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ginger_reckoning

10.19.20 ginger_reckoning - ALITC Ch 2a, Ch 3 (4200)

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Hello everyone, thanks for all the feedback last week. Here is a new chapter that I wrote to come before chapter 2 from last week, as well as a chapter that comes after it. I am still working on my chapter 2 rewrite, so hopefully that will be done next week. Sorry, I know it's confusing.

 
I'm pretty sure there aren't any content tags for this week. Thanks again!
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Overall, I'm not really sure what the first chapter does. You can see my notes below, but I think it can really be summed up in a couple paragraphs. The second chapter has some good emotion, but we don't get any reason for A's reticence to come home and it makes reading the chapter frustrating. I keep looking for the big revelation, but then everything's fine when he meets family members.

 

Notes while reading:
Chapter 2

pg 1: I had to look back at the last chapter to figure out what this bird was they were talking about. I think there's some connection missing here. At the end of Chapter 1, A had just spotted a bird. Now they're panicking in case it takes off, because it can lead them somewhere. We need a little more connection as to why to make the reactions work.

pg 1: "A didn’t know why the dove was all the way out here."
--It may be better to start the chapter with something like this to give some context.

pg 1: ", and they would be free."
--from what exactly? From the army they were in? From the desert?

pg 2: “I…no. Let’s just stand here.”
--I'm still pretty confused about why this bird is their only hope and what they hope to gain from following it.

pg 3: "but they had to. They had to."
--We keep getting told that there are stakes, but not shown them.

pg 3: I'm sort of confused as to what this chapter was trying to achieve. I think we need a little more setup and a more definite arc of what's happening. Most of what's going on is just description about following the bird, but we need more context.

 

Chapter 3
pg 1: "The derelict group of soldiers stumbled into the town..."
--Really, I think is where you want to start the next part of the story. Having 2-3 paragraphs about how they followed a bird and made sure it was really leading them is all that's pertinent from the last chapter.

pg 1: "The brownish-red rock sloped upward to multiple flat levels..."
--I'm expecting to see somewhere in this description that there are birds nesting on the rock, but there isn't.

pg 1: "Hundreds more of the little gray-brown birds did the same all around them."
--okay, here it is finally. Sort of buried the lede. I think if you have a town named "Birdrock" and you describe a giant rock, putting the description of the birds is also pretty important.

pg 2: "It was easy to affect a cheerful tone; he had lots of practice."
--good line. Putting a little of this in the earlier chapters will help the jokes land, I think.

pg 3: "Why had he reacted so loudly against seeing his family?"
--also wondering about that. I thought he had a reason.

pg 3: "Better to just avoid them altogether. It wouldn’t hurt them if they didn’t know he had ever been here."
--good insight, but is this in relation to him being in the army, or something else?

pg 4: "“I don’t like her,” “She’s seems pretty similar to you.”
--I don't think we really have enough character for F and H yet to appreciate this conversation.

pg 5: "sparkin’ army was finally able to put some muscle on ya,"
--okay, I guess the family wasn't mad at him for joining the army. Not sure what his deal is, then.

pg 6: “You have finally flown home!” 
--We keep getting told A is anxious to see his family, but their reaction keeps being completely normal. I don't understand why he's so reticent. It's pulling me out of the story.

pg 6: "For just a moment, it was nice to just be held."
--this sort of thing. A couple paragraphs ago, he thought "Three years wasn’t nearly long enough to prepare for this." They seem in direct contrast.

pg 7: "I don’t see why we can’t just let them believe that for one more night.”
--Nope. I still don't get what A's problem is. It's really pulling me out of the story trying to figure it out.

pg 7: ", but thoughts of having to face his brother and father"
--okay, so his brother and father are angry at him? Need some context.


 

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Chapter 2:

Pg. 1: Minor thing, but why is H calling A "desert boy?" She's in the desert too.

Pg. 1: Okay, I know A thinks they're close to Birdrock, but I think it's still unrealistic that his two companions would decide it was alright to traverse the desert in the daytime just because Amin said so.

