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“Jess, do you have a minute?” called a voice from behind. Jess paused, halfway through her classroom doorway to glance over her shoulder. “Can it wait?” she answered, leaning into the room to check the time on the wall-clock, “I’ve only got about fifteen minutes and I need to run and print some worksheets for later this afternoon.”

“I can walk with you… if it helps?” her colleague offered. The hesitation signalled like a giant, fluorescent S.O.S. signal.

 “Sure. What’s up?” Jess replied as she ducked back into the room to dump her bags of folders and sheets. After a brief pause, she slung the straps over the nearest set of gas taps so that they wouldn’t be trodden on if any staff rushed through. She knew that she’d probably feel the wrath of the technicians if they saw it, but the small likelihood was worth the risk.

“I just wanted to ask you about the meeting after school tonight,” Charlotte said. She remained in the hallway, clutching her planner to her chest with a meek smile.

“The faculty one or the first aid one?” Jess asked, locking the door with the key on her lanyard. Even when students were supposed to be outside on lunch, there was always the chance that one of the little darlings could sneak in and get up to mischief.

“There’s a first aid meeting tonight?” Charlotte asked, eyes going wide.

Charlotte, her colleague, was new to the area and it had quickly become evident that she wasn’t used to working in such a large school. Jess liked her. She was kind, with bouncing, brunette curls that matched her bubbly personality, and made Jess’ practical dark bob look austere by comparison. It was just a pity that she was so frightfully forgetful.

Jess unsuccessfully stifled her laughter. “Just assume that you didn’t put your name on the list. The one tonight is for staff that volunteered anyway.”

Charlotte looked visibly relieved at that and gave a soft sigh. “How on Earth are we supposed to keep track of it all?”

Jess started walking in the direction of the copier room and Charlotte kept pace beside her. Their heels clicked in unison as they strode down the tiled corridor.

“Have you tried actually using the planner you bought?” she joked playfully.

The pair of them passed by another member of staff and nodded politely in acknowledgement as they walked by. “I know. I know,” replied Charlotte ruefully, “I just get side-tracked so easily.”

“Speaking of which…” Jess prompted, but Charlotte merely wrinkled her nose in confusion. With a laugh, Jess added, “… you wanted to ask something about the meeting tonight?”

“Oh!” Charlotte gasped, “Yeah. Erm.”

They reached another set of double doors and Jess held it open, allowing Charlotte to walk through as she struggled to remember her question. Thankfully, it didn’t evade her for too long.

“It’s for supporting students with dyslexia, right?” she asked. Jess nodded.

“Am I just bringing the names of students in my classes?” Charlotte questioned, “Or do I need to bring examples of their work too?”

“Just the names and a rough idea of how you’re supporting them is enough for tonight. Blue paper, overlays, that kind of thing,” replied Jess warmly, “Anything else?”

“You could teach my next class if you want?”

“Hah! I’ve got enough little monsters on my plate, thank you. I don’t think I need any more!” Jess laughed. Charlotte grinned in return and as they reached a fork in the corridor, they parted ways with a wave.

In a few more moments, Jess reached the copier room and hit release on the machine.

“Praise be, the toner gods,” whistled Jess appreciatively as the whirring appliance began to spit out the printed papers she required. She warily eyed up the single wooden door to the small office before hitching up her navy tights. Blasted things. She hated wearing them, but the idea of walking up flights of stairs in her above-the-knee length skirt without an extra layer between prying teenage eyes and her knickers was inconceivable. Blasted role modelling uniforms, her thoughts added disdainfully. Whether she wore a skirt down to her ankles or bikini bottoms in class, she was sure that it wouldn’t influence the trends of the students. The idea that wearing a skirt of the same length as students would influence them to adhere to the rules felt ridiculous to her. Jess might be fit (thank you, running club!) and of a good weight but she was still in her mid-thirties and hardly worthy of influencer status to a rabble of twelve- to fifteen-year-olds.

There was a slight flicker of the lights above her. A thorough scrutiny of the fluorescent bulbs yielded no clues to explain the phenomenon. She tsked under her breath, unimpressed but already casting the event from her mind. Students could be heard milling around in the corridors outside. Whooping and hollering became increasing loud outside the door. The thought, it’s like working in a zoo, passed through her mind.

