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Review of A Mind for Sale  
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Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
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*Smile* Hi. Thank you for asking me to read your chapter. I enjoyed it and wanted to share some thoughts with you.

Item Reviewed: "A Mind for Sale"   by jdennis
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 basic premise of this chapter is interesting and original. I've read stories about memory thieves before, but this appears to involve aliens (?) who partner with human turncoats to purchase or, if that fails, steal human memories. Implicit is that, once sold or stolen, the memory is lost to the original owner.

                                                           
*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 also important to orient the reader, namely answer the usual who/what/when/where/why questions.

This chapter eventually does these things, but it takes a while. In particular, establishing the poinf of view is imporant, because the reader experiences your fictional world through that characters senses and thoughts. THus, starting with disembodied voices generally isn't a good idea since it's not clear who is hearing the speeche, i.e., who the POV character is. It's generally stronger to start with the POV character sensing or acting, or both. THis puts the reader in that character's head and launches the fictional dream.

After the initial four lines of dialogue, you name Michael, which is good: that helps readers identify with him. INdeed, the opening starting after this point does a reasonable job launching the chapter.



                                                           
*FlagB*Characters
Kurt Vonnegut said every character should want something, even if it's a glass of water. Michael, as the POV character, has a goal: he wants to rescue Tahlia. The goal has to matter, i.e., something bad happens if he fails. These are the stakes. While these are not clearly spelled out, it's clear that her captors are unsavory bad guys, so it's thus important to rescue her. There are also obstacles aplenty, so you've got the trifecta of goals, stakes, and obstacles. Goals and obstacles create conflict, and the outcome of the conflict matters, which gives rise to tension. Tension is the engine that drives the plot and and moves the novel forward.

So...in terms of this chapter, we have goals, stakes, and obstacles. But at the end, Michael has achieved his goal and they have escaped. So, no hook (see below).

The various characters representing the obstacles have goals too, apparently motivated by greed and or avarice. The ones who consume the dreams must have goals beyond the pleasure of consumption, but this chapter one.

                                                           
*FlagB*Plot
As far as it goes, you have a complete plot with this chapter. Michael realizes his goal. BUt, of course, he must have a bigger goal. Perhaps it's just surviving in this disfunctional world, but that wouldn't be an interesting novel. I"m sure you've got bigger goals in mind for him, so hinting at those now would be helpful. Even better, the hook might reveal the bigger goal.

Also, the arrival of Father Klignen from out of nowhere struck me as a kind of deus ex machina, an unexpected miracle. Now, I admit it's a trope to have allies appear to help the hero save the day, like Han Solo in Star Wars where he appears at the critical moment and lets Luke blow up the Death Star. BUt there was pre-existing *tension* there, since the audience knew all about Han, and his appearance was, while a surprise, emotionally uplifting as well. It confirmed his "good-guy" character which we'd be led to doubt. So, it wasn't a complete surprise. I'm just saying this trope is more effective if we know there's allies out there who *might* (or might not) show up.

                                                           
*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.

As I noted above, your chapter ends with a resolution, which is the opposite of a hook. The heros need unfiinished business of some kind, giving the readers a reason to turn the page to the next chapter.

                                                           
*FlagB*Style and Voice
Third preson limited, in Michael's head.

                                                           
*FlagB*Referencing
We got lots of good details about this fictional world, mostly via the words and deeds of the characters. Indeed, nothing stood out in particular as an info-dump, so good job!

                                                           
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
This was good, too. Lots of vivid detail. As the action progressed, I had no trouble figuring where the various characters were in relation to each other. It can be hard to accomplish that kind of clarity in an action scene, so, again, good work!

                                                           
*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 pretty good first chapter, although as you've seen above I have some minor structural suggestions in the opening and with respect to the Father Klignen. The basic premise is interesting, the villians are suitably vile, and the protagonists are easy to cheer for. So, in answer to your basic question, this is a project that surely merits development.

Thanks again 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*He smelled too. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Smelled how? Like watermelon and puppie dogs? Or like urine and feces? Be specific! *Exclaim*

*Cut*stretching to the top of the cargo bay. The illumination revealed the immensity of the cargo bay *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Be careful repeating words and phrases—cargo bay in this case—since this runs the risk of making your prose feel monotone. *Exclaim*

*Cut*“Father Klignen!” She gasped.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This struck me as a kind of deus ex machina. *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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http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/
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#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈




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Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "Sweet Tea and Murder"   by Breanna Reynolds
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*

Breanna, welcome to Writing.com! I see you just joined a couple of weeks ago, and you've already posted two stories. Congratulations, and thank you for sharing your creativity.

I hope you find your time on WDC as productive as I've found mine. This is a great place to make new friends, to share your work, and to learn and grow as an author. It can be kind of overwhelming here, so if you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a note.

Ordinarily, I give in-depth reviews with detailed comments on craft. However, since you are new to WDC, that might be more than you're looking for, so I'll keep my comments more generic. I hope you find my comments helpful and encouraging.

                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
I love spooky stories where wierd things happen to ordinary people. This one fits that model. I particularly liked that you left the mystery of the leeches, the boy, and his mother unresolved. The mystery drew me in, of course, but you let the reader figure out the explanation that fits them, based on the clues you provide.

                                                             
*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.

An opening also needs to orient the reader by answering the basic questions of who, what, when, where, and so on. Your opening does a good job of that, setting the scene in the apartment where most of the action will take place. It also establishes a sense of menace as Neil meets his fate.

As a suggestion, I'd *name* Neil in the first sentence rather than using a pronoun. In the first place, the "he" has no antecedent. But more to the point, knowing the character's name helps to draw readers into the story.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
This story really starts when Amelia moves into her apartment. The story is about the events that transpire between her, the little boy, and his mother.

I understand why you started with Neil, but this opening actually gives away the plot. Knowing what happened to Neil tells the reader what's going to happen to Amelia and reduces the tension. It's generally a stronger story save that as a kind of punch line.

I'd recommend starting the story where Amelia moves in. The little boy's remarks about the prior tenant adds tension, along with his warning. Later, his mother says Neil was murdered, again adding to the tension, but not saying exactly what happened. Tension is the engine that moves your story forward, and this is one of two major suggestions I have for this story.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
From the point that Amelia enters the apartment, we're more or less in her head. However, there are some spots where an omnicscient narrator seems to know the future, and some other places where we slip out of Amelia's head into another character.

This leads to my second suggestion for this story. I'd suggest to try to stay in Amelia's head throughout, and show the action from her point of view. Having her sense and react to what happens helps to cement this point of view. A shiver might run down her spine, for example, or her head might throb when she wakes. Think about what sensations she's experiencing and put those on the page, showing her interacting with her surroundings and the other characters. You more or less already do this, but controlling the POV in this manner is one of the most challenging things for authors to do consistently.

I realize this is a kind of technical observation. If you'd like more detail on POV, let me know and I'll send you some links.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Lots of good details in this story to set the scene, including sight, sound, scent, and touch. The little boy's apartment was particurlarly nicely done, and spooky.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Kurt Vonnegut said that every character needs to want something, even if it's just a glass of water. In particular, characters need goals. The goals need to matter, i.e, something bad happens if they don't achieve thier goals. these are the stakes. Finally, they need to face obstacles. The tension between goals and obstacles leads to conflict. THe outcome of the conflict matters because of the stakes. This gives rise to tension.

Eventually, Amelia has a goal, namely figuring out what the boy is doing with all that sugar. The obstacle is the mystery and obtuseness of his answers. THe stakes rise at the mention of the fate of the prior tenant.

So, Amelia eventually has goals, stakes, and obstacles. If you could make those clearer at the start, so the evolution is more her striving than being carried along by events, I think there'd be more tension and a stronger story--not that it's not already a strong story!!

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
You noted there were typos in the message sending me story, so I won't comment on those. I don't generally read for grammar, but usually wind up whining about something. Not here. You've got a good grasp of the language.

                                                             
*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. Most of my suggestions above are predicated on this theory of fiction.

I liked this story quite a bit. It's got intersesting characters, an intriguing mystery, and builds nicely to the inevitable climax. It shows you have a native talent for story telling. There are myriad details of craft that can hone that talent to fine-edged tool, but you're off to a proming start!

                                                             
*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.
                                                             
2280592*Cut*The boy scratched his cheek absent-mindedly then jammed his hands into lint-filled pockets*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This is one of those places where we slipped out of Amelia’s head and into the boy’s. She can see or sense the lint in his pocket, so we’re in his head in this sentence. *Exclaim*

*Cut*One bag of sugar and the boy made to depart with a "thank you" and a greasy handshake.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: “bag of sugar” is a little vague. Is he getting a 4# bag of sugar or a packet of sugar. It’s better to be specific. It’s more common to ask for a cup of sugar. Also, he gets this “bag” on consecutive days, right? So is she going to the store in between to replenish her supply? *Exclaim*

*Cut*Small talk was difficult for her,*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Here, the author intrudes to state a fact. It’s better to show her being uncomfortable as silence stretches. Maybe she fidgets, or tugs at her dress. You could add the sound of the teapot or a spoon clinking against a glass in the kitchen to emphasize no one is speaking. *Exclaim*

*Cut*She could have said no. She should have said no. She didn't.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Omniscient narrator intrudes with foreknowledge… *Exclaim*

*Cut* Amelia nodded, with a dash of uncertainty and troubledness raising goose bumps up. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Good use of internal sensations to show her unease. In fact, you don’t need to tell us she uncertain and troubled—the goose bumps show that all by themselves. The showing is stronger than the telling, and in fact the telling weakens the showing. *Exclaim*

*Cut*She would have said something*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Here's a place I'm losing track of who's doing what. You need a proper noun here so we know which “she” would have said something. *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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In affiliation with Cross Timbers Novel Workshop G...  
Rated: E | (4.0)
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*Smile* Hi. Max here. Thank you for asking me to read your chapter. I enjoyed it and wanted to share some thoughts with you.

Item Reviewed: "Chronicles of Aaron: Survivor's Guilt"   by Andrew W
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
Aaron blames himself for his lover's death and is still grieving, but by the end he seems to have made a decision to start his life anew.

                                                           
*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.

Additionally, you need to answer some of the basic who-what-when-where-how-why questions to help orient the reader. So, in your first sentence you NAME your POV character, Aaron, and you tell us WHERE he's at, a convention center. But it takes more than five paragraphs to learn some of the other basic elements. He's there for a book signing, so he's written a book, right? It's a year since Eric died, so that's an important part of the "when" question.

Also missing is an emotional subtext for Aaron. I get that he's suppressed his emotions and likely has a flat affect, but flat descriptions aren't the optimal way to show that. Instead, maybe he shuffles, or his shoulders slump, or he lets the crowd move him along, implying he's passive. Show him being depressed, so we get that he's still grieving. Giving this emotional subtext also helps to put the reader in Aaron's head. Finally, showing him inter-acting with his environment, even in a passive way, helps put him in the readers head. The most intimate interactions are sensations--the sullen murmur of the crowd, scents of too many people and too much stale popcorn might give a feeling of his state of mind.

                                                           
*FlagB*Characters
At the start, Aaron has no goal. Absence of a goal means there's an absence of tension. Since tension is the engine that drives the plot, the chapter tends to drag.

I think this would be better if Aaron had a goal at the start. After all, he's written a book and gone to a book signing, so he's trying to understand and get over what's happened. But he needs a goal and, if possible, you should articulate that goal in the first sentence, and certainly in the first paragraph.

He has obstacles to achieving his goal. Survivor's guilt, for one. Eric's parents, for another. His devotion to his Eric, for another. Finally, for him it's like yesterday, not a year ago.

There are consequences to failing to achieve his goal. The hollowness of his current existence is certainly a consequence. His conversation with his mother is an opportunity to point this out--Eric's life ended, not Aaron's.

Showing the goal (not telling!) adds tension to the chapter and provides a release at the end. But the end is an opening to the next chapter, which is a great hook.

                                                           
*FlagB*Plot
See above. A character's goals, obstacles, and stakes often drive plot.

                                                           
*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.

You have an awesome hook--a decision!

                                                           
*FlagB*Style and Voice
I get that Aaron has a flat affect due to his grief. Showing that should be one of the main goals (and challenges) of this chapter. But the way to show it isn't to write with a flat affect, which doesn't engage the readers. The trick is to show Aaron being disconnected and emotionless while engaging the readers and drawing them into his head.

                                                           
*FlagB*Scene/Setting

                                                           
*FlagB*Grammar
Good job here. I think I spotted a missing word--see the line-by-line remarks below.

                                                           
*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.

The general outline of this chapter is really strong. At the start, Aaron is sleep-walking through life, in mourning and filled with guilt. BUt at the end, he wakes and a new chapter potentially opens in his life. That's a great arc for the chapter! I think a bit more attention to showing as opposed to telling would add some intimacy and immediacy to his subtle emotional plot, but overall it's a great idea.

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*Aaron sat down at the table and set things up. When ready, still with the fake smile, looked around and waited. He watched people go by his booth, but none seemed interested in coming up to him. At one point, he heard people whispering about him, "just another Mars colonist survivor trying to make money off a terrible event."*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I’m going to pick on this paragraph as an example.

First, we’re five paragraphs in, and we still don’t know why Aaron is at the convention center.

Second, notice the sentence structure. Every sentence is in the form ‘Aaron...verb.’ It’s important to have a more varied structure, since otherwise your prose seems to be monotone.

For a third point, phrases like “he watched” and “he heard” are a subtle form of telling. It’s almost always more immediate and intimate for the readers if you describe directly what he watched and what he heard. If you want to emphasize he saw or heart it, you can have him react in some way.
*Exclaim*


*Cut*His fake smile slowly melted away and thought about Eric.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Missing word? ...and HE thought about... *Exclaim*

*Cut*A small tear rolled down his face. Someone finally walked up to his booth. Aaron reacted, “Hi”*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Another exemplar paragraph. This time, the short sentences give a choppy feel to the events. Also, you tell us Aaron “reacted,” but then only show his speech. How else did he react? Maybe his shoulders slumped, or a sad smile bent his lips? *Exclaim*

*Cut*After the book signing, Aaron went back to his apartment. He walked inside and put the box of books on the kitchen table. He opened the fridge, then closed it. Walked to a drawer and took out a menu. He called up the restaurant, placed his order, then called his mother. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: He signed only one book? Note this is another paragraph with repetitive sentence structure.

“Went” is a pretty tame word. You could add some emotional content to this event by describing the walk a bit more. Or, maybe, he “shambled” back to his apartment for a more precise word.

“Walked” appears twice, which runs the risk of making your prose feel monotone.

The implication is that he thought about fixing dinner—he opened the refrigerator—but then decided he wasn’t up to it and ordered takeout. Giving him a bit of internal dialogue to this effect would add some emotional tension to the scene, especially when his mother calls.
*Exclaim*


*Cut*His palms got sweaty and his heartbeat increased. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Good way to show his discomfort. *Exclaim*

*Cut*He recognized him immediately. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: It’s been more than a year, and still Aaron remembers him? You might add here, “Even though it had been more than a year....” *Exclaim*

*Cut*I am grateful from the amount of time I had with him.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: typo? ...FOR the amount of time... *Exclaim*

*Cut*“Hey Paul, it’s me, Aaron. I was wondering, if you’re not busy, want to go out tonight?”*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Good hook! *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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*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: "Chronicles of Aaron: Mars Colony"   by Andrew W
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 like SciFi and romance, and this one is a gay romance, a special bonus for me. Thank you for sharing!

                                                           
*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.

