C_Vallion

2.15.2021 - C_Vallion - Price of Peace: Chapter 1 Rev2 - 4232 Words

23 posts in this topic

Hello, All!

Instead of continuing on the vague, unfocused path that we were on previously, I’m going to be resubmitting starting from chapter 1.  I’m pretty confident that everything falls into place once we hit the inciting incident, but it’s too far in, with very little of what happened before then doing anything useful.

Hopefully this round, I’ll be able to fix a good deal of that, and find some new, better mistakes to make.

So, on that front:

Does this give you a better sense of who Is- is and what she and the story are going to be aiming for? 

A million thanks to @kais for reading through Part 1 and helping me figure out a bunch of the overall approach issues that were causing problems.  And to everyone else who read through the previous submissions and provided feedback!

Thanks!

Edited by C_Vallion
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I've got to say I'm hesitant to read a third version of this. I'm going to be going in intending to skim fast, and concentrate on overall impression.

- Okay, this is better, IMO. Is- has agency, she is doing something risking, and I'm expecting her to fall and break her neck, so good tension. What I do want is a clearer picture of what she's doing. I'm not convinced that I have is pictured right, and what I'm picturing is not practical, I think. How tall is the pile of books? I think that would go a long way to solving my confusion. I mean, she can't climb up a pile of books, so I'm presuming one step will put her on top of the pile?

- Another thing I like is that we see her father much sooner, and she has some meaningful interaction with him, unlike at the ball, when they almost ignored each other.

- I don't think I know Lord R at this point, so I don't get the context. Is Al staying with them in the king's palace? I get confused around here. Yeah, it's getting overcomplicated, all this talk of separating thing from other things, I don't understand it. It seems trivial, and therefore worthy of cutting. The room's not ready, leave it at that, IMO.

- Two days for what? To get him a room? To separate some belongings?. That can't be right. It's far too long. I would think she would be expecting two hours, put lots of servants on the job. He can't have brought that much stuff. This aspect is unbelievable, IMO.

- "Any implication of a relationship with you" - Where does this come from? It's quite obscure. I don't think it can clearly be implied from the obscure exchange between them.

- Argh. Lots of names creeping in again. Who is Est? Someone else I don't know / can't remember.

- "the conflict about the magic laws" - What is the conflict? It's mentioned a lot but never clearly explained. Without using a bunch of names, I think we need to understand this thing about the laws as soon as possible in the story. This seems like the ideal opportunity to lay it out, in high-level bullet points, without a single name (please!).

- "To legalize more basic spells" - This helps, but I need a baseline. Are there any legal spells?

- "If they could bring back real healing magic" - Okay, this is useful. I'm getting the picture. 

- "He opened his mouth, then shut it again" - The king doesn't come over very regal in this scene. I appreciate that his daughter may be able to boss him, but I'd expect him still to have the mannerisms of command, but he seems quite hesitant, doubting his own path, which isn't very kingly.

- "something like fear in his expression" - Yeah, this. He seems weak, and okay, kings can be weak, but I would expect other people (like the POV character) to be aware of that, and call it out from time to time.

- A fairly significant thing occurs to me, but I'll save it for the summary at the end. It's about motivation, and it arose here, during this conversation about spells. 

- "relieved breath escaped her" - Why is she relieved? What would have been wrong with Or taking the stone to recharge it? We've not, I think, been shown or told Isr motivation in getting the spell stone down. Was her plan for it something other than just recharging it? This comes under the same heading as my main point relating to the change in the laws.

- "Do you know why he switched them?" - And again. This seems to be something that happened some time ago? I presume it did. That's how it reads, IMO.

- "Maybe he thought R would read ahead" - Who thought? Who are we talking about? Lord H? Unclear. I need to know who Lord H is/was, and what his role was if I am to remember him. This sounds like background that you know, but the reader needs enough to remember him as we continue through the chapter. A name is no use to me, as there are many names already.

- "It would be too easy for the nobles to keep the knowledge from reaching those it’s intended to help" - I'm confused. I feel like there are mixed messages about magic, and I still don't have a c lear idea of who had outlawed magic, when and why. We need a clear picture, conveyed within context in the prologue or in chapter one that explains the basics of what the situation is, and why.

- "To change things, you need to win over Duke Al" - Why? I thought Al was a hermit with no control over anything. Who is in charge? What is the set-up of the world? I don't understand.

- "I’ll see if there’s anything in here that I’m not remembering" - Why is she the expert? Why isn't mother capable of doing this on her own?

- "Asking Est for books is a dangerous hobby" - Why? Who is Est? What authority does she have? Since this conversation began, I feel like every sentence raised more unanswered questions and confuses me more than I was from the previous sentence.

- "what her father was trying to do and resentment that she was not meant to be part of it" - I don't think it's clear what her father is trying to do. Also, he has given her a task, so she is part of it, surely? More confused.

- "where her knowledge might be helpful" - What is her knowledge? Unclear. We haven't been told (clearly).

- "to learn the legal spells" - What spells are legal and what spells are not? I come back again to the fact that the baseline and the character goals are not clear.

- "pull the stone off of the desk and into her lap" - This is not good style, IMO. The 'of' is redundant. If you want your prose to sound universal (as opposed to American), I would strongly recommend not using this form.

- "pressed her thumb to the linked spell stone" - this seems weird to me, weird clunky. If it's a mental command that activates the stone, why on earth do they need a wall switch? There is some kind of link between the stones, so why not between the mind and the light stone directly? Seems unnecessarily complicated.

- "revise the magic laws" - I've moaned about this for sometime now, but it just occurs to me how to very easily address my main complaint. This phrase doesn't mean much, because it gives very little away. I want more clarity. I suggest when you use a phrase like this, make it clearer. So for example here, if you said her father wanted to 'relax the magic laws', it's immediately clearer what he is trying to achieve, in general terms at least, because 'revise' could mean make them harsher, change a few spells in and out. It could mean anything.

- I very much like how you brought the chapter round to the same place it started, with her needing access to the high up sconce. That's good technique, I think. However, this "A possible future of learning magic" - this is her personal motivation. This is what I've needed since I first met Isr, a clear statement of what it is she wants from life, and what drives and influences all her actions (basically).

Overall 

Okay, I think this is better. I think there are still flaws, but I like that Isr has more agency, there's more tension, at least at the start of the chapter. Once her father and she start talking about spells, all the momentum evaporates, and we are into dry research, and statements that I don't understand, because the baseline of the story isn't clear, and the characters' motivation arena's clear, or at least sufficiently communicated. From that point, I just get more and more confused. The story is still too complicated, I think, urging the reader to run before they can walk, because the simple building blocks that form a picture of the baseline situation are still missing.

