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94 Public Reviews Given
Public Reviews
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1
1
Review by Sara King
Rated: E | (4.0)
Wow, neat! I'm a sucker for phoenix :) Didn't see the ending coming. Loved the word usage. Gave the feel of poetry, which added to the flavor of myth. :)
2
2
Review of MY DOG SPUNKY  
Review by Sara King
Rated: 13+ | (5.0)
I enjoyed this. Brought back all of my childhood longings for pets. As a memorial piece, I don't really feel like it's up for critique, not that I would have much to say even if it were. It was well-written and caught my ADD reader's attention pretty thoroughly with some vivid images. Well done, and keep writing! :)
3
3
Review by Sara King
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
But damn, this was good!

It didn't get five stars because the first few paragraphs didn't draw me in as quickly as it could have, and it almost had a cartoonish feel that distanced me from the action, leading me to believe this was a spoof, rather than something serious. Once the protag's reactions to the girl dying began to pile on with precise, compelling accuracy, however, I realized I was dealing with a rather gifted character author.

I really enjoyed his thought processes, here. They showed me a very believable window into the regimented life of an individual with OCD, while at the same time quickly and believably explaining how they got that way (the tricky part.)

Now for a question on where it goes from here: One of the things that the first scene must do is establish a question in the reader's minds, a problem that they want to see resolved. While this was a wonderful character build that got me very interested in the protagonist, I didn't see the plot conflict, or problem, in the story, unless the novel is intended to be entirely a treatise on his OCD character and how he overcomes it. The other possible conflict I could see building and resolving might be his seemingly strange (and horrifying) bad luck getting much worse and having a supernatural cause, and how he defeats that. And, while it's hard for me to judge wordcount on this page, I'd say it's somewhere between 1.5 and 2k words. That leaves you about 78k words to fill in, minimum, to make a novel. Mine usually run about 115k+ (to the consternation of my agent). Most people don't realize just how much content that encompasses. I, personally, could not make this character work for 115k words without completely wrecking his world, killing a few relatives, having some creepy supernatural It follow him around, taunting him as it kills his friends and family, and somehow giving him the means to hunt it down, destroy it, and come crawling out the other side, preferably with the ability to drink coffee without the worry that he's going to stop his heart with caffeine poisoning. :D

Then again, that's probably the action-sci-fi writer talking, there. :) A literary novelist could probably take this theme and hold it throughout, focusing entirely on his OCD and how it affects his life, and make it sing.

Thanks for sharing! You're very gifted with character. And that's coming from a character author who's been told she's a gifted character author by several agents, editors, and her professors/classmates at Odyssey. Heck, while I was reading, I actually thought you could apply using this piece and have a good chance of making the cut. Keep up the great work! I was impressed.

(And a word of advice: Character authors are generally weak on setting, which, if you're good enough, you can get the reader to overlook. However, I did notice a lot of 'floating around,' not really feeling grounded in the place, just rooted in the experience. Try to start adding a bit more detail about the world around your protag and I think you'll be putting yourself on the track to some serious sales.)

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
Proud Graduate of Odyssey '08
4
4
Review by Sara King
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Hi Truewing!

As requested, here's what I think:

First off, you've got a very good grasp on creating your world. It felt rich and full and I was impressed with your description and setting. In this case, the story was in the details, which allowed me to overlook the grammatical errors and typos in favor of continuing with the story.

There was a definite mystery to the girl in the woods, driven home again and again by the odd way she walked. This kept triggering "Zombie" alarms in my head, which may just be a testament to the fact I play too many zombie first-person shooters. Still, it raised the fine hairs on my neck and I wanted to know who she was and where she came from.

Sometimes, though, too many weird things happening at once gives your reader no anchor with which to judge reality, which lessens the creepy factor. I think that by adding the negative image of the protag so soon after bringing in the girl and not explaining who she was or where she came from took away a large part of the eerie feel of the whole scene for me because I lost my anchor with reality. It can be likened to overstimulation of a certain type...basically the recipient receives so much fear/creepy/pain stimulation that he/she becomes numb to stimulation of that sort, so I lost my ability to be creeped out. I would suggest that you stick with the girl for a chapter or two, then slowly introduce the negative protag once the girl has lost her creepiness and has been explained properly.

And last, opening with a dream sequence and then shifting abruptly to reality is generally frowned upon because over the last 20 years it's become cliche and now feels like a let-down for the reader, who was looking for an Honest-To-God explanation to the strange things that were happening, whereas suddenly chalking it all up to a dream seems like (often unfairly) a bait-and-switch on the writer's part.

Some very promising stuff here. I would definitely suggest you keep writing. In this business, practice makes better. You've got a great start! :)

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
Proud Graduate of Odyssey '08
5
5
Review of Bluebird's Comb  
Review by Sara King
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Hi Melgie,

I'm reviewing this story as a judge for the Gender Bender Contest.

I liked what you managed to accomplish with the word minimum, and the protagonist genuinely felt male, though the first half of the story confused me. For instance, I had no idea what it was that the protagonist was trying to learn to do in the first scene, because it was never directly stated. It was hard for me to get rooted in what was going on in the first 500 words, with very few solid images to anchor me in the story, and for that reason, had this been a story in a magazine, I would not have continued reading.

In parts, this story had a profusion of dialogue that lent to a "Talking Heads" feel, which further made it difficult for me to get involved in the story. I didn't get a good sense of scene or detail throughout the story, as most of the images felt generic or lacking specific elements.

I did like the outrage and anger at the end of the story, after experiencing the sister's anger directed at the protagonist, and then her subsequent betrayal. The ending was a nice twist, one I didn't see coming, and one that evoked the proper emotions for that situation.

Thank you for entering the Gender Bender Contest, and good luck!

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
6
6
Review by Sara King
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi Germloucks! (Ooops, just remembered I hadn't made this review public, so I'm changing it.)

It's hard for me to turn down a request for a review, so here's what I thought:

I noticed some very good writing, here. You've got the mechanics of it down pat. The story flowed. I had very little trouble reading through it, despite (admittedly) not being very interested in doing a review this early in the a.m. That's saying a lot in itself--if you can hold my attention, you can pretty much hold anyone's attention, because I'm the Reader From Hell in more ways than one. Aside from sheer readibility, the description of the setting, I think, was probably your most powerful element. It came alive around me as the story developed, making me feel the ominous (and beautiful!)surroundings as if I were there.

