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julienreel

3/1/2021 - julienreel - Legend of the Four-fold Kingdom: Ch 1 rev 1 (L) (V) - 4363 words

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Hey everyone, this is the first revision of the first chapter of Legend of the Four-fold Kingdom. I took everyone's advice and applied it as I could. There's still more work to be done, but let me know what you think. No gore or sexually suggestive content this time, just a bit of violence and language. In fleshing out some of the characters and altering the scenario, I had to cut the chapter shorter than the first version, so I hope that doesn't take away from it.

Is the pacing still alright?
Is the first page too slow?
Is the situation realistic enough?
Are the characters represented well enough?
How bad is the dialogue/word usage?
Would you read on if you opened this book?

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Posted (edited)

Page 1

-”as the turning of the stars” better opening!

-”G sat” i think you can indent this paragraph

-”before you took to tending to the grapes” so far so good, we have a better motivation for them going to the count.

-but i do wonder what A did that was different that made the grapes better? Is he magical perhaps? Meh, small concern tho, it doesn't weigh on me too much

-”I don’t understand why Count” So far it’s just A and G talking, and that's fine; A mentions M and she actually speaks on page 2 so that's already better than before, but I wonder if M can say this line rather than A, let her speak up earlier. Even tho A mentions that it’s the whole fam, I’m still only picturing A and G on the first page

Page 2

-”you’re scaring M” O reminds me of the mom in the umbrella academy, like she’s kinda robotic and something is off about her. She doesn't seem present, like she is in a daze. Those are the vibes I get from this line. Ooh, also a series of unfortunate events vibes, cause the adults are not quite there in that series.

-”Have we still not heard anything of Mr.G?” what prompted him to say this? It doesn’t feel like natural conversation. But if he mentioned that Mr.G also had dinner with the count and disappeared, then it would make more sense...it would add to A’s skepticism. Tho, it would be too telling and I would be less surprised when A and his fam run into trouble.

-”Mr.G, though, he told me about the” i can sense the author’s hand here. I appreciate that you give us this information earlier so we aren’t blindsided later, but it doesn’t feel natural for him to say this at a time like this. A went from thinking about his sister being strong to asking about his previous tutor. Right now, you’re going from red to yellow, and we need some orange in between, you gotta blend those colors! Blend the conversation better so it flows (probably a bad metaphor lol).

Page 3

-”led them to an iron-wrought gate, beyond which” and did a lighting bolt flash as they pulled up? Lol

Spoiler

tumblr_mfoox2WAee1role7ko1_400.gif.4244bf273500f431a130168a23efd1a8.gif

Page 4

-”’Rise!’ he whispered” i read things with exclamation points as yelling so this threw me off.

-”the affluent L fam” I feel like this is in conflict with that statement made earlier about the gates opening on their own and that being a luxury. I guess there could be a huge gap between the affluent and the nobles, but the L fam is still described as wealthy. It’s just that earlier I assumed they were middle class wine makers but now you’re telling me they’re wealthy

Page 5

-”is that what they call me?” so far, he is still very obviously suspicious and most likely evil

-I almost want you to flip this on its head: the count seems creepy, he lives in a creepy mansion, he looks like a vampire, he has an eerie vibe, but he is completely normal and kind. currently, he still leans very heavily into his evilness, i feel like.

Page 7

-”What kind of question was that?” my thoughts exactly

Page 8

-”G! Said O” her reaction feels a bit delayed. He was walking around the room for a bit and then she decides to yell his name? Maybe it would work better if she only says “what happened?” then I can imagine that everyone was just looking at him as he paced waiting for him to say something and then when he sighs, O is prompted to ask what happened.

-”he represent a powerful” typo, represents

Page 9

-”Mr.G warned me of Count” Oop! Here we are! A perfect blend for earlier on page 2. You can introduce mr.g by talking about all the things he said about the count. Then G can dismiss A and say that those are just stories, like he already does on page 2.

Page 10

-”we should like to leave now” you got me there, i thought he would agree to stay.

-”the driver was fed” fed to who!?

Page 11

-”the howling of wolves” much better reason for them to stay

Page 12

-”no harm in a bath” I beg to differ! They could drown! Also, why would they bathe? I wouldn’t if I were them, too risky, too vulnerable.

Page 13

-"blue light in the room that illuminated two figures that loomed over the beds his family slept in." the use of "that" feels a tad repetitive. maybe just "in the room that illuminated the two figures looming over the beds"

-“I won’t harm a single head on their heads, observe.” typo, hair

 

Overall:

This is much better! I prefer this count to the previous version. The pacing is much better, imo. In the previous version, the events seemed to just happen one after another without any time to process, but now everything flows very well! The characters are better, however, Im not quite sure what A brings to the table; I just don’t connect with him that much, (and some of his dialogue could be fixed as it seemed a bit stilted) but I recognize that this is just a first chapter and I'll stick with A for now. So, yes, I would read on. Mostly because of that last scene; I really liked the count near the end. But now he seems to take on a more comical tone in my head, which makes it more interesting for me. 

Here’s how i'm picturing it: The count has his own master, who told him he must get G to agree to let them have M. The count asked the L fam politely, offered them a lot of money in exchange, didn’t resort to killing them to get what he wants, and promised their safety. He could have just killed the fam, but he didn't; I commend that. But he still needs to get M. so he uses his magic(?) to make the family agree. They didn’t even kill A after he saw them doing whatever it was to his parents. Here’s where the comical bit comes in: “But fear not, E, I’m finished.” I imagine that the count and E are close, and giving the antagonist a minion that they trust and care about, makes them all the more relatable. I like that E is helping him. Their relationship (in my head) sort of reminds me of lego Darth Vader and lego the Emperor, but more wholesome. I’m all about that. Even when the count says “I won’t harm a single hair on their heads, observe.” I believe him, and he is less of a threat. And knowing that he isn’t at the top of the food chain also makes him more likeable, imo.






 

Edited by karamel
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I also think this is much better than last time! We still get a heavy sense of dread and tension, but not so much overly dramatic gore and the female characters even get some lines!

The dialogue is probably the weakest point. This is hard to adjust because it's a hearing thing. Maybe read the dialogue out loud and see what you naturally want to say, rather than what's written on the page?

The count is much better presented, and still threatening.

The females are still the weakest part of the story. This almost reads as if it should be in M's POV, because she's the one who the count wants to take. By focusing on the son, we get the trope of the male rescuing the "weaker female." Probably need a few more chapters to see the true aim of the book, but that's just my impression from one chapter.

Overall, a very good improvement!

