The Review Spot
by Max Griffin
Honest, in-depth critiques. Weekly prize for the most engaging submission.
Please don’t ‘read between the lines’ with my comments. I say what I think free of insinuations. I am a retired martial artist and retired police officer, thus I look at things differently. I’m published with a book on wisdom and common sense as well as several E-books/stories on loveyoudivine.com
This doesn’t make me a genius or expert. I’m just further along the path than some, behind others.
I dislike the rating system. If required to do so to submit a review, be advised that I rate conservatively. I am direct but always respectful.
This is one person’s opinion. Keep writing and always have fun!
Plot: A young woman hates the government/Alliance because her father and then older sister are killed in the service. The woman lives with her now mentally ill and violent mother in difficult times.
Style & Voice: Mostly 3rd person via Darcy but this story being 'told/telling', vs 'showing' us. The difference is for a reader to see you swim in a cold pool vs. jumping in with you to experience it first hand. Modern writing calls for 'showing', drawing/hooking a reader into a story to create a real 'page turner'. Consider the references included below, starting with the first, 'Taming the Telling Dragon'.
Scene/Setting: Home/apartment; city; business building?
Grammar: Good over all but see comments in text.
Just My Personal Opinion: 2,912 Words. I think a word count she be done at the top of every request for review because of the time factor. It's required for contests and submissions to publishers. Good to start the habit now. I'm one of the few who mentions this, thus, don't consider yourself chastised rather a comment from a fellow author. I think this story can be quite attractive to many readers, including it's multiple themes (government control/intrusion; coming of age? Death, mental illness. Do u have an outline for your story. They serve very well. Nice hook at the end.
"The Novel Workshop Writing Tips" Writing Tips
There are many books on writing, so many to confuse anyone. Two easy-to-understand & useful books are:
The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
A Writer’s Guide To Fiction by Elizabeth Lyon
Hate is a strong word. Darcy never used it loosely. AGAIN, I'm one of the few to mention this. Societies for hundreds or thousands of years write/speak what I call reverse verbiage, with 'no', 'not', 'don't' and in general saying what isn't to arrive at what is. Instead of saying Darcy never used it loosely, how about she only employed it with great concern or rarity?
But she hated the people who had ripped her family apart.
It started when she was twelve. Everything changed back then. On the night her father’s body was engulfed in flames, and no one even patted her on the back. In the 3rd paragraph you're using a backflash, generally a poor idea in modern times.
That was the point of no return.
Darcy shuddered at the memory, watching the flames flickering flicker seems too soft here. I think of a candle flickering. How about a stronger word? behind her eyelids. Nothing was extraordinary about that night until everything was. She didn’t have a sudden shuddering feeling that something wasn’t right. Consider in this paragraph the multiple times you used reverse writing, saying what things weren't. I know it's a style that's been popular in the past, but...... No precognition that she was in for a world of hurt. Just an ordinary day in an ordinary life. Because you can’t expect the unexpected. It blindsides you at the worst possible moment—a sucker punch to the gut. A mysterious pain that takes you over, Yes, this sentence is more powerful and direct, it is a sucker punch to the guy (that's happened to me), a pain taking you over, yes, direct! something you never see coming.
Life sucks. Which is MUCH better than saying what it isn't, such as 'it isn't a bed of roses, or a walk in the park'
She remembered. She was just sitting at her kitchen table, opposite her mother, waiting for her father and sister to come home. It was a Thursday, a completely normal day of the week, in a completely completely repeats ordinary year. Ordinary. That was the best way to describe their family. Their life. Until that fateful Thursday.
Until the phone rang.
Until they were anything but ordinary. The use of frequent new paragraphs is making me wonder. Again, it's a style. See what others say.
“Hello?” Her mother’s cheery voice still played like a scratched disc in her mind—ticking over and over like a grandfather clock. From other memories, she had pieced these things together like pieces of a broken vase. She remembered her choked cry, her clenched fist on the phone receiver and the urgency with which she threw it down, grabbing Darcy roughly by the shoulder and ushering her out the door.
“Mom?” The rest of the night was a blur as they raced to the neighbour’s house, and begged for a ride downtown. Downtown 'downtown' repeats to the office district, do u mean 'district office' ? where Derek and Raina had been stationed for the day. Raina needed extra training, and Derek had paperwork due for the Alliance the next morning, so he told Mae he would try and make it home as soon as he could that morning.
