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Fanfic Book Club: What You Leave Behind by Newcomb

Discussion in 'DLP & Chill' started by BTT, Aug 20, 2018.

  1. BTT

    BTT Headmaster

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    For the first edition of our fanfiction book club, the popular vote has decreed we'll be (re)reading What You Leave Behind by Newcomb. Some quick data: 11 chapters, 120k words. It's been roughly four years since it started and roughly three years since its last update. Its DLP rating is 4.77, the second highest of all fics.

    I'm the spokesperson, so I've thought up some simple questions to get discussion started. You don't need to answer these, but I hope they're useful guidelines you can use to sort out your thoughts. Spoilers for the story are allowed, of course. (These questions are partially based on the goals @Newcomb set out on his FFN profile.)
    • This story is an AU, so let's compare and contrast the story with canon. In this story, the divergence is that Ariana didn't die. How do you feel about this divergence? Has it been important so far in the narrative?
    • Harry is a year older than canon. In his profile, Newcomb mentions that this is because he wants a different trio of main characters. Do you think he succeeded at making them sufficiently different from Ron and Hermione?
    • Newcomb has stated he wants to make this a believably powerful, proactive Harry Potter close to Dumbledore and Voldemort. Has he succeeded in showing how Harry grows closer and closer to their level? How would you compare him (in terms of power and proactivity) to canon?
    • Many of you have rated this fic before. Upon rereading it, would you change that rating? Why?
     
  2. Newcomb

    Newcomb Headmaster

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    This is cool.

    I'm happy to answer questions / comments a bit if people are into it, either plot/character stuff or purely writing/narrative stuff.

    Has it really been three fucking years since I updated this?

    Alright fuck it, negative reinforcement for the win.

    @Sesc if I don't post a new chapter for WYLB by September 20th, ban me until 2019.
     
  3. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign Prestige

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    Yes, it has. Consider yourself shamed. Now I'm gonna get to reading.
     
  4. CareOtters

    CareOtters Supreme Mugwump DLP Supporter

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    So I'm only a little way into re-reading this, but have already had all the light in my memory centres start flashing up. I guess that's a good sign of how memorable this is. I'll be back once I've finished reading, but to start the ball rolling here are some thoughts on @BTT 's questions.

    Ariana's death scarcely seems relevant for a lot of the fic. Harry's age changing seems to be the much more important point of divergence because that's the one which alters the slice-of-life level experience; that's what changes things up from the canon rehash format of so many other stories.

    BUT.

    That's a sign of how well her death is working as a point of divergence. It's something subtler and in the background, which can almost be overlooked, and yet it completely in synch with the setting. It also plays nicely into a side of Dumbledore's character which people often neglect - the old man alone in his tower. The butterfly effect works really nicely here to create waves in the background of canon. The chain of events in the background seems to be fairly coherent and has good internal consistency. Some elements, like the Ministry relationship with Dumbledore and Aberforth's tenure as headmaster seem a little suspect - but fuck it, they make for fun reading, so I'm willing to hold out my suspension of disbelief to see where they might be going.

    I'll need to finish my re-read of the fic before I can really comment on the new trio. From the parts I've re-read so far and memory, I recall Cedric being good but Cho being a bland substitute for a Hermione who can fly.

    As far as Harry's increase in power goes? Yes. Absolutely. The scene towards the end had Harry learning to duel, "falling but missing the ground" to move like Dumbledore, almost flying across the battlefield. That was golden. Probably the best example of Harry's abilities growing above that of a normal wizard that I can recall ever seeing in fanfiction. It wasn't an overpowered or more complicated version of something other wizards could do; it was transcendental. Using arcane concepts and philosophy more than an actual spell, he intuitively grasped something far more esoteric than waving a wand and making sparks fly. The scene before that one, as well, with the matryoshka dolls, as well as the sincere emotional response throughout that experiment. It wasn't like reading about somebody doing a card trick. We were carried along on that emotional journey of discovery and excitement. The parallel to Dumbledore's own discovery of magic back in the Paleolithic Era is transparent, too. This Dumbledore works as both a professional and personal mentor.

    Magic, for this Harry, is not a job or a skill. It's a passion. Above all, that's where this shines.

    THIS IS WHAT I WANTED TO HAPPEN IN GOBLET OF FIRE. THIS. It was set up so perfectly with the Patronus Charm at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban. I wanted that escalation to continue and Harry to rise to the bona fide mythic hero archetype. Not just a brave lad, but goddamn apotheosis.

    Hah. Yeah. Reading this, there's not a chance I would ever reduce the rating below five stars. The subplot about the secret inter-House friendship room felt like fairly bland filler, and I feel it contributes absolutely nothing to the story as a whole, but that's the only part I would really want to excise.
     
  5. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros.

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    And here I was about to ask update when.

    Wait wait wait hold up. Who's #1?
     
  6. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign Prestige

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    I'm guessing By The Divining Light, but NMB is rewriting is atm, so Zombie didn't put the original in the poll.
     
  7. BTT

    BTT Headmaster

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    Whatever Happened to Bromance by vlad, at 4.78. At least that's what Scryer tells us. Just do a search without any terms and sort on DLP rating, and that's what pops up.
     
