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Public Reviews
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1
1
Review of The Voice  
Review by Philthy
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi Bill,
As usual, a great, great horror from you. I always enjoy your ability to deliver an impactful punch in this genre. I do think this reads more like a draft, hence only 4 stars, but it has loads of potential and is wonderful story telling. I am sending more specific thoughts in a message/email. Please take them for whatever they're worth.

Nice job with this.
Happy writing.
Phil
2
2
Review of Black Spider  
Review by Philthy
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hi Princess,
I’ve been away from WDC for some time, but recently had the call to come back. Have been trying to familiarize myself with the community again, so here I am…checking out some writings. Your scene (I know it’s a contest entry, but it still drew my attention) looked especially interesting. I had some thoughts—hope that’s OK. They are of course my humblest opinions to be taken for whatever they’re worth.

--Love the scene/setting, but what do you mean by “dark house”? Were the lights off? Was the house painted a dark color?
--“the kids on the computer watching YouTube (one word)” and “the glow of the computer screen…” is a little redundant.
--You say “dark” twice in that first sentence
--“I stood in the doorway and noticed the black object on the white molding above them” feels like a missed opportunity to really build up the foreshadowing here. Was she laughing along with them? Was she thinking of something else? Did she know right away what this thing was, or did she think it may have been just a speck? Did she notice it absently?
--She sighed? That tells me she’s indifferent about spiders. It makes it hard to read her true feelings about them, given the dialogue.
--“fathomed” is a bit overkill for the context.
--No comma needed after “Why is it”
--So she is afraid of it? Yet, she keeps sighing. That doesn’t paint a picture of fear, I don’t think. That paints a picture of annoyance or indifference.
-- The stacking of three Kleenexes is good . I can totally see that, but I’d even suggest more. Make it completely irrational. Maybe she stacks two, reassesses, adds a third and then fourth…  It seems like this is more than just a fear—it’s a phobia, and they’re not supposed to be totally rational.
--I love the ending, and the support of the son in spite of the fact that the narrator fails in her task. My biggest suggestion, though, is to have fun with the fear part. I’m not getting that she’s afraid until she comes out and tells it. I’ve seen people who were afraid of spiders leap onto coffee tables and even strip if they thought one was on them. Sighing is not what they do. Squealing and trembling is more like it lol.

Thanks so much for sharing. I enjoyed it.
Phil
3
3
Review of Avoiding Alicia  
Review by Philthy
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Hi Ms Kimmie,

I got the itch to review something and I happened upon your story. Looks interesting! I had some thoughts—hope that’s OK. They are my humblest opinions, of course, to be taken for whatever they’re worth.

--I like this opening line. Nice hook, with a strong, simple narrative voice.
--The setup in this first paragraph is intriguing, but the delivery is a bit laden with tells/explanation. Why not drive the circumstances by the narrator’s actions? What is she doing, specifically, at the time we meet her? Focus on that, and then give us context. (For instance, “My fingers burned at the touch of the hot cup of coffee. I had forgotten to grab a sleeve again; my penance for avoiding my daughter, I suppose.” Something like this (or whatever) would be more interesting, because the reader would have action to focus on and would still get the context right away. Think about it: what would be more interesting: watching a person stand in front of your television talking to you about earthquakes, or watching an earthquake unfold? Make the action/movement drive the plot.
--“leather and stud adorned…” need to be hyphenated, as they work together as an adjective and precede what they modify (daughter). In other words, it should look like, “leather-and-stud-adorned daughter”
--You should start this story with “Mind if I smoke, Mom?” and sprinkle all that background info into the scene in a more organic way. You can also trim a lot of that stuff. This simple bit of dialogue is so powerful, though. The snark comes out clearly in the teenager and every parent of one can relate—you immediately gain sympathy from your audience. Plus, the line, “A grimace must have slipped across my face for a moment, because she laughed” is absolutely brilliant. It shows us that this isn’t the first time this defiance and disrespect has happened, either—that it occurs all the time. I would literally open this story with: “Mind if I smoke, Mom?” Alicia took a drag off her cigarette and blew it toward me. A grimace must have slipped across my face, because she laughed.

That right there is such a powerful opening, IMHO. You don’t need all that explanation. The reader gets the point very quickly. Sure, you can sprinkle in context, but to a lesser extent.
--“blood boiling” this is a cliché.
--“but the words wouldn’t come. I just stood there. I was mute and felt helpless, unable to find the words.” This is all extremely redundant. “But the words wouldn’t come” literally means the exact same thing as, “I was mute (and felt helpless is also the same meaning by association/inference)” and that means the same thing—at least in the given context—as “I was unable to find the words.” Trim, trim, trim.
--You do a good job delving into the main character’s introspection, but try showing what’s happening on the surface, too. Remember, how one is feeling on the inside—especially in such an emotional crisis—is often reflected by their physical actions. So instead of “her blood was boiling,” you could show it with something like (as a random example), “I stared at her boots, not out of submission, but for fear that the budding anger would overtake me. Fists clenched, I repressed the urge to smack her with a gritting of my teeth.)
--you’ve got Alicia’s voice down pat. She sounds like a spoiled teenager. With that said, I love how you bring out her softer side. One suggestion—and you can certainly tell me to bugger off --is that you amp up the narrator’s anger earlier in the scene. Make her really boil over…fire back at her daughter…perhaps be completely unreasonable about her outburst, too, as most parents are apt to be at one point or another. And then, when she’s exacerbated the point enough—probably too much—bring the narrator’s (the mother’s) softness out, the part where she asks, “You have no good memories of me?” This is a powerful moment, especially in the suggested context I’ve painted, because it shows the contrast of her emotions. It isn’t until she lets go of her control over her daughter that her daughter responds with affection. You’ve done a nice job here. This is powerful stuff, and a great window into a mother/daughter relationship that I think mothers of teenage daughters can relate to, and readers with no context of this can appreciate for its candidness.

