shatteredsmooth

2/22/21_ShatteredSmooth_Earth Reclaimed (Ch. 1 Sub/ 1)

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Hi Everyone! 
Here is the first chapter of a new old WIP. It's under contract with a publisher, though the week I got my edits was the first time I had looked at in a long, long time. There were a lot of issues with the first chapter (very short, too many characters, a ton of information dumped over a few pages...) My editor suggested slowing down and expanding it, but I thought that would've created a whole other set of problems, so I decided to write a completely new opening chapter (and probably created a whole new set of problems). Well, mostly new. My editor loved the opening paragraph, so I kept that. I'm open to whatever feedback you have, including LBLs (unless you think I need to scrap the whole thing and start over again).
 
Oh, and genre: This is YA fantasy, set in an alternate future Earth.
 
Thank you!!
 
-Sara
 
P.S. I can't think of any content warnings for this chapter. This is unusual. 
 
I won't be submitting this whole book. It's due the end of April. But depending on how this goes I might send one or two more. 
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Pg 1:

“It had most definitely…not”  The most disappointing of surprises.  When snacks are not where they are supposed to be.

The invitation text does a good job of setting up the alternate earth location.  Though I wonder about “Newly” being included in the full proper name (according to the acronym/initialism).  Is the NES newly unified?  Or has it always called itself by the full proper name and plan to continue to do so for the foreseeable and distant future? 

“back into their pocket, and stood” missing comma.

Pg 2:

“Ser walked…” trying to figure out the blocking here.  I’d pictured them crouched facing a river, but feel like I need some indication of turning to walk.

 “Soft…face.” The hair description seems a little too long.  Too many words before we get to “framed”

“…arched, but a grin brightened his face” missing word?  Also, it seems odd to contrast an arched eyebrow and a grin with “but” when those don’t seem to be contradictory expressions. 

“more of a supper.”  Approaching the supper vs. dinner terminology dispute head-on.  Bold.

Some of the dialogue through here seems a little wordy for casual conversation. And I can’t get a good read on the relationship between the two.  The descriptions suggest physical attraction from Ser-‘s side, but the thoughts/narrative/etc. don’t give indication of whether it’s one-sided, if they’re in a relationship or some other situation.  Ser-‘s line before being hugged makes it seem sort of like they aren’t expecting the hug, though E-‘s response makes it seem like a natural/normal occurrence.  If Ser- is just not the type to initiate physical contact and E- is, the exchange there makes sense, but I think it could use some clarification.

“Elementals could…puppet.” While it seems to make sense to use terms like ambassadors and diplomats here, it implies more formality and training and the like than I’ve gotten the impression of from Ser- so  far.  Even if their mom seems to be somebody important.  I hadn’t really gotten that Ser- is an ambassador, even after the implication that they are a mage.

Pg 3:

“…when As- made them trail…” Is this a typo? Or just something that we don’t understand yet? Right now I’m reading it as the former.

“…plucked the invitation out of the claw…” helpful crab friend. Though why didn’t they just stick the invitation in their pocket instead of dropping it?  I’d assumed they were trying to hide it from E-. But that’s obviously not the case.

“…slab of rock they’d been sitting on…” slab of rock? Where’d that come from?

Seems like some of the conversation about the missing ambassador could be cut back. 

Pg 4:

I’d like to know more about these sea monsters, please (obviously not here, but I do like a world where sea monsters are casually mentioned as a real thing.)

“time for their rule” This seems like a thing that should be stated very early.  Not having any idea how the government works or how the world is set up beyond what we get in the invitation, it would be helpful to know what their mom’s position is and that it’s hereditary (or at least that they have been chosen as the next leader) and that the term “rule” is more relevant than “lead” or “guide” or some other similar role.  At the moment, the phrase is contradicting the image I have of the world.    I guess the word heir was used in the invitation, but not knowing what Mom’s role is, I had taken it as Ser- being some sort of heir to her magical knowledge or powers or something.

 Why do only women live on the solar barges?  How does one become a solar-barge-woman?

Pg 5-7 seem like they could be cut back a good deal.

Pg 7:

“Do you have coordinates?” Would coordinates be more helpful than a general heading and distance? Seems like an odd request if they aren’t navigating with a map or some technology.

Pg 8:

The physical description seems extensive.  Though, considering my approach to most physical descriptions (leaving them out altogether without noticing), that may just be me.

Pg 9:

“…got stuck in the winds…”For someone who I’ve assumed from the rest of the chapter to have a good deal of power and authority, he doesn’t seem to be incredibly competent or well-informed.  Continuing on, he seems like a bit of a heavy-handed caricature.

Pg 9-11

A lot of this seems like it could be cut back or streamlined. 

Pg 12

“Because you’re wise.”  This seems like an odd response to Ser-‘s comment about fearing magic.  Is fearing magic wise, then?  Do they actually fear magic?  Or does Mom see it as a cautious respect that she sees as wisdom?

Overall:

I am quite intrigued by the magic system and the world, but don’t know where we are going from here.  If they are leaving home, why the opening scene with E-? Who I assume will be staying behind.  Also, what exactly is the invitation to?  What does representing V-P mean?  The jump from rescuing the ambassador to talking to Mom seemed jarring, and the whole rescue seemed like a roundabout way to convey the details that not all elementals act the same and not all ambassadors are good at their jobs.

It’s hard to say what needs to be here or doesn’t without knowing where things are going, but it could definitely use reworking to trim back and streamline the information that is presented to make sure that we are only getting what is necessary. (said the pot to the kettle)

I am sympathetic to the hints at Ser-‘s character and concerns that I’m getting, but I don’t have a good sense of their motivations or goals.

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thoughts as I go:

Page 1

-good opening line!

-”and it wouldn't leave them alone” my first thought: what wouldn’t leave them alone? Second thought: oh the invitation?

-”Addressed to their mother in and embossed mossy letters” this wording confused me. Either i’m dumb, or something isnt right. Should we get rid of the “and”? 