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: would be good before M. come sup to mention who's in the carriage.

pg 2: I like that the tutor gets a mention early, but the intro is going on a bit too long now. If it's only a page or a page and a half before they get to the castle, I think that would work better.

pg 3: the dialogue is still a bit stilted. You might try reading the sentences out loud and seeing if that's something you would say.

pg 6: “May I use your privy?”
--I think I figured out what was bugging me about this. Wouldn't they all have gotten refreshed after a long carriage ride? THEN it would be odd that he's asking for the privy at dinner, if they'd all just freshened up.

pg 7: There's not really a point to the dinner. They have it, there's maybe suspicious ham, and there's not really any conversation.

pg 8: "You can’t possibly believe him, can you, father?” 
--is there some reason he wouldn't believe him? Yes, the Count is suspicious, but does that mean being a priestess is rare? Is it strange that they are looking for priestess volunteers?

pg 9 “But he won’t even give you a name!"
--ah, this was missing. Make this part stronger

pg 9: "I don’t trust the Count."
--why not? Giving some examples or reasons here would help.

pg 10: The count getting rid of the driver is great and is a great example of why not to trust him.

pg 11: Good tension in drawing the baths and getting ready for bed. There's definitely something wrong, but we don't know what.

pg 13: "but you did not eat the meat."
--Aha! Nice.

pg 14: Good end to the chapter. Makes me want to read on to find out what's going on.

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Overall

Much improved! Well done! It still reads pretty tropey and like you're writing a satire, but I'm enjoying it so not much bothered. The only place I really hung up (other than the mother who is still barely two dimensional) was at the end, where we learn about the brother being 'special' but no one really emotes on it.

1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

The dialogue is probably the weakest point.

Agreed. It's better, but still very much reads like satire.

 

As I go

- I think your epigraph would be more powerful if it was just the quote and not the bit before it

- pg 1: I think my confusion could be helped if you spent a few sentences describing who was in the carriage (the 'they' referred to early on). Otherwise when you mention M, we have no idea who she is. Right now as far as I know there are two people in the carriage 

- much better with the sister!

- LOL 'I could live in such a house' I love her

- pg 4: I still don't really buy why they are going to this dinner when there is every red flag in the book. I think we might need a bit more motivation if this isn't just tropey satire

- pg 4: To the best wine in the Southern Fold <-- ahh okay. Maybe just a little bit more discussion around this on the first page to really get it through our heads?

- pg 5: again, the mother comes from absolutely nowhere

- pg 6: it seems very weird that he would be allowed to use a privy where he could potentially hear someone in distress

- pg 9: so they got invited because of wine, but the count wants the daughter. How did he find out about her? I think a line or two about her helping with the wine, or how she came to the count's attention, would be nice

- pg 11: ah much better with why they stay the night

- pg 12: there is a lot of telling, and sometimes showing and then telling. 

- pg 14: This is no ordinary brat <--this seems like a giant understatement. Why aren't they more concerned? Also introducing a chosen one trope is...it clashes with the vibe of the story. I was on board until this, and now I feel unmoored.

 

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Side note: Did you format it in Garamond? Or did my computer change it?  I mostly ask because I do most of my writing in Garamond then switch it over to Times New Roman for submissions, and find it funny that someone else might have the same font tendency.  Either that or Word is doing strange things to documents when I’m not paying attention. 

Pg 1:

Still need to keep track of some verb tenses.   “Count C… had invited the L…”

I like the intro better, but it still isn’t clear who is in the carriage at the front. This includes clarifying how they are related to A-. A mentions “we’re just your children” halfway down the page, which helps, but it’s still not clear how many people are there. And it’s probably worth calling out G- as his father in the line he’s first introduced.  

There’s certainly something to be said for introducing characters gradually in most cases.  For not starting out with “Mom, Dad, A, and his sister M were riding in the carriage up to the castle.”  But I think it’s more important that we know they are there while we’re putting that initial image together in our head.  Knowing who all is there and what they are doing that isn’t taking part in the conversation.  Something that adds to their character.  

Maybe mom has dozed off leaning against the wall, so she’s not likely to be taking part in the conversation. Or maybe she’s also worried about the whole thing and is trying to be quiet and not bring up her concerns. Or maybe she’s working on some embroidery.  Something to hint at who she is, even if she’s not talking. And maybe his sister is busy looking out the window. Or trying to lean close to the window to read. Or draw. Or is just flat out bored. Until something in the conversation sparks her interest.   Are mom and the sister having their own conversation, which A- is registering but ignoring because he doesn’t care about dresses or embroidery?  

I think having even just one or two sentences telling us who all is there and what they are doing would be a huge help both to avoid jarring the reader when characters seem to appear out of nowhere and to add touches of character.

Pg 2:

Dialogue could still use some work to seem less stilted. I’d second the recommendation above to read it out loud.

“he has more to gain from doing business with us rather than taxing us.” I assume he’d still be taxing them.  They’d just be getting something back from him if he’s going to be buying their wines.   

“…you’re scaring M.” I don’t see talk about taxes being scary. Especially for someone who doesn’t have to worry about paying them.  Wildly boring, maybe. We could use a stronger introduction to both Mom and M.

“I’m not a little girl anymore…” If she’s supposed to come across as not being childish, this isn’t the best way to do it.   Probably just leaving it at “He’s not scaring me.”    The qualifiers make it sound more whiny.  If her age is important to know right here, it would probably make more sense for A to observe it when he’s talking about her being small for her age.  “…smaller than most girls at fifteen, but…” or something.

Mr G- This is a pretty sudden topic shift.  Also, how does M not know that he’s missing?  I assume that would have been talked about within the family. G- seems rather unsurprised that he’s disappeared.  Has he gone missing in the past? Is Mr. G- irresponsible enough to make it seem likely that he’d just taken off?  If so, why was he still employed there anyway? If A- is going to be taking over the business, they’re going to be making sure that he’s getting a proper education.   They’re not going to waste money on someone who is irresponsible or incapable.

“I liked Mr. G-“ I am surprised that his father is not more concerned about A’s extreme lack of concern about his education on anything business-related.

Pg 3:

“I could live in such a house.” I really like this line from M. But think it could use some sort character-building tone or expression hint.  Is it dreamy awe?  A snide/dry response to her brother? How’s she say it in a way that tells us something about her?

“splitting the driveway momentarily” momentarily? 

Watch for extra apostrophes when Lor- has been pluralized.  I noticed it once here. A quick text search will catch them, though.

“A- covered his nose…” his father doesn’t give him a stern look or sharp word at that response?

Pg 4:

“He was…calculating.” Repetitive sentence structure here. A lot of “He x. He y. He z” in a row.

Pg 5:

“I’m seventeen.” We probably don’t need his age earlier, then. 

“his eyes suggested other moods.” ?

Pg 6:

It’s still very weird to me that A- doesn’t bother to mention his concerns about the person calling for help from the terrifying, rotten privy.

Pg 8-9:

There’s a lot of back and forth that confuses me about the family dynamic.  How much influence do the kids have in big decisions? How much do Mom and Dad trust their opinions? How likely are the kids to talk back when decisions are made neglecting their opinions?  Does O- defer to her husband’s decisions? I think they are all talking in sort of different directions

Are they familiar with these priestesses being a thing, or what they do? I’d taken it as some top secret ritualistic thing that most people aren’t aware of.  If they’re aware of it, and it is a viable future for her, I think that needs to be mentioned.  There’s the “becoming a priestess could ensure a good future,” that assumes it’s something they are aware of and might even be an honor, but they otherwise treat it as a sort of terrifying thing all around.  Do they have an idea of what being a priestess implies? Does she? If it’s a viable thing that people do, what about the prospect is terrifying? Is it the count himself? The thought of leaving her family? I just don’t have a good concept of what exactly is going on here.