The loud hum and clanking of the copier machine indicated that her chore had been completed and she grabbed the still-warm stack of paper before reaching for the door. Outside the door were streams of students, coalescing and meandering towards their various classrooms like debris floating in a slow-moving river. Jess weighed up her options. If she headed back through the corridor she had walked down previously, she would be caught in the tide of students and potentially late to her class. But, if she headed in the opposite direction and cut through the school dining hall, she could loop back outside but would potentially be wet if it were still raining. Worth the risk, she decided and hurried down the corridor towards the hall.

The lights in the corridor flickered with an audible fizzing noise. Jess looked back with concern, but the students seemed not to have noticed. Please don’t be a power outage. Not today. Not in school, she thought to herself with a grimace. Still looking back, she pushed the heavy wooden door open with her shoulder and stepped through it.

“Hail… Adventurer?” Came a friendly but confused male voice.

Jess looked around sharply, making eye-contact with the boy before her as the door closed shut behind her with a breezy wheeze. He was young, she would have guessed around 14 or so, and probably one of the older students. It was difficult to tell under the over-sized green hooded robe he was wearing. It reminded her of when her nephew wore her brother’s band hoodies. Look Auntie Jess, it’s a wizard dress. He looked distinctly uncomfortable under her gaze. She assumed he was one of students in the D&D club, though it was the first time she’d seen them cosplay at school for it. She tried to smooth her quizzical expression into one that was friendlier and offered a quick smile.

“Oh, sorry there! If you’re looking for the drama halls, you’re at the wrong end of… the school…” she began but trailed off, eyes going wide as she took in her new surroundings. What should have been an open and airy school dining hall was a dingey room with a rough stone floor. Her head whipped round as she looked back to the door which she had walked through but, without explanation, it had vanished. She turned back to the student, shocked into silence; her smile replaced by a bewildered expression.

“My name is Nevin Algernon. Master Darkhault informed me of your arrival and -”

“I’m sorry, who?” Jess cut in.

“Ah… uh… M-Master Darkhault?” the boy replied. If he had looked uncomfortable before, it paled in comparison to the distress he showed now. He was staring at Jess as though she had grown a second head. He gave himself a quick shake and began again.

“My n-name is N-Nevin Algernon – “

“Look. Sweetie,” Jess said, her clipped words coming out more bluntly than she wished them to,” I don’t mean to interrupt, but you didn’t actually answer my question. Who is Master Dark… hold?”

“D-Darkhault. The… M-Master Alchemist,” he stammered weakly.

“Right. Darkhault,” she said, emphasizing the ‘t’. She licked her lips apprehensively before asking, “…and where are we?”

The boy, Nevin, stood in nervous silence for a moment before speaking slowly. “My name is N-Nevin Algernon. Master D-Darkhault informed me of – “

Jess cut in again, confused. “What are you doing?”

“…I’m supposed to say the words to all adventurers.”

“But… Nevin, yeah?” she asked, and he confirmed his name with a quick nod before she continued, “You already said this bit.” Jess could feel her patience wearing increasingly thin. Her nerves were already fried. She was supposed to be teaching her class in five minutes. I don’t need this bull, she thought to herself.

“We’re supposed to say it word for word though,” he answered uncertainly, “Master Darkhault said that it’s important to be consistent.” The last three words were heavily stressed, as though saying them would channel whatever greater knowledge this unknown Master wished to impart.

Jess sighed. Her brain refused to process the argument any further. “Fine. Ok. Say the thing.”

“My name is Nevin Algernon. Master Darkhault informed me of your arrival,” Nevin started, before pausing expectantly. Jess twirled her fingers, gesturing for him to continue. “ – and asked me to meet you here in Newhaven to pass on his instructions.” Jess raised an eyebrow at this statement but remained silent.

“In order to prove your commitment to the Coalition, he requests that if you’re strong enough to wield a weapon or cast a spell, you should head to the East. Wild boars are plentiful there, and he requires six unmarked livers to complete your initiation. You will find him in the Mage Wing of Steelvale City to the West.”

Jess stared blankly at him, dumbstruck. He shuffled his feet, visibly unsure of what to say next.

She looked around the room once more, before focusing her narrowed eyes on Nevin and asking, “… He wants… What?”

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Astrille

  • United Kingdom
  • Chipper Cosmonaut

Bio: Just another new author writing in their spare time. Aiming to entertain myself and hopefully a few others while I'm at it.

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MrNobodyisHome (E. Anderson) ago

First!