Pg. 2: Again, A is just telling his companions to stand still in the middle of the day in the desert? I'm beginning to wonder if they're alright upstairs.

Pg. 3: "Do either of you know a better way to get out of here?" Not a rational reason to think a bird a) knows what you want and B) is trying to help you get it. If this is foreshadowing for some big reveal at the end, it needs to be framed differently. If I were traveling with A, I'd think he was getting sunsick. The fact that he internally dismisses the religion hypothesis not a page later just makes this even more befuddling.

I think the problem here is that we don't have enough background; why are A's companions willing to follow him blindly? Why is he willing to follow a bird blindly? The question you then have to ask is: is it worth putting in all this backstory? What is this section trying to accomplish?

Pg. 3: That last part about A resenting his father sounds like it could be important, but you could easily put that in chapter three, and it would be more cohesive -- and probably solve some of the issues Mandamon brought up.

Chapter 3:

Pg. 1: I like the architecture details. But mentioning that there are bits of cloth tied to the stalagmites without explaining why seems kind of pointless to me. Do they signify something? If so, what? Also, why are the building roofs stained white? Is it from the dove feathers? Because that doesn't seem like something that actually happens. If you want to illustrate that there are a lot of doves and that they come to Birdrock often, maybe try mentioning that they leave (insert large quantity here) of feathers on the streets, roofs, etc.

Pg. 2: Why does A assume that this Mother T will keep this from his family? We learn later that she, in fact, doesn't, and this seems relatively in character based on the short scene we've had so far. Shouldn't A, after growing up near her, know better?

Up until page 4 I kept reading "lyaman" as "layman," and I was super confused. Unless this fits some sort of pre-designed linguistic pattern, consider changing another letter so the words aren't so close? Maybe this issue is unique to me -- thoughts, everyone?

Pg. 4: "how did she water them all?" -- nice desert-dweller detail.

Pg. 5: I need more context to understand A's weird interaction with his cousin.

It seems to me that these two chapters have been building to A's confrontation with his father -- why not include that here? As is, the whole thing feels pretty anticlimactic.

Edit: I'm so sorry, I forgot to abbreviate the names!

Another edit: stupid b) always changes to B)

Edited by PiedPeterPiper
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1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

pg 1: I had to look back at the last chapter to figure out what this bird was they were talking about. I think there's some connection missing here. At the end of Chapter 1, A had just spotted a bird. Now they're panicking in case it takes off, because it can lead them somewhere. We need a little more connection as to why to make the reactions work.

That's fair. However, in the actual manuscript, this would come immediately after chapter 1 (before S's scene) So I think there would still be a connection. 

1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

Having 2-3 paragraphs about how they followed a bird and made sure it was really leading them is all that's pertinent from the last chapter.

It actually started this way, but I cut them and expanded on them in their own chapter so that A could have another chapter before going to S. If it doesn't work, I guess I could condense it back to a couple of paragraphs, but it seemed a bit info-dumpy to me. 

1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

pg 2: "It was easy to affect a cheerful tone; he had lots of practice."
--good line. Putting a little of this in the earlier chapters will help the jokes land, I think

Good point, thanks

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22 minutes ago, PiedPeterPiper said:

Up until page 4 I kept reading "lyaman" as "layman," and I was super confused. Unless this fits some sort of pre-designed linguistic pattern, consider changing another letter so the words aren't so close? Maybe this issue is unique to me -- thoughts, everyone?

Thanks, I never even considered this. Do you think a serif font would help this, as the I would no longer look like a lowercase L? 

23 minutes ago, PiedPeterPiper said:

Pg. 5: I need more context to understand Amin's weird interaction with his cousin

Do you mean his aunt and uncle? If you mean N, I guess I need to be more clear that they are not related. 

25 minutes ago, PiedPeterPiper said:

Also, why are the building roofs stained white?

