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Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: ASR | (4.0)
Good evening

Found this in the auto-reward section, decided to take a look and discovered an interesting introduction to a novel. You introduce an intriguing discovery of a single doorway. I like the idea of a reporter describing the events for the camera. This is a great method of telling us information by means of showing.

One of the first things I look at is the opening sentence. I've discovered the majority of first sentences include the weak 'to be' verb - was. It pleased me to see it didn't appear here.

Another thing I look for is the appearance of adverbs; and I found one - 'very'. The reason I look for these two items is that their appearance weakens the sentence. The opening sentence needs to reach out and grab the reader; this requires strong writing.

When they found the doorway This introduces a possible mystery, but in a vague manner. The emphasis here is on 'they' not the doorway. The question that comes to mind is, "who are 'they'"?

The second phrase builds on this - it made the news that very day. . The thing that made news was that 'they' found a doorway. It isn't until the second sentence that the focus settles on the doorway - It appeared one morning

Maybe you could focus on the door, something like this?

A doorway appeared on Herr Grundmann's lawn one morning amidst a severe thunder storm.

Instead of telling us where he lives, let the reporter do it. She already gives a general description, let her give the exact location. This also changes a telling section into a showing section.

there is a doorway behind me and it is missing a house

Could you tighten it up like this - There is a doorway behind me that is missing a house.

The coat of arms on the doorway is actually quite familiar

In this sentence you have two adverbs back to back. Also, it is generic; it is familiar to 'the people' in 'the area'. Can you make it more personal?

"You should recognize the coat of arms on the door, it belongs to Count Ramstein ...

Indeed, I am told by local experts, the stone used is not local.

Here you repeat the word 'local'. This isn't bad in and of itself, but if you do it on a regular basis, your reader will notice and it can bring them out of the story.

Can you make it somethin like 'I am told by experts that the stone encasing the doorway is not indigenous to our area.'

She was a widow with a son and he (who) took her (maiden) name.

This sentence confused me at first. I had to read it several times to understand it. I assume when her husband died, she joined the colony, built the house and went back to her maiden name, and her son followed in her steps.

big old house in West Virginia...joined the Virginia colony...destroyed this house in Virginia...went through the ruins in Virginia

You don't need to keep repeating the house was in Virginia.

they discovered the front door was missing. Yet here the door is 4000 miles away in Germany.

Would it be better to say the firemen 'reported' the door missing. My thinking is that they could discover something without making a big deal of it. If they report it, the information would be available to journalists in Germany. You hint that there is a mystery here by a simple statement. Can you make it a question instead of a statement?

Maybe - The firemen reported the door missing. So how does that same door end up here in Germany 4000 miles away?

This would then lead into the introduction of the police chief.

"We have the local Police Chief with us now and he who has indicated he is prepared to comment on the crime scene."

Initially, there was no crime scene. Would it be better to call it a 'situation' and then let the Police Chief change it to a crime scene? This would let his statement 'raise the stakes', as it were.

The camera turned to focused on an elderly, greying man with a tanned face, dressed in a police chief's uniform. He was about 6 foot tall with a strong and confident posture worn by the years (of experience). and he spoke into the microphone offered him by the reporter.

You don't have to tell us he spoke into the microphone, because we know that when he starts talking.

A note on time. You write 7:30 am and 8:00 am, which is standard, civilian time. Then you switch to military time - 14:00 to 16:30. You should be consistent and stick to one.

I don't know how the story is going to unfold, but the house burns down a week ago while the door shows up today. Would it enhance the mystery to have both events happen within hours of each other? A week could plausibly allow someone to dismantle the door, transport it and set it up in Germany. But, that could be part of the plot so this suggestion may not be needed.

"Could whoever have placed this here have flown it in?"

Can you tighten it to - "Could it have been flown in?"

But then turning to Herr Grundmann who had curiosity and consternation written all over his face he continued.

Instead of telling us Grundmann's state, why not let the Police Chief do it for us. (By the way, you can make the story more personal by giving him a name and having the reporter tell us his name)

"Any answer I gave about that would be pure speculation. But to answer your curiosity folks and calm your fears Herr Grundmann, the working theory now..."

but from your own viewing of the lawn (investigation) have you been able to find

Frau Schmidt turned back to face the camera directly. With the door placed just over her shoulder in the view of the camera, she continued her report.

This section is wordy. Can you smooth it out with something like - The camera panned back to Frau Schmidt, framing the doorway over her shoulder.

Then you go directly to to her closing comments

"So the mystery remains.

This is the beginning of the story with the introduction of the mystery. Would it be better to have her lay it out - "So here is the mystery. How does a doorway from a burned out building in the USA appear in the land of the infamous Ramstein's?"

Just a few thoughts on a good story. I would like to read succeeding chapters to see what happens.

Hope you don't think I'm blasting you while finding fault with your writing. My intent is only to help you take a good story and make it better. Use what you want, discard the rest because this is your story, not mine.

Have a great day and Keep on Writing

Jim Brown

*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Review of A Woman of Honor  
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: E | (5.0)
You did a fantastic job on this rewrite. You grabbed my attention with the first sentence and held it to the end. You had some wrinkles in the original version, but ironed them out into a smooth flowing story.

You have good mix of showing and telling in the story and got my emotions involved as I read. The inner conflict in the cave was spot on. I could see myself saying the same things if I was in the cave.

I really appreciate the voice you used when writing the first paragraph of her journal. People spoke and wrote differently in the 1700's and you did a great job capturing that image.

I also like that she gave her uncle the watch. In the both versions, she seemed ashamed of it. However, it became his favorite gift of the night. This does a great job of setting up the reading of the journal. She gave her uncle a great gift on his birthday, now she had to give him a better one. And you delivered!

Great Job and thanks for posting your rewrite.

Jim Brown
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: E | (4.0)
Found this on the request review page. My review will focus on writing, not the politics of the article.

You begin an article on a controversial subject with a negative, what you aren't going to say, which starts you out on the defensive.

Instead, strive for a strong introductory sentence that grabs the reader's attention.

Maybe something like - Covid-19 has snaked its way insidiously across the globe, frustrating the world's leading scientists best efforts while leaving us simple weapons to combat it: masks, lockdowns and tracer aps.

Not the best, but again, the idea is to reach out and grab the reader.

At the time of writing this article over 4,500,000 people had died from Covid-19 world-wide.

You can delete the phrase 'this article' without changing anything. Also, I believe you should write 'have died' instead of 'had died'.

The virus has a host of strains - synonyms for host are multitudes, myriads, large amounts, etc. Instead, can you say the virus mutates before a large group is vaccinated? This would be more accurate as it started with a single virus that mutated as we began waging war against it.

(Side note - Is there any vaccination that is 100 % effective)

the vaccine is administered to a large population - Could you tighten up this section by changing a few words?

"By the time a large population is vaccinated, the virus mutates into a more lethal strain"

simply give up and no bother with
I believe you mean 'NOT bother with'.

Some people are weary of getting vaccinated

Weary means tired, fatigued. Are you thinking of the word 'LEERY' here: wary, cautious, hesitant etc.

such a mass immunization, without knowing The comma here interrupts the flow of the sentenced and isn't needed.

Should they be made to get injected, regardless of their reservations?
The verb -be made- is weak and should be strengthened. Maybe try ' forced, mandated, coerced, etc

Also is 'reservations' the best word here? The word does describe their hesitance to get the vaccine, but it also can be used to reserve something, like a reservation to get a vaccination.

“The needs of the many out ways the needs of the few.”

I believe the proper word is 'outweighs' as the needs of the many are a heaver weight on a balance scale than the needs of the few.

Is this the best quote to use? I believe at the end of that episode, Spock reverses himself and sees how important the need of the individual is.

than regulations; they believe to be dictated The semi-colon here disrupts the flow of the sentence is should be deleted.

not attend their funerals, and having your business lose the custom is sure
You should maintain voice by making it 'their businesses'. Business should be plural not singular. Also, do you mean 'customers'?

History portrays descent as heroic.

Descent means to go down. Do you mean dissent?

During lockdowns the population hides from the virus. It allows essential workers

The first sentence is plural - lockdowns. The next sentence, referring to the lockdowns is singular - it. You need to either make lockdowns singular to conform to it, or change it to they.

So, to sum up; people should have the right to choose whether or not to get vaccinated. However, by choosing not to protect themselves, they put others at serious risk of being exposed to the pandemic

I see a contradiction in your closing paragraph. People have the right to not get vaccinated, but they are wrong, evil even, if they don't? In fact they are selfish and irresponsible.

The problem lies in the word 'should'. This means they don't really have the right, but ought to. The other option is the people do have the right, but they shouldn't exercise that right.

Also, this is supposed to be a summation of the major thrust of your article. However, I see little in the article that addresses the idea that the unvaccinated cause others to become sick. You speak of people choosing not to and reference times past where this was a positive thing (asbestos, smoking, poison). Then you share how people correctly object to political decisions concerning funerals, masks and businesses.

Throughout the rest of the article, I see little about the health consequences of not getting the vaccine. Nor do I see any references to people dying so we can be free.

I'm not saying that this shouldn't be in the article; it's just that this isn't a summation of what you said in the article. Also, the last sentence has a negative connotation to it. Kind of like a quick jab to get in one more punch.

You have a good article here, tackling a ticklish subject. The article is well written, apart from some grammatical errors as noted above.

I may seem harsh, but that is not my intent. My desire is to see you make the article stronger and better. Use what you want, discard the rest because this is your article not mine, but keep it yours

Have a great evening and Keep on Writing
Jim Brown

*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Review of Paperwork  
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: E | (3.5)
Good evening. As a fellow member of the self-publishing workshop group, I wish to welcome you and introduce you to my reviewing style. I stopped by your portfolio and decided on this gem.

I must warn you that I tend to be blunt with my reviews. If you are looking to publish a book, kind, soft, wishy washy reviews won't help. I never want you to feel that I am putting you down or implying that you can't write. My goal is to help lift above the thousands of other writers out there and make your stories stand out and say Read ME. If I thought you weren't any good, I wouldn't spend so much time on my review.

You have a good, humorous story that addresses a common problem: paperwork. And I thought computers were supposed to eliminate all that paperwork.

You set the scene with a tremendous thunder storm, however, it is on the weak side -It was a stormy afternoon. You follow up with words designed to tell us how stormy it was. The problem with the opening phrase - it was a stormy afternoon - is that it is weak. The verb - was - just sits there, not doing much. Do you think you could spice it up with an opening like this -

Dark clouds shrouded the sky, thunder rolled, lightning lit the heavens as a deluge slammed the Hospice office.

You continue the second paragraph in the same manner - Everyone was quiet in the office.

Maybe you could follow up with something like this - Thick, brick walls deadened the roar of the thunder, creating a false peace for the disturbed team members.

About half way through the story you mention how dark it is even though it is early afternoon. Could you introduce that idea here in the opening?

Darkness descended on them, sending each one deep into their own private world.

When you introduce the scream, you use an adverb - suddenly. Like the verb - was - adverbs are weak and don't do a good job of showing us the action: they simply tell it.

