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julienreel

2/15/2021 - julienreel - Legend of the Four-fold Kingdom: Ch 1 (V)(G)(L)(S) - 4725 words

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I've finally decided to get more active in the community in conjunction with sharing the book I've been working on for the past couple of years.
I know I'll make many more revisions to it with everyone's help and advice. So at this stage, what I'm most interested in having critiqued are the broader aspects of the story -- the plot, pacing, character development, etc. But really I'm open to anything. What did you like? What didn't you like?

Edited by julienreel
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As far as pacing goes, I think you nailed 99% of it. There was one moment early on where it lagged, where they were in the carriage talking about dinner plans and vineyards. I did not care much about that. Since A is the main character, not the adults, what would you think of A interacting more with his sister, M, in that scene instead of his father? And somehow in the conversation, find a way to bring up the tutor so he doesn’t seem to come out of nowhere later?

Otherwise, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and mostly satisfied with how it ended. The atmosphere was fantastic and it seems to heavily lean into gothic tropes. I thought a lot of the description and imagery was well done.

In terms of plot, I feel like it sets up well for a rescue mission, though I am hoping there is some kind of twister later since boy rescuing his sister (who had no character development at all) is a bit too cliché and old fashioned for me.

A is an interesting character. The narrative voice was a little distant, but for the most part, that didn’t bother me because the atmosphere was so spooky and tense. However, that atmosphere alone won’t sustain my interest for the novel, especially since we are out of the manor now. Going forward, I think it would be good dig a little deeper into A’s head.

Mostly this felt like close-ish 3rd, but there were a couple times you slipped POVs. Once might have been accidental though at the end, it seemed intentional. Personally, I’m not a fan of omniscient narrators that jump heads without scene breaks, but plenty of writers do it.

One plot issue I had was when they decided to stay the night. That seemed too brushed over. Did they really try to resist? Could they? I feel like that moment might need a little beefing up.

One problem I did have with A is that I couldn’t quite tell how old he was at first. The first paragraph made me think adult, then when we got closer to him, I was picturing more like 14, then it turned out he was 17. Which even though I guessed younger, I think the age works. Though my next question is do you consider this YA or Adult? Because I think that would change how I critique voice and character development.

My biggest overall concern is how women are treated in this. They’re almost non-existent. M is mentioned a few times, but she is described very vaguely (I cringed at the word demure and was no a fan of sweetly feminine either). Can you give her a more concrete description? One that actually presents her as an actual character? I would love to see her interact with A more too!

Based on this chapter, it would fail the sexy lamp test (https://fanlore.org/wiki/Sexy_Lamp_Test) and the Bechdel test (https://lifehacker.com/the-bechdel-test-and-other-media-representation-tests-1819324045).

Aside from that, not developing M at all lowers the stakes. I don’t know much about her. I don’t know much about how A feels about her. I’m not exactly invested in any potential rescue plots, assuming that is what will happen next. The sister being taken would have a much bigger impact of she was a well-developed side character. 

I will say, throughout the narrative, I kept expecting the count to be a vampire even though the demon hints were very present. Demon works out fine though. 

Looking forward to reading more.

 

 

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Welcome to RE and congratulations on your first sub!

Overall

Hm. I'm not sure whether you are trying to write a silly trope book here, or actually want to write a gothic horror. If it's serious, then it needs work. The villain and the tutor sound like comic book characters and the plot is convenient and bland. If it's meant to be a parody or trope book, it's on a good path, but needs a lot of tightening and more showing (less telling).

Either way, it's brave to start subbing! Good on you.

As I go

- oooh. Chilling start. Gothic?

- that first line is adjective heavy. I'd cut a few

- the father has very stilted language that makes it hard to take him seriously

- why does the daughter not have a name?

- also the father just sounds like a comic book villain

- pg 6: the sweetly feminine and demure daughter, <-- ah she does have a name. Probably should give it on page one when she is introduced. Also...is this book very tropey? Is that why she's being described like she's going to fail the Sexy Lamp Test?

- pg 2: if there aren't vampires here I'm going to be very disappointed

- pg 3: at this stage I'd really like to know why they agreed to this dinner. Just a line or something about how if you turn down an invitation you become dinner or whatever would work fine. 

- pg 3: come alone, but the Count made a special request for the entire immediate family to join them.<-- ah, we get it here, but too late. This should be page one. But also that paragraph is very much a dump. I'd rather get a lot of that from character interactions and movements. I feel like we are being told a ton of things, especially atmospheric things, that could be much better conveyed through description 

- pg 4: I'm still really baffled why the family would come to a demon's place for dinner. He's a cartoon villain. Surely they can tell this??

- pg 4: privy dungeon. Of course. Though again, why would they visit if they know this was a thing?? My ability to suspend disbelief is waning. Though if you want to sell me this as a fun trope book, I'd be okay with it. It's over the top otherwise

- pg 6: "There's nothing to fear. I clearly brought you here to die, like Hansel and Grettle."

- pg 6: moved to his parents bed <-- blocking issues. I'm so confused. He's just with his dad and sister, right? Where is this other parent? I have not heard from another parent nor had one named. And were they all in the same room??

- pg 7: In the cell was his family. His parents hung from shackles <- wait, what? So he noticed sister was gone, but not the unnamed parent and the dad? And this is....I mean this is very cartoon. OF COURSE they all got kidnapped. What did they think would happen with a dude like that in a castle?

- and A can't even hide properly. This family deserves to die

- pg 7: he is a demon wearing a human disguise <-- the audience has known this from the first page

- pg 7: the wife appears but does not have a name. Soon to be a fridged lampshade?

- pg 8: little late to be introducing a tutor. Very author hand plot convenient

- Mr. G. also speaks like a cartoon

- pg 9: sources that young virgin girls are being rounded up and sent in hidden caravans from the kingdom <-- did this story have a tag for implied rape? Also gross and unnecessary trope. Sexy lampshade indeed

- wait what? A breakout? No need to rescue the family? WHAT IF THE MOTHER HAS A NAME???

- if the tutor knew how to break out, why did he wait 2 weeks to do it?

