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RedBlue

4/12/21 - RedBlue - Constance Wood Stove ch3 - (2208 words)

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Hey everyone,

This is the third chapter. I rewrote some of last week’s to fix the tone problem and issues with C’s reactions, but in terms of plot, there’s nothing new you need to know.

Questions for this chapter:  1) Do the characters make sense? Are their thought processes clear and believable?  2) Any tone issues?

Recap:

Ch1: After C and her friends play on the forbidden cursed land, C notices that the contents of an essay and some old films have vanished. She sees her friend GM burn her cut hair in the Wood Stove, for reasons C doesn’t understand.

Ch2: C finds a possibly-magical pair of diamond earrings in the Wood Stove and meets V, a boy who can turn into a raven and claims to have come from outside town to defeat the curse.

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Overall:

I liked this chapter.  There are still things that need to be ironed out in regard to what the reader needs to know about the setting: What things should we be suspicious of, and what should we just accept with a shrug and carry on?

The characters make sense, and I like the contrast between C and T.  I didn’t quite get C’s theory that A is under the effects of the curse like she thinks she is, when it seems like just about anyone could fit that category.  I don’t have a clear enough picture of what she thinks is an indicator of being cursed and what she thinks is just part of life in town.  And I’m not sure what makes A stand out other than his saying he’d been somewhere else. In which case it seems odd that she’d compare her circumstances to his.

No tone issues that I noticed. 

Pg 1:

“…held together by crude stitches and fraying pride.” I really like that line. 

“Every Friday, C helps T…” This and what follows sort of surprised me, since I hadn’t gotten the impression that C was all that close to the other kids.   Even if they’re not super close, it might be helpful to get a clearer hint early on that C and T get along better than C does with the others.

“I didn’t know they came in green.” Hah.

Pg 2:

I’m still getting used to reading present tense, so it might just be my brain trying to change things that it’s not used to, but I think it might make a few spots a little smoother by changing “…are *verb*ing…” phrases to just “…*verb*…”. 

“Stray cats are nesting in a few of them” -> “Stray cats nest in a few of them.”  

“…so close to the television that his knees are touching the stand” -> “…so close to the television that his knees touch the stand.” 

Pg 3:

“They don’t know whether he is aware of this.”  Isn’t “whether” always supposed to have an “or” connected to it?  Or is that just my habit? The “or not” is sort of implied, but I wonder if it should be “if” instead of “whether” here.

“It hadn’t crossed her mind…” I don’t see the connection between “if A really had left town” and him being under the same curse as C. If anything, I would think that would draw greater distinctions between them, if she and most of the others in the town (who she hasn’t had this thought about) haven’t left the town but he has.  Why would it be something that she has in common with him that she doesn’t have in common with the others?

“Is C going to end up like him?”  Not sure what “like him” means.  Other than the disintegrating into the chair (which seems to fit a world where C’s parents look like a bowling ball and skeleton), I’d assumed that his rambling about the past had just been age-related. And while wondering if she’ll be like that when she’s old makes sense to some extent (depending on how people actually age here), she seems to directly associate it with the curse.

“…some of the ice that builds up in the freezer…” This should be “had built up” since even in present tense, the ice would have built up before she’s scraping it.  Similarly, “A- has drifted” should probably be “had drifted” I think, since the drifting into the story had occurred while T was doing things in the kitchen, and in the “now” (when the kitchen things have been done) he is already in the story. About his youth.

Pg 4:

“V…is standing at the front door.” Similar to the “are *verb*ing” comments above.  Should this be “V…stands at the front door.”?  I’m sure there are reasons to go one way or the other on both of these, but I haven’t worked with present tense enough to have thought about it extensively, so I’m just going by general feel.

“…not enough to confirm or disprove her theory.” What theory?  Just that A- might be telling the truth about his experiences outside the town?

“…those windows.” What windows?  I know the barn is mentioned right after, but it hadn’t been mentioned before now, and since we’re inside,  “gesturing towards a barn” isn’t giving me a good sense of the physical layout.  I’m not sure when in the discussion C actually goes outside, but the visual description should come after that.

I’m also not sure what “normal barn” implies. Since my instinctive thought was “barns have windows?” But apparently that comes from living in an area where a bunch of old houses have old windowless barns attached to them. And where it gets cold enough that putting any holes in your walls, even to let light in, isn’t worth it from a keeping-whatever’s-inside-from-freezing perspective.  I feel like this probably isn’t as big a deal as my mind is making it, but it was a sticking point, so I wanted to mention it.

