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Ace of Hearts

8/30/21 - Ace of Hearts - A Bond of Wildflowers Ch 13 (4496 words)

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Hi everyone,
 
Thanks as always for your previous round of feedback! This time we have a bit of a different chapter. It mostly focuses on a side character subplot, and it's important to me that the story addresses what it does here even though it might not be as relevant to the main plot in its current form.
 
Questions after reading:
1. Points of engagement/non-engagement/confusion?
2. Thoughts on characters?
3. Was there enough main plot in here? Or alternatively, were you okay taking this detour?
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Alright, this is me jumping in at chapter 13, so sorry if I point out things that have already been explained :p. I will be going back to read the previous chapters though!

Pg 1. “degrading picnic” is there a specific reason why the tables are considered to be degrading? Because they’re childish?

Pg 1 “only makes me angrier” ha! Nice

Pg 2 “doesn’t mean by feelings” doesn’t mean my feelings

Also this may be part of the character, but I think most people take it for granted that people will act illogically, especially when it comes to relationships. Pointing out ones own illogical behaviour seems like Spock or something . Which if that is the point of this character, is a good job 

“I lean over…” I like this paragraph

Pg 3 “I don’t think it was a big promise…” Hmmm. I think this will end up being a problem for them later, despite it being good now.

“mom’s up for some…” WHOA playing dungeons and dragons with your mom?? That’s a cool mom right there lol

“five new ideas” relatable

Pg 4 “fighting” oh no

“W Valley…” This is good for me since I haven’t read it before, but since this is chapter 13 I think the setting should already be established, and I think this could be cut. So it goes from “day” to “so” without mentioning the exact city where they live 

Pg 5 “third wheeling” This made me laugh out loud

Well, she has a very nice relationship with her ex it seems.

Pg 6 “social mead GPS…” Okay this is small, but this sounds like a 60-year-old man

“That’s what he needs…” Red flag

Pg 7 “tactful” how old are these people supposed to be? Because I do not think I’ve heard a teenager once use the word “tactful”

Pg 8 “Indian food” yummy

Pg 9 “his arm falls” oof that hurt me inside

So far I’m getting the impression that you are very good at writing complicated feelings that come with relationships. Definitely a good strength to have!

Pg 10 “a has waged war” this sentence feels a bit clunky

The last couple of pages were very good, and the dialogue felt more natural to me. I don’t really have too many notes on them.  I’m excited to see where this goes!

1.       As for engagement, I think that its okay. The latter half was more engaging to me, and I think there a few scenes that could be trimmed a little (outside convincing E to come in could be a bit shorter I think) but other than that it was good

2.       The characters all seem to have a very intellectual way of speaking, which comes across to me as a little dry in places. Also, during some of the dialogue ti was hard to tell who was talking to whom. Other than that, I like the characters so far. N especially seems like a sweetheart.

3.       I don’t feel qualified to answer this yet

 

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I was engaged through most of this chapter, and to answer the third question, I think some of this can actually come sooner. Even though it's not "main plot" it is emotional development for the characters, which is important to a good story.

I'm still generally annoyed by W, but gave a couple examples of places where you could spend a little more time exploring her way of thinking to give her character more sympathy. The second half of this chapter she does a lot better. I'm not sure what changed, but she seems to be acknowledging what she is feeling a lot better.

E's development here is great, and explained very well. It helps shine some light on W's parents as well, and give his character arc some depth.

Notes while reading:

pg 2: “I don’t know. Whenever something doesn’t go well, I think it’s my fault.”
“You know, that might be the most relatable you’ve been to me so far.”
--It's nice to see N vulnerable and with issues as well. He's been portrayed as almost without fault the whole book.

pg 3: “I… don’t do as well around other people’s parents as you do."

-like, she runs screaming? Starts throwing punches? Unpacking things like this will go a long way to showing W's neurodiversity.

pg 4: "I try to ignore any self-doubt in my mind about whether it’s playing the game with me that makes her excited, or if it’s seeing N again. I almost succeed."
--This is another place to unpack. Why would she doubt affection from her own mother? Or why can't she be excited for both?

pg 6: "But compared to the way B is prepared to see me as an enemy, any conflict between us was nothing in comparison"
--between E and W? Unclear. Also, if so, that...pretty bad. I mean, E&B's relationship is messed up.

pg 9: "And like that, we’re back to a normal, happy couple. Almost"
--UGH. W, stop making drama!

pg 14: “I mean, oh wow. I had no idea. I’m glad you’re trusting me with this-”
--funny, but can N say this as he can't lie?


