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98 Public Reviews Given
Review Style
I wouldn't believe me if I read some patent summation of my style. I review in public to keep myself honest. Some may think me rude. De gustibus non disputandum. Please include a word count, and be prepared to offer one GP/word. I'll take a quick look at almost anything. And I always try to return a review for a review. At the least, I always send a polite thanks. To do line edits, I charge all the market will bear and a fish. Ten points/word, minimum.
I'm good at...
... striking a balance in reviews. Not an objective balance, but an assessment in proportion to the strengths and weaknesses of the work.
Favorite Genres
Thriller/Suspense and the off-center approach to genre.
Least Favorite Genres
Routine anything, although I too have written orthodox, even mundane, dead-centered treatments just to get that first shot off fast.
Favorite Item Types
Anything done well.
Least Favorite Item Types
Graphic violence. Graphic sexuality. There can be good reason to depict these matters. Show me that reason.
I will not review...
Formal poetry. I have never acquired the skills to accurately assess poetry in terms of schema, meter and foot and mandatory elements. Gay and lesbian. I lack sophistication in the culture.
Public Reviews
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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (5.0)
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tyle Review of NordicNoir's "Crustbin Thistlebum"


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love the concept that even supernatural people are just people.
         Crustbin Thistlebum is a simple maker trying to find his way in a world of rules devised by takers and fakers. NordicNoir explores his character and his world faithfully, entirely through his eyes. I found it natural to identify with this protagonist and the petty plagues piled upon him.
         Mechanically, this writer is wholly competent. This is a contest entry, and so liable to deadline-itis. I did find the oddest fault -- a sentence fragment to be repaired by removing a single word:

Twenty teeth in every kid’s mouth that went to waste for centuries before the fairies began collecting them for road construction material.

         I found a few gritty nits -- one conflict in tenses and the inevitable "Comma here?" When a reviewer has bored down to this layer, it's time to quit.
         To quit, except to say that this is a very nice little piece of comedy, solid in structure and smooth in finish. After I rated it a five, I dug around in my desk drawer, found a little gold stick-on star, cut it in half and pasted that in a lower corner of my monitor.
         Live long and publish, NordicNoir.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
2
2
Review of Baby Series  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
runoffscribe's

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tyle Review of Laurie Razor's Baby Series


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wonder what a goth keyboard looks like. I'm sure James Heyward has one. Would that be a pentagram in the lower lefthand corner?
         The gist of the Baby Series seems to be that three schoolgirls get themselves into a lifetime`of trouble beginning with a game of touch-and-go on the plane of the occult. The story takes jump after jump from place to year to character.
         For those who are familiar with the witchcraft sub-genre, I can see how this technique cuts out every scrap of fat and moves the story at a relentless pace. I, being less familiar, became well and thoroughly lost by the middle of the second of the series.
         The text seems to have almost no use for paragraphing. Concepts and events are presented with little exposition, related to others only by sequence. The bones of a gravid and shocking tale are all here. But there is little more here than the bones.
         In an earlier review, Review of "Capita" , I wrote about plot reliefs -- comic, tragic and idyllic. This story could use some expository relief, a breather from the breathless pace.
         Live long and publish, Laurie Razor.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
3
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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (3.0)
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tyle Review of Jenstrying's "The Little Pirate That Could"


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t's a thing we do, we writers, to look at an image, carve out the elements and shape from them a story. With a little practice, we learn to do this with every image. With a little more practice, we learn how to pick 'em.
         This image is a good choice for this writer. She is still in touch with her inner little girl. That is charming, and latently powerful.
         This is a draft, and not much to review. It is much to encourage, potentially funny, sweet, satirical and engaging. Jen should sharpen her tools and keep trying. Odds on, the results will be well worth the effort.
         Live long and publish, Jenstrying.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
4
4
Review of Clueless  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
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tyle Review of Angus' "Clueless"


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he penny drops, the parts mesh and the prize drops into the chrome cup.This is a nice little clockwork scene, with an intriguing bit of territory left open between the what and the why.
         In the getting from there to here, there is art in holding the surprise until the end. Confining one's characters to dialogue while eliciting a story is a demanding specification. It is a more difficult task than it seems in this piece. The text is a very good job of reflecting the setting and the plot in the dialogue without making the characters nudge and wink at the reader. Behind the simple chatty tone, we get all of the information we need to assemble the story in mind.
         Sound lesson, with examples. Thanks, Teach'!
         The intriguing bit -- why does character One (Renfield?) choose to sit and drop a penny on character Two (Al Bundy?)? Is it a perverse joke? A dare? An invitation? A warning ... Damn! Ran out of question marks.
         Live long and publish, Angus.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
5
5
Review of Enlightenment  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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tyle Review of "Enlightenment" by Beholden


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t is less blessed to edit than to conceive. Onward to darn-ation!

