C_Vallion

10.11.2021 - C_Vallion - Price of Peace - Chapter 14 (or 14/15) RevA - (L, V, D all mild) - 4188 Words

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Hello, All!

Thanks so much to everyone who has looked through the prologue!

Sorry for the big gap between regular chapters. September had me way behind on just about everything, and my brain still feels like it’s catching up. Should be back to the normal schedule going forward as my coaching season winds down over the next few weeks.

This one had initially been all from Ali’s pov, with all of R’s side of things happening off-screen.  It’s definitely better now, but I’m not sure how the emotional through-line is coming across. I definitely need to provide a more measurable goal for Ali to be working toward (beyond keeping the family from falling apart), but haven’t figured out the best way to do that yet, since it will likely depend on where the changes to Is- and Al’s part 1 goals/motivations land.

Content Warning: Language, threats of violence, alcohol usage

Usual Questions:

  1. Does the emotional through-line seem to follow?
  2. Thoughts on characters? Especially since it’s been a while since we’ve heard from these ones?
  3. Thoughts on the first half (or first chapter, if split that way) cutting off where it does (as opposed to detailing what follows instead of referencing back to it in the second half?)
  4. Opinions on having this as two shorter chapters vs. one longer one with a PoV change? 
  5. Points of interest or engagement?

Thanks!

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This really felt like two separate chapters to me, although short ones.  With just the page break the time skip felt a little awkward, although maybe this could be remedied with a bit more transition? 

Sorry, I am not the best editor by a long shot. I have trouble with organizing chapters in my own WIP. 

Points of engagement: I think the emotional impacts were good, the only parts I had a hard time with was the conversations about people I hadn't read about in a while. 

Skipping over the fight felt abrupt, as a reader it felt like something was being hidden from me. Perhaps this was intentional?

This is the lost relatable/likable I remember R being. 

A few line by lines:

"D was why he was here." A little unclear

"L and A were both mountainous. And they were all bastards." At this point I wasn't sure if this was two people or two nations. The switch between 'both' and 'all' hinted at nations but this line snagged me. 

Thanks for sharing!

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On 10/14/2021 at 3:36 AM, Sarah B said:

Skipping over the fight felt abrupt, as a reader it felt like something was being hidden from me. Perhaps this was intentional?

That's one of the main things I haven't decided what to do about yet.
On one hand, it does feel like "hey, we're building up to a fight scene...just kidding!" but I like the idea of there being some uncertainty/concern about what happened when shifting to Ali and her fear for him.  I just don't know if that hits for a reader like it does in my head or if there's a way to make it work better.

On 10/14/2021 at 3:36 AM, Sarah B said:

"L and A were both mountainous. And they were all bastards." At this point I wasn't sure if this was two people or two nations. The switch between 'both' and 'all' hinted at nations but this line snagged me. 

I definitely need to find a better way to make it more intuitive/fluid for a land/holding name to be used in passing for the land, the family, or the title holder.
So depending on the conversation, Tr could refer to Al (not usually by friends, unless it's R trying to emotionally distance himself from people), his family or ancestral line, the people living in the duchy, or the land of the duchy itself.   

Here, R is referring to the lands of L and A, then the families or people as a whole. If pressed, he'd probably have to admit that it's just certain people who irritate him, but if he has an option to avoid acknowledging specific relational conflicts in favor of a vague, general dismissiveness, he's going to take it. 

I really like the possibilities that setup gives for things like

  1. Is's hyperawareness of how she represents her family
  2. R's distinguishing between "I hate Ar, but I don't mind hanging out with Zar (the Count of Ar) when no one's mentioning politics." (I think you missed chapter 9, where that's brought out)
  3. Overall, people's tendency to emotionally distance themselves from one another.
  4. Then contrasting that with Al, who missed a lot of that social conditioning and doesn't jump as quickly onto the "oh. They're from X. They must be horrible." bandwagon

Is any of that coming across to the reader now? Certainly not as much as I'd like.  But these rambling thoughts help me figure out what things I mention/imply in passing that I really want to stress more in future revisions.