“Thank the lord” Ooo. I get to overthink fantasy swearing. My favorite. Make sure that the things the characters are swearing by are reflecting their beliefs.  In our world, this phrase is going to refer some sort of Judeo-Christian worldview. Whether the character believes it or is simply in a culture where it’s common.  What does it mean in our Fourfold Kingdom?  What lord is he swearing by? I’m guessing that there would probably be some other phrase that would be more relevant, whether the expression is flippant or devout.  Is there a deity or power or person that would make sense culturally/religiously for him to be swearing by?

Pg 11:

The reasons to stay are much better, though I think 9-11 could be trimmed back a little bit.  There seems to be more back and forth and explaining of things than there needs to be.  

“…such things are not unheard of…”  are they, though? And even if they are, is he really not more suspicious of the timing?

There’s more time spent on the bathing than seems necessary. 

Pg 12-13

I like how the count comes across here better than before.  Seems less flat out evil for evil’s sake.

 

Overall:

This definitely did a lot to fix some of the big issues the first time around. Making the count less cartoony. Providing more motivation for the choices they make.  Better presence of the female characters, though they still need some additional development.

I think there could be a good deal of improvement in the language and dialogue to make things flow more smoothly.  And I think reading it aloud to yourself would be helpful in picking out some of those things.  Or if you can stand listening to your own voice, recording yourself reading it, then listening to it a little later. 

There are still a few logic jumps that I’m not quite buying, and places where things could be made clearer, but I think I need a better idea of the full story to offer too many thoughts on what would be important to bring out more or downplay depending on their relevance.

Looking forward to seeing where we go from here.

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On 3/2/2021 at 7:43 AM, karamel said:

Page 1

-”as the turning of the stars” better opening!

-”G sat” i think you can indent this paragraph

-”before you took to tending to the grapes” so far so good, we have a better motivation for them going to the count.

-but i do wonder what A did that was different that made the grapes better? Is he magical perhaps? Meh, small concern tho, it doesn't weigh on me too much

-”I don’t understand why Count” So far it’s just A and G talking, and that's fine; A mentions M and she actually speaks on page 2 so that's already better than before, but I wonder if M can say this line rather than A, let her speak up earlier. Even tho A mentions that it’s the whole fam, I’m still only picturing A and G on the first page

Page 2

-”you’re scaring M” O reminds me of the mom in the umbrella academy, like she’s kinda robotic and something is off about her. She doesn't seem present, like she is in a daze. Those are the vibes I get from this line. Ooh, also a series of unfortunate events vibes, cause the adults are not quite there in that series.

-”Have we still not heard anything of Mr.G?” what prompted him to say this? It doesn’t feel like natural conversation. But if he mentioned that Mr.G also had dinner with the count and disappeared, then it would make more sense...it would add to A’s skepticism. Tho, it would be too telling and I would be less surprised when A and his fam run into trouble.

-”Mr.G, though, he told me about the” i can sense the author’s hand here. I appreciate that you give us this information earlier so we aren’t blindsided later, but it doesn’t feel natural for him to say this at a time like this. A went from thinking about his sister being strong to asking about his previous tutor. Right now, you’re going from red to yellow, and we need some orange in between, you gotta blend those colors! Blend the conversation better so it flows (probably a bad metaphor lol).

Page 3

-”led them to an iron-wrought gate, beyond which” and did a lighting bolt flash as they pulled up? Lol

  Reveal hidden contents

tumblr_mfoox2WAee1role7ko1_400.gif.4244bf273500f431a130168a23efd1a8.gif

 

Yeah, definitely could improve the dialogue, that's something that I didn't spend enough time on during the revision. I think that would make the characters less 2-dimensional. I like your idea of having M speak up earlier! And definitely need to rework the mention of Mr.G, I just threw that in wherever, but it could definitely be more natural. Someone suggested mentioning his concerns about the Count at the same time.

On 3/2/2021 at 7:43 AM, karamel said:

Page 4

-”’Rise!’ he whispered” i read things with exclamation points as yelling so this threw me off.

-”the affluent L fam” I feel like this is in conflict with that statement made earlier about the gates opening on their own and that being a luxury. I guess there could be a huge gap between the affluent and the nobles, but the L fam is still described as wealthy. It’s just that earlier I assumed they were middle class wine makers but now you’re telling me they’re wealthy

Right, I tried to have this come across as a harsh whisper. And yeah, you're right, they are probably more upper-middle class. But with the disparity in the Kingdom between rich and poor, being middle class is already much better than we would imagine it.

On 3/2/2021 at 7:43 AM, karamel said:

Page 5

-”is that what they call me?” so far, he is still very obviously suspicious and most likely evil

-I almost want you to flip this on its head: the count seems creepy, he lives in a creepy mansion, he looks like a vampire, he has an eerie vibe, but he is completely normal and kind. currently, he still leans very heavily into his evilness, i feel like.

Page 7

-”What kind of question was that?” my thoughts exactly

Yeah, I wanted to characterize him as not necessarily evil, but perhaps with a shifty moral compass. Like he's willing to disregard other people's values for his own sake, but he doesn't want to pointlessly hurt people either. Yeah, and hanging a hat on the question that is obviously strange, but is more the Count probing for M.

On 3/2/2021 at 7:43 AM, karamel said:

Page 8

-”G! Said O” her reaction feels a bit delayed. He was walking around the room for a bit and then she decides to yell his name? Maybe it would work better if she only says “what happened?” then I can imagine that everyone was just looking at him as he paced waiting for him to say something and then when he sighs, O is prompted to ask what happened.

-”he represent a powerful” typo, represents

Page 9

-”Mr.G warned me of Count” Oop! Here we are! A perfect blend for earlier on page 2. You can introduce mr.g by talking about all the things he said about the count. Then G can dismiss A and say that those are just stories, like he already does on page 2.

Haha, it was you who recommended the blend! Yes, I love it. 

On 3/2/2021 at 7:43 AM, karamel said:

Overall:

This is much better! I prefer this count to the previous version. The pacing is much better, imo. In the previous version, the events seemed to just happen one after another without any time to process, but now everything flows very well! The characters are better, however, Im not quite sure what A brings to the table; I just don’t connect with him that much, (and some of his dialogue could be fixed as it seemed a bit stilted) but I recognize that this is just a first chapter and I'll stick with A for now. So, yes, I would read on. Mostly because of that last scene; I really liked the count near the end. But now he seems to take on a more comical tone in my head, which makes it more interesting for me. 

Here’s how i'm picturing it: The count has his own master, who told him he must get G to agree to let them have M. The count asked the L fam politely, offered them a lot of money in exchange, didn’t resort to killing them to get what he wants, and promised their safety. He could have just killed the fam, but he didn't; I commend that. But he still needs to get M. so he uses his magic(?) to make the family agree. They didn’t even kill A after he saw them doing whatever it was to his parents. Here’s where the comical bit comes in: “But fear not, E, I’m finished.” I imagine that the count and E are close, and giving the antagonist a minion that they trust and care about, makes them all the more relatable. I like that E is helping him. Their relationship (in my head) sort of reminds me of lego Darth Vader and lego the Emperor, but more wholesome. I’m all about that. Even when the count says “I won’t harm a single hair on their heads, observe.” I believe him, and he is less of a threat. And knowing that he isn’t at the top of the food chain also makes him more likeable, imo.