OVERALL IMPRESSION

Really good stuff here. My biggest suggestions are to trim, trim, trim, and focus more on show and actions. You over-explain their feelings at times, and you don’t have to. Trust your writing. Trust the scene. Trust the emotion that comes out in the dialogue, and insert more movement to the scene to support that emotion. I think that will help make it pop, but this is a really nice start. Well done.

Phil
4
4
Review by Philthy
Rated: E | (2.5)
Hi kbot,

I appreciated your helpful review of my chapter, so I thought I’d return the favor. This one caught my eye, and I had some thoughts. They are my humblest opinions, of course. Do with them what you will.

- Not sure about “throwing” in this sentence. He’s not technically throwing anything, rather pushing it hard. Maybe shoving? I’d also drop “small”—it does nothing for you, except raise unneeded questions about what you mean by “small.”
- Drop the “very”
- “He was more suited…” combine this with the prior sentence to ease the flow, as in: “Tay was tall and skinny, more suited to manual (drop the “doing”) work…”
- “given his nervous twitch when left to his own” I don’t get this. If he gets a twitch when he’s left alone, wouldn’t he be better off not being alone?
- In how you use it, “second in command” should all be hyphenated, as these are words acting together as an adjective AND they precede what they modify (second-in-command duty)
- “fit his enormous height” is awkward, since “enormous” denotes girth more than height, and fitting one’s height…just doesn’t really read right. Maybe “enormous frame.”
- There is way too much telling here in these opening few paragraphs. These details can be better sprinkled in throughout the story, I think. For now, focus on the action and the characters—on what’s happening now in the scene.
- “once shiny” same rule as before, meaning this needs to be hyphenated.
- Here’s where commas are essential. “He gave up in desperation and with a polite hold manhandled Tay outside.” There is a parenthetical aside going on here, and it needs to be distinguished: “He gave up in desperation and, with a polite hold, manhandled Tay outside.” Also, I’m confused at what’s going on. It reads as though they are already outside and he’s manhandling him there, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think what you mean is that he grabbed him and forced him to go outside, but that isn’t clear in how it’s written. Slight rework/polish should help.
- You use “calm” twice in close proximity
- Add a comma after “again” and before “Captain”
- “captains cabin” possessive—captains needs an apostrophe
- “deep dramatic breath” you’re pandering to the reader. Delete “dramatic.” It should be obvious anyway in how you show it.
- “Blackbeard simplified it for him.” Again, you’re pandering to the reader by telling them what’s obvious in the show. It’s the equivalent of writing something like: Jim was mad. “I’m mad,” Jim said. Something to be mindful of.
- Typo. “It’s not bother, Captain.” Not should be no. Also, “What is bother…” there should be an “a” in there
- “some wooden carvings of items most of them sea related like whales” This is a mouthful—clunky. First, drop “some” and be weary of using it like this. It’s the same as “very.” It is not your friend. Second, you don’t need “of items.” The carvings themselves are the items you’re talking about, so just say carvings. Third, I’d write this last part differently, with a bit more elaboration and clarity. Something like: “…wooden carvings, most of them sea-related: whales, albatrosses, and a half-finished toy row boat.” (never heard it referred to as a “rowing boat”)
- Delete the comma after “he had been working on the net”
- “and grabbed his neck” Not bad, but I’d suggest considering a bit of finesse here so the reader is clearer about whose neck is being grabbed. The way it reads, he could be grabbing his own neck. Maybe, “Captain Blackbeard closed the distance between them in two strides and grabbed the rounder man’s neck.”
- If Blackbeard is more fit around the middle, do they really have the same build? Maybe they do, it just brings it into question a bit.
- You say “duties” twice in the same sentence. Redundancy, in this case, is not your friend.
- “Blackbeard growled out loud” Of course it’s out loud. The reader would not assume that this was said only in his mind. Nix that part.
- “movement feet” should be “moving,” but really not even that. You don’t need to say the feet are moving. Just say the sound of feet on the deck. It’s clear what you’re talking about.
- “no doubt more food for conversation…” Drop this. It takes the reader’s attention away from the situation, which you don’t want since the stakes are rising a little here.
- Why is Blackbeard lost in a moment of musing? Didn’t his crew just give him a defiant smirk?
- Add comma after “or something”
- It seems odd to me that, on a ship full of see-dwellers, Rory is the only one who knows how to catch fish. Maybe he’s the best at it, but the ONLY one? Hmmm.
- I stopped reading for line-by-line edits, because I was running out of time. Instead, I focused mainly on the story progression from here on out.

OVERALL IMPRESSION

There’s a lot of good stuff here. At times, the imagery is excellent. Other times, it’s on the right track, but misses the mark a little because it needs tightening. My biggest concern, however, is that there isn’t really a story here. Is this a contest submission? Short story? Start of a novel? Also, I didn’t catch that this was a ship in a bottle until I read the description. Yet, ships in bottles don’t typically have water.

Regardless, there are no stakes here, or at least they’re not great enough. Basically, a crew member is caught making etches to track time and the Captain is against this because he thinks it will lead to a mutiny. He scolds him and the crew member says he’s sorry. End of story. Yet, what are the stakes? Nothing happens to him when he gets caught, and it’s inferred that nothing will happen the next time. You need to up the ante, raise the stakes to make the reader care. The writing is solid, but needs tightening/trimming, but those stakes…the conflict…that’s really where the focus ought to be, imo. Good stuff so far. I hope this helps.

Best of luck.

