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Ace of Hearts

5/3/21 - Ace of Hearts - A Bond of Wildflowers Ch 5 (L) (4348 words)

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Posted (edited)

L for mild swearing. 

 
I've been spending the last couple of weeks juggling different projects so I still need to finish tweaking Ch. 4, but this chapter has a bit of a different focus so I don't think it matters all too much. For this one, I'm just curious about the usual questions plus one more:
 
1. Points of engagement/non-engagement?
2. How do you feel about the characters and their actions?
3. Do the exchanges between N and W read as genuine romantic interest? I am aromantic so I wanted to check in about that. 
 
Thanks for the time and effort you put into making this story stronger! :)
Edited by Ace of Hearts
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I am pretty terrible at judging genuine romantic interest, so you might not want to take my opinion on that too seriously :D

As I read:

p1 - I don't think you have to start the chapter with what happens immediately after the end of the last chapter. You can take advantage of the chapter break to jump a little bit forward in time, not have to rehash what just happened with E, and get straight to whatever's going to go down in this chapter.

p1 - This might be a logic nit pick, but if W is curious about N, then why is asking A about it her go-to? It seems pretty clear that A doesn't know any more than what's already general knowledge in the school about N.

p1 - ' "Please, don't do this. ' Missing a " mark

p2 - I feel W's pain re: large groups and friends who don't get it

p2 - ' encouraging of the garbage I churn out while plays coy about the compliments' grammar?

p4-6 - N is a massive sweetheart, but I wouldn't call these vibes romantic, exactly.

p7 - Top of page 7 is where I pick up on the romance aspect, if only because the eyes stuff is a huge flag.

Bottom of page 7 - yeah, N definitely lives with elves or fairies or something

p8 - 'I'll talk with A and recount what she saw' - I think 'recount' is the wrong word here

p8-9 - I like that the conflict is clear here. W has trust issues and limited social skills. N also has limited social skills and doesn't understand what W's problem is. I am rooting for both of them.

p9 - I LOVE the detail that A assumes a call from W means it's an emergency :D

p10 - 'witnessed him cheating' sounds like awkwardly formal phrasing. 'Caught him cheating' would be less weird.

p10-11 - so the whole 'N was caught cheating' thing all spun out of him going into the woods and coming out with glitter on him? And A and B just jumped to conclusions? Wow is A the bad guy here. And B, depending on what her whole deal is.

p12 - you tell her, W!!!!

p12 - E and B sound like they have some serious issues in their relationship that they need to sort out.

p13 - I love how N answers the phone.

 

Overall, I thought this was a very good chapter.

I'm glad that W has engaged brain and sorted out the cheating misunderstanding. The more I see of N, the more I like him, especially since the main reason to be suspicious of him has been thoroughly shown for what it is (nonsense popularity drama). I wasn't a huge fan of A to begin with, but she has fallen even lower in my estimation (in a good way, assuming we're not supposed to like what was revealed about her in this chapter). I like that W put their friendship on pause; that seems both in character and very sensible for her.

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1 (and sort of 2 as well). I was pretty well engaged throughout.  I think some of the conversations could use some trimming and smoothing (or, in this case, un-smoothing, to add in some of the social awkwardness and emotion to fit a high school romance), but I was glad to see W confront N about what was going on and to see her put her foot down in regard to A’s social scheming. I like the changes in character dynamics that those conversations bring about and think the progress W is making in regard to figuring out her emotions and feelings about all involved (N and E are both nicer and more trustworthy than we thought.  A is…not.) is great.

3. Some parts definitely do, and others are on the right track, but it could use a little more work.  I included my thoughts on specific sections of the conversations below.

Pg 1:

On one hand I don’t think we need the transition away from the beach party.  But I do like the observations about the changes and the “growing up” she sees from E.  I wonder if adding that aspect into her conversation with E at the beach would give this chapter a cleaner opening jumping right into moving forward?

