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RedBlue

8/2/21 - RedBlue - Constance Wood Stove ch 20 (2233 words)

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Hi everyone,

Chapter 20 this week. Thanks for your feedback so far, it’s appreciated and being taken on board.

1) Any boring or confusing bits?

2) Do the characters’ thoughts and actions make sense?

3) Some of you have commented previously that you were finding it hard to get a handle on V’s character – does this land for you? Do you have any suggestions on how V has been presented before now in the light of these developments?

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1. Nope.  Though if we have too much more errand-running before they actually make their attempt to leave, I'll probably end up getting a little restless before too long (says the person who leaves one of her MCs bedridden for several thousand words...oops) 

2. I like C and T here a good deal. V...well...meh.

3. Unfortunately, V's actions here don't really land for me.   I do think some of that is probably WRS.  It's been a while since the early chapters when he was more clearly trying to be a helpful friend to C.  For his actions here to come across as 1. something he's actually conflicted about and 2. something that hurts C as deeply as it seems like its supposed to. After all, she abandoned S to be lost with the town. And while S seems like a pretty horrible person, C has recognized her as her mother up until a few days before.  Why should V's decision to stay be that much more significant other than the fact that now they have to figure out what to do with A. 

I think to make his crisis of character in the recent chapters work, we need clearer evidence of the before, during, and after of that change. 

More loyalty/friendship/helpfulness at the start.  Some point of change that makes him realize that it's all for naught. This was vaguely mentioned, in that while he was flying around, he tried to leave.  But we didn't really get any indication of the why of it except that he said he was feeling like he didn't belong.  I think if that needs to hit like it's supposed to, we need to get some indication that despite his loyalty to and friendship with C, he's still feeling left out or like the task is too big for him, from the beginning.  Otherwise, it feels really out of the blue.  And even if we're more sympathetic with his wanting to give up on the job, I think we need more reason for him to be willing to actively abandon everyone else to their fates when he knows what they're facing.  Feeling inadequate to save them on his own is one thing, and would argue for the attempt to flee the town.  But taking that helplessness and then taking the one ticket to guaranteed safety just seems like a really horrible thing for him to do if we are supposed to think of him in any sort of positive light... 

I don't know if that's helpful.  Feel free to send me a message if you'd like any additional thoughts on that front.

Pg 1:

I want a car autopilot screen…

Pg 3:

This is sort of a jerk move from V.  Was he just waiting for C to get there to rub it in her face when they’re trying to look for help?  What if she and T hadn’t decided to put A in the AH (AHHHH!  Sorry. Can’t help it.)?

“the only one who I can really trust.” Is he, though? I think T and E have been more trustworthy in recent chapters. Even if they’re also trying to work through their own problems. V’s sort of been out doing his own thing for a while now.

“supposed to help me” Again, is he, though?  Why’s that supposed to fall on him? And what help is he supposed to be providing? 

Pg 4:

“There’s nothing I’m supposed to do.” I’m with V on this one.  Even if he seems to be about to throw C and company under a bus.

“I’m just a green raven boy who tumbled into a vegetable patch.” Which is all that different from C tumbling into existence after S (I assume) fed things into the wood stove, how?

“I hope you win” but I’m going to do the one thing within my power at the moment to make all your lives more difficult.

I am having a lot of issues with V here… I feel like it’s supposed to come across as a betrayal of sorts, which works to some extent, but I don’t know that I had enough of a sense of him actually trying to help C for this to come across as him being conflicted about betraying a friend. Mostly it just seems like he has been taking advantage of C’s kindness and friendship and is now grabbing the last seat in the lifeboat himself…  It’s possible that there’s some WRS involved.  I know it’s been….months? (in reading time)  since V first appeared, and that he’s been absent for the past number of chapters.  So I’m sure there is probably more friendship and loyalty shown in the early chapters than I’m remembering from recent reading…but I’m not feeling it enough to be all that offended by his betrayal here except to have a general “Wow.  What a selfish jerk.” feeling about it

Pg 5:

I like C’s fighting to get the door back open.  It’s good to see her determination and desperation kicking in.

“How can she hope…can’t even save V?” I mean.  Both E and G-M have a much longer history with her and seem to have far more motivation to not just give it all up and lock themselves in a magic house…V doesn’t really have any attachments to the town (as he’s said), but E and GM both have reasons to fight for it and reasons to want it to be saved. So I’d think V would be the far more difficult one to save anyway.

Pg 6:

“If T can do that, C can keep trying.” I like this line. I’m glad to see T’s looking after her grandfather recognized for exactly the reason C acknowledges here—that it’s something that is likely to go unacknowledged otherwise. 

“going to have to take A with us.” Hooray! Road trip!

Pg 7:

I also want a magic fan that rearranges available information into a usable format.  Man, I really like the magical items.