Now, because I'm an editor and I do a lot of professional critiquing with other pro writers and I know the markets pretty well, I'm going to tell you something you're probably not going to want to hear: Publishers aren't buying stories with elves, dwarves, and wizards. This is a hard-and-fast rule. Too many people have read Lord of the Rings and used that as a template to write their own novels, which, however different they are from LotR, are still as blatantly derivative of that great work as today's forensics detective stories are derivative of CSI and Dr. Scarpetta in Patricia Connelly's novel series. Like forensic detective stories, editors will put a submission down the moment someone is introduced as a wizened wizard, an elegant elf, or a taciturn dwarf, because it was the Lord of the Rings novels that made those stereotypes what they are today. Before that, an elf was a short little green dude who dwelt in mushroom patches, not a tall, slender, immortal with silvery-blonde hair and excellent bowmanry skills.

So, basically, it's not good to borrow critters from other people. If everything in your story is unique to your story, you'll have a much better chance of getting it published by a respectable company.

Soooo, here's my suggestion to you, before you go much further: Write something new. Make up new monsters, new races of characters with new cultures, new appearances, and new histories. Don't go overboard, like calling a woman a "gruwa" and a dog a "burat," but definitely try to inject some uniqueness into your work. I think that would really take your writing to the next level.


And hey, welcome to Writing.com! :)

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
7
7
Review by Sara King
Rated: E | (5.0)
This is a re-rating with a previous review given of "5". Old Warrior and I were trying to figure something out. Thanks.
8
8
Review by Sara King
Rated: E | (5.0)
Hey there Oldwarrior,

I don't normally do critiques unless someone finangles me into doing one, but this piece of yours caught my eye. I thought your explanation of everything was spot-on. I've always had this weird thing with spiders (for instance, when I sit down and write, there will almost always be one or two spiders hanging out on the walls nearby by the time I stop). And as a toddler, I was enthralled with a spider building its web, so much so that I forced my grandma to take me out to the shack to watch it a dozen times a day for over a week. I also dream about the little guys, and not in horror movie ways, either. They'll just show up here and there, sometimes gorgeous colors or patterns, along with beautiful webs (reading your post reminded me of an intricately beautiful and unique web I witnessed last night, laid out like a snowflake). Heck, you can just take a look at my author icon (which I haven't changed since I got here) and get a hint of what I'm talking about.

Annnyway... This actually makes me interested in reading more. What is the NAI class? And where were you getting this info? Personal experience? I'm not sure spiders are my totem (or if I even have a totem) but even the people around me have a difficult time denying there's some sort of connection there.

Good essay! Thanks for the info :)

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
9
9
Review of The Auction  
Review by Sara King
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
Hi there Nate!

Just to preface, my ratings aren't inflated, so don't panic. A 3.0, on my scale, is pretty good.

The critique: I would suggest you avoid the exclamation marks in exposition--I know several very good editors that will stop reading a manuscript flat-out if they find a single exclamation point that isn't enclosed in dialogue. Take a good look at stereotypical story tropes (in this case the devil buying/tricking people into selling their souls) and if you do use the age-old ideas, try to make sure that your story uses the tropes in a way that is unique somehow. (Maybe the devil is a cute little girl dressed up in a pretty Sunday School outfit with lace and butterflies in her hair who offers in a happy singsong voice to buy everything in the store for a lollypop, to be delivered to her in 70 years...and the store owner ruffles her cute blond hair and agrees, then the reader gets only a faint hint of something awful at the end, when maybe the store owner thinks he sees the leg of a goat under her dress as the rush of the outside air through the door flutters her skirt as she departs...) The ending was pretty easy for me to guess the moment the man said he wanted to buy the store and everything in it, but then again, I'm a slush editor and I read a lot of stories, so I might have a bit of a leg up on other readers.

That said, I've always found it difficult to write a short-short (a story under 1500 words), but you did a good job of it. You put out the problem, created the horror, and executed an ending within what...1000 words? That's impressive. I would suggest you revise this and enter it in the Writer's Digest Short-Short competition. Even if it doesn't win, the sheer act of submitting a manuscript will put you in the right mindset towards becoming a professional author. (The Writer's Digest Short Short competition ends Dec. 1st.)

Good luck!

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
Proud Graduate of Odyssey '08
10
10
Review of Little Me Inside  
Review by Sara King
Rated: E | (4.5)
I usually don't like poetry, but I found this one caught and held my attention.

My favorite lines:

"Learning to love I learned how to lose,
my lover has taught me the meaning of used."

I'm definitely not one to comment on rhyme or meter, but I think you're doing pretty good in that respect. There were only a couple places I stumbled. The one I remember is:

"You see stranger,"

Overall, a deeply emotional poem that makes me feel an indescribible sense of empathy and loss. Hehehe, even if that wasn't your intent, poetry doesn't usually 'work' on me, so you did great :)

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
11
11
Review by Sara King
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi Kevin,

I'm sorry it took so long to get to this. Scatterbrained author syndrome mixed with two Thanksgivings, a midterm, and an incontinent dog, I suppose. Anyway, the point is I finally got to it, and wow... If you're really as new at this as you say you are, you've got a hell of a bright future.
Okay, my notes:

A really great start! You can certainly tell you like hard sci-fi. Right off the bat, I have a suggestion for you: Start submitting your work to Interzone and Analog. Those are the two sci-fi magazines out there that really eat hard sci-fi up. Interzone, especially. The editors there are on a mundane sci-fi kick right now, and WHAT YEAR IS IT falls right into the category they're looking for.

I can tell you're educated from your writing. VERY well so. In fact, you have a tendency that almost all very well educated scientists/engineers/physicists have when they write: They sacrifice the character for the setting. This stood out the most with the perfect Christmas train scene, where the protagonist proposes. Things were...well...too perfect. They were very cookie-cutter, leaving both characters feeling hollow. Like I said, this really is a trait that a lot of science and math-minded people have when they first start writing.

Ways you could have made the characters more empathetic? Easy. Have the protag botch the marriage proposal. Have him fumble and stutter, have the train explode, the ring fly up into the tree, the rug catch on fire...and have her accept anyway. That makes both characters sympathetic at the same time--him for being a clod and her for loving him anyway.

Another tendency that scientist types have (I'm not bashing scientist types, btw. I thought your worldbuilding was FANTASTIC, which has always been my worst quality) is that their characters think too much. Instead of having an "Oh, s***" moment when things all suddenly fall into place for them, they've already pieced the entire situation together by the time they've sniffed the atmosphere and decided it's 30% carbon dioxide, which suggests that someone has been breathing it for a few millennia despite the ship's sensors saying there's no life on the planet, which means someone is hiding underground and therefore is probably afraid of them... See what I mean? Analytical reasoning can be a very bad thing when you're telling a story, at least when it's going on in the character's head. When the character deduces everything logically, you're not giving the reader a chance to EXPERIENCE the fleeting moments where the characters sees someone running in the shadows, realizes there's too much carbon dioxide to be natural, and then has a holy s*** moment where, Gee, I'm six miles from my ship and I'm not alone out here, am I?

