C_Vallion

2.22.2021 - C_Vallion - Price of Peace: Chapter 2 Rev1 - 3080 Words

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Hi All!

Here is the new Chapter 2 of my epic fantasy, Price of Peace. No content tags for this chapter.

This version should do a better job of cutting back some of the exposition dumping and random side-notes, and the continuity and direction should be better. However, I’m sure there are new problems being made (and old, instinctive ones shifting themselves into new places).

Thanks!

Edited by C_Vallion
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I'm stuck on some of the worldbuilding, and maybe this isn't clear because I flew through the first chapter in order to read this one. Spellstones are not something to be flaunted...except for when they are used "every dozen paces or so" for lighting? How is one spellstone on a bracelet too much but using them as lighting not? This seems rather contradictory. A is disappointed about the spellstone in the bracelet before he finds out its variety, so it doesn't appear to be some kind of type-issue where some spellstones are fine and others are offensive. 

Overall, I like A. He seems dedicated (sleeping in his office), young (like not understanding how a pile of linens on a chair could be offensive), and a little haunted by the past (memories in the room). I know you are writing an epic, but I'd be willing to bet my socks he's the love interest. I feel like, with time, I would come to root for his character. 

Right now, though, I'm still struggling with investment. Your prologue had action, a problem that was proactively being solved, a sense of danger and high emotion. You've made obvious improvements on creating more forward motion (Is and the spellstone) but the majority of the last chapter and this chapter is talking. The characters aren't actively affecting much, instead talking about things outside of the reader's scope, like politics and magic. There is a lot of telling us that there is a ton going on without necessarily showing us. At a prologue and two chapters in, I'm snapping my fingers and going, "Okay, let's see something go really wrong and have characters react." 

Dave's class this Saturday was all about emotional beats and how that creates a story readers get caught up in. Right now, there isn't any particularly strong emotions. Everything is fairly...neutral. There's no fury and smashing of objects. There's no intense hope or joy. There's no extreme worrying and pacing back and forth. No nail-biting fear. There's a little worry here, a little worry there...but the emotional tone is overall flat. Another sign nothing particularly exciting is currently going on. Characters act when they feel: the Dursley's fear causes them to pack up and try to escape Harry's Hogwarts letters; Odysseus fights tooth and nail to make it back home to his wife Penelope; Rose's passionate love for Jack means she breaks all kinds of social norms in Titanic. And when characters feel, act, and face the consequences of their actions, the reader becomes invested in their journey. 

You're making progress! Keep going!!! You've got something here, you just got to clear away the rubble to get us to the really good parts! 

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1 hour ago, Snakenaps said:

I'm stuck on some of the worldbuilding, and maybe this isn't clear because I flew through the first chapter in order to read this one. Spellstones are not something to be flaunted...except for when they are used "every dozen paces or so" for lighting? How is one spellstone on a bracelet too much but using them as lighting not? This seems rather contradictory. A is disappointed about the spellstone in the bracelet before he finds out its variety, so it doesn't appear to be some kind of type-issue where some spellstones are fine and others are offensive. 

Still trying to figure out which of these sorts of things need to be directly stated and which ones can be conveyed more subtley.  My tendency is to always pick the wrong option.  Or to provide half the information but leave out the vital bits.

Stones containing the legal spells (fire and sleep. As per chapter 1) are more socially acceptable. And those containing the fire spell (lightstones and heatstones) are too practical to go without. Because self-heating teapots, lighting that isn't going to risk burning anything down, and ready access to warm bath water are just too convenient to dogmatically avoid. Especially by the people who are dictating the fashions. They still make rather legalistic guidelines for what is "acceptable" but they're not likely to go without warm baths.

Unfortunately, I am realizing that the decorative lights in the garden confuse this point. It's flaunting the fact that the royal family has access to magistrates to fill that many lightstones for a party (if every individual Christmas light in a strand had to be charged and replaced individually, hanging them up on porches would probably seem excessive as well)  but that's not clear, and is probably not a useful subtlety to convey unless the reader understands the more concrete rules first.

If the bracelet spellstone had been a firestone or sleepstone, it would have been less problematic, but still strange enough to make an alternative option better.  

1 hour ago, Snakenaps said:

There is a lot of telling us that there is a ton going on without necessarily showing us. At a prologue and two chapters in, I'm snapping my fingers and going, "Okay, let's see something go really wrong and have characters react." 

Yeah.  I know I need to get to things falling apart faster.  I think adjusting chapter 1 to have the reader aware of Is-'s spellcasting and her hiding it from her father will help with some of that (and cutting back the political discussion further), but it's still not something really going wrong.  It's just an increased sense of worry.  For her, it probably seems like the worst thing in the world.  Because all things considered, her life is really easy at the moment.  But it's not helpful for grabbing a reader.

1 hour ago, Snakenaps said:

Dave's class this Saturday was all about emotional beats and how that creates a story readers get caught up in. Right now, there isn't any particularly strong emotions. Everything is fairly...neutral. There's no fury and smashing of objects. There's no intense hope or joy. There's no extreme worrying and pacing back and forth. No nail-biting fear. There's a little worry here, a little worry there...but the emotional tone is overall flat.

Part of this is close to intentional, to show Is- as even-keeled and rational.  But again, not helpful to the reader until we have the contrast of things actually going wrong and see her out of her depth, still trying to cling to composure, and falling even harder because of it.  At the moment, I'm planning to keep subbing through knowing this is an issue and begging for patience until we get through the arc of Part 1.  Because I'm sure there are ways to add more emotional involvement early on, but I don't know how to do it without screwing up where things need to be for that arc.  And while it's possible they need to be somewhere else entirely, I'd rather have people familiar with said arc before deciding that.

