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Ace of Hearts

5/31/21 - Ace of Hearts - A Bond of Wildflowers Ch 7 (L) (4384 words)

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Hi all!

Thanks for your patience as I slowly plod along with a chapter every other week (grad school life). I think there's more motion here than in previous chapters, which hopefully makes it more engaging but also means there's potential for key parts to need some refining. 
 
Still working on the previous chapters, and I don't think the specific edits will affect this submission too much. 
 
Questions for after reading:
1. Points of engagement?
2. Feelings about characters?
3. How do you feel about the way W gets the information from N to figure out what's going on near the end of the chapter? Does it seem contrived? If so, do you have any suggestions for how she and N can figure it out?
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Hi! Looking forward to reading the next chapter.

As I read:

p1&2 - The opening scene with W's parents feels a bit unnecessary. It looks like we're just recapping what happened previously, which would be annoying if I were reading these chapters all in a row. W's angst included - I generally like what you're doing with W, but this feels like rehash.

Bottom of p2 - W mentions that she's getting credit for tutoring N. Not sure if that still applies, depending on how you're changing the previous chapter.

p3 - Do teenagers talk about metabolism? I recall just assuming that mine would work. (I could definitely be the weird one here, though)

p4 - The date scene starts out pretty unromantic (if that's the intent, then that's fine)

p5 - Wow, this is one super awkward date!

p6 - Hold on, so W is actively trying to make the atmosphere less date-y? I assumed that N was just being clueless, which is standard for him, but W seems to be actively sabotaging herself, which is a problem she has but this seems a bit much even for her.

p7 - ' "Seems like that should take preference" ' I think you mean precedence?

p7 - Suddenly N is trying a bunch of cheesy romantic lines? This seems a bit out of the blue

p9 - ' "What language was that, also?" ' This line sounds a bit stilted

Bottom of p9, top of p10 - I don't think you need to restate where they both stand on a relationship with the other. We just saw them have a talk about trying out a date, so we don't need to see them talk about it on the date.

p10 - I like the conversation around the food with the parents. It feels like one of the more organic bits of the chapter.

p11 - I think you can cut the bit about W's anxieties, or just say that they're building up again. I feel like I already know what they are.

p11 - I like the homemade card and N freaking out when the mom starts crying. It's very N.

p12 - He can smell the mom's illness??? This is a twist I did not see coming but I am on board with this development

p14 - 'It's rare for someone to get as her without doctors having some idea of what's going on' - I think you have a word missing or something

p14 - 'Unless ... they don't want me anymore' - I can kind of see how the parents hiding things from W feeds into her insecurities, but I think it's too early for her to be this deep into irrationality. I think you need more build-up to pull off a leap like that and make it believable. If you showed her getting really really angry first, that might help.

p15 - :o Even with the parents' explanation, this sounds like an incredibly stupid decision to make. And what on earth made them think this was going to get sorted out easily?

p15 - Poor N! I feel bad for him. And boy does W have issues.

 

1) I thought the chapter picked up steam and got good around page 10 through to the end of the chapter. The drama with the mom's illness was good.

Prior to page 10, it felt like the date scene didn't have a direction. They talk about random stuff, it's awkward in a way that feels trivial, then it gets kind of romantic in a cheesy way that feels weird, and I don't know what I'm supposed to take from it. I think it would really help if you nailed down an emotional through-line. (Also, if the date was actually going well, and W and N were getting along surprisingly well, it would hit harder when it all comes crashing down.)

2) I am seriously questioning both of the parents' judgement. What a stupid thing for both of them to do.

I feel sorry for N. Poor guy can't seem to catch a break, and it's interesting that W's anger scares him. Possibly something to dig into there.

W ... okay, so I anticipate that some people will find it frustrating to have a protagonist who can't get her act together for at least long enough to explain the situation to her date, but I think W is interesting. She is clearly going into crisis mode, but she's also aware of that and she's fighting not to do anything she's going to really regret later. I like that, even though she's (justifiably) very angry, she apologises for raising her voice and doesn't slam her bedroom door. I like that she's working on it, but has a long way to go.

3) I don't have issues with the way W and N figure out the big twist.

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Overall

Some decent movement here, though it lagged during the dinner in a few places. For the most part I was fairly engaged. I still don't care for our MC much but this chapter did finally start me on a path to having some empathy for her. I do like the mystery of N and how get more about he's clearly a fairy.

3 hours ago, RedBlue said:

rior to page 10, it felt like the date scene didn't have a direction. They talk about random stuff, it's awkward in a way that feels trivial, then it gets kind of romantic in a cheesy way that feels weird, and I don't know what I'm supposed to take from it. I think it would really help if you nailed down an emotional through-line. (Also, if the date was actually going well, and W and N were getting along surprisingly well, it would hit harder when it all comes crashing down.)