 

Thanks so much!

 

Edited by C_Vallion
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As I go:

p1-4 - There's a pretty noticeable difference in the way R is perceived by other characters and the way he comes across from his own viewpoint. The others see him as just an irresponsible party boy who doesn't care about politics - but actually, he cares a lot, and they are misunderstanding his grumpiness and cynicism. I like being able to see different sides of characters, but I think this might be a bit too much of an extreme. If characters like Is have misunderstood R that badly, it makes them look like they don't understand what's going on in court. Especially when T can apparently see right through him.

p5-8 - I like that we're digging into R's emotions and seeing a back-and-forth between the more volatile elements of the court. I think you could improve it by having clearer stakes - what's going to happen if R starts a fight with M? Because it seems to me that not much would happen in the long run, and that drains some of the tension from the scene. (Also, it's not clear from the chapter ending whether this is going to be a physical fight, a screaming match, or something else. Not sure if you meant to leave it vague.)

p9 - Okay, so the boys had an actual brawl :)

p10 - It seems pretty obvious to me that the reason the family is not eating together or gathering in one place is so that Is's attacker can't take them all out at once. It seems like Ali hasn't put two and two together on that, which makes me question her intelligence.

 

On 11/10/2021 at 4:28 PM, C_Vallion said:

Usual Questions:

  1. Does the emotional through-line seem to follow?
  2. Thoughts on characters? Especially since it’s been a while since we’ve heard from these ones?
  3. Thoughts on the first half (or first chapter, if split that way) cutting off where it does (as opposed to detailing what follows instead of referencing back to it in the second half?)
  4. Opinions on having this as two shorter chapters vs. one longer one with a PoV change? 
  5. Points of interest or engagement?

1. I think the emotional through-line follows. This does feel like it needs to be two separate chapters, though, since the POVs are so different.

2. I commented on the difference between R from other characters' POVs and from his own POV. I like that Ali has a goal in this chapter, which fixes the problem she had in earlier chapters. I think the thing that makes it work is that she breaks down her big, vague goal (keep family together) into a smaller, achievable goal (gather everyone for mealtimes).

3. R's POV would probably benefit from going on for a bit longer before cutting off. Having the fight 'off-screened' feels a bit anticlimactic after the build-up, especially as any mystery about what happened is cleared up a few pages later.

4. Definitely prefer this as two shorter chapters.

5. My interest is definitely more in the family dynamics right now - R's anger, V's control problems, Ali's helplessness and fear at losing her family, Is's feelings of responsibility.

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I'm half way through this! I promise I'll try to comment by sunday!! Sorry for the delay on this one :D

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As I go:

pg 1. Ah I had missed R. His PoV does a great job of setting up the scene dynamic in only a quarter of a page! 

pg 2. Okay so he's kinda an a-hole but I don't hate it. Though I think it's supposed to indicate that he's impulsive rather than just mean-spirited, and if so I'd like to see more signs of that (regret, maybe?)

pg 3. It's L? Is he just saying that to throw her off the scent of what's happening with Is? He seems genuine and I don't know/can't remember what's going on with L other than that he's kinda generally awful. 

pg 5. Is L part of the assassination scheme? Or does R think he is, anyway? Again maybe WRS but I don't remember that. 

pg 6. This is good for building tension. The fact that M is so confident makes me think L has something big planned and this is a good way of conveying it. 

pg 7. I see why T would be annoyed with R being kinda an a-hole but I don't really buy her logic here. Especially the comparison to the grandfather, who I don't know a ton about but I would guess is different from what R is doing. Wasn't the grandfather kinda awful? Though like I said I don't think we've heard a ton about him. 

pg 10. This does a good job of setting up the conflict in Ali's story, but she doesn't seem to be looking to do anything about it. Though maybe part of this is me having that problem with previous Ali PoVs

pg 11. Conceptually I can see why the story is having Ali doing this since it is taking action in a way that fits with her motivation. But to be blunt it just makes me see Ali as weak and weepy. I think part of the issue is that we don't really get a reason for why this specifically is her breaking point. 

pg 14. I'm starting to get a feel for the interesting bits around Ali here, moreso than earlier. 