  8. Johnnyseattle

    Johnnyseattle Order Member DLP Supporter

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    Goddamnit, I'm right in the middle of reading the latest Ken Follett book, and now I have to drop it for a few days for this. I love this story. Yes Newcomb, THREE FUCKING YEARS YOU'VE LEFT US HANGING. Jerk. :)

    Will get on it when I get home tonight.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2018
  9. Distaly

    Distaly Fourth Year

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    This would be my all time favourite fanfiction, if it were complete. I have recommended it on r/HPfanfiction at every oppertunity.
    I love the interactions between Harry, Cho and Cedric which feel alot like in canon. Its hard to pinpoint but despite being an AU it feels very much true to the source material. Yet the characters never read like discount Ron or Hermine (espically true for Cho). And they have so many interactions I love. The argument after the Quidditch match (and how the two regret it in reflection of the day) is way of my absolute favourite iteractions in all fics. It is actually rather minor and mostly server for Harry as a way to grow on the ability to challange his friend but yet it reads powerful.
    The Luna scene was so far rather 'tame' and honestly I do hope she stays rather meaningless given that I have yet to see any fanfic author that could pull off an enjoyable Luna. I am also interested in how Hermine countinues to get involed (and here I hope Newcomb can countine his writing skills, as she is a character I rather dislike even in canon).
    Being a Harry/Fleur pairing is basicly always a plus but already here the pairing feels alot more natural than in most other fics. I am a bit reminded of Euphoria (althought that fic was a bit more heavy on the 'Harry dosent want to take things too far' clichee). Both managed (or seem to manage) to get them together without some unnatural, unexpected crap and rather come togther as people do, through commen interest and experience.

    Beside that I like how Hogwarts is protrayed. The way a magical castle is shown as being, well magical is something a lot more authors should do. The way fawkes was implemented was a bit strange but not too much so I dont really mind it. Also that the sword just appeared (without the need of the sorting hat) is a curious change which kinda felt like a heavy plot device. I mean I actually like the idea but it read like a cheap way out of a dangerous situation.
     
  10. Sauce Bauss

    Sauce Bauss Headmaster DLP Supporter

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    This is Newcomb's strat to low-key high-key get out of having to update. Once he's bant then he's safe from people like me.
     
  11. Anarchy

    Anarchy Totally Sirius DLP Supporter

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    I don't like this story. And it's not just because it was written at the same time I was writing my Harry/Fleur story. I will preface this story by saying that I did try to read this when it was first being written, and never made it past chapter 4. The memory charm stuff and the Narnia wardrobe were major detractors. The memory charm stuff in particular was a total nothing plot. But open the start of this bookclub, I read the story in it's entirety. I took notes on every chapter. 4,000 words of notes, in fact. And after it's all done, my opinion of this story hasn't changed. It's... fine. I wouldn't call it good. Anyways, I'll put all of my walls of text in spoiler tags as to not take up the whole page.

    Main review:

    I finished reading this story last night, and instead of just being hotheaded and writing a scathing review immediately, I decided to take the night to think about it and collect my thoughts. So, that’s what I’ve done. Overall, this story is very unremarkable. There’s very little of actual interest. Over half of it just feels like quidditch filler chapters, just passing time until we cross some arbitrary line where Harry can act like an adult. So that leaves just a handful of scenes to drive interest Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad story, despite what this review may come off as. I just don’t think it’s very good either.


    One could maybe argue that there’s good world building, but there really isn’t. There’s mostly just character development. Like, instead of maybe seeing a Flamel lesson early on, we just get a name drop and another quidditch scene. It’s like 10 chapters in before we even see Harry talking to him at all, and 9 before we get an actual magical lesson beyond it just being “Oh I learned that stuff before Hogwarts but have no memory of it.”


    I guess I’ll just get the elephant out of the way. The memory charm “plot” sucks. I hesitate to even call it a plot. Like, the end of the prologue shows Sirius and friends figuring out what to do with baby Harry, and then like 500 words into the next chapter, we’re given the impression that Harry has been memory charmed in some fashion. What other conclusion are we led to believe? They must be related to each other. What we think happened is actually what happened. There’s no plot twist at all. Like, it would be completely different if it was actually the Ministry memory charming Harry to re-indoctrinate him into an anti-Albus society. But that’s not it at all. It’s just a completely contrived method of hiding Harry’s arbitrary power boost acquired from living with Albus. Like, the whole “almost caught” scene is derived on Harry blocking a spell. I get that it’s not a first year thing to do, but the complete overreaction to that including the Minister showing up because the Defense professor's parole officers just happened to be watching Harry specifically is quite jarring, especially when their conclusion is just that Harry’s is talented. Like, if Harry can notice that his memory is just the same breakfast over and over again, surely someone who is trained in that field would notice the same thing.


    And speaking of Albus, the reasoning for his exiled really needed to be expanded on early in the story. We’re just given a brief mention of Alice Longbottom having some dirt on him in her diary, as well as a quick mention of a couple of Order operations that may have been a little bloody. I get that Harry probably knows the answer, but the reader is completely blueballed on it. It isn’t until the last published chapter that this actually is explained, and it’s barely explained. Hermione is used as the mouthpiece of the information, and the only real new tidbit is that the Order was turning 2 way battles into 3 way battles, or maybe just 2v1 battles, and that there’s slightly more public knowledge of his involvement with Grindelwald.


    I don’t even want to get started on the Narnia wardrobe thing. Why is that a thing?


    Onto the next issue, and that’s Harry being aged up a year. Why is that a thing? I mean, it’s explained in an author’s note, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good reason. The author wants Harry to have a different set of friends. Yet why is it that one of them is Cedric Diggory, who is still a year older than Harry, and from a different house? And why Cho, and not Katie? Sure, I get it, author preference. The issue is that those friendships could still have happened without changing Harry’s age. Case in point, Ron and Hermione are still introduced to Harry somewhere in the middle of the stories anyways. And Hermione still becomes Harry’s friend Because Reasons. It just feels like a substitution, but a substitution without improvement just kind of feels meaningless. They’re just different names without really feeling all that different. The payoff for changing his year of birth just isn’t there. Making him a year older for Fleur doesn’t really solve that issue if that is what I suspect to be the actual payoff. And we still have to have Daphne in the story apparently. What’s a Harry/Fleur story without Daphne being involved somehow? Hell, I’m guilty of that shit as well. Seems like every Harry/Fleur author is.