Those holy s*** moments are the gems of writing fiction. If you weaken them by giving too big of hints aforehand or by having your character deduce exactly what is going on and skipping the holy s*** entirely, then you're skipping out on a really powerful moment in your story.

An example of this would be when you write this:

"What doesn’t make sense is, I was scheduled for a five-day freeze and it would take years to grow fingernails long enough to curl under like rams horns."

What you've done here is you've already pieced it together for the reader. However, I can assure you with certainty that the reader had already picked up on that long before you said it. That's another thing you want to avoid--sounding like you're spelling things out for the reader. Sometimes (not with your work, but it's a danger) it can sound condescending if you tell your reader what to think.

So to use the same example, as an editor, this is what I'd change:

"I was scheduled for a five-day freeze. Why are my fingernails long enough to curl under like rams horns?"

And then let the reader piece it together.

OK, moving on: I LOVED your curled fingernails making the guy think he was seeing spiders. That was a PERFECT way of showing, not telling. You were showing that he was hallucinating by having him have a panic attack and slap at spiders, not TELLING us that he must be hallucinating because spiders didn't really grow that big. Great job here! What I'd suggest is try to apply that more liberally to the rest of your story. Have things happen that he doesn't understand, and then when he figures it out, doesn't go back and explain because the reader's already figured it out with him.

Technology: DAMN this was good. I loved (loved, LOVED) the way you detailed cryogenics. I seriously think that if you cleaned up your style a bit, you could make some sales to some really top-notch magazines. Your worldbuilding was kickass. Kudos on that.

Plot: This is a toughie. Quite frankly, the editor in me would tell you to cut the flashback entirely and focus on the protagonist accomplishing a goal before ending the story. This is the essence of a short story. This was, in my opinion, not a short story, but instead the first chapter of a novel.

A short story is like a novel, but a HELL of a lot harder to write. It's gotta have a beginning, a middle, and an end. That means a character has to be faced with a problem right off the bat (in this case, waking up an old man) that he finds a reasonable solution to BY HIS OWN MEANS (a lot of people don't like that one, for some reason...the hand of God is too tempting somehow), thereby accomplishing an overall goal.

I saw your overall goal, definitely. However, I didn't see a solution. If you're going to try to make a sale to one of the big names, you're going to have to work hard on that part.

Extra characters: There's a couple unofficial rules for short stories I like to follow... If it's a short story, it's got one main character. If it's got other characters, they die off. No reason to have more than one POV in a short story. You simply don't have the space. Every single word counts, and if you can tell the same story through one set of eyes instead of two, do so.

HOWEVER, as a novel, the added characters are a must. The protag's gotta have someone to interact with, someone to mourn, someone to betray him, someone to piss him off. In essence, I really liked the characters you introduced (the woman, especially. You had me grinning when you introduced her as a Captain...can we say conflict?) but I think you need to look at them with a critical eye and decide just how much of the story you're going to dedicate to the group and how much of it you're going to dedicate to the plot. If you're gonna keep it short, the plot is all-important. Remember (you aren't gonna believe me until you're staring at your first stack of rejections...it was the same with me), every word counts.

Okay, whew. Let me end with the fact that I thought this was superb to be your first piece. You've got a long way to go, but you're already ahead of the game in a lot of ways. And remember about Interzone and Analog. Someday, I think you're gonna find a home in one of them.

And one more thing: I AM an editor. I do this for a living. I see dozens of stories a week. Rarely do I see such a wonderfully detailed technological world, so I really am serious when I say you're on your way.

Good luck, and be sure to check out those magazines! (If I had to pick one that best matched your style, I'd say start with Interzone first. They're much more blunt about their rejections, but their content is a lot closer to what you're writing. Just don't let them hurt your feelings. When I was first starting, I almost quit because one of their rejections came back saying my story was boring. Yee-haw, right?)

Write On,

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
12
12
Review of Night Terror  
Review by Sara King
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi Belle!

Of course I'll review your first story. Here's what I thought:

For a person's first short story, this was damn good. There were a lot of beginner traits to the story, but with practice you'll come to recognize and work around them. Here's what I'm talking about:

You began slowly. The most important sentence in your entire story is the first one. It's supposed to grab the reader's attention and hold it until the very last word. Something everyday like somebody laying on a couch eating cheetos isn't going to make a reader do a double-take and then spur them on to finish your story. It's unfortunate, but today there are SO many writers out there and SO many stories (everyone who has access to a computer can write pretty competently nowadays...just wander around Writing.com for awhile and you'll see what I mean) that you've really gotta hook the reader in the first paragraph--and ideally the first sentence--or they're gonna move on to the next story. This is an A.D.D. world...if you don't get our attention right off the bat, we're not gonna stick with you.

Here's a few ideas to spice up your first sentence:

Maybe you could insert something about a dead relative who liked cheetos. Or how someone choked on a cheeto and died in the same apartment building just two doors down...as the protagonist happily munches another cheeto. Or how she thought she heard a scream, but couldn't tell because she was chewing cheetos. Or the lights fizzled more than usual, so much so that the bowl of cheetos on her chest looked blood-red, like wormy entrails.

Episodic Storytelling: Though on a very small scale (She sat up, she put the cheetos on the table, she checked her watch, she picked up the cheetos, she carried them to the kitchen...), the story has several places where it's written as a series of events. What I think is most important in a story is not the events themselves, but how they make the protagonist (and vicariously, the reader) feel. Here's an example of what I mean with the cheetos thing:

Instead of a play-by-play, is there any way to give the character depth by getting us into her mind? How does eating the cheetos affect her psyche? Does she suddenly realize she's scarfed a whole bag and thrust the bowl aside in disgust? Does she loathe her self-image? Does she eat because she's depressed? Did her husband just leave with the kids after a brutal divorce? Does she have a gun on the table beside the cheetos she glances at between Stephen King books? Is she depressed and eats because she has nothing else to do but throw herself out her 14th-floor window?

OR, you could take it in a whole different way. Does she eat the cheetos because she's happy? Maybe she's celebrating something, and she only treats herself to cheetos when something very special happens. Maybe her sister just announced she was pregnant. Maybe she's got a very strict diet and she only eats a small handful of cheetos on the weekdays as a treat, and her doctor even warned against eating that many for severe health reasons but she couldn't help herself. Maybe they're her favorite food. Maybe that's ALL she eats. Maybe when she tosses the empty bag aside, it lands in amongst a hundred others just like it that are papering her floor.

Any one of these things can give a window into her psyche. The events themselves aren't important...it's how they affect the protagonist.