The adventure begins, I guess? What a reluctant hero we have here😂. Let's see where this goes.

Hah! I like this bit: " If he had looked uncomfortable before, it paled in comparison to the distress he showed now. He was staring at Jess as though she had grown a second head. He gave himself a quick shake and began again."

Fun intro for me!

Edit suggestions:

And lookie here, we've got a small typo:

She tskedasked under her breath

Little Racoon ago

I have a feeling Nevin hasn't been in any public speaking classes.

Beverlyy ago

Yeah like I said earlier in my thread: Not bad.

You start off very strong with your delivery of the opening scene. You have solid description and a generally easy-to-understand method of delivery. But right away the first few paragraphs have typos and there's a general clunkiness to some of them. This sort of progressively gets worse as you go down, which made me think that there was particular emphasis on the first half of this chapter, but not the second.

Specifically:

“Jess, do you have a minute?” called a voice from behind. Jess paused, halfway through her classroom doorway to glance over her shoulder. “Can it wait?” she answered, leaning into the room to check the time on the wall-clock, “I’ve only got about fifteen minutes and I need to run and print some worksheets for later this afternoon.”

My initial observation with this paragraph, aside from the typos, was that the positioning of Jess is highly ambiguous. And I thought that she was leaving her classroom, rather than entering it, and thus I also thought: Why is a student calling a teacher by her name?

Then I found out it was her colleague, but by that point my image had already shifted. So immediately this story began with an image swap.

"called a voice from behind" - sort of clunky when read aloud. This could easily be a standalone sentence, and at the very least should be reversed: "a voice from behind called."

Ideally, you could remove this all together and, for clarity and conciseness, write it as:

"Jess, do you have a minute?"

She paused in the (classroom) doorway, glancing back at the lady in the corridor. "Can it wait?" she said. "I've only got about fifteen minutes and I need to print some worksheets for later this afternoon."

---

Reason for this:

In your example, you write she "paused halfway through her classroom doorway". You can't pause halfway through a doorway; it's too thin. Plus, it repeats the clunky "way" sound.

It also clarifies that Jess is entering the classroom, not leaving it (which was my initial thought and where I got confused), and shows the lady in the corridor quicker. At that point, after she looks back at her and answers the question, you WOULD want to describe her right after, but that's another thing I'll get to later where it might not be the case here.

It also corrects the typo at the start after the pilcrow (¶) . The question came from her colleague, but you put Jess' response in the same paragraph.

The other typo, although small, was the comma after "wall-clock". This should be a period because your dialogue is not a continuous clause; it's a question followed by an independent clause.

---

Another thing I noticed, even after this, is that you tend to have a lot of activity in the dialogue sequences. For every dialogue beat you will add an action beat to follow. It's fine near the start (apart from checking the clock which sort of slowed the dramatic effect. I feel like she would know the time confidently enough to respond to the question right away) but the more it happens the more it creates a disconnect between the character interaction and emphasises the props around her. This can work, or it can't work. This is why a lot of the times writers or writing websites will either tell you to do or don't, with most leaning towards don't.

If you're writing this as a web-novel standard, then go ahead. If not, and you're trying out this genre at a literary standard or simple-read standard, then I recommend having back-and-forth dialogue, not the latter.

EX:

“I can walk with you… if it helps?” her colleague offered. The hesitation signalled like a giant, fluorescent S.O.S. signal.

<-“Sure. What’s up?” Jess replied as she ducked back into the room to dump her bags of folders and sheets. After a brief pause, she slung the straps over the nearest set of gas taps so that they wouldn’t be trodden on if any staff rushed through. She knew that she’d probably feel the wrath of the technicians if they saw it, but the small likelihood was worth the risk.

I just wanted to ask you about the meeting after school tonight,” Charlotte said. She remained in the hallway, clutching her planner to her chest with a meek smile.

“The faculty one or the first aid one?” Jess asked, locking the door with the key on her lanyard. Even when students were supposed to be outside on lunch, there was always the chance that one of the little darlings could sneak in and get up to mischief.

Here, in purple specifically, you have a lot of narrative pause for what should be a quick interaction. When you add too much between the dialogue it can create a stilted tempo. The better way of explaining is using the prose as the "pause" between responses. Here, you can see that there's a massive pause of temporal seconds between "Sure. What's up?" and "I just wanted to ask you about the meeting after school tonight." This creates an abnormal image where they would be pausing for too long between each response.