- pg 11: the brother has like 0 concern or angst that he is leaving his family to be eaten and sold

 

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17 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

As far as pacing goes, I think you nailed 99% of it. There was one moment early on where it lagged, where they were in the carriage talking about dinner plans and vineyards. I did not care much about that. Since A is the main character, not the adults, what would you think of A interacting more with his sister, M, in that scene instead of his father? And somehow in the conversation, find a way to bring up the tutor so he doesn’t seem to come out of nowhere later?

Thank you for your feedback! I definitely agree that M needs more character development, and as Kais said, I should explain more of what's going on through character dialogue rather than telling.

17 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

In terms of plot, I feel like it sets up well for a rescue mission, though I am hoping there is some kind of twister later since boy rescuing his sister (who had no character development at all) is a bit too cliché and old fashioned for me.

Tbh, it's sort of that but also not. Honestly, my grandiose plan probably fails the readers' expectations. This story is meant to be something of an epic fantasy spanning 3-5 books and basically, the rescue mission gets skirted around and delayed because of the circumstances A finds himself in. Also, in future drafts, I plan on making POV chapters from M's perspective to help develop the plot and motives of the characters.

17 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

One plot issue I had was when they decided to stay the night. That seemed too brushed over. Did they really try to resist? Could they? I feel like that moment might need a little beefing up.

Absolutely agree. I will definitely beef up that whole event to make it more realistic and understandable.

17 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

M is mentioned a few times, but she is described very vaguely (I cringed at the word demure and was no a fan of sweetly feminine either). Can you give her a more concrete description? One that actually presents her as an actual character? I would love to see her interact with A more too!

Based on this chapter, it would fail the sexy lamp test (https://fanlore.org/wiki/Sexy_Lamp_Test) and the Bechdel test (https://lifehacker.com/the-bechdel-test-and-other-media-representation-tests-1819324045).

Haha yeah, I've never heard of the sexy lamp test, but this is terribly accurate. I guess what my plan was with writing this draft was to get the plot down and then go back and flesh out the characters. I know that it's not good practice to have the plot dictate the characters, which is why I started with generic, vague motivations for the characters that I can beef up later. Really grateful for your feedback, cheers! I think this story will definitely disappoint you lol, but I think with your's and others' help, I can shape this clump of dirt into something worth looking at.

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20 minutes ago, kais said:

Welcome to RE and congratulations on your first sub!

Overall

Hm. I'm not sure whether you are trying to write a silly trope book here, or actually want to write a gothic horror. If it's serious, then it needs work. The villain and the tutor sound like comic book characters and the plot is convenient and bland. If it's meant to be a parody or trope book, it's on a good path, but needs a lot of tightening and more showing (less telling).

Either way, it's brave to start subbing! Good on you.

Haha thank you for your feedback, it's great to have these flaws pointed out. Unfortunately, I'm not trying to write a silly trope book lol, nor is it specifically a gothic horror. I wanted to illustrate the darkness of the story; in my first draft I didn't have any gothic elements, but I'm wanting my story to have more adult themes, so I thought I'd start it off with more horror so that readers know what this story will contain. The rest of the story is more like an innocent YA fantasy book. So there's a clash I'm looking forward to having torn to pieces. Probably doesn't help that a lot of my inspiration comes from comic book-type stories.

25 minutes ago, kais said:

- pg 6: the sweetly feminine and demure daughter, <-- ah she does have a name. Probably should give it on page one when she is introduced. Also...is this book very tropey? Is that why she's being described like she's going to fail the Sexy Lamp Test?

- pg 2: if there aren't vampires here I'm going to be very disappointed

- pg 3: at this stage I'd really like to know why they agreed to this dinner. Just a line or something about how if you turn down an invitation you become dinner or whatever would work fine. 

- pg 3: come alone, but the Count made a special request for the entire immediate family to join them.<-- ah, we get it here, but too late. This should be page one. But also that paragraph is very much a dump. I'd rather get a lot of that from character interactions and movements. I feel like we are being told a ton of things, especially atmospheric things, that could be much better conveyed through description 

- pg 4: I'm still really baffled why the family would come to a demon's place for dinner. He's a cartoon villain. Surely they can tell this??

- pg 4: privy dungeon. Of course. Though again, why would they visit if they know this was a thing?? My ability to suspend disbelief is waning. Though if you want to sell me this as a fun trope book, I'd be okay with it. It's over the top otherwise

 

Great stuff! Absolutely having more depth M at least and giving the mom a name shall be done. Sorry, there are no vampires lol. Great advice on avoiding the dumps and doing it through the character interactions. I suppose my first job for this chapter is to make it less tropey and more reasonable.

32 minutes ago, kais said:

- pg 6: "There's nothing to fear. I clearly brought you here to die, like Hansel and Grettle."

- pg 6: moved to his parents bed <-- blocking issues. I'm so confused. He's just with his dad and sister, right? Where is this other parent? I have not heard from another parent nor had one named. And were they all in the same room??

- pg 7: In the cell was his family. His parents hung from shackles <- wait, what? So he noticed sister was gone, but not the unnamed parent and the dad? And this is....I mean this is very cartoon. OF COURSE they all got kidnapped. What did they think would happen with a dude like that in a castle?

- and A can't even hide properly. This family deserves to die

- pg 7: he is a demon wearing a human disguise <-- the audience has known this from the first page

- pg 7: the wife appears but does not have a name. Soon to be a fridged lampshade?

Hahaha, yeah pretty cartoonish. I'm thinking now about how I can make this less cartoonish. I think I was reading Dracula when i wrote this, maybe I should draw more inspiration from that. Because that getaway at the beginning was great. Hmm, lots of work to be done. But yeah, I should make it more clear that the mom is present there, I thought I had her say something near the beginning, but probably didn't have enough substance to be remembered. Wait, I know what happened. I only referred to her as the Mrs. L, which could have been confused as the sister. Truuuue.

39 minutes ago, kais said:

- pg 8: little late to be introducing a tutor. Very author hand plot convenient

- Mr. G. also speaks like a cartoon

- pg 9: sources that young virgin girls are being rounded up and sent in hidden caravans from the kingdom <-- did this story have a tag for implied rape? Also gross and unnecessary trope. Sexy lampshade indeed

- wait what? A breakout? No need to rescue the family? WHAT IF THE MOTHER HAS A NAME???