But really, this was good. I was impressed with your fast pace and eerie ending. I thought it was delightfully unexpected the way you switched (in my mind) the bad guy from being Porter (who just happened to know what she did when...as if he stalked her) to the monster. The only suggestion I have about Porter is to try and make us feel for him a little bit more before you kill him. Can you show he's worried about her? Can you give him a human side? What can you do to make his loss more painful for the protagonist?

But this was very good. If this was really your first short story and you're just 18, you have nothing to worry about. Write On!

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
13
13
Review of Forbidden Ansidia  
for entry "Chapters I, II, III
Review by Sara King
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Hi Mica!

I took a look at your port and you said you're looking for reviews, so here goes:

I was most interested in your latest novel attempt, considering how beautifully you write poetry. I found the idea behind this story intriguing and I'm curious to see where you'll take it. Your writing is easy to read and fluid, with nothing out of place stylistically or grammatically. I especially liked the worldbuilding you've done for your myths and culture. I did find a couple minor things hard to believe...(the farmer and his wife finding the cold body and deciding that nourishing her would restart her heart, the prince happening to be in the area and finding the girl) but overall it piqued my interest.

My suggestions so far are completely structural. Overall, I feel like things seem too easy for the protagonist from the very beginning. I wonder why the farmer and his wife think they can revive this girl who is seemingly a corpse and why they take up her cause (try to help her) instead of screaming in terror and burning her cold (yet alive) body as a witch (or something of the sort.) The best stories (in my opinion) are when you throw as much troubles at the protagonist as you can and somehow make them overcome it. Thus, maybe she could wake as they're dousing her with oil and lighting a match...something to throw her into the hotseat from the very beginning.

Aside from that, my biggest concern for your story at this point is that this prince will become your protagonist's ally. Not only would that feel contrived, considering the way they met, but it would also cut down on any future tension and action and hurdles you could throw into the story for your protagonist to overcome and to increase the thrill. Reading this, I found myself REALLY hoping that this prince is the antagonist of the story. Not just any antagonist, either, but a likeable one...one with understandable goals. If the prince helps this girl, even a little bit, then it's gonna make things a heck of a lot easier for your protagonist than they should be. If I had my way, the prince would try to kill the girl (or something equally as horrible--skin her alive, carve out her magic, etc...) in the very next chapter.

I don't know for sure who your protagonist is. You've given POVs from several different characters so far, though the story seems to be revolving around the girl. If she's going to be your protagonist, I think the best idea for you is to consider beginning it the moment she wakes up disoriented from her sleep, cutting the other POVs completely, or clearly delineating who the reader should be rooting for from the very first page.

From this first segment, I didn't really get a feel of what the conflict of the story is. I don't know the goals of the characters, or your goals for the story, or what is happening to give cause for concern. What's at stake here? Will the portals increase in number until the world implodes if the Prince doesn't sacrifice this girl to the Magisters on an altar in the Castle? Assuming the prince is the antag, will the girl be imprisoned for the rest of her life or killed if she doesn't find a way to get free?

Sympathetic characters: I definitely think you need to work on your protag to make her (or him) more likeable. I think you need to establish a connection between the reader and the protagonist within the very first paragraph of the protagonist's first appearance. It's an extremely difficult thing to do, but once you've made the connection and got the reader's attention, once you've given them a reason to root for the protagonist, then they're going to keep reading.

Some ideas to make your protagonist more likeable:

A human reaction from the girl once she first wakes up. (Fear is usually a good one, followed by indignance, or maybe a take-no-s*** attitude. Or possibly completely unaware of the prince's status and makes a bumbling fool out of herself. There's millions of combinations. Humility is always a great plus towards making a character sympathetic. Or maybe anger, along with a sharp, sarcastic wit to back it up where physically she can't save herself...yet.) I saw that you tried to give this human element by her internal thought of "What a buffoon," but I think it was too little, too late. If this is your protagonist, right off the bat you've gotta establish that she's a strong character, one that's gonna hold our attention and keep us on our toes throughout the book.

Likeable actions your protagonist could perform:

There's the obvious stuff, like baby-rescuing or kicking a bully's ass, but then there's other heroic actions that are no less heroic, but much more realistic, and in that realism they are more powerful. Like standing up to a boss to right an injustice and getting fired for it. Or jumping into a fight for what you believe...and then getting your butt whipped. I think you've gotta include something to make your chars sympathetic, because I finished the first three chapters not really having a feel for either one's personality, goals, or why I should want to read about them. I think that's the key: Give the reader a reason to want to read about your characters. Basically, you've gotta find a way to give the reader a way to relate to this fantasy character spawned from your mind...give the character the fascinating strengths and weaknesses of a real human being.

To sum it up: Decide who's your antagonist and who's your protagonist. Make your protagonist more sympathetic (add human and heroic qualities). Decide what your protagonist's goal will be throughout the story--whatever it is that the protag MUST accomplish at the end--and give a hint of it in the beginning. Decide what the antag's goal will be and give a hint of that. Add some hurdles for your protagonist to overcome and hint at those. Pile on the problems. If there's two paths you can take as a writer, and one will be harder on your protagonist, write that path. Outline the conflict in the very beginning. An element of tension should draw the reader in from the very first paragraph. (The portals and the corpsified girl did that, in a way, but they didn't feel unique enough to me to really pull me into the story.)

You write beautifully and with an elegant style, and after reading your poem I was stunned you were still in High School. Like with the poem, I think you've just gotta work on the structure of a story. I was very impressed with your worldbuilding, as worldbuilding is the most difficult thing for me. The Magisters were probably the most interesting aspects of this story, and have me wondering just what they are (Titans? Mages? Aliens?). I love the way you didn't explain them completely and left the element of mystery intact. Great job!

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
14
14
Review of Balthial  
Review by Sara King
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Wow, I picked this poem out from the Read a Newbie lineup because I found the contradiction in the description intriguing. I'm so glad I did! Though it didn't really have a rhyme or meter that I could put my finger on, it had some extremely sophisticated, beautiful images. That alone makes it worth reading.

I had a few ideas for changes, if you're interested:

I love the images you've created, but I think you need to come up with either a rhyme or a meter scheme (or both!!) in order to make it an easier read. As it is, you vary the number of lines in a stanza, have no pattern to the number of syllables or stresses on individual words, and no rhyming words to create an easy flow in the reader's mind. My mind kept stumbling over itself as I read and I desperately was looking for some sort of pattern. I think that would really raise this piece from just 'good' to 'great.'

The images were superb. I LOVED the "They have twisted ropes into shapes of infinity." Heck, just about every line holds a jewel. Very, very cool. You go beyond the basic images into the metaphors and not-so-obvious-but-much-more-delectable-imagery that makes a piece really worth consuming a second, third, and fourth time. (I'm on #2 now...)