Bird poop

26 minutes ago, PiedPeterPiper said:

Pg. 3: "Do either of you know a better way to get out of here?" Not a rational reason to think a bird a) knows what you want and B) is trying to help you get it. If this is foreshadowing for some big reveal at the end, it needs to be framed differently. If I were traveling with Amin, I'd think he was getting sunsick. The fact that\ he internally dismisses the religion hypothesis not a page later just makes this even more befuddling

Thanks! I think need to emphasize this a lot more. What he is experiencing here is a form of magical emotional manipulation. So I think you're dead on that it needs to be framed differently, in retrospect. 

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2 minutes ago, ginger_reckoning said:

Thanks, I never even considered this. Do you think a serif font would help this, as the I would no longer look like a lowercase L? 

Yes, but keep in mind that if you wanted to (traditionally) publish this you wouldn't control the font.

4 minutes ago, ginger_reckoning said:

Do you mean his aunt and uncle? If you mean N, I guess I need to be more clear that they are not related.

No, you don't need to make it more clear. I just didn't pay attention. I thought N was his cousin, not T's daughter, so I was convinced this couldn't possibly be flirting even though it definitely seemed like it. On reread, it's really not a problem.

6 minutes ago, ginger_reckoning said:

Bird poop

I, personally, would never have thought of this if you didn't point it out. Ask other people too, because I might be unique in this, but I would be less confused if you either explained it more or found a different way to illustrate that there are a bunch of birds. Show is better than tell only if people understand what you're showing.

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I think that these chapters are pretty good overall. I don’t think it would be a bad idea to combine these into one chapter actually, as they kind of fit together well. Maybe putting the chapter with S and DK in after this would feel pretty good, I think. I like that Am is nervous about seeing his family. I can feel his anxiety which is great. The part about seeing his father has me hooked and I can’t wait to see that conversation. 

I hope this helps, though it is mostly just my reactions to it. To be clear. I would have likely blown through these first chapters to see what is coming next.

As I read: 

Chapter 2a:

Pg 1: Keeperism? A bit on the nose there. Maybe too much.

Are they in a desert or parched grassland? The description at the end of this page makes me feel more of the latter. The last chapter made it clear they were in a desert.

Pg2: When Am stops here it feels very abrupt. I feel we need a little internal reasoning to set the reader straight.

Chapter 3: 

Pg 1: The Birdrock is very cool. I have a distinct picture of it in my mind. Great job with your descriptions herer. 

Pg 2: Am’s reaction to questions of going to his home have me interested. Reading further, I can really feel Am’s sense of nervous anxiety during the conversation with his mother later on. 

Pg 4: Soldiers for that long and none of them were able to make a decent field bandage. At least H seems experienced enough to have made at least a half decent one.

Pg 6: The scene at the end of this chapter feels great, but I think that this payoff will feel way better if the danger intensity of the scenes in the desert is ramped up a little more.


Not sure why it is in bold. Ito won't let me change it though. :huh:

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Overall

Some issues, noted below. I'm still not engaged with the world or the characters, and I don't know what the overall plot is. These are all things I should be firmly grounded in by chapter three of a novel. I think some edits to early chapters will remedy this.

 

6 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Overall, I'm not really sure what the first chapter does. You can see my notes below, but I think it can really be summed up in a couple paragraphs. The second chapter has some good emotion, but we don't get any reason for A's reticence to come home and it makes reading the chapter frustrating. I keep looking for the big revelation, but then everything's fine when he meets family members.

I 100% agree with @Mandamon

 

As I go

- pg 1: The dialogue here doesn't seem like real dialogue. It's stiff and feels forced. Maybe try saying it out loud to give it a more natural flow? All the characters seem to talk the same

- pg 2: WRS: Why are they chasing this bird? Stakes? Also I don't have any fear of them dying in the desert at all. I'm not invested in the characters and I haven't gotten a feeling at all that the desert is dangerous. The narrative keeps just saying XYZ is dangerous, but never showing any real danger

- pg 3: 

What in all the Keepers is that thing doing?” H muttered. 

