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141013 - molah - Elyse (2 of 2)


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Hello everyone,

Here is the 2nd part, which concludes my short story “Elyse”. A quick reminder of what happened in the first part:

Elyse is a new maid in the household of James’ parents. James is enchanted by her eyes and they seem to hit it off from the very beginning. After a weekend trip with James’ father, Elyse started to act weird. One moment she’s warm and amiable and the other she’s cold and distant. James is confused by her behavior and the first part concluded when his mother anounced that Elyse is suffering from a memory loss.

I hope you enjoy my story.

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This one does not start flowery, which is good. You kept your style here.


I don't think a maid can be kept from her master, but I will let the others decide on that.


So he sees Elyse and disturbs her. And then you give us all his thoughts until she will react. And then, she does not react. He just disappears and reappears in his father's study. That was jarring to me, as I knew that she would respond, probably with a slap and a shout or something. And she is not even passive here, she is just an object.


Instead of making them talk without quote-marks, could you use apostrophes? Like the Brits tend to, you know. It would be helpful.


Why was the essence not there the first time around?


Right. The essence was made before the eavesdropping, so she cannot remember it. He, on the other hand, is too slow to realize this.


Your own explanation seems strange - the memory of real Elyse is reset each time the fan closes, as well? Because I would not expect the fan to know anything Elyse does, and I believe your explanation is unnecessarily complicated...


Wait, he did talk to the essence before? I cannot remember any change in Elyse since she came back...


Uhm... the mother in the end of 9 is not in quote-marks... Same with 10.


Random thought - is it pronounced "el-EYES" or "el-IS"? Actually, it could also be "el-ICE" or even "EEL-is" or something... How is it then?


The father is supposed to be full of authority and angry - he has little power here. And as soon as the son says "focus", he is little more than a puppet. At least, that is what it feels like to me.


I am pretty sure that had James not liked Elyse, he'd have had fun with the personal portable conversant.


CUDDLE. He will break James' focus?


I am not clear if this actually worked, not from what they said...


Still, this is a good ending. I liked it, all in all.



This was a fun read. Generally well-written, I believe. You could make everything a bit clearer, though. Please, answer my questions if you can, okay?

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The story was pretty enjoyable, but the pay-off at the end could be better. I’ll go into the big points that I have with it.


Time period: Through the piece I kept seeing the setting as a sort of Regency with magic, even though in the first part you mention that they have cars – implying a more modern place. The rest, the manor, the maids, the master of the house feels older to me.

It also doesn’t help that you don’t really describe what the people are wearing, so I have to fill in the blanks and those blanks are filled with Regency clothing.


Speech: Interesting that Tal mentioned the speech marks:


“Instead of making them talk without quote-marks, could you use apostrophes? Like the Brits tend to, you know. It would be helpful.”


When I first read the piece I did it on my phone, and the quotation marks around speech weren’t there – which made the read a little annoying. Seems I’m not the only one with this problem. I haven’t seen it before with other submissions either.


Weird, since on my PC the quotation marks are there…


Confrontation: The confrontation with his father felt a bit lacking to me. It started off good, with his father as a figure of authority, but as James laid out all his cards his father deflated pretty quickly. The thing about James’ mother really brings the old man down, which may have been a little overkill. It felt a little like just another excuse on why he couldn’t free Elyse, where his father doesn’t really need any excuses.


It’s harsh, but his father was right the first time, what is one girl’s life in light of all the family will lose, not just now but in the future as well? It’s not like Elyse is dead if they don’t break the focus. She’s alive, she can make new memories, she just can’t remember her life from before. The fact that she appears less ‘alive’ and more demure than her old self can be taken as collateral damage and aside from James no one knows the real side of her anyway. Breaking the focus will ‘kill’ the mother and ruin the entire family. The father’s responsibility is to the family. Maybe he should have stood by those ideals a little more strongly throughout the argument.


Climax: The climax of the whole piece also feels lacklustre and it’s not like I didn’t see it coming that James would lose his focus. As soon as the book said that ‘a’ focus, and not ‘the’ focus, had to break I knew this was coming. It’s not a bad way to end it, save for the fact that it’s too easy. James doesn’t care about his focus, he never thought to learn his father’s magic and up to that point he didn’t even think he had a focus or that he could learn his father’s magic. He only cares about Elyse. It’s an easy choice for him, whereas if it was actually a sacrifice for him I think that would make the story stronger.


Focus destruction confusion: What I infer from the magic explanation and the ending is that James broke his focus, freeing Elyse. I don’t know if the other fans broke, but that is a moot point since his father still has his focus and can make more for the clients who lost their fans. What matters is what happens to James’ mother, since the whole point of the father not destroying his focus was to keep her alive.