The son of Melqart pondered fresh enlightenment. He sat in
lotus among the poppies and thought on a tin woodsman.

         Too subtle, by more than half. Let me count the ways.
         One: Google "lotus flower meaning". Read: "The Lotus flower is regarded in many different cultures, especially in eastern religions, as a symbol of purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth. Its characteristics are a perfect analogy for the human condition: even when its roots are in the dirtiest waters, the Lotus produces the most beautiful flower."
         The poppy yields a mere intoxicant.
         Two: "... son of Melqart ...". Googled "Amilcar", just to prove I'm paying attention.
         Three: "... tin woodsman." The only one of the Gale party not to succumb, he was overtaken by panic. Hmm ...
         Four: straw man? Rhetorically, a "straw man" is a false issue designed to lead the argument away from a true resolution.
         Five: cowardly lion? Fear, the universal bane of the mammal; Man being the only one capable of confronting it.
         Six: Dorothy? Innocence, and the gallantry so empowered.
         Regarding each of these characters as a value to be substituted into the Amilcar "equation" changes the outcome in kind.
         It never before occurred to me to analyze The Wizard of Oz in universals. Google "analysis wizard of oz". Baum's most popular work has been adopted to argue the gold standard and politics overall. This strikes me as sophistry, the perversion of logic to justify an end.
         Let's you, me and Amilcar go have a round of lotus martinis.
         Live long and publish, Beholden
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review of Escape.  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (3.5)
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tyle Review of "Escape" by addie.cass


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t's a bug's life -- nasty, brutal and short.
         On top of the undersold challenge of flash fiction, this story seeks to relate the viewpoint of an insect in enemy territory -- a human-held home. To write a real story in three hundred words, within the time constraint of a contest, is hard enough.
         In this form, of course, detail matters and every word counts. Anthropomorphism is the back door out of the writer's dilemma. Supplant with human eyes the perceptions of a dragonfly, or a hornet, or ... the story leaves this open.
         Empathy is the tricky path through the maze. How does a creature meet the world from a horizontal stance? How big is it to a creature less than inch overall? How does it look through compound eyes?
         One might split the difference. Use the omniscient viewpoint, empathizing from the outside by intuiting the impulses of the subject through its actions.
         Three hundred words can count for a lot when every word counts for something.
         Live long and publish, addie.cass.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review of Top Secret  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (3.5)

T

he contest is a good thing. It gives a writer a clear objective and, no small thing, the surety that someone will read his work while also paying attention.
         The contest is a bad thing. The contest theme supplants the writer's theme and the deadline and word count limits undermine craftsmanship.
         To the case at hand. Holdfast is a sympathetic character, a romantic. You've made a good selection of supporting details, from the signal outfitting to the shabby setting. We're all romantics here, readers and writers alike.
         Still, we at first see Holdfast from above and without. I suspect these are symptoms of word count/deadline-itis. The opening paragraph needs a voice as active as the rest of the story, e.g. --

Holdfast bought his sturdy, rubber-soled shoes in the village lane. He found his battered raincoat on a rack at an estate sale. He was obliged to order his trilby hat, snug and weatherproof, by mail.

         Your basic active verb technique lines out the passive "was", "were" and "had been". Details of the source of each item enrich the setting and lend atmosphere from the outset.
         I truly, deeply and madly love the plot twist, as much for the way you landed it as for the twist itself. The story pivots on a ball from moribund to adrenaline-shot.
         Then deadline-itis afflicts the narrative. Up to the point at which he finds the file, it reads as though this is Holdfast's first day open for business. After he opens the file, it reads as though his antagonist might travel back and forth in time.
         Contest entries tend to die on the vine. They're contract work. Story vended, contract ended, on to the next thing. This piece deserves a good run, a stirring climax and a gently ironic wrap. And you deserve a signature work, driven by an alter-ego protagonist through a world of your own making.
         Live long and publish, Beholden.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review of Whistler  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (4.0)

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ecades ago, I was a half-wild little ragamuffin running around in a patch of woods in Western Pennsylvania. This piece takes me back.
         But my favorite thing about it is the brief and sharply focused way it captures a moment both fleeting and intense. It feels like a pencil sketch, made up of sharp details nicely shaded for perspective. It has a way of drawing the eye in a spiral through the broad scene to the moment of immediacy. Well-conceived.
         A few phrases strike my ear as being stilted.

