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Snakenaps

4,19,21 - Snakenaps - Name of the King - D4 Chapter 1 (3535 words)

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To those who don't know, I originally subbed Name of the King through RE last year and the beginning of this year. It's going through some pretty dramatic changes, but I wanted to toss Draft Four's Chapter One out there before I pass it over to Dave in my 318R class at the end of the month. I want to see if it improved since I first subbed the Draft Two version.

Name of the King is a political intrigue adult fantasy that focuses on the hardship of loyalty and family in a world where mythical creatures are given a voice.

I am looking for all critiques. Big and small opinions and criticisms. My questions are:
  1. Would you keep reading or set this down? Why? 
  2. Is the GOST clear? Goals? Obstacles? Stakes? Tactics? I'm practicing this in Dave's class. Essentially - are the dangers clear? What Ir has to lose obvious? Do they feel real?
  3. Reader promises - what do you think will happen? What do you think this book will contain?

 

Thank you ahead of time! 
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I just realized - I am submitting Draft Four Chapter One literally the same week I submitted Draft Two Chapter One last year! Hah! So happy anniversary! What amazing timing!

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I'm excited to read this!

As I go:

p1 - 'both diverse in their species and in their culture' => 'diverse in both their species and their cultures'? (This one might just be me)

'Ca hissed' - hissed makes it sound like she's angry with Ir, which I think isn't what you meant to imply

p2 - 'twarted' spelling

p3 - I like the paragraph of worldbuilding you have here. It comes at the right time, when I have enough questions about how this world works that I'm ready to read a paragraph of infodump. One question that jumps out at me: are humans considered a totally normal type of 'civilized creature', no different from the civilized cats, dogs, dragons etc? Or are humans special or weird in this world?

p4 - Ir has the ability to magically know anyone's name? That sounds like it could come in handy if there starts to be intrigue or spy stuff or things like that!

p4 - 'while other businesses sank'

p4 - 'recipes burning in her mind' - again, this might just be me, but this seems a little overly dramatic for the situation

p6 - 'It had been six months since ... began to occupy the former capital city, B' - I think you can cut these two sentences. They're repeating information we already know.

p6 - 'confusion and delight warring within her'

p7 - 'Ir preferred hers at her shoulders'

p9 - All the political philosophy is starting to lose me at this point

p10 - S telling her family that she has joined the Revolutionaries. Before this point, I had some sympathy for S. Now, I think she's endangering her family and possibly forcing them to pick sides by telling them this. If I'm supposed to be wary of S at this point, that's good.

p11 - 'I don't want to become one of those parents who has to cremate their own child' - I think you could tighten this up. 'I don't want to have to cremate my own child'?

p12 - You reference Ir and S's close relationship, but I didn't see any of that relationship before it goes sour. If I need to be invested in this relationship, I want to see the good times when they like each other and get along.

 

Your questions:

1. I would keep reading, mostly because the world seems interesting. I like magic, I like fantasy creatures, and I like the hook of 'a black unicorn invaded our city, what do we do now'.

2. I think the goals are pretty clear - S and the Revolutionaries want to fight against the occupying force and install an idealistic 'common people' government. Ir (and presumably a lot of other people) want to keep the peace and make the most of a bad situation. It's pretty clear that there is going to be conflict between those two goals, plus the occupying force seems pretty solidly entrenched.

The stakes are also clear, especially for Ir - her life is good right now, despite the difficulties, and she wants to protect her family and her restaurant. If the political situation blows up, all of that will probably be destroyed. S references making a better life for her children, but I haven't seen enough of S's or her situation to feel the stakes for her. I kind of wonder whether it's really about a better future for S's kids, or whether S has other, more personal reasons for wanting to fight that she's not admitting.

I'm not sure what practical steps S is going to take to fight the BK, or what Ir is going to do about it. It doesn't feel absolutely necessary to know that at this point, but since you have a good two plus pages of characters talking about the political situation on a very theoretical level, it might be worth repurposing some of that page space to discuss more grounded specifics. What does resistance look like from street level, to S? What does accepting the BK's rule and adapting look like, to Ir? We get some of that with the business with the tuna, which is good, but I think you could have more.

3. I think this book is going to be an epic fantasy with lots of magic and politics, probably of the stabby variety.

I expect Ir and S are going to oppose each other, and I imagine there will be fighting. Because Ir is framed as the protagonist, I expect her to be mostly in the right and S to be mostly in the wrong, but I don't know if that will translate to 'fighting unwinnable wars is bad' by the end of the book. From the opening focussing on Ir's daily life, I assume that the book will maintain a focus on what ordinary life is like around all the war stuff.

 

Overall, I thought this was very good. The pacing and flow felt on point (other than the long politics talk on pages 8 and 9, which went on too long without saying enough).

Ir and the others didn't leave a huge impression on me in terms of personality, but I felt like I understood what I need to know about them at this point. I got a good sense of the world and general situation, and I am interested to see where it goes.

