C_Vallion

5.17.2021- C_Vallion - Price of Peace: Chapter 4 RevA - (mild L) - 4261 Words

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Hello, All!

Thanks for all of your feedback on previous chapters.  I’ll be working on merging chapters 2 and 3 together, trimming back the things that don’t need to be introduced there, and focusing more on how jumping into the royal family’s personal politics is going to interfere with Ala attempts to create stability for himself and the people of Tr.  When it’s done, I’ll probably mention it, in case anyone wants to give the revision a look, but I don’t think there’s enough new information there to deserve submitting the combined version at this point.

Now for this chapter.  I’d reworked a couple versions over the past few weeks, and ended up liking some aspects of one (more colorful setup but Ali was way too passive) and some aspects of another (boring setup but she was more actively pushing the plot forward).  I’m hoping that I was able to combine the better aspects of both of those without it seeming inconsistent, but am a little concerned that the sort of helplessness of being younger and out of her depth is still going to come across as being more passive than it should. 

Content warning: mild language

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

  1. General opinions on the new PoV.
  2. The weekly reading schedule probably makes this trickier, but is the tonal shift from the end of the previous chapter to here too jarring?
  3. Are her goals/motivations/activeness clear enough here? Or does she seem like she’s just getting trampled over?

Thanks!

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p2 - My engagement is dipping. Not much seems to be happening in two pages, and I'm not invested enough in Ali to want to know what she does in her downtime.

p3 - The suggestion that the king is hiding something about Is (presumably the poisoning) got my attention again.

p6 - I'm having difficulty judging how important this breakfast is supposed to be. Is Ali expected to do something actually important she needs to get right, or is it just busy work?

p6 - I like how Ali is noticing the increased guard presence and asking S to stay with her so that she doesn't report to the king. It makes Ali feel more active, even though she's clearly not in a position of power and can't do much.

p7-10 - There's a lot of build up to Ali finding out what happened to Is, but the problem is, the reader already knows where Is is and what happened. It makes the waiting around feel flat rather than tense.

p12 - My engagement is dipping again. It feels like a lot of back and forth with no forward movement.

p13 - R getting worked up about the king's magic law hypocrisy gets my attention again. (But I'm not sure what R thinks he's doing. Was he about to punch the king?)

p14 - I like the drama here. I can see how the situation is forcing people to make difficult decisions that are tearing the family apart.

 

Overall, I thought there was some good stuff in this chapter towards the end, but a lot of the chapter felt like wheel-spinning. I thought the salient points were: Ali realises something is wrong, she goes to confront the king but he's not telling her anything. R is angry that the king gets to be an exception to his own laws, and Ali is angry that her sister is hurt and she's been left out of the loop. I think the chapter would be stronger if you focused in on and expanded those points, and cut out the rest of the fluff.

You also have a tension problem, given that the reader already knows what happened to Is and that she's okay. I think if you shifted the focus to the cover up, rather than the assassination attempt itself, that would help.

1) Ali's POV - I don't think her inexperience and relative lack of power comes off as passivity here. She's fairly engaged in the situation once the chapter gets going, even if she isn't engaged in the way she wants to be.

One thing I would note is that the voice of the prose sounds pretty much the same here as in Ala and Is's POVs. The character being described is clearly different, but I don't get a sense of who she is from the prose itself.

2) I don't think the tonal shift is jarring (although, as I said above, the first few pages feel unnecessary).

3) I think it's clear that Ali is concerned for Is's wellbeing, frustrated that the king won't tell her anything, and apprehensive that Is's duties are Ali's job until Is recovers. It's also clear that R is angry at the king's hypocrisy, and that is presumably because these laws have created problems for R and his father personally.

There might be some room for improvement if you can fit in something about Ali and Is's relationship that will lead in to why Ali is so concerned for her sister, as right now I'm just sort of inferring that they're close from the way Ali is reacting to the attempted assassination.

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Overall

I don't think this chapter, or POV, are necessary. We get plot movement only through dialogue talking heads, which does not engage me, and having had three POV characters in as many chapters has left me without a foothold in any of them. I'd much prefer to go back to I's POV and have her discover things, which would be far more engaging. It's not that this POV here isn't active--she is--but it's just rehashing things we already know as readers, and that means there is no tension and no forward momentum.

