C_Vallion

2.8.2021 - C_Vallion - Price of Peace: Chapter 3 - 3698 Words

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Hello, All!

Here is Chapter 3 of my epic fantasy, Price of Peace. No content tags for this chapter.

After all of the helpful back and forth from people last week, I’ve come up with a new way to start Chapter 1, using the news about the duke’s arrival to focus in on her frustration with parts of the magic laws that don’t seem to make sense and the related frustration that the current laws interfere with her wishes to understand magic better.  But we’ll see where that ends up in a couple weeks.

I’m ultimately planning to combine this chapter with the next one, once I’ve figured out what things to trim back and what things to emphasize, but all thoughts here are appreciated in the meantime.

Thanks!

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@C_Vallion this is the same version as in the larger document you sent me, correct?

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29 minutes ago, kais said:

@C_Vallion this is the same version as in the larger document you sent me, correct?

Very nearly. There's some minor trimming of the ceremony, but not any significant changes. 

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I think this chapter can be cut down to about 2-3 pages, and combined with another so there's an actual arc while reading. Right now, there is a lot of talk about fabrics and dresses that doesn't go anywhere, Duke A enters and immediately makes a bore of himself and only talks about roads, and then the characters talk about a dance, but I'm not sure they actually do it. And then...the chapter just sort of ends. There's nothing here that can't be said in a few words to progress the story. The characters aren't really DOING anything. They're just existing in a place. What's the objective? Why is the duke here? What do the characters think about the ball and it's purpose? For example, if one of the characters was a seamstress and made the dresses to show off at the ball, then I'd be interested in the fabrics (seen through their eyes). Better, I'd like something plot-relevant to happen that propels us into a larger story.


Notes while reading:
pg 1: “Are you sure you want an answer to that?”
--are we supposed to know what this means? Because we haven't been introduced to anyone R likes, so I don't know if this is sarcastic, or they all know who he likes, or what.

pg 4: It's not been 4 pages and we've talked about dresses, fabric, someone R may or may not be into, and I don't think anyone has actually moved yet. Can probably cut all this down to a brief exchange between them: "Hello," "Hello," "I like your dress, the fabric looks amazing on you," "Boy R is a real sight, he must have dressed up for X," And then they go in.

pg 5: Similarly, I don't need a history of the paintings in the room.

pg 7: "peach-colored fabric...Odd mud"
--Is she saying the fabric looks like mud?

pg 6-9: mostly skimming through here. I don't know any of these people and they're not talking about anything pertinent to the story, as far as I can tell.

pg 9: Aha, the Duke finally appears. If this was on the second page of the chapter, I'd be much more interested.

pg 9: Annnnnd then he immediately fades into the background and starts talking about roads. I'm looking for something in here to catch my interest, and I haven't found it yet.

pg 10: I do not understand the intrigue about how the dancing is arranged. Also, Duke A seems a real bore, wanting to only talk about civil projects.

pg 12: The chapter just sort of ends. Did they actually dance? What was achieved here? What is the arc of the chapter?

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Overall: So you’ll see this from my line-by-line comments below, but I am definitely hunting for the conflict here. I’m feeling a very strong need to move forward, not only in terms of how the chapter fits within the overall story (which I should have some idea of by now) but in the chapter itself. There are certainly some potential building blocks in here that could be interesting, but right now it feels like none of them go anywhere. For example: The duke of T shows up, but all he does is engage in small talk, and the protagonist doesn’t do anything to try to talk to him. R wanders around being inconsiderate, but he’s apparently just like that so nobody pays it any mind. Is apparently had a relationship with Ai that didn’t go well, but there’s no real indication of why that might be a problem for her now. All of these things are potentially interesting things that could be expanded on and go interesting places, but the chapter needs to focus on a couple of things that it can advance, so that we’re in a different place by the end of the chapter than we were in the beginning.

Something else worth noting: previous chapters felt more like they were going to be intrigue-focused, whereas this one feels a little more romance-oriented. The book doesn’t necessarily have to be just one or the other; you might have a romance with intrigue elements, or a romance A plot and intrigue B plot, or vice versa on either of those, but you should have an idea of what you’re aiming for, since that will affect (among other things) how you want to set your pacing. A slower start might be perfectly fine for a novel with a strong romance line, for example, though I’d still recommend beefing up your internal and/or interpersonal conflicts to get us interested.