Openings also need to orient the reader by answering the basic questions of who, what, when, and where. This story takes place in the future on Mars, so it's important to have this in the first paragraph. We also need to know the relationship between Aaron and Eric, something that's not clear until several paragraphs later.

Finally, it's important to establish a point-of-view for the story. For this story, that eventually becomes Aaron, but it's much later that you establish this. I'd consider doing so in the first sentence--for example, maybe the dark clouds roiling the normally pale Martian atmosphere made Aaron furrow his brow and tug at Eric's hand.

                                                           
*FlagB*Plot
They wind up fleeing for their lives, so there should be a sense of foreboding and urgency in the opening, too. You can get that by mentioning the clouds up front, and showing Aaron being concerned about them. It would also help to know about the depth of their relationship, something that's not clear until much later.

                                                           
*FlagB*Style and Voice
Third person. By the end of the story, we're in Aaron's head, but it would be more intimate and immediate if we were deep inside his head from beginning, in third person limited. If you're unsure what I mean by this, drop me a note and I'll send you a link.

                                                           
*FlagB*Referencing
They are on a terraformed Mars in the future, where there are driverless cabs. We don't know a lot more, not that more is essential.

However, I was unclear why the man took over driving their cab? In particular, I'd expect in an emergency, they could broadcast to the cab directly and override it's destination, sending them to the spaceport. It was pure coincidence that man helped, right?

                                                           
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
A few more details about the planet and where they lived might help. I wouldn't overdo it, bearing in mind that setting can also advance character and plot so it's not wasted effort.

                                                           
*FlagB*Characters
The banter between Eric and Aaron shows they have a long-standing relationship, but it's not until maybe the midpoint that we learn they are planning not just *a* wedding but *their* wedding, so the depth of that relationship wasn't clear. Having them hold hands, or maybe Aarron straightens Eric's tousled hair would help show their intimacy.

                                                           
*FlagB*Grammar
I don't read for grammar, but I usually find things to whine about. Not here, so good job!

                                                           
*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.

It's often the little things that make a difference between a sequence of events and a story that brings tears to the eyes. This one is a tragedy and should do the latter, so little things that showed the deep love they have for each other, their joy in the planned wedding, and the intimacy that share makes the ending all the more tragic and moving. Show these things in the little ways they touch each other and interact, and you'll breathe more life into them and their relationship. The plot is a good one, even classic, but more little details would help bring it to life.

Thanks for sharing, and do 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*Aaron and Eric walked outside of their apartment. Aaron closed the door while Eric walked down the steps. Eric stopped near the road and took his phone out. Aaron walked up to Eric, “Are you ready to head out?”*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I already commented on elements to add to your opening, but here I want to note the short, declarative sentences. These aren’t bad things, but several in order run the risk of making your prose seem choppy, so I’d suggest adding a bit more variation to sentence length and type. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Aaron responded, “What are you doing!?” And the man replied.

“You didn’t hear? *Cut*
*Exclaim*My Comment: The dialogue tag for the man belongs in his paragraph, not Aaron’s. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Eric looked up at the sky, “Told you we shouldn’t have walked.”*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: They’ve just learned the planet is dying and there’s an emergency evacuation, and this is his reaction? *Exclaim*

*Cut*At one point, a car pulled out in front of them, and the driver made a sharp left turn.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This whole sequence and their reaction could use some expansion and more detailed description, I think. *Exclaim*

*Cut*they heard a loud sound and look back; a tornado was heading their way. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: A few things, here. “They heard” implies an omniscient point-of-view, while a single point of view is more intimate and immediate (see above). So, properly, this should be “he heard” or “Aaron heard.”

Except that phrases like “Aaron heard...” are a subtle form of telling. It’s generally more intimate and immediate for readers if you describe directly what he heard. To emphasize he “heard” it, have him react in some way. *Exclaim*


*Cut*Eric flinched when he saw their taxi fly over them.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This reverses the order of cause and effect; it’s more natural to describe the cause—the taxi flying overhead—followed by the reaction—Eric’s flinch. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Erisuccessful,d to pull Aaron up.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Typo? *Exclaim*

*Cut*they stop and saw*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: “stopped” for consistency in tense. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Eric watched the ship go up into the sky with watery eyes.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: In Eric’s head... *Exclaim*

*Cut*Back on the ship, Aaron walked up to a window and saw the planet get smaller and smaller.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Hops to Aaron’s head. In a short story, you generally should have one and only one POV character. *Exclaim*

*Cut*a fiery explosion in the atmosphere burned up the planet in seconds.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: The entire planet? Really? Besides, planets don’t “burn up.” There would be debris that would likely destroy the spaceship. I think you must mean burned the surface of the planet? *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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Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "The Sound of Death"   by Graywriter is on a cruise
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 well-written, haunting story. An apocolyptic narrative, with no apparent cause for the disaster, met by an amazing and reslient couple. The style has the feel of a journalistic narrative, reportage more than immersive fiction. This makes the events all the more haunting.

                                                             
*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.

You name your characters--not always a trivial task for first person narratives!--orient the readers in space and time, and immediately move to the inciting incident. I was hooked by the first ba-ba-boom.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
Da-da-boom, and almost everyone is dead. In the restaurant, flying glass eviscerates diners, but people die in crushed cars and from other grisly events. Ginger and Fen almost instantly conclude they need to flee the city and head for Fen's recently deceased grandfather's cabin in the woods. I won't reveal whether they arrive there or not, but the point of the story seems to be "live for the present, for tomorrow you may be dead." Fen even quotes Matthew 6:34 to that effect.

I do have a comment on the events themselves. Initially, sonic booms seem to be source of the deaths, killing people but leaving infrastruccture largely intact. At least one character speculates it's a Russian attack. An attack--Russian, alien, whatever--that kills but leaves infrastructure makes sense, in a gruesome kind of way. But then, later, it's pretty clear that a second wave levelled the cities with explosions and fire. Despite this being the apparent tactic the Russians appear to be using in Ukraine as I write this, a sensible agressor wants to keep the infrastructure in place to use. Thus, the premise that this is an attack of some sort seems improbable. The Biblical references leave divine retribution as a possibility, but I don't think that was your intent either.

THe above paragraph is just me trying to figure out what happened beyond the overt events. It's 100% fine for this to be left out of the story. In fact, Fen and Ginger can't know, so it's better to leave it out. As author, you doubtless have ideas, but it's fine for the narrative to leave geeks like me wondering.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
First person, in Fen's head. His matter-of-fact, low-key narrative is amazingly effective.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Seemed just right to me...but be careful with phrasing like "I saw..." or "I heard..." these are subtle form of "telling" in that they filter sensations through the narrator. It's almost always more intimante and immediate to directly describe what he "saw" or "heard." If you want to emphasie that the saw it, have him react in some way.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters

I see from your bio-block that you've published a lot of non-fiction. I spent most my career as an academic--I was a research mathematician--writing non-fiction, but you clearly wrote and published more extensively than I did. The clarity and economy of your prose shows that just-the-facts experience, and worked well with this narrative.

But...fiction is more than just the facts, or it least it usually is more. We get a bit of reaction from Ginger when she buries her head in his shoulder and laments the myriad deaths they've just witnessed. But, except for this moment, they focus on immediately on surviving. They assess the scope of the disaster in minutes, and in minutes more arrive on a course of action. They seem numb to what's happening around them, almost clinical in their reaction and in Fen's descriptions. Indeed, that clinical, analytical, and relentless focus is part of what makes this so horrifying.

But the result is that I felt distanced from Fen even though he's relating the events. In most fiction, I want to be inside the point-of-view character's head, sensing through them. The distancing comes both from the emotional tenor of narrative (or rather lack of emotion) and from the style (the "I sensed..." phrasing above, for example).

Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, this flat affect is part of what makes the story so horrifying. If they survive, it'll be precisely because they have been able to put aside the horrors. But, what if they found a small child, orphaned by the disaster? Would they help, or would they pedal on by, intent on their own survival? They make one choice, and pursue it relentlessly, but life isn't like that. Reality would intervene and force them to make hard choices. A better story would have them confront the ethical choices a disaster like this forces on people. Well, maybe not a better story, but one I would find more satisfying to read.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar

The writing is polished, lucid, and economical. No grammar errors.

However, there are some instances of passive voice. For example
people seated up front were shredded by flying glass.

It would be easy to rephrase as "flying glass shredded people sitting up front." It's not just Strunk and White telling us "active voice is better." There's a reason it's better, especially in fiction.

We want our readers to be active participants in our story. It's impossilbe to put all the myriad details of the real world on the page. The buzz of flies, the clatter of silverware, the cracks in the sidewalk, birds soaring overhead. If we put them all on the page, no one would read it--it would be tiresome and dull. So, what we put on the page advances character or plot, and preferably both. We rely on the readers' imaginations to provide all those other details that bring the characters to life.

Back to passive verbs. They put the readers in passive mode, but we want active readers for the reasons in the prior paragraph. So, everywhere you've got a passive verb, I'd consider an active one instead.

                                                             
*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 good story, and excellent story in fact. I could wish it portrayed more realistic or compelling ethical choices for the characters, but that doesn't mean it's not a good story--just that it's not one my personal idiosyncacies would prefer. There's lots of mystery here, as well. So, this is a fine story, and eminently publishable.

                                                             
*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.
                                                             
My reviews are usually filled with line-by-line comments, but I don't think you need that. I've made some specific suggestions about (the "I felt..." places for example) that can address or not, as you see fit. You are talented and effective writer who doesn't need line-by-line comments.

                                                             

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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Review of Pride Goeth  
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Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "Pride Goeth"   by Eekvanka Chrump
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 absolutely love your voice in this piece! More accurately, I love the voice you've given to Calanthe. It's fresh, engaging, and original. It embodies a currency and ironic humor that characterizes many young bloggers, and rings with authenticity. Your use here is unique and the best part of this amusing 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.

Your opening is on point for all the main tasks an opening should accomplish, so excellent job! In the line-by-line remarks below, I have some minor suggestions, but these are nibbling at the edges. It's fine as it stands.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
In essence this is a farce, where misunderstandings drive the action and the reader is in on the jokes that escape the participants. I absolutley love farce, and some of its most effective uses are in stage and TV dramas, where the audience sees what's happening but the actors are there in nonchalant innocence, misunderstanding everything. In fiction, we don't have actors emoting for us, so these become challenging to write since they are so dependent on the emotional subext of the characters. You've done a masterful job with this, and it's thoroughly enjoyable. Congrats on such an effective implementation of a difficult--if simple-looking--plot.

BTW, I loved the bit where Curt gave his order. It kind of reminded me of the famous scene in "Five Easy Pieces" where Jack Nicholson orders wheat toast.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdIXrF34Bz0

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
third person limited, in Calanthe's head. No slips, really, but I found one or two places where a slight re-wording might reinforce the POV. See the line-by-line remarks.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
It's Applebee's, so you don't need much more. The waitress is a nice touch.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Three characters dominate. Calanthe, of course, the down-to-earth author with an ironic sense of humor. Curt, the pretentious youngster who's full of himself. And the waitress, who's seen everything and is surprised at nothing.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
No grammar problems that I saw. Good job!


                                                             
*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've made a few nit-picky comments in the line-by-line below, but that's because I really, really liked this story. It's awesome. It brightened my day. Thank you 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*Eric Calanthe lifted his phone for what could have been the eightieth time, the minutes creeping over the seven o’clock mark and continuing on with no regard to this dinner-date which, as of now, consisted of only this writer.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I really liked your opening paragraph. It does everything an opening needs to do. But this one sentence is a bit long, and ending with “this writer” suggests that it’s the author observing this rather than Calanthe experiencing it. I get that you want to convey that Calanthe is an author, but you could do that a couple of sentences down. See the next comment... *Exclaim*

*Cut*he’d been under the impression another person would be involved, a new writer from Oklahoma City, but it seemed as if Calanthe would be dinning alone.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: As I noted before, I love the sarcastic tone that you give Calanthe, but if you tweak this slightly you could convey the information that Calanthe is an established writer and expects Curt to be a fan-boy—assuming that’s his expectation. *Exclaim*

*Cut*You wrote two books met with the best reviews,*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Missng word? ...books THAT met... *Exclaim*

*Cut*Calanthe’s eyebrows were straight across his forehead as a neanderthal*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Love the description, except he can’t see his eyebrows, so this is a small POV violation. *Exclaim*

*Cut*who’d apparently never seen an Applebee’s selection.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Maybe I’m not quite following this exchange. This seems to suggest that Kurt is the one who thinks that the food “sounds amazing,” but in the exchange that seems to be Calanthe. *Exclaim*

*Cut*“Curt,” the other fellow said.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I see from later this is a clever joke, but here it’s just confusing. If he say’s, “It’s ‘Curt’ with a ‘C’,” then it’s clearer and puts the punch line earlier. *Exclaim*

*Cut*“I’ll have the salmon, lightly seasoned with nothing peppery,*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Suggest a dialogue tag here, for clarity. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Calanthe bumped back one shot of tequila. Calanthe gulped down the second.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Suggest replacing “he” for the second instance of Calanthe, to avoid repeating his name. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Was there a gross part of Calanthe enjoying making his date ill at ease? No doubt.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Technically, this line is Calanthe reaction to what Curt just said. As such, I’d argue it could be in it's own paragraph, and then you’d need a dialogue tag like “Curt droned on...” as he continues his speech. That way, you continue the alternation of Curt speaking and Calanthe reacting. This is certainly not a “rule,” or anything so, er, pedantic. It’s an idiosyncrasy that I find valuable. *Exclaim*

*Cut*he stood, a sharp yank through his body, *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: awesome wording!! *Exclaim*


*Cut*In groups, those surrounding their table began laughing, a smattering of laughter, of ridicule for this snobbish little snot.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Being from Oklahoma, I’m not sure this is the reaction you’d get in a restaurant like Applebee’s. I’d expect maybe a few amused stares, but many more with aggressive hostility. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Calanthe placed his forehead in between his index finger and thumb, but avoiding looking at Curt still didn’t help. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: As above, this is Calanthe’s reaction to Curt’s diatribe, so I’d consider putting it in a separate paragraph. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Pride goeth before the fall, Calanthe thought. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: You’ve correctly used italics when you directly quote Calanthe’s internal thoughts. Every copy editor I’ve ever dealt with has insisted that there be no “thought tags” when I do this. *Exclaim*

*Cut*The cheeseburger gone (the best in my life, he’d thought),*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Another thing my editors have taught me is to eschew parenthetic remarks and to prefer the em-dash. This might take some re-phrasing, especially so it’s clear that the italicized phrase is an internal thought in reaction to the empty plate. *Exclaim*

*Cut*“Prominent Writer Melts Down, Claims Nothing Better Than ‘Mianus’!”*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: So I’m clear, here, the “prominent writer” in the tweet is Curt, right? Even though Calanthe is the better known of the two. BTW, to close the circle, you might consider having Calanthe looking on Twitter for references to himself right before Curt arrives. *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: 18+ | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "A portrait of a clown"   by Alexi
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 story had an evocative, melancholy tone, but ended with a note of hope and rebirth. I felt the pain and yearning of the protagonist, and relief that he at last found a note of life's magic in the song of his life.

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
The opening names your protagonist and orients the reader in time and space. It also poses Wolf's basic problem, namely his alienation from the world in which he lives. So the opening accomplishes exactly what it needs to do in the very first paragraph. However, it goes on for about another 400 words, which are largely exposition instead of putting Wolf in motion, in his world. This gets to my more basic point, pacing, which I'll discuss in the next section.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
Truthfully, while I wound up liking the story, I found the pacing to be slow.