"... pleasure in the their frantic games of hide and seek that resulted."
"... tearing through the grass in haste and bounding with joy ..."

         I like your wry bit on the guinea fowl. I like your first sentence. The subject is better without an adjective. You have a craftsman's touch in spots.
         You seem to have become disaffected over time. That can hinder one's craftsmanship. Still, this is a sweet idyll that deftly taps into the power of reminiscence.
         Live long and publish, Beholden.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
9
9
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (4.0)

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his is a charming little tale. Your tone is nicely consistent up to the turn of the climax. It feels good to write a sweet ending, but that has to be earned. Considering the short format, appropriate to the challenge, you did this well.
         Writing in a fairy-tale tone makes me want to play with the language. Exempliae gratia:

The night of her loneliness faded, but the knight of her dreams did not appear.
... hair brushed gleaming gold and lips painted berry-bold.

         I'm a devil for the precise right word. I argue connotation. "Gleaming" is just right for hair, implicitly for long hair. "Glowing", "shining" and "lustrous" also fit closely. "Beaming", for hair, sounds a clinker to my ear. I think more of a smile, or of eyes.
         Just FYI, I took a shot at Bubblegum Jones' Blanks myself. I may have written the all-time shortest entry he ever received. I landed in Part Two near the bottom, at 337. When I asked if I could edit my entry, Jones just put the update in at 338. Taken together, the two do not total one hundred words. Some of my best work.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
10
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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)

I

n fairness, your first paragraph really is internal monologue (or "internal voice"). But its use as straight narrative became hackneyed and has long been abandoned. It is still valid in the epistolary format, id est, a letter written to a character at another place in the narrative. The diary format is basically the same thing, a letter to oneself. In cinema, the Blair Witch Project based an entire movie (and started a film fad) on "found footage", technology's take on the letter lost and found. Ship's logs are written for the review of senior command. Of course, there was Poe's innovation in "The Purloined Letter".
         You're headed more in the right direction with the string of questions I found in the middle of the story. This sort of urgent utterance fits a working definition, from the protagonist's viewpoint, of what-I-would-say-if-I had-anybody-here-I-could-say-it-to. This is a good basis for the usage.
         As with spoken dialogue, even moreso, internal dialogue must snap. Often, the internal voice will say the one thing the protagonist dares not say out loud. You are then writing two lines of speech for your protagonist for an exchange. This cannot be allowed to slow your dialogue, to detract from the character conflict which drives your narrative. Keep it snappy.

         "I don't want to have to kill you." Darian grinned.
         A liar's grin, Paul decided. "I'll spare you the burden."

         Look at the increments of character development in this simple exchange. Darian likes the psych-out move. He would rather bluff Paul than face him head to head. And he's done this before. Paul has a very dark opinion of Darian, but he responds with a simple sarcastic deflection. He may be cocky, but he won't be bluffed.
         This exchange affirms another point. The internal voice is strong as a response. Show the challenge first.
         NB: Internal voice is tied to the protagonist. In a rare instance, you may choose to narrate the internal voices of two characters in a scene. This is very likely to confuse the reader. It must be done with extreme care and rigid discipline. Better, just don't.
         All of my comments hew to a basic tenet of my own style. That tenet is to create a compact narrative that does not expand. Sometimes I pack it in a little too tightly, creating a maze for the reader. I may reach a third or fourth draft before I achieve the sort of empathy that permits me to unbend and spell out a thing or two. Your wordage may vary.
         And so it follows that internal monologue is not always the best choice when you seek to show your subject's response. Perhaps she turns her face away. Perhaps she shudders for a moment. Perhaps its shrinks into the background and fades from sight.
         You may even draw a parallel through onomatapoesy. In one story themed around guns, the narrator first speaks of "... plinking into the berm of her fatalism". Later, he says, "I had little to say to his arrogance, so I said it bang." He shoots the antagonist.
         I have said all I have to say, both for this chapter and your next. Back to your lonely writer's garret, Octavius. Live long and publish.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
11
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for entry "Chapter 6
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)

Y

ou are making regular progress in your plot. Good work.
         The language you use to describe Drake's sword-handling is interesting. It gives me the impression that the sword handles after the fashion of a lightsaber detaching itself from Yoda's waist and seating itself in his hand.
         I like the dialogue between Drake and Kevin. It is straightforward and seems well-placed in the narrative to advance the plot. You missed your quotation marks in a couple of spots. Then there is this:

"Kevin’s words. Causes Drake’s anger to sway."