    Then I guess there’s the final point of divergence. Ariana living. Like, it just barely matters. Maybe it’s more relevant in the future. But I think it’s chapter six where Doge drops the bombshell that she’s still alive (and that he’s married to her). But, we know she’s still alive. The author told use at the beginning of the story. So the whole thing falls flat. I thought the more interesting question at the time was why was Doge still the DADA professor if the position was still cursed? That’s not even brought up for like 3 chapters later, and I really wonder if it’s because other readers were pointing it out. The explanation to that is still shit, and is summed with just “Albus and Aberforth looked into it and Ariana is fine. Maybe the curse is just getting weaker.” There were a cliffhanger and everything, but it was a super weak conclusion that just didn’t matter. I get that maybe it’ll be actually explained at some point, but it’s just more of an annoyance rather than a plot point I care about.


    I found the story to be quite heavy-handed. Like, Dumbledore is already talking about Voldemort theoretically possessing long before it happens. Later, the same thing happens but he specifically mentions a homunculus. And all the character developments are seemingly being built years in advance. Cedric/Cho is right there in front of us, 2 years ahead of schedule. Harry meets both Viktor and Fleur several years ahead of schedule, and seemingly befriends both. All 4 champions are right there in a quidditch camp. Luna is randomly introduced half a year before her sorting, apparently for the sole purpose of giving Cedric the answer to the Founder’s Room problem. Hermione is already appalled at House Elves, two years ahead of schedule. Gabrielle is apparently smitten with Harry, before he’s ever pulled her out of the lake. It’s just a bit on the nose, and there’s several more examples. It’s one of my pet peeves, and cheapens the build to the relationship. It doesn’t go as far as “oh, your mom was best friends with my mom, and we actually met as babies” but it’s not that far off with some of the stuff. There’s way too much author foreknowledge on display, and while there were attempts to smooth over the fact, instead, the reader just sees the attempt at smoothing it over and still comes to the same conclusion regardless. It’s egregious. If it was once or twice, it wouldn’t be bad, but it’s probably over a dozen.


    Overall, the writing in the story is good. I don’t think I saw even a single typo. That is something worth considering. But how much can I weigh that against what I personally feel is a very boring and lackluster plot? Good writing alone cannot turn a bad story into a good one, or an uninteresting story into an interesting one.


    Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad story. Some of the characters are interesting. It’s just completely boring. Very little of note actually happens, and most of it is off-screen. Like, it’s almost an anti-rehash, but when you think about it, it’s not really, and instead it looks like we're still just getting the book 1 and 2 plots at the same time, and under slightly different circumstances. It’s been done before, and nothing in this story has told me that this is going to be any more interesting than any of the other times that I’ve seen it. Someone said it before, in one of my threads, I forget who. It was something along the lines of that most prologues can be cut from a story, and it would improve it. That applies here greatly. Like, once you remove all the filler quidditch stuff (which is seemingly half of the story), and remove the entirety of the lame memory charm plot in the first year, there’s very little of substance in this story. Maybe the story should just start second year, with the quidditch camp. Or maybe just third year. All we really lose out on is introductions to a few characters, but it’s not like anything there is super deep anyway. Fleur is seemingly just inserted into the story at random. First, she’s a prodigiously flyer, clearly taking a cue from TLIL, but the next summer she’s apprenticing to Ollivander, which just happens to be in easily accessible London.. But it honestly just feels like we were treading water until time passed, so Harry is marginally older and some plot can maybe happen.


    If I were to rate this story, I would say a 3 of 5 is generous, and a 2 of 5 a bit low, so a 2.5 of 5 is where I would rate it. It’s a fic that you can read to occupy your time with. As it currently stands, I wouldn’t put it on my favorites list. There’s potential there, but despite the pairing being Harry/Fleur, we haven’t gotten to the spot where I’m invested enough to where I’m dying to know what happens with them. So, if I’m not really all that interested in the lackluster plotpoints, there’s very little worldbuilding, what does that really leave, other than the character interactions, which I’ve already pointed out, isn’t really all that remarkable or all that different from canon Harry’s interaction with Hermione and Ron?

    Below are my chapter notes while I was reading. Be aware, it's not edited, and it's possible I was completely off base with some of my assumptions or assertions.

    Prologue

    I like that you went for a clean setup. I recently left a review in the PoA movie thread about how it’s ridiculous that they never actually explained why Sirius broke out, or rather, why that specific moment. We’re left to believe he just decided to do it randomly. There’s no motivation. In here, you gave Sirius motivation early into his incarceration, so he escapes much earlier. It just works, and that’s what I like to see.


    Scene with Remus was fine. About as good as you can expect without going overboard. The setup for reconciliation is just one of those things you have to rip the bandaid off fast and get it over with. No complaints really.


    Next scene. I found this scene to be kind of weak, actually. Sure, there’s hints of a more pro-active Order, but the character interactions didn’t actually feel like character interactions. Like, you just took the defining trait of each character and made that, well, define them. Dumbledore is mysterious and keeps info close to his chest, Snape is snarky, and Sirius just snaps at Snape about 20 times. I didn’t find any of the small nuggets of plot threads all that compelling. At least the reason for Harry having to go to the Dursley’s actually makes sense, or enough sense that it’s believable. It’s the most simplistic, yet best way to set it up without seeming arbitrary.