But if all the items get destroyed his mother’s ring should also have been destroyed.


Did this happen or not? If not, how did destroying James’ focus only destroy one of the fans and not everything else? If yes, than the mother is dead. Why did his father suggest this course of action then? He should’ve just refused James altogether and leave things as they were.


I think you need to clarify that part of the magic and the ending a bit more.

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I have some similar remarks to Asmodemon; I'll just put down what I wrote before reading the comments.  I also didn't have any problems with the quotation marks, reading it on a computer.


pg 1: A lot of the first paragraph is very passive.  You can take out all the "had"s without losing any of the meaning.
Having already guessed this last time, it wasn't much of a surprise that Elyse is the woman on the fan.  So James' wonderment at this doesn't really do anything for me.
pg 1: "and they were known to be indestructible"
--this sort of smells of plot contrivance.  Why would they be indestructible?  Most everything can be broken or destroyed pretty easily.  (You do answer this later--maybe specify that the magic is what is indestructible, not necessarily the physical item)
pg 2: I was surprised when Elyse appeared from the fan, so good reveal there.  However, I don't know why James was prepared for it.  Why would he think a painted figure would appear, when it had never been done before?
pg 2: "Apparently this meant that her memory was reset whenever the fan was closed."
--This seemed like a pretty big logical jump.
pg 4: “I hope you did not disturb anything, or you will be in serious trouble, young man.”
--going back to the discussion about age last week, this makes James seem a lot younger.  If he's somewhere 16-18, I would expect him to be pretty independent by now.
pg 5: The exchange with his father is similar. His father is talking to him like a little boy, and James is trying to have an adult conversation.  It seems different from how James has acted so far.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but it does feel different.
pg 5: “I would have had to let you in on the family secret eventually, so I might as well tell you right ow"
--maybe this is what's bothering me.  On the one hand, James should know about this, but on the other hand, his parents are keeping him in the dark.
pg 6: Another good reveal about James' mother.  I can't remember if there were any clues before--this one caught me completely off guard.
And then the end...  not sure how I feel about this.  I suppose if James agreed to it, it makes it acceptable to capture him, but his father was going on about not sacrificing his wealth, or his wife.  Now he's okay with sacrificing his only child--the one who would take on his craft after he dies?  Seems a very poor decision.  What else is he building up all this wealth and power for?
Overall, I liked the second half better than the first, mainly because James was actively trying to solve his problem, rather than just mooning over Elyse.  The ending was good in than is was very definite, but I'm not sure it completely works.  Asmodemon has some good remarks about how the magic works.
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Thanks everyone for your feedback.


Asmademon, Mandamon: I see your points. This is very helpful, thank you!


Mandamon: Elyse has appeared two times before, when opening the fan: When James picks up the fan the first time and marvels at it and the second time when his parents were arguing and his mother looked at the painting. (For that she had to open the fan as well)

I'm was surprised when you said that it surprised you :) I will look into that.


About the revelation regarding his mother: I wanted to put in some foreshadowing but I forgot when I submitted the first part.. :/


Tal Spektor: Which questions still need answering?

I think Elyse would be pronounced similar to Alice.

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Mandamon: Elyse has appeared two times before, when opening the fan: When James picks up the fan the first time and marvels at it and the second time when his parents were arguing and his mother looked at the painting. (For that she had to open the fan as well)

I'm was surprised when you said that it surprised you :) I will look into that.

Okay, I can see that now you say it, but I didn't know she was appearing when the fan opened the first couple times.  I thought it was the "real" Elyse.

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Once again, I'm late, but I want to know how it ends. This time I'll write as I read - I imagine you may have already made changes base on feedback (which I mostly haven't read yet) - but I'll try to go through the second half more thoroughly.


I'll say up front that I absolutely LOVED what you did with this story - and the ending was great. What i've written below were my real-time reactions as I read, and I was harsh on a lot of the descriptions and dialogue in the middle. But that said I really think the concept is fantastic. 





Okay...so we see Elyse as the girl from the fan pretty early - trying to decide if I like that. This is almost like a chapter break, so I'm wondering if the reveal should wait longer. Still this is interesting. 


"The woman on the fan is Elyse. But how can that be? What does it mean?"....I don't think you need to spell this out, we're all thinking it. 