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  1. Yes, probably! I like the restaurant setting, and I'm interested in the different types of creatures you've set up here. 
  2. Goals: I agree - the family seems to be split in two with what they want (to fight back against the BK or to keep their head down and live as they can) while the BK wants to continue conquering the world. 
    Obstacles: For now, I guess it's the conflict within the family? I wonder if they'll drag other characters into their conflict. And there's the revolutionaries' lack of success. 
    Stakes: I think the stakes are clear; the family would be in danger if S continues with fighting back, and if nothing changes, their family could lose a lot of income from the taxes and so on. 
    Tactics: It seems to me that Ir's goal isn't actually that... active? To me, I could see her either joining the revolutionaries after some time -- to 'protect her sister' maybe? -- or setting something up with her restaurant. As for the revolutionaries' tactics, I'm not sure what they're doing... blowing important BK stuff up, maybe? That's probably a common tactic. Actually, I wonder if S actually just joined the revolutionaries or has been there for a while now, and what her position is there. 
  3. This might be just wishful thinking, but going forward, I think there might be more of the restaurant setting, especially since it seems to be so important to the main character. Story-wise, I feel like it will start with subtler forms of rebellion (ex. info network? storing/hiding equipment or resources?) before moving into a more... upfront battle to take the BK down. I would expect a little bit of political commentary as well, I guess, with the ways a country can be governed, how it's set up, and what the pros/cons such a government (or lack thereof) would have. 

Overall, though, I thought this was pretty enjoyable and a good start!

Some more other thoughts/reactions as I read: 

  • pg 1 "teasing of her fellow cooks and chefs": small nitpick, but is there a difference between cooks and chefs?
  • pg 7 "the lemon sweetness that coated Ir's tongue tasted bitter": this threw me off for a second; is this saying that because of the conversation, the treat now tastes bitter?
  • pg 7 "soldiers have the morals of the Fey": this makes me wonder who they fey are; is the BK/revolutionaries all in the second 'intelligent' category? I'm interested in what the role of the Fey would have in the plot, as well
  • pg 8 "S would take that as Ir becoming a BK sympathizer": this made me wonder a bit about the common people -- do most people agree with the BK or against it? Do they have a choice when talking publicly? Are they only allowed to be vocal about their opinions in the privacy of their homes, like now, and if S did assume Ir was a BK sympathizer, what would she have done? 
  • pg 11 "Eyes nearly identical...": this sentence as a whole threw me off, I didn't immediately take that as the two sisters looking at each other 
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I've been looking forward to reading this!

Overall, this is a much more impressive start. I'd definitely keep reading, because it does set up the tension between TBK, the cowed city, and the revolutionaries pretty well. That said, I'd still like to see even more stakes with what TBK has done. Especially with the argument about him vs. the old government, it's starting to fall into that same trap of, "it's the same thing they've dealt with for all their life." How is TBK more restrictive than the old king? How is he definitely worse? So Goals, Obstacles, and Tactics are clear, but I think it could still have higher Stakes.

As to reader promises, from here, it's definitely setting up the revolutionaries vs. TBK. If I was going in blind, I'd say the restaurant would be a place for spying or other clandestine stuff to happen later in the story....but that's probably not the case!

 

pg 1: "just loud enough to be heard over the fragrant garlic."
--the intro to this is good and kept my attention. This is the first thing that drew me out a bit, just because you're mixing sound and smell in one line. Maybe "heard over the sizzling of the fragrant garlic."

pg 2: “You burn my garlic, I’ll have your head,” 
--even joking, would she say this to a mentor?

pg 3: "was at less than a third of its capacity"
--good showing the effect of the war.

pg 3: A bit of an infodump, but this is a concise explanation of the types of creatures, and it's related to the current scene.

pg 4: "They had all survived the war"
--sort of self evident. I think the important part is the next part of the sentence.

pg 5: "keep the restaurant and her family alive."
--With Ir being the last to leave and thinking about the future of the restaurant, this seems more like she runs it than C, but I don't think that's the case.

pg 5: "conquered her country Pem"
--glad to have this definition up front! I'd maybe say "the country of Pem...capital city, B, where she lived," just to make it a little clearer.

pg 6: "region of Th"
--still unclear on this one. I get the city, and different countries, but what is the "region?" Like a major land mass? A continent? It seems like there are countries in a region, where I'd think that is the other way around, like the Tuscany region of the country of Italy.

pg 8: "could be just as bad as..."
--I think this comparison needs to be the other way around. The council and the old king could be just as bad as the new reign...

pg 8: "decide that they have the authority to search our homes whenever they want"
--So was the council an interim measure between the monarchy and BK? Because searching houses and taxing people for no reason is pretty normal under a monarchy, so this shouldn't be a big change unless the council started more democratic practices.

pg 10: Much better setup with the revolutionaries, and the parents have a good counter for letting the BK rule. Although S just spitting out the news is a little sudden.

pg 11: Foreshadowing!!

pg 11: "“No,” Ir said."
--Maybe a slightly different response? Right now she's saying "no" to "be brave for once" so something a little more nuanced would seem like Ir isn't branding herself a coward.

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Posted (edited)

I don’t have much to say because this is mostly identical to the version you sent me a while back. So, im just going to agree with things other people said :)

3 hours ago, RedBlue said:

p12 - You reference Ir and S's close relationship, but I didn't see any of that relationship before it goes sour. If I need to be invested in this relationship, I want to see the good times when they like each other and get along.