-”the crunching of feet on rocks” idk why, but i'm picturing feet getting crunched on rocks… 

-”find its way back into their pocket and stood” shouldn’t there be a comma after “pocket”? 

-”the elementals all seemed” elementals? Hmmm? Confusion, in a good way, I look forward to an explanation :) unless you mean the river would bring it back and water is an elemental? Idk, we shall see i guess

-i was picturing S in a room at first, then the description of rocks and shells and riverbank came.

 

Page 2

-”like the nutrient rich riverbank” Sounds like something an ecologist would say.

-”a grin brightened his” his what? face?

-does S have a crush on E? Or are they together? Just friends? I’m confused by the paragraph that starts with “E uncrossed him arms.” It follows S saying something stole their food. Does E think that's a cute, funny thing, so he hugs them? “Something stole your food, ha ha thats so cute, let's hug.”  What stole S’s food!? Why was E laughing? Maybe i need more explanation about the stealing of the food lol Edit: OH! the food that got stolen was the snacks in the beginning!! wowie i did not get that.

-”Elementals could communicate” ah, and here’s our explanation about elementals

-”between humanity and the mother” okay, so this whole sentence can take on three different meanings, imo. The e people can communicate with ambassadors (which are mages who blah blah blah), The e people can communicate with ambassadors AND mages who are diplomats between humanity and the M. The e people can communicate with ambassadors, mages who are diplomats, and the mom. 

Either there’s a missing comma after “humanity,” or you’re only listing two things: ambassadors and mages, OR you’re only listing one thing: ambassadors, who are mages.

-based on the next few sentences, it's just the ambassadors. But because it was said that the elementals could communicate with certain people, I expected a list of various people. So maybe just say that they could only communicate with ambassadors, take out “certain people.” Also, Yikes, -1 point to me for over complicating everything. My bad.

-”many skipped words” I read “many” as a modifier for skipped words. I.e. “there are many skipped words” vs “there are many who skip words”

-WAIT, i’ve been referring to elementals as people, but they aren’t people, are they? oops.

 

Page 3

-“When A made them trail” what’s trail

-“Thankful E” I think this should be thankfully. Or “thankful that E knew better” Also, this sentence is a bit confusing, imo. I think it could be split up in some way to make it a little clearer. 

-”send them a message through the river” ooooh thats pretty neat

-”e’s eyes widened” and “S’s chest tightened” so obviously, they are concerned, but as a reader, I am not exactly clear on why. So this ambassador said he was delayed (because of wind) via unclear message. But he is nearby, so the message should’ve been clear. S suggests he isn't on his ship. Yeah, checks out. But then why are their reactions so intense? Okay, they aren’t that intense, but i guess i'm just not clear what they’re getting at. Edit: okay i re read it and it's fine. I just didn’t understand why E widened his eyes, I felt like they were talking casually.

 

Page 4

-”but A had such a good relationship with them” i'm still a wee bit confused about these elementals. Why would her having a good relationship with them result in enough food and shelter? Okay, I get food, but not shelter, and why do people have to contribute something? So like, if i lived there, i just gotta make art and i’ll be good? Even if it's objectively bad art? is this in place of jobs?

-”a little bubble of paradise” you know what, I should probably just keep reading before I make comments. a paradise where they obviously don't have to work jobs, they just gotta contribute to society, but who determines what is good enough as a contribution?

-despite my comment about just reading through to get my answers, I’m still confused about the elementals.

-”heard rumors they thought ambassadors were” i think the “they” here should be “the women” instead or it should just be made clear that it's the women who think this and not S. also, why are they all women?

-”E wasn’t an ambassador” i read this as “E isn’t an ambassador at all” rather than, E is an ambassador, just not in the same way S is. I think you could reorder the sentence to make it clearer.

 

Page 5

-”stop by and hi on my way back” did you just turn “hi” into a verb? Lol nah, missing word, “say.” Unless… you did turn “hi” into a verb…. Then that's cool too.

-”walked towards their boat” whoa there was a boat on the riverbank the whole time?? feels a little convenient.

-”pressed with a message” can they communicate at any time the ambassador is near water/element they control? You don't have to touch the element? Also, was it the breeze or the water that sent the message? S can use both right?

-”your survival depends” wow, that's not ominous at all. (sarcasm, it was very ominous)

-”before the floor” hmmm…. The floor? Questions, i have. Edit: oh did you mean flood??

-had to look up what a sloop was

 

Page 6

-”along with its odd name” is it an odd name? 

-”tied into deeper, vaster” missing letter, into a deeper, vaster one?

-”the awareness soared forward” awareness? Who’s awareness?

-oh, awareness is the spirit of the ocean?

 

Page 7

-”allowing the spirit to stay in head” to stay in their head?

-so, “cohabit” sounded odd to me, i looked up the definition, and surely you don't mean, “the state of living together and having a sexual relationship without being married.” did you mean coexist? Inhabit together? I don't know if co-inhabit is a word, but that's what i want to suggest instead.

-what are the S.A.? How would they bind Atl-?

-”she wanted S to see him” how does S know this? Possible pov slip? 

 

Page 8

-”this was definitely him” oh so his appearance is normal? Lol nice.

-”As- and i were concerned” was she though? Did As- say this to S and i missed it? Or is S just saying that to make F feel more comfortable?

-”did you know they grow children in vats” Lol!

 

Page 9

-ah, here is the explanation of the S.A.

-but here there’s an apostrophe after survivors, and there isn't the other times you’ve said it.

-same with "the flood." it is capitalized here, but not when you’ve said it previous times. 

 

Page 10

-”maybe a little murder once in a while” this made me laugh lol it’s just a bit of murder! 

 

Page 11

-”charge lights so they could shine at light” did you mean night?

-”the mother” is capitalized sometimes, and sometimes not. It's a title tho, right? It should always be capitalized.

-”the river gradually widened” the river? Weren't they in the ocean? Are there diff spirits for rivers, lakes, and the ocean? Cause the ocean led to a river, which led to a lake, so would the spirit change? 

-”peppered the truck” you mean trunk?

