shatteredsmooth

12 21 21_ShatteredSmooth_Madness (L) (1534 Words)

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Content Warning: Language (I know, it's YA, but teens swear in real life and in plenty of trad pubbed YA novels)

This is potentially the start of a short story I'm writing with intent to submit it to a specific call for submissions for queer YA stories set in the future. It's very rough (a first draft), and probably takes too long to get to the plot considering I'm hoping the complete draft turns out to be about 5,000 words (the stories can be between 4,000 and 8,000). Right now, I'm mostly interested in feedback on voice and character (though I'll gladly consider whatever feedback you offer).
 
Before I get too invested in this, I want to know if the above things are working. I'm writing in first person present tense with what I think is a stream of consciousness narrator. I don't usually write present tense. If you see me slip into past tense, let me know. Otherwise, don't worry too much about LBLs or grammar as I suspect portions of this may get cut. I'm open to suggestions about which parts could be cut. 
 
I'm 97% sure I'll change the title. That was just the first thing that popped into my head. 
Edited by shatteredsmooth
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Overall

Well it has a strong voice, which is good. I greatly dislike the main character, but the voice is strong. My main question is, what is the arc? Is the whole point of the story to get our MC a kiss? I thought we had something cool with the stowaway but that fizzled out. What is the purpose of the story? What was it supposed to achieve? I feel at a loss here. I'd much prefer we start with a little bit of feelings that lead to the stowaway info, then we get a small adventure that ends with a kiss. That would be sweet and fun.

 

As I go

- pg 1: well there's a strong voice for sure. The issue is that I don't care for said voice at all. It seems too self absorbed and deeply unlikable. The first few paragraphs give me strong feelings, but they're more 'I don't want to read about this kid's whining.'

- pg 1: the sentence that starts with 'JJ...' needs more of an intro I think. Even something like 'I'm JJ...' I had to reread a few times to figure out what was going on

- pg 2: I try to find their eyes...<-- we already covered this

- pg 3: getting antsy. There doesn't seem to be any plot. Just two whiny teenagers (this is why I don't read YA and MG, for reference. I didn't like being a teen even when I was one. I was a terrible teen.)

- pg 3: this kid's constant mental stream about being an X-hole (lets see if the Shard lets that one through) makes me want to slap them. If you don't like who you are, do something to change it. Just stop whining. (also I have a six year old so my tolerance for whining is -17)

- pg 4: passing my yearning lips <-- you've nailed voice though. So many of the thoughts are dramatically overwritten, which is so appropriate for the age.

- pg 4: We have a stowaway...<---here's where the story starts. Suggest starting just before this and cutting the endless inner whining. It can be worked in better in a showing sense, as the two interact

- pg 4: fungal forests ... are they working with weird space fungi? Because forests are never just fungal. 

- pg 5: was convinced I was allergic to one of her experiments. <-- this would be funnier if you picked a genus. '...was convinced I was allergic to her pet Cladosporium. or something

 

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The character voice was really strong imo! I think first person is really fun to write in and if done well is super easy to jump into and connect with. So, you did a great job capturing my attention and keeping me hooked with the perspective/voice alone. 

 

I had some trouble picturing the setting once A pulls J from narrating, but after they talk for a bit, I picture the two in a classroom of sorts… because of the mention of a desk. And after the mention of the tab I was thinking “oh was that whole first page was something the narrator was writing down? Why were they writing it? Is it like a diary entry?”

 

Character: Very angst. I can see this being relatable to angsty teens obsessing over a crush. Narrator is very obviously infatuated with A, and it seems a little much at some points but it also fits very well considering the audience and the type of person I assume J to be. So, I’m willing to overlook it. 

I loved how J refers to “the moms.” (page 5) “Dr. Mom” is great. very good for the character voice. And the prose is very in line with an emotional teen.

 

9 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 1: the sentence that starts with 'JJ...' needs more of an intro I think. Even something like 'I'm JJ...' I had to reread a few times to figure out what was going on

I second this because the name threw me off at first. I wasn’t sure if it was a name of a person, the narrator, a place, what. I also had to reread this part.