I agree with this, but im not sure how you could fix this or what exactly the focus is. I don't know if you want us to feel really heart broken about it. I didn't like Sue back when I hopped into the middle of the book and I still don't really care for her now. Ir said she doesn't really see her anymore so I don't think there's really anything to be done about it (maybe). I get the feeling that its not so much about us caring about Sue or even their relationship but about how much pressure there is on Ir and how she feels about her sister, if that makes sense.

1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

As to reader promises, from here, it's definitely setting up the revolutionaries vs. TBK. If I was going in blind, I'd say the restaurant would be a place for spying or other clandestine stuff to happen later in the story....but that's probably not the case!

This is a good point— the revolutionaries def seem like they are going to play a bigger part. But I don't know how much of a part they will actually play in the full story.

1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

pg 2: “You burn my garlic, I’ll have your head,” 

--even joking, would she say this to a mentor?

pg 5: "keep the restaurant and her family alive."
--With Ir being the last to leave and thinking about the future of the restaurant, this seems more like she runs it than C, but I don't think that's the case.

I was under the impression that Ir played a bigger role in the restaurant, and she wasn't just C's protege. It felt to me like C, Ir, and G were all kinda up there in management, C being at the top ofc. Also, Ir's joke about the garlic feels natural to me. It gives me a sense of their relationship. It's exactly why I was under the impression of Ir holding more power in the restaurant, I mean, C even trusts her to create new dishes in place of the tuna. And she's been training her since she was 8! C definitely seems like the type to not get angry over a joke like this. But that's just my opinion :)

1 hour ago, leapfrog said:
  1.  It seems to me that Ir's goal isn't actually that... active? To me, I could see her either joining the revolutionaries after some time -- to 'protect her sister' maybe? -- or setting something up with her restaurant. As for the revolutionaries' tactics, I'm not sure what they're doing... blowing important BK stuff up, maybe? That's probably a common tactic. Actually, I wonder if S actually just joined the revolutionaries or has been there for a while now, and what her position is there. 

Yes, I remember Ir's activeness being meh. I am excited to see how you handled this in the most recent draft!

I am also curious about what the revolutionaries actually do, since I didn't see too much of them. But yes, as of now, it feels like they will be more up front in the story.

 

Edited by karamel
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3 hours ago, RedBlue said:

are humans considered a totally normal type of 'civilized creature', no different from the civilized cats, dogs, dragons etc? Or are humans special or weird in this world?

Yup, humans are considered a totally normal. They're one of the species that is civilized only, like dragons or unicorns. Some creatures can be both mundane or civilized (cats, dogs, horses, etc) while others are mundane only (like fish and insects). 

I think I'll post Chapter Two next week, since I'm also turning it in to Dave. I'll hopefully be asking for volunteers to read all of Draft Four in a couple of months. But overall, if you were to continue to read, you'd discover that any civilized creature is treated just the same as a human character. Essentially, younger me went "Man, human-only characters are so boring." 

3 hours ago, RedBlue said:

Ir has the ability to magically know anyone's name? That sounds like it could come in handy if there starts to be intrigue or spy stuff or things like that!

*cough* 

3 hours ago, RedBlue said:

All the political philosophy is starting to lose me at this point

Thank you for marking where you were getting bored. I suspected it was a bit much but didn't know where. 

3 hours ago, RedBlue said:

If I'm supposed to be wary of S at this point, that's good.

Success! 

3 hours ago, RedBlue said:

I think you could tighten this up.

I really appreciate all of your sentence-level critiques. This will really help me polish everything. 

3 hours ago, RedBlue said:

it might be worth repurposing some of that page space to discuss more grounded specifics. What does resistance look like from street level, to S? What does accepting the BK's rule and adapting look like, to Ir? We get some of that with the business with the tuna, which is good, but I think you could have more.

This is a very good point and something I need to sharpen. 

3 hours ago, RedBlue said:

Ir and the others didn't leave a huge impression on me in terms of personality, but I felt like I understood what I need to know about them at this point. I got a good sense of the world and general situation, and I am interested to see where it goes.

I admit to sacrificing some of the relationship aspect for the worldbuilding and situation, since last time the confusion about cannibalism and the complete lack of stakes made for a terrible chapter. I feel like the world will convince more readers to stay than Ir, although characters is one of my stronger points, or at least according to Draft Two's feedback. 

@RedBlue Thank you!!!

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1 hour ago, leapfrog said:

Tactics: It seems to me that Ir's goal isn't actually that... active?

Okay, admittedly, this was a bad chapter to ask about that, since the inciting incident is the next chapter. Then Ir starts becoming more active.

She was very passive in previous drafts but I feel like that is less of a concern in this fourth draft. I'm really trying to make her a move and a shaker, instead of just reacting. 

2 hours ago, leapfrog said:

This might be just wishful thinking, but going forward, I think there might be more of the restaurant setting, especially since it seems to be so important to the main character.

I hope you'll be able to read the second chapter and give me an update to your predictions. I'd like to see how they shift with the inciting incident. 

2 hours ago, leapfrog said:

small nitpick, but is there a difference between cooks and chefs?

Yes, there is! A cook is someone who doesn't have professional training, while a chef is someone who has professional training and experience. You could toss me in a restaurant and tell me to flip burgers and I'd be a cook. But asking me to make champignon de bois? Ooof, no. Now you need a chef. This is never talked about in the book, but C's has three chefs (C, Gol, and Ir) and three cooks (incredibly minor characters). 

