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Ace of Hearts

7/12/21 - Ace of Hearts - A Bond of Wildflowers Ch 9 (2458 words) (L)

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Mild swearing in this one.
 
Thanks to everyone who reviewed last week! I know I haven't responded, but I'm reading over all of your critiques and appreciating your feedback. I'll make sure to cut out some of the remaining fluff when I go back for my next round of edits.
 
Usual questions:
1. What (if anything) is engaging you? Are you engaged in general?
2. How do you feel about the characters?
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Quiet week, this week.


Full disclosure on this chapter: I didn’t like reading about high school drama when I was actually in high school, and several (oh man. More than I’d realized until just counting) years of distance have not made it any more endearing as a setting to jump into during my free time. So some of the things I comment on might hit better with an audience that wants to see those high school relationship dynamics… if there’s a crotchety old lady undertone to any of my comments, I apologize. 

That being said, even with my being prone to whine about high school angst, I liked a number of aspects of this chapter (mom wanting to set up the d&d game, N getting her to back up a step and look at things, etc.) but many of the individual beats themselves felt like they could be trimmed back a bit.  I think some of my frustrations would be improved a lot if the relationship-emotion-processing sections weren’t as drawn out.  I think if they were a few lines instead of a few pages, we’d still get the pain and inner conflict that’s going on.  It’s the dwelling on it that pushes it over into sound like whining or self-pity.

Pg 1:

I assume her nightmares are related to her mom’s previous bout of sickness? It might be helpful for that to be clarified. I’d avoid any extensive detail on what happens in the nightmare, but at the moment, my reflexive response to “My nightmare comes back” is “What nightmare?”  If it’s been mentioned before, this could very well just be WRS, and can be ignored :) 

 “sleep cycle is going to be wrecked” did she have counseling or therapy or medication or anything for sleep/anger/anxiety issues last time she went through all of this that she’d be expecting to start up again in response to this realization?  I wouldn’t expect her family to have any sort of stigma against any of that, and it seems clear that she’s well aware of the trouble she’s had in the past.  As a random thought that occurred to me, I wonder if seeing that she’s actively trying to work through her anger issues and past trauma might help with some of the trouble of her coming across as self-pitying at times.  If she’s actively working against it, it’s a way she’s trying to improve herself.  If it’s just her past anger issues or having been dealt a pretty rotten hand with her mom’s health, it feels more like that’s just the way she is.  The relaxation techniques do a little of this, and I do think those moments where she’s stopped herself, realized what she’s doing, and refocused have been good. Maybe that would help make some of the emotional beats that readers have been iffy about more engaging as well?  Might be worth running past some others and see if that makes sense to them.

“…before I fall in love…” this seems like a pretty forward thought to throw out there when she’s very torn about them having a relationship (and has trouble admitting that she even likes him a little later).  And the fact that he ignores the comment and focuses on the pillow-punching seems odd. Especially when whether or not she likes him is pointed out as Very Important on the next couple of pages.

“defies all logic” does it?  Hadn’t he mentioned previously that he recognized that she struggles with anger and is sympathetic to that struggle? Especially when it’s related to her mom’s sickness, since it’s the same thing he had to walk through?  She might think it’s ridiculous for him to want to go through the same pain with her, but I’d expect her to recognize the logic in it.

 

Pg 2-3

Most of what’s here goes carries through from my last two comments on page 1.  I’m not really on board with her reasoning, so I’m not really invested in her angst here.

Pg 3:

“Not as much at stake” …”If you can’t be honest…” I am with W on this one here, because now it seems like N has other ulterior motives for being in the relationship, which makes me suspicious of him.

Pg 4:

N’s wanting to back up a step and figure out where the disconnect is refreshing.

Pg 5:

“I just…want to be with you.”  - “Because there are big things at stake that I’m not going to tell you about?” I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this shift in dynamics… when he’s the one trying to get her to look past her self pity to see the situation better, it bothers me that he’s also hiding things.

Pg 6:

“keep enough energy” what does this mean?

“Taekwondo becomes a chore” THIS line hit hard.  It does an excellent job of showing us how exhausted she is, when she’s considering giving up something that’s so important to her.

“Since that’s normal for his culture…”  Is this really such a foreign concept to them? I don’t get the big disconnect here. Part of this is definitely a skewed perception thing, since my family always pulled in all of me and my siblings’ friends to hang out for family dinners or camping trips or things. So it would just seem weird for someone close to any of us to not also spend a significant amount of time with the family, whether friends or significant others.  Even if it’s not standard or expected in most standard high school relationships, I’d expect someone who is really close to her family (and someone whose family seems so welcoming) to see that as a normal thing at least some of the time.