"In a scenery like the one with Elyse you would not notice, but if you paid close attention to a picture of waves crashing against a rocky coast, you would realize that they were repeating in the same pattern. It was very subtle, so most people did not pick up on it." - you mentioned that you were not a native English speaker, and I'm amazed by people writing (well) in second languages because that would boggle my mind. That said, one thing to think about is that you are not using contractions ("Wouldn't", "Didn't") - adding more contractions to dialogue and thoughts will probably help flow, as it's very rare for to use the proper "Would not," "Did not," "Does not," or "Cannot"  in actual speech.


Also if this image of Elyse in the straw hat is in the fan, and the fan is indestructible, how is she now not in the fan? 


Debating about whether we need the whole internal monologue about how the books are in the study and the parents aren't home - might move the action better if he just goes and gets them rather than planning it out. 


"Sometimes James suspected that his father was quite eccentric." Haha! ... No really? I love this line because it shows that he thinks there's an element of normalcy to the craziness. 


I'm getting a lot of descriptions of actions like how he opens and closes doors - I think this probably slows things down, and to the degree you can, try to make your descriptions more sensory and focussed on how it makes him feel rather than just describing the things that have to be done before he is in position. Overdoing blocking is a problem in my own writing, so I feel your pain here :-)


Loving the description of the office and how the desk seems to suck light out of things :-)




I keep thinking James' internal thoughts are too detailed an coherent - maybe have them trail off more or something. I don't read him as having a Sherlock Holmes type mind, and he's spoiling the readers' fun a bit by laying it all out for us. This is a mystery at some level, so tease us more with clues rather than telling us the solution. 


Thinking about the fan and how you describe it, I don't remember from the first piece that the fans were actually animated - not sure if that was me missing it or whether it wasn't there, but maybe do more to ensure we know that the fans are obviously magical and the images move earlier in the story. 


"he was pretty sure that he knew when he had dealt with Elyse’s captured essence and when he had talked to the real one." - I don't get it. If her captured essence is in the fan then he wouldn't be able to interact...or does that just mean before she was wiped. Clarify what you mean by this. 


Oh...I get it...but I still don't understand how the captured version got out of the fan. 




"Then a visible change went through her. Her face hardened and her eyes set in determination. “So, where do we start?”"

To easy - comes off as a split personality (which given your plot is entirely possible) but not sure that's what you intended. 


Not a fan of the description of them setting to work - they seem to know too much about what they are looking for and how to find it, especially Elyse who I would expect to be dazed, confused, and unfamiliar with researching magic. 


"It would mean the end of a legacy and probably also the end of financial stability for their family." Again I think this is too eloquent and two perceptive for internal monologue. 


Mr. Winchester and James' father are the same person right? I keep trying to figure this out.


"Now is as good as any moment, he thought an hour later." - this is a bit of an odd transition. It's instantaneous while giving us a big time jump. i find it jarring. 




Okay - Winchester and the father are the same guy. I'd pick one name and stick with it. Either "James' Father" or "Mr. Winchester" - I'd go with Jame's Father. 


I like the explanation of the magic system - although you're not  telling me what a "focus" actually is - you note that it's not an object, but what IS it and how doe you interact with it?


“How can you talk like that? Her life is worth as much as yours and mine.” - this is a bit preachy. 




The opening and closing of the fan is AWESOME!


But this argument is too blatantly philosophical. 


Oh WOW!! totally didn't see the mother thing coming!!! Nice work!


"“Do you see now? By destroying my focus I would kill your mother.” - just say "Do you see now?"....trust me, we all get the implications....this is deep. 




Love, love, LOVE the ending. 


More specifically, I love that you showed us what happened without telling us all the details, I think you could do this more with a lot of your other detail.


On the whole I REALLY like this story and think you really have something good here. There's a lot of language that needs polished and some technical work  on how you approach description but that's all secondary. The story itself is fantastic!!!!! 

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Wow, thank you! I'm really happy you liked the story so much!! :)

Also thanks for the insightful comments! You're right about the contraptions... might be a habit from work. :) I think I tried not to use them outside of direct speech, but I did not consider that the 3rd person part should feel more like James' thoughts.


One of my big concerns is finding the right balance between description and action, so your comments on that part are very helpful. And I, too, feel that my description at times is too slow. Like when James enters the study.


Again, I'm really happy you liked it. What a nice feeling :D

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"Random thought - is it pronounced "el-EYES" or "el-IS"? Actually, it could also be "el-ICE" or even "EEL-is" or something... How is it then?"


Just a note - this is a not-uncommon name among Americans of my generation (millenials) - I've known a lot of girls named Elyse or Elise or some variation. They all pronounce it "el-EES" (I think it's French in origin so think of the "Champs Elysees") 

Edited by CommandanteLemming
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  • 2 months later...