- if the tutor knew how to break out, why did he wait 2 weeks to do it?

- pg 11: the brother has like 0 concern or angst that he is leaving his family to be eaten and sold

 

I appreciate this, I could do a better job of introducing the tutor as missing earlier in the chapter, which would add to suspense too I think. Yeah, a lot of the characters talk like cartoons you'll see and have seen I'm sure lol. Making the subtle tweaks to dialogue was going to be a later task in my editing process, but it is duly noted as a glaring weakness.
I did not have a tag, I wasn't sure where the implied rape fit in, but you're right, it's unnecessary. I'll add an S tag and remove it from the next edit.
In my mind, the reason the tutor waited two weeks to break out was that he had to carefully time when he would chip away at the wall to make his notches and eventually climb out. He had little strength and sustenance too, which I could demonstrate better. 
Yeah, I think that adding a scene where A tries to go back for his family but Mr. G stops him would make sense then them just leaving. Like, why would A believe Mr. G that his parents are dead? (spoiler, they are.)

Phew, thanks so much for your feedback Kais, it's given me a lot to think about.

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Congrats on your first sub!

Overall: I’m getting a strong Gothic sense, both in terms of tone and the tropes, which was very clear throughout.

I thought this did reasonably well as a slow-burn narrative. I did think it was sometimes too slow, both because my attention wandered in places (see below) and because the Gothic slow burn is at odds with the end of the chapter in which the count very quickly reveals his entire deal (which Gothic narratives generally do not do that early if at all). More buildup in the middle could help reconcile the two and make sure we’re engaged, as well as introduce the actual supernatural aspects a bit more naturally. I literally this wasn't sure this was speculative fiction in the modern sense until the Count revealed himself.

I’m not invested in any of the characters at the moment, including our POV. Which, yes, another function of Gothic narratives, but it’s something to keep in mind, if only from a saleability standpoint; modern literature tends to be a lot more character-heavy than your average Henry James novel.

On the subject of characters, I would also really like it if the women did, well, anything at all. It’s fine to portray people restricted by their circumstances, but these ones have no personality, to the point that when they appeared in the story my reaction was literally “where did they come from”?

Another trope I don’t love: the fat character being the obvious villain. It’s pretty overplayed, and the fact that C is an antagonist is telegraphed strongly enough that I don’t think it adds anything.

As I read:

A’s sister seems to appear out of nowhere when G falls on her. And is Mrs. L A’s sister, or someone else because if so she also seems to appear out of nowhere.

“Welcome, the affluent…” Describing someone to their face as “affluent” struck me as a bit weird.

P3 Spellcheck won’t catch this one, “… as the L’s were all accounted for” no apostrophe after the L

“Count C… the demon.” I mean if that’s the twist, I’m on board. I question why he would telegraph it like this, though.

“I did not invite you here to gossip.” I’ve been wondering about this. I do note the foreshadowing about C being more than he seems, but I think some hint of why they’re here is due or even overdue. My attention is slipping and a sense of what this encounter is driving towards could go a long way.

“...looked dotingly at his daughter.” Um, even if she’s not supposed to talk, can she, you know, react at all?

Well, you definitely have my attention again after encountering the amazing groaning toilet. I’m very creeped out (which is fine) and also completely baffled as to how the count keeps this a secret (which is less fine).

P6 “desert was eaten” should be “dessert”

My mind is wandering again. Did they not talk about anything of consequence for the whole dinner?

Wild theory time: A was spared from whatever’s about to happen to his family because he’s vegetarian? For reasons?

“...though someone vomited on me as I did so.” Hah.

I would like a clearer picture of what A actually did in the fight, but hooray, A did something! He’s been pretty passive up to this point.

The POV shift on the last page seems abrupt, especially going from third limited to third omniscient. And the Count cackling about his plans is not doing much for me - this all seems to be standard "evil villain" stuff, not actual character development. If the count is meant to be an actual character then I think we need to see some of that - assuming the camera is focused on him. If he really is just a monster who needs to feed... you might be able to get away with that in a Gothic story, but you might need to shift the way you think about him from an antagonist (character) to a plot device (force that acts on the character) - which probably means not giving him screen time to cackle about his evil plans (unless maybe he's doing it at the protagonists).

On 2/15/2021 at 10:32 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

There was one moment early on where it lagged, where they were in the carriage talking about dinner plans and vineyards

It's definitely a thing in this subgenre, but I did feel it could be trimmed or condensed a bit.

On 2/15/2021 at 10:32 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

Aside from that, not developing M at all lowers the stakes. I don’t know much about her.

This is an excellent point. I wasn't fond of A's parents either - dad seemed like a jerk - but since M is the one who is maybe still alive she's the one who arguably matters most.

7 hours ago, kais said:

the sweetly feminine and demure daughter, <-- ah she does have a name. Probably should give it on page one when she is introduced. Also...is this book very tropey? I

This does seem like a great setup for lambasting some of the more unsavoury parts of the subgenre, if you're going for something more satirical. No the impression I've gotten so far though.

7 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 9: sources that young virgin girls are being rounded up and sent in hidden caravans from the kingdom 

yep good idea to tag this stuff. "SA"  for sexual assault is the most appropriate one. Can always qualify that it's implied rather than explicit in your email/post.

7 hours ago, julienreel said:

The rest of the story is more like an innocent YA fantasy book.

I think you could possibly marry this to epic fantasy, or at least, to adult fantasy. I definitely do not think you could marry this to YA fantasy without a massive overhaul.

Addressing some of the show/tell, pacing, and characterization that people have already brought up will probably "modernize" the ms to an extent and make it feel more like fantasy than Gothic. That being said... it might be worth doing some market research and seeing what is out there for Gothic fantasy - it might be a small niche but there's gotta be some out there. We seem to be unanimous so far in the sense of the Gothic you bring to your work, so it is probably worth exploring further and seeing what other writers do with it.

Edited by Silk
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Pg 1:

“Count Cr-…had invited the L- family…” tense is off.

Same thing a little later “Before A- had taken to tending… the wine the L- produced had been…”  This happens a few other times as well.  Just be careful anytime you’re referring to what happened before what A- is currently experiencing.

