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Review of The Chat  
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Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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*Smile* Hi. Back again. I enjoyed reading this story and wanted to share some thoughts with you about it.

Item Reviewed: "The Chat"   by iKïyå§ama-House Targaryen
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                           
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                           
*FlagB*What I liked best
This is another really awesome little vignette. The characterizations are deft, with nuanced bits of dialogue to nail the various players, from the haggered parents to the bratty--but beloved--little brother. There's also just the right touch of setting to establish the heat and crappy nature of the car. Finally, the little twist at the end was perfect.

                                                           
*FlagB*Opening
The bulk of my comments on the opening are in the line-by-line remarks below.

Your opening does a great job establishing the personality of the point-of-view character. Her voice comes through loud and clear, and is one of the charming features of the story. The use of scents--internal sensations only she knows--is an excellent way to put readers in her head, so kudos for that as well.

I've got a lot more on the opening in the line-by-line comments below--mostly about how and why I mis-read the opening paragraphs.

                                                           
*FlagB*Plot
Amy has a mysterious hold on her little brother, revealed at the end.

Back to the opening...you might consider inserting some kind of foreshadowing in the opening paragraphs about her spell over her brother and/or about her secret Halloween BF. Maybe Jack's squirming and she quirks an eyebrow at him or perhaphs whispers "Davy Jones," making his eyes bug out and causing him to chew his lip. That establishes that she's got some kind of hold on him, and sets up the story arc--what's the mysterious hold? Or some other little sequence might hint at her secret.

                                                           
*FlagB*Style and Voice
Third person limited, in Amy's head. No slips. Good work here!

                                                           
*FlagB*Referencing
Probably modern era, although I'd expect Amy to be texting and Jack to maybe be playing on a GameBoy.

                                                           
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
We've got the interior of the car and its bad smells, and the heat. We've got the hunky guys--I always like hunky guys! Both speak to the mood of the moment and help reinforce Amy's character. Good job here, too.

                                                           
*FlagB*Characters
Amy, her brother, her parents, and those tempting guys. Oh, and there's her BF from last Halloween. These all come together nicely in the story.

One thing that's kind of missing is a character arc for Amy. Kurt Vonnegut taught us that every character should want something, even if it's just a glass of water. In this case, Amy has a secret--namely the BF she sneaked into the house last Halloween. She doesn't want her parents to know for obvious reasons. The stakes are thus high, since grounding and other undesirable consequences of the secret coming out are obvious. So, by the end, we've got Amy's goals, an obstacle (Jack knows her secret), and stakes (the bad thing that happens if she doesn't acheive her goal of keeping her secret).

Goals, obstacles, and stakes are elements that can add tension to a story, help to give it structure, and unify the various elements. If you could find a way to thread hints of these things into the narrative from the opening paragraphs, I think it could make a stronger story.

                                                           
*FlagB*Grammar

*Exclaim* Adverbs.*Exclaim* You don't overuse adverbs, but they show up enough to be worth a comment. You know what Stephen King says about adverbs . I think he is correct. Adverbs are often a shorthand in which the author falls into "telling" rather than "showing." I try to use zero adverbs, since otherwise I'd sprinkle them all over the place like fairy dust. *Rolleyes* Usually adverbs appear in places where a more precise verb or a touch more description would be better, but you've got great, active verbs throughout. Instead, these adverbs are just little speed bumps that slow down your prose.

                                                           
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
One way to think of telling a story is that it is a guided dream in which the author leads the readers through the events. In doing this, the author needs to engage the readers as active participants in the story, so that they become the author's partner in imagining the story. Elements of craft that engage the readers and immerse them in the story enhance this fictive dream. On the other hand, authors should avoid things that interrupt the dream and pull readers out of the story.

I really liked this story a lot. Amy is a sympathetic character, and readers will have no trouble cheering for her. By the time we've got the mystery of her hold over her brother, we want to know the solution, but this happens pretty late in the story. THe narrative--and Amy's character--are engaging enough to keep the readers' interest, but if you could hook us earlier with the mystery, I think this would be a dynamite story.

As it is, it's a fine story and a fun read. It doesn't have to be War and Peace, or A Rose for Emily--it is what it is, and does a fine job of being just that. So, take my comments as the nitpicks they are, and know that this is a good story that readers will enjoy.

                                                           
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                           
Mostly, there's little to quibble about in this story, but of course I found stuff--entirely in the opening as it turns out. I warned you above I was going to comment more on the opening paragraphs. I got everything wrong when I first read initial paragraphs. It finally all came together, and getting it wrong was surely my fault, but knowing why I got it wrong might be helpful to you. At least, I hope so. Anyway, here it goes.

*Cut* How lucky they are, she thought, with a sigh, as she sank lower down the seat in a car that reeked of stale burgers, wet socks, and sweat.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: "She" has no antecedent. Somewhat later we learn that this is Amy, but why not use her name here? She's the POV character, and using her name helps to put readers inside her head.

A second nit-pick: she's in the back seat, right? With her parents in the front and her brother sitting next to her in the back seat. It took a while for this staging to become clear. See my longer comment below. *Tackg*


*Cut*“You just went half an hour ago, Jack,” was the impatient retort from the front seat. “We are not stopping again.”

She was rewarded with a petulant shriek and the pounding of Sesame Street sneakers against the back of her seat.*Cut*
*Tackg*My Comment: It's rarely a mistake to think your readers might not be paying attention. Absent specific clues, readers will start a movie playing in their heads. That movie will be stubborn even when it's wrong, which is why orienting readers is important.

At this point, we know that the POV character is female, old enough to be interested in hunky guys, and is in a car. We know that there's a boy named Jack in the car and that he's probably pretty young. We know that someone is in the front seat since a voice speaks from that location.

Things we don't know that I got wrong while reading: Where the POV character is sitting. Back seat? Front seat? Or maybe it's a van and she's in the middle seat, with the boy behind her? Another thing we don't know, for example, is that she's not the mother (i.e., the "voice" speaking from the font seat), sitting in the front seat, and that Jack's legs are not banging against Amy's seat (which is something I initially got totally wrong).

Here's why I went astray. In the first quoted paragraph above, we don't know who is speaking--just that a nameless voice retorted from the front seat. I'd make it explicit that Mom is speaking from the front seat, so she's named and located. If you've earlier named Amy and put her in the back seat, at this point we'd know their relative locations and more about who is in the car. Adding just a couple of words would do these things. By naming the speaker in the first quoted paragraph, the "she" in the second paragraph has an antecedent, namely Mom.

In the next quoted paragraph, the pronoun really threw me. The previous quoted paragraph doesn't give the name of a person or even a gender, so the last *person* the text mentions is Amy. Thus, I thought that the "she" in the second quoted paragraph referred back to the same person as in the lead sentences, the one who's looking at the hunky guys, and not the speaker whose genderless voice emanated from the front seat. That mistake led to a cascade of other errors that persisted for quite a while before I reoriented to what was "really" going on.

Like I said above, readers are inattentive critters.
*Tackg*


*Cut*“Knock it off, Jack,” their father replied absently as he fiddled with the radio dial,*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: Here is another pronoun that led to--or maybe reinforced--incorrect inferences. It's Amy's father, so if we're in HER head, he's HER father. But if she's the mother, she'd be thinking of him as "their" father. Simpler if you could just say "Amy's father" here or even just "Dad," and avoid the potential confusions that pronouns generate. *Tackg*

Okay, I'll shut up about the opening now. Sorry to be so long-winded.

*Cut*Rumour has it that it’s almost at the five-thousand-dollar mark.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: Just an aside…The spelling of "rumour" and use of "dollars" makes me think they are in Canada or maybe Australia? Not important to the story, but it's another example of the inferences readers make from little things. *Tackg*

                                                           

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out
FOLDER
Thoughts on Writing  (NPL)
Short essays on the craft of fiction.
#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈




*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
2
2
Review of The Firemen  
Review by
In affiliation with Crosstimbers Author Consortium  
Rated: E | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "The Firemen"   by Amethyst Angel (House Mormont)
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
I liked the way the two characters meshed with the plot and the theme. This is a nice story!

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
You begin with action, which is always good. You establish the initial POV and name your characters, always a challenge with a first person narrator. You establish the basic plot--the band's debut performance. These are all to the good.

The only thing that's missing is the location. Eventually, we learn that they are in a garage, when his mother comes out to complain about the noise. That also establishes their age, older teens still living at home. My only suggestion is insert some bit of description early on about the setting. Maybe the garage door is open and his Mom's car is sitting in the driveway. Or the garage door is closed and the place smells of gasoline and grass trimmings from the lawnmower. It would be nice to get another sense, like smell, into the opening. That would also help to get us in Dan's head.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
We see from the outset that Dan's got an ego problem as the band prepares for its big debut. It's all about him, not his bandmates.

The opening in Dan's head hints at Ryan's insecurities, but we see those clearly in the next scene, in his POV.

This clearly establishes the goals, stakes, and obstacles for both characters, and ties them to the plot--the success or failure of the band's premier.

This is really awesome plotting and characterization.

                                                             
*FlagB*Hook
Ordinarily a "hook" refers to the ending of a chapter--to "hook" the reader into flipping to the next page. Here, though, the hook is in the opening conflict between Dan and Ryan and the tension induced by their expectations for their premier. So the hook in this case is in the opening, and it's really effective.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
Two first person narratives, alternating between Dan and Ryan.

                                                             
*FlagB*Referencing
Modern era, where Fleetwood Mac is from the Jurassic. *Smirk*

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
In the intro and later, when the truncated band arrives at the restaurant, you do a good job establishing the location and orienting the reader.

But the start of that section, where Ryan announces "Dan has no idea..." is basically a disembodied voice speaking to the reader. Where is Ryan when he's thinking this? Later, it seems it's the next day and he's having breakfast. So...you might consider launching with him doing chores in the barn and singing to the cows and the cat--which would let you have him doing something and also sensing things like the smell of the barn. That gives him occasion to have the thoughts that launch the section. He might even find a linkage between the barn smells and Dan's BS. *Smile*

Later, he could rush back to the house for the morning video conference...and the rest follows. In any case, I'd launch by orienting the reader at least to the extent that he's back on the farm and it's the next day.

In passing, I noticed that you changed fonts as you alternated between the two POVs in addition to the normal centered stars. That should help the reader to distinguish the POV switch, although it might also be distracting. I lean toward thinking it helps with clarity.

It's tricky in a piece this short to have two POV characters, but I think you pulled it off. It works mostly because of the way the two characters, their character arcs, and the plot mesh so perfectly.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Dan's transition from a narcissistic jerk to a friend seemed a bit abrupt to me. Ryan, in contrast, is likable throughout and his transition, including his avowed loyalty to his buddy, seemed genuine. If this story has a fault, it's in Dan's sudden acceptance of Ryan's talent and agreeing to share the starring role. True, he's thinking in terms of leaching off of Ryan's nascent stardom, which makes is a bit more credible...but it also doesn't make him any more likable. Not that he has to be likable...but given the theme, you kind of want the band the band to come together at the end.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
This looked like clean copy to me. GOod job!

                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
I really liked this story. The characters, the character arcs, the plot, and the overall structure worked together really well. Other than the nitpicks about orienting the readers noted above, it flows well and the wordsmithing shows a mastery of craft.

I didn't find anything to kvetch about in line-by-line comments. Overall, a great job!! Good luck in the contest!

                                                             
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                             
Good job--nothing for me to whine about!!

                                                             

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out
FOLDER
Thoughts on Writing  (NPL)
Short essays on the craft of fiction.
#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
3
3
Review by
In affiliation with Crosstimbers Author Consortium  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "The Sword and the Song"   by Amethyst Angel (House Mormont)
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
The plot has a nice twist to it, anticipated by the clever title.

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
It took a while to establish Robyn as the point-of view character. I have a couple of suggestions in this regard--see below.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
A dragon threatens the realm. Only Princess Robyn and her trusty sword stand in the way until a reluctant Knight joins her. Oh, and her harp-playing younger sister Nora tags along. *Smile*

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
Mostly this is third person limited, in Robyn's head, with one short head-hop into Nora's head.

In such a short piece, it's generally better to stay in one character's point-of-view. Readers are fragile critters, and can easily lose track of who is seeing/doing things, hence the advice on keeping short stories to one POV (something I've violated myself, I admit).

In this case, I'm not sure that it wouldn't be better to have Nora provide the POV. The only scene where she's not present is the short sequence where Devin betrays Robyn, but this little twist isn't necessary to the story. Indeed, I think it would be stronger to have Nora provide the POV throughout. She could stay behind at the bottom of the cliff while Robyn and Devin depart to do battle. She could soothe horses. Then, she could hear sounds of the battle from far-away, see Devin tumble down the mountainside and see the dragon swoop down to threaten her. The rest of story works fine from there. Both the warriors have failed in their mission (without the unnneccessary betrayal by Devin) and Nora's talents--ignored by others throughout--win the day. The side plot of Devin's betrayal--which is not foreshadowed and rather shocking--isn't necessary to the main theme and plot.

If you decide to switch POV to Nora, then my suggestions in the line-by-line comments about POV vis a vis Robyn and Nora should be reversed, with "Princess Nora stood next to her older sister Robyn" instead of the other way around, for example.

Finally, the story is basically over after the dragon transforms, yet it continues for roughly another 200 words. This is largely to clean up the issues raised by Devin's betrayal, but I'm suggesting taking the betrayal out of the story--in my view, it detracts from the basic plot and character arcs. I think the ending could be shortened considerably, although final two sentences are a satisfying summation of the ultimate outcome.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Certainly sufficient for staging, and some nice descriptions of the farmland and the destruction wrought by the dragon.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Mostly this is about the two princesses and their differing approaches to defending the realm. The side-plot about Devin and his betrayal kind of distracts from this basic story arc. It'd be great in a longer story, but here it just kind of came out of nowhere.


                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
Another nice story. The basic plot and character arcs fit together, and the twist at the end is what makes the story. I admit, I saw the twist coming as soon as the dragon appeared, but that's just because I was looking for it. Most readers don't look for this kind of set-up and will likely be pleasantly surprised. Thanks for sharing, and keep up the good work!

                                                             
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                             
*Cut*Princess Robyn and her younger sister Nora stood at the castle window overlooking their verdant land. *Cut**Tackg*My Comment: To better establish point of view, I'd consider rephrasing this to something like, "Princess Roby stood next her your Nora and gazed out the castle window that overlooked their verdant land."

