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Printed from http://www.writing.com/main/profile/reviews/dollyx
Review Requests: OFF
17 Public Reviews Given
Public Reviews
1
1
Review by DollyX- Back
Rated: 18+ | (3.0)
Numero Uno: The general rule is, begin your story with something interesting. Something to hook the reader, and make them want to read more of your story.
In a way, you've accomplished that. You've begun this story with avery heated conversation between...
There's the problem. What is this story about? I'm 4 paragraphs in, and I still haven't the foggiest clue. It's about an argument, but an argument over what. There's an allusion to something that's not specified. I don't know who's arguing.
There's someone named Elizabeth, and someone named Neal. I know that neither Elizabeth and Neal are the ones talking... but that doesn't tell me who is, or why they're fighting. Then we come to some implication that Neal did something with another person named Natalie. but I don't know who Natalie is.
To me this feels like I opened up a note meant for someone else in 4th period Algebra. There is the same anonymous I-don't-know-who-the-heck-these-people-are feeling that you get when you read someone's journal or a high school note.
I don't know my Natalies from my Elizabeths, or my Neals from my Freds.
Typically I begin a review by offering a synopsis of the story's events, but I can't because I have no idea what happened.
Who is arguing? Who is in high school? Is the man the woman's husband, or is it her son? And why are these people Natalie and Neal watching these 2 individuals laying into each other? Most importantly, what is the catalyst for this argument? And who is doing the arguing?
Why does the story suddenly jump from 3rd person to 1st without rhyme or reason? And who is the narrator? Why does it leap back to 3rd person?
The problem you're having with negative reviews has nothing to do with your story being too dark and edgy for a mass audience. I wouldn't allow it that conceit, and disregarding feedback because you don't like it is shooting yourself in the foot. This isn't exactly Salmon Rushdie. It's just bloody confusing.
2
2
Review of Mirrors  
Review by DollyX- Back
Rated: ASR | (5.0)
I sat at my computer today, after finishing my workout, and I started reading all the newsletters I subscribe to. In the horror/scary newsletter there was a link to this piece.
I decided I would read it, turning on Spongebob for my 4 year old. Despite the adventures of those wonderful scamps Patrick and good ole' S.S. the hair rose on the back of my neck as I read the intro.
I didn't think that was possible while listening to Spongebob's slightly effeminate falsetto.
It begins with a Twilight Zone-esque intro. The second paragraph is when I began getting goosebumps.
I include it in this review:

"But a strange foreboding of evil lurks within a mirror. We can sense it, yet push the feeling to the back of our minds as nothing more than superstition. Nevertheless, there are times--times when we are able to discern that something isn’t quite right in the all too friendly mirror. "

This is a good example of things that are scary because they're familiar. The story goes onto a girl named Ashley who's obsessing over her marred complexion.
It seems that no more than an hour ago I was trying to catch a glimpse of myself from behind, all alone in the mirrored work out room. I couldn't help but think if I had lingered a moment longer, would I have been Ashley. If I would have turned my back for one more second...
my pulse quickened a little. But the thought was supressed.
One thing is sure. After my daughter is in bed, and the house falls silent, I will do my best to avoid locking eyes with myself in the bathroom mirror.
I do wish you would expand on this story, and elaborate on what is in the mirror. Or just some more super scary innuendo would do nicely...
To conclude, you've done a terrific job showing how something simple and common can be a good device for a scare. And BTW... Thanks For The Goosebumps! I'm very grateful.
3
3
Review by DollyX- Back
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
I guess my connection times out in the course of writing this review. Which means I have to type it all over again.
This story is about a woman named Trivina Dul'fur, an apprentice to the Arch Mage. She's been sent on a quest to find the Spire. The Arch Mage banished The Dark One ages ago, in a huge battle between Elves, Dwarfs, humans, and the forces of the evil wizard.
The first thing that struck me was the length of this chapter. Novels average 80,000 to 100,000, and this is only 2,889 words long. If this is indicative of the entire work, you will have about 35 chapters.
Go back to your outline and see if there are places were you can join two of the chapters together.
Word count shoudl not be the most important thing on your mind when writing, but it is a realistic concern.
The second thing which struck me was it's broad similarity to the Lord of the Rings. I know a lot of things in the fantasy genre are like the Lord of the Rings, but hear me out.