My (other) 'main point' is this: Why are they only now trying to change the laws? What made them try and do it now (Because it feels to like that are just starting on this quest)? This is the problem with not having the inciting incident at the beginning. Why do we join the story at this point? There is a good phrase, defining a technique of plotting (essentially) which is 'in late, out early'. It feels like we are either in really, really, early, or that we've missed the boat (HMS Inciting Incident) entirely. It's not the right place to start the story, IMO. I think this is why 'we' are struggling to the degree that we are.

Edited by Robinski
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Thought I'd check it out again to see if you did edits post page 5

Overall

So I know how far you have come and how much you have cut. Major applause. It's not easy (as @Snakenaps can agree). However, I think you're still holding too tightly to these political info dumps. We just don't need this information. You need to withhold that information until the reader is thinking about it, asking about it, demanding it. Trust us to intuit, and give us characters and motivation (we still have no greater motivation for I or for the plot) and let us get invested, then integrate those plot details. Don't tell us them, let us see them in the way the characters work with each other.

It's a process, and you're making great steps. Writing is tedious and just irritating sometimes, but you will get there!

 

As I go

- first two pages can still use a touch of tightening but at least I has agency. I appreciate that

- pg 3: still a lot of extra words. You often show, then tell, then show again, when just a show would be enough. As you cut down and work on brevity, I think the next stage will be getting the point across with as few words as possible

- first paragraph of page 4: I think you missed the opportunity here to really engage us with father/daughter banter. He could at least rib her about it a little. Or share a laugh as he recounts being equally silly in his youth, or whisper conspiratorially that he also thinks needing to get them charged by a mage is over the top

- pg 4: He set the book on the desk, pausing to tap his fingers idly on the cover before stooping to pick up the last one. “Duke A arrived last night,” he said casually. <-- okay I LOVE this, but it is too subtle. You need I to react to it internally so the reader knows to pause and make note. Even just a 'oh shite, that was not a book she was supposed to be reading .... or whatever

- pg 6: you're losing me again. Too many names and places I don't care about. I want to be grounded in the king and princess right now. I want to see them engage over the books and the spellstone. That was our incident, so it needs to have that weight. And if it isn't the incident, then it should be removed. As @Robinski noted, I don't think this is actually where the story starts. It's a much better start than before! I has agency, the father has a lot of dad potential. But if they go right from changing spells tones (which is illegal I guess) to talking politics, then the spellstone isn't important and so it isn't where our story begins.

Now, if she dropped it and it broke and let loose a massive fire, that would be an inciting incident!

- pg 7 has tons of info dump we don't need

- pg 8: I should have guessed that anything useful would have been in the other one.” He gave her a wry smile <-- okay so A) I think just cut the maid. She serves no purpose and detracts from any movement and momentum. B.) here is the back part of our incident. You can safely cut everything between pgs 2-8, and pick up here. Have the king talk about how he needs a few basic spells, does she know any, wink wink nudge nudge, they talk about the 'illegal' books. Everything between the inciting incident and this line is not needed

- pg 10: argh, but it doesn't go anywhere. Just more talking about a world we are not yet invested in

- pg 12:, so after the line on page 8 you can have them do like, three dialogue banters. Have her offer to help. Have him say no, pat her head, and leave. Cut then to ch 12, she relights the Firestone on her own and then thinks something like I don't need books to do this. or akin. Show us her agency and that she is already moving towards the forbidden mage hood. Like her father thinks its a cute hobby but she is serious

pg 14: have her light it fast and confidently, and cut these last two pages. There's no reason to hang onto them, they just kill the middling tension

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I understand not being excited about reading a third version of chapter 1, and understanding the skimming approach, but it does make it hard to know what things are there, but seem like you might have skimmed over them (who Est- and Lord H are. What's allowed by the magic laws), and what things are actually missing.  

1 hour ago, Robinski said:

I mean, she can't climb up a pile of books, so I'm presuming one step will put her on top of the pile?

It's a pile of probably-textbook-sized books on a chair.  Knee height or so from the chair surface, so getting up that high isn't a problem, but trying to balance on a book-sized platform when there's nothing else to hang on to is precarious (think standing at the very top of a ladder and reaching for something).  I need to think of a clearer way to explain it, since it's not exactly something that jumps out as a dangerous pastime. 

1 hour ago, Robinski said:

- I don't think I know Lord R at this point, so I don't get the context. Is Al staying with them in the king's palace? I get confused around here. Yeah, it's getting overcomplicated, all this talk of separating thing from other things, I don't understand it. It seems trivial, and therefore worthy of cutting. The room's not ready, leave it at that, IMO.

Yeah.  I was trying to figure out how to deal with this as well. Because on one hand, I know it's too confusing. And that I'm probably overthinking it. 

For general setup, most of the nobles have a suite of rooms in the palace specifically set aside for their use. 

"The room's not ready." seems inadequate when it implies that it's just a matter of airing out linens.  Whereas the rooms have been lived in by another person for over a decade while Ras- has been using them as the duchy's representative in the capital.  So his things are all mixed in among the things that would have been left there by the duke's mother before she died.  Some of those would be Ras-'s personal things that would go with him to wherever his new rooms end up. Some would be things belonging to the duke's family.  All of that was supposed to be sorted out before they arrived so that Al- could move in.  And they could sort through any books or paperwork or whatever that they might both need later.

I know the intricate details of most of that aren't important, but haven't been able to figure out a good way to briefly convey what is going on.

2 hours ago, Robinski said:

- Argh. Lots of names creeping in again. Who is Est? Someone else I don't know / can't remember.

The queen.  It's mentioned half a page up or so , but may have gotten drowned out in the housing confusion. 

2 hours ago, Robinski said:

"He opened his mouth, then shut it again" - The king doesn't come over very regal in this scene. I appreciate that his daughter may be able to boss him, but I'd expect him still to have the mannerisms of command, but he seems quite hesitant, doubting his own path, which isn't very kingly.

- "something like fear in his expression" - Yeah, this. He seems weak, and okay, kings can be weak, but I would expect other people (like the POV character) to be aware of that, and call it out from time to time.

He shouldn't come over as regal here, necessarily. Partly because he's more at ease here than in a more public setting. And partly because Is- knows him well enough to see past some of his mannerisms.  I was hoping to portray that better through contrast with how he's interacting when the maid is there, but maybe that didn't work well.   
That's especially the case with Is- noticing the unease/fear, which is extremely unusual from him.  This is supposed to suggest that there are other things more directly related to the question of why he came to talk to her about things that bother him more deeply.  Mostly that he'd planned to give her more information, then chickened out because he knows it's going to hurt.  Same thing later when she outright asks to be involved and he shuts the idea down. 