-”do you understand why you have to go know?” typo, now instead of know.

 

Page 12

-”patchwork skirt swished in the breeze” i'm not fond of the word swished being used here. Swish indicates more of a hiss, but hair and fabric wouldn’t hiss or swish, right? I think of water as being swishy. The skirt could flap in the wind? Or maybe “flowed” works better? Whipped? Or something similar, something more elegant. 

-“Tell me.” I’m not 100% who is saying this line. Maybe adding “she said” would help.

 

Overall:

I was confused about a lot of this. I can definitely see the potential here, though! I think most of my problems stem from the not getting a clear character motivation from S and not knowing where this story will go. 

I'm not sure how involved I am with S's character, or maybe its just that the events aren't quite enough to make me want more. This is fantasy, but it doesn't feel very fantastic. I am interested in the magic and world you've created! But I think the things that happen in this chapter are a bit... meh. I can see the clear arc of S not wanting to go on an adventure and by the end of the chapter S does accept the responsibility of being their's mom's heir, but it doesnt feel like enough.  Or at least, having S go rescue this ambassador is a bit of a subpar way of getting S to take action, imo. Also, what role will E play in all this? Perhaps there is a lot that you can cut back to ensure that everything here is absolutely necessary.

Also, I see that you tried to space everything out but I think we need an explanation of the elementals right away and it needs to be more clear. Are they spirits of the Earth? How do they work exactly? Does each tree have a spirit? Each river? Each lake? How is the ocean split? For some reason, I thought they were people at first.

7 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

The jump from rescuing the ambassador to talking to Mom seemed jarring, and the whole rescue seemed like a roundabout way to convey the details that not all elementals act the same and not all ambassadors are good at their jobs.

It’s hard to say what needs to be here or doesn’t without knowing where things are going, but it could definitely use reworking to trim back and streamline the information that is presented to make sure that we are only getting what is necessary. (said the pot to the kettle)

I am sympathetic to the hints at Ser-‘s character and concerns that I’m getting, but I don’t have a good sense of their motivations or goals.

Agree! It feels like this is a false/weak inciting incident, only meant to show us how incompetent this particular ambassadors is. It was like a lesson on a kids tv show: the kid goes to rescue this silly adult and learns that not all adults are good so they have to do something about it.

Edited by karamel
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Overall

I think my main issue is lack of investment and engagement. S doesn't emote, and therefore I don't care about them and their struggles (though as of yet they do not have any other than being obstinate and not wanting to do something they're being told to do. This is how my six year old acts). It's fine to have a slower paced inciting incident like this, but if you aren't going to carry investment on DANGER! ACTION! MORTAL PERIL! then we need emotional investment and an emotional arc. We mostly just have talking here, and the smallest hint of an arc at the end. 

I need S to react and emote more. I want to experience the world through their emotions and reactions. I want to care the way they care. If they do not care, then I can't, either.

 

As I go

- I find that first chapter not as dynamic as the second one (where the invitation is in the pocket). I know you don't want to mess with what your editor liked, but I think it would be a much stronger start to begin with 'The invitation had not been in their pocket when they..."

- pg 1: and dropped the card on the river bank, almost certain it would find its way back into their pocket and stood This could be a lot more direct and dynamic. Have them drop the card on the river bank, reach their hand into their pocket, and find it back there.

- end of page 2 and into pg 3--info dump. Suggest removing or better integrating. I'd also much rather SEE S use those powers than be told what they are

- pg 4: Around here, I find myself bored and wandering. The elemental powers are an okay hook but I don't really know anything about S. The boy they hugged has emoted more and I'm more interested in him at the moment. I know about the world but I don't care about the world because I really have no feeling for S's goals or the direction of the narrative, other than that S is being made to do something they don't want to. But since I don't have a foothold in the world and stakes yet, being made to do it doesn't hook me

- pg 7: the way the wind spirit 'talks' seems comic book tropey-silly and takes me out of the narrative

-

Spoiler

100% read 'Atalantik' as "Atalant'

- pg 8: why does S want to rescue Ambo F? I had to go back and reread and it still seems like a slim thing to hang an opening chapter on. They need to meet...because they're suppose to have a meeting. Ambo is late. S goes looking. No real stakes here. I feel no danger. I don't think Ambo is in any trouble, or that going onto the water puts S in any trouble. I also still don't know why S doesn't want to do THE THING other than just not wanting to do what they are told. I am not invested.

- I am getting kind of reading tired of 'unnatural women' in fantasy and sci fi. I just really want to move beyond it. This is of course, a personal issue, and likely because of the book I'm currently reading which REALLY leans in to it

- pg 10: In old books, they’d read about all kinds of horrible things people used to do, from murder to hating people based on who they loved or how they looked. <-- I know this is often done in MG, but it also bugs me. I read for escapism and when things like this are discussed it muddles the real world into my escapism, and ruins my engagement with the narrative

- pg 10: the killer was fertilizer for an apple tree. <-- and then @Mandamon wrote an epic fantasy about it

- pg 10: We didn’t even need the rope <-- no danger. No tension.

- pg 12: But the thought of travel didn’t excite Se like it would’ve days or even hours ago <-- it doesn't excite me at all, because my excitement would be built on S's excitement, and they don't have any

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Overall: I think the pacing is probably a bit too gentle, if not in general, than for a first chapter. There is a fair bit of worldbuilding that I think could probably trimmed or maybe just re-distributed. Especially in the early pages, there was a lot of “line of dialogue, followed by brief explanation” that became fairly noticeable after a few times, plus a somewhat lengthier explanation on I think page 4. You could probably get away with it in a later chapter but maybe not what you want here.

I also wanted a clearer arc for S, as it wasn’t clear to me that they’d changed their mind about going to to N...S or what prompted them to (maybe?) change their mind.

Lastly, and maybe relatedly, I wonder if it would be more impactful for us (and S) to actually see Ambassador F trying to stop the witches, and maybe S even intervenes, rather than being told about it after the fact?

As I read:

I like the first line! The second line, however, goes on a bit too long and sort of deflates the punchiness of the first, IMO.