2 hours ago, leapfrog said:

pg 7 "the lemon sweetness that coated Ir's tongue tasted bitter": this threw me off for a second; is this saying that because of the conversation, the treat now tastes bitter?

Yes, that was what I was attempting to get at. 

2 hours ago, leapfrog said:

: this makes me wonder who they fey are; is the BK/revolutionaries all in the second 'intelligent' category?

See, this is something I really need to get nailed down. I'm already doing better - no one thinks Ir is a murderer and there is a cannibal restaurant - but I still have holes. Fey are like civilized creatures but literally cannot feel compassion. As the first creations of R, they could be considered the first category. Ir/BK/the entire cast outside of their mundane food source are civilized. 

2 hours ago, leapfrog said:

this made me wonder a bit about the common people -- do most people agree with the BK or against it?

Hmmm, good point. I didn't make it obvious how the rest of the population feels. 

Thank you @leapfrog!!!

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1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

Overall, this is a much more impressive start. I'd definitely keep reading, because it does set up the tension between TBK, the cowed city, and the revolutionaries pretty well.

Improvement! Yay!

1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

That said, I'd still like to see even more stakes with what TBK has done. Especially with the argument about him vs. the old government, it's starting to fall into that same trap of, "it's the same thing they've dealt with for all their life." How is TBK more restrictive than the old king? How is he definitely worse? So Goals, Obstacles, and Tactics are clear, but I think it could still have higher Stakes.

Agreed, which was why I wanted some eyes on the chapter. I needed some holes poked to see what I can continue to shore up, and to see if anyone sparked any ideas with questions or comments. 

1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

As to reader promises, from here, it's definitely setting up the revolutionaries vs. TBK.

Good. I'm really trying to shore up the Revolutionaries. Give them clearer goals and also land a harder punch. 

1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

If I was going in blind, I'd say the restaurant would be a place for spying or other clandestine stuff to happen later in the story....but that's probably not the case!

Dang,  now I want to write this...On the other hand, I consider that a success, because I have obviously built up the restaurant as something important - so hopefully the next chapter will hurt more. 

1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

even joking, would she say this to a mentor?

Former mentor, but yes, she would. At least with C, since she has such a strong relationship with her. Would Ir ever say this to the BK? No, never. 

1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

good showing the effect of the war.

Thanks! I really tried to do that in this draft, since it was a previous weakness.

1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

still unclear on this one. I get the city, and different countries, but what is the "region?" Like a major land mass? A continent? It seems like there are countries in a region, where I'd think that is the other way around, like the Tuscany region of the country of Italy.

This falls under my to-do of "Make places obvious without needing a map" as this was an issue last time as well. It just hasn't been something I have ctrl+F for yet, but at least I switched out "province" for "region", which is a little better. 

1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

I think this comparison needs to be the other way around. The council and the old king could be just as bad as the new reign...

Good point.

Thank you, @Mandamon!!!

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25 minutes ago, karamel said:

I agree with this, but im not sure how you could fix this or what exactly the focus is. I don't know if you want us to feel really heart broken about it. I didn't like Sue back when I hopped into the middle of the book and I still don't really care for her now. Ir said she doesn't really see her anymore so I don't think there's really anything to be done about it (maybe). I get the feeling that its not so much about us caring about Sue or even their relationship but about how much pressure there is on Ir and how she feels about her sister, if that makes sense.

Considering Sue is, if not the secondary antagonist, then the first, I feel like you've summed it up pretty well. It's definitely more about the pressure Sue puts on Ir more than anything else. In this revision, Sue is...rather toxic, if not flat out gaslighting. Ir is incredibly family driven, so it takes her time to realize that just because someone is family, that doesn't mean you want to be around them. If anything, Ir mourns the pre-war person Sue used to be, not this extremist version. 

Talking about this has rather helped me see more clearly what I need to make sure happens across the book. Thank you.

30 minutes ago, karamel said:

This is a good point— the revolutionaries def seem like they are going to play a bigger part. But I don't know how much of a part they will actually play in the full story.

The Revolutionaries are much more active in this draft. It is definitely BK vs the Revolutionaries with poor Ir stuck in the middle trying to figure out where she belongs. 

31 minutes ago, karamel said:

I was under the impression that Ir played a bigger role in the restaurant, and she wasn't just C's protege. It felt to me like C, Ir, and G were all kinda up there in management, C being at the top ofc. Also, Ir's joke about the garlic feels natural to me. It gives me a sense of their relationship. It's exactly why I was under the impression of Ir holding more power in the restaurant, I mean, C even trusts her to create new dishes in place of the tuna. And she's been training her since she was 8! C definitely seems like the type to not get angry over a joke like this. But that's just my opinion :)

Bingo, you got it straight on the mark. Ir is definitely up there in management - as one of the three chefs and closer (a position meaning she shuts down the restaurant at night), she is one of the top three of the sixteen employees. C is owner/head chef, Gol is C's longtime friend and head chef, then comes Ir.

33 minutes ago, karamel said:

Yes, I remember Ir's activeness being meh. I am excited to see how you handled this in the most recent draft!

I'm hoping I just handled it right. I still have so much to fix and then polish.

33 minutes ago, karamel said:

I am also curious about what the revolutionaries actually do, since I didn't see too much of them. But yes, as of now, it feels like they will be more up front in the story.

heh heh heh

Thank you @karamel!!!