And this:

"Drake tries to write HEATSWELL with his finger, but nothing happeneds."

You' got some proofreadin' to do, Rucy.
         But not immediately. As you improve, you will come to a better place to go through the manuscript, smoothing the writing as you fix the text errors.
         About the flashback. The absolute last thing you want to do with a flashback is to label it and set it off as though it were a chapter in itself. This is where you need a smooth transition. E.g. -- "Drake sleeps, and his dream takes him back ..." Or, if not sleeping -- "Drake feels himself slipping backward into a reverie of the past ..." Look up "reverie". It's one of those words that earns a thesaurus its space on your desktop.
         For a more precise and exemplary treatment of the flashback, go to the following:


The topic of devices is not a small one. This site discusses most of four hundred different Stupid Prose Tricks That Really Work.
         Keep on getting better, Octavius. Live long and publish.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
12
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for entry "Chapter 2
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)

G

ood morning, Octavius,

         Much better formatting. First line of the wolf's dialog still left-justified.
         You are still mixing present and past tense. Straighten this out. You may decide to use past tense for narrative placed in a time prior to your main narrative. Id est, a "flashback" scene. Isolate this usage in its own section.
         This is a better technical job than Chapter One. Frankly, I was not interested in reviewing this chapter. But I will always look at a request. When I saw that you had improved with this piece, I decided to offer some insights that I hope will serve you on a deeper level.
         You use only two forms of expression, the omniscient narrative and dialogue. I recommend that you add internal monologue as a means of increasing the immediacy of your work. Exempli gratia:

The decrepit(connotations of age; these corpses are fresh) heavy stench of corps(es) fills the mines ...

Instead, God, the stench. It's like darkness. Looking up, he saw dense clouds ...

         This also serves as a show-not-tell that he is taking a grip on himself after his pained outburst. Moreover, it puts your reader inside of your protagonist for a revelatory moment. This latter technique can help to you to land a plot point with added emphasis.
         I like the way you start sentences with different parts of speech. Pronouns get pretty boring really fast. Good technique.
         In the alternative, you can use repetition to build tension. Like so:

I dug his grave deep. I carved the sides flat in the peaty soil. I kicked his corpse into the abyss, despising it as I had despised him. I filled it back with a rake. I pissed on the mound.

         Long sentences are fine for the more pensive passages. Action tends to be choppy.
         Start with a short strong sentence. Use a somewhat longer sentence next. Then add a sentence of two clauses, preferably contrasting sharply. Finish the paragraph with a short sentence. E.g.:

A brick flew past her head. She hunched her shoulders and dodged to her right. Her skirt caught under the sole of her sandal and she pitched face-first to the sandy ground, rolling onto her back. Another brick clipped her thigh.

         This is rudimentary rhythm, instilling momentum into your narrative. Like a song, the pace ramps up steadily, then drops off. Then you ring in a change, like a refrain in a song.
         I am a big fan of synonyms. When you can choose among several words of different lengths and/or with different emphases, you can tailor the rhythm of your sentence. A basic example:

A bad man is best left.
A plotting man is best left behind.
A conniving man is best left to his devices.

         Each sentence has different rhythm. Supposing that you decide to shape a paragraph starting with a longer sentence, for instance, then shorten each subsequent sentence. The first example above would give you a good hard stop at the end.
         These are all advanced techniques. I don't often get this deeply into the weeds with my reviews. I know a lot more. There's still a lot that I don't know.
         You will learn best the way you learned first. Read. Analyze. Write. Repeat.
         On your way, now, Octavius. Live long and publish.
         As always, for notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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for entry "Chapter 1
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)

I

like the conceit of a young man learning from his grandmother how to fight with singlesticks. As a character and at this point, Drake rings true to me. Griselda is just mean. Whether or not she is the best version of a sensei for the purposes of your story will depend on the path of your story. Does Drake win out in the end because of, or in spite of, his grandmother's harsh tutelage?
         I also like the sense of a long character arc starting from low. You signal clearly that Drake has a rich heroic story ahead of him. Strong start.
         Either indent or don't. Conventionally, the manuscript form of paragraphs spaced one line apart is rendered without indents. Within the content linked at the end, you will find a macro which will format your text after the standard of this review. If you do not like this format, maybe it will spark other ideas.
         You may have seen that I like to use the present tense. I like the simplicity. Most of us have gotten used to writing in the past tense. Whether you use present or past, the tenses must line up --

"Their black and white armor glisteneds under the harsh sunlight while they carry metallic crossbows and peering down into the quarry."