Maybe something like - A scream pierced the silence: loud, eerie, wailing. Horrified, each member searched the room trying to locate the source.

Not the best, but I hope you get the idea.

Be careful of repeating words and phrases. In four short paragraphs, you repeat some form of 'scream' six times: two are almost identical. Another word that appears too often is 'seem' and its variations. Again, this is a weak, telling word.

"What was that?" asked the Team looking around at each other to see who had screamed.

Some thought on this sentence:
You have a question mark, so do you need the tag 'asked the Team? The tag is redundant.

Also, you have a myriad of people saying the same thing in unison. This may happen during a responsive reading at a church service, but not with a group of distraught people.

Would a better question be "Who screamed"?

Later on you have the group responding as one to the charts. Again, they all won't say the exact same thing. Would it be better to have a single person reply and the rest agree with that person?

Here is a sentence that made me pause and reread it - You could hear a pin drop, but what they heard was moaning...

If it was quiet enough to hear a pin drop, how could they hear moaning?

They checked all the offices, the office manage - You should use a colon after the phrase 'all the offices' because you are starting a list of rooms. Without the colon, I wasn't expecting a list, so I had to stop and reread the sentence.

Story writers need to create word pictures that let the reader see the action in their mind. Huddle is a good, strong picture word. It is easy to picture a group of people clustered around each other. This is how you used it - In a huddle, they went into this room.

The difficulty here is how do you get a group of terrified people through a narrow doorway in a huddle? Would it be better to say they formed a huddle after squeezing through the narrow opening? Just a thought.

Another random thought. How about this sentence - Everyone in the group was getting more and more frightened and the clerical staff was no-where in sight!

You have two sentences, two complete, but different ideas in one sentence connected by the word 'and'.
First sentence - Everyone in the group was getting more and more frightened
Second sentence - the clerical staff was no-where in sight!

I understand you are introducing the idea that the clerical staff is instigating this prank, but it has nothing to do with the first part. It would make sense if the group was afraid the clerical staff had been abducted or something like that which would increase their fear, but I don't see that.

You can leave off the phrase 'in the group' and simply say 'everyone was getting'. But now we are back to the beginning with a weak phrase 'was getting' followed by another weak phrase 'more and more'.

'More and more frightened' would be stronger as a single word like, terrified, horrified, petrified, etc.

To produce an exclamation point, you have to push shift and then the number 1. I believe that is appropriate because you should only use an exclamation point once in a story, if that often. An exclamation point is put there by the author to let the reader know this is extremely important! If you want to rise above, you need to write strong sentences that don't require an exclamation point. If you use it too often, you stand a good chance of loosing your reader.

A closing thought on your closing sentences - What is the moral of this story you may ask? Finish you paperwork completely and on time so the charts can be at rest!

As soon as you say, 'what is the moral of this story' you are admitting that you didn't tell it good enough for the reader to discover it on their own. They shouldn't have to ask.

Again, you end the story with an exclamation point. A weak ending to a good story.

What I want to focus on is your last sentence. This is a great sentence, not because of the wording or that it is so powerful or grammatically correct (it should be 'your paperwork, not 'you paperwork'). It is great because it tells the premise of the story in concise wording. Now you can take this sentence and use it as ruler to see if every part of the story measures up to it.

For example, did you do a good job in showing how important completing paperwork is throughout the story. The idea doesn't appear until about the halfway point. Then we discover that it is a practical joke played on the group.

Would it strengthen the idea if you insert it at the beginning? Maybe a rainy day is a good day to finish that dreaded paperwork? Instead of simply slipping into their own world because of the storm, could it be boredom from endless forms that sends them there?

Instead of a generic scream, have it say something. You don't have to give it away, hint at what you are stressing. Maybe something like 'How long, how long are you going to make us wait..." Something that teases the reader and makes them want to keep reading to find out what the voices want.

How about a twist at the end. One person survives: the one who always got the paperwork completed on time, every time.

Maybe something like this - The case is still open to this day, it seems to be one of the unsolvable mysteries of our time. Except for Emily who was heard to say, "Finish you(r) paperwork, completely and on time, every time so the charts can be at rest in peace and leave you alone.

Thank you for posting this story. I look forward to reading future posts in this group. I hope my thoughts are an encouragement to you. Always remember, this is your story. You are the only one who can tell it your way. Use what you can, discard the rest, but keep it your story.

Have a great day, and keep on writing

Jim Brown

*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Good evening

I sat down and read the novel in one sitting as well as the prologue. This review will be more on substance and style than examining the text itself.

The fact that I read it in one sitting says that you do have a good story that held my attention to the end.

When I began the book, I thought the premise was saving humanity by relocating them on a new planet. Thus I expected an opening sharing how that was to happen, followed by the bulk of the book taking place on the new planet. Instead, the premise of the book is the development of space travel and the journey to the planet. The book climaxes with the humans arriving on the planet. There is nothing wrong with the story told this way; I was let down a bit that the premise didn't match my expectations. This could be my fault; perhaps I missed the clues you left me and came to a wrong idea.

A good example of this type of story is Star Trek Voyager. This series is about a spaceship transported 75 years away from home. From the very beginning we know the story is about the journey; each episode (chapter) describes some conflict that hampered their return with a resolution that made them grow and strengthened their resolve. I can see that same theme with this story.

As I read, it seemed to me that you have two stories here: preparation and travel. I see that the main character in the first part is Dr. Kevin Melnick, while Laura takes center stage in part two. I wonder if you could establish his credentials in the opening of the book. You have the President strolling in the garden, seeking to calm himself from the pressing duties he faces each day. What if Dr. Melnick approached the president all worked up over the idea that the sun was dying. This would establish conflict at the start. Never forget that conflict drives the story.

In succeeding chapters, you can build conflict in various ways: rejection of Melnick's theory, problems with development, obstinate scientists, hesitation by the President and Chief of Staff, procuring candidates for resettlement, etc. Look at each chapter as a building block to part two where the potential becomes fact and the rocket is away. Each chapter in part two is a building block to Laura having the confidence and support of all involved to be the leader of the new world. You want to keep the end in view, but focus on how they are going to get there and how long it will take.

A good exercise is to reread every chapter and examine how well it propels the premise of building a space ship and relocating people on a new planet. Does the President's military dress, for example build on the theme or is it nonessential information? Actually it seems like a contradiction to me. You have a military minded President who is wandering in the garden to take his mind off his duties. It works great if you use it as a contrast of a leader living on past glories verses the scientist zealous over the future.

I like it that you introduced Laura early in the story. I was sure she would become a major player, and I was correct. However, you did it in the middle of a chapter which was an abrupt change. It would be better to begin her introduction with a new chapter. Actually, from this point on, you could alternate chapters between Melnick and Laura, with Melnick decreasing and Laura increasing in stature for a smooth transition to part two where she takes center stage while Kevin watches her rocket fly off into the future.

You actually make several abrupt changes in the middle of paragraphs. The mention of the 'One with No Name' comes to mind.

You intimated a possible romance between Kevin and Jillian. You could build on this. He is married (if I remember correctly) but his mission has taken first place, causing problems with his marriage. Now a fellow worker arrives, forcing him to think about his wife and what he has lost and if he should pursue this new challenge. He may not be interested, but Jillian could see him as a prize to gain. This is the kind of conflict that draws readers into the story.

You do a thorough job of describing events, technology and procedures. In other words you provide a lot of detailed information for the reader to digest. The challenge here is that this type of writing causes the reader's mind to wander, taking them out of the story. In the section with the obstacle course, you use dialogue to explain some of the events. Dialogue is a great method to describe details without telling them. For example during the second day on the obstacle course, you could have Kevin and Jillian talking back and forth, describing what they are seeing. This would keep Kevin in the story and provide a connection between him and Laura (and Jillian) that you can build on in the following chapters. Maybe in the end of the book, you could even have the computer play a recording of Kevin delivering an encouraging message to Laura just before landing on the new world. This would allow the reader to see the fulfillment of Kevin's dream through Laura.

In part 2, you could have short chapters (instead of paragraphs) inserted every so often, detailing events on earth, especially as they revolve around Kevin to keep him in the back of the reader's minds.

Also, you have a closed in ship populated entirely by adolescent teen-aged girls. Some how they all get along without conflicts or arguments. They may have been influenced by the 'one with no name', but they are still girls and girls (anybody actually) have days they don't get along with each other. With thousands of girls on board and years of travel, there has to be at least one who doesn't think Laura should be boss. Conflict like this strengthens her character and reveals why she was chosen. Also, she has doubts about herself and needs to conquer difficult situations to alleviate those doubts. That is what will keep the reader focused, not a detailed description of every step required to revive colonists.

When she has conquered her demons and proven herself, she has the right, obligation even to be the leader of the new colony. This will bring a satisfying end to the story. It also leads itself to a sequel, because now the reader wants to know what happens on the new world.

In conclusion, the focus of this review is on the premise of the story; what it is really all about. When you nail down the premise, you need to scrutinize every part of the book to ensure it conforms to and builds that premise, leading the reader page by page to the triumphal conclusion. As much as it hurts, some things need to be deleted if they fall short of the premise. A great way to accomplish this is through the use of an outline.

I don't know if you used an outline to keep you on coarse or let the story tell itself. That doesn't really matter. Now that you have a finished product, you create an outline of the book chapter by chapter. This way you can see if the book has a good flow to it, if one part is out of place or if something doesn't belong after all.

As always, this is your story. I am only offering suggestions, based on my reading style. That is why I am not rewriting sentences and saying this is the way, walk ye in it. Like I said this is a good story. My goal is to help you make it a great story.

One more suggestion for you. Take one of your favorite Science Fiction novels and reread it. Only this time, use it as a text book. Find out how the author is able to grab your attention and keep it to the end. Mark the passages that you can't put down and the ones where your mind starts to wander. See if you can determine the difference between the two. Focus on the parts that describe the schematics of the space ship and other details. Does the writer provide details the same way you do? If not, what is the difference? Is it something you can incorporate into your writing while maintaining your own style?

When you finish that one, choose another novel and use the same approach. Novels can be the best textbooks you will ever have. If you have a novel you don't really care for, read it to determine why you don't like it. Then compare it to your writing to see if there are any similarities. It is amazing what you can learn from something you don't like or is in a genre you don't care for.

That's it for now. In my next review I would like to focus on dialogue and dialogue tags.

Thanks for the good read and keep on writing. As I said before, I'd love to read the sequel.

Jim Brown
Review of A Woman of Honor  
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: E | (3.5)
Good evening Dee

Saw your story in the request review and decided to accept the challenge.

I see from your profile that you are a prolific writer, which causes me to pause as I feel inferior with so few stories in my folder. I believe I do have a solid foundation on what makes a good story and can offer suggestions on how to make your story better. I see a good story line, and logical progression to the end.

You introduce a bit of conflict in the opening paragraph; she has an important job with numerous, vital tasks she should be tending to, but family history steals her away. The conflict builds as she can't find what she is looking for. We see a peak when she finds the scrap of paper. The conflict builds anew to the final resolution and joyous anticipation of sharing her discovery with her favorite uncle.

