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6/14/21 - RedBlue - Constance Wood Stove ch 12&13 (3989 words)


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Hello everyone,

Thanks for the feedback on chapter 11. This time, chapters 12 and 13.

For context, this is the halfway point in the book in terms of page count.


1) Any boring or confusing bits?

2) Do the characters’ thoughts and actions make sense?

3) Thoughts about the decisions T and C make?

4) Does this answer questions about why the adults were trying to keep info from C?

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I can definitely tell this is the halfway point. This almost feels like the beginning of an epic fantasy, vs. the MG/YA feeling to the first half.

There's a lot of tension in the first chapter, and I feel not as much in the second. I think it's because T is really in danger of losing something, but it doesn't feel that way for C. Yes, she'll get stuck in the house, but I think if you really play up that she CAN'T survive there and will waste away, or whatever, with just the void for company. That might help.

Lots of answers here, and it's frankly a relief. We're changing from "the monster in the shadows" in the first half to "chasing the monster" in the second so we get to see behind the curtain. I think you might be able to make it better by sprinkling just a few more hints in the first half about what's happening so the smartest readers might figure it out and the other readers really get a sense of "surprising yet inevitable" when they get to this part. I liked the reveal with burning "edges," for example. More like that would help.

Looking forward to the second half!


Notes while reading:
pg 1: "The past generations’ contributions have already been consumed, and are of no further help. "
--I would think it would be greatly helpful to see what past contributions changed into.

pg 2: "and were left with some vital part of themselves missing. T can’t afford to do that. "
--Sounds like the stove needs something important or vital to burn...

pg 2: "who picked ‘edges’"
--well that explains that...

pg 4: "or protest the loss of the records"
--oh, she's BURNING the records. I did not get that before.

pg 4: "She will not be able to connect the dots"
--oh wow that's a terrible choice.

pg 5: "old people who were falling apart from the inside out,"
--Are there any of the grandparent-generation still in the town? All the children have parents, but I haven't seen grandparents. Makes me wonder if they die off early.

pg 6: "The creations that come from the Wood Stove"
--so he's saying C was created by the stove and not born?
--Ah yes. clarified later.

pg 7: “T’s parents!”
--I really don't remember anything happening to T's parents in the story. Also, that answers my question about grandparents. I forgot T lived with hers.

pg 8: "He could take what he wanted, do as he pleased"
--yes, the people are all missing something they burned, but I wouldn't say they're helpless. An ashen could be overpowered...

pg 9: "A third person wouldn’t be able to get in."
--eh? Why not? Seems very authorial.

pg 11: void garden is cool. Ah. But cursed.

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19 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Lots of answers here, and it's frankly a relief. We're changing from "the monster in the shadows" in the first half to "chasing the monster" in the second so we get to see behind the curtain. I think you might be able to make it better by sprinkling just a few more hints in the first half about what's happening so the smartest readers might figure it out and the other readers really get a sense of "surprising yet inevitable" when they get to this part. I liked the reveal with burning "edges," for example. More like that would help.

This. Exactly. 

I really like how this focuses things in to feel more directional.  I think we've been moving toward this in recent chapters, but there is a sort of meandering aspect to early chapters that made it hard to tell where things were going.  The world was getting bigger and stranger and bigger and stranger, and while we had some defining points about the strangeness that felt like we were figuring things out, there wasn't as much of a sense of progress being made in a specific direction until the past few chapters when C has buckled down on getting questions answered.  I've been waiting for something like these chapters where we move on to figuring out how to begin addressing the problem of the big, strange world, and this points us in that direction really well.

Also, sidenote, I still owe you my thoughts on my reread of the early chapters. Sorry about that.  I'd finished reading it right as a whole bunch of time and energy draining things hit me in the face and haven't had a chance to go back over it.  Things are settling down now (in theory), and I'll try to get you some of those thoughts. 

Back to these chapters: 

1) That energy build-up thing, and the not-dance? I just continue to have no idea what to do with them. 

2) Yep

3) I really liked how they're both presented as monumental decisions that there's no turning back from.  I do think there's much better tension built up to T's, and have some thoughts on that below. 

4) I think so.  I think we could use some hints at it earlier on in the story.  Some sense that the adults are legitimately afraid of her finding out the truth, and not that they're hiding things just because they're the grown-ups so they know better.  I get antsy about situations where children and adults are encouraged to see each other as some incomprehensible "other" that's somehow untrustworthy. And I think in such a small community, it feels especially strange unless we get a real sense of their concerns. I don't know what that looks like, but I think it would make their secretiveness leading up to this more believable. 

Pg 1-2:

I think this does a good job of giving us the stakes involved while T is trying to decide what to burn.  The examples of Sh and M, are great both for answering the questions I’ve had of “how have they gotten this way” and stressing the point of why T can’t make a similar mistake.