All of that being said, thanks for the thoughts. These are definitely things I need to figure out. 

Also, glad to see you back! :) 

Edited by C_Vallion
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Overall

Unfortunately this chapter has all the same issues as before. It does not have a defined arc and does not seem to progress the narrative at all. Our MC exists and the narrative attempts move around him. He is unfazed by a minor thing and so we also do not care about it. The most emotion comes at the start with the jewelry gift, and that is really the meat of the chapter. I'd say you could cut this whole chapter out, and stick the beat with the jewelry somewhere else. But this chapter does not give the reader anything to grab onto, nor does it have an arc or plot progression.

Again, the writing is just fine. It's never an issue to read the sentences. I just need the narrative to move and engage, and it continually tries to feed me information I don't want and get me to care about things that the MCs themselves can't be bothered to care about.

 

As I go

- I was more or less on board until page 3. The hook of the jewelry spellstones is nice and makes me think she will still get one with magic in it and it will end badly. So hook. But then they go walking and I clock out

- pg 4: I don't care how he slept. I'm trying to sort out what the chapter arc is

- I think pg 5 is unnecessary and you could cut the whole thing. Potentially also page four. Walking and talking does not keep my attention. Also still trying to look for the arc of the chapter

- pg 6: He would miss his desk, <-- here is where I start to check back in

- pg 7: by reconnecting with the Baron <-- aaaand back out. Too many names I don't care about

- pg 9: Why would anyone waste time on such a mild inconvenience?” <-- this pretty much sums up the issue. Its a mild inconvenience, so it can't carry the plot. It's so mild it does not grip the reader. The MC does not care, so do not care. 

 

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27 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

At the moment, I'm planning to keep subbing through knowing this is an issue and begging for patience until we get through the arc of Part 1.

I do worry about two things going forward with this plan. Keep in mind I haven't read farther, and I don't know how far this extends before it picks up. 

1) Turnover is pretty quick in this group. We have many members who have been around for months to years. But the general person sticks around for a few weeks to a couple of months before disappearing. We're kind of like the gym: people tend to vanish once they realize how much hard work is involved. The more senior members are starting to get packed as the new year rolls in with non-RE life. I know we have one member slowing down as of this morning, @Robinski@kais is knee deep in preparing another book for publication, and @ginger_reckoning is pausing for a while due to his hectic schedule. I just had to pause myself. And that's only four of us. I worry that you might not be able to hold a steady audience for the time it takes to complete an entire act. 

2) How many chapters is in this act? It's one thing when a group has to hold on for four chapters until things pick up...it becomes another thing when we are stuck incapable of saying anything new other than pointing out same old problems for nine+ chapters. How much quality feedback can we honestly give through this first act?

Something to consider, to save both your time and ours: submitting your outline. Let us see the BIG picture and help you fix your foundational problems, if we can. If your outline is too convoluted for us to follow...that might be a strong hint that this story is too convoluted for readers to follow and might be above your current abilities. Nothing wrong in setting aside a work, try something new to build up skills, and come back. Look at Sanderson and the Way of Kings. 

Obviously, I'm the first critiquer of this chapter, and I just came back. So gain other people's opinions first. Just something to keep in mind :)

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4 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

I do worry about two things going forward with this plan. Keep in mind I haven't read farther, and I don't know how far this extends before it picks up. 

1) Turnover is pretty quick in this group. We have many members who have been around for months to years. But the general person sticks around for a few weeks to a couple of months before disappearing. We're kind of like the gym: people tend to vanish once they realize how much hard work is involved. The more senior members are starting to get packed as the new year rolls in with non-RE life. I know we have one member slowing down as of this morning, @Robinski@kais is knee deep in preparing another book for publication, and @ginger_reckoning is pausing for a while due to his hectic schedule. I just had to pause myself. And that's only four of us. I worry that you might not be able to hold a steady audience for the time it takes to complete an entire act. 

2) How many chapters is in this act? It's one thing when a group has to hold on for four chapters until things pick up...it becomes another thing when we are stuck incapable of saying anything new other than pointing out same old problems for nine+ chapters. How much quality feedback can we honestly give through this first act?

Something to consider, to save both your time and ours: submitting your outline. Let us see the BIG picture and help you fix your foundational problems, if we can. If your outline is too convoluted for us to follow...that might be a strong hint that this story is too convoluted for readers to follow and might be above your current abilities. Nothing wrong in setting aside a work, try something new to build up skills, and come back. Look at Sanderson and the Way of Kings. 

Obviously, I'm the first critiquer of this chapter, and I just came back. So gain other people's opinions first. Just something to keep in mind :)

1) This is a good point that I hadn't really considered.  

2) Right now the world-falling-apart process begins in chapter 5. 

I'm still working on the best format for an official outline, but here is a rough chapter by chapter summary (the numbering is off while I'm figuring out what things can be combined, but it's close enough to work with).  

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1akz5nAU-bQZ43MtPuroXAQpFrAK8BmwHFX1tDpN82f0/edit?usp=sharing

Edited by C_Vallion
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16 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

I'm still working on the best format for an official outline, but here is a rough chapter by chapter summary 

I'm giving your outline a read through. You know what immediately caught my eye that I want to see? The sword fight. Now that sounds interesting. That is action. Sword fights! Poisoning! Rescuing! Like, how much of the chapters beforehand really matter? How much of the information now can be slipped in elsewhere after the sword fight, or just before? What would this book look like if you went straight from the swordfight to Is preparing to duel her idiotic cousin? What if the reader's introduction to adult A was when he was rescuing Is

I'm not saying take those suggestions and write exactly that. But I encourage you to start thinking along those lines. Right now, you have a book I would have read the prologue of, started the first chapter of, and set back on the shelf six pages into chapter one. That's not good. You need to find the true beginning of your book. 