Even better would be to first give Robyn some sensation or emotion that only she can feel. *Tackg*


*Cut*A shadow crossed Robyn's face as she remembered how aged and feeble their father the king was. She bowed her head.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: Here we learn what's in Robyn's head, so this is the first indication that she's the POV character. Note, though, that she can't see her face, so having a "shadow cross" it is a POV violation. *Tackg*

*Cut*King Leon sat at his conference table, surrounded by Arvelia's strongest and bravest young men.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: You're starting a new scene--the time and place have changed. It might be better to reinforce that we're still in Robyn's POV. Perhaps worry chills her tummy as she huddles in the shadows of the King's conference room? *Tackg*

*Cut*Robyn and Nora rode on one horse along a narrow, winding trail through the woods. *Cut**Tackg*My Comment: See above for my comment on POV--having Robyn sit in front of her sister, for example, suggests we're seeing this from her POV. *Tackg*

*Cut*Nora clutched her harp and ran her fingers across the strings, sending out lightly haunting notes that danced quickly in the air and floated away like a fine mist.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: lovely description! *Tackg*

*Cut*feeling the skin prickling on her neck.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: We're supposed to be in her POV, right? It's generally better to describe directly what she felt rather than telling us she felt it--show, don't tell, in other words. If you want to emphasize she felt it, have her react in some way, such as shuddering. *Tackg*

*Cut*"I'll let Yorko handle you,"*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: And who, or what, is Yorko? Eventually, I figured out that Yorko is the dragon from earlier, although it wasn't until the ned that it became clear that it wasn't a SECOND dragon. *Tackg*

*Cut*At the edge of the forest, Nora fussed and fumed about being left behind.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: Change in POV to Nora, right? *Tackg*

*Cut*As Robyn made her way down, slipping and sliding, she heard Nora's song. *Cut**Tackg*My Comment: Here, we've hopped back into Robyn's head. *Tackg*

                                                             

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out
FOLDER
Thoughts on Writing  (NPL)
Short essays on the craft of fiction.
#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
4
4
Review of The Curse Unravel  
Review by
In affiliation with Crosstimbers Author Consortium  
Rated: E | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed:
The Curse Unravel  (E)
Would you be willing to take the risk of exposing your curse for someone you dearly love?
#2312371 by GERVIC 🐉 House Targaryen

Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
Again, congratulations on winning the "Tales Shown, Not Told OLD FORMAT contest. I'm finally getting around to sending you a review of your item.

As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*


                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
The imagery in this story is absolutely awesome. Your skill as a poet carries over to your skill with prose, making the words sing. I loved the prose, the plot, and the characterizations.

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. Some editors and agents will decide whether or not to read your submission based only on your first sentence.

Your glorious use of language to set the scene and tone starts with the very first sentence:
The tension thrummed in the moonlit air, a counterpoint to the gentle chirping of crickets.

As fine as this is, I do have a couple of suggestions for the opening paragrph.

First, and most significant, your opening sentence has no point of view. More exactly, it's the point of view of an omniscient narrator, standing out side the story, describing the scene. By the end of the sedcond sentence, we know it's Yvonne who is sensing these things, but it would be better if you estabilshed her POV in the first sentence. The sooner readers know the name of the protagonist and are in her head, the better in terms of drawing them into the fictional dream.

It would be simple enough to just rearrange things a bit. For example, starting with "Yvonne fidgeted beneath the silver brushstrokes of the crescent moon," using your phrase from the final sentence of the opening paragraph. This would launch the story by naming her, and your marvelous subjective description of the moon establishes her as the POV character, the one seeing those brushstrokes. Since she's "fidgeting," it also would establish her unease.

The second suggestion I have for the opening involves foreshadowing and clarity. Your opening certainly suggests there's a tension in her relationship with Dylan, but the language is a bit ambiguous. We learn somewhat later--and indirectly--that she has doubts about Dylan, and perhaps fears that he's hiding something. But the phrasing in the opening--the "crossroads" she faces--suggests that she's the one with secrets to hide. This ambiguity can lead to reader confusion, and in fact I was initially expecting she'd be the one with the secret, not Dylan.

Of course, her unease about the relationship is also a secert, and one she's been keeping, so there's a symmetry to her character arc and Dylan's. That symmetry is a good thing, but I think adding clarity to the opening wouldn't vitiate it, and might enhance the tension in the story as Dylan begins his "confession."

I have to add that these are minor quibbles. Your opening had me hooked from the first sentence, so it's quite effective as it stands. My suggeested tweaks are minor technicalities.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
Yvonne has doubts about her relationship with Dylan. He's holding something back. He reveals his secret and confirms her doubts. The result is the heart of the story, which I won't spoil by revealing here, but it won't disappoint readers.

One point, however. We never learn precisely what Dylan's secret is, just that it's a legacy of some sort. I like the fact that it's not some hackneyed thing like he's really a werewolf, vampire, or secret zombie, but I could use a bit more clarity about the nature of the legacy. It sounds like it's heritable, so that's another thing that might be in her mind--although that's a distraction, I admit.

I do understand keeping the legacy vague. Perhaps the clarity I seek involves Yvonne's decision. Once it's a secret-no-more, it's something they can face together. The existence of a secret was the basis of her misgivings, and now that the secret is out, he's no longer wearing a mask (so to speak) and their relationship can blossom. If that's the direction you want to go, a touch more clarity along those lines would suffice (and be better than my first impulse).

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
Third person limited, and we're solidly in Yvonne's head. There are a couple of minor wobbles, but nothing significant. See the line-by-line remarks below.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Every word counts in this story. The scene setting is awesome.

                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
This is a marvelous story that showcases your beautiful prose. Thank you for sharing. You have real talent.

                                                             
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                             
, *Cut*Yvonne felt a familiar unease tighten her chest. *Cut**Tackg*My Comment: Phrases like "Yvonne felt…" are a subtle form of telling. It's generally more immediate and intimate for the readers if you instead directly describe the sensation--as in "A familiar unease tightened Yvonne's chest." *Tackg*

*Cut*Yvonne nodded, memories shimmering like fireflies around them. The dappled sunlight, the rush of the water, Dylan's laughter as they chased butterflies. It felt like a lifetime ago, and yet, so painfully present.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: I'm in awe of the marvelous imagery throughout this story…here, for example… *Tackg*

*Cut*He couldn't finish the question,*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: This is a tiny POV violation, since it reaches into his head to tell us he couldn't finish. All she can observe is that he didn't finish, or perhaps that reluctance to finish tinged his features. *Tackg*

*Cut*It felt warm,*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: Another "it felt..."--see above. Consider "it warmed her fingers," making the sensation active rather than the more passive telling of "it felt…" *Tackg*

*Cut*And as they walked hand-in-hand, Yvonne and Dylan knew that whatever lay ahead, they would face it together, their hearts forever entwined under the watchful gaze of the moon.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: Great ending, except it's another minor POV wobble--you tell us what they both know, but we've been in Yvonne's head throughout. I'd stick with that here. What she knows--what his hand in hers tells her--is that they will face this together. Keeping that intimate connection all the way to the end would, in my view, make the conclusion more satisfying. It's the resolution of her questions as posed in the opening and closes the problem she faced. At least, that's my $0.02 worth, and it's probably over-priced. *Tackg*

                                                             

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out "Thoughts on Writing


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
5
5
Review of Monster  
Review by
In affiliation with Crosstimbers Author Consortium  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "Monster"   by Amethyst Angel (House Mormont)
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
A nice little story, with a twist at the end. It reminded me of the plots typical in the old Alfred Hitchcock TV show, or related mystery magazines that once populated newstands. Thanks for sharing--I enjoyed this bit of nostalgia!!

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
Your opening sets the stage for the story by answering the who/what/when/where/why questions. It starts in media res with the inciting incident and moves on from there.

One tweak I'd suggest is naming the first person narrator as soon as possible in the opening. It's easier for readers to identify with him and get into his head if they know his name. At the same time it would be easy to add his wife's name and even to add to the tension by having him sneak by the bedroom where this children were sleeping. Finally, I'd have the intruders actually threaten him with their guns, maybe even firing the first shots. That makes his use of deadly force more likely to avoid criminal charges and establishes his bona fides as a good guy. It also sets up his character arc, as he submits to temptation and comes to enjoy his new role.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
First person, no slips.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Sufficient for staging--it's clear where everyone is in relation to each other and the setting. But it's also pretty sparse. Bearing in mind Vonnegut's admonition that every sentence should advance character or plot, adding a few touches about the setting could accomplish those goals while at the same time helping to place the reader in the fictional world. Thumps from downstairs, the closed door to the kid's bedroom, the glint of moonlight on the intruder's guns would all accomplish multiple goals and add a bit of depth to the narrative. Don't over-do it--just a touch here and there would be sufficient.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
We get a narrated account of the first and subsequent assignments. I'd prefer at least one assignment to be embedded in the here-and-now, where the narrator goes from nervous to an unexpected exhiliration at the completion of the assignment. That gives him moving along the descent from a good guy defending his family to a cold-blooded killer who enjoys his work.

To complete his descent, I've have the story end with the cops putting handcuffs on him, bringing to an end his character arc.

Also, his wife's undercover occupation is a bit of a stretch. Perhaps she was recruited by the police/FBI because one of her PR clients turned out to be mob-related and they wanted to exploit her inside connections. That seems more credible to me than that she was an undercover PI who hid her true occupation from her husband. (You did say they "barely knew each other," but I think my suggestion is more credible.

                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
I enjoyed this story. The plot is strong, and the twist is a good one. I've read lots of stories of this type over the years, so I was alert to the likely twist and wasn't at all disappointed to find out I was right.

Thanks for giving me this little story to brighten my day! I loved the twist and the turning of the wheels of fate to bring justice at the end of the day.

                                                             
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                             
*Cut*"Lock yourself in the bathroom and dial 911."*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: Need a dialogue tag here. The last-named person is his wife, so the natural inference is that she is speaking. But context suggests it's the first-person narrator, so the tag would eliminate any momentary confusion. As an aside, having her respond by using his name would let you *name* the first person narrator in the initial paragraphs. The earlier he's named, the better. *Tackg*

*Cut*It was about a month after I had to kill the two men who had broken in. The situation had been cleared with the police, as it was an obvious case of self-defense.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: Actually, the county attorney would be the one to "clear" the case, not the police. I'd also make it clearer that the intruders threatened him with their guns, making his use of deadly force more clearly an appropriate response. *Tackg*

*Cut*I heard footsteps behind me.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: Phrases like "I heard" are a subtle form of telling. It's generally better to describe directly what he heard. To emphasize he "heard" it, have him react in some way. For example, "Footfalls sounded behind and I turned." *Tackg*

*Cut*"This is an offer you cannot refuse, Kevin… I don't suppose you care to see Linda suffer? Or your little boy and girl go missing?"*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: Linda is his wife, right? Simple enough to clarify both names in the opening paragraphs instead of letting the readers wonder here. *Tackg*

*Cut*I didn't tell my wife, of course, and she didn't seem to notice that I was spending more time away from home. Her job as a market research analyst for a major public relations firm kept her preoccupied. Sometimes I marvelled at the fact that we had two kids and yet we hardly knew each other anymore.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: See my comment above. Here, I'd also consider adding that, as luck would have it, she was also spending more time out of town. *Tackg*

*Cut*"Listen, Kevin. We have one final assignment for you. There's a private investigator on our trail, and I want her eliminated."*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: If you follow my suggestion, then there'd be an "informant" who is leaking information to the FBI. *Tackg*

*Cut*It seemed odd that the target was in Atlanta at the same time Linda would be there on a business trip. But I thought nothing of it.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: So, she's on a business trip, but has taken her own car--he recognizes it later. Absent other information, I'd assumed that they had flown to Atlanta, so finding her car was a bit a surprise. Easy enough to have them drive up from Chattanooga, or maybe from Marietta and eliminate uncertainty. *Tackg*

                                                             

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out
FOLDER
Thoughts on Writing  (NPL)
Short essays on the craft of fiction.
#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
6
6
Review of Community Service  
Review by
In affiliation with Crosstimbers Author Consortium  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "Community Service"   by Amethyst Angel (House Mormont)
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
This is a really fine story. It's hard to pick which element I liked best. The plotting is excellent, Joey's character arc fits perfectly, and the characterizations are deft. I think I'll pick Joey's character arc, however, as my favorite.

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
Your opening does a great job establishing the basic conflict of the story, Joey's intitial character, and exposing his opportunities for growth. It answers the the who/what/when/where/why questions, and thus orients the reader.

I made one minor suggestion in the line-by-line remarks about establishin the point of view (Joey) in the opening sentences, but that's a trivial tweak, assuming you agree with it.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
There are two plots masterfully woven together. There's Joey's character arc, from pranking, sullen adolescent to a caring and dedicated young man. Then there's the vile Anthony. You do a great job establishin his character as well, and in setting up and foreshadowing the eventual conflict. Excellent work here.

                                                             
*FlagB*Hook
The most compelling hooks are disaster, dilemma, and decision. Ending with a goal, conflict, or reaction is weaker but can be effective, depending on the situation.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
Third person limited, in Joey's head. Two minor slips noted in the line-by-line comments. The sort-of info-dump where you narrate Joey's budding relationship with the residents instead of showing it is the only really significant one.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Lots of little details establish Joey inside the residence. I especially liked the addition of scents when he first arrived.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Joey, good. Anthony, bad. Excellent characterization throughout.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
No complaints here. I think I found one place to whine about adverbs, but that's it.

                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
This is a *realy* fine story. I enjoyed it from start to finish. The foreshadowing was just right, using the rule of three (two times to establisht he pattern, the third for the payoff when Joey sees Anthony stealing). The two plots fit together perfectly. Excellent craft throughout. Nicely done!!!

                                                             
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                             
*Cut*"Mom, do I have to? What will all my friends say?" Joey wailed.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: It’s generally inadvisable to open with a disembodied voice speaking—in particular, we don’t know who is *hearing* the speech, i.e., we don’t know the point of view for the story.

