7/6/20 - Reading Excuses - These Shattered Worlds - Chs. 2&3 Sub 2 (4833)(L)

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L for occasional language.

Ended up doing last-minute revisions before sending this one out, but I'm sure it's still easy to pick apart. Have a field day!


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Your characters in general continue to leap off the page, and I deeply appreciate the diversity and descriptions. My biggest problems are too many POV characters, especially switches mid-chapter, over and over, which don't allow me to really connect to the plot or people, and the chapter arcs that either aren't present or don't land. 

It might help (might) to sort of draw the chapters after they are done. So take your start, middle, and end, and graph them to see if they arc. Is there an issue at the start, then they work towards it, then they can either resolve it or move forward? Are there upset emotions that have to get discussed and then moved past or resolved? I keep looking for how each chapter wraps up, what ties it together as a chapter, but right now it's like a series of vignette snapshots that don't appear to be related.

There's really good stuff in here! I think it just needs some editing for clarity and arcs.


As I go

- pg 2: with fancy floors and all kinds of unnecessary amenities like hair salons and chocolate shops.<-- great detail here!

- pg 3: I remain not a fan of POV changes mid-chapter. It doesn't leave enough time to get invested in anyone. With such a short time with our first MC, I wonder if the entire first part could be cut? Does it advance the plot more than 'she arrived and met with her uncle'?

- pg 5: for sure, more than a little bit stupid <-- but she got the documents she was asked for quickly and on her first try 

- Y's POV is very telly and doesn't do much showing at all. It reads more like a long info dump and we aren't in her POV long enough to get any real sense of the characters involved. I'd suggest cutting until she can have her own chapter

- pg 6: It had a high collar, and stopped at the mid-thigh but covered the entire arm -- including hands and fingers.<-- Was the chapter supposed to end here? If so, I'm unclear what the arc was for the chapter. We had two POVs and three switches, but none of them seemed to serve a purpose other than 'this is what is happening in this place in time.' Noting that, it might be best to cut all of this and put them into their own chapters so they can each have their action or emotional arc.

- pg 7: fourth POV in three chapters is too many. Focus on one character for at least one whole chapter (or even a few chapters) before switching to gain reader investment, has always been what I've been told

- pg 7: How have they been divorced for years but still be arguing over who gets the house? That should have been worked out in the divorce settlement before the papers were signed

- pg 9: another POV. It's way too many and I'm having a hard time staying engaged because I've been introduced to too many people and settings and I don't yet have a feel for the world, or the stakes, or any of the characters aside from our first one

- pg 10: while his husband shook his head. <-- YAY!

- end of 11- top of 12: This is a rehash of the same event from another POV. It really slows the pacing and while it does offer some new info, I'd rather get that info contextually from just one POV and one setting. Also I'm not clear why it's a shame they fell in love. Is one pretending or something?

- pg 13-14: wait, is he talking to his dad or his husband?? Oh wait I see, A is his father. But his tone just really changed there.

- pg 14: Otherwise he was just a big jerk who’d refused  <-- this is great!

- ending: again, unsure of arc


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2 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 6: It had a high collar, and stopped at the mid-thigh but covered the entire arm -- including hands and fingers.<-- Was the chapter supposed to end here? If so, I'm unclear what the arc was for the chapter. We had two POVs and three switches, but none of them seemed to serve a purpose other than 'this is what is happening in this place in time.' Noting that, it might be best to cut all of this and put them into their own chapters so they can each have their action or emotional arc.

I'd decided while I was writing this have the arc spread out over several chapters, so what I'm thinking I'll do is consolidate each of the character sections into one chapter at a time, that way there's a better sense of progress throughout.

Thanks for your feedback and your advice about drawing the chapter arcs (funnily enough, I do exactly the same thing with musical phrases when practicing piano); I think I finally understand why everything is so confusing.


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I agree with @kais on pretty much everything. The character emotions and actions are good, but I was so confused by the end of the chapter I had no idea what was going on. I'm also very concerned about the military competency of these planets. They seem...unprepared at best. I think a much deeper dive into what story you're trying to tell and what the plot progression is like will help immensely.