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49 minutes ago, Snakenaps said:

I admit to sacrificing some of the relationship aspect for the worldbuilding and situation, since last time the confusion about cannibalism and the complete lack of stakes made for a terrible chapter. I feel like the world will convince more readers to stay than Ir, although characters is one of my stronger points, or at least according to Draft Two's feedback. 

Draft 2 sounds like it was a riot!!

Not having read the previous version, I think it was a good call to focus on the world over Ir for chapter one. You can only set up so many things at a time. You can wow me with your characterisation skills in the next few chapters :)

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Posted (edited)

42 minutes ago, RedBlue said:

Draft 2 sounds like it was a riot!!

Draft Two was a hilarious dumpster fire of a mess. It took me nine weeks to learn enough to start revising for Draft Three before submitting. Then, because I was actively revising literally a week or before subbing (if not the night before), it opened up all sorts of problems. Poor Sue had a very unstable personality as I tried to figure out where I wanted her to go. But I learned so much

That being said, I'm grateful you didn't have to go through the pain. I think my ability to write charming characters mixed with an interesting world was the only reason nobody murdered me from the complete lack of stakes and the overwhelming amount of useless slice-of-life scenes. 

Edited by Snakenaps
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1: I would keep reading this. I'm curious enough about the magic system, the politics, the uniqueness of the world, and how I- fits into all this.

2: GOST... haven't heard that term before... I'll have to keep it in mind. I would say the stakes are clear for I-. The goals, obstacles, and stakes are clear for the sister. But I don't really know what I-'s goals, obstacles, or tactics are. I imagine she wants to keep the status quo and avoid getting caught in the crossfire of the rebels and the powers that be. So in a way, I guess I could see a goal there, but I'm not sure that's it. I didn't get a profound sense that I- plans to do anything at all about her sister or the war effort. So in that sense, it's also hard to fathom the obstacles for her. And the tactics aren't really clear for anyone. What Ir has to lose is obvious, and yes it feels real enough. Though it seems strange that her sister would bother trying to get her family involved in something so obviously zealous and dangerous. It just comes off as short-sighted. But yeah, the dangers are also clear.

3: Reader promises... I think this book will contain Ir- reluctantly fighting in this war somehow. More exploration of the magic system and goals of the rulers. More clashing with the fey and the intelligent creatures. That sort of thing.

Overall:

I like the world, I like the characters and the situation. It feels like a good lead-up to some epic stuff. My only problem with this chapter was so much dialogue and expo. One could argue that it's necessary and good. Personally, I don't mind too much expo, but it just felt so conveniently placed. And there are a lot of names to keep track of. But those aren't big issues, I'm still invested in what will happen, so good job. Also the characters felt quite natural and the writing was smooth.

As I read:

pg 1: Solid opening, I liked how you did that bit with the knife.

pg 2: I- shook her head, reaching for her bowl of stuffing. “Something must have happened at the docks... She
swallowed hard... 
Maybe it's just me, but I find these sentences clashing. I was under the impression that I- wasn't perturbed by the absence of tuna based on the sober assumptions she made about what happened to it. But then she seemed very disturbed by its disappearance. I dunno, just feels like a clash of attitudes.

The last paragraph on this page made my head spin. The restaurant is L-shaped and there is a patio within that shape, which is clear to me. But how does the kitchen jut out? And all these different names is a lot to take in all at once.

pg 3: So far, you've done well to sprinkle in elements of worldbuilding. 

pg 4: This would be easier if she could create light in the palm of her hand, like her mother, instead of the rather useless magical ability to know anyone’s name. lol this is a funny and intriguing introduction to the magic system.

...despite the constant food shortages, rising prices, and constant threat of enemy dragon fire and bombs... The word constant is a bit repetitive here.

I'm also a bit confused; didn't I- go to the cellar to look for tuna? It seems like she isn't looking at all and deciding to immediately figure out alternatives. Maybe hang a lantern on the fact that she couldn't find any.

pg 5: So I like how you mix in the expo with the action of I-, but I feel like it's a bit much. Every couple of sentences we get some expo. I'm not opposed to it, but I think it lags whatever plot is occurring. Also, there are so many names and terms that are so foreign, it's hard to keep track of. That being said, the positive is that we get a clearer picture of what's happening in the world.

pg 10: Alright, not gonna lie, this conversation is going on a bit long and feels like its main purpose is for "plot." I'm guessing the sister is a revolutionary. Oh wait, she just said it now.

pg 11: I like the clash of sisters here. I'm definitely siding with I- on this one.

pg 12: Definitely gets the ball rolling. I dig it.

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Overall:

I’m really excited to finally see the start of this after jumping in in the middle last time around.  I really enjoyed it, and continue to love the world and setting as well as this introduction to the characters.

1.      I would definitely keep reading.  The political argument at the end was a little longer than I would have liked, but I love the world and setting and always enjoy stories about complicated family dynamics.

2.      I would say that Goals, Obstacles and stakes are definitely there, though they aren’t super well defined from Ir’s side.  I think we get enough general sense of her wanting life to get back to some sense of normal and safety, but we haven’t gotten a good idea that she knows what that picture actually looks like at this point, since goals of “surviving” and “hoping S doesn’t get herself killed” don’t provide a really clear actionable path.  Which is fine for me until we hit the inciting incident, but I am more patient at the start of books than most.   That being said, the circumstances here and the threat they pose to family cohesion seem quite realistic.

