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Ace of Hearts

8/23/21 - Ace of Hearts - A Bond of Wildflowers Ch 12 (2724 words)

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Hi all,
 
Thanks for your feedback last time! I think the beginning of this story is going to require a big rewrite to fit the plot and tone of the later parts better, especially where the magic plot is concerned, and I'll be curious to hear if that sentiment stays with these coming chapters.
 
Questions after reading:
1. Points of engagement/non-engagement/confusion?
2. Thoughts on characters?
3. As you may have noticed by now, the magic is a little wishy-washy. And spoiler alert: it's more or less going to stay that way (thus not a ton of new info about it even when the characters directly talk about it). This was my attempt to write a soft magic system and it's clear that something isn't working. I'm wondering if people think I should try to better convey that it's supposed to be a soft magic system from early on, if I should establish more rules and make it a hard magic system, or if I should do something else entirely.
4. On W, I'm still thinking about how she's in my mind pretty clearly not neurotypical. After reading your helpful feedback on this and thinking on my own I do want to delve into more of the context behind some of what's going on with her in revision (and I do mean delve into it, not write it off as being neurodivergent and washing my hands of it). I'm wondering if people think it would be interesting for me to focus on her rejection sensitivity (ADHD), her difficulty with social situations in general (mild autism), both, no preference, different angle, ect.
 
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Pg 1-2:

W seems really casual about all of this at the opening. Like she’s just taking it all in stride.  Also, it seems odd that she thinks the conversation with J, of all things, should have been what tipped her off after any number of odd interactions with N and the flowers before.

“worldview” seems like an odd word to reach for if this has thrown her for a loop. The second half of the sentence feels like a more fitting response on its own

Anticipating the questions about the magic system: the “what else can you do?” and “lots of little tricks” exchange definitely creates a wishy-washy feeling to things. It seems to be trying to create some definition for a magic system (implying a harder magic system), but doesn’t actually follow through on giving any information (which is fine if it’s a softer magic system). Especially since it seems like an odd spot for W to ask that if she’s upset and recognizes that he’s also upset. I think jumping straight to the “are you human?” question would both fit her level of shock better and avoid pushing the understanding of the magic system in an unhelpful direction.

The dialogue through here doesn’t quite match the emotions. It’s clear that they’re both supposed to be upset and flustered to some extent, but I can’t tell if W is feeling betrayed or angry or shocked or some blend of all of those, and the dialogue on both sides seems too calm and levelheaded to fit what’s happening. Same going onto page 2 through the end of the scene. There’s a disconnect between what it seems like the characters are supposed to be feeling and what they seem to actually be feeling

Pg 3:

“What a superpower that would be.” Ugh. Yeah.  I’ve had some rough days recently when I would have loved to have that superpower.

I’d like to see W trying to fight off some of her self-pity more.  She just seems so resigned to it.  I know you’re trying to tie it into her sensitivity to rejection and that you’re still figuring out some aspects of her neurodiversity, but I think we can be made aware of her struggles with falling into this pattern without having it spelled out every time.  A little bit goes a long way toward getting the point across on this front.  Too much comes across as whining and moping pretty quickly, unfortunately, even if we understand how much she’s struggling with things.

Pg 4:

Good job to E on calling her out here.  This is much more engaging than watching her muddle through on her own.

“Either someone is in one or they aren’t.” I don’t have as many issues with W’s character as some of the others sometimes seem to, but when she’s been the one pushing for the casualness of her relationship with N, and trying to keep things from seeming too serious, it seems entirely unfair for her to get upset about the “mixture of both” that she’s spent this whole time creating. It comes across as her blaming him or circumstances in general, where she’s been the one to keep things in that sort of in-between stage.

It also seems odd for her to find the magic threatening, when all she’s ever seen of it is him telling the truth and making flowers grow and being concerned about iron. If she has some knowledge of some of the darker fae myths, we probably should have gotten the impression of that before now, and she probably should have recognized some of the traits for what they were earlier as well.

Pg 5-8

E still seems far more self-aware than I’d expect from a high schooler. And for someone who says he is taking a side, he seems to pretty easily step into the completely neutral, third party, voice of reason role.

Ultimately, I think parts of this conversation with E could have come earlier. At least the parts associated with relationships in general. I find it hard to believe that she’s that naïve about relationships, even if she’s not great at social interactions herself.  If she’s used to watching people and copying behaviors or social mannerisms, she should have lots of experience watching other relationships and how they go badly due to lack of communication or misunderstandings.  She may not be good at actually applying that knowledge, but I find it difficult to believe that she doesn’t see those things.

Having some of this calling out earlier in the story could also provide some motivation for her to hold herself accountable to fighting against her destructive thought patterns, which would probably be helpful for general character engagement throughout.  To recognize when she’s moping or self-pitying and trying to find a way to deal with it instead of just being resigned to it.

Also, I think the conversation with E goes on a little too long in general.

Pg 9:

“He wants me to do better, and so do I.” Yeah. I want to see some of this thought process a little earlier on in the story so that she has it to fall back on and motivate her to push back against her natural thought tendencies.