Notes while reading:

pg 1: "but she needed practice, and this was a good way to get it."
--Didn't all these people see her talk with her sister, who's obviously not from Venus? I feel like her cover is not very good.

pg 2: "(you never knew who was watching)"
--hmm...See above comment.

pg 2: "offering his hand in greeting...middle of a busy spaceport"
--sooo...he's posing as her uncle but he's introducing himself as if they've never met?

pg 2: "and Cassa stifled a small laugh"

pg 2: "but I’m afraid I’ll be terribly busy"
--This conversation is weird. Half of it reads like they've never met and half is like they are acutally family.

pg 3: “I’m sorry it was unpleasant for you.”
--the dialogue is kind of forced through here.

pg 3: "because she had never heard of..."
--does the minister of defense not do a background check on new employees? For this being a covert operation, it's all very lax.

pg 3: "an inflamed skull"
--this sounds like an incredibly poor decision...

pg 4: "internally berated herself"
--this sounds like all the dialogue was internal, which certainly seem more likely for a minister...

pg 4: "they could learn on the job"
--ahh...learning on the job is one thing. This is more verbal abuse.

pg 5: "friends were great conversationalists"
--This reads like enough time has passed for C to make friends and settle in. Quite a big jump from the last section.

pg 6: This chapter just sort of leaves off after half an explanation of clothing fashions. Was there supposed to be more? I'm not sure what the point of this chapter was either. It started out about C settling in, but then jumped over a lot of time and just ended...

pg 7: "things around the house that they needed to discuss"
--I'm not sure what this means.

pg 7: Soooo...who is this person and what's happening?

pg 8: "tentative diplomatic endeavors" is all lowercase and poorly written?? I'm growing concerned about the competency of the militaries on all these planets.

pg 9: "eight of them"
--eight of who? what happened to the message?

pg 9: "under the Earth"
--we're on Earth now?

pg 9: there's a deal with Luna, greenhouse lamps, and math degrees within one paragraph. I'm struggling to keep up with what's going on.

pg 9: "standing at attention as he winked "
--Eh? Because of the message?

pg 10: "announced to the room"
--weren't there, like eight of them in here?

pg 10: "his husband shook his head."
--okay, so they're married. What was all that with offending colleagues then? I was thinking this was some affair.

pg 11: "You’re not going to choose R over your dad."
--what now??? There are some weird vibes going on here.

pg 13: sorry. Completely lost now. I have no idea what's going on.

pg 16: So...A is J's father, except he has a different real name, and is married to R, and...something happened on Saturn? I'm really not sure what happened.


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@Mandamon thanks for your feedback. I'm trying to work on separating each POV into a complete storyline so there's less jumping around.


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Much the same as above with a few small additions;

A out 2/3 through; "But then he looked at R again, he got that war feeling..." Warm feeling I think. But now that I've read it I would love to read about a character who gets that 'war feeling' looking at someone :-)

J/L; Al is rendered to as J's father, but I think this is his cover name, so wouldn't Al be L's father? Not 100% here put pointing it out just in case. Honestly I had to re read a lot to keep track of so many new names in the 3rd chapter.

It feels like an abrupt time skip between R leaving, L and A's conversation, and then R is there. Reading it feels like all this has happened in minutes.

"Three people people in grey jumpsuits..." this feels like a new paragraph.

I like the sense of intrigue in these chapters, but I am having a hard time tracking what's going on and don't have a strong attachment to any side yet. 

Again, it feels like your characters are rounded people, I would love to see each of them longer so I can get to know them :-)


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I) wow, her alter ego sounds like a brat. Good job conveying that, but I'm worried that her new personality would turn me off from her.

3) alternately, the stupidest of fools did go to the surface, hence ridding society of idiot genes and everyone is better for it. Without genocide, merely survival of the fittest.

3) stark constrast - what are you trying to say with the comparison.

6) did your chapter cut off halfway? I feel like you cut off abruptly and nearly ripped over at the end of the chapter.

8) interesting information about grammar.

8) It's a bit hard to follow what's going on, with all the jumping around.

9) R suddenly sounds egotistical. or like an aes sedai.

12) This story is really losing me. SO MANY CHARACTERS AND SCENE BREAKS.

Overall. The beginning was good, but then the viewpoints and characters began to lose me. This really feels like it should be several chapters, at least. 




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Comments :) 

(page 1)

- Good character and good voice in the first section. 

- "a well-connected Martian plant" - Eh, I must admit that I read this as her uncle being an important local aspidistra.

- "Minister of Defense" - The strings holding my disbelief up just snapped. This is just too convenient, and easy, IMO.

