C_Vallion

11.8.2021 - C_Vallion - A Reminder of Sacrifice - Short Story - L,G,V - 6448 Words

15 posts in this topic

Hi, All!

I’d been aiming to get this down to 6k words, but there were too many places where I was worried about removing details that would be necessary for preventing confusion.

The title is still a disaster, but it’s better than the previous one. Trying to find something that gets at the main focus of the story but isn’t super confusing at the start has been a challenge.

I used a lot of the feedback from April to tighten things up, and am curious to see how those changes come across. The first scene was trimmed back a bit, and some of the worldbuilding/political background details that had been in the middle scene got shifted to the front so that there was a better picture of “Why we’re here” at the start.  Some of that is then delved into a bit more in the second scene, but I could use feedback on what feels necessary there, as I still need to do a decent amount of word-cutting to get it down to where it needs to be to submit for class.

I also tried to make the transition between Scenes 1 and 2 smoother, but you’ll have to let me know how that’s coming across.

So.  Questions.

  1. What is confusing?
  2. What can be trimmed? I tried to err more on the side of clarity to make sure I got the points across, so I’d really appreciate having anything that feels repetitive or like it’s delved into too much pointed out.
  3. Is there a better sense of what’s going on starting out? And does the first scene transition into the second more smoothly?
  4. Thoughts on the way the spoken language ambiguity is presented at the end of the first scene?
  5. Overall thoughts/opinions/engagement level?

Thanks!  

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I missed this story entirely the last time around, so I have the advantage of fresh eyes I guess :-)

The pacing felt fine to me. Some of the reaction moments felt a little repetitive in phrasing but they all made sense given what the character was going through. For the most part everything held together and felt nessicary to me. 

I liked the opening scene for rapidly setting the tone and genre.

The MC came off as very likable for me, a main point of engagement was worrying about him and fellow saboteur. 

There was quite a bit of world building to be done, but nothing felt like an info-dump or over narrated. 

The transition between scenes was barely noticeable, which I think is a win. 

'Sneaked' hung me up. After some grammer research though I learned that in US English both sneaked and snuck are acceptable and in British English 'sneaked' is preferred. Learn something new every day!

 

Thanks for sharing!

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13 hours ago, Sarah B said:

'Sneaked' hung me up. After some grammer research though I learned that in US English both sneaked and snuck are acceptable and in British English 'sneaked' is preferred. Learn something new every day!

Hah. I actually meant to go back and change this before submitting, as one of my other readers had a similar response, but I'd gotten stuck in the "But Mrs. Grade-#-English-Teacher said to never use snuck!" ditch.  I hate those words that just never sound right... usually I just reword the entire sentence to avoid worrying about  it... 

Thanks for your thoughts! 

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Should anyone else check in to read: I have a revised version (~5700 words) that I can send over if you want to read the most recent version.

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1 hour ago, RedBlue said:

@C_Vallion I'm late to this, but I'd be happy to read the revised version if you send it to me :)

Sent!

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Am also late, but you can send it to me as well!

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I also did not read this story before, so fresh eyes here as well :)

as i go:

pg 1

-so far, the writing is good. As expected :)

-though, the sense of urgency (being in an enemy warcamp) felt like it could have been pushed in the first paragraph. My initial thought was that V was casually repairing some machine. Unless...there is no urgency. The rest of the page goes into detail that makes me think there is no need to rush his sabotage.

pg 2

-”a spike of alarm” okay, there is a sense of pressure on this page.

pg 3

“They’d still be standing in the belly” i read this at first as if it had already happened. i.e. they were not in the belly any more. I had to reread to realize it was a future musing

“P was young” this felt a tad repetitive as it was said on the page before. But i think it is more reinforcing rather than hindering… so negate this comment?

pg 4

-im a little confused, one of the neighboring mechs blew up early and thats what caused the one V was in to fall, right?

pg 5

-”two rounds gone. Four left” good tension on this page

pg 6

“Choked back a devastated cry” slipping into Price of Peace territory, are we? Lol jk, I felt that the writing thus far was very different from PoP until this phrase (and a few similar others) caught my attention.

pg 15

-so far, my attention has held consistently. I feel a bit like ive jumped into the middle of a book with the discussion between M and V. but not enough to take me out.