There are essentially three segments. IN the first one, he's sitting outside his apartment, taking his meds, and then returns to his dark, curtained apartment. He's apparently seomthing of a hoarder from the description of the apartment. He goes to bed.

In the second segment, he wakes up, ruminates on his great-grandfather, and prepares for a speaking event at the local library.

In the final segment, the event at the library is over. We learned it failed, but not the specifics. He meets an old man and they watch firelfies together. The old man gives him his stumped-out cigarette but, and the protagonist returnst to his dark apartment. He wakes the next day, opens the drapes, and seems to find a spark of magic in his life.

The first two sections are, by word count, roughly half the story. they appear to be leading up to the event at the library, however we don't see that happening at all--we just learn that it didn't work out. Indeed, little to nothing actually happens in these sections. Instead, we have a lot of expostion, a touch of description of his apartment, and some narrated memories of his great-grandfather.

The final section is the meat of the story and quite effective. Here, Wolf interacts with the old man and the two of them respond to their environment. It's in this interaction that Wolf starts to change, a change that's confirmed the next morning when he opens the curtains and finds a new beginning. This section is almost all about Wolf interacting with his envirnoment and the world in which he resides, with minimal exposition and narration.

While the title of the story references Wolf's transformation in terms of his role as a clown, the "clown" part of the story appears at least partially disconnected from the epiphany at the end and the action in the final section. It would take just a touch to make this connection firmer and would, I think, increase the power of the ending which is already effective.

I'm belaboring this point, because I think that the story would benefit from shortening the first two sections, or, at a minimum, reducing the exposition and narrated content. I'll point out in the line-by-line comments below examples of both narration and exposition, both of which are telling. It's stronger, if possible, to show these elements of Wolf's world and his place in it by his words and deeds. That happens in the third section, which is what makes Wolf's tentative steps at rebirth so powerful.

I get that Wolf is alienated. I appreciate how challenging it is to show that through his words and deeds. Indeed, a big part of his problem is precisely that he IS disconnected from the world--that's what "alienation" means, after all. But I think you can make that point much more quickly and so keep your readers turning the pages.

                                    s}                        
*FlagB*Style and Voice
Third person limited, in Wolf's head. No slips. Good job.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Nice job describing the apartment, in both the first and final sections. In both cases, the descriptions reveal much about Wolf's state of mind.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
This is all about Wolf, of course. I'm wondering about the identity of the old man at the end. Clearly he's a representation of Wolf's grandfather, but I don't think you intend him as a ghost. I rather think he might be an hallucination--we know Wolf is taking anti-psychotic meds, after all. (For example, Risperdal is a green pill according to a photo I found online.) If I'm right, one way to add another clue might be to have Will smoke, too. That way, the cigarette stub he finds in the apartment could be his.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
I don't read for grammar, but usually find things to whine about. Not here. Good job.

*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.

This is good story, although I found the pacing to be slow in the first half. The second half was really effective and brought a troubled character to the point of hope and possible rebirth. By all means, keep writing stories like this that shed light on troubled characters but show them surmounting their challenges.

Wolf is a challenging character to protray, and overall you did a great job revealing him and making the reader cheer for him. That level of empathy takes real talent. Thank you for sharing his story.

                                                             
*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 nose continued to drip slightly. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: this is one of those adverbs I mentioned. “Dribble” might be a more precise verb. *Exclaim*

*Cut*It was to be said that his apartment wasn’t so much an apartment as it was a cave,*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Here, the narrator intrudes to describe the apartment. If you instead show it through Wolf’s eyes as he returns home, it would be both more intimate and immediate. This is an example where showing could replace exposition. *Exclaim*

b}*Cut*Still, he valued each strange pile of assorted items more than his own life.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Showing him pick some trifle, like a bow from his tenth birthday, and caress it in trembling hands would be more effective than the narrator telling us he values the objects. *Exclaim*

*Cut*It had been his great grandfather who had originally made him interested in clowns. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This begins narrated background. Is there a way to fold this into a bit action, where we learn about it from the words and deeds of the characters? How essential is this background to the transformation in the plot? Could just a mention of his great-grandfather suffice? Perhaps he’s putting on the same clown makeup his ancestor used, and way his ancestor taught him:? *Exclaim*

*Cut*“Not like the ones here”, his great grandfather had told him sternly.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Weak verb/Adverb again. “Lectured” might convey the same thing, or maybe his great grandfather wagged a finger and told him... *Exclaim*

*Cut*By watching a good clown, you could learn a lot in how they performed.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: More narrated background. How does this connect with the action of this story, i.e., with Wolf’s eventual transformation? If it doesn’t, why include it? If it does, I missed where you make the connection. *Exclaim*

*Cut*That evening, he didn’t go back to his apartment. Instead he was sitting on a park bench across the street. It was getting late, but he didn’t feel strong enough to walk back quite yet.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: We’ve transitioned to later in the day. Is he still wearing his clown makeup? Or did he scrape it off? FWIW, I originally pictured him in makeup, but as this scene evolved, I decided that picture must be wrong since the old man doesn’t comment. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Wolf felt uncomfortable, *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Tells us he felt uncomfortable rather than showing him squirm. *Exclaim*

*Cut*“My great grandfather would take me to this park.” Wolf said quietly to himself.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Another weak verb/adverb p air. Perhaps Wolf “murmured” for a more precise verb. *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 🏳️‍🌈



*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: "The fortune teller"   by WakeUpAndLive️❤️pumpkin
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 story about a fortune teller with a nice twist at the end. I like stories with twists, so I enjoyed this one.

                                                             
*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 does a good job with all the basic tasks. You name your POV character, put her in action, and orient the reader in time and space. You also give the reader a good idea of what the story is about. I had a couple of minor quibbles about word choices (see the line-by-line remarks belodw), but this opening gets all the important stuff right. Good job!

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
Hecate starts out conning people with fake fortunes, so she's got room to grow as a character. I kind of saw the ending coming, but it was still satisfying.

BTW, the scene where she does the initial reading is especially well-drawn, showing her getting extra money and then using nonverbal cues from the woman to form her "reading." Really good writing here.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
This is more or less third person limited, in Hecate's head. We learn her thoughts and motives, and see the fictional world through her senses. There are a couple of little places where a slight tweak to the text could reinforce that some of the information is what she's thinking at the time (as opposed to the narrator intruding to tell the reader stuff), but overall you did a good job with the point-of-view. See line-by-line comments for some places where you might consider nudging the text.

                                                             
*FlagB*Referencing
Modern era. At the start, she's in a tent at a "fair," but it's not clear exactly where the latter events occur. Is she in her home, or a rented space? Does she call on a cell phone (which would nail this as current)? Not that these details are especially important except as they serve to help the reader visualize the events of the story.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
See above. A few details on setting might help reveal a bit more about Hecate's character and the plot. I wouldn't do much--just bit more of things like where you mention the stitching in her gown.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Hecate goes from a cold con artist, to self-serving concern about someone dying "on her watch," to genuinely caring about the man. All believalbe because of your deft presentation.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
I didn't find any grammar errors, although I don't generally read for those. I did find at least one instance of a needless adverb--see the line-by-line remarks.

*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.

I enjoyed this little gem of a story. Thanks for sharing, and good luck with 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.
                                                             
*Cut*Madam Hecate poured water into a small dark barrel and looked intensely at its surface. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: As I said above, this is a good first sentence. But...I think a couple of tweaks might improve it. One is the “looked intensely.” Certainly “looked” is a tepid verb, but the way to poop it up isn’t with an adverb but rather with a more precise verb, such as “peered.” Secondly, “small” is a vague adjective that doesn’t provide a sense of scale. Perhaps it’s the size of a coffee urn sitting on her table? Or is it a re-purposed oaken cigar humidor that she’d gotten at a garage sale? Maybe it’s an old oak beer keg. All of these give a sense of scale without giving exact dimensions. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Within a few minutes, she watched a picture emerge.

Or, that’s what she told the customer anyway.*Cut*
*Exclaim*My Comment: Of course, this reveals that Hecate is a con artist, but it feels like the narrator intruding to state a fact. Reframing it just a bit could make this something Hecate is thinking. For example,
After a few minutes, she sneaked a peek at the woman sitting across from her and intoned, “A picture emerges.” With any luck, the old biddy would fall for her line.

I’m sure you can do better—you know Hecate and her customer far better than I do. The point is that a small reframing takes the narrator out and reinforces Hecate’s POV. *Exclaim*


*Cut*OMG, Hecate thought with disdain, just another sucker to play with. What was it with all those silly people? Couldn’t they tell she was only toying with them?*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: You’ve correctly used italics to mark off Hecate’s internal thoughts. However, standard practice is to omit “thought tags” when doing this. *Exclaim*

*Cut*took the transpicuous crystal ball, *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I like obscure polysyllables as much as the next guy, but I’m not sure why “transparent” or “translucent” wouldn’t be better here. *Exclaim*

*Cut*The time was near, the place was here.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Is this Hecte’s thought? It’s in italics, but I wasn’t sure. I’m guessing that instead this a voice whispering in her mind since the same phrase appears at the end with clearer context. *Exclaim*

*Cut*First, she did her research and read a couple of books on witchcraft. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Writing this review sent me off to Google “Hagiël,” which in turn led to Henry Cornelius Agrippa and his 16th-century three-volume book Three Books of Occult Philosophy. I’m sure you must have followed a similar path, so instead of “a couple of books” it might add verisimilitude to explicitly mention Agrippa. *Exclaim*

*Cut*The time was near, the place was here.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Of course, this is the same quote as above, where I wasn’t sure whether or not it was Hecate’s thought. In this context, it seems more likely it was Hagiël’s. *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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Review of The Mule Trainer  
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In affiliation with Cross Timbers Novel Workshop G...  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
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*Smile* Hi. Max here. First, my sincere apologies for my dilatory response to your review request. As I get older, I seem to have a harder and harder time with deadlines. In any case, I'm glad to have read this story, which I much enjoyed.

Item Reviewed: "The Mule Trainer"   by Daisan
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 use of dialect is what really makes this story shine. I know I've written to you before about how masterful I find your work in this respect, but that doesn't change my admiration for the skill you've shown. That alone makes this story worth reading, and the homespun and humorous wisdom is an added plus.

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
From your note, I realize that this is an extract from a larger work, so I'm confident that it has a lead-in that sets the scene.

From your comment, I have inferred that you want me to look at the quotes-inside-quotes parts of this, which leads me into a discussion of rules from the Chicago Manual of Style. That seems almost beside the point for the wonderful way this is written, but, on thinking about it (or over-thinking about it), I might have something useful to say on this topic. So,here, goes.

                                                             
*FlagB*Punctuation
I don't really have grammar comments--except admiration for the grammatical aspects of Lil Charles' dialect. However, I do have some technical commments on the typography of quotes-within-quotes, along with a suggestion or two.

When a character speaks in a story, the words he speaks are usually placed inside double quotes--as you correctly did. However, when the character's speech includes quoting someone else, this secondary quote-within-a-quotee should be enclosed in single quotes.

By way of example, here's your opening paragraph:
“My daddy told me ‘bout this man had a mule he’d bought from a farmer lived down the road from him. "Now, this here mule was young and strong but don’t you know he wouldn’t do right once you had him in the harness at the head of a plow. He’d tell him to “Gee haw!” and mule’d back up. He’d tell’im “Gee!” and the mule’d go left. He’d tell’im “Haw!” and the mule’d go right. That or he wouldn’t move at all.”


The three parts highlighted in purple are spots where you're quoting the farmer inside the larger speech by Lil Charles, so they should be enclosed in single quotes instead of double quotes (but see below).

However, there's the greem-highlighted text to consider. Initially when I read this, I took the double quote before ""Now" to be a typo. However, in retrospect, it's also reasonable to think that Lil Charles is quoting his father at this point. If that's the case, then a quote-within-a-quote would use single quotes, not double quotes, as noted above, so "Now should be preceded with a single quote, not a double quote: 'Now. You'd also need to end this extened quote-within-dialogue with a single quote at the very end of the paragraph, so it would read ...wouldn't move at all.'" [note the single quote, ending the father's speech, followed by the double quote terminating Lil Charles's speech]

That alternate reading, where we have a long internal quote from Lil Charles' father inside Lil Charles' dialgoue, would make the purple items nested inside the father's speech which in turn is nested inside Lil Charles' speech, i.e., triply nested quotes. If they are indeed triply-nested, then the rule would be to put them inside double quotes (per paragraph 13.30 in Chicago Manual of Style, which says to alternate between double and single quotes as nesting increases).

I'm kind of struggling to make this clear. But that's the point. The purpose of the punctuation is the make clear who says what. But once the nesting gets higher than two, it also gets confusing. The punctuation clues are easy to miss in casual reading, and readers can readily lose track of who is saying what.

So, my *advice* here is to avoid triply-nested quotes. I think readers can readily follow doubly-nested quotes, but triply-nested are probably a quote too far. The direct quotes about the directions to the mule, of course, are essential to the story and need to remain. We already know Lil Charles is repeating a story his father told him, so slight changes to his narrative can reinforce that without directly quoting his father. For example, if you replace "Now... in the green highlight with Seems..., it's clear that Lil Charles' is relating the circumstances of his father's story.

Whew. I hope that was clear, along with my reasoning for what amounts to a one-word change and some minor typographic tweaks.

Now on to another comment and suggestion. Let's look at this paragraph.

“After a while, the mule struggle back to his feet and the mule trainer pull back his arm fixin’ to bust that sapsucker in the head again but the farmer runs over saying, “Waitaminute! Waitaminute! Man, are you tryin’ to kill my mule?” The mule trainer looks at the farmer shakin’ his head. “No suh,” he says, “I’m gettin’ ready to train’im.” The farmer points at the two-by-fo’ and say, “Gettin’ ready to train’im?” the farmer says. “If you call yo’self just ‘gettin’ ready’ to train him, what you been doin’ up 'til now?” The mule trainer looks at the two-by-fo’ then smiles and says to the farmer, “Well suh, befo’ I can train him I got to get his attention.”


This is really awesome writing, and I wouldn't change a single word. But...it kind of strings together, making it a little hard to read. This is all Lil Charles' speaking, relating the story, and he's doing so in marvelous dialect which adds enormous and subtle shading to the whole.

But it might be helpful to break it up a bit. Ordinarily, when a new person speaks, we'd start a new paragraph. The problem here is that this is all Lil Charles' speaking, but he's quoting more than one person as he speaks. I don't think there's a specific "rule" for this circumstance, but for clarity, you might break Lil Charles' dialogue into paragraphs as new characters speak within his telling of the story. If you do this, then each paragraph within the extended dialogue would start with a double quote, but only the final paragraph of Lil Charles speech would end with a double quote. Thus, you might consider the following for the above.

“After a while, the mule struggle back to his feet and the mule trainer pull back his arm fixin’ to bust that sapsucker in the head again but the farmer runs over saying, 'Waitaminute! Waitaminute! Man, are you tryin’ to kill my mule?' [note the single quote ends the farmer's speech, but the absence of a double quote indicates that Lil Charles isn't done speaking.]

"The mule trainer looks at the farmer shakin’ his head. 'No suh,' he says, 'I’m gettin’ ready to train’im.'

"The farmer points at the two-by-fo’ and say, 'Gettin’ ready to train’im?' the farmer says. 'If you call yo’self just ‘gettin’ ready’ to train him, what you been doin’ up 'til now?'

