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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/profile/reviews/james_patrick
Review Requests: ON
52 Public Reviews Given
Review Style
Generally long winded... I tend to hone in on aspects of a story that I feel the author underdeveloped and then encourage them to enhance them. My style is a bit chaotic, as I jump from element to element depending on how large they loom in my mind. I may one day employ a template,to cover plot, theme, characters, settings, etc.. but for now I just comment on the parts of the story I feel compelled to address. Because my own spelling and grammar is atrocious, I leave those suggestions to your spellcheck and the more technical reviewers kind enough to visit your work.
I'm good at...
Encouraging in a practical way. I have seldom encountered a story with no redeeming qualities. Most of the stories I read have several. I try to magnify these advantages and suggest ways for you to prop up weaker elements of the story using these strong points in a complimentary way.
Favorite Genres
Anything with interesting, complex characters we can relate to. Mostly, however I gravitate towards darker stories. Typically horror or science fiction.
Least Favorite Genres
I admire people who write poetry, but I lack the ingredients to truly appreciate most of it.
Favorite Item Types
Short stories.
Least Favorite Item Types
First person narratives written in the present tense.
I will not review...
Interactive. Poetry (sorry, I just wouldn't be any use to you.) Absurd erotica.
Public Reviews
1
1
Review of The Old Man  
Review by James Heyward
Rated: E | (2.0)
I've been looking over your profile and the guidelines of this contest to see if there is something I have missed. If so, please straighten me out and accept my most sincere apologies. I mean that.

I know there are instances where a certain poetic justice is granted to pay homage to a piece of work. Or parody is used in a meticulous way to underline a point or comparison the author is trying to demonstrate. In reading your story,I was not able to see how you might be doing this. I can't figure out why you have lifted entire sentences (in some cases nearly a paragraph,) of verbatim text from George RR Martin's A Game Of Thrones.

I'm not a reader of fan fiction, but my understanding is that it builds on the characters and worlds created, in order to further pursue the story beyond what the original author has written. But it shouldn't pilfer the original author's prose. Still, it doesn't look like this is even fan fiction.

There is a word I am really trying to avoid using here. You have a large body of work here, many good stories, so I don't know why you would be borrowing another authors talent.

Like I said in the beginning, maybe there was a plan behind this that I am just not seeing. I can't imagine anyone being so guileless as to think people wouldn't notice the text of a work as popular as A Game Of Thrones.

Please let me know what you think....
2
2
Review by James Heyward
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Hi,

Thanks for sharing your work and giving me a chance to read it. I thought I would return the favor by giving you some feedback.

I just want to note one thing: If you're just doing this for fun, and you enjoy the process and find it calming, don't listen to anyone's feedback or advise. If you're loving what you do, trying to change your process to appease the recommendations of other will risk spoiling the experience. If you already like what you do and it makes you happy, don't change a thing.

...but if you feel really excited about these stories brewing in your brain, and you can't help but want your readers to feel just as excited, feedback, critiques and reviews will help with that. So I'll do my best to give you some tips if that is what you're looking for.

On to the review...

There are two aspects of your story I want to focus on primarily: Perspective and Adrian's family.

Perspective is super important to me. I think you have created some very interesting personalities in your characters. They are quirky and funny so you have a good head start on making the reader like them. But I think you waste some of that by swapping perspective as often as you do. In the first few lines of your story you bounce between Adrian, his Mom and then his dad. This hurts the story in two ways. Firstly, we don't get enough time in any one character's shoes, which makes it hard to bond with them. Second, we never get to really see the impact the characters have on each other because a second later, we are in their point of view, and you're telling us. It's the classic show don't tell issue.

It's a personal preference, but I would to write this story from Adrian's perspective.That would mean you couldn't tell us what the other characters are thinking. We'd have to figure that out from what Adrian sees and the impressions he gets.

I'm a big fan of breaking rules though, so I think it could be a powerful technique to jump in perspective as you do. But I think you would need to carefully consider exactly why you're changing perspective when you do. These moves should be strategically planned to have a precise impact on the narrative.

Adrian's Family: You hit the nail on the head in your author's note when you warned people the family might not be reintroduced to the story, and offered your condolences to anyone disappointed after growing attached. But don't apologize to the reader, torture them with it.You're right to get us attached to the family, but it should be about more than just how much the reader enjoys their scenes. Let us feel that attachment through Adrian, so we can empathize with him when he misses them.

Just some closing thoughts...