And you may not change tense within a sentence, outside of quotes. I have to be careful of this sort of lapse in my own work. I trip over it all the time.
         The crossbows are peering down into the quarry? Some sort of magical self-aiming design?
         We are always proofreading back over our work. I still find typos in my pieces. At nearly six thousand words, you have cut out a huge piece of work for yourself.
         I have a subjective concern regarding your plotting in the opening scene. Drake and Griselda are slaves. Slaves don't get to take time out to drill with weapons. You do get to craft an exception. If the guards are sufficiently entertained, they may let this sort of thing go unpunished.
         Slavemasters also generally don't allow slaves to keep weapons. But slaves in a mine are given tools. You might highlight the point that the guards have better weapons, and a whole lot more of them.
         Assuming you chose me on the basis of my work, I'm going to discuss an aspect of my technique which forms my prose in detail. Connotation is a refinement of definition. I choose among synonyms by looking to connotation.
         "Disheveled" carries connotations of dress and grooming. A man who is disheveled runs a comb through his hair, tugs his jacket and trousers into alignment and uses his hanky to wipe the dust from his shoes.
         Spartacus never had a tailor. Start with "beaten". Move on to "scarred", "starved", "dust-laden", "lice-ridden" and "sweat-soaked".
         Overall, your story is off to a roaring start. By the time we reach the end of this chapter, Drake has won his freedom at the price of a driving motivation and a prepossessing burden of duty. Subject to developments, it is a story worth telling. I encourage you to tell it all.
         Keep reading. Your style will smooth itself out as you take the lessons of your favorite authors and try out their diction in your own voice.
         Your work is inventive and has a momentum all its own. But writing is work, hard work, and that fact has driven a lot of talented people into easier and safer professions -- politics, management, game shows ...
         I am refunding to you two thousand GPs. I have two reasons. First, this is not a five-plus thousand point review on my own scale of values. Second, I sincerely believe that I have loaded enough onto your plate.
         Live long and publish, Octavius!
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (1.0)

I was genuinely distressed to read your polemic on the abbreviation "Xmas". It is not in me to accept such an alarming contention from a single source.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xmas
"There is a common misconception that the word Xmas stems from a secular attempt to remove the religious tradition from Christmas ... by taking the "Christ" out of "Christmas", but its [("Xmas")] use dates back to the 16th century."

For all of the trust I repose in Wikipedia, it also is only a single source.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/xmas-abbreviatio...
"... this usage is nearly as old as Christianity itself, and its origins lie in the fact that the first letter in the Greek word for ‘Christ’ is ‘chi,’ and the Greek letter ‘chi’ is represented by a symbol similar to the letter ‘X’ in the modern Roman alphabet."

         Even at this, I would be interested to know the source on which you based this piece. The underpinnings of our celebration at the culmination of the year are the same as those supporting the faith that carries us through the year.
         I would set your mind at rest. If there is a best season to spare ourselves the foofooraw surrounding political correctness and the reactionism of political commentators, it is the Yuletide.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)

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hese tired eyes thank you for the larger font and more open linespacing.
         Consider adding a season or a month to the years heading your chapters. I found it confusing to try to sort that out for myself along with your initial development of character and setting. Also, please set the month/season and year whenever you change the time of your narrative. Younger Tom and his peers could have been nine or they could have twelve years old.
         Your plot is developing steadily. It is, of course, too early for an analysis. No plot survives contact with the keyboard.
         Your style is somewhat removed from your characters. I get only an observer's sense of their perceptions. That's fine for draft work. You are creating opportunities to go back and let your characters express themselves, rather than just to describe their perceptions from the narrative viewpoint.
         Exemplia gratia:

“s***!” Tom uttered as he realized he was completely lost “s*** s*** s*** s***”

He felt confident enough that he had successfully lost Steven and his crew, but now, he was lost. He spun around several times as the panic set in. His father had warned him about this possibility. As beautiful as the Walkit forest was, many parts of it looked similar. And it lurked with the many dangers that come to mind when you think of the mountains. Bears. Wolves. Uneven & unpredictable terrain. He tried to take a deep breath and focus on his immediate surroundings.


Tommy leaned against the trunk of a big sycamore. His were the only human sounds. Lost him! Just a bully, he just gave up.
         He scanned the woods. Lost myself. Hell, I can't be that far out.
         Landmarks are hard to pick out in the forest. His father's words settled his mind to a new alertness. And you've got to watch, look for the hidden things. I've seen bear scat, and wolves pass through from time to time. Watch ahead for rocks and roots and things that'll trip you.