Pg 2:

I was a little surprised by the mother and sister appearing on page 2.  Not a huge issue, but it’s a little jarring when page 1 set up an image of just father and son in the carriage. I think it’s just the “sat self-satisfied…his son” line.  It doesn’t say they’re the only ones in the carriage, and the family is mentioned, but it might be helpful to get all of the family members into our mental picture from page 1.

Pg 4

I’d taken A- for far younger than seventeen up until this point.  Partly due to the knee patting at the beginning, I think. That interaction makes him seem far younger

Pg 5-7

Some jarring shifts between scenes or points of conversation that could be smoothed over to seem more natural.

“cause to celebrate” – this seems to imply that he’s now going to change his plans to do something special, but he just calls the food in?

“there’s nothing to fear”- Does A- not think to mention that maybe his startling trip to the privy might be worth mentioning to someone?  Considering the unexpected invitation to stay?  Seems to be a concerning lack of alarm.

Pg8-14

Treatment of female characters and tonal confusion aside, there is a lot through here that just need some of the wordiness and over-formality of the language ironed out to make it a lot smoother.  The tension and stakes are there, but tripping over some of the wording and explanations along the way is interfering with it.

Pg 11

Knowing something about Mr. G- earlier would be a big help.  A- noting his absence in some way. Maybe tying his disappearance to his sometimes seeming like he’s hiding things.  Also, maybe giving G- a reason to have stuck around until then.  Maybe he was going to escape but overheard that there would be more people coming.  Or specifically the L-s.     

Pg 14

Need something to separate the PoV jump.  Are we going to be jumping to other PoVs regularly? 

Overall:

There were a number of distracting moments due to awkward sentence structure and wordiness (a lot of adjective piles. A lot of overly formal dialogue). I’d taken some of it as an attempt to push a gothic setting/genre, but reading through the comments, it seems like that’s not what it’s ultimately going to be.  If it’s going to be a more general YA/fantasy, I think some of the flow and tone of the text should be smoother and simpler. Not simplistic, but a little less of the formality and tone that are pushing the gothic feel.  Especially because the over-formality is likely part of what is making some parts jarring and stilted.

I haven’t read too many things where our MCs are trying to fight off and/or defend themselves against demons,  so I’m quite curious about where things are going, but I definitely think we need more character connection to be invested.  And a lot of that is lost in the formality and distance of the language.  I have very little idea of what even our MC’s thoughts are on any of what’s happening unless he’s actively speaking (or being sick or fainting)  More alright for a Gothic approach, but if you’re aiming for a YA feel, even if it’s Gothic-tinged, I think this is a lot more darkness and description of gore and implied rape than I’d expect to appeal to fit a YA audience. 

I’m definitely interested in seeing where this goes.  Especially since you’re saying it changes directions tone-wise quite a bit from here.  

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Congrats on the first Sub to RE!

I think the others pretty much nailed the problems with this. You have good pacing, and by that alone I was kept interested in the story. However it does read as almost a satire of Gothic stories.

17 hours ago, julienreel said:
17 hours ago, kais said:

Overall

Hm. I'm not sure whether you are trying to write a silly trope book here, or actually want to write a gothic horror. If it's serious, then it needs work. The villain and the tutor sound like comic book characters and the plot is convenient and bland. If it's meant to be a parody or trope book, it's on a good path, but needs a lot of tightening and more showing (less telling).

Either way, it's brave to start subbing! Good on you.

Haha thank you for your feedback, it's great to have these flaws pointed out. Unfortunately, I'm not trying to write a silly trope book lol, nor is it specifically a gothic horror. I wanted to illustrate the darkness of the story; in my first draft I didn't have any gothic elements, but I'm wanting my story to have more adult themes, so I thought I'd start it off with more horror so that readers know what this story will contain. The rest of the story is more like an innocent YA fantasy book. So there's a clash I'm looking forward to having torn to pieces. Probably doesn't help that a lot of my inspiration comes from comic book-type stories.

Yeah, if I was picking this up blind, I'd be waiting for the other shoe to drop in the next chapter where we find out this is a satire of Dracula or something where the women are intentionally sidelined and the protagonist has no personality on purpose. You definitely have the horror down, but I think the lack of character reactions is what's making me go to satire. If we don't emote with the character, then horror turns into comedy. It's a fine line. You might try watching some movies like Dracula Dead and Loving It (comedy) vs. A Vampire in Brooklyn (comedy/horror), vs. Shadow of the Vampire or Interview with the Vampire (horror). (I'm picking vampires here instead of demons because it's easier, but you get the picture). See how the characters react to the situations in the movies and then compare to how your characters react.

 

Also, for future entries, if they have this level of horror, I'd definitely tag to make sure people know what they're getting into.

 

Notes while reading
pg 2: "He cursed as he righted himself on the bench next to his daughter,"
--oh, there's even more people in this carriage...

pg 2: "the Mrs. L"
--is this the daughter, or a wife, another person in the carriage?

pg 2: "had these thoughts as the gate swung mysteriously inward"
--Don't really need to label them as thoughts. Also, definitely getting a vampire-y vibe from the castle.

pg 2: "diverging the driveway
--splitting the driveway? I don't think this is the right word.

pg 2: "“Welcome, the affluent Mr. L..."
--that's...a weird appelation?

pg 3: "emphasized his cruel demeanor"
--welp, no mystery there!

pg 4: "the entire immediate family"
--I'm still not sure how many people this is. Is there a wife, or just a daughter?

pg 5: "how pretty she is.” 
--ick.

pg 6: "Did the Count C keep tortured slaves in some forgotten dungeon?"
--and...the privy opens into the dungeon??

pg 7: "his parents bed"
--okay, I guess there is a wife? She just doesn't get a mention?

pg 9: "His parents hung from shackles"
--so.....why? This seems to be very gothic, and is pretty tense, but I'm not quite sure what's going on yet.

pg 9: "a monstrous creature emerged"
--okay, well the story is consistent at least.

pg 9: "but their eyes suggested they’d seen this form before"
--eh? If they knew this, why did they come?

pg 10: "His despair must be entire.”
--again...why?

pg 10: "He’d disappeared two weeks ago"
--and he's just stepping out of the shadows now? That's not suspicious...

pg 11: "“I have sent her to my master."
--I thought the count was pretty much the top of the heap.

pg 12: "I am one such augmented"
--okaaay. I was not expecting superhuman powers for some reason.

pg 13: "The guard’s arms flew apart."
--like...off his body?

pg 14: "In C Manor, the captain..."
--oh, this is a weird POV shift. Usually there's a break to show what's happening.