If you started with the third paragraph—where Joe is squirming, scrunching down, and hoping done of his friends can see his humiliation—you establish him as the POV character. Then you can have him whine to his Mother. We know why he’s whining, that the POV character is speaking, and that his mother is reacting. *Tackg*


*Cut*shuffled slowly behind her down the hallway.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: You know I’m adverb-phobic, right? In this case, shuffle implies “slow,” so the adverb is just a little speed bump that adds nothing. *Tackg*

*Cut*Anthony turned around, stuffing something inside his hoodie pocket. *Cut**Tackg*My Comment: ears perk up…doubtless this is foreshadowing…nice! *Tackg*

*Cut*Joey felt himself burning red *Cut**Tackg*My Comment: Phrases like “Joey felt…” are a subtle form of telling. It’s generally more intimate and immediate for readers if you describe the sensation directly. If you want to emphasize he ”felt” it, you can always have him react in some way. *Tackg*

*Cut*"You're just jealous that I'm the one with a bright future." Anthony pushed past him and headed down the hall to the next patient, leaving Joey fuming helplessly.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: You’ve done a great job establishing Anthony’s character—or lack of it—in this little sequence. *Tackg*

*Cut*As the days passed,*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: Beware of repeated words and phrases which run the risk of making your prose feel monotone. Here, the word “days” appears three times in as many lines. *Tackg*

*Cut*Joey found himself enjoying his work at the nursing home. *Cut**Tackg*My Comment: This starts of couple of paragraphs that narrate how Joey began to enjoy interacting with some of the people at the home. I think this would be stronger if you included interactions in the here-and-now of the story to illustrate this. In particular, you might show him interacting with Mrs Salisbury, and they might chuckle over the foibles of some of the other residents—all in a good way, of course. This would better establish Joey as a “good guy,” just as the real-time interactions with Anthony establish him as the villain. It also gives potential to add more foreshadowing by mentioning Mrs Salisbury’s meds. *Tackg*

*Cut*Joey's face reddened *Cut**Tackg*My Comment: He can’t see his face, so this is a tiny POV violation. Maybe consider “heated” instead of “reddened,” since he can feel the heat. *Tackg*

*Cut*Something clicked in Joey's mind as he glanced from the old lady to her prescriptions on the nightstand. It made him shudder.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: another bit of foreshadowing…the payoff must be coming soon. *Tackg*

*Cut*Anthony as he stood over her nightstand, shelling out pills into a ziplock bag.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: and here it is! *Tackg*

*Cut*They didn't notice the door burst open.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: Here, the author intrudes to state a fact. Notice, since they “didn’t notice,” Joey in particular didn’t notice. If he didn’t see it, it’s a POV violation to state it. Instead, if he’s surprised when Rhonda speaks, then you stay in his POV while revealing he didn't see her come in. *Tackg*

*Cut*Joey and Rhonda were sitting in her office. Joey blushed and sank a little lower in his seat.*Cut**Tackg*My Comment: I’d consider putting this bit of staging ahead of anyone speaking, thus orienting the readers in time and space. *Tackg*


                                                             

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out
FOLDER
Thoughts on Writing  (NPL)
Short essays on the craft of fiction.
#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
7
7
Review by
In affiliation with Crosstimbers Author Consortium  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
XTimbers Forum Banner-small


Item Reviewed: "Tools of the Trade"   by Amethyst Angel (House Mormont)
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
This is a really excellent story. The tension just sizzles.

Jason is menacing, both in appearance and demeanor. The atmosphere of the Race King and the various customers contributes to the sense of impending disaster. Well plotted, and wih an uplifting ending. Nicely done!!

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. Some editors and agents will decide whether or not to read your submission based only on your first sentence.

Your opening starts with the inciting incident, but I wonder if you could make it a bit more active, and maybe do a better job of putting us in Leah's head. water She might smell the water boiling in the radiator, for example--it's a distinctive musky odor. Having her sense something--smell, tasted, touch--is a good technique. Maybe he scar on her arm twinges, to add a bit to her motivation that she's fleeing bad memories. Maybe have her think something descriptive about "the Georgia town."

The story really picks up when she sees the argument, then the box cutter. I'd consider getting there more quickly. From that point, I couldn't take my eyes off the page.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
Leah is on the road, moving, and her car breaks down. Her goals are clear: get the car fixed and get out there! The goals of the other two characters, Eli and Justin, are less clear, but there is conflict between them. Justin is threatening in both demeanor and appearance, while Eli, while secretive, appears innocent. More importantly, he's helpful and works on Leah's car.

                                                             
*FlagB*Hook
The menace that starts with box cutters is the hook for this story. Everything that happens from that point forward just cranks the menace--and hence the tension--higher. Excellent writing here!

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
First person, in Leah's head. No slips. She's a sympathetic character and readers will cheer for her.

                                                             
*FlagB*Referencing
Lots of details about the Race King and its clientele that contribute to the sense of menace.

I'm unfamiliar with songs, but the lyrics clearly contribute to the menace. However, if you intend to publish the story, you will almost certainly have to delete them due to copyright issues. The title is OK, just not the lyrics. I imagine it's just me being out of touch that I don't recognize the songs. I would have picked somethign by Metalica or Billy Idol, which hopelessly dates me.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Jason is surely scary. In fact, he turns out to be not such a bad guy after all. In retrospect, he probably hung around outside to keep an eye on Eli. Perhaps Leah could realize this? Also, I'm not sure why he told Leah she had to leave when she most clearly could not. That almost felt like overkill.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
*Exclaim* Comma Splices.*Exclaim*
I don't read for grammar, but usually find somehing to whine about. Not here.I should wrie such clean copy.

I did see one or two typos, noted in he line-by-line remarks below.

                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
Thank you for sharing. This is an excellent story, full of tension, masterful foreshadowing, and--incredibly--a HEA ending!

                                                             
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                             
I don't really have anything consequential for you here...just a few minor reactions as I was reading.

*Cut*and said aloud,*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: How else would she say something? Maybe she murmurs it? Or tips an eyebrow at the speakers? *Exclaim*

*Cut*I sat quietly by my van *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: The first place I couldn’t quite picture where she was. Is she sitting on he curb? Or on those stools again? Or just sitting with her legs criss-crossed on the pavement? Not that it matters, but it was a tiny blip for me. *Exclaim*

*Cut*I stared at Eli's big red metal tool chest.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: “big” is one of those non-specific adjectives that don’t give scale. I’d consider leaving it out, or maybe use a word like “ginormous” which would more or reinforce character. *Exclaim*

*Cut*I picked out some of them and saw a bag of white powder underneath. Wait, what?*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment:Nice twist, and nicely foreshadowed. Eli’s reticence about the fight with Jason and his sudden warning about the toolbox are excellent foreshadowing. *Exclaim*

*Cut*you try to blackmail your boss*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: You TRIED to blackmail, right? *Exclaim*

*Cut**Cut*I felt the tension in his muscles*Exclaim*My Comment: I’d consider something like “The muscles in his arm tensed under my hand…” “I felt” is a subtle form of telling. It’s better to describe directly what she felt. *Exclaim*

*Cut*"I—I'm really sorry. I've let everyone down… my Mom will be so disappointed in me."*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I’d consider a dialogue tag precede this…some like “Eli couldn’t meet our gaze.” Or “Eli shuffled his feet.” Make it clear who is speaking, since just the exchange just prior was Leah and Jason. *Exclaim*



                                                             

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out
FOLDER
Thoughts on Writing  (NPL)
Short essays on the craft of fiction.
#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
8
8
Review by
In affiliation with Crosstimbers Author Consortium  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "Devil Doesn't Bargain"   by Amethyst Angel (House Mormont)
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
I enjoyed this little vampire-with-a-happy twist story. I especially liked the Poe reference!

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. Some editors and agents will decide whether or not to read your submission based only on your first sentence.

Your opening starts with several paragraphs of narrated background. This background is surely important to the story, but it's narrated as opposed to told. The actual action of the story doesn't begin until he's roaming the castle.

So here's what you might consider. Start with him in the castle doing something--maybe sinking his fangs into a foul-smelling rat and draining its blood. That establishes that he's a vampire. A touch of setting would put him in a castle. He might hide the blood when a villager chances by. He could think her blood would be ever so tasty, but rejects drinking it because she's known for her good deeds. Or even specific good deeds, like caring for orphans or running the local soup kitchen. Oh, and twist of her hair or the color of her eyes might remind him of the long-lost Lenore, starting to establish the love-lost-then-found plot.

In any case, that kind of sequence would establish his good-guy credentials. Whatever you might do, the idea is to reveal the essential information in the opening paragraphs through his actions, as opposed to him telling us stuff.

Readers need to be inside the fictional world as soon as possible, and the most effective way to do that is to put them in the head of your POV character, and then put that character in motion, interacting with other characters and elements of the fictional world. Showing interactions that also reveal details essential to the plot is what makes an effective opening.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
Loved the plot! It's really a love story. Vampire finds girl. Vampire loses girl. Vampire gets girl back. An original variation on a classic theme!

                                                             
*FlagB*Hook
In this case, the hook is getting the reader into the story. Your opening does this, but it's narrated which keeps the readers outside the story (ongoing events in the here-and-now), which is why I made the above suggestions.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
First person, in Alex's head. No slips. He's likable enough, for a vampire.

                                                             
*FlagB*Referencing
Lots of little details about Alex's life nicely folded into the narrative.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Nicely done. Usually I want a touch more, and I did find a minor thing to comment on in the line-by-line, but overall nicely done.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Alex. Lenore. Fido. Lenore's husband makes a brief appearance, enough to make him loathsome. Good job with all three, although Fido transformed from annoying pest to cute furball as I read the story.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
*Exclaim* Comma Splices.*Exclaim*

*Exclaim* Adverbs.*Exclaim* You don't overuse adverbs, but I found one place to complain about. You know what Stephen King says about adverbs . I think he is correct. Adverbs are often a shorthand in which the author falls into "telling" rather than "showing." I try to use zero adverbs, since otherwise I'd sprinkle them all over the place like fairy dust. *Rolleyes* I've marked one or more places in the line-by-line comments below where I think you might consider a more precise verb or a touch more description rather than an adverb.

                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
One way to think of telling a story is that it is a guided dream in which the author leads the readers through the events. In doing this, the author needs to engage the readers as active participants in the story, so that they become the author's partner in imagining the story. Elements of craft that engage the readers and immerse them in the story enhance this fictive dream. On the other hand, authors should avoid things that interrupt the dream and pull readers out of the story.

I loved this story. It's got a creative take on a classic plot. Alex is a relatable character and readers will cheer for him. It's got a positive twist at the end, which is another touch, despite my personal tendency to always go to the dark side.

I've got a few tweaks to suggest, mostly about the opening, but this is an excellent story. Keep them coming my way! I enjoy reading your work.

                                                             
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                             
*Cut*It was a dark and stormy night—no, really, it was. Pouring rain and mighty thunder shook the rafters as I wandered the hollow halls of my castle, lined with flickering gas lamps.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This is where the story starts. *Exclaim*

*Cut*I could have dated my sweetheart, Lenore. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Love the reference to Poe!!!

You might consider him having some token that he’s preserved to help remember her. A photo, perhaps, or a scarf where her sweet scent still lingers. That would make the transition to her memory a bit more organic to the events transpiring as he roams his castle. *Exclaim*


*Cut*"Now it's your turn, Lenore."*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: He says this after he’s told her his story, right? But the transition isn’t quite clear. Maybe if you added, “When I finished my tale of woe, I asked,…” just for clarity. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Why are you out here at night?"*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: When he arrived, you did mention moonlight so in theory readers know it’s night. But readers are inattentive creatures. For example, me. When I read this sentence, I thought, “What? It’s night?” Perhaps you’d help the memory-impaired like me by threading a few more mentions of the dark of night into the intervening paragraphs. He could even wonder when he first sees her what she’s doing in garden in the middle of the night. *Exclaim*

*Cut*"I'm quite happy, thankyou."*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Truthfully, at this point I thought she perhaps was a werewolf, and her little dog, too. (to paraphrase the Wicked Witch.) Thus, I was kind of expecting poor Alex to meet an unhappy fate. But then I always go for the dark twists.

Later you describe Fido as “cute,” but here he’s kind of an annoying little creature yapping at him. I pictured a chihuahua. Maybe if you referred to him as a puffball and gave him a name like Fluffy he’d be more credible as the cute doggie he turns out to be. *Exclaim*


*Cut*I heard a man shouting angrily *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: You know I’m adverb phobic, right? In this case, “shouting” kind of implies “angrily.” If you used “raging,” you’d combine the two into a single, more precise verb.

Secondly, phrases like “I heard” are a subtle form of telling. We’re clearly in Alex’s head, so everything on the page is something he’s seen, heard, or otherwise sensed. It’s more immediate and intimate for the readers if you just describe directly what he heard. They will infer that he “heard” it since they’re already in his head.

To emphasize he heard it, you can always have him react in some way. His face might heat, for example, or he might part the bushes to get a better view, after which you could describe the man holding the knife (without an “I saw,” of course) *Exclaim*


*Cut*over the whimpering of a dog.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Now I’m picturing poor Fido, tail between his legs and cowering, as being a pathetic little fluffball. This bit deserves a bit more description, showing Alex sympathizing with Fido and adding to his good-guy credentials. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Being undead didn't mean I couldn't feel any pain.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Story stops while the narrator—Alex—intrudes to state a fact. You could establish this earlier by having him stub his toe or something while he’s wandering the castle, then here describe directly the agony he’s feeling. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Those irises were the start of a splendid moon garden on our castle grounds. My undead life became a dark paradise, with my precious loved one at my side and Fido our loyal guardian, evermore.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: You might end with Alex and Lenore walking through the irises on a clear moonlit night, smelling the sweet scent of the flowers and holding hands. The idea is a kind of anti-symmetry with where the story starts, namely Alex walking the same garden on a dark and stormy night. Readers won’t consciously notice this kind of anti-symmetry, but it could add to the sense of closure and emphasize the change in Alex that’s happened during the course of the story. *Exclaim*

                                                             

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out
FOLDER
Thoughts on Writing  (NPL)
Short essays on the craft of fiction.
#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
9
9
Review by
Rated: E | (4.0)
*Smile* Hi. My name is Max. I'm writing as one of the official judges for the "Journey Through Genres: Official Contest.

Item Reviewed: "Invalid Item"   by A Guest Visitor
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
Please remember, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*


                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
I've done a lot of overseas travel and could really identify with narrator's experiences dealing with a new culture, a strange language, and unknown terrain. You did an awesome job showing your character's confusion and reslilience in responding the challenges she faces. (At least I think the narrator is female--see below.)

                                                             

*FlagB*Opening paragraph.
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. Some editors and agents will decide whether or not to read your submission based only on your first sentence.

An opening needs to answer the who/what/when/where/why questions in order to orient the reader in time and space. Your opening does a good job with all of these. We meet our first person narrator, know where the action is taking place and why it's happening.

As I implied above, though, I'm not certain of the narrator's gender. In addition, knowing the narrator's name would help draw readers into her (his?) head, and thus into the fictional world.

Finally, the first three paragraphs are narrated background. The action starts in paragraph four as the narrator disembarks from the plane. Generally, it's almost always stronger to start with action, in media res, or "in the middle of things."