-I was confused during their conversation if K and the kids were dead or not, but as i kept reading, all my questions kept getting answered

-tbh, I think i was more engaged in this than I was with PoP. i cant say why though, maybe because of the content? the immediate danger of the MC? he was a likeable MC for sure. I was anticipating him to shoot M and would have been unsatisfied if he didn't. so, good job :) I would read on if this were a continuing story.

Overall, I think this was good! I don't have many other thoughts, sorry about that. I have been getting back into reading and writing (i took a loooong break) so hopefully that will help me get back into a more helpful and critical mindset :)



 

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On 11/14/2021 at 4:51 PM, C_Vallion said:

Should anyone else check in to read: I have a revised version (~5700 words) that I can send over if you want to read the most recent version.

If you're still looking for feedback I'd be happy to take a look at the revised version! 

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All right here we go! As I go:

pg 1. The personal beats on the second half of the page grip me more than the explanation about robots in the top half 

pg 2-3. Nineteen isn't that young to be fighting in this sort of military setting, right? I'm just assuming that V is quite old by soldier standards. For me it raises questions about his own past since he seems familiar with this line of work

pg 6. I think P's death is sort of at the middle point between trying to build up a big dynamic between him and V so his loss feels devastating and having his death be more of a background event that informs the situation more than us caring about him personally. I think it might be better to commit one way or the other, and personally I think he's not that important and he potentially doesn't even need to show up alive at all. I think V's point about how heavy losses they're suffering works even if we don't know P personally--and it's not like we get a ton from him to begin with.

pg 8-9. I'm having a bit more trouble figuring out what's important here. I think this can either be shortened or whatever's important here could be highlighted more. I think part of it is that I want to see their dynamic in action since I haven't seen M so far this draft rather than just get V's thoughts on the matter.

pg 10. For me this is the good stuff. Right now I don't see a reason why we coudln't get to them talking by the end of a short summary paragraph.

-That being said I think we need to hear what's changed, and what M's plan is. If he's defending the town then why does he think these raiding missions aren't tactically advantageous? Sure if it's anything like last draft he's lying but I think we need his reason even if it's a facade. 

pg 11. See point above. M seems to have admitted that they can't win a fight, so... what is his plan? Or what he's acting like it is, anyway. 

pg 12. "How many more lives is it going to cost the cities?" Seemingly zero since the Z are going to bulldoze through the town regardless of the resistance put up. It's pretty clear to me that M's arguments really just don't hold up under any sort of scrutiny. which I dont' think is necessarily a bad thing, and V does seem to notice, but... why doesn't anyone else? What puts V in a position to act that other people don't have? The story seems to be going for the familiarity--that V can see through M because they know each other so well. But I think for that to work it should be only V who can reasonably see through him, and right now I can do it easily without any of the context V's giving. 

pg 13. I'm a bit lost on V's logic here. Did K let herself get captured? I don't really get why. 

-I also still don't get the "we need to fight them but you shouldn't take out their mechs!" line of reasoning

pg 14. Oh yes the one shot I remember this being good 

pg 15. K's actions make a bit more sense now but like why wouldn't she go to anyone else? Like V for instance.

pg 16. Man the end to the scene is so good it hit me just as hard even though I knew what was going to happen. Tbh I think this is the best moment in all of your writing that I've read. 

pg 17. Seeing the family come out is a really good moment as well

pg 18-19. The dynamic with K believing in M is an interesting one as well. There's a part of me that wants to see it explored more even though it doesn't fit into the story structure. 

pg 19-20. Man that's a solid ending

On 11/8/2021 at 7:49 PM, C_Vallion said:
  • What is confusing?
  • What can be trimmed? I tried to err more on the side of clarity to make sure I got the points across, so I’d really appreciate having anything that feels repetitive or like it’s delved into too much pointed out.
  • Is there a better sense of what’s going on starting out? And does the first scene transition into the second more smoothly?
  • Thoughts on the way the spoken language ambiguity is presented at the end of the first scene?
  • Overall thoughts/opinions/engagement level?

1. See line edits on M. I don't think I fully understood how important the supposed reinforcements were to M's "plan" of holding out. But even then he needs some sort of rationale for not wanting V to engage in guerilla warfare... or just like strong-arming people into following him. 

