C_Vallion

5.10.2021- C_Vallion - Price of Peace: Chapter 3 RevA - 4001 Words

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Hello, All!

Thanks for all of your feedback on Chapter 2.  Based on everyone’s thoughts there, I will be planning to combine that chapter with this one when I next revise this section.  

Content warning: mental health conditions (Reference to PTSD, depiction of panic attack). Not graphic, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to mention.

Beyond general thoughts, the main things I’m looking for on this one are

  1. Whether or not this accomplishes some of the things that people were noticing in Chapter 2 in regard to various characters’ motivations.  Al’s jumping in to help (does it seem like combining 2 and 3 would clarify his goals and motivations). The healer trying to put him to sleep. 
  2. How do the political details come across? Clear enough? Too much info dump? Any other thoughts?
  3. Any spots where things lag or go on too long?

Thanks so much!

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As I read:

p1-3 - Al's emotional state seems to have changed a lot since last chapter. Before, he was all gung-ho take-charge damn-the-consequences. Now, he's very nervous. Is there something particularly intimidating about the king that's causing this change? Or did the adrenaline wear off? If Al is going to be acting different, I need a clearer idea of why and what changed.

p4 - This explanation of the healer's plan is still confusing. I understand why they want to get rid of him. Surely kicking Al out of the room the normal way is a better alternative than tricking him with a sleeping spell? Or they could have the guards arrest him (given that he does look very suspicious, given the info they're working with).

p5 - Why are they having this conversation in front of Al? It seems they're getting into family secrets territory.

p8 - I'm a bit confused about what is and isn't allowed under these magic laws. Does use of a sp-stone count as casting a spell? If fire and sleep are all that's allowed, why are the healers allowed to use the spells that accelerate healing?

p9 - Seems like Al is having a panic attack. This explains what was going on at the beginning of the chapter, but I think it needs to be clearer earlier what's going on so it doesn't seem like character inconsistency.

p10 - Sounds like the poison was definitely on the gambeson. That tracks.

 

Generally - emotionally, this chapter felt a bit flat to me. There was a lot of exposition about the magic laws, Is-n and his mage situation, and Al's backstory. The king's decision to break the laws to save his daughter didn't have the impact I thought it should have. 

I think part of the problem is that I'm not invested in the question of whether the king is a hypocrite or not. I don't know what repercussions this decision might have - they seem like silly laws that are better thrown out than kept. Also, Al is more bothered by the poisoning itself than by the king's decision.

Here's a suggestion you can feel free to completely ignore if I'm off base: right now, the arc of the chapter is 'the king can do an illegal thing to save his daughter, maybe he will and maybe he won't - update: he did the thing'. If the arc were more like 'the king can't possibly save his daughter because doing so would require this illegal thing, and he couldn't possibly do that - wait, he's doing the thing??' that arc would feel like progression has been made and be more compelling.

 

Answers to your questions:

1) My understanding of the characters' motivations are pretty much unchanged from last time. Al saves the poisoned princess because that's what any decent person would do. The healer was trying to put Al to sleep, but I'm still not convinced on the logic behind that. Al's long-term goals are to achieve political stability. I think the backstory that he lost his family to political nonsense gives him some motivation for wanting political stability, which is good, but the link between these things could be made clearer in the text. (I don't think that necessarily has to be in chapters 2&3, though, since the immediate poison situation needs to be front and centre.)

2) Too much info dump on the politics, both the magic laws and Al's family's situation. If you don't mind hearing another suggestion that may or may not be way off base: flashback to what happened with Al's father? That could explain the magic laws and the backstory in a more organic way.

3) As I said in my general thoughts the chapter lacked a certain oomph. The exposition bits were the most obvious problem bits, though.

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  1. Whether or not this accomplishes some of the things that people were noticing in Chapter 2 in regard to various characters’ motivations.  Al’s jumping in to help (does it seem like combining 2 and 3 would clarify his goals and motivations). The healer trying to put him to sleep. Umm I don't think my opinion changed in any big manner. It does seem like Al cares a lot more about the princess, specifically, than I had previously assumed. 
  2. I'm gonna be honest I'm lost on most of the names (I think in the politics section we got a bunch of new ones, and I'm normally pretty bad with character names lol) and Al's parents' backstory I didn't quite get (they died... something to do with being mages?) but on the surface level it was OK to follow along -- just if you asked me serious questions, though, idk if I'd be able to answer that well lol. The law restricting mage use seems pretty straightforward, and that seemed to be the focus of the chapter.
  3. Hmm it did feel a bit long towards the end, but I'm not quite sure how or where you'd cut it down. 