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13 hours ago, Silk said:

Overall: I’m getting a strong Gothic sense, both in terms of tone and the tropes, which was very clear throughout.

I thought this did reasonably well as a slow-burn narrative. I did think it was sometimes too slow, both because my attention wandered in places (see below) and because the Gothic slow burn is at odds with the end of the chapter in which the count very quickly reveals his entire deal (which Gothic narratives generally do not do that early if at all). More buildup in the middle could help reconcile the two and make sure we’re engaged, as well as introduce the actual supernatural aspects a bit more naturally. I literally this wasn't sure this was speculative fiction in the modern sense until the Count revealed himself.

I’m not invested in any of the characters at the moment, including our POV. Which, yes, another function of Gothic narratives, but it’s something to keep in mind, if only from a saleability standpoint; modern literature tends to be a lot more character-heavy than your average Henry James novel.

On the subject of characters, I would also really like it if the women did, well, anything at all. It’s fine to portray people restricted by their circumstances, but these ones have no personality, to the point that when they appeared in the story my reaction was literally “where did they come from”?

Another trope I don’t love: the fat character being the obvious villain. It’s pretty overplayed, and the fact that C is an antagonist is telegraphed strongly enough that I don’t think it adds anything.

Definitely agree with all this, thank you. I've been given a tonne of inspiration for my next revision thanks to all the helpful comments made by this community. Your idea of building up the middle more is especially appreciated, and of course, building up the other characters more. The trope about the count being fat and evil wasn't entirely intentional, I made him fat so that it would make more sense that a massive demon could be hiding within the skin, but I'm sure I could do this some other way without getting too cliche.

13 hours ago, Silk said:

As I read:

“I did not invite you here to gossip.” I’ve been wondering about this. I do note the foreshadowing about C being more than he seems, but I think some hint of why they’re here is due or even overdue. My attention is slipping and a sense of what this encounter is driving towards could go a long way.

“...looked dotingly at his daughter.” Um, even if she’s not supposed to talk, can she, you know, react at all?

My mind is wandering again. Did they not talk about anything of consequence for the whole dinner?

Wild theory time: A was spared from whatever’s about to happen to his family because he’s vegetarian? For reasons?

I would like a clearer picture of what A actually did in the fight, but hooray, A did something! He’s been pretty passive up to this point.

The POV shift on the last page seems abrupt, especially going from third limited to third omniscient. 

It's definitely a thing in this subgenre, but I did feel it could be trimmed or condensed a bit.

 

I know now, from you and others, that these are all key aspects that need addressing. More interaction from the daughter, some more unique motive from the C, less on the nose about the whole situation. I was actually thinking A being a vegetarian would fit into why he was spared, but I sort of brushed over it without any thought, so I'll flesh that out in the revision. I'll cut out the last POV, clearly it's irrelevant, I guess I was just hanging a lantern on the fact that no authorities were actually alerted of A and G's escape. Yeah, and trimming the heavy use of adjectives.

13 hours ago, Silk said:

I think you could possibly marry this to epic fantasy, or at least, to adult fantasy. I definitely do not think you could marry this to YA fantasy without a massive overhaul.

Addressing some of the show/tell, pacing, and characterization that people have already brought up will probably "modernize" the ms to an extent and make it feel more like fantasy than Gothic. That being said... it might be worth doing some market research and seeing what is out there for Gothic fantasy - it might be a small niche but there's gotta be some out there. We seem to be unanimous so far in the sense of the Gothic you bring to your work, so it is probably worth exploring further and seeing what other writers do with it.

Yes, I like the gothic vibe, I'm in part inspired by Book of the New Sun and also the manga, Berserk; both have a clear gothic/fantasy tone. See, when I say the rest of the story is more YA, it's just an unfortunate situation, I have no intention of making the story YA, I want it to be more adult fantasy/gothic. But my first draft was very much YA style, and I kept to a majority of that story line, which I think you'll see doesn't fit very well, but with everyone's help, I'm sure I'll be able to smooth it over. I'm caught in this training montage style arc where A goes to a magic school to realize his true powers, but the main plot (his sister's been kidnapped,) sort of gets brushed over until the very end. I could see that being annoying for the readers, as a side plot takes over from the original, main plot that the readers would expect pursued. We'll see how I can consolidate that. I'm sure I could have the magic school and still fit it into the gothic vibes by adding and subtracting certain things, but wow, haha I get to realize how far this story needs to go before it's at all good. Thank you so much for your input.

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As I go:

pg 1

-I think it's important to have a character hook in the first paragraph. Better to get us engaged immediately then set the scene. 

-my reading of A is a preteen/early teen right now, since he seems unaware of these delicate adult political dynamics. Let's see if I'm right about that. 

pg 2

-lotta description but I think it's okay for now because it feels old-timey so the descriptions evoke a certain writing style. Keeping my eye on it though 

pg 3

-So A doesn't like being here, which is fair. I want to see a bit more from him. I get the impression that this sort of thing is new to him, and I also don't fully understand why he's here. Does he know what his role is?

-hmm... fat, comically evil lord person is not a trope I like. Idk if you're also American but in the US we have quite enough "fat goes hand in hand with bad" going on with advertising, narrative media, ect. Is this trying to parody that trope? If so, it needs to be clearer to me. And even then it's just not something I like to see. 

pg 4

-Okay so A is 17. I wasn't sure about my guess on his age before and it's good to get that cleared up now. I would think that being 17 he'd have a bit more of an idea about nobility dynamics, and I'll expect him to have decent skills in deducing adult matters in general. 

pg 6

-I'm wondering what the point of this meal with the count is supposed to be. Did he give any reason at all to the family?

-...Is this going to be a "you were eating human flesh the whole time!" sort of thing? It kinda gives off those vibes. 

pg 7

-Well them staying the night can't be a good sign...