I like the conversation between W and A going into page 2, but think it might go on longer than it needs to.  I think it does a good job in stressing the disconnect between their personalities, where A just doesn’t even seem to really understand W’s introverted tendencies. I get the sense that they aren’t as close as they used to be and have sort of grown in different directions and don’t really know how to deal with it. And while I don’t think that needs to be brought in here, if you keep the observations about E’s growing and maturing at the beginning, it seems like it might be a fitting place for W to acknowledge some of that. Especially since she is reaching the point of being fed up with A's social manipulations.

Pg 2:

I’m confused about what the final paragraph here is trying to say.  Just some typos/misplaced words.

Pg 3:

I like that this conversation takes place in a setting that shows W’s strengths, where usually she seems off-balance in social situations.  Even if it’s mostly of a reason to have them run into each other. It makes sense for her to be more comfortable talking to him “on her ground” than out somewhere else.

In regard to romance here, I do think there could be a little more emphasis on W being a little nervous about him suddenly appearing, if she’s been thinking about him a lot but hasn’t quite figured out what she feels about him.  Even if it’s just a brief moment of nervous embarrassment before burying herself in comfortable math explanations to avoid the things she is having trouble processing.

Also, it says “prom” here, but I thought it had been homecoming.

Pg 4/5:

Once N compliments W here, it makes sense for her to get pulled back out of being math-focused and getting a little more nervous and embarrassed again.  Though I might suggest adding a line stressing that she doesn’t know what to make of him complimenting her.  It’s implied to some extent, but mentioning that she’s only really used to compliments from E and her parents could suggest general self-conscious nervousness instead of attraction-specific nervousness.  

The “it’s kind of awkward to say.”/ “no pressure, then” exchange seems a little out of place here.  Both because I don’t think of N as finding too many things awkward to say and because “But I am curious,” seems like it contradicts the “no pressure” comment.  It flow a little more smoothly to cut those two lines.

And I had a similar thought with “Are you saying…?”/ “What do you think…?”  Jumping straight to “You didn’t ask anyone else out?” and internalizing her confusion would probably convey her shock better.  Through this whole section, I think the surprise and confusion on both sides would be conveyed better by shortening some of their sentences.  The longer, more well-thought out sentences seem too calm and collected for the nervousness and tension I’d expect between them while they’re trying to get on the same page.  I’d expect a little more uncomfortable blurting out of thoughts than carefully precise sentences.

Pg 7:

“If you’re curious, I didn’t do it”  He seems far less concerned about what she thinks than I’d expect if he likes her. 

Pg 8:

Having her actually say “It’s still hard to believe nobody lies where you’re from” seems a little awkward. I think it would work to have her jump straight to “that’s not the point” or internalize some sort of confused disbelief instead of saying it.

“go through my Taekwondo…” this is the mindset I would have expected above when she first sees N as well.  The sort of “I don’t know how to handle emotions about boys, but I do understand math.”

Pg 9:

“…I’m amazed anyone at all is able to make it through.”  Hah.  Yeah.  I’m with ya, W. Dumb emotions. Making life difficult for perfectly practical people.

The urgency in her call with A here does a much better job of conveying her emotions/distraction/etc. than her conversation with N before.  There’s probably more frustration and sass here due to their history (and less internalizing/overthinking what a boy might be thinking) but I think the shorter sentences/blunter responses/etc. would be beneficial above as well to show W’s emotion in her conversation with N.

Pg 10:

“I could go through why the lack of stigma…” Hah. This response is pretty much exactly the sort of thing I’d expect from her.

“…beep of the call dropping.” Ugh. Relatable.

I don’t think W needs to chime in to comment and prompt A to continue quite as much as she does.

Pg 11:

“…convinced myself that E and N were going to leave if I trusted them…” I’m not sure what she’s saying here. If she trusted them with what?

Pg 12:

“cool off steam” should be either “cool off” or “blow off steam” I believe.

“accidentally called him and was too scared to try it again.” Hah. Also relatable.  Dumb phones.

I feel like W’s voice at the beginning of her call with E doesn’t quite fit what we usually see from her.

“…ran out of patience…” and “…before anxiety eats me alive.” Chalk up two more on the relatable tally.