SOMETHING TOOK THEIR SNACKS?! :o

p2 “Laughter broke out of his mouth” kind of an awkward description

I’m assuming S is early-to-mid-teens, btw, based on the “blah blah blah” comment about their mother especially.

p5: Is it normal for the els to whisper threatening/ominous things? Because this seems like an escalation from earlier contacts (S fighting against their destiny, and S distrusting the els for their abilities, not necessarily their actions). If it IS an escalation (as opposed to S maybe understating the els’ intent), is there a trigger for that escalation?

“...but none felt like ambassadors.” Hmm interesting. I didn’t realize S was expecting to meet additional people on this journey other than Ambassador F himself. Or were they?

P6 “Well, at least a part of her.” Not immediately clear that “her” refers to the ocean
Also, given S’s reluctant to engage with the els at all, their willingness now to tap into the els and especially what is apparently the boss elemental, seems to come a little quickly.

“I will guide you, wordy child” lol

Given my comment above, it might be helpful to get the bit about S feeling more at ease with A than other els sooner.

P8 “hair reminiscent of cirrus clouds” nice description!

Wait, I thought S already knew Ambassador F?

“Maybe a little murder” Okay this is a fantastic line

“...fertilizer for an apple tree.” I wonder if we need to see this line sooner. It’d go a long way towards explaining S’s hesitance around them and maybe allow you to trim some of the less evocative description.

“Do you understand why you have to go?” Since I’m calling the line out anyway, I’ll note that it should be “now” and not “know” at the end, but my main point here is that I don’t think we’ve clearly seen this shift in S from not wanting to go to becoming resigned to it/accepting of it.

“There was still a time to find a way out of…” and now they’re back to not wanting it again.

5 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

How does one become a solar-barge-woman?

How do I become a solar-barge-woman?

4 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 10: the killer was fertilizer for an apple tree. <-- and then @Mandamon wrote an epic fantasy about it

I am super on-board for this crossover universe, I'm just saying

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9 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

(said the pot to the kettle)

I find it is much easier to identify issues with others people's work than it is to see it in my own, and even harder to actually fix certain things or just avoid those mistakes all together. 

9 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

but I think it could use some clarification.

Fair enough. They are a couple, but I wouldn't quite say they're head over heals in love with each other either. I will work to clarify. 

9 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

“time for their rule” This seems like a thing that should be stated very early.  Not having any idea how the government works or how the world is set up beyond what we get in the invitation, it would be helpful to know what their mom’s position is and that it’s hereditary (or at least that they have been chosen as the next leader) and that the term “rule” is more relevant than “lead” or “guide” or some other similar role.  At the moment, the phrase is contradicting the image I have of the world.    I guess the word heir was used in the invitation, but not knowing what Mom’s role is, I had taken it as Ser- being some sort of heir to her magical knowledge or powers or something.

 

I should be able to work this in concisely if I trim other stuff. But it's both magic and a political position Seren is inheriting. The two come hand in hand. The person who serves as the ambassador between the local elementals and the humans is also the ruler of the humans. I guess technically Seren isn't really the official ambassador yet so much a the heir to that position because of their lineage and powers. 

9 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

 Why do only women live on the solar barges?  How does one become a solar-barge-woman?

 

The answer to this is my lost notes that may not have actually ever existed... I know I had a reason for it at one point. I hope I remember eventually while I am revising.

 

9 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Continuing on, he seems like a bit of a heavy-handed caricature.

I am pretty sure that was my intention when I first wrote this, but I'm open to changing it. Later on, some of my bad guys are essentially personifications of internet trolls and they made me cringe while I was doing my read through.

9 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

“Do you have coordinates?” Would coordinates be more helpful than a general heading and distance? Seems like an odd request if they aren’t navigating with a map or some technology.

 

good point!

9 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Who I assume will be staying behind. 

Not exactly. He doesn't go with Seren, but he does't stay either. But we do switch to his POV in chapter 2. He wasn't in my original ch. 1, but I think for what happens later, readers need a better sense of his and Seren's relationship (which of course I failed to accurately  convey).

9 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Also, what exactly is the invitation to?  What does representing V-P mean?  The jump from rescuing the ambassador to talking to Mom seemed jarring, and the whole rescue seemed like a roundabout way to convey the details that not all elementals act the same and not all ambassadors are good at their jobs.

 

My goal with this chapter was really just to create a more interesting way for Seren to make their decision to go than what I originally had (which was lunch with their parents and the dud they rescued) while also setting up and/or filling in a few gaps. It doesn't sound like it achieves most of what I hoped it would. 

Thank you for the critique! 

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10 hours ago, karamel said:

-i was picturing S in a room at first, then the description of rocks and shells and riverbank came.

 

The previous version of this chapter started out in a room, not on a river bank. So maybe those vibes stuck around. 

10 hours ago, karamel said:

also, why are they all women?

But they are an all female colony of scientists who rode out the apocalypse on the ocean in "arcs" which Seren doesn't know about. Seren only knows about the solar barges and the smaller vessels that leave from them. But why? I am really trying to remember. lol I will never, ever not make and save detailed notes about my world building again. 

10 hours ago, karamel said:

-”a little bubble of paradise” you know what, I should probably just keep reading before I make comments. a paradise where they obviously don't have to work jobs, they just gotta contribute to society, but who determines what is good enough as a contribution?

 

The elementals...and the ambassadors. It's not actually a perfect system by any means. And not everyone is happy, but being privileged and naive, Seren isn't entirely aware of that. Yet. 

10 hours ago, karamel said:

-despite my comment about just reading through to get my answers, I’m still confused about the elementals.

 

Fair. I will try to explain better in the revision. 

10 hours ago, karamel said:

coexist

This one? I just mean they share the land. 

10 hours ago, karamel said:

-”maybe a little murder once in a while” this made me laugh lol it’s just a bit of murder! 

 

Mission accomplished! 

10 hours ago, karamel said:

Or at least, having S go rescue this ambassador is a bit of a subpar way of getting S to take action, imo.