"The mule trainer looks at the two-by-fo’ then smiles and says to the farmer, 'Well suh, befo’ I can train him I got to get his attention.'”

Curtis and Emerson burst out laughing.


Note that I've changed the internal quotes, where Lil Charles relates the farmer's and the trainer's words, in single quotes, per the rule mentioned above. Lil Charles' entire speech is enclosed in double quotes. Each paragraph *inside* his speech starts with a double quote, but doesn't END with a double quote until he's done speaking, in the final paragraph. I added your reaction line just for clarity.

I think this reads better, although the absence of a closing quote at the first and intermediate paragraphs, which indicate that Lil Charles is continuing to speak, is kind of small and easy to miss. For additional clarity, you could break speech with descriptions of Lil Charles affect, like his tone or facial expression, or with a reaction from his listeners, as you do at the ending. I'd minimize these, though, as I think you want the readers focused more on the story that Lil Charles is relating and less on the telling of it.

                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
I loved the story. I love Lil Charles. I am in awe of your talent with dialect. Keep writing! I sincerely hope this is what you were looking for.


                                                             

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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Review of Sword  
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Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "Sword"   by Barex Aster
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
There is some really fine wordsmithing in this chapter. It's filled with excellent, vivid descriptions, some lyrical, but always lovely. The prose shows you spent a lot of time crafting the words, choosing them for maximum effect.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
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 chapter is actually three, more or less disconnected segments. Lovely as the prose was, I confess I had a hard time following the first segment. I couldn't tell if I was reading a SciFi story with advanced technology or a swords-and-sorcerers fantasy. In fact, I'm still not sure exactly what the raven is. An intelligent bird? A fancy bit of tech? Or a real raven?

The final segment is somewhat clearer. I infer we have a princess who has been trained--possibly using extraordinary powers--to lead her armies. She seems to have not only powers, but a sword which she didn't deploy in this segment. She also seems to be a bit of a slackard in terms of her duties, although she also seems to have mastered an impressive range of fighting techniques. Apparently, she's about to assume the mantel of her duties, heir to her father. We meet her teacher--Wurlett--and a matronly figure named Mrs. Claudus. She's not exactly Miss Danvers, but her role in the household seems similar.

So...there's a LOT here. It's kind of overwhelming, getting all of this at once. Clearly, you've got a highly detailed fictional world, and these chapters drop the reader in the middle of it. The final section, filled with action, is the best, but...well, read on. There are some bits missing that would help readers.

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
The opening is lovely. Well, everything here is lovely, so all three segments have lovely openings. But all three segments open with an omniscient narrator, standing outside the story, describing things to the reader. This puts the *reader* outside the story, too.

All three openings have the feel of special effects in a movie. Indeed, the visuals might make a dynamite opening to a movie. But this isn't a movie. It's words on a page, and the psychology is different. In a movie, the *camera* is the eye of the audience. It's supplemented by the score, the lighting, the color choices, the special effects, the Foley artist, and other endless bits of of the art and science of motion pictures.

All a novelist has is words on the page. In a movie, everything happens on the screen. In a novel, everything happens in the head of reader. Effective novels inspire the readers to collaborate with the author in imagining the fictional world. The world comes to live in the reader's imaginations.

The most effective way to do that is to first put the reader inside the head of the point-of-view character. If the reader is in Kara's head, for example, feeling the silken touch of her pillow, the scratch of sleep in her eyes, the whoosh of air as the sword misses her cheek, then they are also inside your fictional world.

In the final section, the action *centers* on Kara, but an omniscient narrator tells the story. So, my first and main suggestion, is that you deploy your impressive wordsmithing skills to put the reader inside her head. Be relentless. Show the story the way she's experiencing it. The scent of the flowers, the feathery touch of her hair, the unyeilding metal when she kicks the Captain. Bring her to life instead of describing her.

In the line-by-line comments below, I make some specific comments about exploiting point of view to bring the story alive.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Kurt Vonnegut said that every character needed to want something, even if it's just a glass water.

More broadly, your protagonist--Kara--needs to have a goal. The goal has to matter: something bad must happen if she fails to achieve her goal. These are the stakes. Finally, Kara must have obstacles, something that stands in the way of achieving her goal.

The conflict between goals and obstacles gives rise to tension, the engine that drives your novel. The characters care about the outcome of that conflict because of the stakes. You can increase tension by raising the stakes, raising the obstacles, or broadening the goals.

In this chapter, we have only a vague notion of Kara's goal, and less of the stakes. As a consequence, as well-written as the fight is in the third segment, readers don't have much reason to care about the outcome. Indeed, Kara doesn't seem to much care--there's little sense of urgency in her during the fight.

The Captain has clearer goals, but again the stakes are unclear.

Claudus is the most opaque of all.

Goals, stakes, and obstacles are critical elements of story telling. I know that your story has all of these, because I'm sure you've thoroughly thought through your fictional world. But this chapter needs to show these things from the first paragraph.

You also need to give your readers a reason to care about your characters. Usually, this isn't much of a problem since readers will *want* to care about Kara, for example. But she gets off to kind of dubious start. She oversleeps. She lies to Claudus, and not very well. She doesn't seem appreciative of the people who help her. In short, she's not likable. She doesn't *have* to be likable, however, for readers to cheer for her. Deckard, in Bladerunner, isn't likable, but readers cheer for him.

                                                             
*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.

I appreciate that you cut your chapter to meet the word limit guidelines for the review site, so no doubt the hook got cut. Note that the essence of a hook is unfinished action. If you've created characters readers will care about, with stakes that are high, readers will feel compelled to turn the page to the next chapter. That's the goal of a hook.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
Your voice is lovely and polished, but it's the voice of an omniscient narrator. If you're unfamiliar with third person limited, I can suggest some reading. It wouldn't take a lot to make the third segment third person limited in Kara's head and would, in my view, greatly improve the narrative.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Vonnegut gave lots of good advice to authors. Another of his suggestions is that every sentence should advance character or plot, and preferably both. He was writing about short stories when he said this, but it's still good advice to keep in mind.

You've done a wonderful job with descriptions and have a real talent at it. But, again, they often feel like an omniscient narrator is standing outside the story, describing things. It's better if you can tweak things so that it's Kara interacting with the fictional world, running a finger along the irridescent sheet, for example. That way, it's her acting and sensing rather than someone describing.


                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
I don't read for grammar, but I almost always find things to whine about. Not so, here. Good job!

*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.

There is a lot to love here. There's a clearly detailed and well-thought-out fictional world. There is your amazing skill at description and elegant word-smithing. There are some rough edges, but you clearly have the skills to polish this and make it amazing. Thank you for sharing, and keep writing! You have impressive 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*Kara’s golden eyes opened halfway and glistened the whitish light blooming from the arched windows. The left side of her face sunken within the red silk of her pillow and tangled mane of hair matching her eyes in color nearly smothering it, she closed her eyes once more before slowly pushing herself up.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: this is *so close* to being a great opening. You name your POV character, Kara. You have her doing things. The writing is evocative. But it’s an omniscient narrator telling us stuff.
For example, Kara can’t see the color of her eyes, so we start off with a POV violation—describing something she can’t see. If you start with her sensing things—as you nearly do—it’s stronger, because you’re reporting internal things that only she feels. Putting the reader in her head in the opening sentence brings the scene to life. All the impressive descriptions that follow are then things that *she* has seen, heard, and felt. Being in her head personalizes the experience and stimulates the readers’ imaginations.
*Exclaim*


*Cut*“Your Highness!” The muffled call of a woman. “You better be awake and ready in there. Captain Wurlett has been waiting for you.”*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Surely she knows this is Claudus, so why not say so now? You could also give us a sense of who, exactly Claudus is, what her job is. *Exclaim*

*Cut*“W-Wait!” Kara leapt out of her bed, sheets flying. Her bare feet hit the carpet with a thud and she bolted for the door, reaching out for the turning door knob. “Not yet! I—”*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Some internal sensations here would be helpful. Panic flutters in her chest, or electricity jitters down her spine. Maybe the floor is cold against her bare feet. Be in her head, i.e., put the readers in her head. *Exclaim*

*Cut*“Hmph,” Kara lightly laughed. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I didn’t like her much before, but this light, dismissive laugh made me dislike her. Some emotional subtext would soften this, or even reverse it. Maybe she feels trapped, with people like Claudus always hovering, placing demands on her. But right now, it sounds like Claudus is a loyal retainer and Kara lies to her and shrugs off her help.

Finally, note the adverb, “lightly.” Usually, a more precise verb—maybe snickered in this case—is better than pepping up a weak verb with an adverb. *Exclaim*


*Cut*That’s why Ms. Talia is not present.”*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: who is this? *Exclaim*

*Cut*Claudus sighed. “21 years in and you still can’t help but feel like you’re constantly making the world harder for everyone else. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: That’s exactly the sense I’m getting—a spoiled child. Also, write out twenty-one. *Exclaim*

*Cut*“No need to worry, Mrs. Claudus,” said a slightly muffled, male voice from behind Kara.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Again, don’t have the voice speak, have the character speak. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Shing!*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Is this the sound of her summoning her weapon, as the prior sentence suggests? Or is it the sound of Wurlett’s weapon? And it it a sword, or something else? *Exclaim*

*Cut*Eyes widened, jaw open with shock, she watched him hold the blade for a second over his head. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: She can’’t see her eyes or her jaw. A smiple rephrase can put this inside her head as opposed to an external observer reporting her appearance. *Exclaim*

c:lgrey}                                                              

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!.
11
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In affiliation with Cross Timbers Novel Workshop G...  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "The Pharaoh of Ayubia "   by Tiberius
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 tale, written in the style of Poe or Melville. It has a satisfying twist at the ending, and a tone fitting for plot.

                                                             
*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 does a fine job of setting the scene. You put us in the head of the narrator fairly quickly with the squawking seagulls and other sensations at the port. It's a bit heavy on background, but doesn't quite slip into the info-dump area. So, overall, good job here--but see below on characters.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
Nice plot. I won't give it away.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
First person, in Qaza's head. No slips. It has a nice, archaic feel appropriate to the story.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Good job throughout incorporating Qaza's sensations into the scene.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
By the end of the story, we understand thoroughly who Qaza Matli is. Indeed, that's a big part of the twist that makes the story enjoyable.

But...

Qaza is a pretty opaque character, even though the entire story is in his point of view. By the end, we realize he's had a goal all along, but the only hint of a goal earlier is "survival," and that's pretty nebulous. Every character, but especially the protagonist, needs a goal. The goal has to matter--those are the stakes. Finally, there needs to be obstacles to achieving the goal. You've got all three of those, but I think the story would be stronger if we felt those elements from the very start.

Qaza's goal, for example, is tied up to his childhood and those who slighted him. It's also tied to his father and (maybe?) those who betrayed him. It would be simple enough to tweak this to bring out revenge as a goal early on, or at least justice. You might even mention a long-lost brother who was among those who rejected him as a child (as in, "even my own brother forsake me.") His very isolation and powerlessness are obstacles. This all turns with the arrival of Pharoah in the story, something that readers realize by the ending but which you foreshadow nicely by showing the Pharoah's mortal nature (he gets seasick).

So, I'd suggest considering a tweak that gives Qaza a clearer set of goals, stakes, and obstacles that foreshadow but don't give away the twist, which I liked quite a lot.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar

*Exclaim* Repeated words.*Exclaim*
Reusing words or phrases in close proximity runs the risk of making your prose seem monotone. I've highlighted one or two places where you've got repeated words.

*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.

I enjoyed this story quite a lot. The characters, setting, plot, and literary style come together nicely to produce a satisfying tale with a twist ending. Thank you for sharing and do 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*Amenhotep bowed once more, holding tightly to his staff. That staff was a murky labyrinth of darkness*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: “Staff” repeats...see above. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Amenhotep and the Pharaoh quickly boarded the ship and sat. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Note the adverb. You might consider a more precise verb, or a more precise description. *Exclaim*Their bottoms aching,

*Cut*I could see the sweat glistening from their robes.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: We have a first person narrator, so arguably everything he reports, like the glistening sweat, is something he has seen. Thus, phrases like “I coujld see” not only are redundant, they are a subtle form of telling. If you want to emphasize he “could see” it, have him react in some manner—which you do a bit later when you say it’s surreal. *Exclaim*

*Cut*A very nasty voice broke my thoughts.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Mark Twain once said that every time he was tempted to use the word “very,” he’d use a cuss word instead. He knew his editor would delete the profanity and then, he said, his text would look the way it should have in the first place. His point, of course, was to not use the word “very,” which is more or less empty of content and is just a speed bump in your prose. *Exclaim*

*Cut*We passed broken gigantic statures of the gods. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Typo? Did you mean statues? *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!.
12
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Review of TEN LITTLE WORDS  
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Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "TEN LITTLE WORDS"   by SSpark
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 short item packs a big emotional punch, and ends with an uplifting message.

This is well-written and, I suspect, a true account of your experiences. I'm going to keep my comments brief, and focus on a couple of things that I think might help readers understand what's happening.

                                                             
*FlagB*Opening
Openings are critical in any work of fiction. The best openings put the characters in motion, interacting with the world in which they live. They need to draw the readers into this world. To do this, the opening should answer some basic questions: who lives in this world, what are they doing, where are they, why are they there, when is this happening, how are they acting, and why are they doing what they are doing. You don't have to answer all of these questions, but you need to answer enough to orient the readers in space and time.

Secondly, and almost as important, a story has a point of view. Most modern stories have the point of view of a character within the story. In this case, that character turns out to be a daughter who gets news about her mother.

It's important to establish the point of view while answering the basic questions. In particular, it's generally not a good idea to start with a disembodied voice speaking, since this leaves open who is speaking and who is hearing the speech. It's better to start with point-of-view character acting or sensing.

With respect to this piece, I wasn't sure about some basic elements in the opening paragraphs. Note that it starts with a person speaking. While it's reasonable to infer the speaker is a physician, we don't know who the patient is. Instead, in the second paragraph, we get (one of the) listener's emotional reactions to the diagnosis.

It's not until the the fourth sentence of the third paragraph that there's a referencne to "this incredible woman." In the next sentence, we finally learn the answer to the "where" question: they are in a hospital room.

From that point forward, the world of the story comes to life. A mother sits, serene, in her hospital bed while her distraught daughter waits for the doctor to arrive with test results. That gives us the who, where, and why answers, sufficient for this piece. But my point is that these should precede the doctor's arrival and utterance.

So my main suggestion is to set the stage for what follows. Maybe the daughter squeezes her mother's hand, noticing her cold fingers and weak grip. Maybe astringent hospital smells tickle her nostrils, or there's a steady beep-beep-beep from the bedside heart monitor attached to her mother. Start by having the daughter interacting with what's in that hospital room. By doing that, you set the scene. Better yet, she might check her watch and wonder where the doctor is at, which establishes tension--they are waiting for the diagnosis.

Once the scene is set, the rest of the story follows. But it's important to draw the readers into that room in the hospital the minute before the doctor arrives with her murmured diagnosis.

                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
This is well-written and heartfelt. My only suggestion--setting the scene--is a relatively minor one. Thank you for sharing, and do keep 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!.
13
13
Review of Unknown Treasure  
Review by
Rated: E | (4.0)
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*Smile* Hi. Max here. Thank you for asking me to read this piece. I enjoyed it and wanted to share some thoughts with you. Oh, and please say hello to your service dog, Bella, for me! Animals, especially service animals, are one of the blessings of the modern age.