Pg 13

Goofy smile at the beginning of the call with N is good on the romantic interest front.  Would also expect some other physical nervous response.  Both from the romantic interest front and the apologizing for making rude assumptions about people front.  Fidgeting, sweating, heart racing. Something along those lines.

Pg 14:

“Aren’t you angry?” I’d expect him to at least be irritated, if only because it damaged W’s opinion of him. Even if he is aggressively understanding of A’s rumors.

“Anything else you want to talk about” seems almost like passive-aggressive prompting to explain some other mysterious conflict between them.  I think the transition between his relief and her asking him to homecoming could be a little smoother from a verbal standpoint.

And I think the shift from nervousness about asking to his nervous response to both of them talking calmly and rationally is a little too sudden.  I’d expect to see more of that nervous fidgeting/bluntness/etc. here if they’re both nervous and shy and excited about the dance. 

“I’m looking forward to it” doesn’t seem all that formal, but I do like the idea of the rational side of her brain kicking in to blurt out some overly formal closing to the conversation then continuing with the overthinking of it on 15.

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Overall

While yes, the romance is apparent, I think you have two chapters here. There are two arcs happening, one with N and one with A. if you break them apart, trim the excessive dialogue, stick in flower plot relevance, and then end about a page early on that last chapter, I think you'd have two strong installments that keep reader engagement.

I'll add that I'm still struggling with out MC. She's deeply unlikable and seems to create more drama, then complain about it. I know she explains why she thinks the way she does but she keeps engaging in drama and gossip. I'd think that if she hated it that much she'd just...not engage (also...Willow uses she/her, right? Or no? I've forgotten. Sorry!)

 

As I go

- not a strong opening line. It doesn't make me interested in the chapter or compel me to read further

- pg 2: of all the characters in this, our MC is definitely the most passive aggressive. Also, two pages in and there doesn't appear to be a chapter arc

- pg 3: ah, so N is a flower? Is that what we are getting out of this chapter? If so I think the flower needs to be more present and really driving the narrative. Right now our MC's bitterness is all that is driving things and I find her generally unlikable, which would be fine if her other 'sliders' were higher

- pg 5: is the pending dance homecoming, or prom? I'm confused

- pg 6: Is he telling the truth <-- he's only ever told the truth. Why would she doubt him? I don't understand why she is so prickly around absolutely everyone. Everyone seems genuinely nice to her and she responds to coldly, even paranoid. It almost makes me think the arc is the MC eventually coming to some self realization about how she acts, more than anything else

- pg 8: this conversation is going on too long. I want more beef to the plot movement. Just say yes or no to the invite!

- pg 8: All this social maneuvering is exhausting. This is why I don’t trust people <-- thus far it seems like our MC makes up most of it in her head

- pg 8: but I don’t know what I did wrong <-- I don't know what he did wrong, either

- pg 11: I think the convo with N and then the realization with A are two different chapters. there are two partial arcs here and no full one. I think separating them out and adding in flower plot will make them both more robust

- pg 14: I'd suggest ending the chapter on him saying yes to homecoming. We don't need anything after it and it would make the arc more powerful

 

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Posted (edited)

On 5/3/2021 at 8:02 AM, Ace of Hearts said:

1. Points of engagement/non-engagement?

2. How do you feel about the characters and their actions?
3. Do the exchanges between N and W read as genuine romantic interest? I am aromantic so I wanted to check in about that.

1. The scene where W is tutoring N felt off to me. I think it was the dialogue and that I couldn't get a firm grasp on how they were saying things. It just felt a bit robotic to me. i did like the second half with all the phone calls: W standing up to A, W talking with E, and N being cute on the phone. But uh, yeah, you could definitely tighten up the dialogue and cut some things to make for a great chapter :)

2. This might be easier if I list them...

A: I soooort of get where she is coming from, she wants more friends but doesn't want to be in a situation where she has to choose between W and the others. Her actions feel in character because she has been concerned about popularity and boys since the beginning. I don't necessarily like her or dislike her. She seems shady for sure. I mean, I probably wouldn't want her as a friend either, but i don't have strong feelings/opinions about her.