You have the Arch Mage who did battle, and defeated, The Dark One, and evil wizard in a tower. This invokes images of Gandolf battling Sauron. You have a battle between the humans, the elves, the dwarfs, and the wizards (respectively), against and evil force who wants to conquer the globe. You have prophecies of The Dark Ones return for another Great War. The city in which the Spire resides is a great white walled city, reminiscent of The White City from Lord of the Rings. The Elves have androgynous-leaning-towards-femine beauty, with long straight hair, and pale skin, conjuring up images of Legolaus from the movie. You even have Orcs to battle. Let's not forget that once she reaches the Spire city, the city where The Dark One was defeated, a big eye-like thing opens up in the sky and she feels as if she's being watched.
Honestly, the reading of this gave me a sense of deja vu, as if I already owned the DVD box set of this adventure.
Trivina is the barer of the ring. The Dark One is sauron/Saromon. The Arch Mage is Gandolf/(Saromon?). The minor cast is even present in the dwarfs, the elves, and the free race of humans.
I could be wrong, after all this is only the first chapter. But when people buy books they might read past the first paragraph, and the last thing you want is for them to say "Been there. Done that." and set your book aside.
I would advise you to change up the story, and make sure you're not being influenced on some level by Lord of the Rings.
4
4
Review of The Walk  
Review by DollyX- Back
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
I think it's very good and I don't know if I can think of what would make it better.
This piece is a story about a Texas housewife, who's suffering from boredom. It's more than that, however. It seems as if her life is so small that it' s suffocating her to death. Her husband seems like an average man, who works at a local plant. Her children bicker, just like everyone elses. And she's fed up.
You did an excellent job of establishing characterization in this piece. I had a clear understanding of each and every character's identity, and there purpose in the story.
More importantly, all of them were believable; their motvies clear and defined.
The setting too is done with incredible finesse. It is descriptive enough for me to visualize, but still left open to imagination. I'm relieved you didn't take the "it looks like every other small American town" way out. That's the easy, cheap way to go.
Instead you gave the place an identity of it's own. Reading it, the place feels like Texas, but the ambiguity left in it allows me to overlay my version of small town quaintness.
What I enjoyed the most was the fact that Karen isn't a martyr, nor is she a contrivance to portray some sort of political statement. She comes a across as a real person, with real weakness, and real vulnerability. That's tremendous strength in a genre were author's wish to dramatize and exasperate the "pitiful" condition in the housewife.
The drama is build around Karen's weakness. A handsome young man, whom she has only met once at a Christmas party, stops to pick her up after an evening walk. She knows better, but she chooses to ignore her better judgment.
The only flaw in this story, lies within a few sentences. I thin kthere were several lines that could be improved.
The first is:
"His next bullet-like question jolted her again."
This is the 2nd reference to something being "bullet-like". It's used in the previous paragraph to describe the suddenness of his first question. I think finding a different simili would better serve the paragraph.
The second is this:
"Blood was trickling slowly from what had been the back of his head and it was pooling onto the ground, meandering its way, forming a river of sorts, disappearing into the underbrush. "
The mutiple commas make this sentence difficult to read. Remember each comma is said as pause. Try combing some of the ideas in the sentece.
***
"Blood was trickling slowly from what had been the back of his head and it was pooling onto the ground, meandering its way [and] forming a river of sorts [that] disappeared into the underbrush. " All in all though, terrific job.
I recommend this story to anyone who's looking for a good, quick read.
5
5
Review by DollyX- Back
Rated: E | (4.0)
When I critique I base my critique on the quality of the work, but when I am selecting whom to critique I base that on something else.
For example, I was reading something horrible from someone I believed (based upon my knowledge of the person, the work in their portfolio, context of the writing, ect) was inable to deal contructively with the review/advice I would give, I immediately click off it. Chances are, someone who's only interested in being praised or someone who fancies themselves so deep as to be beyond reproach, aren't going to heed any advice anyways.
But if I'm reading something that honest to goodness stinky and the person strikes me as sincere in wanting to improve, I give the review.
Sometimes I'm dead wrong, and I pick people who aren't interested in feedback. That results in me getting an angry letter, which I have learned to delete.
Other times, I've been on the money. It's hit or miss. But I firmly believe in reviewing only the people I think sincerely want feedback, regaurdless of the piece itself.
After all, the most poorly written piece needs the help the most.
I really wish you would have left an option for "I do review bad pieces." It would more accurately represent whether or not most people do this. As it is, it can only reflect the reasons why it's done.
6
6
Review by DollyX- Back
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
This is the story of a man named Gabriel, who had the misfortune of watching his wife be beaten and raped to death.
When I read this, I came away with the distinct sense that it "wasn't bad". Sort of that "um....yeah" taste that a McDonald's burger leaves in your mouth. Not bad, but not completely satisfying either. It's the comfort of familiarity. A story, a plight, you know well enough to not be threatened or particularly compelled with it.