I completely agree with the above.

 

As I go

- I don't understand the parent exchange. One parent gives some fairly solid advice. The other says it is pessimistic. Then the first is pretty rude to the second. These two are married aren't they? Do they like each other?

- pg 3: Take care with your words if you wish for more pastries in the future <-- This is not how teenagers talk. This is so stuffy

- pg 6: it was moving at a decent romance clip until the interlude with asking the parents if they want to eat dinner with them. It's sagging through here. Suggest either cutting or setting up situational comedy/drama by having the parents popping down every so often to chat or get something or aggressively vacuum, etc.

- pg 7: I’m capable of being attracted to anyone our age <-- surely he has crushes on movie stars and such who are older?

- what is a jumpscare?

- pg 7: You had better not say whatever mascot glitter companies use <-- huh?

- pg 7: honestly the lines in the bottom half of page seven are not making any sense

- pg 8: Where are the parents? Also I'm wandering with the singing stuff. I think it's going on too long without the plot really advancing or the date advancing

- pg 12: I re-engage around the sunburn stuff

- Aww, cute but sad ending

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Heyo!

Overall, decent chapter! The biggest problem for me was that there was quite a bit of dialogue that felt off, but it's easily fixable (I hope)! I was very interested in N being able to smell sunburns, and I'm eager to know more about his family.

The date didn't quite land the way I would've liked; there are cute moments but i think some of the lines take me out of it. An awkward date can be really cute but it just didnt work for me here. I think @RedBlue sums up perfectly what I thought about the date:

7 hours ago, RedBlue said:

1) I thought the chapter picked up steam and got good around page 10 through to the end of the chapter. The drama with the mom's illness was good.

Prior to page 10, it felt like the date scene didn't have a direction. They talk about random stuff, it's awkward in a way that feels trivial, then it gets kind of romantic in a cheesy way that feels weird, and I don't know what I'm supposed to take from it. I think it would really help if you nailed down an emotional through-line. (Also, if the date was actually going well, and W and N were getting along surprisingly well, it would hit harder when it all comes crashing down.)

 

I didn't get a huge sense of romance between W and N, which is fine, but if you played it up a bit, it would really pack a punch near the end when everything turns to poop.

as i go:

pg 1

-“stop it with your pessimism” was something they said pessimistic??

-“not like you’d know” ouch. Maybe this wasn't meant to be passive aggressive but that's how i read it

pg 2

-“Since im getting credit for tutoring” i feel like this is leftover from before when N visited W formally in the tutor setting. But W helped N unofficially by the pond, right? So, she wouldn’t be getting credit for it.

pg 3

4 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 3: Take care with your words if you wish for more pastries in the future <-- This is not how teenagers talk. This is so stuffy

agree, unless she is meaning to be theatrical. I've done this (more than most people probably) where I intentionally speak in a dramatic way, accent and everything, just for fun. it probably would have to be more clear that that's what she's going for, if she is.

-“Neither of us can drive on our own” so they aren’t 16 yet? orrr.. they just dont have their licenses. I don't know if i knew that. I must've. It may be wrs

pg 6

-yeah i would cut out a lot of the talk between W and her parents.

pg 7

-“Food and boys are both good. Do you have any thoughts?” this is innocent and cute, i think, but it feels stilted. Mostly the “do you have any thoughts?” bit

-“But can you really say its living without love?” oof boy N is very cheesy and awkward on this page— this paragraph in particular.

-“They're drawing me in like you’re a siren” i really dont know what it is but he just sounds way too formal. Its the same problem I had with chapter 5. It feels robotic, but i'm not even sure if thats the right way to describe it. Stilted, probably.

pg 8

-“For a full couple of minutes” idk why, and this may be a personal thing, but i feel like it would be weird to have someone sing to me for a few minutes. I'm real awkward though, and I just wouldn't know where to look while they're singing to me.

pg 9

-“What language was that, also?” probably sounds better without also

pg 10

-“What do you think, B-D?” wait were they considering letting N pay? Idk about that

pg 11

-“Occasionally he sniffs the air and frowns” lol what is he smelling?

pg 12

-“You know how when people are sunburned” omg what

pg 15

-“explain the situation to N for me” typo?

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Overall:

My thoughts about the date echo what the others have said.  I’ve called out a couple of the specific things that seemed off below, but don’t have too much else to add beyond that.

I was far more engaged as they were getting ready to leave through to the end than I was through the beginning and middle. I loved the sunburn smelling-reveal and the follow-up of him trying to backtrack and explain while W is just trying to figure out what in the world he’s talking about (then making the radiation connection). Part of me says that it might come across a little too sudden, but I think we have enough of a feel for N’s strangeness for it to be fine.