Thanks, karamel, yeah I think most of my effort in this revision was to make the Count more reasonable. Because, in the end, I don't want to write a black and white, good guys vs bad guys book, I'd prefer it to be gray.

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On 3/2/2021 at 8:12 AM, Mandamon said:

I also think this is much better than last time! We still get a heavy sense of dread and tension, but not so much overly dramatic gore and the female characters even get some lines!

The dialogue is probably the weakest point. This is hard to adjust because it's a hearing thing. Maybe read the dialogue out loud and see what you naturally want to say, rather than what's written on the page?

The count is much better presented, and still threatening.

The females are still the weakest part of the story. This almost reads as if it should be in M's POV, because she's the one who the count wants to take. By focusing on the son, we get the trope of the male rescuing the "weaker female." Probably need a few more chapters to see the true aim of the book, but that's just my impression from one chapter.

Overall, a very good improvement!

 

Thanks Mandamon. Yeah, I know I definitely need to lean more into why A doesn't trust the Count, because of what his tutor told him. Mentioning that earlier would help, I think. Because otherwise, he seems reasonable, if not a bit creepy. The dialogue is what needs the most drastic change, I think. I think reading it out loud is a great idea. And the more female presence. I hear where you're coming from by making the POV from M, but most of the story does revolve around A. But I suppose it wouldn't hurt to mix it up, as I think having chapter POVs from M and A is what I'll end up doing. I mean, it has the wrappings of the male rescuing the weaker female, but I assure you it won't pan out like that at all, though it's A's goal. I think my biggest problem will be as Kais mentioned, that my tropes will clash. I'm trying to set up a 'chosen-one' esque trope, but I also have this gothic, horror thing going on. And I'm struggling to see how I can marry the two. But anyways, thanks for your comments, always helpful!

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On 3/2/2021 at 10:05 AM, kais said:

Overall

Much improved! Well done! It still reads pretty tropey and like you're writing a satire, but I'm enjoying it so not much bothered. The only place I really hung up (other than the mother who is still barely two dimensional) was at the end, where we learn about the brother being 'special' but no one really emotes on it.

Thanks, Kais, you point out things that I easily overlook. I very much appreciate your critiques, so thanks for commenting! I'm going to continue to try making it less tropey haha. The dialogue is definitely the next piece of the puzzle, but I'll move on to the next chapter for now.

On 3/2/2021 at 10:05 AM, kais said:

As I go

- I think your epigraph would be more powerful if it was just the quote and not the bit before it

- pg 1: I think my confusion could be helped if you spent a few sentences describing who was in the carriage (the 'they' referred to early on). Otherwise when you mention M, we have no idea who she is. Right now as far as I know there are two people in the carriage 

- much better with the sister!

- LOL 'I could live in such a house' I love her

Nice, yeah the epigraph always sort of bothered me, and I think that's why.
Honestly, I wrote down a little blurb about everyone in the carriage but then took it out because I thought the mention of characters was getting repetitive. But yeah, I'll reinsert it for better clarity.
Thanks, I'll continue to improve the sister.

On 3/2/2021 at 10:05 AM, kais said:

- pg 4: I still don't really buy why they are going to this dinner when there is every red flag in the book. I think we might need a bit more motivation if this isn't just tropey satire

- pg 4: To the best wine in the Southern Fold <-- ahh okay. Maybe just a little bit more discussion around this on the first page to really get it through our heads?

- pg 5: again, the mother comes from absolutely nowhere

- pg 6: it seems very weird that he would be allowed to use a privy where he could potentially hear someone in distress

Yeah, the motivation is to do business (for the Ls) for the Count, it's to have the daughter. And yes, should hang a lantern on why she comes to the Count's attention.
I didn't think about the oddness of him using the privy, but you're absolutely right haha. I'll have to rework that somehow.

On 3/2/2021 at 10:05 AM, kais said:

- pg 9: so they got invited because of wine, but the count wants the daughter. How did he find out about her? I think a line or two about her helping with the wine, or how she came to the count's attention, would be nice

- pg 11: ah much better with why they stay the night

- pg 12: there is a lot of telling, and sometimes showing and then telling. 

- pg 14: This is no ordinary brat <--this seems like a giant understatement. Why aren't they more concerned? Also introducing a chosen one trope is...it clashes with the vibe of the story. I was on board until this, and now I feel unmoored.

What you mention about the end there is my biggest concern with the story. The first draft I wrote didn't have this intro part with the Count. It was quite different, and it basically led to A going to a magic school to develop is magical abilities with others. There was no sister, or much motivation really. The main plot occurred at the school. And it was a classic chosen one type trope going on. Now, I wrote this intro because the story eventually gets much darker, and I want the readers to know what they're getting themselves into and make the story less YA. But I have this clash of tropes now, where it starts off dark and gothic but then A goes to a magic school to learn the magic of this world, and I'm struggling to imagine how to marry these two things. I'm thinking of reworking the school or having A get more of a mentor rather than a school experience. But yeah, it's a struggle. Thanks for pointing this out, it gives me a lot to think about. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. Thanks!

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2 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Overall:

This definitely did a lot to fix some of the big issues the first time around. Making the count less cartoony. Providing more motivation for the choices they make.  Better presence of the female characters, though they still need some additional development.

I think there could be a good deal of improvement in the language and dialogue to make things flow more smoothly.  And I think reading it aloud to yourself would be helpful in picking out some of those things.  Or if you can stand listening to your own voice, recording yourself reading it, then listening to it a little later. 

There are still a few logic jumps that I’m not quite buying, and places where things could be made clearer, but I think I need a better idea of the full story to offer too many thoughts on what would be important to bring out more or downplay depending on their relevance.

Looking forward to seeing where we go from here.

First off, yes, I do use Garamond lol. Thanks for taking the time to comment in such detail! Yeah, I find it difficult trying to give space for all the characters without getting bogged down by too slow of a pace.

Definitely, the dialogue is crap haha.

The father doesn't reproach A because he's in front of him and doesn't see A cover his nose.

Yeah the privy scene needs more work, Kais made a good point, and now you are too lol.

You make a great point that I didn't put much thought into about pg 8-9. Perhaps the kids don't have so much influence. Perhaps the dad could just steam roll over them. Something to think about. The priestess thing is something they're aware of, mostly they're hesitant about the prospect because of the Count's insistence and the fact that his benefactor isn't mentioned by name. It's just sort of suspicious and out of the blue for the family. But you're right, I could do a better job of fleshing this part out.

The religion of the South is sort of Judeo-christian, they're Jesus character is known as Saint Gabriel, and he also sacrificed himself for his people. But the true history is different than that.But yeah, would probably better to have him say, thank the Saint, rather than thank the lord. Cheers!