Good to know. I'll try to see what else I can come up with. 

In the end, all that matters is Se decided to stop running from their responsibility, realize their point of view has some value, and decide to go. It doesn't necessarily have to be this rescue. In the original chapter, it was just dialogue. 

10 hours ago, karamel said:

Agree! It feels like this is a false/weak inciting incident, only meant to show us how incompetent this particular ambassadors is. It was like a lesson on a kids tv show: the kid goes to rescue this silly adult and learns that not all adults are good so they have to do something about it.

Good point. 

OK, so maybe the rescue wasn't the best idea. 

 

Thank you!!

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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9 hours ago, kais said:

(though as of yet they do not have any other than being obstinate and not wanting to do something they're being told to do.

LOL, well, they're a teenager. Maybe I need to play up their fear of their magic a little more and downplay the just not wanting to go.

9 hours ago, kais said:

I need S to react and emote more. I want to experience the world through their emotions and reactions. I want to care the way they care. If they do not care, then I can't, either.

 

My eternal struggle. Make characters emote. 

9 hours ago, kais said:

The boy they hugged has emoted more and I'm more interested in him at the moment.

My editor and you agree.

He has a lot of his own POV chapters and according to my editor, he emotes way more than Seren. 

9 hours ago, kais said:

- I am getting kind of reading tired of 'unnatural women' in fantasy and sci fi. I just really want to move beyond it. This is of course, a personal issue, and likely because of the book I'm currently reading which REALLY leans in to it

 

Totally valid. 

I think I was trying to do something critical of that idea with this guy. That line was a transplant from the original chapter, but maybe it just needs to go.

9 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 10: the killer was fertilizer for an apple tree. <-- and then @Mandamon wrote an epic fantasy about it

 

Is this Fruits? I have not read that yet. I need to.

9 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 12: But the thought of travel didn’t excite Se like it would’ve days or even hours ago <-- it doesn't excite me at all, because my excitement would be built on S's excitement, and they don't have any

valid.

 

Thank you!

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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Thoughts as I go:

Pg 1, "the snacks were not." That's not cool. Taking someone's snacks is theft, and theft is illegal.

Pg 1, " The elementals" Are these the people sending the card?

Pg 2, " nutrient rich riverbank." Nutrient rich threw me off because I don't generally look at a riverbank and think to myself, "Man, that is some nutrient rich dirt right there." Haven't seen enough of S yet to know whether or not they'd think that.

Pg 2, "holding the invitation up in its large claw." Brilliant.

Pg 2, "many skipped words" Confusion. Like the elementals said a spell wrong?

Pg 2, "ambassadors" Judging from S, this is something someone is born into and not something someone trains to be.

Pg 3, "made them trail" Confused. As in follow people? Or as in maintain trails?

Pg 3, "Ambassador F" 

Spoiler

Morgan Freeman | Biography, Movies, Plays, & Facts | Britannica

Pg 4, "Communing with Elementals" Capitalized now?

Pg 4, "solar barges," This sounds awesome, tell me more.

Pg 4, " a second flood" 

Spoiler

Evan Almighty (2007)

(I'll let myself out now)

Pg 4, "who could communicate with any elemental" So S can talk with any elemental, but they can only control water and wind? No fire?

Pg 5, "shinning high" I couldn't ignore that one.

Pg 5, "Your survival depends on it" Ominous. 

Alright, on that note, I'm going to end it here for tonight. My brain is getting sleepy and I want to be able to critique well. I'll come back and edit this later when I finish. 

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4 hours ago, Silk said:

Overall: I think the pacing is probably a bit too gentle, if not in general, than for a first chapter. There is a fair bit of worldbuilding that I think could probably trimmed or maybe just re-distributed. Especially in the early pages, there was a lot of “line of dialogue, followed by brief explanation” that became fairly noticeable after a few times, plus a somewhat lengthier explanation on I think page 4. You could probably get away with it in a later chapter but maybe not what you want here.

 

Fair enough.

4 hours ago, Silk said:

I also wanted a clearer arc for S, as it wasn’t clear to me that they’d changed their mind about going to to N...S or what prompted them to (maybe?) change their mind.

 

Since the whole point of this chapter is for them to realize they need to go, then I definitely need to work on this. 

4 hours ago, Silk said:

p5: Is it normal for the els to whisper threatening/ominous things? Because this seems like an escalation from earlier contacts (S fighting against their destiny, and S distrusting the els for their abilities, not necessarily their actions). If it IS an escalation (as opposed to S maybe understating the els’ intent), is there a trigger for that escalation?

 

This is an escalation. Is there a trigger for it? No...should there be? Yes. Thank you for pointing this out. 

4 hours ago, Silk said:

Lastly, and maybe relatedly, I wonder if it would be more impactful for us (and S) to actually see Ambassador F trying to stop the witches, and maybe S even intervenes, rather than being told about it after the fact?

 

This could work. I can try. 

4 hours ago, Silk said:

I’m assuming S is early-to-mid-teens, btw, based on the “blah blah blah” comment about their mother especially.

 

I think I have them as 17 somewhere, but my characters tend to sound younger than they are. But I might change that line. I'm 100% sure if it actually matches their voice for the rest of the book or not.

4 hours ago, Silk said:

How do I become a solar-barge-woman?

9 hours ago, kais said:

I have this vauge memory from when @kais was subbing Queen that I thought, "oh, that planet is like the solar barge" and then I shoved that thought away because anxiety about eventually having to get edits this book after not looking at it for a long, long time. 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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I have a similar reaction to the others. I don't get a clear enough picture of what the purpose of the story is. This first chapter wanders a little bit. It starts out with S and E, and I thought I would be about them, but E is sidelined for the rest of the chapter and S goes out to rescue (why is she the one to rescue people?) Ambassador Morgan Freeman. There's some conflict with people getting taken over my elementals, but not a lot, and the Ambassador MF seems to just be shaking his old fist at these kids (women) and their technology. I didn't get the impression that there was anything that could start a war, but that might change in later chapters.

