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Aug 22, 2016 - Vreeah - Jeweled Songbirds - Chapter 2 - 2894 words


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Chapter 2 has rolled in.

It's a vast shift. This one has a lot more dialogue than anything else, and I also tried to see if I could make a multiple viewpoint chapter work.

I didn't get to update this as much as I'd like, so I hope I didn't leave too many mistakes lying around.

I hope you enjoy!

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Hey Vreeah. I'm genuinely excited to read this again. You sucked me in with your last submission, so I'm hoping for more exciting swashbuckling!

As I go:

I'm a little confused about the magic system. I like it and its inventive, but it's limitations/frequency amongst the population etc are a mystery to me. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as I'm not a big fan of extended training montages or explanations where every little detail is explained. But don't tease it out too much or it may break your story and world apart

Page 2: "must've" -> "must have." Not sure if this is your style, and I can accept it if it is, but it's just a pet peeve of mine. Feel free to disregard

When you say "the penthouse's defences worked," what exactly do you mean? I get that there's a defence grid of some kind that prevents the burstones from blowing a hole in the house, but I want to get some sense of how this works. It doesn't have to be a full explanation, but a hint would make the scene make more sense in my head

You do a good job integrating the elra into the fight scene and making it appear visceral and real in the reader's imagination. Notwithstanding a few small areas that could do with a bit of revision (e.g. "there were some small thumps;" "there was a moment where the guards frantically turned their heads") I like this scene

"The blade's tip began to glow with more than twice the intensity of the marbles." Again, did I miss something? What marbles?

The section with the fusing is a perfect example of integrating explanation and the physics of your elra into the action. Well done!

Instead of calling them "Riley's Dad" or "Riley's Mom," I think it would be better to address them by their own names. This removes confusion when they address each other by said names as well

I feel like Annika chastising Riley while they are being held captive is a little bit silly; I'd imagine as a mother her first instinct would be to protect her daughter, before giving her an chull-whoopin later. You can communicate her anger and disappointment with a few choice words or even a look, but it doesn't quite fit the situation to my mind. Maybe Annika's a little more callous than your average mother, but since this hasn't been established (and she's rescuing her daughter in the first place) it doesn't quite fit.

I love the conversation between Reginald and Linnald. It sheds a lot of light on the world, though I'm not sure what the nature of the agreement (trade agreement? peace treaty?) was or why Linnald thinks the automatic end-point of the failure of such an agreement is war. It also revealed a good deal about Reginald, making him a much more sympathetic character, which is important in a con man. 

Overall, I like the story thus far. I think the characters could do with a little more fleshing out, and there are some gaps to fill in the worldbuilding and backstory, but you've written it in such a way that I want to read on and discover those details rather than just giving up and setting the story aside. I'll keep reading as long as you keep it interesting!

Keep going!

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Finally getting to this. Sorry for the delay.


This chapter is more of an outline of events. You could do a lot by cutting the action and working on character introductions and world building. Some suggestions are below. Riley also does not yet seem consistent as a character. I'm still curious about the world, but I want to see it more developed.

As I go

- woah. POV jump. I still am not invested in Riley yet, so it's early  to introduce another POV. Some great advice an agent once gave me was this - establish each POV character well before introducing a new one. This may take several chapters. Without it, the reader does not invest in anyone, because too much is new. With that, too, every time you introduce a new POV character, spend a few paragraphs of introduction before putting them in the tension. The stakes don't mean anything if we have no background on the character.

- Sarina? Who is Sarina?

- still page one: now we have Annika. Too many characters being introduced in a chapter with a new POV. I can't keep them straight. Who are all these people?

- page two: you show the penthouse's defenses working, then you tell the exact same thing. Let the description stand on its own

- end of page two: are you trying to go for omniscient here? How do we know that some people recognize the remnants of burstone?

- I had a really hard time picturing any of the break out scene. More description would be very useful

- Now we're back to Riley POV. I think the entire first part could be just as convincingly told from her POV, since we get no character development in it

- page five: there's just too much action. I don't know why the parents are breaking her out. Riley has no thoughts on being broken out (I thought she wanted to be independent??). Why is this happening? What does it mean? Just blowing stuff up only works for so long.

- page six: when Riley cries out for her parents - is she happy? upset? I have no idea. 

- this war hammer thing seems like a Big Thing, and to just drop it in out of place makes it seem like you're dropping a trope instead of an object

- page 6: the king has a solid question. Why didn't Reginald start with diplomacy, especially since they know each other? Are they all so rich that they can rebuild structures without a thought to cost? What about potential injury or death of guards? Are lives that cheap?

- page seven: Riley just letting her dad tell her that he would take care of everything and she should go to her mom, and her meekly doing so, seems very out of character from how you established her in the first chapter

- page seven: and now her mom is treating her like a child, asking her if she really stole. That's how you talk to a four year old. If a 16 year old was being spoken to in that way, she'd be mad as hell.