2. Mentioned in line edits also. I think the stuff with P at the beginning can be shortened. Right now it seems like the reason he matters is because he's a young person who got caught up in this bloody war. We don't need full scenes with him to hammer that home. I also think that once V returns home the scene should shift to him talking with M as soon as possible. 

Also total tangent but on P I think you can just make him younger if you want that to be his defining feature. Nineteen is obviously young to be in a war by both modern and ancient/medieval standards but this setting seems to be one where weapons allow teenagers to fight pretty effectively (don't need a ton of training to use a gun), but the human rights regarding child soldiers aren't caught up to where we are now (not that they're perfect now, even...). I think it would make sense for him to be several years younger potentially. 

3. I think so, though I don't remember the first one super well. I understood much more quickly that they were fighting mechs though I also knew that going in this time so it's hard to say. 

4. Hmm no real opinion either way. It's not something I tend to focus on. I didn't really see what the ambiguity as being necessary (not being sure about M seemed like the idea, but I'm not sure that is even necessary honestly), but I also didn't dislike it. 

5. Pretty high engagement, especially near the middle-end. Idk if I mentioned this before but I think that K is a very important character for how this all plays out (moreso than P who can just be a young soldier and N who, no offense, is just kinda there). It's fine if she doesn't show up on screen until the end but I think her presence needs to be felt more throughout the story. Her trust in M is a hugely important dynamic that doesn't really get brought up until the end. Would it make sense if she confided in V about her reasons for getting captured (doesn't have to be shown on screen)? Though I'm sure there are other ways to make it work too. V knows her pretty well, right? The conflict between how K sees him and who he actually is should be all to clear in his mind. 

 

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On 11/30/2021 at 6:39 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

Nineteen isn't that young to be fighting in this sort of military setting, right? I'm just assuming that V is quite old by soldier standards. For me it raises questions about his own past since he seems familiar with this line of work

Oops. I'd put nineteen in as a filler and planned to go back and probably-overthink what to actually put there, but clearly forgot to do that. Thanks for pointing that out.

On 11/30/2021 at 6:39 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 8-9. I'm having a bit more trouble figuring out what's important here. I think this can either be shortened or whatever's important here could be highlighted more. I think part of it is that I want to see their dynamic in action since I haven't seen M so far this draft rather than just get V's thoughts on the matter.

Ultimately, I'd like to go into more detail on the family dynamics (V&K and V&M) both in the first couple pages and here.  But I couldn't figure out a way to do those things justice with the page count limit I had to work with (I was submitting this version for a class I'm taking).  I want to try to do a longer version that deals with some of those things (and some other aspects) in more depth at some point, but I wanted to see how revising/streamlining this version went first, since I figured I could use some practice revising things instead of just making them longer. 

On 11/30/2021 at 6:39 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 11. See point above. M seems to have admitted that they can't win a fight, so... what is his plan? Or what he's acting like it is, anyway. 

I was hoping there'd be enough explanation in this version to not have the vagueness be too distracting, but maybe not.   Still need to find a way to make M's motivations clear without an exposition dump detour. There should be a sense (or maybe just V calling out) that something about his reasoning (or what had seemed like his reasoning) had been solid previously, but that he's scared and scrambling and trying to cover his butt and divert blame at this point. Clearly that all needs a little more work :P 

On 11/30/2021 at 6:39 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 16. Man the end to the scene is so good it hit me just as hard even though I knew what was going to happen. Tbh I think this is the best moment in all of your writing that I've read. 

:D  Good to know that still holds as solid, even if the rest still needs to hold together better to get there.

On 11/30/2021 at 6:39 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 18-19. The dynamic with K believing in M is an interesting one as well. There's a part of me that wants to see it explored more even though it doesn't fit into the story structure.

think if I give a little more color to V's relationships with each of them individually, I'd be able to incorporate some of K's almost-blind faith in M (and probably V's resentment of it) while tying it into their motivations earlier on. It wouldn't be the main focus of things, but it would at least have a little more fleshing out before we get to this point.