I'd agree with the prev. comment about lacking oomph -- it did feel a bit like a transitory chapter imo. I think maybe you could make the reason why Al is so shaken clearer too? I'm guessing it has to do with the being scared of the king, but I'm not sure if that's right. 

pg 2 - I'm a little confused as to why the king seems to hate Al so much? Or why he's being so quiet about it if he is

pg 4 - the explanation for why the healer wanted him out (grief) makes sense, I'd agree with not being sure why the sleeping spell was necessary tho. Also originally thought the bro & the cousin (?) from last chapters were the same -- the 'invalid' thing seems kinda familiar? Was R described with something along those lines too? 

pg 4 - requesting the bro & his healer -> i mean imo asking for both makes sense? one healer cant do it? ok lets get another. and if your sibling is like injured letting you know is nice right lol. also is the current healer not a royal one? I might've missed/forgotten that, but the phrasing threw me off a bit. 

""Your Grace." She'd" ... was Al saying that?

pg 7 "twisted his stomach": very love interest vibes here lol. like he doesn't really know the princess, right

pg 8 - so I thought the bro was kept by the borders bc he was an 'invalid'? it sounds like talking to him/bringing him to heal the princess would be super easy, but he'd be far away right? Also if the bro is far, then his healer would presumably be with the bro and not in the palace...? also sounds like Al's used to having panic attacks

pg 9 - T sounds like a nice guy. I like him. 

pg ~11-13 - here was where i started getting lost w the names lol (also the king has a brother?) 

 

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Overall

I think most of this chapter could be cut or reworked. If you're going to put it with the previous chapter, that would be awesome. If you want it to stand alone then I think it needs a rewrite to be more active, with A interacting with the plot and the plot moving forward. Well written as always, but I think this chapter gets back into the old format of talking heads, instead of plot and character interaction. 

 

As I go

- I think the first sentence would pack more of a punch if it was active instead of passive

She is in here <-- this might actually be a better place to start the chapter

- I think most of page 2 could be cut. Move right into the king talking to keep the page from sagging

- pg 4: these four pages could be a page, easily. We don't need the verbal recap either, because we were 'present' when the events happened

- pg 5: this is where I first engage with the chapter--the idea of illicit spellstone use

- pg 6 could be cut I think. And the first part of pg 7. You have teased us with the spellstones, but they are still just talking and rehashing. You might consider making this chapter more active by having A come back into the infirmary with the king's brother already using said stones, and then have reactions from there

- pg 10: I'm not sure what the point is to having A being the POV. He isn't engaging the plot at all through here

- 10-13: lots of talking through here that is hard not to skim. I'm anxious for plot movement and thus far feel like I'm being teased with plot movement but no actual forward motions are happening

- the last page isn't a strong end for me because we knew from the start they were going to send for the mage

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On 5/10/2021 at 11:06 AM, RedBlue said:

p9 - Seems like Al is having a panic attack. This explains what was going on at the beginning of the chapter, but I think it needs to be clearer earlier what's going on so it doesn't seem like character inconsistency.

On 5/11/2021 at 5:20 PM, leapfrog said:

pg 7 "twisted his stomach": very love interest vibes here lol. like he doesn't really know the princess, right

Yeah. I think by combining the two chapters together it will be easier to clarify that most of his motivation is restless anxiety related and trying to avoid circumstances that are going to trigger a panic attack related than love interest related.  With the separate chapters,  it seemed like making the anxiety issues more prevalent in chapter 2 would have been more problematic since it doesn't build toward anything specific until chapter 3.  But I hadn't considered how strongly the alternative option was "wow. He's weirdly obsessed with her well-being for not actually knowing her"   I'm hoping condensing it into one chapter can make it easier to bring the PTSD/anxiety troubles in earlier without it feeling like it's going on too long.

On 5/10/2021 at 11:06 AM, RedBlue said:

I'm a bit confused about what is and isn't allowed under these magic laws. Does use of a sp-stone count as casting a spell? If fire and sleep are all that's allowed, why are the healers allowed to use the spells that accelerate healing?

Yeah. I hadn't realized that I had failed to make that distinction in this round of revisions. Spellstones are legal and "safe."  Actively cast spells are a different animal, and can be prone to going wrong in nasty ways but I haven't yet found a way to get that information in early on.  It was touched on a bit in the prologue (which also detailed what happened to Al's parents), and is also delved into more in Part 2, specifically in regard to why the laws actually make sense when this early on it mostly just seems like they're keeping us from using healing magic. 