I did think there were a few things that were out of place considering the cerebral diction you were using in this poem. This line was one of them: “She is a witch!” To me, this was obvious from your beautiful description of the scene beforehand, and if you have to include an exclamation from the crowd, I think if you made it more intuitive and less blatant it would fit the pattern of the rest of the piece.

"Lynch mobs" also felt out of place. Perhaps this is modern terminology? Maybe there's a better way to say it.

Anyway, awesome work. The images were so beautifully intellectual I'm going to take a look at the other pieces you've written, if any. I have a feeling you'd be very good at prose.

Write on!

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
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Review of The Black Gaze  
Review by Sara King
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Hi Nick!

You mentioned The Black Gaze and I was happy to take a look. Here's what I thought:

The writing itself is good...I think it's the premise that really holds this story back. People "losing time" is a well-explored horror technique (how else do you get good people to do horrible things?) and I don't think it carries the story.

In order to make this one really shine, I think you've gotta come up with something original, maybe devise some odd, supernatural element that you can introduce in the first paragraph, something that will grab a reader's attention and then not let go.

The ending was a bit confusing. Who was the man? Why was he going to kill Dave? Why didn't Dave try to stop it? What is a police torch? Why did he claw at the felt like an animal?

I think this was the touch of originality that you need, but I didn't feel as if you did a good enough job of explaining it. How did Dave know the man was possessed like him? DID he know? Has he seen it before, maybe when he looked in the mirror? Has he given this possession a name? Did Dave think he was the only one? Why does he accept his impending doom so easily? Does the possessed one have supernatural strength and Dave knows there is no sense in resisting?

Frankly if I were you, I'd ditch this story and start something else. The concept has been done so many times that even the very best writing on your part would still make it hard to get into the story. Seeing your style, I think you've definitely got the potential for good stories, but maybe this one in particular should be written off as a learning experience. God knows I've got a closet full of these things. (Try about 200??)

Anyway, just my opinion, and I've found I'm a lot more willing to ditch my stories and start something else than a lot of authors, who will hammer that baby into something workable before moving on. Whichever type of author you are (a ditcher or a hammerer), good luck!

Thanks for reading
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!

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
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Review by Sara King
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Hi Richard (is that a real name or a penname?)

I thought your critique of
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brought up some great points and had a professional voice, so I decided to check you out. I'm glad I did! Right off, I could tell you're good at what you do.

Here's a couple of notes I made as I read:

"as the horrible “it” had said" -- Careful about reminding us of Stephen King's It. That's the first thing I thought of, considering the setting.

"He always considered himself lucky to be with her. His only fear was that she may realize just how beautiful she actually was and leave him for someone better. " -- Watch out for head-hopping. Keep to one POV.

"A glorious September afternoon. Leaves still hung green despite the warm reds and oranges of fall fighting to make themselves known. " -- I'm finding I'm now skimming the flashbacks. The first ones were good, because they contained action, but now I just want you to go on with the story.

Another POV shift: "Mike had the time of his life, but his shoulder was feeling bruised from the powerful recoil..."

I find it a little hard to believe she'd crawl into a cocktail dress because she was naked. I'm not even sure that would be a very big concern to her at that point. I think, in the same position, I'd be more worried about making a noise and getting caught.

Feel the guns in the safe behind her are a little too convenient.

And here's what I thought when I finished:

FANTASTIC! You TOTALLY caught me by surprise with this one. I was blown away. I got a little wary as soon as you started getting into the flashbacks, as flashbacks are usually a pretty tricky proposition, but I was surprised at how well they flowed. The only ones I'd suggest cutting are the ones at the firing range. At that point, I wanted you to get on with the story and felt you were cheating me out of seeing more of the monster. I think you could accomplish the same with a short blurb about a few days of practice with the guns before she starts blowing the thing away.

Okay, most of what I've got to say about this story is just thunderstruck praise, so here we go:

Your style was fantastic. Loved reading this. And you got me into the protagonist's head. That is SO rare! I was ACTUALLY WORRIED ABOUT YOUR PROTAG!!!! WOOHOO!! That's 98% of the battle, right there. The arrow on your monster's head was awesome. I read that several times, thinking, what the hell?? But that was the point. GREAT! It helped to distinguish your monster from the common slasher types and left a sense of mystery.

Your descriptions are. Just. Beautiful. All the little details you packed in there...I remember thinking as I read it, "Has this guy been attacked by a monster in a closet before? He sure as hell is making it feel like he's talking from experience." It was so real. Great job.

Okay, I'm not sure if you've tried to submit this to a magazine or publisher yet, but I definitely think you've got a chance. You've got a professional writing voice. If you HAVE submitted it and didn't manage to sell, here's why I think they rejected:

It starts out so close to a cliched monster-in-the-closet story that I immediately (I'm sorry!!) rolled my eyes and almost stopped reading. Then I got into your style and realized you're pretty damn good, at least at stringing words together, so I kept going. It was the first flashback that hooked me. I got into your protag's mind and was like, holy crap, cool. (LOVED the lovers' exchange, btw.)

The problem is that a professional editor (at least in my opinion) wouldn't read that far before they reach for a rejection slip, since it starts out sounding like a serious cliche. I think you need something that stands out in the very beginning, something that you can insert in the first paragraph that sets it aside and lets everybody who reads it know that, wow, this isn't Kansas anymore.

Anyway, I think you're a great writer. You had a bunch of typos and some grammar mistakes in there, but I think you've got the storytelling gene. I'd love to trade critiques with you of more serious work off Writing.com, if you're interested.

Write ON!!

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
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Review by Sara King
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Okay, Karl, here's your crush-the-bone critique! Enjoy! (Yeah, right.)

I'm taking notes as I read...

If the first paragraph includes lyrics to a real song, you'd have to get all sorts of permissions to use it in your book. Gotta worry about copyright infringements and all that.

Thought Mortis was an unusual name...is the guy gonna die?

I wanted a better picture of the woman within the first few paragraphs. What's she look like? She's just a fine haze to me.

Love this line: "Plexi-domed islands where friends gaggled, lovers played and an extortionist prepared to work." Think the 'prepared to work' was a little awkward, but I really like the contrast there. Raises a definite question. I'm wondering if you can't drop the chanting woman completely and start with this line being the end of the first paragraph. Would draw us into the story quicker, I think.

If the guy can read minds, he would've known the woman wasn't trying to curse him...right?

Oooh, nice! "Tyrone was one of Ultra-Boxing's rising stars. The sport had no restrictions on gene or hormone enhancements, making it's athletes paragons of human, physical potential. He was a titian amidst a crowd of mortals." I LOVE this image. Nitpicky: I think 'Titan' has one 'I'.

Whoa. When I hit the part about blackmailing the boxer, I was sucked right in. Great job!