Thanks for all your comments, I appreciate it all. I could make some parts more clear, develop the characters, and improve the dialogue for sure. That's mostly what I'm getting from your critique, so yeah!

They're definitely suspicious of the timing, maybe I didn't make it clear enough through the dialogue. It's more like, they don't feel like they have any other option but to stay the night, and the father's trying to assuage his and his family's fears by saying it's not unheard of.

Yeah I could definitely trim back some of the scenes. I linger on some of them for suspense purposes, but if it's not working, then they'll have to go lol.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

16 minutes ago, julienreel said:

The religion of the South is sort of Judeo-christian, they're Jesus character is known as Saint Gabriel, and he also sacrificed himself for his people. But the true history is different than that.But yeah, would probably better to have him say, thank the Saint, rather than thank the lord. Cheers!

I actually almost asked if the Gabriel mentioned up near the top would be a relevant person.  That seems like it would be a good fit. 

Will be interested to see how the religion works.  I have just enough of a theology background to have opinions about religions when they have weird inconsistencies or are dealt with poorly.  But I do love seeing when they're well-done and presented in an interesting way that adds to the world-building.  

Quote

Yeah I could definitely trim back some of the scenes. I linger on some of them for suspense purposes, but if it's not working, then they'll have to go lol.

I think it will work for suspense purposes as long as the language and dialogue are ironed out.  At the moment, a few of those scenes have me tripping over odd wording and sentence structures and getting dragged out of the suspense.  Meant to imply that initially, but I don't think I'd realized that's what was causing it until I had posted.

Edited by C_Vallion
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Overall:

Agreed with everyone else that this reads better. :) Also agreed that the dialogue could use some work, but that's something that will take a lot of practice most likely. 

One thing I'll mention that I don't think anyone else has is characterization. C now reads well which is good since he's really the one making things happen, but I want a bit more from A and M specifically. A is our protag (presumably), so I think we need to get a good feel for what makes him distinct personality-wise and what his motivations are. So far the only thing that makes him stand out is his distrust of C, which is just something he was told by G. The challenge is doing this without it being too heavy-handed, which is always a risk. In the end, I don't really have a character hook for him.

I also didn't get a great read on M. The main thing we get from her is that she doesn't want to be taken and made into a priestess through this shady offer, which I would hope anyone would do in her situation. Which means we really don't know much about her as a person. Given that she seems to be quite pivotal, I think we need to know more about her. Why is C so interested in her anyway? Exploring these questions (again, while trying not to be too expository about it) will help more pieces fall into place. 

As I go:

pg 1

-I get a better idea of what's going on here than last time 

pg 2

-This is nothing against the story itself but I'm skeptical of whenever a (usually kid or teen) girl is introduced the way M is. Oftentimes it feels like stories do this to say "look I did a strong female character" and then proceeding to make that character passive in regards to the plot. I'm hoping this story has her play a more active role if she's presented this way. 

-I know we all told you to put in references to G earlier on in the story and I'm glad you did, but I think it could be tied more into what they're already talking about. Right now it feels like a tangent. 

pg 3

-M's response at the top of the page is confusing to me. Like, does she not get that the question is kinda rhetorical? Is there some larger point she's trying to make? Is she just making fun of A? I still don't feel like I have a great read on her personality and motivations. 

pg 4

-I think it's good that A is skeptical here, and I want to know more about where this comes from. Is he typically skeptical of authority or does he just get bad vibes from C?

pg 5

-What about A's answer to the count does G see as disrespectful? Not using titles, stating his name, ect. Surely A has some idea. 

-Is M in a position to give scathing looks to her mother? This makes it seem like she's unconcerned or at least unfazed, which I find to be a bit odd since there seems to be tension in the air. Does she have a reason for being this way?

pg 7

-Other people have mentioned dialogue as a possible point of improvement, and here is one part where I noticed that the most. Knowing what's going to happen I can see what the story is trying to do, but it all feels pretty nonspecific and isn't advancing the story at all. My rule of thumb (and it's not like I'm a great writer so you can take this with a grain of salt) is that if you can picture another character saying the line of dialogue you have written out in the same situation as the character speaking, it needs to be more character-specific. 

pg 8

-I like the story coming out of the gate with the count wanting M. It feels like the story's really moving. 

pg 9

-Okay this info about G is what I think we should know at the start. We don't need his full weird tutoring methods in the opening exposition, but mentioning that G told A to distrust C in the first couple of pages solves multiple problems. It integrates G's existence into the story in a natural way since they're already talking about C, and it makes A's skepticism of him for the past few pages make more sense. Did G give a specific reason as to why A shouldn't trust C?

-M's response feels more juvenile than someone who's 15 to me. If she's in firm denial I'd expect more anger towards the parents (more like "what, so now you're trying to sell me off?")

-That being said, I do think this fleshes out C's motivations better. I like him trying to groom M as a priestess better than him fixating on A.

pg 11

-I like how C's taking more steps to force the family into a corner by chasing off the driver. It also makes him seem more competent as a villain 

pg 13-14 

-I like this version of the count much better. Still clearly not a good dude, but less of the wanton destruction that wasn't all that interesting to me in the first place. 

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Your questions!

1. Is the pacing still alright?

Yes – I admittedly missed some of the really high tension of the first chapter but still thought this worked pretty well. Leading into your next question I did think the first page was maybe a bit slow, but other than that this worked well.

2. Is the situation realistic enough?
Yes! The groan from the toilet I had more trouble with this time, as you’ll see below, but otherwise this is hugely improved.

3. Are the characters represented well enough?

The count in particular was a huge improvement over last time. M improved a little bit, but that was mostly by virtue of her having any lines or characteristics at all; I think she needs to come quite a ways further to carry the chapter and the conflict here, since it’s essentially her future that’s being decided (you’ll see this at several points in my comments below). In fact, I wonder if she shouldn’t be the POV character for this chapter.

The parents still seemed pretty two-dimensional to me, the mother in particular, and though A was improved I think we need a lot more emotion out of him to buy into him as a POV character.

4. How bad is the dialogue/word usage?

The dialogue is still pretty archaic, yes, and it’s incongruous with the more modern tone of this version. I also think that in a lot of places it could be more succinct – the characters spend quite a bit of time talking – which would probably help punch it up a bit.

5. Would you read on if you opened this book?

I might thumb through a few more pages, but I’m not fully bought in yet. The last pages and the encounter with the Count did a fair bit to convince me to keep reading after not a ton of early investment in the characters, but I’m not totally there. I’d also be reading with caution, still, given the relatively little screen time the female characters get, especially in a story that so far appears that it’s going to be about one of them.

I think that basically covers anything that I would normally say at the top of a crit. Though there is a ways to go, this is definitely an improvement over the previous version, so well done there.

A quick note on the prose: Throughout, I also noticed some confusion around tenses, mostly using past tense when it would make more sense to use past perfect, so watch out for that. There were also a handful of cases of using passive voice when it would make more sense to use active (i.e. “A heard wolves howling” instead of “wolves were heard howling”).