The last half of this has some really good growth for all the characters, and W stops being quite so...W...for most of it.
 

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Pg 1:

“Degrading” -> disintegrating?

“I wasn’t ever planning on it.” That seems like a pretty clear lie. One that N should be able to recognize. Sidenote. How does N feel about people lying to each other or to him? 

“…you can tell me the next time I’m being one.” The wording of this sentence is a little clunky. 

Pg 2:

“…the most relatable you’ve been…” also a slightly clunky sentence.

The conversation here feels a little off. I know N hasn’t spent a ton of time in modern teenage non-fae social circles, but he’s interacted with people before.  I assume the fae also have varying personalities or people who are “emotionally smart” vs. “academically smart”?  He just seems a little too naïve here.

Pg 3:

The transition to “What do you want to do next?” seems like a really sudden shift from the discussion about whether or not N is truly human.

“Of course that’s okay.” Is it, though? If he still seems upset about it, does that create issues with his only telling her the truth? Both the spirit and letter of the truth?

Pg 5:

“That’s not a good thing, N.” “But it has a name.” Hah.

“Aren’t you worried about your girlfriend’s ex” This line seems rather un-socially-conscious of E.  Like it’s up to N whether he thinks E and W can behave themselves without supervision.  Like N shouldn’t trust W to be able to tell E to get out of there if he tries to do anything untoward. Which also seems really weird since everyone involved knows E isn’t attracted to W and doesn’t want to be in a relationship with her. 

I’d like to see W step in here to have an opinion and not just let the guys talk about whether or not N should be allowed to join a game at her house.  Even just clarifying that E is her friend, not just her ex when E is making a big deal about whether or not she wants her ex joining them would be something.  It just seems odd that he’s so set on referring to himself as her ex, when they seem to have developed a friendship that stands on its own merit.  Almost seems like he’s the one making drama out of nothing here.

Pg 6:

Why has no one demanded an explanation for why E and B are together?  Because every single time he mentions her, it’s some weird ominous thing, and he’s presented as a wise-beyond-his-years character.

Like. They all openly acknowledge that she’s possessive and manipulative of him, and he bad-mouths her pretty regularly… I don’t get how neither N nor W have asked if he even likes her.

Pg 7:

“…good friends…don’t fit will with their partner.” I have no idea what this is saying. If it’s just that B is good to her friends, but doesn’t fit well with E, then why is there no obvious, blunt “So why are you her trying to be her partner?” It also makes it sound like E’s situation is supposed to seem normal. To have some unnamed outside thing forcing him into a relationship with someone he doesn’t like and who doesn’t like him. The “There are people out there…” makes it seem like an acceptable thing that he’s fine with.

“She treats me the same way, and I’m human.” 1. Yeah. Why is he in this relationship? And 2. Didn’t we refer to N as human at the beginning of the chapter?  Looking back, I guess he talks about having human emotions, not being human.  But In page 1, W says “I’m the one who questioned your humanity” as if he is human and she didn’t treat him like it.

“Good to her friends. Not who I click with…” So this just bluntly that he doesn’t want to be with her? Then why are his best friends (I assume?) not questioning it.

“Sorry about not being tactful.” / “I expect nothing less…” seems like an odd thing to apologize for on W’s part, and sort of passive-aggressive on E’s.  I think just leaving it at “You’re not wrong.” Would be better to get the point across.

The whole conversation here with E feels a little odd.  I’m not entirely sure what point E is trying to get across, and I’m getting too distracted by everyone ignoring the fact that he and B seem to hate each other.  It seems like a roundabout approach to whatever they’re supposed to be discussing, but I don’t really get what the final conclusion is supposed to be.

If it’s just that E and B hate each other, but need to be together for mysterious unspoken reasons, so N and W need to support him while he’s dealing with the loneliness and frustration, I think we could have gotten to that far more quickly and directly.

Pg 8:

“shouldn’t see my boyfriend as competition.” Ding ding ding!  Glad to see her finally have this realization.

Pg 12:

“didn’t learn until recently that there was a name for this.”  I thought we already knew that E was ace.  Didn’t we learn that in one of the first few chapters?  And if he had spent a lot of time interacting with W’s mom and amma, wouldn’t he have known the terminology just from hanging out with their family? They seem like the types to be pretty up front with those sorts of discussions.   

Pg 15:

“like a rabbit going through a wire fence.” I’m not sure what this is supposed to look like.

