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Ace of Hearts

4/26/2021 - Ace of Hearts - Red Angel Prologue (L)

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Hi everyone,

 
I'm going to do something a little weird here. I'm still working away at A Bond of Wildflowers, but I also finished a big writing project which opens up more time for editing. So I'm going to attempt (wish me luck) to do early draft edits of another novel I wrote called Red Angel while simultaneously doing mid/later draft edits of A Bond of Wildflowers. So I thought I'd send the prologue of Red Angel in to get a general feel.
 
Red Angel is a fantasy novel in subgenre... well, tbd. I'd say it falls closest to political fantasy, but the protagonists don't have a lot of official/traditional political power. It also takes elements from epic fantasy, action, mystery, and romance. As for age group, the protags are late teens, but I'm not sure if I'd call it YA with how it's written. 
 
Questions for after reading (feel free not to answer all of these if there are some you don't have strong opinions on):
1. How do you feel about the setting? The cultures I'm taking inspiration from here aren't ones I belong to, and I'm still not fully confident on how to grapple with that if I want to work towards this book being publishable. 
2. This might be difficult to answer now, but do you think this prologue is necessary? It's something I slapped on recently.
3. How do you feel about the characters here? S and Z are especially important, but opinions on N and J are also relevant. 
4. Do you feel like this gives away too little about what's going on? Too much? 
5. Any concerns you have for the main plot (i.e. "I really hope the story doesn't do X")? Any points of engagement you're expecting the main plot to follow up on? 
 
Thanks as always for your feedback! :)
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Sounds cool!

As I go:

p1. 'Of course, it he technically had a possibility' - even apart from the 'it', this is too many unnecessary words bogging down the first paragraph.

p1 is a looooot of info and complicated shenanigans that went a bit over my head honestly

p2. I like the description of Z. She sounds interesting.

p3. This is beginning to feel a bit meandering - I hadn't figured out what was going on with the colosseum and the RA yet, and now Z is taking them to go do something else?

p4. Hold on, I just realised they were going to the colosseum all along and the RA is still relevant.

p4. The description of S feels like a lore dump. I get that you have to get this info in somewhere, but I'm not sure we need to know all this about S up front, or if it's the first impression we should have of his character.

p5. I'm starting to put together what I think is going on here - they're having a fight in the colosseum to determine who gets to be the ruler? And J is the favourite to win? And N is thinking of challenging him anyway because reasons? Still no clue who/what the RA is. And I gather that J, S, Z, and N share a father but have different mothers?

p6. 'N almost got lost in the aesthetic beauty of the orange flecks on pink irises' - this reads uncomfortably close to romantic if these two are half-siblings

p6. I'm not 100% sure what's going on, but I think the RA just arrived? And it's a bad thing?

p7. Did the appearance of the RA make N decide to fight J after all? I'm not sure why.

p8. Well. I'm guessing that's the last we'll be seeing of N, then!

 

Overall, I think you've got something interesting going on here, but it's buried under a lot of confusing vagueness.

Your prose is wordier than it needs to be in a lot of places. I didn't know if it would help to point them out, seeing as this is an early draft. If that's a product of being in the POV of a character who overthinks things, you might want to change that aspect, because it does bog down the flow.

Also, there are a lot of proper nouns introduced here. I can keep track of the four characters, but my eyes started to skim over all the place names I didn't recognise. That's going to be off-putting to a lot of readers.

 

10 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

How do you feel about the setting? The cultures I'm taking inspiration from here aren't ones I belong to, and I'm still not fully confident on how to grapple with that if I want to work towards this book being publishable. 

I can't really speak about the cultural thing as I'm not very familiar with Asian/Middle-Eastern cultures. (If that's what you're drawing from :)). But the setting was the most interesting part of this to me. The magic crystals in the hands sound interesting, and the political dynamics of the royal kids fighting to determine who gets to be ruler and the remaining siblings being married off is interesting.

 

10 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

This might be difficult to answer now, but do you think this prologue is necessary? It's something I slapped on recently.

I definitely think the first four pages can be cut. Maybe just keep the description of Z. As for the rest of it, I'd need to read further to say.

 

10 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

How do you feel about the characters here? S and Z are especially important, but opinions on N and J are also relevant. 

I didn't get a good feel for any of these characters' personalities, I'm afraid. S and Z get physical descriptions, so I have a good idea of what they look like, but I don't know who they are as people (except that they're not as brave/reckless as N).

N makes a choice that seems like a big deal, but I have very little idea of why he's making it, from both a logical and emotional standpoint. I also don't have much of a feel for what the repercussions of that choice might be, beyond N possibly dying and possibly replacing J as ruler, which doesn't hold a lot of weight as I don't know N or J very well.

J is pretty much an enigma.

 

10 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Do you feel like this gives away too little about what's going on? Too much? 

Definitely too little. I don't know what is supposed to be a mystery and what is just underexplained.

 

10 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Any concerns you have for the main plot (i.e. "I really hope the story doesn't do X")? Any points of engagement you're expecting the main plot to follow up on? 

From this prologue, I'm expecting epic fantasy political intrigue with magic and probably a decent bit of fighting.

I don't have anything specific that I'm hoping the story doesn't do at this point.

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6 minutes ago, RedBlue said:

I can't really speak about the cultural thing as I'm not very familiar with Asian/Middle-Eastern cultures. (If that's what you're drawing from :)). But the setting was the most interesting part of this to me. The magic crystals in the hands sound interesting, and the political dynamics of the royal kids fighting to determine who gets to be ruler and the remaining siblings being married off is interesting.

That's good (and yeah most of the stuff here is drawn from Middle-Eastern cultures)! A lot of the story focuses on those politics so that's a good sign. 

7 minutes ago, RedBlue said:

I didn't get a good feel for any of these characters' personalities, I'm afraid. S and Z get physical descriptions, so I have a good idea of what they look like, but I don't know who they are as people (except that they're not as brave/reckless as N).

N makes a choice that seems like a big deal, but I have very little idea of why he's making it, from both a logical and emotional standpoint. I also don't have much of a feel for what the repercussions of that choice might be, beyond N possibly dying and possibly replacing J as ruler, which doesn't hold a lot of weight as I don't know N or J very well.

J is pretty much an enigma.

 

 

8 minutes ago, RedBlue said:

Definitely too little. I don't know what is supposed to be a mystery and what is just underexplained.

Hmm this is what I was worried about and makes me think I should cut this prologue altogether. I was worried the story was too confusing without it but it sounds like it's even more confusing with it. A lot of the reasons behind N's thoughts and decisions here have to be a mystery since he knows details of the main plot, and maybe those mysteries are better set up from S' and Z's perspectives. 

Blegh, prologues are hard. 

12 minutes ago, RedBlue said:

p4. The description of S feels like a lore dump. I get that you have to get this info in somewhere, but I'm not sure we need to know all this about S up front, or if it's the first impression we should have of his character.

Ah that's a shame. I was hoping this would be distinct and interesting enough to cover up the fact that it absolutely is a lore dump but it is what it is. One of the reasons it's here is because N is the scholar type and is more equipped than S himself to talk about fantasy intersex genetics but I'm sure there are workarounds. 