Phil
5
5
Review of Rough Justice  
Review by Philthy
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi Dawn,

I clicked on the “read and review” link and voila! Rough Justice appeared! Had a few thoughts—hope you don’t mind. They are, of course, my humblest opinions.

- One of my personal pet peeves, so take it for whatever it’s worth, but…the way you use that ellipse is kind of gimmicky. It’s a forced paused, and doesn’t really do much for you, imho.
- I would delete “freezing.” It softens the impact/emotion of that line. I’d keep it short and tight; simply, “Pavement, hard and cold,…”
- “usual mixture of pungent and pleasant odors” I’d challenge you to be more specific. That’s like saying “it smelt bad” or “good.” Bring the reader into the scene with these smells. Perhaps it smelt like a putout cigarette, or a blend of wet dog and body odor. Or perhaps you want to make a statement here, a la a Noire flick. Something like, “a blend of wet dog and crushed dreams. Maybe it’s a mostly pleasant smell, which would be a sweet, sweet contrast with the terror of facing a dead body. Or maybe you want to stick with the contrast of both pungent and pleasant, in which case, something like, “a mix of pastries from up town and sewage from below.” Whatever you do, focus on the specifics to bring the reader more into the world you’ve created.
- You need a colon after “Then the noise came.” Those are two independent clauses. A colon would work better here than a semicolon, as you’re elaborating on what the noise is in the latter clause.
- “I felt this burst of panicked energy with the strong desire to run” This is a bit soft for the urgency of the situation. Trim, trim, trim. More active voice would bring out the direness of the circumstances, something like “Panic urged me to run.”
- “Took me a few weeks to remember that detail” This is WONDERFUL use of a fragmented sentence. His thoughts/memory is muddied by stress. This really conveys that, and in such simple form. Excellent.
- “no way of reacting correctly” I would drop this part and just leave it at, “Questions fired at me so fast” which would then lead perfectly into “I didn’t stand a chance.” The reader will get the picture from this, and it’s more impactful.
- I’d change the semicolon after “simple case” to a colon. The latter clause elaborates on why they thought the narrator was a simple case.
- “I guess leaving wouldn’t have helped with my fingerprints being there.” I’d make this more active, as well. Something like, “I guess leaving wouldn’t have helped erase my fingerprints from the body.” Might be personal taste.
- The ellipse tied to “again” works.
- “The lawyer thrust the question out with a fake sarcasm” doesn’t do it for me. Feels a bit forced. Might just be me, but I’d pull this back on this a bit. Same goes for the sentence after, where the narrator explains that the lawyer just said this to make it sound absurd. Simplify all that. Maybe with something like, “The lawyer’s words were laden with sarcasm as if the question itself was an absurd one to ask.”
- “came out of my mouth” You don’t need “of my mouth”. Where else would they come out of?
- “…who it was, that would mean death…” The comma should be a semicolon or period, as these are two independent clauses.
- Comma after “this guy”
- “tell the truth” Follow this with a period, not a comma.

OVERALL IMPRESSION

I’m guessing this is for a contest, because it feels incomplete. Yet, it’s a great, suspenseful scene. You have drawn out a lot from this character in so many words that I already feel connected with him. Frankly, I’ve been looking for that in my reviews here, and haven’t really found enough of it. Well done. You ought to continue with this one, if you haven’t already.

Thanks for sharing.

Phil
6
6
Review by Philthy
Rated: E | (3.0)
Hi SisterCrow,
Your story looked interesting, so I thought I’d check it out. Hope that’s okay. Had a few thoughts to share; they are but my humblest opinions to be taken for whatever they’re worth.

- “softly human” Without any context to the story yet, I’m not sure I know what this means. I’d scratch it.
- Don’t need, “high above”
- Also, I don’t think you need to say that the wind stirred the air, since that is precisely what wind does. Just stick with “stirred the dust”
- “and even block the moon if it was thick enough” This sentence isn’t quite right. Since “the wind” is the subject, “it” most notably describes the wind. But the thickness of wind doesn’t block one’s view in and of itself. A technicality, I know, but this might read better as, “On nights like this, restless winds would stir the dust, which sometimes grew thick enough to hide the moon in its cloud.” (or something like that)
- “Lids clicked” Lids to what?
- Should be a comma after “At such a late hour,” though it doesn’t hurt anything not to have it here. Ditto for “Far across the grounds.” These are technically subordinate clauses.
- Perhaps my personal taste, but I’m not a fan of dropping a pronoun before introducing us to the character. I mean, aren’t we supposed to be in his mind? How can we do that if we haven’t been properly introduced?
- You do need a comma after “His Maker” and then again after “Scoggins”
- “less than caring” needs hyphens between them, as this is a cluster of words acting together to serve as an adjective, and then preceding what it modifies
- “That was not the original plan;” This semicolon needs to be a colon. Colons, in this usage, precede lists or further elaborations of the closely related thought. Semicolons do connect closely related independent clauses, but in this case, the latter further explains the former, which calls for a colon.
- There’s an awful lot of telling going on here, when showing would be much more effective, I think. I feel like I’m reading an explanation of a really cool story, not reading the story itself, if I’m being completely honest.
- A bit of trimming would help tighten this. For instance, “…still had the box” would suffice. You don’t need the “with him.”
- “had scrambled over the heap” Over the heap of what? And, “to retrieve what had been so violently taken.” Taken from whom? This sentence needs a little massaging.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

I dropped the line-by-line read to focus on the story. The premise is awesome—really, truly. The execution needs some work, tbh. Right now, it reads like an explanation of a story instead of an actual story. The reader needs to be hooked with a scene, with character action and interaction with the setting, not the other way around. Right now, I feel distanced from Tommy and his situation, because I’m hearing it from the writer, not from Tommy himself. Get into Tommy’s head and the reader will better feel what he feels, and sympathize with him for it.
The x’s and o’s of the writing needs some tightening as well, but that’s really not a problem. That’s just part of the editing process. It’s not bad, in fact. The bigger deal is the story telling—the lack of show and character-driven action.