The thing about Blackcall, the section of Phoenix Darcy lived in, is that it is designed as one large square, each street intersecting another for convenience.
Darcy thought the trip took a lifetime. Until they arrived and the flames lighting the horizon made her wish it was a lifetime more.
Mae and Darcy had jumped out of the car and ran to the building, the heat from the fire already searing their skin from over one hundred feet away, picking at every single skin cell, follicle and heartstring it could. this is overly dramatic/exageration to me. Was it really 'searing' their skin? and picking at 'every single skin cell', including the back? I think heart string is two words, i might be wrong.
“Dad?” Darcy whispered, watching as the building where he worked, and particularly his office floor, disintegrated fire is an ongoing process. I think a different word than 'disintegreated' into nothing.
She had always thought of building should building be pleural? as permanent. Something that could never be destroyed, lasting for the rest of time. She’d thought the same about her father. Sadly, she was wrong on both counts.
“Wait here,” her mother’s strangled voice broke through the ringing in her ears. Why were her ears ringing? Was the fire dept. there? Anyone fighting the fire? Darcy stayed. She watched. She waited. Her mother ran forward, but was grabbed by a woman in grey before she got twenty feet further. The woman spoke fast; her lips moving like a hummingbird wing. But Darcy didn’t care, because after her mother shrieked, cried and collapsed to the ground under the darkening sky, Darcy could only care about two things.
Where was Raina? And where was her Dad?
“Daddy?” she mumbled, tears beginning to sear in her sockets. “Daddy?!” Her voice grew frantic, her limbs twitching. She tore forward, feeling a pair of arms wrap around her waist and pull her back. She struggled forward, kicking shins and biting wrists, but instead of growing closer, the inferno seemed to grow further and further away.
“Calm down, miss, or you will be sedated.”
“Daddy. Daddy. Daddy...” Darcy knew no other words. She wanted nothing else. That was her
“Who is your father?” the stern voice filled her ears, and Darcy stared up at the hard-faced female enforcer.
“Derek Hallow.” Darcy told her. The woman’s expression did not soften, grow sympathetic, nothing.
“Derek Hallow worked on the 16th floor, didn’t he?”
“Um, I think so.” The knot in her stomach began to turn.
“The 16th floor is the epicentre of the fire. I’m sorry, but your father is dead.” She didn’t seem sorry. She didn’t seem sorry at all, but despite Darcy’s protests, telling her she was a liar, calling her every name under the sun, the fact remained the same. He’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead...
Her eyes began to blur, from the heat of the flame and the heat 'heat' repeats. Your author's voice is to repeat words and phrases, but it can grate on a reader after a while. of her tears, but not too far away she saw a familiar silhouette watching the flames dancing in the night. Now, since Darcy and her mother are closer to the fire than at first, is their skin still being seared?
“Raina?!” Darcy called, reaching for her sister and breaking away from her handler. “Raina!” Raina stood, motionless, just staring blankly at the all-consuming fire.
Darcy paused, before laying a hand tentatively on her sister’s shoulder, feeling her tense automatically.
“Dad’s in there.” She said, matter-of-fact, unemotional, one, not both, as redundant just like her training taught her.
“Yeah,” Darcy didn’t stop the tears, and Raina didn’t comment. This is the last time I'll mention it, but twice in one sentence you have 2 negative terms. She just straightened her spine and turned, pacing toward their mother.
“Sorry,” Raina muttered once she reached Mae. Mae pulled her daughters into her arms.
Darcy could almost hear the moment when she began to crack. When the ropes that bound her together began to fray, and she became....less.
The day Raina left, silent as a whisper as the sun rose over the horizon—that was when Mae Hallow’s ropes snapped.
Darcy snuck in through her bedroom window, hopping over the neighbour’s fence and through her own unkempt front garden, thankful she had the foresight to leave it open. The order is confusing. Did she really hop the fence, go thru her garden and THEN in the window? She
“Damn, homework!” she hissed, smacking her palm against her sweat-slicked forehead. The heat was uncommonly dense for this time of night. It was thick like cold soup and dripped and dropped off her skin. She wanted to brush the feeling away but shook her head, deciding that even if detention was on the cards, Darcy just couldn’t deal with algorhythms at the moment. Jimmying open the window a stretch more, she slipped though the gap, immediately thankful she was still small enough to do so. I thot she was already in the window.
