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leapfrog

05/03/21 - leapfrog - Heartless Love (4058 words)

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In general, I'd like some opinions on general flow and consistency (does everything make sense/fit together?), and on the ending and whether or not the story feels complete. Some thoughts on the characters would also be great -- does the dialogue feel natural or do the characters' voices sound distinct? Do you like them? This is a short story I've got to hand in soon, so I'm open to just about any critique!
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Hi! Congrats on your first sub!

I'll make comments as I read through and then give some overall thoughts afterwards. Keep in mind that I'm not a huge fan of the romance genre (though I have read a little bit).

 

p2-4 - I'm not clear on the social expectations for D around the whole 'heart' situation. It seems like this is a normal thing for her family/community, so why is she worried about causing a scene? Is it really a problem if she's late to work one time because of something that (presumably) happens to everyone? 

p5 - A big part of D's conflict seems to centre around her not being on board with the heart situation, despite the fact that her father thinks it's really great. But I don't get much of a sense for why she feels this way. She doesn't seem to have strong feelings - but why?

p6 - And why does she start dating B if she's not interested? Is she actually, secretly, a bit interested?

p7 - 'gratuitous second chance' - I'm not sure 'gratuitous' is the word you mean there? Do you mean 'fortuitous'?

p8 - D's relationship with B feels like it's being glossed over. We hear a lot about her father's expectations, and how D doesn't feel the way she thinks she's supposed to feel, but I'm not sure how she does feel.

p10 - I do like how the parents' relationship seems to mirror what D is going through.

p11 - Why would turning B resolve concerns about D dying? I'm not sure what that bit is getting at.

p12 - Part of the issue with glossing over D's relationship with B is that I don't have much of an idea what B is like, or what his goals and desires are. His decision lacks the impact it might have had if we understood what it meant for him.

p13 - The ending seems to fizzle out a bit. Ending on the logistical issues right in this moment makes the story feel like it's left off in the middle. If you ended by reflecting on or tying up D's character arc, for example, I think the story would have much more of a sense of closure.

 

Overall - the good news is, your prose flows well and I didn't spot any big sentence-level problems. The dialogue read naturally.

The bad news is, the whole thing feels very schmoopy to me. There's a lot of navel-gazing for my taste, and the premise has a big wish-fulfilment feel to it. That might be a personal preference thing, though - again, I am not a big romance reader.

As for the characters - B's character is barely sketched out. We spend a lot of time with D, but her main conflict seems to be that her feelings for B aren't as strong as she thinks they should be, which isn't the most compelling conflict. She doesn't seem to have any goals or desires beyond just figuring things out as she goes and trying not to mess up. I wish I had some more concrete details about what's going on in her head beyond the general angst.

D's father is the character who works the most for me. He has a clear motivation - he wants his daughter to live a happy life. He thinks he knows what she needs to do to achieve that, and he'll nag her until she does it. It's simple, but that's good. I know what's going on with him.

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Welcome! Always nice to have new members of the group!

Overall:

The writing overall (beyond my obsession with overanalyzing verb tenses) is really smooth and readable. 

I would say that I didn’t entirely get the feeling that the story felt complete, but I think that’s partly because I didn’t get the sense of significant change in D’s view of the world from beginning to end.  She starts out being skeptical of the social pressures put on her to be with B, and at the end, she has given in to those social pressures. However, I didn’t get a good sense that it was some notable change in her beliefs or view of the world that pushed her to that, and am not entirely convinced that she is fully on board with the decision. She seems to want to do something different from what is standard for vampire culture after B has been turned, but if that’s the case, I think the more interesting question isn’t whether or not she gives into the social pressure to turn B but what happens next? Does she feel like she fits better into the vampire social structure? Does she develop the weird obsession with B that everyone expects her to have? Where’s it leave B?

The question that the story covers seems relatively simple for the word count, and isn’t as interesting to me as the question of what her decision at the end means for all involved.

The dialogue feels natural, but I don’t have as much sense of who the characters are as I’d like.  I like the hints I get of D, but feel like I don’t really understand her all that much since the main aspect of her that we see is will she or won’t she turn B into a vampire?  

I think there are some really interesting worldbuilding aspects here that I would love to see dug into more.  Or just to have the gaps filled in.  There’s a lot of focus on the soulmate/heart transfer aspect of it, but I’d be really interested to see how that impacts the rest of vampire culture and what they’re all doing for eternity now that they’ve gotten the thing that Dad seems to think is the most important detail figured out.

Pg 1:

I think we need to know about the vampire involvement earlier.  The cutting out of hearts (or even the more standard human reproduction process) is not something I generally associate with vampire myths, so I was just really confused and concerned about why we were performing surgery on seemingly dead babies, and how dark this was going to get with the creepy, obviously-in-denial parents, or potential cult-sacrifice-y sorts of behaviors.

“measly eleven-and-a-half” I’m not sure what this phrase is supposed to imply beyond telling us her age. 