A really great start with loads of potential. Hope this helped some. Best of luck.
Phil
7
7
Review by Philthy
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
Hi Spooky,

Was drawn to your story about an unusual lighthouse keeper, so thought I’d take a peek. Had a few thoughts—hope that’s OK. Their my humblest opinions, so please take them for whatever they’re worth.

--Might be a personal preference, but I’d strike “wooden.” Adjectives should enhance the scene and bring it to life. This sort of just distracts, because the reader more than likely won’t care if the door is made of wood, metal or what not.

--“Where was Mr. Edwards?” In the prose, this seems like an odd fit. Since there was no answer, it already begs the question, Where is Mr. Edwards? If you want to add emphasis to this being an unusual thing, I might suggest inserting this question directly into her thoughts, making it present tense and possibly even italicized to denote it’s a direct thought (you don’t have to do this part. I myself like it as a method, though ). As in: Where is Mr. Edwards? Or perhaps taking it a step further and applying a unique voice, as in Where the heck is Mr. Edwards? Or that sonofagun…

--“It turned, but stuck” I’d rewrite this a little for clarity’s sake. Perhaps, “It turned a little, but then stuck.”

--“Built in the early 1800s…” Kind of too specific. Does she know this? Would she be thinking this? I’d challenge you to show it’s age over providing the reader with such specific insight into its history.

--“…related that he rarely…” too formal for the situation, I think. “He had to be here” is perfect, but then the next sentence dilutes the urgency of the former. Perhaps something like, “He had to be here—the diary said he’d be.”

--“…in the middle of the building…” Do away with that part. We already know she’s in the building, and where in the room is less important than simply the fact that she sees a winding staircase.

--“high pitched” should be hyphenated, as it’s two words acting in unison as an adjective of the word it precedes.

--“single bed” I’d just say bed. Single bed is distracting. Do you mean a bed for a single person? That there’s only one bed there? It doesn’t add to anything. Let the reader’s imagination come up with some of those details and save your imagery for what moves the story forward.

--“young man” Here’s where imagery is needed. What does this man look like? Is he awake? Asleep? What does young mean? 15? 20? 35?

--So, the man has a fever and she’s shaking his shoulders? I have this image of her violently shaking a sick man. I wonder if gentle pats on his cheek may suffice .

--“Departing the room” Also a bit over formal for the circumstance.

--“but the food was bad” How does she know this? Did she smell it? Could she smell it in the room? Did she see mold? Maggots? This needs a show vs. tell.

--“his eyes snapped open” You’ve already used this image.

--“fierce and adamant none be spent” I’m not following this line, but it may just be me.

--Drop the “grew” in “grew serious”. Should read: “Her expression stilled and serious.”

--“Mixed feelings surged within her” I’d drop this, too. I think the reader understands this without you needing to say it. Kind of feels like pandering.

--Great, great imagery regarding his eyes.

--“His comment raised her curiosity, but she ignored it for now.” This is too cryptic and a little bit pandering. Let the scene bring out her feelings. I’d drop this altogether and just respond with, “I’m Audrina.”

--“Something intense flared between them…” This is telling. How does she know it’s something between them that he feels too? Is it how he looks at her? A brush of her hand? Does he nuzzle against her?

OVERALL IMPRESSION

I love the premise here, and there is some very good writing going on, but it reads like a very early draft in many ways, if I’m being honest. First, there’s a lot of telling where showing would be most effective, and in fact some showing where telling might be sufficient.

The interaction with Audrina and Damian is great at times, but other times you make it clear that there’s a connection, but…I just don’t feel it. I don’t even see it. This is where more show could do wonders.

The biggest head scratcher I have, though, is the ending (spoiler alert for those who haven’t read it). It kind of had a Quentin Terentino feel to it, where the story takes one path and suddenly…he’s a werewolf? I’m all about twists, but saw no hint at this…no foreshadow or clue that might have led up to this. It’s one thing to surprise the reader, but you have to be fair about it. You have to give the reader a chance so that later he or she might think, ah ha, I see it now! Maybe I just missed it so bad that I don’t see it in hindsight, but I think this missed inserting those clues.

Again, strong writing and a strong story. The good news is that I think you could take this really far if you wanted. Just needs to be developed more.
8
8
Review by Philthy
Rated: E | (3.0)
Hi Deadgirl!

I was drawn to your story for a couple reasons: first, I love the concept, and second, I see you’ve been here for a while. I joined WDC in ’03, but took a looong hiatus after being a pretty active member for a number of years. Anyway, I’m back, sort of. At least I’m re-testing the waters and thought what better way to do it than to check out the writing of a WDC-veteran.

So here I am. I have some thoughts on your short—hope you don’t mind if I share. They are my humblest opinions, so please take them for whatever they’re worth.

