the names for example. I think using the names of historical figures just creates a world of pain, because it creates the impression that this is some kind of parallel universe where all these historical figures exist together with elves and trolls, etc. In fact, the names were only there because they were associated with a bunch of bad people, but if you are drawing on the reader knowing that those people were bad in our culture, you are absolutely implying a real world reference point that can't exist within the story. Bottom line, there needs to be a good, compelling story reason for everything that is there, the settings, the character, the references, the names, etc., all have to serve the story. Ironically, there is no room for filler in storytelling. IMO, it always looks like filler.

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First off, welcome to Reading Excuses and thanks for submitting this! It takes a lot to put a story out in front of strangers.

I think @Robinski and @kais handled a lot of the formatting issues, so I won't go into those.

I'll also second Robinski that I really don't think this is ready for publication. It's bit hard to understand and wanders a lot for a short story. However, I did read your responses above and I'm really glad you're taking the feedback seriously!

14 hours ago, CherishLarain said:

The first draft was actually sci-fi and A LOT shorter

Ah...this may be part of the problem. You can't just switch from SF to F. There are a lot of tropes, expectations, and so on, again, most of which Robinski has mentioned...

As to the ending, I think looking there is where we see the real intent of the story. It's not a story about M, it's a story about L and her fight against injustice. If you wrote this as a female Robin Hood sort of piece, I think it would work much better. M can be bad, or good at heart, or whatever. I don't really care about his character after coming across L, who is an actual hero. You could even show off her taking out each of the corrupt officials, play it off as her being the bad guy and killing people (maybe working for aliens rather than her own kind?) and then slowly revealing who the "real" monsters are.

I know that all was pretty prescriptive, so feel free to ignore as needed. At the moment, I don't think this format is working for the story you want to tell, though.

Thanks for letting us read it!

 

Notes while reading:
pg 1: "M galloped into the cheers."
--not sure what this means, especially as a first sentence.

pg 1:
--the whole first paragraph is a lot of "He did X" "He did Y."
--tense change from paragraph 1 to 2

pg 1: Is this a children's story? I'm getting that sort of feeling from the sentences on the first page.

pg 2: okay, I don't think this is a children's story. The phrasing on the first page seemed that way.

pg 3: "to sit up straighter and improve his posture."
--saying the same thing twice.

pg 5: Wait, who is John? I'm not quite sure who all these people are and why they're on the Council. They also seem to just be congratulating themselves for 5 pages. Not sure where this is going yet.

pg 5: "H stole a drink of M’s soup and locked young J’s head in his arms, jerking him around to make the others laugh. J struggled to get away."
--this is...strange.

pg 5: "But the monsters never got a trail"
--trial?
--also, I thought he was already killing trolls, but then elves -> witches -> trolls. Also also, are elves classified as "monsters?" I can sort of see the other two.

pg 6: "The possessed men"
--what possessed men?

pg 6: "A lecherous laugh..."
--ah, I guess that was a flashback? Needs a better indication.

pg 7: “Sir M, we have a special mission for you.”
--ah, I think this may be the start of the story, but especially for a short story, this needs to come a few paragraphs from the beginning.

pg 8: "We are being killed.”
--I mean, considering how they've been acting, I'm not surprised.

pg 9: "political, social, and economical demands that benefit the monsters in the forests"
--The monsters living in the forest have an established economy and politics?

pg 11: They're still giving M his mission when this should be the first page or so of a short story...

pg 12: “The monster is a woman?!”
--a "big reveal" of someone being female isn't really a surprise. Also, how did M arrive at this conclusion?

pg 12: “Women are known for being corrupted...Easily manipulated"
--my eyes are literally rolling.

pg 13: “I don’t kill humans.”
--I thought he only killed monsters, not that he doesn't kill humans...

pg 13: "protect women like my mother and sister."
--His sister and mother are witches?

pg 13: all this protestation about not going after women because of X and Y features is pretty cringey and chauvinistic.

pg 13: “It’s bad business.”
--huh?

pg 13: The whole paragraph starting with “Many villagers support..." I...these may have indeed been sentiments at one time, but I don't see a need to write as if they were truth now. Equating beauty to goodness is pretty dated by our society.

pg 14: "How could Miniver kill someone who didn’t look like a monster?"
--yeah, this is my problem. Showing the baselessness of beauty = goodness is one thing, but M seems to believe it as well, and now you're giving voice to an outdated and incorrect belief.

pg 14: wait, who's L? Is this is monster killer? How does M suddenly know who she is?

pg 16: So somehow they're fighting now, and then L gives a two-page sermon on how bad the Council is, which we could easily tell from the first couple pages. And then she wins.
hmm.