Is their a reason Adrian needs to be 18? It seems like it would be easier to make him younger, rather than trying to concoct a reason why both he and his brother were held back.

You mentioned that you don't feel like you're good at describing designs and faces, etc.. I don't believe in painstakingly detailing every wrinkle and nose hair. But give your readers a little bit to build on. If you give a rough description ("..pale and slender, with a long face given to sullen expressions..") your reader will fill in the rest.

I'm not really a grammar guy. If you're looking for some tips on that, see if you can get writers_cramp to do a review for you. He's a bit terse, so his feedback is not for the faint of heart, but it is so useful. If you're looking to polish up some of you're wording for a smoother flow, he's your man.

You might also reach out to runoffscribe he has a really strong grasp on style and craft. He's always a step ahead in his fiction and it adds considerable depth and meaning to his prose.

I hope this has been helpful. Keep writing. You're good at it.

James

3
3
Review of Baby Boys  
Review by James Heyward
Rated: ASR | (4.5)
This is fantastic.

When I read a story like this, it reminds me of why writers are always saying "characters are everything." I think it was her hemming and hawing over "is it Daniel or Derrick," that really put the reader in her shoes. It was relateable. But little touches, like her recollection of her gay college roommate (so much to unpack with that one,) and her idea about the significance of names, just brought her to life.

My only suggestion: I would change the line about one of the babies "vanishing." It's too easily interpreted as the baby disappearing before her eyes, which would weaken the psychological impact of the piece. Better if she just looked down and it was gone.

Regardless. Great writing.

-James


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
4
4
Review of Eagle's Flight  
Review by James Heyward
Rated: E | (4.0)
This was very well written and engaging. The only suggestion I would make is in regard to the ending. Rather than telling the reader his tunic caught on the windmill, this would be a good time to employ the "show don't tell," maxim.

There are several ways you could do it, but the most straight forward would be to have him look up and see his tunic caught on the blade.

Hopefully that is useful for you.

Nicely written.

-James


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
5
5
Review of The Death Storm  
Review by James Heyward
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Great job jumping right into the action. Starting the story with your main characters trying to navigate through a terrible storm, with danger all around is an excellent way to loop the reader in and keep them interested.

I also think having the father be alive is a great twist, though I might have mentioned his death earlier in the story, so that it's well sunken in to the plot before you reveal the surprise.

I have a couple specific suggestions and then one general suggestion. First let me say this is a good story, with a lot of potential, but I think you really need to tighten up the prose. .

Suggestion 1.) You "Death Storm," too many times. Often, you could probably get away with just saying "storm," especially once you have established what the death storm is, and the fact that the characters are driving through it. I might even recommend running through the thesaurus for a few different words to use rather than storm. It will give your prose more depth and avoid repetition.

Suggestion 2.) While there might be a good reason (in the context of the world where the characters live,) it seems unbelievable that the characters would drive through such volatile, deadly conditions because their mother heard a noise in her closet. Maybe establish a history where a dangerous creature or entity was in the house before, and offer the reader good reason to believe that is the cause of the noise.

General suggestion:) I'm not great with grammar, but you may want to ask someone with a good handle on tense to review this for you, because occasionally that seems off.

Like I said, this has a lot of potential to be a compulsive page turner. The content and pace are very exciting and the characters are actually funny at times. Most authors falls flat on their face when it comes to humour. So you have some valuable advantageous. You just need to tighten this up a little.

I hope this helps. Keep writing. Your are definitely meant to be an author.

-James


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
6
6
Review of But They Need Me  
Review by James Heyward
Rated: E | (4.0)
This was a refreshing take on post-apocalyptic dystopia. None of the predicable revolutionary battles of conspiracy. Just the slow, aching sadness of the loss that would come with living in a world like this.

Your summary of the circumstances was well executed. You did drop it all into a paragraph, which usually comes off as an information dump, but I think your placement was precise and appropriate enough that it didn't read that way. When it came time to tell why the world was the way it was, you did it succinctly and appropriately.

There is a sensitivity and gracefulness in your writing that many authors lack, so I would be interested in reading some of your longer pieces.

One thing that confused me was her saying the "silent goodbye to her loved ones," after parking. Hadn't she already lost everyone? Maybe I misread something.

I think what I enjoyed most about this story is that even after you depict a person who seemingly has no reason to go on living, you still show her shock and fear, when she learns that she is next on the "lottery." It's a very nuanced commentary on the human desire to survive and it was a bold choice in story. It would have been very easy (and disappointingly,) cliche for her to just accept her fate upon learning of her impending doom.