On 10/11/2021 at 11:28 AM, C_Vallion said:
  • Does the emotional through-line seem to follow?
  • Thoughts on characters? Especially since it’s been a while since we’ve heard from these ones?
  • Thoughts on the first half (or first chapter, if split that way) cutting off where it does (as opposed to detailing what follows instead of referencing back to it in the second half?)
  • Opinions on having this as two shorter chapters vs. one longer one with a PoV change? 
  • Points of interest or engagement?

1. It all makes sense, yeah. Part of my issue is that conceptually I really think that Ali makes a lot of sense here but... I'm still just not feeling it. R I mostly like (as usual lol) though I think he could do to be a bit more self-aware. Though that's more of a personal preference than a real issue.

2. I like R here, though not as much as before. I think it's because this feels like his little side story that doesn't have a ton of larger implications for the story, though I am still engaged overall. Still not really feeling Ali though the one moment I do really like is when she lays out her own lack of expertise in what the others are dealing with and says that she's focusing on what she can do. I think that could be one note to focus on more carefully instead of her kinda being a wreck. 

3. I think it's fine, though I'd personally prefer to see it end off right when they start to fight so that the cutting off feels especially intentional. 

4. I like having multiple chapters since the ideas are different 

5. I like R, and I like the threat that L and M represent. They as characters aren't anything special to me but I don't think they have to be... at least yet. 

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On 10/20/2021 at 1:01 PM, RedBlue said:

The others see him as just an irresponsible party boy who doesn't care about politics

On 10/20/2021 at 1:01 PM, RedBlue said:

If characters like Is have misunderstood R that badly, it makes them look like they don't understand what's going on in court. Especially when T can apparently see right through him.

I definitely have to fix this in the next round of Part 1 revisions, as the "R as irresponsible party boy" image shouldn't be coming across as strongly as it is in this round of revisions.  It hits that note strong at the start because Is is frustrated with him at the tournament, but I need to push their relationship more in the direction of R and Is having a near-sibling relationship, where they get on each others' nerves and know precisely what buttons to push when they're irritated with something the other is doing, but do ultimately love and respect each other underneath that.  They just wish the other would come over to their side of doing things (Is wishes R would buckle down and follow the rules, and R wishes Is would relax a little for like one minute.  And they both know the other is probably right to some extent, but all involved are too proud and stubborn to be the first one to admit it).  

T does see more than most, because she knows him well and is less willing to let him get away with his stubborn pride than most of his family is (Ali excluded, in general), but their relationship dynamic needs to be brought in earlier as well...considering that she literally doesn't even appear until Part 2 in this version.

Ultimately, this exchange should be pushing things in that direction, where Al recognizes that there's more to Is and R's relationship than they let on, and T just wants him to shut up because this isn't exactly a time that R might be receptive to acknowledging that.  But without the groundwork for that set out earlier, it hits the wrong notes...  And as is often the case, in order to avoid being too heavy-handed about such things, I'm probably not clarifying the implications enough.

Al- "Is that wise?"

R- “You sound like Is-.” (reflexive, defensive, slightly drunk comment)

Al- “Good. She seems like someone you might listen to.” ("clearly, you respect her opinion")

T- nervous. “You've never seen them interact, have you?”  ("Not a good time to bring up Is, Al.")

Al- confused, but gets the point. “So, there’s nothing to keep you from taking good advice from me that you’d be too stubborn to take from her, then?" ("Fine. I also think he's being unwise.")

On 10/20/2021 at 1:01 PM, RedBlue said:

I think you could improve it by having clearer stakes - what's going to happen if R starts a fight with M? Because it seems to me that not much would happen in the long run, and that drains some of the tension from the scene. (Also, it's not clear from the chapter ending whether this is going to be a physical fight, a screaming match, or something else. Not sure if you meant to leave it vague.)

