Work in progress and request for help: Treasure Hunt

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Work in progress and request for help: Treasure Hunt

Postby SirMustapha » Wed Oct 08, 2014 7:28 pm

Hello there. This is a short story I'm currently working on, called Treasure Hunt. I'm actually writing it in Portuguese, so this is a very rough and rushed translation of the first chapter, little less than half of what I have so far. I'm in serious need of help here, and it would be better if someone could read this stuff first hand and share their thoughts. My concern is with the main character, Rosa, who is supposed to have Asperger Syndrome (according to the new classification, she'd have high functioning autism, I think). I need to know if her decisions, her feelings, thoughts and lines are believable. I need her to be as organic and lifelike as possible, without falling into obvious stereotyping and whatever myths that are disseminated about the disorder. Her character and the whole story depend on this. There are two catches, though: first, Rosa is not diagnosed, and nobody around her knows anything about it (the story is set in Brazil circa 2000, when most people were ignorant about high functioning autism -- very much like now); also, the story will never mention her condition, because this is not The Fault in Our Stars: Autistic Edition. It's not a story about the disorder itself. Also, all the other characters are neurotypical.

Any, absolutely any feedback will be greatly appreciated, but so far I'm only worried about the content. Please forgive the language mistakes; I couldn't afford to make a very high quality adaptation of some of the text, there will be typos aplenty, and some lines may smell a bit fishy for only making sense in Portuguese (the thing with "turn!" near the beginning, for example). If I ever intend on releasing it in English, I'll probably do it all over again.

Also, if you guys know good sources for non-medical research on Asperger's and high functioning autism, I'll be deeply thankful. This work is from the heart, and I'm willing to shed blood and tears on it (not sweat, though, because it'll get all stinky). Thanks!

P.S.: I might attach the original Portuguese version later on. I don't have it with me right now.
P.P.S.: The complete story is available a couple of posts below. I've removed the original first chapter, which is now outdated.
Last edited by SirMustapha on Fri Mar 20, 2015 1:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles"

-- Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"
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Re: Work in progress and request for help: Treasure Hunt

Postby gkscotty » Thu Oct 16, 2014 11:26 pm

Sorry this took a while. I'm not an expert on autism at all, but it seemed quite realistic to this layman.
Image

It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was Us, what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do bad things. - Jingo, Terry Pratchett
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Re: Work in progress and request for help: Treasure Hunt

Postby SirMustapha » Wed Oct 22, 2014 5:24 pm

Thanks a lot for the feedback, Steve. I have to say I'm currently taking a break from writing, because Making Amends is taking up most of my available time, but I still care about this story. I might translate another chapter eventually, when I get time. Thanks!
"Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles"

-- Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"
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Re: Work in progress and request for help: Treasure Hunt

Postby c_nordlander » Sat Oct 25, 2014 11:46 pm

OK, I haven't read all of this, only about 25%, but I'll keep reading soon. I'm really enjoying it so far. Rosa and Pedro are interesting characters, and the story is enigmatic and interesting.

I'll obviously need to wait until I've read it all to say for sure, but so far, the depiction of Rosa's high-functioning autism seems good to me. (Speaking as someone who has it herself, but isn't a psychologist or any kind of expert.) There may be an occasional sentence where her condition seems a bit too obvious, but again, I won't say anything until I've read it all. Again, so far it seems very good, and she seems like an individual person, not just a syndrome.

The only thing that doesn't quite ring true to me is Rosa watching the pool game because she has to like "something that distracted her from the thoughts about science and chemistry that occupied her mind". I can totally understand her making an effort to be more social and find things that she can talk to with her peers; it's just that "distract" bit that feels a bit weird. Maybe if you changed it to something like "she was making an effort to develop other interests" and then explain the bit about how it would give her something to talk about with other people. (Only better written than the way I just phrased it.)

On the contrary, something I really liked was Rosa kind of shutting out her friends' discussion on the way home in order to focus on her thoughts. That's something that felt very true to my own life.

