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  1. And after finally sitting down to do this, my computer froze when I was almost done and I got to retype half of it. Hooray, technology. Overall: I really like a lot of the worldbuilding concepts here. There are some really neat ideas, and I’m curious to see how they’re used. However, I’m having trouble figuring out how some of them fully fit into the world because there are also a lot of seemingly disconnected details to sort through. It’s probably worth going through and seeing what details you absolutely need this early on and trimming the extra things back. It’s hard to juggle too many new details when we don’t have the framework of the world or how the MC fits into it figured out yet. I also agree with the others’ thoughts that this could all be condensed a good deal. There are a lot of introspective lines or paragraphs that are bogging things down a bit, where the thoughts are already implied by a dialogue line or a character action. Trimming those parts back is going to be really helpful in keeping the pacing up. Pg 1: The opening line is intriguing, but I think I need a little more information in the following paragraphs to not just be confused. Having some questions is good, but too many without further knowledge of the setting can just be disorienting. “I hadn’t been sure…” is the MC just winging this speech? I can imagine this thought process occurring while putting a speech together, but it seems odd to go through it while giving the speech, as if they’re making it up as they go along. Pg 2: We have gotten a whole bunch of unfamiliar proper nouns before we know anything about the MC except that their adoptive father died. But I don’t have any knowledge about the setting to tie them to. We need to have some of these tied more solidly into our understanding of the setting and world before more are introduced. “We were all thinking it” This would have more impact if the reader had enough information to guess at what that idea is. Or if this was the only question left open to the reader. But as it is, there are too many detached details to have much idea of what this means. Pg 3: I really like the information we get here about the funeral rites (and that they’re basically cursing Dad here). It could be smoothed out a bit, but I like the promise of interesting traditions/religions/etc. Also, if everyone seems to have hated Dad, I’m surprised they made enough of a big deal of having multiple funeral speeches that seem to try to honor him. This seems far too late for us to be getting the MCs name. “I shrugged again.” You have several lines like this paragraph, where Z’s introspection breaks up the pacing a bit and doesn’t provide much new information. In many of these places, a single strong sentence would cover everything introduced in several sentences and wouldn’t drag on the pacing. Pg 4: “I want to be a hero” Good, clear goal. That’s helpful. But I still know almost nothing about Z to make me want to cheer them (did I miss a gender clarification? Or do we not know that yet) on toward said goal. Pg 5: “Shovels…” I like the idea of this sentence, but it’s a little wordy at the moment, and the “them”s and “the ones” make it less clear than it could be Lots of shoving and shovels at the beginning of Chapter One is a little repetitive. Pg 6: Not sure why a “water pit” is a bad thing if ash is such a frustration/annoyance. I’d think water would offer a reprieve from the ash, even if there do seem to be divine associations with the ash being provided by Ir-. With a line explaining why water=bad, this would probably jump over into something different/unexpected being intriguing, but without that, it’s just coming across as a bit confusing. There are a few places where you have dialogue formatted like this: “Something something,” Person A says. Person B reacts. “Response response,” Person B responds. Person A reacts. It’s often clearer who is saying/doing what if you keep paragraph breaks separated by the individual involved. This can also be handy for cutting out extra dialogue tags and adding some variety to sentence formatting. Consider instead: “Something something,” Person A says. Person B reacts. “Response response.” Person A reacts. This can help create a visible shift at conversation shifts as well, which is helpful at times when multiple speakers might have the same pronouns. Pg 7: “…handing one of the men a bottle…” Are all of the workers here men? Is that confirmation that Z is male? Also, it mentions in two places on page 6 that G provides beer for the workers, but he hands out wine here. Also, also. How are they keeping drinks cold? And do they have something against drinking water (still unclear of why the MC wants to get away from the water pit, and am not sure if this is related. And if so, why is tea fine?)? “I complained a lot” Not a great way to make us care about a character. Same with “I didn’t really care” a little way down. “sternums” Odd synecdoche choice. Why sternums? “G- looked around, wondering…” pov slip. If we’re in Z’s pov, we won’t know why G’s looking around. Pg 8: “K, go check…” Is K a surname? There have been a whole lot of names already, so adding a second for one of the characters before we’ve gotten a handle on who is who makes it hard to keep everyone in line. Pg 9: “By that night, I doubt…” tense error If we don’t absolutely need to know that Z has this list, I don’t think we need it here. We just had a big event happen, but we’ve gotten pulled away from it without having a clear idea of what it means. Also, if people are likely to blame Z for what happened, how is R the first one to show up here? How hasn’t Z been dragged to the center of a town meeting to explain what they’re going to do to fix it? Pg 10: Why would they expect Z to be their savior? If there’s a reason for it, I think we need that much earlier. Really, I think we could use a lot of this much earlier (the break in the shield and Z being blamed/expected to fix it). Z has mentioned wanting to be a hero, and this doubt/fear seems to go alongside that, but the readers haven’t really been given much reason to cheer them on. Pg 11: Oh. What happened to the emergency of the encroaching fire that was supposed to make everyone hate Z? “Leaving…” I’d