For example, you might consider showing her arrival at the airport. A flight attendandant might address her by name, resolving the gender and name issue up front. They might have a conversation about her Grandmother, or she might puzzle at the Spanish signs while trudging to the baggage claim. Things like this would help put the readers in her head and in the moment. Along the way, you could reveal the information that's narrated in the first three paragraphs. Perhaps her legs were unsteady after her first-ever flight (which would tell us she's "not one to travel.") The air might be muggy, contrasting with the "balmy warmth" described in her Grandmother's emails. Those little bits would show--rather than tell--the details in the first three paragraphs.

                                                             
*FlagB*Setting.
This contests specifies a regional setting. Per the guidelines, the setting must be a prominent feature of the genre. I'll be looking at how the story shows the details of the setting and how it fits with the other story elements.

We got a few details about the cultural setting through her interactions with the hotel staff--I loved these cultural bits about the setting!

Later, there's the stick shift car and the experience driving in a strange country. Having had similar experiences in Germany (where I mistook Einbanstrasse for a street name), I again found these parts of the story delightful.

Of course, the trip through the mountains is the main physical locale featured in the story, but even here you added cultural elements with the hitch-hikers. The physical descriptions were nicely done, using subjective descriptions and staying inside the narrator's head.

                                                             

*FlagB*Characters.
Stories are ultimately about characters and their interactions with each other and their world. A memorable character almost always has three attributes. First, the character has a goal. Second, the goal matters--that's the stakes. Finally, something or someone stands in the way of achieving the goal--that's the obstacle. These three work together to create tension, which is the engine that propels your story. They give rise the character arc and often the plot.


Our narrator has a goal--to visit her grandmother. The goal clearly matters since she's "not one to travel" but here she is in Costa Rica. The culutural, automotive, and physical barriers combine to form obstacles (and assistants) as she strives for her goal. At the end, she gets there, providing closure to her story. Along the way, she learned valuable lessons about differences in cultures and values.

                                                             


*FlagB*Point of view.
First person, no slips noted.

                                                             

*FlagB*Effective showing as opposed to telling.

One of the temptations with first person narration is to fall into telling the reader things as opposed to showing. I noted above how the opening paragraphs did this. There are a few other places in the narrative where I felt it fell into telling us things, but for the most part you did a good job of keeping the reader inside the narrator's head as she experiences Costa Rica, its people, and its physical beauty. Nice job!

                                                             
That's it! Remember, good or bad, these are just one person's opinion. Writing a story--any story--is challenging creative work. I commend you for your success and urge you to continue! Thank you for sharing your creativity.

Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
10
10
Review of Mammoth  
Review by
Rated: E | (4.0)
*Smile* Hi. My name is Max. I'm writing as one of the official judges for the "Journey Through Genres: Official Contest.

Item Reviewed: "Mammoth"   by K. Ray
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
Please remember, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*


                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
The opening paragraph was awesome! You used tactile sensations, smell, sight, and internal sensations to draw us into Joey's head and into the cave.

                                                             

*FlagB*Opening paragraph.
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. Some editors and agents will decide whether or not to read your submission based only on your first sentence.

Certainly this is an excellent opening. We meet Joey and the cave he loves. We know he's returning, and can infer exploration and re-visiting familiar places are at least parts of his goal.

                                                             
*FlagB*Setting.
This contests specifies a regional setting. Per the guidelines, the setting must be a prominent feature of the genre. I'll be looking at how the story shows the details of the setting and how it fits with the other story elements.

From the opening paragraph, we're inside the cave. We later learn that there's been a fire outside the cave, and that it must have served as refuge for wildlife fleeing the flames. The cool, damp feeling of the cave comes through clearly.

                                                             

*FlagB*Characters.
Stories are ultimately about characters and their interactions with each other and their world. A memorable character almost always has three attributes. First, the character has a goal. Second, the goal matters--that's the stakes. Finally, something or someone stands in the way of achieving the goal--that's the obstacle. These three work together to create tension, which is the engine that propels your story. They give rise the character arc and often the plot.


Joey seems to pay homage to the cave he loves with the note that he writes in his journal, so this must have been his goal. Returning to the cave and communing with nature are certainly laudable goals, and provide a satisfying sense for the ending of the story--albeit, without much tension along the way.

I liked this little reverie, but missed a sense of plot or character arc. There's no lesson Joey needs to learn, no obstacle he needs to overcome, no goal pushing him forward. It's more like a gentle paean to the cave than a plot where characters strive against and overcome obstacles and, in the process, grow. There's nothing wrong with this kind of story--especially one as short as this one--but perhaps Joey was on an emotional journey as he passed through the cavern and, in writing in his journal, completed that journey? If so, a sense of tension could arise from his emotional state going from unsettled and lost to at peace and grounded as he writes might add a psychological or emotional jourrney for which his physical journey could be a metaphor. Just a thought...

                                                             

*FlagB*Point of view.
In JOey's head, from the first sentence. Good job!

                                                             

*FlagB*Effective showing as opposed to telling.

The descriptions of the cave arise naturally as Joey makes his way through the darkness. We encounter this underground world through his words, deeds, and sensations. Good job!


                                                             
That's it! Remember, good or bad, these are just one person's opinion. Writing a story--any story--is challenging creative work. I commend you for your success and urge you to continue! Thank you for sharing your creativity.

Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
11
11
Review by
Rated: E | (4.0)
*Smile* Hi. My name is Max. I'm writing as one of the official judges for the "Journey Through Genres: Official Contest.

Item Reviewed: "New Zealand Pioneers"   by H❀pe of House Lannister
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
Please remember, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*


                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
I loved learning about the early settlements in New Zealand and Hugh and Adela's life at Tauranga harbour. These are real people, who lived, struggled, and surmounted hardships to live successful lives. Adela even wrote a memoir and thus a record of thier lives. This story summarizes that account.

                                                             

*FlagB*Opening paragraph.
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. Some editors and agents will decide whether or not to read your submission based only on your first sentence.

This story uses framing paragraphs at the start and ending to provide context to the story. The framing paragraphs also establish the omniscient narrator who relates the events. Thus, the narrative style is more that of a review of Adela's book than a more "conventional" story about fictional characters--we even get footnotes!

Because of the narrative framing, this story has a quaint, almost nineteenth century feel to it, a time when omniscient narrattors dominated fiction. This fits nicely with the era, along with other elements of the narrative style in the piece.

                                                             
*FlagB*Setting.
This contests specifies a regional setting. Per the guidelines, the setting must be a prominent feature of the genre. I'll be looking at how the story shows the details of the setting and how it fits with the other story elements.

Here, the setting is the harbor where the couple settles, its flora and fauna, and the natives that they encounter. It's also the cutlural mileau from which they came, and how they adjusted to their new home. So we get a comprehensive view of the setting that goes beyond the birds and the trees and includes the people and the era. Nice job!

                                                             

*FlagB*Characters.
Stories are ultimately about characters and their interactions with each other and their world. A memorable character almost always has three attributes. First, the character has a goal. Second, the goal matters--that's the stakes. Finally, something or someone stands in the way of achieving the goal--that's the obstacle. These three work together to create tension, which is the engine that propels your story. They give rise the character arc and often the plot.


Hugh and Adela travelled thousands of miles to create a new homestead for themselves and their progeny. They surmounted the obstacles of the frontier, the poor soil, and the strange plants. They survived privation and even exploitation by fellow settlers, nicely shown with the scandolous price of one lemon and Adela's response. They took advantage of opportunities that came their way, including a volcanic eruption that left their farm more productive.

Eventually, they retired back to Ireland where Adela wrote her memoir. She died before she could return to the village in New Zealand where she was honored as one of the founders. Her character arc matches the arc of the plot, including the fact that she's still remembered.

                                                             


*FlagB*Point of view.
Omniscient narration.

                                                             

*FlagB*Effective showing as opposed to telling.
Given the nature of the piece, most of the details are related through narration rather than through the words and deeds of the characters. Except for the incident with the lemon tree, we don't hear the characters speak or see them in action--instead we learn what they did through narrated summaries. That's implicit in the style of the piece which, as noted, is appropriate to the era in which Adela and Hugh lived.


                                                             
That's it! Remember, good or bad, these are just one person's opinion. Writing a story--any story--is challenging creative work. I commend you for your success and urge you to continue! Thank you for sharing your creativity.

Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
12
12
Review by
Rated: E | (4.0)
*Smile* Hi. My name is Max. I'm writing as one of the official judges for the "Journey Through Genres: Official Contest.

Item Reviewed: "Across the County Line"   by Amethyst Angel (House Mormont)
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
Please remember, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*


                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
I've already reviewed this piece in another setting, so you know that I liked it. The characters are especially engaging, and they are fun to follow. The plot and character arcs fit together nicely, so this was an enjoyable read.

                                                             

*FlagB*Opening paragraph.
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. Some editors and agents will decide whether or not to read your submission based only on your first sentence.

The opening paragraphs establish character goals and answer the who/what/when/where questions. As I remarked in my prior review, I'd recommend starting with June doing or sensing something as opposed to a disembodied voice speaking, but that's a minor quibble.

                                                             
*FlagB*Setting.
This contests specifies a regional setting. Per the guidelines, the setting must be a prominent feature of the genre. I'll be looking at how the story shows the details of the setting and how it fits with the other story elements.

The little town of Winchester, it's inhabitants, and the cluttered general store are all integral parts of the setting and the story. As June and Elsie meander through the store looking for clues, we learn about the place through their words and deeds--perfect showing!

                                                             

*FlagB*Characters.
Stories are ultimately about characters and their interactions with each other and their world. A memorable character almost always has three attributes. First, the character has a goal. Second, the goal matters--that's the stakes. Finally, something or someone stands in the way of achieving the goal--that's the obstacle. These three work together to create tension, which is the engine that propels your story. They give rise the character arc and often the plot.


Elsie's goals, stakes, and obstacles are clear. June's turn out to be clear by the end, but hinting at them earlier--as in the opening paragraphs--would make her character arc better sync with the story's plot--again, as I noted in my earlier review.

Overall, though, the character's goals, stakes, and obstacles fit nicely with the overt plot of the story, so good job!

                                                             


*FlagB*Point of view.

Third person limited, in June's head. No slips.

                                                             

*FlagB*Effective showing as opposed to telling.
Excellent work here!!!


                                                             
That's it! Remember, good or bad, these are just one person's opinion. Writing a story--any story--is challenging creative work. I commend you for your success and urge you to continue! Thank you for sharing your creativity.

Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
13
13
Review by
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
*Smile* Hi. My name is Max. I'm writing as one of the official judges for the "Journey Through Genres: Official Contest.

Item Reviewed: "A day at the beach"   by LightinMind
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
Please remember, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*


                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best


                                                             

*FlagB*Opening paragraph.
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. Some editors and agents will decide whether or not to read your submission based only on your first sentence.

                                                             
*FlagB*Setting.
This contests specifies a regional setting. Per the guidelines, the setting must be a prominent feature of the genre. I'll be looking at how the story shows the details of the setting and how it fits with the other story elements.

From the first paragraph, you enmesh the reader inside the setting and inside Sean's head. This is great writing, and highly effective.

                                                             

*FlagB*Characters.
Stories are ultimately about characters and their interactions with each other and their world. A memorable character almost always has three attributes. First, the character has a goal. Second, the goal matters--that's the stakes. Finally, something or someone stands in the way of achieving the goal--that's the obstacle. These three work together to create tension, which is the engine that propels your story. They give rise the character arc and often the plot.


Initialy, Sean's goal appears to relate to the challenges and the ecstasy of the surf. There's a small suggestion of loneliness, and a mention of the scars on his back, but his original goals appear centered on surfing.

We first get a hint of Sean's estrangement from his brother 800 words in, roughly 40% of the way through the story. This gives the first clue about Sean's deeper goals, which are made explicit nearly 700 words later. From that point forward, the story becomes about the reconciliation of the two brothers and making their relationship whole again.

This gives two arcs to the story--the surfing arc and the relationship arc. In principle, they reinforce each other. Your wonderful descriptions of the setting in retrospect reflect each arc--the tinge of loneliness, for example, comes through in his lack of interaction with other people on the beach. He's just a spectator, only interacting with the waves. The waves, of course, are a great metaphor for the relationship part of the story. They are relentless, washing over his solitude as well as the sands.

My point with all this is that two story arcs--the surfing and reconciliation--fit together nicely. However, they wind up feeling like this is two stories because it takes so long for Sean to think about his brother at all. I think the story would be stronger if you moved the initial reference to his brother to an earlier point in the story--into the first paragraph if at all possible. When he first spots the couple on the beach--the man applying lotion to the woman--he might even look twice, recalling times with his brother. The idea would be to insert the idea of his brother's absence early in the story as an element of Sean's emotional state.

The basic elements of Sean's estrangement from others is already in the opening paragraphs, but it's a subtle form of generic loneliness. Instead of being subtext--and easy for the readers to miss--I think it would have more power if it were more specific. In particular, I think it would better unify the two arcs, which almost feel like separate stories right now.

This is a really good story, with great descriptions. The beach, the waves, the other people, are come through via Sean's words, deeds, and thoughts. You use active verbs and subjective descriptions to good effect to keep us in Sean's head even as you describe the setting. By the end, the two story arcs fit together nicely, with the surfing arc a metaphor for the relationship arc.

Thanks for sharing. I love the beach, but I'm not a surfer. You brought the joy of being in the moment with the waves to life. I loved these parts of the story because they brought to life a new experience for me. The story shows deliberate use of craft to achieve its effects. You're a talented author, and this work shows it.

                                                             


*FlagB*Point of view.

Third person limited, in Sean's head. You even deploy free indirect discours, something that's hard to do!

                                                             

*FlagB*Effective showing as opposed to telling.

Not a trace of telling here--we get lots of information about the beach, the surf, and Sean's background, but all of it comes in a natural way, either as things Sean senses or as things he might reasonably be thinking or feeling. More good craft on display.

                                                             
That's it! Remember, good or bad, these are just one person's opinion. Writing a story--any story--is challenging creative work. I commend you for your success and urge you to continue! Thank you for sharing your creativity.

Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
14
14
Review by
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
*Smile* Hi. My name is Max. I'm writing as one of the official judges for the "Journey Through Genres: Official Contest.

Item Reviewed: "The Creators at the Pleasure Paradise"   by PureSciFi
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
Please remember, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*


                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
I love science fiction, especially when it takes me to new worlds with new species. This story does both.

                                                             

*FlagB*Plot.
Pleasure Paradise will soon open, and the Creators are busy with the finishing touches and with booking tourists. But some of the Creators are disaappearing. Is it a conspiracy by the Keassams, who don't want the resort to open? Or is it something more pernicious?