Not sure whether you wanted any other feedback. I know it's a rough-and-ready translation (though it's not really as rough as you said; with a few grammar fixes, it would be perfectly good English), but as far as I can tell, the writing style is pretty good. One nitpick is that you spend a lot of the first page describing the main characters' personalities, rather than just dropping bits of characterisation throughout the story. (I think the latter is a smoother way of doing it, especially given that this is clearly intended to be a long story with lots of space for such slower showing of the characters.) That said, judging by those descriptions, the characters are very interesting and complex, which is one of the main things I look for in stories.

You jump a lot between Rosa's and Pedro's points of view, which is something I tend to dislike in fiction. But if that's how you want to write, no problem.

So yeah, I'm enjoying it. Will try to read the rest soon.
The noose draws tighter;
This is the end;
I'm a good fighter
But a bad friend;
I've played the traitor
Over and over;
I'm a good hater
But a bad lover.


Elinor Wylie, "Peregrine"
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Re: Work in progress and request for help: Treasure Hunt

Postby SirMustapha » Sun Oct 26, 2014 11:03 pm

Lotsa thanks for the feedback, Chris. Even though you're still at the beginning, your comments are very much what I had in mind when I put the story here.

The only thing that doesn't quite ring true to me is Rosa watching the pool game because she has to like "something that distracted her from the thoughts about science and chemistry that occupied her mind". I can totally understand her making an effort to be more social and find things that she can talk to with her peers; it's just that "distract" bit that feels a bit weird.


Good point. I realise I was on thin ice on that bit, and even though it sounded a little wonky to me before I put the story here, I left it in just to see what the criticism would be. The image I had in mind during that part was Rosa's parents pestering her to go out and do something different, that she needed some distraction from all her studying, and that she'd get sick if she didn't try something different. I'll definitely develop that part further to make it clearer.

One nitpick is that you spend a lot of the first page describing the main characters' personalities, rather than just dropping bits of characterisation throughout the story.


Again, good point. And I think that is one weakness I have: when trying to build characterisation gradually along the story, I'm always afraid of leaving important bits out and repeating pieces of information. But I realise now the story takes ages to get to the real action; I figure that if I cut off all that fat and let the story itself unwrap the characters, it will be nicer. That's another item on my checklist.

You jump a lot between Rosa's and Pedro's points of view, which is something I tend to dislike in fiction. But if that's how you want to write, no problem.


I'm still not sure about that. Rosa is such a daunting character, I feel afraid of making a deep psychological study on her through the whole story, and having a wee bit of affinity with Pedro, I couldn't resist jumping into his head for a few moments. In the later chapters, though, I've been focusing a lot more into her, so I guess I'll follow that path.

Thanks again!
"Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles"

-- Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"
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Re: Work in progress and request for help: Treasure Hunt

Postby c_nordlander » Mon Oct 27, 2014 1:48 am

Don Cobra wrote:Lotsa thanks for the feedback, Chris. Even though you're still at the beginning, your comments are very much what I had in mind when I put the story here.
Good point. I realise I was on thin ice on that bit, and even though it sounded a little wonky to me before I put the story here, I left it in just to see what the criticism would be. The image I had in mind during that part was Rosa's parents pestering her to go out and do something different, that she needed some distraction from all her studying, and that she'd get sick if she didn't try something different. I'll definitely develop that part further to make it clearer.


That makes a lot more sense and sounds very good. You probably just need to develop that a bit.

My complaint about jumping between characters' heads is really a style thing, so no need to change it for my sake.

Seems like we agree on most things here. I really enjoy the plot you've got here; I'll keep reading when I can.
The noose draws tighter;
This is the end;
I'm a good fighter
But a bad friend;
I've played the traitor
Over and over;
I'm a good hater
But a bad lover.