 

There isn’t a lot of setting (until the very end), which didn’t bother me too much. But like I said earlier, I had a hard time picturing where these people were in the beginning. But I am thinking that the narrator is too enraptured by A to really care for the environment around them. Also, the thing I assume to be the main plot of the story doesn't come in till page 4, which again, didn’t bother me. I assume A asking J to help them is the inciting incident and I think it’s fine being that far down at the cost of establishing the character at first. I personally don’t think the thing that sets the story in motion needs to be the very first thing we read. I am willing to wait and get to know the character first because I like reading about people’s thoughts and world views, if the character is interesting enough, which I think yours is/has the potential to be.

I would definitely be interested to read more :)

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I didn't make any notes while reading because this was short and also very engaging! I'll agree with the others that J is maybe a little too whiny about being a terrible person, but there's a very strong character connection here with both J and A.

I love "Mom" and "Dr. Mom"

Considering this is already 1500 words, I think it's definitely too long for a 5k story. It might work for a 12 or 15k story.

Plotwise, there...isn't anything yet? They're going to make sure a stowaway remains hidden? I guess the plot is J is going to do whatever it is A is asking? We haven't gotten many details, so I can't really say anything about it.

So overall, voice and character are great, but I think this section is about as far as that can take the reader before needing something concrete to latch on to in terms of plot. If it's supposed to be 5k words, This probably needs to be cut down to about 500 before you get to the inciting incident.

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I agree with everyone that the voice is strong with this character, and I thought that the desperate crush was fun, because it reminded me of a middle school type of crush, which I think would be good for a YA audience. My two biggest concerns are the first page and the tone. 

THe first page was good, and did a lot of character building, but I had to read it a couple of times for it to make sense. I'm still not sure what was going on. They were writing it down and A could read it? Or something? I also think there were a couple of unnecessary paragraph breaks, like "I'm all of those" I think could be part of the paragraph before, and then have the paragraph break for "I'm an a-- too..." I mean, this could just be personal preference, but I think that having less emphasizing paragraph breaks gives them all more power. I alos think the first page goes on a bit long for an introduction if the story is supposed to be 5k long.

Some sentences I really liked: 

"I'm a baby..."

"Do I really have to pick pronouns"

"what the f--- is time..."

"I just aim my a--holery..." 

Idk I just really liked these and thought they were funny. Also, I thought the narrator's feelings were very well written. 

With the tone/language, I think that you might be leaving some of your audience behind, because while its true that teenagers swear (a lot) the language on this one is definitely less "T for teen" and more "M" imo. And I'll echo that I'm not a huge fan of all the angst, but then again I'm not really the target audience here. 

Thanks for sharing! 

 

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The first-person narration was definitely well-done. I didn't notice any instances where it verged into past-tense.

i strongly dislike this protagonist. Which I am sure has nothing to do with how J reminds me way too much of how I tried to convince people on the first fandom forum I perused for several years how much of an edgy teenager I was. Yes indeed, absolutely nothing. If this is an angle you're intentionally going for, by all means, play to it. 

Though our edge-lord protag trying to convince us of how edgy they are exposes what I think is this story intro's central problem. From J's edgelord act to the expository dialogue, there's an over-reliance of telling, with little showing. Though I think in this case, it can possibly be overlooked if you're aiming for 5k words, max. But the dialogue suffers as a consequence, coming off as overly expository and stiff. If you can tip the scales of this imbalance, I think it would do wonders for the story. 

Line by lines notes (and bolded suggestions) below:

Pg. 1, par. 1: "But not really because I'm not old enough to have old friends."—I wouldn't use two negatives in the same sentence. I suggest: "Then again, I'm not old enough to have old friends.

I act all flattered, but in my head, I know that's utter crem dung.—Something I feel is worth noting is that J's language comes across as somewhat elevated, with the lack of contractions and non-conversational vocab. I think if you edit the language to make it more conversational, it would make them seem more like an actual teenager. 