As I read:

“She was always treated like a fragile doll…” Wasn’t it A up above saying that M shouldn’t have come to this creepy place? If so, that doesn’t seem very internally consistent.

P2 “have we still not heard anything…” I get what you’re doing, but this seems a bit shoe-horned; it’s quite the conversational non-sequitur.

P3 “I could live in such a house” I like the line but almost wonder if it needs to come sooner, as M’s been talked over a couple times by this point, like A says she shouldn’t be in such a creepy place and she’s like “it’s cool actually” (only, you know, more eloquently than what I just said ;))

p4 “So this was the man who pinned Ma under his thumb…” I have no idea what this means.

I know I commented positively on the amazing groaning toilet in the previous version, but it doesn’t feel quite as well earned in this version (to be fair, the inherent absurdity of it means it has a pretty high bar to clear). It’s still got some creepy atmospheric stuff happening, but not nearly to the degree the first version had – which I assume is a deliberate choice on your part given your comments about where the rest of the novel is going, and is not necessarily a bad thing! - so I’m finding it harder to suspend my disbelief this time around. I wonder if this encounter could just be dialed back similarly, like, A thought he heard something and then dismisses it.

Bottom of p7/top of p8: M is awfully quiet while the other characters talk about her future.

P8: Oh good, she refused, at least.

Of course there are conveniently howling wolves. I assume C summoned them while he was drawing little circles on the table?

So… how does A actually feel about staying the night with the count? I mean, of course I can guess that he’s not thrilled, but I’m getting no actual emotion from him, except that the family is all feeling resigned.

P11 “But, such things are not unheard of.” Okay, does this guy ACTUALLY believe the count doesn’t intend them harm? Because the thought going through my mind at this point is “this guy can’t actually be this dumb.”

“...we are not to be pushed around.” Here we go. More of this, please! From everyone, ideally – especially A as our POV character, and M as the person whose future is being decided.

Ah, so the meat was drugged?

P13: yep.

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On 3/4/2021 at 3:16 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

Overall:

Agreed with everyone else that this reads better. :) Also agreed that the dialogue could use some work, but that's something that will take a lot of practice most likely. 

One thing I'll mention that I don't think anyone else has is characterization. C now reads well which is good since he's really the one making things happen, but I want a bit more from A and M specifically. A is our protag (presumably), so I think we need to get a good feel for what makes him distinct personality-wise and what his motivations are. So far the only thing that makes him stand out is his distrust of C, which is just something he was told by G. The challenge is doing this without it being too heavy-handed, which is always a risk. In the end, I don't really have a character hook for him.

I also didn't get a great read on M. The main thing we get from her is that she doesn't want to be taken and made into a priestess through this shady offer, which I would hope anyone would do in her situation. Which means we really don't know much about her as a person. Given that she seems to be quite pivotal, I think we need to know more about her. Why is C so interested in her anyway? Exploring these questions (again, while trying not to be too expository about it) will help more pieces fall into place. 

Thank you kindly Ace of Hearts. I've gotten a lot of great advice so far and I only wish I started submitting my book back when I wrote the first draft lol. In the first draft, none of this first part existed, but I added it to introduce the readers to the darker aspects of this story early on so it wouldn't be so jarring when later, like in the second or third book it gets that way. The sister wasn't a character in that, but I talked to a friend and he gave me a great idea to create her and have her play a huge role in the development of the plot. I'm going to move on to the second chapter for the next submission but I think when I revise this first chapter again I'll make M the POV, because she is sort of the center of this part. I got a good recommendation from Karamel and Kais about introducing G more organically which I'll use by having A mention his mistrust for the C. Exploring why C is interested in M will be a challenge without making it too expository but I'll find a way.

On 3/4/2021 at 3:16 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

As I go:

pg 1

-I get a better idea of what's going on here than last time 

pg 2

-This is nothing against the story itself but I'm skeptical of whenever a (usually kid or teen) girl is introduced the way M is. Oftentimes it feels like stories do this to say "look I did a strong female character" and then proceeding to make that character passive in regards to the plot. I'm hoping this story has her play a more active role if she's presented this way. 

-I know we all told you to put in references to G earlier on in the story and I'm glad you did, but I think it could be tied more into what they're already talking about. Right now it feels like a tangent. 

pg 3

-M's response at the top of the page is confusing to me. Like, does she not get that the question is kinda rhetorical? Is there some larger point she's trying to make? Is she just making fun of A? I still don't feel like I have a great read on her personality and motivations. 

Yeah, I suppose I was just trying to make M more complex with the contrast between how she's treated by her mom and how she's seen by A. Yeah she knows the question is rhetorical but she has an inflated sense of self-worth.

On 3/4/2021 at 3:16 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 4

-I think it's good that A is skeptical here, and I want to know more about where this comes from. Is he typically skeptical of authority or does he just get bad vibes from C?

pg 5

-What about A's answer to the count does G see as disrespectful? Not using titles, stating his name, ect. Surely A has some idea. 

-Is M in a position to give scathing looks to her mother? This makes it seem like she's unconcerned or at least unfazed, which I find to be a bit odd since there seems to be tension in the air. Does she have a reason for being this way?

pg 7

-Other people have mentioned dialogue as a possible point of improvement, and here is one part where I noticed that the most. Knowing what's going to happen I can see what the story is trying to do, but it all feels pretty nonspecific and isn't advancing the story at all. My rule of thumb (and it's not like I'm a great writer so you can take this with a grain of salt) is that if you can picture another character saying the line of dialogue you have written out in the same situation as the character speaking, it needs to be more character-specific. 

He's skeptical because of what G told him, which is something I should mention earlier on lol.
I didn't show this very well, but A mentioning his name is more like an undertone of don't call me boy, I have a name and I'm nearly a man grown. He's demanding more respect, which is a very subtle thing that I didn't portray well at all haha. But G sees this and thinks A is in no place to speak in such a way to a Count.
I really appreciate that rule of thumb, I think that's great advice. Of course, sometimes things will be said in such a way that anyone could say it, or more than one person, but that is excellent advice for considering how to make the characters more unique and characterized. Thank you!

On 3/4/2021 at 3:16 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 8

-I like the story coming out of the gate with the count wanting M. It feels like the story's really moving. 

pg 9

-Okay this info about G is what I think we should know at the start. We don't need his full weird tutoring methods in the opening exposition, but mentioning that G told A to distrust C in the first couple of pages solves multiple problems. It integrates G's existence into the story in a natural way since they're already talking about C, and it makes A's skepticism of him for the past few pages make more sense. Did G give a specific reason as to why A shouldn't trust C?

-M's response feels more juvenile than someone who's 15 to me. If she's in firm denial I'd expect more anger towards the parents (more like "what, so now you're trying to sell me off?")

-That being said, I do think this fleshes out C's motivations better. I like him trying to groom M as a priestess better than him fixating on A.

pg 11

-I like how C's taking more steps to force the family into a corner by chasing off the driver. It also makes him seem more competent as a villain 

pg 13-14 

-I like this version of the count much better. Still clearly not a good dude, but less of the wanton destruction that wasn't all that interesting to me in the first place. 