On 11/30/2021 at 6:39 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

N who, no offense, is just kinda there

Hah. I am so torn about N. Because on one hand, you're sort of right. However, I really like having a foil for M coming into that scene, and in general like a lot of my vague ideas about him as a character.  If I follow through on my ideas about making a loosely Hamlet-esque story that follows these events, N would have a pretty key role in that. So it's hard for me to separate him from this one, even if I could remove him without too much trouble.

It doesn't help that one friend reading through it said that N is her favorite character in the whole thing.  So that just makes me feel justified in hanging on to him.  

On 11/30/2021 at 6:39 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

Would it make sense if she confided in V about her reasons for getting captured (doesn't have to be shown on screen)?

This is an angle I hadn't considered. I do want him to be convinced that she's dead at the start (though really, even that isn't dwelt on much in this version), but having some sort of remembered conversation between them early on could probably go a long way in setting up a lot of the character dynamics that could use more grounding early on.

I think that at the start, I want V torn between blaming M for her death and being sympathetic to the pain of losing a spouse because powers beyond their control are interfering with their lives.  The previous version had marginally more detail on a parley meeting going wrong, and K and the boys being "taken captive", and I think I need something along those lines to make it clear what V thinks happened so that when what M says doesn't match up, the reader realizes it as well.  Maybe V had told her not to be anywhere nearby when the meeting was going on, but M had told her there wasn't anything to worry about, and she trusted M's apparent optimism over V's general cynicism? 

Hmmm.... thoughts, thoughts, thoughts.

 

Thanks so much for the feedback! 

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On 12/5/2021 at 4:45 PM, C_Vallion said:

There should be a sense (or maybe just V calling out) that something about his reasoning (or what had seemed like his reasoning) had been solid previously, but that he's scared and scrambling and trying to cover his butt and divert blame at this point. Clearly that all needs a little more work :P 

For me the important part is not even that V realizes (which I kinda get already), but why everyone else doesn't realize this lack of logic. That gives V more weight as the protagonist if only he has the tools to figure this out. 

On 12/5/2021 at 4:45 PM, C_Vallion said:

Hah. I am so torn about N. Because on one hand, you're sort of right. However, I really like having a foil for M coming into that scene, and in general like a lot of my vague ideas about him as a character.  If I follow through on my ideas about making a loosely Hamlet-esque story that follows these events, N would have a pretty key role in that. So it's hard for me to separate him from this one, even if I could remove him without too much trouble.

It doesn't help that one friend reading through it said that N is her favorite character in the whole thing.  So that just makes me feel justified in hanging on to him.  

Yeah that definitely makes sense. I did get the vibe that N was quite different from M but I think that has to mean something more than it does currently in relation to the larger story for his inclusion to be justified in my eyes. Currently I think if we take him out the story stays the same so it's hard to say he's needed. 

On 12/5/2021 at 4:45 PM, C_Vallion said:

This is an angle I hadn't considered. I do want him to be convinced that she's dead at the start (though really, even that isn't dwelt on much in this version), but having some sort of remembered conversation between them early on could probably go a long way in setting up a lot of the character dynamics that could use more grounding early on.

I think that at the start, I want V torn between blaming M for her death and being sympathetic to the pain of losing a spouse because powers beyond their control are interfering with their lives.  The previous version had marginally more detail on a parley meeting going wrong, and K and the boys being "taken captive", and I think I need something along those lines to make it clear what V thinks happened so that when what M says doesn't match up, the reader realizes it as well.  Maybe V had told her not to be anywhere nearby when the meeting was going on, but M had told her there wasn't anything to worry about, and she trusted M's apparent optimism over V's general cynicism? 

 

If K approaching V about the situation would throw everything off then there's no need to force it. My main rationale with that is really highlighting K's trust in M from the start, and how V deals with that as M is quite obviously being sketchy. 

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“All of B would be dead if they waited that long” – we get this line at the very bottom of p1, and I think it would be great to have this sense of urgency a little earlier on. We can assume that V is doing something dangerous because he’s sneaking into a war camp, but this is the first time I’ve really felt that, or the why. It would be great to move this up a little more.

It’s not that the information we’re getting isn’t needed – to the contrary I think the stuff about the divided loyalties is great, and if anything I’m hoping we’ll see more of the emotional toll of that in the rest of the piece – and it’s not that my attention is wandering – more that the first few paragraphs don’t seem to have the emotional weight to match the scenario that V ultimately describes in this last line of the first page. I think that’s because we’re following V’s internal narrative but not seeing him do anything, so it feels like he’s not acting urgently. Seeing this information and emotion interspersed with actual action from V and his colleagues could go a long way.