16 minutes ago, RedBlue said:

p6. 'N almost got lost in the aesthetic beauty of the orange flecks on pink irises' - this reads uncomfortably close to romantic if these two are half-siblings

Yeahhhh I was wondering about that. N is aromantic altogether (not that you'd know that from this prologue alone) and it really is just an aesthetic thing (same vein as "hey that haircut looks better on you" but in an emotionally tense situation) but it being used often in romantic tropes raises uncomfortable questions. I'm leaning towards cutting this prologue entirely so it will be a moot point but yeah. 

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13 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:
Questions for after reading (feel free not to answer all of these if there are some you don't have strong opinions on):
1. How do you feel about the setting? The cultures I'm taking inspiration from here aren't ones I belong to, and I'm still not fully confident on how to grapple with that if I want to work towards this book being publishable. 
2. This might be difficult to answer now, but do you think this prologue is necessary? It's something I slapped on recently.
3. How do you feel about the characters here? S and Z are especially important, but opinions on N and J are also relevant. 
4. Do you feel like this gives away too little about what's going on? Too much? 
5. Any concerns you have for the main plot (i.e. "I really hope the story doesn't do X")? Any points of engagement you're expecting the main plot to follow up on?

I think I'm similar to @RedBlue in reaction. There was a lot of meandering overall and it was hard to follow what exactly was going on. The original statement of how N was going to die was in the first paragraph, but then not followed up on until the very last page, so I got a bit confused.

1) Seemed fairly standard fantasy fare? I didn't get a strong feeling of an Earth similarity. I can think of a lot of ways crystals in a hand could get in the way, so I'd like some more explanation of that.

2) I'm not sure why this is a prologue (as in how is in this disconnected with the main story). I think it could be a first chapter if it was cleaned up and trimmed down a lot.

3) Didn't get a lot about the other characters except that S is strong. N seems very philosophical. S is interesting physically, but he didn't really get much screen time.

4) No idea what's going on, so no.

5) I'm guessing N is going to end up living, probably because of floaty red girl. Past that, I guess political/royalty/scheming?

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: I think the first paragraph could be trimmed down. We get the "overthinking" of the prince, but I think it detracts from the impact of "am I going to die today."

pg 1: the rest of this page is lots of names and some sort of magic explanation paired with a spying attempt? I was interested when he thought he was going to die, but then this drifted off into a lot of explanation.

pg 2: "both of their half-brothers"
--still lots of names on this page and I'm having trouble following. Also, who is a half-brother to who?

pg 2: “Nothing, nothing,”
--this isn't an answer to the last question...

pg 3: "needing to read it with his telepath powers"
--what now? This is just thrown in there and we haven't gotten any indication of it yet.

pg 3: "Most were nobles with psychic crystals like himself"
--I thought the spy had a crystal, not him? Confused.

pg 4: the heritage/skin color discussion here might be a little heavy-handed.

pg 4: "his eyes went to the green empath crystal "
--so I guess everyone had crystals? Does Z? I'm unclear on this.

pg 6: "almost got lost in the aesthetic beauty of the orange flecks on pink irises."
--Is this like a romantic thing? I thought N was more ace? And isn't S his brother?

pg 6: "N’s choice was going to be the same in the end"
--I'm not sure what choice this is...
--oh, I guess to let his brother kill him? What was going on with the red angel then?

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9 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

I can think of a lot of ways crystals in a hand could get in the way, so I'd like some more explanation of that.

It's good to know that there's confusion around this. I think maybe it just needs more time/space so trying to ram this all into the prologue might not be worth it. 

10 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

pg 3: "needing to read it with his telepath powers"
--what now? This is just thrown in there and we haven't gotten any indication of it yet.

pg 3: "Most were nobles with psychic crystals like himself"
--I thought the spy had a crystal, not him? Confused.

 

10 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

pg 4: "his eyes went to the green empath crystal "
--so I guess everyone had crystals? Does Z? I'm unclear on this.

Yeah, I think this needs more space. If you're curious, most nobles in this part of the world have those hand crystals, primarily purple ones that give telepath powers (N does, but it's probably not clear here) but also occasionally green ones that give empath powers like S has. M has a blue crystal which N recognizes as being very powerful (though this is not common knowledge), but it's broken and non-functional. All functional crystals also block powers from people with crystals in a small radius around the user. 

I think the main story might do a better idea of introducing these in a way that isn't as confusing or overwhelming... I guess we'll see.

Thanks for your thoughts! It's helpful to know that I should try to clarify the magic system as I go through. 

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Overall I was pretty confused by this chapter. I don't understand the stakes, why N feels the need to fight J, or what the RA even does. I think this chapter has a lot of cool ideas, but I am completely lost. If I were to offer a suggestion, I would say to focus more on the immediate goings-on, and the personal motivations of N. Why does he want to overthrow his brother? Why, specifically, is he so at peace? This read more like a chapter set in the middle of the book. While there is some interesting information, for the opening I want something that grabs me by the front of the shirt and demand that I read it. While the writing itself was good, I didn't feel that here. 

1. So, this is in the desert. That's about as much as I got from the setting. I'm guessing that the culture is based off cultures from the middle east, with talk of separation of the genders and head wraps. Other than that, didn't get much of a beat

2. Maybe? hard to say, but my guess is that most of what happened could probably be summarized

3. Honestly, I want more connection with the characters. S and Z seemed more interesting to me than N, so since it seems like N is going to die, I'm guessing the story will focus more on them. If so, I'd like even more characterization from them. Tell me why I need to care about these two kids. 

4. Definitely feel like too little. I have no idea why the RA is important, or what plans N is involved in. 

5. I expect that I will find out who are what the RA is and why it is important. 

 

Alright, I’m opening the document now! The title and explanation intrigue me

Right off the bat, this first sentence is very long. It kind of kills the punch of “boom, he thinks he might die” because by the time I get there, my eyes are just looking for a period to rest at.

Pg 1. “it he technically” second sentence, I don’t understand what it’s trying to say here.

“overthinking everything” telling, not showing

“contemplating whether or not” I think this can just be “whether”

Also, the first sentence of this one is very long as well.

“watch them scramble” hah, I like this imagery. Reminds me of chess or something

This third paragraph is actually a good way to show not tell that he overthinks everything, but I have no idea what any of this is talking about

Pg 2

“all destruction” I like this description. Good characterization as well

“was starting” it was starting. I think this is trying to sound conversational, but outside of dialogue I think it needs the object

Pg 3.

I think I need more of a hook to what the RA is and why it is important

Pg.4

“S was a mutt” hold up. Not a big fan of this kind of language being used in the context of race

Ah, is this character intersex as well? Neato

Why would he want to fight J anyway? Is he trying to take the thrown from him…?

Pg. 5

“agree to disagree” I think this should be italicized? Since it’s a direct thought?

Hmmm that’s interesting that the princes also get married off

Pg 6.

Is it weird I actually want to hear more of the speech? Just for a little bit of information as to why they are all gathered, at least

“red bird” totally the red angel, right?