Pg 5:

“T agrees and thinks for a few moments.” Tense error.

“somebody needs to be the skeptical one.”  I wouldn’t expect that to be C based on what I’ve seen from her so far.

Pg 6:

“…one more piece of evidence for her theory…” is it, though?  If they’d just said it couldn’t have flown in without someone noticing?

Pg 8:

“And now that T thinks of it, C has always been…” The “And” here suggests it’s a continuation of the previous thought, but the contrast of C’s helpfulness with her being “twitchy and weird” doesn’t quite follow that.

I like the contrast here between what we’ve seen of C’s character and what we now see of T’s.  Where T is more responsive to the things she sees as strange and needing solved than C was.

I really like the last line.  Definitely makes me want to continue on from here.

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I wasn't very engaged with this chapter. After the last two, floating through this world behind C, I was hoping to get some answers, or at least a little explanation. Instead we're off on a tangent with a chapter we haven't seen much of, with something seemingly unrelated to the main story line. First it was the stove, then the earrings, then V, now this airplane. I feel like I need some stability to figure out what this story is doing.

To your questions:

1) Not particularly, because I have no idea what's going on, and no one seems to react to impossible occurrences other than with a shrug. T actually remarks that things seem strange and then nothing really happens from it. The ending is a bit abrupt, so maybe we find out more after this?

 2) I think the tone is consistent with the first two chapters, but it's still very distant and disconnected from C and T.

 

Notes while reading

pg 2: "the edges of his body blurring and mingling with his armchair."
--like, for real? I'm honestly not sure what is metaphor and what is real in this story.

pg 3: "since before"
--since before what?

pg 3: "Leaves were much bigger, back then.”
--this seems random...

pg 3: "that C is beginning to experience?"
--I thought they were all under the curse already?

pg 4: "A hulking, ominous shape looming in the darkness"
--does he mean he saw something in the barn, or the barn itself is ominous and looming?

pg 5: "There can only be one explanation: the forces of evil are converging.”
--I don't think V has a very firm grasp on cause and effect...

pg 5: "But it couldn’t have flown in from outside!"
--wasn't it already stated that there was a time when the curse wasn't around? Would this have been from then?

pg 5: "And if the curse came for A..."
--Have we seen any evidence of the curse "coming for" someone? I thought it was just sort of generally over the town?

pg 7: "She’s a different kind of person than we are"
--this all seems very vague and prophetic, but I don't think we have any clear idea of what this story is about.

pg 7: "there’s V, an impossible person,"
--yet no one comments on this? Why not?

pg 8: "she surmises that it isn’t"
--Eh? What? Why?
--I know this doesn't have chapter breaks, but this whole section with T seemed almost dreamlike, and disconnected from the rest of the story.

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Posted (edited)

I think this chapter suffers from the same problems that the last one does. We keep getting more mysterious and odd things piling on top of each other and it’s hard to keep track of everything. I’m still looking for which direction this story is going. 

There’s also still a lack of emotion/reaction from the characters. T doesn’t think that a talking raven is weird, but she thinks the fact that he is green is odd. There must be something that passes the line of normalcy and shocks the children. You could maybe get away with all these random oddities if the POV characters were just as confused as we are, but C and T are just like, “oh a talking raven that transforms into a boy, that’s not weird, but this huge plane sure is weird even tho it’s been in T’s barn for years.” Actually, even having V come in and tell C which things aren’t normal would help a ton. The readers need to be grounded I feel like.

Another problem I had is, though this one might just be me, that I felt like things just seemed to happen; the flow felt off. I think I feel this way because I don’t know what to focus on or what direction anything is going. I thought we got a little more direction with V, maybe he would come in and he and C would try to uncover what's going on, but then C helped T with groceries and they started looking into this barn and it felt like a side plot that I don't care about.

I think @Mandamon sums this up nicely.

On 4/12/2021 at 11:28 AM, Mandamon said:

we're off on a tangent with a chapter we haven't seen much of, with something seemingly unrelated to the main story line. First it was the stove, then the earrings, then V, now this airplane. I feel like I need some stability to figure out what this story is doing.

I will say that I was more engaged when it switched to T’s pov. I liked that the teacher told her to be cautious of C and that T saw something strange in the airplane, though will it actually be strange or normal? I’m not sure.