On 10/22/2021 at 5:30 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

3. I think it's fine, though I'd personally prefer to see it end off right when they start to fight so that the cutting off feels especially intentional. 

Good to know and good points :)

On 10/22/2021 at 5:30 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 6. This is good for building tension. The fact that M is so confident makes me think L has something big planned and this is a good way of conveying it. 

Ugh. Realizing now that by cutting out the actual fighting, I cut out some of M's gloating in this direction. 

On 10/22/2021 at 5:30 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 7. I see why T would be annoyed with R being kinda an a-hole but I don't really buy her logic here. Especially the comparison to the grandfather, who I don't know a ton about but I would guess is different from what R is doing. Wasn't the grandfather kinda awful? Though like I said I don't think we've heard a ton about him. 

It should be implying that she's angry that he's going out of his way to blame other people for his choices instead of being accountable himself, which tended to be Grandpa's MO.   She's calling him out on the same blame deflecting that he does above when he's refusing to acknowledge his sense of regret. But that may need to be called out better.

On 10/20/2021 at 1:01 PM, RedBlue said:

I like that Ali has a goal in this chapter, which fixes the problem she had in earlier chapters. I think the thing that makes it work is that she breaks down her big, vague goal (keep family together) into a smaller, achievable goal (gather everyone for mealtimes).

On 10/22/2021 at 5:30 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

g 10. This does a good job of setting up the conflict in Ali's story, but she doesn't seem to be looking to do anything about it. Though maybe part of this is me having that problem with previous Ali PoVs

pg 11. Conceptually I can see why the story is having Ali doing this since it is taking action in a way that fits with her motivation. But to be blunt it just makes me see Ali as weak and weepy. I think part of the issue is that we don't really get a reason for why this specifically is her breaking point. 

pg 14. I'm starting to get a feel for the interesting bits around Ali here, moreso than earlier. 

Another thing I need to get straightened out earlier.  Both Al and Ali need more concrete/visible goals in Part 1 compared to what's there now.

On 10/22/2021 at 5:30 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

Though I think it's supposed to indicate that he's impulsive rather than just mean-spirited, and if so I'd like to see more signs of that (regret, maybe?)

More things I need to find a way to clarify without being too heavy-handed.  I think R acknowledging his regret as such is a little more self-awareness than I generally picture him having, especially when there's alcohol involved. After all, regret (to some extent) requires an admission of guilt. And since T has already acknowledged that he's being ridiculous, he shouldn't have to take that extra step to admit to it.  

R avoids acknowledging his faults by deflecting by pretending he doesn't care (hence the party-boy persona). Is avoids acknowledging her faults by being the best at everything within her power (hence the stubborn refusals to ask for help. Just like dear old dad).  But they're both too proud to acknowledge that their methods of dealing with the world are a problem.  That comes to a head down the road, but ideally, the reader should be aware of those character shortcomings at this point even while R and Is refuse to acknowledge them.

Any thoughts on how to get more of that across early on?  I feel like it fits in with @RedBlue's comments as well.

On 10/22/2021 at 5:30 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

R I mostly like (as usual lol) though I think he could do to be a bit more self-aware. Though that's more of a personal preference than a real issue.

Hah. Yeah. The lack of self-awareness is intentional at this point, because character arc. But if that hits everyone the wrong way, I may have to reconsider some aspects of how that's presented.

 

Thanks so much for your thoughts! 

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7 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

It should be implying that she's angry that he's going out of his way to blame other people for his choices instead of being accountable himself, which tended to be Grandpa's MO.   She's calling him out on the same blame deflecting that he does above when he's refusing to acknowledge his sense of regret. But that may need to be called out better.