gotten the impression that there wasn’t really anywhere to go from the town. Z had mentioned wanting to leave previously, but seemed to feel trapped. Why’s R able to just go? Does the barrier thing entirely circle the town? Is that just a barrier for the fire-river thing? Or does it prevent other things from crossing as well? “You used to talk about heroes…” I assume this is R talking, but am not sure. “face didn’t match…” I’m not sure what this is implying about R’s expression. Scars? Did we know about scars? Not sure of the distinction between basements and cellars… My family always used the terms interchangeably. Granted, if Z is referring to the house as a shack, I sort of doubt there would be any basement at all. Might be worth considering what effect the geography would have on the architecture. And what the technology level allows for. Given that ash and fire-rivers have been the main weather features mentioned, I don’t see this as being an area that has a lot of issues with the ground freezing. A lot of regions where basements are common, it was originally intended to create an insulating space below the main portion of the house that goes below the frostline so that you don’t have foundation shifting during freeze-thaw cycles. And because it’s nice to not have sub-freezing ground directly underneath your living room floor. If that’s not an issue, digging a basement for the average home is going to be a lot of unnecessary effort. And in an area with seismic activity, is going to be more of a risk than a benefit. But I digress. (sorry. I live in an old house, and architecture fascinates me, so I get nitpicky about these sorts of things) I like the water-hell idea, but it may need some extra explanation for what the significance of needing hydration to survive implies. Is there a difference between salt water and fresh water, religiously? This also brings back questions about why Z’s dad’s ash magic was seen as evil. Especially since it seems to be protecting the town. Congrats again on your first submissions! It's not easy, but it's a huge step in learning to improve as a writer!
  2. Glad to help. Feel free to send me a message on here whenever
  3. I know I'm way behind on these, but will be planning to get to this one and the other one you posted this weekend or this coming week. In the meantime, a belated congratulations on your first submissions
  4. First of all, welcome! And congratulations on your first submission This was an interesting chapter, and I’m curious to see where it’s going. The writing was smooth and easy to read, which is always great to see in new submissions. What is boring? I wouldn’t necessarily say boring, but I would be cautious about using too much description in the action-y sequences early on. The description itself is really great prose-wise, but when we don’t know enough about L to be really attached to her at the very beginning, it’s hard for the tension to really grab a reader if the action is split up by a lot of descriptive lines. It’s probably worth trimming back a some of the description to keep pacing up. The first paragraph gives four sentences describing L’s physical response to the smoke, but you should be able to condense those into two strong sentences at most to keep it from dragging. What is confusing? Not sure what the intended audience is, but that would be made clearer in shelf-placement and back-of-book summary. I could have used more information about the setting. I pieced together that it seems to be some sort of future earth, but I don’t have a good sense of how far future or what sort of environment L is in. Not having these sorts of framework details set made it difficult to place some of the other interesting world details, as I wasn’t sure how they fit into the world. Could have also used more solid information on who L is. Swapping out some of the physical descriptions in paragraph one with a sentence or two that will really make us engage with her would be really helpful in feeling the stakes throughout. Not quite confusing, but it fits here better than other categories, I’m curious as to what your plans are in regard to religious themes of the story. It touches on the subject here, but I’m not sure if it will carry through. If it is central to the story, I’d tread lightly on having a futuristic version of a current religion unless you’re knowledgeable of the religion’s history and what changes make sense to set in over time based on existing theology. It doesn’t need to be spelled out in the story, but you, as the writer should have a sense of how it got from point A to point B, and make sure point B holds together in and of itself if it's something people actually believe. What did you not believe? I mentioned a couple things in the line-by-line comments. Nothing major, just a couple of things that made me pause and frown skeptically. And depending on where things are going on the religion front, there are a couple things there that I’m not sure match up entirely (though it depends where things are going and how much focus you’re putting on that. And very few people other than me will care anyway) What was cool? I’m always a fan of good world-relevant swear words (I think too much about these sorts of things…), and am curious to see where the ones you use through here come from in the world. I’m always fascinated by future-earth settings, and if this is a future earth with superheroes, I am looking forward to seeing how that pans out Promises: Other than running into a more superpowered form of L later, I’m not sure. We have a very action-y scene here, but it’s not really clear what L’s goals and motivations will be going forward, or what she will be working against to do that. Having those things early on make it far easier to engage with a character (feel free to take a look at how badly I’ve done at this in my early chapter submissions for proof that I’m fully sympathetic to how difficult it is to cram all of this into a first chapter). Pg 1: I don’t think I know enough about what’s going on to feel the amount of tension I’m supposed to here. That’s a common challenge of starting with an action-y scene. We don’t have enough tie to the characters to feel the threat deeply. “flush with strain” this is iffy pov-wise, since L