 

 

As I go

- not a strong starting sentence. It doesn't draw me into the chapter

- first two pages and nothing has happened. Probably can be cut

- pg 3: feels like mostly background info dump here

- I think this would be a more engaging chapter if it was actually the sister stopping by to check up on the injury, not just thinking about or talking about doing so, and wool gathering

- pg 5: ah, here she goes to see her. So here is where the chapter starts, really

- pg 6: I like the sister when she is worried and commanding. That part worked I think

- pg 7: still more 'what happened yesterday'. Everyone is just talking and postulating and nothing is happening. We are at the same place, narratively speaking, that we were last chapter

- pg 10: the 'I was attacked yesterday' doesn't have any real impact because we already know this. I think the reason the chapter is lagging is because it is just rehashing what the reader already knows from another perspective. This is common in contemporary romance but isn't usually done in fantasy. And when it is done in romance it is between the two love interests

- pg 13: so much talking. Its hard to not skim.

- I don't care about plots because I don't care about characters yet, especially since this is another POV and I haven't had time to settle into it

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As I go:

pg 1. Especially for a new PoV, we need conflict to draw us in. Just watching her make stuff isn't doing it 

pg 2. The character detail about the hideout is cool. But overall I still feel like I need real conflict. Seems like the story is trying to foster interest by having her worry about Is but we already have another PoV character doing that and it's not a strong conflict on its own. 

pg 3. And when the conversation moves to V it gets more interesting. He really is the lifeblood of the story so far which I think is a problem, honestly, since he overshadows multiple PoV characters 

pg 6. Ali is more active than Ala so far which is a good sign! Though her motivation is very nonspecific here. Making sure that her sister is okay feels a little too easy as reasoning for her actions. I need to feel like I know Ali beyond that

pg 8. The fact that we already know what's going on deflates the tension here

pg 9. The fact that the situation is so serious makes me wonder even more why R and Ali were excluded from this. Especially R since he's first in line for the throne, right? If someone tried to kill Is then V should have checked on them. 

pg 11. Okay at least R brings it up. I 100% agree with him for whatever that's worth. I'm legitimately wondering if V can be trusted now 

pg 13. I still am fully on R's side here. If I were him I'd be making my own plans for protection. V doesn't seem to be even remotely interested in keeping him safe and does have probable cause for not really caring if R gets offed (his own daughter takes the throne)

On 5/17/2021 at 9:29 AM, C_Vallion said:

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

  1. General opinions on the new PoV.
  2. The weekly reading schedule probably makes this trickier, but is the tonal shift from the end of the previous chapter to here too jarring?
  3. Are her goals/motivations/activeness clear enough here? Or does she seem like she’s just getting trampled over?

 

1. Not necessary now. Ali's not doing anything new that feels like it adds something to the story. Honestly I feel like R is in a much more interesting position right now and the fact that he basically has nobody on his side and needs to stand up to the king gives off protagonist vibes much more than Ali does here. She seems politically unimportant which is fine but not when the entire chapter revolves around political power. 

As an aside, the fact that V finds out that an assassination attempt was aimed at person #2 in line for the throne and doesn't do anything to alert person #3 and especially person #1 makes me think he might legitimately be up to something. I really don't buy the excuse about not causing panic. There had to be some story he could tell for pulling them away. 

2. I can't fully remember but I don't think there was a problem

3. Activeness, yeah, especially with the servant. Though when talking to V she does get overshadowed by R. Motivations are the area that need improvement for me, which goes hand in hand with goals. I don't really understand why she feels the need to personally uncover this herself. I mean, if I were her I'd do it because I trust V about as far as I can throw him but that doesn't seem to be her opinion. I also think I need a bit more about why she's the one equipped for this problem. The fact that she's politically less important than V and R means that the justification for her being a PoV character in a heavily political setting needs to be stronger. 

 

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Posted (edited)

So this puts me at what, 4 for 4 in regard to basically saying "hey! Hey! Look over here!" then pointing in the wrong direction. *facepalm*

Does anyone have any strategies that have been helpful to them in regard to getting a reader perspective on things? Coming back to the chapters after a while has been helpful to some extent, but my sense of what I think is coming across is still definitely really skewed from what is actually coming across in most places. Especially while I'm trying to bring in some of the details that were important in the cut chapters. 

On 5/17/2021 at 11:12 AM, RedBlue said:

p7-10 - There's a lot of build up to Ali finding out what happened to Is, but the problem is, the reader already knows where Is is and what happened. It makes the waiting around feel flat rather than tense.