    Overall a decent, if unremarkable start to a story. It stayed within its own confines and didn’t do anything too crazy or polarizing to start with, no crazy swerves, which is what I like to see.

    Chapter 1

    First scene is unremarkable. I guess it’s setting the tone that Harry wasn’t in fact abused and starved for his entire existence as most fics would have you believe.


    After it, it’s kind of a generic hogwarts express scene. Sure, the characters are new, but that really doesn’t change what it is. Honestly, if this wasn’t a DLP story, I’d probably check out at this point. Especially when it becomes apparent that Harry has had some memory issues, which sounds like an Oblivation to me. Or multiples. Honestly, even knowing that this story is rated over 4.5 stars on here, it’s still a massive red flag to me.


    The 11 year olds don’t really sound like 11 year olds. Harry says the line “I’ve never really been a big fan of manners. I’m more of a ‘speak the truth and let the chips fall where they may’ type of guy.” What 11 year old says something like that? That’s not the only out of place thing either. And Mike Vaisey just feels like an American Surferbro. Might just be the name.


    Overall, this chapter didn’t really interest me. The plot of trying to restore a memory or whatever it is just feels super arbitrary to me. And finding the mirror earlier for whatever reason, I don’t know. I get that there’s supposed to be a sense of intrigue or curiosity, but there just isn’t for me. I’m honestly more curious if you took the name Vogler from House.

    Chapter 2

    I found it weird that it’s the first day and Harry is already sitting with Cedric and the Hufflepuffs, and bringing up conversation about Grindelwald. Also weird that some parts seem to sort of be in Cedric POV before jumping back to Harry’s? It’s weird that we see both of their thoughts in the same scene. Makes it a bit disjointed.


    More memory plot. Not really much to say. Still not very interesting. As a reader, I feel like my mind wanders to the stuff in the prologue, so if that’s the answer, it’s not much of a mystery. It just feels like an arbitrary way for Harry to have a powerup… but not right away.

    Chapter 3

    Super awkward scene in the headmaster’s office. I’m pretty sure this is the chapter I stopped reading this story at last time, back when this story was still getting actively updated. It’s just weird how Harry blocking a spell was the catalyst for all this going down. I get that blocking is advanced, but the whole plot setup is super contrived. Like the Minister is brought in.


    The christmas gift scene was nice.


    The last scene in this chapter is the actual reason I dropped it years ago. Narnia, pretty much. I still don’t get the reason. Like, the whole first 4 chapters of this story is the resolution of a plot that didn’t even need to exist. I get that there was no year 1 plot this time (maybe it’s for next year, Hermione and Ron’s year?), so you needed to fill it with something, but honestly, sometimes having no plot is better than having bad plot. Sure, there was some world building, but while you covered the entirety of 1 year in 3 chapters, which by all accounts is fast, it still felt like a slog.


    At least the memory stuff is hopefully out of the way? And we can get on with having a real story?

    Chapter 4

    This is the best chapter so far. So much so, that I feel like with a small amount of tweaking, this could be the actual first chapter to the story. It’s not like the first year of schooling has all that much worldbuilding. All we know about Dumbledore’s exile is that Alice Longbottom wrote some unfavorable things in her private diary, and apparantly that’s enough to prosecute someone to the point of forcing them into exile, with some vague hints that he was the mastermind behind a few vigilante war actions that were given fancy names but not expanded upon at all. Anyways… I digress.


    Random note. You have to be careful of using the phrase “feral grin.” It’s an inhuman descriptor and should be used exceedingly sparingly. You haven’t used it too much (only 2 or 3 times by this point), but anything more than once is a lot. It’s a strong phase. Like, just picture what it looks like. It shouldn’t be used as a throwaway dialogue tag.


    Pet peeve time. I’m bringing attention to this as a pet peeve of mine, because I’m sure plenty of people don’t even care. As much as I like the chapter, I am wary of any time an author decides to have all of the characters meet years ahead of time. You see it so often in fanfiction. Like, Harry meets Fleur at the World Cup the summer before 4th, or becomes her penpal, or her mother was actually good friends with Harry’s mother and she’s Harry’s godmother, things like that. In this instance, Viktor, Cedric, Fleur and Harry have all already met, and it’s still quite a bit ahead of the Triwizard Tournament. And Cho’s interaction with Viktor just feels like a replacement amalgamation of both Ron and Hermione. Regardless, the whole situation just feels quite heavyhanded. Honestly, the whole story feels like it’s struggling to straddle the fence between natural plot progression and being a bit too heavyhanded and too forward with using the author’s foreknowledge of what’s to come. Like, there’s a lot of talk of the Dark Mark getting darker, speculation of Voldemort possessing someone, acting through proxies, and the idea of the Ministry building Harry up either as a Hero or a Villain depending on public opinion, things like that. That’s all stuff that actually happens in canon, but it’s being set up so all of Harry allies look brilliant. Whether or not that happens, we’ll see.

    Chapter 5

    Not really much to say about this chapter. It was boring. The quidditch stuff is fine, but it’s still quidditch. It’s just not that interesting of a topic, even if it was technically fine here. The issue is that there’s no real overlying plot guiding the story. Just some bits of pieces of worldbuilding involving Dumbledore, and a handful of nuggets theorizing Voldemort’s return. So, pretty much every quidditch scene feels like filler, and that’s what half the story is, and it’s not like you’re even describing the games play by play.