Pg 10:

“I start appreciating his advice more now that it’s harsh. Not that it makes a ton of sense…” This also fits my thought of her having mild ASD.  Wanting clarity instead of ambiguity, even if the clear answer would come across as harsh to most people.  It actually seems like N would be a really good match in that regard because he sort of has to give her clarity. She just needs to learn to ask the right questions.

“It’s past time…” This is true, but feels like an odd conclusion to come to since not much time seems to have passed in the way of page time.  They had their conflict at the beginning of this chapter, so it doesn’t feel like she’s been avoiding him or putting off talking to him.    I think we need to see more inner conflict on this point for it to hit the right note here.  Something about her ignoring texts from him or avoiding him in school or thinking about texting/calling him and deciding otherwise.  Something that shows both that she’s intentionally avoiding talking to him and that time is passing.

 

 

1. I like that she has a real discussion with E, and that he calls her out about her behavior.  I think it ends up falling into the trap of some of my conversational chapters, where it goes on longer than it needs to, or could benefit from some of the conversation happening earlier in the story, but it addresses important things and I’m glad to see W seem to respond well to it.

2. Mostly mentioned in the LBLs.  Definitely still some issues with how W is coming across that I think are fixable if she’s more aware of her thought patterns and learns how to confront them earlier in the story (even if she’s not very good at it. That’s a learned skill as much as many other things are.).  I like some aspects of W’s character a lot, but I think she needs some better definition in some areas to hit well for most readers.

3. I don’t have too much issue with how the magic has been portrayed up until this point except that I think it needs to be a little more present, and to have W be a little more observant of it (even if she doesn’t know what to make of the observations).  This is the first chapter that feels a little more on the nose in acknowledging the magic, but if I’m reading something in a fantasy genre, I want to be able to recognize that it’s a fantasy genre throughout, even if it’s just small touches that make it seem like there’s more going on than a non-fantasy high school romance.

4. I think whichever way you go with this, you’ll want to make things clear enough that people who aren’t familiar with the actual condition will be able to tie things together.  I recognized some of the mild autism markers because that’s something I’ve done some looking into, but I don’t know if it would jump out to most readers.   I don’t think I would have ever caught on to the rejection sensitivity aspect of ADHD because I’m not as familiar with it. So I recognized the tendency to hold people at a distance to avoid being let down or letting them down, but wouldn’t have tied it to anything else.  Depending on how important it is that the reader is aware of her neurodiversity, you may want to call it out a little more clearly so that they can have a better understanding of what she’s working with.  If we see paranoia or defensiveness, it might come across as a response to her past trauma around her mom’s illness or just as general whininess if we don’t have an alternative explanation for it.  Which might be fine, depending on what you’re aiming for, but might also make the character engagement challenge more difficult on your end.  

As usual, those thoughts are a little rambling, but hopefully also a little helpful?

Looking forward to seeing how our conversation with N goes!

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Hi!

As I read:

p1-2: I like this reaction from W. I think it's very reasonable for where she's at.

p3: It hasn't been addressed whether W is considering telling someone, or whether it would cause problems for N if she did tell someone. I can think of good reasons why W wouldn't tell, (nobody would believe her, she doesn't want to betray N), but I would like to hear W explain what she thinks.

p4: I'm unclear on whether or not E knows N's secret, or if he just knows that there is a secret. I would have assumed he didn't know, because it makes very little sense for N to tell him, but his comments are making me unsure.

p5: Never mind, he knows :)

p6: I feel that W has some very legitimate cause for concern, and that E is being very dismissive of it. And both of them are weirdly chill with the idea that fairies exist in the first place, focusing only on the fact that N is one.

 

In general, I like that we're getting into the meat of the fairy situation. It's a bit frustrating that the initial conversation between N and W is cut short so that W can go talk to E about it instead, but that might be more down to the weekly reading schedule making it feel slow. I like E's reaction to the situation - asking N blunt questions - and I can't help but think that would be a cool conversation to have happen on-screen, so to speak. Either if W was the one asking those questions, or if she was privy to the conversation between E and N.

Looking forward to W and N actually hashing this out between them!

 

On 23/08/2021 at 3:55 AM, Ace of Hearts said:
1. Points of engagement/non-engagement/confusion?
2. Thoughts on characters?
3. As you may have noticed by now, the magic is a little wishy-washy. And spoiler alert: it's more or less going to stay that way (thus not a ton of new info about it even when the characters directly talk about it). This was my attempt to write a soft magic system and it's clear that something isn't working. I'm wondering if people think I should try to better convey that it's supposed to be a soft magic system from early on, if I should establish more rules and make it a hard magic system, or if I should do something else entirely.
4. On W, I'm still thinking about how she's in my mind pretty clearly not neurotypical. After reading your helpful feedback on this and thinking on my own I do want to delve into more of the context behind some of what's going on with her in revision (and I do mean delve into it, not write it off as being neurodivergent and washing my hands of it). I'm wondering if people think it would be interesting for me to focus on her rejection sensitivity (ADHD), her difficulty with social situations in general (mild autism), both, no preference, different angle, ect.