I LOVE the Dead Chicago. Where do you come up with this stuff??

Great worldbuilding! "The infrastructure was still intact and occasional electric lights flickered from the windows of an intrepid homesteader." This is the kind of stuff I find really difficult. I'm impressed. I'm damn impressed.

Okay, I just finished reading the first two chapters and I've gotta say this was excellent. I loved the golem idea. I was worried you had made a vampire when he held the boxer up by an arm, since vampires are hard to sell. When it turned out to be a golem, I was relieved and delighted. Great! If you're going to submit it to an editor or agent, though, I'd make it very clear Mortis is not a vampire before they put it down prematurely. Don't mention the golem (that's a great surprise!) but give him some quality that a vampire would definitely not have.

I did notice a LOT of small errors. It smacked of novice writing. Your storytelling talent shines through, though, and I was able to still enjoy the writing despite its many grammatical, technical, and spelling flaws. Still, I'd definitely get someone to go over this baby with a fine-toothed comb before submitting it to anyone. There's editors and agents out there who will put a manuscript down at the first flaw they see. I guess the mentality is basically, "So they don't think I'm worth a good proofread?"

I did think the group powwow was a little corny. The Mr. Bloodletter, especially. You would have garnered more sympathy for the main character if the names the demoness used at the meeting were much more demeaning, like Maggot, or Rat, etc.

I LOVE your method of description. It's beautiful. I'm thinking, though, that evil doesn't have to be so transparent. The best evil characters are the ones that look like you and me and have clear, understandable reasons for what they do. Hannibal Lecter hated rude people. Don't we all? This is the only real problem I see with your story so far. Your evil demoness is too transparent, both in looks and actions. It would be MUCH scarier if she was a normal, every-day woman in the middle of every-day suburbia, having an every-day job and communing with her golems at night. Wouldn't it be really creepy if she gave all her golems the bodies of, say, small children on her nightly visits, then acted as a concerned mother? Or maybe an office scene, where they're all standing around the break room sipping coffee while the demoness talks about slaughtering the masses. Something mundane, but creepy.

I know this might totally throw a wrecking ball into your story, but the best stories are when good and evil aren't so clearly defined. Here's my suggestion so far: Keep the storyline, just change the evil characters' setting, what they look like, and how they act. What would be absolutely awesome is if you could make the reader sympathize with this demoness for what she does. (I wince at even calling her a demoness. Unlike the golem, it brings up so many negative stereotypes because it's been done soooooooo many times before.)

Another thing about your antagonist. If I were you, I'd give her a POV. Try writing a believable scene from her POV that isn't corny or smacks of roll-your-eyes, oh-she's-just-evil sort of thing. Actually put us in her mind and show us why she does what she does and make us sympathize with her. That'll make her defeat all that more sweeter.

Remember, a protagonist is only as good as the antagonist he defeats. What would Superman be without Lex Luther? Or Batman and Joker? Robin hood and the Sherriff of Nottingham? Sherlock Holmes and Mortimer?(This is something that, when I re-write Millennium Potion, I'm going to focus heavily on.)

So yeah. Work on your antagonist. Aside from that, this story is friggin' awesome. I love your worldbuilding and the twists I never saw coming (the one-sided conversation, the vacuum cleaner, the golem). It's really telling that I could overlook all the technical errors and still get enthralled in the story. Great job!

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
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Review of The Spirit Land  
Review by Sara King
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
Neat! Gotta say I saw the ending coming (the hard board plank for his bed tipped me off) but I'm a writer and I was looking for it. Anyway, great job. Especially liked the Animal Time vesus the Indian Time versus the White Man time. I don't think I've ever seen it put that way before. Very cool. The claw choking him was a neat metaphor for the rope around his neck. As I was reading, I craved more history on the wolf and the boy in the real world. Why is the wolf in the spirit world now? Did he die? If so, how?

Don't really have a lot of suggestions or problems to point out. Great writing!

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
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Review by Sara King
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
I saw this in the horror newsletter and saw you're a fellow entrant in the Ordinary Horrors Contest so I thought I'd take a look.

I've glanced at several other "pen" horror stories already today and yours is the first I've finished and made a critique for. I loved your very first sentence. I wouldn't have kept reading if you hadn't grabbed me with this pretty imagery. Good job.

There was a little confusion in the first couple paragraphs about who the POV was and who was dying and who was doing the killing.

I think you need to do something to give your POV character sympathetic qualities before he starts killing. Is there something he does or feels that we can relate to?

This story would be much more fulfilling if we cared about the publicist before the killer killed him. It would build suspense and make us actively want the killer to get his due. Is there some way you can show a sliver of the publicist's personality before he dies? Some likeable characteristic that bonds the reader to him? Otherwise the death is just another death.

I saw some of the images used for shock value and, since I had no bond to the publisher before he was killed, the image of his coagulated flesh quivering on the killer's desk didn't do anything but repulse me. If I'd made a connection to the dead guy first, though, my reaction would have been more along the lines of "I hope that sonofabitch gets his due."

I wanted some sort of history of this author. I think you sold yourself short by keeping the story to 2000 words. I want to know, maybe, why he's made the jump from strangers to (former) friends and colleagues. I want to feel his frustration as an author, the types of pressures he's under, the reasons why he NEEDS to sell that novel he's just completed. Does he have a mortgage past due? Alimony? Kids? An empty bank account? Falling critical acclaim? Falling sales? What kinds of pressures could this guy be under to drive him to murder two people so close to him? I'm assuming he hasn't simply gone through a successive parade of dead publishers and publicists to get his inspiration. That would give him away immediately.

I know it's too late for the contest, but here's what I'd do to your story if I wanted to make it better:

Start much earlier. Begin right before the killer goes to meet with his publisher and the guy tells him he can't publish it. Build tension beforehand by showing the killer's expectations. They could be small, even. Like, "He's gonna tell me they'll take it for a 20,000 advance, so I might have to put some bills on the credit cards until the royalties start coming in." Or "They'll probably only make a limited first printing because XXXX is competing for market share, so I'll have to do a lot of the advertising legwork myself."

He needs to take it for granted they're going to buy his book. Don't even hint that the guy thinks they might not buy the novel. It could be the fifth in a series or something. That makes the blow that much harder when they say they're not going to be able to publish it. Basically, he's just worked 6 months to a year on something that, as the fifth book in a series, is not going to be picked up by another publishing house. He's totally and completely screwed. He can beg. He can plead. And the publisher can do or say something (your "lunatic with a pen" statement would do nicely here) at the last moment that drives him over the edge. Something utterly cold and callous.