I began the story with relish as you begin with a strong opening statement - "Liz rummaged through the attic of the old mansion". However, the strong opening becomes wordy and weak - " hoping to find something interesting to learn about her ancestor"

In this phrase, she is hoping to find and to learn something about an ancestor. If she finds something, she will naturally learn something, so the phrases are redundant. She is looking for something; (a weak, ambiguous word) about an ancestor (again weak and ambiguous).

The next sentence tells us who the ancestor is. Why not skip the 'ancestor' and go directly to 'great grandmother? Maybe something like - Liz rummaged through the attic of the old mansion, seeking that one snippet that set great grandma Coit above the rest.

Not too good, but hopefully it shows what I am saying. An opening like this reveals 1) she is searching, 2) the person who has captured her attention, and 3) the object of her search, some great deed or accomplishment. We know she is an old relative whose last name is Coit. From there, you supply the additional information: first name, ninth generation, birth date and info that she was a writer.

I am a little confused about the political aspect of the story. It is July 4th and two days before an election: I'm not sure what election you are referring to. Also, it is July 4th, it doesn't seem to me that political duties would be that critical for a campaign staffer, so searching through an old attic wouldn't be a problem. If she was a speech writer for a politician making a speech that evening and she hadn't finished it, then okay, I see the conflict. Of course, I just might be ignorant that there are elections that take place right after Independence Day.

You spend much time describing the scene, using strong words: consumed, obsession, maneuver, etc.

I wonder if you use more words than necessary in your descriptions. For example, you can change this - and it piqued her curiosity. In fact, it consumed every spare minute of her time... to this "and it piqued her curiosity, consuming every spare minute of her time.

I find the second paragraph a bit confusing; in fact I had to stop and reread it my first time through.

Liz sighed as she glanced around. She won't find anything important in a glance. I think you need a stronger word here.

She pushed her way past the antiques. Good. In my mind I see her past the mess, but then she ran her hand over them. The word 'and' in the sentence provides a flow to the sentence. The first thing occurs, and then she moves on to the next. In this case, she would have to back track to run her hands over the items.

A simple fix is : she pushed her way past the antiques, running her hands over the hallowed surfaces.

Dust an inch thick covered furniture, and trunks, filled with sketches

"Dust, an inch thick." I understand you are trying to establish how old the items are, but I'm not sure you'd end up with an inch of dust even after 300 years. Not only that, but would she be running her hands over antiques with an inch of dust on them? Not sure about that one.

I wonder if the word 'and' isn't the best way to join the two phrases. One option is to put a period after furniture and begin a new sentence with "Trunks, filled with...". Another is to use a different word that lends itself to a new idea, like "... covered furniture, while trunks, filled with..."

In this sentence - there had to be something interesting - would present tense be better - There has to be something interesting...

She pulled out the sepia-colored parchment, being careful not to damage it. The document had one handwritten word on it. Grotto.

I like that you used a strong word -sepia-colored - to describe the parchment, but honestly, I have no idea what color 'sepia' is. I assume it is a faded yellow or gold color. Could you convey the same thought by saying - She eased the ancient parchment from the book and read one handwritten word ... Grotto.

One final thought. You should reread the story and highlight every occurrence of the words she, her and Liz. If I counted correctly, they occur about 85 times combined. I raise this point because every time you say "she did something", "Liz said something, or "she learned about her history", you are telling us something. Telling is great, if you are writing a newspaper article, but too much will cause you to lose your reader in a short story.

Examine this sentence - She smiled as she tossed it on the pile of items she planned to take with her, Maybe try something like, "Smiling, she tossed it on the stack of books to take downstairs.

This is still a telling sentence, but without the multiple pronouns.

One of the best methods of showing the story is to utilize dialogue. Even though she is by herself, she can still talk. I know I talk to myself all the time. The neat thing with dialogue is that even when you tell something, it sill acts like showing.

Here is a perfect example in your own words - She found the word and read the definition, out loud. "A small cave, or an artificial one in a park or garden, or an indoor structure, resembling a cave."

(Note - you don't need the words - out loud. The quotation marks tell us she is speaking 'out loud'.)

In this case she is telling us the definition of the word Grotto, but we don't realize it.

From the same section - Grotto?" Liz knew what a grotto was, but she wanted to be sure

Try - "Grotto? I think I know what it means ... wait a minute, here's a dictionary, I'll look it up. Hmmm, A small cave ..."

Not sure if you understand my meaning. Showing vs Telling is a subject that takes up many classes and textbooks and can't be properly explained in a short review. I just hope I make sense and can help you tighten up your story and make it even better.

It's getting late, so I'll close now. Thanks for posting this gem and asking for good, constructive critiques. I hope that is what I provided you.

Have a great day and Keep on Writing

Jim Brown
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: ASR | (3.5)
Good evening Richard

I am part of the self-publishing forum and am reading stories from each member so I can introduce myself and my reviewing style. Looking at the portfolios, I find myself overwhelmed and feeling like the amateur I am. My portfolio is sparse, but I believe my reviews are helpful.

I enjoy the way you kept me wondering what was going to happen in the end. Also, technology makes a good plot for a story.

My first thought was that you began the story with an adverb - ordinarily. I believe adverbs don't deserve the bad reputation they have gotten over the years, but adverbs are weak. Your first sentence needs to reach out, grab the readers and demand they keep reading. The second sentence also begins with an adverb - luckily.

Ordinarily he would never have rolled out on a case like this, a cut and dry attempted robbery with assault, with the perp in custody. Luckily, the attempt had ended happy instead of in a tragedy.

You can eliminate the phrase 'a case like this' without changing the impact of the sentence.

What do you think about an opening like this - "Attempted assault and robbery, perp in custody, no injuries; happy ending, case closed. I should rejoice, but I can't, not with these nagging doubts."

Not the best. I'm trying to demonstrate a stronger opening. Everyone is happy the case is closed, except the detective. Now you can introduce conflict between the detective and the victims. The more he questions them, the more they stand up and defend 'gigi'

I like how she interrupts the detective by telling him her name. He continues to call her ma'am throughout the questioning, establish his character as 'old fashioned. I wonder if you could increase the conflict by having her interrupting him again with her name later on in the conversation... "I told you to call me Emily." "Yes ma'am, now, as I was saying..."

In this sentence - "We have," answered Greg, still shocked by the slash the thugs attack had left in his overcoat. The word should be 'thug's' attack. Thugs is plural, but there was only one thug. The apostrophe links the thug with the attack, establishing possession.

Another observation is I believe you can do a better job with your dialogue tags.

Trying to cover his real interest in the case, "So Ma'am ..."

She interrupted, "Emily."

The tag 'She interrupted' tells us what is happening. What do you think about something like this:

"So, Ma'am -"


"Excuse me?"

"My name is Emily. Don't call me ma'am."

"Okay, ma'am, as I was saying..."

Instead of telling us she is going to interrupt him, just have her do it. Also, I added a comma -'So, ma'am.' because readers understand that a comma indicates a pause between the words.

Hopefully I've demonstrated that you can express the same thoughts without overusing dialogue tags. A very important foundation for any story is to show the action, not simply tell it. Dialogue tags should enhance the conversation, not describe the emotions and actions of the speakers.

One more example and I'll close.

"Yes," a brief flash of anger clouded Emily's eyes, "I hate this alley, I always have!"

Can you show us her anger instead of telling us about it. Perhaps - "I've told him a thousand times that I hate this alley, but did that stop Him? No, he had to take it and see what happened: I almost got killed."

My thought is to convey her anger with her words while leaving the impression that the conversation wasn't over between them.

One more thing, and I'm done: really, I mean it this time. Instead of using bold type 'BUT' and all caps "an empathetic NO" use strong words to show the action. Those techniques demonstrate weak writing and will be a red flag for publishers.

Well, just some humble thoughts on a great story. I look forward to reading more of you works in the days ahead.

Jim Brown

*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Review of Isolated Problem  
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: ASR | (4.5)
Looking at your prolific profile page, I feel inadequate to offer a review, but I will offer a few humble suggestions.

I enjoyed the story, especially the twist at the end. The spacing and length of the paragraphs made it easy to read on my monitor.

My initial thought is that you tell the story, more than show it. You use the word 'was' at least 15 times in the story. (A dead give away for telling) You started to grab my attention in the 3rd paragraph where you don't say 'was' for the majority of it, but lose it at the end where you repeat 'was' twice.

Consider eliminating some of the 'to be' verbs something like this:

1st 2 sentences (39 words) - The leak from the reserve oxygen cylinder acted much like a spacesuit mini-thruster. It was less powerful, of course, but there was enough thrust from the jet of compressed air to push Rick Stevens out of the open airlock

Maybe try - The leak from the reserve cylinder acted like a mini-thruster; less powerful but strong enough to propel Rick Stevens out the open airlock. (23 words)

I'm undecided about saying 'reserve OXYGEN cylinder. It depends on your thinking. Rick realizes at the end of the story that his oxygen is gone: i.e. he doesn't know he is leaking oxygen. If you want to provide the reader a hint about the ending, I'd leave it in. The problem with that is an observant reader might guess the ending and be a little let down.

He was calm and clear-headed as he considered the multiple factors... Maybe try something like - Calm and clear-headed, he considered multiple factors...

One more example - there was no point in a rescue attempt. Maybe - Why bother with a rescue attempt.
On another note,

I had to read this sentence twice to understand it - Rick glanced off the station hull at a higher velocity than before.

On first reading, I thought Rick was looking at the station (glance) instead of bumping into it. This took me out of the story and forced me to begin anew. The sentence does make sense as written (I might be the only person who had that idea), but I feel a stronger word would keep the reader's (my) attention better.

Also - higher velocity (6 syllables) works, but I wonder if it is wordy. Perhaps this is a situation that calls for a shorter, simpler word to keep the action going, maybe something as mundane as 'faster'. Just a thought.

Well, thanks for the story, I truly did enjoy it. Have a great day, and Keep On Writing.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Good evening

I saw your story in the request review section and decided to give it a read. I like the premise for the story: it has much potential. I see a logical progression to the story (I went on to read chapter 2 as well). I will make a few comments as an introduction to my reviewing style. If you find my reviewing helpful, I would deem it a privilege proof read any further chapters you write.

A quick word: I tend to be direct when I review. You have requested reviews on this chapter, so I am assuming you want constructive comments to help you write a better story. I don't have any degrees, but I do understand what makes a good story. I will offer suggestions, but they are only that; suggestions. Take what you want and forget the rest.

I was excited when I started the first sentence. The word 'elected' is a strong word and especially relevant as the president is an elected official. However, my excitement waned as I finished the sentence. You started strong, but ended weak by saying the president WAS WALKING. The verb -was- is weak and acts as a telling verb instead of showing. Also, you mixed a present tense - does- with a past tense - elected. You should keep them the same -as he always did, the president elected ... You repeat this when the myriad of briefers 'were talking' about issues that 'can pop up'. This sentence also leads me to think the briefing is not very important because the issues aren't specific. As you go on to describe the president's mind wandering, focused on things to calm him it reinforces the idea that he is bored with the whole thing and would rather not do it.

