Good morning, Wizard , and welcome to WdC.
For the record, my real name is Jack Tyler, and I am a former steampunk author who has transitioned to horror, but I try to review a wide variety of styles and genres. While I have a few books in print, I am neither a famous author nor a renowned critic. I'm just a guy with an opinion that I'm here to share, and if you disagree with anything I say here, remember that the only opinion that matters is yours. I should explain that I use this review template in which I discuss my views on the important areas of quality storytelling, then compare your work to my own beliefs on the matter. As I said, I'm no authority, but hopefully my comments will give you some ideas to take your writing in directions you hadn't previously considered.
Before I pitch in, allow me to offer a suggestion: Put a little of your writing history into your bio sections. You will receive much more tailored reviews if your reviewer knows a little about your background and experience level. Let me just drop a warning here, and we'll get started.
THIRD-PARTY READERS TAKE NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD
STORY: This is really the basic element, isn't it? If you can't tell an engaging story, it doesn't matter what else you can do, because nobody's going to read it anyway. You should note that if you're reading this review, it means you've garnered decent to high marks in this category, or I would have moved on to something more engaging. I will try to explain aspects from characters to grammar, but I don't know how to teach someone to have an imagination, so congratulations; you've done something well already.
I very much like the presentation of this story. We get to meet and learn something about the two main characters of what is obviously going to be a much larger work as they meet for the first time and engage in conversation. I like the old-fashioned use of language, the flowery prose, and the thees and thous. The only thing I think could harm you has nothing to do with the story itself, but your synopsis in the Please Review forum. In it you say that you aspire to write the next great fantasy piece. Know that that is out of your hands, and to go in with that expectation is to set yourself up for bitter disappointment. All you can do is write the best story you're capable of. The general public, those who read, decide with their wallets what the next great story will be. I'm sure that when J.K. Rowling was writing her teen adventure about a wizard school, she had no thought that it would be the story to challenge Lord of the Rings for the title of Greatest Fantasy Ever. Just write and have fun, and enjoy whatever comes your way.
CHARACTERS: This section discusses all aspects of the characters, the way they look, act, and talk, as well as the development and presentation of backstory. Allow me to present "Tyler's Axiom:" Characters are fiction. Rich, multifaceted characters with compelling backstories will seize the reader in a grip that will not be denied, and drag him into their narrative, because he can't abide the thought of not knowing what will happen to them. Conversely, lazy, shallow stereotypes will kill any story regardless of its other qualities, because the reader will be unable to answer the second question of fiction: Why do I care?
Ferren and Doran are excellent. Mysterious and engaging, they power the narrative with their toying interaction, each trying to feel the other out, largely by putting one another on the spot. Rhigot is a throwaway character, at least so far, who could be replaced with an automated drink-server. If he becomes more important later, then the notion of giving him a name and description here will pay off. Time will tell. The Card Holder is delightfully sinister, menacing our heroes with his bloodshot eyes until the final moment when the brawl is about to start. I should mention, too, that you stopped in the perfect place. Many writers of lesser skill would end the chapter at the end of the fight, killing any tension they may have created. By ending as it's about to start, you create a burning curiosity in the reader, giving him an irresistible compulsion to turn the next page. Well done.
SETTINGS: This section deals with the locations you've established for your action, the ways in which they affect that action, and your ability to describe them clearly and concisely. You could say that this aspect answers (or fails to answer) the first question of fiction, What's going on here? Setting can be used to challenge a character, to highlight a skill or quality, to set the mood of a scene without overtly saying a single thing about it, and a host of lesser impacts too numerous to mention. You might think of it as a print artist's equivalent of a movie's "mood music," always important yet never intrusive. All in all, a pretty big deal, then. So how did you do?
I like the idea of having them meet on a sea voyage. Each is the other's captive audience, and they have an excellent chance to develop a rapport, which they do nicely. Card Holder is plainly going to attack one of them, and if the other comes to his aid, that will form a bond that can easily power a story, and beyond. Setting it in a violent storm is also very atmospheric.
But here's why I hammered it so bad on the stars: I have been through two hurricanes and a typhoon on various ships, and I can tell you that you don't sit calmly at a table with drinks and food platters. Depending on the size of the ship, it will act differently. Ships will generally try to head into the swells if the storm is violent enough. Sometimes they can't because they have to get where they're going, storm or no. A long, narrow vessel will make long, slow rolls from side to side, causing everything that isn't nailed down to slide to the low side, then all the way to the other as it rolls the other way. A shorter hull will climb the back of a swell until the bow begins to overhang the crest, then as it overbalances, it will tip down into the next trough as gear and people rise above the deck in free-fall, crashing in a heap as it bottoms out and starts up the next one. Believe me, there are no casual conversations and no meal service going on under these conditions.
MECHANICS: Whether you're writing fact or fiction, prose or poetry, the "holy grail" that you're striving for is immersion. This is an area that no author, myself included, ever wants to talk about: I've done all this work, and you want to argue over a comma?" But those commas are important. What you're really doing as a writer is weaving a magic spell around your reader, and your reader wants you to succeed. He wants to escape his mundane world for a period, and lose himself in your creation. Errors in spelling and grammar, typos, "there" vs. "their" issues, use of words inconsistent with their actual meanings, all yank him out of his immersion while he backtracks to re-read and puzzle out what you meant to say. This is never good, and this is the section that deals with that.
One star has been deducted, as the piece is rife with tiny mechanical errors. There are commas where there shouldn't be, some are missing from where they should be, there are missing hyphens, there is a hyphen used as an em-dash, a single parenthesis where there shouldn't be one at all, which maybe means it's a typo, and the list goes on. There are far too many of these for me to sit here and list individually, but none of them taken alone is a huge, glaring error. Probably most of them would be corrected with some thorough proofreading, that is, an edit that ignores the story completely and just tries to seek out these exact little hiccups. Proofreading is your friend, arguably your most valuable tool as a writer, and you should do it until your eyes are aching; your story will always benefit.
Should you feel the need, I would suggest that you pick up a style guide. The one I use is The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. This is a small paperback that lays out where the commas go, the difference between words like "affect" and "effect," when to hyphenate, and all those little things that can trip up the writer while he's concentrating on his story. These are readily available on Amazon and other book sites for $5.00 or so. Mine is never out of reach of my keyboard... and I still make mistakes!
SUMMARY: What you have here is a fine concept in need of polish. The points that drag it down are 1, the lack of impact of the storm, and 2, the grammatical errors sprinkled throughout. You have gone out of your way to describe a violent storm, then it has very little effect on the ship. I would suggest making it a minor storm. That would be uncomfortable and atmospheric, yet they could still meet in the mess and converse, occasionally grabbing their drinks as they begin to slide, and using that to spark a bit of comical banter. As to the grammatical stuff, proofread, proofread, proofread!
I hope that I have presented my opinions in a way that is constructive, and that you will find helpful to your endeavors going forward. It is never my intention to belittle anyone's efforts or discourage them from following the dream that I have found so fulfilling for the last six decades. In any case, if I can leave you with one thought to take with you, let it be this: Don't forget to have the fun! So many young and/or beginning writers get so caught up in the daily word count, the quest for publication, and the often conflicting advice of other writers that they forget to enjoy the journey. You may or may not become the next Big Celebrity Author, but you will always have the experience. Make sure it's a good one!
Read well, and write better,
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Discussions of the Writer's Craft by a life-long writer. What's on your mind?
My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!" .
| You responded to this review 11/27/2019 @ 7:20pm EST