Pg 2:

I’m not sure what to take from the paragraph about the family moving around a lot (though that on its own isn’t a problem).  The warm, supportive upbringing is clear, but I don’t see where her mom picking up and going to travel the world fits into that.  I feel like without some reason for the moves, it hints at a sort of restlessness or trying to escape something that seems to contradict what we’re being told.  It’s hard to tell what we’re supposed to take as just D’s perception and what we’re supposed to take as actual reality. Also, the “whenever unable to approach her parents with a concern” seems like it’s referring to someone older than eleven.

Also, the last sentence of that paragraph, as well as the line from her father following it, do a verb tense jump.

The jump to present tense in the new scene seems a little more natural, especially starting off with the “Now an adult” clarification.

I get a good feel for the “all of the vampires know all of the other vampires” sort of setting at the start of this scene, which is helpful, and makes a little more sense of some of the previous scene.

Pg 3:

“another employee”  I assume this is saying that B is an employee at the café, but at first glance, my mind is torn between this being “another employee” at the HVAC company, in which case, how does she know that? And the line referring to D as an employee of the café, when we’ve just been told she works elsewhere.

I like the initial interaction between D and B being not really between them but between D and the more abstract “her heart”

“tight-lipped teeth”  this comes across strangely.  I assume it’s supposed to be stressing the vampire-ness of it by referring to teeth, but I can’t get past the “teeth have lips?” thought.  I like the idea of using phrasing that reflects the toothiness of vampires, but combining it with tight-lipped seems distracting.

You’ll want to go carefully through her remembered conversation with her father to make sure verb tenses are correct.  If the whole piece here was in past tense, I’d jump up on my past-perfect-tense soapbox, but it gets a little more complicated when this portion of the piece is in present tense, referring to the conversation in the past.  I think normal past tense is mostly fine (maybe? There’s a reason I don’t write present tense. The overthinking would make me crazy), but you’d at least want past-perfect for “when she had finally pried the information out…” or possibly “after she’d pried the information out…” for further clarification and accuracy. 

I’m not sure if the “Her father twisted his hand to demonstrate…” should have D’s thoughts in present tense, or if these were her thoughts at the time of the conversation with her father. Might want to make sure that what you’re getting at there comes across a little more clearly.

You could also rework those paragraphs to make sure there’s one clear “past narrative” within the “present narrative”  to simplify things.

Pg 4:

“if D did not meet her father later that evening” goes into the same box as above, where you might want to rework the paragraph a little to make the consistency of verb tenses simpler.

Pg 5:

“pack of frozen blood”: So they drink tea, but also blood? Also, this begs the question of where the blood is coming from, though that seems like it would probably be a distraction from the story you’re telling.

Also, I find it a little difficult to believe that her dad’s exuberance could be put off through the process of tea-making.

Dad seems far more pushy about this than I feel like he should be.  Which might be the point, but I feel like there should be a clearer indication of that.  I get the impression (based on Mom’s absence) that things between him and D’s mom aren’t as magically perfect as he seems to expect from these vampire matches.  But Mom’s absence is only briefly mentioned and we aren’t given enough explanation or reaction to that detail for me to really be sure of that.  If he is super enthusiastic about D’s match as a sort of denial of how his own life is going and hoping D will prove that the system isn’t broken, I’d want more indication of that.  If he’s actually just super enthusiastic about D’s match, what’s going on between him and Mom?  Are they actually on good terms? Or is he just a sort of mindless drone created by the heart transfer thing? The childish petulance described in his tone at one point seems to suggest something’s a little off beyond him being overenthusiastic.

I think there is good groundwork set out for the takeaway to go in any number of directions, but as a reader I’m feeling a little lost as to what we’re supposed to be expecting at this point. 

Pg 8:

I don’t really get a good sense of who D is outside what she does or doesn’t feel about B and what’s expected of her.  And we don’t really even get that much from B.  What does he think of this whole thing?  He seems nice enough.  Does she have friendly feelings toward B (or anyone else for that matter) outside the matter of the whole heart transfer thing?  I think the main thing that bothers me about the premise is that it seems to be all or…nothing?  Maybe? There isn’t really an alternative mentioned.  You end up with your soulmate and bring them into the vampire family circle.  Other than the point that D doesn’t really understand the girls at the sleepover (which, to be fair, I was never really comfortable with sleepover gossip either), I don’t really know how the vampires interact with the rest of the world.  They go to cafes. They travel. They go to school among humans. They work with humans to some extent, even if the population percentages are pretty skewed.  But there’s no mention of anyone else D interacts with beyond Dad. Where did the rest of the supportive social circle she grew up with go?  It just seems like even if this is a huge thing in vampire culture, it isn’t the only thing (or what are they doing with the other 90% of their time?) and I think that makes the world feel less lived in than it could. We get interesting parts of it, but it doesn’t feel like the rest of it is filled in.

Pg 9:

I feel like there is supposed to be more significance to the ring than I am getting.

Pg 10:

“…something important you must know.” Is this just talking about the story of how Mom and Dad met?  It feels like it’s a setup for something bigger.  And if Dad is as obsessed about all of the vampires making their proper matches as he seems to be, I’d expect D to be well aware of the story of how they met.