Overall, I'm interested in the story, but I think this chapter could be tighter and a little more exciting.

 

10 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:
20 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 10: the killer was fertilizer for an apple tree. <-- and then @Mandamon wrote an epic fantasy about it

 

Is this Fruits? I have not read that yet. I need to.

Lol. yes, this is Fruits. Turning dead bodies into fertilizer is just so convenient! 

*looks around for FBI descending...*

 

Notes while reading.

pg 3: "made them trail"
--not sure what this means.

pg 4: "they thought ambassadors were religious zealots"
--who does? The women living on solar barges?

pg 4: “Maybe I should go check on him,”
--starting to get lost here. Do they think Ambassador F is missing now? I thought he was only delayed until dinner? Are they the rights ones to go search for him?

pg 5: "before the floor" -> "before the flood"

pg 5: "A sloop loomed ahead of them"
--how did they know where it was?

pg 7: "one of their duties was rescuing people who were in trouble in rough water"
--I think this might be good information to have before now. I've been wondering why S is the one to do this.

pg 7: "I would make that man leave my waters instead"
--makes sense. But then that still begs the question of why S is the one to help.

pg 7: "but she wanted S to see him."
--okay, that makes more sense, but this is a "tell" not a "Show." Would be better if we could find this out during the story.

pg 8: "he looked old enough to have been alive before the flood."
--That is definitely Morgan Freeman.

pg 8: "the boat lurched, spun around, and shot towards land"
--soooo...why was it necessary for S to come out here? Maybe if they saw the witches, that might be worth it.

pg 8: funny that the witches are the ones that use technology and everyone else uses magic...

pg 10: "They were pretty sure they got all the information A wanted them to..."
--you might be able to cut this. It's pretty clear from context.

pg 11: "and the elementals had decided..."
--so the elements have shown they have no problem with the witches. If they are controlling the population so much that there are no murders, I'd think they can make it clear the witches shouldn't be disturbed.

pg 11: "If humans waged war on each other again, She would kill them.
--so is this is, like, a test or something?

pg 12: "The sky was darkening. A storm was coming"
--I don't feel like this is "a storm is coming" type tension. This is more "old man has a problem with the kids and their newfangled technology" tension.

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2 hours ago, Mandamon said:

. Turning dead bodies into fertilizer is just so convenient! 

And then they never heard from him again... 

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Overall:

One thing I think this chapter sets up really nicely is S' niche in the story. They stand out because they don't trust elementals, and their pro-science views go along with that since it means they're less reliant on elementals for the society functioning. We see that these aren't mutually exclusive, either, since their mother accepts both even as F views scientists as witches. Whatever edits this chapter goes through, I want this to remain a strong focus. 

I think the chapter could benefit from some adjustments in other ways though. Right now it feels like we're being introduced to the characters and the world, and there's not much that really happens to advance the characters or setting ideas presented. That being said, it's difficult to set up this world and begin to develop its ideas all at once, but I think a clearer sense of what I'm missing here is conflict. I get the impression that the conflict is supposed to be S going to this meeting, but the chapter really isn't about that and I don't have a good grasp of why this meeting matters so much, or more importantly why it challenges S. I can infer a bit of where the story is trying to go. S doesn't trust elementals so a meeting with a bunch of mages who rely on elementals for power is a bit of a headache, but I don't really understand what the stakes are. Or what the setup is, really. Can we expect them all to act like F? If the story's going for "here's S dealing with an ambassador in a small scale, now they get thrown into doing so on a much larger scale," I think it can be more straightforward about how the dynamics will carry over. 

As I go:

pg 2

-I like the magic dynamic here. Power comes from elementals that can really mess with the humans if they want to. 

-At the bottom of page 2 I feel like I need a bit more about what this invitation means, since it is the hook after all. 

pg 3

-Oh okay so there's some disagreement about how dangerous the elementals are? I think it's important to see some concrete facts here so we can judge the situation for ourselves so it doesn't become they said vs. he said. Does S have notable examples of when an elemental has controlled someone? What would be E's and A's counterarguments?

pg 4

-Okay so now we're dealing with missing ambassador. Does this connect to the earlier topics or is it a new point? Not really sure what this means for the story rn. 

pg 6

-Why is S the one who's rescuing F here? Is them being able to talk to elementals important for this?

pg 7

-okay this answers a lot of my earlier questions. Good to see S interacting with an elemental in person 

pg 11

-Maybe "the mother" could be in caps? I keep doing a double take because I think S is talking about their mother for a sec. If she's a deity-type figure it would make sense anyway. 

pg 12

-Still don't feel like I understand ambassador politics that well. 

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Y'know, I definitely agree with what a lot of people are saying. Overall, I was curious enough about this world to want to continue reading. I think there are some very cool concepts here, solar-barge-tech-ladies, elemental powers, post-apocalyptic world. Possibly a water-world-esque vibe going on here? So, on that side of things, I'm invested, but as for the plot and characters, I'm leaning towards what other people are saying. There's a lot of little info-dumps that I don't particularly mind but can distract from the pacing of the plot I think. Like, we know that S doesn't want to become an ambassador and get wrapped up in that world, because you told us, but I want to see S show that. Maybe an interaction with the mom or even an elemental? As for what convinces S to actually join the NUNEs, I felt it was a bit limp. I guess it's like what Kais said, we don't get a sense of what S cares about so it's difficult to believe in their choices.