(page 2)

- "which she had purposefully left on the ship to seem negligent" - Okay, this is the fourth in the last month: yes, I've been counting. I choose to believe it's autocorrect stepping in to insert the wrong word. If she did it on purpose, it's purposely. Purposefully means with determination and resolve. That is not the context here.

- "She and the man" - What man?

- "Deputy Minister of Energy, five o’clock" - What is this?

- "the man said" - Where did he come from? Blocking confused.

- Oh, five o'clock; it's a clock bearing. I get it now. The problem for me is that her uncle appears from nowhere in narrative terms, so I've got no foothold in the blocking of the scene.

- "unnecessary amenities like hair salons and chocolate shops" - What has this to do with the Deputy defence minister?

- So, what was the young man doing? Was he the Deputy defence minister? I'm confused.

(page 3)

- "regular acid rain discouraged even the stupidest of fools" - That and the 880-degree temperatures. 

- "a true testament to their strain" - Strain? As in breed? I don't follow.

(page 5)

- "Either option would be a huge display of extravagance" - I like this point, decent bit of world building, but I'm struggling to follow the story. Not in terms of its logic, but I don't know what the mission is, and because of that, I don't really care whether she succeeds or not. A character can be well realised, but if I'm not interested in what they are doing, or I don't know what they're doing, or why they are doing it, it's hard to invest in the story.

- Also, what is the timeline? Where did she get all these friends from? I take it some time has passed with her living on Venus? It's not clear. I mean, there are a lot of words going into what people are wearing, and that creates a visual image, and a mood, but I don't know what anyone is doing, or why.

- Wait, what? Where did the rest of the chapter go? It just ends on the description of clothing? That's...that's not good. There's not story in that, no narrative, no character. I'm really confused. You need to draw people into the next chapter, or boot them in the backside into the next one. I have no reason to keep reading. This is some kind of typo, right?

(page 7)

Chapter 3 

- Ah, so this is another POV? I don't feel I'm sufficiently invested in the Ca to be faced with another POV. This one seems to be more invested in furniture then anything else.

(page 8)

- ANOTHER POV? I'm beyond my saturation point now. And another new character, or is it two? I can't keep track, and I don't care about any of them, because no one is 'on screen' long enough to give them any personality, or for me to get to know them, know what they are doing and why.

There is excellent and credible advice from any number of sources that it is a good idea to beginning writers to write a single POV, and learn how to do that well before attempting something that their skill is not equal to. I'm not going to say that I have mastered that, or even that I followed that advice, BUT character is where every story starts and, IMO, finishes. There was some good indication of character in the first submission: two characters, each given enough space on the page to achieve some depth and texture for the reader to buy into. Here though, we get character after character after the character and none is given any space or time to shine, to allow the reader to engage with the, and learn their motivations. I think this is as major issue, and I'm going to bow out at this point, because I don't see any way back from here for my engagement with the story.

My advice would be to go listen to Brandon's lecture series, if you have not already, or maybe Season 13 of Writing Excuses, which was all about character. Some of the headings from that season are listed below (forgive my annotations, couldn't be bothered deleting them!). I feel this is where the problems lie in this submission. Too many characters leads to insufficient development leads to no reader engagement, IMO. 

Sorry if that comes over as harsh, but that's what I felt.

S13E1 – 7/1/18 – Hero, Protagonist, Main Character – BS, MRK, DW, HT

S13E2 – 14/1/18 – Writing Active Characters – BS, MRK, AEM, MB

S13E3 – 21/1/18 – What Do Writers Get Wrong (WDWGWA)? – DW, MRK, HT, Aliette de Bodard

S13E4 – 28/1/18 – Protagonists Who Aren’t Sympathetic – BS, VL, DW, HT

S13E5 – 4/2/18 – Villain, Antagonist, Obstacle – BS, MRK, DW, HT

S13E6 – 11/2/18 – External Conflicts for Characters – BS, MRK, AEM, MB

S13E7 – 18/2/18 – What Writers Get Wrong – BS, MRK, DW, HT, with Lou Perry

S13E8 – 25/2/18 – Making Characters Distinctive – BS, VEM, DW, HT

S13E9 – 4/3/18 – Quick Characterisation – BS, MRK, DW, HT

S13E10 – 11/3/18 – Handling a Large Cast – BS, MRK, AEM, MB

S13E11 – 18/3/18 – Writing Secondary Characters, with Charlaine Harris – BS, MRK, DW, HT