- A small thing: in AP format, you would generally write numbers 10 and above numerically (like I just did). However, in fiction writing, the most-often-preferred method is to write out all numbers, be they one, four, or forty-four. Totally your call, but that’s pretty much the universal norm I’ve come across from agents and pubbers.
- Might be my own naivety, but what’s a “paddy”? 
- “as was its feet and body” Why not just say “It was made of hay” rather than separating the face from the body?
- “It felt uncomfortable and moved slightly” For clarity and fluidity sake, you might want to polish this a bit. At first, it isn’t completely clear if “it” refers to the scarecrow or the heat.
- You have “moved” “moved” and “movement” three times in two consecutive sentences. Might try some different words to avoid redundancy.
- The scarecrow played statue? Why? If I were something that was cognizant but couldn’t move and suddenly was gifted with mobility, I’d be far to awestruck and distracted to notice a water buffalo, especially since he’s probably seen them numerous times.
- “It took a silent step towards a small hut, just slightly east of where it stood earlier” A few things: 1) silent step…why do you have to say silent? It does nothing for you here, since we can’t yet assume that the scarecrow is able to speak. Even if he could, he isn’t saying anything, so why focus on the step being silent? 2) “just slightly east of where it stood earlier” Since you already have the scarecrow stepping, I wouldn’t bring the reader’s focus back to where he once was…just moments before. There are smoother ways to write this, such as, “It took a step towards a hut, one he had been watching for years just to the east.”
- Just a thought, but you might want to make our scarecrow friend a “he” or “she” rather than an it. I know that isn’t entirely accurate, it doesn’t have male/female parts, after all, but it would be a step in humanizing the scarecrow, which can help make it/him/her a character we can better sympathize with. Just a thought.
- “new found” should be one word. Newfound.
- “It was at least forty-five minutes before the scarecrow finally reached the hut, enjoying the shelter from the hot scorching sun.” First, I’d replace “forty-five minutes” with something less precise. Would the scarecrow grasp the concept of time? And, would forty-five minutes seem like any time at all to a being that, before he could walk, had never moved an inch in his life? Second, insert “where he enjoyed” in place of “enjoying.” Otherwise, it reads like he’s had shelter from the sun all along his walk. Third, “hot” and “scorching” are roughly the same thing. You don’t need both of them.
- Why are the crows notorious? Notorious for what? I get where you’re going with it, but you haven’t really established the relationship between the crows and the scarecrow yet. Does he hate them? Pity them? What are they like? Just saying notorious doesn’t do much for the reader.
- “A flock of birds surveyed the paddy fields and found that the scarecrow was indeed gone from that particular area of the paddy field.” I wouldn’t change crows to flock of birds. Otherwise, it sounds like it might be another kind of bird. You could say, “A flock of them…” since you just said crows. I’d also drop “indeed” and instead of “was gone from that particular area,” why not “had abandoned his post?”

Overall Thoughts

I stopped reading line-by-line because I was running short on time, but I think you get the gist. The concept is great and there are a lot of wonderful things going on here. My biggest suggestions are to tighten up the language and remember your elements of a story. Right now, this reads like an amazing concept without all the meat and potatoes that help us to better know the scarecrow and the crows. There needs to be more show and prose dedicated to establishing who the scarecrow is: what’s it been like to be stuck in one spot all those years? What are his feelings toward the farmer and his wife? Toward the crows? What does he think the first time he sees what’s been BEHIND him all those years? There is so much more exploration here, which is a testament to the premise, for certain.

Best of luck. Hope this helps some.

Phil
9
9
Review by Philthy
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
--“If the bar on Terra-9”
Comment: I take it this is the only bar on Terra-9? Might want to say that.

--“energy-resistant glass”
Comment: I’m not sure I see what you’re saying here. What’s the purpose of making glass energy-resistant?

--“Patrons called him Giggles because he couldn’t crack a smile without breaking bones.”
Comment: This is a great sentence.

--“ Her father's insanity had long ago insured Athenais could never achieve even the slightest buzz.”
Comment: Clarify. How does her father’s insanity ensure she stays sober? A deterrent, or is there some physical link?

--General comment: Be careful about when you start new paragraphs. Sometimes they’re not warranted. If the thought continues, it should be the same paragraph.

--“…her crew was always willing to ease the burden”
Comment: Again, this is too vague. How would they ease the burden? Sometimes it’s OK to allude, but if you’re too vague, the subtleties can distract the reader from your story.

--“…Utopian society her father had manipulated into being”
Comment: This is kind of clunky. What do you mean by this, exactly? Did he found it? Build it? Reform it? Each one of those suggests very different things about her father.

--General comment: I’m not that far into this yet, but there are a lot of good things here. I’m genuinely interested in your main character and love the setting and background build up. However, much of what you describe and much of the picture you’re painting can be better illustrated to the reader by showing rather than telling. You go into detail about how Athenais likes to fight. Why not show us by putting her in the middle of a scrap? Why not show us that the bar is the only place that gives out drinks to non-citizens by showing them sneaking in and conversing about it. I think it would make this story much more effective than simply telling us these details. Sometimes the fun of reading is finding this stuff out for ourselves so we can formulate our own opinions about things. If you just tell us everything, there isn’t much room for our imaginations to take over, and a reader’s imagination is the author’s greatest resource.

--“ That surprised her. Athenais had seen a few Utopians who, like herself, saw their scars as badges of honor. A missing digit, however, wasn’t worth the inconvenience. Athenais had lost the biggest three toes on her right foot when she got them stuck in the air-lock of her ship, but she was relieved they grew back the next day because it threw off her balance. Enduring a disfigurement as awkward as a missing finger took a lot of dedication.
Or it was something else entirely.”
Comment: You do a great job building up intrigue here. Love it!

--““It’s piss. Barely worth drinking.” Athenais had thought Paul was the one in charge, but the sulky manner in which he had withstood Morgan’s rebuke led her to believe the bearded man was somehow the leader of the trio.”
Comment: This was kind of odd to me. It was already pretty clear that Morgan was in charge. After all, he gave directions to the other two from the get go; he was the first to speak to Athenais after she bought him a drink…this was odd.