I always appreciate a story that is bigger than it's word count. People always say "you could make it longer," but this is so nice as a small depressing vignette. That being said, if you turned this into a longer piece, I would absolutely read on.

Nice work.

-James


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
7
7
Review of Fire Fight  
Review by James Heyward
Rated: E | (5.0)
This cracked me up. Great twist. i'm not sure if that opening line is yours, but it's brilliant and incredibly quotable.

"Even when you try to stick to the plan, things can still go wrong. It's a corollary to Murphy's Law."

If that is yours, bravo. I think a line like that is an excellent opening, and it immediately fleshes out this hardened, veteran soldier (even if he's really just a kid gaming in his bedroom."

Anyway, I have no suggestions. This was flash fiction at its finest. I just wanted to say kudos.

Kudos.

-James


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
8
8
Review of Bibliophobia  
Review by James Heyward
Rated: E | (3.5)
What a funny twist. I know it's only flash fiction. but you may be able to bring the characters to life a bit more with a few additional lines of dialog. Otherwise I enjoyed this story. Nice work.
9
9
Review of Hands  
Review by James Heyward
Rated: 13+ | (5.0)
Hey there,

I just wanted to write your review for this piece. Like I said in my email, my wife and I read this together, and we were totally blown away.

The imagery of the hands coming up out of the water, is so simple and frightening that it doesn’t require any kind of suspense mechanisms. I think it is rare, in fiction, to come across something that is scary all by itself. Usually the author needs to stimulate you with tension and build up and all that in order to make what they are showing scary. The image of the hands coming up out of the water is a rare gem that is scary all by itself, in any context.

There is very little dialog in the piece, and that might be an issue if it were longer. But the fact that the narrator is a therapist compliments the fact that it reads a little like a report. Usually that would not be good in fiction, but in this case it lends to the believability and makes it scarier. This could absolutely be a real account. Of course the patient could have just drowned, and the final glimpse of the hands could just be a figment of the therapists guilt ridden imagination. But that little bit of “what if is there,” leaving a sense of mystery and foreboding. The more I think of it, the more impressed I am.

The only criticism I have of this piece is for the way you describe the hands at the end. The “grotesque misshapen,” line, I don’t think is necessary. Maybe if they were soft, and pale, and appearing waterlogged… or not. The simple fact of the disembodied hands is enough, and they don’t need to look monstrous.

All and all, I thought this was fantastic. Writing something so essentially scary is the holy grail of horror fiction. You definitely nailed it.

James



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
10
10
Review of Awakening  
Review by James Heyward
Rated: E | (4.0)
I liked this piece. I'll be meditating on it for a while. It really gives you some perspective. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the guy waking up in the morning, slightly irritated about doing so, meanwhile there is this stellar miracle happening right in view.

It's also an excellent exercise to take something so ordinary as waking up in the morning and write that in a dramatic fashion. It's a great lesson in what we can do through emphasis as writers.

I'll warn you ahead of time, my grammar sucks, so I could be wrong, but I do think I found a couple spots where you missed comas:

"The warm(there should be a coma here) quiet silence of the night is interrupted by the timeless roar of my alarm clock.:

And...

"Merciless(should be a coma here) the alarm clock sounds once more and sets upon me the burden of passing time. There's no more time to sleep."

But all and all, that's pretty minor stuff. This was a good read and I look forward to checking out more of your stuff.

-James



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
11
11
Review of Exhaustion  
Review by James Heyward
Rated: E | (4.0)
This is very well written. And the subtlety in the emotion really brings the story to life. That simple line about her hands being rough from the dishes is effective on so many levels. Obviously it adds something kinetic to the prose which is pretty much mandatory, but it displays her commitment to the relationship, which really adds to the sting of the husbands betrayal.

A spell check probably would have caught this but I'll just flag it here for you anyway. You have a typo on the word Pink. "She never used piuk"

Some people might consider this story anticlimactic. But I think they would be missing the point. These type of occurrences in life never have a neat, black and white resolution. The just hang there as incomplete vignettes of sadness and this story really underlines it. I admire this piece and think it is perfect the way it is.

Bravo!

-James


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
12
12
Review of Dad Moments  
Review by James Heyward
Rated: E | (4.0)
Great job on this. I actually felt like I was listening to a conversation with a dad. *Smile*

You did an excellent job sketching out the entire scene with nothing but dialogue. I also think it ads to the inherent comedic value of the story, since there is always something funny about reading a candid transcript.

