Before the great Octobering, a set of requested reviews.
[Morning was in full motion around her, although the sparsely-populated town offered little more than idly chatting townsfolk and bubbling bikers, none of whom were too rushed to get to the next hour of their day.]
This sentence seems really weird to me- “in full motion” but actually that’s little motion and no rush. I think what you’re going for is it’s an ordinary morning day with no one paying attention to her, in which case the ordinary part and the nobody caring should be where the emphasis goes, not on the motion. Or you could just go straight into describing the town.
[“Anytime,” the man said, returning her attempt for a smile with a real one. “Take care.”
Upon hearing his words, Adrielle lapsed into silence again. It wasn’t that his words were anything out of the ordinary, as they were merely common niceties; it was that they were phrases Adrielle hadn’t been on the receiving end of in a long time—phrases that now produced a jarring array of emotions she’d become accustomed to rarely feeling.
Does he not know? she wondered, watching the door close behind her.]
So, throughout this, you seem to be describing her former life as one of a complete pariah, who doesn’t even get idle social niceties said to her. So why was she drawn to this tiny town where the story of what she did should’ve been spread about in five minutes? Shouldn’t she be certain he must know, given that?
[Over the last year, Adrielle had lost many friends. Some had harshly voiced their intent, while others had simply skirted the topic altogether, but the underlying reason was always the same: a Probationed trainer wasn’t a good friend to have. Adrielle was all too familiar with the speeches they’d given her, each more believable than the last. “Too far for travel,” said one. “Going to focus more on my research,” said another. Being busy because of League work? Adrielle wanted to laugh, to cry, to do anything—except what she had to do.
“Of course, Cavan,” Adrielle said, attempting to brighten her smile.]
Why now, though? Why would someone keep being officially friends with her all through probation but feel the need to finally cut ties the moment it ended? Is probation something she wasn’t supposed to come back from, and it’s more acceptable to be semi-friends with somebody who lost their license and then stayed a nontrainer? And really, why did all of them need to make excuses when she’s been sitting in a tiny town while they, presumably, have been running around all over? Even assuming there was no social disapproval, she should still have lost her trainer friends just because they have nothing in common and are off doing other things she can’t have any part in.
If the point is just she’s avoided by all her former friends, I’d think he’d just want to get out of there as fast as possible, without needing to formally tell her they can’t hang out. If she had tried to reach out to him and suggest traveling together a bit, rebuffing her more firmly would make sense, but as is, just handing the pokemon over and leaving would be enough to cover that her former friends don’t hang out these days.
This is somewhat of a different start, though it seems it’s still functionally her getting one pokemon and building up over time like any other trainer. And I’m not sure what to make of the probation mystery – it sounds like she feels bad about what happened, but she talks about her friends as ditching her over the label, like none of them care about whatever she actually did, so the overall impression I get is that she did nothing wrong, everyone’s a jerk to her, and she needs to get more self-confident, especially in combination with the summary about an accident and proving herself . And someone’s main personality flaw being that they’re wimpy and self-hating tends to be tiresome. If she’d shoved away her friends, if she does bear any responsibility for what happened, if she’d gotten the book thrown at her because she’d done something to screw up her trial, etc, then there’d be more of a sense of why things are happening to her, when right now it just seems like it’s a wrong place wrong time situation. (Plus it’d be a better fit with the chapter of “burnt bridges” given that phrase usually implies the person did the burning themselves.) Or, if it’s meant to be that she’s just unfairly suffering, then it’d be good to have personality traits outside of the plot so I can care about her beyond “unlucky victim”.
And not telling the reader what she actually did works on a suspense level, but kind of feels cheap. We know generally what the punishment was, it’s strongly implied the punishment was disproportionate or unfair, her life and personality revolve around it, but we aren’t given the chance to decide how we feel about what she actually did is, which leaves me the impression it doesn’t actually matter what those details are because it’s not a story about wondering about whether she really did do something terrible. If anything, if you want the suspense and mystery it’d probably work better to do more of that – just jump into her trying to be a trainer and have the whole probation thing come out in bits – her being older than newbies and knowing more, her running into somebody like Cavan and it being awkward, etc, so it’s doled out slowly instead of saying everything but the most important part right off.
[A mixture of stubborn adoration and almost idiotic adamance kept Adrielle with her new Magikarp, carrying him around in her arms from battle to battle until finally the glow of evolution took the floppy fish away, leaving her with a magnificent Gyarados named Lache.]