Pg 11:

“she asks him to wait until after he’s eaten.”  That just seems cruel if she (correctly) thinks the vague “Can we talk?” message might have made him anxious or set him on edge.

Pg 12:

“Sounds like fun. Living forever, right?” This pushes me back to the thoughts that Dad’s obsession over D’s relationship seems a little off.  What about B’s family and friends and relationships?  And if D isn’t really even all that sure how she feels about him, is she so willing to pull him away from the loving relationships that he already has (not so different from the ones she has with her vampire connections) with other humans? I’d like to see a little more of how this is going to effect B.

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Thoughts As I Go:

Pg 1: While the reveal of vampirism does explain a lot about the surgery, there’s still a bit wrong with this. Surgery is done in a sterile room (at best, the mother would be allowed to watch through glass windows) and a removed heart would immediately be put on ice.

Pg. 1: Also, on that note, it’s hard enough for a full grown adult to handle a heart transplant. A three-day old baby, almost certainly not. It might be better to have the heart transplant done when D is a little older, perhaps around twelve, and adjust the other ages in the story accordingly.

Pg. 3: So what did vampires do before heart surgery existed? This seems to be an odd gimmick of the vampires done to groom humans into potential partners which works with terrifying efficiency, but heart surgery is a rather recent invention, so…

Pg. 7: Didn’t she drink tea the previous day?

Pg. 9: How is D deceased? Wasn’t she born a vampire?

Pg. 10: At this point, I’m not sure if D’s problem is that she’s objecting to be brainwashed into romance or if she’s just asexual. Or both.

Pg. 12: Ick. That’s painful. A wrist is a very sensitive area of the body, and the veins are kind of horrible. Crook of the elbow is a better idea.

 

Overall: I very much like the concept of an asexual vampire, especially as a satire given the unfortunate oversaturation of the genre with teen romance, but the execution here is a little lacking, mostly because of how much of a stickler I am for biology. The mechanics of the vampiric heart swap is never fully explained, and as a result, I’m left with more questions than I am with answers about what exactly is going on.

Like I mentioned in my notes, this seem to be a full-blown brainwashing technique - implant a heart into a human and they basically become a thrall, albeit through mutual love which affects the donor vampire as well, which does fit into classic vampire lore well enough.

D, for whatever reason, doesn’t seem to experience this, and the story is about that. I like the concept and I think that this could be a very well done short story, but I would like a clearer sense about what is supposed to happen with the heart-donor mechanic, and also how exactly the vampires in this word work.

The characters are good. The love interest comes across as rather flat, which works to the story’s benefit as he’s essentially brainwashed, and I found D’s feelings always consistent and clearly defined.

If you want to discuss the exact worldbuilding mechanics, I’d be game - I’ve never really tried designing biological vampires, which these appear to be, despite all the story's protest, given they are capable of reproduction.

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Overall, I think this is an interesting idea. I agree with @aeromancerthat this seems more like a form of mind control than real romance, which is actually pretty horrifying to me. B doesn't really have any choice in the matter, and is left with a lifelong commitment to vampirism just because D wanted to fulfill her duty. That being said, I think that is a clever subversion of romance tropes, if that is what you are going for. I thought the ending was abrupt and didn't really tie up the story very well. Also, the flow was a bit off at the beginning with all the time jumps. Personally, I think that the segment about the heart being donated to another baby could be cut down to just a few short lines without any separation. The character of D is interesting, so good job with that

Alright, opening the document now, excited to check it out!

Pg 1

“This is your making” okay, this is incredibly creepy

The same phrase is repeated again and it makes me uneasy

“The doctors dig out her…” 0.0

Aw, I get it now lol. Still very creepy

“Little D’s heart…” So right here, I don’t think this needs to be separated. I think you can just go straight into her heart being sold, and then maybe have the separation after “keep him alive”. You might not even need it after that. Either way, I think including separation on little parts that are only one or two paragraphs messes with the flow

Pg 2

“some more abroad” IDK why, but I just don’t like the phrase “Some more” here. I think just “abroad” would work better

“What you know” mmm yes deliciously creepy and a bit insidious

See, I think the separation here at this part is okay because there’s more than a few paragraphs.

“90%” I’d type this out as ninety percent, personally

Pg 3

“tight-lipped” I like this imagery in association with vampires

“the body of their perfect mate” lol, wouldn’t that be nice? No need to worry, there is an exact soulmate

Okay, never mind that sounds pretty horrible

Pg 4

Is the other person still just standing there?