“gnawed” nice little detail

Yep, totally the red angel

“around her neck” small detail, but using the “her” pronouns seems a bit…Idk early? All we know at this point is that the figure is wearing a cloak

Wait, isn’t S his brother or something? If so, the detail with the eyes is pretty weird…

Pg 7

I like N’s internal panicking

Ah, so challenging him to combat

Wait, its over.

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37 minutes ago, ginger_reckoning said:

Overall I was pretty confused by this chapter. I don't understand the stakes, why N feels the need to fight J, or what the RA even does. I think this chapter has a lot of cool ideas, but I am completely lost. If I were to offer a suggestion, I would say to focus more on the immediate goings-on, and the personal motivations of N. Why does he want to overthrow his brother? Why, specifically, is he so at peace? This read more like a chapter set in the middle of the book. While there is some interesting information, for the opening I want something that grabs me by the front of the shirt and demand that I read it. While the writing itself was good, I didn't feel that here. 

This is really helpful! It's possible that not all of the secrets here need to remain secrets, though I think my first step is going to be seeing if I can get away with not having this prologue and addressing the secrets from other perspectives instead. Unfortunately it might mean we need to do this same song and dance for the first couple of chapters, but fantasy books always seem to hit smooth sailing (at least from the ones I've read) after a certain point. 

40 minutes ago, ginger_reckoning said:

3. Honestly, I want more connection with the characters. S and Z seemed more interesting to me than N, so since it seems like N is going to die, I'm guessing the story will focus more on them. If so, I'd like even more characterization from them. Tell me why I need to care about these two kids. 

This is also helpful, and for me is another point towards just starting this off in S' and Z's perspective. Especially for Z, since most of the background stuff that matters to her happens after the events in the prologue 

45 minutes ago, ginger_reckoning said:

“S was a mutt” hold up. Not a big fan of this kind of language being used in the context of race

Hmm this one's tricky for me. I definitely don't want it to be off-putting but I also don't want to hide that the world is unfriendly for mixed race people to the point that it seeps into the language. Though "calico" is really more of a precise term as to what's going on anyway... 

Thanks for your thoughts and glad to have you back! :) 

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  1. Can't comment much - for H, I got 'desert I think' and 'colosseum, so Roman-esque?' And since I read that this was inspired by Middle Eastern cultures, just thought I'd comment that I read something recently about someone saying that they're tired of seeing Middle Eastern-coded fantasy characters/settings being synonymous with 'from the desert', but that's all I got for you. 
  2. I'm not really sure, considering I don't know what happens next. There's a lot I don't understand in this chapter, too. I don't think it's bad, necessarily, if N dies and then we move on with his siblings in a time skip or something. Might serve as interesting backstory or something. Although, to be fair, I don't really remember reading very many books with prologues, so I can't say much. 
  3. Honestly, I got about S was that he was mixed-race and looked different. And he likes nature or something? And Z... she's physically strong? N seems kind of wishy-washy to me, tbh, but that might be because I don't really get his motivation for what he's doing this chapter or much of the background info on what M is doing or what the countries are up to. J seems pretty normal, like your smart and skilled brother who's going to rule the world (or country) lol. 
  4. Way too little. Or, like, it introduces too much but doesn't elaborate on it all? Either way, I'm pretty lost on most of the political and societal background information. 
  5. Yeah, I get the political fantasy drift. The magic -- and the stones? -- seem important, but not necessarily a huge huge focus (especially since there are already workarounds), so I don't particularly expect super complex magic. 

pg 1: I like your first line, specifically starting with "...going to die today"! It's pretty snappy imo. You lost me pretty quickly afterwards, like at "all of the reasonable possibilities..." in the same paragraph. I reread that sentence a few times and couldn't really follow what you were trying to say. 

pg 2: A bit confused on what M wants or is doing. I got that she was from K and then ran to N for help? 

"guilt of limiting himself...": made me go 'ooh why?'

on the RA: seems like one person, but I think you mentioned N was looking for red cloaks, which makes it seem like multiple people?

"Nobody could blame him..." this and the next sentence made no sense to me. I have no idea what it's referring to. 

pg 3: "...going to challenge him," -> I originally thought this meant challenge the RA and not J -- there's been a lot of information and names so honestly keeping track has been a bit difficult.

pg 4: "mutt--or a calico" -> yeah, I did not like either of these descriptions. (Although apparently calico is also a fabric? Idk, I just think of cats.) Also, the whole skin splotches thing made me think of vitiligo - which I didn't really get what it had to do with being mixed-race, tbh. (I mean, I guess it's a fantasy thing? But imo the link could be made more clear.) Also, in general, I couldn't really follow what you were trying to say with the genetics thing, sorry. (Skin colour is decided by the mother's genetics? Is that it?) And if it's important, I guess it needs to be said somewhere, but it did seem like a bit weird timing to talk about all that now. And, honestly, it makes me kind of wary of where it will go in the story -- assuming S is a character who will get his own arc, what that means for him. 

pg 5: "better Holy Ruler..." -> so is J sponsored by the K army? Does S's identity factor in at all to his claim to the throne?

on the equality thing: I don't quite follow what that's trying to establish. Something about sexism or feminism in this fantasy setting? normally there's sexism but in royalty there isn't? imo wouldn't sexism within the monarchy (i'm assuming it's a monarchy?) indicate how the rest of the society is structured, for sexism at least? Did Z get the same claim to the throne as well, but she doesn't want to challenge either? 

"father sons": but he could theoretically still father daughters? I feel like that doesn't quite line up with the whole "blessing or a curse" thing... or what that means. (I took it as some kind of reference to asexuality? But I'm not sure that's correct, though I did read that you said he was meant to be aro here.) 

""immodest" green eye shadow": I thought the women were wearing green, so it would be a 'woman's' colour... or is the eye shadow the immodest part?

pg 6: lol relatable @ the zoning out

on the X country/empire: is H like a city-state within X lands?

and forests have gods? interesting :eyes:

on eye description: i thought you already described S's eyes, so doing it again here seemed a bit weird?

"M didn't want him to die here": ok I'm confused why is he going to die now? i thought his brother was just becoming the king or smth, and he was going to challenge J? if he loses, he dies? what does that have to do with M?

pg 8: it seems like an interesting setup, but frankly, I don't get N's motivation. It reads a bit like he's throwing his life away, and I don't get why. 

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Thanks for your extensive comments @leapfrog! Looks like everyone's in agreement about a lot of aspects.

23 minutes ago, leapfrog said:

pg 4: "mutt--or a calico" -> yeah, I did not like either of these descriptions. (Although apparently calico is also a fabric? Idk, I just think of cats.) Also, the whole skin splotches thing made me think of vitiligo - which I didn't really get what it had to do with being mixed-race, tbh. (I mean, I guess it's a fantasy thing? But imo the link could be made more clear.) Also, in general, I couldn't really follow what you were trying to say with the genetics thing, sorry. (Skin colour is decided by the mother's genetics? Is that it?) And if it's important, I guess it needs to be said somewhere, but it did seem like a bit weird timing to talk about all that now. And, honestly, it makes me kind of wary of where it will go in the story -- assuming S is a character who will get his own arc, what that means for him. 