- I am not convinced by the conversation Riley has with her parents. At all.

- It's hard to care what Reginald and the King are discussing since I am not yet attached to either of them

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Hey Vreeah, I liked most of the ideas you bring out in this chapter, though I think the chapter could use some cleaning up. I liked the pace. I liked the tone of the story, which helped me get inside the world (as I did in the first chapter). I was often confused by your descriptions in the battle scene. I could tell that you were trying to do interesting things with the magic, but I got lost at points in the descriptions. Examples of my confusion: Reginald's spell at the end of page three. Maybe it'd be better to simplify it to either the cube or the sphere. I got lost trying to keep track of spheres, cubes, jewels, stars, and glittery specks. In another place you mention "starlike spheres"--I'm having trouble picturing that. You have Reginald's "shoulder pinned beneath a war hammer." My first thought was confusion: "Did he really get smashed by a giant hammer? How else could he be pinned by it?" I could kind of tell what was happening with the air box, but that wasn't too clear either. What's clear is that you are seeing these images vividly--which is great--but I think you should go through each description to make sure you are using the right words to accurately and simply convey your ideas. P.S. The visual of a guy moving so fast that his curly hair goes straight would be perfect in a comedy, but I don't think it fits the tone here. In a comedy, I would laugh out loud at that.

As with Kaisa, I also didn't think the conversation between Riley and her mother was realistic. It also didn't seem like the time or place for an extended conversation of that nature. There are some complicated dynamics in Riley's relationships with her parents. They don't want her to get involved in thieving, yet that's the very example they are setting for her. She's getting a little too independent and capable to be parented by them as much as when she was younger yet she is still their responsibility. I only mention this because I think it will take extra careful thought when writing their scenes together--it's not a normal parent-child relationship. If you haven't done it already, you could try running these characters through practice dialogues which could help you see where they really stand on these issues--it's also useful in finding their distinct voices.

"Kidnapping fundraiser" - nice!

"Eating the lights" - nice!

I like where you're going with this. Glad you're submitting!

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- I don't know if I've read the first chapter or not, but I like the combination of commercial setting - stores, hotels, etc and fantasy. Curious to see more. That said, I have trouble getting a sense of the setting in the first couple pages.

- The exchange between Riley and her mother is good, but it feels like an awful lot to be said in what's still a high-stress situation.

- I also really like the line kidnapping fundraiser.

- I did kinda want more interaction between Reginald and the king, and some more sense about what he was going to do.  

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More thoughts!

There are a lot of cool things happening in this chapter.  I like some of your descriptions of the magic and I especially like the plot setup in the last section.  I also think you were more successful at getting in viewpoint.  I think you could take it farther - show us even more of what Riley is seeing, thinking, and feeling during her viewpoint sections - but you’re on the right track!  

On 8/25/2016 at 7:07 AM, AuthorityHellas16 said:

Maybe Annika's a little more callous than your average mother,

I think, AuthorityHellas, that you mistook Annika for Riley's mother, when Moria is Riley's mother and Annika is the King's guard.  Did I read that right, Vreeah?

12 hours ago, Coop said:

The visual of a guy moving so fast that his curly hair goes straight would be perfect in a comedy, but I don't think it fits the tone here. In a comedy, I would laugh out loud at that.

I also LOL'd at this line.  It just seemed so silly for some reason.  I really like the visual, in a different setting.

12 hours ago, Coop said:

As with Kaisa, I also didn't think the conversation between Riley and her mother was realistic. It also didn't seem like the time or place for an extended conversation of that nature. There are some complicated dynamics in Riley's relationships with her parents. They don't want her to get involved in thieving, yet that's the very example they are setting for her. She's getting a little too independent and capable to be parented by them as much as when she was younger yet she is still their responsibility.

I totally agree.  Riley's relationship with her parents is really interesting!  You have a lot to work with here in terms of character development, and I hope we get to see you playing around with it.  But I also thought the conversation wasn't super realistic, because of what @kaisa said about the mother's tone, but also because it seems odd for the mom to be talking about how they are con artists in front of the king (who we saw earlier in the chapter can eavesdrop really well).  That made more sense later, once I knew that the king was going to employ Riley's parents in conning, but at the time it struck me as odd.

A few LBL’s:

Reginald erased the light... ...didn't cast any strange shadows. This sounds hard to do. Is it? Do they do this all the time, or is there a risk of it going wrong? Just an example of what kinds of details would be helpful for me in understanding the magic system.

They're right beneath us. I'm going to blow some holes through the wall and darken the interior." Why is he saying this out loud if Linnald can hear through the ceiling?

Elra condensed into a cluster of glowing spheres, fixed in place within the cube... This whole paragraph is really interesting.

From the ceiling, there came the sounds of a scuffle... This is a really vivid paragraph.