-When he falls asleep is a good place for a scene break

-I'm worried about the sister going missing turning into a classic "damsel in distress" type thing where she only exists as plot motivation for A (which I've been guilty of, so no judgement if it does happen). Or if she gets killed off as plot motivation for A. 

-I feel like this is when I should point out that I don't read gothic horror at all so take that into account

pg 8

-The prison thing feels a little over the top. Is that on purpose? 

pg 9

-Did he not notice his parents were missing before? Were they sleeping in separate rooms?

-Okay there was that comment about the demon thing earlier... Has the dude always been a demon or did a demon replace him recently? Not that I expect them to talk about it but some more background could help us piece together the info. Unless the count really doesn't matter except as a stock villain (again, I don't really know how these stories tend to go).

pg 10

-That escalated quickly

-Why does A matter to the count so much? Why is his despair so important? 

-Again, I feel like when he loses consciousness there should be a scene break

-Hmm G being introduced made me pause. Guy seems important enough, especially since he went missing, that I feel like he should have come up before now. 

-Wouldn't commoners be more likely to believe their count's a demon than more educated types?

-Good to get answers as to why A was targeted. Still, why is he the one who's pure of heart? Wasn't his sister also described as being pure? 

pg 11

-What does the sister being sent to the master mean? Like, what is the master going to do with her? If it's something the story doesn't feel comfortable talking about then it shouldn't be there at all. 

-Girls' virginity being a big deal thing is also a trope I don't like, especially if it's to make them seem pure. And to justify holding them hostage. And potentially doing awful, violating things to them? This brings up a larger point that I feel like I need to know more about the sister in general because she seems important. I can accept tropes I don't like more easily if I can see the person behind them, and right now I really can't. 

pg 12

-How are they supposed to survive without water?

pg 13-14

-I was engaged throughout this. Nice ending to the chapter. 

Overall:

I definitely read this as if it were serious, and I really don't know much about gothic stuff as I mentioned in line edits. My main questions were about characterization and plot. I think more could be done with both A and his sister. The characterization issues tie into the plot for me, since it's important that A be pure of heart for the demon to target him... but I dunno, that feels like kind of a sloppy excuse, even though I know some stories do function this way. Maybe this genre just isn't for me. Regardless, I think more work needs to be done establishing why A is special and why that gets the demon's focus on him, and the sister being an actual character. The mom could use work as well but if she's dead at the end of the chapter anyway... idk. 

That being said there's a lot of potential here and it was a really engaging read overall. My comments are critical here but I did enjoy it overall. :) 

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Everyone has already explained everything that I would have said… so I’m just going to be an echo. Sorry :D

Page 1

-i like the tone you've set up, already invested

Page 2

-”his daughter, A’s sister” seems repetitive to say its A’s sister. I would pick either “his daughter” or “a’s sister” but not both.

-the servent stood in the” typo, servant (sorry for focusing on the minor details)

Page 3

-couldn't help but think the servant must be in poor health” tense error i think. Not “must be,” “was” is better

-”were yet to be served” this phrasing sounds a bit odd to me. Maybe it would work better as “the dishes had yet to be served” or “no dishes had been served yet” idk, personal preference :)

-”there was a hellish painting” odd painting to have in the dining room. foreshadowing, perhaps?

-”rise!” ngl, i thought he was telling his master (the count) to rise. As in, he was a vampire rising from his coffin.

Page 4

-”sense of unease in the Ls”and “G would have preferred” POV error i think, isn't this third limited/close in A’s pov?

Page 5

-oooh a person/creature groaning in the toilet, i dig it, i dig it.

Page 6

-”he must get back” tense error, i think

-”what sort of meat is this?” don't tell me its human

-”he doesn't indulge on the flesh of animals” is this how meat eaters refer to eating meat??

Page 7

-”G floundered for words” pov slip

-“Snapped his fingers and E, his servant” i dont think reminding us that E is his servant is necessary. 

-”i hope you find your sleeping arrangements favorable” this escalated quickly. 

-”there would be little sleep for A that night” sounds like a very omniscient thing to say. also this seems like a tense error

-“He would lie awake” tense error, right? This is all past tense but “would” is future or uh potential past? Bah! Im not good with tense in my own writing. I guess “would” works with an omniscient narrator.. it just sounds like an odd thing for third limited

-“Moved to his parents bed” wait, plural? Wasn't he just with his dad? edit: i missed the line that Mrs.L said on like page 2. because that's like the only other time she is mentioned.

Page 8

-”what could he do but follow?” i noticed this line repeated(end of pg7 as well), idk if it was intentional, probably not a big deal, i just noticed it
 

Overall:

This story started out great! It definitely has a lot of potential! I was into the setting and the dramatic tone, but by the end, I was just skimming to see what happened(hense, why i stopped writing my thoughts after page 8). Imo, there wasn’t enough suspense in some of the more dramatic bits. After they agreed to stay the night it felt like everything went very quick. I thought, “oh, they’re staying the night now? Oh, now the family is gone? Oh, now they're in a dungeon?? Oh, now there's this random mentor and oop now they’re escaping! Okay!” I guess that would be a pacing problem, right? But i'm no expert, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

Also, yes i second everything about the POV slips, the lack of characterization in everyone, the tropeyness, the things that were convenient to plot, etc.

Regarding the mentor, I think if you were to introduce him in the very beginning, it would feel very satisfying to have him pop up later. While they are on their way to the count’s house, you could have A think about how his mentor said awful things about the count but then he went missing, introduce him in some way that makes us interested to know where the mentor has gone and suspect the count. Though, this would work better if the count wasn’t so obviously evil. It would be nice if there was something to have us doubt the count is evil. charming people are often the most dangerous! i was not surprised by him being a demon at all. On that note, the main family definitely needs a better or more clear motivation for visiting the count. If there are rumors about him being a demon, and people have gone missing, i dont think i would willing walk into his house (though, i might because i like spooky things). Unless there is some stigma around denying an invitation to have dinner with him. Which, you seem to have played off as A being too young to understand and the father knows best. But i don't think that's enough for the reader, or at least, not for me.

I for sure think you could and should lean into the creepy/horror/gothic tone even more. Also, i should mention that I don’t read gothic horror or anything like that, so again, feel free to disregard anything i say. I apologize for not having anything new to add!