Okay, it seems yes

“award winning flash” Might want to adjust this phrasing

“and you’re really pretty” haha, nice. I like this guy’s confidence. Also feel bad for him, since he doesn't seem to have much choice in the matter

Pg 5

I like this little detail that even vampires have to invite each other in

“You seem to be more invested” lol relatable

Pg 6

“you know how important” the way this is said feels a bit maid-and-butlery to me

Pg 7

“octopus earrings” I approve

Also, B kinda gets the short end on this deal huh? Doesn’t really have a choice in this

Pg 8

Personally I would like to see this conversation, because it seems interesting to me

Actually, on second thought I’m not sure it is necessary

Pg 9

By this point, I really like the tone and the introspection. The beginning was a bit rough for me, though

Pg10

Interesting how love itself seems to be the scary thing. Though It doesn’t seem like she’s actually considering how it would be for B, its more about her own feelings

Pg 11

“—whole…” there are a couple of interjections like this. Each one gives all of them less power overall

Pg 12

The implications of turning him in a public restroom are a bit…distasteful to me. 

“wipe her hands clean” oof that’s sad

Kina ends abruptly

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Thank you all for your feedback!! Looks like I've a lot to think about :)

22 hours ago, RedBlue said:

p13 - The ending seems to fizzle out a bit. Ending on the logistical issues right in this moment makes the story feel like it's left off in the middle. If you ended by reflecting on or tying up D's character arc, for example, I think the story would have much more of a sense of closure.

By this, do you mean like more reflection on why D turned B? 

22 hours ago, RedBlue said:

The bad news is, the whole thing feels very schmoopy to me. There's a lot of navel-gazing for my taste, and the premise has a big wish-fulfilment feel to it. That might be a personal preference thing, though - again, I am not a big romance reader.

As for the characters - B's character is barely sketched out. We spend a lot of time with D, but her main conflict seems to be that her feelings for B aren't as strong as she thinks they should be, which isn't the most compelling conflict. She doesn't seem to have any goals or desires beyond just figuring things out as she goes and trying not to mess up. I wish I had some more concrete details about what's going on in her head beyond the general angst.

D's father is the character who works the most for me. He has a clear motivation - he wants his daughter to live a happy life. He thinks he knows what she needs to do to achieve that, and he'll nag her until she does it. It's simple, but that's good. I know what's going on with him.

I was trying to go for D being aro -- did that come across any? 

19 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

I would say that I didn’t entirely get the feeling that the story felt complete, but I think that’s partly because I didn’t get the sense of significant change in D’s view of the world from beginning to end.  She starts out being skeptical of the social pressures put on her to be with B, and at the end, she has given in to those social pressures. However, I didn’t get a good sense that it was some notable change in her beliefs or view of the world that pushed her to that, and am not entirely convinced that she is fully on board with the decision. She seems to want to do something different from what is standard for vampire culture after B has been turned, but if that’s the case, I think the more interesting question isn’t whether or not she gives into the social pressure to turn B but what happens next? Does she feel like she fits better into the vampire social structure? Does she develop the weird obsession with B that everyone expects her to have? Where’s it leave B?

The question that the story covers seems relatively simple for the word count, and isn’t as interesting to me as the question of what her decision at the end means for all involved.

The dialogue feels natural, but I don’t have as much sense of who the characters are as I’d like.  I like the hints I get of D, but feel like I don’t really understand her all that much since the main aspect of her that we see is will she or won’t she turn B into a vampire?  

I think there are some really interesting worldbuilding aspects here that I would love to see dug into more.  Or just to have the gaps filled in.  There’s a lot of focus on the soulmate/heart transfer aspect of it, but I’d be really interested to see how that impacts the rest of vampire culture and what they’re all doing for eternity now that they’ve gotten the thing that Dad seems to think is the most important detail figured out.

Thanks for those questions -- I hadn't considered these at all (oops?). 

11 hours ago, aeromancer said:

Overall: I very much like the concept of an asexual vampire, especially as a satire given the unfortunate oversaturation of the genre with teen romance, but the execution here is a little lacking, mostly because of how much of a stickler I am for biology. The mechanics of the vampiric heart swap is never fully explained, and as a result, I’m left with more questions than I am with answers about what exactly is going on.

Like I mentioned in my notes, this seem to be a full-blown brainwashing technique - implant a heart into a human and they basically become a thrall, albeit through mutual love which affects the donor vampire as well, which does fit into classic vampire lore well enough.

D, for whatever reason, doesn’t seem to experience this, and the story is about that. I like the concept and I think that this could be a very well done short story, but I would like a clearer sense about what is supposed to happen with the heart-donor mechanic, and also how exactly the vampires in this word work.

The characters are good. The love interest comes across as rather flat, which works to the story’s benefit as he’s essentially brainwashed, and I found D’s feelings always consistent and clearly defined.

If you want to discuss the exact worldbuilding mechanics, I’d be game - I’ve never really tried designing biological vampires, which these appear to be, despite all the story's protest, given they are capable of reproduction.

Could you expand on where you got the brainwashing thing from, or was it the premise itself? (I wasn't trying to expand much on B because I didn't really think his relationship to D was important wrt her conflict... but maybe that's where it came from?)

Also yes please on the worldbuilding mechanics/vampires -- I know next to nothing about biology, so your notes were pretty interesting since I was just about handwaving everything, haha 

10 hours ago, ginger_reckoning said:

The implications of turning him in a public restroom are a bit…distasteful to me. 