Pg 16

“if this is what I think it is…” this seems like an odd response from W.  When she found out her mom was sick again, she ran off on her own in a burst of anger.  To be pretty sure that the news is that her mom is dying, and to not only be pretty calm about it but to keep her friends around because it will affect the D&D schedule? I think this approach makes the tone of this page seem a little off.

Like they’re gathering everyone in a big circle to hear the news that W has been afraid of, that has caused a good deal of past trauma for her, and that she and her family are probably going to need time to process together.  I’m not sure what purpose it serves to have N and E stick around.  

Also, E and N have both lost parents.  Wouldn’t one of them be able to guess what the serious phone call and amma’s tenseness are about?  

 

1. I think my biggest issue in here is the odd back and forth about E and B and the trying to decide whether E should stay or not.   I think E processing his sexuality is dealt with well, but couldn’t quite get past the idea that it seemed odd as a big reveal when I thought we knew that already.  Not sure if that was just based on reading comment discussions or if there was enough in the text to make it pretty clear early on.  My instinct is to say that we should have this a little earlier, but I do like the aspect of N and W sort of working together to help E (giving him the opportunity to talk to W’s parents about it, and the space to reveal it to W), and I think that strengthens the relationships on each leg of the friend triangle. I don’t know if that would have the same weight if the conversation took place before N and W have their big reveal/conflict.

 2. I agree that W comes across better in the second half here, where she’s acknowledging that her thought patterns are unhealthy and inaccurate and is trying to work against it.

 3. I didn’t notice any particular lack of main plot.  We have more of the recovery and rebuilding of trust between N and W, which is certainly main plot.  The fact that they’re also working together to help E fits alongside that well, even if it’s not exactly the same.

Also, now that the fae detail is out in the open, the snide comments between E, N, and W referencing N’s fairy-ness keep that aspect in the story without the frustrations I was having before where seemingly-obvious clues were being ignored by smart characters. 

That’s one of the reasons I think moving that reveal earlier would be really helpful.  You don’t need to spend too much time talking about the magic for it to be present, but until we have confirmation that it’s canon, the clues that have been dropped are too significant to quite believe that none of the characters would pick up on them.

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I missed a big chunk in the middle of this story, so I can't really speak to continuity or plot. I hope it's alright if I just note a few things that stood out to me:

A few lines came off as a little awkward to read:

"He smiled at me..."

"I assumed that you were justified..."

"Because it's not like I made a few silly..."

Not wrong gramaticially (as far as I can tell) but a little sticky.

"I almost succeeded" Nice line!

"I can tell you're not attracted to her..." Ouch! I don't know if that was intentional, but that sounds harsh for N. In context it makes perfect sense, but the phrasing sounds like a barb directed at W since the reveal about E's sexuality doesn't come until later.

I agree with @C_Vallion that the switch in conversation between W and N from pretty heavy relationship stuff to "what do you want to do now?" Seems fast. I'm missing a break of some sort between these modes.

Terminal illness is a heavy topic to cover. It seems like you're handling it with care and depth, well done! 

Thanks for sharing!

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As I read:

p3 - I like that N and W are talking things out and moving past W's freak-out. I notice that W hasn't really had a 'fairies are actually real???' moment, or asked N any obvious follow-up questions. Like, why is a fairy going to a human school? Is the fairies' existence a big secret? What will happen if people find out? It feels almost like fairies are common knowledge in this setting, and W already knows the basics, but the reader hasn't been clued in.

p6 - The red flags in E and B's relationship have been steadily accumulating. At this point, their entire relationship is basically one great big red flag.

p10 - W's 'maybe we should just stay friends, but I like him too much, oh no' shtick is getting a little old. It feels like she's been going backward and forward on that point for ages. I think, to keep from being repetitive, either W needs to move on from this or there needs to be a new evolution of it.

p14 - N getting snarky with the 'I had no idea line' is funny. (I'm assuming this doesn't count as a lie as it's not intended to be deceptive.)

 

1. There wasn't anything in the chapter that I found boring or confusing, but it did jump rapidly between different plot threads and tones. We had W's reaction to the N fairy reveal, we had a continuation of the D&D fun, we had an update on E's situation, and an update on the mom's health situation. That's a lot of different threads the story is bouncing around, and packing it all into this one chapter makes the chapter feel a bit scattered.

2. I like the reveal of E's sexuality, and I continue to be intrigued by the B subplot. N is adorable, and I like that we're getting hints that he has some deep insecurity issues hidden. As I said in the LBLs, it feels like W's indecisiveness about being in a relationship is dragging on too long at this point.

3. I don't think you need to worry about this being a detour from the main plot. E and his plot threads might not be A-plot, but B-plot is important too.

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