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On 2/18/2021 at 5:23 AM, C_Vallion said:

Overall:

There were a number of distracting moments due to awkward sentence structure and wordiness (a lot of adjective piles. A lot of overly formal dialogue). I’d taken some of it as an attempt to push a gothic setting/genre, but reading through the comments, it seems like that’s not what it’s ultimately going to be.  If it’s going to be a more general YA/fantasy, I think some of the flow and tone of the text should be smoother and simpler. Not simplistic, but a little less of the formality and tone that are pushing the gothic feel.  Especially because the over-formality is likely part of what is making some parts jarring and stilted.

I haven’t read too many things where our MCs are trying to fight off and/or defend themselves against demons,  so I’m quite curious about where things are going, but I definitely think we need more character connection to be invested.  And a lot of that is lost in the formality and distance of the language.  I have very little idea of what even our MC’s thoughts are on any of what’s happening unless he’s actively speaking (or being sick or fainting)  More alright for a Gothic approach, but if you’re aiming for a YA feel, even if it’s Gothic-tinged, I think this is a lot more darkness and description of gore and implied rape than I’d expect to appeal to fit a YA audience. 

I’m definitely interested in seeing where this goes.  Especially since you’re saying it changes directions tone-wise quite a bit from here.  

Thanks, C_Vallion! Yeah, I did mention that it goes in more of a YA direction, but that's not my ultimate intention lol, which is why I wrote this part of the story. In the first draft, there's really no gothic vibe to speak of, or any sense of horror, but because I know further down in the story i want it to become more like that, I thought I'd set that expectation for the reader immediately. I know I'll have to do a major overhaul of tone for this story, but I'm still uncertain of which direction to go in: more gothic, or less gothic. Your comments about the wordiness, characterization, pacing, and all that is much appreciated. I'm definitely taking in everyone's feedback and will put it to good use. Thanks again!

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On 2/18/2021 at 6:18 AM, Mandamon said:

Congrats on the first Sub to RE!

I think the others pretty much nailed the problems with this. You have good pacing, and by that alone I was kept interested in the story. However it does read as almost a satire of Gothic stories.

Yeah, if I was picking this up blind, I'd be waiting for the other shoe to drop in the next chapter where we find out this is a satire of Dracula or something where the women are intentionally sidelined and the protagonist has no personality on purpose. You definitely have the horror down, but I think the lack of character reactions is what's making me go to satire. If we don't emote with the character, then horror turns into comedy. It's a fine line. You might try watching some movies like Dracula Dead and Loving It (comedy) vs. A Vampire in Brooklyn (comedy/horror), vs. Shadow of the Vampire or Interview with the Vampire (horror). (I'm picking vampires here instead of demons because it's easier, but you get the picture). See how the characters react to the situations in the movies and then compare to how your characters react.

 

Also, for future entries, if they have this level of horror, I'd definitely tag to make sure people know what they're getting into.

Thanks so much, Mandamon. I will definitely put more consideration into my tagging for the next entry, I was much too blase about it. It's always good to have the problems reiterated from different angles,so thank you for taking the time to jot down your thoughts! In the revision, I will change things up to lend more credibility to the choices of the characters. I don't want a black and white bad guy, so that's going to change. As well, M will play a big role in this story, so I'll put more effort into characterizing her early on. Thanks for the advice on comparing the characters reactions in other similar stories, I think that's a great idea.

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21 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

As I go:

pg 1

-I think it's important to have a character hook in the first paragraph. Better to get us engaged immediately then set the scene. 

-my reading of A is a preteen/early teen right now, since he seems unaware of these delicate adult political dynamics. Let's see if I'm right about that. 

pg 2

-lotta description but I think it's okay for now because it feels old-timey so the descriptions evoke a certain writing style. Keeping my eye on it though 

pg 3

-So A doesn't like being here, which is fair. I want to see a bit more from him. I get the impression that this sort of thing is new to him, and I also don't fully understand why he's here. Does he know what his role is?

-hmm... fat, comically evil lord person is not a trope I like. Idk if you're also American but in the US we have quite enough "fat goes hand in hand with bad" going on with advertising, narrative media, ect. Is this trying to parody that trope? If so, it needs to be clearer to me. And even then it's just not something I like to see. 

Thanks Ace of Hearts for commenting :) Yes, definitely I need to spend more time on the characters, and show what's happening through them rather than tell. It's great to see my story from other perspectives to note what needs addressing. I did get carried away with the descriptions and I didn't even realize! So that will be trimmed up. I've got some ideas about making the whole dinner invitation and scenario more realistic and to better show who A is and his motivations.
The whole fat evil person trope is not something I did for the sake of having that trope, I can see that it doesn't land well so I'll change that for sure. Really, all I was thinking was what sort of body type could a giant demon hide within, and that's what I landed on. But I'm sure there's some subconscious cliche action going on there. I appreciate these things being pointed out, so thank you.

21 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 4

-Okay so A is 17. I wasn't sure about my guess on his age before and it's good to get that cleared up now. I would think that being 17 he'd have a bit more of an idea about nobility dynamics, and I'll expect him to have decent skills in deducing adult matters in general. 

pg 6

-I'm wondering what the point of this meal with the count is supposed to be. Did he give any reason at all to the family?

-...Is this going to be a "you were eating human flesh the whole time!" sort of thing? It kinda gives off those vibes. 

pg 7

-Well them staying the night can't be a good sign...

-When he falls asleep is a good place for a scene break

-I'm worried about the sister going missing turning into a classic "damsel in distress" type thing where she only exists as plot motivation for A (which I've been guilty of, so no judgement if it does happen). Or if she gets killed off as plot motivation for A. 