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Hello, hello! This is my first time critiquing for you, so I hope you find it handy. 

Thoughts as I go:

Pg 1, "He rode his stallion": Boo-yah, you already got my vote! I am Horse Friend. 

Pg 1, "And he is good at it." Have you ever read Matthew Stover? I just finished one of his books and your shift from past to present, along with this character introduction, reminds me of his style.

Pg 1, "M is the best." I typically get suspicious and on guard when a story starts in such a way, but I'll withhold judgement for now since this seems to be a stylistic choice. This makes me wonder who the narrator is, and whether or not they are biased/unreliable.

Pg 1, "chugged the entire gauntlet." I think you mean goblet, although I'd pay money to see someone chug a metal glove.

Pg 2, "asked Pope B": Did you know that there are multiple Pope B's??? If you are writing historical fantasy, that's fine. If you are not, I'd suggest switching it. I'm embarrassed to say that I know about the B family because of Assassin's Creed II...

Pg 3, "How Romantic." Did you mean to capitalize "romantic"?

Pg 3, "M shifted uncomfortably as he sat": Since we obviously just had a scene jump, I'd add a blank line between this paragraph and the last. 

Pg 4, "Roared H before he bit down" Who is this fellow? Another monster hunter? I'm getting a little lost with all of these characters...

Pg 4, "M sat cross legged below H on the floor" Wait, I thought M was sitting next to the Queen? Is this the start of a new scene? If so, insert a blank line between this paragraph and the last. 

Pg 4, "sat in an empty field" Okay, yes, new scene.

Pg 15, "Possibly,” Count A stirred his stolen cup" Frankly, if I was a politician with loose morals, I would have just lied to this man. 

Pg 18, "He barely blocked the sword that L attacked him with." I always like a good feisty woman.

Overall:

I feel like this was more like a summary of an entire book than a short story. There was so many characters and so much going on that I began getting lost about a the third of the way through. I found that the interaction with L to be the most interesting part of the story, but that felt so quick and then was summarized at the end. I was much more interested in the few pages with L than with the majority of the story with all of the nobles. 

No matter what any of us say, don't forget to keep writing!!! :) 

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7 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

I feel like this was more like a summary of an entire book than a short story.

Oh, man, I meant to write this in my crit, and I'm pretty sure I forgot

#iagreewithsnakenaps

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Thanks everyone for the reviews! I will go back and edit it!

 

@Snakenaps and @Robinski a book?! Thank you for your interest in it but I don't know how I feel about that considering I did such a bad job of writing it as a fantasy short story.:blink: But, I have been told that a lot of my short stories feel like that. I think one of my biggest problems is that I have NEVER EVER EVER finished writing a novel. I always get stuck, so I try and stick to short stories.

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@CherishLarain I've always had a hard time with short stories, because I always have too much to say! Then again, that's pretty reflective of me in real life. I'm a yapper.

If short stories are your jazz, that's awesome! That just means you get to explore more worlds and characters than, say, me! 

Out of curiosity, do you listen to Writing Excuses? I had a massive problem with worldbuilder's disease until I started listening to Writing Excuses. I've found it has been incredibly helpful in curing me in many of my vices. If you get stuck writing, it might be an interesting podcast you for to start stretching your skills. Not to mention, the writing prompts might inspire a new short story!

If you ever need help with formatting or anything, hit me up. I don't bite, and I love to help. Since I'm out of students to pester, I just bug everyone here :) 

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Hi!

For me, the story had a strong fairytail sense which was pleasant. I actually wouldn't have minded if it leaned into the language more and gave me some over the top descriptions and details to flesh out the world. It felt like especially with the two meals being contrasted, some more sensory descriptions would have been nice.