21 hours ago, kais said:

pg 7: still more 'what happened yesterday'. Everyone is just talking and postulating and nothing is happening. We are at the same place, narratively speaking, that we were last chapter

9 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 8. The fact that we already know what's going on deflates the tension here

I was afraid this was going to be too much the case.  I was hoping that V hiding things and the family conflict would come across over that as the bigger point, but figured it was going to be hard to get past what we already know. 

On 5/17/2021 at 11:12 AM, RedBlue said:

I think if you shifted the focus to the cover up, rather than the assassination attempt itself, that would help.

Hah. See, in my head, that's what I was doing... but obviously that's not working. 

On 5/17/2021 at 11:12 AM, RedBlue said:

One thing I would note is that the voice of the prose sounds pretty much the same here as in Ala and Is's POVs. The character being described is clearly different, but I don't get a sense of who she is from the prose itself.

I'm getting a little better at realizing this while I'm doing rewrites, but buckling down on voice tends to come further on in the revising process for me.  Some of it should come across more (in theory) when I get to chapters that don't require full rewrites before submitting, but I probably won't be hugely focused on that aspect until I get the other things nailed down.

9 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 1. Especially for a new PoV, we need conflict to draw us in.

21 hours ago, kais said:

I don't think this chapter, or POV, are necessary.

I had initially introduced Ali's POV here, so I wanted to try to rewrite the old chapter to work with the new starting point, but there was more setup (not very strong setup, admittedly but at least more context) on the other POVs when this came later point in the story. It had approached things differently because May- had already been introduced, and had involved more of what had gone on in the earlier chapters, so there was less of an issue on the "we already know what's wrong with Is-" front.  
At this point, I'm thinking it makes the most sense to cut this one and bring in Ali's POV later.  Some of the details around V's motivation for hiding information will be given in the next chapter, which I think will be better in the long run anyway.  

9 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

As an aside, the fact that V finds out that an assassination attempt was aimed at person #2 in line for the throne and doesn't do anything to alert person #3 and especially person #1 makes me think he might legitimately be up to something. I really don't buy the excuse about not causing panic. There had to be some story he could tell for pulling them away. 

You'll have to let me know if this still seems to be the case after we get through the next chapter.  Ultimately, V should have more of a "probably paranoid and overcautious, but willing to make hard decisions for the good of the kingdom, even though those don't always turn out well for the people closest to him" vibe than "just a jerk" or "intentionally evil"  But I am now thinking that presenting the pain he causes his family before his actual reasons is just painting him as suspicious, which is not where I want him to be starting out.

9 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Honestly I feel like R is in a much more interesting position right now and the fact that he basically has nobody on his side and needs to stand up to the king gives off protagonist vibes much more than Ali does here. She seems politically unimportant which is fine but not when the entire chapter revolves around political power. 

This is another problem with the current chapter placement and introducing Ali here.  Ultimately, Ali's one of the few characters (and her mother, to some extent) whose motivations aren't politics-oriented.  She just wants to fix the conflict in her family. But I think I need more context for how the others either don't see that conflict or intentionally ignore it before her POV can really serve its purpose.  

 

Thanks so much for all of your thoughts! 

Edited by C_Vallion
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55 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

Does anyone have any strategies that have been helpful to them in regard to getting a reader perspective on things? Coming back to the chapters after a while has been helpful to some extent, but my sense of what I think is coming across is still definitely really skewed from what is actually coming across in most places. Especially while I'm trying to bring in some of the details that were important in the cut chapters.

I think looking at your own story from a reader perspective is just fundamentally a difficult thing to do - hence why we're all here exchanging feedback!

Having said that, what I do when I'm worried that a scene is getting off track is to make sure I'm really clear in my mind on what that scene is supposed to do in the narrative - what I want the reader to take away from it. Then I look at every paragraph and judge whether it's helping to serve the scene's intended function - is this paragraph introducing or building on an important point that is relevant to the scene's goal?

If the paragraph (or sentence, or phrase, or word) has no point, that's when you know to cut it. If it has important information that isn't immediately relevant, that's trickier. The more of these you have, the slower the pacing. Generally, I try to find a way to make the info relevant (or appear to be relevant) to the scene, or failing that, I move the info to a different scene.

Sometimes the character's inner monologue is really useful for directing the reader's attention - you describe them finding a clue, then have them think 'aha! this means (insert how the clue relates to the thing you want the reader to be looking at)!' That way the reader has seen the clue, so they have that info, but the focus is on whatever the character is thinking about.

