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Public Reviews
Review of Agent Baby  
Review by Asherman
Rated: E | (5.0)
Plot/Premise: Infant destroys a clown.

Comment: Isn't working from a prompt a wonderful means of pricking our creative core. I like the 1000-5000 form because it is long enough to develop a good story arc, yet isn't so long that readers in this media won't read it.

Criticism: Writing is an intensely personal endeavor, and some "rules" are meant to be broken. These criticisms are offered as suggestions for your consideration, and reflect my own biases. Finding and correcting typos, mis-spellings, grammar faults, and word choice problems is something we all struggle with. Even with multiple proofs and the use of our word-processing grammar/spell checking software, mistakes can remain hidden.

Mechanics: Outstanding from my perspective. Short declarative sentences in the active voice is a fundamental far too often overlooked by writers. You are clearly in control of your modifiers, and the sentences have very few flabby word choices. Very clearly written, and if there were any typos, I missed them because my attention remained focused on the message.

Structure/Composition: A good beginning, middle and end where one flows naturally into the next. Use of dialogue to hold interest while setting the scene and action was well done. Recently someone told me that progressive dramatic tension is almost impossible to achieve in a 1000 word story. I disagree, and apparently so do you. The climactic moment might have been a wee bit weak, but that's probably picking nits. The protagonist, antagonist, and The Mommy are pretty well balanced and work well to first catch and build the reader's interest, and then to explain the nature of the event.

Ratings I rarely give 5 stars because perfection is so rare, and I have yet to give anything less than a star and half. Just taking the time and effort to try gets 1.5 stars. Most of my ratings will be between 3.5 and 4.5 stars. Below 3.5, the piece I've rated has really serious problems, and probably should either be re-written entirely, or put back on the shelf for later consideration.

This little story isn't perfection, and won't be studied by graduate students in major colleges, but it is still a little gem. Better than 4.5 and not quite 5.0, I rounded this off to 5 stars.

Write on!

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Review of Foster Boy  
Review by Asherman
In affiliation with  
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
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The intent of this Royal Flush Review is to examine everything in a novel or short story. Grammar, format, plot, characters, imagery, dialogue, etc.

The Hook/premise:The Japanese underworld is a complex mixture of the most hideous crimes, and at the same time is built upon an elevated sense of honor and ethics. The contradictions inherent in the World of the Yakuza is very difficult for foreigners to even faintly understand, and has been the subject of some really great modern Japanese story-telling. One of the most popular Japanese TV series follows the advetnures of Zatoichi, a blind mendicant Yakuza in the early 19th century who is very like England's Robin Hood. In the modern world, the Yakuza continue to idealize their distant connection with the samurai, and Bushido. Reconciling that lofty ethic with murder, mayhem, extortion, kidnapping, prostitution, drug dealing, gambling, and a multitude of other criminal activities requires some very agile mental and ethical gymnastics.

Grammar:my one quibble is that you've tended to overuse pronouns. That tends to reduce clarity, and when the reader has to keep track of multiple characters with unusual names, clarity is everything.

Structure: There are enough continuity problems in how this tale is told that I shaved half-a-point off the rating. Sometimes it's confusing as the tale jumps between characters and activities. The beginning establishes Okubo as a merciless Yakuza boss, and predisposes the reader to cast him as a villain. Some of the writing in those first 4 paras is a bit flabby, but interesting enough to hook the reader. In para 5, the scene shifts to the meeting between Tanabe and Kondo. Police Captain is upset and disappointed when a Judge fails to issue permission for a raid on Okuba. The scene ends with Judge Tanabe, sending a text message on a secret throw-away phone. We understand immediately that Judge Tanabe is on the pad. The Judge leaves and Kondo follows. Some of the description that follows could be tightened and made better use of. The use of pronouns again weaken the clarity of who, what, where, etc. The scene very abruptly shifts again and the children for sale are introduced. The importance of these two characters isn't anything inherent in them as characters, but rather in their situation... merchandise... the old McGufin. The reader will sympathize with the children, but they really play no direct part in the story.

The central theme here is the relationship between three characters, Okuba, Tanabe and Kondo. As the tale unfolds, the reader casts about trying to figure out who the protagonist is. Who will I, as the reader, identify with? Not Okuba, the apparent antagonist. We turn away from Tanabem,as his character flaws are revealed, and so we pin our hopes on Kondo. Then Kondo is shown to be in close cahoots with Okuba. Did Kondo set Tanabe up, or is he merely Okuba's means of exacting revenge? Motivations for Okuba and Kondo working together remain murky. One expects Kondo to bust the Judge for being on Okuba's payroll, but instead we are left to wonder why the cop... our protagonist, has gotten mixed up with Okuba.

My point is that structurally this story has some fundamental weaknesses that aren't thoroughly evident on first reading.

Plot:Love the plot.

Characters: These are all good characters, though understanding and following them is sometimes problematical. Tommy and Kathy are, in my opinion, human McMufins and are probably overdrawn. There is a saying that if you introduce a revolver sitting on a side table in Act 1, then it had better be an essential element before the final curtain. As merchandise these children are central to the story and can't be cut, but as individual characters they don't have to be made so important since neither of them plays any direct role in the climax and ending of the story.

Of even less importance are the men murdered by Okuba in the beginning. We don't know anything much about them, but you've given so many details that the reader's curiosity is kicked into high gear. What is that deadly game that was played? The two survivors will be taken where ever they want to go, yet we're told they'll never be seen again. You've raised expectations, and then abruptly dropped the element leaving the reader to wonder.

Very good use of dramatic tension leading to the climax.

Dialogue:Your dialogue is well-written, and each bit of it moves the story along and helps reveal the characters as more than mere puppets.

Ending:An excellent ending, even though it left this reader with a lot of unanswered questions.

Overall Impression: When you finally hit your stride as a writer... look out. You have a very good sense of drama and how a story arcs from beginning to end. The use of dialogue to maintain interest and carry the story forward is also very good.

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Review of "Leave Me Alone!"  
Review by Asherman
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
No matter where you go, there you are. Shelly vows to change, but doesn't. One wonders what it would take to induce change in this person. I have the feeling that Shelly has a poor/weak self-image, and is prone to self-pity. How did she get this way? The story is complete, but I'm left trying to fill in the blanks. That's probably a good thing... to get up from dinner and still be savoring it when the 10 o'clock news comes on.
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