Seriously, what if you subbed chapter five next week? 

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1 hour ago, Snakenaps said:

I'm giving your outline a read through. You know what immediately caught my eye that I want to see? The sword fight. Now that sounds interesting. That is action. Sword fights! Poisoning! Rescuing! Like, how much of the chapters beforehand really matter? How much of the information now can be slipped in elsewhere after the sword fight, or just before? What would this book look like if you went straight from the swordfight to Is preparing to duel her idiotic cousin? What if the reader's introduction to adult A was when he was rescuing Is

I'm not saying take those suggestions and write exactly that. But I encourage you to start thinking along those lines. Right now, you have a book I would have read the prologue of, started the first chapter of, and set back on the shelf six pages into chapter one. That's not good. You need to find the true beginning of your book. 

Seriously, what if you subbed chapter five next week? 

On one hand, yeah.  Things take off there. And I've been trying to find a way to make that work.  But part of that is Is- being sidelined by the poisoning and the rest of the family scrambling to deal with it.  Then shipping her off to stay with her uncle when it's clear that sitting down and resting until she's better isn't something she's capable of doing unless forced to.  A few of the interactions could be moved to that in-between, but when suddenly faced with the matter of her own frailty, she's going to avoid any situations that might stretch outside of her control like the plague.  Which means almost no interaction with Ro- until Part 5, when they are both trying to glue the pieces of their lives back together and not doing a very good job of it because no one in their family is willing to acknowledge that they have feelings (except her mom and sister). 

I know I need to find the true beginning, but I don't know what that means for providing a sense of what the "ordinary world" looks like before everything falls apart when the cast splits soon after the true inciting incident.  Is-'s main character arc is based on her perception of how much control she has in her life.  And grasping at things (most clearly, magic) to try to pull her world back together into something where she can be competent and steady again. But if we start at the tournament, I don't think there's a clear picture of what she's lost.  And without some sense of how badly she and Ro- misunderstand each other up front, I don't think the parallels in their arcs are as meaningful.

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45 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

I know I need to find the true beginning, but I don't know what that means for providing a sense of what the "ordinary world" looks like before everything falls apart when the cast splits soon after the true inciting incident.  Is-'s main character arc is based on her perception of how much control she has in her life.  And grasping at things (most clearly, magic) to try to pull her world back together into something where she can be competent and steady again. But if we start at the tournament, I don't think there's a clear picture of what she's lost.  And without some sense of how badly she and Ro- misunderstand each other up front, I don't think the parallels in their arcs are as meaningful.

Okay, idea, which you are obviously free to dump but might get your brain going. I'm throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing if anything sticks.

Prologue - Keep the same (for now, nothing ever stays the same in revision)

Chapter One - The day before the tournament. There is a problem that forces Is to get involved. Involved, not talking. Having her drag her feet out of desire to avoid conflict shows her personality, but her desire to help her monarchy/family, or her duties as princess, or whatever, forces her forward. Maybe this problem involves her cousin. Maybe it involves A. Either way, it gives you a quick cursory glimpse into the world. The rest you can make up for with memories (this veal pie tasted exactly like the one at home, what she wouldn't give to hide in that little nook with her sister, etc). Hint at all of the most important pieces that are going to come into play in the next three chapters. Arc: introduce problem, work to solve problem (try/fail cycle twice?), solve problem (or don't solve it and face the consequences). All in 5,000 words max. 

Chapter Two - Tournament, ball rolls. 

Emotions are going in both of them. There is conflict in both of them. Characters are doing sh*t and not just talking about everything. You get max 5,000 words per chapter. 

You write really well, there is no doubt about that. But your (lack of) plot and (overwhelming) worldbuilding is drowning you. How are you educating yourself, and how do you like to learn? How can I help you find resources to solve these problems? Because right now, I worry you're limited by your current abilities and swamped by a project larger than you can handle. You're trying to paint the Sistine Chapel when you haven't mastered plasterwork yet. Your gorgeous paint is just crumbling off because your foundation is set wrong.

If you've been staring at this project too long, don't forget that it is okay to set it aside for a while and write something sloppy just to practice your skills. You've revised the first chapter something like three times now in a little more than a month. I'd like to extend that invitation again to come write a short story with me. We can both work through our bad habits together. 

Since you are busy practicing killing your darlings, have an Oatmeal: https://theoatmeal.com/comics/creativity_darlings 

Edited by Snakenaps
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I don't think I read this the first time around. 

I didn't make any line by line notes while I was reading but in general, I kept waiting for something to happen and nothing happened. 

There was a lot of emphasis on the gift, at first was interesting, but then, it went on too long with A actually doing anything about. The problem seem pushed off. Oh, we'll just switch gifts and that will give us more time to find a replacement. And the little bit of tension we had is gone, and we are onto something else. 

I didn't really feel like I needed to know all the details of how he arrived. 

The bit about people staring at his hair was interesting, but that could be put into almost any scene. 

At one point I got a little confused about the rooms, about who had been staying in them and why, and where that guy was going to go now that he was being forced out. But I don't know if I really care about the details. That's not important to me, and  A doesn't really seem to care either.