2 hours ago, Robinski said:

- "relieved breath escaped her" - Why is she relieved? What would have been wrong with Or taking the stone to recharge it? We've not, I think, been shown or told Isr motivation in getting the spell stone down. Was her plan for it something other than just recharging it? This comes under the same heading as my main point relating to the change in the laws.

Does this make more sense at the end?  I was trying to imply throughout that she wasn't planning to go about things exactly by the book, and that she has more knowledge than she probably should, but I also know that I tend to jump back and forth enthusiastically between overexplaining and vaguely implying.  So I'm not sure where exactly things fell on that line through the chapter.  Does the shift from beginning to end seem to work as a sort of reveal? Or does it just seem like a roundabout way of conveying information that fails to add anything extra? 

2 hours ago, Robinski said:

- "Do you know why he switched them?" - And again. This seems to be something that happened some time ago? I presume it did. That's how it reads, IMO.

- "Maybe he thought R would read ahead" - Who thought? Who are we talking about? Lord H? Unclear. I need to know who Lord H is/was, and what his role was if I am to remember him. This sounds like background that you know, but the reader needs enough to remember him as we continue through the chapter. A name is no use to me, as there are many names already.

Both of these are referring to Lord H, who was one of her and R's instructors.  It's mentioned above that his instruction touched on magic and the laws.  Was that not clear enough? The timeline for that wasn't implied, though.  It should imply that it's been a while.

2 hours ago, Robinski said:

"To change things, you need to win over Duke Al" - Why? I thought Al was a hermit with no control over anything. Who is in charge? What is the set-up of the world? I don't understand.

Urgh.  The line up above where Al-'s support will help smooth over some of the conflict within the court. Because it would be a sign of both moving past the offenses that lay on both sides in Al-'s parents' conflict with V's father. Which should have been addressed in the prologue, but that was enough of a mess that it's quite possible that they weren't. 

2 hours ago, Robinski said:

- "I’ll see if there’s anything in here that I’m not remembering" - Why is she the expert? Why isn't mother capable of doing this on her own?

- "Asking Est for books is a dangerous hobby" - Why? Who is Est? What authority does she have? Since this conversation began, I feel like every sentence raised more unanswered questions and confuses me more than I was from the previous sentence.

She had proper instruction on that book specifically and the topic in general, and her mother didn't

Does the detail of Est- being her mother clarify this at all? That's mentioned

at the top of page 6

2 hours ago, Robinski said:

"to learn the legal spells" - What spells are legal and what spells are not? I come back again to the fact that the baseline and the character goals are not clear.

 Fire and sleep spells are legal.  Spellstones are legal. Everything else is banned. This is called out on page 7

3 hours ago, Robinski said:

"what her father was trying to do and resentment that she was not meant to be part of it" - I don't think it's clear what her father is trying to do. Also, he has given her a task, so she is part of it, surely? More confused.

Him wanting to change the laws isn't clear enough? And he hasn't given her a task.  She's taken on a task, but that's her finding her own way to be involved despite his outright dismissal of her request to help.  This is part of what is ultimately driving her to want to be useful and competent.  Because she knows he's going to run himself into the ground if he doesn't break down and trust other people to help him.  Especially when she can see that there's more going on than he's telling her, and is getting the impression that he'd intended to involve her in some way. 
 

They aren't only now trying to change the laws, but the duke's arrival is the first change in a long time that has led to any chance of progress.  There have been things going on behind the scenes since Al-'s parents' deaths, mostly with Queen Est-'s research.  But when so many of the nobles still have strong feelings about the death of one of their own (either blaming magic or the lack of knowledge about magic, depending on the side), the tensions are too high to make any progress until that gets smoothed over.  I think if we jump straight to the inciting incident, it will make it all the more confusing.  

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I know I'm still horrible at cutting back information.  But I'm not convinced that some of it is as unnecessary as it might seem. Poorly presented? Probably.  But not unnecessary.

8 minutes ago, kais said:

But if they go right from changing spells tones (which is illegal I guess) to talking politics, then the spellstone isn't important and so it isn't where our story begins.

It's not illegal. But it's not something she's supposed to know.  Page 9 goes over this when she's asking whether it really would have been such a big deal for R- to have learned it.

Dad has no concept that she's not the perfectly obedient daughter.  Which is how she wants to be seen.  Letting up on that destroys a lot of character motivation and conflict down the road.

11 minutes ago, kais said:

Now, if she dropped it and it broke and let loose a massive fire, that would be an inciting incident

If that was how spellstones worked, they would have been banned along with everything else during the post-rebellion panic. There's a little space for wiggle room within the definition of the magic system, but that's not one of those spots.

15 minutes ago, kais said:

Have the king talk about how he needs a few basic spells, does she know any, wink wink nudge nudge, they talk about the 'illegal' books. Everything between the inciting incident and this line is not needed

The fire spell is legal, and the only one she knows.  The only reason it was in the one book is because its place within the magic system makes it a safe training spell for students to practice basic techniques.

32 minutes ago, kais said:

And if it isn't the incident, then it should be removed. As @Robinski noted, I don't think this is actually where the story starts.

I will probably send you a message about this, since you have more perspective on where things are going after reading through Part 1 as it exists.

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28 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

I think if we jump straight to the inciting incident, it will make it all the more confusing.  

Most readers don't mind a bit of confusion. We know to read on if we want information. Without the inciting incident, however, we just put the book down.

29 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

I understand not being excited about reading a third version of chapter 1, and understanding the skimming approach, but it does make it hard to know what things are there, but seem like you might have skimmed over them (who Est- and Lord H are. What's allowed by the magic laws), and what things are actually missing.  

Ah, but it is the author's job to engage us enough to read the material. it's less about third time around, and more about still not being grabbed. If a reader admits to skimming, that is likely entirely about there not being any buy in to read closely. We have to want the small details in order to read them, which is why books in SFF routinely start off with a big inciting incident, to draw the reader in. Once we are invested in the world and characters, then you can give us the tiny details.

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1 minute ago, kais said:

Ah, but it is the author's job to engage us enough to read the material. it's less about third time around, and more about still not being grabbed. If a reader admits to skimming, that is likely entirely about there not being any buy in to read closely. We have to want the small details in order to read them, which is why books in SFF routinely start off with a big inciting incident, to draw the reader in. Once we are invested in the world and characters, then you can give us the tiny details.

I was mostly referring to Robinski opening the post with "I'm going to be going in intending to skim fast, and concentrate on overall impression"  Because looking for an overall impression seems inherently likely to miss character names being called out. 

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I'm back after a brief hiatus! I was going to read last week's submission this  morning, but then I saw that you were planning to resend from 1, so I figured I'd skip that and just start with this chapter. 