The old version of the prologue needs a ton of reworking before it actually conveys the things it's supposed to, and submitting through Part 1 will hopefully help me figure out what should be included there (Al's parents' deaths, the dangers of "real" magic, and briefly stating "spellstones are legal. This other magic that got these people killed is not" are the main things I've thought need to be there) or what I might be able to bring in elsewhere to potentially skip the prologue altogether. Some of that exposition got put in here, but there might be too much of it now.

On 5/10/2021 at 11:06 AM, RedBlue said:

I think part of the problem is that I'm not invested in the question of whether the king is a hypocrite or not. I don't know what repercussions this decision might have - they seem like silly laws that are better thrown out than kept. Also, Al is more bothered by the poisoning itself than by the king's decision.

On 5/12/2021 at 0:46 AM, kais said:

pg 10: I'm not sure what the point is to having A being the POV. He isn't engaging the plot at all through here

I think both of these are a problem in my framing of what the reader should be paying attention to.  As is often my problem. If you have any thoughts on how to better achieve what I'm going for or if what I'm going for just seems like a bad idea, they'd be greatly appreciated. 

Al's plotline should be focusing on his creating stability for the duchy. And on pretty much day 1 of that effort, his own personal/mental stability rug is sort of pulled out from under him.  He's far more concerned about the poisoning because it triggers the fears and anxieties he's spent a decade trying to work through—if she dies and he could have prevented it, how far is it going to knock him back into his own trauma history?— just as he's at a vital point in trying to achieve his goals (stability for the duchy).  The king's potential hypocrisy is present, and relevant, but more because it's driving home the point that he doesn't know what "stability" means here.  Is it political order (seems like the right answer by the book.) or avoiding an innocent, tragic death (which his own history is telling him is the more important thing).   

Ultimately the goals and motivations of the main protagonists are all tied pretty closely together, which makes it really tricky not to conflate aspects of them that I need to make sure I keep separate.  So maybe I need to downplay the question of the king's potential hypocrisy here, but then we lose the contrast of how Al feels about the king's potential hypocrisy vs. how the family feels about it, which we get in the next chapter, and I'm trying to figure out how to separate those things out without repeating details we already know.  

On 5/12/2021 at 0:46 AM, kais said:

10-13: lots of talking through here that is hard not to skim. I'm anxious for plot movement and thus far feel like I'm being teased with plot movement but no actual forward motions are happening

What are the plot movement details you feel like you're being teased with?  

On 5/11/2021 at 5:20 PM, leapfrog said:

(also the king has a brother?) 

Is-n is the king's brother, not Is-a's.  Someone else mixed that up too, though, so I apparently need to figure out what I'm saying that's giving that implication.  

On 5/12/2021 at 0:46 AM, kais said:

If you're going to put it with the previous chapter

Don't worry, I'm definitely doing that.  

Thanks, all!  Your thoughts are really helpful in zoning in on the issues I keep having.  It's been hugely helpful in figuring out how to go about fixing them. 

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19 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

With the separate chapters,  it seemed like making the anxiety issues more prevalent in chapter 2 would have been more problematic since it doesn't build toward anything specific until chapter 3.

I know you've decided to combine the two chapters, but I thought I should point out that it is totally a thing you can do to set up a thing in one chapter that won't pay off until a later chapter. The weekly reading schedule can make it seem like it's an issue to leave hanging threads at the end of a chapter, when in actuality, the problem is only caused by the reading schedule.

19 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

I think both of these are a problem in my framing of what the reader should be paying attention to.  As is often my problem. If you have any thoughts on how to better achieve what I'm going for or if what I'm going for just seems like a bad idea, they'd be greatly appreciated. 

Al's plotline should be focusing on his creating stability for the duchy. And on pretty much day 1 of that effort, his own personal/mental stability rug is sort of pulled out from under him.  He's far more concerned about the poisoning because it triggers the fears and anxieties he's spent a decade trying to work through—if she dies and he could have prevented it, how far is it going to knock him back into his own trauma history?— just as he's at a vital point in trying to achieve his goals (stability for the duchy).  The king's potential hypocrisy is present, and relevant, but more because it's driving home the point that he doesn't know what "stability" means here.  Is it political order (seems like the right answer by the book.) or avoiding an innocent, tragic death (which his own history is telling him is the more important thing). 

To risk stating the obvious: if Al's main goal is to create stability for the duchy, then that's what he needs to be focusing on and thinking about during his viewpoint. Bonus points for working it in when he's first introduced in Is's POV (I can't remember what they talked about in chapter one. I only remember that it was kind of vague and he was kind of suspicious. Possibly a weekly reading problem.)