My main hangup was the overt moral of the story. Not the moral it's self, but the feeling that I am being spoon fed a moral. You made the point very clearly by showing actions and reactions of the characters, so telling the readers that M is the popular Knight who does popular things and the Cou. are the real monsters isn't really nessicary. If I was more invested in the MC and was worried that he wouldn't make the right choice I think I would have been 100% with you for the end and it's moral.

MC's outcome: I felt like the MC was sort of abandoned at the end when you got the the character you really wanted to write, your heroine. We've been following him the whole time and then he's just hanging in the net. Aside from knowing that he never faces her again there's no sense of how he handles his defeat, did he learn a lesson, does he change? Maybe he isn't the character that interests you, have you considered making the assasin your MC and the knight your antagonist? Ethical good vs Lawful good.

Just some thoughts, feel free to ignor :-)

Thanks for sharing!

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16 hours ago, CherishLarain said:

Thank you for your interest in it but I don't know how I feel about that

:) 

I would not speak for Snakenaps, but I wasn't actually suggesting writing a novel, just that the arc, the structure of the story doesn't really develop any scene as deeply as I would like, and that each scene as set up deserves more time and consideration...not even that, maybe just needs to feel that it has. I'm trying to think how to explain myself better than this! Take the example of him observing the assassin as she plays with / talks to the children (if I remember the details correctly). I never really felt that he had spent any time pursuing her, I think at the time of reading I felt that we jumped right into that scene without feeling like any time had passed.

I didn't mean to imply that it sounded like a novel plot (although it could be), so much as it read more like a summary, an outline of something larger, due to the way the scene were structured, the transitions, etc.

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Posted (edited)

I wasn't quite sure what to make of this when I started reading. My impression of it changed as I went through. I liked the point you were trying to make at the very end, but I think most of the story sort of missed the mark, and that maybe the concept is a little too big for this short of a story. I didn't read all the feedback other people gave you, but I noticed some people saying it felt like a summary of a longer story. By the second half, after he accepted the hunt, it certainly did feel like a summary. Even if you did keep it a short story, I think you could trim a lot of the begining and expand more of the later elements. 

Here are my "as I read" notes / reactions :

"...killed a monster. And he is good at it." Tense shift. 

"M.. is the best." At this point, I couldn't quite tell how seriously I was supposed to take the narrative voice. I thought maybe it was a parody of a certain type of fairy tale night.

"M...contained one flaw...things that looked like monsters." This felt like a more omniscient narrator. I was having trouble figuring out if it was omniscient or close third before. 

"Drenched in rich fabric..." In this whole section when he meets with these people, you use a lot of abstract descriptions, but you don't really give us concrete details. You mention the finest food, but what kind of food is that? What do rich fabrics look like in this world? 

"Those filthy g...! Growled S..." I was hoping when I read this that S was going to be one of the monsters because of how he was talking about these people, including using a slur. I am okay with the bad guys being bad, but the narrative and the hero need to react to it a little more. M does speak up for the villagers, but doesn't react to the word used to describe them, and his reaction is just words. There isn't much emotion shown, or really much thought. It's too surface. 

"...now boys." Queen E..." Had she been introduced yet? She seemed to come out of nowhere. If she was introduced I'd already forgotten. 

"L C's hair."  Did you mean heir? The sentence structure makes me think so, but with the context, she might be playing with kid's hair. 

"all his needs." Are all the maids in this world prostitutes? Did they know that when they signed onto to be maids they were going to sex workers, not just regular servants? Am I reading this completely wrong?

I like that M is clearly not comfortable in the situation and going forward, but some of that discomfort gets written off as being related to clothing. I'd like it to be more clearly a reaction to specific things that are going on. 

"We'll be eating like kinds!" road H..." Who is this?

"...finest imported wines!" Moaned W... Who is this? 

I got lost in this scene with all the different characters. With the right balance, purpose, and description, a feast scene can be fantastic in fantasy, but this one was hard to follow and some of the royalty made me cringe. And the narrative voice wasn't cringing enough with me. 

"I don't think" Based on the first page, he thinks he is the best.

"M... did think. 

"We'll leave...

It took me a minute to realize the scene with the Elves was a flash back, was him thinking. I had to reread a couple times. 