E: I love him. he seems very down to earth and calm. But he and B seem to have a toxic relationship for sure. I don't know why they're together, (i expect we'll get more hints soon hopefully) and if you have to change someone's name in your phone....then yikes.

N: I also love him. cute little woodland fairy that he is. he's spunky and different and i love it.

W: Ah, W. Our problem child. There are a lot of things that are relatable with our MC, but there are also a lot of things that frustrate me. She definitely seems to be the source of her own drama at times but hopefully this is all part of her arc.

3. W seems like she has a wall up. I don't get major romantic vibes from her towards N. They are there, they're just subtle (most of the time). I do get the romantic vibes from N but I sometimes find myself asking the same thing W is asking: why her? I feel like W hasn't been the nicest to N so I wonder what draws him to her. This could just be WRS because I cant remember how all of they're interactions have gone. She honestly seems to like E more, which is understandable considering they dated.

as i go:

pg 1

“My brain is out to get him no matter what” no leave him alone >:(

pg 2

-“Which is overwhelming to me” i get where she is coming from, it’s very relatable, but i'm reading everything she says in a sassy tone. She’s coming off aggressive in my head.

-“If im coming across as passive-aggressive” whelp lol i didn’t see this till now. Yes, W, yes you are.

pg 3

“Like i said” man, is this what I sound like? It sure is frustrating. relatable, but frustrating.

World of equations”

pg 4

“parent you met

pg 5

-homecoming? Or prom?

“Are you saying what i think you’re saying?” ehhhh this feels a bit on the cheesy side

pg 6

-”i have another question about that” why not just ask instead of saying you have a question

-”that wasn’t clear?” dialogue feels a bit unnatural on this page 

“why am i surprised when” yeah, why?

“Sorry im like this” me too

pg 7

"I assume you know what people are saying" see, she just sounds so unsympathetic. if someone said this to me i would think they are so rude.

“Im going to need you to be” this sounds formal

“Do i need to tell you?” the sass never ends

pg 8

“You dont... trust me?” he’s like a little puppy

pg 12/13

“I’ve decided i dont give a dam” dang girl, get it

-dang E is so cute

-and so is N :,)

“Wait… what does she have against” okay this made me laugh

pg 14

“I always have time for friends” i need me a friend like him

-Okay her asking him so suddenly like that was cute, and his response was also cute. I am worried that she did it out of spite for A and B tho.

pg 15

“Maybe i could give him a pat on the shoulder” :lol: you’re really getting me in the second half.

“Later, gator” I love him :,)

Edited by karamel
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I'm in agreement with the other that the beginning needs to be trimmed down a bit. The whole thing about where to sit at lunch didn't really hold my interest.

I'm also liking N a lot more after this, and liking W a lot less. W seems to be creating problems, like @kais says.

The romance reads pretty well, aside from a few strange things I noted below. N is definitely sweet and I'm glad W finally goes with him.

So overall, good chapter, but I think it can be cut down quite a bit. 

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: "It’s sad to think of him growing up without me..."
--something weird going on in this sentence.

pg 1/2: This goes on a bit with deciding about where to sit. It's not really drawing me in because it's an extension of the stuff from last chapter. I'm ready to get on to new stuff.

pg 3: "peer tutoring period"
--did we know about this before?

pg 5: "I don’t know why that surprises me so much. He did spend a lot of time on that poster."
--yeah, I thought that was pretty obvious and not surprising at all.

pg 5: “That you didn’t ask anyone else out.”
--do people generally ask a lot of different people to a dance? I feel pretty disconnected from high school, so maybe that's a thing.

pg 6: "There are literally over a thousand people at this school and he doesn’t want to dance with anyone except me?"
--Isn't that specifically what dating is about? Choosing a particular person?

pg 7: "They’re both assertively understanding in a way that makes me feel inferior and guilty,"
--ugh. This actually makes me dislike W even more.

pg 7: "You people say things that aren’t true. I always forget.”
--A nice clue in the mystery of N.

pg 8: "All this social maneuvering is exhausting."
--N has been doing the least social maneuvering of anyone.

pg 9: "being unable to experience romance or attraction"
--is this the right way to say this? I'm not sure, as I don't have experience with this.  "Unable" just seems rather final.

pg 11: "I feel bad for being the one to kick it off"
--I am not mostly convinced these are all pretty terrible people except for N.

pg 14: “Glitter is gendered like that?"
--Lol. I'm really wondering what he's doing will all this glitter now.