At least, after three readings, I think that's the plot.

I can tell that you have a complicated fictional organization, with its own internal politics and external obstacles. You've got a gruesome monster created for the sole purpose of bringing death. You've got the urgency of an imminent opening, an incomplete project, and the mystery of essential staff disappearing. These elements can all combine to give a tension-filled story.

I can tell that you've got these tension-filled elements clear in your head. But, at least for me, they didn't jump off the page. Readers, even the most attentive and sympathetic readers, need to be hit over the head with the basic elements. I really wanted to enjoy this story on first reading, but couldn't figure it out. It took three readings to get the elements and players clear in my head--and, unliike many readers--I was paying attention as I read.

Just for example, it finally dawned on me on the third reading that the first two paragraphs were in Jullan's head as the fluid consumed and killed him. If you had *named* him in those paragraphs, the connection with dialogue where the Keassam Creators are looking for Jullan would have been clear. That's the kind relatively simple thing that could help this along.

For another example, in the second segment where the Creators are talking about commitments, I imagined that this dealt with contracts-for-services off-world rather than bookings at the still-incomplete Pleasure Paradise. A few simple words would also clarify this kind of understanding.

When I first started writing fiction, I had these kinds of omissions all the time. I still have them, in fact, so I'm sympathetic. One of my best and most valued mentors was relentless in pointing them out. He wanted to like my stories, he'd say, but my lack of clarity held him back. I kind of feel the same way about this, especially now that I think I understand it. This should be an awesome story, full of mystery, tension and--ultimately--frustration. A touch more clearity here and there would help a lot.

                                                             
*FlagB*Setting.
This contests specifies a regional setting. Per the guidelines, the setting must be a prominent feature of the genre. I'll be looking at how the story shows the details of the setting and how it fits with the other story elements.

This story has an non-terrestial and futuristic setting, with its own unique culture and actors--this is what constitutes a "regional setting" for this particular genre of SciFi. The setting certainly is integral to the plot and thus conforms to the contest guidelines.

                                                             

*FlagB*Characters.
Stories are ultimately about characters and their interactions with each other and their world. A memorable character almost always has three attributes. First, the character has a goal. Second, the goal matters--that's the stakes. Finally, something or someone stands in the way of achieving the goal--that's the obstacle. These three work together to create tension, which is the engine that propels your story. They give rise the character arc and often the plot.


The Creators have a goal--the opening of the Pleasure Paradise. The goal clearly matters to them, although the stakes could be better established. The main obstacle is the disappearance of Creators. Initially they think an opposition group (within the Keassams?) is persuading Creators to quit, but it quickly becomes evident that it's a Deathbringer. This makes the opposition life-and-death, which certainly clarifies and escalates the stakes.

This escalation of stakes also escalates the tension. Tension is the engine that drives your plot, and hence your story. In overcoming the Deathbringer, the Creators resolve the deadly threat, but at the expense of their initial goal.

                                                             


*FlagB*Point of view.

This story uses an omniscient narrator, standing outside the story, relating events and knowing the internal thoughts and sensations of all the characters.

One suggestion I do have is to watch out for over-using certain words and phrases, which can make your prose seem monotome. For example, the word "look" (or variations like "looked" and "looking") appears 28 times in the story.

                                                             

*FlagB*Effective showing as opposed to telling.

For the most part, we learn about things through the words and deeds of the characters which is the most fundamental element of showing as opposed to telling, so good job on that.


                                                             
That's it! Remember, good or bad, these are just one person's opinion. Writing a story--any story--is challenging creative work. I commend you for your success and urge you to continue! Thank you for sharing your creativity.

Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
15
15
Review of Highway of Tears  
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Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "Highway of Tears"   by Nightkeeper
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
When I was growing up, I loved watching the Twilight Zone and the Alfred Hitchcock TV shows on my parents black-and-white Zenith TV. (I'm dating myself, I know!) The best stories featured a twist that sent a chill slithering down my spine. This story did that for me, so thank you for that.


                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
I'm going to start with the plot since it's the twist that makes this story so effective. Part of what makes it effective is that it breaks a couple of "rules."

One "rule" is that it's better to tell your story in linear order. But this story starts in the present, then flashes back one week. That breaks another "rule"--don't do flashbacks in short stories.

But breaking these rules works in this story. The events in the first segment, in the present raise lots of questions, like who is the guy driving the Camero? What makes him think the victim is a serial killer? In fact, we're not exactly clear who is the victim and who is the villian.

That's brings up another "broken rule"--there should be a character the reader can cheer for. The reader WANTS to discover that character, EXPECTS to discover that character. But the opening witholds this information, creating suspense. The opening is a hook to read the rest of the story.

In fact, it's the last "broken rule" that makes the whole structure work. It creates suspense in the mind of the reader, compels further reading, and relieves the suspense at the very end.

It's brilliant, really, and something I would never have thought of. I "knew better" than to structure a story this way, but you revealed a counterpoint to what I thought I "knew."

It's never too late to learn!

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
Here, I'm of a mixed mind. This story is largely third person omniscient, where the narrator stands outside the story, looking in. This distances the reader from the fictional world and makes the fictional dream--where the reader collaborates with the author in imagining the details of the fictional world--more difficult to generate.

Third person limited--where the author puts the reader inside the head of one of the characters and tells the story from that character's point of view--is so pervase precisely because it's more intimate and immediate for the reader. Revealing the details of the fictional world through the senses of that character (and the words and deeds of all the characters) is almost always a better way to show a story--'show,' since omniscient narrators are necessarily 'telling' parts of the story.

I do suggest you at least consider revising this to be third person limited in Andrew Jack's point of view throughout. You don't have to name him at the outset if you want to keep that secret--although when the Camero appears later, it's pretty clear. It wouldn't even take much of a revision to put the first segment in his head. You first sentence is:
Heavy black clouds hung low over the desert highway, a false promise of rain in the uncaring desert night, and marched east over a man leaning on his burbling Chevy Camaro.

This is an awesome first sentnece. It sets the scene, answering the who/what/when/where questions, and does so in an ominous way. But it's an omniscient narrator, standing outside the story, describing the man and the scene. Here's what I think you might consider for a change:
The man leaned on his burbllng Chevy Camaro and waited. Heavy black clouds hung low over the desert highway, a false promise of rain in the uncaring desert night, and marched east overhead.

It's almost exactly what you wrote, except that it leads with the man doing something--leaning and "waiting." That establishes his point of view, and what follows is arguably what HE sees, as opposed to a nameless narrator outside the story. To nail being in his head, if you added some internal sensation that only he can feel--brisk wind tingling on his cheeks, or perhaps he lights his cigarette and the smoke rasps in his throat, you'd reinforce his POV.

You'd not need to change anything else in the opening, and you'd have "the man" as the POV character and you'd be in third person limited, as opposed to third person omniscient.

Similarly, in the next segment, you could NAME the POV character, peering up at the Nikal from the vantage of his wheelchair. It will eventually dawn on the readers that Andrew Jack is also "the man" from the opening--the Camaro is a big clue, and then we learn the secret of the wheelchair, so we get that surprise as the story develops. But it still doesn't answer the basic questions of the opening--who's the hero and who's the villian?

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. Some editors and agents will decide whether or not to read your submission based only on your first sentence.

Your opening is your best opportunity to draw readers into your fictional world, to induce a dream-like state in which your words guide their imaginations. The readers become the author's active partners in imagining the fictional world, in a state of suspended disbelief. In crafting the opening of any story, it's the author's primary task to launch this fictional dream. It's still possible that Andrew Jack is a crazy loon running around shooting random people he things are serial killers. Indeed, his subterfuge with the wheelchair kind of adds to that suspicion, and hence to the tension. The final line is what turns everything on it's head.

The key here is identifying the source of tension in the story--who's the villian?--and introducing elements to add to the tension. The more that Andrew Jack comes across as crazy, the better. I would keep these as subtle touches--like the instant coffee, which makes him feel isolated and out of touch--rather than overt.

                                                             
*FlagB*Hook
Usually a "hook" is at the ending of chapter. Here, the hook is in your opening, and it's brilliant.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Sufficient for staging, but these also help set mood and character. Lots of little details add a sense of forboding to the story. We also get a sense of Andrew's isolation from the descriptions of where he lives. Good work here.


                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
I *really* liked this story. My one suggestion is to consider revising it to third person limited instead of third person omniscient. The story *works* as it is, but my suspicion is that it would work even *more* if you used third person limited. Put us inside Andrew Jack's head. Make us feel the satisfaction when he pulls the trigger. Laster, when we meet him in his lonely wheelchair (not knowing he was the person in the opening), we'll feel compassion for him and want to cheer for him. But even then, his isolation and slightly off-kilter actions begin to raise suspicious. Then the Camaro appears, and we connect him with the opening. Tension raises. He must be one of the psychopathic serial killers. But the ending relieves all.

Maybe my vision of the story is what's off-kilter, but I don't think so. I think you've crafted a brilliant story as it stands. These are just some ideas at the edges that might, if you agree, make it slightly better.

Thanks for sharing, and do keep writing. You have real talent!

                                                             
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                             
*Cut*Andy lived in a renovated warehouse at the back of his parents’ roadhouse on the Highway of Tears in British Columbia, halfway between the towns of Prince George and Prince Rupert. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: The story stops here while the narrator intrudes to tell the reader stuff. This is important stuff, to be sure, but it’s still an info-dump.

Here’s a suggestion. Have Andy pause while a semi roars by on Highway 16. He might squint against the headlights and say something about it being the Highway of Tears. She might say it’s because serial killers take advantage of the soils and coyotes to dispose of their victims. Then he can think “perfect” before gesturing to his warehouse dwelling and offering coffee. That reveals the information through the words and deeds of the characters and the final ‘perfect’ adds menace to Andrew Jack. *Exclaim*


*Cut*Andy spooned instant coffee into cups.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I love the instant coffee. Well, no, I *hate* instant coffee, but I love what it says about him. You might even have him “fix” the coffee by using the hot water from the tap instead of heating it on the stove. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Cops these days, he thought and eyed her over his cup. You’d never know . . . she looks like a typical backpacker.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Here, you’ve correctly placed Andrew’s internal thoughts in italics. However, most editors will tell you to omit “thought tags”—the italics alone are sufficient to cue the reader that this is Andrew’s thought—especially since you’ve put us in his head by this point. *Exclaim*

*Cut*It read: “Garry Taylor Handlin. Silver BMW M3. Personalized plates 4MY EGO.”*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Answers any lingering question about who was the shooter in the opening, but heightens the tension. It looks like Andrew is the real villain of the story, and your next sentence seems to clinch it (I’ll not quote the next sentence—I’ll leave it for readers to discover.) This all sets of the actual *release* from tension with the revelation in the final sentence that turns everything on its head. *Exclaim*


                                                             

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out
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Thoughts on Writing  (NPL)
Short essays on the craft of fiction.
#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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Review by
Rated: E | (4.0)
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*Smile* Hi. My name is Max. Thank you for asking me read your story. I enjoyed it and wanted to share some thoughts with you about it.

Item Reviewed: "Mentor - The Very Cool Mister Rath"   by foxtale
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                           
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                           
*FlagB*What I liked best
I have similar memories about teachers from high school and college. I even tracked some of them down a couple of years ago to tell them how influential they'd been on my life. If Mr. Rath is still around, I hope you shared this tale with him!

                                                           
*FlagB*General Remarks
I enjoyed this piece. It's about a real incident, involving real people, so it's a little different from fiction. It has the feel of a newspaper column one finds on the op-ed pages--kind of like having a chat with the author over the morning coffee--which happens to be what I was drinking when I read this.

There are many successful examples of this kind of story. David Sedaris, for example, is a master at this and has written several books that are compilations of these sketches. This story reminds me of the best of these works, so good job!!

However, the style of these stories is different from, for want of a better word, I'll describe as "commercial fiction," although I suppose "literary fiction" would be an equally good name. What I'm thinking is that this style deliberately sets the mood that the author is sitting across from you, say on your front porch (the name of the publication where you placed this story!), and telling you a tale. The narrator's personality comes through in the telling, and that's part of the appeal. The narrator might have been a witness to the tale, but is now distant from it, recollecting it. In fact, the style emphasizes the telling and the distance and turns these into assets. It even adds to the sense that this is a historical document about real people.

That's in contrast to the kind of fiction people usually send me. In the the latter, the goal is to put the reader inside the fictional world and inside the head of the point-of-view character. This entails stimulating the reader to imagine all the details of that world, i.e., showing, not telling.

Now, if this were a typical piece of fiction, I'd complain about the telling as opposed to showing. I'd complain, for example, about the opening paragraphs starting with narrated background instead of starting by putting the characters in motion, acting and interacting with each other. But those complaints would miss the point of this kind of piece.

Where I'm headed with all of this is that I'm afraid I don't have much in the way of suggestions for you. This is an exemplary example of a story-as-journalism, a successful and legitimate kind of story. I can recognize and even admire what you've done here, but, most of what I know (or think I know) is about conventional fiction and thus doesn't apply here. None of the usual headings for my reviews are especially relevant.

If you were looking for an in-depth review, I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you. I liked this piece quite a bit and enjoyed reading it, but that's about as deep a comment as I'm competent to make about it.

This is well crafted and is a fine example of this genre. I certainly encourage you to continue, as you've mastered this kind of piece.

                                                           

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out
FOLDER
Thoughts on Writing  (NPL)
Short essays on the craft of fiction.
#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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Rated: E | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "Across the County Line"   by Amethyst Angel (House Mormont)
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
I enjoyed this little mystery story about two retired women on a scavenger hunt. The characters are engaging, the plot develops nicely, and the conclusion is satisfying. It's a "just so" story that was loads of fun to read!

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. Some editors and agents will decide whether or not to read your submission based only on your first sentence.

Your opening is your best opportunity to draw readers into your fictional world, to induce a dream-like state in which your words guide their imaginations. The readers become the author's active partners in imagining the fictional world, in a state of suspended disbelief. In crafting the opening of any story, it's the author's primary task to launch this fictional dream.

Your opening orients the reader in time and place, establishes the basics of the plot, and names the point-of-view character! All to the good, and it shows you're a skillful and experienced author.