You definitely piqued  my interest with the opening scene of Is trying to get the spell stone. Though after reading through to the end, I think there would've been more tension if I'd had a better idea of why she was getting it. I was under the impression she just wanted to do it herself and not deal with a servant, but knowing from page 1 that this princess was trying to get to illicitly practice magic would've been pulled me in ten times more. It would've created more tension to carry me through the conversation with the father that started to drag half way through. I think a few sentences on the first page could do it, and then you could subtly up the tension throughout the conversation. And maybe trim the conversation down a bit.

I can't tell you exactly what to trim or not trim, but I think there is too much explaining for the readers benefit. How would this conversation go if the readers already knew everything your characters know? 

I found that question in one of the few craft books I've managed to focus on reading,The First Five Pages, and keeping it in mind when I write or revise helped me improve my dialogue. I know the reader doesn't actually know everything, but trying to convey too much through the dialogue tends to make it feel forced and not super engaging. 

I did like how the chapter came back to the spell stone in the end, but the problem was there wasn't a hook to pull me into the next chapter. Something happened, and then it was resolved. Yes, the things in the conversation set up for other things, but they were hard to track because I losing interest in the conversation.

This certainly feels like a big improvement from the last version I read, but it is still lacking some kind of important action to start the story off. It sort of sets up for stuff, but it does't actually start the stuff. If you think you can make something significant happen within the confines of this chapter, go for it. But also keep in mind that maybe this just isn't the right place for the book to start.

 

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9 hours ago, Robinski said:

- Okay, this is better, IMO. Is- has agency, she is doing something risking, and I'm expecting her to fall and break her neck, so good tension. What I do want is a clearer picture of what she's doing. I'm not convinced that I have is pictured right, and what I'm picturing is not practical, I think. How tall is the pile of books? I think that would go a long way to solving my confusion. I mean, she can't climb up a pile of books, so I'm presuming one step will put her on top of the pile?

 

I was also a little confused by this and then forgot to mention it. 

9 hours ago, Robinski said:

My (other) 'main point' is this: Why are they only now trying to change the laws? What made them try and do it now (Because it feels to like that are just starting on this quest)? This is the problem with not having the inciting incident at the beginning. Why do we join the story at this point? There is a good phrase, defining a technique of plotting (essentially) which is 'in late, out early'. It feels like we are either in really, really, early, or that we've missed the boat (HMS Inciting Incident) entirely. It's not the right place to start the story, IMO. I think this is why 'we' are struggling to the degree that we are.

Agree.

 

5 hours ago, kais said:

You need to withhold that information until the reader is thinking about it, asking about it, demanding it. Trust us to intuit, and give us characters and motivation (we still have no greater motivation for I or for the plot) and let us get invested, then integrate those plot details.

Hard agree. The reader just doesn't need to know everything up front. Too much information can be more confusing than not enough information, especially when it comes to dialogue.

If you want readers to suspend disbelief and feel like they're part of he world experiencing the story, to an extent, you can write the dialogue how it would happen if the reader wasn't there. At least, that is how I like to approach it. Other writers may have other opinions. 

 

 

 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

understanding the skimming approach, but it does make it hard to know what things are there

I shouldn't have said skimming, my bad. I apologise. My version of skimming is ignoring grammar, syntax, and other such details, but I'm still reading all the words. I don't have a 'high speed' setting!

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

Knee height

That's all you need to say, IMO. In fact, if you just had something like, she piled the twelfth textbook on the chair, we can imagine 12 thick books in a stack.

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

So his things are all mixed in among the things that would have been left there by the duke's mother before she died.

This is the bit that is hard to believe. The palace is full of maids and butlers and valets who sorts people stuff out for them. The example is there in that Is's water jug is replaced silently in moments. So I find it really hard to believe that keeping people's stuff separate is so difficult for trained servants. This detail about the room really does feel like it's a darling. I know you'll tell me it's important later on, but it feels like there are lots of little nuanced details, but were missing the big picture components of story that take the reader through the book, like inciting incident just after the start of the book; chapter arcs; plot progression; character motivation.

To summarise though. I'm not trying to force you to change this. I know my feedback can be direct, and I'm sorry if it come over prescriptive. All I'm saying is, I don't believe this. As the author, you get paid the big bucks (figuratively speaking ;) ) to figure out what to do with that information. I guess having been through all the learning that we have in this group over many, many years, we get enthusiastic about trying to get our points over about what's not working, because we've all been through it so many times (the process of writing and finishing a work).

12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

The queen.  It's mentioned half a page up or so

Sometimes, it's okay just to say 'the queen', which leaves not room for misinterpretation. They key is variation, I think, but minimising names is good practice. If someone is not relevant to a scene, I'd recommend not mentioning them. I'm not saying the queen is not relevant, and I'm sure if I was reading this under normal circumstances (and not gritting a handful of other things at the same time), I'd be able to absorb more names. Short answer, every time you use a name, ask yourself if it really needs to be there.

12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Partly because he's more at ease here than in a more public setting. And partly because Is- knows him well enough to see past some of his mannerisms.  I was hoping to portray that better through contrast with how he's interacting when the maid is there, but maybe that didn't work well.

I did get some of that, and there is no rule against having a weak(ash) king, of course. If nothing else it gives the opportunity for other people, especially the M/C, to have more agency, which of course is good.

12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Does this make more sense at the end?  I was trying to imply throughout that she wasn't planning to go about things exactly by the book

I did get some of that sense. I think it could be clearer in places.

12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

she has more knowledge than she probably should

I didn't get this so clearly.

12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Both of these are referring to Lord H, who was one of her and R's instructors

I would suggest that there is always a case, especially when a story or chapter is complicated, for just coming out a straight telling the reader certain things. So here, if the first reference to Lord H said 'her former tutor, Lord H', I'd be completely find with that. There are things you want the reader to be puzzling over, and other things you don't, because they will distract from the main story. So, the untidy room and mixed up belongings, for example, I think is a distraction.

12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

The line up above where Al-'s support will help smooth over some of the conflict within the court

Right. Maybe there is some WRS here, since it's so long ago (relatively) that I read the prologue, compared to having read it the previous day. I do vaguely remember the conflict. Let's put this one down to Weekly Reader Syndrome (WRS - the unnatural gap between reading subs) on my part. 

13 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Does the detail of Est- being her mother clarify this at all? That's mentioned

See, this is something I always struggle with, and @Snakenaps knows this, because I moaned about it to her a fair bit at the start when was alpha reading her book. We are in Isr--'s POV, and Est is her mother. If I'm  in my own head, I don't think about my mother as 'Vi', I think about her as Mum. Characters thinking about their parents by their names is weird and unnatural, IMO, and it always disorients my perspective.