"Sure, what's up?" She paused for ten seconds.

"I just wanted...."

It would pretty much translate to the above when the prose is used in this way. It's fine for the action, because the reader will assume that's happening as they speak or slightly after, since it's still a part of the beat.

Suggestion:

"I can walk with you... if you want?" Charlotte said, clutching her planner with a faint smile.

"Sure. What's up?" Jess replied, dumping her bags of folders and sheets on the classroom desk [wherever].

"I just wanted to ask you a question about the meeting after school tonight."

Jess slung the straps over the nearest set of gas taps so that they wouldn’t be trodden on if any staff rushed through. "The faculty one or the first-aid one?"

"“There’s a first-aid meeting tonight?” Charlotte asked, eyes going wide.

"Just assume that you didn’t put your name on the list," Jess said, stepping out and locking the door with her lanyard key. “The one tonight is for staff that volunteered anyway.”

---

It's simple, back-and-forth and much easier to digest. It avoids the narrative pause and solidifies the image.

When reading it originally, the timing of Charlotte holding the planner felt too late, because she already looked back at her. And the general rule is: As soon as you see them, describe them. Wait too long and the interaction will feel clunky. Similarly, you have to respect the narrative pause when placing your dialogue and creating your scene. Finding the right moment for the right piece of information or beat can make a huge difference in readability.

"meek" - Weak word for a smile, since it's typically used for a person as a whole.

"She remained in the hallway" - When nothing happens, don't state it. Only point out movement when needed. You can use it sometimes, of course, for dramatic reactions or mood-auras, but generally you shouldn't state something that has no activity.

"The hesitation signalled like a giant, fluorescent S.O.S. signal" - Weak simile, and repeats "signal". Similes to avoid are things that are identical to what they are describing. "Signalling like a signal" vs "Signalling like a woman too nervous to confess her feelings" (in a comedic, irreverent style) is more creative.

"ducked" - This might not be a mistake, but I'm guessing it is, since ducking suggests she's either really tall or the door's really short respective to her height.

---

Some dialogue things:

Sometimes your dialogue feels stilted, and sometimes the dialogue punctuation is incorrect, particularly with follow-on clauses.

“Speaking of which…” Jess prompted, but Charlotte merely wrinkled her nose in confusion. With a laugh, Jess added, “… you wanted to ask something about the meeting tonight?”

“Oh!” Charlotte gasped, “Yeah. Erm.”

They reached another set of double doors and Jess held it open, allowing Charlotte to walk through as she struggled to remember her question. Thankfully, it didn’t evade her for too long.

“It’s for supporting students with dyslexia, right?” she asked. ¶ Jess nodded. [There's a useful rulebreak you can use here.]

“Am I just bringing the names of students in my classes?” Charlotte questioned, “Or do I need to bring examples of their work too?”

"Oh!" Charlotte said. "Yeah. Em...." (Ellipses followed by a period depending on which style you're using).

Period after "gasped".

"gasped" - Imagining it, it sounds very theatrical.

"as she struggled...her for too long" - It's clunky because of the "as" conjunctive. In general "as" is a word to avoid anyway, but here it's trying to connect her character beat to the the action beat.

Separate them.

... Jess held it open, allowing Charlotte to walk through. She struggled to remember her question, but it eventually came back to her.

Don't combine two beats unless necessary.

There's a lot more of this, but in general these are the types of things I'm seeing throughout the chapter, especially near the end with the clunkiness.

I'll probably post a separate comment for the actual idea itself since I got caught up on mechanics, but overall this chapter is a solid and unique twist on things. Just walking into it was a nice surprise.

 

 

Beverlyy ago

COMMENT 2:

I missed some things from the explanations, so I can go back now.

“It’s for supporting students with dyslexia, right?” she asked. ¶ Jess nodded. [There's a useful rulebreak you can use here.]

“Am I just bringing the names of students in my classes?” Charlotte questioned, “Or do I need to bring examples of their work too?”

RULEBREAK:

When the character's action beat is a response to an ongoing sentence or sequence of sentences, you can include it in the same paragraph to make the discussion feel more connected.

Ideally, it would be written like this:

“It’s for supporting students with dyslexia, right?” she asked.

Jess nodded.

“Am I just bringing the names of students in my classes?” Charlotte questioned. “Or do I need to bring examples of their work too?”