"Witches...once held beauty..." So does he think beauty is what gives people value? What makes them good? I'm not sure I want to root for him if that is case. I'm hoping this attitude changes. 

"...signs of mental illness..." So were they actually possessed? Or is he implying they were falsely labeled that way? 

"M's monsters were not real monsters." While I am inclined to agree with this it completely contradicts what was on page 1, but nothing has actually happened to drive him to have this kind of change. 

The more the nobles talk and whatnot, the more I hope he is going realize they are the monsters and murder them. 

"compromise the trade sales" Hmm these people think their economy is more important than safety. Sounds familiar. I hope they get overthrown. :-)

"hankerchief with her initials..." cliche but it works 

"Women are known for being corrupted..." Yes, this dude is one of the real monsters. 

"...proper marriage age...adultery..."Yup. Duke is a monster. Monsters can say stuff like this but the narrative voice needs to react to it. M is upset about killing a woman but he doesn't seem to care at all or react to all this other bs the nobles are spewing. I want him to react specifically to some of the sexism and whatnot, even if only the reader sees the reaction. 

"No woman is known to have this kind of bloodlust" I was laughing at this. 

"How could M kill someone who didn't look like a monster?" If there weren't already so many side characters with horrible views, I might be okay with the mc thinking things like this as long as he changed by the end, but it's hard to stomach all the bad rich people being so horrible and having the main character equate goodness to looking nice. 

"could retire tomorrow" This seems to contradict something he said earlier. 

"little chainmail as he dared" The transition seemed abrupt. I got lost and had to re read to realize there was a scene break.

I like L! She is the real hero, and I would love to read a story from her POV. Or, one that alternates between his POV and hers. 

"And L killed each target." Yay! Go L! 

This part feels like a summary, but it is also where I feel like the scene where L had M in a net is where the story was finally getting going, I feel like we are just getting to the heart of it when it ends. 

I wish I had more positive things to say, for most of the story. I think there is potential here, but in its current form, the story really isn't working for me. However, the concept does have potential, and if you ever rewrote it, I would be happy to read it again. 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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21 hours ago, Sarah B said:

Maybe he isn't the character that interests you, have you considered making the assasin your MC and the knight your antagonist? Ethical good vs Lawful good.

 

On 4/28/2020 at 0:03 PM, Mandamon said:

If you wrote this as a female Robin Hood sort of piece, I think it would work much better. M can be bad, or good at heart, or whatever. I don't really care about his character after coming across L, who is an actual hero. You could even show off her taking out each of the corrupt officials, play it off as her being the bad guy and killing people (maybe working for aliens rather than her own kind?) and then slowly revealing who the "real" monsters are.

I like this idea! 

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On 4/27/2020 at 5:12 PM, Robinski said:

He said that you need to edit, edit, edit and edit; edit until you cannot make your story a single bit better, and then submit it, and we will tear it apart.

Yes! So much of turning a draft into a good story is in the revision process. Sometimes I revise so much I've lost count of what draft I'm really on...though that probably has something to do with how disorganized I am.  But on a more serious note, I have stories where if I compared the first draft to final draft, you would hardly recognize them as they same story. 

Sometimes it takes me writing five or six or ten thousands words of writing one to figure out what story I really want or need to tell about characters within a particular world or idea. 

 

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14 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

Yes! So much of turning a draft into a good story is in the revision process. Sometimes I revise so much I've lost count of what draft I'm really on...though that probably has something to do with how disorganized I am.  But on a more serious note, I have stories where if I compared the first draft to final draft, you would hardly recognize them as they same story. 

Sometimes it takes me writing five or six or ten thousands words of writing one to figure out what story I really want or need to tell about characters within a particular world or idea. 

 

This is so true. Draft Two of NotK is the culmination of...at least six read throughs? I cut an entire romance out (thank God!) and it looks like a heavy chunk of revising for Draft Three will be cutting. 

Here's a fun fact: NotK is originally inspired by a story I wrote when I was in high school. Pretty much all it has in common with the current version is that there are talking animals, the main character knows names, and that there is a unicorn king. 