“I think it’s helping us,

Wait, if they didn't think it was helping them, why were they following it??? I am so confused

- pg 3: And no, I don’t know why it would wait for us <-- why are they only just now questioning this after following it for, what, a half a day?

- pg 3: didn’t know why the dove was acting like this <-- again, this should have come much earlier, but now that it's coming its redundant. Only one character needs to bring it up. Multiple thoughts and conversations just drags the narrative down

- end of the first document - I'm not sure what this adds to the narrative. Could it not be done in just one sentence: Not knowing what else to do, they followed a strange bird that flitted continually just out of reach. ??

- pg 2, new document: I have some real concerns for the health of the town covered in that much bird poop

- pg 3: this has been bugging me for a while so I'll bring it up here: 'tan' isn't a skin tone. It's a notation of sun damage. Please use actual skin tone descriptors, and then you can say that they are a shade darker or so from the sun

- pg 4: the orphanage/hospital matron has the same speaking pattern as all the other characters. I think this is one of the reasons I have no character buy-in. Everyone sounds like everyone else

- pg 5: there's more character development and voice in this page than in anything else I've read in this book. This is hooking me

- I think the invite to dinner scene goes on a bit long, and I'm not sure what the arc is for this chapter. I feel like we are missing the final beat or reveal to bring this chapter to a close.

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1 hour ago, kais said:

end of the first document - I'm not sure what this adds to the narrative. Could it not be done in just one sentence: Not knowing what else to do, they followed a strange bird that flitted continually just out of reach. ??

Thanks, I think based on everyone's reactions I will just go back to the original version of having this as a summary in chapter 3. 

1 hour ago, kais said:

- pg 3: this has been bugging me for a while so I'll bring it up here: 'tan' isn't a skin tone. It's a notation of sun damage. Please use actual skin tone descriptors, and then you can say that they are a shade darker or so from the sun

Ah. Looks like I got some research to do! 

1 hour ago, kais said:

I have some real concerns for the health of the town covered in that much bird poop

It's inspired by a real town in Italy I saw in a documentary one time. I will admit I never researched how it might affect their health, though, so maybe that's something worth looking into. I do understand the roads can get quite slippery though. 

1 hour ago, kais said:

the orphanage/hospital matron has the same speaking pattern as all the other characters. I think this is one of the reasons I have no character buy-in. Everyone sounds like everyone else

This has been a problem the whole time and is still something I need to work on I guess. Would you happen to have any tips? (If not that's totally understandable) 

1 hour ago, kais said:

This is hooking me

Sweet!

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I agree that chapters 1 and 2 seem to belong together, maybe with just a page break for time passage?

A couple things about the dove chasing bothered me plot wise. 1. Since it seems like the dove either is or is controled by something intelligent that is trying to help them, why did it have them travel in the middle of the day instead of leaving in the morning? 2. I understand that they need to leave together for the plot's sake, but since the dove leaves in the middle of the day, wouldn't it have made more sense for A and maybe one more person to chase it and come back for the rest if it led somewhere useful? Some explaination of why they stay together would help a lot. 

As I go:

Chapter 2:

"F brought up a good point though..." this feels like a new thought, maybe a new paragraph?

Next paragraph: repetition of "behind them" and the word "hill" used heavily.

A saying "neat" seems odd given the situation.

Second to last paragraph of 2: "He sometimes regretted..." this second feels poignant and give some good back story but the phrasing is a little tangled. 

Chapter 3:

"Curtains were pulled before the doorway." This is a pretty phrase, but it took be a couple reads to understand what was meant.

Roofs stained white: yup, I live on the shore and this is a thing :-) 

I love the town description, especially the smells and little flags on the spires. With all those doves, I'm imagining there would be a fair amount of cooing and squabbling bird sounds too. I'm used to urban pigeons though, which I'm told are louder than wild doves. 