Her room was Above you used passive writing infrequently (was, were) but now it's more prevalent. See references above on dealing with this. It's a style long out of vogue. almost the exact same since her sister left—just a hell of a lot messier. Darcy landed with a thump on her bed, the bedsprings groaning in protest. Four walls, covered in peeling off-white paint and doodles her sister decided brought the room to life, instead of it being decidedly dead, was what was left of her happy family. Outside the confines of her sacred space, everything just grew a little darker, a little danker, a little more real and a lot less safe. Darcy leaned back, resting her head underneath her arm and turned her head to the left. Raina’s bed sat untouched and perfectly still, silent as a shrine, not five feet away from where she lay. Pouting her lips, she turned back and stared at the peeling paint on the ceiling before being lulled into sleep.
But sleep isn’t a safe haven. Because when you sleep, you dream. And from where Darcy stood, that was a dangerous thing to do. Dreams can be just a deadly and dangerous as living. Just as cruel.
She knew that from experience.
That night she dreamed of screams, of flames, of monsters and of men.
All this totalled up to the Alliance, and she woke in a cold sweat, cursing the name.
She hated the Alliance. They sent people to their deaths, and no one seemed to care, and if they did—well, they were silenced. The Alliance explained everything away. That service was necessary, that it was for the “good” of society. People were starving, dying, and the delegates were doing a great service in Riverside, even if no one but the delegates and the Alliance knew what that was.
She never thought about it really, never stopped and wondered what exactly that meant until it directly affected her. By then, she knew she was selfish, that she had never cared until it happened to her. But afterward, she was in the same boat and it was like being looped into another reality, polar opposite to the life she was so used to, and she had no way of pulling herself back to the safety of the other one. The one where she felt safe in their hands, instead of like a toy at their disposal.
It started off as a means of controlling population. How it came about she wasn’t sure, maybe Etta James, the first leader of the Alliance, hated her older sister’s guts, maybe she was jealous. Maybe, just maybe, she wasn’t thinking at all. The idea could have popped into her head and she uttered it as a joke, and things just spiralled out of control like a tornado. But after that meeting over a century ago, every first born child of every family in Phoenix was sent to Riverside, and most never returned home.
The families weren’t told why. In a way, they didn’t want to know. Knowledge makes it that much harder. Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss.
But something was moving in Darcy’s stomach; writhing like a pit of snakes. She felt the heat of sunshine warm her eyelids, lifting them loose. She sat up, rubbed the heavy night’s sleep from her eyes and sighed. Two hours till she needed to be up, and no chance of letting herself go back to sleep. Every day the same. Either early or late. It was like she was out of sync with the rest of the world.
And that’s just the way she liked it.
Darcy lay on her bed for approximately 2 and a half hours,I think we should be able to write with numbers but EVERYONE I've spoken w/ about it says NO! That includes publishers and editors. at least by her reckoning, just staring at the sunlight dancing what's making it dance? Tree limbs or ? across her ceiling, before flipping herself onto her side, taking a deep breath and preparing herself for yet another day. Maybe this day would be better than the others. Maybe she wouldn’t have stinging wounds and torn skin. Maybe she wouldn’t have to clean up shards of broken glass, and porcelain and whatever else after her mother’s breakdown. Maybe Mae wouldn’t have a breakdown.
Maybe. Just maybe...
But probably not.
She sighed, scolding herself for even thinking those things, because this is her life. No complaining. She could have it a hell of a lot worse, and she knew it.
After changing, fixing her wayward chestnut hair into a ponytail and wiping the sleep from her grass green eyes, she stretched and tidied up so her room was less “atomic warzone” and more “dishevelled mess”. When she was just about finished, she heard the phone ring. as much as possible AVOID 'sense' words, such as saw, heard, etc. Just say the phone rang. She ignored it. Whomever it was would give up eventually, and hopefully before her mother woke up. Darcy had to sort out the kitchen, make Mae’s breakfast, get her daily dosage in order and work out how they were going to afford the next month’s prescription. Darcy worked at the local grocer’s three days a week, to help out, even though Mae got subsidies from the government for Raina’s service and for her Dad’s death. They got some, not a lot. Not enough to keep them going some months. All wage in Phoenix was doled out in credit, and even that was taxed to the rafters to make up for the surplus in population. Thankfully, the cost of living was significantly low enough to give everyone a fighting chance. But Darcy knew that they needed every spare cent available, so every one she earned was used to help. The price of Mae’s anti-psychotic and anti-depressants had sky-rocketed in the last budget, and now they sometimes couldn’t afford to put food on the table. cliche. to be avoided Darcy resigned to ask Mr. Hammersmith for an extra shift or two to cover the cost, and hoped it would push them over the edge.
