I'm disappointed Isolde came across as unlikable, the opposite of my intention. Maybe I was trying too hard. What would be your advice to make her more likable?
Simple: Stop hyping her up. Stop focusing on her so much.
This is the number one reason I found her irritating, as everything in the story was incessantly revolving around her, her skill and her rightness, and so that any human attributes she had that might have helped make her likable (eg her drunkeness) were simply washed away in the torrent of (direct and indirect) accolades.
For example, I might have found the fact that she's a heroine who can't stay sober amusing. But in your case her drunkenness was only used to accentuate how powerful she is that she can take on masses of marines while totally wasted. rolls eyes
Seriously, let her be just her: A human character with some quirks, not the designated awesome and powerful main character heroine. Don't dump all her attributes on us at the beginning, take your time and reveal them one by one as is relevant to the plot, and let the audience decide whether they like her or not.
Think about it in this terms. If Oda had introduced Luffy in the first chapter kicking marine ass with King's disposition haki, a devil fruit and straightaway reveals via dialogue that he is the son of Revolutionary Dragon and the grandson of Garp the Marine and brother to Fire-fist Ace, wouldn't that be too much too fast and feel… forced?
Also, don't mistake a "strong female lead" with a "powerful character who is female". They are not the same thing, but sadly it's a mistake most writers make.
Lastly, here's a test to gauge whether you've written a good character or not: Can you write a story with Isolde in it without giving her any mysterious pasts, fighting skill or special abilities and still make it interesting? Because if you can't, you'll come to realize what you've got is a flat character that has been relying on powers and abilities to prop her up and make her interesting.
Something for you to think about.
How do I convey necessary information if not through dialogue? I really don't know.
Do you immediately tell your entire life story to everyone you meet? I don't know about you, but for me and most people I know, the answer is "No".
You let it out in bits and pieces. Slowly. Over a period of time when you begin to trust them more and more. Sometimes events that remind you of the past can speed up the process. Sometimes the other party has to pry the information out of you because they are curious. But they cannot be curious if you dump everything on them at every opportunity.
Now think of your reader as that new acquaintance. Wouldn't you be put off or alarmed if someone you barely just met kept coming up to you and poured out everything about their beliefs and past and etc etc to you without you even asking or wanting to know about them?
Now to defend myself. As for Zealand, I wanted it to be clear he already had doubts, and that his face-saving bravado was all in the first chapter, but then he was disgusted by Ayers's behavior and swayed by Isolde's additional information.
There's no need to defend, I'm not attacking.
Also, there is a saying that goes: "A miss is as good as a mile." Unfortunately it also applies the other way.
I could tell you planned what you said about Zealand, but the way you executed it was… not done so well and I can tell you now most of it does not carry through to the audience. You probably wanted Isolde's words to be the straw that broke the camel's back, and for him to defect after enough was enough.
But the problem is, none of this was foreshadowed. In fact he displayed one kind of personality in chapter 1 and then totally switched around in chapter 2, and all those past doubts and reasons looked hastily added in a paragraph or two AFTER Isolde had her long speech, which made it just look like weak justification after the fact.
It may not necessarily be the case, but it sure looks that way from my POV as a reader.
Writing a good fic is not just about coming up with a good story, it's also about how you tell it. Zealand's defection with nothing unchanged could have been a compelling moment of potent drama, but it... wasn't.
An example of how it could have been done better:
In chapter 1 you could have foreshadowed the slavery thing by opening with Zealand investigating something related to the press-ganging, and ALREADY having doubts, and wondering what could have done this? This doesn't look like the work of pirates... blablabla. Then news of Isolde's attack gets through to him and off he goes to stop her.
In chapter 2, when Isolde talks about press-ganging, and how she has info about the whole thing, Zealand can have his flashback, and start having doubts again. Then stuff Ayers says starts making him suspicious or whatever. Then Isolde says something that rings true that makes him realize there is more to what's going on than he knows, and he helps her because he wants to know the truth.
And I strove to make Isolde a not-Sue–powerful but not a Sue and definitely not always right--
You may not have intended her to be that, but unfortunately she does come across that way somewhat, and intentions are pointless in the face of perception, I'm afraid.
so please read the three chapters of backstory, I swear they're really not that angsty and there's lots of humor in them. I value your input greatly.
And I must gently decline your request.
I am a busy person, and I've already spent a lot of time reviewing this much when I should be working on my writing (not to mention I have too many people breathing down my neck to update). So please understand that as much as I'd like to help, I have my limits too.
Also, if what I see of the other chapters makes me not want to read it, then no, I will not force myself. You see, I go by the philosophy that if the first few chapters of a fic (actually for me it's the first few paragraphs) can't make me want to read the rest of it, then there is no point reviewing the rest, because most readers won't make it that far either. If a writer can't make a reader want to continue reading, then that is the problem right there.
Please review Devil Fruit as well, because I put a lot of effort into the Brook chapter (Brook is practically my favorite SH).
Actually, I think I have stumbled across this fic some time ago. I thought the concept was really interesting, but something about the dialogue and flatness of the storytelling turned me off and I left in the middle of the second chapter.
Huh. I didn't realize that was another fic written by you. Small FF.net…
ps: By the way, you might want to check the timeline on Brook's story. Sengoku is not THAT old.