It is a good idea to give names to your characters instead of using titles: President, Chief of Staff, briefers, etc. It is distracting to see titles repeated over and over and makes it harder to picture the character in your mind. As I read a story, I tend to get a mental image of the characters, but I lose it quickly or can't develop a good picture from a title.

You do a decent job of telling the story, but you don't do a lot of showing. If you wish to continue, I can help with showing vs telling since this is a difficult, but important matter to master. I used to rewrite sentences from the story I was reviewing to demonstrate my point, but I found that most people would simply incorporate my sentence into their story without learning the lesson. So now I use examples. Instead of saying - the car was fast, you could say - The cherry red mustang left a quarter mile of rubber before the stunned bystanders. Not very good, but the idea is to write so the reader can picture the scene in their mind. An easy 'tell' for telling is the use of the 'to be' verb: is, are, was, were, would, had, have, etc. Another tell is over use of pronouns.

Another area needing improvement is the use of dialogue tags. You don't write a line of dialogue, end it with a period and then add the tag as a separate sentence. The tag is incorporated into the sentence with the use of commas. A common dialogue tag that really isn't right is to say is ... 'he said with a smile'. I know most people know that it means he smiled as he talked, but the phrase is a cliché, which tends to be weak writing. When you are a famous author, with fifteen books under your belt, you can get away with things like that. But as a beginner, trying to establish a place among thousands of other writers, you need strong writing to set yourself apart.

I appreciate that you don't abuse adverbs and do use good, strong words like myriad, elected, ornate, absorb, etc. Something to look out for is repetition of words. For example you write 'The president STEPPED into the oval office', followed by 'the president STEPPED over to the bar.

These are just a few thoughts on your story. I look forward to seeing more chapters and watching you grow as a writer. Don't be discouraged; instead keep on writing. Remember though that practice doesn't always make perfect. If you don't grow as a writer, it doesn't matter how many words you put on paper, they will remain only words.

Have a great day


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: 13+ | (5.0)
I book marked this article so I can have easy access to it. I appreciate that I have many of the same thoughts when I do a review. I like the outline of items you look at when doing a review. Often, I get focused on one or two items that need correction and forget there are more things to look at.

I especially like this section as I relate well to it - Reviewing other member's work and helping them is a privilege and an honor. In a way, it tends to be self-serving. I end up learning so much during the process, and am surrounded by some of the most brilliant authors. - Well said.

Another point I like to emphasize in my reviews - In some cases, maybe the reviewer didn't get the right impression for some reason. If so, take what works and leave the rest. Only you know how you want your story to read.

I've been away from writing.com and reviewing for a while, but am excited to get back into it. I'm even getting a desire to write again; it's been a long time.

Thanks again for your encouragement

Penny In Pocket - Jim Brown
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
I read your bio and see that you are shy and not confident in your writing skills. I have read with interest the first chapter of The Bank Heist Heroine. You have the beginnings of being a good writer; you just need some instruction and lots of practice. I believe I can help with the instruction if you are interested. I will give you a short critique of the first paragraph to allow you to see if my input can help. I warn though, that I can be blunt in my wording, not to hurt, but to help. If you have a soft skin, you might want to pass on my help.

My first impression is that you do a lot of telling the story with little showing. This is great if you are writing a news article, but it won't hold a reader's attention. One major give away for telling instead of showing is an excessive use of the 'to be' verb. You pleased me by not using a 'to be' verb in your opening sentence (see the difference from 'I was pleased'). You could strengthen your opening sentence by naming a specific vehicle instead of the generic 'truck'. For example, try this - ...yet still in excellent condition Jeep Wrangler... or maybe F150 or Toyota Tundra. By naming a specific vehicle, your reader can easier visualize the truck.

In this sentence you write - but she HAD worked later than she HAD planned and HAD to stop...Maybe you could try something like 'but a problem at work made her late for her appointment. Not the best, especially because of my next point, but the idea is to make the reader see that she has a specific reason to be at the bank instead of just stopping by. You can add the idea that she hoped the meeting would end quickly because she had to rush to her uncle's house. I don't know where you are going with the book, but later on in the midst of her being held hostage, she could reflect back on why she was there and if her new plan for the ranch was worth being in this situation.
Also, watch out for repetition. For example, she STOPPED by the bank before STOPPING at her uncle's house. A simple fix - before surprising her aunt and uncle with an unannounced visit.
My next point is, another way to see if you are telling, not showing is by the number of personal pronouns you use. You have 3 pronouns in this sentence - SHE rarely changed out of HER work clothes when SHE went to town. Maybe try ... rarely changing clothes before going to town. This not only removes the pronouns, but drops the sentence from 13 words to 7 words. This can be important when considering total word counts.

Last for this review. You should name your characters, especially main characters like the bank manager or the tellers. It interrupts the flow when you say 'the bank manager did this or that' or 'the young male bank teller' rushed to her defense. (5 words). Compare to 'Hank' rushed to her defense. Which sounds better in a tense, stress filled situation.

If you are interested, I'll go into more detail on showing vs telling. Other areas to cover are dialogue, pesky adverbs, do you outline the story or not, what are the elements of a good story, the importance of a strong title, or setting the reader up with a seemingly unnecessary sentence that becomes relevant at the proper time. For example, you say that her former name was Jane Ward. Perhaps later in the book you will reveal the importance of the last name of 'Ward'; one of the bank robbers turns out to be a long lost brother she didn't know about named Jack Ward. If you word it correctly, the reader can make the association before Jane does. It gives the reader an 'I knew it" moment which keeps them reading

Please understand that I am not criticizing or putting you down. My intent is to help you make a good story better. Like I said, you have a good foundation; but application of sound writing practices will grab the reader's attention and keep it throughout the book. I enjoy writing, but I enjoy teaching others to be better writers even more.

Best regards to your writing career, PennyInPocket
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: 18+ | (2.0)
In the first paragraph, you say 'pull' present tense, instead of 'pulled', past tense. I feel that verb tense is a minor focus. A better focus would be to address showing vs telling and your dialogue. A dialogue example -“What are you two fighting about now?” Shya asked. In this case you have a highly charged emotional situation and she simply 'asks' what is going on. You can leave off the dialogue tag. If you want it, make her demand an answer. Then you write - Kackim and Viloni looked around Shya still in anger. But it was Kackim who spoke first. 'Still in anger' is telling us instead of showing and is ambiguous as it can be applied to Shya or both Kackim and Viloni. Instead of a period and a new sentence beginning with 'but', you should at least have a semi-colon. Better yet, forget the explanation and jump in with dialogue - "I spent hours collecting the stuff and Viloni stole it from me because she's to lazy to get it herself." "That's not true, I just refuse to be the Octon's slave."... from there, Shya explains why they are collecting. Then she pushes or shoves them back to work instead of 'releasing' them. Instead of saying - the amount that we need (5 words) you can say - our quota (2 words).
This is just a quick review to challenge you to better writing. I can give a more detailed review of your entire story if you like. PennyInPocket
Review of The Creek  
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: E | (4.5)
You have a great story here. I found it on the request review page and thought I'd take a look. I've been away from the site for a while because of a sore back, but I returned just in time to discover this gem.

I am fairly new to writing, but I've learned much from this sits. Reviewing has become a favorite pasttime for me. I don't do a lot of reviews, but the ones I give are detailed and lengthy.

I like your opening sentence. It has a hook that draws the reader into the story.

A couple of suggestions:

1) you can omit the word "all" and simply say, "Victoria sat alone on the park swing..."

2) I wonder if you could strengthen your first sentence by including her tears in it. I thought something like,

Victoria sat alone on the canvas park swing, watching the other children laughing and playing as a single tear trickled down her cheek.

Another idea is to give a little more description, as in

Victoria sat alone on the canvas park swing, clutching the metal chains as she watched her friends laughing and playing as if she didn't exist.

You only have a few seconds to grab the reader's attention so you need the most powerful opening you can get.

You have the three major parts needed for a short story (-:

You do a good job of introducing the main character and showing us the beginning of the conflict she will be facing in the first part.

In the middle of the story, you build the conflict in a somewhat orderly and understandable manner. I have a question though that I will address later on in the review.

Then in the conclusion, you resolve the conflict by giving it a twist.

Good Job!(-:

Now, back to paragraph 1

A matter of personal opinion I think. For me, I would use a different word than "jerked" when she jumps off the swing. I would use something like "jumped". I think that for me, jerked seems awkward and pulls me out of the story for a minute.
Just a thought.

I am confused a bit about the third paragraph. I assume that this is a flashback where she is remembering the past. I assume it is a flashback, because her mother and father can see and hear her and she can eat.

You use good showing when you have her kick the pebble in the path. By combining that phrase with "and struggling to remember," you are telling the story instead of showing.

Perhaps, "She kicked every pebble she came across, as she wandered down the path trying desperately to remember that elusive thought in the back of her mind."

Then to merge into the flashback, you should include something like, "A picture slowly came into focus in her mind; a picture of her and her puppy Ranger."

When you are describing her last evening, you can use more showing.

For example, "The picture took on new form as she heard her mother calling her in for supper. A smile cracked her frustrated demenor as she saw the juciey hambberger and the steaming maccaroni and cheese, followed by her favoirte dessert: vanilla ice cream."

Again, this is just a suggestion. This is your story and needs to be written in your own style.

But, the more showing you do, the more you will hook your reader and keep them in the story.

An example - Instead of telling us she heard something behind her, show us what she heard, as in

"A twig snapped behind her, causing her to scream in terror as she spun around to defend herself from an unseen preditor."

Another example - You write, "A few minutes later, the doe wandered deeper into the thicket and Victoria continued on." This tells us that the doe left. Why not show us?

"Victoria stood as still as a statue, afraid she'd spook the beautiful animal before her. Slowly she began inching toward the deer, with her hand outstretched, hoping to get close enough to touch her. Something must have startled her though, because she turned and bounded away. Victoria shrugged her shoulders and began walking down the sidewalk toward home."

You do a good job of showing in the next paragraph where you record her thoughts about going down to the cellar. A note, you should italicise her thoughts as you did earlier to let the reader know for sure she is thinking the words. This includes her mother's thoughts at the end.

Well, it's getting late so I'll wrap this up for now. I hope my feeble offerings are a help and encouragement to you. You have a great story here and tell it well. Mix in a little more showing and you will make it even better.

Above all, remember that this is your story, so use what you want and discard what you don't agree with. I simply offer suggestions as to how I might write the story.

Have a great day and thank you for sharing your story with us here on the site.

And remember: Keep On Wtiting


Review of Potato Soup  
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: ASR | (4.5)
You have a great story here. The title caught my eye and caused me to click on the story. Then, a strong lead kept my attention and I read the story through to the end.

You have a strong opening that presents the major character and the conflict she faces. The middle builds her character and her conflict and then you give us an unexpected ending.

You have good descriptions. I could easily picture the man and his wife as they helped the little girl.
You do a great job of writing from the girl's point of view. I might suggest some means of separating the last two paragraphs where you change to Frank and Meg's poing of view. Perhaps a line ------- or some ****.