This story opens with:
"Somewhere in New Detroit, 3024 A.D.
In the belly of a god forsaken tavern, we find our hero. Passed out, face down at the bar, Gabriel dreams. He dreams the dreams that haunt his slumber. Dreams of war, dreams of death, dreams of love, and dreams of loss fill his inebriated head with sadness.
Then somewhere in the darkness, a voice calls to him…"
First off, I didn't take to well to your constant references to Gabriel as "our hero". It seemed weirdly like an old time radio show where the narrator booms "Today our hero confronts danger as..."
When it comes to literature, especially literature that deals with the rather arbitrary notions of good and evil, it's best to let the reader decide if your character is a hero.
Remember we read to experience, and part of the excitement is deciding what we think about the content and events that are presented to us.
A real hero will stand on his own, and you will never need to tell us.
I mentioned the familiarity, and I have to admit I knew what was coming in the climax of the story. It reminds very much of the movie K-PAX (another sci-fi flick), where Kevin Spacey's character walks in from work to find his wife beaten and raped, tied to the bed, and his daughter murdered.
Then he had the archetypal dream of the beast and a dove. The two biblical images of evil and goodness. It doesn't jolt me, but I don't hate it. Again, even the imagery of good versus evil doesn't take away that familiar yet bland taste.
I encourage you to really think about why you have this scene in your story. What is it truly communicating? From what I've gathered, it's a prophetic dream. But is it going to represent a physcial event that is going to take place, or is it a metaphor foreshadowing an upcoming battle?
Once you've pinned down exactly what story you're telling, then you have the task of cutting out the middle man. The scene at the bar isn't very exciting.
When you begin you're story, don't force us to wait for it to get exciting. I expect it to be exciting the whole way through, from the first sentence to the last.
For example, try rewriting you're opening paragraph something like this:
"Gabriel's inebriated body twitched to the sound of gunfire. It was the dream again. The smell in the air was overwhelming; blood and gunpowder. Unwillingly, Gabriel's eyes turned to the black void between the door and his bedroom. He could hear Sara's screams punctuatating the whip-snapping of blows that emanated from the void."
Dreams place us in a disconnected place, real yet strangely detached. Stimuli comes disconnected, sometimes faster than we can interpret it. It's enough for us to have a "sense" of what happened to Sara. When that dream ends, dissolve into the second. They have to some way be related to one another, for us to believe that this is happening in a dream. A single smooth flow, unencumbered by the waking world's need for chronology.

7
7
Review by DollyX- Back
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
This story is about a women who's institutionalized in the hospital. It opens with this women sitting across from her doctor.
The premise is interesting, a woman is mocked and taunted by the woman in the mirror. This woman is also a murderer. We can assume that the woman in the mirror is the manifestation of her guilty conscience. In a way, her "Tell Tale Heart" of Poe fame.
The first thing that struck me as I read this, was how over the top the woman is. As a matter of fact, she's too over the top. She reminds me of those angsty histronic individuals who threaten suicide at the top of their lungs; it lead me to one conclusion, it's fake.
Even the deepest schizophrenics know what a mirror is. they know that it is their reflection, but as their psychosis takes hold their perception warps. They come to believe that the reflection, isn't merely a reflection. It would be, to them, a very real entity. Something that other's are blind to.
But this woman acts like she doesn't understand what a reflection is at all, like she's never seen a mirror in her entire life.
Remember, she knows the mirror is her reflection. but she's haunted. Why is the mirror talking to her? what is it in the mirror.
And remember gory doesn't necessarily equal scary. Sometimes gory is just gory. It's suspense that makes us scared. The fear of the unknown, and if you want to scare me in this story you need to make me believe that it's possible for something to be inhabiting that mirror.
The fact that she's in therapy, and she goes to all the trouble to recite the gory murder of her boyfriend tells me that you're relying too much on shock value to get this story over.
The second thing that struck me was the script-esque description of the action. Here are 2 examples of what I mean.
*
A 20 something year old woman dressed in hospital clothes stares out a barred window in a mental ward. A male Psychiatrist sits on a couch across the room and says “So, tell me about this woman you speak of. This woman in the mirror”
*
Two months later… (The doctor is called in again. The patient causes a disturbance after stealing the maintenance chart.)

The doctors sits in the same chair, the woman paces the floor.
*
This kind of description doesn't really fit with fiction or a psychological thriller, as it's far too vague. Fiction writing relies on showing, meaning that the setting and the actions are relayed through the perceptions of the characters. The characters touch, look, smell, ect. It's through their eyes, either obviously in the case of 1st person, or subtely with third person or third person omniscent.