    Anyways, there’s a few things that stuck out to me. I do find it weird that a handful of first years are specifically called attention to. Ron, Draco, Hermione, Daphne, Tracey, Neville are all mentioned by name. I don’t actually see the need for them to be mentioned at all. Harry having random conversations with Hermione doesn’t add anything to the story, so why have it? Feels a bit heavy-handed. At least Daphne’s two seconds was semi-interesting. Like, I figure it’s the same sort of deal with Cedric. There’s no real reason for him to be friends with Harry, other than the author wanting it, so it works, but it’s just sort of there.


    Random thing - Doge is still professor? What happened to Voldemort’s curse? It was definitely mentioned the previous year, but so far this year it’s never even brought up.


    Another random thing - why did Hagrid send Harry a flute? Do they know each other at all? I guess I should have pointed it out in the previous chapter, but I was distracted by the notion of Cho giving her friends gifts worth hundreds of galleons for pretty much nothing in return.


    So, the chapter was long, and aside from like the final few paragraphs, it doesn’t really feel like anything is happening. Just 10k words of filler for 500 words of plot? Like, I understand not wanting to rehash canon plot, but like you name drop Flamel but leave us hanging on that. You don’t show us any classes other than potions. If we’re just going full speed ahead just to get to the next year, you should just start at the next year.

    Chapter 6

    Another random POV change. Plus, you’re already setting the scene of her maybe becoming a prefect down the line. That’s three years from now, so a bit heavy handed. Cho also says something along the lines of “It’s harry. If something goes wrong, of course he’s involved.” She says this based on exactly one incident? And that incident didn’t even happen at Hogwarts. Maybe I’m already forgetting something, but almost nothing of actual note happened in Harry’s first year. It feels like Cho is making that comment based on stuff that happened in canon. None of the philosopher's stone stuff happened because Albus isn’t Headmaster. That itself is still a question that as a reader, I’m asking. I’m sure Harry knows, but we don’t have the meta knowledge, just some vague hints.


    Here, Doge’s return for a second year despite the DADA curse is mentioned, and completely glossed over, but now that’s part of the storyline. lol


    I guess I should bring up the next eyerolling plot point. Lily Potter. Hermione on overdrive, apparently. Founder’s Rooms, wanting to be an unspeakable, some super epiphany she had when reading a book leading to her enlightenment. It’s just a bit over the top, and tropey. Honestly, the whole thing is just not that interesting. There’s the potential for it to be, but it’s presented in such a way so it’s not. Like, maybe if Harry was to make that discovery himself, rather than just being told through his mom’s journal that these things existed.


    Then, we have what I think is the first mention of the Marauder’s Map. Actually, I think it was sort of implied that Fred and George had it in an earlier chapter because they saw Harry coming when he was invisible, though I don’t get how they wouldn’t have known how to open the secret door without Harry’s help if that was the case.


    After that, we have a speech from Harry where he’s sure that he’s going to have to fight Voldemort already. Keep in mind, he’s 12 here and Quirrellmort never happened. Usually this sort of speech is reserved for after he learns of the prophecy.


    The Founder’s Room scene was interesting. Don’t really have much to add to that. I do find it weird the need to shoehorn Daphne Greengrass into every fic involving Fleur, but I do the same thing so I can’t really complain.


    And the final scene. It took long enough for someone to realize something was fishy with Doge being back again. At least something was done with it and it wasn’t just handwaved away.

    Chapter 7

    Immediately left hanging from the previous revelation. But the wizarding poker is cool, I guess. We have some meta comments about how Harry doesn’t know anything about his fellow second year gryffindors. And then we have another scene with Hermione. I could have done without that. The whole giving Harry new friends, but still including the old ones anyways feels like a copout. Right now it’s just Hermione, but who knows.


    I think this transfiguration lesson is the first non-potions class that is actually shown. And we’re in second year now. And it’s pretty much completely glossed over because Harry already learned all that offscreen from Dumbledore when he was 8 or something. And this is coming off not that long ago where Harry was telling his friends he needed a powerup to face Voldemort. Still decently interesting, I guess. I feel like the author intended it to be tantalizing or something like it, but it fell kind of flat.


    There’s another heavy handed scene involving Cho. She literally says something like “What if Krum makes the Bulgarian Team, and the Bulgarian Team makes the finals, and the finals are here in England.” Seriously, wow. If that was the only instance of a foreknowledge thing being used as a throwaway line, I’d probably ignore it, but it’s not, so I can’t.


    It’s over halfway through the chapter before the ending of the previous chapter is mentioned at all… and it’s inconclusive. Neat.


    Honestly, not really much to say about this chapter. Nothing happens. Fleur is apparently apprentice for Ollivander for some reason. Seems completely arbitrary. Just as Fleur being at the quidditch camp was.

    Chapter 8

    Some Cedric character development. Didn’t have much of an opinion of it until Luna showed up. Of course. Seems like the author has the fascination of introducing elements to the story that wouldn’t have happened until much later. I wouldn’t have minded if she was merely seen at the sorting, but this is randomly 6 months before that.


    More quidditch stuff. A christmas scene. A memento from James Potter.


    Back at Hogwarts, I guess Harry’s friendship with Hermione is an actual thing now. She appears more often than Katie bell, at any rate. Eyeroll.


    Summer vacation. Confirmation of pretty much the only actual cliffhanger so far in this story, where Doge set a fire to talk to Harry, pretty much still means nothing as of now.


    Finally an actual scene with Flamel. And, we get another foresight moment where Harry literally thinks the phrase “neither can live while the other survives.”

    Chapter 9

    Some minor backtracking of Lily’s supposed power level. Fine, whatever.