What would be even better is if the publicist was there for the first half of the meeting, but got called out in the middle of it. Maybe during that first half, the publicist also said something petty. Then the killer, after making that leap and killing the publisher, would come after the publicist. (I'm trying to work on the reasoning for killing the publicist as well, since it seems a little odd...)

Then we've got a feel for the killer's character and where he's coming from. He's not just a lunatic with a pen, but someone we can empathize with. Those are always the very best characters, even if they're utterly evil.

I think the horror isn't just in the horrifying acts, but in the buildup. I wanna feel for the characters. When I do that, I really get scared.

Anyway, good luck with the contest. This was the first one that I randomly picked up and read all the way through, so I think it's definitely gonna place.

Keep writing!

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
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Review by Sara King
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Hi Coal,

You recently reviewed a work of mine and asked me to return the favor. Sorry it took so long (sheepish grin). Anywho, here's what I saw:

First off, yes, I believe censorship could reach this level, but there's a problem. I don't think the government would allow a fiction writer (Robert Lance) to write if they'd burned Shakespeare and Stephen King. I think there's a serious logical flaw there, one you'll have to figure out to make it work. Why would they allow one (and only one) fiction writer to write? And, if fiction was so craved by the masses, why would only one fiction writer have stepped up to fill that need? If this is still a capitalistic society, which it seems like it is, then there would be tons of people vying to be in Robert Lance's shoes.

Your idea that all the stories had been told didn't quite jive with me. We've been at that point for a thousand years, hell, probably even more.

On the flip side, this paragraph was utterly beautiful: All the myths have turned to legends and legends become truths and the truths stories and the stories lies, the lies tales and the tales back to myths again. The characters have lived and done it all and died and reincarnated in circles so many times the ribbon has run dry.

That was genius right there. The only problem I'm having is that the ribbon will never run dry. That's the wonder of fiction. You can tell the same story a thousand ways and it will never get old, if it's done right. Plus, people die, so each generation you're gonna be able to re-hash stuff covered during the last generation and it's gonna seem fresh and new.

I had trouble believing this paragraph: Some stand in the street and read aloud, shouting phrases beneath the morning moon, holding the new books high overhead in trumph and then to their breasts. "Don't take the children away," they plead, "don't burn them."

One small note: I didn't get a lot of the dialogue. It seemed to include a lot of private jokes or was based on a situation I was not yet enough aware of to understand what was going on. I think it could probably be shortened quite a bit and still have the same effect.

Your writing is wonderful. The metaphors you use, the imagery, timing, tension, and rythm is just spectacular. If it weren't for the suspension of belief, I'd totally have given this a 5.0.

Keep it up!

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
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Review of Luvian Space Rugs  
Review by Sara King
Rated: ASR | (3.0)
Technically, there was nothing at all wrong with this story. It was, in fact, perfect. You've definitely got a good grasp of the mechanics of writing.

I think the next step for you is to start looking at how you can apply them for a more efficient, better read.

I know this story is four years old, so I'm going to assume you're a totally different writer by now and just offer a few suggestions.

Episodic Storytelling:

When you do a play-by-play of every event in a story, it gets tiresome. Example from your work, "The meeting with the Dulturan party goes by in no time," and "The night comes and goes." If you've gotta skim over this stuff to get to the meat, you don't really even need to mention it.

Tension:

From the very first line to the very last, the reader should be hooked. Daily life is usually not a tense, bite-your-nails-and-flip-the-page read (unless maybe you're a superhero, a crime lord, or a pirate [read Johnny Depp]). What I saw in this story was a lot of daily life, a wistful existence. It didn't keep my interest, simply because I didn't feel as if the main character had anything she desperately needed to resolve by the end of the story.

Plot:

Deciding to get married CAN be a plot, but usually it is reserved for when you have two protagonists and each of them are butting heads for the entirety of the story. The resolution would then be both of them making a few concessions, compromising, and getting together as everybody wanted them to.

Here, I got a brief, couple paragraph glimpse of the male character before the abrupt proclamation at the end "I am going to get married." It was stunning, all right, but I don't think it was in the way you wanted. It was more "huh?" than "Oh really? YAY!"

Setting:

This felt like it was cut straight from Star Trek. I think you need to work a little bit on making your own universe. (Worldbuilding.)

A couple ideas I've got to make this better:

1) Show Katriona's misery from the first line. If marriage really is the way to solve it, show that.

2) Show why she's miserable. Give specific examples, like the people suck, the place sucks, the beds suck, the food sucks, the air sucks. Something to give it a more urgent feel.

3) Show, don't tell. I know you've heard this millions of times, but try using dialogue and action rather than exposition. You'll be surprised at how much better it makes your work.

Overall, there's nothing wrong with your writing. You've jumped through the first hurdle, and if you work on it, very soon you'll be writing work that your readers crave. Just examine your style a bit, the WHY of what you write, not the how.

Keep writing!

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com

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Review of In His Own Image  
Review by Sara King
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
SUBMISSION REVIEW FOR THE BRAIN TRUST

Wow. This piece left me utterly depressed, which I think was the point. I think I'm gonna go munch on some chocolate and gummi bears after I finish with this review. Very sad.

The first thing that hit me about this piece was that it was eight huge blocks of exposition, each almost exactly the same size. There was no change in the rythm of the work, which made it hard to stay focused. That, in turn, led me to want to skim. I can tell you I forced myself to go back and re-read, but in a casual reading situation, I'd have to say I would have put it down after the first paragraph.

I feel the first paragraph, especially, needs work. I think the sentence beginning with "If he loses the impact..." definitely needs revising. I re-read it 4 times and still didn't know what you were trying to say with it. Because it was so close to the beginning of the work, that biased me negatively towards the rest of the piece.

You state somewhere near the end of the piece that you aren't looking to complain about your life, but that's nonetheless the impression I got from the work. Perhaps if you write in some of the good things that have happened to you as well as the bad, it will no longer carry those undertones, at least in my mind.

I enjoyed the metaphor of a man living what another man writes. It left me thinking that you feel you are helpless against Fate and will have to face whatever it throws at you, whether you want it or not. A good idea.

I found that the piece seemed to dwell upon Crohn's Disease more than anything else. I think over half of your paragraphs were written on the problems you face with your disease. Perhaps this was why it felt as if the piece were a forum for complaints instead of an objective view of your life thus lived.

At the same time, I really enjoyed some of the imagery you provided with these paragraphs. The stilletto in the stomach, as well as the twisting steel lascerating your insides, are two images I won't be forgetting for a long while.

Overall, I think you should consider breaking up the blocks of text to make it an easier read, as well as consider either adding other, happier portions of your life or editing out some of the writing on Crohn's Disease.

Now for those gummi bears. Not everything has to be happy, and I totally appreciate writers have to fulfil every niche of the emotional spectrum. You're a good writer, to have effected my mood this strongly. Keep up the good work!