wouldn’t know what her own face looks like here. The language of the description itself is really good through here, but there might be a little too much of it. The longer we go without knowing much about our MC, the harder it’s going to be for a reader to engage. And the more detailed description we get in an action-y scene, the more it’s going to slow down the pacing. “reddening eyes” another pov error, unless we aren’t actually in L’s pov. Pg 2: “warping” I’m curious to see how this reflects the culture of the world. “she dreaded the implications…” this isn’t carrying as much tension as it seems like it should since we don’t know much about L or these other people yet. “unit” looks a little funny not capitalized Pg 3: It is probably worth checking with someone more medically minded than me, but L being healthy enough to be up and around to escape when the smoke has apparently killed A seems iffy if they’re in the same room unless A had some sort of medical issue. Pg 4: Where’s the soot on the latch coming from if the fire isn’t in the room? And what is hurting her fingers? Pg 5: “using one foot to brace…” This isn’t as effective a maneuver as it might seem. She isn’t likely to have enough strength to create enough friction between foot and wall for her foot to not just slide down to the floor. And if she’s pulling away from the wall with enough force to counteract gravity, she’d better have some incredibly solid grip strength. We don’t know much about her physically, but it doesn’t seem like she’s get super strength. Oof. Concussion check there. A head blow significant enough to knock her out would almost definitely come with a concussion. Vision blurring, trouble staying awake, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, confusion. Might want a line break between scenes. Pg 6: If the door was already hot to the touch before, I’d guess that the fire behind it would be significant enough that opening the door would risk creating a fireball of sorts as the fire is given a sudden fresh supply of oxygen to burn through. Granted, the effect may not be as dramatic as I’m thinking it would be, but it is probably worth looking into a bit. Pg 7-9 I’m feeling a little lost in the world through here. There are a lot of things that seem like they’ll be really interesting with more context, but without any base structure to tie them to, it’s going to be hard to keep them in mind when that context is added later. Having interesting details, but no understanding of how they fit into the world is a little like helplessly standing in the entry to a house you’ve been invited to for the first time, wondering what to do with your jacket and umbrella and shoes while your host is already moving on to give you a tour of the place. We need some metaphorical coat hooks or shoe racks or something to help us see how the details interact with the world so that we are free to focus on the rest of the story. Pg 9 If religion is going to be a central point of the story, you may want to be careful about comments you’re making about existing religions, even if you’re planning to critique aspects of them. And you’ll want to make sure that the form of religion you’re presenting as true holds together within the story. Not sure where you’re planning to go with that from the scene here, but my instincts say to tread lightly (as I’ve seen religions done very poorly far too many times). If you need anyone to bounce ideas off of along those lines, or to help poke at sci-fi-world religions to find gaps where things might not hold together, I’m your gal. Also, if the world does have a sturdy religious focus, whether the majority of the people practice it or not, you’re safe to include religious-based profanity in addition to the other curse words that have been used thus far. Nothing expresses hatred/anger/displeasure quite like the flippant use of things people hold sacred. Pg 10: “for Gods” - if Trin- is supposed to be some sort of monotheistic deity, would these people believe other gods exist? This also probably shouldn’t be capitalized. The Judeo-Christian God is capitalized because it’s a name and title of sorts (and probably also a self-contained statement of monotheism), and therefore a proper noun. But when pluralized, you’re moving away from the proper noun usage. Especially if the name of the deity has shifted to Trin- in common usage. Pg 11: Not sure what the target age group is, and you can always get away with a little vocabulary that the reader can take as “this means smart stuff” jargon, but you may want to run the paragraphs connecting pages 10 and 11 past some others to see how understandable they are to a younger audience (assuming by L’s apparent age that this is MG?) “Knowing she would be out” pov jump. You’ll probably want some sort of scene break or chapter break here if you want to shift povs. “flavor exploded” another pov jump
  5. So I assume that means that this is the week ten people will want to submit I'm sure we will manage to keep ourselves in order for a couple weeks. Enjoy your time away!
  6. I'll be sending over the document with the LBLs, but wanted to chime in on some of the thoughts here as well. I'd agree with this. I'm still enjoying reading, but feel like things are getting a little unfocused at this point. Can confirm. Though the 5 y.o.'s concerning behavior of choice at that age was throwing wooden blocks at other daycare kids... children are chaos at that age, and most will intentionally test boundaries in new environments/around new people. I also have a few related thoughts in my notes related to P's verbal capabilities not quite seeming to match his age. This was a big sticking point for me. Did they have a good plan in place for replacing r-plast with a non-fungus-based material in the next couple of years? Because if they were planning for the whole construction process to take 10 years (right?) before the issues they've been running into, what was their plan to deal with the buildings in A turning into man-eating-fungus structures while they still have their construction crews hard at work on section X? It didn't seem like the r-plast buildings were being built as temporary structures until they can manufacture non-fungus-based materials. But it's possible I missed something.
