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Feb. 14 2022_ShatteredSmooth (Sara) Community Magic Ch. 2 and 3 (4800 Words)(LV)


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Content warnings 
L because my character probably swears at least 
V for mention of past violence and trauma 
Hi All! 
I have not yet figured out what I'm doing with Ch. 1, but onward! These are currently 2 and 3. Do you think they need to come later in the book? 2 certainly will if I delay revealing A's identity. And I'm wondering if enough has really happened yet to have a "going home for a bit chapter. Anyway, I don't plan to cut these, just revise and potentially move them. Any other feedback is welcome. 
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It's a little hard to judge these two chapters if you're planning on changing ch 1 in such a dramatic way. I think you could pivot to having lots of hints about A's identity without the reader knowing for certain, but you'll have to fill in the background of what happened for it to be a significant reveal when it happens. I'm also not sure if three different people potentially revealing A's identity is any worse than just one. We don't know the consequences for A's identity being known, aside from "people will look for them." It could be anything from an annoying fanbase, to A wearing themself out by doing too much magic, to the government capturing them and experimenting to find out how a MUP works.

There's a lot of description that could be pared down in the first chapter, and I'm not sure what it adds yet aside from showing the bad day. The next chapter gives us some good insight into A and J's characters, but there's not really any decision, so I'm not sure of the stakes yet. Focusing in on those things will help.

Notes while reading:
Pg 1: Long first sentence...

pg 1: Do we know who/what B or PPG is? I think this is WRS on my part.

pg 1: Where is the chaos? The vending machine?

pg 2: "kinds of technology that don’t get along..."

pg 2: so the ethernet is magical and the internet is not? Also, I'm not sure how the college could function without access to the internet.

pg 3: I'm not sure yet what's going on in this chapter. It's a lot of description of school facilities and what A's work schedule is like.

pg 4: "one seemed to move "
--the eyes or the crow's feet?
--also, where/why did J pop up from with this person? It seems very sudden.

pg 5: what is PPG again?

pg 5: "This is my first semester back in school in seventeen year"
--okay, this answers some things, but I was very confused why a colleage of a teacher was showing up as a student again. I guess she never finished college?

pg 6: again, a lot of technical discussion of what the paper is about, which I assume doesn't actually mean anything for the story.

pg 6: "just how far-reaching the repercussions of that day were. "
--huh? Why?

pg 7: "The injury"
--what injury? I think there's a few things missing in here. Is she writing a paper about the event where A failed? What does that have to do with studying healthcare?

pg 8: It's a bit unclear when A's reading the essay because it's talking about writing style and grading, which I don't care about, and making vague references to evidently what happened on The Fateful Day. Maybe if A mentally filled in some of the gaps earlier, that would make it easier to follow?

pg 9: Wait, is R a healer, or is she being healed? Also, I thought this was about civil engineering? I'm confused as to what R's project is for and what she did for the last 17 years before coming back to school.

pg 11: I had a hard time following a lot of this chapter. I think part is that we're experiencing anxiety with A, so it makes the experience jumbled, but I also think a lot of the description of grading and tutoring can be cut out. We don't need to know the mechanisms for how grading works. The focus is A meeting R again. Putting a little more emphasis on that could draw out the characters more.

pg 11/12 maybe a bit too much infodump on how magic works, right at the start of the chapter?

pg 13: “Well, if the three already know then there is no point hiding from them"
--isn't this, like, sort of a national emergency level reveal? I thought the whole point was that A went into hiding because the world was looking for them. Are they in danger of government types looking for them if something gets out? This is a cause for anxiety, but also, really a big deal. I feel like there should be more reaction to this.

pg 15: “Someone looking for me might feel the magic"
--Yeah, I'm wondering if not enough attention is being paid to The Secret Is Out!

pg 15: "have so much healing ink beneath their illusion..."
--Confused. As in they have tattoos that heal them?

pg 16: "if they wanted physical contact with Jess. Because she was allergic to magic."
--did we know that before?

Pg 16: I think there could be a stronger arc through these chapters. I don't think any decision was actually made, and A is just assuming they'll break the curse? Also, I'm not sure how much the extra plots of R and J figuring out A's identity matter, if they are already revealing themself by breaking the curse. I also don't know the consequences for it aside from "people will look for them."

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Just realized all my page numbers are off…apparently the document previewer in gmail divides documents into numbered pages but doesn’t bother to make them match the actual document? Or something? Hopefully it won’t be too hard to track down where things are, though.


Apologies for random nit-picking about magic systems. I like magic systems, so I probably pay more attention to them than most would.  I like getting more information about how the magic works through here, even if it does inspire some questions (which, again, most people might not care about).