“wipe her hands clean” oof that’s sad

Kina ends abruptly

What implications are those? That it's unclean....? Also could you expand a bit on what about it was abrupt?

Thanks for your comments on the beginning -- I was worried there was a bit of a tone shift or that it didn't fit, which seems to be the case. 

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47 minutes ago, leapfrog said:

Thanks for those questions -- I hadn't considered these at all (oops?). 

You certainly don't need to delve into all of those questions. When I go into critique mode, I tend to wander into world-building-pondering mode and just ask a million questions about how the world works. But there's no feasible way to actually answer them all in the text. Mostly I just toss them out there as a sort of brainstorming prompt or something.  Depending on what you're trying to convey to the reader, they may be useful for you as the creator of said world to think about. And they may be entirely irrelevant to the story you're trying to tell, in which case you're welcome to just ignore them :) 

I've found in my own writing that it can be helpful to spend some time thinking about how those sorts of questions might shape the characters and provide opportunities to add bits of color and definition to the world, to make the characters feel more real. The detail of this or that distant relative owning the company where employees are about 90% vampires is one point where I think this is done well here.  It gives an automatic sense of how the vampire community tends to stick among itself and look out for its own without a ton of page time away from the main story you're trying to tell.  

48 minutes ago, leapfrog said:

I was trying to go for D being aro -- did that come across any? 

I think that came across pretty well. I didn't comment on it because I think a lot of other people here will have more helpful feedback on how its presented than I would (and because I had already rambled on about a lot of things).  I did have a sort of concern (though concern feels like too strong of a word...) about the sleepover memory, where it's addressing both D's  human vs. vampire conflict and the aro vs. alloromantic conflict (is that the right term? Someone please correct me if not.) and I would be cautious about conflating those things.  The way things are set up now, that's going to be difficult to do, because the way they're set out falls along similar lines. I'd almost want to see someone from the human community pointed out as a contrast to her vampire community.  A human friend who is aro, but it's accepted by their community.  D still might feel alienated from the person based on other human vs. vampire cultural misunderstandings, and alienated from other vampires because of her disconnect with their soulmates thing, but I think having a contrast between those two conflicts (or to focus in on one and not try to deal with both) is important.  

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2 hours ago, leapfrog said:

By this, do you mean like more reflection on why D turned B?

You could do that - mostly I meant that ending on something important to do with these characters would be a stronger ending than calling a cab.

2 hours ago, leapfrog said:

I was trying to go for D being aro -- did that come across any?

It did occur to me as a possibility, but I wasn't sure from my initial read that aro was what you were going for. 

I think a big part of the problem stems from how fantastical the premise is. Because this isn't how relationships work at all in the real world, I'm not sure whether to read it as D being aro, something having gone wrong with the magic, D struggling with familial pressure and expectations, etc.

IMO, the best fix for that is to really drill down on clarity. Make it be super obvious what D is or isn't feeling, and why.

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4 hours ago, leapfrog said:

Could you expand on where you got the brainwashing thing from, or was it the premise itself? (I wasn't trying to expand much on B because I didn't really think his relationship to D was important wrt her conflict... but maybe that's where it came from?)

For me, it seemed a bit like mind control/ brainwashing because it didn't really seem like B had much of a choice in the matter. He recieved the heart, and was inexplicably drawn to her even though she showed no interest (also, yes, it came across that she was aro, at least for me) also the fact that her mother was absent for the whole story added to that I think, since it seems to imply that maybe she feels the same disdain for the father that D feels for B. The fact that the love was talked about as almost a sinister thing at times also contributed, I think (sorry, I know that question wasn't directed at me)

4 hours ago, leapfrog said:
15 hours ago, ginger_reckoning said:

 

What implications are those? That it's unclean....? Also could you expand a bit on what about it was abrupt?

Idk, I think that's it. The abruptness came from B just being turned, and that basically being the end. I would personally like to see a little bit more resolution with her emotions, maybe B himself reacting, or D talking with her dad. It just ends rather suddenly. Maybe some more personal reflection? 

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Welcome to RE and congratulations on your first sub!

Overall

That twist at the end was fun! I think it needs a bit better integration, or maybe I'm still having a hard time with how well the BF took the vampire thing. Overall, I was very engaged with this. it was well written and had good flow. A few comments below, and I'd like more reaction from the BF and some clarification along the points you are trying to make with aromanticism / asexuality (couldn't tell if one or both), but otherwise I think its a clever take on the soulmates trope. Though I do remain wondering how this custom came about and why it persists. I think a sentence or two discussing that could be useful.