Thirdly (probablly not a word), The long snippets of dialogue, a soliloquy, are another throw back to a script or a screen play. They don't fit real well in fiction. There are notable exceptions, but when the vast majority of the story consist of soliloquy, it's probablly best to just make the story a first person narrative.
Ask yourself, what purpose does the doctor serve? If you want to keep the doctor in, then have him react to what the main character is saying. If you decide that whatever he has to contribute isn't relevant to the story you're telling, take him out.
Remove any dimension the story doesn't need. Don't make it unnecessary complicated or hard to follow. Occam's Razor applies in writing too.
When you add something unnecessary to your story, you divert the reader's attention away from where it should be- on the main character.
8
8
Review of Coming Home  
Review by DollyX- Back
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
This is one of those pieces that make reviewing difficult. On the one hand, you have the description, well-written, vulnerable, and delicate. It oozes a charisma of it's own... it's enchanting.
You've chosen to paint the setting with vivid and jaunty description, enticing the imagination to explore the picturesque hillside.
That's why it's so unfortunate when the story loses track of itself in all that wonder. When we begin a character narrates in the first person. At the outset, we have no idea what she's doing there, or any indication that anyone is with her.
Then arises the part which I have the greatest difficulty with. The story goes from a clear first person encounter, to a third person narrator. It's a flashback sequence.
When the flashback enters, I have no idea what's going on. Is the first person narrator still narrating? Is she narrating her remeberance of someone else, or did the story suddenly change the rules on me?
I read through the account of the pig-tailed, assuming that the narrator was telling us about someone else. But at the end it became clear that the formerly first person narrator was in fact the girl Joanna.
From no where appears Mark, and Joanna has an oppurtunity to deliver the stories moral:
“Yes, Mark, I am ready to go now. But don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t go home again. As long as you have your memories, Home is in your mind.”
I don't understand the choice to shift the POV in the middle of the story. I understand the imagery. Joanna is watching her memories unfold before her eyes, almsot like ghosts from another time.
But by the time I understood enough to appreciate the memory, the story was already over.
9
9
Review of Writer's Block  
Review by DollyX- Back
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
This is an extremely short story, I think, about a writer who's dealing with writer's block, and ends up commiting a darkly funny murder in a Starbucks.
I emphasis "extremely short", "I think", and "darkly funny".
The thing that struck me about this story first, is that it is completely devoid of POV (that's point of view). Though it's clear this is a newsbroadcast, we have no idea who's watching the new broadcast, and at times, who's speaking.
Written entirely in dialogue, like a screenplay (only without the character name beside the statement to break down the action), there is no narrator to guide scene transitions.
Through out the entire short passage I have no idea who's speaking, what they look like, or what the setting is trying to tell me.
I know the physical location of the Starbucks in question, but I have no idea what it looks like even though a nameless news anchor is on location.
The bad thing about these flaws, is that the work itself has potential. The death scene (a whip cream canister up the nose) is so over the top, that it's funny.
Were this to be expanded and fleshed out, it would make a great piece of micro or flash fiction.
So, to improve it, make sure you let the audience know who's doing the speaking. And just because you're running heavily on dialogue doesn't excuse you from the responsibility to write effective scene transitions and create a POV. Adding a mug shot of the murderous, writers block sufferer, might be an interesting addition to the story.
It could even expand into the hilarious exploits of a disgruntled writer on the lamb.
It has the potential to be an interesting piece of dark comedy.
10
10
Review by DollyX- Back
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
This was a very long piece, so I chose to comment on it's individual sections, and give an overall review.
Chapter 1-
The first, and biggest, problem that I encountered was that Mary Ruby tells us the details of how she accidently killed Jake Harris again, and again, and again, and once more for good measure.
It's restated too much in this initial chapter (one which should be as dynamic as possible). I, as the reader, witnessed the incident.
When Mary Ruby tells her mother, the events of that day are still fresh in my mind. Even though my memory has just been refreshed, several paragraphs later Mary Ruby is telling the sheriff the details of the incident.
It's understandable, logical, and completely realistic that Mary Ruby needed to tell these people these things. But remember that the world of stories is an abbreviated one. We as writers cannot possibly capture every nuance of our characters lives, as much as we might want to. If we did, the plot of the story would be bogged down and lost in minutae.
Chose to retell the events either to the sheriff or the mother. Do not have Mary Ruby repeat the story to both parties. Because as I'm reading, if I encounter information I'm already familiar with, the story grinds to a halt. It loses it's momentum forward and starts repeating itself.