So, in the case of this chapter, the focus is on what happened to Is because that's what Ali is spending most of the page time worrying about. You could (just using this as an example) open the chapter with Ali finding out that Is is definitely not going to die, which means you don't have to take up room with 'what happened and is she okay?'. Then Ali finds a bunch of reasons to suspect that V is running a cover-up operation, and she can be thinking 'this is a cover-up! why is this happening?' and feeling betrayed/hurt. That will direct the reader's attention to the fact that V is hiding things and that Ali is not happy about that.

Obviously, it's not fool-proof, but I hope that helps.

 

Regarding this chapter being cut or moved - if Ali's main conflict as a character is about trying to fix family drama, then it is probably a good idea to establish some more of that drama through other people's POVs before getting to Ali. That way, we'll have better context to understand her problems.

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Posted (edited)

  1. Umm at the start I didn't know who she was so I was surprised. I couldn't really tell what was going on either at the start, why we needed her POV specifically. I don't really have any particular thoughts on her as a character.
  2. Hm... I guess? But I was mostly just thrown off at the start by not knowing who Ali was.
  3. No, I don't really know her goals/motivations. She's attached to her family, I guess? She does seem to have some sort of independence or agency so I wouldn't necessarily say she's being trampled on, but other than her also being royalty, I'm not too sure what her role in the story is/how she's attached to the plot. Well, I guess she'll find out something important and become useful that way

In general, though, I normally really like complicated family dynamics and this seems to have that, but I was a bit confused @ the end of the chapter, which kinda detracted from that. 

pg 1 - abt the note -> originally thought that was used to notify Ali about Is' situation, which after reading all of it I realize isn't true

pg 4 - interesting that the position of cousin doesn't seem to mean much?

pg 5 - got a bit confused at the positioning/sequence of events here... S followed Ali when she was going to find Is? Was that it? How did S know about what happened to Ali before Is if she was guarding Ali the whole time?

pg 7 - I feel like a family tree or something would really help LOL that and like char. ages maybe 

pg 9 "larger powers at play" - lmaooo that's such an annoying king line. not liking him very much lol

pg 12 "Did you know?" -> wasn't sure what this was referring to. the other country issue? or something else? kinda lost

Edited by leapfrog
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8 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

You'll have to let me know if this still seems to be the case after we get through the next chapter.  Ultimately, V should have more of a "probably paranoid and overcautious, but willing to make hard decisions for the good of the kingdom, even though those don't always turn out well for the people closest to him" vibe than "just a jerk" or "intentionally evil"  But I am now thinking that presenting the pain he causes his family before his actual reasons is just painting him as suspicious, which is not where I want him to be starting out.

I think you're hitting the nail on the head here. One of the first things I'm seeing about V is that he is endangering people close to him for the sake of presenting a certain way, which makes me jump to conclusions. I figured that wasn't how I was supposed to see him. 

8 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

This is another problem with the current chapter placement and introducing Ali here.  Ultimately, Ali's one of the few characters (and her mother, to some extent) whose motivations aren't politics-oriented.  She just wants to fix the conflict in her family. But I think I need more context for how the others either don't see that conflict or intentionally ignore it before her POV can really serve its purpose.  

 

Oh if this is the case I think your job is fairly straightforward, actually. If her plot is focused around family, we need to know more about her dynamics with the family and her own family conflicts rather than this large-scale political stuff. It sounds like her plot is going to basically be a relationship plot, just not a romantic one. Romance as a genre has a very clear-cut plot structure that I think is worth looking into when making plots around interpersonal dynamics, romantic or no (really nothing about the romance plot is actually romance-specific). Just my two cents though. 

Phrased another way, I think her conflicts are more powerful if they're about the fundamental relationships with her family, and current events are just a gateway into exposing or developing family dynamics. Right now the conflict is about the event itself, which Ali really has no control over. 

8 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

So this puts me at what, 4 for 4 in regard to basically saying "hey! Hey! Look over here!" then pointing in the wrong direction. *facepalm*

Does anyone have any strategies that have been helpful to them in regard to getting a reader perspective on things? Coming back to the chapters after a while has been helpful to some extent, but my sense of what I think is coming across is still definitely really skewed from what is actually coming across in most places. Especially while I'm trying to bring in some of the details that were important in the cut chapters. 

As @RedBlue said, I wouldn't beat yourself up over this. It's the reason we're here! And my advice is similar: to ask yourself what changes from the start of the chapter to the end of one. That being said, what you think is an important shift might not be one for us, which again is why we're here. :) 

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