S13E13 – 1/4/18 – Character Voice – BS, MRK, DW, HT

S13E14 – 8/4/18 – Character Nuance – BS, MRK, AEM, MB

S13E16 – 22/4/18 – Avoiding Flat Characters – BS, VL, DW, HT

S13E18 – 6/5/18 – Naturally Revealing Character Motivation – BS, MRK, DW, HT

S13E19 – 13/5/18 – Backstories – BS, MRK, AEM, MB

S13E22 – 3/6/18 – Character Arcs – BS, MRK, DW, HT

S13E23 – 10/6/18 – Internal Conflicts – BS, MRK, AEM, MB

S13E25 – 24/6/18 – Our Journey With Character – BS, VL, DW, HT

S13E26 – 1/7/18 – Character Relationships – BS, MRK, DW, HT

S13E27 – 8/7/18 – Characters as Foils – BS, MRK, AEM, MB

S13E32 – 12/8/18 – How To Handle Weighty Topics – BS, MRK, AEM, MB

S13E40 – 7/10/18 – Fixing Character Problems, Part I – BS, MRK, DW, HT

S13E41 – 14/10/18 – Fixing Character Problems, Part II – BS, MRK, AEM, MB

S13E43 – 28/10/18 – Characters Who Are Smarter Than You Are – MRK, DW, HT, AEM

S13E44 – 4/11/18 – Alien Characters – BS, MRK, DW, HT

S13E45 – 11/11/18 – Next Level Narration – BS, MRK, AEM, MB


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@Robinski I have seen his lectures -- but yeah, I've started a major rewrite of the whole thing, and have done serious cuts in viewpoints after realizing that sometimes the switch isn't even necessary. I've realized that I haven't taken into account that other people don't actually know where this is going. Thank you for your feedback.


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Hey, you're welcome. Sorry that it was a bit curt in places. When I get frustrated I get...'lippy'. Just ask any of my long-suffering colleagues :rolleyes: It most certainly in not personal. I like the style of your writing, and goodness knows there are way fewer LBL-type comments that I would make on the submissions than some we've had over the years, and that stuff matters to me. I would not hesitate to read anything you submitted, and I look forward to the next one.

Edited by Robinski

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Late to the party, I am.

Thoughts as I go:

Pg 1, "The temperature was always too high; something to do with the engines" This reminds me of how planes are always too cold for me. 

Pg 1, "new identity as a V aristobrat" If the brat part wasn't on purpose, keep it. If it is on purpose, I got a good chuckle.

Pg 1, " She felt quite bad about it" This would have been me. 

Pg 2, "you never knew who was watching" Hmmm, I wonder what nefarious groups are out there? What are C's enemies?

Pg 2, "I’m so glad to meet you, uncle," Sounds like their covers have never met before...

Pg 2, "It’s such a pity we’ve never seen each other before today" Oh, well, there you go! This dialogue seems formal and stilted, but it makes sense for an uncle and niece who have never met before.

Pg 3, " regular acid rain discouraged even the stupidest of fools" Oh now, come on, doesn't have your skin boil and burn off sound like fun? I bet there's that one person who thinks the acid rain is there to cover up some conspiracy theory.

Pg 3, "T groaned" Took me half a sec to realize this wasn't someone new and to remember that this is her cover name.

Pg 3, " If she remembered correctly" Oh, POV jump. Alright. This is the fourth POV since the prologue and I'm only in chapter two. This is where I, as a reader, get wary, because, unless it is two POVs switching in between chapters, or each chapter dedicated to a single POV, I start losing track of characters fast. That was my major issue with A Song of Ice and Fire. As I would with a normal book, I'll hold off judgement and see if you can pull it off.

Pg 3, "Virgil" This makes me happy for no other reason except my snake is named Virgil.

Pg 3, "spent the whole morning complaining to her husband"...about a new assistant??? A new assistant is that stressful? Why?

Pg 4, "For the love of all things idiotic" Not very professional. I guess you don't have to be when you are that high of a mucky muck, but still, not a great first impression. 

Pg 4, "She’d learned throughout the years that if you leave the brats alone, they eventually give up." So...she's trying to get her assistant to quit? Y doesn't seem like a very nice person...

Pg 5, "had forced her to employ." Okay, so she does want them to quit, because she doesn't want an assistant at all.

Pg 5, "ten times worse than Earth ever could be" Whoa, back to C! Unless Y ends up really important later on, I'm not sure what the point of switching to her POV was? Like, all information given could have been seen or inferred by C, which wouldn't have caused me to blink an eye.