    The plan… Well, the impression I have of this entire story thus far is that it’s strictly anti-rehash, which leaves it very little actual plot, so I’m assuming the plan involving the fake stone is probably going to be less canon, and more the typical fanfic plot of pure Voldemort bait with no actual danger of the real stone falling into wrong hands. I just find it weird, that everyone’s character development has been sped up a year or two from canon, yet the Stone plot is set back a year. If there is a stone plot. I guess I’ll see soon.


    I guess we’re finally getting to the reason most people are even reading this story, and that’s for Harry/Fleur interactions. Though, with mention of Lucius and Arthur brawling, I wonder if we’re getting both the stone plot and CoS plot. I don’t really like when authors jumble multiple canon plots into the same year, but I guess we’ll see if that’s the case. As a side note, I feel like the mention of Fleur having a previous boyfriend was more for the reader than for Harry. It felt kind of random. Fleur feels like she’s simply where the plot requires her to be, nothing more. It’s even mentioned in story. She went to a long flying camping during the previous summer, and now she’s apprenticing for Ollivander. Those about as unrelated as they get. It just feels like you liked the idea of how Fleur was an excellent flier in TLIL and wanted it here. I liked that that more than her being a wand apprentice, because this just feels like an excuse to have her in London. And it’s another example of speeding up character development, since now she’s learning better English much sooner than canon, which is usually a thing mentioned in conjunction with her working at gringotts.


    What’s up with the completely random letter from Cedric about Luna figuring out the key thing? Completely out of the blue.


    I do like Dumbledore here. I feel like you finally found the correct voice. Almost reminded me of Richard Harris’s Dumbledore.


    And then at the end, it does look like we’re getting a double plot year. I’ll reserve judgement, but I have yet to see anything truly compelling in this story, while I have seen this fail in other stories before.

    Chapter 10

    It looks like I’ve not been alone in the complaints I’ve had. Example, Albus’s past. You came up with a way for Hermione to recite what is known about Albus and his exile, which is something that really should have been covered much sooner than this. The only issue is that the payoff just really isn’t there. There’s no real surprise. It’s just… information.


    Next, we have another example of hastened character development. Hermione already hates the treatment of House Elves. Sure, it’s probably the sort of feeling you develop quite early on and know which side of it you fall on, so her being against House Elves this early isn’t the issue. The issue is that’s it’s already being displayed.


    And another example. Gabrielle is already smitten with Harry, and he hasn’t even rescued her out of a lake yet.


    Continuing on… I have actually read a few stories where Hagrid being the Keeper of Keys is an actual plot important thing. It’s done pretty infrequently though. The most recent one I remember is that speaking a phrase causes Hagrid to go into a trance and hand the key over. And I think there was another usage in the Death Arch trilogy, or maybe that’s the same one. So, not cliche by any means, but it’s one of those things that I like to see employed in a story.


    The ending was pretty eventful, but I don’t think we’re ever going to find out where it goes to, since the story hasn’t been updated in 3 years. I guess it’s fitting that a Harry/Fleur story ultimately leaves us hanging with a scene involving Daphne Greengrass.
     
  12. Dicra

    Dicra Groundskeeper

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    @Anarchy That was ... surprisingly negative, but I, as someone who desperately hopes Newcomb's negative reinforcement works (even though I very much believe it won't) I can very much understand where you're coming from. Sadly, I don't have the time to write chapter-by-chapter-impressions, but I wanted to state my opinion on why this fic's generally held in such a high regard:
    Let's be honest, this fic isn't really loved for its brilliant plot or the character interactions (even though I thought they were well written, sometimes great). It's the magic. This fic's magic system feels so mysterious and alive, so very much believable that every scene roughly described with "Harry learning magic" easily belongs to my personal favourites; scenes I reread just to experience them again because they were just that amazing. I'd slog through 10k words of quidditch if we get to see a bit more about the magic system on here for it. And I think it's similar for many others - one truly great scene can make up for five average ones.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2018
  13. Stealthy

    Stealthy Seventh Year

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    1) The divergence feels underdeveloped, for lack of a better word. I get the sense that more was to come later, and yeah it sets up Harry's living situation and to be trained by Dumbledore, but the difference isn't really felt. Aberforth isn't a big enough presence in the story to make that difference feel real, or affect life at Hogwarts. If Albus was still the headmaster and trained Harry over the summer anyway, I don't think it would make a large impact on the story thus far. Harry would still have to swear people to secrecy about Sirius, and he'd still get the development he did with the divergence. Again, more was obviously to come, but at 3 years in it should be more meaningful. I do like the idea of it, though. Was looking forward to getting more out of it. One thing that comes to mind is the Order's war crimes. They're kept too far in the margins and never really detailed out when they easily could've been. Shows that Albus is more ruthless in this timeline, but it'd be much more effective if we got some of the stories.

    I like the mystery elements with Doge. Those are well done. The memory plot was eh. The general answer was pretty clear from the start. There wasn't much done with it other than Harry discovering and then worrying about it. I get why the exiles would do it, but then they just don't bother after the first year. Maybe it'd have been better if it was never a secret at all? Like, open up with Albus/Sirius/Lupin performing the charm "because the Ministry suspects something and will certainly find an excuse to use legilimency" with a commitment to train in occlumency the next summer.

    2) Yeah I'm fine with this. Cedric is certainly different from Ron, and while Cho has Hermione's knowledgeable trait she still feels plenty different (and she is a Ravenclaw after all). Solid dynamic between the three, and I enjoy the shake up. They feel pretty in character too. Zachariah Smith is properly twatty and is an embarrassment to Hufflepuff. Hermione coming back in as a main-ish character is kinda eh. I'd rather it was Katie Bell to keep with the idea of branching out, if it needs to be a Gryffindor. Luna if it doesn't, because while she may be main cast returning, she already contributed to unlocking the Gallery so why not? The Harry/Fleur relationship is progressing nicely. Wouldn't have pegged her for being much for brooms and Quidditch but fuck it, it works.