         Your reader will identify with your protagonist, more than just follow him. For a bonus, this style breaks up those monotonous blocks of print.
         Is it "Walkit" or "Walskit"?
         Watch your connotations. Sleep is not an unconscious state. A person who is unconscious may not be wakened with a touch, but must be revived by way of positive, even aggressive, measures -- measures which may not succeed.
         You have a strong grasp of setting. I would enjoy Spring in Walskit.
         Your characters are familiar ones, evoked clearly up to this point.
         It is in the broad field on which character action and interaction develop into plot that you have room and a need for growth.
         I urge you to write and read every day. Collect methods and techniques from the broad swap meet of ideas that is your favorite genre. Clean these tools, sharpen them, and keep them close at hand when you when you sit down to write.
         Live long and publish, Dominique Derval.

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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (5.0)

I

cannot help a lot with poetry, especially if your instructor endorses this piece. But I can do a little research and maybe steal a lick for you.
         There is an herb called sour flower. You may not want to pack this for your particular group -- it's a strain of marijuana.
         But then there is this Google cite: "Nothing else smells like marigolds. They're pungent, musky, sharp, halfway unpleasant, halfway alluring." It's a closer opposite to a rose.
         I do not know the philosophy of your group. I don't want to reduce your piece to an absurd simplicity. Group ethic permitting, let me suggest the following:

Look up when you are down.
When you find yourself looking down,
Turn around.

         I'm going to give you five stars because I have no clue and, so, no definitive critique to levy.
         Please offer your group the best wishes of well-meaning stranger.

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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)

W

hat happened to the dog?
         Okay, it's a mystery. As long as you wrap it up before the end of the book, you're cool.
         Throughout two reads of the chapter, I am missing any specific reference to your protagonist's gender. Another mystery, if you hadn't given it away in the slug line. Hmm ...
         This concept of puzzle-and-reward is at the heart of suspense writing whatever specific hybrid you aim to create in mixing mystery, suspense, psychodrama, et cetera.
         Of course, you will use foreshadowing. This is why we plot in advance. We may put several thousand words between our first foreshadowing and our climactic events. We may plot out several foreshadowings, each darker than the last. These are the long arcs of puzzle and reward.
         In the meantime, you want to keep your readers coming back, chapter after chapter. Thus, the device, puzzle and reward on a short arc. Here's one device.
         Replace general phrases with specific ones. In the following instance,

"... bought supplies to make him a cat door."

you give yourself an opportunity to create a mini-puzzle for the reader, eg,

"... bought a saw, a hinge and a latch."

         What would I do with those items? In that order? Oh, of course! Puzzle and reward, on the short arc.
         Formatting is a device. I decided what I wanted to do in the Edit box and wrote a macro:

{linespace:1.4}{size:3.5}{dropcap}{/dropcap}
{indent}
{/size}{/linespace}

         This is the formatting I use on Portfolio items, longer forum posts, Newsfeed posts, uh ... oh yes, reviews. I don't use the dropcap in Newsfeed responses, but only in initial posts. You are welcome to the use of this macro, and to change it as you like.
         You are off to a good start, visually. I have a strong sense of the "air" of your story. Adding this sort of specificity deepens the concrete visual aspect to your story. Your reader will picture a coping saw or a trim saw, a piano hinge or a casing hinge, a spring latch or a bolt.
         "He liked to wander. I understand." This is a beautiful character cue which resonates backward and forward throughout the chapter. Brief, trenchant and resonant. Do it again.
         Not "phase" in this usage. Say "... didn't faze me." Google it.
         "Being a journalist in a small southern town presents its own unique set of challenges. " Good start for an essay. Bad style cue for a mystery. Lop it off of the top, along with the "But" and start from the capital W. "When I first ..."
         Keep it, though. Use it to cap off a telling turn of character or plot point. Use it sincerely or ironically. But USE it.
         "Dominique Derval" is a great pen name. Somewhere between a "devil", a "dervish" and "serval" wild cat, right?

         My fraternal twin concept to puzzle and reward is pace. You don't have to write fast and furious, but you cannot leave your reader to ask, "Is this going anywhere?" In a media-saturated world, such a story gets the left-swipe.
         When you seek to build tension, create tightly focused paragraphs, terse in phrasing and as short as you can make them. Your paragraphs are already good for progression. Your narrative has steady initial drive.
         And it's okay to let your narrative meander at times. Done carefully, it increases the tension when you do ramp up the pace.
         I see here a sort of Lifetime TV mystery in print. There's a place in the world for that, and you can pull it off without a romantic angle. If you do plan on one, you owe your reader a hint in the opening. It can be a false hint, but many readers will decide to read or not based on a scan of the first chapter. That is, if they get past the cover synopsis.
         Your model is Nora Roberts. If you need more elbow room, think of your work as splitting the difference between Caroline Keane and Daphne du Maurier.
         I am rebating to you 740 points of your generous tender. I look forward to reviewing your revisions and additions in the future. Feel free to respond to this review as you see fit.
         Live long and publish, Dominique Derval.