So, for example, maybe one of the main worries Al could have when Is is nearly dying is 'oh no, she's a force for stability, if she gets assassinated then the hotheads will go to war!' or some such, rather than just 'oh no, an innocent life is being threatened!', which was my main takeaway from his behaviour in chapter 2. And his personal fears could be much more explicitly tied into his backstory.

If you want to use a moral dilemma (do we call in the illegal mage or do we let Is die?) to show how Al doesn't know the right thing to do, it would be more effective (in my opinion) if Al had to grapple with that moral dilemma himself, rather than watch the king make the decision while Al himself has no input. I don't know, plot-wise, how you would justify Al having a decision to make here, but I don't think having Al just be a spectator can get across what you're trying to get across. Alternatively, if Al's feelings about this are not an important point, you may just want to cut them.

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1 hour ago, RedBlue said:

that it is totally a thing you can do to set up a thing in one chapter that won't pay off until a later chapter.

I know :) and there are definitely things that do that (and will be incredibly frustrating with the reading schedule), but I think in this case, condensing the building anxiety and where the concern is coming from to one chapter is going to cause fewer problems with it potentially getting conflated with flat love interest vibes. 

1 hour ago, RedBlue said:

So, for example, maybe one of the main worries Al could have when Is is nearly dying

The adjustments I'm working on have him more clearly tying it into his PTSD concerns at the start of what was posted as chapter 2. There are hints of it in the submitted version, but without knowing anything about his backstory beforehand, they just seem like random concern (his not wanting to stand around and wait for the healer. His concern that this attack could just be a distraction from something bigger. His manservant's concern when he sees that Al's on edge) So I'm hoping that will get things on the right track a little better.

2 hours ago, RedBlue said:

If you want to use a moral dilemma (do we call in the illegal mage or do we let Is die?) to show how Al doesn't know the right thing to do, it would be more effective (in my opinion) if Al had to grapple with that moral dilemma himself, rather than watch the king make the decision while Al himself has no input. I don't know, plot-wise, how you would justify Al having a decision to make here, but I don't think having Al just be a spectator can get across what you're trying to get across. Alternatively, if Al's feelings about this are not an important point, you may just want to cut them.

I do think it needs to be cut back a good deal (which will hopefully help a lot of the feeling that he's just standing around watching things happen), but this is one of the things where we get the payoff later (in theory. We'll see if it works in practice).  It's important that we get some of this information here, because some of the characters are intentionally hiding things from each other in later chapters, and its important that the reader sees that some things are being brushed aside or glossed over.  But I'm still working on getting a good sense of how much information is enough to get the point across without it seeming like the focus and sidetracking everything (which it seems to currently be doing). 

All of the feedback has been really helpful in seeing how it's currently coming across so that I can make those adjustments.  So thanks for the additional thoughts! :) 

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Somehow the day escaped me even though I barely did any work but here I am!

As I go:

pg 1. I recommend letting us know it's Al's pov in the first line. I thought we had V as a 3rd PoV here for a sec

pg 2. Doesn't feel like the action has really started yet. Any chance we could fast forward through this? I really just want to see Al and V talk

pg 4. I do like the detail about him figuring out what the healer was up to with trying to trick him to sleep. Minor characters having their own motivations really helps make the world feel lived in

-hmm idk if I like "invalid." Historically appropriate, yes, but it feels... like not a good term. Though I'm more or less able-bodied so it's not like I'm an authority here.

-also how young is Is-n? "Prince" makes me think much younger than V but I guess it could be like a British prince situation

pg 5-6. I like how the idea of the mage healer is presented here. Good setting conflict. What I'm really looking for is what Al plans to do with that information. So far he's been really reactive and passive and this is a good chance for him to take some agency. 

pg 7. The internality here is good, but what he plans to actually do is still missing. 

pg 9-11. The main plot seems to follow V. Now that he's gone it feels like the story has halted a bit. It makes sense from a logical perspective since he is the king and all but it makes me think Al needs to be doing more to justify the story focusing on him.

-Hmm I think it would help to be a bit more specific about what Al's trigger is here. There are quite a few differences between Is' position and his parents'. Is it just seeing people in a physically weak state?

pg 12. Again, the problem here is well set up, but I have no idea what Al wants to do about it. He knows the queen is open to using magic, at least to heal her daughter, which is powerful information and I would imagine makes her a potential ally.