    Characters don't sound as young as they actually are, but they never do.

    3) Nailed it. He starts off perhaps a bit too strong but the guy spent several years being tutored by Dumbledore and Flamel, so can't expect much else. It's handled great, though. The way this fic tackles magic is a strong point. Not sure how I feel about the Founder Rooms concept but Hogwarts still feels properly magical, so mission accomplished. A high point for the fic. The Rooms have now been wrapped into the Voldemort plot with the Chamber, but nothing's really been accomplished with the Hufflepuff Gallery so far. Story's too unfinished to judge whether the Gallery plotline should've been delayed until year 3 or not. Pretty damn funny that Hagrid straight up handed over the keys no questions asked, although the fic never really establishes the extent of their friendship.

    Overall it's pretty good. Would like it if Newcomb actually kept writing this thing instead of this being another story in the large pile of dead fics.
     
  14. Shouldabeenadog

    Shouldabeenadog Auror

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    The divergence doesn't feel important. Yes, that was where things changed from canon, but she is still in a refrigerator. So things changed because of the divergence, but her story hasn't changed all that much. I would have preferred not knowing exactly what the divergence was. It's important to us as readers, but to the characters involved, not so much. Yes dumbledores and Doge care, but no one else. I contrast this with other Nail fics and it comes too short.

    Regarding the new trio. Great job. The interactions between the characters is good, but it really shines in the quidditch moments. My concern is in the last chapter we see Ron jealousy in Cedric.

    Overall I agree with many above, that the magic is great and exciting. The character interactions are good.
    I worry that newcomb is setting up for failure with a 1-7 year fic. This is already pretty massive and we are just at the beginning of thist year. Maybe skipping some years (4 and 6 come to mind) might help make it a more manageable project?
     
  15. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros.

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    Somewhat contrary to others, the strongest point for this fic for me is the character interactions. Newcomb writes chemistry so well that his "friends" would easily be romantic interests in many other fics and the characters he's actually trying to get to bang are just mmmmmmmmmmm.

    I mean, don't get me wrong, the magic system is great and fleshed out and amazing and about a dozen other adjectives I'll refrain from spamming this thread with, but it's really when the characters are talking and interacting that I'm gripped by the balls. His dialogue is just amazing, and Dumbledore is incredible. The first few scenes are admittedly, not that gripping, but when Dumbledore starts talking? Damn son, gimme that bottle of snake oil cuz I'm sold.

    (Not to say the opening was bad, but it's serviceable. It suffers from being good in a story of greats).

    There are a couple reasons why I think Newcomb's dialogue is so masterful. He fully grasps dialogue as an approximation of reality. It straddles the ephemeral line between realistic and unrealistic, being close enough to feel authentic without being too close to be boring (Dialogue is normal conversation with the boring bits cut out, after all). Newcomb also demonstrates an efficiency with his words that few other writers manage. When I read his stories, it's difficult for me to see where a passage might have been improved with the addition or omission of a word.

    In short, every word he uses feels necessary and not redundant.

    Harry is also funny and witty, which reminds me of book Harry in a way. And these jokes appear to be truly funny rather than occasionally funny, as even when I know to expect them, they still leave me actually laughing out loud (to my roommates' judging glances)

    I look at this and I think, Damn Halt, this is the bar to hit for you.

    Not to say it's perfect. His descriptions tend to be hit or miss for me - although "The Hogwarts Express was a riot of steam and noise" will always be memorable to me. The plot with the memory is fairly predictable, while Doug was interesting. The changes to the world seem small, but appear to be rippling further and further the more we delve deeper into it.

    TLDR: Newcomb's quill skill is top tier 5/7
     
  16. James

    James Professor

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    It's very interesting — I agree with nearly all the points @Anarchy made, and yet, this is still probably my favorite story in the fandom. I read it so often I could offer my opinion now, but I'll re-read anyway, and take meticulous notes.
     
  17. Solfege

    Solfege Death Eater DLP Supporter

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    I have to disagree with Halt here. I find the dialogue to be some of the most jarring parts of the fic. Much of it's the effect of the narration around the dialogue, which makes it especially clunky. There are few glaring errors, usually it's the glancing oddity of casual diction. As a result you're often belaboring descriptive and narrative bits all over. If I were editing, I'd find myself nipping and tucking everywhere.

    Oh, yes. Especially your descriptive bits around the dialogue. You have a problem with telling instead of showing. "Looking sweaty but excited," "easygoing demeanor," "surreptitiously." Three consecutive lines in chapter 1, just to pick randomly. These are all airs I should be grasping for myself from detailed implications [beyond just looking this and looking that].

    Wit and general atmosphere fall flat for me, because belaboring the wrong details, sometimes repetitiously and contributing to glancing moments of awkwardness.
    A minor example of trim. There are worse, and a variety of complications (specificity makes for extensive beta work).

    Probably as a result of all the above, I didn't find the trio terribly enchanting. I guess most friendships start out that way, with people falling in just because. You could do a better job of differentiating between Cho's, Cedric's, and Harry's thought processes/verbal patterns. Dialogue or no, your rhythms don't vary, such that inter-character lines read too linearly (topically and/or stylistically --- improves here and there from chapter 4 onwards), with the exception of Dumbledore who's more easily distinguished.