In short: lots of good building blocks and I see plenty of opportunities for things to get interesting, but we definitely need more advancement/action on the stuff that is here and we don’t have that yet.

As I read:

“Who’s the dress for?” Is I just … carrying a gown around, or is R referring to the gown that she is presumably wearing? If the latter, wouldn’t she be expected to dress fancy for an event that her royal family is hosting?

By page 4 I still don’t really understand the ceremony and its significance. I get that it’s in A’s honour, but not sure to what end.

Edit: Ah, so it’s a coming-of-age ceremony. Cool. So, what changes as a result? Is it a change in the relationship between the sisters – and if so, why is that important, given that I think this is the first time we’ve seen A on screen? Is it a change in the political situation? If so, what and how? Etc.

So… is this chapter setting up a potential romantic arc with M?

The Duke of T’s arrival has been built up enough that I’m disappointed that Is doesn’t even try to talk to him. Didn’t she want to help him somehow? Can we see her subtly trying to steer the conversation elsewhere if he gets in some sort of trouble, or maybe been taken aback by how sophisticated he seems, or something. I don’t actually feel like I’ve learned much about anybody other than that Is once had a relationship with Ai, who is kind of jerk.

Also… what are the relative ages/responsibilities of everyone in this scene? This very much feels like a “the kids stand around and gossip while the parents do politics” kind of vibe, but the Duke of T is of course an actual Duke and I think at least one other person in this scene was noted as holding actual title and not just being an heir.

Also: I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that you were at least thinking of starting after this chapter, so I’ve restrained myself from excessive pedantry for the moment, but hi, hello, yes I’ve been a Latin and ballroom dancer for over a decade and if some form of this scene ends up staying in the book we should chat about some of the conventions involved.

Finally: This is maybe reflective of the larger comments about the overall chapter's direction, but it definitely felt like the chapter just ... stopped, rather than ended.

Edited by Silk
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10 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 12: The chapter just sort of ends. Did they actually dance? What was achieved here? What is the arc of the chapter?

I'm pretty sure this used to be like an 8k word chapter and I cut it in half because that was unreasonable.  Because that's obviously a better choice than trimming out unhelpful bits *facepalm* 

1 hour ago, Silk said:

Something else worth noting: previous chapters felt more like they were going to be intrigue-focused, whereas this one feels a little more romance-oriented. The book doesn’t necessarily have to be just one or the other; you might have a romance with intrigue elements, or a romance A plot and intrigue B plot, or vice versa on either of those, but you should have an idea of what you’re aiming for, since that will affect (among other things) how you want to set your pacing. A slower start might be perfectly fine for a novel with a strong romance line, for example, though I’d still recommend beefing up your internal and/or interpersonal conflicts to get us interested.

I've realized through @kais helping read through Part 1 and calling this out, just how much of the first bunch of chapters are confused holdovers from the first version of this from like 2012 was trunked. At that point, this was far more YA-romance. It shouldn't be that now, but please continue to call out where it feels that way as I revise things. 

Also, I haven't figured out what will stick around for the final version, but would be curious to know what stuck out as being funny about the dancing.

Edited by C_Vallion
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57 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

please continue to call out where it feels that way as I revise things

Will do!

57 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

would be curious to know what stuck out as being funny about the dancing.

Two things, off the top of my head:

"Dance tempo" is not a very precise or helpful description, because anything can be "dance tempo" depending on the kind of dance. Slow waltz tends to be between 84-90 beats per minute while Viennese waltz can be 180-200 bpm and those are essentially variations on the same dance! Depending on the aims of the scene, you'd be better off listing a specific kind of dance or describing the actual tempo or kind of music in some way. I'm guessing "dance tempo" probably means fast because I think that a lot of people think that "real" dancing can only happen to fast music? But I'm never really certain what I should be picturing.