F seems like his phrasing has shifted from the last chapter.

"Why had he reacted so loudly..." Odd phrase.

Next sentence: "It felt like a battle..." might work better as "He felt like a battle..."

"Be horrified of it." By it? Horrified seems like a strong word for the situation. I don't know the back story yet, but A is acting more terrified than horrified.

"It was the old orphanage..." Starting a new paragraph with 'it" is a bit confusing. 

The first meeting with A's mom does feel like a let down after all that dread.

I like the closing line for chapter 3 a lot. 

 

I really enjoyed chapter 3, great setting and some nice character development. 

Thanks for sharing, looking forward to more next week!

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Hello! I agree that 2a should go with the one before it and should probably be shortened. I don't have a whole lot more to say about it, partly because I didn't feel like there was a whole lot there.

pg. 1 - The whole thing with A explaining why the bird is important seems off in a couple ways. A fell asleep at some point between the previous chapter and this chapter, so clearly he had time to relax and it wasn't that urgent. Also, he would probably have already explained it before falling asleep. I think the waking up detail just needs to not be there.

pg. 3 - The part where he introduces PART to the reader doesn't give me a lot of information about what PART is, which is probably what you were going for, but the way you phrased the sentence makes it sound like you're about to go into an explanation of it. Also, it doesn't seem to connect with the sentence about believing in the ancestors. Just a little bit of different wording would probably make it smoother.

I also agree with everyone that it doesn't make sense for them to be chasing the bird around. More information about this would help to make it clear why A wants to follow the bird so intensely and why the others just follow along.

For chapter 3: I'm still a little confused as to why A dreads seeing his family again. They clearly aren't mad at him. Even if his siblings are going to ask a lot of awkward questions, I don't think he would have this level of dread. Also, he hasn't mentioned his dad again after the end of chapter 2a. I feel like he should be dreading meeting his dad more than meeting his siblings based on that detail. I also agree with @kais that I don't feel super connected to the story and I also don't really know what the plot is or what the overall stakes are for the story.

pg. 1 - I really love the description of Birdrock! It's such lovely imagery and I can really feel A's nostalgia. I can see the village perfectly.

pg. 4 - I didn't see T club anyone over the head... this sentence could use more explanation. 

I agree with @Sarah B that meeting his mom was a little bit of a let-down after all the lead-up, but at the same time, the scene when he sees his mom again is just sweet.

Overall, I really like chapter 3! It has a good arc and good description and nice resolution at the end.

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build up in chapter 2 and then just there suddently in chapter 3, i feel like the climax of that struggle was stolen from me. I expected some kind of build up until they first glanced it and would be able to take in the releived and excited reaction of the group at the time it happens.

pg 2. "The four soldiers made their way past glowing windows and sounds of laughter or hushed
conversation as the sun disappeared. Ace on his stretcher garnered stares and glances from windows,
but one glimpse of the uniforms drew the curtains closed."

I dont' know, this doesn't work for me for some reason. I think it's because the way the action is described in each dwelling makes it sound private, so I'm not expecting to learn that people are actively watching them. You might add that there are some looking out from their windows or that their attention is drawn to them initially, but then diverted upon seeing who they are. It just seems like i'm missing a piece of information.

pg 3. "walked. Why had he reacted so loudly against seeing his family?" i feel like this whole paragraph is a lot of telling us how he feels. I wonder if these bits of information couldn't be dropped in more nuanced ways to help build Amin as character with complex feelings, uneasy to see his family again after being gone so long, without just telling us what he's feeling in such a straight way. I felt like this came across really stiff.

I like your descriptions of the setting, I feel like I can really see Birdrock.

pg 3. "carrying a body. Typical." Is it typical for him to bring bodies on stretches to her door, or just typical of him to be up to no good. Seems like that could use context maybe.

I really enjoyed the meeting with his family. I really felt it and that was great.