  7. Not this week, but I will be hoping to jump back in a few weeks from now. Used some of covid-quarantine to work on a short story, but it's not quite done yet. Hoping that telling people I'm finishing it up will get me to buckle down to get the last part of it together.
  8. I'm still doing most of my reading/commenting on my phone in google docs on school buses, so I will send over that document with LBLs and more detailed notes. I liked a lot of things in this. The fungus-pov did a great job of stressing the difference between how it views the threat of the colonists (a sort of confusing problem to be figured out, but not a real threat) and how the colonists view it (as a terrifying mushroom-monster). And I am always a little cynically amused that the poor fungus-being is just sort of trying to go about its life and adjust to the annoying unexpected creatures while humanity is fighting for its existence. I also really enjoyed F 's unconvincing "I have no emotional attachment to this baby. For real. But here's some stuff for them, and let me know if you need anything and..." Unfortunately, I'm still bouncing really hard off of J's pov. I like the idea of having a sort of antagonistic viewpoint from the admins, and proof of their incompetence in actually running the colony, but we spend a lot of time in J's pov to watch a bunch of incompetent people discuss things they don't understand. J clearly views herself as the mastermind behind the whole operation, but I'm not convinced that she would be able to hold her own if any real conflict broke out among the admins. She clings to her power, but I haven't seen any real sign that there's anyone interested in taking it away from her, or that they wouldn't succeed if they tried. There's a bit of conflict with M here, which is something, but even though M seems to be horrified by the ideas J proposes, she doesn't push back at all. J approaches the topic in a roundabout way as if to trick M into talking about something she'd get really angry about if approached bluntly (while also taking mental cheap shots at M), and once M picks up on J's idea, she is disgusted and mortified, but just...goes on with the meeting. Yes, specifically chosen. I was using this as a bit of a mental power play from J, showing where she thinks of herself in relation to the others. Maybe I've spent too much time among high school boys swearing to seem tough over the past couple months, but while this line does tell me about the way J thinks of herself compared to the others, it makes it even harder for me to take her competence seriously. And if she's not competent, the fact that the other admins are blindly following her reflects lack of competence on their part. And if none of them have any real grasp on how to lead the colony or deal with issues that arise, I'm not sure why we spend so much time in meetings with them. I want them to be a competent antagonistic force (even if they are clueless when it comes to actually creating a decent society in the colony), and I want to see J as the power-grasping mastermind manipulating them to her will (even if C is the real knowledge/power behind the title), but it's just not coming together for me. Really enjoyed the An section. Seeing the eye-opening moment of the different levels of society interacting is fun, and it's fun to see An out of his element in trying to manage the dispute. I also like the building materials discussion (surprise, surprise). And my suspicion that it could very well overcome F's work (sorry, F. I trust you, but you've all proven you're way out of your depth here. Otherwise we wouldn't have a story) to reconnect with the rest of the fungus to turn their structures into sentient homes is apparently enough tension to silence the nit-picky part of my brain that might whine about production methods and such.
  9. I read through most of this on my phone on a bus and made comments directly in the Google Doc, so I'll probably just send that over to you instead of copying over specifics. Overall, I really enjoyed reading through this, and as the others have said, I am fully onboard for seeing more stories set in this world. I also really enjoyed T's wry side-comments, especially the ones that ring so true to being a pet owner (even if said pets are massive0. There are a few places where I struggled to follow what was going on (during the time with M and in the flashback later on are the ones that come back to mind), but I'd have to read through it again while not on a bus full of shouting teenagers to determine how much of that was the text and how much was a distracting reading environment. I agree with @Silk's thoughts about it ending up being pretty easy to get L back at the end once T found her, as well as the thought that dialing up emotion would add a lot of strength to the story. Losing a pet is scary enough in a world where they're not also a means of survival. We see T missing L's warmth, transportation assistance, and general presence, but having a few other details about their relationship (what's a normal day for them when T isn't chasing after L? Is it the same for everyone in this region? How''s T/Li's relationship and life differ from M/Le's?) could really drive the feeling of L's absence home harder. Thanks for submitting! This was a lot of fun to read Edit: Forgot to mention characters/elements I found interesting. Through this story, we see 1. life for people in the unclaimed catlands 2. non-cat-people in the catlands 3. catlords are a thing. And really, I'd love to see any of those things fleshed out in some sort of story detailing what sort of challenges each of those groups face and what different aspects of this world looks like from the perspective of different groups of people within it. That doesn't narrow it down much, but ultimately I'm intrigued enough by the world that I'd probably enjoy any story that takes the idea and runs with it.