The other one that stood out was when R asked Is who was leading (jokingly, I know) - but this question would have actually been answered by the time they've joined hands. The lead will offer their hand palm up and the follow will take/offer their hand with palm down because that's the most natural way to get into a frame. (Though to be fair, as a woman who does a lot of social leading... there is definitely a certain type of dude for whom this is their favourite question.)

...See, I told you it would be pedantic.

Edited by Silk
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5 minutes ago, Silk said:

Depending on the aims of the scene, you'd be better off listing a specific kind of dance or describing the actual tempo or kind of music in some way.

I guess the main implication I was getting at was related more to style, not tempo, specifically (though, you know, since I did in fact use the word tempo, I suppose it makes sense that that wasn't clear). Contrasting it to the march/processional that they had walked in to. So likely more of a meter change than a tempo change. I think I was intentionally vague beyond that to avoid tying it to a specific real-world dance style. 

31 minutes ago, Silk said:

The lead will offer their hand palm up and the follow will take/offer their hand with palm down because that's the most natural way to get into a frame.

Is- is the one who makes the request and offers her hand, so there is that. Which I figure most cultures would leave to the lead. And it seems like it would be odd to do so palm down just from a comfortable gesture standpoint. So she's already sort of smudging the line of proper form. 

I was picturing the process of moving to the dance floor as taking enough time for them to adjust into a more natural form, whatever the initial hand hold.  

I have far more experience with swing dance (where lead/follow formalities and dance-requesting protocols are a little looser than other forms) than with other ballroom styles. And usually when I'm doing other ballroom dances, it's with the swing dance social circle, so it still ends up being a little less formal than most more formal ballroom-focused settings.  So that has probably skewed my thoughts on this a little. 

Pedantic thoughts appreciated :) I wouldn't have pressed the question if my musician/dancer sensitivities weren't bothered by the possibility that I might have missed something significant that I shouldn't have. 

For some reason, the box below won't go away in the mobile form of the commenting box...so I guess that's just stuck there.

28 minutes ago, Silk said:

 

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30 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

So likely more of a meter change

Even "meter" suggests a change in the music's time signature, which I probably wouldn't expect a character to notice unless they are themselves musically trained, so it sounds like general comment about the style of music or the feeling it invokes might serve your purposes best here.

30 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

I have far more experience with swing dance (where lead/follow formalities and dance-requesting protocols are a little looser than other forms) than with other ballroom styles.

In practice, the idea of the lead "offering" their hand is definitely rather dated even in ballroom and the palm up/palm down is the major signifier of lead vs. follow. No doubt it's partially cultural, but it's also because that's the position that allows us to most easily swing our arms up into a frame without having to let go or fiddle with handholds or whatnot. And the basic frame is pretty consistent across every style of dance I've seen, swing included, though admittedly I've less experience there. Even in West Coast Swing, which defaults to an open frame, if I'm leading, I'm offering my hand (or taking hers) with my palm up because that's where I have to lead her from.

30 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

Pedantic thoughts appreciated :) I wouldn't have pressed the question if my musician/dancer sensitivities weren't bothered by the possibility that I might have missed something significant that I shouldn't have. 

Ahah, a kindred spirit!

Yeah, Shard is funny about text boxes, especially with mobile, I actually won't do crits on mobile at all anymore for this reason. A blank quote box with my name attached to it just sitting there forever seems... oddly appropriate. :rolleyes:

Edited by Silk
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7 hours ago, Silk said:

which I probably wouldn't expect a character to notice unless they are themselves musically trained,

That's a good point.  She probably wouldn't think about it in those terms, even if as someone living in a time/place where social dancing is common, she'd probably be more aware of it than the average non-musician today. 

7 hours ago, Silk said:

Even in West Coast Swing, which defaults to an open frame, if I'm leading, I'm offering my hand (or taking hers) with my palm up because that's where I have to lead her from.

Interesting. I assume that the combination of mostly dancing follow and mostly swing dancing (a lot of East Coast swing that isn't lindy still starts with an open frame. At least at social dances) probably keeps those things farther off my radar than they'd be for leads.  Which means I get to blame my husband for not catching it . And the combination of a pandemic and a small living room that's made dancing far more difficult in the past year :( 

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Comments. I'm interested--from a craft viewpoint--to see how far in I get before encountering an inciting incident ;) 

- The word 'room' three times in the first sentence. No smooth.