For example, you can abbreviate the conversation with the sheriff by having her say something like:
"I told my story to the sheriff, but when I came to the part about leaving Jake Harris at the creek his eyes bulged open wide."
Then have the sheriff relay to both Mary Ruby and the audience the relevant development in the plot- the body is gone.
That would speed the plot up signifigantly.
The second suggestion I have for the first chapter is more one of taste. I think you should open the story with a different paragraph.
I particularly liked this one, as an opener:
"Cadie Mae was a quiet little girl who didn’t cause no trouble. She was sweet and gentle, not even hurtin’ a fly. That’s what I couldn’t understand is how this could happen to a girl like her. Her mamma said she’d seen Jake lurkin’ around the school but I ain’t never seen him. "
Right from the get go, it creates a sense of mystery that pulls the reader in, as they want to know what happened to Cadie Mae.
Chapter 2
I can sum up my difficulty following chapter 2 in one word; pacing. In this chapter we learn 2 important revelations. 1) Mr. Harris is Mary Ruby's father. and 2) Lucille is dead, in the same way Cadie May died. Don't neglect building suspence in your novel. Suspense is probablly the most important ingredient to keep readers turning the page.
It seems as if you answer question before you even ask them. There's no time for me to formulate my own speculations, to wonder about the mystery, to want the questions answered.
Unless there's some imperitive need, withhold the conversation where Mary Ruby learns Mr. Harris is probablly her father. Build to that revelation a little. PErhaps set the scene by having Mary Ruby going to tell her mother that she's going to Granny's. But as she walks up, she over hears a segment of a conversation that intimates that perhaps her Papa wasn't her real papa. Let her wonder, and misunderstand. Then when the truth is revealed, it will mean something to the reader.
When you have two competeing revelations, they detract from one another, making each less important in and of itself.
I like the fact that Mary Ruby discovers Lucille's body. I think that should remain intact.
Another point-
After reading chapter 1, I believed that I was reading a mystery about the missing body of Jake Harris and who is killing young girls in this little Alabama town. But it seems in this chapter that Jake Harris recieves only a cursory mention.
I would like to experience Mary Ruby's reaction to that more fully. Is she frightened that Jake Harris is going to come after her?
I would suggest using the disappearance of the body to create dramatic tension as Mary ruby is walking to Granny's. She's afraid, he could be anywhere, ect. I woul dalso use the environment to give physical evidence that the search party had been combing the area looking for Jake Harris. Isn't it likely that they would have found Lucille's body as they searched for Jake? Maybe they did... But let us know by the physical evidence that surrounds Mary Ruby as she walks.
Chapter 3
By this point, it seems as if Mr. Harris being Mary Ruby's father has eclipsed the initial plot. I know more about the relationship between Mary Ruby's mother and Mr. Harris than I do about any of Mary Ruby's relationships with the murder victims, her mother, her Papa, or Jake Harris.
My natural response would be to stop reading. If this were a book, I'd probablly never finish it, because I felt like I'd been baited and switched.
The violent encounters with Mr. Harris and his outright threats of murder fail to impress now. He's threatened to kill them so many times, that I've become desensitized to it. Each successive explosion of temper from both Mary Ruby and Mr. Harris becomes less evocative each time it's used.
Use the violence sparingly, and again create some mystery. There is a place for subtelty in mystery writing.
This would be a good place to reveal that Mr. Harris was her father, since there is no other revelation in this chapter. But I urge you to consider why he is her father. You're the storyteller, and if you're crafting a plot twist I expect there to be a good reason for it. If it's there just to be there it complicates the story and takes time and attention away from what you're really trying to get across.
Chapter 4
I understood how chapters 1-3 were a prelude to chapter 4. In many ways, Chapter 4 is the most enthralling chapter in this collection.
But what happened to Chapter 3? There was a build up to something, given the time alotted to Mary Ruby's feeling that someone was watching her.
Consider adding a similar incident to the one in chapter 4. One where Mary Ruby is chased by something she doesn't understand.
Overall:
This book seems to be a colelction fo several plot devices, loosely connected by a common character; Mary Ruby. There's revelations with no build up, build up to things that don't happen, and a plot twist which may or may not be relevant to the storyline.
I think you should reconsider Mary Ruby's paternity. The story premise is intriguing enough to stand on it's own without shocking the audience.
You need to connect the strings in the story, and make sure you're telling one story. You have too many seperate storylines vying for attention. I do not, at this point, know what you're book is about.
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