The main other thing I note at the end, but I feel like we could use a few more hints in earlier chapters that things are not quite right at home for W, even if she's ignoring aspects of it because she wants things to be fine.  I'd gotten the impression through earlier chapters that the family is all pretty up front with each other and that it's a relatively healthy/happy family overall.  So having two major conflicts thrown in at once here is a lot (W's feeling unwanted and her parents lying to her) when I feel like we haven't had any indication that any of that is going on. 

Pg 1:

“…situation sounds corny”  this seems like an odd way too describe this here when we’ve already heard N talking about the flowers being magical.  Like we’ve passed corny already and have moved on to flat out strange (depending on W’s thoughts on the whole magic flower thing)

Like the others have said, the conversation between Mom and amma doesn’t seem like it’s hitting quite like it’s supposed to.  I feel like it’s supposed to come across as a sort of fond, playful teasing, but it’s hitting as a little passive aggressive. The fork wagging helps, I think, but without any other tone/body language/emotion hints, I can’t quite tell what impression we’re supposed to get there.

Three cheers for secondhand wedding dresses!

Pg 2:

The wording of “we’re happy to buy you new stuff” feels a little like she’s being pushy and trying to buy W’s affection.  I think the previous sentence gets the point across without risking that implication.

Pg 3:

“Take care with your words…” This comes across to me as an overdramatized joking line, but it could probably use a tone or body language cue to clarify.

Pg 4-6:

I like that they invite her parents to join.  It makes a lot of sense with the sort of “the more, the merrier,” feeling he gives off, and it makes sense for it to be less pressure on W that way if she’s not fully onboard with the idea of it being a date.  I think some of the conversations with them could be trimmed back a little, though.

Pg 7-10:

I like the idea of him reading the decorations, because I have a very clear picture of what that looks like. I have some friends who are guilty of having far too many cutesy sayings on decorations, and I have also spent time overanalyzing what they’re actually saying, so this is relatable to me. I don’t know if that’s a universal thing, though.  N’s “That was my first thought too…” paragraph is a little hard to follow.  The main point seems to be pointing out that he’s bi, but the wording of some of it is a little convoluted.  Did W know that before now?  I’m not expecting her to have any issues with it or question it or anything, but if it’s significant enough for him to call out so clearly, I’d think she’d at least acknowledge it. 

The jump scare comparison seems a little odd, since they are generally intended to, well, scare people. Is there some other adrenaline kick comparison that might fit startled/nervous excitement a little better? Ideally something that ties to her character? I don’t know enough about taekwondo to know if there would be anything with her experience there that might fit (getting the combination of surprise and excitement seems tricky).  But I think the jumpscare comparison is too fear-associated to be fitting.

I don’t see it quite fitting W’s character here to put N on the spot in regard to singing.  She’s trying to reduce the date-like aspects and lower the expectation pressure on them, but I feel like asking someone to sing for you requires a lot of trust on both sides. At least in a pseudo-date setup.  It seems really intimate for what she was intentionally trying to aim their dinner toward.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all if N was the type to just hum to himself or sing to himself.  So the “Anything can be a song…” line is a good fit for the casual goofiness that we get from him. And her recognizing that he’s a good singer even if she isn’t an expert fits.  But anything past that seems like it’s a little ahead of where their relationship is at, at this point. 

Beyond that, the conversation through here just seems a little stilted in spots, and I’m not sure how romantic it’s supposed to feel.  W seems pretty set on taking things slowly, but is attracted to him.  If we are supposed to get a better sense of things moving in that direction, I think we need clearer indication of her attraction/nervous excitement/etc. through here.  Especially when she’s trying to avoid things seeming too date-like, and is succeeding to some extent on the surface (Having parents along. Ordering takeout. Etc.)

I like the discussion over the meal.  Though W’s mom offering to pay, then her amma asking W about it seems a little odd.  Especially if they’d already paid for it at the restaurant.

Pg 12:

“You know how when people are sunburned…” “No?” Hah.

Pg 13:

“Radiation…” Uh oh.

Pg 14:

“…they don’t want me anymore”  This seems like a huge jump from anything we’ve seen from her before.  Even as an irrational jumping to conclusions thought. If this is something that’s actually jumping to mind, I’d expect to have seen more little hints of her feeling like her parents don’t trust her or that she thinks they are distancing themselves.  But we haven’t gotten any indication that there’s any lack of trust between them.  Either W feeling like she isn’t wanted or that her parents are hiding things.  So to have both of those things come out at once is a little blindsiding.   