“Two minutes” – aren’t these the Z soldiers in the actual camp? Would it take that long for soldiers to arrive here? Also, we went very quickly, as far as I can tell, from “two minutes” to “no time” with the soldiers actually being in firing range.

P3: “‘Not important,’ he growled.” Not sure what V is referring to here.

“...they’d still be standing in the belly of the mech when the reinforcements marched in.” I’m realizing that I’m confused about the layout of what’s happening here. Specifically, if P and V are both inside the mech, aren’t they protected from gunfire, at least until they leave? And how is P firing back at them? I’m also wondering exactly how far away these reinforcements are.

I’m also wondering about these explosive devices. Why are they so difficult to operate? It seems like being able to set them shouldn’t be that difficult. Unless V. is struggling against safety devices on the things, which might be a fun twist on this. Right now it just feels like V is having difficulty getting the bombs set because the plot requires it.

“He pressed his ear to the glass.” again, wondering what glass and where exactly V is. He just set up a bomb; shouldn’t he be leaving?

P4 If V is still in the mech when the bomb goes off, which it seems to me he is, then he got off awfully light during this explosion. A bomb large enough to destroy a mech of what you’ve described should almost certainly kill anyone in its proximity – the concussion/pressure alone would be devastating. I imagine there would also be heat, flying shrapnel, etc.

“leaving the beast he clung to leaning…” took a couple tries to parse this sentence. I think the mech is leaning against next one in line… but again, if V is still inside, how would he see that?

“A cheery, orange glow” love the juxtaposition here.

“The charge had gone off too early.” Ah, there we go! I’d been wondering about this. I think this should be moved up.

“… the lifeless mech that had been turned into a funeral pyre.” Is this a different mech?

P6 “What were they saving if everyone he cared about was lost the process?” fantastic question for internal conflict here. That said, I think to really make it hit, that I need to feel P’s death more than I am. Obviously he’s young and it’s sad, but I don’t think there is enough here to feel the death as keenly as we should. We don’t actually see much of V and P interacting, since V is so focused on his task, and what we do see isn’t especially revealing, so I don’t feel I know anything about this kid beyond “works with V in wartime, they’re at least vaguely friendly.” So, I think we need a bit better sense of the relationship between them for this moment to hit correctly.

That sounds like a tall ask, but I don’t think you need to dump of information here! A lot can be done in a line here or there. A mission they both worked on previously that went really well (or really poorly). One-line explanation of how P is actually connected other than them working together on war stuff. V simultaneously admiring and feeling exasperated by P’s courage, some explanation of why P wouldn’t let the gun go. These are all just examples of course – but even a couple of lines giving us something about this relationship to sink our teeth into will make the loss here hit harder.

Edit: Another option, having now read the full piece, is to just focus more on the general toll of war - P being one of a number of people/culture/whatever that V has lost as part of this war. Maybe the better way to go, since P's death does become a driver of the rest of the piece.

P7 “V drew, then paused. He couldn’t afford to waste [his last shot].” Giving the other guy a chance to act seems a lot like wasting it…

I’m having trouble grasping the significance of what’s happening in the last couple paragraphs before the end of the scene. It’s quite effective at portraying the language barrier between V and the enemy soldier, but the drawback is I don’t actually understand what’s happening. An easy way to give the reader more information would to give us more emotion from V. Right now I know that he’s experiencing emotions, but not what emotions.

Also it seems like they might be offering to trade prisoners? Or something? Which seems like an unlikely result of someone sneaking into an enemy war camp to destroy some mechs and being routed.

P10 Okay, I wasn’t expecting M’s anger/the revelation that apparently this plan was unauthorized. It would be good to have some indication of this before this meeting. How would it have changed V’s approach to this meeting, how he would be feeling?