--(Further down the page) “Trying to slip past its defenses would a grueling…”
Comment: Should be a “be” after “would”

--““Please,” Paul said, “We spent years tracking you across the Quadrant. We lost two friends trying to find you. You have to help us.”
Comment: Here’s what I don’t understand. These men came in for a drink. They pretty much ignored her until she started staring at them. Then they were about to leave until she stopped them and enticed them to stay by buying them a drink. Then they seem to know everything about her right away, and say they’ve been tracking her all this time. Why did they care about the drink then? Why were they going to leave when she was right in front of them? This doesn’t connect well.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This is really good. I’m very intrigued. The characters are interesting. The situation is interesting. The suspense is built up. This really is a great start. I love the whole concept about the Utopis not being able to have babies. It’s almost like a communistic China. Keep it up. This has great potential. I’ll try to read more if I can.

Thanks for sharing.

Phil
10
10
Review by Philthy
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hey there. This is a great start to your story. Here are some nitpicky observations to consider.

>" its buildings swathed in a thick fog, light pooling in liquid puddles under the occasional street lamp" -- You might want to add a "with" in there after "thick fog." It may not be necessary, but I think it reads better personally. And you don't need to say "liquid puddles." It's already understood that it's liquid.

> I would not say that the drunk's head is spinning. This is not written from the drunk's POV, which means the narrator is making an assumption that it's spinning. As it's written, it could mean that the head is literally spinning.

> "...and he peered into the darkness."--This part is unnecessary.

> "...'No, I need a farm. With a clothesline. And a sympathetic farmer.' " -- If the alien is just discovering things about the planet--didn't even know that its inhabitants looked like he does--how would he know anything about a farm or clotheslines?

> One word of advice, most publishers these days aren't too fond of head jumping. In other words, be careful about suddenly changing POV's in the same chapter. The legends do it all the time, I know, but don't be surprised if you try to get your work published and the editor tells you to keep the POV consistent throughout the chapter or section.

> "He rubbed his throat, still feeling the ghostly impressions which Dale's fingers had left in it and shivered." -- You use too many hads in this paragraph (as in "had left"). In many of those circumstances, you don't need the 'had.' Also, there needs to be a comma after 'it.'

> 'Clothes...' he thought, trying to control his overly active imagination. 'I gotta tell her something...' -- When your narrator is thinking something, use italics. When he or she is saying something, use full quotations (" instead of ').

> "...shattering his concentration and he jumped." -- I don't think "shattering" is the right word choice here. It's kind of too strong, like trying to swat a fly with a jackhammer. In fact, you don't really even need to tell us that it broke his concentration, because we get that when he jumps. That's the difference between telling your reader something and showing the reader something.

> " A figure detached itself from the shadows and crossed the street, visible now as one of the town guards." -- I don't understand this sentence. As it reads, you're saying the figure is as visible as a town guard. Are the town guards visible? I think what you mean is that the figure IS a town guard. Maybe just say that a town guard crossed the street. The rest seems unnecessary.

> "...then made his way on down the street." - Don't need "on"

Overall Synopsis

This is a <i>really</i> intriguing start. You paint a picture very well, and have excellent flow/pacing to your chapter. I think there are some things that need a bit of polish, but what work doesn't? I really did enjoy this chapter and look forward to checking out more of your work.

Thanks for sharing this.

Phil
11
11
Review by Philthy
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
This is a great start. I love how you describe how the elf utilizes his magic (tracing letters in the air, crafting a spell in his mind). You don't just say "he performed a spell."

You may want to go over this with a fine-toothed comb. There are some things that need addressing. For example:

First, I'd use a different word than "earthen". That's so generic. Tell us what he's galloping on exactly. Stone, dirt, clay?

"Dirt flew behind the elf as his horse’s feet dug deep into the loose soil as he galloped along the path.
Too many "as". I'd take out "as his horse's feet dug deep into the loose soil"...then say "as his horse galloped along the path."

"Since Hels had declared war on the kingdom of elves the roads were no longer safe, for anyone. "
This is not a sentence.

"...sign a treaty the war was...
You need a comma after "treaty"

Otherwise, very nice job. Keep it up!

Phil
12
12
Review by Philthy
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
This is a well-told story. I love your voice. The end is a bit anti-climactic. Why wasn't the wife visited by the Banshee beforehand? Also, how could this story be "verified by several reliable sources" if only the husband and wife were present and they both died?

Still, it's a very good story. Thanks for sharing!
13
13
Review of INSANE  
Review by Philthy
Rated: ASR | (3.0)
Great repetition of the word "insane"
The first couple stanzas were great. Some of the later stanzas seem forced a bit.
For example, "Literally heating up my heart..." You don't need to say "Literally". Sounds a bit kid-ish. If you just say "heating up my heart", it would allow the reader to take it at different levels, which is really what poetry is about -- depth.

" Of a need so great, it haunts a saint" - I don't get this line. This is the one I really thought sounded forced, like you badly needed a rhyme and couldn't find one. Why is it such an unusual thing for a saint to be haunted? In fact, most saints lived difficult lives, one might suspect that in some ways they'd all be haunted by something. I don't really think this image works in the context.

Overall, good poem. Again, the repetition is very well done. I think there are some bugs that need to be polished out, but you've got a good writing voice.

Keep on writing!
14
14
Review of The Dream  
Review by Philthy
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Good story, er, dream. It's extremely harrowing and graphic, almost like a combination of a Saw movie and the Grudge or something.

The only suggestion I have is to get the point faster. The beginning drags on with too much explanation. You really don't need all that. The dream sequence speaks for itself.

Anyway, it kind of reminds me of the Scarecrow in Batman. Very good descriptions and a chilling dream.
15
15
Review of Possession  
Review by Philthy
Rated: 18+ | (5.0)
Great story. I haven't reviewed a w.com story in a couple years, but I think I chose a good one to come back to.