A walking into the room the first time had some nice emotion. 

The overheard conversation hinted at something suspicious. 

But overall, I feel like nothing happened. There was no beat or no arc. 

On a sentence level, the writing was good. The descriptions were well done. A seems like an interesting character. But in terms of plot? I'm not sure what it is contributing. 

9 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

Overall, I like A. He seems dedicated (sleeping in his office), young (like not understanding how a pile of linens on a chair could be offensive), and a little haunted by the past (memories in the room). I know you are writing an epic, but I'd be willing to bet my socks he's the love interest. I feel like, with time, I would come to root for his character. 

 

I do like him as well, and am guessing he's going to be a love interest for the other mc. But I kind of want them to meet before we switch to his POV for the first time. 

Agree.

 

Even if the chapter doesn't have any kind of exciting physical action, the A needs to have some kind of goal or motivation. I thought it was going to be figuring out a new gift, but that didn't turn out to be the focus of the chapter. After that, it sort of lost focus.

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11 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

I'm still working on the best format for an official outline, but here is a rough chapter by chapter summary (the numbering is off while I'm figuring out what things can be combined, but it's close enough to work with). 

Thanks for sharing this. It pretty much confirms what we've seen in the chapters, I think, in that there is no clear through line, no clear theme, nobody acting with any particular clarity of purpose. What is the story in one sentence? Is it something like 'The laws of magic are broken. How can one princess, beset by opponents and the strictures of her society, change the world? Perhaps the only with the help of the reclusive and enigmatic Prince A, although him involved, who knows what might happen?'

I know that more of a cover blurb, but my point is that I think an outline has to have a clear vision of what the story is, and the things that are not the story. Do you know what your climactic final scene is, what the big set pieces are through the story? I think your outline needs to be shorter. Dispense with all the detail, and just have one sentence for each chapter, which is the arc of that chapter: beginning, middle, and end.

Not everyone is an outliner, but one should still know what the arc of a chapter is, even if it's not written down. And it should be short, a concise summary of how the chapter will move the plot forward towards the next set piece, or the ending.

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3 hours ago, Robinski said:

It pretty much confirms what we've seen in the chapters, I think, in that there is no clear through line, no clear theme, nobody acting with any particular clarity of purpose

Is the content of the outline confirming this? Or just the fact that it's paragraph summaries instead of single sentences?

3 hours ago, Robinski said:

I think your outline needs to be shorter. Dispense with all the detail, and just have one sentence for each chapter, which is the arc of that chapter: beginning, middle, and end.

I can do that.  I just didn't know that's what was implied. I'll get to work on that.

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1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

Is the content of the outline confirming this? Or just the fact that it's paragraph summaries instead of single sentences?

I think the outline does confirm this, personally. An outline--for me--is not just a summary of each chapter, it's the thread that holds the whole story together, and it encapsulates the plot, how the main character changes during the story, and takes in critical events (but most definitely excludes non-critical events). That's what I consider a effective outline to be. Non-critical events can be included in chapter summaries, but I think they just bog down an effective outline.

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

I can do that.  I just didn't know that's what was implied. I'll get to work on that.

It's not just a matter of making what you have shorter. I think that's the problem. I don't think the chapter revisions are addressing the problems that people are having with the story. Have you written any short fiction? That is a great (and classic) way to develop the skills needed to tell any story, especially larger, more complex stories (i.e. novels). There is no room to hide in a short story. Clarity is essential, singularity of purpose a requirement, and there is no room whatsoever for material that doesn't contribute to the story.

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These are my "overall" notes from the last time this chapter came through and I think they still stand:

"...It's getting better, but there's still so much exposition that nothing is actually happening. There are some hints of magic, but I'd much rather see a practical effect (in essence, showing and not telling about magic) to get the same effect across. Maybe A touches the sleepstone and falls asleep? I don't really know how the magic works, so I can't say.

...We keep getting to parts where something exciting could happen and then...the characters have a long discussion about politics. I want more from the characters so I can follow along with how they will react to exciting circumstances.

pg 16: So this chapter seems to mainly be "In Which The Young Duke Contemplates A Piece of Jewlery and Tries to Change Rooms." As in, there's still really nothing going on. We;re back to talking vaguely about politics and a few more pieces of how magic works, but not really enough to tell me anything. I don't have a good connection with A and more than I did with I. I'm looking for any hook to pull me into the story and I haven't found it yet."

The fact that I can put them in here verbatim and they still address the problems in this chapter tell me something deeper needs to change to make this a more engaging story. I think the others above had some really good suggestions. I took a look through Part 1 of your outline, and if that was something I was outlining for myself, the entirety of Part 1 would be one, or maybe two chapters. I think that's the problem you're running into. There are just long stretches that don't add much to the story. @Robinski's suggestion to try out some short stories is a good idea, and it will give you a different viewpoint from staring at the same story all the time.

For this forum, I really don't think it's necessary for us to critique sections we've seen before until there are larger changes. I'd be willing to look at a new chapter, but from your outline, I'm pretty sure I would have similar comments to the above until it's severely compressed and moving a lot faster.

Sorry to be a downer on this, but hopefully this helps.

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1 minute ago, Robinski said:

I think the outline does confirm this, personally. An outline--for me--is not just a summary of each chapter, it's the thread that holds the whole story together, and it encapsulates the plot, how the main character changes during the story, and takes in critical events (but most definitely excludes non-critical events). That's what I consider a effective outline to be. Non-critical events can be included in chapter summaries, but I think they just bog down an effective outline.