P10 and 11 – The reveal that M’s wife and children are alive has been set up in a way that suggests we’re supposed to be shocked that this is the case… but because I didn’t know who these people these people are, it doesn’t have much of an effect on me. I wonder if you would be able achieve a greater effect simply by not framing it as a reveal (for the reader). Right now it feels like the story is playing coy with this information – giving us a few pieces during V’s exchange with the Z, then leaving us to figure out the significance when V talks to M. What if, instead, V realized – and shared with us, the readers – that the “wife and children have been murdered” thing was a lie, and why that matters, and let V and the readers go into this scene feeling whatever emotions arise from that? I think this scene will feel much more powerful if readers understand what’s happening going into it.

P12: Becoming confused again. The “wife and children” bit now seems to be a footnote and we’re more focused on M’s obsession with defending/being part of the empire.

P12-13: Yeah, still confused.

There seem to be two major points of conflict here: M’s belief that he has to do whatever he needs to do to be part of the empire, and the fact that M sent his wife and children away buy time for the empire to send its reinforcements/etc, and I can’t tell which is the main conflict. Because it’s a short story, I think one of them really needs to take a clear lead; otherwise, it’s just too much for a 6000-word short. Not to say you can’t have both, necessarily, but one needs to be a distant second. There isn’t time to adequately explore both, and I think it’s contributing to my confusion here: it’s just way too much information to get across.

And at the bottom of p14 we seem to have yet another new twist, with “we can just run away and get citizenship into the empire” piece. It definitely feels like there is way too much going on here.

“What would K say?” K is supposed to be M’s wife, right? The way she’s being described as a figure makes her sound like she’s much more important to V than M here. Maybe a reminder or two throughout the text that K is (I think?) V’s sister? Because that’s definitely getting lost.

“...the old man had been glad to pass along the more palatable story.” Wait, what? I legitimately assumed that V had killed him.

“Djad…” So this word is at the top of p18 and I’m not sure whether it’s supposed to be a foreign word or a really weird typo?

So… they’re doing… something with P’s body? Still confused.

Overall: Okay, so! There is some good stuff going on here, but there is a LOT of stuff going on here. Way too much, I think, for a 6k word short.

I touched on this in my LBLs, but there are multiple threads here: M’s desire to be a part of the empire at the expense of all else, the resistance that seems to be happening in the town with V and others doing unauthorized stuff, and all the pieces around M’s wife and children being killed – no, taken hostage – no, they went willingly. I think for this story work ONE of these things needs to become a clear driver in terms of the plot. Right now they’re all competing for space and it’s confusing. If the main driver is V discovering that M, the city’s leader, is not doing all he should to protect the town because thinks it will affect his chances with the empire, then the conflict should be presented clearly along those lines: how what M is doing (or not doing) is affecting V and the rest, why it’s a problem, and what V is doing about it. If it’s a story about reuniting hostages with their families, then the focus should be on V rescuing his sister and nephews and the obstacles he encounters, with everything else being a sideline, etc.

I think getting clear on what the main thrust of the story should be will go a very long way towards resolving the confusion about what is actually happening and also properly foreshadowing the ending you’re going for. As it stands, for example – I wasn’t expecting the story to end with V being reunited with his family, because it seemed like the piece was more about the military conflict. And I am very confused as to what actually happened to M in the end, even though that was an important part of the piece through the beginning and middle.

Relatedly: Don’t be afraid to give us information when it’s called for! As just noted, M was important enough that it seems like we should understand what actually happened to him in the end. And there are a couple of places I pointed out in the LBLs where it seemed like the narrative was playing coy unnecessarily. Remember that giving us information can create as much (if not more) tension than withholding it, if it’s information we need to drive the story forward.

Edited by Silk
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1 hour ago, Silk said:

It’s not that the information we’re getting isn’t needed – to the contrary I think the stuff about the divided loyalties is great, and if anything I’m hoping we’ll see more of the emotional toll of that in the rest of the piece – and it’s not that my attention is wandering – more that the first few paragraphs don’t seem to have the emotional weight to match the scenario that V ultimately describes in this last line of the first page. I think that’s because we’re following V’s internal narrative but not seeing him do anything, so it feels like he’s not acting urgently. Seeing this information and emotion interspersed with actual action from V and his colleagues could go a long way.

I was worried that might be a problem. In the earlier version, there was a lot of confusion about the setting, so I wanted to get more of that detail in there, and it seemed odd to digress to internal dialogue about something that happened a couple years ago after people start shooting.  I'll have to see if I can find a good way to fix that.