13 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Fire and sleep spells are legal.  Spellstones are legal. Everything else is banned. This is called out on page 7

I'm going back to check this...... (Not that I don't believe you! For my own benefit.)

Yeah, okay, my bad. I think maybe it was lost in my trying to get my head around all the other information.

I think we end up talking around details, but there are still structural issues like inciting incident, main plot, conflict and motivations that are getting lost in all the background and detail at the beginning. I think you said you had an outline. Would you be willing to share that?

Also, did you also say that this is your first book? I took 17 years to finish the first draft of my first book (admittedly, with some fairly large gaps), then produced four consequent drafts with absolutely no external advice, critique, learning, or anything. All I had to go on 'copying' from the books that I read. I've never subbed it, or head it critiqued, because I had almost no idea what is was doing, and it's bound to be full of bad practice. (Maybe one day, I sub it.) My point being that I shelved it, because it has many flaws, and does hit many of the basic marks. I wrote another two novels, still not knowing any of the principles of writing fiction, before I discovered Writing Excuses and finally started to assemble the tools of the trade, and understand what was happening, and who components I needed to assemble an effective novel that someone might buy, or at least read and it be in the write sort of ballpark.

I'm not trying to dissuade from writing this novel. What I'm trying to say is that sometimes we're too close to something, and need to take step back, do some learning, try something else, different approaches, different techniques, even different genres (SF, Space Opera, adventure, whatever), write short stories to practice in the storytelling skills that we learn from sources like Writing Excuses.

Your prose is really very serviceable, and makes it easy to read your stuff, but sometimes the way to fix something is not to keep tweaking and tweaking, but to get some distance.

I'd be really interested to see your outline for the novel, your synopsis, if you have one (essentially for submitting to agents/publishers). How long is it (the novel)? What is your plan for publishing, in the sense of where do you go from here? What is the goal of the process you're in now? I ask these questions because my feeling was, instead of us picking away at chapters without being able to see the whole picture, maybe we could offer a different kind of comment if we could see the outline, the big picture, as it were.

There really is a lot of good stuff in there, and some promising conflicts and relationships, Maybe the way forward is to strip back (the discussion) to the core elements. :) 

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2 hours ago, Robinski said:

See, this is something I always struggle with, and @Snakenaps knows this, because I moaned about it to her a fair bit at the start when was alpha reading her book. We are in Isr--'s POV, and Est is her mother. If I'm  in my own head, I don't think about my mother as 'Vi', I think about her as Mum. Characters thinking about their parents by their names is weird and unnatural, IMO, and it always disorients my perspective.

This is actually something I was considering here. All of the uses of Est- are when her father is talking about his wife.  Because on one hand it doesn't seem too strange for him to call Est- "your mother" now and then, but to do so all the time seems odd as well. 

2 hours ago, Robinski said:

Also, did you also say that this is your first book?

Yes and no.  Chapters 1-10 or so still include far too much from Version 1, which I could safely call my first book, since anything before that was either a disaster or didn't quite get completed. And that's what's leading to most of our problems.  Because those 10 chapters should probably be like 6 chapters at most, and aren't really tied together. But it's the beginning, and it's what needs the most work.

I'll put together a more useful outline than what I currently have and share that, because I think that will help with part of all of this (or at least explain why I seem stuck where I am).  

If I try to squish it into a Hero's Journey setup (which it doesn't follow exactly, but I think is close enough for the discussion), the ordinary world/Call/Refusal/etc. is too long, not gripping enough (the call is not all that demanding until too far in), and just generally meandering all around. After she leaves, we're following both what is going on at home (through Ala- and R-) and what she's accomplishing, until their goals end up going in the same direction.  There are people she has to interact with before the world falls apart, but those things not being dynamic doesn't help anything. 

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This is much better than last time! We get some insight into the MC and what she wants to do. The first four pages or so are probably the best in this chapter, but then the tension starts to lag.

Everything I wrote past "Notes while reading" I wrote before reading the other responses on here. It interesting to note how exactly we call out the same places that drag down the tension.

20 hours ago, C_Vallion said:
21 hours ago, kais said:

Now, if she dropped it and it broke and let loose a massive fire, that would be an inciting incident

If that was how spellstones worked, they would have been banned along with everything else during the post-rebellion panic. There's a little space for wiggle room within the definition of the magic system, but that's not one of those spots.

I have to say, I was expecting the stone to break as well. It seems like you have a promise in the first few paragraphs (shaky support, reaching for the stone) but then she breaks the pitcher and there's no real downside. I was expecting this to be a bit more dangerous. Otherwise, why not just get the servants to change it out? Or was she wanting to practice spellwork to recharge it?

 

21 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Fire and sleep spells are legal.  Spellstones are legal. Everything else is banned. This is called out on page 7

Have to admit I missed this too. This makes her practicing the fire at the end less compelling. If she knew actual banned magic, that would be a much bigger hook for me.

 

I think @kais, @Robinski, and @shatteredsmooth all also called out that the political discussion from pages 6-9 don't really add anything.

21 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

I know the intricate details of most of that aren't important, but haven't been able to figure out a good way to briefly convey what is going on.

My advice is, if it's not important now, cut it. It seems like you're struggling with thinking the reader won't understand later if this isn't here now. I can definitively tell you I'm not going to remember this stuff later, so it doesn't matter if it's in here now. Hence, you can cut it.

I think continuing the story in this same vein will be much more compelling, but I do also want to get to where you think the inciting incident is. Most modern books, it's in the first three chapters or so. I'd like to see some parts of the story I haven't seen yet, and actually get to the important stuff.

 

Notes while reading:
pg 1-2: Much more exciting into. I was thinking she was going to break the spellstone though, not just a pitcher. That would be more dramatic.
Not sure why she's climbing up to mess the with spellstone either. Wouldn't one of the servants recharge it?

pg 4: "He’d just expect her to send it to the magistrates"
--sooo...does she want to learn magic? This is unclear. If it's directly stated that she wants to learn forbidden magic, that's a much bigger pull.

pg 5: and then back to talking about cleaning rooms...I think these last couple pages can be cut down a lot.

pg 6-7: Well, it was fun while it lasted. Now back to talking about politics I don't understand...

pg 7: "“We’re looking for information about basic healing spells"
--okay, mildly interested again.

pg 8/9: This has gone back to passive from active. The first couple pages we were shown that magic is forbidden and bad. Now the characters are having an extended discussion about it. There is no movement, and it doesn't hold my interest.

pg 12: "whispering the words of the fire spell. A small flame appeared there above her palm, wavering until she calmed her breathing."
--aha! Excellent! She does practice forbidden magic! I think you could trim between this and page 2 to maybe a page or so, showing her father come in. That would keep the tension up a lot more.

pg 13: "What would he think of his family’s tragedy being used to scare children away from careless magic use?"
--THIS is a good line. It connects the duke to magic and shows how it's forbidden. This one line is worth 2 pages of characters talking about magic and politics.

pg 14: Pretty satisfying ending. We get to see her learning magic and learn a little about it. I think this first chapter could be cut down to half this length, but it's getting much better!

