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Ace of Hearts

9/6/21 - Ace of Hearts - A Bond of Wildflowers Ch 14 (3525 words)

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Hey everyone,
 
Thanks as always for the feedback, and especially to the readers who hopped back into the middle! :) I'm glad to hear that the last chapter seems to at least be on the right track.
 
And apologies for the late submission today. But hoo boy did I need the time to clean this one up. The original one was... not good, and used my previous draft's characterization of B which is also not good. So I rewrote it entirely from scratch (from page 3 onward, at least) today.
 
Questions after reading:
1. Points of engagement/non-engagement/confusion?
2. Thoughts on characters? Especially B. This version of her as a foil to W is a fairly spontaneous creation. The overall plot of the story is probably going to change quite a bit (seeing as how the supernatural stuff needs a lot more setup earlier on) and I'm wondering if B should be a more important character on the level of E.
 
Thanks! :)
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Hi! As I read:

p1: This is a nit-pick, but I think describing someone's handwriting as having 'a surgeon's precision' gives the wrong impression, as doctors are infamous for having messy handwriting (that's the stereotype, anyway)

p1: I don't think it's necessary for W to restate how she feels about N (likes him, maybe wants more in the future, needs to take it slow for now). I feel like I've read her say this a bunch of times already and I'm only reading a chapter a week :)

p2: My immediate reaction on hearing that B wants to meet N is 'oh no, I hope she's not going to mess with him or do anything mean to him'. But it seems like N is more worried that W will get the wrong idea. I don't think this is a concern that W has - I think she's also worried that B might say or do something horrible to N - but she doesn't actually voice any of that, so I'm not sure.

I do like that we get confirmation that N was dating B because he felt sorry for her, though. And that W spots the pattern in his behaviour.

p4-5: The kids refer to the boys who beat up N in the abstract, but given that these people all presumably know each other, it would feel more natural if at least some of the boys were mentioned by name. It feels weird that B and A in particular wouldn't be specific.

p7: We've established that N is hurt but not too seriously, which is good. But isn't W going to ask where he is now, and when she can see him?

p8: Sounds like A has learned her lesson about popularity games. Hooray for that!

p9: W is being very patient and understanding with B, which seems odd for W. She's usually much quicker to pop off at people than to withhold judgement, especially when someone is acting as sketchy and paranoid as B.

p13: I have questions about why N is at E's house. Wouldn't the school phone his parents and ask them to pick him up? Maybe I'm the weird one, but my school would definitely not have just let an injured student go to a friend's house during school hours without getting parents involved. That would have involved all sorts of potential legal exposure if something happened to the kids.

 

Good chapter. N getting beat up was a bolt from the blue, but I'm interested to see how it shakes out.

1. It feels like the first one and a half pages are preamble you don't need. The chapter really gets going when N tells W that B wants to meet up. After that, things get good and I'm on board.

2. I like B's characterisation a lot through this whole chapter. I think she's a really interesting and unique take on the 'popular girl' trope, and it's fascinating how much contempt she has for the thing she spends her life doing. She seems to think that she's going to work her way up the social pyramid by playing dirty, and once she's amassed enough power, she'll use it to ... save the world from the patriarchy or something? I don't know what evil villains B is fighting against, and I don't know if they really exist (in the setting) or if she's just delusional, but it's really fun to read about.

I think B definitely has potential to be in the spotlight more, but there's an important balance to be struck there. A big part of her character's appeal is that we don't really know what she's up to, and we don't know what she means by the overly dramatic hints she drops. If we see more of her, but she still spends the whole time being mysterious and doing the same routine, that could get old quickly.

If you want to lean into B's character more, I suggest you show some of her social machinations up close. Right now, B's 'onscreen' appearances have all been her being uncharacteristically honest and straightforward with W, and the rest of B's persona is stuff we're informed about by W's narration. That's okay for a minor character, but if you do more with her, I think showing what B is like most of the time would be a good idea.

 

On another note: I can tell you're leaning more into W's neurodiversity in this chapter. She reads to me much more strongly as having Asperger's than she did before.

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Hmmm...I have...issues with this chapter, which probably stems from the quick rewrite. I feel like this is focused on the wrong character. We get N's reaction at the beginning and feeling something bad will happen, but the rest of the chapter is taken up by the characters talking about the bad things that happened to N, and NO ONE ASKS WHERE OR HOW HE IS.