Thanks, Ace, my main focus for this revision was the Count and then as a secondary motivation, making the other characters more present, M in particular. I have more work to be done on that front, but it's nice to hear that I had some success with the Count haha. I'll definitely employ your advice about characterization, considering phrases that only they would say, and even just reading the dialogue out loud. Cheers!

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You submitted the first version while I was on break so this is a cold read for me. 

Thoughts as I go: 

Pg 1, "There was a promise made once" Screams prophecy to me. I'm going to let you know this ahead of time because I know I have a bias: I generally don't like stories with prophecies and the Chosen Ones that follow due to the amount of absolutely horrific takes on it I have seen. So, if this is a prophecy/Chosen One book, know that there is nothing wrong with that, it just might not be my personal cup of tea.

Pg 1, " whose fiefdom stretched" Whoa, that's five names in an opening paragraph. That's a lot when I am just entering a story. Do I need to know where the fiefdom stretches from right now? That cuts out two names.

Pg 1, " you took to tending the grapes" Ooooooh, a vintner for a protagonist? Count me in!

Pg 1, "But father" I'd capitalize "father" since it is used as a name, but that is a personal preference.

Pg 2, "She was the girl who punched" Go M!

Pg 2, "the Augmented" Hmmm...what are these? My interest is piqued. 

Pg 2, "he’ll turn up again" I predict Mr. G is dead.

Pg 3, "How can someone live in such a house?" How can someone afford such a house on bare lands? Must be from more prosperous times.

Pg 3, "Why it’s opened on its own!" Suspicious, considering this is not the era of electric door openers...

Pg 3, "horse-hooves" No hyphen needed. Horse hooves is correct. 

Pg 3 "Guards with swords" Father's guards, or the manor guards?

Pg 4, "Why would such an image appear in a dining room?" Somehow I doubt it is a mere conversation piece.

Pg 4, "He was seemingly hairless, even his brows were naked" That's...odd...

Pg 4, "And how their gaze never fell upon the Count." I am uncomfortable. Good tension!

Pg 5, "She has just turned fifteen." Yeah! Hands off, creep!

Pg 6, " he heard a thin groan rise from the hole he vomited into" Well, that's horrific.

Pg 7, " saw his plate was already served." Confusion. Hadn't the food already arrived?

Pg 7, "Ham,”

Spoiler

Thor: Is it though? - Imgur

Pg 11, "I’m afraid I have no carriages I could lend you to use at the moment." A man as wealthy as the Count? Bull.

Pg 11, " In any case, I don’t believe the Count has any malicious intent." I disagree.

Two beds in one room...not separating everyone out, or at least the women from the men? Peculiar.

 

Is the pacing still alright?

I thought the pacing was fine. I kept wanting to know what happened. 


Is the first page too slow?

Not slow for me, but the five names (A, G, and three locations) in the first paragraph threw me for a loop. Otherwise, it was the usual confusion of settling into a new story.


Is the situation realistic enough?

Is it supposed to be? It felt like the beginning of a magical horror novel. Something akin to Dracula. Creepy servants, massive mansion, barren threatening landscapes, wolves, freaky hosts... Reminds me of the Haunted Mansion but in a non-comical way, or Dracula. Like a classic. 


Are the characters represented well enough?

I don't remember reading descriptions for the family members. I'm horrified at poor M being desired at the age of fifteen, but that's the entire point, I think. It wouldn't be nearly as creepy if she was of marriageable age. 


How bad is the dialogue/word usage?

I found it archaic, same with the narrative prose. Consider "The gate swung inward, but no one was seen to be opening it." Nobody says "to be opening" in real life. But, again, I thought that was on purpose, a stylistic choice to match the classic-esque story. 


Would you read on if you opened this book?

I'd give it another chapter, see where it went. I feel promised a classic horror/suspense story with some twists and an evil villain, but I feel like it isn't going to only play to the tropes. 

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On 3/5/2021 at 4:49 PM, Silk said:

Your questions!

1. Is the pacing still alright?

Yes – I admittedly missed some of the really high tension of the first chapter but still thought this worked pretty well. Leading into your next question I did think the first page was maybe a bit slow, but other than that this worked well.

I was worried some of the more intense tension (lol) would get lost in the revision. I think as long as I make that first page more engaging and the characters more relatable, then I can get away with it.

On 3/5/2021 at 4:49 PM, Silk said:

2. Is the situation realistic enough?
Yes! The groan from the toilet I had more trouble with this time, as you’ll see below, but otherwise this is hugely improved.

3. Are the characters represented well enough?

The count in particular was a huge improvement over last time. M improved a little bit, but that was mostly by virtue of her having any lines or characteristics at all; I think she needs to come quite a ways further to carry the chapter and the conflict here, since it’s essentially her future that’s being decided (you’ll see this at several points in my comments below). In fact, I wonder if she shouldn’t be the POV character for this chapter.

The parents still seemed pretty two-dimensional to me, the mother in particular, and though A was improved I think we need a lot more emotion out of him to buy into him as a POV character.

Yes. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense that M should be the POV character for this chapter. I think the characters in dialogue is the most difficult thing for me haha, but with everyone's help, hopefully, it will work out.

On 3/5/2021 at 4:49 PM, Silk said:

4. How bad is the dialogue/word usage?

The dialogue is still pretty archaic, yes, and it’s incongruous with the more modern tone of this version. I also think that in a lot of places it could be more succinct – the characters spend quite a bit of time talking – which would probably help punch it up a bit.

5. Would you read on if you opened this book?

I might thumb through a few more pages, but I’m not fully bought in yet. The last pages and the encounter with the Count did a fair bit to convince me to keep reading after not a ton of early investment in the characters, but I’m not totally there. I’d also be reading with caution, still, given the relatively little screen time the female characters get, especially in a story that so far appears that it’s going to be about one of them.

I think that basically covers anything that I would normally say at the top of a crit. Though there is a ways to go, this is definitely an improvement over the previous version, so well done there.

A quick note on the prose: Throughout, I also noticed some confusion around tenses, mostly using past tense when it would make more sense to use past perfect, so watch out for that. There were also a handful of cases of using passive voice when it would make more sense to use active (i.e. “A heard wolves howling” instead of “wolves were heard howling”).

TBH, I went into this with the intention of having pretty archaic prose, but it hasn't been well received, so I'm trying to change it but clearly it will take some time.

Yeah I think it could be more succinct as well, I suppose I thought that to flesh out the characters and explore the worldbuilding, I should do it through dialogue. But I'll see where I can cut out unnecessary comments.

Okay, so definitely need more of a character hook in the first couple pages, gotcha.
I think I need to brush up on my grammar haha.

On 3/5/2021 at 4:49 PM, Silk said:

As I read:

“She was always treated like a fragile doll…” Wasn’t it A up above saying that M shouldn’t have come to this creepy place? If so, that doesn’t seem very internally consistent.

P2 “have we still not heard anything…” I get what you’re doing, but this seems a bit shoe-horned; it’s quite the conversational non-sequitur.