Pg 5, "She’d seen the documentaries and read the books in school" No briefings or reports for her mission?

Pg 6, " Either option would be a huge display of extravagance." I'm imagining cows floating in zero G. Like big cow balloons.

Pg 7, "the ones where he could take a lunch break in the middle of the day" Hol up, another new POV? So, five different POVs in three chapters and a prologue? I'm concerned. I don't get to stay with anyone long enough to settle down and get to know them. I feel like I'm just seeing snapshots. 

Pg 7, "needed to meet with his ex-wife this evening about some couch" I'm already wincing in sympathy.

Pg 7, " they bought the place was horrible at his job" Considering the jumpsuit fashion, I'm already cringing at what this could look like.

Pg 7, "He could find something more productive to think about" Ouch.

Pg 7, "Governor-General" Ooooh, now this sounds like A could be an important POV with access to knowledge C won't have.

Pg 9, "There were eight of them," Uh oh, this makes me think that there might be another POV switch...

Pg 9, "to be the rock that rested under the Earth in that place." I take it that means we are with the revolution on Earth, and that means another POV switch. In all honesty, if I was reading this as a book I just picked up, it would be right here at this POV that I would have set it down. Not because it doesn't have a good idea, or because the story isn't interesting, or because of a lack of worldbuilding, but because with this many POV switches, there is nothing to prevent me - hi, some random reader - from assuming that every chapter will introduce two to three more characters that I won't be given time to care about, while detracking from the one character I do want to get to know: C, her struggles, her spying, and her trying to make it on Venus. She's the only one that has appeared more than once, and, therefore, I find myself gravitating towards her, because I've been given the chance to know her the longest.

Now, let me say the good news: this is just a draft, which means that this isn't the book I would have - hopefully one day will - buy from the bookstore. Right now everything feels like snapshots - a little hint there, another hint here - without staying long enough for me to see clearly. I like analogies, and I feel like right now I'm taste testing everything, but before I can decide if I like something - whoosh! - it's whisked away from me. And the ones I really like? I'm like, "Hey, bring that back, I want another bite," but I don't know if the chef (you) will give me more. 

On 7/11/2020 at 0:15 PM, PiedPeterPiper said:

have done serious cuts in viewpoints after realizing that sometimes the switch isn't even necessary.

But, see, you're already on it! You've got this! And you know what is great about test driving all these different POVs in this draft? It helps you practice voice, and you can take a look and see who's really fun to write and to read, who has the most interesting POV, and who adds the most to the plot! I'm having to do the same thing in a bunch of my chapters - in fact, the next chapter I'll be submitting tomorrow is from Draft Two and is guilty of having a scene that doesn't even settle on one person! So I hope you don't beat yourself up from all of this, and instead can recognize the lessons to be learned and leap forward with excitement at how wonderful your book is eventually going to become! 

Alright, I'm going to jump back in :) 

Pg 11, "He made vague gestures with his hand as he tried to think of the word" This is how I communicate 98% of the time.

Pg 11, " had begun to fall in love with his husband" I'm sensing a traitor in our midst...

Pg 12, " about to screw up the job he’d spent years on" Love wins! Hopefully...

Pg 13, "The Governor-General" Governor-General A, from earlier?

Pg 13, " in front of the massive mural of Luna’s flag" Not A, then.

Pg 13, "His father wore a light smirk on his face." So I was correct about A, but somehow got mixed up and thought that A was on Venus. 

Pg 16, " fuel combustion that wasn’t properly dealt with until too late" Terrorist attack, or sabotage?

You've got all my thoughts! Now, keep on truckin'!


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I agree with @kais and @Mandamon. There were definitely too many characters in this section. 

That made it confusing for me. I wasn't fully sure how they all related, and what the arc was. Just when I would be settling into one POV, then it would switch. I didn't really make notes as I was reading because I was struggling to follow the arc and figure out how everything related.  

The characters and the world really are interesting. However, I would follow the plot better and be more engaged if we stayed with one or two characters per chapter. Personally, I like one character per chapter, though I've read plenty of published books that switch mid-chapter. 

I think the one I liked the best was the first scene since it was a character I was familiar with.

The one I liked least was Y's chapter because it felt like summary and recap more than an actual scene. It wasn't lost, but I kept waiting for something to help me settle into the moment and it didn't really come.

With the last POV, I did find myself rather confused. 

Despite my confusion, I am looking forward to reading more in this world. 


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