-I feel like this is when I should point out that I don't read gothic horror at all so take that into account

Definitely agree that A should come off more worldly and understanding of adult matters than he does, which gives me some ideas to work with.
Funny you say that about the eating human flesh thing, that was my intention in the beginning, but I was too lazy to see how that could fit into the story so I nixed it haha. I'll have to create a better reason for the dinner. As far as the family's concerned, he's inviting them to dote on their excellent wine and perhaps propose a business venture. In reality, he just wants the daughter to send to his master. And speaking of which, spoiler alert, in actuality the reason they're collecting the girls is not for anything explicitly disgusting, they're searching for potential priestesses according to their prophecies. And I did a pretty myself a disservice by making the C overly evil, because I want the whole 'good guy, bad guy' trope be much more gray where the readers lean towards the 'bad guys' just being bad, but later in the novel see that they're not evil, maybe lacking empathy, but they have their own idea of what's right that they're striving for.
The sister going missing won't be a damsel in distress, much the opposite in fact, though A thinks that's the case. And the whole staying the night thing, I'm going to change that somewhat, thanks to comments from other readers.

21 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 8

-The prison thing feels a little over the top. Is that on purpose? 

pg 9

-Did he not notice his parents were missing before? Were they sleeping in separate rooms?

-Okay there was that comment about the demon thing earlier... Has the dude always been a demon or did a demon replace him recently? Not that I expect them to talk about it but some more background could help us piece together the info. Unless the count really doesn't matter except as a stock villain (again, I don't really know how these stories tend to go).

pg 10

-That escalated quickly

-Why does A matter to the count so much? Why is his despair so important? 

-Again, I feel like when he loses consciousness there should be a scene break

-Hmm G being introduced made me pause. Guy seems important enough, especially since he went missing, that I feel like he should have come up before now. 

-Wouldn't commoners be more likely to believe their count's a demon than more educated types?

-Good to get answers as to why A was targeted. Still, why is he the one who's pure of heart? Wasn't his sister also described as being pure? 

 

Overall:

I definitely read this as if it were serious, and I really don't know much about gothic stuff as I mentioned in line edits. My main questions were about characterization and plot. I think more could be done with both A and his sister. The characterization issues tie into the plot for me, since it's important that A be pure of heart for the demon to target him... but I dunno, that feels like kind of a sloppy excuse, even though I know some stories do function this way. Maybe this genre just isn't for me. Regardless, I think more work needs to be done establishing why A is special and why that gets the demon's focus on him, and the sister being an actual character. The mom could use work as well but if she's dead at the end of the chapter anyway... idk. 

That being said there's a lot of potential here and it was a really engaging read overall. My comments are critical here but I did enjoy it overall. :) 

These are all great points that I'll be able to clear up in a revision. The prison is over the top, I would say it's even unnecessary. I think doing something more like in Bram Stoker's Dracula would be better, in which the Vampire basically tells the MC that it's too dangerous to leave his home due to wolves and the such, but gives him the choice to do as he pleases, and then the imprisonment escalates from there. It's not actually imprisonment in that story, but the looming threat surrounding him is enough to create a sense of imprisonment.
In the revision, I'm going to nix the importance of A to the count, in fact, I should like it if A is almost irrelevant to the count. I'll do away with that whole feeding on despair element as well, I'm sure I can create something much more interesting. Also introducing G earlier is something I've seen recommended a few times, and I think it's a great idea. And you're right, probably commoners would be more inclined to believe the count is a demon rather than educated types.

Hey, thanks so much for taking time out to read my story and comment on it, it's been very helpful.

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7 hours ago, karamel said:

Overall:

This story started out great! It definitely has a lot of potential! I was into the setting and the dramatic tone, but by the end, I was just skimming to see what happened(hense, why i stopped writing my thoughts after page 8). Imo, there wasn’t enough suspense in some of the more dramatic bits. After they agreed to stay the night it felt like everything went very quick. I thought, “oh, they’re staying the night now? Oh, now the family is gone? Oh, now they're in a dungeon?? Oh, now there's this random mentor and oop now they’re escaping! Okay!” I guess that would be a pacing problem, right? But i'm no expert, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

Also, yes i second everything about the POV slips, the lack of characterization in everyone, the tropeyness, the things that were convenient to plot, etc.

Regarding the mentor, I think if you were to introduce him in the very beginning, it would feel very satisfying to have him pop up later. While they are on their way to the count’s house, you could have A think about how his mentor said awful things about the count but then he went missing, introduce him in some way that makes us interested to know where the mentor has gone and suspect the count. Though, this would work better if the count wasn’t so obviously evil. It would be nice if there was something to have us doubt the count is evil. charming people are often the most dangerous! i was not surprised by him being a demon at all. On that note, the main family definitely needs a better or more clear motivation for visiting the count. If there are rumors about him being a demon, and people have gone missing, i dont think i would willing walk into his house (though, i might because i like spooky things). Unless there is some stigma around denying an invitation to have dinner with him. Which, you seem to have played off as A being too young to understand and the father knows best. But i don't think that's enough for the reader, or at least, not for me.

I for sure think you could and should lean into the creepy/horror/gothic tone even more. Also, i should mention that I don’t read gothic horror or anything like that, so again, feel free to disregard anything i say. I apologize for not having anything new to add!

Thanks Karamel, your comments/notes about POV, wordiness, and pacing are very helpful! I think I'm guilty of rushing the story at times when it's not necessary and forgetting the importance of suspense. I have an idea of making the count more reasonable and charming in the revision, so I'm happy to see that sentiment mirrored in your review. I'm taking everything everyone's said into account, and I'm excited to overhaul this chapter! thanks a bunch for your input :) 

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3 hours ago, julienreel said:

The sister going missing won't be a damsel in distress, much the opposite in fact, though A thinks that's the case.

Ooh, now this is interesting. And it also means that we need a way to read around A, even in the first chapter. It's tricky to do, but it can be really cool if done right. We need to immediately recognize that the sister won't be a damsel in distress, even as A thinks she is, or else we'll just be totally tuned out of her character. And then by the time she does do something cool, it will be too late. 

3 hours ago, julienreel said:

In the revision, I'm going to nix the importance of A to the count, in fact, I should like it if A is almost irrelevant to the count. I'll do away with that whole feeding on despair element as well, I'm sure I can create something much more interesting.

Yeah there's a lot of potential in having A be mostly beneath the count's notice. I think this goes hand in hand with not representing the count as pure evil since the count's motivations will require more ironing out if he's not looking specifically to antagonize A. Though I think they can also work well together. If we see the count doing some awful stuff but behaving pretty reasonably towards A, it creates a good kind of cognitive dissonance where we're not quite sure how to feel about him. 

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