1 hour ago, Silk said:

“‘Not important,’ he growled.” Not sure what V is referring to here.

About P trying to gather the dropped ammunition instead of making a run for it. 

1 hour ago, Silk said:

I’m realizing that I’m confused about the layout of what’s happening here.

Gah. I was hoping this was clearer this time around.  I'll have to read back through it now that I've had a couple weeks away from it and see if I accidentally cut out blocking info while cutting out words.  I assume it's coming across as the interior of the mech being more complicated and split up than I'm envisioning.  In my head, they're just in an engine room, with P crouched in the exterior doorway looking out over the mech-storage-yard.

1 hour ago, Silk said:

Unless V. is struggling against safety devices on the things, which might be a fun twist on this.

Sort of? He's basically looking for the "on" switch for a timer on the device (if he can't find it, it won't go off. But otherwise, they'd need a way to delay the explosion to get away). I'll have to make sure that's clearer if it's not coming across. 

1 hour ago, Silk said:

If V is still in the mech when the bomb goes off, which it seems to me he is, then he got off awfully light during this explosion. A bomb large enough to destroy a mech of what you’ve described should almost certainly kill anyone in its proximity – the concussion/pressure alone would be devastating. I imagine there would also be heat, flying shrapnel, etc.

It's the next mech over that explodes here (which might clarify some of the follow-up confusion?).  That is mentioned at the top of page 4, but maybe I need to call that out more clearly if it's still not clear.  It's so hard to know what blocking things are inconsistent with what I'm picturing. 

1 hour ago, Silk said:

Also it seems like they might be offering to trade prisoners? Or something? Which seems like an unlikely result of someone sneaking into an enemy war camp to destroy some mechs and being routed.

Urgh.  I'm going to blame this on having to cut back the wordcount for the assignment, because I remember cutting a paragraph there that specifically called out that they're talking about his sister and her sons, and that the town had been told they'd been killed.  One of my pre-posting-readers said it still seemed clear, but it's so hard to know what a first-read gets across. 

1 hour ago, Silk said:

the revelation that apparently this plan was unauthorized

This was mentioned on page 1, but maybe it needs a reminder further in. 

2 hours ago, Silk said:

What if, instead, V realized – and shared with us, the readers – that the “wife and children have been murdered” thing was a lie, and why that matters, and let V and the readers go into this scene feeling whatever emotions arise from that? I think this scene will feel much more powerful if readers understand what’s happening going into it.

I appreciate this thought.  This is definitely one of the points where I don't have a good sense of what the reader does understand, 

2 hours ago, Silk said:

I think one of them really needs to take a clear lead; otherwise, it’s just too much for a 6000-word short

Hah. I think the 6k words is the real issue.  I wanted to rework this one for the class assignment, to see if I could trim it down to the wordcount limit and have it work (since I know my tendency is always to make things twice as long as they need to be).  If I had been doing a revision for something else or general practice, I probably would have kept it longer. Adding a little more about V's relationship with P. Giving a little more about the family relationships up front, since those keep falling through the cracks (K is V's sister).  Nailed down the mech-splosion blocking better. 

I'd like to do that at some point, but probably not til I've gotten through another round of PoP revisions, or if I have a big lightbulb moment about the longer piece that this would be a sort of prequel for. In the meantime, these notes get to go back on the backburner.

2 hours ago, Silk said:

“...the old man had been glad to pass along the more palatable story.” Wait, what? I legitimately assumed that V had killed him.

He did.  I'd be curious to know what you're interpreting as suggesting otherwise (in an honest, non-snarky way...dumb inability to convey sincerity through text...)

They suggest an alternative story to avoid forcing the town to process both that M had betrayed them and that V had killed M.  Maybe I need to adjust the formatting of the "That M had gone to his count...pity if wolves" lines to make it clearer that that's just the story they planned to pass along?

2 hours ago, Silk said:

"Djad…” So this word is at the top of p18 and I’m not sure whether it’s supposed to be a foreign word or a really weird typo?

Huh. I thought I'd taken that out when I adjusted the languages. This was when I'd had a straight language substitution of Russian for the empire and Romanian for the Zir- (mostly in the conversation with the young soldier before the scenebreak).  In Russian, it's a variation on "uncle" that would imply fondness. 