“edges”  Well. That explains things.  Though it begs the question of how he thought that would turn out.

Do we know why T’s “turn has come”? Can’t remember if we had any hint of that or if it was just something that D had told her and E.

Pg 4:

I’m not entirely clear on the distinction between “she will keep her raw intelligence” and “she will not be able to connect the dots.”   I like the idea of giving up part of what would normally be very closely tied to something else (insight and intelligence), but I think we need a clearer description of what she’s giving up and what she’s not.

Pg 5:

“No formless horror…” Hah. Well that’s always a plus.

Why is she wearing so many layers?  I hadn’t gotten the impression that it was that cold out. I get wearing a jacket over a sweater/jumper over some other layer. But I’d expect there to be snow and ice outside to require another coat over that.  Sounds too bulky to be practical otherwise. Then again, it’s quite possible that my definitions of these things are very based in New England climate, where we don’t really get out our real coats until it’s below freezing out. And I’m definitely overthinking this either way.  So I digress.

Pg 6:

“it will not burn again…” Nice! I like this reveal here. It had crossed my mind a couple times that C might be a product of the stove, but I hadn’t connected that to the detail of the products of the stove not being burnable. I like it.

Pg 7:

“But we’re getting off track”   But are we, though?  I’d expect her to be far more concerned about what life had been fed to the stove to create her.  I could see her getting overwhelmed by the idea and wanting to change the subject or not being able to process it and resorting to a topic change. However, I didn’t get enough sense that her key goal was to find out about the house to make steering the conversation back to it feel like getting “back on track”

Pg 10:

The not-dance’s cousin.  I still have no idea of how to place this energy build-up she keeps mentioning in my understanding of the story, so it ends up being distracting every time we see it.  

Pg 12:

“You forgot all about T…” Harsh, C-ine.

“‘That’s not true’…nobody to explore with.” Part of me wishes this had taken more time for her to get to. Something about it doesn’t feel as well-earned as I would want it to be. I think part of it is just the amount of time it takes to get over the thing she thinks she wants.  Really, it only takes half of page 11 for her to get past realizing she has a permanent solution to her desire for answers and moving on toward calling the void garden “truly cursed”.  There isn’t enough time for us to have much tension about whether she’d stay or not. She recognizes the things she’ll regret if she leaves afterward, but I feel like at that point the decision has been made, so those details are more like moving forward from the decision than actually coming to a decision. 

I think it might help to move the “But once she asks her first question…” down through calling the void garden cursed to a slightly later point.  Those feel like the point of no return in the conflict, so I think the tension would work better if we see more of what she feels she would be leaving behind before that more concrete realization.

All of that being said, I really like the conclusions she comes to.  Especially acknowledging that failing the people we love is a natural part of life in a community.  Things don’t always come out right, but that doesn’t make abandoning them altogether the right answer either.

“…not the kind of person…” I like this line.

Pg 13:

I still just have no idea what to do with the not-dance. 


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I agree with @Mandamon and @C_Vallion that this is great, that it is neat to get answers, but that we need more sprinkled before. This is just surprising, not 'surprising yet inevitable.' But generally this was a sound installment and I had a blast, so I won't belabor the other points. Previous posters covered them well.


As I go

- pg 2: this is all great. I'm hooked

- pg 4: AWESOME first beat.

- pg 8: That seems like kind of a bum deal for the ashen people, even if it is 'luxury'

- also I still don't understand why the ashen people don't leave. I think I need a better reason or hook for why they stay. Just 'luxury' without social interaction can't be worth it

- pg 9: ah I see. It's addressed now. Excellent

- pg 10: the energy bit is confusing

- pg 11: does a kid want perfect clarity though? This seems like more of a hook for a scholar than a pubescent girl. I don't buy that its a hook for C

- aww, I love the last line. Very kid

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  1. Confusing: The energy thing, I guess. And also when the T interlude took place. Also what happened with T messing up her sacrifice, but I assume we'll get more on that later. Nothing was particularly boring
  2. I think so yep
  3. I think we could get more of an explanation on the difference between intelligence and insight for T's sacrifice, otherwise it makes sense. I liked that she was proud of coming up with the answer. I thought that was a good decision C made, turning down the AH. I'm excited to see where it'll go :) Would she not be able to return to the AH ever again? It seemed very final.
  4. Is it because they're worried C will do something terrible since she can't/won't ever sacrifice anything? 

I didn't make very comments as I went through reading, but I thought the end of 12 was very ominous and I liked that. Also, not sure if I'm getting this right, but it seems like the C people are supposed to be the only ashen sentient things? But then there's V? (And MD, too, I guess.) Is that common? (Are they why C might not be able to return to the AH?) 

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