My only quibble is that it starts with a disembodied voice speaking. In the *second* sentence we learn it's a first-person narrator who is speaking, and in the third sentence, when Elise speaks, we learn June's name. THis information comes so quickly, it may not matter, but I wonder if some modest rearrangement of information might establish that we're in the head of a first person narrator prior to her speaking? Something as simple as leading with "I kept my eyes on the twisty two-lane road while my companion, Elise, fiddled the map and her phone." That starts with her acting (keeping her eyes on the road), establishes what she's doing, who she's with, and where they are. If she then speaks, Elise can answer exactly as she does in the story, and there's no momentary disorientation about who is is speaking and who is hearing. As I said, this is so momentary, it probably doesn't matter. I guess I'm in a nitpicky mood. Lucky you.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
The scavenger hunt quickly turns to something more sinister as the sharp-witted June spots a crime in process. Elise adds a bit of humor as an airheaded companion to June's down-to-earth smarts. The repartee between them is delightful.

On reflection, the basics of the plot felt a little off in a minor detail. They are driving across two counties to the annual Senior Treasure Hunt in downtown Winchester, yet when the arrive they appear to be familiar with town and know exactly where the clue leads them. If June used to live in Winchester, or maybe had relatives there she used to visit, that would make more sense.

Later, they encounter another participant in the Senior Treasure Hunt who recognizes June and knows her by name. This person also drove across two counties to the Treasure Hunt? That seemed a bit of a stretch, too.

I get that you wanted to mention the drive along the highway to Winchester--it sounds delightful! I've been to eastern Tennessee (Oak Ridge National Laboratories aren't far away), and it's truly beautiful country. But these little plot bits kind of nibbled at me after reading the story. Again, no big deal, but easy to repair if you agree.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
First person, in Joan's head. No slips.

By the time we get to the third paragraph, we're firmly in Joan's head. As a consequence, what might have otherwise felt like an info-dump instead feels like something she might be thinking as she drives. The subjective information about being dragged along and needing the money helps to keep us in her head.

                                                             
*FlagB*Referencing
Lots of little local details that help to bring the story to life. Nicely done!

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Same here. The cluttered store with its musky scents felt like places I've been in these kinds of rural settings. Good work here, too!

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Joan and Elise are the stars, and they work well together. Susan makes a good villian, with just the right amount of menace and nastiness.

                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
One way to think of telling a story is that it is a guided dream in which the author leads the readers through the events. In doing this, the author needs to engage the readers as active participants in the story, so that they become the author's partner in imagining the story. Elements of craft that engage the readers and immerse them in the story enhance this fictive dream. On the other hand, authors should avoid things that interrupt the dream and pull readers out of the story.

Despite my nit-picks noted above, this was a really good story that I enjoyed reading. Thanks so much for sharing!!!

                                                             
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                             

*Cut*I was dragged into it because no one else wanted to drive her two counties away for a scavenger hunt.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I already commented that adding this personal perspective cements this as something Joan is thinking as she drives. However, “I was dragged…” is passive voice, which puts the readers in a passive, receptive mood. You want them to be active readers, imagining your fictional world in collaboration with you. That’s why active verbs are better than passive verbs. So, I’d suggest changing this to “Elise dragged me on this trip…” since we know who the dragger is. *Exclaim*

*Cut*I took a picture of both notes and folded them up again. I doubted the other had any relation to us. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: It’s not entirely clear with note is the “the other” one. *Exclaim*

*Cut*"He can't drive a carload of stolen goods without a license plate."*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I’m not convinced he’d notice the missing plate. It’s certainly not something I check when I get to my car. I’d think she’d let the air out of one of his tires. That would guarantee he wouldn’t leave. *Exclaim*

*Cut*One of the old guys from the treasure hunt strolled along at that moment.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This is where coincidences started to pile up and catch my attention.… *Exclaim*

*Cut*Did we complete and win the Annual Senior Treasure Hunt? Yes, believe it or not. Two checks for $750 were secured in our purses, and we had learned more about the history of downtown Winchester in the process than I ever cared to know.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: We never did learn the clue that Elise found, nor where the scavenger hunt ended. It would have closed all the loose ends to know the clue and how they solved it to win the prize. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Actually, that didn't sound like such an awful plan.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: *Exclaim* I loved the ending! *Exclaim*


                                                             

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
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#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈



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*Smile* Hi. My name is Max. I found your story on "Please Review. I enjoyed reading it and wanted to share some thoughts with you about it.

Item Reviewed: "Terabytes and Graphene"   by Wrath.of.Khan
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                           
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

Your request asked that I focus on character and other big-picture issues, so I'm going to resist my usual tendency to get in the weeds of nit-picky details.

                                                           
*FlagB*What I liked best
Your email mentioned "Bladerunner" and "Cabin in the Woods," two movies I enjoyed watching and which piqued my interest. I can see echoes of both in this short chapter, so of course I enjoyed the chapter, too.

                                                           
*FlagB*Characters
All three characters are interesting, but we certainly get a better view of Krim and his AI companion (at least I infer she's AI). Indeed, "Not Amber" as you call her, has a wistful piquancy that suggests she has deep feelings for Krim and, in fact, rather more depth than Krim. The suggestion of feelings for Krim gives her something she wants (him), and obstacles (she's immaterial and he's clearly got physical needs--witness his tryst with Amber). Since love is something everyone can understand, her goal matters. So, Not-Amber is a complete character in that she's got a goal, obstacles, and stakes, i.e., the goal matters. For Not-Amber, the opposition of goals and obstacles gives rise to conflict. The outcome of the conflict matters because of the stakes. From this, we get tension and the beginnings of plot.

I got much less about Krim. He seems to have a project of some kind, but he seems to have finished it. He's also got a secret, or at least there's a hint of that. But, in contrast with Not-Amber, I don't have a clear sense of any goal for him. What does he want? Not knowing what he wants, it's hard to know the obstacles, and the stakes are absent altogether. Stakes are the bad thing that happens if he doesn't achieve his goal. Since his goal isn't explicity, the stakes are mysterious.

We're told that the real Amber will never appear again, so it's hard for her to engage the reader at all. Hence, Not-Amber and Krim are the main character hooks into the story. AMber is great. Krim, not so much.

                                                           
*FlagB*Plot
With Not-Amber, we have a strong suggestion of plot and character arcs. For Not-Amber, it's more than unrequited love--it's impossibe love. That gives possible arcs for both characters.

But there's also all the great technology that the chapter hints at. There's the mystery of the needle in Krim's temple, and the drop blood (that he can't see, BTW, so it's a minor POV violation). (Oops, that's one of those weeds I said I was going to avoid. I'll try to do better.)

The problem is that the technology and some of the dialogue hints at things, but there's not enough information to really hook me. I think if we had a firmer concept of Krim's goals, obstacles, and stakes the tech could provide a great hook.

                                                           
*FlagB*Hook
The most compelling hooks are disaster, dilemma, and decision. Ending with a goal, conflict, or reaction is weaker but can be effective, depending on the situation.

We need, first, more information about Krim and what he's up to, and second, we need a hook of some kind to force readers to turn the page. You could certainly hook with Not-Amber, but I'm betting you've got more and better stuff in mind.

                                                           
*FlagB*Style and Voice
We're in Krim's head...well, except for the little slip I mentioned above.

                                                           
*FlagB*Referencing
I liked the tech and how you introduced it. No info-dumps on what it was, how it worked, or even much on what it did--you just showed it in action. That's good. It shows the characters interacting with the fictional world and, in doing so, reveals details about the world.

                                                           
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Sufficient for staging...Since we're put in the scene through Krim's sensations and actions, you keep us in his head instead of stopping the flow of events to describe stuff--a sign of the experienced author I know you to be.


                                                           
*FlagB*Grammar
Didn't see any problems...but wasn't looking either.

                                                           
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
When I first arrived on WDC, I had the good fortune to meet TimM , who, alas, is no longer active on the site. However, he was an *awesome* reviewer and mentor along with being a talented author. One of things he *constantaly* told me was that I left too much stuff out. I'd think I was being mysterious, and he'd complain that I was confusing. I eventually leanred he was right, although lack of clarity is still one of my biggest failings. The reason for boring you with this tale is that I'm trying to be your TimM here. This is good stuff, but it needs less mystery and more clarity.

The tech is interesting. Not-Amber is interesting. Even Krim is interesting, especially since we know so little about him. The narrative is engaging as well done, and the events are well-chosen to reveal at least Not-Amber's dilemma. I could wish for more detail, but I overall think this is an auspiciouos and intriguing start. I want to read more, which is what a first chapter needs to do above all else.


                                                           
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                           
I promised to avoid jibber jabber about craft, so I'm not including any comments here (even though I think jibber jabber is my strongest suit as a reviewer).

                                                           

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out
FOLDER
Thoughts on Writing  (NPL)
Short essays on the craft of fiction.
#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈




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Item Reviewed: "Viva La Vida"   by Amethyst Angel (House Mormont)
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
Wow. This is an awesome story. I loved the Solzhenitsyn quote at the beginning, and it fits perfectly for the story.

Among other things, it let me to this cello cover of the Cold Play song:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9R9v6MEfEpU
I guess I'm too much a child of earlier decades since I found the Cold Play cover kind of bleh, but this cello cover revealed the underlying beauty of the melody. Of course, the lyrics are also great, and important to the story.

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. Some editors and agents will decide whether or not to read your submission based only on your first sentence.

Your opening is your best opportunity to draw readers into your fictional world, to induce a dream-like state in which your words guide their imaginations. The readers become the author's active partners in imagining the fictional world, in a state of suspended disbelief. In crafting the opening of any story, it's the author's primary task to launch this fictional dream.

Truly, the only part of the story where I found some things you might consider for revision is in the opening. Basically, you begin with two disembodied voices talking on the phone. Since it's first person, we knew as soon as her mom speaks her name and gender, so you've got the POV established, but what's missing is context, where Jane is at, and some subjective, internal sensations that only she can feel.

I wouldn't add too much--a sentence or at most two would suffice. But I'd for sure consider some kind of preamble before the preamble. Maybe something like:
The eviction notice slipped from fingers and joined the empty pizza boxes and dirty clothes scattered on the floor of my bedroom. No money, no job, no hope, and now this. Desperate, I dialed a number on my phone.

I'm sure you can do better. The idea is to establish where she's at, maybe with a hint that it's in disarray as a metaphor for her life. This little bit, including the implied thought about no money, no job, no hope helps to put the reader in Jane's head. From that point, you're good to go.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
Jane's lost all hope, feels isolated and rejected, and makes a final decision. She meets her doppleganger and escapes from the cycle of self-blame and into a world where redemption is possible.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
First person. No slips, and exactly right for this story.

                                                             
*FlagB*Referencing
Modern day, both from the song and other references like her mobile phone.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Lots of really good, vivid descriptions throughout this piece (the single excpetion being her apartment at the beginning). You use subjective adjectives which also helps to reinforce that it's Jane sensing things around her.

I did make a comment about phrases like "I heard..." or "I saw..." in the line-by-line remarks below, which are a subtle form of telling.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
This is all Jane. You did a great job with her, showing her despair and, later, her determination and ultimate resiliance.


                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
One way to think of telling a story is that it is a guided dream in which the author leads the readers through the events. In doing this, the author needs to engage the readers as active participants in the story, so that they become the author's partner in imagining the story. Elements of craft that engage the readers and immerse them in the story enhance this fictive dream. On the other hand, authors should avoid things that interrupt the dream and pull readers out of the story.

This is an important story with an important message. My one suggestion has to do with framing in the opening paragraphs, but it's a minor one. The story stands on its own as written. Thank you for sharing and by all means keep on writing.

                                                             
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                             
*Cut*I could hear crickets and katydids making a racket as I trudged past the seemingly endless stretch of forest.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This one of many great descriptions in this story. However, phrases like “I could hear…” are subtle forms of telling.

We’re firmly in Jane’s head at this point, so arguably everything on the page is something she’s sensed, knows, or thinks. It’s almost always more immediate and intimate for the readers to directly describe what she hears rather than filtering it through her with an “I heard…” To emphasize she heard it, you can have her react in some way, exactly as you do here. *Exclaim*


*Cut*My phone's ringtone blasted through the heavy silence inside my head, and I opened my eyes to find it was broad daylight.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: A good transition, but you might consider revealing it was broad daylight by showing her reaction rather than stating a fact. For example, “I squinted my eyes against blazing daylight.” That’s showing it’s daylight by her reaction. *Exclaim*

                                                             

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out
FOLDER
Thoughts on Writing  (NPL)
Short essays on the craft of fiction.
#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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*Smile* Hi. My name is Max. Thank you for asking me to read your story. I remember reading it when you entered it in the "Tales Shown, Not Told OLD FORMAT contest.

Item Reviewed: "That Haunting Love Story"   by The Puppet Master
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                           
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                           
*FlagB*What I liked best
I enjoy stories with unexpected twist endings, and this one delivered. In addition, gave a creative twist to a story of love ended too soon by tragic death.

                                                           
*FlagB*Opening
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. Some editors and agents will decide whether or not to read your submission based only on your first sentence.

Your opening is your best opportunity to draw readers into your fictional world, to induce a dream-like state in which your words guide their imaginations. The readers become the author's active partners in imagining the fictional world, in a state of suspended disbelief. In crafting the opening of any story, it's the author's primary task to launch this fictional dream.

Your opening names your (initial) point-of-view character, puts her in action, and orients the reader in time and place, all good things. It answers the basic who/what/when/where questions, another plus.

However, the opening paragraph doesn't put the reader inside Violet's head. For example, this is a fine, declarative sentence:
Her hands were shaking and she could hear her own heartbeat.

BUt that's exactly the problem--this is the author telling the reader some facts. Consider instead this simple revision
She paused at the door, took a deep breath to quiet her thumping heart, and tried to control the trembling in her hands.

This conveys the same information, but does so by having Violet doing stuff. Instead of the narrator--that's you, the author--telling the reader her hands where shaking and she "could hear" her heart beating, it shows the information through her actions.

This is a minor change in terms of the actual information on the page, but a big change in terms of where it puts the reader--inside Violet's head as she enters the office, as opposed that of a narrator, standing outside the story, looking in. Putting the reader inside the story is one of major goals of an opening paragraph in a short story or a in a scene in a longer piece.

Indeed, I'd recommend that you look at all of the declarative statements--such as the description of Stan's office when Violet first enters--and try to find a way to change them so they are in Violet's head.

In passing, it might be nice if the opening made mention of this being her first day back from sick leave since, as it turns out, she's got some paperwork to fill out as a consequence.

                                                           
*FlagB*Characters
Vonnegut once said that every character should want something, even if it's just a glass of water. For the major characters in a story, this is doubly important.

Characters need goals. The goals need to matter--these are the stakes. Something bad happens if they can't achieve their goals, or, at worst, they miss out on something good. Finally, there ned to be obstacles to achieving their goals, or else there's not much of a story.

Goals and obstacles lead to conflict. The outcome of the conflict matters because of the stakes. The three, goals, stakes, and obstacles, work in concert to create tension. Tension is the engine that drives your story and hence the plot.