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Yeah, this version is much better than the previous versions IMO. It still took a bit to get to an engaging point, but near the end, I was definitely intrigued and invested in what happens next. I think that if we had a better understanding of what consequences there were for using spells, esp for Is, then I would be more invested in the whole situation.
Like, yes, most spells are outlawed, only basic spells are allowed, clearly Is- is fascinated in magic and will probably take things too far, but what would the consequence be for her practicing the fire spell? Is there one? Because if there isn't, then why is she being so secretive about it? Perhaps there is a stigma or sense of prejudice towards those who wantonly practice magic, even legal magic? You do say that it garners suspicion, but to me, that's just not enough consequence to be worried for Is or invested in her choices.

Just an idea, but what about changing the order of events here? Like, Is practicing magic could happen first, and then when she goes to put the lightbulb or whatever thing back in the sconce she can have her fall and her father can come in. But anywho, I liked this version, there were moments of confusion with the names, but I was intrigued enough by the politics and magic to want to continue reading. I'm looking forward to the next installment!

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As I go:

pg 1

-I like how we get both the scholarly feel and the details about magic (particularly how she thinks the taboo nature of it is silly) right off the bat. This gives me more to work with than the previous drafts. 

pg 2

-More seeing Is in action is good! But I'm conflicted because everything breaking and toppling over feels kinda like a dramatic anime thing. 

pg 3

-Shouldn't they be having someone clean up the glass? Could be dangerous to walk in on that. 

pg 4

-Okay we see signs that Is can be sneaky around her dad. This is good.

-If the king's pausing conversations every time a servant shows up I doubt he'll get anything done. Especially if Ala showing up is big news the dude must be busy, right?

pg 5

-So I don't know what Ala's arrival means to these characters. The discussion about room mix-up doesn't mean much to me if I don't know what the consequences are for Is and V. 

pg 6

-"We can't afford to have him hate us?" Yes, that's how they're acting, but why? That's what we need to know right now. I want to see how Ala plays into V's and Is' motivations. Would be especially cool if they see him differently, especially since Is' whole thing has to do with magic, right? 

-So if V wanted to marry her off, how much say does she get? Her reaction makes me think not a lot, but outside of that this one moment they seem pretty casual with each other which makes me thing Is has more power/rights than that. 

pg 7

-Statement at the top is good, but I still need to know more. Why does Ala supporting the crown smooth over conflict about magic? And what does "stand in support" really mean here? Does Ala need to swear fealty? Establish trade/information exchange as equals? I can tell this is where the meat of the chapter is so it's super important to be precise here. 

-okay talking more about the magic is good for establishing Is' motivation. Why is this change happening now, though?

pg 8

-Again, I really like the dynamic of Is hiding stuff from her father. Solidifies her own role as an independent protagonist. Now, what does it actually mean that she's hiding stuff? So far, it seems like their perspectives are similar. They both want to reduce stigmas around magic. What about Is makes it so that she has to hide the extent of her magic knowledge from her father? That's where the conflict, and therefore the meat of the story, is. 

pg 9

-Fire spells... call people? Or they don't, but people think they do? Why is that? 

-I think this discussion is weaker than Is' internal comment about healing magic because it's not entirely clear how fire magic helps the common people since I don't really know what it does. When she thinks about healing magic, she goes into specific examples of how it helps people, and I want to see that here rather than a broad "magic helps everyone" approach.

-She and V seem to agree on everything. Right now it seems like the plot is about the king vs the nobles... in which case, why are we following the princess? She mostly seems along for the ride. 

pg 10-11

-So how is V planning to win Ala over?

-Also I think we definitely need Is to have a defined role in this matter if we're spending the entire first chapter on it. Could be her being told to help in X way, or her deciding to help in Y way on her own. Because right now it seems like she's in the backseat while V is being forced to make things happen. 

-So the guy is busy... why talk to Is like this, then? Like yeah he loves his daughter but if he's super busy he'd probably have a specific reason to visit Is. I guess there was the thing about the books he was looking for, but there was so much they talked about other than that. 

pg 12

-I like that she's using a spell here

pg 13-14

-I think the act of her casting the spell can be shortened a bit. I mostly care about the action, limitations (how often can she do this?), and consequences (the going cold)

Overall:

I got a better read on Is and the story as a whole this time around, which is a really good sign. Like other people have said, it's not easy to start from the ground up like this and I personally think it's much improved. 

People have mentioned cutting the details that are unimportant for now, which I agree with. My question is what details are important for now? I thought for sure the big discussion about magic laws and duke Ala was going to kick off an arc for Is but she doesn't really do anything with that info. From a narrative standpoint her lack of involvement in any of this is why it feels so much like background details, and I'm also confused as to why V is explaining all of this to her to then be like "nope don't want you to get involved (yet)." Like I said in the line edits, dude shouldn't have time for that unless he's trying to engage in Is' interests purely to connect with her. Chapter 1 should introduce us to Is' story but as it stands she doesn't seem to be doing much, which makes all the details seem irrelevant. Once the story decides what her actions should be and it's much easier to decide what's necessary and what isn't. This is one of the reasons I was interested in her hiding stuff from her dad. If she has a different perspective than him, it's easier for the story to justify her being the one to do stuff to advance that perspective instead of leaving it to V. 

So yeah, I agree with everyone else but my perspective is that a lot of this comes down to Is being kinda passive rn, which I don't think is a super hard fix. :) 

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Opening paragraph: Whatever I is doing sounds like a terrible idea, and I am completely here for it.

“Did he not tell anyone?” Still baffled by the duke traveling from a remote area could have been so completely missed.

I am starting to get a bit lost as we go into the magic laws and trying to change them. The reason for changing them doesn’t seem to be grounded in anything specific – making things better on a broad scale is all well and good, but I guess I’m wondering why here and why now? What’s the urgency?

Similarly, while the opening was great but I’m feeling the tension start to deflate around the stone. Is worries that her maid will take it, but I still don’t know why she wanted it to begin with, and the fact that her father’s caught her in the act seems to be a complete non-issue since he has absolutely zero questions for her.

So if Is already knew how to do this… why did she want the stone so badly? Apparently this scene wasn’t about her learning/trying something new.

