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Rated: 18+ · Message Forum · Other · #1848419
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Oct 14, 2021 at 11:29am
#3457174
Re: Review Request
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Item Reviewed: "The Color of Resiliency"   by laurafu
Chapter: Baker-Acted from The Color of Resiliency 
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
You did a great job showing the impersonal nature of the facility where Frances finds herself. The snippets of phone conversation at the end also revealed the depth--or lack thereof--in her relationships with Barron and her father.

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. Some editors and agents will decide whether or not to read your submission based only on your first sentence.

Your opening is your best opportunity to draw readers into your fictional world, to induce a dream-like state in which your words guide their imaginations. The readers become the author's active partners in imagining the fictional world, in a state of suspended disbelief. In crafting the opening of any story, it's the author's primary task to launch this fictional dream.

Your opening does a great job establishing the overall atmosphere of the piece. You orient the readers in place and reveal a bit about the plot. It's also revealing that Frances is able to make a small joke about crayons, and that the intake nurse responds by annotating her chart. That little exchange already reveals much about both Frances and what promises to be a smothering facility.

I have only two suggestions for the opening. First, instead of starting with a disembodied voice, I'd start with Frances doing or sensing something, to establish her as the point-of-view character. Secondly, I'd name her in the first couple of sentences. Knowing her name will help readers identify with her.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
You've done an awesome job of getting the reader to cheer for Frances. She's in an impersonal, authoritarian (at least according to her account) facility, but makes do as best she can with no rancor. Indeed, it's clear that she's here voluntarily due to an unspecified "melt-down" earlier. It's unspoken but reasonable to believe, from the reaction of Barron and her father, that this isn't the first time she's been in this or a similar facility.

Which brings us to her goals. Presumably, her goal is to "get better," since she's here voluntarily and says it's a "safe place" after her melt-down. The obstacles are the indifference--at best--of the staff plus whatever internal demons sent her here. Given the unpleasantness of the facility and the implied "problems" from the melt-down, the stakes are pretty high.

Goals, stakes, and obstacles are the building blocks of tension. You increase tension by increasing the obstacles, raising the stakes, or refining the goals. All three in this case are pretty nebulous, so there's lots of room to increase the tension as the story proceeds.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
It's not clear where this is headed beyond the rough outline of her intake. This could be a story about recovery from mental illness, or about the horrors of facilities like the ones she's in. Depending on the "meltdown," it could even turn into a police procedural, although that seems unlikely. In any case, this opening chapter provides hints for many possibilities while doing the basic job of introducing us to Frances.

                                                             
*FlagB*Hook
The most compelling hooks are disaster, dilemma, and decision. Ending with a goal, conflict, or reaction is weaker but can be effective, depending on the situation.

You don't have a hook. You need one.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
First person, fictional present. No slips. Frances has a distinctive voice, self-effacing with an ironic sense of humor.

                                                             
*FlagB*Referencing
Outside of movies, I don't have any idea what a Baker Act facility might be like. However, I worked at a university and had occasion to interact with people who did have intimate knowledge of these places (social workers, psychiatrists, and law enforcement--each with distinctive views), and what you've presented is consistent with what little I know. You certainly brought the facility to life in a "one-flew-over-the-coocoo's-nest" way.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
I was a little disoriented as she walked through the facility, going from intake, passing through the main room (?), to her room, to the administration office (which seemd to open to the main froom?). A touch more detail might be helpful.

I did like the addition of smells to the descriptions--that always adds a lot of verisimilitude.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar

I didn't find any grammar errors beyond a missing or mistyped word here and there.

*Exclaim* Repeated words.*Exclaim*
Repeating words or phrases runs the risk of making your prose feel monotone. It's generally better to have varied word choices.


                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
One way to think of telling a story is that it is a guided dream in which the author leads the readers through the events. In doing this, the author needs to engage the readers as active participants in the story, so that they become the author's partner in imagining the story. Elements of craft that engage the readers and immerse them in the story enhance this fictive dream. On the other hand, authors should avoid things that interrupt the dream and pull readers out of the story.

This is a good first chapter, and Frances is a sympathetic character. Of course, her "meltdown" could mean that she's a serial killer, although I kind of doubt that.