There is something truly hilarious about the father having this conversation with a four year-old.

Well done!


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
13
13
Review of The Wood  
Review by James Heyward
Rated: E | (4.5)
This is my favorite kind of story. Both scary and sad. I think it is because this is the blend of emotions we (most people, anyway) feel in regard to death. There is something elemental about it. So needless to say, I really enjoyed this story.

I just have two pieces of advise, and they concern the beginning and end. I think you could lose the first paragraph entirely. If there is some detail I am missing, and it truly needs to be in the story, I would recommend sprinkling the first paragraph through out the rest of the tale. I think the first paragraph is biography, and it doesn't really allude to how interesting and good the rest of the story is (and it REALLY is). Your second paragraph would make a much better beginning.

The other suggestion I have is the final sentence:

"Never again to be seen or heard from again."

I think by the time the reader gets here, we know what is happening. We know the main character is "crossing over." The sentence you use puts a touch of finality to the ending, and I think it would be much more powerful, and lingering, to leave it an open ended mystery. He just walks into the woods... much more haunting.

Anyway, I really dug this story. Keep writing. You're talented.

-James


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
14
14
Review of Wrong Delivery  
Review by James Heyward
Rated: E | (4.0)
I enjoyed this and found your writing to be smooth in its flow. Sort of effortless.

I'm glad you left the story a mystery about who sent the card, the only thing I would recommend is perhaps enhancing that mystery. Maybe something to suggest it was actually Cupid who sent the card and not just a secret admirer.

One little suggestion:

"Stacie reached for the heart-shaped card attached and opened it. The card read,"

You could probably just write, "it read," and the end, there, since you already explained she was opening the card.

Take care!

- James


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
15
15
Review of Bunny Bites  
Review by James Heyward
Rated: E | (4.0)
Awesome. Your descriptions of Josh were extremely authentic which made them even funnier. My favorite part was the bit about the half-hearted attempt at mowing the lawn, and the zigzag pattern cut in the grass, and then the video game paraphernalia strewn about the living room. Great "show not tell."

Here is the only part I would flag:

"What you want? I'm up," my sleepy-eyed son responded.

I don't think you need to say it was your son in this sentence, since you already established that in the previous paragraph. This is especially worth noting in flash fiction, since you are watching your word count like a hawk.

Anyway, nice job. This is truly flash fiction as it is a complete story, rather than a chunk of a larger piece. And that is hard to pull off.

Take care,

- James


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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Review of Too many memories  
Review by James Heyward
Rated: E | (4.0)
What a sweet story, and a nice twist at the end. I like how you played with convention and the readers expectations.

I enjoyed reading this.

I have just a couple things to point out that you might want to revisit:

There are a couple instances where I think the tense might be off. I'm not great when it comes to this myself, so I could be wrong, but you might want to double check this:

A life that existed in this room was ending today, and a new one awaits in New York.

and..

He did not indent to end up here, but somehow he knew it was his destination since he left the house.

Again, I might be wrong, but I think (with the story being in the past tense) the words in bold might need to reworking. For example here might be better written as there.

You have a knack really breathing emotion into your prose and so I'm going to point out an example where I think you told rather than showed:

The photo was bittersweet, Jason had not seen either of them in over a year.

In general, I don't think bittersweet is an egregious example of show over tell, but given your writing style, I think you could have really driven that notion home to the readers without needing to use the expression. Just a few words on why it was bitter, and a few on why it was sweet.

Anyway, that's all I could think to share. I truly enjoyed this piece and I think it is a great example of subtly, emotion, and craft in general.

Keep up the great work.

-James


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
17
17
Review by James Heyward
Rated: E | (3.0)
Howdy,

I liked your story. It reminded me a bit of Lovecraft, "The Outsider".

I dig the idea of the of the Character just sort of finding himself in the afterlife, similar to how you would find yourself somewhere in the midst of a dream and not pay a world of thought as to how you got there.

If I could pick on one thing, I might recommend changing the name of the story, since it gives away the ending. I understand the "meat" of the story is the connection between the hierarchy in the bar and value we place on virtues and vices in life. I know it's not really meant to be a typical "twist ending", but knowing they're in purgatory before the ending of the story sort of brings the reader to the end before the narrator gets there.

I don't think I could be much help in the grammar department, but it doesn't look like you need much there.

Happy New Year!

James

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