Honestly, I’d much rather see her doing that this time around. Having to lug the fish around chapter after chapter after chapter would better sell it being a real timesink.
We know the standard game way to get a gyarados is to swap a magikarp in and out of battle or use the exp share. Does holding a pokemon in your arms while battling have a similar effect? If so, that’d suggest the ideal way to raise pokemon would be to have the entire team out and watching. And if it does work that way, it doesn’t seem like you’d have to be all that stubborn or adamant to try it, or like there’d be many trainers who couldn’t handle the concept.
[Those she’d thought to be her closest friends were the ones who fought and trained with her in hopes of reaching the Hoenn Regional Tournament, but they’d been the ones that abandoned her at the first notion of public scorn. Cavan had been among them—Adrielle knew that. But she’d hoped that, after all that they’d been through together, Cavan would remain her friend.]
So wait, he already abandoned her but she was still surprised he abandoned her last chapter? Is the idea she’d hoped after she started as a trainer again, they’d come back, or…?
[It wasn’t that they weren’t capable or experienced—it was that the trainers, the spectators, the world was against them. While not essential, having a large following was common for Pokemon trainers who made it to the finalist rounds.]
But what’s the actual point?
You say it’s not essential, then you say it’s common to have, but you don’t say anything about what benefit it might have. If I said, “While not essential, it was common for champion trainers to be from independently wealthy families…” you can pretty easily work out a connection. But if you say it’s common for popular people to have a fanclub, that’s just stating a fact that people who are popular usually end up with a fanclub.
[Indeed Adrielle herself, having previously been the favored candidate for regional champion, once had a large fan club that sang praises out to her and her trio of powerhouse Pokemon. ]
So because she was already doing great, people said she was great. And now she doesn’t have people saying she’s great, and this will impact her ability to do great because…?
Do the referees subtly favor the more popular? Are a bunch of tournaments invite-only and select trainers based on who’ll pack the seats? Do ties or contested wins happen and the crowd gets a vote? And if it’s “not essential” then how not essential? Is she out a minor advantage or is this near impossible? How can she be so sure that the only reason trainers who screwed up once statistically don’t do as well as those who don’t is because they don’t have a fan club, and not because they usually screw up because they’re just not as good or because they lost too much time during the probation period?
[This Mawile had been abandoned—likely after some run-in with the law. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence; too many trainers decided to give up Pokemon that might subtract from their publicity later in the game,]
Okay, so fanclubs/popularity now sounds like it is, indeed, essential if trainers are ditching powerful pokemon left and right over this. But how does that work? What sort of a run-in with the law happens where only the pokemon is at fault? And given how dangerous pokemon can be, wouldn’t dumping highly trained aggressive pokemon into the wild result in injuries and deaths, and generally be the last thing you’d want your legal system to encourage? Is the point here that the professional battling circuit has weird rules that really aren’t about safety and if so, whose benefit are they slanted in instead?
[Another possibility was that the Mawile was cooperating with Adrielle in hopes of finding its previous trainer. This possibility was the one that Adrielle liked the least since it meant that she would have to explicitly explain to the Mawile that its trainer had abandoned it—and perhaps incite the Pokemon’s hatred.]
Does she actually know this for sure?
She knows she got a pokemon, and she seems to know the guy who gave it to her well enough to be sure it has some mark against it as a counterpoint to her own situation. But that doesn’t quite prove the pokemon was just discarded – Adrielle’s pokemon are still probationed and she seems unhappy with it, so couldn’t another trainer have been in a situation where it was give up their pokemon to avoid getting them probationed? Or someone who was actually about to end up in jail who’d rather their pokemon went off with someone else instead of being kept in storage the whole time, or someone who’s wanted by the police and ran off, leaving their stuff including this pokeball behind. Are Adrielle’s own pokemon in special pokeballs because she’s not allowed to use them or because they also did something wrong – could she have permanently lost her right to train pokemon without her pokemon being in trouble themselves?
In the standard setting, abandonment or trading is about the only way a pokemon leaves its original trainer, but about the only thing I’m clear on about the setting in this fic is that it’s more complicated and there’s other forces at work. Somehow, a lawyer got his hands on this. If he was a lawyer who also ran a charity for abandoned problem pokemon, it’d be a good bet her mawile is one of them, but otherwise, who knows, maybe he bought it when the police were auctioning off old evidence.