I have been studying writing techniques lately and have been intrigued by the idea of "to be, or not to be." The idea is that writers use the various forms of the verb "to be" too often. (is, was,were,etc.)

The suggestion is to read over your story to see how many times you use this verb, and change as many as you can. (You will have to use some, but the idea is to keep them to a minimum.)

An example - "I had a secret. I was the only one who knew the secret and that is the way it would remain."

Perhaps - "I had a secret, the only one in the world who knew it and the only one who would ... ever."

I believe the idea is that by avoiding "to be", you strenghten your writing. I began my eggplant article with this in mind. It is hard to do, and you will probably notice more use of "to be" as the story went on.

It is challenging, but I believe it does make a difference.

I have a few nit picky things I picked up that I'd like to share.

"Every evening when the clocks in the clock shop struck five in the afternoon I would walk into a certain alley and knock on the big wooden door."

You can drop the word "afternoon" as you have already established it as being evening in the beginning of the sentence.

Check on repeated words. In the first paragraph, you use the word "would" five times. This is not bad in itself, but I have found that when a word or phrase is over used, I tend to start looking for that word, which pulls me out of the story.

I think you could strengthen the first paragraph if you called it "my special alley" instead of "a certain alley". You could add a bit of showing vs. telling by adding something like, "... my special alley, so dark and dirty like all the rest, but the source of my secret."

Just a thought. I tend to push showing not telling in my reviews. As I've been told, telling is passive while showing is active. And active stories are the ones that get read the most.

You do a great job of showing when the girl meets the man, and can do nothing but nod her head.

"A large woman wearing a white apron" creats a vivid picture in my mind. You could expand on it by adding, "A large woman wearing a white apron, standing before blistering wood stove." or some other short phrase to describe her a bit more."

One more example. You do a good job with this sentence "But it was so good when it was warm and freshly baked that I would pinch off small pieces throughout the day"

But, if you include more senses, the reader gets a better picture. Try adding the smell of the bread. When I was a boy and we went to grandma's house in Maine, we would go to the nearby bakery in the morning for fresh baked bread. You could smell the bread from a mile away.

She could reflect on the crunch (sound) of the hard crust covering the soft inside. (touch)

Another thing I am learning, is that you can usually go through a story and remove some words without changing it at all. Adverbs (often ending with ly) are the best place to start.

example: I was very afraid. You don't need "very"
"When the bread was all gone." You can drop the "all"

There aren't a lot of extra words, but it is good practice to reread with a specific goal in mind, instead of trying to check everything at once.

These things that I have pointed out are small things that I believe can strengthen your story. But, this is your story, not mine. I can only make suggestions based on what I would write, or what I have been taught by others. You are a good, solid writer, but if you are like me, you want to continually improve.

I see that you wrote this story a little over a year ago and have recently reedited it. I began writing just over a year ago, and when I go back and read my early stories, I'm amazed at how much I've grown. It tends to encourage me to keep on writing.

I hope my humble suggestions are a help to you. If not, forget them, I won't be hurt. You see, even if you disagree with all of my comments, I have still grown as a writer. If you agree with them, I am greatly (adverb) encouraged that I have helped a fellow writer.

So with that said, thank you so much for posting your stories and allowing us the joy of reading them. Keep on writing and have a great day.

Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: E | (4.5)
Welcome to writing.com, a marvelous place to learn and grow as a writer. I haven't been here long, and have been away for the last week, but I truly love this site. One of my favorite things to do is review short stories.

I have been told that I have an eye for detail, and that seems to be evident in my reviews, which tend to be detailed and lengthy, often being longer than the actual story.

You have done a fantastic job with this story. You found a delightful way to weave the three keywords into a story that kept my attention all the way to the end.

You have a good, strong opening that draws the reader into the story and present the main character as a totally believable person. You present a common conflict and build it convincingly in the middle portion. The ending is great, as the reader is thinking she will receive bad news instead of good.

I hope that you give this delight a great title when the contest is completed, or sooner if the rules allow. As you know, a strong title is necessary to get someone to read your story. Too often, writers put all kinds of effort into a story and then throw a hum drum title on top. The title has to have a strong hook to it.

As I said, you have a good opening. A strong opening is as important as the title. When your title catches someone's eye, your first paragraph needs to set the hook.

You have an interesting similie in your second sentence about the cat. The only problem is, I don't generally liken the shrill ring of an alarm clock with the soft padding of a tiptoeing cat. I would think more along the lines of a roaring lion.
(I do like the idea of a stupid alarm clock, it hits close to home.)

I wonder about the word pounced as in "pounced out of bed." My reason is, to me pounced is a word the implies landing on instead of getting out of bed. A cat "pounces" on its prey.

One last thought on the opening paragraph, I'm not sure you painted a bleak enough picture to warrent the comment on "gloom and doom and bad luck". Waking up late and kicking the cat tend to be normal for my house.

A writing exercise I have learned the last few days is to write without using any form of the verb "to be" (is, was, were,etc.)

An example, instead of writng, "I was late again", try, "Darn, late again."

This is the short version of the exercise. A longer example I read is:

Instead of "The car is hot"

Try, "The interior of the chevy burned like a furnace."

The article suggested going through your story with an eye for "to be" verbs to see if you can make the story stronger.

An example from your story.
"I entered the room where my boss and co-workers were seated."

Maybe, "I entered the room to see my co-workers seated, their backs to me, as they faced the CEO."

This sentence says the same thing, but also lets the reader get a better idea of the lay of the room. (showing vs. telling).

In paragraph four, I wonder if you should use a different word than "entered". The reason is, when I originally read the story, I thought she was entering the parking lot of her apartment building to get her car. Perhaps, "pulled into", "drove into" or something along that line.

Maybe instead of linking the two phrases in the second sentence with "and" you could use a stronger word, like "Parking spaces are limited, forcing me to park in the back forty."

You could also restate the idea of her being late, as in "Parking spaces are limited, and my being late again, forced me to park in the back forty."

I loved the line about hating the umbrella, as they are so sissy looking. *Smile*

The last sentence of the fourth paragraph is descriptive, but I wonder if it could be worded better. By saying "... with a broken umbrella, wet clothes and looking somewhat like a drowned rat." it makes me think she is holding the wet clothes instead of wearing them. I think that is because you hold an umbrella, so the next phrase should be similar.

Perhaps if you rearrange it like this - "There I stood in front of the security guard, drencehd from head to toe with a broken umbrella in my hand, looking like a drowned rat."

In your last paragraph, you can make your first sentence stronger. Instead of linking all the phrases with "and", try, "ready for a glass of wine and a hot bath, feeling especially proud of myself." This puts extra emphasis on her pride, contrasting it better with her unmatched shoes.

Also, you repeat the word "grabbed" twice in one sentence (her housecoat and glass of wine).

The last sentence is great, but it seems a bit wordy. I believe you can drop the "had been" and make the shoes possessive. Maybe - I wonder what the day would have been like had the sun been shining and my shoes matching!"

You have a great story here and I hope you do well in the contest. You have a good chance, and with a few subtle changes, you can make your chances even better.

I hope my feeble utterances prove to be a help. Feel free to use any, all or none. This is your story and only you determine what is written. I simply offer suggestions as to how I might write the story.

I am so glad you have joined our community and posted your story. I hope you have a long stay here and grow to enjoy the site as much, or even more than I do.

Have a great day

Review of Mock Epic  
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: ASR | (4.0)
Welcome to Writing.com. I haven't been here long myself, but I have certainly enjoyed my stay. I noticed your story in the "Review a Newbie" page and decided to take a look.

One of the neat things about this site is there are so many writers who want to help each other. One of my favorite things about the site is reviewing. Sometimes it seems like I would rather review than write.

You will find that reviewers are concerned with encouraging and helping writers. It is never our intention to put down or discourage.

As a newbie, I offer you the same advice I received with my first story. separating paragraphs with a space (like this review) makes it a lot easier for the person reading your story*Smile*

As a grammar note, you should begin a new paragraph anytime a new character speaks. Instead of one run on paragraph, your reader can easily see who is talking. Even with a story this short (349 words) I had to reread sections to make sure I knew who was talking.

If that happens too often, you will lose the reader's intrest and he will look for another story. You don't want that to happen. With so many stories, articles, poems, etc. on the site, you want to be sure you captivate your reader and don't lose him or her.*Frown*

You have the three necessary parts of the story, a beginning, middle and ending.*Bigsmile*

*Check1* Beginning - Man walks to edge of earth and finds a dilemma.

*Check2* Middle - Man discusses dilemma with stranger

*Check3* Ending - Man comes to conclusion and both characters leave.

You have an interesting first sentence that piques the reader's interest. We know this is going to be a bit different as we all know the world is round.

Your sentence is good, but you can make it stronger and thus more appealing. Instead of him walking to the edge of the earth, you can have him all ready standing at the edge.

My reasoning is, a person can believe the world is square, even in this day and age; so I can picture that person stumbling along, looking for something he never will find. If, however, he is standing at the edge, maybe with his toes hanging over the abyss, you have my attention.

You need to be careful of repeated words and phrases. This is something that was revealed to me early in my writing, so I am always on the lookout for it.

If you read your first three sentences (This is where paragraphs are a big help for a reviewer) you will discover three sets of repeated words or phrases

1) Edge
2) Stare (Staring) Off
3) Shattered

When you repeat yourself like that, the reader's mind will unconsciously start looking for more which takes him out of your story. Again, that is not good. *Frown*

I encourage you to read through the story and look for those repetitions. (Hint- a lot show up in your dialogue tags)

My purpose isn't to rewrite your story or show you every occurance of something. I desire to help you understand basic writing rules so you can edit your own story. Unfortunately, the hardest thing a writer can do is edit his or her own story. That is why this site is such a blessing.*Cool*

note - you will notice that I repeat myself often in this review. It is so easy to do and requires rereading and editing to erase.

Spell Check Miss - The man says, "yet now I am standing her, wrong". I beleive you mean "here". A word processor spell checker will not pick up this type of error.

Toward the end of the story, you say "its not like we were ever really..." It should be "it's not like we were ever really..."

"It's" means "IT IS". That is the only time you use the apostrophe with "its" This is an easy mistake to make, but once you understand this concept, you will seldom make the mistake.

I like your use of dialogue in the story. I find that for me, dialogue has a way of capturing and holding my attention.

A suggestion - instead of saying "a man" or "a newcomer", why not give them names? A reader will relate much better to a name than a title. Sometimes, the author will use this means of discribing a character to disguise the identy of the character until a pivotal time in the story. Such is not the case here, or so it seems to me.

Take note in your dialogue. Twice, you have "the man" running on and on with a single sentence. People can talk in strange ways, but we, as authors, must be sure the reader doesn't get lost in the middle. You can break up the long, long sentence by making it two or three.

I am having problems understanding the ending. (That isn't too strange as I can be quite dense).

One problem is, you have a man walking to the end of the earth, and a man talking with the newcomer, yet in the end, he is only eight years old. For me, that is a child, not a man. I think I understand your desire. I am assuming you want to surprise us with the ending.