Elinor Wylie, "Peregrine"
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Re: Work in progress and request for help: Treasure Hunt

Postby c_nordlander » Fri Nov 07, 2014 11:03 pm

The rest of my review:

I think it's a bit too exaggerated when Rosa doesn't know how to respond to "may I ask your name" and just says "yes". I mean, it's a funny joke, but it doesn't seem realistic for a high-functioning autistic adult. Rosa is at least eighteen years old, and unless she's been extremely sheltered from other people (and books/films), she should have come across that sort of figurative speech and know how to deal with it. But then, maybe she is that sheltered.

On the other hand, I like the bit where she tells Carlos that she thinks he's just using her to get close to Gabriela. I like it precisely because it shows a certain insight into other people's behaviour (even if she's wrong) that isn't normally associated with Aspergic people, and thus makes her seem less like a diagnosis and more like a person. On the other hand, her telling it to Carlos directly does seem like something an Aspergic person would be more likely to do than a neurotypical person in the same situation. So yes, I appreciate that bit. (Having said that, the comparative social savviness that Rosa demonstrates in this scene brings home the artificiality of her not knowing how to reply to “may I ask your name” earlier).

Rosa could never understand why people needed so many empty and apparently ritualistic words that only happened to steal time.
Now that's 100% true to my experience!

The bit about how he realises that Rosa never looks at him and how expressionless her face looks are also accurate, in my experience. Also, Carlos' thoughts about how mysterious she is, and his slight fear of finding out that she might just be a very ordinary person, are realistic and well-written.


Non-autistic spectrum related points:

A part I had a bit of a problem with (in line with what I said before about the POV jumping between the characters' heads): when Rosa talks to the guy for the first time, you refer to him as "Carlos", even though he hasn't told Rosa his name yet. Clearly, that's because that bit is written from his perspective, but the reader doesn't know his name yet, and so it appears out of nowhere. And this is why the POV-jumping can be a problem.

Apart from the above nitpicks, it's still good. Rosa's musings on love are very accurate and interesting.

I haven't really been nitpicking your style, because I realise this is a rough translation, but one thing that stood out: you have a pretty nice description of the tourist beach in Arroio do Sal, but then it ends with “and things like that”, which comes off as a bit sloppy. Just cutting those last four words would make the sentence a lot better.

The whole scene with Carlos and Rosa on the beach is well-written. It does a good job conveying their mental processes without being wordy.

The ending (in italics) sets a very nice mood.

There are a couple of typoes that should probably be fixed, even if this isn't meant to be a final translation. For example, "Home come?" should be "How come?", and "He had his change" should be "chance".

In short, I like this a lot. The characters and story are strong, and your writing is still very good, especially in the more psychological moments. As far as I can tell, you've done a good job writing a high-functioning autistic person. All in all, this is a very good story so far, and I wish you good luck with it.


As for non-medical resources: I've heard good things about Born on a Blue Day, the autobiography of Daniel Tammet (note that he has savant syndrome as well as autistic spectrum disorder). I haven't read it myself, though.
The noose draws tighter;
This is the end;
I'm a good fighter
But a bad friend;
I've played the traitor
Over and over;
I'm a good hater
But a bad lover.


Elinor Wylie, "Peregrine"
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Re: Work in progress and request for help: Treasure Hunt

Postby SirMustapha » Mon Nov 10, 2014 11:11 am

Again, huge thanks for the review. Now that I'm done working with music, I'm going back to this story, and your points have all been duly noted.

Just Chris wrote:I think it's a bit too exaggerated when Rosa doesn't know how to respond to "may I ask your name" and just says "yes". I mean, it's a funny joke, but it doesn't seem realistic for a high-functioning autistic adult. Rosa is at least eighteen years old, and unless she's been extremely sheltered from other people (and books/films), she should have come across that sort of figurative speech and know how to deal with it. But then, maybe she is that sheltered.