I think the biggest concern is just that there are a lot of things that could be streamlined. Especially in Chapter 2.  And it would be helpful to get a better sense of the stakes.  If A is discovered, what happens?

Whatever happens with Chapter 2 based on the changes you decide to make in Chapter 1, I think getting some background on the magic and some information about J is important this early in the story. Especially to give the extra detail that A can’t really even afford to let their guard down at home (and probably wouldn’t anyway) due to J’s magic allergy.   Whether that is presented as a “going home for a bit” chapter is a different question, and I think it depends on what you decide to do with Chapter 1.  I don’t mind slower chapters if I’m learning interesting things about the world and characters, but I know that’s not always the case.

Thanks for sharing! Still enjoying the story and curious to see where things are going.


Pg 1:

“when they got home” unnecessary phrase.

“hide under a pile of blankets” I can sympathize. I’ve had a few of those days this week.

“evening shift” is probably adequate unless the specific time is important.

I assume the chaos is what they’re finding inside the help center?  Might want to indicate that more clearly. “They opened the door to find chaos.”  As it was, my brain was still trekking across campus.

What’s the ethernet do?

Pg 2:

The lead-in up to where they’re thinking about SO66 could be trimmed back a good deal without losing too much.

“The way a MUP accessed…” This would mean more if we knew something about how regular mages access their magic.

What colleague?

Pg 3-5

I feel like each step forward here lingers a little too long. It makes it drag a bit overall. I think it mostly needs streamlining.

I think moving R’s “This is my first semester…” up to where A’s just seeing her would be helpful in placing the reasons she’s there.  Otherwise, there’s a lot of “What’s she doing here asking about a paper if she was one of A’s friends?” going on.

Do we need to know O and C’s names at this point? Were they classmates as well?

“This was a pretty common thing…” Their comment? Or hers? Haven’t they done tutoring before?

“barely known” typo.  I know there were also a few typos that I noticed in passing, but didn’t write down.  Probably worth running a grammar check to see if it catches them.

Pg 6-9

This stretch needs streamlining as well. Less about the specific assignment, mostly.  Also, it feels like A guesses what the paper is about before she really mentions much about it. She mentions she had an experience related to healing that she wants to write about.  If she had been planning to become a healer, couldn’t it have been any number of things?

There’s a random blank line in here after “I explain it in the paper”

Pg 9-10

“curse in her head” I’m curious as to how much magical is a thing with a physical manifestation. Which then immediately makes me wonder how it interacts with standard physics. I apologize for any future rambling this results in.

If the story is going to have a through-line related to magical-healthcare accessibility, going into detail on some of this is fine, but if it’s not a big focus, I’d try to trim this back to the very basics.  Most readers will get the gist of health insurance being a miserable frustration. Though I suppose it’s probably a little less intuitive to non-Americans.

Pg 11:

“It looked so magical” what does this mean in a world where magic is a real, usable thing? Is magic known for being pretty? We haven’t really seen any examples of it being so yet, except maybe for A’s big bullets to flowers magic, which seemed like an exception.

The description of what magic is makes me wonder what was meant above by removing fragments of a curse from R’s head.

Also, are each of these examples sort of specialties of magic that require their own study? I see how some of them could lend themselves toward a dedicated study program at a school, but others are a little more vague.  As someone who likes hard magic systems, I immediately wonder 1. How the magic interacts with physical sciences. 2. Whether the magic is looked at as more of a hard science or an art. 3. Where are the limits of each specialty if magic is the raw energy of creation. If it’s raw energy, are there clear limits on it?

 Pg 13:

“Wow.” J’s response here feels like the response to a normal stressful day, not necessarily a “Several people are about to discover the past I’ve been hiding from for more than a decade” day.

“Did you hear…?” The full description here feels a little repetitive when we’ve heard it already. Could probably just stick with “Did you hear what’s happening with SO66?” or something similar.

There are a few places in their conversation that could be made a little smoother, or where you could emphasize their closeness/familiarity with one another.  That works well where J is pulling them out of their spiral, and is aware of what caused it and how to respond, but there are other lines that feel a little maid/butlery, or at least more formal/specific than I’d expect from people who are familiar with one another.

Pg 15:

If they have healing magic that would prevent cardiac events, don’t they have healing magic that would ease physical aspects of psychological/mental health issues (this mostly jumps to mind because current plans for PoP’s magic system involve healing magic being used to slow heartrates and ease muscle tension at a few points when my Al’s anxiety is flaring up.)