This is something I love to do with my stories. I love to add that unexpected twist at the end. However, with this story, you mislead the reader who may take offense. As with the first sentence, the last one is extremely important as well.

If this was to be the only story you would ever write, it wouldn't be a big problem. But, if you want people to keep reading your stories, you need a strong hook at the end that will make them want to read more of your work.

Another thing is, you have the man (boy?) heading off to the city. There is no mention of a city in the story. My vision of the edge of the earth is of a barren, unpopulated region. The city is not a problem, but with it coming out of the blue, it threw me a bit.

I love your last sentence. *Smile* This twist came out of thin air, but I can easily picture the newcomer doing just that. It is a great way to end this delightful story.

As you have realized by now, this review is longer than your story. I tend to do that a lot. I would not put this much time and effort into a review if I thought the story wasn't any good. On the contrary, it is because I do like the story, I am willing to invest my time and energy.

You have a great story that can be even greater with a bit of tweaking. Again, welcome to the site and thank you for sharing your story with us. I hope you post many more in your portfolio. You say this is your favorite one, so you must have more to share.

Have a great day, and Keep on Writing

PennyInPocket - a member of the Angel Army
Review of Why me  
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: E | (4.0)
Welcome to Writing.com. It is a joy to have new writers on the site. I haven't been here long, but I have come to enjoy the site very much. I hope you have taken some time to browse around the site. There is so much here, it is unbelievable. I still have much to learn.

One of the great things about the site is the opportunity to review one another's works. Each review is an encouragement to keep on writing, never a discuragement. There are great published authors as well as newbies who are just beginning. Yet, each one of us is a reader and thus qualified to review.

I personally don't put a lot of emphasis on the rating number. It is difficult to put a number on someone's story. I spend the bulk of my effort on reviewing the story, expressing my likes as well as offering suggestions.

I tend to focus on the technical aspects of the story, such as spelling, grammmar and composition. Often, my reviews are longer than the story. I would not put so much effort in reviewing a story if I thought it was no good.

I truly enjoyed this story from beginning to end. It is easy for me to get bogged down in the middle of a story and skip to the end. I read every paragraph of your story.

A quick note about posting, the same one I received with my first post. It makes reading a lot easier if you put spaces between paragraphs, even if it is just one line of dialogue. I've discovered that indents from word processors do not translate when posted.

You say in your introduction that this is a story you are writing. Then you headline it as Chapter one. This is important as the story leaves a lot of questions unanswered at the end. This is a good thing if you are going to continue the story, as it keeps the reader hooked.

If, on the other hand, this is the sum total, you would need to answer those questions.

Another side note. I noticed you haven't filled in your bio yet. It isn't necessary to do that, but it can help the person reviewing your stories.

Opening Sentence - In order to capture the reader's interest, you need a strong opening sentence. Your story has a good hook for an opening, but I think you can make it stronger. By beginning the sentence with the word as, you soften the sentence. You can drop the as without changing the sentence, making it something like - Louisa glided down the aisle wondering how she wound up in this situation.

had got herself- is not the best english and reads awkward. This can allow the reader to pop out of the story and lose intrest quickly if it happens too much.

I am learning a lot about writing. Presently I am studying Point Of View
POV basically is who is telling the story. You have Louisa telling the story and do a good job of telling it through her eyes.

There are a couple of occasions where you jump POV momentarily to someone else. I guess the reason I noticed it is because it is something that I am working hard to correct myself. A review of one of my recent posts pointed out a change in POV that I missed.

You pop out for just a moment when you describe the thoughts of the freckle faced boy in How lucky he was today! Extra money for this as well!
She would have no way of knowing what the boy was thinking. You can easily fix it by saying that she thought that was what he was thinking when she saw his evil smile. Then, his statement would confirm her thoughts about him.

Again, you say that Rupert took her watering eyes as a sign of grief. She wouldn't be able to know this about him, or that he hated any sadness, as he was an optimistic boy.

This may not seem like much, but it will make a difference with an alert reader.

The other occurance is where you describe what the officer knew about her brother. You can fix this by having the officer tell her he knows her brother is a trouble maker, so she must be one too. This would add to the impact of the questioning, giving her more reason to come to the conclusion she did.

During her questioning, you say, At the station, Louisa was being questioned.
This is written in what is called passive voice This is very easy to write, but is extreemly weak in a story. This sentence tells us that she is being questioned, but we don't know who is questioning her. We naturally assume a police officer is doing the questioning, but don't know for sure. We don't find out for sure until several sentences later.

A quick fix is to say "At the station, a huge hulk of an officer was grilling Louisa unmercifully." Something like that would contrast nicely with her innocent expresion.

Passive sentences crop up in the most unexpected places. If it weren't for the grammar check on my word processor, my writing would be full of them. I cringe every time I see that squiggly green line under the sentence.

The way to spot passive sentences is by determining what the subject of the verb is. Another example -
Louisa found herself being handcuffed.
In this sentence, we don't know who is doing the handcuffing. The verb handcuffing needs to be linked to the one doing the action. The only one mentioned in the sentence is Louisa, and she is the receipant of the action.

This is a difficult idea to learn and I probably am causing more confusion than anything else. A quick internet search will turn up many free articles on passive voice. You can also find many here on writing.com.

Another hint that I have received numerous times is to read through the story and eliminate unnecessary words. For example -
"...had convinced her into going along with another one of his risky plans. which were very risky.

another - "Louisa awoke up abruptly..."

You should go search the story for more occasions like this. You will be amazed at how many words you can delete without changing the story at all. You need description in the story, but too much will lose the reader.

You say at the end you are open to suggestions concerning the title. Like the opening sentence, the title needs to hook the reader and make them want to read the story. I am sure many great stories don't get read because of an ordinary title. Think about how you decide what story to read.

You give a good clue to an effective title in the last paragraph where you say "She was such a wimp". This one sentence does much to describe her actions throughout the story. Sure, she ran away from the ceremony, but that was because of her brother's strength, not her own. So, you have the following summation - She is a wimp and she is in jail.

So, how about a title that takes this into account. Maybe something like "Jailed for Being a Wimp"

This would arouse curiosity in the reader, which would be strengthened with her walking down the isle of the church to be married. How does she end up in jail? would be the question on the reader's mind, causing them to read further.

A few thoughts on a good story. I hope I have been a help, as that is my intention. My greatest fear in giving a detailed review is that I will discourage an up and coming writer. That is NEVER my intention. I am learning this craft of writing myself and need all the encouragement I can get. Detailed reviews are a blessing, even if I don't agree with everything the reviewer says.

This is your story and needs to be written in your style, not mine. I can only offer suggestions as to how I might write the story. Use whatever is helpful, discard the rest and keep it your story.

Another hint I received early on here. If you receive many good reviews and one negative one, don't be overly concerned about the negative one. Read it carefully, with as open a mind as possible. If you don't agree with it, don't worry about it.

On the other hand, if you really like a story, but three or more people point out the same things, you need to take a new look at your story and see why they are saying the same thing. This is a good reason to have many reviews on your stories.

I have discovered that the easiest way to get reviews, is by giving them myself. Often if you review someone, they will generally return the favor. Plus, you learn a lot when you review someone else's story.

I hope this is a help to you. And again, Welcome to the site and I hope you spend a lot of time with us and share your stories. Keep on writing

Review of No Need To Tell  
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
You did a good job with the prompt whild keeping the story short. You have a good introduction, building middle and a hook at the end.

I review the technical aspects of stories, not the themes, so you won't find any comments on the subject matter.

A few comments on your story:

You set the mood somewhat with your first sentence, but you could do more with a little tweaking. Instead of telling us what is happening, let the characters.
An idea - "It's so unlike her to be late," Harmony thought as she sat by the door."

Since this is flash fiction and word count is important, there are some words you can eleminate without changing the story.
A good example is "just" as in "Then just as she was about..." In this sentence, you can also drop the "Then" and start your sentence, "As she was about..."
"Just barely" can be "barely"

When you use it in quotes, it makes sense to leave it as that is the way people tend to talk.

In the 3rd sentence, we already know Harmony is seated so you don't have to repeat her name.

Actually, the sentence is somewhat awkward, so you could eleminate her jumping up and have her answer the door.

When they meet you write, "knowing she would know what she was asking". This is your attempt as a writer to explain the scene (Telling the story). You can drop this phrase and let the reader learn from the characters (Showing). Also, it tends to be wordy.

Ginny didn’t notice the door opening, - here again you're telling, not showing. This takes away from Eric's appearance as the reader knows something is going to happen. You can drop this phrase without taking away from the story.

Spelling "your gay" should be "you're gay". A simple mistake a spell checker won't catch.

You could put the idea of the open door in the last paragraph as in "Eric stood in the open doorway, his mouth..."

I hope my simple suggestions are a help. Use them if they can help, or don't pay attention to them. This is your story and you have the final say in what you write.

Have a great Christmas season and keep on writing.

Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: E | (4.0)
Welcome to the family. I hope your stay here is as helpful for you as it has been to me. I haven't been here long, but I enjoy my time here.

The draw this site has for me is the ability to rate and review other people's writing. It encourages writers and helps me grow myself.

You have a good story with a sad ending. Unfortunately, it is true of so many of us. Perhaps it is good Christmas comes along to remind us of how we should treat each other.

On to the review.

In the first paragraph - "but" is a word of contrast, yet you have used it to join two similar statements (the beginning of winter).

They were Italian immigrants, like many who lived in the area. Newspapers and radio were the only things that left them connected to the rest of the world. - The sentence reads awkward. Try changing it to "Newspapers and radio were the only things that connected them to the rest of the world."

You jump from the immigrants to the deli in the middle of the paragraph with no transition.

Suddenly, a woman entered the deli. She struggled with the door and I ran to help her. Together we pushed the frozen door open and she scurried in. - In this paragraph, you have the woman entering the deli, then in the next sentence, they are struggling with the door so she can scurry in.

I could tell the child was tired. - This seems to be something added to fill in the story. The man got a quick glimpse of a wrapped up baby, so how could he tell the child was 'tired'?

Just a few thoughts on a good story. I hope you have a fantastic Christmas and keep on writing.

Review of The Gift  
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: E | (4.0)
Welcome to the site. I have only been here a few months myself and have found this site extremely useful. I hope you post more stories for all of us to read. I see from your portfolio that you are a published author, so I hope you will get involved in reading and rating stories as us beginners need all the help and encouragement we can get.

My first comment is that this is more of an article than a short story. This may seem minor, but someone looking for a short story may quickly lose interest when they realize it isn't one.

As to your message, I agree with what you wrote, but I don't generally review the message of the story but its structure.

May I point out that your first sentence is incomplete. As you know, the first sentence has to hook the reader and make him want to read more.

I understand what you are trying to say in the first paragraph, but it doesn't flow and tends to be wordy.

Be careful of repeated words. You use the word "gift" or its equivalent 10 times in the first paragraph. A reader will start looking for the next time that word appears and forget about the story, or will get tired of it and move on to something else.