As I read:

pg 1: Like the intro; mysterious and compelling. The invitation is interesting, but I fail to see why S would represent their mother or how S really feels about it, besides mild irritation.

pg 2: I'm torn about the info-dumping, it makes me curious, but it feels forced and slows down the plot and characterization. Also would've liked to see E play a bigger role in this.

pg 3 - 4: I enjoy reading from the perspective of a non-binary person, but I feel the use of their can be confusing at times. I thought E was S's brother on this page when you wrote, 'like their mother would.' Don't really get a sense of S or E's concern about Amba-F, or that there should be any concern. Like the idea of the solar women living on barges. Still, too much telling and not enough showing for me to get really drawn into the flow of the story.

pg 5 - 6: stop doubting. Stop avoiding us. Your survival depends on it. I'm listening. I enjoy the description of the boating, but I think the name of the boat, the explanation of it being an heirloom, etc. was unnecessary. I like that we get to see the use of the magic.

pg 7: elementals be scary.

pg 8: Why does Amba-F just seem like a crotchety old dumby? I feel a bit bamboozled that he wasn't even in trouble.

pg 9 - 11: So the threat is that war could break out between scientists and mages and then the M would kill everyone. I don't get why the M would kill people over killing each other. Pollution, sure, defacement of natural resources, absolutely, but why killing each other? I think this is the turning point of the story, the impetus for S to accept the Hero's journey, but I think what's lacking is the sense of urgency or conviction. Amba-F seems like a silly old man, but I don't feel threatened by him. S has good values, but I don't feel reassured by them.

pg 12: I feel like that was an abrupt end to the chapter. Okay, so S decides to go. Why is the mom retiring? Why should we cheer for S? Why would anyone listen to dumb, old Amba-F? I think there could be a better inciting incident to lead S to the NUNEs.

All in all, I like the concepts, I dig your descriptions (most of the time,) and I'm looking forward to seeing where this story goes. But I also feel like info-dumps are bogging down your story, as well as lack of conviction/emotion in your characters, and the sense that the stakes aren't really that high. You can tell us they're high, but I won't believe you unless I see it. Cheers, Shatteredsmooth, looking forward to more of this story :) My critique pointed out what I saw were flaws, but on my first read, I could mostly look past the typos and clunky bits, and was engaged enough to want to keep reading.

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Title

I think titles are important. They very much set my expectation for project. My assumptions don’t always turn out right, but I still make them on the basis of the title. This one, for me, presents a very clean image of what the story is about, has an optimistic, hopeful tone that builds my enthusiasm for reading it :)

First sentence / first paragraph

Not bad. I like that the first sentence is short. The first paragraph goes on to give a pretty clear impression of S’s frame of mind, although not actually what’s going on. But, S has a pretty clear voice so far, which is good. I feel like I’m going to learn a good deal more about them, and the world.

Character engagement 

Snacks? Wow, what is it with your characters and food? By the foot of page 1, I can see that S has determination, perhaps extending to stubbornness to be contrary. That can be a compelling trait. I’m on board so far.

Story / plot engagement

A very clear inciting incident on page 1 in the form of the invitation. Completely unambiguous and a welcome invitation to me as the reader to read on.

That first scene got a 

Setting / worldbuilding engagement               

I like the tone of the worldbuilding detail. I feel there’s a lightness to it that implies this isn’t going to be dark and gritty story.

What I’m not getting on the first page is a clear indication of what kind of world this is. There is mention of the elementals at the foot of the page, and now I'm in some doubt as to whether this is a magical story. I guess the cover art and blurb would make this clear however, so probably not a big issue, yet.

Okay, there’s mention of mages on page 2. That’s probably fine. However when elementals are mentioned again on page 3, I find I’m getting frustrated from not having a clearer image of how the world works, and who the major players are.

Prose style

I like that the prose style is direct, as I’ve come to expect from you. That it isn’t overly wordy or complicated, or fussy. Makes it easy to read.

Prose quality – This is just a tracker to help me…track the issues I have with the text. Each slider starts at 10, and I drop one each time I experience an issue that makes me stop reading. I don’t go below 1 though. I think there are a lot of issues in this prose.

-         Typos:    1/10 – all fixable of course

-         Readability:    8/10 – it would read fast and smooth without the issues

-         Clarity:    1/10 – as per comments below, there was a lot I didn’t understand

-         Word choice:    5/10 – some places I thought this was off

-         Grammar:    5/10 – some clunky sentences, I thought

Clarity / confusion

How does E know about the invitation? I thought that S just discovered it.

So, where does Ambassador F come from? Who does he represent?

since before the floor” – What does this mean? Confused. Oh, flood.

The awareness soared forward on the wind” – So, this isn’t S’s awareness? Not clear, IMO.

Why do you fear me?” – I got no sense of fear from S’s thoughts. Trepidation maybe.

lake elemental” – But Atl is an ocean elemental, surely? Confused.

carry out its vengeance” – What vengeance? Why? I thought they worked together all the time.

pushed back on the throttle” – So does this mean. You would pull back on the throttle, surely, or push forward. I’ve not been in many boats (2 or 3), but I’m pretty sure throttles are intuitive that way.

A probably could’ve just done this to Freeman’s boat, but she wanted S to see him” – Confused image. Meaning unclear.

Why is Freem-n in a tiny wee boat? That’s not explained. Why doesn’t he arrive on the big official ship?

They got away” – The description of his encounter with the witches is vague. To some extent that’s okay, because it would sound like heavy exposition if it was laid out in great detail, but the issue is that, in clipped summary, it feels thin.

Elementals from using their ambassadors” – Confused: I thought the ambassadors were the human representatives.

She just wanted us to talk” – Who did, Atlan?

could lead to war” – War between which parties?

We won’t all vote the same” – But they're not an ambassador, their mother is, surely.

Specific issues

Food: the heavy involvement of food at the start becomes an issue for me quite quickly. Food is not plot relevant and, unless the character has an eating disorder, it doesn’t seem character relevant either. Maybe I'm sensitised to this after reading Book of M, but still, it’s distracting.

Word choice: ‘space at the dock’ is a berth, surely. E would use the correct term, as a professional, wouldn’t he?

as the ocean carried them off” – When I read this, I thought it was carrying both of them away from his boat, which confused me. But I realise it was pronoun confusion on my part.

Things I enjoyed

The rush of the incoming tide” – Woosh. That’s a big flood of attraction right there. Good line. Very clearly showing S’s emotions towards E from the start.

When S is on the water you capture that feeling really well. Great use of senses. It’s clearly a passion.

I like the ending to the chapter, but I don’t think it’s really earned by the set up within the chapter.