Overall:

Really, I think I’ve covered everything already. The first few pages were great – I is doing something illicit! And silly! And potentially pretty dangerous! (Honestly, I feel like she got off light. Really light. I would not object to her showing up to the party with massive bruises or limping from a strained ankle or so forth. Leave a great first impression with that there duke!) But then we started to get into the magic laws and whatnot where Is and her father have this very intellectual discussion about why changing magic laws is good, and it all reads as very abstract, political-platform kind of stuff. I don’t get the feeling that Is personally affected by this, and I don’t get the urgency since this project has apparently been on the backburner for some time. The arrival of the duke to court doesn’t, so far, seem like an especially convincing game-changer. I spent a lot of the conversation between Is and her father wondering “okay, but why? And why now?”

I'm also wondering what the arc of the chapter is. We started off at a great point A, but we never get to point B. What are the consequences of her choices? She’s doing something forbidden, but she doesn’t get caught, and it isn't clear what happens (aside from maybe some political inconvenience) if she does. She’s doing something dangerous (and the prologue makes a point of magic being dangerous in the extreme), but nothing bad happens. And I’m not sure what she’s actually accomplished: since she apparently already knew how to cast the spell, she just trashed her study to recharge a lightbulb. How does what’s happening here propel us into the next chapter and the rest of the story?

I do think this is a big improvement over the previous chapters in many ways. Now it’s time to take the tension and interest of the first few pages and figure out what goals Is has, what actions she takes, and what consequences she faces in order to carry us through the rest of the chapter and the narrative.

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All right, circling back to skim a few of the comments:

On 2/15/2021 at 9:31 AM, Robinski said:

What I do want is a clearer picture of what she's doing.

I did have to suspend disbelief a little. A stack of books makes an absolutely terrible stepladder (which is part of the fun). Having a clearer picture of them being piled high enough to step on top of rather than having to climb them would definitely help.

On 2/15/2021 at 9:31 AM, Robinski said:

I feel like there are mixed messages about magic

Yep. We're simultaneously getting "magic is very dangerous" and "magic isn't actually THAT bad" (or maybe "the ends justify the means?) and contributes at least a little to not understanding Is's actions or motivations here.

Re: @kais's comments about the political info, I'd agree that we're still getting a lot more information than we generally need. I appreciate the need to ground your readers, but I think you can really focus on one or two concise things that don't require giving us a political treatise in miniature to understand. Like @Robinski, getting the information that basic healing magic isn't allowed is helpful. If you can couple that with a motivation - maybe Is really does just believe in making the world a better place, which certainly would tell us something about her! - then that is a very useful grounding tool.

On 2/15/2021 at 1:02 PM, C_Vallion said:

but it does make it hard to know what things are there, but seem like you might have skimmed over them (who Est- and Lord H are

I wouldn't have known who Est was if I hadn't read the previous chapter, I don't think.

One thing to keep in mind is that we're very fond of critiques that focus on reader reactions, on how we actually experienced the work while reading it. So if someone tells me that they're skimming, yes, it's possible that maybe they'll miss things in the text, but the fact that they're skimming is also extremely valuable information - it's a reaction that says the story is not holding their attention at that point. The single most effective way to give us information is to make sure we're already invested in the information that you give us.

On 2/15/2021 at 1:33 PM, C_Vallion said:

But not unnecessary.

Aside from generally being on "team cut what you can," it's also worth considering whether some of the information we're getting that is necessary is just presented too early. Two questions I like to keep in mind when I'm worried that I'm infodumping on my readers are "is this information necessary?" and "is it necessary right now?"

In general, I try to err on the side of trusting my readers as much as possible.

On 2/15/2021 at 6:26 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

there wasn't a hook to pull me into the next chapter. Something happened, and then it was resolved

Yep. I was yelling on about consequences, but another way of thinking about it is that the chapter doesn't leave anything undone.

10 hours ago, Mandamon said:

If she knew actual banned magic, that would be a much bigger hook for me.

Yep. I'm sorta murky on whether what I's doing is legal or not. Right now it sort of seems like the stones are legal but the spells used to create them aren't, which is not helpful for trying to ground myself in the setting. And as @julienreel has also mentioned, the consequences for her knowing banned magic. What is she risking by doing this?

Edited by Silk
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On 2/15/2021 at 9:26 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

I was under the impression she just wanted to do it herself and not deal with a servant, but knowing from page 1 that this princess was trying to get to illicitly practice magic would've been pulled me in ten times more.

9 hours ago, julienreel said:

Like, Is practicing magic could happen first, and then when she goes to put the lightbulb or whatever thing back in the sconce she can have her fall and her father can come in.

19 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 1-2: Much more exciting into. I was thinking she was going to break the spellstone though, not just a pitcher. That would be more dramatic.
Not sure why she's climbing up to mess the with spellstone either. Wouldn't one of the servants recharge it?

pg 4: "He’d just expect her to send it to the magistrates"
--sooo...does she want to learn magic? This is unclear. If it's directly stated that she wants to learn forbidden magic, that's a much bigger pull.

I thought there were other comments along these lines as well, but can't find them right now.

I had been hoping there would be a way to set this up where the reveal at the end is more effective.  To have the implication that she's doing something she shouldn't be, then convey enough through the conversation with her father to have some inkling of what she is actually planning to do with the stone.  But the conversation is too bogged down with information for that to have any chance of working right now.  

Note made for when I get back to this chapter. Hopefully a long while from now.

On 2/16/2021 at 6:20 AM, Robinski said:

I did get some of that, and there is no rule against having a weak(ash) king, of course. If nothing else it gives the opportunity for other people, especially the M/C, to have more agency, which of course is good.

9 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

-If the king's pausing conversations every time a servant shows up I doubt he'll get anything done. Especially if Ala showing up is big news the dude must be busy, right?

This is another thing I need to figure out how to make clearer.  The fact that him showing up unexpectedly is unusual in and of itself. And that his uncertainty is even more unusual.  Where Is- would immediately assume there's a reason for him being there himself instead of sending someone for the book or with the memo about Al-. I think she needs to just call that out. That he usually has everything under control, but something has gotten to him, and he wouldn't be there if it didn't somehow involve her.  He uses the excuse of Al- and getting the book, but there needs to be a stronger indication that he's avoiding whatever he came there for. 

Right now the part of that I did include is too vague and bogged down in politics.  Which either of them would be likely to divert to as a safer topic of conversation while Is- is avoiding anything that might touch on her spellstone charging and the king is avoiding discussion of his mystery plans.  But it's incredibly unhelpful to a reader at this point.  

9 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Fire spells... call people? Or they don't, but people think they do? Why is that? 

-I think this discussion is weaker than Is' internal comment about healing magic because it's not entirely clear how fire magic helps the common people since I don't really know what it does. When she thinks about healing magic, she goes into specific examples of how it helps people, and I want to see that here rather than a broad "magic helps everyone" approach.