At the end, she has at least one friend who seems to care about her, and her father seems to care as well. But both of them don't address whatever the underlying event was that brought her to the facility. Indeed, Barron almost suggests that she might be released soon to "get her car back." Surely commitment to one of these facilities involves a minimum of 72 hours of observation, even in the case of self-commitment, so there is much more to this story than we know at present.

In terms of a hook, you're almost there. The elephant NOT in the room in those final conversations is her melt-down. This is why she's at the facility and the event--and its causes--are what she needs to deal with. So you could end with a reminder that she's made that decision--to deal with "things"--and you've got a hook.

Thanks for sharing. This is an excellent first chapter. Thank you for asking me to read it, and I apologize for the dilatory nature of this review.

                                                             
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                             
*Cut*“Eighty-nine pounds and five-foot-tall. Aren’t you itty bitty? My fifth grader is taller than you,” the nurse says as if I were a toddler. She jots down the information while I remove my nose ring.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Starting with a disembodied voice speaking is not generally recommended. It’s better to first orient the reader with respect to point of view to establish who is *hearing* the speech. *Exclaim*

“I swear, if you guys hand me crayons, I’ll kill myself with one,” I say, in a child-like manner, *Cut*mirroring her tone. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Better if you described her tone above, where she spoke. *Exclaim*

*Cut*The soft smell of lemon in the office*Cut**Exclaim*My Commen: Why not mention this is part of the scene-setting for the office? Having her wrinkle her nose at the cloying lemon scent, for example, would immediately establish point of view. *Exclaim*

*Cut*I follow her to a small hallway*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Initially I thought she was following the woman into the bathroom, but clearly that’s not the case. “Small” is one of those adjectives that don’t provide scale and hence don’t add much to the description. In this case, it could mean “narrow” or “short,” or maybe both. It could also mean “cramped,” since it’s filled with toiletries. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Few patients talk amongst themselves, while one man seems to speak to himself. One woman talks above the TV.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Are these the same patients mentioned earlier? I’m feeling a little disoriented since she appears to be describing the same room, maybe from a different perspective? *Exclaim*

*Cut*peripheral, ghostly shadows come for me.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: peripheral vision, right? *Exclaim*

*Cut* I’m currently on one of the medications, but she gives me a lower dosage and another I never had before. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: She knows the medications and their dosages how? *Exclaim*

*Cut*“Be quiet, Frances!”*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Is this the narrator’s name? *Exclaim*

*Cut*“I am quiet,” I say.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Apparently is IS her name. It’s better to name her earlier, in the opening sentence if possible. Knowing her name helps readers connect with her. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Using the edge of the sink, I place my palms on the edge of the sink and lift myself, stretching the lower half of my back, and the sink falls.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: “Sink” appears three times in this sentence. Repeating words and phrases runs the risk of making your prose feel monotone. *Exclaim*

*Cut*presumingly *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: presumably, right? *Exclaim*

*Cut*October 1995, age 7-a flashback*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Flashbacks can be an author’s friend. They give you an opportunity to show events in the past that explain what’s happening in the here-and-now of the novel. They need to be used with care, however, because they tend to break the reader’s always fragile connection with the here-and-now.

In the opening chapter, the reader is still getting to know the point-of-view character, her goals, why they are important, and the obstacles she faces. The reader is also learning details of the fictional world, in this case the Baler Act center. The reader’s connection to her and her world is at its most tenuous in an opening chapter. For this reason, most editors will discourage a flashback in an initial chapter.

Here, the flashback provides detail on the way she washes herself, but I’m not sure that the additional background helps the reader understand the action in the here-and-now of her first night at this center, nor am I sure that it’s a necessary disruption to the here-and-now of the story, which has been compelling thus far. My advice would be to keep that relentless flow of her intake going rather than disrupt it with this short interlude. *Exclaim*


                                                             

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!


Max Griffin
Please visit my website and blog at
https://new.MaxGriffin.net

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MESSAGE THREAD
Review Request · 08-02-21 5:16pm
by laurafu
*Star* Re: Review Request · 10-14-21 11:29am
by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

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