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On 10/19/2020 at 5:30 PM, ginger_reckoning said:

Would you happen to have any tips? (If not that's totally understandable) 

Yes! So I usually assign characters a person from real life, and then copy the voice patterns. So pick someone you know well-spouse, colleague, annoying next door neighbor kid, and then superimpose their movements and way of talking over your character. When you write the dialogue, imagine it coming from the RL person's mouth. That can give a lot more depth to your characters. We all have our archetypes we put in ever book, but you have to have enough other characters to counterbalance.

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Overall:

I’m starting to get a better sense of the characters, which is good! I’m not totally feeling the emotional impact of the family reunion, though. I’m getting that it’s fraught because he took off without (I presume) telling them, and possibly more than he realizes because he doesn’t know his brother’s run off yet, but I think I need a better sense of the family dynamics before we get this scene. I’m figuring out the context just fine, but it’s not having the emotional impact that I suspect you’re going for.

Also, I’m not inattentive to what’s going on here, but I feel like we’re still taking too long to get to the story. This feels almost like a “rest” scene that you’d want to include after a period of high tension, and instead we’re just getting started. Not only that, but while we’ve had our inciting incident in the previous chapter with A, we still don’t really understand what changes as a result, for either the characters or the setting.

Last general comment, which I’m making mostly because in the opening of the BR chapter you refer to them as soldiers several times: I’m still having a hard time believing that these folks are soldiers. That may be partially because we’ve yet to see them in a military context (which, in and of itself, is totally fine), but also, the group doesn’t seem to function as a military unit. I’m assuming they’re all the same rank and of course they’re without a CO here, but surely they’d have military training to fall back on in a crisis. If nothing else, I’m sure they’d have orders to regroup at a specific rendezvous point (even if that point was “the nearest outpost” or whatnot).

As I read:

(chapter 2a) Not sure if this is meant to be a whole chapter or a scene tagged onto a previous chapter – I didn’t quite get your description of where it was supposed to be placed, I think – but this scene reads like something that could easily be summed up in a quick montage. I’d assumed from the previous chapter that they’d hoped to follow the bird back to water, so the only new information here is that there’s a bird that is acting strangely, which really isn’t enough to carry the scene. Can whatever plot thread the bird is related to be foreshadowed in some other way? Or even in a few lines of summary, though that might feel cheap.

(chapter 3) So the town that they find happens to be A’s hometown? This could be WRS but I’d had the distinct impression that A thought they were some ways away from this particular town, so them just suddenly stumbling into A’s hometown doesn’t seem totally credible. This is would be pretty easy to fix by noting in the earlier chapters that A knew they were nearby, and could potentially provide a bit more emphasis on A’s relationship with his family before (I presume) the reunion happens.

“He still didn’t know why this dove had deviated from that pattern…” this seems very understated. It’s one thing to deviate from a standard flight pattern and quite another for a bird to literally lead a group of people to a place of safety.

Also, if there are that many other birds around, would he still be able to pick it out?

“I kind of doubt that some doctor would let us…” As established, A is from here, so why would they doubt him? It’s perfectly reasonable for someone to suggest staying with A’s family even without this remark.

“...without any announcement, carrying a body. Typical.” Two reactions here: 1. LOL. 2. “Typical” seems… alarming.

“Actually, I don’t care” Welp she’s my favourite now. Although I am wondering a bit about the title of “mother,” if she’s a physician who no longer runs an orphanage.

“I’m technically still on duty.” Really? You’ve been wandering through the desert for days with no orders, no commanding officer, and no idea where the rest of your colleagues are. Unless this is meant to be read as an excuse for not stopping for dinner?

On 10/19/2020 at 9:11 AM, Mandamon said:

We need a little more connection as to why to make the reactions work.

This was clear enough to me, but I DO agree that it seems like a pretty fragile lifeline. Especially since they're leaving the shelter they barely managed to find at the hottest time of the day. I definitely think we need a better sense of their desperation up to this point to make it believable, especially since "hey we should follow that bird" is not going to be an obvious solution to everyone.

 

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