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Review of The Return  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (3.5)

I

am less familiar with Amber and Lord of Light, Zelazny's most highly vaunted works, than I am with his earlier shorter pieces. My take on him I called "Turtle Technique".
         To my eye, you write more like the son, thriller author Trent Zelazny. He has compiled an extensive catalog of original works, including plays on the stage in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
         It needs a good proofreading. Spellcheck probably cannot tell you that "Packard" is not spelled with an "h". But you can google "punctuation checker" and take your choice. Google also knows car from elephant, however blindly.
         My routine formatting spiel. For greater readability, I recommend you upgrade your linespacing to a value of "1.4". Single-space throughout. Reserve double-spacing for breaks within a chapter. Indent from the second paragraph onward. This is the library-edition "bestseller" standard. This review is also a sample.
         You won't find an icon for it, but closing and opening tags are valid for the "dropcap". I like the dressy touch.

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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (4.0)

I

see an accomplished take on a business-world Vito Corleone. Like Mario Puzo, you make more of him than any of his ilk in the mundane world.
         It's a legitimate approach. Puzo proved that.
         I will not pick nits on your spelling and punctuation. My copy is never quite perfect, either.
         Characterization may be the aspect of fiction most peculiar to the writer. I am intrigued by the trust relationship between your protagonist and his righthand man. It occurs to me that "Muscle" could be deprecated as an individual almost completely.
         Take away his name. Label him as an object -- "gofer", small-m "muscle", "errand boy", even "ken doll". By contrast, Kendall will appear even more callous and arrogant.
         If you should happen to have it in mind that the worm turns on the harrier at some later point, the twist will come all-the-more wrenching.
         My routine formatting spiel. For greater readability, I recommend you upgrade your linespacing to a value of "1.4". Single-space throughout. Reserve double-spacing for breaks within a chapter. Indent from the second paragraph onward. This is the library-edition "bestseller" standard.
         You won't find an icon for it, but closing and opening tags are valid for the "dropcap". I like the dressy touch.
         Have a macro NaNo!
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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (4.5)

T

his is a smooth plain narrative that outlines the situation at the opening of the story in clear and orderly terms. I found exactly one typo ("... had been less that complimentary").
         Ordinarily, I would complain that the static scene and unbroken exposition are claustrophobic. But Bishop is in a claustrophobic situation. In this instance, the claustrophobic approach is valid, even integral.
         The title is hackeneyed and overblown. Fortunately, "desperate" is a term nestled in a web of useful associations. You could derive a more measured title from "expedient", or use a pun -- "The Wine Press" for instance. You could also draw a parallel between winemaking and bloodshed, if your tale is to come to that. The word "dregs" comes to mind. Put a few terms through the Ideanary.
         My routine formatting spiel. For greater readability, I recommend you upgrade your linespacing to a value of "1.4". Single-space throughout. Reserve double-spacing for breaks within a chapter. Indent from the second paragraph onward. This is the library-edition "bestseller" standard.
         You won't find an icon for it, but closing and opening tags are valid for the "dropcap". I like the dressy touch.
         You have a start on something I would think could be publishable. Like Michael Connelly, who comes from a career start as a journalist, you write in a style that is plain and easy to follow. Story first.
         Live long and publish.
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for entry "The Assignment
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: ASR | (4.5)

Y

ou've laid a broad foundation here, in the first two senses of the word. I think I see what's coming.
         Now it's up to you to belie my blithe assumptions.
         Job's story being one of the most fundamental, it bears up well under reinterpretation. I notice that you have already displaced the conflict to the level of routine demonic operations. The Big Guys have delegated, and moved on.
         The comic approach is a sound one. Let the reader derive the deeper truths by his own lights.
         You cited two cliches. Cliches have the funny built in. When they don't contradict one another, they often contradict themselves. Then one turns out to be all too true. I look forward to seeing you exploit your characters' vulnerability to "truisms".
         Lastly, while your text is quite clean, I believe you could better exploit the formatting tools for readability. Published works such as fiction bestsellers commonly single-space at a setting of "1.4", indenting from the second paragraph.
         You won't see an icon for it, but there are opening and closing tags for the "dropcap". I like the dressy touch.