Did we read the instructions ( Bible) and do we understand the many uses of the gifts . . .
A few thoughts on this sentence:

You start out past tense "did" and switch to present "do".
The way it is written, "instructions" receives more weight than "Bible" Perhaps you should write "Do we read the Bible, God's instruction book and do we ..."
You have been speaking of a gift, singular, then ask if we understand the "many uses of the gifts, plural.

Read your instructions on a daily bases - word should be "basis"

you will see the gift you have is the love of God and the power of kings - In this sentence, I don't understand the phrase "the power of kings" since this is the only place "kings" are mentioned. Who are they and what is their power?

So this gift is a everlasting gift so wear it proudly and show it off for all to see, and you’ll find out that your gift is the greatest gift of all -
You have the word "so" twice in close proximity. Beginning your closing sentence with "so" weakens the impact of your sentence. You can drop the "So" and simply state, "This gift is an (not a) everlasting gift, so wear..."
Also, you repeat the word "gift" as well. So, you could say, "This gift is everlasting, so wear it ..."

Just a few thoughts. Thanks for sharing this article with us. You will find many people of faith here who love to write and read about their Savior. If you check around, you will find a multitude of Christmas stories, as I'm sure you all ready know.

Have a great Christmas, remembering the true meaning of the season and keep on writing.
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: E | (4.0)
I greatly appreciate this story as I have a good friend who spent many years as a home health aide. She was loved by all her patients an coworkers. Her husband passed away a little over a year ago which was difficult for her. She is doing fine now, but your story brought her back to mind.

When I review stories, I focus mainly on the words, not the topic bening related. I love writing and reading short stories, especially ones that touch the heart. I wrote one called "Small Town Diner" that has touched several people.

I like the opening phrase as it brings pictures to my mind of a ccozy house. The ending phrase of the sentence troubles me. I expected to find a quiet, serene lady who triumphed over all circumstances with unusual grace.

In the paragraph, I don't find anything that would produce a calm atmosphere. Instead, I find lonelyness and unthankfulness.

In the last paragraph, I see that you are a calming influence on her, but that wouldn't be enough to provide the calm atmosphere before your arrival. As I read through the story, I get the feeling that your act of mercy for this lady has greatly benefited you. Perhaps that is what you are expressing. I tend to be a little thick at times.

A note, in the first sentence, you walk into the house, but later on, you are opening the door.

I noticed that you wrote this story a year ago, so I am sure you have learned many things about writing. I apologize if I mention something that you have already taken care of in your current writing.

I think the main thing I would suggest is to write with the fewest words needed to express your thoughts. This is something that I have been hammered with the last few weeks.

For instance, " It happens to be something I enjoy very much." could be shortened to "It's something I greatly enjoy."

Be careful of repeating words in a paragraph. Example - "A lonely woman in her late eightys. She is lonely," Also, I'm not sure I understand why she was lonely. The sentence leads to the idea that she should be happy.

A careful reading will show some spelling errors a spell checker won't pick up.

Examples - "her husband has past on" should be "passed on"

"It was such a relieve" should be "relief"

Again, I know it has been a year since you penned these words, so I am sure you have noticed these little items.

In your portfolio, I noticed that you write mostly articles. The way this story is structured, I would consider it more of an article than a short story. The difference is that this is told as if someone is narrating. A short story works best if the characters tell the story. Sharing the lady's name would help considerably, as well as the names of her children and husband.

Dialog between characters is a great way to let them tell the story. For example, when the health aide finds the lady on the floor, you could have the aide hold a conference with the kids where they share thier feelings about the situation.

I hope these rambling utterances are a help to you. If you are like me, you most likely are busy writing new items and don't have time to rewrite older ones. I hope you have a great Christmas season and a Happy New Year.

Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: E | (4.0)
Quaint story with a lot of potential. I looked over the other reviews and I believe you will find mine to be a bit different. I will offer suggestions on how you may be able to enhance this story.

The first comment is that you tell the story very well, but are lacking in showing. For example, you tell us that the ministers arrived every Monday morning. Perhaps -

Monday morning awoke with a beautiful sonrise, which added to the exitement of Barbara and Ruby, the owners of the Cream Bun Cafe. "Parish Priest Poleaxed by Christmas Crib," Ruby read aloud as the first member of the group they affectionally callet 'the Monday Ministers' made his way to his reserved table.

This is simply a suggestion of how you can let the characters tell the story. Telling the story as a narator is good, but letting the characters tell the story draw the reader deep into the story.

When you introduce Rev. Patterson, it should be subtitle not subtitled. You could combine sentences by saying "... funds, it was Gregory, author of a book called..."

The phrase, 'recently got it included' seems awkward. You can clean it up by saying, 'It sold well to Anglicans and Catholics, but not Presbyterians. To his delight and amazement, Heaven Sent Ecclesiastical Accessories included it in their cataloge, guaranteeing world wide coverage.'

When you introduce Knox, you use the word 'who' twoce in the same sentence. Maybe - Knox McDonald stormed in next, looking and sounding like a traditional elderly Presbyterian who believed in giving...

Instead of using the passive voice to introduce gabrielle (was accompanied) try letting her enter on her own, like - Gabrielle, his lovely heavyset assistant minister, followed on his heels, smoothing out the wrinkles her 'boss' created.

Again, you have awkward phrasing with Sam when you say "he got his biggest". Instead try something like, His biggest congregations came at funerals where he did his best to win over other...

However, on this rather unusual Monday, there was a full turnout. Maybe you could have one of the girls tell us this, as in - "I told you we would have a full house today, what with that headline in the paper," Ruby beamed to Barbara. Barbara or one of the ministers could reply with the sentence about the Pope's representative.

The paragraph with Father Mathew being circumspect tends to be wordy.

However, a circumspect Father Mathew believed it was God's way of rapping his knuckles to bring him down to earth. It seems that last Christmas he attended a joint service at (drop the up at) the Anglican church and saw (not seen) a nice Christmas crib on the porch. Grefory saw his interest and told him he had purchased it from....

Why not let Father Mathew tell the story to the crowded cafe down to the parishioner's comments?
In the paragraph were he is unpacking the crates, you have the angels suspended above the shepherds. That wouldn't happen until the display was set up.

solid plastic shepherd (not shephard) was grabbed and slammed - passive voice and weak

"Maybe it was the parishioner or the hand of God, but somehow a solid plastic shepherd slammed into his head, knocing him into the crib, extinguishing the angel's lights, as well as his."
The reference to the angel's lights would take the reader back to the humorous tidbit about the bulbs being up thier skirts.

The message is the high point of the story and should be stronger. It seems wordy to me. I would suggest separating it into two parts. God loves all equally and therefore we don't try to get on "over on the other"

"done thing" is not the best gramatically, but it fits well with the theme of the story.

Check your comma usage. The words "as" and "But" are generally preceeded with a comma. Also, commas seperate phrases, as in - If this is a Christmas message from God - comma - perhaps it is that ...

Just a few thoughts on a great story. You are offering a large number of points, so I don't want to give you a piece of fluff that does nothing to build you as a writer.

As I always state, this is your story and I am simply offering suggestions. My review seems to go against the other ones I read, so perhaps my viewpoint is off. If so, take my suggestions with a grain of salt and do what you will with them.

Keep on writing and I hope to read more from the Cream Bun Cafe.
Review of Underworld  
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
I find this a fantastic story with much potential for a bunch of chapters. A mystery series with a twist. It took me a while, but I finally saw where you were heading with it. Mr. Rhet suddenly took form.

I like the use of the first person as I tend to use that voice a lot myself. Perhaps it lets me get into the story easier.

I enjoy your use of discriptive words and phrases that set the atmosphere and let me paint a clearer picture in my mind.

I have some suggestions for you. Some are easy, such as spelling or punctuation. Some are based on writing styles, which differ from writer to writer. So use my suggestions for what they are, suggestions. Don't think that I am finding fault with your story, I am simply offering suggestions that may, or may not help.

Opening sentence - A personal preference, but I generally dislike the use of words like "just" for discriptions. Often times the sentence reads as well without it. (Often times the sentence reads just as well without it. see?) - Also, as written the sentence is awkward. My suggestion would be something like "Last Tuesday, while I was polishing the ..."

The Letter: It states the matter simply and succinctly. Again, a matter of style - this time I would use a descriptive word such as "I request your assistance in a matter of much urgency." It says the same thing, but in a different manner.

Sentence structure - "Several mysterious deaths in our community have occured." The way it is worded, the emphasis in on "have occured" while the thrust should be that they have occured in Mr. Reht's small community. This can be an effective way of writing if it is carried throughout the story. Yoda of Star Wars fame proves that.

"Please meet me" is straight forward but commanding, as if Mr. Quaintick was obligated to go. Perhaps, "I would deem it an honor if you could meet me..." or something along that line; formal but humble.

Paragraph 3 - "and accordingly" again one of those "extra" words that is not needed. You could say the same thing by writing, "...somebody in distress, so I went."

Paragraph 4 - Spelling - "Colour" is an acceptable spelling, but it is an older spelling that is not used too often today. Personally, I like the spelling better (as also labour <labor> later on) but I question whether it should be used.

undefinable should be "indefinable"

Also, would it be better to say "early bus" instead of "bus early"?

Paragraph 5 - Spelling - "storeroom" is one word.
Consider making the two sentences one as in "... I proceeded downstairs, through another unlocked door into a storeroom."

Structure - "There wasn't much space behind it, and, after checking my watch, I called out for Mr. Rhet." The first phrase belongs with the prior sentence and doesn't make sense in this one.

Instead of telling us "the voice was high and whispery, show it as in "You have to climb through the hole," a high, whispery voice sounded from far away." That would lead in to the next sentence where you could say, "Intrigued, I bent low to discover a crack in the wall that forced me to scrunch down in order to wiggle through to the darkness beyond."

Should you say "the sound of his footfalls"? You can combine these two sentences by inserting the word "as" - "...I followed the sound of his footfalls as he led me down..."

Should it be "we are here" instead of "we are there"?

Paragraph 7 - I am having a difficult time picturing the cave. I am thinking that some bricks have been removed from the wall, thus forming a "cave" for Mr. Rhet. Or, it is a stone foundation with several stones missing. I think part of the confusion is the use of the words "sotnes" and "brickwork". If it is missing bricks, then it would have to be more than a few (2 or 3) to make a "cave" for the family with more than one nest.

I guess I am also confused as to who or should I say what Mr. Quintick is. He must be about the size of Mr. Rhet to fit comfortably in his nest, yet he rides the bus home at the end of the story.

Show, not tell - Easy to say, but oh so hard to see.
"Mr Rhet led me to a similar nest and offered me a seat" tells the story. A suggestion on showing the story "My wife is in labor," he said as he offered me a seat in a similar nest.

Again - "Wax dribbled to the floor as I held the candle upright so I could inspect the nest." Perhaps not the best way to say it, but to me it presents a clearer picture of him holding the candle above his head as he surveyed the nest.

I wonder at the use of the word "labials". A search of a dictionary didn't help. I believe I understand what you are saying; I guess I wonder if this would be an occasion to be simple and not strive for the "great" word.