Okay, that's just to establish why these things are important. In your story, both of the major characters, Violet and Stan, have goals, the goals matter, and they face obstacles. We learn these fairly early in the story, which helps to establish tension and keep the plot alive.

In terms of these basic elements, this story does a good job. Eventually, Violet realizes her goal (although in an unexpected and delightful way) and we're left to infer that Stan does as well--at least, he's resigned his job, thus getting red of the stress that had been troubling him (his goal).

Violet's bashfulness and Stan feeding a stray cat also help to make both characters relatable and engage the readers in ways that will make them want to cheer for both protagonists.

The characters are the strongest feature of this story.

                                                           
*FlagB*Plot
Violet has a crush on Stan. An unexpected accident frustrates her goal of a relationship with him. Stan is stressed by his job and, later, by being haunted by a ghost. He quits his job and his pastor helps with an exorcism (of sorts), which in the end gives both Violet and Stan what they wanted. In nice little "just so" story. The goals and obstacles mesh nicely for both characters, as does the resolution. This story has excellent plotting.

                                                           
*FlagB*Style and Voice
This story uses an omniscient narrator, in which the author stands outside the fictional events, looking in. The author knows the internal thoughts of both of the primary characters; in fact, the author knows everything. This is evident because we know the internal thoughts of both Violet and Stan.

This narrative style dominated 19th century literature and continued well into the 20th. However, it has all but disappeared from commercial fiction today. About 30% of all contemporary fiction uses a first person narrator, while the overwhelming majority of the remainder uses third person limited.

Omniscient narration has many advantages, since it lets the author convey lots of information with minimal words. However, no one reads fiction to learn background information. People read fiction for the human connection with the characters: their sorrows and joys, triumphs and tragedies, loves and losses. Narration chills that connection, which is why it's so much stronger to reveal things through the words and deeds of your characters rather than by telling the readers stuff.

In third person limited, for each scene the author chooses one character to provide the point of view. The reader can know what that character sees, hears, smells, and otherwise senses. The reader can know what that character thinks, as well. But the reader has to infer these things about all the other characters through their words and deeds. The idea is that the author places the readers deep inside the head of one character, and then the readers encounter the fictional world through that character in a holistic manner, the same way we encounter the real world. That human connection, done well, will draw the reader into the story and thus into the fictional world.

Novels can and usually do have more than one POV character. Short stories, however, generally have only one. The reason is that each shift in POV requires the reader to adjust, moving from one character to another. This adjustment takes time and effort, both by the author and the reader. The length of a short story, being, well, short, makes it harder to have multiple points of view.

I often recommend that authors consider settling on a single point of view when writing a short story. However, sometimes it's true that the plot or other considerations require more than one POV--Faulkner's "A Rose For Emily" being an example.

It's in the nature of this story that you might want to break it into two segments--the first in Violet's head and the second in Stan's. It's more or less already done that way--except there's a short scene in the pastor's head. However, in both segments I'd recommend more attention be given to putting the reader in the POV character's head. I already suggested how to do this in the opening paragraph above. I'd recommend considering something similar to put the reader in Stan's head for the second segment, probably at the funeral but possibly at the fatefufl phone call. In any case, the transition to the new point of view has to be clear, and probably marked by an extra line feed or even three centered *** or ### marks.

                                                           
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
You've done a good job setting the scene, with active descriptors that help to stimulate the readers' imaginations. However, as noted above, you do this largely through declarative sentences that feel like the narrator, standing outside the story, telling the reader stuff. If you could convey the same information in a more subjective way, putting the reader inside the POV character's head, these would be far more effective. The information doesn't change, just a relatively minor tweak to the presentation can make all the difference.

                                                           
*FlagB*Grammar

*Exclaim* Adverbs.*Exclaim* You don't overuse adverbs, but they show up enough to be worth a comment. You know what Stephen King says about adverbs . I think he is correct. Adverbs are often a shorthand in which the author falls into "telling" rather than "showing." I try to use zero adverbs, since otherwise I'd sprinkle them all over the place like fairy dust. *Rolleyes* I've marked one or more places in the line-by-line comments below where I think you might consider a more precise verb or a touch more description rather than an adverb.

                                                           
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
One way to think of telling a story is that it is a guided dream in which the author leads the readers through the events. In doing this, the author needs to engage the readers as active participants in the story, so that they become the author's partner in imagining the story. Elements of craft that engage the readers and immerse them in the story enhance this fictive dream. On the other hand, authors should avoid things that interrupt the dream and pull readers out of the story.

All of my suggestions for this story are based on the idea of the guided dream. The story fundamentals--character, tension, plot--are all excellent. Where I've suggested changes, it's been with an eye to enhancing the readers' connections to the POV character and hence to the fictional world, i.e., to enhance that fictional dream playing in their heads.

BTW, I'm definately a cat person, so I especially loved this story.

This is a fine story that shows a real talent for character and plot. Thank you for sharing, and do keep in writing!!!

                                                           
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                           
*Cut*His touch is so soft and warm, she thought.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: It’s correct to use italics, as you have here, when quoting an internal thought. However, the italics alone are sufficient, and almost all editors will eschew the “she thought” tag. *Exclaim*

*Cut* "My number is escaping me," she said softly. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This is one of those adverbs I mentioned. Instead of said softly, she might have muttered, or murmured, or whispered, each having more precise meanings. *Exclaim*

*Cut*She's gone! Tears formed in Stan's eyes as he realized the gravity of the situation.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: We’ve been in violet’s head up until now, but here we’re suddenly in Stan’s head with no transition. This hop--from one character's head to another's--risks losing the readers unless the transition is clearer. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Pastor Quinn arrived at the pitch-black office. "Violet, if you're here, turn on the flashlight," he said.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Notice that only Pastor Quinn is in this brief scene. The omniscient narrator tells us what happens. You might consider having Stan accompany him, or simply have Pastor Quinn describe to Stan, in a subsequent scene, what transpired. I wouldn’t recommend a third POV character unless the character arc for the Pastor somehow fit the arcs for the other two characters. As it stands, Quinn doesn’t have a character arc—he doesn’t change as result of the events in the story, unlike Violet and Stan. *Exclaim*

                                                           

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out
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Thoughts on Writing  (NPL)
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#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈




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Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "The Name’s Daisy"   by Amethyst Angel (House Mormont)
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
I enjoy crime fiction and have even written a few, so of course I liked this piece. The mystery is satisfying, and the characters are all credible. Daisy, in particular, is easy to cheer for. Overall, a nice story, and well-written, too!

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. Some editors and agents will decide whether or not to read your submission based only on your first sentence.

Your opening is your best opportunity to draw readers into your fictional world, to induce a dream-like state in which your words guide their imaginations. The readers become the author's active partners in imagining the fictional world, in a state of suspended disbelief. In crafting the opening of any story, it's the author's primary task to launch this fictional dream.

This is a pretty good opening. You name your POV character--always a challenge in first person narratives--estalbish the POV, and answer the basic who/what/when/where questions. We learn at once that this will be about a murder, and we even gets bits about what kinds of cases Daisy won't take, which establishes her as a sympathetic character.

I have one minor tweak to suggest. Instead of starting with Eliza speaking, I'd consider starting with Daisy's phone waking her up--or at least getting her attention as she was deciding whether to get up. It's also likely she'd be answering her mobile phone, so she could read the caller ID--it'd probably be for Bobby rathar than Eliza, unless Eliza is calling her mobile phone. In any case, I'd consider setting the scene and putting us in Eliza's head before anyone speaks.

Starting with a disembodied voice speaking is generally not a good idea since we don't know who is speaking and who is hearing the voice. If you start as suggested above, you've already put the reader in Daisy's head and so there's no question that she's the one hearing the voice on the phone.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
A good plot, with a lazy detective whose ego is easily bruised. We see Daisy's imperfections in action as she alienates him instead of enlisting him as her partner, which causes him to impede her investigation.

You got many details correct here. For example, a defense attorney can't generlly get access to an active crime scene, so she can't "investigate." She *could* conceivably get supervised access if the police consent, which is why it was dumb for her alienate the detective. Dumb, but understandable, and it adds to the plot that she's now boxed out. Of course, she could also force things later through a judge's order, but that's after Eliza's been arraigned.

Once the police release the crime scene, of course she can "investigate" to her heart's content, but she'd need the permission of the estate. Since Bill and the mother are living there, they might have a say, too. Getting clothes for Eliza to wear at the arraignment is a good excuse, but Bill or the mother could do that and reasonably deny access. I'm presuming that Eliza and her husband jointly owned the property, so Eliza could grant Daisy permission to enter except for those parts of the property where Bill and the mother lived and, probably, to the actual scene of the crime, i.e., the room where the murder happened. That would likely be taped off with yellow police tape and possibly guarded by an officer. An officer might guard entrance to the entire house, as a courtesy to the people who live there, but whether they could deny her access to the dwelling after Daisy granted consent is questionable. It might take a judge's order to vacate that (except that access to the room where the murder took place would likely still be restricted).

More on procedures...I think it would be stronger if Daisy said up front that she was looking for something for Eliza to wear at her arraignment. This would be an ordinary errand, and would only involve going to the master bedroom. It would excuse looking in dresser drawers and other things that Daisy does, and wouldn't impinge on the actual crime scene, which is likely taped off.

I also think it would be stronger to emphasize all the clues she's winnowed out of Bill's Facebook pages. That would include multiple check-ins at various casinos, for example, check-ins being one of the annoying violations of privacy that FB is delighted to do automatically. Anyway, this gives Daisy an array of reasons to start looking. I think addressing the issues of permissions would also be helpful.

These are minor details--ones that only occured to me because I've lately been writing my own polic procedurals. Minor, but this kind of detail could add some verisimilitude.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
First person, in Daisy's head. no slips or head-hops.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
I made a few comments in the line-by-line remarks below. Nothing major. I would set the scene of the crime with more detail when Daisy first arrives: the chalk outline, maybe an over-turned end table and a broken lamp, establishing that there'd been a struggle. You mention much later that the room was a "mess," which is one reason to describe when she first encounters it.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Daisy is awesome. Impetuous, smart, agressive. I liked her a lot. The obdurate detective is the right mix of officious bully with oversized and easily bruised ego. Her reporter friend makes for a good foil. We only glimpse her somewhat ditzy client, but a nice job there, too.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar

*Exclaim* Commas.*Exclaim*
I thought I saw some comma errors. I'm terrible with commas, so I won't try to point them out. Instead, here's a great reference:
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_c...
I've read it, and they're still a mystery to me. I did see one or two spots where you used a comma with a compound predicate, usually not required.

                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
One way to think of telling a story is that it is a guided dream in which the author leads the readers through the events. In doing this, the author needs to engage the readers as active participants in the story, so that they become the author's partner in imagining the story. Elements of craft that engage the readers and immerse them in the story enhance this fictive dream. On the other hand, authors should avoid things that interrupt the dream and pull readers out of the story.

This is a fine story, with a good plot and nice tension. Daisy's goals are clear, the stakes are high, and the obstacles great. She overcomes them all, even the ones she imposed herself. She shows character growth by letting her reporter friend constrain her inclination to berate the detective at the end.

Thanks for sharing! This was a fun read!

                                                             
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                             
*Cut*Detective Lenny Stewart greeted me brusquely. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: It’s clear from his words that he’s being “brusque,” so the adverb doesn’t really add anything. Now, if you described his facial expression or tone, it would be different. *Exclaim*

*Cut*There had been a struggle, that was obvious by the mess in the room,*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Would have been better to mention this when she entered room, but we didn’t get much scene setting at that point. You did mention the chalk outline, but that’s about it. *Exclaim*



                                                             

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out
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Thoughts on Writing  (NPL)
Short essays on the craft of fiction.
#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈



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Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "More Than A Million Dreams "   by Sumojo
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
I liked this story quite a bit. The premise is both timely and chilling. Lilia's tormented scream outside the University, where she says "we don't need you" (meeaning the AI that has taken over her world) is pretty scary, and--I think--summarizes the point of the story. For story-as-metaphor, this is a great piece.

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. Some editors and agents will decide whether or not to read your submission based only on your first sentence.

Your opening is your best opportunity to draw readers into your fictional world, to induce a dream-like state in which your words guide their imaginations. The readers become the author's active partners in imagining the fictional world, in a state of suspended disbelief. In crafting the opening of any story, it's the author's primary task to launch this fictional dream.

I know I've mentioned this in reviews before...but it's still relevant. The first three paragraphs offer an awesome (if chilling) panorama of the sleeping city. It's the kind of shot that can be so effective at the start of a movie, where the camera serves as the eye of the audience.

But in written fiction, there is no camera. Everything happens in the imagination of the reader. That imagination is best stimulated by putting the reader into the head of a point-of-view character. In this story, that would be Lilia.

Now, if your lead sentence had been something like, "Lilia walked the silent streets of the city, loneliness her only companion." That little sentence would establish her as the person *seeing* the description that follows, and makes all the difference. If you added a sensation it would help even more to solidify her point of view. So, for example, one more sentence like, "The knowledge that she was the only waking soul amoung the millions sent a chill rippling down her spine." With those two sentences--or soemthing similar--you'd put the readers in her head. Now the readers will see those three opening paragraphs as being tinged with her emotional reactions as she takes in the city.

It's a small, almost inconsequential change, but by personalizes the descriton it makes all the difference in terms emotional energy.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
Love the plot! Lilia's alone and confronted with a puzzle and a challenge. She's seeking a solution...and eventually finds it.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
See above. I didn't flag anything but the opening, but there are other places where a minor tweek would change an author intrusion into Lilia's thoughts or observations.

                                                             
*FlagB*Referencing
Good job establishing the modern era...which makes the story even creepier!

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Good descriptions throughout. Again, a minor tweek here and there to emphasize it's Lilia seeing these things. I would NOT write "Lilia saw...", though. Instead, I'd have her react to things she sees.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Lilia is a character with a goal: get everyone else to wake up! The stakes are pretty obvious. The obstacle is, of course, AIDEN. (Clever name, that.) Goals and obstacles provide conflict. THe stakes are why the outcome of the conflict matters. So you've got all the elments you need for a killer plot.

There's a nice synergy between Lilia's goal and the metaphor implicit in the plot, so good work there, too.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
I didn't seen anything to complain about.

                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion

This is a fine story. It's well-conceived, with the theme, the character arc, the plot all converging nicely in a single, unified metaphor. My only suggestions are minor tweeks to firm up the point of view.

Good job!!!