Pg. 1, par. 4: "I'm an awkward, anxious, angsty asshole..."—Example of where we need to be shown, not told. 

Pg. 3, par. 3: "Like Medusa, they've turned me into stone."—I think having J talk immediately after this line undercuts its sentiment. 

Pg. 4, par. 4: "They lean forward, passing my yearning lips with their own brushing my ear..."

Pg. 5 par. 4: "Righteous warmth pools in my stomach and floods my body."—What's righteous warmth? 

Pg. 5, par. 7: "...all I feel are their lips and their warmth and that satirisation of just..." That what now? 

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I think the first line is really strong, and I liked hearing the MC's thoughts on humanity. It definitely seems like you have something good going here. :)

The voice is strong, but at the same time I think the story leans into it a little much to the point that it takes me out of the story. My best guess is that the core issue I'm seeing is that the story is repeating information to double down on the tone, which makes it feel forced to me. For example, the line where they say they're human and the line after convey basically the same info, so it starts to feel like the MC is ranting from my perspective. 

One thing I always like to point out is how the beginning of a story leads into the main story, grounds us in the world, and tells us what to focus on. Right now, I'm not sure the first paragraph is accomplishing that. I think this is something that can be looked at more closely after the story is finished, but right now the sci-fi setting felt out of the blue when it comes in, the transition to scene was a bit disorienting for me at the bottom of the first page, and I was focused on the madness idea that doesn't feel like it's what the story wants me to fixate on, which left me unclear which dynamics to track. I think getting us into scene more quickly, establishing the sci-fi setting very early on, and pointing us towards the main dynamic to follow could help ground me in the story. 

Beyond that, A's dialogue feels like a lot of commenting on ideas that are already introduced, and I don't really see any motion in those ideas. So far all of their focus is about our MC, and it's hard for me to see who A is as a person. 

Is the story supposed to be about the budding romance here (at least that's how I interpreted it)? If so, I think the dynamic between our two characters should be centered from the start and needs a bit of work. The best romance I've read grounds character personalities in hyper-specific details that very quickly convey the type of person they are. But if the story's supposed to be about something else then ignore me.

Good luck with the rest of the story!  

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Thoughts as I go:

Pg 1, "I’m an awkward, anxious, angsty @sshole" Ah, brings me back to high school. 

Already getting a kick. J reminds me of every emo snarky depressed meme out there. Like, please tell me they have a space Tumblr.

Pg 2, "Making [stuff] up to make your life way more interesting" Definitely has a space Tumblr. That, or is on space Reddit. Or both.

Pg 2, "a mycologist... a chef." 

Spoiler

Imgflip

This also sounds like the start of a joke. "A mycologist and a chef walk into a bar..." Give me time and maybe I can actually come up with a punch line.

Pg 2, "And have you seen my mom’s knife collection?" No, but I want to.

Pg 2, "thick and shiny bangs" Shiny as in metallic or shiny as in clean and healthy? Anything is possible in space.

Pg 4, " you wouldn’t help me" Suspicious. Do not trust.

Pg 4, "wrapped around their finger" Man, this definitely brings me back to some classmates of mine in high school. Thank god I was a late bloomer and missed the whole "crush makes brain mush" phase.

Pg 4, " Dr. Mom" I can't get enough of this. I want all the adventures of Mom and Dr. Mom, please. 

Overall:

Personally, I think our edgelord is hilarious. Very strong voice. I could see their "Look at me, I'm edgy and angsty" get old, but as A points out, that's seems to be much more of a persona than the actual character. A front. I pity their overwhelming crush that A seems to be keen on taking advantage of, which makes me dislike said crush a bit. The fact that J's infatuation is primarily based on physical attraction reminds me, again, of high school and certain classmates I had. I agree on your opinion that it takes too long to get to the plot, but, again, you knew that coming in.

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On 21/12/2020 at 6:46 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

I'm 97% sure I'll change the title. That was just the first thing that popped into my head.

Yeah, I would totally change the title. Might tend to turn of anyone with even a smattering or association with mental illness?