Pg 16:

“Allergic to magic” This feels like something we should know earlier (though I’m not sure where it makes sense to do that).  Is this a common thing in this world? How does it manifest itself? How can someone be allergic to raw energy? Wouldn’t that be similar to being allergic to electricity?  Also, it feels odd that the illusion would be the better option to be near her, since it’s instinctive to think of an illusion being a magical thing. I guess it’s more of a warding shield thing? It’s just odd to think of that as tying into the illusion instead of actively working against it.

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As I read:

The first sentence is a long one, enough so that I stumbled. Suggest trimming and simplifying.

“the Writing, Reading, and Study Skills…” Maybe trim this and/or combine with the next paragraph? It seemed weird to have this statement stand on its own since it’s really just an explainer of the help centre.

“Pens moved on their own accord” should be “of” I think

Uh, the computer is belching green smoke? That seems like an issue. Are toxic fumes not an issue at this school? Even magical toxic fumes?

P2 “There three people waiting” stumbled on this sentence. I think it’s missing a word and maybe needs to be two sentences?

Oh, I just realized what “Ethernet” must be and that’s delightful.

Inconsistent capitalization of “Ethernet”

P3 “…to think about what they said five minutes” I think this should be “five minutes ago” but the line also threw me in general. I had assumed the thing they were avoiding thinking about would be the protest over SO66 or the fact that their colleagues apparently know who they are, which happened more than five minutes ago… until I got to the end of the sentence and realized that they were just worried about being awkward.

“Until J walked over and introduced R.” So I like the tension, but we’ve just spent a lot of time in summary/interiority and the introduction of R puts us right back there again. I think it might be helpful to see the introduction happen – to see Al and R get introduced and Al realize – before Al goes off into another spiral, to break things up a bit.

I like the description of R.

“The illusion worked so well it cut off power from those charms…” Hm, I’m wondering about this. It feels like a potentially significant reveal, one that should possibly come a bit later in the narrative? Or maybe what I’m struggling with is that It feels like a lot to add a new magical mechanic when we’re also meeting a new character for the first time, one who hasn’t even had a chance to speak yet!

P5 “…had been so ambitious about becoming healer” should be “a healer”

Oh man, this tutoring scene is giving me flashbacks to my TAing/tutoring days. That being said, I wonder if it is a little too long? Or perhaps I’m only feeling that because we’ve spent so much time in Al’s head already, this chapter.

Currently having the kind of reaction only a non-American could have to descriptions of American healthcare, good lord.

P10 “The things we add will balance it out.” And next paragraph “Anything else I can help with?” Was there something skipped or cut between these two things? It seemed like Al jumped right from “we’ll add some sources” to kicking R out.

“Al wanted R gone as soon as possible. They didn’t want…” Great line.

Coming back to the idea, though, that the tutoring scene should probably be trimmed. I like the tension between Al being at once in their element and really uncomfortable with R, but it’s a bit long for what actually happens.

P12 I was about to comment that the long paragraph of info on how magic works seemed a little out of place where it is (though I agree that it needs to be somewhere!) but I really like the way you drew it back to Al’s identity at the end.

“Inhale, exhale, inhale, cookies” made me laugh. I’m not sure that was the intent, but I’m … not sure it’s a problem?

“Al, you’re spiraling.” Good way to get the readers who aren’t familiar with anxiety spirals to understand what’s going on. Very nicely done.

P13 “OR she might now.” Should be “not,” I think?

“The wards on the house and your workshop prevent that.” Prevent what? A magic flare? I am unclear.

Overall: Still interested in the story, and Al's voice feels stronger as it goes on. I am getting antsy for things to start happening. The protest thread has been almost lost – J mentions it, but it’s very much taking a backseat to the other stuff. The major threat throughout these three chapters seems to be Al’s identity being revealed, but threat has been pretty consistently defanged by the narrative; B and co. already know who Al is, which saps most of the tension, and R could make things harder for Al on a personal level but she doesn’t even remember who Al is. It makes the curse-breaking thing feel almost routine, since there doesn’t seem to be any question of whether Al can actually do it (and maybe WRS, but I can’t remember what effect the curse is supposed to have. What happens if it’s not broken? That would probably inform the tension, too).

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Some larger issues with these two chapters, highlighted below. However I think my biggest one right now is tone. The first chapter had this killer opening that seemed like it was going to blend Community, the TV show, with Harry Potter and that was freaking amazing. But instead we are getting a slow introspective piece with very little plot movement and a lot of backstory. The tones clash, and the sense of promised wonder at magic community college isn't appearing. I want to be entertained, and I feel depressed. You may need to just redo chapter 1 to reset reader expectations, which would be an easier fix than redoing the narrative to match the current ones.

I still really, really like the concept, but more as it was sold in the first page of chapter one.