A lot of the focus is on B, who is an interesting, if not totally believable, character. We've seen a little side of this before, but she's got a very weird speaking pattern and keeps making not the usual connections. I think she can be an intriguing character (more so than A), but we're going to need a lot of setup to get here, so much that I wonder if it's going to get in the way of the N/W/E connection.

I think looking through my notes below shows what I was more connected with in the chapter. I feel like a lot was going on but none of it addressed the issue at hand.

 

Notes while reading:
pg 2: "“I think you’re right.” His voice is quiet. “And I don’t think that’s going to stop me.”"
--good line.

pg 3: "Then he started seeing someone else who could be cold, distant, irrational, and rude. Me. 
Is that a coincidence?"
--*rolls eyes at W.*

pg 4: "“Seriously, would it kill you to be direct?” I say."
--Uh yeah. In fact, wouldn't the administrator just spit it out? I don't think he would stand for a kid getting beaten up on school campus.

pg 5: “So what does this have to do with me?”
--Shouldn't W be saying "Is he alright?" or "can I go see him?"

pg 5: "I’ll make sure to keep that in mind for future assessments of boys to associate with.”"
--uhhhh...thanks B.

pg 6 "but I believe her."
--I...don't? Why is no one going to check on N? Where is he?

pg 6 “But they’re going to get suspended for this,” B says. “It’s a stupid decision.”
--yeah, no. I don't believe a high school Popular Girl thinks like that.

pg 7: "Then, after a second, she lets out a chuckle."
--about N getting beat up? What is wrong with these people?

pg 8: “Do you think… maybe, there’s a chance we could be friends again?"
--Do not care about this now. I'm a lot more worried about N and wondering why none of his supposed friends are going to check on him, especially considering how empathic he is.

pg 8: "I lost control and the polite mask fell off."
--I don't think anyone talks like that.

pg 9: "I… was curious how he cultivated that image.”
--Again, not sure high school students talk like this.

pg 10: "When B puts it all on the table, I don’t need to fear resentment hidden in the shadows."
--the conversations in this chapter are exceedingly weird.

pg 10: "N getting shoved to the ground, punched, kicked, and still not wanting to inflict that pain back."
--this is yet another time where W should be finding out where he is and going to check on him.

pg 11: “Which means he didn’t cheat on you.”
--really don't care about this thread now.

pg 12: “You’re making it hard for me to want to keep myself under my usual tight control when you take me seriously either way.”
--really, who talks like this?

pg 13: "Perhaps it’s time for me to stop making excuses and stand up for myself."
--I feel like this whole chapter is focusing on the wrong person.

pg 13: "N is at E’s place,” B says. “Should have led with that, I realize."
--*facepalm* Why did no one ask this???

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I agree with the earlier critiques that the first page or so feels unnessicary. It reads like the "previously on..." start of an episode. 

I had a hard time with this chapter. It felt like the conversations went on a bit too long without anything happening in the present. The biggest event in the chapter happens 'off camera' which dulls the impact for me, especially since W's POV tends to be distant. 

B is getting interesting here. I am haveing a hard time telling her 'voice' from W's though. "Future assessment of boys I associate with" Has B always spoken formally like W? 

W definetly comes off as more sympathetic here than she has before. She's dealing with major life events and bearing up under them. Her apparent lack of interest in N's wellbeing threatens that somewhat, but seems to me in keeping with her character. 

B's apparent knowlege of serious danger directed at N seems strange. It makes her past behavior more confusing and it also seems like a strange time to bring it up. It feels like a lot from her all at once. But I did miss a lot in the middle, maybe this was set up already? 

Thanks for sharing

 

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Man. Way behind on comments for this one. Sorry about that!

Pg 1.

“blocky and precise” I think someone else had mentioned that the surgeon comparison seems odd.  I think you probably mean the precision of a surgeon doing surgery, but it’s hard to separate that from the doctor-handwriting stereotype.  Maybe a draftsman or architect’s precision? Since that has more of a neat-handwriting connotation?

The “no kisses for now” sentence is a little confusing to me.  It seems like it’s coming across as them intentionally restraining the physical side of their relationship because they think that if they’re not stealing kisses by ponds, they’ll be able to keep their relationship where it’s at. But I don’t see how that’s going to prevent love from being tied into things. I think there are a lot of people who, even if physically/sexually attracted to their partner, are primarily going to give and receive love in other ways. 