Three of them suddenly raised their spears—eyes narrowed—and set upon the fourth guard. This is really weird (but cool if I see where you're going with this). If I understood you right, something happened to make three of the guards suddenly turn on one of their own, maybe due to some of the mom's magic? What does Riley think of this? Is she like, "What just happened?" Or is she like, "Oh good this means my mom's here because she does that to people all the time?

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Thanks for coming by, AuthorityHellas16!

Yep, going to add more hints of magic frequency in the first chapter. I wanted it to be integrated into society, but I haven't done the best job at making that clear.

That contraction is intentional, yes. The casual and wilder viewpoint characters will contain it when I am writing them. Formal and scholarly characters will be a bit different. If I can express that well enough without the slight vocabulary changes, though, I might cut it out.

There's an idea. I didn't mention the defenses much since Regi didn't have eyes on it. Maybe if I put a building of equal size nearby, or if I manage to rewrite it completely in Riley's viewpoint.

Cool, thanks! I'll see how I can refine the issues away.

That sword tip bit meant the marbles that landed earlier, the ones that made the small thumps. Looks like I need to reword this.

Yes! Success!

I am going to balance these naming conventions somehow, even if it's the last thing I do.

Annika is the fortifier. Moria is the mother. Yeah, definitely need to get the naming conventions down.

Cool, that's half of what I meant to convey. I'll find better words and sentences for the other half.

Glad you enjoyed! I'll be doing some more analysis on my characters, and hopefully it'll let me build them up better.



Don't worry about it, I've been crazy busy too. Some weeks are empty, and some are filled.

Character consistency and environments, gotcha.

Sounds like good advice. I shall work on how I can put it into practice.

Consequence of not establishing well enough. Sarina flies, and gets paid to fly people around. Oh, I think I skipped past the part where they paid her. Leaving it out might be a mistake.

Gah, my bad. Made a passing mention of Annika to reference her being the fortifier. Looks like it wasn't memorable enough to stick. Too big of a jump, I'll need to fix this.

Okay, need more descriptions on the scene taking place, and more focus too. I'll add more stuff.

I actually originally wrote it only from Riley's POV, but I was afraid it might've been hard to follow, since she herself had a hard time following some of what was going on. I'll need to take some time and compare the pros and cons of the two versions.

Ah, looks like I haven't done a good job of displaying Riley's motivations beforehand. Reginald and Moria too, for that matter. That's a shame. Okay, might need more impacting scenes to take place before this plot event. I was hoping the decision to break Riley out would be enough to show that there's horrible history between the two families, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

That's true. Riley had been dismayed the entire time, but I made the mistake of not taking the time to show that.

This will take some reworking. All's fair in the writing war.



Cleaning up sounds like the right term. Agreed.

I'm being too abstract with the magic, aren't I? More words to the rescue.

Crud. The term war hammer brings too many different images to mind, doesn't it? It's supposed to be one of those small, medieval war hammers. The ones no bigger than a person's fist. He's pinned more from the holder's strength than the thing's weight. This needs more words, too.

Haha, fair enough. I'll describe the captain's speed with a better tone.

Yeah. The relationship between Riley and her parents doesn't seem to be clicking. I'll need to define it a lot better.

Thanks, glad you're reading! ^__^



I could do with more practice at writing out establishing shots.

Mm, it's definitely a weird timing. I need to think of something else for them to do besides talk.

Good old Reginald, keeping things concise.



Thanks Hobbit. I'll make sure to continue improving my methods of immersing people into Riley's thoughts.

Yep, Annika is the fortifier. I failed to make that connection concrete.

Blast, I'll save the hair idea for when the tone is more appropriate.

Mm, I shouldn't be relying on hints for the connection between Linnald, Reginald, and Moria. It didn't end up as well as I wanted.

Good details to have, yes.

That's a good point. Whoops. Complete mistake.

Glad to hear!

Yep, trying to put more of Riley's senses to use.

You got it. Yup, this is a pretty normal thing for Moria to go around doing, and Riley's aware of it. I'll add what I can to make this clearer.

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Quick reply as I get some time to comment.  I think everything I saw was already covered, so I'll list the things I second where some more edits are needed:

Too much magic here.  I'm getting lost with who can control what and why.  

Lots of action, and the blocking needs some more work to be understandable.  Maybe some more description of the environment?

Characters--I was also lost on who Annika was.

POV shift--I'm with @kaisa.  Might be cool to see the whole thing through Riley's father's eyes, or Rileys.  But we don't know much about the characters yet

Riley and her mom--yeah, this didn't work for me either.  I'm wondering why two professional thieves aren't just bringing their daughter up the same way.  They could easily take her on missions, and you haven't given us anything yet to tell us she's not competent to do just that.

I do still find your writing style engaging, and I want to learn more about this world and the characters.  Just needs some cleaning up to make the flow better.

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