Then I misunderstood what you were looking for.  I was putting together chapter summaries, not what you would call an outline.  Because I don't have the same terminology in mind that you do.  Specifically the exclusion of non-critical events.  I'm working on what you were actually looking for now that I have a clearer understanding of what that means.

7 minutes ago, Robinski said:

I don't think the chapter revisions are addressing the problems that people are having with the story.

I think this is where there's a lot of talking past each other.  Because I know the beginning is a mess.  I've known it for a while. It's a combination of the few things that have still lingered from when it was trunked in like 2012. I now know that it is far more of a mess than I was aware of, but it doesn't change the fact that everything leading up to the tournament is like a tumor that everyone has assumed means the whole body is filled with the same cancer.  I know there are problems with the overall story, but they aren't the same problems that are in the first bunch of chapters, and I don't think they're as debilitating. But I know the story is massive, so trying to figure out the best way to even ask for the right sort of feedback on that when I haven't gone through the process of a concise outline for something this large before is eluding me.

I should have probably just kept subbing through on the first round, or jumped straight to the tournament, or something. But the side of me that doesn't like leaving things obviously broken before moving on had difficulty doing that and hadn't realized how much of a problem it would be now because I haven't gone through this process before.  

5 hours ago, Robinski said:

I know that more of a cover blurb, but my point is that I think an outline has to have a clear vision of what the story is, and the things that are not the story. Do you know what your climactic final scene is, what the big set pieces are through the story?

I have clear pictures in my head of all of these things, but am horrible at defining them concisely. It's all woven together in my head, so it's difficult to separate the events from the context of the world.  Working through some "best path forward" discussions with the husband this morning has nailed down that this is probably going to be the best way to get the feedback I'm actually looking for instead of just getting further confirmation that the first bunch of chapters needs to just be scrapped altogether. 

1 hour ago, Robinski said:

Have you written any short fiction?

Not much. And it has been...a while. @Snakenaps convinced me to join her venture into some of that, so we'll see how it goes.  I do think it will be helpful, even though it hurts my soul a bit to not be able to just write something that doesn't include like 20k words of worldbuilding.  Which we all know is my problem.  And my soul could use the lesson. Stay tuned.

 

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1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

The fact that I can put them in here verbatim and they still address the problems in this chapter tell me something deeper needs to change to make this a more engaging story.

The main change was supposed to be a clearer impression that the trusted adviser is involved with something suspicious and is trying to brush it off.  But that's not coming across.  I'd been stuck in thinking that having a non-Is- chapter up front was more important than it is to set a pattern of jumping PoVs, but I'd been missing the detail that finding a better way to cut all of the mess of the opening chapters is going to be a stronger way of doing that. 

1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

the entirety of Part 1 would be one, or maybe two chapters. I think that's the problem you're running into.

Yes. Yes, it is. 

1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

For this forum, I really don't think it's necessary for us to critique sections we've seen before until there are larger changes. I'd be willing to look at a new chapter, but from your outline, I'm pretty sure I would have similar comments to the above until it's severely compressed and moving a lot faster.

True. I probably should have just skipped this one going through this round.  But I was overthinking too many other things and wasn't considering that jumping back to where I'd left off before resubmitting chapter 1 was an option.  Ugh.  

And the feedback is still helpful. Even if a lot of it is a reminder that I jumped into the group with both feet during a lull when the week or two that I was reading and commenting before submitting didn't give me a good understanding for how the process should actually go.  And unfortunately, we all now have to deal with me figuring out the best approach to the whole process far too late. 

I will probably be just jumping forward to the tournament.  Because otherwise I think you're all going to give up any hope that this thing has any momentum at all (which is fair from having to slog through the early chapters too many times).  Hopefully that will start getting me out of the hole I've dug myself into...

Edited by C_Vallion
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52 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

@Snakenaps convinced me to join her venture into some of that, so we'll see how it goes. 

Spoiler

Come To The Dark Side | Know Your Meme

Hey @C_Vallion, I just want to commend you for not giving up. For not becoming defensive and aggressive. For being willing to listen even when the advice is difficult to hear. I know this sucks. If you're anything like me, you're probably feeling lost, confused, and frustrated. I know I have every time I was forced to tear down my story down to the foundation and rebuild. But you're not alone in this, we've all been there. And, unfortunately, as is the way of writing...we'll all be there again. 

Thanks for being a respectful, optimistic teammate even when the news isn't what you probably wanted to hear. 

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I think everyone's made pretty clear what work needs to be done with the larger story so I didn't bother with super in-depth line comments this time.

One thing I do want to say is that I think this chapter is definitely getting closer! Yeah, I do agree with everyone that there's not much plot here, BUT I think we're getting better. I can tell that A's plot wants to focus on (re)establishing relations between the regions Tr and Gi, and honestly that's half the battle. I can see some more of the mechanics of the story and how they want to work, which I couldn't last time. To me, this is actually a pretty difference. And like people have said, the writing is really solid and that's the hardest part imo. So yeah, I think it's awesome that you're keeping at this and I do think this will be something really great with all your perseverance. :) 

On 2/22/2021 at 5:57 PM, Snakenaps said:

I'm giving your outline a read through. You know what immediately caught my eye that I want to see? The sword fight. Now that sounds interesting. That is action. Sword fights! Poisoning! Rescuing! Like, how much of the chapters beforehand really matter? How much of the information now can be slipped in elsewhere after the sword fight, or just before? What would this book look like if you went straight from the swordfight to Is preparing to duel her idiotic cousin? What if the reader's introduction to adult A was when he was rescuing Is

Not disagreeing with @Snakenaps exactly since I do agree with the main point here but my perspective is a little different so I thought I'd share. I don't think the swordfight itself constitutes action; the important part is that it's against R and that they have some issues with each other and the swordfight allows the story to push their dynamic further. Ala rescuing her is also good because the "action" allows for development of the character dynamic, not because it's inherently flashy. 