I also think it's not the best example for her to call R out since it's kinda both his and M's fault so he's not totally wrong about saying "it's the other dude's fault for trying to track me down and beat me up." It's just not the full story. If he explicitly tried to deny that he was goading M on I could see it a bit more. 

7 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

R avoids acknowledging his faults by deflecting by pretending he doesn't care (hence the party-boy persona). Is avoids acknowledging her faults by being the best at everything within her power (hence the stubborn refusals to ask for help. Just like dear old dad).  But they're both too proud to acknowledge that their methods of dealing with the world are a problem.  That comes to a head down the road, but ideally, the reader should be aware of those character shortcomings at this point even while R and Is refuse to acknowledge them.

I think as written is fine character-wise but if his arc is going to revolve around pride and stubbornness it might need more attention. I do think other characters have been calling him out on it but I haven't recognized it as his arc since it doesn't feel like anything too special about a crown prince honestly. I think the best moments for R in this chapter are when he gets outside of his own head, such as when he says he would deserve to be slapped for making a certain comment. I think it's about taking that and really conveying what it means to him--how it holds him back from where he needs to be--will orient it more strongly in his character arc. This could manifest in a number of ways. Him leaning hard into the deflection when something is obviously getting to him, him feeling bad but shoving it down due to "logic," etc. 

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okay i didn't make it by sunday, but oh well.

as i go:

pg 1

-having trouble remembering who Tra is. I thought this was a place.

-I think its a good idea to have him be jumpy/skiddish because of his new knowledge concerning Is’s poisoning, good job on that front. Maybe focus on that a bit more?

pg 2

“That it terrified him?” yeah, i like stuff like this where we learn about how he feels more

pg 3

-i do think you can streamline this a lot because I dont feel fully engaged.

pg 4

“He had an argument to finish” so he’s a bit stubborn eh?

-when Al talks i am more interested. I cant say why. Maybe bc I have read the most from him. so i like seeing him in other people's povs

pg 5

“Why should it concern you” dang he sure is feisty

“He finished the rest of his drink” didnt he already finish it? I might have missed when he got another one? Edit: i went back and saw that Ta handed him back his drink

“Hes not wrong you know,” R said to al.” for some reason i thought Mart was talking to R at first rather than Al

-i think the tension of R wanting to start a fight is good, but im not seeing the full consequences, like I’m not against R stirring up trouble. 

pg 6

“Al said, interrupting” al to the rescue :D

“Careful tra-” see, the calling people by locations confuses me. edit: i do like the idea, i can see how it works, but its just confusing to me when i dont fully understand when its actually the place and the person.

-I have the most engagement with the chat between M, Al, and R

pg 8

“There are things going on” i lied, more engagement here

“He likely stepped in to help” i feel like this kind of talk isnt casual enough between them

pg 9

“The grin that spread across” oooh mischievous

 

Ch 15

pg 9

-i dont really remember what happened last time with Ali… so i was like, “breakfast party? Huh?”

-i was also confused about what news Ali was referring to. Maybe it would be better to get to what she is upset about right away? 

pg 10

“Is’s attacker still unknown” this reminded me that i still dont feel like we’ve made any progress. At this rate, im expecting the book to be way longer than it probably is.

 

Overall:

I think my biggest problem here is that I can't remember the dynamics of all the places and people, so a lot of things fall flat. Like when R mentions L and T and all the other places. This is most definitely WRS. Also, because of wrs, im still failing to see the bigger picture. but maybe thats okay.  i know a lot of the focus is on the family dynamics, and i think i'm expecting more action outside of that, so maybe my expectations are in the wrong place. I enjoyed R's pov more than Ali's because i dont feel like her chapter brought a whole lot to the table, but again, i think if i move my expectations then her chapter hits different. She does seem a bit desperate and helpless here, almost childish but not in a bad way, more like in an innocent way, like when a child's parents are getting a divorce and the child is like, "no why cant we all just get along!?" I'm running on four hours of sleep here so if im not making sense i apologize. Anyway, I did enjoy R's pov for the most part and i would like to see more of him and his thoughts because I do love misunderstood characters, especially the ones that seem like they don't know what they're doing when they actually do. 