(8) “Hands behind herself


I think the phrase “taking away something” is a bit unclear. I see what you mean, but it’s seems a little awkward. Would “confining something” have the same meaning that you were looking for, or “imprisoning,” “enshrining”?


It’s rather convenient that the door is unlocked, my suspension of disbelief is a bit strained there. Also, the room seems rather small for a library, and I don’t see how there can be a huge desk in the middle if the room is only four paces across. I very much like the image of the dark desk sucking up the light in the room.


Is ‘scripture’ not specifically religious text? I'm no scholar, just my impression.


Woah, so now opening the fan summons Elyse?! I wasn’t expecting that.


(9) “His father’s study.”


Repetition of “look” in close proximity.


I like the moral dilemma you put James in, destroying all of his father’s existing and future work. Those are some high stakes, as it should be, but it’s good that it’s not the fate of the world at stake – that’s too obvious and too commonly used – although I suppose it’s a short, so would probably be over the top anyway in this setting.


(10) The names of the neighbouring families are very similar Winchester and Westminster.


I like Mr. Winchester’s description of the fan and its workings. There is passion in him, and he speaks in an almost lyrical way. That is fitting as he is an artist. It’s nice to see that in a character that we don’t really know other than from his rather closed and distant outward persona.


The revelation that the focus is inside Mr. Winchester ramps up the stakes even further, well done.


I'm not entirely convinced by James’s ultimatum. Yes, I accept he feels strongly about Elyse, but he goes from negotiation straight to “I'm going to ruin you” at the drop of a hat. Also, his father is instantly dismissive. Okay, I can accept a defensive reflex, but he is very quick to push his child away after they seemed to share a moment.


“Now do you understand why...”


Ah-ha!! There’s another prisoner, surprising yet inevitable, nicely done, but wait, there’s more...


What are the obvious side effects of using a fan? That doesn’t seem to follow from what I’ve read, I don’t think.


“James explained exclaimed incredulously.”


This reveal has a great impact and really heaps it on James, it’s a effectively a try-fail, and definitely things getting much worse.


A thing that I find jarring here, although it troubled me somewhat earlier on, is his use of the word ‘Mom’ and also ‘Dad’ earlier on. Your setting seems clearly to nod towards Victorian England with the names, but use of ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ is not consistent with that or the story’s formal tone – I would urge you to ditch those terms in favour of ‘mother’ and ‘father’.


How is it that the ring allows formation or new memories but the fan does not? That seems strange and a bit inconsistent (and convenient).


Dah, dah, DAH!! What other foci are there? Very intriguing.


(11) “...her lee time.” What is lee?


Oh, the end. You’ve lost me there. I don’t get the conclusion. I had thought at the end of (10) that it would turn out that James had a focus and that it would be his that would be broken. That would be a bit rabbit-from-the-hat, but I think I could have accepted it, but I actually don’t know what has happened at the end, which leaves me unsatisfied and frustrated.


In summary, I very much enjoyed your story. There are various drafting points that need to be tidied up, I mentioned a few, but not all, but those are easy fixes. The story flows well, is intriguing and mysterious, has good escalation of the stakes and the tension. The reveals near the end of well done, I thought, but the ending is a real issue for me. Maybe I'm too dense, but I don’t understand what has happened and that leaves me frustrated. I don’t think ambiguity works in this case, because there isn’t a clear choice between known alternatives, it’s just unclear.


This is a very good story, well written, and with polish, I’d be happy to find it in any anthology or magazine that I was reading, but (for me) the ending needs refinement.


Some thoughts on reading the other comments:


1 – I chose to pronounce her name ‘El-ees’, don’t know if that’s what you had in mind.

2 – I must disagree with Mandamon (:-O) I didn’t see the ending as at all definite, I thought it lacked clarity.

3 – I'm going to disagree with Lemming too (:-O) – I think stating that Elyse is the woman in the fan provides a clear moment of realisation in James’s mind – sure, we all know it – but this is James having that jaw-dropping(?) moment.

4 – More disagreement. I think avoiding contractions is appropriate when you are writing in a quite formal style, and have a setting that is rather ‘old world’ – it creates a tone that fits the story.

5 – Again, disagree on the ending – you’ll have to explain it to me, I don’t think it’s clear. To me, everyone is assuming that James’s focus was broken, but it’s not confirmed, and there is no indication on what has happened to (1) his father; (2) his father’s existing work; (3) his mother; (4) I don’t think it’s absolutely clear from the phrasing of her last question that Elyse has been to the meadow before (and therefore remembers it), which I presume is meant to be the case.

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