    Agreed on larger descriptive sections being hit-or-miss. Some nice turns of phrase every so often. You hit the spot with the pensieve flashbacks. The quidditch interplay between the trio is top-notch but falls to aforementioned flaws once Harry tries on more serious matter.

    I'm with Anarchy on the matter of early lackluster chapters. It has the feeling of rehash, with the divergence implicating so little actually at stake. And probably that's more a matter of the sparse, linear approach to the storytelling. If we were permitted to see more densely and beyond Harry's scenes... as is, you could start the story at the flashbacks themselves.

    Plot and action from chapter 4 onwards helps to mitigate the problems somewhat. Chapter 5 meanders too much and falls into filler despite some promising moments. Chapter 6, the pace of your writing seems to pick up especially, a new urgency making a marked improvement for reading experience. Chapter 7 has a frankly excellent quality to the characterisation, both of magic and of characters. From 7-11, you're clearly in your element. It's not that the earlier linguistic issues have been fixed but that we're treated to new interests such as trout-fishing and, despite a lack of depth, we breeze along more smoothly on character exposition.

    That, and I'm more accustomed to skimming the awkwardnesses. "Luna's question came with the sort of earnestness that temporarily locked Harry's mental gears in place as he tried to process it" is exactly the sort of uselessness that sounds coherent. "Time seemed to speed up" is the sort of blaring authorial convenience that annoys. "Daphne's expression was a strange mix of gratitude, curiosity, and annoyance" would actually be fine if there were additional contextual placement but as is bleeds earlier failings. The rest of the entire paragraph whiffs also.

    It's great to see the trio developing their own independent minds and plotlines so early.

    At a different layer of abstraction, there's very little to anchor the overall plot, and one wonders just what the hook is supposed to be. This majorly bothered Anarchy, and it bothers me too. The main attract is a more powerful Harry and a Fleur pairing with somewhat richer world-social interactions... and largely adrift.

    If prodigiousness is supposed to be a central drive, then we need a fundamental thesis of prodigy that speaks throughout the story. While you certainly nail a natural emotive wonderment for magic, Harry lacks a reactive and deliberative system of thought and learning that provides for sustained advancement beyond "he gets tutored and feels his way around." Although I'd say this is far less needed than other elements to good storytelling, honestly.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2018
  18. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    I feel like "show don't tell" has been turned into a dogma that it was never supposed to be. It's a good principle to turn people into semi-decent writers, but good writers almost all ignore it. Brevity in description is often more important - you should not belabour a description by saying in thirty words what can equally well be said with three.

    Let's compare:

    Tell: "She looked sweaty but excited."

    Show: "She was breathing hard, sweat dripping from her brow, and her eyes were alive with excitement."

    It is not a principle of writing that you should always pick the second option. Not every single thing in a story needs to be described in detail, and doing so will bog a story down unnecessarily. Sometimes you can and should just tell it to the reader straight.

    The real key is to always be vivid. When you tell something to a reader, do so with evocative rather than bland language. Sometimes a single, well-chosen word tells the reader more than an entire sentence.
     
  19. Solfege

    Solfege Death Eater DLP Supporter

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    I agree. I'm not looking for florid prose. It's my fault for targeting the easy bits I suppose, and particularly for picking them out of context (for I can never tell which straightforward parts are most suitable except within a coordinated greater whole) but you'll note I complemented the flashback sequence as perfectly summarising the taste of memories straight.

    Indeed, the greater unspoken critique was that sparseness as Newcomb's employed, at least when it comes to character thought and interactions, is less evocative, less vivid, than what I think could've been. And that sparseness, also, mis-applied. Sparse places made sparse where unneeded. Dialogue wrung an extra few words where sparseness were best. Or perhaps the sparsity wasn't the problem, but rather a word or two chosen slightly off-kilter.

    In turn, it affects the rhythm, depth, and believability to a character.

    Ham-handed way of referring to the diplomatic aspect of a surely well-seasoned Flamel. It makes me want to skim. Many such instances.

    I daresay I've had plenty of practice with this in selling people's stories via reconstructed essays to admissions programs. Usually my advice to them is: work it from the ground up, because you've chosen the wrong details to convey the authenticity of your character, if you're even that far along.

    I will readily admit there's a far difference between prose meant to be read straight, and skimmed, even, and prose meant to engage and warp your senses and make you want to reread. WYLB certainly has its moments.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2018
  20. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Auror DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

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    What Taure said. A writing book I'm reading at the moment calls showing vs. telling slightly different terms because of exactly the dogmatic approach people take to the famous advice.

    And, I've found thinking of it in those terms, as descriptive vs. Editorial language, very useful. Editorial(telling) language is where you're placing your judgement as the author into the text rather than allowing the reader to make the judgement from the events themselves - and that's bad because no two people will read the same words the same way, or comes to the exact same understanding of a scene anyway. It's language not maths.

    However it's not bad all the time, because of pacing, and importance and perspective as said before. A first person novel can use editorial language much more vividly and still have it be descriptive overall because we know we're hearing someone else's perspective when compared to most third person, etc.

    I found this a useful reframing of the standard advice because it puts the emphasis on the mindset of the writer attempting to describe things. Am I writing what I judged events to mean (telling) or am I writing what actions occurred in an event (showing)? To choose between them, do the events matter to the plot or subplots? (I also think this how I finally understand the 'kill your darlings' quote you see on every writing advice resource from here to Timbuktu, for different reasons)


    Regarding the actual story, it's one of my absolute favourites but I'm only two chapters in. I like the idea of note taking, so I'll do that now as I slowly progress. I presume there's no final deadline, even if a new book club goes up, whenever?
     
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