- I'm glad to hear a snarky conversation between Is and Ron. It was almost promised in the first chapter, but didn't happen. Indeed I don't think he even spoke.

- "Are you sure you want an answer to that?" - Good, more tension and the suggestion of impropriety. I like that.

- "Only if jitters and nausea are the first signs" - More good dialogue. The sister is convincing so far, and I can see she has a different character to Is, seems more brittle.

- "wasn’t used to expecting" - cluttered grammar. Unusual to find this!

- There a whole page about dresses, then another whole page of people greeting each other. This stuff has got to be cut down, You cannot include every nod of the head, a polite remark. These things are uniformly cut out of published works, because they have no significance to plot or story.

- "Today is a day of celebration" - There is very little of any really importance in the five pages before this speech, it could all be boiled down into a page, maybe a page-and-a-half. The speech itself isn't important, but it's a reasonable opening to a chapter, because something it happening, the king is making a speech.

- "shoulders stiffened as the big man joined the group" - Here is some tension, on page 8. It just takes far too long to get to these bits where something interesting happens, but it doesn't pay of on its potential. The awkward moment dies away, and we're back to nothing happening.

- Is has no agency. She plays no active part in anything in this chapter, and that's pretty dull. All she's doing is standing around listening to other people.

- "A stab of panic hit her" - Good, but again, way too late in the chapter, and again she's passive. How will she deal with this, I wonder? No, passive. Tension falls away. Then..."she preferred watching at larger events" - passive again.

- "amusement to soften his expression" - I'm confused. I thought these two didn't like each other, like were quite bristly and antagonistic. Suddenly, they seem quite amiable, which seems out of character. More than that, Is is now contradicting her position by dancing when she said that she doesn't like to do so. More contradiction, it seems to me.

- "R might have been a source of endless frustration in most situations, but she trusted his lead when it came to the dance floor" - See, this is a decent bit of character for R, but it says nothing about Is. I think Is's character is actually the blankest of most of the characters. What do I know about her? She's loyal and dedicated to her family, seems to be smart enough to understand politics at quite a young age. But what are her flaws? What makes her an interesting character to spend a whole book in her company?

- And the end of the chapter is, meh, nothing. There no tension, no momentum into the next chapter. Why would I read on? What is there to know, to find out, what mystery or tension is there? What objective does the main character have? Nothing.

Overall 

It's another chapter where nothing happens. There are a couple of moment where it looks like there is some tension, but it dies back very quickly. When I get to the end, well, see above, but there is no incentive for the reader to move on to the next chapter. This really does need serious cutting. Where we are now, and what we have gone through in the first three chapters is barely enough to fill the first half of one chapter, IMO.

Oh, look what I've just been reviewing my notes from at this very moment as I work back through Season 15 of Writing Excuses! https://writingexcuses.com/2020/01/26/15-04-revision-with-patrick-rothfuss/

Sorry not to be more positive, but I suspect I will not be the only voice saying this sort of thing.

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2 hours ago, Robinski said:

I'm interested--from a craft viewpoint--to see how far in I get before encountering an inciting incident

Any guesses?  Fortunately for all of us (except @kais who already had to slog through everything leading up to it), I'm going to go ahead and tear Part 1 apart for trimming and restructuring before submitting past this one.  Because variations on the same problems continue otherwise.

2 hours ago, Robinski said:

Oh, look what I've just been reviewing my notes from at this very moment as I work back through Season 15 of Writing Excuses! https://writingexcuses.com/2020/01/26/15-04-revision-with-patrick-rothfuss/

Sorry not to be more positive, but I suspect I will not be the only voice saying this sort of thing.

I'll have to check out that WE.  I don't think I've gotten quite to season 15 in my listening through the episodes. 

And no apologies necessary.  They're problems that have all needed to be pointed out.   Now to see if I can properly fix them... Or at least make better ones.