P3 “I could live in such a house” I like the line but almost wonder if it needs to come sooner, as M’s been talked over a couple times by this point, like A says she shouldn’t be in such a creepy place and she’s like “it’s cool actually” (only, you know, more eloquently than what I just said ;))

p4 “So this was the man who pinned Ma under his thumb…” I have no idea what this means.

I know I commented positively on the amazing groaning toilet in the previous version, but it doesn’t feel quite as well earned in this version (to be fair, the inherent absurdity of it means it has a pretty high bar to clear). It’s still got some creepy atmospheric stuff happening, but not nearly to the degree the first version had – which I assume is a deliberate choice on your part given your comments about where the rest of the novel is going, and is not necessarily a bad thing! - so I’m finding it harder to suspend my disbelief this time around. I wonder if this encounter could just be dialed back similarly, like, A thought he heard something and then dismisses it.

I didn't think about that haha. Perhaps in the next revision, if Maria is the POV, then I can have it from her perspective that everyone treats her like a fragile doll and it would be more consistent.
Yeah, the introduction of Mr. G could easily be smoothed out.
p4, basically he's controlling Ma by way of taxes, probably an unnecessary line though haha.
I love that idea for the groaning toilet, just dial it back a bit.

On 3/5/2021 at 4:49 PM, Silk said:

Bottom of p7/top of p8: M is awfully quiet while the other characters talk about her future.

P8: Oh good, she refused, at least.

Of course there are conveniently howling wolves. I assume C summoned them while he was drawing little circles on the table?

So… how does A actually feel about staying the night with the count? I mean, of course I can guess that he’s not thrilled, but I’m getting no actual emotion from him, except that the family is all feeling resigned.

P11 “But, such things are not unheard of.” Okay, does this guy ACTUALLY believe the count doesn’t intend them harm? Because the thought going through my mind at this point is “this guy can’t actually be this dumb.”

“...we are not to be pushed around.” Here we go. More of this, please! From everyone, ideally – especially A as our POV character, and M as the person whose future is being decided.

Ah, so the meat was drugged?

P13: yep.

Very good points. G doesn't believe the Count necessarily, but he's lying to his family (and partly himself) because he sees no alternative of choices.

You're totally right about the characters should be clashing more, asserting their opinions; if not aloud than internally. Thanks for all your helpful comments Silk! 

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Thoughts As I Go:

Pg. 1 – Vague prophecy to start out the book. Very classic.

Pg. 2 – I’m getting kind of a Roman-esque vibe, especially with A’s name being what it is. If that’s intentional, kudos. If not, I’m reading too much into names.

Pg. 4 – Those are the paintings of a supremely confident man. Very excellent way to characterize the setting.

Pg. 6 – We’re still Italy, based on the food choices, but now more medieval, judging by the technology and the clothing.

Pg. 8 – The biggest plot twist here is that G somehow didn’t see this coming. If this is medieval Italy, it’s kind of a wonder that G wasn’t the one who suggested it himself.

Pg. 9 – I’m pretty sure that this is the kind of offer that you can’t refuse…

Pg. 13 – Amateur villain work, at best. The clever villain poisons the wines and either takes an antidote or just builds up an immunity to it beforehand.

 

Overall:

For the purposes of establishing a story, this works out just fine. If you intend to use this to establish the motivation of the MC, it accomplishes its task – it sets a clear goal and gives the reader a reason to sympathize with him. It also sets up enough mystery to keep a prospective reader interested in continuing the book.

That said, there are a few changes I would make. The story could use a few more clues as to just what technological era its dealing with – the name makes me think Roman, but the aesthetic is more medieval Italy. Both are fine for a more political intrigue type of novel, but its best to clue in your reader as to which one is true. As for the villain’s characterization – if C truly is the story’s antagonist, then he is a little bit too cartoony, but if he’s going to be subverted into a more well-intended extremist type villain, then this introduction could set up the subversion very well.

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7 hours ago, julienreel said:

TBH, I went into this with the intention of having pretty archaic prose, but it hasn't been well received, so I'm trying to change it but clearly it will take some time.

It definitely depends in part on what the story's going to look like in the end, IMO. One of the reasons I didn't comment much on the archaic prose or dialogue in the first version was because it seemed to fit with the old-style Gothic narrative that I thought you were going for at the time. Current fantasy tends to sound pretty modern. There's nothing necessarily wrong with making a stylistic decision that goes against current trends in regards to your prose or your dialogue (though archaic is one thing; I agree with the comments so far that the dialogue could use some work, whether or not you keep the older style), especially if helps emphasize some aspect of your story, but it may create an additional hurdle in terms of the manuscript being saleable at the end of the day, so keep that in mind.

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44 minutes ago, Silk said:

I agree with the comments so far that the dialogue could use some work, whether or not you keep the older style), especially if helps emphasize some aspect of your story, but it may create an additional hurdle in terms of the manuscript being saleable at the end of the day, so keep that in mind.

Definitely! The dialogue for sure is another thing lol, but yeah I'm not too attached to the archaic style so I'll work to phase that out in time. Thanks!

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On 3/1/2021 at 0:21 AM, julienreel said:

Is the pacing still alright?

Something about it seemed a little slow this time around. My interest was lagging a but, but that may be because it is a re-read. It may also be because I wanted even more interaction A and his sister maybe instead of so much internal observing of everything.

 

 

On 3/1/2021 at 0:21 AM, julienreel said:

Is the first page too slow?

I'm not sure the issue with the first page is that it's slow but with the dialogue. I like the imagery. I'm okay with the carriage ride. But something about the dialogue feels kind of forced and stilted, and that is what is making it hard to me to get drawn in.

On 3/1/2021 at 0:21 AM, julienreel said:

Is the situation realistic enough?

Well, I don't think realistic is really what you're going for in this. There is a castle or manor and a demon count and magic. However, the reason for staying worked a little better. They're stuck there. They don't choose to stay. So that works better. However, the claim about the driver stealing the carriage is a little flimsy and I don't get why the father isn't really suspicious of it.

On 3/1/2021 at 0:21 AM, julienreel said:

Are the characters represented well enough?

It's better than before, but I feel like i'm just getting little glimpses of the mom and sister. I think they could still be more part of the story. I feel like the setting and scenery still gets a lot of developed than them. Granted, how much more development depends on the impact you want their going missing or dying to have. The more we know them, the more impact. 

On 3/1/2021 at 0:21 AM, julienreel said:

How bad is the dialogue/word usage?

This is hard to comment on because a lot of the dialogue felt overly formal and stilted, but I also get that maybe you were doing it on purpose to fit setting and/or tropes. The adults were doing a lot of the talking and I'm not really interested in what they are saying. A is 17, but sounds younger than that to me. I feel like this could have a lot of potential as YA dark fantasy or horror if you made the focus more on A and his sister and didn't spend so much time just showing the adults through is eyes. You could probably get some better if it wasn't so focused on the adults.

On 3/1/2021 at 0:21 AM, julienreel said:

Would you read on if you opened this book?

I might keep going because it does have a good hook at the end, and the adults seem like they'll be out of the picture for a bit, so I'd give it a little more time to see if it got better. But it would be a close call.

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