3.      I definitely see a lot of setup for the BK vs. Revolutionaries conflict being central, with S being solidly on one side and Ir being relatively neutral bringing that conflict into the family.

 

Pg 1:

I like the opening line a lot.

“…both diverse in their species …”  -> “…diverse in both their species and in their culture…” possibly.  It seems a little off as is.

The idea of a former mentor seems odd to me here.  Even if C’s not as formally responsible for Ir as she might have been before, I would still see their relationship as a continuing mentorship.  Even if they’re also friends and something closer to equals at this point. 

“Her mouth flattened into a firm line…” I assume this is referring to Ir, but the previous sentence is talking about C, so the pronoun reference isn’t 100% clear.

“stared at each other in worry.”   The phrasing of this is a little funny to me.

Pg 2:

The description of the restaurant could be clearer.

Pg 3-4:

Making it clearer that she didn’t find any tuna would be helpful.  I wasn’t sure if she was still looking or had noted that it wasn’t there and moved on.

Pg 5:

“Despite the long trek…” The two parts of this sentence feel a little repetitive.  And while I’m mostly getting that she doesn’t mind the walk because it’s some quiet before walking into a noisy home environment, the tie between those two sentences isn’t as clear as it probably should be.

There are a lot of names and locations to absorb. I remembered them from the previous reading, but I think they would have been confusing read here the first time through.

Pg 7-12

While I think the discussion here gives us a clear idea of the specific things that are making the people angry, which does a good job clarifying both Ir and S’s perspectives and goals and the stakes on either side, it is a lot really quick when there are a lot of new places and names and ideas to be trying to put in order in our heads.  There’s the obvious challenge of trimming it back to make it a little more digestible, when it will lose some of the depth to the motivations, but it might be less overwhelming to move a little more in that direction.

Pg 8:

“BK could be just as bad as…” vs. “Not as bad as he could be?” in the next paragraph.  It seems like S is supposed to be echoing what Ir had said, but the wording is too different for that to come across.  And I’m not sure if Ir is saying that BK might “let the rich run lawless” or if she is suggesting that they all “let the rich run lawless.”   I don’t quite know what she’s saying there.

Pg 10:

“Are you mundane?” Hah. I enjoy world-relevant insults.

“…glittering with fear” It definitely seems like the sort of thing that could just be personal preference, but there are a number of “___ with *emotion*” that have caught me as sounding off.  I guess ideally, the action would express the emotion clear enough to make the emotion descriptor unnecessary, but that’s obviously not always going to be possible…maybe I just caught it once and now I’m hyperaware of it, but it might be worth looking at.

Pg 12:

If Ir and S had been this close previously, I’d expect more excitement from Ir at seeing her when she first gets home.  Confusion and worry that something was wrong, yeah, but more showing that “S had always been her closest friend”  even if they’ve grown apart a little bit.  I didn’t get the feeling of closeness at that introduction that I’d expect based on the description here.

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19 hours ago, julienreel said:

GOST... haven't heard that term before... I'll have to keep it in mind. I

I just learned it a couple of weeks ago! It's new to me too.

19 hours ago, julienreel said:

And there are a lot of names to keep track of.

Would you believe me if I told you I cut even more names? Originally, the scene with Sue was with the entire family.

19 hours ago, julienreel said:

Solid opening, I liked how you did that bit with the knife.

Heh heh heh. I think myself clever.

19 hours ago, julienreel said:

So I like how you mix in the expo with the action of I-, but I feel like it's a bit much. Every couple of sentences we get some expo.

I definitely feel I can cut parts and then smooth everything over. 

Thank you, @julienreel!!!

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3 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

The phrasing of this is a little funny to me.

I have so many weird phrasings that I am grateful when they are pointed out.

3 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

There are a lot of names and locations to absorb. I remembered them from the previous reading, but I think they would have been confusing read here the first time through.

I need to narrow it down to exactly which ones are going to be necessary in the next few chapters. I've already cut a lot, but I can cut more. 

3 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

It seems like S is supposed to be echoing what Ir had said, but the wording is too different for that to come across. 

Ah, shoot, this is from me rewriting the conversation. Good catch. 

Thank you, @C_Vallion!!!

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New draft! This is exciting! It will be interesting to see how the characters change (Or don’t!) this time around.

Pg 1.

Unpopular opinion: I’m not a fan of the first line. This story isn’t really focused about murderers or solving mysteries, so I don’t think it fits the tone very well. (Unless this draft has murderers…?) In any case, its clever, but also a little cheap I think. Feels kinda like a “gotcha!” to the reader to me. Idk.

“both diverse in their species and in…” I think this sentence could be simplified. Maybe “diverse in both their species and culture” or smt like that.

I like the dialogue. Feels mostly natural, though there are a few sentences that are a little clunky imo

Pg 2

Is “roastingly” even a word?

“Fully twarted the summer’s” thwarted

Pg 3.

Environmental descriptions are great as always

It still makes me a bit uncomfortable that they eat beef when they personally know several cows, but I do think it is an interesting worldbuilding choice. I feel like if there is a conversation about that to lampshade it a bit and perhaps talk about that aspect of the culture, it would do a lot for readers like myself.