The tone is fine, but this chapter does feel very distant.

Edited by karamel
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Hey hey guess who's even later than usual. Happy to take a look at this though! :)

As I go:

pg 1. Couple of thoughts. First is that I wonder if C thinking more about the curse brings it into reality and that's why everyone's trying to convince her it doesn't exist. Second is especially if I'm picking this up from a break I need some sort of narrative hook here. Starting on a routine makes it feel like this moment doesn't matter since it happens every week. 

pg 3. I think I need to know a bit more about why C is only thinking now that A left town. I assume it has something to do with V, but I need it to be a bit more explicit. 

pg 4. I feel like I'm supposed to believe V that there's something weird about the barn, but I don't see any reason to as of yet

pg 5. Okay so T isn't trying to distract C from the curse since she admits something's up. Now I'm less sure why everyone else is denying the weird things going on. 

pg 6. I can see all the pieces in motion, but something isn't quite there for me. Like, I can tell that this town being isolated is a big deal and that the existence of a plane implies that things weren't always that way and that the horizons are broadened, but last chapter all the abnormalities were coming from the wood stove and this feels different so it doesn't have full impact for me. I think the story is shuffling between "this town is weird because nobody can leave" and "this town is weird because things appear in this creepy stove," and as long as the two aren't connected they don't carry each other's momentum. 

pg 7. One of my personal preferences in stories is for alternate PoVs to be introduced early into the story so that I know what I'm getting into, so this feels jarring. That being said, many people in this group have the opposite inclination and feel that jumping around early on before story can lay out why we should care about the MC is a turn off, so take that with a grain of salt. 

pg 8. Same comment as on pg. 6. I can clearly tell that this is supposed to be a hook into the next chapter and I can logically see why, but the engagement isn't quite there yet. I can tell you're really close but there's just something not clicking for me. 

Overall:

On 4/12/2021 at 3:02 AM, RedBlue said:

1) Do the characters make sense? Are their thought processes clear and believable?  2) Any tone issues?

Yes, yes, and no. No problems here.

I touch on this in the line edits but I think my (and possibly others') comments are coming from the fact that the focus is jumping around a lot, even though it doesn't seem like it is. Everything is grouped under "curse" but what's happening now with the plane really does feel different from what was happening with the wood stove the past couple of chapters, which is why I think it feels like not much is happening to some readers. I think either the events can change or the framing can change, since I do believe that these are all connected and I just need to see why. 

Also, I found myself wanting the plot to interact with C's character more. Generally MCs have defined conflicts and goals, whereas C seems to mostly be going through regular life with some oddities happening. I think this can work if the story is super detached from C, but that doesn't seem like that's what it's going for to me. 

Good luck editing! :) 

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Overall

Same issues from before, I'm afraid. Diluted character emotions, confusing world rules, no global motivations. We have growing personal motivations, but they're still murky. Also the lack of chapters is not helping any of this. By this far in I should be invested in either the characters or the world (preferably both) but I feel like I barely have a foothold on anything. In the next chapter if you could even just amp the emotional reactions of the characters, I think that would help a lot. As a former REer used to say, emote for the cheap seats!

 

As I go

- pg 1: can remember a time when it was too big, drowning <-- confused. I thought the kids weren't aging? I still have a lot of confusion over world building in this book and how the town works in general

pg 1: how is no one even remotely concerned about a talking bird???

- pg 4: but what is out there, beyond the cursed land, <-- even hanging a lantern on it, this really should have been one of her first questions. Our lead does not seem to have any sense of wonder

- pg 5: why are they just now breaking into this barn? What has kept them from it in the past? I am so confused as to motivations. It feels like everyone in this story just woke up when the story started and did not exist before then. And they're still on drugs so their reactions are all cottoned and muted

- pg 7: what they do and do not know about the outside world (like what an airplane is) is very plot convenient. I think the rules for this world need to be laid out early on and be very concrete

- again, this really needs to be in chapters so it has arcs. It is so hard to get a foothold without arcs

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On 12/04/2021 at 4:40 PM, C_Vallion said:

There are still things that need to be ironed out in regard to what the reader needs to know about the setting: What things should we be suspicious of, and what should we just accept with a shrug and carry on?

2 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Like, I can tell that this town being isolated is a big deal and that the existence of a plane implies that things weren't always that way and that the horizons are broadened, but last chapter all the abnormalities were coming from the wood stove and this feels different so it doesn't have full impact for me.