As I go

- that first sentence is too long and not particularly compelling for a chapter opener

- I don't know how to react to A's internal monologue here since I don't know your plans for chapter 1. I also still think the reveal of A being A2 comes far too early, as there is no tension going into this chapter

- description of the skills center lacking the same sense of magic school wonderment we didn't get in chapter 1. I want to be brought into this world. Right now it seems just like a regular community college

- pg 2: that don’t get along  <-- random tense change

 still not clear what SO66 is

- we don't start narrative progression until page 3. It's all interior thinking up to then. Suggest cutting, as this is only chapter two and we need to establish buy in before we get bogged down in interior thoughts

- pg 3 then ends up being more interior thoughts

- pg 4: Until J walked over: is this where the narrative starts? Maybe start here

- pg 6: very little is happening in these pages. It seems like the arc of this chapter is our MC meeting J and having feelings. I think up to page six here could have been accomplished in one, maybe two pages

- pg 9: this is too much backstory for chapter two. I don't care about either of these characters yet so the backstory just doesn't land. I'd like to see more plot progression and actually get a feel for where the narrative is trying to take us before getting backstory

- Chapter 2 thoughts: chapter two, I think, can be cut entirely. I think it was a good chance for you to sort out backstory and character work, but now it needs to be condensed into maybe a page of snippets and woven back into chapters that move the plot forward

- chapter 3's opening sentence is also not dynamic

- pg 14: no plot progression through here, either, just the spouses debriefing. But we already know all the information they are providing

- pg 15: the meat of the plot and chapter arc is here in these pages, but out of all the backstory we've been given, I don't feel prepared for what they are planning. I also do not yet care about A. I think the issue is that I've been told a lot, and give a ton of backstory in a short space.  I haven't had time to live with A, and their struggles, and really get a feel for the character and why I should care about their community college woes.


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On 2/15/2022 at 3:11 PM, Mandamon said:

--isn't this, like, sort of a national emergency level reveal? I thought the whole point was that A went into hiding because the world was looking for them. Are they in danger of government types looking for them if something gets out? This is a cause for anxiety, but also, really a big deal. I feel like there should be more reaction to this.

In the current draft, there are not government types, but if there were, it would raise the stakes and still fit with the world, so I think I may add that in.

On 2/15/2022 at 3:11 PM, Mandamon said:

There's a lot of description that could be pared down in the first chapter, and I'm not sure what it adds yet aside from showing the bad day. The next chapter gives us some good insight into A and J's characters, but there's not really any decision, so I'm not sure of the stakes yet. Focusing in on those things will help.


This makes sense. 

On 2/19/2022 at 8:26 PM, C_Vallion said:

Apologies for random nit-picking about magic systems. I like magic systems, so I probably pay more attention to them than most would.

I need to develop the magic system a bit more, so the questions and nitpicking are helpful for sure. 

23 hours ago, Silk said:

That being said, I wonder if it is a little too long?

That seems to be the general consensus. I'll trim it. 

23 hours ago, Silk said:

and maybe WRS, but I can’t remember what effect the curse is supposed to have.

Not WRS--none of the characters actually know yet.

8 hours ago, kais said:

The first chapter had this killer opening that seemed like it was going to blend Community, the TV show, with Harry Potter and that was freaking amazing.

That opening is the tone I set out to write. The draft is still pretty bare bones and needs a ton of work, so infusing more of that tone into the narrative isn't out of the question.


Thank you all very much for reading and critiquing! 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Super late, sorry about that!

PPG: I have forgotten what this stands for

Eather net: I like this pun on real world tech

"Usually the first thing A did was review the assignment..." since they do this in action, this line seems unnecessary.

"They didn't have a smidge of brain space... what they said five minutes..." missing word?

"Long reaching anxiety tendrils" great line

"R scratched it ink..." typo?

"And R's paper was going to show A just how far reaching.."

This line and

"A had spent the rest of their life thinking R never talked to them again..."

Both of these feel like a sudden shift in POV, like a flash of God-mode in the 3rd person. The second one seems like a narrator looking back on A's life from the far future.

"It's a very compelling story that will really show the reader bad the system..." missing word

Chapter 3:

"Looked so magical, but there was no magic at all." Nice

"Cookies. The warm and sugary wafted..." missing word?

"Sometimes they wondered if J did this on purpose... just before A hot some..." typos?

"A noted a she/her charm" in this line A's name is just written 'A'

"One of my students... he could easily figure out I who I used to be..." typo

I like that A has anxiety and a life they want to protect, otherwise it would be hard to sympathize with someone who seems to be nearly invincible if they chose to use their powers. 

Thanks for sharing!

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