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I've read through the comments and I feel the same way; I crave to see some conflict or inciting incident. The thing is, I like the writing, it feels smooth and natural, but the problem is that it doesn't engage me. Nothing significant happens. It feels like you're slowly building up to a major incident, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but as a reader, I would want a lot more suspense then, but there isn't any. Otherwise, as other readers said, you can afford to cut out many of the details (especially about the dresses.)
Bearing in mind I have absolutely no clout as a writer, but I think that the amount of expo you have is not inherently what takes away from your story, but the lack of action. The ratio is off. I wish I could be more helpful, but I think other readers have offered awesome advice already. I'm looking forward to see how the plot moves forward. I came across some advice from a writer that really struck me, it may have been Orson Scott Card -- he said that every scene should either progress the plot or the characters or both.

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Finally got around to reading Rhythm of War and got sucked into it for the whole week. Well, better late than never, right? :) 

As I go:

pg 1

-Okay this is a better introduction of R than we got earlier. I can immediately tell that he's awful within like 3 lines, which is good. And he's not like over the top, either. 

pg 2

-I really don't see the point in this discussion unless A wants to work with fabrics or something as her job. If this doesn't matter we can fast-forward through it. 

pg 3

-I don't have a great picture of A, E, or the king. I don't need paragraphs-long descriptions but I do need to know what stands out about them. R is the worst so I'll remember him but what makes the others special?

pg 4

-At this point I really feel like I need to know what I is doing. How does this ball relate to her motivations/goals? I keep finding myself invested in the idea of her marrying herself for political gain but I think that was cut from the most recent draft so I really don't know what she has to gain/lose here. 

pg 7

-Also don't have a great picture of M or understand why she matters to I's current arc. I thought I's thing was studying magic academics and we have nothing on that. If there's a new arc here to focus on then we need more guidance. 

pg 9

-This is the first time it feels like something is happening related to our two MCs. Honestly I feel like the chapter could start here and not lose much. 

-That being said, why does he catch I's attention? Is it due to his people's relation with magic? If I's whole thing is with magic, shouldn't she be excited to talk with him about it? Right now it feels like I is just a lens that we're viewing Ala through and her own character doesn't seem to come into play.

pg 10

-Oh f off R (I like the fact that he's here though. Honestly I being annoyed at him is the most tension we're getting right now it seems)

-No offense but the way Ali is described here seems to fall into shallow princess/noblewoman tropes, and the way I is described has "not like other girls" vibes. Plus I think this is a false dichotomy of fashion/politics. Isn't noble fashion often crafted to be a political statement? And politics directly affects materials available for fashion and the culture surrounding it. 

pg 11

-This is a good opportunity here. Politically, I shouldn't be friends with Al. But if she had a reason that she wanted to (like learning more about magic), it would help create some of the tension that we're missing. 

pg 12

-Seems like the story is trying to make I and Ai's backstory an important thing, but honestly I'm... really not focusing on it. Doesn't seem to have anything to do with who I is now. 

Overall:

Agreed with the others that there's not much happening here. I feel like I should do the (perhaps annoying) thing where I point out that "stuff happening" is entirely based on character and not necessarily large consequences for the world. I don't necessarily want more intrigue, actions, and explosions, but I am confused as to why we're spending so much time at a ball when we were told before I's whole thing is scholarly stuff and her current project is magic laws. She doesn't... do anything related to that, which makes me wonder if I misread what she's supposed to be doing in this story. 

In summary, the reason I didn't feel much motion was due to the lack of focus. What is I's story actually about? The story can have multiple hooks for her, sure, but they need to make sense with each other and I honestly don't see any here. 

Don't want to be all negative so I'll say I do think there's lots of potential here, especially since a ball can put her into contact with basically anyone who has something she wants. So... who does? My vote is for Ala since his area has a connection to magic which I is clearly interested in and is assigned to work on, and would also set up a nice conflict since she'd have to do so discreetly. This is the point where I need to back off a bit, though, since I can't write your story for you. :) 

Oh and I like how R is written here because I know where he stands and he pops out by being really annoying. I think the other side characters could use a little more flair like he has (though I hope not all of them are jerks lol).

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12 hours ago, julienreel said:

I think that the amount of expo you have is not inherently what takes away from your story, but the lack of action. The ratio is off.