 

Yeah the calico thing was supposed to reference cats. It sounds like you didn't like the descriptors because they were referencing people using animal-like attributes? 

If you're curious, what is going on (though the characters don't have the science to express this) is that skin color is on the X chromosome. So people with 2+ X chromosomes can potentially have different patches of skin color due to X-inactivation (as an aside, I couldn't find a great source on the timing of X-inactivation since most studies are in mice). Generally these people are assigned female, but S is assigned male with 2 X chromosomes, which makes him an anomaly. Which is also how calico cat fur works, and thus the name.

I think everyone agrees that the info dump there is awkward. I put it in there because I thought it would be overwhelming later since S has a lot going on at once with how he's perceived, but it's clear that this isn't helping matters. 

Wary in what sense, if I may ask? Being very visibly mixed race isn't, like, the only thing that defines S but it does end up affecting a lot of his lived experience, which is touched on in his arc. I often like to write mixed race characters as being visually distinct and easily recognized as outsiders since that is what it can feel like to me, and if that's not coming across well (or if that in itself is problematic), I want to make sure that's addressed. 

40 minutes ago, leapfrog said:

on the equality thing: I don't quite follow what that's trying to establish. Something about sexism or feminism in this fantasy setting? normally there's sexism but in royalty there isn't? imo wouldn't sexism within the monarchy (i'm assuming it's a monarchy?) indicate how the rest of the society is structured, for sexism at least? Did Z get the same claim to the throne as well, but she doesn't want to challenge either? 

It's a bit tricky to have the characters explain this since this is the only society type they know, but it's more that princes who don't become the ruler have to be... dealt with somehow, since the oldest son doesn't have the divine right to rule so it's easy for other brothers to constantly bid for power (potentially leading to civil wars). Historically, with this sort of power structure people often took drastic measures, such as a ruler being expected to kill all of his brothers when he ascends to the throne (though the frequency of this was kinda overblown... but still, it happened multiple times in the Ottoman Empire). So this society's less bloody solution is that all the ruler's brothers get married off as little more than property so that they can't overthrow the ruler and the ruler can get some political usefulness out of them. So what S sees as egalitarianism N sees as everyone getting the short end of the stick.

Z doesn't get a chance to become ruler, no. J would be quaking in his boots if she did. ;)

48 minutes ago, leapfrog said:

"father sons": but he could theoretically still father daughters? I feel like that doesn't quite line up with the whole "blessing or a curse" thing... or what that means. (I took it as some kind of reference to asexuality? But I'm not sure that's correct, though I did read that you said he was meant to be aro here.) 

Theoretically daughters aren't really a problem since they can't challenge for rulership. But sons very much are. Though it would certainly raise some eyebrows if he did have daughters, since those could have been sons. Again, no clear succession pathway means extra regulations to prevent civil wars. And yeah N is ace/aro, but I don't expect that to be clear from this prologue alone. 

52 minutes ago, leapfrog said:

pg 8: it seems like an interesting setup, but frankly, I don't get N's motivation. It reads a bit like he's throwing his life away, and I don't get why. 

Nobody around him gets it either. I think recounting the events from S' and Z's perspectives might be better since I can hang a lamppost on it. 

Thanks again for your comments! :) It was fun for me to be forced to remember why the society is set up this way since I kinda forgot why lol. 

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Posted (edited)

Yay, new work :) looking forward to it.

page 1

“That he was going to die today” nice, I'm intrigued.

“Ofc, it he technically” aaaand you lost me. Emerging victorious in what? What route?

“Overthinking everything, and all of the reasonable” i like what you're saying here but i think it could be reworded to make it simpler. 

“Leading up to the ceremony” what ceremony?

“Whether or not M could be lying” im a bit unclear on everyone’s standing. Are M and N friends? What is M’s position/relationship with N?

“False plans into the enemy’s hands” is N her enemy? Confused.

-I think I need more setup before you get into suspecting M as a traitor.

“not the typical purple ones” oooh nice. psychic crystals, im down.

-i dont mind that N likes to overthink and you showed us that with all this traitor stuff but it feels like im jumping in the middle here with little understanding of who these people are or why i should care about whether M is a double agent. What would even be her goal or the benefit of her being a double agent?

page 2

“Moving forward with the plan...couldnt live with the guilt” very confused, what plan?

“His window to act was over” act to do what? I'm in the dark and i dont like itttt -I say in a whiny voice.

page 3

“Im not going to challenge him” challenge who *crying emoji*

“Acting up on the day” what day *more crying*

“Well i think he’s warming” im having trouble picturing the environment around them as they have this conversation

“M didnt expect her to appear” i think it would be good to remind the reader that M said this in the past. As it is now, it feels out of place

page 5

-i like this information about gender and Z and N not being interested in the opposite sex but i feel like so far we’ve gotten a lot of information that we dont need right now. It feels vastly different from the opening of “will i die today” and a possibly menacing red angel. I think a prologue for a fantasy like this should do more than info dump. I need something exciting or unique to pull me in. this doesnt feel like a prologue to me.

“His older brother” oh J is his older brother? 

“Crusty old man” lmao

page 6

“He could continue acting as an agent” wait so he is an agent for M? I thought it was the other way around 

23 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

1. How do you feel about the setting? The cultures I'm taking inspiration from here aren't ones I belong to, and I'm still not fully confident on how to grapple with that if I want to work towards this book being publishable. 

2. This might be difficult to answer now, but do you think this prologue is necessary? It's something I slapped on recently.
3. How do you feel about the characters here? S and Z are especially important, but opinions on N and J are also relevant. 
4. Do you feel like this gives away too little about what's going on? Too much? 
5. Any concerns you have for the main plot (i.e. "I really hope the story doesn't do X")? Any points of engagement you're expecting the main plot to follow up on?

1. This could definitely use more description. I only really noticed the names of people and places and that there was a colosseum, but that didnt really give me enough of a clear picture for the setting. Oh and that they wore head wraps but other than that, there wasnt a whole lot for me to grasp. I did like the magic tho, i would be excited to see where that goes!

2. Hard to say if its necessary but it quite doesnt feel like a prologue. It leaves me with confusion rather than interest.

3. I honestly dont have a good grasp on any of the characters but that may be because I wasnt too sure what was going on. Z seems cool. And S seems cute and caring. N is okay but i think he died. Yeah, I just dont feel like I really met them.

4. Too little for sure!

5. i really dont know where this story is going cause i was confused but I think the magic crystals have a lot of potential! I thought the RA would play more of a part but maybe it will in the future.

Edited by karamel
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8 hours ago, karamel said:

2. Hard to say if its necessary but it quite doesnt feel like a prologue. It leaves me with confusion rather than interest.

3. I honestly dont have a good grasp on any of the characters but that may be because I wasnt too sure what was going on. Z seems cool. And S seems cute and caring. N is okay but i think he died. Yeah, I just dont feel like I really met them.