The only thing I noticed was use of hyphens. If you're combining words, like "well" and "maintained" (for example), it's a single dash. If you're adding to the sentence, much in the way a semicolon might add to a sentence, it's technically a double dash (--). That sort of got confusing at times. Otherwise, this is absolutely brilliant. I was captivated the whole way through. Well done!
16
16
Review by Philthy
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Hi Caitlin,

Very nice poem! A lot of rage comes out in this piece, as well as frustration. By the way, thanks for taking my survey. I thought I'd return the favor by checking out your port.

Here are a few things you might consider:

*Bullet* I would change "swirling" to "swirls." I think this is a very powerful beginning with strong verbs. If you make these lines into fragments by adjusting the verbs, the line loses much of that strength and impact, IMO.

*Bullet* "Why must I feel this way?" -- I'd take this line out. It doesn't really fit. The rest of the poem is about the raw emotion and frustration of the sensation, and this part focuses too much on reflection of the experience. The two don't usually intertwine. Also, rhetorical questions often detract from the strength of the sensation being conveyed.

*Bullet* "I am not alone in my body.
Hate is the monster within me." -- Nice finish!

Great job. Loved it.

Thanks so much for sharing.

Phil
17
17
Review of Lies  
Review by Philthy
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hey Bek,

Another nice poem here.

You know the drill by now, here are some suggestions:

*Bullet* "So quickly a relationship is done" -- It kind of offsets the pace by using inverted word order so abruptly here. I'd suggest changing this somehow to active voice.

*Bullet* The meter is off. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I thought I'd point it out in case you hadn't considered it.

*Bullet* "A best friend obsessed with a llama" -- This seems pretty random.

Overall Impression

I have a feeling there's more to the story that isn't being told in this poem. There are a bunch of things brought up that are quickly abandoned, which makes a lot of this hard to track. That being said, there are some pretty good images, and the feeling evoked is somewhat harrowing, which seems to be what you were aiming for.

Thanks much for letting me read this.

All the best,

Phil
18
18
Review of Just Get Me Away  
Review by Philthy
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hey Bek,

Very nice poem. Just a few suggestions to chew on:

*Bullet* "This world that's always/ Falling down around me" -- I'd make this more declarative. Otherwise, it's just a fragment and you don't conclude the thought. I'd suggest saying "This world is" rather than "This world that's." I know, I nitpick :P.

*Bullet*. "Out in the open/ Away from it all" -- This is a good stanza to keep separate from the others. Nicely done.

Overall Impression

You include a nice twist at the end, bringing this back to reality. I like the image of bruised skin.

This is almost a prayer of sorts, a very personal one at that. You might consider inserting some punctuation to better control the piece's flow, but overall, this is nicely done.

Thanks for sharing this! All the best,

Phil
19
19
Review by Philthy
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hey there!

This is a really good idea. My only gripe is that you don't talk about half ratings and you don't really elaborate whole lot. I think you could go into more detail about what the ratings mean. Still, this is solid, basic formula to consider when taking reviews.

Nice job.

Phil
20
20
Review by Philthy
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi there,

This is very intriguing and personal...not to mention well-writ.
Here are some things I noticed, however:

*Bullet* Why is the first "I" bolded? There's no reason for it and it almost makes it seem like you're trying to reference yourself as prominent, or godly. Might be a typo, but it doesn't fit.

*Bullet* "dedicated my life to Him more times than I can remember" - I'm confused. How can you dedicate your life to Him many times? Wouldn't that make such a dedication flimsy? I'd think you'd either be dedicated or not.

*Bullet* It's a bit hypocritical to say that you cannot become like God, then say that you and He are one. It's also a bit narcisstic.

Overall Impression

Well, on a personal note, I don't really agree with some of the nuances of your argument. I think it's obtuse to suggest that a person can know God's expectations of us. It simply isn't our place. I also think there's a lot of philosophical exploration that has yet to be developed in this piece. You sum things up all nice and tidy, when in reality all this does is raise many, many more questions.

That being said, this isn't about my opinion on religion, and it's not about my judgment of your spiritual journey...because with all that being said, it seems to me that you're soul searching, which is quite commendable and inspiring...and that's what's most important. *smiling*

As a piece, there is a lot of good stuff here. I like the first paragraph. It's provacative and gets to the point. I also like the realization of Christ as a lover. I think there are some hypocritical arguments, as well as some things that need to be definied, at least to the reader, in order to make some statements you make (doesn't make them right or wrong, just means they need to made clearer to the reader what you're meaning).

Overall, a very nicely written piece and a pleasure to read *Smile*.

Thanks for sharing this.

Phil
21
21
Review of Jeffrey's Gift  
Review by Philthy
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hey there,

Nice write.
Here are some things you might consider:

*Bullet* "I enjoyed watching him having fun." - Don't change the tense. You start off writing in present tense, and then abruptly go to past tense. Keep it consistent.

*Bullet* "No wonder the tree seemed so big..." - I'm not sure why you end with an ellipse here.

*Bullet* "But I always had it in mind that when I came home, everything would be as it used to be. But it wasn't, and that bothered me." - In formal writing, you never begin a sentence with "but," "and," "or," etc... However, it is acceptable in story writing. That being said, you never want to have two consecutive sentences begin that way, because then you're saying but to a but, which if you think about it is redundant and a bit of a ramble *Wink*.

Overall Impression

Aww, what a touching story *Smile*. You do a great job of keeping to the mood and expressing tones so that it conveys the severity of the situation. I think the biggest thing to work on is perhaps developing this into a longer story (if you wanted to) and working on some of the grammar points.

Otherwise, great job...very touching story. Thanks for sharing.
All the best!

Phil
22
22
Review of In A Mere Dream  
Review by Philthy
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hey there,

Nice story.
Here are a few things for your consideration.