Pg 8:

I don’t remember if we knew much about G before.  If it wasn’t mentioned that he was a mechanic (but now isn’t), that would be a good tidbit to include to keep that continuity of who has sacrificed what, so that it feels more like a natural reveal instead of an “of course someone has a magical toolbox when it’s exactly what we need…” deus ex machina issue.    You may have done this and I’m forgetting.  As a thought that you can feel free to discard: you could even bring it up when they’re looking at the vehicles for one that works so that it’s fresher in our minds. Having one of the kids mention that they could see if MG learned anything from her dad about cars or if they might be able to get G to fix something without making him suspicious and have it shut down because he doesn’t do that anymore (and now all of the things he tries to fix go horribly wrong?) 

As mentioned, I love the odd magical items, but do think that they are at risk of becoming a …well… magical solution to any problem we might find ourselves running into.  Good setup ahead of time will help with that a lot, though.

Are they stealing it? Or are they just using it quickly and returning it?  There’s a pretty big difference between those options.

 

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I agree with @C_Vallion for the most part on this. There weren't any boring parts, but I think it's taking too long with getting ready to leave, and it looks like they're not going to make it at this point. However, I also don't think V's decision really lands either. He's been mostly out of the story for the past 8-10 chapters and there's not enough development for him to reject the call to adventure. He tells us he's conflicted in this chapter, but up until now, he's been upbeat about what he's doing. Showing him realize that he's a product of the stove, and that his drive to be a hero is all fabricated would go a long way to rationalizing this decision.

Interested to see what happens now that it's just C, T and the grandfather. I'm wondering how they get E and GM back!

Overall, I'm still greatly enjoying the story. A second pass with some editing for flow will really get it close to perfection!

 

Only one note while reading:

pg 3: "V switches back to his human-like form"
--Is this an instantaneous thing? Did we ever get a description of it?

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As I go:

pg 1. I know it's unsafe regardless, but I feel like the key factor is to drive really slow with someone in the back of a pickup (not that I know anything about cars)

pg 2. Ah that makes sense, no slower. I feel like this should have been on her mind from the start though. I think it would be intuitive even for a kid with no driving experience. 

pg 3. Hmm this feels rather sudden. And a big shift of who he was before, though I also didn't get a great read on him before as I'm sure you're tired of hearing

pg 4. This is a cool thematic thread with V wondering how much the stuff created by the wood stove can be classified as real life... but it kinda comes out of nowhere for me

pg 5. At this point I'm starting to feel like this is distracting from the arcs the story has set up. Escaping the town and journeying into the world beyond is interesting. This just feels like it's getting in the way.

On 8/2/2021 at 5:39 AM, RedBlue said:

1) Any boring or confusing bits?

2) Do the characters’ thoughts and actions make sense?

3) Some of you have commented previously that you were finding it hard to get a handle on V’s character – does this land for you? Do you have any suggestions on how V has been presented before now in the light of these developments?

1. Like what others were saying, nothing's boring but it does drag on when we've been told the main plot is about them escaping town 

2. Everyone else, yes. See below for V.

3. To be honest, it doesn't. And I think what's here is generally fine, but the setup isn't there for me. I think I'd like to see more of the following (not all of it is strictly necessary ofc but I hope it helps to think about it).

-Motivation. This is a big one. V wants to be a hero, but that doesn't really interact with the story in a way that's clear to me. The good news is that this chapter is the great development of a currently nonexistent arc that you can go back and start in previous chapters: to have V's motivation be to figure out how real he is, and how to prove that he's real. It's a common enough trope for sci-fi androids but I don't think it's a bad one, and the setting puts a different spin on it. 

-Plans/Goals. He has motivations; now how is he going to follow through with them? I personally think that there's a straightforward answer, but it does get into the realm of prescriptive advice. So here it is: I think V's main short-term goal early in the story should be to figure out how the Wood Stove works. C is the one interested in it but V should have more at stake since he was literally created by it. We also need to understand why his goal is to get into the Ashen house. Like... what does that accomplish for him? If he's not real anyway, why does it matter?

-Skills. V can fly which is cool, but other than that he doesn't really seem to have a thing that he excels at and a role he fills within the team. Flying could be this, but if so I think it needs to be a tool used to solve more of the story's problems. And you might ask, why does this matter? After all, G-M, T, and E doesn't have super defined skills and I'm fine with them. For me, it's because losing V should feel like a big blow to the plan. If he can do something that C is relying on and vanishes right when he's needed... that hurts. Right now it doesn't as much. 

-Dynamics. Often, I forget V is there because nobody interacts with him other than C for the most part. If V's going to be important (and this chapter makes it seem that way), I don't think that's enough. G-M, T, and E all have views on each other even though they're minor characters, but V has nothing with anybody other than C. And there's so much potential here. He's a literal person created by the wood stove. Does that make him a tool in the eyes of some people? Is it a sign of what they fear? Do the other kids mistrust him while they plan to escape the wood stove's influence since he was created by it? Do some people want to confide in him since it's such a small town and it's hard to find friends and allies? The possibilities are endless. 

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