4. Too little for sure!

Yeah I think everyone is in accord about all of this which is really good to know. Glad that S and Z came through at least a little, and it might be better just to start things in their perspective. Still have to worry about stuff being both confusing and infodumpy there but I don't think it will be quite as bad there. 

Thanks for your thoughts! :)

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12 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Yeah the calico thing was supposed to reference cats. It sounds like you didn't like the descriptors because they were referencing people using animal-like attributes? 

If you're curious, what is going on (though the characters don't have the science to express this) is that skin color is on the X chromosome. So people with 2+ X chromosomes can potentially have different patches of skin color due to X-inactivation (as an aside, I couldn't find a great source on the timing of X-inactivation since most studies are in mice). Generally these people are assigned female, but S is assigned male with 2 X chromosomes, which makes him an anomaly. Which is also how calico cat fur works, and thus the name.

Yeah, it was the animal-like thing. I am... not good with biology, I will admit, but I think I get that explanation! 

12 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Wary in what sense, if I may ask? Being very visibly mixed race isn't, like, the only thing that defines S but it does end up affecting a lot of his lived experience, which is touched on in his arc. I often like to write mixed race characters as being visually distinct and easily recognized as outsiders since that is what it can feel like to me, and if that's not coming across well (or if that in itself is problematic), I want to make sure that's addressed. 

Yeah, it's not really anything specific atm. I'm biracial and my thoughts on what few biracial/mixed-race characters I've seen in fiction are pretty complicated, so I don't want to get into that here lol, but it's really more of an instinctive caution seeing the unfriendliness. I think re: being visually distinct... well, it depends on what you mean by that lol. And ofc your experiences can differ from mine, but ime people don't normally assume I or the other biracial people I know are biracial or mixed-race -- people normally try to guess one specific race or ethnicity (and can end up wildly off mark, but that's neither here nor there lol). 

13 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

It's a bit tricky to have the characters explain this since this is the only society type they know, but it's more that princes who don't become the ruler have to be... dealt with somehow, since the oldest son doesn't have the divine right to rule so it's easy for other brothers to constantly bid for power (potentially leading to civil wars). Historically, with this sort of power structure people often took drastic measures, such as a ruler being expected to kill all of his brothers when he ascends to the throne (though the frequency of this was kinda overblown... but still, it happened multiple times in the Ottoman Empire). So this society's less bloody solution is that all the ruler's brothers get married off as little more than property so that they can't overthrow the ruler and the ruler can get some political usefulness out of them. So what S sees as egalitarianism N sees as everyone getting the short end of the stick.

Z doesn't get a chance to become ruler, no. J would be quaking in his boots if she did. ;)

Gotcha, so the throne has to go to a guy. Here's to hoping Z will get her moment anyway ;)

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Are we all on break this week?  Seems like things have been rather active here so early in the week.

A lot of my thoughts echo what other people have said, so I’ll probably try to be brief on those things.

Without knowing where things are going, I’m hesitant to say that there should be more of some things or less of others.  Right now, I think it’s struggling from the same sorts of things my prologue was, where it’s trying to do too many things at once (introducing the setting, some political background, some characters, a bunch of names, some lore, some magic, an important event), and the important things are getting drowned out by details that might be better to introduce in the main story.  I see some of the things I think you’re trying to introduce, but there’s just a lot of it, so it ends up being overwhelming.

I’ve very intentionally not touched my prologue while working on revisions to my early chapters because I want to figure out what things in those chapters aren’t coming across strong enough, or what aspects of the world and setting might be more naturally introduced apart from the main storyline.  Will that be a helpful approach? I don’t know. If it is, I can let you know in a few weeks and would be glad to chat/whine/rant about figuring out how to put a useful prologue together if you’d like. :)

Pg 1:

I like the hints we’re given at the crystals/magic system, and am really looking forward to learning more about how that works.  

I like the hints at political intrigue that N is mentioning in regard to M, though the specifics aren’t sticking enough for me to hang onto it.

Pg 2:

Other than being told that seeing the RA means that K is “moving forward with the plan” it’s hard to tell what’s actually going on or what N is concerned about, and there’s no indication of why the RA signals this, or what it means to N in a practical sense (except that it seems to mean that he has to challenge his brother, but that’s not clear til the end)

Pg 3:

Some of the dialogue feels off.  I think it’s just going a little too far in the direction of trying to accurately portray the dropped words and the sort of slang (though I don’t feel like that’s quite the right word here) of a casual conversation between people who are close. Some of that is good, but I think there’s a little too much of it here. Especially to come from royalty, where even casually, they’re probably going to reflect their education and any formality that has been trained into them.  

Pg 4:

The description of S is one thing that makes this seem less like a prologue and more like a regular chapter.  It’s detailed enough that my brain automatically adds him to a sort of “significant characters circle” that it starts to build in Chapter 1. That may be relevant in this case, since he’s one of the ones you’d asked for more feedback on, but it’s still putting my brain in Chapter 1 mindset instead of Prologue mindset, where I don’t expect as many detailed descriptions of this sort. Part of that is not having a back-of-book summary of where things are going to know what characters we’ll be following in the main story.

Pg 5:

Both Z and S seem to assume that N is at least considering challenging J, but I haven’t gotten any clear reason why J would be a bad/problematic/something Holy Ruler or why N would be a better one.

Pg 6-7:

More political intrigue details that I want to be excited about but can’t tie together clearly enough to make sense of them.

 

1. It’s fun to see something other than a standard vaguely-European setting, but I don’t have a clear indication of what exactly the setting will be beyond that.  I get desert and head wraps and a society that is pretty gender-segregated, but I’d probably need more than that to get a good feel for what I think about it.

2. Not sure.  I don’t think this prologue is necessary, but it’s possible that something different would work well, depending on what the story needs.

3. I think the clearest things are physical descriptions, but I don’t have a good sense of what any of them are trying to work toward, since most of their discussion is revolving around not wanting N to challenge J, when we aren’t sure of what reasons he would want to challenge him.  What we do get is interesting, but without knowing where we’re going from here, I’m not sure what to think of them beyond that.

4. Not enough things we can grasp onto and start nailing down.

5. I expect (and am hoping for) magic, political intrigue, and some amount of focus on family dynamics. But without knowing what direction we go from here, I can’t say too much more on that front.
 

15 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

It was fun for me to be forced to remember why the society is set up this way since I kinda forgot why lol.

Hah. Glad I'm not the only one who does this.  "....there was a reason, I promise..."

Anyway, looking forward to seeing where things go with this!

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Overall

I....do not know what the point of this chapter was. It doesn't appear to have a full arc. I think there's too much world building an not enough (or really any) personal motivations, and I'm unclear what the personal and global stakes/goals are. I did enjoy the queer aspects of the world building, and that kept me moving through the narrative, but that just means I'm invested in two side characters and not our lead. 

This reads more like authorial sandboxing, which is completely fine and legit, but not the most narratively compelling. Some cleaning will help, as will focusing on narrative structure so that we have a beginning, middle, and end.