Show the story - "Food poisoning," I choked as I spit out the morsal of gain I had just placed in my mouth."
(This is a place I would supply the added word "just")
You could put a little more animation in the reply as in "Oh no, let me assure you that this grain is completely safe to eat." In this case I would add the word "completely", though not necessarilly needed, since Mr. Rhet is doing his best to prove it is safe to eat.

"dragged me behind a box with radishes" implies that he used radishes to drag him. try "box of radishes"

drop comma, "Are you saying that this is not a singular occurance?"

"Only now, I discovered" and "I explained" are formal phrases used in a time of urgency. Perhaps, "looking around, I saw a stack of bricks and exclaimed, "He's going to close that hole."

Drop comma - "Then I'll (better than we'll) have to say..."
Add coma - "have to say good-bye," said Mr. Rhet, AS he ran to the hole and jumped through.

"Yesterday, while I was..." agrees with the suggestion for the beginning of the story.

Addressses - should there be a comma between the number and the street? 156 Pillsbury Rd. and 95 Fenton St.

It may seem that I am being overly picky and pointing out too many things. That is not my intention. THis is a great story and I am simply offering suggestions that you may or may not agree with. The fact that I spent so much time on the review shows that I like the story. I would not waste my time, or yours if the story was not good.

I hope you write more chapters in this interesting detective series. I'll keep checking your portfolio for additions or for other stories you post.

Thank you for sharing this story with us. I am constantly amazed at the imagination and ingeniuity writers display here.
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: 18+ | (2.0)
You have a believable plot, one that unfortunately is all too true. Many people, especially older ones, have a tendency to trust anyone who says they have a need. Often when they are taken, they have the same responce and give up on kindness. If people would us Biblical principles, they could escape this senario.

The first suggestion is to put spaces between paragraphs like in this review. It makes it a lot easier on the reader. Many people won't read, let alone review a story without the spaces. This is a necessity!!!!

A few reoccuring mistakes -

Add a space in the name, as in Mrs. Aslam.

A comma occurs at the end of a quote when followed with a tag, such as "Good night," Mrs. Aslam said quietly.

To show a pause, you have the choice of three dots '...' or one dash '-', not ----. It is best to pick one and stick with it throughout the story.

You have a extreemly formal writing format, which is understandable for Mrs. Aslam, but her children would tend to speak more informally, using more contractions. For dialoge, it isn't a big problem. but you tend to use the formal tone throughtout.

The 16 year old daughter is in college, so it might help to say something about her graduating high school early.

You have a habbit of using the same phrases many times in the story. An example is "After a few minutes" Continuoulsy used phrases tend to cause the reader to loose interest in the story. Often, these phrases aren't even needed.

Be careful of repitition in other areas as well. Example - when she is preparing breakfast, you write, "...was preparing breakfast, the door was knocked. "Saleem, go and see who is knocking..."

1st - it should be "was preparing breakfast, someone knocked on the door." The phrase "The door was knocked" is a fragment and doesn't make sense by itself.

2nd - The average person would say something like, "Saleem , see who that is." If you say an action is taking place, don't have the charater repeat it in his dialoge. Drop one or the other.

3rd - It seems that everytime someone is at the door, Mrs. Aslam is telling Saleem to answer it.

When you have a section of dialogue, you don't need a tag, like 'he said', with each comment.

I notice that every character has the same speech pattern. I alluded to this earlier with the idea of formal speech, but if you read each character's lines, you will find them to be the same. Different people speak in different ways. A good way to learn is to find a public place where you can hear people talking without eavesdropping, and listen. Look for word use, contractions, long words or short, slang, repeated words, profanity (mild, sevear, vulgur) and the like. Listen for tone, volume, joy, saddness, pain, etc.

If you want to improve as a writer, listen, then write down the conversations as you remember them, making sure each one has his or her own style.

I read the other posts you have in your portfolio and saw that you wrote better and with more confidence in those articles. They were more of a non-fiction type and were much better written. You need to use that same confidence in your story telling.

When I am writing a scene, I try to imagine myself in that same situation and write accordingly. I just completed a story for a contest, using a photograph to describe the scene. Above all, you need to have fun writting. I have read several "How to" books where the author said that writting was a chore. I disagree completely. Writing gives you the chance to become the person you want to be as you live through your characters.

I started editing your story and found that I could easily remove a third of it and still have the same story. As an example, I would write the first paragraph as follows:

Mrs. Aslam was a kind, sympathetic woman who desired to help others in need; a true humanitarian. As proof, she recently gave a tidy sum to her maid who needed to purchase clothes for her five year old daughter,Hina.

I chose the word 'tidy' as it goes along well with the job description of a maid.

You have the beginnings of a great story here. It needs some work, but that is nothing to be upset about. Every story can use some work, even those by 'great' writers. Most of the problems are easy to correct and will become a thing of the past as you progress in your writing. Whatever you do, NEVER get discouraged and quit. The star rating means nothing to me, as it is subjective, not always taking in every aspect of the story. A 5 star rating with no feedback does the writer little good. A 2 star rating with helpful hints can be a great blessing.

I write all of this to encourage you, not discourage. If I felt you were a terrible writer with no potential, I would never have taken the time to write this review.

I encourage you to go to the reviewing page and read through the reviews posted. You can receive many helpful hints for your own writing as you read the stories and reviews of others.

I have just begun reading Clive Cussler's newest novel. Now that I am a writer, I no longer read purely for pleasure. I am amazed at the way Cussler describes each scene and study the method he uses. So, I not only enjoy a great story, but I am learning how to write better while I am doing it. I firmly believe that the best way to become a great writer is by being a ravenous reader. Read to learn, then write what you have learned.

Thank you for sharing your story for us. I look forward to your future stories.
Review by PennyInPocket
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Neat story. I have a sawmill, so I enjoy stories about logging. There also is a chainsaw carver in the area so we have many carved figures around. I generally don't do involved reviews of longer stories, but this was a joy to read without any overt errors. I find it amusing that I can review someone else's stories and see minor details, but can't see glaring goofs in my own.

I like the opening, beginning in the center of a conversation. It hooks me right away, making me want to read on and finish the story.

A suggestion on the opening though. I had to read the second sentence a couple of times to get the idea. Perhaps - "Now Michale," his mother hesitated, "I know you know the way to Jeff's house wheh you're with us, but your dad seems to think you can get there on your own."
I don't like rewriting your story, so I offer that as a possible alternative.

In the 3rd paragraph, would it help to have the dad start off with something like, "Hey sport, call us..." My thought is it would be a smoother introduction for him.
Also, I wonder if the comma should be dropped between 'lot' and 'about' as in - "She worries a lot about, you know, the Lost Lumberjack." Or instead of the comma, put '...' or '-' to show a pause. It is written the way his dad might speak, but the change would indicate a pause better than a comma.

I feel that paragraph 6 is a very important part of your story. If I read it correctly, I believe this sets the stage for the attack on Michael later on. A thought, would it be better to say "Michael thought for a moment, then remembered..." instead of 'had to think'
Since this is such an important paragraph, would it help to have the grandmother emphasize the log and the chainsaw? Maybe "He thought about the strange look that overcame his grandmother as she commented about..."

Maybe change 'and' to 'then' as in - Darby stopped, shook himself, panted a few seconds, then barked. The word 'and' combines all for actions, allowing for them to be happening at the same time. 'Then' limits 'yelped' to occuring after panting.

Next paragraph - How about "back at the dog, sitting down on his haunches." instead of 'who sat down' ?

Should there be a comma and small a as in -"...Oregon sun, as Michael..."?

Next paragraph - would "an unseen spider web drapped across his face" work? cobweb reminds me of haunted houses and dark cellars, not a forest.

Next paragraph - maybe 'wind FROM the wings' instead of 'of'. Also, how about combining the sentences with 'and' - "...blew around him and the raven's claws..."

Next paragraph - Since the raven raked his hair, would it be better to start off with 'Ow' instead of 'oh'? possible add a tag, "Ow!" cried Michael as he slowly stood up rubbing his head. Darby leaned on his (not Michael's) legs and whined." You already estabished Michael in previous sentence, so you can use the pronoun. Also, the last sentence where Michael is thinking, Should you use either quotation marks or italics?

Next paragraph - repeated word -path- maybe change 2nd one to 'it' as in "Where had it gone?"
also in next paragraph -raven- changed to 'it' 2nd time as in "It jumped right up..."

Same paragraph as Raven - repeated word - looked- maybe change second time to 'staring down at him'.
perhaps - "the beak opened, letting Michael see down the throat."
spelling - slide, not slid

Repeated word next paragraph - 'Michael' perhaps 'The dog leaned against Michael,trembling so much he could feel..."
I really like the sentence where the dog 'lets loose'. It adds a good touch.

Verb tense - changed - Michael 'crouched' petting' 'felt' perhaps, "petting the dog, feeling that something was wrong." The word 'that' adds to the sentence. Also after "It was quiet" maybe add "too quiet"

Next paragraph - chainsaw whirred into being - maybe 'action' would be better. 'being' has the idea of forming or creating.
last sentence - instead of huddling further under, how about 'further back into his hole'

Next paragraph - chainsaws 'idle' when not cutting - maybe "the chainsaw slowed to an idle"
Verb tense change - Michael circled, Darby trotted and cowering. Also, would 'scooted' or a similar word work better than trotted, which has a calm, easy going thought to it?

I like the idea of the branches reaching out to grab him when he is running. It makes the forest come alive with his fear. How about adding to it by having the undergrowth reaching up to trip him?

Next paragraph - you can drop "a question' and say "ask the sun about what it was behind..."

"He heard a whine: Darby. Should that be a question mark? Maybe add 'except for' as - Silence, except for heavy footsteps - or - Silence...heavy footsteps.

Next paragraph instead of 'he could hear the change in the engine' how about, "...around him; changing pitch as it encountered..."

I could easily picture the chainsaw as we had several stihl's at the sawmill and one really long bar.

When he ends up at the bottom of the tunnel, I like the sentence where he spits out the pebble while looking around. It is something I can picture in my mind easily that keeps me involved with the action.

Verb tense change - 'got up' - 'testing it' - 'walked'

Maybe add no! as in Oh no, Darby, he killed Darby! maybe not, just thought it could use a little extra to show his agitation.

Repeated phrase - "His name was David" - "his grandfather was David"

When Mrs. Freeman is explaining, would it help to say "...is that someday, we knew you would walk..."
Spelling - your (Not you) mother
Instead of 'she'd try' how about 'she'd do her best'

Did you mean - we SENT up the Ravens?

Michael? - it makes me think that David is going to ask a question but never does. Should you change the question mark or maybe have Michael answer "Yeah?"
maybe - ...Real good time," as he ambled slowly into..."

Great job on the ending, I wouldn't want to walk back home either.

I know this seems like a lot, but they are simple suggestions for an excellent story. As always, this is your story, not mine. I only offer ideas, sometimes not the best ones, as I am learning myself. I hope they have been a help and encouragement. If I thought the story was bad, I would not have spent the amount of time I did on it. A great story deserves a honest and detailed review.

Keep on writing.
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