As I go

- strong intro lines

- pg 1: errr...are vampire hearts not prone to decay? How is it not on ice? How are there not sterile procedures? I cannot suspend disbelief for this without a bit more info on vampires

- pg 2: and that was an unexpected twist. So this is a fated lovers romance with vampires? Sure. I'm in. It's also...so much more gruesome than usual

- pg 3: wow that isn't soulmate so much as hyper manipulative. Interesting twist

- pg 5: would a vampire not be a little fearful of sitting in a wooden chair? I feel like they'd be more into plastic furniture. COuldn't be turned into a weapon then

- pg 9: I think here is where the narrative loses me. I'd like D to take more time dissecting romantic versus platonic/family love, and find value in both while also noting she isn't into the former. Here it seems just dismissive of romantic love without any deeper discussion or observation, and that makes D seem cold

- pg 12: I don't believe that the BF took the vampire thing in stride like that. I'd like more disbelief or at least learn how he deals with it so well

- wait...so they can't keep the romance they found???

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Posted (edited)

On 5/4/2021 at 9:43 AM, leapfrog said:

Could you expand on where you got the brainwashing thing from, or was it the premise itself? (I wasn't trying to expand much on B because I didn't really think his relationship to D was important wrt her conflict... but maybe that's where it came from?)

It seems to be that the mechanic for the heart transplant works as such: the vampire gives their heart to a dying human at which point it has a few effects. The first is that the new vampiric heart assumes the function of the old heart and allows the recipient to make a full recovery. The second is that it turns the target into a thrall. Classically, thralls have their free will stripped away and are forced to follow the orders of their master, but this seems to work slightly differently.

Instead of straight up mind control, the recipient instead will feel an intense sense of the romantic love towards the donor vampire, and will be conditioned to accept anything the donor tells them, such as, for instance, the claim that the donor is a vampire. The recipient will also be disposed towards obeying outlandish suggestions from the donor (i.e. "You want to be a vampire"), as well as the recipient seeking a romantic relationship with the donor completely unprompted.

While this isn't brainwashing is the 'classic' sense of full control, it is a situation where the recipient has no choice in regards to a very strong romantic relationship and incredibly prone to suggestion. While the ethical backlash is mitigated from D's perspective, given that she didn't choose to donate, the fact that it affects her as well means that she's been forced into the relationship too. This is not exactly what you would consider to be ethical, by just about any standards.

On 5/4/2021 at 9:43 AM, leapfrog said:

Also yes please on the worldbuilding mechanics/vampires -- I know next to nothing about biology, so your notes were pretty interesting since I was just about handwaving everything, haha 

Alright, I've jotted a few things down, and if you want to discuss anything further, than just ask.

Vampiric Heart: This seems to be some kind of mechanic for vampires to train and recruit followers, ignoring the Machiavellian maxim of 'Better to be fear than loved' and choosing the opposite approach. Vampires would approach dying humans replaced their failing organs with the vampire's own, turning them into love-thralls. After the feeling of love had settled and the thrall was suitably in control, the vampire would change their prey into a full vampire and retake their organs, repeating the process as necessary to build themselves an army. These hearts are also magical and ignore pesky things like 'blood type' and 'body rejecting the donation'.

Reproduction: This is a very big deal, and most vampire literature will ignore the implications of this. If vampires can reproduce, then they are their own independent species from humans with the unerring ability to recruit from humanity. If they can't, then they're nothing more than a parasite on the human race. Given that these vampires can (apparently) reproduce with others vampires, they aren't 'undead', or 'unliving' - they are, in fact, living beings, and while they seem to have some unique qualities based on magic (such as the ability to survive without a heart) that doesn't qualify them as dead.

Blood sucking: The neck is the classic place because that's were the jugular vein is. The heart is a better place for blood, but that's a bit difficult to get too under normal circumstances and the next largest (femoral vein or artery) is located in the upper thigh and isn't exactly an easily accessible place. If you aren't seeking quantity and rather just want to insert your vampiric DNA (or whatever it is transforms the target), then the best option is to emulate a phlebotomist and choose the crook of the elbow.

Vampire asexuality: While it doesn't make sense for a vampire, who's race has a mechanic for creating mutual love-thralls to not be affected by said mutual bonds and in fact be asexual, the same argument could be said for humans. Asexuality is, quite naturally, aggressively non-selected by the evolution process which favors people who want to reproduce. The reason people can be asexual is because human beings are really complicated and there really isn't such a thing as a single gene which controls a single aspect of human psychology, so an asexual vampire is no different than an asexual human.

Edited by aeromancer
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18 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 5: would a vampire not be a little fearful of sitting in a wooden chair? I feel like they'd be more into plastic furniture. COuldn't be turned into a weapon then

Did I forget something about vampires and wood...? What weapon would be from a wooden chair...? 

18 hours ago, kais said:

- wait...so they can't keep the romance they found???

Sorry, what did you mean by that? 

3 hours ago, aeromancer said:

Reproduction: This is a very big deal, and most vampire literature will ignore the implications of this. If vampires can reproduce, then they are their own independent species from humans with the unerring ability to recruit from humanity. If they can't, then they're nothing more than a parasite on the human race. Given that these vampires can (apparently) reproduce with others vampires, they aren't 'undead', or 'unliving' - they are, in fact, living beings, and while they seem to have some unique qualities based on magic (such as the ability to survive without a heart) that doesn't qualify them as dead.