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Thanks for your feedback, everyone! Sounds like the resounding feedback is to take a look at the first ten pages, find a central focus, cut out the excess, and streamline the dialogue so it feels natural. I'll get to work on it. :) 

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I'm late, but I have notes!

Similar thoughts to the others. It would help to have a more consistent throughline with this chapter in terms of what they think about the date. The first few pages are not very engaging to me, but I am interested in N and W together. Two big issues for me are

1) the family here seems very distant from each other and very awkward around each other. Before they've been described as close, or at least W has good moments with them.

2) I don't see any way W doesn't know about her mom's sickness. In fact, I was blindsided because I just assumed she already knew. Having the parents keep that from her seems really stupid, especially from two scientists.

It also looks like now W is not going to the prom with N? I was really looking forward to that, so I'm wondering what will happen next.

 

pg 2: The conversation about being able to but new stuff is a bit strange. Like, the mother and W are sort of apologetic about even having the conversation? I'm not sure it adds much.

pg 2: "Besides, watching his face light up..."
--Didn't N say he was bringing sweets anyway? I'm not sure why she's surprised.
--Also, baklava are usually not that big, so trying to cut or break it in half seems a little silly.

pg 3: I thought this section was going somewhere else. It's just the reception of the pastries and that's it. Is there something else to further the story here?

pg 4: "I hope N can at least play along"
--has he given any indication of not validating her appearance? I know teenagers any everything, but this seems not to have a cause.

pg 5: "I have some choice words for his mom"
--but she doesn't know what baklava or a bear claw is?

pg 6: All this negotiating about how everyone will position themselves around N and W is a bit awkward and uncomfortable to me. It seems very "no you go first" in its tone and also seems formal and standoffish, like these people are less a family and more individuals that happen to live in the same place.
Also, it takes away from the tension of the first date.

pg 7: and then there's almost a philosophical discussion about whether food, alcohol, or boys are better? This is kind of strange and off topic.

pg 7: "You had better not say whatever mascot glitter companies use"
--not sure what this means.

pg 9: "Like I said, I’m not assuming you’ll want a relationship after this."
--wait, I thought they were going to prom together now? The back and forth with this chapter is a bit of whiplash.

pg 10: The discussion of who will pay for the meal is also sort of awkward.

pg 11: "I’m only able to reach her that deeply once or twice a year at most"
--I think this is what's hitting me as off in this chapter. Everyone except N seems so disconnected from each other.

pg 13: "the answer to the questions about my mom’s illness..."
--The part about N smelling...cancer, I suppose...is cool but now I'm lost on what's going on. W knows that her mom is sick...does she not know with what? I don't understand what's being hidden.

pg 14: "you’re already going through radiation therapy"
--oh, wait, she doesn't know that? How? Like, I can tell that just by the description of the mother.

pg 15: Very confused at the end of this chapter. I thought W already knew what was going on with her mom. I was also looking forward to N and W actually doing some dating, but the whole chapter is sort of a weird dance around a date, without actually having one.

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On 6/6/2021 at 7:34 PM, Mandamon said:

W knows that her mom is sick...does she not know with what? I don't understand what's being hidden.

Yep, she knows her mom is sick but doesn't know with what and her parents specifically told her it wasn't the cancer coming back. 

On 6/6/2021 at 7:34 PM, Mandamon said:

pg 14: "you’re already going through radiation therapy"
--oh, wait, she doesn't know that? How? Like, I can tell that just by the description of the mother.

Hmm while I think it's fine if this is obvious from a meta perspective (Chekhov's Gun and all that), I definitely didn't want to make it seem like W should have easily been able to recognize it... or maybe I can play with that and have her be forcibly denying it to herself until N points it out.

Anyone else who happens to be reading this, did you have similar thoughts that W should have figured this out a long time ago?

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10 minutes ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Hmm while I think it's fine if this is obvious from a meta perspective (Chekhov's Gun and all that), I definitely didn't want to make it seem like W should have easily been able to recognize it... or maybe I can play with that and have her be forcibly denying it to herself until N points it out.

I think especially since W's gone through it before (as I recall), the symptoms are pretty clear. She should at least suspect. It's pretty hard to hide the tiredness and look that comes from going through radiation therapy.

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7 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Anyone else who happens to be reading this, did you have similar thoughts that W should have figured this out a long time ago?

Honestly? No. I think it’s reasonable for W to take her parents at their word.

Lying to W was definitely a bad idea on the parents’ part, but from a writing perspective, it’s not bad for characters to make bad choices. W seems to have an issue with falling apart under pressure, so I can see why the parents wanted to shield her from the truth.

My original assumption when reading about the mom’s mysterious illness was that it was magical in nature (since this story has fantasy elements), but the reveal worked for me.

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