The community is fun. I’ve been reading submissions and sending critiques back to the authors.

A few have involved some short dialog with the writers.

One has involved an exchange of several emails.

I’ve learned a lot about Main Characters and Agency. Some of it is from reading and trying to decide what works and doesn’t work for me. Some of it comes from reading other critiques of things I’ve read to see other perspectives. There’s a “what did I miss?” aspect to seeing other comments on the same works.

I’ve seen one novel; most of the material are stories.

But the main character’s motivation to get out of the trouble they're in is very important to me. The Forge opens with The Mage thrown into prison. A careful rereading of chapter one showed me there were absolutely zero words on getting out of the isolation cell.

I guess I mostly kind of assumed it. Of course the mage wants out.

But why?

Nothing in the chapter mentioned anything beyond despair.

This is often asked “what’s at stake?” In some stories, the main character has a choice. Something can get lost (or will get lost) driving the character’s choices after that.

I’ve pushed the choice back a little. Clearly The Mage could rot in jail. There are two paths to getting out: this is a more interesting choice. Work with the Red Knight? Or hope for the Temple to change its collective mind?

The “what’s at stake?” is dying in prison. But that’s a reductionist view of the short-term situation. What’s at stake is a more nuanced question of rule-breaking with the Red Knight or Rule adhering with the Temple.

And none of it’s in chapter one.

Big lessons learned from reading other people’s fiction criticaLly.