Hi WriterGirl ,
It is a pleasure to review your short story as part of "Invalid Item" .
Good use of title, short description and genres. I know these are the 'easy' parts, but they are also the first impression anyone gets of your story, and the way they find it and choose to read it, so they are important.
Your first paragraph introduces us to the main character, but nothing happens. We get a very vague impression of what kind of person she might be (my first impressions were confrontational, stubborn, defiant, and rebellious), but it is all 'told' to us. The information that you give us there could easily be woven in to the story later (if indeed it is relevant at all) and shown to us. After reading the whole story, I couldn't see how her reaction to her full name was relevant in any way whatsover.
Just an example of what I mean by the difference between showing and telling, here's what you wrote:
Her full name was Annalise Joanne Marshall, but if anyone called her Annalise, or any other nickname derived from it, they were dead meat.
And here's a version where this information is shown:
"Annalise..." The last syllable trailed off as Lee spun to glare at her friend.
"It's Lee! I have told you a thousand times never to call me Annalise! Unless you're my mother, you don't get to use that name, and last time I checked you didn't look anything like my mother!"
Her friend slowly backed away, eyes wide.
Like I said, that's just a rough example, but hopefully it illustrates to you what I mean.
The second paragraph is a list of all Lee's friends, their appearances, and their interests. Firstly, this is more telling rather than showing, which is the least interesting way for a reader to absorb information. Secondly, the reader is never going to remember the names or attributes from this list. I've just read it, and the only thing I can remember is that there is one called Grace who looks Goth but isn't, who likes anime. And someone who reads a lot. I can't even tell you what Lee looks like, because it was lost in the list of information. This kind of paragraph is known as an infodump, defined basically as 'too much information for the reader to take in at once'. We need this information fed to us slowly. When Lee talks to Grace, you can have Grace look up from the latest anime story she's working on and flip her black hair over her shoulder, or similar. That's enough for one paragraph. In another paragraph, Lee could be told that [insert name here] was at the library, lost in a book as usual. Again, enough information for one paragraph. Feed us images slowly and build a world we can see, rather than throwing all the information at us in one big hit.
Your third paragraph is where the story really starts, and it is my strong recommendation to you that you remove the first two paragraphs and start with the third. Use the information in the first two as 'research material' and slowly weave those tidbits in as the story unfolds. I would suggest that you open with '"I never dated at 12," said Sam.' and this removes the first two lines of the third paragraph which are more telling. The dialogue is a way of 'showing' us what happened. You can refer to Eva as 'your sister' so we know that she is Sam's sister, and it's easy enough to continue dropping hints like that. Even better, start with the video call from Alex.
You don't use any dialogue tags for quite a while. There's no need to, of course, and the pace of the story is faster without them, but they would provide opportunity for you to drop hints about appearance, etc.
For me the most crucial thing about your short story is that there is no conflict. Lee is known to be a problem solver. A problem arises. Lee solves it. Nothing goes wrong, none of the characters have to grow, adapt, or anything. At the end of the story they are in almost exactly the same situation as at the beginning of the story. The story would have been much stronger if the video had failed to convince the parents, and the friends had come to understand that sometimes problems are too big for teenagers to solve in half a day, and instead they had to figure out a way to keep their friendship alive when they were in separate countries. And maybe instead of telling Alex how much they'll miss her, they work with her to see the benefits of moving to South Africa.
I understand that it's a short story, not a novel, so there simply isn't space for a huge convoluted plot, but the story currently feels flat because there's no conflict. The solution is simply too easy for them.
I think you've made a good start on some interesting characters, giving them unique personalities and interesting quirks. They need flaws too. Yes, even Lee. For instance, if she's always the one with the solutions, chances are that she's arrogant and bossy. Every character needs flaws, because no one is perfect, and readers relate better to a flawed character. They seem more real. Arrogant and bossy doesn't mean we can't like her, especially if she's quick to apologise when shown she's in the wrong or that she's hurt someone's feelings, that kind of thing.
SETTING / IMAGERY:
There wasn't a lot of scene setting, for instance no description of where Lee and Sam were having their conversation, no description of the diner. It's not a long story, so we don't need a lot, but just a little bit woven in would work. They place their drinks on formica tables, or tables with red checkered tablecloths, or they squint at each other under fluorescent lights, that kind of thing. Just a tiny snippet here and there so we slowly build up an image in our heads.
There were some punctuation errors, but I don't think there's a lot of point noting them when there is rewriting required. That kind of nitpicking detail can be done in a later review. Overall the spelling and grammar looked okay.
"Sam, you were also a socially awkward weirdo."
I loved that line.
I love the idea of a bunch of friends putting their heads together and 'saving the day'. And you really do have the start of some interesting characters. So please don't take this review too negatively, as I'd hate to see you just scrap the story. There is the start of something wonderful here. I think if the video doesn't work, have them come up with more ideas. Or, alternatively, maybe try other ideas first then finish with the video (which was actually a pretty good idea). Once you introduce some conflict, the story will become a lot more three dimensional. And as for the showing instead of telling, that's something I'm still working on too! It was actually one of the first things I learned on this site, and after five years, I understand the difference between showing and telling, but it's much harder to practice than to pick it up when reviewing.
Thanks for sharing your story, and if you do rewrite this at all, please let me know. I'd be interested in reviewing it again.
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