Ring, Ring, Ring, Ri—
They must have hung up, she thought. Usually best to put thoughts in italics and delete 'she thought' She threw open her bedroom door and was greeted by her very irate mother brandishing a knife.
“Mom, what are you...?” she didn’t have time to answer the question as Mae began flailing the knife back and forth in front of her. Darcy kept her back to wall and manoeuvred herself away from the swinging blade, while Mae cried.
“You’re a liar, How could you?!” The knife was dangerously close for Darcy’s liking.
“Mom? What are you talking about? Just put down the knife, put it down and we can talk.”
“You said she was coming home. You said it!”
“And now....you lied.” Mae Hallow fell in a heap to the floor, cradling the breadknife in her lap like a baby.
“Mom...I don’t—I don’t understand. What’s happening?” While Mae sat motionless on the floor, her tears the only thing that moved, Darcy bent forward, stooped down and loosened her grip on the knife handle. Reluctantly, Mae let it go, but fixed her daughter with a venomous stare.
“What happened?” Mae just inclined her head to the right, and Darcy saw the phone swinging back and forth, like a pendulum, the receiver ringing dead.
Mae had answered the phone.
“Mom, who was that on the phone?”
Mae remained silent.
“Mom, who was that?” she couldn’t help it, the silence was killing her and making her more irate by the minute. 'irate by the minute' is mundane. How about, 'fed her infuriation?'
“Just tell me!” Darcy never yelled at her mother, even when she was in the middle of breaking down, but she couldn’t hold it in.
“Raina called?” Darcy stood up a little straighter but her it felt like her mind was wobbling. “How? She couldn’t have—“
“No,” Mae almost laughed. “Raina’s never calling.”
“She’s never calling.”
“I don’t understand.”
Darcy thought it must be some sort of joke, but her body knew the truth as she went crashing into the floor, her legs falling dead. Like her sister.
“Yes, she’s dead.”
That moment felt like it had been frozen, freshly unwrapped and waiting for them both to defrost and soak it in. Tears stung Darcy’s eyes, her shin began to jut back and forth and bile gushed exageration? maybe climbed, ascended. up and down her throat.
“No—no no no nononononononononononono--” Darcy just mumbled, sorrow creeping its way into her system. Mae, however, seemed calmer than ever before. She pulled herself up from the floor, crossed the room, put the phone back in its handle and grabbed a cup from the cupboard, filling it to the brim with something pungent that polluted the air. Slowly she sipped it, and Darcy watched in shock as the sips turned into heavy gulps, steadily streaming down her mother’s throat. this is out of the POV from Darcy
“What’s wrong with you?” the words were barely more than a whisper, but fuelled with anger.
Mae just continued to drink.
“Your daughter is dead, and you’re just standing there?” Darcy choked on the thick and cumbersome word.
Mae said nothing.
How can she break down over misplaced fridge magnets and not about this? She was frantic before, but when she told me—no. Something’s wrong. Darcy scrambled up from the floor and shot daggers at her mother. “Are you completely heartless?”
Mae stopped and stared at Darcy. She had never seen such a look of hatred in all her life; in any way, shape or form. It almost made her recoil, like she had been whipped nine times from every angle.
“No, I am not heartless. I’m heartbroken. And for a heart to break, you have to have one, don’t you?”
Darcy said nothing.
“I just find it funny.”
“Because,” Mae’s hands trembled on the cup she was holding, until she wasn’t holding it anymore. Until it went flying at Darcy at the speed of sound exageration across the room, hitting her smack between the eyes. A constellation burst before her.
Darcy winced, hearing avoid 'sense' words the cup crack on the ground. Her head was throbbing and she
“Mom?” Darcy cried.
“Because,” Mae threw a plate, a glass, a book, anything in her vicinity at her youngest daughter, before she wore herself into submission.
“Because what?” Darcy screamed, clutching her hand over her bleeding eyebrow. “Because you hate me? You don’t love me anymore, is that it? Because I’m such a disappointment as a daughter? What?!
“No,” she cried, “Because it should have been you.”
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