(page 1)

- Wow, all the voice. That's good. I like it very much so far.

- "board school" - I don't know what this is. Like 'boarding school'? I think that is a more universal term for 'live-in' school. Or does it mean like board of education special school (for 'difficult' pupils)?

- "my moms are off doing all kinds of dangerous rust" - Hmm, yes. That would mess any kid up. 'Sure we love you. kid, but not quite enough not to leave you all alone with strangers.'

- "16-ish. Maybe 17-ish" - Doesn't work for me. Could be anything from 15 to 18. Too vague.

(page 2)

- "and Mom’s holo" - is this Chef Mom?

(page 3)

- "All of those people were human" - Are they dead? If not, tense slippage.

- "and I could stare at them for hours and never get bored" - I'm engaged by the description of Ar, and total accepting of their attractiveness to JJ. The description of the intoxicating effects that JJ is experiencing from their proximity, JJ's fascination with their beautiful eyes. This works for me in a way that another recent story I read (and was discussing with @Mandamon) featuring inter-species attraction did not.

- "Ren was the real asshole" - Yeah, Kylo's a real dick.

- "ninety-five percent" - Yes. I would always, always, always default to putting all number in the form of words. Certainly numbers as small as 16 and 17, used earlier, which exist as one single word (sixteen and seventeen, looks so much clearer. Even one hundred percent, which was used earlier as 100%, I would say should be presented as a word. I mean, even twenty-five, and seventy-six count only as one word. Excluding numerals is always going to be smoother than introducing them, unless we are dealing with big numbers, probably over a hundred. Consistency is important, and I think that including numerals breaks the flow of reading, because it's a story, not a text book.

- "The five percent of the times I got caught was because" - tense typo: 'get caught'. Also, 'are because'.

- "They’d show up while I was planting" - 'shown up'.

(page 4)

- "do as I say, not as I do" - I like this paragraph that really brings home the immersion of JJ' infatuation with Ar. I'm just not quite sure this the right expression to characterise how Ar is being described here.

- "in their power, at their mercy, under their thumb, wrapped around their finger" - This is crying out to be 'in the palm of their hand', then would you have a rule of three of hand parts in this metaphor.

- "so their lips brushed my ear" - 'brush'.

- "whatever venue Mom is filing at" - Huh? Is this a typo? Filling in? Cheffing?

- "around two different gods-forsaken pockets of forest on whatever planet murderous planet" - confused.

- "I loved my moms" - 'love'.

- "I wanted to be. Both had too many humans because both they had storming entourages" - (1) 'want'; (2) 'have'; (3) 'have'.

- "made my skin crawl" - 'make'.

(page 5)

- "Plus, I would never see Ari if I had to go" - (1) 'will'; (2) 'have'.

- "had to go back" - 'has'.

- "all I feel are their lips and their warmth and that satirisation of just being close to the sun of my solar system" - (1) 'is', the feeling is singular; (2) 'satisfaction', I think?

- "past tables filled with teenagers" - CLANG. Where did all these other people come from? I got no sense that there was anyone else around. I assumed that they were alone somewhere. Needs more blocking of the scene from the start, and reminders that they are in a crowded place, or at least an occupied space.

- "They may be extravagant" - dressed extravagantly, I think. Extravagant doesn't mean bright. Maybe the colours are extravagant.

- "but the room itself is drab, metal floor, white tables that can fold into cots" - Is this the end of the chapter? Ending a chapter with the description of a room the people have been in for the whole chapter is......not good.

- "a few less humans" - I was ready to jump all over this for fewer vs. less but, since both are present, I'm not sure.

- Tell me this I not the end of the chapter? If it is, that description needs to go somewhere else, further back, so that the chapter ends with Ar walking away, probably on.

- Oh, no, wait, it's a short? I'm trying to decide if it reads like a short. My feeling as I read was novel, but it's easy to say that when you're not sitting with a short story collection in your hands. Really though, as a short, I don't think we get to the meet of the story quickly enough, and I think there is too much gushing at every word, touch and gesture from Ar, just a bit too much for a short, I think.