 

As I go

- pg 1: looking for a sign that he was going to die today <-- this doesn't have any tension because I don't yet care about this character, and the way it's phrased makes it sound like he's just looking for trouble

- pg 2: I have absolutely no idea what is going on or much about this world at this stage. All I know is our lead appears to be looking for trouble

- pg 2: 'power jogging' just does not sound like a very cool superpower

- 'formal head wrap' if you are basing this off a culture, you should use their names for the type of headscarf she is wearing. There are many kinds, and cover more or less of the body, and are each specific

- pg 4: made the opposite connection as most people <-- what assumption are we supposed to make? That he's trans? Intersex?

- pg 5: indicated by green or blue robes for the women and red or orange robes for the men, <-- so...what do the nonbinary people wear? What about our chimera man above? (edit) Ah so he sits with the men and so does our headscarf lady, so there is some fluidity in this...more social roles perhaps? I'm interested in the world building here at least

- pg 5: ah a gay protagonist! (or ace/aro) Nice

- pg 6: the Red Angel means nothing to me right now. Why he has to fight it really should be set up in the first page or two

- the ending is confusing

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21 hours ago, leapfrog said:

Yeah, it was the animal-like thing. I am... not good with biology, I will admit, but I think I get that explanation!

My current idea is to just call it calico and call out that inheritance works in the same way so that it doesn't seem as derogatory (I mean, there's a part of me that wants it to be casually derogatory but if it's uncomfortable then it's uncomfortable)

21 hours ago, leapfrog said:

Yeah, it's not really anything specific atm. I'm biracial and my thoughts on what few biracial/mixed-race characters I've seen in fiction are pretty complicated, so I don't want to get into that here lol, but it's really more of an instinctive caution seeing the unfriendliness. I think re: being visually distinct... well, it depends on what you mean by that lol. And ofc your experiences can differ from mine, but ime people don't normally assume I or the other biracial people I know are biracial or mixed-race -- people normally try to guess one specific race or ethnicity (and can end up wildly off mark, but that's neither here nor there lol).

Heh my (nonwhite) race is clear enough that people aren't usually totally off the mark, but yeah I think that's a pretty common experience. What I do also know is that for me and many others I've talked to people from my groups tend to treat me like I'm a part of the other group (white people treat me as Asian and Asian people treat me as white), so I don't really belong in either space. S looking the way he does really encapsulates how that feels to me, even if isn't a one to one connection. 

19 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Right now, I think it’s struggling from the same sorts of things my prologue was, where it’s trying to do too many things at once (introducing the setting, some political background, some characters, a bunch of names, some lore, some magic, an important event), and the important things are getting drowned out by details that might be better to introduce in the main story.  I see some of the things I think you’re trying to introduce, but there’s just a lot of it, so it ends up being overwhelming.

 

Yeah that makes a lot of sense! Characters acting in a way that is natural to them makes no sense without context, and even when I do try to explain it comes off as info-dumpy. I've been mulling this over and I think what I'm going to try to do is simplify the mechanics down to their bare bones at the start so that the story can happen. For example, we don't need to know the complex inheritance behind S's skin color; all we need to know is that mixed-race girls (or, well, assigned female) carry skin splotches from each parent but boys don't, yet Samai has those skin splotches despite being assigned male. 

19 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

5. I expect (and am hoping for) magic, political intrigue, and some amount of focus on family dynamics. But without knowing what direction we go from here, I can’t say too much more on that front.

Good because that's a lot of what it's going to be! 

19 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Hah. Glad I'm not the only one who does this.  "....there was a reason, I promise..."

Yeah! And a good reminder that not everyone has studied these types of cultures as much as I have (not that I'm a historian or anything)... because I (personally, anyway) feel like a lot of this makes more sense with certain bits of historical context.

17 hours ago, kais said:

This reads more like authorial sandboxing, which is completely fine and legit, but not the most narratively compelling. Some cleaning will help, as will focusing on narrative structure so that we have a beginning, middle, and end.

Sigh you're right as usual. I'm going to try to see if we can move forward without a prologue by simplifying some of the initial worldbuilding in the first few chapters instead of this sandboxing.

17 hours ago, kais said:

- 'formal head wrap' if you are basing this off a culture, you should use their names for the type of headscarf she is wearing. There are many kinds, and cover more or less of the body, and are each specific

The area the characters are in draws generally from Arabic/Middle Eastern culture. My current idea is to not have it be one to one, and sorta be more like how Lord of the Rings clearly draws from European culture despite not really being Europe. As such, I imagine the headscarves as not being the exact same as something like an Arabic hijab (and also the structural design at least is gender-neutral). Do you think this is the wrong approach?

17 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 4: made the opposite connection as most people <-- what assumption are we supposed to make? That he's trans? Intersex?

The assumption most people in the world make is that S is a girl. I was hoping to convey that he's intersex, since N does say S came out as male at birth (trans people aren't... really accepted in this world. Which I know comes with its own host of issues, since these repressive societies often aren't the queer rep people want to see).

Thanks for your comments, everyone! :) 

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12 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

My current idea is to just call it calico and call out that inheritance works in the same way so that it doesn't seem as derogatory (I mean, there's a part of me that wants it to be casually derogatory but if it's uncomfortable then it's uncomfortable)

I mean, ultimately, it's up to you if that's something you want to explore in the story/setting - just like any other racism presented in other fantasy works, if it's to a degree that a reader can't handle then they just.. won't read it lol. I guess just if there's a direction to it, that's all. But those are my 2 cents :)

12 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Heh my (nonwhite) race is clear enough that people aren't usually totally off the mark, but yeah I think that's a pretty common experience. What I do also know is that for me and many others I've talked to people from my groups tend to treat me like I'm a part of the other group (white people treat me as Asian and Asian people treat me as white), so I don't really belong in either space. S looking the way he does really encapsulates how that feels to me, even if isn't a one to one connection. 

Ohh yeah, not fitting in either space is pretty common too, I feel you on that.

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13 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

you think this is the wrong approach?

Maybe? You can write generic European fantasy if you’re from a European background. You’ll have a hard time pulling off generic fantasy from a background you don’t share, because you don’t know enough about the cultures at play to generalize. Though you could simplify to a scarf sort of deal and probably be okay. 
 

13 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

hoping to convey that he's intersex, since N does say S

I’ll be interested to see where this goes then. What intersex resources are you using, if any, as a basis for this character? I love to see intersex characters in SFF!

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So I have to admit, I had a hard time engaging with and focusing on this one. There was a lot of information crammed into a scene where the physical action just seemed to be walking into a building and meeting up with a few people (until the part about the duel). There was so much backstory delivered all at once through internal thinking that I didn't really engage and kept forgetting things a few minutes after I read them. 

Bear in mind I have ADHD and if I am not super interested in something or don't find something to immediately latch onto, my attention lags. 

I am also guilty of starting books like this, so... 

I felt like it really started at the end. Or could be a lot shorter. I'm not sure I really needed to all that was conveyed in this epilogue right away.

On 4/26/2021 at 0:16 AM, Ace of Hearts said:
1. How do you feel about the setting? The cultures I'm taking inspiration from here aren't ones I belong to, and I'm still not fully confident on how to grapple with that if I want to work towards this book being publishable. 
 