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This week is finals week, which means I am super busy (was still grading stuff at 11 p.m. last night), so I read this, but I didn't make any line by line comments. 

I have mixed feelings in terms of the overall structure and pacing. 

Personally, I was engaged and am enjoying the gradual reveals and loved some of the little details that made it relatable, like W really not liking phone calls. At times, some of the dialogue felt a little off, but at that point I was reading on my phone while waiting for my dog at the vet, so I did not actually mark which parts. 

I love W, E, and N and still find W to be extremely relatable. I like her more and more each chapter. Her thought process and decisions seem realistic to me and work well with the plot, sometimes moving forward, sometimes overcomplicating things (which I do all the time, lol). Potential pacing issues aside, I like W enough to just keep reading anyway.

The other girls all seem very annoying and a little cliche. 

However, when I stop thinking subjectively about what I like and start thinking more objectively, I feel like at his point, there is a major plot thread missing. The A plot is the romance and that seems to moving along at an okay pace. But where is the B plot? The romance can be the main thing, but I feel like there should be something else happening. Something the W is actively working towards that will push her and N together. I thought investigating the flowers was going to be it, but that seems to have fallen away. 

I also feel like by this point in the story, most readers would be wanting more than just little hints about the paranormal side to it, unless this is more fabulism and there are only going to be tiny bits of magic scattered throughout, but then it would need to be labeled as that, not paranormal romance. You don't have to go and reveal everything, but I also feel like there needs to be more. 

On 5/3/2021 at 11:02 AM, Ace of Hearts said:
3. Do the exchanges between N and W read as genuine romantic interest? I am aromantic so I wanted to check in about that. 
 

I think so? There seemed to be the same kind of teenage pining that I see in most of the YA I read.

 

 

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On 5/4/2021 at 2:47 PM, kais said:

While yes, the romance is apparent, I think you have two chapters here. There are two arcs happening, one with N and one with A. if you break them apart, trim the excessive dialogue, stick in flower plot relevance, and then end about a page early on that last chapter, I think you'd have two strong installments that keep reader engagement.

 

This I strongly agree with this.

On 5/4/2021 at 2:47 PM, kais said:

I'll add that I'm still struggling with out MC. She's deeply unlikable and seems to create more drama, then complain about it. I know she explains why she thinks the way she does but she keeps engaging in drama and gossip. I'd think that if she hated it that much she'd just...not engage (also...Willow uses she/her, right? Or no? I've forgotten. Sorry!)

 

Though I have a completely opposite reaction to W. I find W extremely relatable and likeable. 

I think her getting tangled in the drama and complaining about is a very teenage thing. Or at least it is based on what I remember from middle school and high school. To me it seems to fit the character. 

9 hours ago, Mandamon said:

I'm also liking N a lot more after this, and liking W a lot less. W seems to be creating problems, like @kais says.

 

I also like N. I also like W unintentionally creating problems for herself. 

18 hours ago, karamel said:

I think it was the dialogue and that I couldn't get a firm grasp on how they were saying things. It just felt a bit robotic to me

Maybe this is the one I was thinking of when I said something felt off about the  dialogue but couldn't remember where. 

On 5/3/2021 at 0:43 PM, RedBlue said:

I wasn't a huge fan of A to begin with, but she has fallen even lower in my estimation (in a good way, assuming we're not supposed to like what was revealed about her in this chapter).

Agree

On 5/3/2021 at 0:43 PM, RedBlue said:

I like that W put their friendship on pause; that seems both in character and very sensible for her.

I also liked this. A is getting toxic and it seems healthy to step away from that. 

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