Not sure, anyway, I though this was very good, and I would be keen to read more, very keen. My only real complaint is getting to the stakes of the story sooner. There is loads of motivation, but the stakes, the stowaway; I think it needs to be further up near the front.

Interested to near what the others think, but good job. I like very much :)

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The voice is definetly strong and developed. It feels like maybe they get to carry on too long in their self loathing spiral though. 

The cuts to hair descriptions get a little confusing in the 1st person, but otherwise it read very solidly to me.

Would it be possible to accelerate the narrative by having this conversation while J brings A to see the stowaway? Or is otherwise active in hijinks? 

For the level of swearing, it seems like it will depend on the audience and the publication. I can't recall reading a YA story with two F's in the first chapter, but I've never read specifically checking for that either. Does the publication/contest have previous issues you could check against? I'm sure you've already thought of this. 

Thanks for sharing!

 

Edited by Sarah B
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12 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

This also sounds like the start of a joke. "A mycologist and a chef walk into a bar..." Give me time and maybe I can actually come up with a punch line.

A mycologist and a chef walk into a restaurant. The waiter seats them, they peruse the menu for a few minutes, the waiter returns. "What can I get you?" he asks. "I'll have the mushroom risotto," says the chef. "And you?" The mycologist thinks a moment longer then replies, "I'll sample what she's having."

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On 12/24/2020 at 0:21 PM, Robinski said:

A mycologist and a chef walk into a restaurant. The waiter seats them, they peruse the menu for a few minutes, the waiter returns. "What can I get you?" he asks. "I'll have the mushroom risotto," says the chef. "And you?" The mycologist thinks a moment longer then replies, "I'll sample what she's having.

Have an angry upvote 

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Posted (edited)

On 12/21/2020 at 3:58 PM, kais said:

I thought we had something cool with the stowaway but that fizzled out

That will be coming when I write the whole thing. Helping the stowaway is going to be the main focus. 

On 12/21/2020 at 3:58 PM, kais said:

- pg 4: We have a stowaway...<---here's where the story starts. Suggest starting just before this and cutting the endless inner whining. It can be worked in better in a showing sense, as the two interact

 

Good point.

On 12/21/2020 at 3:58 PM, kais said:

- pg 4: fungal forests ... are they working with weird space fungi? Because forests are never just fungal. 

 

I don't think I actually meant an entire forest of just fungi. Maybe "fungi-infested forest" might be better? Though I think the whole way the mom's are mentioned is going to change. 

On 12/22/2020 at 1:30 AM, karamel said:

The character voice was really strong imo! I think first person is really fun to write in and if done well is super easy to jump into and connect with. So, you did a great job capturing my attention and keeping me hooked with the perspective/voice alone. 

 

Glad to hear it! 

 

On 12/22/2020 at 1:30 AM, karamel said:

I had some trouble picturing the setting once A pulls J from narrating, but after they talk for a bit, I picture the two in a classroom of sorts… because of the mention of a desk.

I'll work on this. 

On 12/22/2020 at 1:30 AM, karamel said:

I am willing to wait and get to know the character first because I like reading about people’s thoughts and world views, if the character is interesting enough, which I think yours is/has the potential to be.

:D Thanks! 

On 12/22/2020 at 10:17 AM, Mandamon said:

I'll agree with the others that J is maybe a little too whiny

Fair! This seems to come up in several critiques, so I'll tone it down. 

On 12/22/2020 at 11:13 AM, ginger_reckoning said:

I alos think the first page goes on a bit long for an introduction if the story is supposed to be 5k long.

 

I agree. I will have to do a lot of trimming. The part you mentioned as confusing will probably go. 

On 12/22/2020 at 10:17 AM, Mandamon said:

This probably needs to be cut down to about 500 before you get to the inciting incident

That makes sense. I think I'm going to aim to reach mention of the stow away by 500 or 600 words in the revision. 