Pg 7:

It seems odd to me that W wouldn’t have ever played any D&D if her mom enjoys it so much.  It seems like they play a lot of board games as a family. That seems like it would have naturally progressed into some sort of tabletop RPG now and then. It also doesn’t seem like we should need a full page of back and forth about whether or not to run a campaign.

Pg 8:

Hah.  I like the detail that her mom enjoys reading the game rules.  A vital part of any board gaming group.

Pg 9:

“I don’t want to make him relive all that pain” This is the point I would have expected her to remember at the beginning.

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As I read:

p1 - I'm getting a good sense of the lies W is telling herself, which is good

p2 - W seems to have very high expectations for what would be expected in a romantic relationship between a couple of high schoolers. I think this is part of her tendency to accidentally create drama out of everything, but she knows that not all relationships are really really intense, right? You can just casually date someone?

p3 - 'Factors wouldn't understand.' - Missing word?

p3 - I was just thinking that it was unlike N to be pursuing W while she's giving him this many mixed signals, but it looks like Plot has happened offscreen, and this is driving his behaviour?

p5 - It sounds like N is just trying to be her friend rather than her boyfriend. Which is probably a good idea for these characters right now, but I'm not sure why N doesn't just use the word 'friend'.

p6 - Dungeons and Dragons?? This ought to be good!

 

I liked what I think this chapter was going for, but some of it gets bogged down with more wallowing than is needed to make the point. Some of the emotional beats would have hit harder, I think, if some of the repetitious back-and-forth were trimmed. The conversation between W and N especially has this problem - I like that they're making an actual decision on what to do with the situation, and I like the hint that there's something bigger going on with N that we don't know about, and I like W's emotional train wreck, but it feels like there is fluff in there that could come out.

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Hey @Ace of Hearts, I haven't forgotten about you! Got absolutely swamped this week between work and finishing formatting for the upcoming anthology. I'll try to get to a read through tomorrow or on the weekend.

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Ok, finally reading through this. Last week was A Lot.

I apologize in advance for maybe more critical remarks that usual. I think, like @C_Vallion, I bounced off of this one because of all the teen angst. That by itself would have been alright, but I think this chapter still has some disconnects. My biggest one is I don't understand why W would refuse N at this point. The whole "people you care about helping you take care of others" is a central tenet of most human culture, so this comes off to me as seeming like a plot contrivance why W and N can't be together. That added to W's constant self-doubt makes me want to shake her, just a bit.

Playing up on the extreme weirdness of N having some sort of reason why he needs to be with W would be a much better angle to me for why W would want to reject him.

I though the mother was going to ask for something other people wouldn't want to do, not...play D&D. (Full disclosure, I am the person who reads all the manuals).

 

Notes while reading:
Pg 1: Not really on board with the discussion on the first page. It seems very...overt. N asks what W's thinking about and it goes into this whole thing about Feeeelings of stuff that occurred last chapter. I don't think we need this quite yet.

pg 1: "I’m sorry again that I couldn’t dance with you.”
--also covered this. A lot.

pg 1: “Don’t you remember me ignoring you..."
--also not needed, I don't think. This was like five pages ago, right?

pg 2: yeah...I just...don't get why W is making Drama over this.

pg 2: "If we were to try a relationship"
--Wasn't that what they were doing already, with the date and everything?

pg 2: “With everything going on, I don’t think I can be in a relationship,”
--huh? why? Because her mother has cancer? Wouldn't another person helping make that better?

pg 3: "but there are factors at play I can’t talk about. Factors wouldn’t understand."
--1) missing "you" 2) now it seems like N is going all creepy again like he was at the beginning.

pg 3: "“I know it’s not going to work for me."
--I think I mainly don't understand this because W hasn't given any reason things won't work.

pg 4: "see if you can fall in love with someone prettier and nicer.”
--UUuggghhhhh. W. Stop it.

pg 4: “In my community, when this happens we’re expected to be close and comforting."
--uh, yes. Also, you know, in all cultures.

pg 6: "Going to Taekwondo becomes a chore"
--again, W doesn't seem to understand human interaction. I've taught martial arts for over ten years and students routinely come when they're having problems at home as a place to de-stress.

pg 6: "“We decided he can join us when I’m trying to spend time with you,” I say. “Since that’s normal for his culture after all.”"
--What culture is W's family from? I feel like theirs is the strange one.

pg 7: Top of the page I don't know what's going on. What decorations? what about old texts?

pg 7: “I wanted to run a Dungeons and Dragons game.”
--oh horrors. I don't know if your geeky teenage children would ever want to do that...  /s

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