  10. Overall: I like the progress here, and S’s actively searching out answers a lot. I do think there are some things that need to be nailed down a little more clearly in regard to the religion and S’s view of it (shocking, I know), and about his relationship with C, but this is a big improvement on previous versions. I do think there are several places where things are dragging a bit due to some extra wordiness and vagueness. Instead of concrete details that would be useful in a second chapter, we’re getting hints at things in roundabout ways. Which I am 110% guilty of, but it was something that was tripping me up. Especially because roundabout explanations are bogging down some of the conversation. Pg 1: D’s name still feels far more modern-American to me than fits the setting. Also, would he be allowed in the female wing of the servant quarters? How much of the gender segregation is based in general human propriety, and how much is based in some sort of divine instruction? If there are religious ties to the gender segregation, I would expect the female wing to be off-limits to S. Or at least be a place he’s not comfortable just strolling into. “my thoughts went to you.” We could have probably gotten a little more of this in the previous chapter. At least in some urgency to get back. Or to ask Z if they’ll hurt anyone. I’m not sure how difficult it would be to show that he’s specifically worried about D there without a big info dump on who D is, but there might be a way to get that across with a couple lines of dialogue/thought. “after his marriage” Would be helpful to get a note here of when that marriage is expected to take place. “weren’t supposed to…” Without going into nitty-gritty detail, do they have reliable birth control in this world? Because if not, marrying off brothers and expecting them to not father children seems like an unreliable way to run things. Unless they’re a culture that is fine with infanticide or exposing male children born to the HR’s brothers? Pg 2: “caged away like a bird” this also feels a little off if both families involve actually want the alliance. I’d almost expect things to lean more toward the marriage and spouse being put on show as a “See how important this alliance is to us and how well we honor it?” even if they’re plotting betrayal in the background. And if the spouse is a person who they can turn into a tool for their use (putting their magic hand-crystals to use, for example), I’d think this would be even more the case. “she was still attracted…” could use a little more information around this. Even just defining the details in the paragraph here a little further. What their relationship used to be and what it is now, if that’s different. Or what he has felt all along vs. what she has felt all along if they aren’t on the same page. “head back to my room” again, in a place with strict gender segregation and strict expectations on royal brothers in regard to any potential accidental children, this seems like it would be frowned upon to an extreme or forbidden outright. And if that’s the cultural standard, there would probably be ways for people to have private conversations while visible to anyone who might otherwise gossip about what they might be doing in secret. Nit-picking aside, I like that S is actively trying to make plans to deal with what’s going on. Pg 3: A lot of the dialogue here could be trimmed down a bit and still get the full point across. Same with some of the exposition. I don’t think there’s too much to absorb to have it here, but the sentence structure and wordiness are interfering with it a bit. Do people use arrows to hunt snakes? Why hasn’t S talked to C about the RA before now if she’s from a place with more information about it? Pg 4: “His father told” do we know if his father is alive? The phrasing here makes it sound like this was a recent conversation, but I assume not, if J is HR? Might be helpful to call out the political structure a little better to confirm that the HR position is equivalent to some sort of priest-king or prophet-king (depending on his supposed role in the religious structure). As it is, I don’t have a good sense of how the political and religious lines intersect, or what is expected from S on either side of that. Pg 5: Is W staying in the palace? It seems odd that he would be surprised to find her there. Also, why is D the one to open the conversation? I’d expect most royal protocol to have servants (even the more elite/important servants) only speaking when spoken to. She might have had the appointment to study with C, but even then, I’d expect C to be the one to initiate that discussion when D got there. “D knew little …” this seems unlikely to me. She’s managed to navigate the politics and protocols to earn herself a place doing research with one of the HR’s wives. I don’t see that happening unless they know she’s politically aware enough to not be accidentally sharing royal secrets with other servants. Pg 6: “We’re not certain.” Same here, where her sharing the information sort of implies that she was the lead person in the process, not the friend who S shared the information with. And if S is concerned about what W thinks of his relationship with D, having D referring to herself and S with “we’re not certain” and “we’re not sure” is a big problem. The wording makes claims on his thoughts/opinions/person that she doesn’t have any place to make, and doing so in front of his betrothed seems especially rude/unwise. “in her expression” and “she was the youngest” not sure if these are referring to C or W Pg 7: “Why did she care…?” …because they’re betrothed? You could probably trim down this section (from here into the top of the next page) a good deal. Showing his mediating through conversation is going to be far stronger than explaining what’s happening. And it should be pretty much assumed that his ties to her family would include her family having more access to knowledge about what’s going on with the royal family. I don’t think that needs spelled out as much as it is now. Pg 8: “Lady C” would “Lady” be correct? If the HR’s siblings are princes and princesses, his wives should probably have more significant titles. With corresponding forms of address depending on how close she and S are. Pg 9-12: Main comments through here are that things could be trimmed down a little bit. The progress is interesting, but is getting bogged down a bit pacing-wise. Pg 12: Knowing that C has a red crystal before S asks her about it would be helpful. Otherwise the question comes out of the blue. He could probably even reference it when he sees the crushed one in chapter 1. To point us more in this direction from there. Also, isn’t this something S would know if she’s a member of his family? Seems like the sort of thing that would have been part of his education, since it’s tied into the politics, geography, and religion of the world. “as a status symbol…” but S and the others do use the powers in their crystals. What would it mean to just have it as a status symbol if it becomes inherent to their person? S mentioned above that he feels people’s emotions in his body. How are red-crystal users’ lives affected by their powers? Pg 13: Is S aware of any non-conventional purposes that the other crystals could be used for? If not, it seems odd to suspect the red ones of having special bonus features that the others don’t. I feel like some of the explanation of motivations could be cut back here. Most of it should be evident in their conversation and actions. You’ll just want to make sure that it doesn’t get bogged down in expositional description. Same into the next page. Why does he seem convinced that C isn’t on his side? I don’t think we’ve seen anything thus far to suggest that they might be at odds with each other. Pg 15: “A shiver ran down S’s spine…” I’m pretty sure this is the first hint of actual religious belief we get from S. Even in the introduction to the FCity, his awe is more about the physical majesty of the caves, and of the power that the FCitizen had. It’s not really awe or fear of the gods. All of that together makes me wonder what exactly S thinks of his religion, especially when his brother is supposed to be some sort of representative of the god(s?) in the world. Even here. Is he shivering because the thought of having a prisoner there taints the holiness of the place? If so, is J disrespecting the god by keeping a prisoner there? Is that thought what makes S shiver? Might be worth thinking a bit about how S thinks about his religion. How much of it is based on faith vs. moral laws vs. tradition, and how much he thinks of it that way (it will likely be a blend of the three). He might think of it in terms of faith, when it’s actually just that he likes the sense of tradition and structure it provides. Or he could be fully aware that he mostly values it for the moral structure it creates. Just some things to think about when working with a religious character (or a character in a very religious setting). Why does he have to get all of this figured out before his wedding? The closing paragraph is good, but I feel like it states things in far more definite terms than have been given to us previously. Especially in regard to the wedding timeline and his feeling that he’s really close to the truth.
  11. General note: if you could include the wordcount in the filename and the topic title, that would be a big help. I probably would have gotten to this last week if I’d known it was this short. Since it’s shorter, and you’re looking at putting it in a contest, a lot of my comments are minor grammar/text flow edits. It’s pretty smooth overall text-wise, but in a contest situation, you want to make sure you’re taking away any possible chance for the reader to trip over a word or phrase. Overall: I think my biggest general opinions are similar to the others’. I hadn’t realized J was also being hung. And it does seem like there’s a lot of time for L to be talking. I also agree that there needs to be more plot for this to feel like a full story. I like the overall idea of the setup, and it was a lot of fun to read. However, there is probably a way to push that idea into a story with a complete plot and arc, and it would do the concept much better justice to do that. Pg 1: “It was wiped…” Might want to reword this to avoid the passive-voice. And/or split it into two sentences. It’s a little clunky, as-is right now. “gut, before” shouldn’t have a comma. If we’re in the middle of the town square, would there be a clear line of sight to the sunset? “they wanted to be part of it even less.” Might want to make the implication a little clearer here. I assume you’re saying that they’re afraid of ending up next on the gallows if they don’t show up to watch, but what “be part of it” means could be made a little clearer so that it can hit home without the reader having to pause and think about it. “They would take their time” could also be made clearer who the “they” is here. It’s clear by the end of the sentence that it’s the nobility, but there’s a moment of confusion at the start there that could be avoided. “…drink wine, tell stories and be paid…” you and me both, L. Pg 2: Wondering about the name choices. (Besides, it wouldn’t be a proper critique from me without poking at naming conventions and/or religion world building) We got a “For the gods’ sake” on page 1, but L and J are both common names because they’re Biblical, and are going to carry a good deal of Judeo-Christian connotation. If you’re aiming for a more fantastical setting, it might be worth swapping out the names for something less tied to earth-as-we-know-it. Pg 3: Smelt should just be smelled Pg 5: I like the idea of the sentence break at the end indicating what it does, but it needs to be set up right for it to pay off.
  12. I'll have to try to call out what's going on here a little better when I do edits. Ideally, there should be enough in the most recent Ala- chapter (and in his plotline, once I've revised his early chapters) for the reader to have a good idea that these are the revolutionaries who Ras- has been trying to hide his connections to, and is afraid of. There should also be more implication that Le- is downplaying the more extreme actions the group has been responsible for. Specifically against those who support the king. In theory, the reader should get the idea that Is- is in more danger than she realizes, or that there is a real threat behind her paranoia, but that's definitely falling short here. Thanks for your thoughts!