I like the detail that intelligent dogs can eat grapes.

“rather useless ability” useless , ey? ;-)

“recipes burning” I like this little metaphor.

Pg 5.

“pretend nothing happened” I like this paragraph

“third m war” first off, nice foreshadowing. Second off, I don’t think a break is necessary here.

I like that this meeting is at night instead of evening. I don’t know why, it just seems more fitting. On an unrelated note,

Sue   >:(

Pg 7

“Ir preferred her at her shoulders” her’s at her shoulders

“at night?” With the paragraph with the descriptions between the two havles of the dialogue, I had to scroll back up to remind myself what S had just said.

Pg 8

“favorite rant” lol, that’s relatable

“search homes whenever they want” I imagine they would already be used to this sort of behavior after several bad kings.

S seems a lot more assertive early on in this draft. I like it, but it seems to alienate her earlier as well

Fun fact: with the whole boiling people alive thing, Mongols thought that would stop you from reincarnating. I don’t know if that connection is on purpose or not, but I like it.

I also like how Ir seems more certain about her position this time around.

Overall, I like this revision a lot! I don’t have much else to say other than what’s above. I like that both sisters are more assertive this time around, and that makes me curious where their characters will grow to this time around, since they both seem more firmly set from the get-go. There were a couple sentences that were long and a bit confusing that I think could be streamlined, but other than that pretty solid. Sets up some good worldbuiling and characters, which is nice.

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1 hour ago, ginger_reckoning said:

It still makes me a bit uncomfortable that they eat beef when they personally know several cows, but I do think it is an interesting worldbuilding choice. I feel like if there is a conversation about that to lampshade it a bit and perhaps talk about that aspect of the culture, it would do a lot for readers like myself.

Very good point. Hanging a lantern is probably a good idea. 

1 hour ago, ginger_reckoning said:

Environmental descriptions are great as always

Aw shucks :)

1 hour ago, ginger_reckoning said:

Is “roastingly” even a word?

Meriam Webster says yes. It's definitely something we say here in California (it's 90 degrees today and it isn't even May).

1 hour ago, ginger_reckoning said:

I like the detail that intelligent dogs can eat grapes.

Considering they drink a lot of wine, I thought it was very important to mention that grapes are okay. 

2 hours ago, ginger_reckoning said:

On an unrelated note,

Sue   >:(

Dude, same.

She has made me so furious this draft. I feel like I'm channeling every one-sided political wackjob I've ever seen with a Twitter account when it comes to Sue. 

I don't want to say that Covid strengthened my ideas on where to take Sue...but it did. 

2 hours ago, ginger_reckoning said:

Fun fact: with the whole boiling people alive thing, Mongols thought that would stop you from reincarnating. I don’t know if that connection is on purpose or not, but I like it.

I did not know this! Huh! 

2 hours ago, ginger_reckoning said:

There were a couple sentences that were long and a bit confusing that I think could be streamlined, but other than that pretty solid.

Thank you for helping me iron them out!

Thank you, @ginger_reckoning!!!

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Oooh, glad to revisit this again!

Overall

It is definitely better than the last round, and I can see your integration of things like arcs and motivations and such. With that said, we don't get an inciting incident and the first beat, to me, was laid out perfectly for it. Those first two sentences of the second interlude could have lead to her forgetting something at the restaurant, heading back, catching TBK and the explosion. That would have been super dynamic! Then the next chapter she could have gone home and chatted with her family, with the readers having a more solid foundation of the danger of the world, and who TBK is. 

For me, if I picked this up in a bookstore, I would not continue reading because it seems like it will be a politics book, and those aren't my cup of tea. If we did get the exploding restaurant and then I would continue reading, because the chef angle was awesome and much more grabby, and having this chef lose her restaurant in the first chapter would have hooked me hard.

As well, I think the global stakes are more or less clear, and the world is clear, but I's personal motivations and stakes are not. I have no sense of doom or urgency for her. I do for her sister, and the world at large (somewhat obtusely) but not for I. Having the restaurant blow up would give me that.

Solid progress and well done!

 

As I go

- first paragraph and I already care more about this story than I did before. Also I feel more invested in I as a chef, immediately

- pg 3: magic world setup is well established. I feel like I have a solid foothold on this fantasy world by here

- pg 3: the cruel Fey; intelligent civilized creatures like herself; and the mundane animals that had few uses beyond a food source. <-- I think this needs to be more specific, because it makes it sound like humans are civilized and intelligent and even the intelligent animals are food

- pg 4: This would be easier if she could create light I<-- We need a bigger gap between the information about the animals, and I's magic. I'm still digesting what animal can eat what. Shoving I's magic right in the next paragraph makes it lose its importance. It would be easy to skim over.

- pg 5: Her mind was crowded with a growing list of things she needed to do if she was going to keep the restaurant and her family alive. <-- This is the point where I felt overwhelmed. There's too much world building in too short a time span. I think we probably don't need the information on animal versus Animal yet. More about I's power/magic and the touch of politics is probably the most you want in chapter one. I'm having a hard time sorting all the elements, and I've been through this before. I think a lot of the early world building here can be pushed to later chapters and revealed more slowly

- I think that second interlude could be cut to maybe one or two sentences to lead into the third interlude. It doesn't seem to serve a purpose other than atmospheric infodump

- pg 9: this is a lot of politics for a first chapter, especially since it pushes our inciting incident back (which I hope is coming in the next several pages)

- no exploding restaurant!