[ her Mawile had gotten herself a small tray of Tamato berries and was currently picking up over each one curiously.
Despite Adrielle’s best efforts to market every berry but the bright, spiky red one, the trainer had found her efforts a waste. The Mawile was intrigued by the Tamato berries, and she didn’t want anything to do with the bland-looking Orans and the oblong-shaped Persims.
Taking a bite of her sandwich, Adrielle watched out of the corner of her eye as the Mawile gave the Tamato one last sniff before popping the berry into her mouth and chewing slowly.]
Well, I suppose a lot of those questions are moot if the mawile’s last trainer never even let it try a few berries.
[Pokemon deserved respect as much as any human—that was what Adrielle believed. Even if the world blamed her Pokemon for their own actions and was willing to clamor for a lack of existence that shouldn’t be wished upon any living creature—even if it was her against the world with a clack of Probation balls at every step—she held firm to this belief.]
I don’t quite see the connection here.
If pokemon deserve the same respect, do they also shoulder the same responsibilities? Blaming pokemon for their own actions seems extremely fair – it’d be blaming them for Adrielle’s actions that wasn’t.
Certainly, she and they have different punishments, and perhaps that’s what she’s getting at, but given they also appear to have done different things and certainly possess different capabilities, it makes sense that’d happen. If they were both equally culpable in whatever it was, then the disparity is unfair, but we still don’t know what they did and the fact she’s emphasizing that they’re in pokeballs for their own actions and not being punished as part of punishing Adrielle makes it seem like the issue really isn’t about a failure to respect pokemon.
Presumably the punishment is meant to be disproportionate for whatever the crime was, but we don’t know the crime, and if it was simply obeying Adrielle’s orders, I’d think she’d have said that instead of making a point about their own actions.
[ two trainers, both boys that looked around Adrielle’s twenty-two or perhaps a little younger. ]
…okay, so if everyone involved here is supposed to be in their twenties, why are they getting called “boys” and why does everyone act like they’re mid-high-school at best? And how has no one figured out you’ll probably do better in these tournaments if you don’t leave home at twenty with a L2 pidgey?
[Because Probationed trainers were guaranteed to have some amount of experience in combat, and because they had clearly made a mistake in the past, some people seemed to think that challenging them was a surefire way to get a victory. Not only were most Probationed trainers wary of battle, but they were also better targets than whatever other trainer you came across in your travels. Why bother picking on an unknown when you can pick on a known trainer and prove your worth?]
This is really seeming very poor-me. So, a probationed trainer broke the law in some possibly dangerous way, which means newbie idiots think they’re a good target? And are apparently correct given the probationed trainers are wary of those battles, she’s characterizing it as “picking on”, and there’s no counter-narrative about how probationed trainers tend to win those fights.
[ At least in a battle against a known enemy of society, the crowd was always on your side.]
Only they’re in the middle of nowhere with no crowd. Being excited to go up against one in a tournament would make sense, except in a tournament you don’t get to choose your opponent and everyone fights an equal number of battles, so it’s still not picking on anybody, and it’s still not clear what advantage the crowd being on your side gives you. If anything, tournaments should want probationed trainers showing up for the same reason wrestling makes sure to have a large number of heels.
[“They’re said to be quite opinionated and hard to train.”
“Er,” Adrielle looked at the Mawile standing beside her, trying to pick her words carefully so that it didn’t sound as complicated as it was. “Well, it definitely hasn’t been easy.”]
She’s been guarded and thinking about her words when talking to the mawile, but it didn’t seem like that was much different than she would with any unknown pokemon who was dumped on her and with neither of them too clear on how exactly it happened. If there’s supposed to be a big difference here from how pokemon normally act, then you should have some of those flashbacks involve the early days when her pokemon are younger and newly caught.
[Adrielle paused, hesitation weighing her thoughts down. Would that be a good idea? Especially when she hadn’t even conducted a real battle with her Mawile yet?]
No. It’s really obviously a terrible idea. The only thing she knows about this pokemon is that it’s even stronger than she assumed, and she already knew it was a pre-trained pokemon that was well outclasses some newbie’s starter. Oh, I guess also she knows that it attacked a wild pokemon without orders, didn’t stop when she said to, and used an attack on its own. And she’s also pretty sure it’s done something to get in trouble with the law in the past, though what kind of thing gets pokemon in trouble but without any actual consequences for the pokemon isn’t clear.