1. I think I covered this in LBLs.

2. I like N, I think he's sweet and this reaction to being rejected feels very in-character for him. I also think W's reaction makes sense and I find it sympathetic (although I do wonder why finding out that fairies exist isn't a bigger deal for her. Is magic just accepted as a real thing in this world?) E comes across to me as being very trusting. I mean ... his idea of asking N blunt questions about his plans is good, but it does rest on the assumption that N is telling the truth about being completely unable to lie, which he might not be, for all E knows.

3. I don't think this needs to be a hard magic system, and hand-waving things with 'N doesn't know' will work as long as those things aren't crucial to the plot. I think the problem we've had until now where it feels like too much information is being withheld could be fixed by feeding more concrete information about N and his fairy community in the earlier chapters (for example, what happens when N tries to lie, what happens when he's exposed to iron) and having characters like W ask the obvious questions, even if it still takes a while to come to the point where he's definitely, absolutely a fairy.

4. If you decide to lean into W's neurodivergence, I think the ADHD route might be the most interesting one for me. Her social awkwardness reads more like normal-ish teenage awkwardness than autism to me, while her oversensitivity seems like it might have more to unpack.

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Glad we get more into the magic stuff here. I have no problem with how it's presented. Nothing wrong with soft magic systems. In this case, the mechanics of the magic is not pertinent to the plot, so it doesn't really matter what type it is.

As you said, there's probably a largish rewrite of the early chapters to get this moving earlier. Getting to a couple of these answers in maybe chapter 6 would go a long way to letting W and N have more meaningful discussion, and hopefully also stop some of W's worst tendencies.

On 8/22/2021 at 10:55 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

4. On W, I'm still thinking about how she's in my mind pretty clearly not neurotypical. After reading your helpful feedback on this and thinking on my own I do want to delve into more of the context behind some of what's going on with her in revision (and I do mean delve into it, not write it off as being neurodivergent and washing my hands of it). I'm wondering if people think it would be interesting for me to focus on her rejection sensitivity (ADHD), her difficulty with social situations in general (mild autism), both, no preference, different angle, ect.

Honestly, W is really annoying me as a character. I love E and N however. I think delving into this and giving some reasons behind W's actions would go a long way to making her a more sympathetic character. If we see her reacting in a certain way and there's any sort of acknowledgement, rather than just W not engaging, that would help. The most frustrating part here is there are clear and easy opportunities for her to solve problems or at least address them, and she takes none of them. She's a smart character. She's faced with a willing person who literally can't lie and does nothing to find the truth of the situation. Have any sort of explanation for why she doesn't take those steps would be very helpful.

I was really glad to see E pounding some sense into her, but right not all her solutions are forced on her by external sources. With just a little introspection, W can be a much more proactive character as well. Even if she can't apply the solutions, just seeing that some exist would help.


Notes while reading:
pg 1: "Which means I’m catching him off guard, and he’s breaking down under the pressure"
--Looking forward to seeing N off-guard, and some of his flaws.

pg 1: "Not much of it has value. At least with how practiced I am."
--does this mean he's good at it but there's no value? Or that he hasn't practiced enough to use his magic?

pg 2: "I should have seen this coming from a mile away"
--er, yeah. This is one problem I have with the setup so far. W just plain asked him if he was human and he told her. Why is this only ocurring in ch 12?

pg 2: "My boyfriend is a fairy"
--Lol! (for all the double and triple meanings here)

pg 3: "down the trial"
--trail

pg 3: "What was I supposed to say?"
--hmmm...don't quite believe this part. Both that W just stands there and doesn't do anything, and that N just walks off after all this time spent chasing her. Doesn't seem consistent with his personality.

pg 4: "But then I remember the flowers sprouting around his body, all at once like a time lapse, and I picture him dragging me into a world of forest magic where I’ll never be able to leave"
--As a reason to be uncomfortable with someone, being good at music and being able to grow flowers is not really on my list. I think that's why I'm just not convinced.

pg 4: "call me a bad person"
--He didn't. He said N was better. Not that W was bad...

pg 5: “Is there more to this than him being a fairy and a cop being on his trail?”
--I feel like both these things need to come earlier in the story.

pg 5: "Nobody cares about our conversation, W. In the grand scheme of things, we’re all boring people.”
--Ah, I forgot how much I liked E.

pg 6: Ha! I love the breakdown of not-quite homo sapiens.

pg 6: “He can make powers that plants grow.”
“So can I, with enough time.”
--Exactly!

pg 7: “I asked him if he was going to do it. He said no.”
--good point, and something W maybe could have done earlier, or N could have suggested.

pg 7: Er, at this point, with what W has done to N, and how E is questioning her, I've really lost all sympathy for W. I'd almost rather see a story about E and N getting together and having to avoid whatever's up with the cop, at least until W can pull her head out of her backside and act like a decent person.

pg 8: "I shake my head. Is it really that easy?"
--yeah, this. I'm getting pretty annoyed with W.
"Here's an easy solution to your problem." "No, I refuse to do anything to help myself."

pg 10: "Every time I talk to E I realize I hurt him more than I thought"
--I think this might apply to many people W has met.


 

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