-Maybe this is just a disagreement in personal politics between Al's perspective and mine, but he seems to think wanting to keep people safe is the actual rationale for the magic ban and not a lazy excuse for nobles to consolidate their power, which I think is naive of him. 

pg 14. The end of the chapter doesn't hit me super hard. I don't really care that much about the mage himself (did we get the mage's gender, actually?) and like the others said him being there doesn't necessarily mean anything's going to happen.

Overall:

On 5/10/2021 at 7:37 AM, C_Vallion said:
  • Whether or not this accomplishes some of the things that people were noticing in Chapter 2 in regard to various characters’ motivations.  Al’s jumping in to help (does it seem like combining 2 and 3 would clarify his goals and motivations). The healer trying to put him to sleep. 
  • How do the political details come across? Clear enough? Too much info dump? Any other thoughts?
  • Any spots where things lag or go on too long?

1. Better, but still need some work here. I get a better idea of the conflict, but I still need a bit more from him in terms of why helping Is is important enough to be focused on, or it can be fast-forwarded. The problem for me wasn't that his motivations didn't make sense, but rather that there wasn't enough substance for 5k words. Honestly I think we could get a quick summary of the last chapter and it could be combined with this one. I didn't have a problem with the healer from the start and I did like more details. 

2. I love it! I love fantasy politics and we get a lot of juicy info about magic that is revealed to us in clever ways, since it totally makes sense that the royal family would let some things slip when they're in panic like this. What I need more of is how it connects to Al's plot and arc, not just his conflict.

3. Hmm not really. My bigger concern is that the scenes where V is absent don't seem that important. 

Main comment is that Al is still passive and reactive, and doesn't seem to be planning anything. I think all my comments stem from how he doesn't seem in control of his own story at all.

My main engagement here is the magic politics and how that affects Al. I sense a shakeup coming and I want him to get his head in the game so his people can survive what's coming. 

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@Ace of Hearts A lot of the things you mentioned are things that I've already started to address as I've started to rework 2 and 3 to combine them (so I guess it's good to know that I'm working on the right things thus far), but I'll add some of the "what it should have said" here since I'm not sure when that reworked chapter will be together.  

16 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

-hmm idk if I like "invalid." Historically appropriate, yes, but it feels... like not a good term. Though I'm more or less able-bodied so it's not like I'm an authority here.

This is something I went back and forth on a little bit. Especially because this is the first introduction we get to Is-n in this version.  But I haven't found a good alternative that encompasses the fact that the court doesn't have a good sense of what's wrong with him except that it's some sort of chronic pain/illness that prevented him from taking the throne. I think I'd included a little more context when he was introduced in the old chapters, but I need to go back and see what's there and what parts of that would be relevant for Al to know.   Previously, he'd been introduced in Is's chapter, so we knew a little more about him before he was pulled in here. 

16 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

also how young is Is-n? "Prince" makes me think much younger than V but I guess it could be like a British prince situation

Is-n is a few years older than V, and had been the heir before an accident that nearly killed him and got him disinherited. So the court pities him enough to let some of the magic rumors slide so long as he stays out of politics. Hence the slightly dismissive simplification of his physical condition.

16 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

he main plot seems to follow V. Now that he's gone it feels like the story has halted a bit. It makes sense from a logical perspective since he is the king and all but it makes me think Al needs to be doing more to justify the story focusing on him.

I hadn't realized how imbalanced some of the focus was in this chapter.  Ultimately Al's concern about what V is doing should have been downplayed more, because the more important thing for Al plot-wise is zoning in on the hurdle the day's events put in the way of him achieving his goals (stability for the duchy). The question of the king's decision is part of that hurdle (and important for us to be aware of for future chapters), but there is definitely too much focus on it.
The focus should be on how he's going to keep his sudden involvement with royal plotting from interfering with his attempts to achieve his goals. In theory, I think that will both make it seem less like he's just reacting to the king and make him a little more active in the stretches when he seems like he's just sitting around listening. 

17 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Hmm I think it would help to be a bit more specific about what Al's trigger is here. There are quite a few differences between Is' position and his parents'. Is it just seeing people in a physically weak state?

It's not quite accurate to call it a fear of sudden disasters, though that's the simplest explanation that comes to mind.  I'd probably call it a fear of standing by and watching things spiral out of control, most specifically when he's unable to do anything about it.  So as long as he's able to do something, or if there's enough sense of normalcy and routine for him to hang on to, he can usually stave off the worst of it.   There are small hints at that in there, but they aren't tied together well, and I want to call it out better pretty much at the start of chapter 2 to make sure the plot focus stays more on that than on just being a nice helpful guy and saving the day. 

 

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