Original version? Complete rip-off of Anne McCaffrey's Pern, main character bonded with a dragon, the King was evil incarnate and had Voldemort red eyes, there was a talking sword, and pretty much everyone died at the end, including both protagonists. I think my favorite parts were either that unicorns rode dragons or that the talking sword's maker was a fan of Doctor Who. Always keep your old versions, they are hilarious to look back on. Chart your progress. 

I guess my point is, stories change, and that's natural. Learn what you can from this draft, reevaluate, and see what kind of story you want to see this evolve into. Everyone goes through this process. Learning to "kill your darlings" is never fun, but is an important skill to learn. 

Fun fact: If you've ever seen Avatar: The Last Airbender, did you know that it was originally going to be a sci-fi story? One of the co-creators has posted concept art of it before: 

 

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3 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

Complete rip-off of Anne McCaffrey's Pern, main character bonded with a dragon

Nah.

3 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

Voldemort red eyes

Pretty sure Voldemort's eyes are not red. I mean...a little around the edges, like he has conjunctivitis, or stayed up too late the night before.

3 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

there was a talking sword

Stormbringer.

3 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

pretty much everyone died at the end, including both protagonists

Spoiler! ;) 

Love that sketch. 

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31 minutes ago, Robinski said:

Pretty sure Voldemort's eyes are not red. I mean...a little around the edges, like he has conjunctivitis, or stayed up too late the night before.

Voldemort's eyes are red in the books. 

To quote Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, pg 293, "Where there should have been a back to Quirrel's head, there was a face, the most terrible face Harry had ever seen. It was chalk white with glaring red eyes and slits for nostrils, like a snake."

The Goblet of Fire, pg 652, "Voldemort said softly, his red eyes upon Harry, whose scar began to burn so fiercely that he almost screamed in agony."

The Deathly Hallows, pg 737, "jeered Voldemort, and his whole body was taunt and his red eyes stared, a snake that was about to strike."

I am very rarely incorrect when it comes to Harry Potter, but if I ever am, you are more than welcome to rub it in my face. 

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9 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

I am very rarely incorrect when it comes to Harry Potter, but if I ever am, you are more than welcome to rub it in my face.

Lol, I'm never right when it comes to Harry Potter. I was thinking of the films. Ralph Fiennes is my Voldemort.

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6 hours ago, Robinski said:

Lol, I'm never right when it comes to Harry Potter. I was thinking of the films. Ralph Fiennes is my Voldemort.

Ugh, and he plays one fine Voldemort. It is so easy to hate him. 

Casting for the Harry Potter films was so good. I still have a hard time looking at Dolores Umbridge's actor Imelda Staunton without getting shivers of disgust. 

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41 minutes ago, Snakenaps said:

I still have a hard time looking at Dolores Umbridge's actor Imelda Staunton

Agree. That was a fabulous performance. But as you say, all the casting was superb.

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Thanks for the information guys! I will be sure to edit with your comments in mind! Also, LOVED that you guys talked about HP. Incase you cant tell, I am at Hogwarts in Unversial Studios Japan on my profile pic. And I wore yellow to rep my house! #proudhufflepuff

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Posted (edited)

8 hours ago, CherishLarain said:

I am at Hogwarts in Unversial Studios Japan

Excellent!

As a general aside to anyone listening. The lounge, as you may or may not have gathered, is for discussing any old thing at all; it doesn't have to be writing related, as you would quickly realise if you'd seen any of the many, many... many posts about Lego a few months back.

Edited by Robinski
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9 hours ago, CherishLarain said:

Thanks for the information guys! I will be sure to edit with your comments in mind! Also, LOVED that you guys talked about HP. Incase you cant tell, I am at Hogwarts in Unversial Studios Japan on my profile pic. And I wore yellow to rep my house! #proudhufflepuff

I'm a Hufflepuff too!!! Hufflepuff for the win! 

14 minutes ago, Robinski said:

Excellent!

As a general aside to anyone listening. The lounge, as you may or may not have gathered, is for discussing any old thing at all; it doesn't have to be writing related, as you would quickly realise if you'd seen any of the many, many... many posts about Lego a few months back.

I came into Reading Excuses at the tail end of the last Lego conversation. I thought it was adorable. I miss playing with Legos. 

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