In my mind, the story has two choices here. Match what the story wants to be about to the cool events or find cool events to fill what the story wants to be about. I think Snakenaps' approach is easier in starting with the cool scene and building the arc from there, and there is a lot of background work that needs to be done if that's the case I think. Let's just take these examples here. I vs R swordfight being the potential centerpiece means that a lot of the story should be about their conflict/rivalry. In that case, many of these other political/magical ideas are basically example topics that let us see the conflict between R and I. Maybe R hates magic and spies on I refilling her own spellstone and tries to hold it against her. Maybe I overhears R saying that magic is a scourge and that he wants to declare war on Tr when he becomes monarch, which drags A into the situation. I think what's important is for the story to find its key dynamic (one for I and A each) and make everything else revolve around it, while finding conflict to keep pushing it forward. And honestly, I do like I vs R better than I researching magic since she's not a top politician so it's harder for her to make change through research. But her making a fool of her annoying important cousin is totally something she could do. Lmk if you want to discuss this more since I love coming up with ideas for this stuff. 

7 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

Hey @C_Vallion, I just want to commend you for not giving up. For not becoming defensive and aggressive. For being willing to listen even when the advice is difficult to hear. I know this sucks. If you're anything like me, you're probably feeling lost, confused, and frustrated. I know I have every time I was forced to tear down my story down to the foundation and rebuild. But you're not alone in this, we've all been there. And, unfortunately, as is the way of writing...we'll all be there again. 

Thanks for being a respectful, optimistic teammate even when the news isn't what you probably wanted to hear. 

Yes highly second this. Subbing my own thing this week has reminded me how stressful this whole mess is, and your mindset is a lot better than mine was when I first started this (probably better than mine currently is, if I'm being blunt with myself). :) 

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2 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

the important part is that it's against R and that they have some issues with each other and the swordfight allows the story to push their dynamic further.

This is one of the reasons I feel like I can't just start with that chapter, even if I can cut out a lot of the early stuff. In Is-'s interactions with almost everyone, she shies away from conflict and sort of chameleons into what people expect her to be (this seems like it will be a problem through the story, but her priorities shift. Just trust me on that).  But the fact that R- doesn't seem to even care about what he's supposed to be drives her crazy. Especially when she feels like she has to make up for his shortcomings. And while their realization that they severely misunderstand each other is a big plot point, it's more of a supporting point to the central plotline, which is going to be really difficult to tie into the tournament scene as an opener.  

2 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

I think what's important is for the story to find its key dynamic (one for I and A each) and make everything else revolve around it, while finding conflict to keep pushing it forward.

These do exist. 
Is- is constantly grasping to maintain some perception of control of her life (a thing that isn't obvious when she has that control at the beginning - except for not being able to get R to do what she wants him to do- and is about to lose it).
Ala- is trying to get past his past to find stability for himself and the duchy- (which he is lacking at the beginning, but has what he thinks is a path toward it). 
R is trying to prove himself competent and useful when he and Is- (and the king) have very different definitions for what competent and useful mean. 
V is trying to maintain his increasingly fragile control over the court and the kingdom.  And trying to keep Is- from taking after his tendencies any more than she already does because he knows how miserable it is (often by blocking her attempts to take on responsibilities and tasks that might put her at risk, even though she's trying to take them on to prove to him that she is capable of them)
Ali (Is-'s sister) sees how Is- and R- and V- are all too caught up in their stubborn pride, and are entirely failing to see how much they're hurting each other.  And she's done putting up with it.

2 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Lmk if you want to discuss this more since I love coming up with ideas for this stuff. 

Definitely.  I will quite likely send a message in the next couple days once I've puzzled through a couple of things.

2 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Subbing my own thing this week has reminded me how stressful this whole mess is, and your mindset is a lot better than mine was

I appreciate you and @Snakenaps trust in my positive mindset.  I can guarantee that the cold, black and white forum text portrays it more kindly than it sometimes goes through my head.  Which is good. Because I hate being defensive about things.  Especially when I know the other person is either right or close enough to right based on the information they have.  I'm not very good at being defensive or angry. It stresses me out.

Edited by C_Vallion
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Overall: My comments are going to be pretty similar here to what they’ve been on previous chapters, I’m afraid. I’d like a much better sense of an arc and forward motion in this chapter than I got. Related to that, I suspect, is the fact that I don’t have any real ideas of what A’s goals actually are or why they matter, which makes it hard to invest in the character.

It also still feels like we’re getting bogged down in minutiae here. The details about having the wrong bracelet could probably be trimmed, I thought it worked well for the first page or two (it definitely sets the stage for an intrigue-type story, so keep that in mind if that's not what you're going for) but after that I found it stretched a little thin. Same with the bit about the rooms – if the setup can be tweaked so it makes sense (you’ll see below I had some trouble with this). Maybe coupled with the part where the servant almost runs A down in the hall – I think that little scene was supposed to get at the same sense of being slighted the wrong-wrongs thread, and could maybe drive home the point that the characters know intellectually that they should be feeling offended.