This is definitely part of the problem in the early chapters as they exist now.  Though I think it's more a lack of tension in any form, especially because what is supposed to be there doesn't stick, because it's not tied to anything central. Hoping to do a much better job of this as I resubmit these early chapters.

Though there is still also too much exposition.  Really, just too many words altogether.

10 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Finally got around to reading Rhythm of War and got sucked into it for the whole week.

This is an entirely acceptable excuse. 

10 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

How does this ball relate to her motivations/goals?

As currently written? It doesn't. I think my initial thought for a lot of these early chapters back when they were originally written (when the whole story was something very different) was that it was a really good idea to meet everyone and give all of the information, so that when things are happening, people have those things in the back of their head.   Turns out, this was not a good idea.  Especially when all of said information isn't tied together at all.  I could tell the chapters were slow, and knew there was something to be improved about them, but I hadn't really noticed just how many problems they had until I had more useful eyes on them.  Turns out the friends who I've had reading through before are far too patient with badly written openings.

10 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

I keep finding myself invested in the idea of her marrying herself for political gain but I think that was cut from the most recent draft

Yeah.  That was not a useful piece of information to have provided in the other draft, as it's a holdover from the previous version of the full story and I hadn't realized 1. How misleading it was and 2. That it's pretty much the only thing she mentions having any real opinions on.  

10 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

No offense but the way Ali is described here seems to fall into shallow princess/noblewoman tropes, and the way I is described has "not like other girls" vibes. Plus I think this is a false dichotomy of fashion/politics. Isn't noble fashion often crafted to be a political statement? And politics directly affects materials available for fashion and the culture surrounding it. 

Ultimately, Is- is oversimplifying to brush off the topic and get him to shut up here.  But that's not really indicated. And I don't think there's a clear enough picture of her personality in current drafts to make it clear.  She would freely admit that fashion and political statement are closely tied together, but as someone who has some pride issues and is self-conscious about being at the center of things, she'd rather be dismissive of the topic as a whole than admit that she might be bad at something, or that something she had tried to do had gone badly (see also, her brushing off the conversation about Ais-)

Is any of that portrayed clearly? No, not really.  I'm hoping to get some of those sorts of things across better in this round of submissions now that I have a better focus on what these chapters need to do, but I have a feeling this is going to take more work to deal with the subtleties of.  Trying to figure out how to portray that on most topics, Is- knows what she's talking about, but that she's not the most reliable narrator when it comes to things she's sensitive about. And that when she's intentionally brushing something aside, it's probably because she's avoiding addressing deeper feelings about things.

10 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Also don't have a great picture of M or understand why she matters to I's current arc.

I think this would have come across better if Is- had been actively looking for M, instead of having M stumble across her (but why have Is- do something herself when things can just happen *facepalm*).  Ultimately, M is sort of her extrovert-shield to survive big social events. Because every introvert has one of those.  But it also basically just gives her an excuse to be passive. Which creates problems. 

10 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

am confused as to why we're spending so much time at a ball when we were told before I's whole thing is scholarly stuff and her current project is magic laws. She doesn't... do anything related to that, which makes me wonder if I misread what she's supposed to be doing in this story. 

Yep.  That sounds about right...

Originally, this chapter had been a whole monster of a 7k word "These are some of the characters we should have some familiarity with" chapter, back before the first version of the story was trunked when I was in college. And while I tossed almost everything after the inciting incident and started from scratch a couple years ago, for whatever reason, I didn't rewrite the early chapters then.  And the longer they stuck around, the more I could tell that they desperately needed work, but got too caught up in them needing to convey certain pieces of information, and just sort of made minor adjustments instead of scrapping and rewriting.  I ended up splitting this one in half (and doing very little to give it useful structure after that...ugh), but what little actually tied into the plot was all in the second part.  Her not really enjoying being there when she could be doing something productive elsewhere. Her actually finding the people she wants to talk to about relevant things (though even there, it's not as focused as it should be).  Some background for why she and R can't help but get on each others' nerves (though that's still only implied and not super clear). It wasn't done very well in said second part, so no one is missing too much by not getting an extra 3500 words of wandering text, but it makes this part that much more painful when it's not tied even to the things in the second part that might have brought some reason for things.