On 14/04/2021 at 8:45 PM, karamel said:

We keep getting more mysterious and odd things piling on top of each other and it’s hard to keep track of everything. I’m still looking for which direction this story is going. 

Yeah, this is an issue I've been trying to get sorted as I go through edits - because I know how all this stuff connects, it's not easy for me to track how much the reader is putting together.

On 14/04/2021 at 8:45 PM, karamel said:

There’s also still a lack of emotion/reaction from the characters.

2 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Also, I found myself wanting the plot to interact with C's character more. Generally MCs have defined conflicts and goals, whereas C seems to mostly be going through regular life with some oddities happening.

1 hour ago, kais said:

In the next chapter if you could even just amp the emotional reactions of the characters, I think that would help a lot. As a former REer used to say, emote for the cheap seats!

This is a good point, I'll try to dial stuff up.

 

I'm thinking about submitting the revised version of chapter one next time to see if the changes I've made are working. (Also, I'm putting in chapter breaks since the lack of them was causing problems.)

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1 hour ago, RedBlue said:

because I know how all this stuff connects, it's not easy for me to track how much the reader is putting together.

I know exactly how this feels, and struggle with it a lot in my own stuff. 

It can be a lot of work, and sometimes really frustrating to try to find that balance, but it will get there in time.  Keep at it! :)

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I haven't and probably am not going to go read what everyone else said because I'm getting close to a deadline for something, but here are my thoughts.

As far as plot and what actually happens, this seems mostly okay. C is a little passive in this one, but that might be okay as long as she becomes more proactive soon. T was more active though. I liked that she didn't wait and just went to check out the plane. 

In my opinion, the thing that needs the most work now is character reaction and emotion. This is very distant. The characters do things. We're told about some reactions, but even being told about those reactions is very on the surface. This probably applies to some of the previous sections too but I might not have commented on it because I was focused on other things. Really think about what each character things of everything that happens and how they feel. Try to work more of that into the narrative.  

I'm not quite sure how to read V. Part of it is because no one really reacts to him. He talks in a sort of cheesy way, which would work really well if that is what you are going for and you want readers to laugh at him. However, if you are going for funny, then I think the characters need to react more to him. If you are going for something more serious, I'm not sure he is working. Funny is good with middle grade, even if it is mostly a spooky book. A little humor can be a good way to off-set some of the scarier elements. 

I think you did pick a great point to end the scene at though. I'm looking forward to finding out what is in that plane. 

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So it has been awhile since my last critique, so bare with me on this one. I want to start off by saying I went back and read over your previous subs to get up to speed and I’m liking what I’ve read so far. The world is interesting and I find this curse very intriguing. One thing  it took me a while to get my head around is that this is written in present tense, which I'm not sure I’ve ever seen before. It makes it a little hard to follow at first, but once I got used to it, it got a lot easier to follow. 

 

Now, onto the critique. 

I like the way you describe A. He reminds me of my step-father with the way he acts, telling his stories and wanting to help, though he really isn’t able to. I get the feels for that type of thing. 

I gotta say, I am really enjoying the names for your characters. It really gets me interested in who they are and what they are about. 

As far as your questions about tone, I think that this is fine. There aren't really any big changes that I see, though I do want to mention that at the end it could maybe use a little more sense of mystery. 

I think that most of the thought processes are just fine, with T’s decision to check out the barn on her own being pretty good overall. She seems like a very curious character and this fits that pretty well. 

I’m a little confused about the green raven character, but I think I may have missed something from one of the earlier subs about him. I went back and re-read the other subs and I have not found anything that helps with this. It seems a little weird that everyone is just cool with a talking raven that can change forms. I would at least expect there to be some more questions regarding him. 

 

After reading, 

I am liking what you have so far. The biggest changes I would make if it was my work are probably to go to a more standard past tense. Ok. After re-reading the second submission, the tensing makes a lot more sense. I think I see what you are going for here and I love it. 

There is a lot of mystery surrounding this curse and I can’t wait to see what the children can find out. 

There is a pretty big lack of sense of wonder, which could use some work, I think. This curse is doing some work for me here, but I think that some better defined explanations could go a long way with helping this problem. 

All in all, the way things are shaping up makes me want to know more, which is definitely a good thing. I am looking forward to seeing more subs from you.

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