If we cautiously look down the “love languages” path (There’s certainly some odd baggage that goes with it in certain circles, but I think the key points are relevant.), they say the main ways people give and receive love are through quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch, gift-giving, and acts of service. 

To me, N seems like someone who is very physical-touch/gift-giving oriented (lots of hugs, bringing her pastries), but W seems more on the quality-time side of things (bonding over board games)

Starting with the “I’m not in a good mental state to offer physical affection” angle seems far more solid, since it shows us that physical affection takes more mental effort from her, and there’s too much going on for her to manage that.  A related point that might be relevant would be how N responds to that.  He seems like the type to run in and give someone a big hug if they’re hurting.  Does he recognize that that’s not going to help her at the moment and find some other way to support her? Is she fine being supported with hugs, but not giving them? And if that’s the case, does N feel neglected because she’s not being physically affectionate back? 

Hopefully some of that random tangent is relevant.  As a non-huggy person with a lot of very huggy friends and family members, I probably think about this more than most people. It also means I'm very sympathetic to W's not being in a good mental state to be offering physical affection, though. So there's that. 

Pg 2.

“I know it looks bad…” There still seems to be a lot of everyone being sort of suspicious that their partners are going to run off and cheat on them or being worried that their partners are suspicious of it, even though they know and trust each other.  It makes those parts of conversations seem strangely paranoid.

I think the conversation on this page could be trimmed back a good deal.  I like that they’re good at discussing things that they’re worried about, but it goes on a little long.

Pg 4:

“Seriously, would it kill you to be direct?” Yeah. That. The indirectness goes on a little too long for the tension to hold.  I think even just the “Oh no, something’s wrong” feeling of having been called down to the office and seeing A and B there is long enough for the “They beat up N” point to hit pretty hard.

Pg 5:

“What does this have to do with me?” she seems less concerned than she probably should be.

“attackers” seems like an odd word choice. It has too much of a military/criminal feel to it for A to be referring to a classmate. Also, why is A here? What exactly is the principal trying to figure out? He seems rather uninvolved in the actual conversation.

If he’s not necessary to the conversation, I wonder if it would make sense to have A sneakily pull W out of class for this instead of having the principal call them down? Something about the setup here feels a little forced, which isn’t helping the conversation feel natural.

Pg 4-8

I think a lot of the conversation through here would be stronger if trimmed back a little and made a little less formal.  The overall path of the conversation seems solid. It just stops at the individual points a little too long, or gets caught on phrasing that doesn’t seem to fit stressed high schoolers, and that makes it easy to lose track of where we’re going.

“I’ve missed you.” What’s W feel about that?  We haven’t noticed her missing A too much, have we? How’s she feel about having the relationship re-initiated immediately after this incident between B and N?

Pg 9-13

I’m…not sure what to make of B here, and not entirely sure where this conversation is going.  Part of it is just that it’s hard to imagine her as a high school student.  I work with middle school and high school students on pretty much a daily basis, and while there are a couple who have similar unusual, overly-intellectual speech patterns, they are generally not the center of popularity circles. 

She seems to be too self-aware and socially aware to be asking some of the questions she is, or to miss some of the details she has. Even if she has a mysterious tragic/traumatic past she’s working from, it’s hard to see the jaded persona she’s presenting here as feasible.

 

Overall:

I think the point that no one seems actually concerned about N is one of the biggest things that sticks with me on this one.  Especially when that seemed to be the big tension point back at the beginning. It seems like things would flow better if the “N got hurt, and it’s made us think about things” conversations would follow actually checking on N.

Random thought (feel free to ignore): What if B has A sneak W out of class and out of school for some made up emergency. Tells her N got beat up, and he’s at E’s.  B drive’s them to E’s, and N has taken some ibuprofen and is sleeping (or E covers for him, if some magical fae healing powers have kicked in or something), so they have their various other conversations there.  

I think getting to some sort of “we’re worried about N, but we’ve done everything we can on that front at the moment” point before the conversations would be really helpful in keeping that from being a point of distraction throughout.

As for B, I’m not sure. I like some of the aspects I think I’m getting from her character, but it seems like it’s been pushed a little too far to be realistic in some ways, and I don’t have a good enough sense of her role in the story at the moment to know what to do with her being suddenly shoved into center stage. It doesn’t help that we don’t get much of what W things of what she’s saying, or that the conversation goes on pretty long and gets tricky to follow in some places.

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