The Judge being one of the gods.  Which is not called out at all in this version.  *facepalm* 
The fire spell is used by the magistrates for judicial/religious rituals, so there are a good number of citizens who don't see the fire spell used in any other ways who get the impression that it gives you some ability to manipulate the gods to do what you ask them to.  Specifically the Judge, who, when He's seen interacting with the world, is doing a lot more striking people dead or burning them to a crisp than anything else. Which isn't a power they want the heir to the throne to have at his hands if their interests don't align perfectly with his.

9 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

People have mentioned cutting the details that are unimportant for now, which I agree with. My question is what details are important for now?

This (and the related comments that everyone has made) is obviously a thing I am miserable at.  Even when I am intentionally focusing on it.  I don't know why my idea of what is important now is so skewed.  But it is.  Blargh.

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16 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

I had been hoping there would be a way to set this up where the reveal at the end is more effective.  To have the implication that she's doing something she shouldn't be, then convey enough through the conversation with her father to have some inkling of what she is actually planning to do with the stone.  But the conversation is too bogged down with information for that to have any chance of working right now.  

 

Honestly, even if the conversation worked the way you wanted to and the whole reveal went according to plan, I would probably still have made a similar comment about wanting to know what she was doing from page 1. The tension that would've created would've been much better than any slow reveal. If the first paragraph told me the princess who wasn't supposed to even know how to use magic was trying to get and secretly charge some kind of magic light stone, I would've had a significantly higher level of engagement. Wondering if she was really  caught, if the dad knows, and what the consequences will be would draw me into the book way more than trying to figure out why what she was actually doing.

Just something to keep in mind for when you eventually come back to this. 

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32 minutes ago, shatteredsmooth said:

Honestly, even if the conversation worked the way you wanted to and the whole reveal went according to plan, I would probably still have made a similar comment about wanting to know what she was doing from page 1. The tension that would've created would've been much better than any slow reveal. If the first paragraph told me the princess who wasn't supposed to even know how to use magic was trying to get and secretly charge some kind of magic light stone, I would've had a significantly higher level of engagement. Wondering if she was really  caught, if the dad knows, and what the consequences will be would draw me into the book way more than trying to figure out why what she was actually doing.

Just something to keep in mind for when you eventually come back to this. 

Good to know.  I will have to keep that in mind. 

I have a feeling a lot of my trouble all around has been related to this. I like the puzzle of figuring out what random detail early on is going to be the game-changer at the end, and as a reader, I file away a lot of random unnecessary details because I assume they might be foreshadowing, and I love the feeling of figuring it out before the character does, or seeing the pieces I filed away come together.  And while not all of my info dumps fit the category of "if the reader keeps this in the back of their mind, they'll be so excited when they see it play out here."  There are probably too many that do, and that include more information than necessary to signal that it's important, but then just ends up being overwhelming or confusing because there aren't reference points to tie things to this early on.   

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2 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

The fact that him showing up unexpectedly is unusual in and of itself. And that his uncertainty is even more unusual.

This is the sort of thing you need to hang a lantern on, I think, by just flat out telling the reader via Isr--'s interiority. For example: She could not remember the last time he had shown up in her rooms like this, and in such an uncertain state. Most unusual.

2 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

This (and the related comments that everyone has made) is obviously a thing I am miserable at.  Even when I am intentionally focusing on it.  I don't know why my idea of what is important now is so skewed.  But it is.  Blargh.

How about this, as a test exercise, just spitballing. Start with the blank file then paste in paragraphs from Chp.1, Rev.2 that are essential to make sense of only that chapter, nothing else that has happened before, or after. Only once you have a file that is internally consistent with itself (and nothing else), then consider what is essential knowledge required to foreshadow Chapter 2, paste that in, maybe in a different colour? Just an idea.

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It just keeps paying off again and again. In my recap of notes, I have reached Writing Excuses Season 15, Episode 16, "Balancing Plot and Character". Victoria (VE) Schwab makes the excellent point that readers come to Book 1 of a series for the plot, but they come back to Book 2, 3, etc. for the characters. Another of her comments was 'A little introspection goes a long way', and this pairs nicely with the workshop I've just taken part in with the Glasgow Science Fiction Writers' Circle (GSFWC) on the subject of Interiority (i.e. character's internal thoughts), in respect of what is the balance between hearing a character's thoughts, and having things play out in narrative. One way to avoid maid-and-butler dialogue (implausible telling of important details), is to have the character think the things you are trying to get across to the reader, as long as it's focused and the character does not become annoying through their constant questioning of themselves, and those around them.

So, Isr-- can just think 'Father is acting strangely. He's so hesitant and uncertain', or whatever it is you want us to get.

Another priceless quote from VES: 'If you don't care about the character when plot is happening, you won't care about the plot'. This is absolutely nailed on the sort of concern that is arising in PoP with all the background plot details that are being strewn around. IMO, we need the first chapter to have us fall in love / become engaged / end up fascinated with Isr-- alone; no plot; frugal on the side characters.

Oh, here's another gem from VES: 'If I don’t know why they*’re doing what they’re doing we won’t relate and invest.'  (* the main character)

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Sorry I'm so late...again! 

Only two quick notes to add:

The MC feels younger in this draft then before. As a short person I can totally relate to having to get creative to reach things, but the visual of her stacking books on a chair and wearing a night gown makes me see her as an advanced but younger lady. I didn't catch of her age was mentioned specifically in this draft, or if the sister coming of age was her younger or elder. Maybe you have this covered, but my perception from this draft would be a very bright 10 to pre-teen. 

The second thing is pretty trivial, but it seems like whoever is suposed to be collecting the light and having it recharged would notice that hers never needs it. 

Nice sentence construction and prose, thanks for sharing!

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8 hours ago, Sarah B said:

The MC feels younger in this draft then before. As a short person I can totally relate to having to get creative to reach things, but the visual of her stacking books on a chair and wearing a night gown makes me see her as an advanced but younger lady. I didn't catch of her age was mentioned specifically in this draft, or if the sister coming of age was her younger or elder. Maybe you have this covered, but my perception from this draft would be a very bright 10 to pre-teen. 

I remember thinking that I needed to clarify this earlier, but must have gotten bogged down in other things and forgotten about it.  I'd intended to stress some of her self-conscious feelings of being too old to be doing these sorts of things. That it's no wonder she's treated like a child when she's no taller than one.  Etc.   

I'll make a note to clarify that when I get around to the next revision. In the meantime, for general reference, she's almost nineteen (though checking back to the chapter, it says nineteen.  And not until page 3)

Thanks! :) 

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