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3 hours ago, kais said:

With that said, we don't get an inciting incident and the first beat, to me, was laid out perfectly for it. Those first two sentences of the second interlude could have lead to her forgetting something at the restaurant, heading back, catching TBK and the explosion.

Huh. You know, I never thought about that. I always thought:

1) Introduce a lively restaurant

2) Blow restaurant up

I never thought...combine them. Always thought I had to start at one or the other.

Huh.

Hmmm.

Well, that's something I got to try out.

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Happy to check out this first chapter! :) I imagine many of the details in later chapters will start making more sense to me... Though my LbLs are written as if I'm going into this blind. 

As I go:

pg 1. The first sentence feels like a fake-out, and I don't think that's a good first impression

pg 2. I don't have a great read on Ir from here. So far she seems like any other restaurant worker

pg 3. Okay now I'm curious if there are mundane hominids who get eaten by the other animals 

pg 4. Whoa the magic blurb here really catches my interest. This is the first thing about Ir that makes her stand out. Any chance it could come sooner?

-also like how the war and BK are woven in casually

-"Ir was always the last one to leave C's." Me right now in lab past 7 and probably staying here past 9

pg 5. I think some of the info in the bottom p is redundant. I think this can be cut down since we've already gotten some hints of it. Really we just need to know that BK won the war and is occupying the city. 

pg 6. Okay breaking "going into this blind" mode to say this really hurts (in a good way)

pg 7. I want more focus on S and less on the parents. Trying to get a read on all three at once is hard

-Just a thought but it might be more powerful if S' hatred develops over time instead of being so present here at the start. I'm already kinda writing her off as "yeah yeah belligerent revolutionary"

pg 8. Something about S isn't capturing my interest here. Her anger is too abstract, I think. Nothing about it feels personal to her. Also exclamation mark police here to say that it's probably a sign her words don't have substance on their own. 

pg 9. Man S cannot just let it go huh? She seems like the exact same person as in Ch 39 and I like her as little now as I did then. 

-Also idk if this is worth addressing but it seems like we're talking about two extremes here (submission vs revolution) without addressing the middle ground at all (resistance). Throughout histories revolutions typically don't end well for the people, but resistance can and often does. What do the characters think of people causing enough trouble that BK has to give them more rights in return to get them to stop? 

pg 10. It feels like Ir and Se are trying to move the conversation but Sue is just not letting it happen. I didn't like Sue at the start and now I really don't. 

-Idk why the announcement is so surprising. Given how seriously they'e been taking her it seems like the natural outcome

pg 11. Seems like the same points here rehashed for a third and fourth time. Also I'm going to be exclamation point police again and say that punctuation is part of the problem here. They're not saying anything different, just louder. If that's truly important it can be summarized because that's all we're really getting here

Overall:

On 4/18/2021 at 8:27 PM, Snakenaps said:
  • Would you keep reading or set this down? Why? 
  • Is the GOST clear? Goals? Obstacles? Stakes? Tactics? I'm practicing this in Dave's class. Essentially - are the dangers clear? What Ir has to lose obvious? Do they feel real?
  • Reader promises - what do you think will happen? What do you think this book will contain?

1. To be perfectly blunt, set down. I really don't like Sue here, which I think is my main problem since her politics are closer to mine than Ir's and Sej's in a lot of ways (though, like I said in the LBLs, I think resistance makes more sense than revolution. Loot some official buildings until BK decides it's easier to give them rights). I want to like her based on her views but she seems like a total a-hole and I'm honestly starting to wonder why she's even still in contact with the rest of the family. Like I said, I think she's a bit too similar to where she ends up. I can't see any real differences between Sue now and her in the final chapters I read. Though I think her main issue here is that everything she's fighting for is so abstract. The politics here make a lot of sense, but they have to be connected to real people or else I frankly won't really care. And if I don't care about what she's yelling about, she sounds like someone who stirs up conflict/drama for the sake of it. 

This could potentially be alleviated if she weren't the only character with a strong voice here, but Ir feels (wait for it) kinda passive here. I want a bit more from her. Restaurant worker does not really make her stand out on its own (though there are certainly interesting twists on it that are possible if you want to make it stand out), and the interesting notes we get like her magic ability is just a blurb. (Though as I'm typing this I realize this could be said about many of my characters... oh well)

2. Goals? For Sue, yeah. For Ir... yes with an asterisk. She wants to keep working with the restaurant business, but I really don't get her goals about family life in the same way that I did later on. It feels like her conflict with S is that she thinks S is wrong rather than her being worried that S is tearing apart the family. If anything the parents seem to be more active. Obstacles and Stakes are kinda grouped together for me, and this is one area where I think we need more for Ir. There is nothing threatening her restaurant life, so the plot doesn't really feel strong there. And I think the stakes of S joining the revolutionaries is lowered by the fact that she is just the worst. Like Ir is losing a sister but really is it much of a loss? ...Which I'm guessing is not how I'm supposed to feel. Again, this is especially notable for me since I agree with Sue's politics more than Ir's. 

3. Not going to comment on this one since I know what happens :)

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