*Bullet* "Built across the river set in its murky depth a bridge and its pilings hidden as the morning has just begun." - Revise. This sentence doesn't make much sense at all.

*Bullet* "A slight breeze brushes her face sweeping blond curls against her cheeks a bit red from the chill in the air." - Redundant. Instead, maybe say something like, "A slight breeze brushes her face and sweeping blond curls against her cheeks, causing them to blush charmingly." (or something)

*Bullet* "brick laid street" - "brick laid" should have a hyphen in between.

*Bullet* "In the city standing across the brick laid street along the curb, he watches her from behind looking at the river." - This makes little sense. Is he watching her from behind and looking at the river at the same time? Is he watching her as she looks at the river? You need to be clearer and have more control over what your sentences actually say.

*Bullet* "The first step taken by the young man quickly doubled back as a horse and carriage passed him by." - The man doubled back, not the step. Rephrase. Steps don't double back. People double back their steps.

*Bullet* "Still moving closer he caught the smell of her perfume along the current of a breeze and noticed the white skin of her neck as her hair was pulled up and pinned with a jeweled ornament." - Excellent description here.

Overall Impression

What's with the purple text?

I think you're on the right track with your description. However, I think you kind of overdo it a lot. Ease up. You don't need to describe everything and all at once. Make sure to focus on keeping the story moving. Also, there are quite a few grammatical errors which really slow the reader down. Dialogue would help this piece a lot. Also, where's the story? It's a nice description of a man interested in a woman he sees, but where's the conflict? What happens? It's OK that it's so simple, but I wouldn't really classify it as a short story so much as I would an excerpt or scene. Keep working on this. It has tons of potential, and I can tell you're on your way to finding a great writing voice. Also, good tie up at the end.

Thanks for sharing this. All the best.
Phil
23
23
Review by Philthy
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hey there,

Very interesting stuff.

Here are a few things you might consider:

*Bullet* “It seems never ending when you’re young, and then suddenly you wake up an old man of fifty. With aching knees and a wrinkled brow.” – This should all be one sentence. Avoid fragmentation whenever possible. I’d suggest taking out the period after “fifty” and merging the two sentences. It’s not a run-on sentence if you do that.

*Bullet* “When the breeze picked up it looked like shimmering gold, shining and swaying, such a graceful dance.” – There should be a comma after “up.” Also, “such a graceful dance doesn’t really fit. It makes the sentence run-on and is unnecessary fluffy. I’d suggest omitting it.

*Bullet* “I couldn’t refuse; I threw on my shoes, grabbed a few oranges and flew out the back door.” – You don’t need a semicolon here. Semicolons are used to avoid comma splices. That doesn’t apply here. It should be two separate sentences.

*Bullet* “My every breath strained in my lungs, leaving me gasping.” – Now, don’t get me wrong. Your description is wonderful! However, at certain parts it’s a bit over the top. This is one of them. “My every breath” is a bit hackneyed and redundant. I’d suggest omitting “every.”

*Bullet* “The sun was rising ever higher warming my cheeks and everything around me.” – Again, “ever higher” is redundant and unnecessary. Just say “higher.” Also, there should be a comma after “higher.”

Overall Impression

First of all, I love your description. You have a wonderful knack for painting scenery. Be careful not to overdo it, however. You lose the reader in some parts, which is too bad, because this is really beautiful. My other grip is that, though the imagery is very good, there really isn’t a story here. It’s basically one long description of life. There’s absolutely no character development and there certainly isn’t any character change or revelation, which is what makes a story a story.

Thanks so much for sharing. I really did enjoy the imagery.

Phil
24
24
Review of Remember?  
Review by Philthy
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hey there,

Nice story!
Here are some things you might consider:

*Bullet* “It was right then, I think, my heart untied its arteries and veins, and I felt very vulnerable as I stood there watching you.” – I gotta say, that’s probably the grossest romantic line I’ve ever heard *Wink*. Do people really talk like this?

*Bullet* “It doesn't sound very smart; does it?” – You don’t need a semicolon here. It’s not a comma splice. Either use a period or a comma.

*Bullet* I love how you talk about the first argument as a romantic memory. That’s so ironic and really what true romance is…not hokey lines like “my love for you is like a warm summer’s day,” but loving another for their negatives as well as positives.

Overall Impression

What a lovely story, and a great ending. Some of the monologue was over the top and not believable. People don’t talk like all of that. I do like some of the specific scenes you illustrate. Though this really isn’t a typical story, it’s wonderful writing and I’d certainly recommend it to others.

Thanks for sharing this.
All the best,

Phil
25
25
Review of Tea and Blossoms  
Review by Philthy
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Hey there,

Very good story here.
Here are some things you might consider:

*Bullet* “The crescent moon rose over the open field framed by snow dusted hills, joining the constellations gazing down on the two solitary figures traveling a narrow path; one carrying a stout staff and wearing the large bowl hat of a Buddhist monk, the other, a single sword and the fancy clothes of a wayward samurai.” – I just wanted you to see that this is one sentence. Way too long. Cut it down or break it up into multiple sentences. I’d avoid using that semicolon, too. A semicolon is used to avoid comma splicing, not to extend an already long sentence. :P

*Bullet* “to him it seemed the twinkling sky was applauding.” – EXCELLENT imagery.

Overall Impression

Nicely done. You have a knack for illustrating action and maintaining a good pace for the fight scenes. Sometimes the dialogue seems overly formal, which sort of makes it impersonal. Maybe that’s what you were going for, I’m not sure. A good mix of dialogue and description, though I wish you’d blend different ways of explaining the plot than simple explanation. That’s kind of nit-picking, though. It really is a very good story…excellent action.

Thanks so much sharing.
All the best,

Phil
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