Ah, it's a pretty low joke, actually. :) I left that in mostly as a thermometer, to see if it was too much, or if it could pass off in some circumstance. Looking at the story with fresh eyes, I can say Rosa was not really sheltered. One of my "research points" for this story were some TED talks by people diagnosed with Asperger who happened to overcome their condition and live a happy life, thanks to major support from friends and family. Rosa for me is the antithesis of that: her parents had little patience, her siblings couldn't stand her around, her teachers found her annoying and cumbersome, her relatives would call her crazy, and so on. Her two "friends" are the only people who accept her, but they aren't exactly supportive either. So for me, one of her defining traits is that she tried hard to be accepted, but realised it never worked, so she shut off from everyone. I'm sorry being too wordy about this, but this is a direct result of your criticism and it's really helping me out shape the character.

Just Chris wrote:On the other hand, I like the bit where she tells Carlos that she thinks he's just using her to get close to Gabriela.


I had to read the text again when I saw that, and I realise I introduced a bit of a double entendre in the translation. In the original, she simply says she is all that is left for him, since Gabriela scared him. But your interpretation was brilliant, and I decided to add that in. :)

Just Chris wrote:I like it precisely because it shows a certain insight into other people's behaviour (even if she's wrong) that isn't normally associated with Aspergic people, and thus makes her seem less like a diagnosis and more like a person. On the other hand, her telling it to Carlos directly does seem like something an Aspergic person would be more likely to do than a neurotypical person in the same situation. So yes, I appreciate that bit. (Having said that, the comparative social savviness that Rosa demonstrates in this scene brings home the artificiality of her not knowing how to reply to “may I ask your name” earlier).


That really gladdens me, because her bluntness is one the most liberating aspects to write, and it makes it very rewarding to work on this character. I feel this part is fundamental to set up the dynamic of the story, so yeah, thanks for that.

Just Chris wrote:A part I had a bit of a problem with (in line with what I said before about the POV jumping between the characters' heads): when Rosa talks to the guy for the first time, you refer to him as "Carlos", even though he hasn't told Rosa his name yet. Clearly, that's because that bit is written from his perspective, but the reader doesn't know his name yet, and so it appears out of nowhere. And this is why the POV-jumping can be a problem.


You're spot on. That was an accident and has been fixed. I'd probably never notice that if you didn't point it out.

Apart from the above nitpicks, it's still good. Rosa's musings on love are very accurate and interesting.

Just Chris wrote:you have a pretty nice description of the tourist beach in Arroio do Sal, but then it ends with “and things like that”, which comes off as a bit sloppy. Just cutting those last four words would make the sentence a lot better.


Again, solid point. Most of the time I try to keep my prose mostly casual and unadorned, but rubbish like that is just a slip of the mind. I'll pay an extra attention to the style to snipe that garbage out of the text. :)

Just Chris wrote:As for non-medical resources: I've heard good things about Born on a Blue Day, the autobiography of Daniel Tammet (note that he has savant syndrome as well as autistic spectrum disorder). I haven't read it myself, though.


I'll look out for it!
"Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles"

-- Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"
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Re: Work in progress and request for help: Treasure Hunt

Postby c_nordlander » Mon Nov 10, 2014 2:10 pm

I'm glad I didn't come off as too harsh. You know I enjoyed reading this, I just had one or two nitpicks.

And your explanation about Rosa's youth makes a lot of sense and explains why she can't seem to trust other people when they say they like her. Work that into the story and it'll be great.
The noose draws tighter;
This is the end;
I'm a good fighter
But a bad friend;
I've played the traitor
Over and over;
I'm a good hater
But a bad lover.


Elinor Wylie, "Peregrine"
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Re: Work in progress and request for help: Treasure Hunt

Postby SirMustapha » Sat Nov 22, 2014 7:03 pm

I'm sorry for the folks who may have read this, but I'm taking down chapter 2 for now. I want to make a change in one of the plot points, so I'll upload the changed version once it's done.
"Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles"

-- Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"
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Re: Work in progress and request for help: Treasure Hunt

Postby SirMustapha » Sun Feb 22, 2015 9:07 pm

This sure took me long enough, but after a long period on working on other projects, I came back to this one with a fresh mind and managed to fix and change a bunch of things. Also I realised the absurd amount of typos and errors in my previous translation, so all that is fixed too.