Welcome to the Brain Trust!

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com
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Review of Summer Solstice  
Review by Sara King
Rated: E | (3.0)
SUBMISSION REVIEW FOR THE BRAIN TRUST:

I found about half the lines of this poem very interesting, then I was completely lost with the other half. I think I would have been less confused if the lines had distinct beginnings and endings, or tied into the lines around them.

To see what I mean, try saying two of the lines together as one sentence. I'll take the first two:

"Summer slumbers half the years only when winters urge to go..."

It might make more sense if you gave each line its own image. The "summer slumbers" line was one of the ones I could picture in my head. The "only when" line was one of the ones I could not. I'm still not quite sure what this line means. Perhaps you could modify it a bit to make it more independent, like, "Only rousing once winter's grip softens..."

"Light coming from her sister's call." Unsure what this means. You did not mention solstice's sister before this, but then again, maybe I'm not familiar with the mythology behind it. Is her sister winter?

"She lies across her mother's plains." Another line I could understand and see. Due to the wording, my brain automatically wanted to replace 'plains' with 'breast'...did you do that on purpose?

I really liked this line: "The solstice's locks that cascade in torrent." In my mind, you have personified the summer solstice as a woman with long hair and flowing locks. I might be completely off, but I liked this image a lot.

"Into the sea, light for you and I" Another line I'm confused about. I think it's the contrast between the image of the solstice's locks cascading into the sea vs. the image of light for everyone. This might sound dense, but how can light cascade into the sea, and if it does, how does it then become light for the rest of us?

"Captivating all from the cat to the cleric" I understood this one. Cat and cleric are definitely on different ends of the spectrum, but I'm wondering if they're perhaps too far removed from each other? Maybe it would be less jarring if you used two animals or two types of people, instead?

"Even plants whisper 'solstice is here.' Understood this one too. I think the image of the plants whispering could be a lot stronger, though. I didn't really get an image of it. Could the mighty elm tree lean down to the newly-emerging baby daisies and whisper it? What kinds of plants are involved? What kind of whisper is it? Reverential? Awed? Frightened? Hopeful?

Overall, I think the poem needs either a rhyming scheme or more connected lines. I appreciate the fact that you had to match first letters, though. That is always harder to do. Did you use any guidelines other than matching the first letters of each line? Did you watch your syllable count or meter?

Good start. Welcome to The Brain Trust!

Write on!!

-Sara King
http://www.kingfiction.com

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24
24
Review by Sara King
Rated: E | (3.0)
Hi Rachel!
This poem was very short and sweet, but I think I know why it's not getting spectacular reviews. Here's some ideas to try when you're writing poetry:

Imagine the natural cadence of the words in your mind as you're writing it. What I do is I say it out loud and use my fingers to count the syllables I use in each line.

Switching up the number of syllables is great, as long as you can match it somewhere else. My mind seemed to stumble over your lines, which almost felt as if they were written for a passage in a book instead of a piece of poetry.

I think rhyming is an intregal part in making poetry flow smoothly for a reader. Several of your words did rhyme, but I didn't notice a discernable pattern to the rhyming, say, on the last word of every line or on the sixth syllable, etc.

One other thing: Maybe you could use a different word than "vs." It doesn't seem very poetic to me, but that's personal preference.

Poetry is an expression of the soul, and you must ALWAYS follow your gut first. That is the most important thing. Promise me you let some stick-in-the-mud, pushy broad's 'rules' ruin the art for you ;)

-Sara King
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Review by Sara King
Rated: E | (3.5)
You said you might nix the prologue entirely. That might not be necessary--I found the story in it very interesting and sad. It established the role of the coin and I felt a real draw to the little boy who stole his parents' life savings in order to use a few vending machines. I found myself wishing that this story line continued.

As I continued reading, I was much more drawn to the story of the kid spending his parents' life savings than the office worker getting voodoo magic worked on him after meeting a woman at a bar. Here's why:

Neither the woman at the bar, nor the office worker were either very sympathetic to me. I could completely understand where the boy had come from when he stole his parents' savings thinking it was pirate treasure, and I could understand the trouble he got into afterwards and could therefore feel for him.

The man, however, didn't really have anything to make us relate to him. Is his wife cheating on him? If so, why can't you say that right off the bat? Why not introduce him at a high-tension spot, where he realizes he's been duped for years? That would give him a good reason for going to the bar and also make us cheer for him when he turns down the lovely woman at her door. Honorable even when wronged...that's a heroic quality for sure.

Just as I didn't relate to Michael, I didn't relate to the woman. I KIND of got the idea she was evil because she was tempting him, trying to make him do something he didn't want to do. However, if she is that black-and-white, maybe you should consider fleshing her out a little bit more.

I think even antagonists should be sypathetic, in their own, sick, twisted ways. Take a look at your favorite bad guys. What's the best thing about them? You can totally see where they're coming from, and they've got heroic qualities of their own, though they use them differently than your protagonist.

So what does this woman want? Is there some sort of human qualities you could give her? Why is she trying to seduce Michael? Is she trying to marry a wealthy man so she can pay for surgery for her sick child? Is she aware of Michael's wife cheating on him and is trying to make him see the light? Did Michael somehow wrong her in the past, brutally enough to leave permanent emotional scars?

The questions should be asked for Michael. If he's the protagonist, he needs a more definable goal right off the bat. I saw nothing to relate him to the coin, nor did he seem to have anything going on in his life that needed his immediate attention. He seemed to be just...drifting.

So, in the spirit of character development, consider a few of these:

Has Michael been wronged recently? Something that would draw us to him as a person, make us empathize with him?

Does Michael have some sort of project he's working on that we might relate to? A save the earth type of thing?

Does he have a way with kids? Is he nice to old people? Does he give beggars twenty bucks? Do janitors and McDonalds attendants know him by name?

Can he engage in a conflict right off the bat where he can show courage or inner strength? Maybe a mugging? Or perhaps engages a burglar he finds in his home in a fistfight...or offers him coffee and muffins?

What kinds of things can Michael do to make him special? What kinds of things does he do differently than other people? What makes him worthy of being a protagonist?

I liked the premise for your story. I really want to know about the coin, but as soon as I saw it in the woman's hands, I was turned off by it. Is there any way it could start out in Michael's hands and then she steals it from him? The loss would be all that more potent when the reader realizes she's using it to control him...

This was a very nice start. It was an engaging concept and a powerful opening story. Your writing was easy to read and chapter one had excellent pacing. I loved the image of the little boy discovering pirate treasure. It was so easy to empathize with the poor kid...I found myself wishing I could have read a lot more about him. That was very well done!

Write on!!

-Sara King
http:////www.kingfiction.com

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