Did you know they grow children in vats?” – Ooh, nasty. And I'm especially attracted to the idea because I used it in TCC, for TOM’s growing of Nick.

Things I disliked

animal waste that fueled it” – I like the idea, but it makes the world smell unpleasant, and I want to fall in wonder with this world, but I can’t do that if I'm smelling cow poo.

possibly damaging one or both boats” – I can’t believe S is not a more experienced boatsperson than this. This is a very basic manoeuvre surely, for someone with experience.

a big lump grown out of the boat” – poor description.

brushed a stray hair out of their mouth” – I think the description could be better around their conversation. I've lost the sense that they are moving quickly over water. I think they should be calling, maybe even shouting, over the noise.

The Sur-----s Accords” – The double plural is awkward to read. Also, you’ve used the plural survivors’ once, but there have been numerous mentions of the accords: grammar inconsistency.

the flood” – Inconsistent capitalisation: frustrating to read.

a little murder, once in a while” – This is weird. The phrasing makes S sound ambivalent towards murder. I guess I sort of get that, since it’s practically unknown, but they came over rather emotionally vacant here, I thought.

If humans waged war on each other again, She would kill them” – This is a nice clear statement if intent, of stakes. It’s very clear where I’ve spent most of the chapter findings things that were unclear, I’m afraid.

river gradually widened” – But they are going upriver, are they not? Surely it would narrow?

even with their mind walled off” – What is this? Is it a special ability?

Biggest issue(s)

Do you understand why you have to go know?” – I’m afraid I don’t. I don’t’ see any reason why S would go instead of their mother, who is the ambassador.

A storm was coming” – I don’t get much sense of this either. What is the tension between people that will lead to war

Would I keep reading?

Honestly, I’m afraid I wouldn’t. It just didn’t find the characters compelling enough, to commit to being engaged through a whole novel.

Overall impression / Summary

As a character, I found S rather emotionally blank, their voice quite neutral. There are interesting ideas, and the world has an interesting form to it, but I found a lot of things unclear, and the general set up a bit vague. This reads to me like an early draft with quite a bit needing doing to clarify the world, and the character motivations.

My big issue is that I don’t see why S has to go instead of their mother. There needs to be a compelling reason, like their mother is in the hospital, or has disappeared. But I don’t see why, with war at stake, S would be going instead of the ambassador. I’m also very unclear on who the antagonist(s) is/are. It’s not just this old bloke, is it? He didn’t seem especially dangerous. And while I’m on him, I was completely nonplussed as to why he went out in a boat by himself.

Sorry not to be more positive. Thanks for sharing :) 

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On 23/02/2021 at 6:30 AM, Snakenaps said:

Ark Building for Dummies

:lol::lol::lol::lol: 

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On 23/02/2021 at 5:04 PM, Mandamon said:

Lol. yes, this is Fruits. Turning dead bodies into fertilizer is just so convenient!

Mmmmm, Soylent Green, tasty :) 

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On 2/23/2021 at 0:04 PM, Mandamon said:

--I don't feel like this is "a storm is coming" type tension. This is more "old man has a problem with the kids and their newfangled technology" tension.

Good point. I will aim to change this. 

 

On 2/23/2021 at 0:04 PM, Mandamon said:

--soooo...why was it necessary for S to come out here? Maybe if they saw the witches, that might be worth it.

 

I think it might be better if I take @Silk's suggestion and they actually see F and the witches who aren't witches interact and make this less of a rescue more of S prevents political sabotage or something. 

Or something else entirely.

Either way, it seems like this chapter did not do what I aimed for, but now I have a clearer idea of why. :-)

Thank you!

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15 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

One thing I think this chapter sets up really nicely is S' niche in the story. They stand out because they don't trust elementals, and their pro-science views go along with that since it means they're less reliant on elementals for the society functioning. We see that these aren't mutually exclusive, either, since their mother accepts both even as F views scientists as witches. Whatever edits this chapter goes through, I want this to remain a strong focus. 

 

Happy to hear this! :-)

18 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Does S have notable examples of when an elemental has controlled someone? What would be E's and A's counterarguments?

This is probably something I can work in, yes.

 

18 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

but I don't really understand what the stakes are. Or what the setup is, really.

This seems pretty consistent throughout the comments and something I will focus on in my next revision. 

Thank you @Ace of Hearts!

13 hours ago, julienreel said:

I guess it's like what Kais said, we don't get a sense of what S cares about so it's difficult to believe in their choices.

 

Makes sense! 

13 hours ago, julienreel said:

I think there could be a better inciting incident to lead S to the NUNEs.

This is the heart of what I need to do in Ch. 1. My goal is to give them a reason to go even though they don't want to for a number of reasons, while also setting up the stakes.

Thank you @julienreel

 

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12 hours ago, Robinski said:

Sorry not to be more positive

Positivity not required. You very clearly pointed out some major issues, all spot on.

 

12 hours ago, Robinski said:

This reads to me like an early draft with quite a bit needing doing to clarify the world, and the character motivations.

In a lot of ways, it is. I wrote a brand new chapter for a book I wrote 2 or 3 years ago. 

But then I couldn't tell if I really fixed any of the issues by changing the chapter, so I sent it here, and well, now I know S doesn't show emotions, their reason for going wasn't clear, the stakes were clear...the chapter did not do what I wanted it. But at least now I know that and have a clear idea of where it went astray. 

 

Thank you!

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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Interesting concepts! I like the smash up of tech and fantasy elements. 

I'm afraid I also had a hard time getting attached to S. Part of the issue for me might be that I find characters who want to do something more sympathetic than ones who are driven by not wanting to do something. I also had a hard time picturing S. Aside from hair length and relative height to E, I didn't catch any other descriptions to help me picture them or how they move. 

Someone else mentioned this but I had a hard time following the blocking durring E and S's conversation, everything felt just a little broken up. 

E and S's voices seemed very similar to me, but that could be explained by both being of similar age and the same home town. 

Yay barge women/science amazons! I am always up for a flotilla at the end of the world :-)

Thanks for sharing!

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