Not really sure. I do not like things that are divided along binary gender, so I was getting pretty annoyed with a few things, but that is perfectly okay if the narrative is challenging those things. Like if your mc is ready to start some kind of social revolution in this world, then I'm on board. 

However, looking at it through the lens of representing actual cultures or things based off of them? I think I live in too much of a white american bubble to really comment on this specific. Lately, I tend to steer clear of borrowing from other cultures because I don't trust myself to really do the research and do it right, but that is a personal choice of mine.

On 4/26/2021 at 0:16 AM, Ace of Hearts said:
2. This might be difficult to answer now, but do you think this prologue is necessary? It's something I slapped on recently.
 

My instinct is no because I was fairly bored through it. I am wondering if this is more something that is an important part of the writing process but more for the author than the reader. However, I have no context, so I can't say for sure. 

On 4/26/2021 at 0:16 AM, Ace of Hearts said:
3. How do you feel about the characters here? S and Z are especially important, but opinions on N and J are also relevant. 
 

I didn't have a whole lot of feelings about them either way. I was having trouble focusing. I was caught up in all the information and world-building and as a result didn't really get a good sense of the characters. 

On 4/26/2021 at 0:16 AM, Ace of Hearts said:
4. Do you feel like this gives away too little about what's going on? Too much? 
 

Probably too much. I think in general there was too much. 

On 4/26/2021 at 0:16 AM, Ace of Hearts said:
5. Any concerns you have for the main plot (i.e. "I really hope the story doesn't do X")? Any points of engagement you're expecting the main plot to follow up on? 
 

I hope someone smashes the gender binary in this story. 

I want the mc to win the fight against all odds and wind up in  a position of power when he expected to die, and that to be part of the main story, but if this is a prologue, something tells me that won't happen and he won't even actually be one of the main characters, though I could be wrong. However, as a reader, if he did die after just the prologue, I would be grumpy. 

Even though my critique is kind of bleak, I was engaged by the very end and want to know how the fight plays out. 

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9 minutes ago, shatteredsmooth said:

Not really sure. I do not like things that are divided along binary gender, so I was getting pretty annoyed with a few things, but that is perfectly okay if the narrative is challenging those things. Like if your mc is ready to start some kind of social revolution in this world, then I'm on board. 

However, looking at it through the lens of representing actual cultures or things based off of them? I think I live in too much of a white american bubble to really comment on this specific. Lately, I tend to steer clear of borrowing from other cultures because I don't trust myself to really do the research and do it right, but that is a personal choice of mine.

On 4/26/2021 at 0:16 AM, Ace of Hearts said:

Ok after  walked away from the computer I was thinking more about this. I think my comment could come off an insensitive to real cultures that do separate men and women in certain scenarios, so I want to apologize for that. 

I just tend to have strong reactions to people being sorted by gender because it is something that made me very, very uncomfortable when I was in situations (mostly in Catholic school and other churchy things) when I was forced to go with the girls. 

 

And re my comment about drawing from cultures you don't belong to, I think it can be done if you are willing to do the work. You just really need to commit to the research and maybe get sensitivity readers. I don't think it would make the book unpublishable as long as you really do the work to make sure you portrayal doesn't cause harm.

 

 

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9 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

However, looking at it through the lens of representing actual cultures or things based off of them? I think I live in too much of a white american bubble to really comment on this specific. Lately, I tend to steer clear of borrowing from other cultures because I don't trust myself to really do the research and do it right, but that is a personal choice of mine.

 

9 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

And re my comment about drawing from cultures you don't belong to, I think it can be done if you are willing to do the work. You just really need to commit to the research and maybe get sensitivity readers. I don't think it would make the book unpublishable as long as you really do the work to make sure you portrayal doesn't cause harm.

 

9 hours ago, kais said:

Maybe? You can write generic European fantasy if you’re from a European background. You’ll have a hard time pulling off generic fantasy from a background you don’t share, because you don’t know enough about the cultures at play to generalize. Though you could simplify to a scarf sort of deal and probably be okay.

Yeah I think my problem here is that I'm trying to have my cake and eat it too. I want a fantasy culture that's sorta based off a real life one so I have a foundation that makes sense (I really do feel like many of those "europeans but in a desert" fantasy stories don't make complete sense from a cultural worldbuilding point of view, since physical environment affects culture so strongly), but I also want to do my own thing with it and not be restricted to what that real culture did. I can see why that would cause problems. If I had to pick a real-life civilization that the X empire is based off of, I'd say the Abbasid Caliphate, but there's also a good deal of stuff that's different. 

From my perspective, I think my two options are either to back off on historical Arabic culture altogether (though again, this is tricky considering many cultural practices are common sense desert precautions) or really hone in on a specific culture. For now I might keep the culture as is and try to get a better idea of what to do with it after more critiques (unless you think it's clear what should be done right now), though it is helpful to know that the headscarf thing could come across as a red flag. 

9 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

Bear in mind I have ADHD and if I am not super interested in something or don't find something to immediately latch onto, my attention lags. 

No worries! :) If you're not engaged then you're not engaged. Not your fault. 

9 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

Not really sure. I do not like things that are divided along binary gender, so I was getting pretty annoyed with a few things, but that is perfectly okay if the narrative is challenging those things. Like if your mc is ready to start some kind of social revolution in this world, then I'm on board. 

 

9 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I hope someone smashes the gender binary in this story. 

Hmm this is a good thing to bring up. There are characters that walk between both the gender and sex binary set up, but tearing down those ideas isn't a major feature of the story. It's more about how to survive in a world that's hostile to those people but even then it's not a huge focus point for the one intersex and one nonbinary character. They already have so much else on their plate, in addition to other reasons they don't fit in (such as race).

9 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

Ok after  walked away from the computer I was thinking more about this. I think my comment could come off an insensitive to real cultures that do separate men and women in certain scenarios, so I want to apologize for that. 

I just tend to have strong reactions to people being sorted by gender because it is something that made me very, very uncomfortable when I was in situations (mostly in Catholic school and other churchy things) when I was forced to go with the girls. 

 

Thanks for clarifying! It's interesting to hear about your situations because I really didn't mind those situations as much or suffer from a lot of gender dysphoria, which is part of why it took me 21 years to realize that I'm nonbinary. I wrote this novel back when I was still questioning my gender and I think me being scared of existing outside the gender binary does come off here. 

Thanks for your thoughts! :) My edits for the first few chapters are aimed at doling out information more slowly so it's not as overwhelming. 

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10 hours ago, kais said:

I’ll be interested to see where this goes then. What intersex resources are you using, if any, as a basis for this character? I love to see intersex characters in SFF!

Oh whoops I forgot to reply to this lol. For the first draft I didn't use any specific resources, leaning instead on my experiences being mixed-race since he's at the intersection of the two, which as I'm typing it out now I'm realizing may not have been the best way to approach it. The closest thing to a resource was reading the wikipedia article for Klinefelter, which is what he has. Do you recommend any specific sources, or is it better if I start from scratch looking myself? 