Oh interesting... in an earlier draft of this I had D as being unique by being birthed -- I got rid of that because I couldn't quite make sense of it and it didn't go anywhere, lol. Plus I was worried her aromanticism/asexuality could be attributed to that 'uniqueness' rather than it just being a her thing. Thank you for your notes!!

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1 hour ago, leapfrog said:

Did I forget something about vampires and wood...? What weapon would be from a wooden chair...? 

You can kill a vampire with a wood stake, which is very easy to make from breaking a chair. Legs on wood chairs, spindle backs, they snap really easily. Also I blame this on growing up on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

1 hour ago, leapfrog said:

Sorry, what did you mean by that? 

They get bound to a person, but then that person has to give their heart away, so they don't stay as a couple.

 

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Wow I'm already late to the party and this is the first one I'm looking at.

As I go:

pg 1. The idea of vampires giving their hearts away to people who need them is really cool. The fact that the story leads off with this is a really good move as well, since I'm immediately invested. My main question here is why are the vampires doing it? Why not just lock the heart away in a vault where it can never be staked? Is it out of the goodness of their hearts or is something else going on?

pg 2. I'd like to get an idea of the soulmate thing even sooner. I assumed the story was going to be about what happens to the heart itself from the first page, and it doesn't look that way not. 

-Doesn't turning someone give a vampire control over them (granted, all of my urban fantasy knowledge is from a ttrpg so my GM could have been making that up)? Seems really icky for a love thing. 

pg 3. Don't think we need as much explanation in the middle. I just want to get back to the scene 

pg 5. I think it's supposed to be but turning someone without consent for the purpose of starting a family seems... really bad. Is D aware of this?

pg 6. The fact that he's a grad student and isn't so much of a mess that he can present himself reasonably on a date is a good sign. ;) Btw I'm doing this critique in lab right now after 6 while my PCR is running. 

pg 7. Can I say that not relating to people talking about romance is a whole mood and a half? Speaking of which is she into B at all? Right now being with him feels more like a physical obligation to her than her being interested in him, if that makes sense. 

pg 8. So she tells him about being a vampire? About him being her heart? I'm not sure and his reaction is a little odd if it is something like that. I think it's supposed to be but yeah I need a bit more to understand what's going on here. 

-yeah I thought it seems like she wasn't really drawn to him. But wasn't she the first time she met him, or was it a different sort of feeling?

pg 9. What is the way of life that eludes her? Romance? As someone who's aro I can say I've never felt resentment towards alloromantic people and the reaction feels a bit odd to me, but it's not like my experiences are universal so maybe it's fine. For me it was more "what's wrong with me? Why can't I fit in?" and "Why did we build the world this way so that people who don't fall in love end up lonely?"

pg 10. The dad is giving off major creeper vibes to me. Is he supposed to? If he's saying to turn B without consent that's really bad, and if he's saying to do it with consent that needs to be part of the talk. 

pg 12. Okay very glad that D is getting consent. The fact that B seems totally chill with it is odd to me. Should it be? Is D picking up anything weird about him?

pg 13. Boy this leaves me with a really bad feeling. D seems like she's going to be miserable going forward (though Idk if I'm projecting my own experiences onto this).

On 5/3/2021 at 8:14 AM, leapfrog said:

In general, I'd like some opinions on general flow and consistency (does everything make sense/fit together?), and on the ending and whether or not the story feels complete. Some thoughts on the characters would also be great -- does the dialogue feel natural or do the characters' voices sound distinct? Do you like them? This is a short story I've got to hand in soon, so I'm open to just about any critique!

Flow is good, though the time does jump rather quickly at the start. Still, I don't want to linger before the meat of the story for too long so maybe it's for the best. Maybe we could use a little blurb about what she's been up to for the tenish years in between childhood and work? 

Ending is... it just makes me feel down, honestly. And not in a satisfying way. It doesn't seem happy for anyone involved. I also didn't think it resolved much. B is static throughout the story which I think is fine but the fact that D never really challenges this thing that's tearing her apart makes it feel like it stalls for me. There's not really any motion in her story when I think there needs to be. Also, while I don't subscribe by the "it's always bad when queers have sad endings" that some people do (yes I spend too much time on tumblr), I feel like there needs to be some glimmer of hope. 

Characters: dad gives me total creeper vibes. The fact that he's so insistent that D bring B into the family is bad, and the fact that he's not clear about making it consensual for the first 12 pages is worse. D herself is good with a few things I found odd that I noted in the LBLs. Also I think we might get a clearer idea of what D does want in addition to what she doesn't. Aro people can still have partners and form relationships, it just comes from a different emotional place (sorry if you already know this but a lot of this stuff was a surprise to me so I want to make sure we're on the same page). And yeah, some of us don't do that, but some alloromantic people don't want to be bound by a single partner or partners at all either. Point being that D being aro is in itself not compelling; we need to know what replaces those romantic feelings for her. B is... he really strikes me as odd, and it made me wonder if he was in control at all of what he was doing. The fact that he was so eager about things he should at least take a minute to process makes me agree with some others in saying that it felt like he was brainwashed. 