Item Reviewed: "Unknown Treasure"   by dogpack:howling, haunting, boo
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 the clear sense this is story-as-metaphor, which I liked quite a lot. Metaphors cana be tricky things, since each reader will bring their beliefs to the tale and often find things the author never intended. A story is an invitation to readers to do just that: to invest themselves in the fictional world on the page and, in partnership with the author, breathe life into that world.

You asked for broad strokes rather than a line-by-line, point-by-point critique, so I'll try to make some helpful comments without getting too much into messy details. Here goes.

Every story has a point of view. More accurately, every scene has a point of view. The simplest description of "point of view" is that it's the person telling (or experiencing) the story. Many classic stories use an omniscient narrator--someone who knows everything. The omniscient narrator knows what both Jack AND Jill are thinking, knows in advance they will climb that hill and will fall down. Masterworks like War and Peace or The Scarlet Letter use omniscient narrators. This is an efficient way to tell a story, but it's almost disappeared from fiction today. The reason is that the omniscient narrator isn't part of the story, so that form of narration distances the reader from the fictional world.

Today, about 30% of fiction uses a first person narrator. This one is easy to understand. The person telling the story uses the first person (I, me, mine, etc) to tell what's happening. The words on the page describe what narrator senses and thinks, and how the narrator feels about it. For all the other characters, the reader has to infer what they sense, think, and feel via their words and deeds. The classic Rebecca by du Maurier or Huckleberry Finn by Twain use first person narrators.

The overwhelming majority of modern fiction, however, uses third person limited. In this scheme, the reader knows--via the words on the page--what the point-of-view character senses and thinks and how that character feels about things, so in that way it's similar to first person narration. The difference is that the author uses third person pronouns (he or she, they, theirs, etc) in reference to the point-of-view character. The author is limited to the point of view character, since readers can only know directly what that character senses, thinks, and feels and must infer these things about other characters via their words and deeds.

Once you master the technique--and it's not at all easy!--third person limited is easier to write than first person, although initially the latter is simpler.

In any case, a fundamental choice for the author is choosing the point of view and, in the case of first person or third person limited, the character in the story who will provide the point of view (POV for short). Choice of POV is critical since it provides the main interface between the reader and the fictional world.

The reason that third person omniscient has all but disappeared is because this distances the reader from the fictional world and hence from the story. Even compelling stories like The Scarlet Letter are challenging to read precisely because of this distancing. They are more akin to reading a Wikipedia article about Puritans and infidelity rather than a story that includes this in its plot.

The advantage to first person and third person limited POV is that both of these give a person inside the story with whom the reader can connect. The reader experiences the fictional world, and hence the story, holistically, through the senses and emotions of the POV character.

So, why have I rambled on about POV? Well, this segment uses an omniscient POV and my main suggestion is to instead use either first person or third person limited. Put the readers inside the head of the POV character. Doing this puts them inside the story, which is where you want them to be.

By the end of the segment we learn that the narrator was an eyewitness to the events. But everything before that revelation is third person omniscient.

It's not just pronouns that mark this as third person omniscient, however. Readers are told, in narrative form, what the three creatures in the wagon (?) are thinking, how they are feeling, why they feel that way, the history of building their wagon, and so on. We learn they exploit humans, and so infer they are not human. Herman, too, appears to be not human, although exactly what is remains something of a mystery. We don't even get much description of what he or his lair looks like.

So, my main advice here is to rework this segment using this (so far) nameless observer as the point of view character. You'll need to name him (her?), since that will help readers identify with her (him?). Let's call this person "Jodie," since that's a gender-fluid name. Where is Jodie when the action starts? What are Jodie's sensations and feelings about what's happening? Is Jodie scrambling through brambles to hide from the clunking monstrosity? What's Jodie doing so close to Herman's lair? Who is Jodie, anyway? What are Jodie's goals, what keeps Jody from attaining them, and what bad thing happens if Jodie fails.

You have a pretty detailed framework for your fictional world. You have an inciting incident (the raid on Herman's lair) to set things in motion. But you don't have characters and in particular a POV character for readers to hang their hats on.

I see I've strayed to characters instead of focusing on POV which was my intent, so it's time for me to stop.

Thanks again for sharing.

*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 only review things I like, and I really did like the basics of 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/
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#1847273 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈




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*Smile* Hi. My name is Max. Thanks for asking me to read your chapter. I enjoyed it and wanted to share some thoughts with you about it.
l
Item Reviewed: "Clarinda's Magic Misfortunes
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
There's a certain insouciance about Clarinda that's appealing, along with a snarky sense of humor. That makes it easy for readers to cheer for her.

                                                             
*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.

You name your point-of-view character, which is a plus, and start with her doing something, namely studying for a magic exam in her dorm room. This answers basic questions of who, what, when, where, and why, always a good start.

There's also good humor shown in the opening paragraphs, including the "gargoyle footprints" which could describe my handwriting as well as Clarinda's. Overall, this is a good opening.

BTW, while I read the background paragraph at the start of the file, I think I would have understood basically everything in the chapter from context, so the background narrative isn't really needed. Indeed, it's a strength of what you've written that you've successfully woven the background into the story itself, and done so without interrupting the natural flow of events in the here-and-now. Good job!

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
I confess, while I've seen the Harry Potter movies with my daughter, I mostly slept through them. However, this is kind of similar to those, but perhaps a little snarkier and less self-important.

In terms of Clarinda, she's got a goal: to not be shuffled back home to an unwelcome forced marriage at the hands of her parents. That makes the stakes fairly high, since she clearly loathes the proposed groom. Her obstacles are her scatterbrained approach to her studies, the churlish Fangustin, and her erratic but apparently brilliant magical powers. Goals, stakes, and obstacles are the basic building blocks of both tension and plot, so that's also a good start.

                                                             
*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.

Your chapter ends with a disaster--Clarinda thinks she's going to be expelled and forced into that unwelcome marriage, so you've got a good hook.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
Third person limited, in Clarinda's head. No slips.

                                                             
*FlagB*Referencing
Just enough detail to help the reader understand what's happening in the here-and-now and avoid the dreaded info-dump. Good job...but see the next bullet...

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
So there's enough to be understand where the characters are in relation to each other, i.e., enough for staging, but that's about it. I don't have a good feel for what her room is like, what the dorm is like, etc.

Now I know that Kurt Vonnegut said that every word should advance character or plot, and preferably both, but by showing where Clarinda lives, what she perceives, and how she reacts with her environment, you can advance both character and plot. You don't need to do a lot--readers will fill in the details--but you need a touch here and there, a roadmap to the readers' imaginations.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Another bit of advice from Vonnegut is that every character should want something, even if it's just a glass of water. We know what Clarinda wants, but the other characters are kind of opaque. Why does Fangustin hate her? There's a hint that Petrushkov likes her and tolerates Fangustin, which makes him more interesting.

The other characters are, at present, foils without much depth, but that's ok for a first chapter. You've got two or maybe three primary characters who interact in this chapter. More than that all at once can be confusing.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
*Exclaim* Comma Splices.*Exclaim*
You're clearly an experienced author, so I don't have any complaints about grammar. Adverbs, however, are another matter. There are more than 50 adverbs in this short piece which is about 49 too many.

*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.

I enjoyed this chapter. It's funny, full of action, and has an engaging protagonist. Thanks for sharing, and 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*“Gloria,” she called to her best friend and room-mate at her desk across the small room, *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: “Small” is imprecise and doesn’t add much to the description. Even “cramped” would be better, but here’s a chance to add a touch of explanation. She’s a teenager, so I can imagine it’s a mess. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Magic is so capricious, she thought. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: It’s standard to use italics for internal thought. However, most editors eschew “thought tags.” *Exclaim*

*Cut*(a crumpled page from her notebook) *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Most editors prefer an em-dash to parenthetic comments. Better yet, don’t break the flow of your sentence and try to flow the ideas more naturally. I see that you've used parenthetic comments extensively as a way of injecting Clarinda's thoughts and reactions without using italics. Italics are useful for young readers who may need the help, but less so for older. Italics, like parentheses, have the disadvantage of breaking the narrative flow, so I prefer just sticking her thoughts into the narrative, although that's a more advanced technique. Using fragments--which is, after all, how people think--is one way to introduce "free direct discourse" into your fiction. If you want to know more about this technique, drop me a note. *Exclaim*

*Cut*and she began to feel cold in the night air.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This tells us what she feels. It’s usually more intimate and immediate for the readers if you directly describe the cold air prickling her skin, for example. If you want to emphasize she “felt” it, you might have her shiver in reaction. *Exclaim*

*Cut*She brightened at that thought: a lifetime of detention meant she wouldn’t be expelled and forced to go home and marry that horse’s back-end, Darrell.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I understand this from the back story at the start, but if you modify this slightly you don’t need the backstory. For example, just add “like her parents wanted.” *Exclaim*

*Cut*they could hear a loud argument through the closed door.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Tells us what they heard instead of showing it—see above. *Exclaim*

*Cut*calmer but clearly disapproving, looked on.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: instead of telling us they are disapproving, describe their demeanors so that the readers can infer their mental state. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Clarind approached timidly. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Typo. Also, note the adverb. Maybe she edged into the room, or twisted a button her blouse, or inspected the carpet to avoid the glares of the two adults. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Evidently she was to stand in fact while they stood in judgment.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: they must be SEATED in judgement, right? *Exclaim*

*Cut*“Please do not interrupt again,” warned Runebluff sternly.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: note the adverb. Is it the tone of his voice that makes him stern? Or the expression on his face? Show him being stern. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Clarinda was sweating over her Level Four sorcery exam. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: When is this happening? The next day? Month? Year? *Exclaim*

*Cut*horse’s back end, Darrel.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: this joke is getting old *Exclaim*

*Cut*Material transposition is not taught until Level 2.”*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: So the levels count backwards? Apparently what she did was both advanced and Level one, or am I confused about the meanings of the levels? *Exclaim*

*Cut*He swelled like an over-inflated balloon, and she drew back from the expected explosion. But it was not directed at her.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Awesome description here!!! *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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Review of A Trip To Nowhere  
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In affiliation with Cross Timbers Novel Workshop G...  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "A Trip To Nowhere"   by E. B. Bloomfield
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 atmosphere of this dystopic, post-apocalyptic world is well drawn and, appropriately, smothering.

                                                             
*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.

From the details of the setting, it's clear that this is about survivors of an apocalypse. Knowing what kind of story we're reading is certainly a plus. You orient the readers in space and post-apocalypse time, which is also a plus.

I do have some suggestions for improvement, however.

First, I'm not sure why you don't name Vladimir in the first paragraph instead of referring to him as "the man." We learn his name in the second paragraph, so why not in the first? Naming him will help put readers in his head and draw them into the story.

Second, the only *action* in this paragraph is Vladimir entering the shelter. The rest of the paragraph is description of the interior. Indeed, it took me a while to figure out that Vladimir was entering from the outdoors as opposed to, for example, a locked safe, so the orientation of the readers could be marginally improved. However, my main objection--that nothing really happens in the opening--remains. Starting in media res, in the middle of action, is always good advice.

Some other, also minor, stylistic elements appear in the opening paragraph and later in the text. I'll mention those in the line-by-line documents below.

Finally, while the opening paragraph establishes what kind of story this will be, it doesn't really introduce any tension. More on this in the next section.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Vladimir provides the point of view and is the main character. We even eventually get a notion of his goal, namely survival. This certainly has high stakes. The obstacles come from the details of the shelter, including the paucity of resources and Dmitri's taciturn nature. He has other goals, to be sure, which have to include abetting loneliness and, perhaps, guilt as well. Then there's the consequences of his disorder to deal with, although we learn about that quite late in the story.

The conflict between goals and obstacles gives rise to tension. The outcome of the conflict matters to Vladimir--and presumably to the readers--because of the stakes. Except that we don't get much urgency from Vladimir about surviving, but rather a kind of grim, even dreary determination. This reduces the tension rather than increases. Since tension is the engine that drives your story--and generally is what keeps readers engaged--this could, in my view, be improved. It wouldn't take much to tweak the story hear and there to highlight Vladimir's goals or use them to more explicitly frame his actions.

We get plenty of hints about Dmitri, BTW, which are cleverly inserted in the narrative. Thus, Vladimir's goal probably includes abetting loneliness and possibly guilt as well.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
In order for "survival" to have meaningful stakes, Vladimir has to *want* to survive. We have a clear sense that he does, since he goes outside to forage for supplies and becomes annoyed when he thinks Dmitri is free-loading by just sitting there. Potentially, he wants to survive because of the companionship he gets from Dmitri, but I don't recall that being a strong thread.

Eventually, the obstacles overwhelm the goal, which should provide fruition for the plot. The legendary Billy Wilder once said that "in the first act of a story you put your character up in a tree and the second act you set the tree on fire and then in the third you get him down.” This story has all three elements, but the character doesn't really react to the critical places where the plot turns which, generally, are places where the tension ramps up. If you seek out critical turning points in the plot and find ways to highlight them, I think you'll improve the pacing and tension of the story.

I note in passing that the story in fact ends with a release of the tension--Vladimir is no longer in that burning tree. It's just not a HEA (happy ever after) ending.

                                                             
*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.

From the teaser, it sounded like this was the setup for a longer work. If so, I don't think it works in view of the ending. I could write more on why, but I could be wrong in thinking this is a prelude to a longer story and I don't want to give away too much of the story.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
Third person limited, in Vladimir's head. A couple of minor wobbles, noted in the line-by-line remarks below.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Kurt Vonnegut once said that every word should advance character or plot, and preferably both. Setting can certainly do both, but extended descriptions of setting where nothing else happens can significantly slow the pace. The first paragraph is one of several examples where this happens.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
I noted no grammatical errors.

However, there are some elements of craft that could be improved. Some examples are:

*Pencil* Repeated Words. If the same word or phrase appears more than once in close proximity, it can make your prose seem monotone.

*Pencil* Imprecise Adjectives. Words like "large," "small," and so on don't provide scale and should be avoiced. A "small" room might be "cramped," for example.

*Pencil* Very. Mark Twain once said that every time he was tempted to use the "very," he would instead use profanity. He knew his copy editor would cut the swear word and thus his text would look the way it should have in the first place. The point is that "very" is one of those pointless words that add nothing to the text.

*Pencil* "Why," she questioned. Elmore Leonard said to never use any word except "said" as a dialogue tag. I wouldn't go that far, but it's something to think about.

I've tagged one or more instances of the above in the line-by-line remarks below.

                                                             
*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 good story, with the ending cleverly foreshadowed in the text. I think it just misses being a terrific story due to a few minor glitches in craft. It's well worth revisiting precisely with a view to enhancing the "fictional dream" aspects, and all of my comments are to this end.