But yours can be written like this:

"It's for supporting students with dyslexia, right?" she asked. Jess nodded. "Am I just bringing the names of the students in my classes or do I need to bring examples of their work too?"

---

Now on to this comment:

The lights in the corridor flickered with an audible fizzing noise. Jess looked back with concern, but the students seemed not to have noticed. Please don’t be a power outage. Not today. Not in school, she thought to herself with a grimace. Still looking back, she pushed the heavy wooden door open with her shoulder and stepped through it.

“Hail… Adventurer?” Came a friendly but confused male voice.

Jess looked around sharply, making eye-contact with the boy before her as the door closed shut behind her with a breezy wheeze. He was young, she would have guessed around 14 or so, and probably one of the older students. It was difficult to tell under the over-sized green hooded robe he was wearing. It reminded her of when her nephew wore her brother’s band hoodies. Look Auntie Jess, it’s a wizard dress. He looked distinctly uncomfortable under her gaze. She assumed he was one of students in the D&D club, though it was the first time she’d seen them cosplay at school for it. She tried to smooth her quizzical expression into one that was friendlier and offered a quick smile.

This is sort of where the real clunkiness came in. There's a lot of repetitions and sentences which convey a lot of information at once, when smaller, simpler ones would do for clarity purposes.

"The lights...fizzing noise" - Image shift here. I get that you can sort of figure out that lights are flickering by the fizzing sound, but I had two questions: Was the corridor in front of her or behind her? If so, why are the lights on in the middle of the afternoon, and how would she be able to distinctly hear them with a din going on behind her? You even mention that the other students didn't hear it, which to me would be the most realistic observation: not observing it at all.

I think as, as far as ideas go, you could leave this one out. It creates this suspense in a way but also weakens the effect of her randomly ending up in a different world, which is awesome. It would have been cool for her to like walk in or something, thinking deeply, then realising "Wait, this isn't right" and then she sees the kid in the robe staring at her with a goofy grin like "Hail... Adventurer?" That's just me pitching ideas though. What you have here works well, save for the lights.

"but the students seemed not to have noticed" - Wordy. Could be rephrased as: "but the students seemed to have not noticed." Again, that's ignoring the point about the lights.

I found the internal quip about the power outage very weird, because it should be pitch-day in that school, unless there are no windows, ceiling or walls. I'm having trouble imaging this school during the day. It's raining, yeah, but not dark.

"with a grimace" - Takes away from the "look of concern" she has.

The section where this boy is revealed is very weird to me. For a couple reasons:

  • There are conditional tense swaps. "She would have guessed" - The third conditional is out of place here since she is in that moment precisely as it is happening.
  • Clunkiness. The sentences, highlighted in red, sort of reiterate the same image, aside from the sentences conveying a lot at once.

"probably one of the older students" - In a high school? He should be one of the younger ones, unless high school is different for me than it is here.

The part about the robe and D&D sounds like contrived sense. She has to have an explanation of the kid's clothing, which should be disturbing to her if anything, and considering that this D&D club never (to her knowledge) dressed up on campus, she shouldn't be guessing that's the group she's from. Her questioning would likely be "What are you wearing?" or something. That's just my opinion though.

---

I like this idea a lot with the teacher suddenly emerging in a new world; it's very sudden and abrupt and in a way plot-twisty. It's unique for an Isekai. I haven't seen that done before, and it reminds me loosely of Alice in Wonderland.

There's not really much to say outside of that; you conveyed this idea quite well with good establishment of character decisionmaking. The only areas are the prose itself.

So yeah, I like this.

    Astrille ago

    Currently working on these. I'll backtrack and update chapters when I'm happy with them.

    Basing this off UK schools. Apparently ours are less eco friendly than everyone else's. All lights are on. Always. Probably due to our mostly overcast weather. Students will complain about how 'dark' it is if the lights are turned off.

    Highschool is 11 - 16. So 14-15 year olds are in the year before their final year. College is 16-18. Then adults go to University.

Evil_Warlord ago

A sudden and abrupt start. I like it.

Unmaker ago

So I am guessing the PCs are pressing buttons to get dialog options rather than talking, hence silent. How do the not-really-NPCs know which dialog selection the PCs chose?

[Deleted] ago

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Jws ago

Edit suggestions:

wouldn’t be trodden on if any staff rushed through. She knew that she’d Stepped on or trod upon

influence the fashion trends of the

Lucred ago

Oh god! Not the boar livers... lol.

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