2 hours ago, Silk said:

Relatedly: Don’t be afraid to give us information when it’s called for! As just noted, M was important enough that it seems like we should understand what actually happened to him in the end. And there are a couple of places I pointed out in the LBLs where it seemed like the narrative was playing coy unnecessarily. Remember that giving us information can create as much (if not more) tension than withholding it, if it’s information we need to drive the story forward.

This is definitely one of the reasons I need a million first-time readers.  It's so hard to tell what gets across and what doesn't, so I'm sure that a lot of the things that feel like they're being hidden are things that I feel like I've made clear.  Some of it is definitely me trying to be clever because I like puzzles and implication shifts in narratives, but I do think there are a lot of things that I see as being clear, when they're getting lost somewhere along the way.  And different readers pick up on different things, which makes it even more tricky. 

 

Anyway. Thanks so much for your feedback! With the things I've been trying to do with this story (figuring out how to balance the line of sharing/withholding information in a way that seems natural and is intuitive to follow. And seeing if there are ways to believably have the pov character hide information from the readers without making them feel tricked by a reveal), it's so helpful to know what things are still falling short and what things aren't sinking in.  Definitely seems like there's a good deal that's still getting lost in the weeds. 

Thanks! :)

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24 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

internal dialogue about something that happened a couple years ago after people start sh

I think you can probably solve some of this by breaking it up! Rather than a few paragraphs at once, this action V takes or that thing that happens to him can spark a memory of something that explains something about the setting. You do also have some time that shows V doing things (futzing around with the lever, talking to P, etc) that aren't being shot at that you can play with.

Or, heck, just have P and V talk about it some more, just as long as you don't stray into "as you know, Bob" territory.

27 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

About P trying to gather the dropped ammunition instead of making a run for it. 

Ah. Just have V call it out specifically.

27 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

In my head, they're just in an engine room,

Ah, yeah, I wasn't sure about this. I was picturing one big interior, possibly with the controls out front. And because they're in an enclosed space that is above the ground my assumption would be that they can only see what is immediately below them and not much else, unless there are windows.

29 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

I'll have to make sure that's clearer if it's not coming across. 

This was clear, it was just that "looking for the on switch," by itself, didn't seem enough reason to spend the two or three pages it takes him to find it. It feels like it takes him a long time, so I'm looking for a reason for it to take that long (which is probably easy to manufacture if you don't just move it up!)

30 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

That is mentioned at the top of page 4, but maybe I need to call that out more clearly if it's still not clear. 

Oh, yeah, I didn't get this. I did understand that one of the other mechs had also exploded (or something, there was also gunfire in the distance) but didn't realize that that was what was affecting V himself.

31 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

and that the town had been told they'd been killed. 

Ah! That explains a lot. It's possible you could slide some of this explanation later into the piece also?

33 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

Hah. I think the 6k words is the real issue.

I did wonder if you'd cut this down from a longer piece! That said, it does read to me like something that could and quite possibly should be around the 6k ballpark, in terms of the scenes and characters you've presented us with. It's definitely possible to make this into a really solid 6k-word story with a clear focus, IMO.

34 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

I'd be curious to know what you're interpreting as suggesting otherwise

The line "the old man had been glad to pass along the more palatable story" suggested to me specifically that M had been doing the passing along - possibly running back to the empire for whatever reason - and that he therefore wasn't dead. Having V kill him does solve some problems with the ending for me.

39 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

It's so hard to tell what gets across and what doesn't, so I'm sure that a lot of the things that feel like they're being hidden are things that I feel like I've made clear.  Some of it is definitely me trying to be clever because I like puzzles and implication shifts in narratives,

It's definitely a tricky balance! As for liking puzzles/implication shifts and experimenting with having POV characters withholding information: It certainly can be done to good effect. One thing that I've found helpful in thinking about when I should withhold information is: if it's regarding information that the readers already have and understand why it's important, then  it might be more effective to give readers the tools to piece together the change themselves. If it's information that hasn't already been explained to readers and they don't have the tools already to understand its importance, then it's probably more appropriate to disclose it.

Which is a bit of circular logic, I suppose, getting back at the challenge of making sure you give readers the right info in the first place, but hopefully it helps.

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