  13. Pg 2: “first-year” should probably have a hyphen “far away from… As much as possible” Should both of these sentences be in terms of distance? The shift from how far to how much/how often feels a little odd. Unless I’m misreading the intention of the second sentence. Pg 3: “didn’t think” Is this her knowledge or her citing something someone else has told her? This line makes me wonder what the people in the colony think of how the biomass functions. It would make sense if a lot of them got the idea that it was outsmarting them and planning ahead. Ag isn’t a fungus expert, so having her assert that the biomass doesn’t think doesn’t convey as much weight as her citing that someone who is a fungus expert has assured them all that the biomass doesn’t think. “ruthless” Have we gotten any of the Gens impressions of the Admins before now? I don’t feel like I’ve gotten this sense of J from the Gens or from her interactions with the Admins. Everyone sort of just listens to her, so we’ve never seen a risk of her losing her control, and she’s never really been ruthless on-page. Pg 4: “that had ever happened” This is definitely the sort of thought processing and inner conflict I’ve been looking for from Ag all along. It comes across as a little out of the blue without the earlier build up, but I think once that’s fleshed out more, this (combined with where things are going) is going to be a big hit right in the feels. Pg 10: For the most part, the hesitation on the doctor’s part comes across as trying to figure out if he should be deferring to a specialist on a topic or deferring to a specialist-and-friend-of-the-patient to deliver difficult news, but I think there could be a little more clarification of that at the end of page 10 and beginning of 11. Just to avoid it coming across as inexperienced nervousness. Pg 12: “if he was just pretending” This thought seems out of character. I don’t think we ever got any sense of doubt in their relationship from her. Overall: This was a really strong chapter. I enjoyed it a lot (in the readers loving being in misery sense), and can’t wait to see how it plays out once the early setup of Ag’s conflict is fleshed out.
  14. Thanks for the thoughts, @kais. It's good to know that some of the things are hitting well, but I'll have to keep working on not bogging down the important parts. Through the first half of the book, she avoids acknowledging her fears/emotions/vulnerabilities to the point of almost disassociating from them. So her floundering in her grief/emotional processing a bit here is intentional. It isn't an ongoing thing, but when she falls back into old routines in the next few chapters, there should be a sense of imposter-syndrome attached to it where she knows she's not nearly as invincible as she likes to pretend. So we'll see how far I miss getting those details in order in the next few weeks.
  15. Overall: I like the progress here, and am enjoying the story. I think the biggest pacing note is that Chapters 9-10 are dragging a little bit. I wonder if that learning/training process could either be trimmed back or have some aspect to it that keeps it from just being E and A interacting on their own. Are there other interesting ghostly presences there that E could test their skills on instead of A, or maybe E does go too far and actually harm the ghost by pushing too hard at the magic tendril things? Or something else that lets us dig a little deeper into ghost-magic world in a fun way while E is learning? Other than that, I think the pacing worked well through here. D also seemed to react far more naturally to things than in the previous section. She still comes across as a little more confident/calm than the average person might seem when her mom has just been turned into a mannequin, but I think with the peril a little more distant, that doesn’t seem as excessive as it did in the previous section. Pg 1: Is this set in the same world as the ghost train story? Or do you get attached to the ghosts made of memory concept like I get attached to some of my magic system ideas? Pg 2: For someone who is extremely careful to get pronouns correct, the “I’m not entirely sure I would’ve listened” seems a little contradictory. How much research did E do here? What they have here seems like it would fit onto a page or two, not fill a notebook. “jolted” seems like not quite the right word here. “needed to cut right to the important stuff.” Again feels a little off when they took a page to confirm pronouns. Full-disclosure on where I’m coming from regarding pronouns (since I know others here have different experiences): It’s not as common now that I’m not actively working in an engineering office (though being a woman coaching a boys’ sports team brings it up now and then), but being a female engineer with a non-standard name spelling that is often misread as masculine, I am pretty regularly misgendered by people contacting me through e-mails before we’ve met in person. And while I’m absolutely aware it’s not the case for most people, it’s never bothered me much. I’m always going to do my best to respect that it does bother other people, and be considerate of that as much as I can, but it doesn’t hit home quite as hard for me. Probably because my experience with being misgendered has never had intentional rudeness behind it. Which I know is not always the case. Given that: If someone were to go out of their way to confirm pronouns for me (I’d certainly appreciate the consideration) then went on to be intentionally dismissive of my concerns in other ways, that would bother me far more than an accidental misgendering in the first place. I get that E is coming from a place where they’re going to be more sensitive to pronoun usage, but depending on what you’re trying to do with their character, you might want to downplay the “I don’t care if it’s rude, I need answers.” Tone. Or provide some consequences where that