I guess, when i think about it, we started with a prologue that introduced us to magic and chaos and death, and then a first chapter that started with a tournament where a poisoning happened, and then we kinda simmered into a lot of slow conversations and banquets. I want a better balance, i guess. R's chapter helped a bit with that i think. Ending on a better note, I really like R's chaotic, troublesome tendencies. I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing more of this and maybe eventually seeing him step up a bit more.

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17 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

If he explicitly tried to deny that he was goading M on I could see it a bit more. 

I guess in my head, the "I'm not responsible for M's decisions" is his way of doing that.  Good to know it's not hitting like it's supposed to. 

17 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

I think as written is fine character-wise but if his arc is going to revolve around pride and stubbornness it might need more attention

It's not so much the pride/stubbornness as the emotional distancing and avoiding accountability. Because if he accepts responsibility for his choices, then at least some of his circumstances (along with the family's frustrations with him) are his fault. This would also be an inaccurate perception, but he hasn't allowed himself to see any middle ground between the two.  All of that does still need to be brought out better, though.

12 hours ago, karamel said:

-i think the tension of R wanting to start a fight is good, but im not seeing the full consequences, like I’m not against R stirring up trouble. 

Hah.  This seems to be the common opinion. I guess in my conflict-averse mind, fights are almost always silly things to get involved with, so why do we need grander consequences, when clearly any fighting is a bad idea? Clearly, I was wrong, in that everyone wants to see R fight someone and needs to be convinced that there are some reasons he isn't already :lol:

12 hours ago, karamel said:

“Careful tra-” see, the calling people by locations confuses me. edit: i do like the idea, i can see how it works, but its just confusing to me when i dont fully understand when its actually the place and the person.

Yeah. I need to find better ways to make that work better... If it was a book, I feel like a map labeled with relevant titled nobles would be helpful, but that's not really something that makes sense here, and there has to be a better way to make it more intuitive in the text.  Maybe even just leaning into Al's lack of knowledge about court social customs to have someone explain to him why R calls him "Tra-" at some point early on, so that the reader knows to pay attention to it? I'll have to think about whether that might work.

12 hours ago, karamel said:

i dont really remember what happened last time with Ali… so i was like, “breakfast party? Huh?”

I wondered if this might be an issue, since it's been quite a while since we've seen her.  I'll have to give us some extra grounding details here at the start to make that clearer (something I'm often lacking at the beginning of scenes anyway).  

12 hours ago, karamel said:

“Is’s attacker still unknown” this reminded me that i still dont feel like we’ve made any progress. At this rate, im expecting the book to be way longer than it probably is.

My current full draft has 50-ish chapters, though chapters are shorter through the second half (and who knows where renumbering will end up once we get that far).  I don't know how that measures up with what you're expecting.  I should probably make sure there's more visible progress in this direction as we go, though.

12 hours ago, karamel said:

I guess, when i think about it, we started with a prologue that introduced us to magic and chaos and death, and then a first chapter that started with a tournament where a poisoning happened, and then we kinda simmered into a lot of slow conversations and banquets. I want a better balance, i guess. R's chapter helped a bit with that i think.

Yeah... I haven't figured out how much of this is a big problem that needs a whole overall concept change or how much of it will flow better once I've fixed Part 1 to reflect more active, measurable goals for Is and Al.  At the moment, a lot of the intrigue-y parts there aren't nearly as engaging as they need to be because it's not obvious how the pov characters are interacting with what's going on. So I think fixing a lot of that would help the overall impression a lot.  It certainly needs some overhauling, but I haven't yet figured out if it's the overhauling I already have in mind or if it's something different altogether.

12 hours ago, karamel said:

Ending on a better note, I really like R's chaotic, troublesome tendencies. I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing more of this and maybe eventually seeing him step up a bit more.

At least I can always rely on R to be engaging :)

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