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6 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

reading the wikipedia article for Klinefelter, which is what he has. Do you recommend any specific sources, or is it better if I start from scratch looking myself? 

Klinefelter is rare, and may give you borders you don't want later. there are...wow I don't know, probably close to fifty well-documented intersex variations, and then each has plenty of variations on its own, plus all the rare rare ones that don't have names. For this particular situation, I'd argue you don't necessarily need to use a specific template as long as you understand what is encompassed by intersex: variations outside the traditional bounds of 'male' and 'female.' This can be hormonal, genetic, physical, or some combination of all three. You don't have to have ambiguous genitals to be intersex. You don't have to have chromosomal abnormalities. What is very common is that intersex rarely occurs in a vacuum-usually it comes with a host of medical issues that can be life threatening. And I think that's where many authors fall short on intersex--they take the 'cool' parts and never the consequences. Our bodies are not built to walk the line between biological sexes, and doing so comes with a cost in most instances (and I'm not talking social costs, but those are huge, too). So making sure you're writing the whole person, the whole body, not just the part that seems magical, will make the character far more authentic than tracking them with some specific diagnosis, if that makes sense.

If you do want to follow a diagnosis template, I'd suggest an 'easier' diagnosis, like congenital adrenal hyperplasia or androgen insensitivity. They're more straightforward, with (generally) fewer other tag along issues and would allow your character to do more, physically. 

A quick addendum - watch how you deal with gender. Most intersex people are not gender fluid and many are 'cis' gendered (as weird as that concept is when talking about intersex conditions). I'd advise avoiding the tropes of fluid gender for an intersex character. There are gender fluid intersex people, of course, but it's....it's just not as usually seen and smacks more of authorial misunderstanding of the condition. In that same bag is to definitely avoid fluid sex, which again, yes, does happen, but you don't want to get into the weeds on that. Also the emotional and physical costs of fluid biological sex is just...not something most people I think could do justice in writing.

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27 minutes ago, kais said:

Klinefelter is rare, and may give you borders you don't want later. there are...wow I don't know, probably close to fifty well-documented intersex variations, and then each has plenty of variations on its own, plus all the rare rare ones that don't have names. For this particular situation, I'd argue you don't necessarily need to use a specific template as long as you understand what is encompassed by intersex: variations outside the traditional bounds of 'male' and 'female.' This can be hormonal, genetic, physical, or some combination of all three. You don't have to have ambiguous genitals to be intersex. You don't have to have chromosomal abnormalities. What is very common is that intersex rarely occurs in a vacuum-usually it comes with a host of medical issues that can be life threatening. And I think that's where many authors fall short on intersex--they take the 'cool' parts and never the consequences. Our bodies are not built to walk the line between biological sexes, and doing so comes with a cost in most instances (and I'm not talking social costs, but those are huge, too). So making sure you're writing the whole person, the whole body, not just the part that seems magical, will make the character far more authentic than tracking them with some specific diagnosis, if that makes sense.

If you do want to follow a diagnosis template, I'd suggest an 'easier' diagnosis, like congenital adrenal hyperplasia or androgen insensitivity. They're more straightforward, with (generally) fewer other tag along issues and would allow your character to do more, physically. 

A quick addendum - watch how you deal with gender. Most intersex people are not gender fluid and many are 'cis' gendered (as weird as that concept is when talking about intersex conditions). I'd advise avoiding the tropes of fluid gender for an intersex character. There are gender fluid intersex people, of course, but it's....it's just not as usually seen and smacks more of authorial misunderstanding of the condition. In that same bag is to definitely avoid fluid sex, which again, yes, does happen, but you don't want to get into the weeds on that. Also the emotional and physical costs of fluid biological sex is just...not something most people I think could do justice in writing.

Wow this is a ton of helpful info! Thank you so much! I really appreciate the time and effort that goes into educating me about this, and I don't want take it for granted. :) 

Yeah I did see that Klinefelter is rare. The reason I chose that one in particular is because in this world a lot of the variation in skin color is linked to the X chromosome so the combination of S having Klinefelter and being mixed race is reflected in his visual appearance. Do you think this would feel like focusing too much on the 'cool' parts? I also read that people with Klinefelter have a nearly identical life expectancy to people without and symptoms can be subtle for many people, so I didn't put a ton of thought into the medical side, but I can definitely do some digging into the medical issues that can come along with it. Though one of the tricky parts is that this world doesn't have the ability to call out S' condition as precisely as we're talking about it here. Do you think that will be a problem?

I will say that S doesn't have ambiguous genitals and is "cis" (I think your tweet about the gender thing popped up in my feed a while back actually). He talks about it a bit with the nb character who comes up later. And yep S' sex isn't fluid.

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11 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Hmm this is a good thing to bring up. There are characters that walk between both the gender and sex binary set up, but tearing down those ideas isn't a major feature of the story. It's more about how to survive in a world that's hostile to those people but even then it's not a huge focus point for the one intersex and one nonbinary character. They already have so much else on their plate, in addition to other reasons they don't fit in (such as race).

21 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

It totally makes sense for it not to get torn down. I think if it did, the whole book would be about it. I was just giving my spur of the moment reaction. Also a very subjective one. I thin just showing them navigating that world will be interesting and have plenty of tension. 

11 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

From my perspective, I think my two options are either to back off on historical Arabic culture altogether (though again, this is tricky considering many cultural practices are common sense desert precautions) or really hone in on a specific culture. For now I might keep the culture as is and try to get a better idea of what to do with it after more critiques (unless you think it's clear what should be done right now), though it is helpful to know that the headscarf thing could come across as a red flag. 

21 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I don't have any answer about what should be done. I think waiting until you get more feedback on the story and get a better grasp on where you want to go with your revision is a good idea. 

11 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Thanks for clarifying! It's interesting to hear about your situations because I really didn't mind those situations as much or suffer from a lot of gender dysphoria, which is part of why it took me 21 years to realize that I'm nonbinary. I wrote this novel back when I was still questioning my gender and I think me being scared of existing outside the gender binary does come off here. 

 

I think I was 28 or 29 when I figured out I was nonbinary. But I also had never even heard the term before then. I didn't know I could be non-binary because I the concept didn't exist in my head. I remember reading about it and being like, "wow, this explains a lot." I was always extremely uncomfortable when I was in a group divided by gender, but it was years and years later before I understood why. 

 

11 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Thanks for your thoughts! :) My edits for the first few chapters are aimed at doling out information more slowly so it's not as overwhelming. 

Glad to hear it. :-)

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4 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Do you think that will be a problem?

I think keeping it vague is fine. I don't think I've ever met anyone with Klinefelter only, but obviously it exists. In the general population its much more common to have XY androgen insensitivity, which would also give you, I think, what you're after, and might be more understandable/relatable to readers. But if you aren't getting specific, I'm not sure its worth worrying about.

 

4 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

I think your tweet about the gender thing popped up in my feed a while back actually)

Has my identity been breached!? (joking)

Also WOW we have a lot of enbies on here now. NICE.

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