I get that narratively this is a mistake she’s supposed to make, but you need to justify why it seems like a good idea.
Making a big point about how no one is supposed to refuse a battle like how things work in the game would be a start. Having the guy’s pokemon be harder to place in strength than a nidoran (one having to work at beating a caterpie, no less). Have the battle against the paras not be her pokemon just doing what it wanted, or have Adrielle have a couple other battles after that where she established that her mawile was listening to orders fine. Her pokemon being a bit worn out might even help here – if she assumes her mawile’s stronger but tired so the battle will be roughly equal.
[Since she was relatively unfamiliar with her Pokemon, Adrielle had been preparing for the possibility of a loss. All she had was general knowledge of what moves Mawiles were capable of, not what moves hers had learned]
Surely she could’ve just asked and had the mawile nod for known moves.
[Adrielle figured that she’d let the boy get back on his feet and perhaps learn a few things. So, she was definitely not prepared when her Mawile darted forwards, her larger set of jaws open in preparation for her signature move: Bite.]
This is exactly what happened like five minutes ago with the paras. Maybe it’d make more sense to just skip that battle completely and have the trainer battle be the first time? If Adrielle’s overidentifying with the mawile where both have black marks on their record that are completely unfair accidents and she assumed it’ll behave like any other pokemon, so she doesn’t worry about it repeating whatever behavior caused the problem originally, that could make sense. (It might also make it a bit more reasonable she hadn’t gotten around to asking about the moves if she wasn’t intending to battle at all yet.)
[The boy stared at her, stunned into frozen silence as footsteps bounded over from the sidelines, Collier appearing a moment later to throw his arms up in front of his friend and glare at the older trainer.
“What is your problem? Isn’t it normal for a trainer to be worried about their Pokemon?” he asked angrily.]
Okay, so, a newbie doing something risky on impulse is easy to believe. But isn’t what Adrielle is saying what everyone would say? Why is the other guy backing up his friend doing something he must’ve been told not to do a million times?
[“Why are you so angry? We’re the ones that should be angry, not you!” Collier shouted, panting as well now. “Your Pokemon attacked and injured his Pokemon!”]
Uh…that’s what a pokemon battle is. In every canon, people are okay about this, and your fic seems to be leaning far more heavily on pokemon trainers being all about battling each other than usual.
This reads like it’s her going up against elementary schoolers in a world where most people just keep pokemon as pets, not twenty year old aspiring professionals in a bloodsport.
And given she seems to think her pokemon were unfairly treated, couldn’t she be yelling back that if some idiot jumps in the way of a pokemon attack, it’d be her mawile and herself who’d suffer for it? Or would that not happen, or would it only happen to someone who already has a mark against them and is that the real reason why probationed trainers normally avoid regular trainer battles? How much of her own bad reaction to them yelling at her is her personal issues and how much is her actually being viewed as the responsible party for anything that did go wrong?
Which I guess gets into the general issue that I really have really little idea of what’s different in your setting and yet everything seems to hinge on those differences. Whatever she did is based on how the legal/social system works in your fic, whatever the consequences of her being probationed hinge on the different way trainers work in your setting, whatever her pokemon’s punishment was is based on whatever they did of which all I know is it’s not the same as whatever makes people dump off pokemon like she thinks happened to the mawile.
I noticed you posted a separate fic that seems like it’s supplementary information to this one;s world, and I’d really suggest sticking that kind of thing in your fic itself, both because a bunch of pamphlets and other in-universe writing (newspapers would be particularly good) about how your setting works at the top/bottom of some chapters would help get more worldbuilding across and because the information on how things work in your particular setting isn’t going to stand alone as an independent fanfic.
I don’t have much feeling about Adrielle, for similar reasons. She seems like she’s nice enough – she’s treating the mawile thoughtfully, she appears to have loved her previous pokemon, and you had her explain she doesn’t want to fight wild pokemon who won’t want to fight. But I have no idea if that’s anything special about her or just how most people are in this world. And her only other trait is feeling bad and being timid, which, given I still have no idea what she did and very little idea of how it interacts with the setting, is hard to find engaging. I am still curious what actually happened, but only in the sense I want to know how things work here and to have any idea of what the legal system looks like, not because I want to know about Adrielle in particular.