It seems like the central conflict of the chapter is R hiding stuff from A, but it takes us quite a while to get there, and when we do we don't get any substantial information. We have no idea what the thing is, why it’s problematic, or why it matters that R is keeping it from A. My two major suggestions for the chapter would probably be to get to A overhearing this conversation much sooner, and having A overhear something actually important. Without that, there’s no hook to carry us into the next chapter.

As I read:

I’m confused about R’s position here. As first presented (a new list of people to quiz A on, ask him if we’re overthinking it, etc.) I had him pegged as sort of steward or advisor to A. But the bit about removing R’s possessions from A’s suite is more suggestive that R a local/not-from-the-same-place-as-A noble who happened to get A’s guest bedroom.

There were a couple of places where I had to really work to suspend my disbelief:

  • If A has gone over the planned gift several times, then “it was a bright day” doesn’t seem particularly convincing in terms of how it was missed.
  • Does the palace really have dedicated guest suites for different countries that sit unused for, potentially, decades at a time? That seems really inefficient.
  • If someone else is in the room A’s supposed to be in and A knows this, would he really barge in without announcing himself, and would R really wander in without knowing someone was there?

“...everything is fine?” “As far as you… concerned” Whoa. Either these two characters have a very good rapport, or R needs to get a very serious talking-to. This line seemed dismissive to say the least.

“Why would anyone waste time…” I have the same question. Glad A asked it.

“Half will assume that you have come…” I’d probably be more interested in this if I knew why he had come. The reasoning we’ve been given so far seems pretty vague re: trade and the like.

The last line of this chapter, or possibly a version of it tweaked for added punch, could potentially work well, but for it to have an impact I’d like to have a better sense of what A’s goal was and how the possibility of R keeping information form endangers that goal.

Edited by Silk
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19 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

I'm working on what you were actually looking for now that I have a clearer understanding of what that means.

This might be a really useful process. One sentence per chapter, with the thought in mind 'What does this chapter do?'

19 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

I should have probably just kept subbing through on the first round, or jumped straight to the tournament

Here's a though. I sounds a bit to me like maybe the tournament is actually where the novel should start. How about skipping anything before then, let us just read the tournament chapter now and let's see how it stands on it's own? It may be that it is where the story starts, and anything before then can be fed in as background through ongoing events, as and when it is relevant.

19 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

I do think it will be helpful, even though it hurts my soul a bit to not be able to just write something that doesn't include like 20k words of worldbuilding.

Yeah, and that's why it's so powerful of course. You can do that world-building, but you are absolutely not allowed to include it in the story ;) 

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9 hours ago, Silk said:

I’m confused about R’s position here. As first presented (a new list of people to quiz A on, ask him if we’re overthinking it, etc.) I had him pegged as sort of steward or advisor to A. But the bit about removing R’s possessions from A’s suite is more suggestive that R a local/not-from-the-same-place-as-A noble who happened to get A’s guest bedroom.

There were a couple of places where I had to really work to suspend my disbelief:

  • If A has gone over the planned gift several times, then “it was a bright day” doesn’t seem particularly convincing in terms of how it was missed.
  • Does the palace really have dedicated guest suites for different countries that sit unused for, potentially, decades at a time? That seems really inefficient.
  • If someone else is in the room A’s supposed to be in and A knows this, would he really barge in without announcing himself, and would R really wander in without knowing someone was there?

So this is all circling around the right idea, but I either cut out the line that clarified things or it wasn't clear enough.  

He is one of Al's advisers. Also, the useless bystander in the mess of a prologue.  But he's been the duchy's official representative in the capital since Al's parents' deaths, and so, has been using the rooms set aside for that person.  He'd be living there 3/4 of the year with periodic short trips back to the duchy for Al-'s political training.  Which is why having his stuff moved out is more effort (and far more likely) than if it was someone who'd been moved into the wrong room.  His stuff has been there for more than a decade and he'd told them to move it out when he last left, but they didn't because no one actually expected Al- to be coming.

After Al-'s parents' deaths, a team of advisers saw to the running of things and training him, and have slowly handed off responsibilities to him as he's gotten older.  He took over the infrastructure responsibilities in full before the others because that adviser died a few years before the story takes place (hence his being excited about his road project being completed and wanting to make use of it by developing more trade). 

He hadn't gone over the gift several times.  He had picked a different one (the cloak pin), then changed it at the last minute after overthinking the color significance and grabbed one from what had been sorted out as "acceptable" that made more sense color-wise.  But it is all a little convoluted at the moment, so confusion is fair.  I think part of the problem is that there's more time spent on it because it's both dealing with explaining some of the cultural norms about spellstones and introducing the bracelet that turns up again later. So I front-loaded all of the information (partly just because that's apparently what I do...urgh) because I'm picturing the later scene where he's forgotten about the bracelet and suddenly realizes that it's just what he needs, and the reader gets a bit of an Aha! if they connected things before he did.  But it doesn't help if we get bogged down in the details now.  If I had a nickel for each of my fun foreshadowing tidbits that have gotten called out as being parts of info-dumps, I would have a lot of nickels.  Obviously I need to figure out how to do that better.  And it will probably be irrelevant anyway if I'm going to be cutting this chapter out. 

There's housing for the nobles' representatives at court.  Usually themselves, but in Al-'s case, Ras- has been filling that role since his parents' death.

Al- wouldn't have, even though he has the authority to.  They're his rooms. They're just still getting Ras-'s stuff out.  And if he had, Ras- would probably have been irritated at Al-'s standing outside his own rooms waiting for his own servants to let him in.   But Tre- would.  He's lived/worked in the rooms as a servant to Alaric's grandfather way back when, is impatient with the situation as it is, and wouldn't see any reason to wait in the hall. 