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Review of Wandita  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Spelling and punctuation excellent. I spotted a missing comma and a close quote at a paragraph break in a continuous speech. I have seen worse proofing in published work. Well done.
         Good, clear formatting, easily readable, with paragraphs on point. Also well done.
         Your style is wordy. You could be a lot more sure of yourself, and your reader.
         Science fiction may be the most difficult of genres. Writer and reader have less of the common frame of reference behind the romance, the thriller, the western. One person must do the work of millions to create one realistic world.
         You have the concrete skills. They are not easy, but they can be acquired by rote. The abstract skills are harder.
         This piece fits the sub-genre of space opera -- mighty ships battle it out in the void and their valiant crews come to grips at all quarters. This is the most straightforward of sub-genres, encompassing the greatest accumulation of past art. There is room in the genre for innovation, but it is hard to find.
         The most recent and successful effort comes from a writer under the alias of Jack Campbell, nee former naval officer John G. Hemry. After Jules Verne, E. E. "Doc" Smith and Star Trek, this is the bar you must clear in order to write state-of-the-art space opera.
         The best lessons in style come from other writers. Read.
         Here's wishing you a fun and rewarding NaNoWriMo!
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Review of Jessica Strong  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
The good stuff first. I saw no errors in spelling or punctuation. Congratulations on your detailed craftsmanship. Well done.
         Thanks for the word count.
         I write in present tense quite a bit myself. It cuts down on participles. Just between you and me, cinematic treatments are also written in the present tense. Not that we want to work in the movies, ever ...
         But the television influence seems plain in your work. As far back as the series "24", and long before, the idea of a secret center of operations and control supporting elite law enforcement efforts has been a staple of the screen -- large or small.
         I see that you are aiming at the Young Adult readership. Those readers are more sophisticated every year. I say that because this piece seems "dumbed down", as though you feel a priority to avoid losing the reader at all costs.
         You can use more sophisticated storytelling techniques without losing your audience. I urge you to do so. I am confident that you will enjoy, and profit from, the challenge.
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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Perhaps more than any other genre, Erotica sorts readers by gender, generation and even general approach to life. There are two generations' and a gender's difference between you and I. Out of consideration of those two essential differences, I will keep this review technical.
         As you become more familiar with this extraordinary site and its extensive resources, you will find some that can improve the readability of your work at a few touches. One icon is labelled with a block of text and an arrow in the upper lefthand corner. This is the "indent" icon. On average, I use it about every fourth line, That's over dialogue, description and exposition altogether.
         Another icon shows a text block and vertical, double-ended arrow. This is line-spacing. The default, at a value of "1.2", has always felt cramped to me. I generally raise it to "1.4".
         An icon which should be of specific interest to you is the one with the three "S's". This is the font=size icon. I couldn't read the second half of your piece. That smaller font yields no copy for old men.
         There is no icon for a drop cap, but you can place your own tags. The nomenclature is "dropcap".
         Get out the book on clauses, whichever you keep on your desk. I favor Strunk and White, and the AP Manual of Style helps Thriller/Suspense types like me to "sound" more journalistic.
         Welcome to the site, Curious89. Keep on writing!

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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (3.0)
This piece reads as though it arises from personal experience. That is a good start, but there is a line between a basis of personal experience and autobiography. Fiction needs creativity. I will come back to that.
         Your spelling is basically good. So is your punctuation. But I found a lot of smaller faults. I don't do line edits, and this piece needs one. I know, it's a frustrating process. It seems as though every reading pops a new therblig. I find typos in work I posted on Day One. But it's basic. This piece is not ready to post.
         The site offers powerful tools for formatting your text. The line-spacing icon is marked with a double-ended vertical arrow. Click on the icon and select a number. I like "1.4". Then fit your text between the tags.
         Also preferred for fiction is the convention of indenting from the second paragraph onward. I use the same format for this review.
         To matters of substance.
         This is mostly a "show", more than "tell", piece. You wanted to get your thoughts together and get them down on paper. That's fine, especially because the story is there. You have your work cut out and now can go on to tailor it to fit.
         That yet leaves much to be done. You blew past a lot of commas. The word "perceive" is the right way of intent but is just the wrong word for the sentence. You have a lot of showing to expand from your telling. This is the task on your creativity.
         The word is "style". Several of the writers on this site, I as well, have placed works in their portfolios that may resonate with you more closely than more academic works. We're mostly amateurs. Maybe we are a little less preachy.
         Keep on writing! Welcome to the site!


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