Thank you for sharing and, by all means, 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*he was standing in, and to the ceiling. The dim blue tube light shone down from the ceiling, *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: “ceiling” repeats. *Exclaim*

*Cut*a small coffee table, and another smaller table which occupied an unworking glass tube television*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: “small” is imprecise. Can you give a more visual description that also hints at scale? *Exclaim*

*Cut*long sleeve sweater covered by a windbreaker sweater vest, *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: “sweater” repeats. *Exclaim*

*Cut*he appeared very stern. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: First of three instances of “very.” *Exclaim*

*Cut*“No, Dmitri, I did not. We have not had much luck out there lately, and you know that. How about you come out with me sometime to grant a helping hand, instead of sitting in here all the time?” Vladimir questioned. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: The speech ends in a question mark, so why use this as a tag, he ques;tioned... *Exclaim*

*Cut*there was a plastic carton that contained several large bottles of vodka. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Two liter bottles? Jugs? Lots of better choices here. Also beware of any sentence where the primary verb is a form of “to be.” Here, maybe the jugs of vodka “hid,” for example, making them an active part of the scene and adding to their mystery and/or menace. *Exclaim*

*Cut*It made him mad. In a sudden burst of rage, he yelled, and upon dropping the bottle of vodka onto the dirty bed, he threw his arms onto the mattress of one bed*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Tells us he’s mad, then tells us a *second* time he’s mad. The next sentence *shows* us he’s mad, which is much more effective. Also, what follows is the first real action in the story, but it’s mostly in one long sentence. This slows the readers down and decreases the tension. Shorter sentences read faster, tend to increase the pace, and accelerate changes in tension and mood. *Exclaim*

*Cut*slid it underneath the chin of his gas mask, and took a long chug.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This is the first mention he’s been wearing a gas mask. I’d work this into the first paragraph if at all possible, and remind us a couple of additional times so readers don’t forget. *Exclaim*

*Cut*While waiting for the skeleton, who usually took a good bit of time to play,*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: hahahaha. This also subtly hints the truth about Dmitri. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Vladimir walked to the door again with an expression of deep anger and stood there for many moments, *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: He can’t see his own face, so this is a POV violation. His face could “heat” with rage, or “twist his mouth downward,” or “send his heart thumping,” since he can feel all of these things. What he can’t do is *see* the expression on his face. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Vladimir was very mad, but was struggling to keep his voice down. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: another “very.” He’s infuriated, right? *Exclaim*

*Cut*Being a schizophrenic had greatly deprived him of sleep, and neither the disease or the lack of sleep had helped him. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I’m not sure his disorder adds to the overall plot or theme, but I am sure that introducing this late is a mistake. If it’s important for the readers to know, it should be much earlier in the story. Seeing it now makes it feel like a deus ex machina. *Exclaim*

*Cut*he watched as the wind whipped trash and dirt over patches of ice and dying or barely living grass and other assortments of plants. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This isn’t really a mistake, but it’s something to watch out for. When you write “he watched,” you are *telling* us both *what* he is doing AND what he is seeing.
Since you’ve put us in Vladimir’s head, arguably everything on the page is something he knows, has seen, or otherwise sensed. Thus, if you simply describe the wind whipping the trash and dirt, readers will infer he “saw” this, and this direct description is both more immediate and intimate. If you want to emphasize he saw it, you can always have him react in some way.
There are few other instances similar to this that I haven’t marked. In each case, a direct description without filtering it through Vladimir’s head is more immediate and intimate. *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 of Medusa  
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Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
This is a really awesome story!! Thank you for posting. It will be one of the featured stories in my upcoming newsletter.
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Rated: E | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "Of Faith, Friends and Family"   by writethewritten
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*

Thank you for submitting your work for me to read. I see that you joined WDC just a few days ago, so I'd like to welcome you here. This is a great place to share your work with others, to read, to learn, and to grow as an author. There are also many social opportunities here, mostly related to writing. The site is so rich and varied, it can be overwhelming, so don't hesitate to drop me a note if you have questions.


                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
This piece follows the evolution of a young person seeking more in life. It follows the main points on her journey, to the end point where she's absorbed into the entity's family and--apparently--left her own. This is an intriguing plot, told with allegorical language. It's well-written in it's own way--although I'll have more to say on that below.

When you sent this to me, you noted that you hadn't done anything creative in a long while and that you found it cathartic to do so. I certainly know that feeling, and I want to both congratulate you on responding to the creative urge and encourage you to continue. This is a heartfelt piece, one that has more than one possible interpretation. You've got a beginning, middle, and end, but where the young woman winds up is open to more than one interpretation. That ambiguity is, I think, a good thing. It lets the readers find their own meanings in what you've written, and the lack of judgement about the ending encourages readers to do exactly that.

So, these are all positive things. I'm going to have some other observations for you that aren't criticisms, exactly. They are more comments about how you could make this piece more effective.
,
                                                             
*FlagB*Fictional Dream
I should begin by saying that most of what follows assumes that you intend this specifically as fiction. If you intended this as something you might deliver as a sermon, or lecture, or speech, it's pretty good and none of the comments that follow apply. But this forum is for fiction, not for sermons or lectures, so I'm thinking you wanted me to comment on it as if it were submitted as fiction. If you didn't intend this as fiction, stop reading and know that I think you did a fine job.

If you did intend it as fiction, then please read on.

I'm a mathematician by training, so when I started thinking about writing fiction, I went looking for theoretical constructs to help me figure out how. It turns out that most authors don't have a "theory of writing," but if you carefully read a lot of fiction, you'll see that the idea of "fictional dream" underlies most of it. This was articulated by John Gardner, and if you are serious about writing fiction I strongly recommend his book.
ASIN: 0679734031
Amazon's Price: $ 12.39


The idea is that the reader enters a fiction dream, induced by the author. The readers imagines the fictional world, the characters, the emotions, and all the other intimate details of the story. The words on the page help to create this dream. The craft of writing fiction involves, to a large extent, techniques for creating and sustaining this fictional dream.

To be sure, there are bigger structural elements--the three act structure, for example. There's characterization, tension, story arcs, setting, dialogue, and so on. But the base is the fictional dream.

Now let me turn to your story. In the context of the fictional dream, you've got a great outline of a story, but the elements of the fictional dream are absent.

A story is about characters who interact with each other and their physical world. We learn about that world through the words and deeds of the characters. A story needs to start with the characters inside the fictional world, acting, doing, and striving. It needs to show things as opposed to telling them.

Just as an example, your first sentence tells us a lot of stuff about your protagonist: "She was a sentimental soul. Young, outwardly confident and bold... but inwardly troubled." That's a good start on characterization, but it's all told. Readers will want to get to know your character through her words and deeds, holistically, the way that they get to know people in the real world. Thus, you might create a short scene where she interacts with someone--maybe a sister or parent--and reveals through her words and deeds the traits that you describe. Readers will infer them from her actions, which is more intimate and immediate. Because it's more intimate and immediate, it's also more memorable.

Also, you need to name the young lady. That helps draw people into her head.

What you've written is a list of events that had a powerful impact on the young woman's life. She's transformed from the beginning to the end. You even got the three-act structure. What's missing is that it's all told in narrative form. Her friends tell her things. She tells her family things. But we never hear the actual words they speak. That's (one) difference between showing and telling.

As I said above, what you have is something that would make an effective speech, sermon, or lecture. But you sent to a place that is specifically for fiction, which is why I made the above comments.

As fiction, what you have is a great outline. It's even more than that. For example, you've got the basics of a three-act structure. Your protagonist has a goal--to discover what's missing in her life. The stakes are high, since no one wants to live a life without meaning. Well, almost no one. The obstacles are high, too, since there are so many conflicting ways to achieve meaning, and some of them (maybe most of them) destroy life rather than enlighten it. The point is that there's a conflict betnween her goals and the obstacles. The outcome of that conflict matters because of the stakes. This leads to tension, which is the engine that keeps readers engaged in your story.

You've got the basis here for a powerful story, for one with universal meaning. For the first time trying something creative "in a long time," in your words, that's impressive.


                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
I almost always find something to whine about for grammar, but not here. Good job!

                                                             
*FlagB*Just my personal opinion
To reiterate, 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.

Your characters need to live in the here-and-now of ongoing events. That will bring them, and the fictional world, to life. This story certainly deserves the extra effort. I am sure you have skills to do this. I'm not saying it will be easy (you should see what I wrote when I first started trying my hand at fiction!), but it's worth the effort. You have the creative itch, so scratch it by writing, then writing more!

Good luck, and don't hesitate to write to me again.

                                                             
*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 only found one minor thing to comment on, and I'm not sure about that.
*Cut*The anklets and thread had been accepted and with them the pretence and the misrepresentation, *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: In the US, it would be “pretense,” but I’m not sure about the UK spelling. *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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Rated: E | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "Attack of the blobwoman "   by Alextrax52
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*

Please note that there is a word limit to items submitted here. For this reason, I only read the first two chapters of this story and did not read the second one at all. I also added links to your original posting so that I could find your stories.

                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
This is a zany bit of writing that is like HP Lovecraft meets the Marx Brothers. Quite an imaginative parody of the classic Blob.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Carole has the rather peculiar life goal of becoming an eating machine. In fact, she loses her job precisely over snarfing down the community snacks her boss provides. It's not clear why she has this goal, but she does. So when a space creature lands in the woods via a meteorite, of *course* she can't wait to eat it. Doubtless hilarity will ensue.

So Carole has a goal. Oscar Wilde said the only thing worse than not getting what you want it getting it, so no doubt this will be a parable on that witticism.

I get that this is parody and humor, but I'd like to know what zany reason Carole has for her goal, and what she thinks will go wrong in her life if she doesn't realize it. This would tell us the stakes--why she cares about her goal. The obstacle is then overcoming her physical limitations to achieving her goal, but, hey! That's where the space alien comes in the story arc begins.

                                                             
*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.

The idea is to end each chapter with a hook that compels the readers to turn the page and start the next chapter to find out what happens next. You've got a hook for chapter one, but not for chapter 2.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
MOstly, we're in Carole's head, except at one point an omniscient narrator intrudes to tell readers stuff. This used to be commonplace in fiction, but not so much any more. Modern fiction tends to reveal essential facts through the words and deeds of the characters rather than through an omniscient narrator telling the readers stuff. If you're interested, I can suggest some readings on deploying point of view to accomplish this.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
I loved the description of the crater and the meteorite. You might consider inserting a touch of description of Carole's apartment that reveal her character and maybe her obsession. I have visions of empty pizza boxes and candy bar wrappers.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
*Exclaim* Dialogue.*Exclaim*
Each time a new character speaks, you need to start a new paragraph. So, for example, in your opening Melanie bellows. That's one paragraph. Then, when Carole asks, "What's the problem?" you need to start a new paragraph.

This rule applies even if the "response" is nonverbal. So for example, Melanie might say something and Carole's response might be "Carole rolled her eyes and shrugged." That's her nonverbal part of the dialogue, so it should be in a new paragraph, too.

*Exclaim* Vague adjectives.*Exclaim*
Adjectives like "large" and "small" give no sense of scale and add nothing a description. You're better off using more precise adjectives that help readers visualize the size.

                                                             
*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 liked the zany twists of this story so far, although it was hard to read due to the improper paragraphing (see above on dialogue). Of course, this is an easy fix. If the reader accepts Carole's loopy goal (I've never met anyone, male or female, who *wants* to be an eating machine), then the story has it's own logic from there. BTW, I know that there are eating contests where the winners are the ones who can consume the most food in a given time, so I can imagine Carole aspires to win such a contest.

In any case, thank you for sharing. I enjoyed this wacky start to your story.

                                                             
*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*To Carole it was one thing to run a by the book, tight ship organisation but it was quite another to run it with an almost Draconian rule, after all Melanie had fired employees in the past just for one misplaced handling of the equipment that was delivered or even more bizarrely for not washing their hands.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Run-on sentence. *Exclaim*

*Cut*she looked up and see what appeared *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: typo: looked up and *saw* *Exclaim*

*Cut*Carole thought to herself “I wish there was someway that I could just eat all the time” *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: When quoting an internal thought, the editorial standard is to use italics rather than quotation marks. Since the italics denote an internal thought, you don’t need a “thought tag” like “Carol thought...” *Exclaim*

*Cut*she was amazed. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Tells us she was amazed rather than showing it through her reactions. *Exclaim*

*Cut*quite similar to the one she’d watched in a Simpson’s Halloween episode. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Which in turn was a spoof on the classic movie of the same name. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051418/
*Exclaim*


*Cut*However, what Carole didn’t know was that this blob was a slow burner. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Omniscient narrator shows up, knowing more than the POV character Carole. *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: ASR | (4.0)
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*Smile* Hi. Thanks for asking me to read your chapter. I enjoyed it and wanted to share some thoughts with you.

Item Reviewed: "King of the House Elves, Chapter 1"   by HollyMerry
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
There are many lovely descriptions in this chapter--for exmaple, "Airen’s reddish gold hair kindled like burnished copper when illuminated by the fire in his forge..."

                                                             
*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 paragraphs give a wide-shot, panoramic view of the setting--the kind of thing that often happens in movies. The problem is, this isn't a movie. It's a novel. In a movie, the *camera* is the eye of the audience. In a novel, one of the characters provides not only the eyes, but the ears, nose, fingers, and all the other senses. So, before starting descriptions, it's a good idea to draw a reader into the head of your point-of-view character.

Mostly this chapter uses Aria for the POV, so it would be an easy tweak to change from omniscient to her POV. It would also help make the chapter more immediate and intimate.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
We meet Aria, whose immediate goal seems to be contacting her father. The obstacle is the cruelty of the humans, which provides the stakes as well.

                                                             
*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.

By the end of the chapter, Aria has reached a decision to go to her father. Indeed, the chapter goes on for a bit after that decision and reaches a point of mystery where we're not sure how the decision will work out.

The scene/sequel model helps to understand hooks. In a "scene" chapter, there's lots of action which culminates in an outcome of some type. The outcome forces one of the hook types, which sets of a "Sequel" chapter where the protagonist reacts to the outcome of the action and develops a new plan. That sets up the following chapter, another "scene" chapter.

Most of the this second chapter is "sequel," i.e., it sets up the action (conflict) that will arise from the decision at the end. So, the decision point is the more natural ending and hook. The action that follows from that--the "scene"--would be the next chapter. The outcome of that action would be one of the various hooks noted above, setting the next chapter as another sequel chapter where the character reacts to the outcome of the scene chapter. The ending of that sequel sets of the next "scene" chapter and so on.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
Omniscient.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
*Exclaim* Repeated Words.*Exclaim*
Beware repeating words and phrases since it runs the risk of making your prose seem monotone.

                                                             
*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.

There are a couple of places where the story stops while the narrator intrudes to tell the readers stuff--the so-called info-dump. These stop the action in the here-and-now and take the reader out of the fictional world even as they fill in details about how that world works. But readers don't want to read a treatise on poverty in the 19th century Paris; they want to read Les Miserables. The novel shows, through the words and deeds of the characters, the horrific life of the poor in Paris. That showing is the power of fiction.

That said, info dumps seem to be pervasive in published fantasy. That's one reason I don't have the patience to read this genre. SciFi authors that cross over to fantasy, such as Lois McMaster Bujold, write successful fantasy novels without info dumps. Your novel has a well-thought-out and detailed fictional world. It has sympathetic and believable characters, with great conflicts. It deserves to have more focused third-person-limited POV (changing from chapter to chapter) and taking the effort to reveal the details of the world through the words and deeds of your characters rather than info-dumps.

Do keep writing--your work shows many admirable skills. Your writing crackles like a fireworks. Some tweaks on POV and showing as opposed to telling will make this dynamite instead of a firecracker.