On 12/23/2020 at 10:15 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

The voice is strong, but at the same time I think the story leans into it a little much to the point that it takes me out of the story. My best guess is that the core issue I'm seeing is that the story is repeating information to double down on the tone, which makes it feel forced to me. For example, the line where they say they're human and the line after convey basically the same info, so it starts to feel like the MC is ranting from my perspective. 

 

Makes sense. 

Addressing this will also help me trim the opening. 

On 12/24/2020 at 0:11 PM, Robinski said:

Yeah, I would totally change the title. Might tend to turn of anyone with even a smattering or association with mental illness?

 

probably myself included if it was someone else's story. I'm not 100% sure why that word was so in my head when I was writing this. 

On 12/24/2020 at 0:11 PM, Robinski said:

"board school" - I don't know what this is. Like 'boarding school

That was supposed to say boarding not board. ooops. Sorry for the confusion. 

 

On 12/24/2020 at 0:11 PM, Robinski said:

"Ren was the real asshole" - Yeah, Kylo's a real dick.

:rolleyes: Um, maybe I need to change this kids name, because now I am going to think of Kylo Ren every time I see Ren. Maybe I'll make it Wren. 

 

On 12/24/2020 at 0:11 PM, Robinski said:

This is crying out to be 'in the palm of their hand'

Yes! I was trying to think of that one when I was writing this and it would not come to me. Thank you! 

On 12/24/2020 at 0:11 PM, Robinski said:

- "whatever venue Mom is filing at" - Huh? Is this a typo? Filling in? Cheffing?

 

filming 

@Robinski You have such a good eye for finding my typos. 

On 12/24/2020 at 0:11 PM, Robinski said:

- Oh, no, wait, it's a short?

Yeah, it's a short focused on keeping the stow away hidden until they can sneak her onto a supply ship. I'll be doing lots of trimming.

I don't know if I could handle a whole novel of this character.  

On 12/24/2020 at 0:14 PM, Sarah B said:

Would it be possible to accelerate the narrative by having this conversation while J brings A to see the stowaway? Or is otherwise active in hijinks? 

 

Accelerating will happen! 

 

Thank you everyone for your feedback! This was all extremely helpful and encouraging. Once I get a complete draft of the whole story done, I'll submit it. I'm hoping it will be be short enough to fit in one submission, but if not, I'll spread it out over two weeks. Thank you!

 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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Posted (edited)

On 12/23/2020 at 11:37 PM, Snakenaps said:

Already getting a kick. J reminds me of every emo snarky depressed meme out there. Like, please tell me they have a space Tumblr.

 

LOL Now I must come up with a name for Space Tumblr

On 12/23/2020 at 11:37 PM, Snakenaps said:

Personally, I think our edgelord is hilarious. Very strong voice.

Yay! 

 

On 12/23/2020 at 11:37 PM, Snakenaps said:

A front

It is. If I pull of what I'm trying to, there will be less angst by the end. 

Thank you!!

On 12/22/2020 at 11:55 PM, JWerner said:

But the dialogue suffers as a consequence, coming off as overly expository and stiff. If you can tip the scales of this imbalance, I think it would do wonders for the story

I will work on this. 

On 12/22/2020 at 11:55 PM, JWerner said:

Pg. 5, par. 7: "...all I feel are their lips and their warmth and that satirisation of just..." That what now? 

I'm not sure what this was supposed to say. LOL

 

Thank you!!

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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9 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

Maybe I'll make it Wren.

Excellent. I like that.

9 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:
On 24/12/2020 at 5:11 PM, Robinski said:

This is crying out to be 'in the palm of their hand'

Yes! I was trying to think of that one when I was writing this and it would not come to me. Thank you! 

:D 

9 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

You have such a good eye for finding my typos.

Regular word-hound, I is ;) 

9 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

Yeah, it's a short focused on keeping the stow away hidden

Hmm, interesting. I feel like maybe we need to see the stowaway up front? Dunno. Something about this interaction made me think longer piece (and possibly I didn't read the intro properly :rolleyes:). I'm thinking this in terms of jump-starting the story and the stakes, upping the tension from the get-go.

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