                                                             
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                             
*Cut*Her eyes closed before two million gigabytes of digital memory started to upload.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Just a question…she’s downloading those memories from AIDEN to her head, right? Not uploading her memories TO AIDEN. Or am I misunderstanding? Or maybe it's one of those "proper English" vs "US English" things. You know what they say, the UK and US are two nations separated by a common language. *Exclaim*

                                                             

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out
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Thoughts on Writing  (NPL)
Short essays on the craft of fiction.
#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈



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Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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*Smile* Hi. My name is Max. Thank you for asking me to read your chapter. I enjoyed it and wanted to share some thoughts with you about it.

Item Reviewed: "Chapter 1(Lost in Starlight)"   by Silvia Romerez
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                           
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                           
*FlagB*What I liked best
This chapter has two parts, and I enjoyed both. The first introduces the main character, Larcia as a young adult. In the second, we meet Larcia as a young child in a dream sequence that also provides what I assume will be the inciting incident for the novel.

                                                           
*FlagB*Opening
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. Some editors and agents will decide whether or not to read your submission based only on your first sentence.

Of course, an opening needs to orient the reader by answering at least some of the who/what/when/where questions. Your opening does all of this ably, including naming your protagonist.

Your opening is also your best opportunity to draw readers into your fictional world, to induce a dream-like state in which your words guide their imaginations. The readers become the author's active partners in imagining the fictional world, in a state of suspended disbelief. In crafting the opening of any story, it's the author's primary task to launch this fictional dream.

For various reasons, including point-of-view (see below), I think your opening could use some tweaking. More on that in a bit.

                                                           
*FlagB*Plot
This opening chapter launches two plot lines. Larcia the glamorous rock star and Larcia the sad little girl. Both are intriguing, and raise inevitable connections about how they connect, thus helping to hook the readers.

One cautionary word about the dream/flashback sequence. Either or both of these can be valuable items in an author's toolbox, but care should be taken in deploying them. In particular, in a first chapter readers are just learning about the characters and the fictional world they inhabit. That connection is fragile and takes a while to solidify. It's almost always too much to ask to them break with the first here-and-now and jump to a new one, either in a dream or flashback, in a first chapter.

In fact, I could see either of these parts as a stand-alone first chapter. The second half, in particular, feels like an inciting incident for the novel. I did peek at the second chapter, and I see it continues with snake/little girl story. So, I'm wondering if the first chapter should be just that incident by itself.

                                                           
*FlagB*Hook
The hook usually occurs at the end of the chapter. The most compelling hooks are disaster, dilemma, and decision. Ending with a goal, conflict, or reaction is weaker but can be effective, depending on the situation.

You end with dilemma--a talking snake!--so you've got an awesome hook.

                                                           
*FlagB*Style and Voice
This is kind of a mixed bag.

In the first few paragraphs, we have an omniscient narrator, standing outside the story, looking in. This isn't the best way to bring readers into the story--to create the "fictional dream" that I mentioned above.

In the fourth paragraph, where Larcia emits an exasperated sigh, we're *inside* Larcia's head. From that point, there's no longer an omniscient narrator standing outside the story, we're inside the story in Larcia's head. That's a lot more effective. So, my first suggestion for the chapter is to re-work those first three paragraphs to put them in Larcia's head.

I know that you'll find omniscient narrators in a lot of classical fiction. They even were pretty common in the 80s. But they've all but disappeared from commercial fiction today. It's more than just a passing fad--there are good reasons for this having to do with the fictional dream.

The second half of the story is pretty much in Larcia's head (I'm assuming she's the "little girl" of the dream). The main suggestion there is to personalize the dream by naming her.

                                                           
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Both parts of the chapter to a good job of setting the scene. My only suggestion here has to do with phrases like "a little girl was visible" or "a sound was heard." These are passive voice, which put the readers in a passive, receptive mood. Instead, you want active readers who imagine the ficitonal world based on cues you provide. Since, for the most part, we're in Larcia's head, readers will infer that she's the one seeing and hearing things, so you can just say a little girl was on the hill, or "a woman shrieked."

                                                           
*FlagB*Characters
We get some depth on Larcia in the first part, in particular her exasperation and her affection for her fans. In the second part, we learn that Larcia feels rejected by her parents. This gives her a goal--to find acceptance--and insight into her affection for her fans. Nice job here with showing character and depth.

                                                           
*FlagB*Grammar
I found a couple of minor typos to whine about. Nothing major.

                                                           
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
One way to think of telling a story is that it is a guided dream in which the author leads the readers through the events. In doing this, the author needs to engage the readers as active participants in the story, so that they become the author's partner in imagining the story. Elements of craft that engage the readers and immerse them in the story enhance this fictive dream. On the other hand, authors should avoid things that interrupt the dream and pull readers out of the story.

Overall, I found this to be an interesting first chapter. Larcia--in both sections--is a relatable character that readers will want to cheer for. She's a little stronger character in the second half, since she has a goal (respect and love from her parents) and obstacles (they don't seem to care about her). The stakes are high, as well, since parental love is surely critical to a child's well-being. Goals, stakes, and obstacles create tension, and that's the engine that drives your story.

Anyway, you've got an intriguing and original concept, and a good start. Keep writing!!!

                                                           
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                           
*Cut*After the award ceremony was over, she bid her fans goodbye and again tried her best to put the perfect 'her' in front of them, got into her car and let out an exasperated sigh.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Here’s the first place we’re in her head. *Exclaim*

*Cut*As she fell asleep, through a cluster of clouds as they departed, a little girl was visible, lying on a hill with her hands resting behind her head, basking in the sun and gazing up at the sky.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: If I’m reading this correctly, this launches what is both a dream and a flashback. *Exclaim*

*Cut*The little girl knew very well about what it was.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: We have a “girl” and a “little girl,” although they are both children. I’m guessing that the “little girl” is Larcia and other girl is her sister. I’d strongly suggest using their names here, if for no other reason than to help readers tell them apart in the narrative. Knowing the “little girl’s” name will also help the readers identify with her and get inside her head. *Exclaim*

*Cut*straight into it's eyes*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: typo.—“it’s” is a contraction for “it is.” The possessive of it is its—no apostrophe *Exclaim*

*Cut*As the snake slipped outside, the girl in her mother's arms burst into tears as her mother sat their comforting her.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: typo: sat *there* *Exclaim*

*Cut*She jumped to her feet and was about to run away when the snake suddenly.............spoke. Yes, you read right and this ain't no Harry Potter s*** let me tell you.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: The snake speaking is a good hook—one that will make the readers want to turn the page to the next chapter to see what will happen.
However, the final sentence breaks the fourth wall. It reminds the readers that the story is an artifice, that there is a narrator telling them the story. In doing so, it breaks their fragile connection with the here-and-now of the story and the fictional world. For this reason, I’d consider omitting it. *Exclaim*



                                                           

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out
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Thoughts on Writing  (NPL)
Short essays on the craft of fiction.
#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈




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24
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Review of White Elephant  
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Rated: E | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "White Elephant"   by jamisonbrown
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
This is a lovely story, well-written, with a heart-warming ending. Thank you for sharing.

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. In this one, you start with the inciting incident and orient the reader by answering enough of the who/what/when/where/why questions to ground the reader and launch the narrative.

I do wish that you'd found a way to name your narrator. This is always a challenge when using first-person point-of-view, but knowing the name of the character helps to draw readers into his head and hence into the story.

In the course of the first four paragraphs, we learn that he's at work, at a white-elephant gift exchange, and the item he's selected belongs a co-worker's grandmother who is now it a rest home. You've packed a lot of information into these paragraph, and done so in a way that flows naturally, so good job on that.

My mental image did go through several changes in these paragraphs, though, before finally landing on the "right" one. For example, the lead sentence implies that finding the right gift for his wife will be important in the story--but he never mentions his wife again. So, I think the opening could be tweaked in a couple of ways.

First, I'd try to find a way to name him in the first couple of sentences. Second, I'd have the eyeglass case be in the first sentence, maybe glittering amid the other junk in the white elephant gift exchange. If he's drawn to it in the first sentence, that dovetails with the ending where he says "it found me."

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
First person. No slips. This provides a certain intimacy, although you can do the same thing with skillful third person limited and eliminate some of the challenges inherent in first person narrations.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Scene setting should, at a minimum, let you tell where the characters are in relation to each other as they interact. That's missing in the opening, for example. It's not an essential feature, but it would be helpful if you could sneak it in. Later, in the restaurant and in the rest home, you do a good job with this. However, in the grandmother's room, we don't know what else is there besides the eyeglasses (and the grandmother, of course). since it's a memory therapy room, I'd expect there to be photographs of her family displayed--or not, if she's neglected. Either way, filling in the detail of what *else* is in the room could be a touch that advances plot and/or character. It could be as few as two or three words.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
I tend to think of characters having goals and facing obstacles. The stakes involve what bad thing happens if they don't achieve their goals. At the outset, the POV character seems to have a goal of finding a gift for his wife, but this isn't mentioned again in the story. Instead, he finds his goal two-thirds of the way through the story when he finds the note.

A modest change could involve the suggestion above, where the glittering case catches his eye. He acquires it, thinking it's useless. Maybe he can give it to his wife. That transforms his goal to one involving a purpose for acquiring the case. The obstacle is that there's no obvious purpose. When he finds the note, the goal changes and the stakes escalate, increasing tension. Tension is what drives your story.

So, the modest suggestion I made about the opening rears its head again, this time to increase tension. Learning that the grandmother suffers from memory loss increases the tension again--will it matter that he's returning the case? You don't have to make any of this explicit in the story--the string of events are there in the story already, but these little changes could embellish them.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
I didn't find any grammar errors to whine about. Good job!

                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
I liked this story quite a lot. I've made a couple of ways you might tweek it to enhance the emotional impact, but it's quite effective as it stands. It's well-written, has good tension, and a satisfying release at the end. Thanks for sharing!!!

                                                             
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                             
Usually I have a few line-by-line comments, but nothing stood out here except good writing!!

                                                             

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out
FOLDER
Thoughts on Writing  (NPL)
Short essays on the craft of fiction.
#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
25
25
Review of The End of Summer  
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In affiliation with Blue Ribbon Reviewers Group  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "The End of Summer"   by Bobby Lou Stevenson
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

                                                             
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart*

                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
Hard to say I exactly *enjoyed* this, but it's certainly a timely commentary on the cruel political hysteria in the US against certain minorities.

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. Some editors and agents will decide whether or not to read your submission based only on your first sentence.

Your opening is your best opportunity to draw readers into your fictional world, to induce a dream-like state in which your words guide their imaginations. The readers become the author's active partners in imagining the fictional world, in a state of suspended disbelief. In crafting the opening of any story, it's the author's primary task to launch this fictional dream.

Your opening paragraph answers the who/what/when/where questions, and the second paragraph answers the "why." Carl is the protagonist, and you name him as well. Part of the point here, of course, is the final paragraph, which can't be in Carl's POV, so instead you've chosen a third person omniscient narrator. More on this in a bit.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
Carl faces a cruel punishment for a deed that doesn't merit a death sentence. The depths of the cruelty become apparent in the details of the execution.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
This is third person omniscient, as is evident from the first paragraph. I understand why Carl can't be the POV character, but I think it might be more appropriate if someone else--perhaps the mayor--provided the POV. After all, the mayor chose the "less painful" method of execution, so perhaps he had some doubts about the severity of the sentence. He could see Carl's eyes roll and perhaps see horror in their depths as his head is displayed. He could also see Sweetpea at the end, the only creature to mourn for Carl. Adding his POV, perhaps even making this a first person narrator, would make this more personal and intimate. That intimacy would make the cruelty and malice even more horrifying.

                                                             
*FlagB*Referencing
Given the means of execution, this is probably not a modern era--but it might be a near future era. However, leaving the era indeterminate increases the power of the story as metaphor, so I think I'd leave this aspect unchnaged.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Good details throughout

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Since we've got an omniscient narrator, there's not a lot of chance to understand the emotions in the story. That's one reason I suggested a first person narrator. It might be the mayor, especially since Sweetpea belongs to him. It could be anyone who, at the end, senses the cruetly of the punishment. It might even be an innocent child who doesn't understand what he did. The cruetly and spectacle are, of course, the point of this kind of thing.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
A typo here and there, but no real complaints. Good job!

I did notice several instances of passive voice. That takes the edge off of the events of the story. It's people who do thses ghastly things to a fellow human being. Show them doing it. Show their delight in their cruelty.

                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
One way to think of telling a story is that it is a guided dream in which the author leads the readers through the events. In doing this, the author needs to engage the readers as active participants in the story, so that they become the author's partner in imagining the story. Elements of craft that engage the readers and immerse them in the story enhance this fictive dream. On the other hand, authors should avoid things that interrupt the dream and pull readers out of the story.

I can't say I *liked* this story, but it did an effective job of making its point. The connection with real-world events will be obvious to readers--except, of course, those most in need of it.

Thanks for writing this, as well as for sharing it. Do keep writing!

                                                             
*FlagB*Line-by-line remarks
*Bullet*Your text is in BLUE.
*Bullet*My comments are in GREEN.
*Bullet*If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
                                                             
*Cut* and rat infested confinement, *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: suggest rat-infested, with a hyphen *Exclaim*

*Cut*Summer was taken to the village square where,*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: passive voice, which puts readers in a passive, receptive mood. Instead, you want them to be actively imagining the events in the here-and-now. Thus, I’d name the who takes him to the square and show their demeanor. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Summer was strapped prone to a wooden plank*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Again, *people* strapped him to the plank. Personalize the cruelty to make it more intimate and immediate. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Caution was taken to insure he would not suffer injury as his head was secured in place with a pillory.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I’d have the people securing his head tell him why they are doing it—they might even tell him they’re doing it so he’ll be able to see his headless body after the fact. *Exclaim*

*Cut*The blade release lever was disengaged.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: more passive voice….also the executioner probably wore a hood, which is an indication that the people doing these things are at least partly aware of the cruelty. *Exclaim*

*Cut*t is possible, in those briefest of seconds, he might have seen *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Here, I’d have the POV character—assuming there is one--*imagine* these things happening. This is stronger than the “might haves” that are in this paragraph. When the head is held aloft, he can see the mouth open in a silent scream, and see the eyes roll in horror. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Ultimately, Summer was stripped naked*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Again, more passive voice. People do these awful things to a fellow human being. Show them doing it. Show their gleeful laughter and vengeful cries while blood runs down their arms. *Exclaim*

                                                             

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!

Thanks again for sharing this item. Keep on writing!


Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
http://MaxGriffin.net/
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
Check out
FOLDER
Thoughts on Writing  (NPL)
Short essays on the craft of fiction.
#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

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