                                                             
*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*Though young and quick of hearing, Aira was reluctant to answer. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: There’s been an omniscient POV up to here. This line suggests Aria’s POV, but it could be the omniscient narrator knowing everything... *Exclaim*

*Cut*Airen’s reddish gold hair kindled like burnished copper when illuminated by the fire in his forge in the brownie village that they left behind half a mile from the faerie door into the castle. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: So, this departs from the here-and-now and tells us how he looked in the past? How is that relevant? *Exclaim*

*Cut*He often made nails, letter openers, knives and other useful implements for humans. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: The rest of the paragraph is info-dump. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Airen’s pack of metalwork clanked on his shoulders as he turned to bid Aira farewell.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: After several paragraphs of info-dump, we’re back in the here-and-now. *Exclaim*

*Cut*They tiptoed carefully *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: It’s hard to imagine them tiptoeing “recklessly,” so I’d omit the adverb. *Exclaim*

*Cut*worn to a thread as her work-worn fingers slid from Aira’s wrist.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: “worn” repeats. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Aira clapped her hands in delight, too overjoyed to notice Meg’s reserved tone.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Bur, of course, the omniscient narrator does notice... *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: 18+ | (4.0)
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*Smile* Hi. Max here. Thanks for asking me to read your chatper. I enjoyed it and wanted to share some thoughts with you.

Item Reviewed: "King of the House Elves - Chapter 2"   by HollyMerry
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
Excellent descriptions, using vivid, active verbs. Nice work!

                                                             
*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've made some suggestions in the line-by-line remarks below to better establish the point of view and draw the readers into Boroden's head.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
We meet Boroden, apparently the now-eldest son of the King. He's preparing for a do-or-die battle with enemies of the kingdom, and has a conversation with his younger brother about what brought them to this point.

                                                             
*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.

The hook is a decision, or rather a couple of decisions. Boroden announces he's ready for the battle, but he's also decided to not use his special, secret "ability." The latter remains a mystery, which is also a kind of hook.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
MOstly it's third person limited in Boroden's head, but it wobbles a bit, especially at the start. See the line-by-line comments below.

                                                             
*FlagB*Referencing
We learn a bit about Boroden's physical attributes and his history. There's some good description of the physical setting, too.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
This is mostly Boroden and his younger brother. However, the King and someone named Aira crop up, too. I realize I've met some of these in other chapters I've read, but based on what's here they are pretty sketchy. That's fine, since they are also off-stage.

You've established Boroden's goals, the stakes, and the obstacles. Boroden has several goals, including pleasing his father, surviving the upcoming battle, protecting his younger brother, and finding Aira. The hobyahs and their allies are the obstacles in most cases, although the King seemed to me to be a bit if a, uh, not-nice-person.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
*Exclaim* Comma Splices.*Exclaim*
A comma splice occurs when you have two complete sentences joined by a comma where a period or semicolon should be used. I've marked one or more of these in the line-by-line comments below.

                                                             
*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 have the sense this is the first chapter of a novel which is part of a series. As such, part of what you've tried to do is remind readers what happened in the prior novels and also catch up readers who are new to the series. This is always a tough balance to maintain. I've read only parts of some of the earlier novels, so I can't really assess how you've done, but I did see a couple of flashbacks. These can be the author's friend, but generally it's not a good idea to use them in an opening chapter. The early chapters are where you establish the readers' connections with characters and the fictional world. ONce they've got that, you can break linear time without fracturing their connection with the fictional world, but in an opening chapter that's almost an impossible task. I can see where mention of Aira is important, and understanding that Boroden might feel guilty over the death of his older brother and heir to the throne, but I'm not sure we need a flashback to see this. I'm not sure we DON'T need a flashback either, but I admit to being skeptical for the reasons noted above.

Overall, I've met most of these characters before in other chapters. They have depth, are believable, and sympathetic, which will make readers want to cheer for them. That's a big deal in terms of getting readers engaged with your story, so good job again.

Thanks for sharing! Keep the chapters coming.


                                                             
*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*The coming day would decide whether Boroden Ulfharen lived or died.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This sentence shows knowledge of future events and suggests an omniscient narrator. The omniscient narrator continues throughout the opening paragraph. *Exclaim*

*Cut*The loveliness of it was distant from Boroden’s own pained heart.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Here, we’re told what’s in Boroden’s head, but it still feels like the omniscient narrator speaking. It would be stronger to lead with some physical indication of his anguish and perhaps some sensory data as well. That would establish the readers inside Boroden’s head. Once there, you could put the first paragraph without change since readers would then see it as something he’s thinking or feeling. *Exclaim*

*Cut*That evening he had diligently practiced his sword skills with his uncle, Leon.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Here, we have a time reversal in just the third paragraph. Rather than taking us to the past, perhaps he could rub his sore shoulder with trembling fingers. That grounds his memory in the present, so if then follow this with the sentence about his interaction with his uncle, you stay in the here-and-now. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Boroden’s lips tightened as he recognised his father, King Mazgrim.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Reverses cause and effect...first he recognizes his father, then his lips tighten. This ordering helps reinforce the events unfolding in the here-and-now. *Exclaim*

*Cut*It had already been snatched up.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Passive voice. We learn in the next sentence it was Ulfmolt who snatched it up, so why not make this an active verb by having him do it? *Exclaim*

*Cut*He pushed away his fear; his brother needed him.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Comma splice. Technically, this is not a mistake, but every editor I’ve worked with has made me change these to either two sentences, or replace the comma with a semicolon. *Exclaim*

*Cut*‘How will it be do you think?’ Ulfmolt fretted. His voice was still soft and piping like a bairn’s.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Elmore Leonard tells us to never use any verb except “said” to describe dialogue. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but in this case “Fretted” tells us what’s in Ulfmolt’s head rather than describing the tone of the speech, which you do in the second sentence. Since telling us what’s in Ulfmolt’s head is a POV violation, I’d apply Elmore Leonard’s axiom here. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Ulfmolt stood on tiptoes to place the helmet on Boroden’s head. Ulfmolt still had a good two heads height of growing to catch up with Boroden, *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: “head” used twice in close proximity. Repeating words and phrases runs the risk of making your prose seem monotone, it would be better to rephrase here. *Exclaim*

*Cut*‘The day the kraken came I was sailing my toy ship in one of the quays in the cavern beneath Velmoran. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This launches another extensive flashback... *Exclaim*

*Cut*we’d run fast if we used our ability.’*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Ears perk up. Ability? *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. Max again. Thank you for asking me to read your chapter. I it and wanted to share some thoughts with you about it.

Item Reviewed: "The Kraken's Prisoners - Chapter 1"   by HollyMerry
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
Aira is an engaging character with clear goals, high stakes, and impressive obstacles. These are the building blocks of tension and hence of plot, so this is another awesome chapter.

                                                             
*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. The best way to do that is to put the readers into the head of the POV character. For this reason, I've several remarks on the opening paragraph that relate to Aira's POV as opposed to that of an omniscient narrator.

*Cut*Aira headed for the crab apple tree, humming one of the songs that the dryads had taught her.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Feels like an omniscient narrator, standing outside the story, reporting what Aira is doing. Your goal is to put the readers in her head, which is why internal sensations and/or reporting what she senses are stronger openings. For example, “She inhaled the heady scent of the crab apple blossoms and began to hum one of the songs the dryads had taught her.” That initial phrase, including the subjective “heady” scent, puts the readers in her head. It also implies the motivation for her beginning to hum. *Exclaim*
*Cut*After years of toiling as a servant for humans, helping the dryads in their forest home had to be one of the easiest jobs the brownie girl had done. The dryads admired her care for their trees and how she helped woodland creatures find the autumn bounty they provided. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This states a pair of facts, again implicitly invoking the omniscient narrator. Rephrasing to put it her head is simple, but tricky. If you rephrase, for example, “It wasn’t always easy being a brownie servant to humans, but caring for the trees lifted her spirit. The dryads, at least, were grateful. *Exclaim* My suggested rephrasing suggests a subtext that might not be appropriate—but suggested subtexts are also helpful in putting the readers in Aira’s head. It’s better if they infer something rather than be told it explicitly. Notice, too, that in the paragraphs that follow, you do put the readers in Aira’s head, so it’s largely just this opening.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Aira has a couple of goals in this chapter--one is more long-term and the other immediate. The long-term goal is to reunite with Boroden, who has proclaimed his love for her. I find it interesting that she doesn't exactly seem to reciprocate. Indeed, this proclamation appears as a more or less emotionless memory, so I'm wondering if she loves him, too? I think so, since she clearly wants to reconnect with him. There also is an implied conflict, besides their separation, in that Boroden is royalty and Aira is clearly not.

More immediate, though, is the threat posed by the woodcutters and their allies, which threaten her life directly and cause her to flee her rather idyllic existence. So, for Aira, this flight is the precipitating incident that disrupts her world and starts the plot.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot

This already has the basic elements of the Hero's Journey, a well-loved plot that we know from many sources--Lord of the Rings and Star Wars being two of the best-known. Clearly, you're familiar with this and are effectively deploying the memes.

                                                             
*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.

I'm inclined to say that I would have ended the chapter a bit earlier, right before the jay arrives to rescue her. That ending would be "disaster," and the ensuing rescue sets up the next sequence of events that will end with one of the above hooks.

Where you DO end, with them setting off on foot, is a "decision," but in this case I think it's a tad weaker and anti-climactic.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
Mostly 3rd person limited in Aira's head, but there is one slip where the narrative hops into Gretchen's head. See the line-by-line remarks below.

One thing about the POV--there are several places where it feels like the narrator intrudes to state a fact. As above in the first paragraph, I suggest tweaking these so that they are credibly something Aira is thinking, sensing, or feeling. Remember, everything on the page is supposed to be something that Aira has sensed, felt, thought, or remembered. She also needs to have a *reason* for thinking it--see the comment on her "golden hair" below. Third person limited is powerful, but it has subtles, too.

                                                             
*FlagB*Referencing
Lots of little details to establish the fictional world.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
Good job! I almost always find something to whine about here, but your copy is clean.

                                                             
*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.

Most of my comments pertain to point of view. In terms of tweaks, these would be rather minor, but they contribute greatly to putting the readers inside the fictional world, imagining the details along with you, the author.

You have a great talent for description and for characterization. This promises to be an interesting novel, with the two romantic leads. It might help if there were some conflict besides separation that prevents the leads from coming together--for example, Boroden as King might have Kingly obligation that he can't reconcile with his feelings for Aira. we've already seen some of that since he's fled and left her behind.

Thanks for sharing, and 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*‘Indeed I am. I like the peace of the forest,’ Aira said, tossing back her long golden hair and reaching for her full basket, which she had left suspended on a branch.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I get that you want to show that she has golden hair, but she’s unlikely to be thinking about that right at the moment. That means that this, too, feels like the narrator inserting a fact. In third person limited, whatever on the page is *supposed* to be something that Aira has sensed, thought, or felt. Thus, it has to be natural that she’d be thinking about her hair color, which isn’t likely in this context—unless you can contrive a reason to insert it. *Exclaim*

*Cut*The moon had been full like this soon after Boroden’s departure and she had crept outside to admire its beauty, careful not to wake Gretchen.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I’m not sure we need this tiny time reversal. *Exclaim*

*Cut*An animal had been crouched amongst a heap of mossy boulders, its black fur blending into the shadows. A wolf. Aira had blown out her candle as it turned.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I’m not quite clear on the sequencing here, but it looks like Aira only saw the animal after blowing out the candle, so that should be first, before any mention of the animal (otherwise, it’s the omniscient narrator knowing stuff Aira does not know). *Exclaim*

*Cut*It had come back the next few nights, but why? *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: so we’ve suddenly changed from the here-and-now of Aira returning to the cabin to several days later, summarizing what’s happened. That’s fine, but the transition needs to be clearer. *Exclaim*

*Cut*The brownies did their work by night to avoid humans noticing them.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Another place to tweak to make this Aira thinking this, as opposed to the narrator stating a fact. *Exclaim*

b}*Cut* Gretchen thought that Aira was mad to move so surely.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Hops into Gretchen’s head. To stay with Aira, you could rephrase as, "From her expression, Aira could tell Gretchen thought her mad." Or even replace "expression" with "google eyes" for a more evocative description. *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 🏳️‍🌈




*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
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*Smile* Hi. This is Max. Thank you for asking me to read your chapter. I it and wanted to share some thoughts with you.

Item Reviewed: "Where Rainbows Dance- Chapter 2"   by HollyMerry
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
There is much to love in this chapter. I especially liked the opening, where you established the point of view using Boroden's sensations and active, subjective descriptions to draw us into his head. The use of active verbs throughout helps to make the environment part of the story and bring the here-and-now to life. Nice work!

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Boroden is the POV character and the protagonist. He's apparently a deposed prince and heir to the throne, but his goal is to rescue his childhood sweetheart Aira. He's got substantial obstacles to achieving this goal, not the least of which is that he's not certain that she's still alive. However, tortured shrieks echo through their worm-infested prison, and he believes they are from Aira. His love for her coupled with the danger she must be in establish the stakes. The power of the krakens, who have imprisoned him, provide the obstacles.

Goals, stakes, and obstacles are the basic building blocks of tension, and hence of plot. You've established these in this chapter, which provides a strong foundation for moving forward.

That said, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the plethora of characters who appeared in this chapter. On the first page, we meet Boroden, Carnelian, Torden, and learn about Aira and Krysila. Several more characters make apearances or are mentioned before the end. That's a lot for readers to keep track of, especially in such a short chapter. As the novel progresses readers will become familiar with Boroden and he will ground their experience. In a couple more chapters, you can have multiple characters and it will be less confusing, but I think there are too many in this first chapter.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
Third person limited, in Boroden's head. Perfection.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
We have a good sense of the plot. In rough outline, there's been a palace revolt, Boroden, the legitimate heir, is in prison. His sweetheart is being tortured. He wants to rescue her, get his throne back, and find a safe home for his people. I'm confident more will come, but those are the basics for now, and are certainly compelling.

The chapter is kind of ambiguous about whether Aira is dead or alive. The first thing we learn about her is that she's dead, at least according to Boroden. But then he hopes she's still alive, and eventually he seems to conclude she's somewhere nearby, shrieking from torture. If that's where we're supposed to end up, then that revelation needs to have more emotional impact on Boroden, so it's clear he's gone from being guilty over causing her death to being committed to rescuing her. After all, the rescue becomes his goal.

                                                             
*FlagB*Hook
Your "hook" is what keeps the pages turning. It usually refers to some unfinished business that arises in the final paragraph.

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.

Your hook doesn't quite fit one of these categories. We know Boroden has a visitor, but have no inkling what this might mean. At a minimum, we need a reaction from him. Alternatively, the "visitor" could present an opportunity, so that could lead to "decision." In any case, I wish the hook were stronger.

                                                             
*FlagB*Referencing
There are quite a few details about the fictional world. Most of these are threaded into the narrative, so readers learn about things by inference from the words and deeds of the characters. However, there is at least one info-dump which needs re-worked or eliminated.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Excellent, vivid writing here!

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

Overall, I think this is an excellent first chapter. It does what it needs to do, and the writing is professional. You use active verbs, you use the sensations to build characterization and sense of place, Boroden has clear goals, stakes, and obstacles. Everything is in place to launch an awesome novel. I've made several suggestions, but these are largely tweaks to a fine piece of writing.

Do write more chapters of the saga of Boroden! I almost never read fantasy, but this is good stuff!

                                                             
*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*Water drops fell like a barrage of arrows from the cave roof, and a thick chill penetrated through Boroden’s coat. He hugged his arms about himself against the cold and avoided the gaze of his companions. Damp, stagnant air probed his nostrils. Looking beyond the fitful light of the torches, the darkness was so dense that it threatened to swallow him.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This is a really awesome opening. You name the POV character in the first sentence and you use his sensations and subjective language to draw the readers into his head. You orient the reader in time and place, and let us know that he’s got companions near him.