So, this is chapters 1 and 2 of Treasure Hunt. This makes a little more than a third of the finished story, which I'm yet to translate.
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"Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles"

-- Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"
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Complete story and request for help: Treasure Hunt

Postby SirMustapha » Fri Mar 20, 2015 1:25 am

This is the finished story, translated all the way to the end. I tried to snipe away all the language errors, but as always, there's always something that slips by. The outline of the story, though, is fully done. Like before, I wanted some special consideration regarding Rosa's characterisation, especially in light of the details about her family that are revealed in the second half. I'm willing to change quite a lot to keep the characters believable.
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"Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles"

-- Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"
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Re: Work in progress and request for help: Treasure Hunt

Postby c_nordlander » Sat May 11, 2019 11:07 pm

I read the first couple of chapters of this back when it was still a work in process. I remember finding the actual “treasure hunt” part clever (and re-reading it, I find it even more clever and fun than I remembered), then losing a bit of interest during Rosa's and Carlos' first date.

So, another read, and this time I find it a good romantic story that touches on some heavy topics, but not in a sensationalistic way.

To start with, Rosa's autism. I think it's clear that she's a lot lower-functioning than I am,* and I don't have enough professional knowledge to know how realistic the depiction is of how her mind works, but you've clearly done your research, and you depict her as a person with an interior life, not just a diagnosis. Early on, it felt like you were a *little* heavy on listing all her symptoms, but that wore off as the story progressed and she clearly became an individual. I like that you showed that her condition caused serious problems for the relationship, not just minor ones.

Carlos felt a bit bland at first, with not many memorable traits other than being nice, but he, too, got more depth as the story progressed. The revelation that he has low self-esteem felt perfect and
Spoiler
If I have one nitpick, it's that as readers, we learn most of those things about him from him telling Rosa, rather than being shown them on-page, but that's always going to be a problem when revealing something about a character who isn't the viewpoint character.

The major characters felt kind of immature (except in the last few pages). I mean, young people are immature a lot of the time, it's part of growing up, but I would have estimated them to be sixteen or thereabouts, not university-aged. Then again, that's different for every person on Earth.

As for the other characters... okay, this is shallow, but can I mention how bloody liberating it is to have the “nice guy” in a romantic story getting told off for once? Okay, that's over with. Pedro is pretty unsympathetic, but totally a believable character, and he's acting realistically based on his motivations. Same with Gabriela:
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The minor characters feel realistic, too.

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only appears on a couple of pages, but I think you've written him well: not a nice person, but multi-faceted, not just a monster.

So, the plot. I think the reason Rosa's and Carlos' first meeting dragged for me was that it felt boring and awkward... which most first dates/outings do, with both parties worrying about looking cool to the other person. I always find it really hard to write scenes about characters trying to figure out this type of situation. So yeah, you simply wrote it too realistically for me. :)

I don't have a whole lot to say about the plot. It progresses naturally and I couldn't find anything wrong with it. The
Spoiler
didn't feel like a deus-ex-machina-in-reverse because that type of event *does* come out of nowhere, as a shock. The reveal that
Spoiler
feels like a bit of a well-worn plot element, but it's not something anyone should avoid in stories because of that. Plus, it led up to a quite powerful finale.

Spoiler


As for the writing style, I find it a bit more descriptive than that of Like Crying of Laughter, in a way that gives sufficient information for me to visualise the scenes. As usual, you have some sentences that seem simple, but give a perfect idea of what is going on. One thing I found a bit clichéd: “with the discomfort stamped on his face” in the last chapter is kind of an overused phrase (and not really needed here, considering that you then give a much more vivid description of what Carlos is acting like).

The dialogue is mostly good, though I did find a few lines melodramatic, especially in the last scene between Carlos and Rosa. (Which, come to think of it, was one of my problems with LCoL as well.)