10 hours ago, Silk said:

“...everything is fine?” “As far as you… concerned” Whoa. Either these two characters have a very good rapport, or R needs to get a very serious talking-to. This line seemed dismissive to say the least.

I think the lack of clarity about Ras's role is part of the problem here.  It should come across as dismissive.  Of Ras- being used to being the one in authority when he's in the capital and falling into the trap of sometimes seeing Al- as far younger than he is when he's been training him for so long.  And of Al- not immediately noticing it since he's used to Ras- treating him like a political student and not as a duke.   It probably would have been more effective if Tre- had been there to get defensive for Al-. Or at least have enough of a reaction to get Ras- to realize what he'd said and correct himself and apologize for slipping into old habits.    More problems that get tossed aside if this chapter gets scrapped (and that need to be dealt with better when they interact later)

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2 hours ago, Robinski said:

This might be a really useful process. One sentence per chapter, with the thought in mind 'What does this chapter do?'

Yeah.  Even just getting through part 1 yesterday was helpful in nailing down the information that. Though most of them are only cut back to two sentences right now.  Because I think that's all I can manage for one pass.  I'll plan to do another pass to trim them back again once I finish this round before I pass it along for looking over.

2 hours ago, Robinski said:

How about skipping anything before then, let us just read the tournament chapter now and let's see how it stands on it's own? 

This is my current plan.

2 hours ago, Robinski said:

Yeah, and that's why it's so powerful of course.

Yep. And Also why I know it needs to be done. 

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On 2/24/2021 at 5:45 AM, C_Vallion said:

He is one of Al's advisers.

Ah, I see. And yes, I thought I remembered him from the prologue.

So this is a ton of information, and I agree with your comment that your narrative is probably not well-served by trying to cram it all in there. The point may be moot for this specific chapter if you cut it, but since this is the chapter we have in front of us, consider these suggestions as examples for future chapters:

As much as possible, try to tell these things through the characters' actions and emotions rather than lines of explanation. If R is an advisor and that line was supposed to be dismissive, maybe A needs to tell him off. If the line is supposed to be unusually dismissive, maybe A is too surprised/shocked to tell him off. Readers can and will make a lot of inferences based on little cues like that. Then the only thing we really need is clarity on R's position as an advisor, which can be dealt with very quickly.

For the rooms stuff: again, a ton of information here, and not stuff you want to bog the reader down with. The trick is to determine the least amount of information the reader needs and then figure out how to communicate it as simply as possible. It seems to me that the important thing we're supposed to take from all this about room shuffling is that it is supposed to be insulting in some form to A and that he should maybe wonder whether it was deliberate, because those pieces of information will affect A's ability to achieve his goals and probably how he feels about it. (Not actually sure that's what you were going for, but running with it as an example for now.) I actually don't know how I would communicate that with so many little details required to explain why it actually mattered. In hypothetical-you's shoes I would probably just majorly simplify the whole scenario - they weren't expecting him and now he's stuck in a room that is smaller/of lower quality than his stature demands/than the jerk-rival-duke-from-next-duchy-over got/etc.

Sometimes the key to communicating things simply is to just make the actual situation simple :) Even if there ARE details in what you originally envisioned which were planned to contribute to later conflicts, they can then be introduced gradually and as they're relevant to the situation at hand.

Edit: It's worth noting that this doesn't negate the need to quickly get to the heart of the tension and move things forward - the characters still need to take action and move things forward - but this kind of balancing can help the chapters arrive to those points more quickly, and make it more impactful when they do.

Edited by Silk
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36 minutes ago, Silk said:

For the rooms stuff: again, a ton of information here, and not stuff you want to bog the reader down with. The trick is to determine the least amount of information the reader needs and then figure out how to communicate it as simply as possible. It seems to me that the important thing we're supposed to take from all this about room shuffling is that it is supposed to be insulting in some form to A and that he should maybe wonder whether it was deliberate, because those pieces of information will affect A's ability to achieve his goals and probably how he feels about it. (Not actually sure that's what you were going for, but running with it as an example for now.) I actually don't know how I would communicate that with so many little details required to explain why it actually mattered. In hypothetical-you's shoes I would probably just majorly simplify the whole scenario - they weren't expecting him and now he's stuck in a room that is smaller/of lower quality than his stature demands/than the jerk-rival-duke-from-next-duchy-over got/etc.

In many ways, the important part of the room shuffling is that he is not being housed in the main part of the palace at the opening of the story (For reasons), but that he will later have access to some of the things that his mother had left behind.  I think without a chapter trying to make something out of the gift trade off and room shuffling, there's far less need for convoluted explanation. So I should be able to deal with it more in passing.  But we'll see once we get to that point and  unintentionally find new ways to overexplain things.  

47 minutes ago, Silk said:

Sometimes the key to communicating things simply is to just make the actual situation simple :) Even if there ARE details in what you originally envisioned which were planned to contribute to later conflicts, they can then be introduced gradually and as they're relevant to the situation at hand.

The problem with introducing this one gradually is that it's relevant right up front (especially if I'm cutting out all of the lead-in chapters), and seems like a thing that will create "How is there no one else around? Why does no one notice that this is happening?" sorts of questions.  Though I'm probably overthinking some of that.  

 

Am definitely trying to get to the heart of the tension faster on the whole story.  I just think I spend far too much time and energy both overthinking how much information people need up front and then overexplaining to make things fit.  Which is even more frustrating now that I see myself doing it even though I know it's a problem. 

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