I’ve got only one minor suggestion: move the phrase Water drops fell like a barrage of arrows from the cave roof after the phrase about the stagnant air probing his nostrils. The reason is that this phrase doesn’t establish POV in the same way the other parts of the opening do. The thick chill penetrates his coat, he reacts by hugging his arms, and then stagnant air penetrates his nostrils. These are subjective sensations (using great, active verbs!) that put the readers inside his head. Once there, the subjective description of the water droplets confirms we’re in his head. But, putting the same phrase in the first sentence feels like an omniscient narrator, standing outside the here-and-now of the story, giving a poetic description. The difference is small, but everything you can do put the readers inside Boroden’s head is positive, especially in the opening. *Exclaim*


*Cut*‘I’ve missed you too. I never thought I’d see you again after Krysila *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Ok, we’ve heard about Aira, and Krysila, two characters who aren’t even present. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. We also learn Boroden is feeling guilt, and that he had a goal, namely finding a home for his clan, but his current goal is still unclear. *Exclaim*

*Cut*frowned mournfully at the memory.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: “Frowned” is a perfectly good verb. It doesn’t need an adverb to pep it up. If you want to say he’s mourning, you could add something like “mourning pooled in his eyes,” but I’d rather have we have something more directly observable. He might evade Borodon’s gaze, for example, or there might be a quaver in his voice, or maybe his chin might quiver. *Exclaim*

*Cut*I refuse to give up hope that Aira will survive,’ Boroden said stubbornly.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I thought Aira was dead? Also, note the adverb. *Exclaim*

*Cut*A bloodcurdling shriek came from somewhere above them.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: “Somewhere” makes this feel vague. Just “from above” suffices. *Exclaim*

*Cut*‘Aira’s alive!’ Boroden said.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Does that mean the shriek they just heard was hers? If so, don’t we need an emotional reaction from Boroden? Joy that she’s alive, but horror that she’s being tortured? *Exclaim*

*Cut*Torden’s sad frown twisted his lips beneath his tusk-like moustache. ‘She’ll not survive.’*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Great description!
Bu, put the mustache gesture where he first appears and it becomes a memorable token of him. Here, it’s too late since the reader will have already “seen” him in their imagination. *Exclaim*


*Cut*Aira. He had to rescue her.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: OK. Now we’ve got a goal for Boroden. *Exclaim*

*Cut*He glanced around the cave, ignoring his companions. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This launches a paragraph of background, related in narrative form. This breaks the fictional dream. Editors hate this kind of thing and call it an “info-dump.” Worse, it breaks the linear time of the opening since it remembers past events. Remember, you’ve got your entire novel to give this kind of information.

(I admit I rarely read fantasy, and I know that info-dumps often appear in fantasy novels. That's one reason I rarely read them. Lois McMaster Bujold has a whole series of fantasy novels, and you won't find a single info-dump in any of them. However, my aversion to info-dumps appears to be less than uniform among fantasy authors. Just an FYI.) *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: E | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "A mistaken identity"   by nat
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*

This item consists of the opening chapters to a longer work. At 5500 words, it's longer than what I ordinarily review for "The Review Spot, so I read and commented only on the first chapter. If you want me to read subsequent chapters, please feel free to submit them, bearing in mind the 4000 word limit for "The Review Spot.

                                                             
*FlagB*What I liked best
This story introduces us to a protagonist who has made a dreadful mistake that resulted in the death of a close friend and grave injury to another. She's trying to cope with the consequences, with the assistance of her psychiatrist. By the end of the first chapter, we learn of her remorse, her failed attempts at reconciliation with the family of the victim, and that her therapist is protecting a confidence that he cannot reveal to her. This sets up good tension for your opening, introduces a flawed but credible character, and gives her goals, stakes, and obstacles. From the standpoint of plot and character, this is an excellent start!!!

                                                             
*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 have a couple of minor comments here. First, I don't think we ever learn the name of the female protagonist. I strongly recommmend you give us her name in the first sentence if at all possible. Knowing her name will help readers identify with her and sympathize with her plight.

Second, it's usually not a good idea to start with dialogue. Instead, it's better to first establish the point of view (more on point of view in a moment). That way you can orient the readers as to who is *hearing* the speech, which helps to draw them into the fictional world.

You do a pretty good job with answering the other basic questions (who, what, when, where, why, etc) that are needed to launch a coherent story.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
This chapter uses an omniscient narrator, in which the author stands outside the fictional events, looking in. The author knows the internal thoughts of all the characters; in fact, the author knows everything. In the line-by-line remarks below, I've tried to flag the various places where the point of view hops between characters.

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.

A novel can--and usually does--have many point-of-view characters, but there should be only one for each scene.

So, my primary recommendation for this chapter is to use the female protagonist for the point-of-view character. In terms of revisions, this is fairly minor. For example, instead of saying the attending physician saw something, describe WHAT she saw directly and then have her react (maybe her eyes widen, or she snaps out commands) that confirm that she saw it. All the places that I flagged should be revised to stay in the single point of view of the female lead.

I know it's a pain to revise, even in so modest a way as I suggest, but it will pay off in big dividends in terms of drawing the readers into your fictional world.

A second comment here deals with flashbacks. These can be an author's friend, but are hard to do in a first chapter. They work better in later chapters once the readers know your characters and their world. Also, to avoid confusing readers, it's important to have clear transitions from the fictional present to the fictional past. I noticed that initially we seemed to wobble a bit between the fictional present and the fictional past, so I'd avoid this, too.

Actually, what I'd recommend instead of the flashback is to START with the protagonist leaving the club, taking the keys, etc. I'd proceed in a linear fashion through the accident, the 911 call, the ambulance trip, the ER, and her waking in her room with Jason. The whole scene, from the drunken departure from the club to the ER, is a really powerful sequence and I think it would be stronger yet if you used it to launch the novel, so we'd see it evolve in the here-and-now of the characters rather than a flashback.

                                                             
*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.

Your hook appears to be a goal, but could readily be reframed as a decision or a dilemma, either of which would be a little stronger. In any case, learning the aftermath of the accident is a good hook.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
Both the female protagonist and Jason are well-conceived characters. Despite her flawed decisions, the female lead is sympathetic and readers will want to cheer for her.

                                                             
*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.

Most of my comments, especially those on point of view and the flashback, flow from the idea of the fictional dream. This refers to a technical aspect of craft, but it's still an important consideration. You have strong characters, a really strong plot, and a good hook. Tweaking this for more focused point of view and linear timelines would make the "fictional dream" stronger and thus build on the strengths you've already got.

Thanks for sharing, and do keep working on this novel!! It's concept is great, and the characterizations are excellent.

                                                             
*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.
                                                             
b}*Cut*As she put her head down her eyes welled up with tears. And her mind went to earlier that morning.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This appears to launch a flashback. *Exclaim*

*Cut*"You are dead to me!" She felt her body crumble from a heavy force that shook her whole being and passed out. Then she woke up back in the cell.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: What appears to be a very brief flashback seems to end when she wakes “back in the cell.” *Exclaim*

*Cut*Tires screeched to a stop.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Now we seem to be back in the flashback... *Exclaim*

*Cut*Adam turned back to see the young guy half dazed, "You better hang on!" He yelled.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: We’ve been in the female protagonist’s head up to this point, but here we hop into Adam’s head since we’re told what he sees. *Exclaim*

*Cut*"Adam! Adam!" She saw his lifeless body on the ground.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Now we’re back in the female protagonist’s head since we’re told what SHE sees. *Exclaim*

*Cut*She went to grab her cell in frantic, *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: in frantic...what? maybe in a frenzy? *Exclaim*

*Cut*Her knees buckled as she dropped to the floor. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: So is she still inside the car? In my mind’s eye, she was still outside, having recovered her phone from the back seat. *Exclaim*

*Cut*A hand touched her lifeless body. She tried desperately to wake up but she couldn't. She just felt a sharp pain in her left side. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Several places you report what a character “felt,” “heard,” or otherwise sensed. This is a subtle form of telling. It’s better to first establish the point of view. Once the readers are inside the head of the POV character, then anything on the page is something they have sensed. In this case, it’s almost always more immediate and intimate to describe the sensation directly. You do exactly this in the first sentence where a hand touches her body. But in the last sentence, you tell us what she felt. It would be stronger to just say, “A sharp pain gripped her left side.” If you’re in her head, readers will infer she “felt” the pain. Indeed, that little step of inference helps to draw readers into her head and hence into the story. Also, the pain becomes an active element of the narrative when it “grips” her side. *Exclaim*

*Cut*The doctor exhaled deeply and was about to call it when she heard a soft beep*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Hops to the doctor’s head where we learn what she was about to do and what she heard.

As I think about this, you could end a scene with the female protagonist losing consciousness in the ambulance. You could then start a new scene with the physician in the ER, maybe drinking coffee or something when the ambulance arrives. Doing the entire ER scene in the physician's POV might work, except that I have the impression that the physician won't again appear. If Jason is on staff at the hospital and somehow learned she was hurt, you could use him as the POV character, observing the physicians work on her.

Just a thought. The point is you can have mulitple POV characters in your novel, but just one per scene. *Exclaim*


*Cut*Jason sat back in his chair and folded his arms across his neck gently brushing past his sandy blond hair and then moving across and down towards his face. "So what did you tell the officer?"*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: this appears to be the end of the flasback. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Flashes of how she got out of the club twirling and dancing. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: More flashback in this paragraph *Exclaim*

*Cut*"It's okay, it's okay, you can't fight it, you have to let it play through and take its course."*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: For the rest of the chapter we appear to be in the fictional present, except it’s not the present of the opening paragraphs. In the opening paragraphs, Jason references “this morning” as the time of the accident, while in these ending paragraphs the accident appears to have happened a year ago. *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!.
24
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Rated: E | (4.0)
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Item Reviewed: "Listen To My Heart? (Chapters 1 and 2)"   by Starling
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'm a sucker for romance, authors, and SciFi, so of course I liked this.

                                                             
*FlagB*Style and Voice
These chapters use an omniscient narrator, in which the author stands outside the fictional events, looking in. The author knows the internal thoughts of all the characters; in fact, the author knows everything.

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.

A novel can--and usually does--have many point-of-view characters, but there should be only one for each scene.

What seems to be happening is that the POV wobbles between Kerry and Ian within the same scene. We learn what one is thinking and sensing and then, a couple of paragraphs later, we're in the other one's head, learning what they are thinking and sensing. My main suggestion for these chapters deals with POV. For each scene, pick one character to provide the POV and stick with it. What's on the page is what that character thinks, senses, knows, and feels. For all the other characters, readers--and the POV character--must infer those things from their words and deeds.

As an example, at one point you tell us that Ian's coffee is lukewarm. We're in a scene that started in Kerry's POV, so she can't know the temperature of his coffee. However, he could take a sip and make a face, from readers could infer it's cold. You could even have Kerry make that inference, but it needs to be an inference rather than a statement of fact. There''s a technique called "free direct discourse" for doing this; see "Really Just One Point of View for more details.

                                                             
*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.

Each scene should establish the point of view and then draw the reader into the fictional world. In a romance novel, it's common for the POV to swap in each chapter, but this certainly isn't a rule. Some novels stay with one of the romantic leads, some swap POV on a less regular scale. But once you've picked a POV for that scene, stick with it.

The opening paragraph to the novel does set up Kerry as the POV character. However, there's quite a bit background information in the form of telling that sets up where she's at and what she's doing. It's almost always more intimate and immediate for readers to reveal this information through the words and deeds of the characters rather than through narration, so you might consider moving the clock back a bit and start with her arrival at the hotel and registering for the Symposium. You might even have Queen Uppity-Nose show up and make a snotty comment or two gushing about Ian. THe idea is to create an opening scene that puts your characters in motion and reveals the essential information, including Kerry's immediate goal of meeting Ian.

                                                             
*FlagB*Plot
So, Kerry is in hopelessly in love with Ian, but he appears to be happily married and so she knows her feelings will be unrequited. Ian, on the other hand, has a secret he's "not ready" to share with Kerry. He claims all is well at home, but on the other hand he's had a rep as a lothario, so who knows? Overall, I liked the tension this sets up and thought this was a great start for your novel.

                                                             
*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.

Chapter one needs a better hook. What is Kerry thinking as she goes upstairs? Has she sensed something amiss with Ian? That would be a dilemma or maybe a decision to get to the bottom of it.

On the other hand, we partly hopped into the Ian's head in this chapter, so maybe it ends with his reaction, or his resolve to have the difficult conversation with Kerry, or something else.

In any case, the hook should come from unresolved issues in their relationship.

                                                             
*FlagB*Scene/Setting
Sufficient for staging.

                                                             
*FlagB*Characters
I like Kerry. Ian, not so much. Oh, and of course I loathe the Queen Uppity Nose in the Air.

                                                             
*FlagB*Grammar
A few minor typos--see the line by line.

                                                             
*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 looks like an awesome start to your romance novel. It's got at least three great characters so far, and good tension between all three. 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* Ian’s wife came on and talked to her about it, which was awkward because Kerry’s heart was speeding toward a dead-end wall, her heart could not get through. *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Something is amiss with this sentence. Did you mean...”THAT her heart could not get through?” if so, you should omit the comma. *Exclaim*

*Cut*She ordered, presented her pass, used two hands to carry the largest mug of hot chocolate imaginable, over to the small round pink and white candy-striped, two top metal tables in the corner beside the windows looking out on the front of the hotel and sat.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: This sentence is a bit of a run-on. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Ian tried drinking the coffee in the hotel room but found the taste horrible.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: We’ve been in Kerry’s POV, but with this sentence we’ve flipped to Ian’s. *Exclaim*
*Cut*Ian wasn’t ready to have the conversation he rehearsed since Kerry confirmed she would be at this stop in the tour but he couldn’t pass up the chance to talk to her.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: I think you need a comma before “but.” *Exclaim*

*Cut*The man was taller than she envisioned.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Hops into Kerry’s head. Note we were in Ian’s head earlier. *Exclaim*

*Cut*By 8:00 am. Kerry was on her way downstairs.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Re-establishes Kerry's POV at the start of Ch 2 *Exclaim*

*Cut*on the six-inch-high raised diasis.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: typo: dais. *Exclaim*

*Cut* I am on the College Board and made sure you were on this tour.”*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Did you mean the Board of Trustees (or Regents) of the local college, or did you mean the actual College Board, an umbrella organization of over 6000 educational organizations. I’m betting you meant something like a local Board of Trustees. Wealthy donors to the college are sometimes included on such boards, along with politicians, distinguished alumni, and other community leaders. Her implied wealth makes her a probable Trustee, most likely one tolerated but not particularly respected due to her privileged demeanor. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Ian took a drink of his coffee, which was lukewarm by now, and shook his head.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: hops to Ian’s head since Kerry can’t tell whether it’s lukewarm or not. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Kerry nodded. “She has attended everyone one*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: typo: here, it should be “every one,” two words. *Exclaim*

*Cut*He wasn’t sure why he felt he needed to apologize, *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: continuing in Kerrry’s head. *Exclaim*

*Cut*Kerry admitted to herself the luncheon would be exciting, *Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Back in Kerry’s head *Exclaim*

*Cut*Ian chuckled. Not letting go of her hand he led her to lunch.*Cut**Exclaim*My Comment: Depending on the POV, this might or might not be a good hook. There’s still the mystery conversation Ian wants to have, so if we’re in his head, the decision to have that conversation is a hook. If we’re in Kerry’s head, I’d still use the readers’ knowledge of Ian’s secret message as the hook. Kerry could, for example, look in his eyes, see that he’s distracted, and decide to get to the bottom of his distress—a “decision” hook that reinforces the tension of the mystery conversation. *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 🏳️‍🌈