rudeness backfires and they have to learn to be more considerate and take conversation more slowly. Pg 3: “Photos of Sock-…” is this a place we’ve been introduced to? “slammed shut” slammed the book shut? Pg 4: Think we need a little more clarification here. M killed B and N because they enforced unsafe working conditions? Or M was responsible for killing the workers? M was a Fair- as well, right? If E has been researching the history around the accident/fire/etc. I assume they’d be aware of who the owners and their family members were. Does E recognize who B and N are? Do they know how M was related to B and/or N? If they’ve been looking into it, I imagine that would be right at the front of the information. Not sure who the “them” in “Some of them” is referring to. Pg 9: “expected his mother to materialize” Do we know who B’s mother is? Or where the vision is taking place? Is E recognizing M’s voice? I’m assuming M is B’s mother, but I don’t think we’ve gotten those details in-text yet. Also, do we know who As- is? Pg 10: And do we know who Al’s aunt is or what she taught him? Pg 15: “looming blizzard” With the heat/humidity of the day, is this more like a refreshing cold? Blizzard feels a little more threatening than I’d expect. And isn’t something I’d expect E to associate with A. Pg16: “As we crossed…” This paragraph had a couple clunky sentences. I think cutting “the door to open, and for” might smooth out the first one. Especially since they already opened the door. In the second, the “the same slightly….shop” is just really wordy. “she had still gotten snared by M…” Might be worth an added couple words to remind us who D is. Also, his name is spelled two different ways on this page (one r and two) “attic doors…vents” I think this detail just makes things more complicated while describing the room. I don’t think most readers going to immediately guess that the mannequins escaped into an attic, so eliminating the possibility feels unnecessary. Same with trap doors. I think confirming that there aren’t closets or back doors for M or the mannequins to be hiding in, or where the moms might have been hidden is thorough enough to get the point across to the reader that they aren’t there. I’m a little surprised they aren’t suspicious that M managed to magically get past the lock/door. That would have been my first guess. Especially since things were missing from the other part of the shop too. Does E know enough about ghosts to eliminate that possibility? If not, maybe they can mention the possibility and have De correct them. “fragment” shred? Snag? Scrap? Fragment doesn’t feel like a fabric-y term to me. Pg 17: Was Mx. R also turned into a mannequin? I don’t remember. Though it’s possible I was focusing on being concerned about the moms and forgot about their involvement, since we hadn’t seen them on-page in the sections you’ve submitted (I think). “teacups on the floor” broken? Or just placed there? If the latter, spelling out a word is going to require a whole lot of teacups. If shattered, and the pieces form the letters, there’s probably a little less dot-connecting. “this time next month…” I assume this was introduced in the first chapters? I don’t remember seeing anything about it in the previous submission. If moving/losing their apartment (or whatever is going on there) is a big emotional point or plot point for E, I think we need a reminder of how that fits into the story events. I haven’t gotten a sense of any “home is where the heart is, not where our stuff is” or “seeking out a place that feels like home” sorts of themes (there’s a bit of “home=family” but not having read the opening, I’m not sure how E’s relationship with mom is set up, if it implies an arc). Mostly this seems like a big detail to have not been mentioned for 7-8k words. Who do they think the message is coming from? I’d understood it as an angry, ghostly “Get out of here” (though that’s odd, since M is also gone). If they think it’s some other ghostly force trying to help, it might be worth giving us a hint in that regard. What dagger? Is this feeling of purposefulness of the monster hunting kit drawn out when we first see it? You may want to make sure that’s stressed early on. Maybe even as some sort of sense that the monster hunting kit wants to go out and hunt things, which startles E at first and makes them cautious of it. But when they come back to it now, it seems like exactly the right tool for the job, even if E isn’t completely sure why/how (and is still a little cautious of its intentions). You just want to make sure it doesn’t feel like a deus ex machina that can be whatever we need it to be in a few chapters. At the moment the “knowing it is important, somehow” feels a little plot-convenient. “Added weight” how much holy water is this? And are the stakes going to be that heavy? I’d almost suggest minimizing the physical weight of them. Stressing the mental/magical weight of them in E’s head. Making a point of that contrast. Also, is this energy different from the ghost-energy? Why is it still here when the other ghost-related things are gone? Pg 18: What abilities does D’s mom have as a psychic that other ghost-sensitive people don’t? E is able to see the ghost-magic. Is there more to it than that? I’m assuming some of this is explained at the beginning, but it may be helpful to get reminders through D and E’s planning/learning of what a proper psychic would be capable of that they aren’t. “a ghost and a dog” Has Al- had any input on what’s going on here or what they should be trying to do next? I’d imagine his opinion to be important on that front. Might be worth having them try to check in with him, even if he still needs more rest before he can provide any helpful input. Just to make sure they don’t seem like they’re forgetting one of their informational resources. I like the closing line
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