I have a good start on revising to make everything far more focused on what is actually important.  And I greatly appreciate your patience and everyone else's while I've been getting that figured out. 

 

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1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

Turns out the friends who I've had reading through before are far too patient with badly written openings.

I've noticed this as well! My friends either don't want to point out or don't see a lot of the weaknesses in my writing. 

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

Yeah.  That was not a useful piece of information to have provided in the other draft, as it's a holdover from the previous version of the full story and I hadn't realized 1. How misleading it was and 2. That it's pretty much the only thing she mentions having any real opinions on.  

In that case, taking it out is a good choice since it sounds like that's not what her story is going to be about. I'll try to remember that's not canon anymore. :)

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

Ultimately, Is- is oversimplifying to brush off the topic and get him to shut up here.  But that's not really indicated. And I don't think there's a clear enough picture of her personality in current drafts to make it clear.  She would freely admit that fashion and political statement are closely tied together, but as someone who has some pride issues and is self-conscious about being at the center of things, she'd rather be dismissive of the topic as a whole than admit that she might be bad at something, or that something she had tried to do had gone badly (see also, her brushing off the conversation about Ais-)

This is helpful to hear. For what it's worth, I was able to tell that she was trying to brush R off. I think part of the issue for me is that the text doesn't really expand on this in other parts. If we see, just as a random example, Is commenting that Ali's fashion choice allows her to command just the right amount of attention for her ball (star of the show but not overshadowing everyone else), we can tell that she respects Ali's fashion skill and it becomes easier to swallow when she simplifies it to get rid of R. But right now there's not much of a way for me to read around the statement in a way that I want to. 

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

I think this would have come across better if Is- had been actively looking for M, instead of having M stumble across her (but why have Is- do something herself when things can just happen *facepalm*).  Ultimately, M is sort of her extrovert-shield to survive big social events. Because every introvert has one of those.  But it also basically just gives her an excuse to be passive. Which creates problems. 

That would be more characterizing, yeah, and I can totally empathize with her wanting an extrovert friend in this situation. So I really like that idea of having her seek out M. :) Though the question still remains of how M is relevant to Is' arc right now. If her story is really about magic research I don't really see how M helps advance that, but maybe I'm also misreading her arc.

(oh as an aside the way I look at story is very structured and plenty of authors get away with more meandering than I personally like. I try to be aware of that but since this is all I've been talking about I thought I should include a fyi)

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

Originally, this chapter had been a whole monster of a 7k word "These are some of the characters we should have some familiarity with" chapter, back before the first version of the story was trunked when I was in college. And while I tossed almost everything after the inciting incident and started from scratch a couple years ago, for whatever reason, I didn't rewrite the early chapters then.  And the longer they stuck around, the more I could tell that they desperately needed work, but got too caught up in them needing to convey certain pieces of information, and just sort of made minor adjustments instead of scrapping and rewriting.  I ended up splitting this one in half (and doing very little to give it useful structure after that...ugh), but what little actually tied into the plot was all in the second part.  Her not really enjoying being there when she could be doing something productive elsewhere. Her actually finding the people she wants to talk to about relevant things (though even there, it's not as focused as it should be).  Some background for why she and R can't help but get on each others' nerves (though that's still only implied and not super clear). It wasn't done very well in said second part, so no one is missing too much by not getting an extra 3500 words of wandering text, but it makes this part that much more painful when it's not tied even to the things in the second part that might have brought some reason for things.

Yeah this kind of thing totally happens! It's a good sign that you recognize all of this, since that's where improvement begins. :) 

Again, I can really only speak as to what's worked for me (and "worked" as in felt better to my own eyes since I'm not a published writer or anything), but I find it helpful to hammer out plots and arcs for each of my MCs, and then have specific goals in each scene/chapter that advances that plot/arc. A lot of the time when a chapter really isn't working for me it's because the story doesn't know what that chapter is supposed to be doing. 

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

I have a good start on revising to make everything far more focused on what is actually important.  And I greatly appreciate your patience and everyone else's while I've been getting that figured out.

Hey, that's what we're here for. :) Trust me, we've all critiqued stories with way bigger problems than this one.

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