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14 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 9. What is the way of life that eludes her? Romance? As someone who's aro I can say I've never felt resentment towards alloromantic people and the reaction feels a bit odd to me, but it's not like my experiences are universal so maybe it's fine. For me it was more "what's wrong with me? Why can't I fit in?" and "Why did we build the world this way so that people who don't fall in love end up lonely?"

lol yeah me neither (unless you count annoyance maybe? though that was always more at specific people than alloromantic people in general) but I didn't really want D to go down the "what's wrong with me?" route

 

14 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Ending is... it just makes me feel down, honestly. And not in a satisfying way. It doesn't seem happy for anyone involved. I also didn't think it resolved much. B is static throughout the story which I think is fine but the fact that D never really challenges this thing that's tearing her apart makes it feel like it stalls for me. There's not really any motion in her story when I think there needs to be. Also, while I don't subscribe by the "it's always bad when queers have sad endings" that some people do (yes I spend too much time on tumblr), I feel like there needs to be some glimmer of hope. 

Characters: dad gives me total creeper vibes. The fact that he's so insistent that D bring B into the family is bad, and the fact that he's not clear about making it consensual for the first 12 pages is worse. D herself is good with a few things I found odd that I noted in the LBLs. Also I think we might get a clearer idea of what D does want in addition to what she doesn't. Aro people can still have partners and form relationships, it just comes from a different emotional place (sorry if you already know this but a lot of this stuff was a surprise to me so I want to make sure we're on the same page). And yeah, some of us don't do that, but some alloromantic people don't want to be bound by a single partner or partners at all either. Point being that D being aro is in itself not compelling; we need to know what replaces those romantic feelings for her. B is... he really strikes me as odd, and it made me wonder if he was in control at all of what he was doing. The fact that he was so eager about things he should at least take a minute to process makes me agree with some others in saying that it felt like he was brainwashed. 

Good points, thank you! Re: the ending, do you think it'd help if D liked B more as a person? Like not romantically, but if I showed that they got along more (rather than just mentioning it). I mean, it's supposed to be sad or uncomfortable, because she is giving into what her father/society expects of her, but I was also trying to go for the angle of D trying to find a compromise between what's important to her

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1 hour ago, leapfrog said:

lol yeah me neither (unless you count annoyance maybe? though that was always more at specific people than alloromantic people in general) but I didn't really want D to go down the "what's wrong with me?" route

Her going "what's wrong with me?" is an easy way to build good conflict, but it's not the only one. I think in a society that sees romance as normal the anger towards the normal people doesn't make sense to me without additional context since you don't really get mad at people for being normal for the most part unless it fits into the "what's wrong with me? Why can they do X but I can't?" type of thing. If you want to keep the anger I think anger at the world makes more sense, personally. Or, again, adding more context as to why she's annoyed at alloromantic people in general. 

1 hour ago, leapfrog said:

Good points, thank you! Re: the ending, do you think it'd help if D liked B more as a person? Like not romantically, but if I showed that they got along more (rather than just mentioning it). I mean, it's supposed to be sad or uncomfortable, because she is giving into what her father/society expects of her, but I was also trying to go for the angle of D trying to find a compromise between what's important to her

I think I need to know what she actually wants her life to look like, which is what I was trying to get at when I said her being aro is not compelling on its own. Imo the interesting part of aro characters (and for me, the aro experience) is not that they don't feel romance, but what they replace that with. Does she want to be with B, just not in a romantic way? Does she want to live with a group of friends? Does she want to a hermit in the woods? Establishing this makes the compromise you're going for clearer. And if she doesn't know what she wants... well, that's a whole separate conflict/arc in itself that could use some more exploration. 

Also, for this to be a healthy relationship she should really tell B about her (lack of romantic) feelings. And if it's not supposed to be healthy, I think I need to see more of the pressure on her to not bring it up. Right now the pressure is on her to bring B into the family, which is not the same as pressure to be in a romantic relationship with him. I could see a perfectly happy ending where D stays with B in a non-romantic way and they raise a family together, but it feels like D isn't even considering that as an option. Again, this ties into the point above. If that's not the life D wants, we need to know that. As I'm guessing you know from your experience, being aromantic doesn't mean not wanting to be close to people. 

Another thing that might help to establish is D's sexuality, which I couldn't get a good read on. I couldn't tell if she was attracted to him or if the pull of the heart was something else entirely. Maybe it doesn't matter, but I was curious.

This kind of stuff is tricky to write out because there's not a lot of good reference material, and I'm happy to chat about any of the romantic orientation/attraction stuff. :) Though there not being a good list of established aro work (to my knowledge at least) means I'm also not sure how widespread my opinions about it are. 

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Oh and I hope my comments about being aro didn't come off as trying to negate your experiences. For my first comments I wasn't sure if you were aro or not and a lot of readers might be in that position too so I wanted to give my blunt thoughts about it. And me offering to chat is offering to compare experiences and find stuff that makes sense to both of us, not me saying my experiences are more legit than yours. 

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