A good, non-cliché romance. Recommended.

*Still find it amusing that I originally interpreted Letícia in Like Crying of Laughter as being autistic (if a lot more high-functioning than Rosa) based on some of her traits: her introversion, her initial not so much lack of interest in sex as simply never having thought about it, etc. Not really relevant to the review of this story at all, but thought it might be amusing.
The noose draws tighter;
This is the end;
I'm a good fighter
But a bad friend;
I've played the traitor
Over and over;
I'm a good hater
But a bad lover.


Elinor Wylie, "Peregrine"
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Re: Work in progress and request for help: Treasure Hunt

Postby SirMustapha » Mon May 13, 2019 11:27 pm

I admit it feels flattering -- almost embarrassingly so -- that such a simple story gets a deep and thoughtful analysis like that, but that's just your usual reviewing standard, Chris, so I shouldn't be surprised. ;D All the points you raised are very valid to me, and I think I've distanced myself enough from the story to look at it with renewed eyes. (by the way, I've casually thought that this story would be my best choice if I wanted to submit something to a publisher, but I never felt confident enough to do it...)

A few points:

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Spoiler


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One more point, not related to the review:
Spoiler


So thanks a lot for the review, Chris, and thanks for the continued interested in the story!
"Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles"

-- Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"
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Re: Work in progress and request for help: Treasure Hunt

Postby c_nordlander » Wed May 15, 2019 8:51 pm

It's what your story deserves! Also, if there's anything I've been harsh on, don't take it too much to heart. After all, it's been a while since you wrote it.

Don't get me wrong: I totally think that it's better to describe the symptoms of someone's medical condition through the story rather than naming it outright (unless the latter comes up naturally). What I meant was that there's a bit of a tendency when writers write about a condition (especially one they don't have themselves) to try to fit every single symptom into the story. I don't actually know enough about autism to tell whether you've done that, it's just something that's often at the back of my mind when I read stories about autistic characters.

I do however want to clarify that I never felt that you belittle or dehumanise Rosa. You've written her as a thinking, feeling human being who happens to have a somewhat disabling psychiatric condition, and you never implied that she needs to be "cured" or completely change what she is in order to live a good life. (The fact that she tries to overcome some of her problems, like her discomfort at being at the hospital, isn't the same thing at all; it's showing her character growth and the fact that she's willing to make accommodations for Carlos, just as he makes accommodations for her.)

What I meant with the characters being "immature" is kind of vague... it just feels like they're acting melodramatic about love/friendship in a way that I associate more with 15-16-year-olds than 20-year-olds. Seriously, though, every person matures differently, so I can't say that no 20-year-olds act like this. (EDIT: And in Rosa's case, being a bit out-of-touch with the world makes perfect sense, given her problems with socialising.)

Very good point about the argument between Gabriela and her mum. I personally find it's way too easy to write antagonists as always being unjustified, even though an antagonist is literally just someone who's opposed to the protagonist, so I appreciate that you have Gabriela being *right*, even though Rosa is innocent.

I agree with your niece, I'd totally read a story about Pedro and Gabriela (or one of the two). They're definitely interesting characters.

EDIT: Again, I think you were right not to play the first date for laughs or cuteness. It was boring and mildly unpleasant to read because it was boring and mildly unpleasant to the characters. This is always going to be an issue when trying to write about boring events without boring the readers themselves.

Another issue I forgot to mention before: it did feel like the story was a bit slow-paced, at least in the first few chapters. More specifically, sometimes it felt like you would spend half a page writing about Rosa getting out of bed, having breakfast, going outside, and *then* something would happen, without the delay actually adding much to the reader's experience. I think this may be a problem you grew out of, because I don't remember it happening in "Like Crying of Laughter".
The noose draws tighter;
This is the end;
I'm a good fighter
But a bad friend;
I've played the traitor
Over and over;
I'm a good hater
But a bad lover.


Elinor Wylie, "Peregrine"

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