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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/profile/reviews/seuzz
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17 Public Reviews Given
Public Reviews
1
1
Review of Jonas  
Review by Seuzz
In affiliation with  
Rated: E | (4.5)
I like this story quite a bit. I like that it's a contemporary variation on a classic sort of legend, and I particularly like that it doesn't try to be overly clever about it.

And I'm especially struck by its relatively short length and relative lack of complexity. It's an idea that could be blown up out of proportion to itself, but it comes it at just about the right word count and level of detail. Every time I tried to think of some criticism or suggestion -- a little more vividness, a little more detail, a little more dimension -- I found myself pulling back. No, that would bruise it.

Only one of the idea I had survived, and I'm ambivalent even about it. The ending is of the classical sort, so it's not a violent surprise. But it doesn't quite attach to what came before. It doesn't contribute a meaning to it. I don't mean there should be an explicit moral, only that there isn't much of the sense of one.

The closest it comes to having such a meaning is with the father's line, "You have everything you need, why would you want an elf?" There's something in that which could be developed a tiny bit more. Petal has everything, and in reaching for a little more she loses everything. Or, when Petal gets what she really wants she suddenly doesn't need any of what she has.

As I say, I'm ambivalent about offering the suggestion, as the story reaches port without it; more freight might sink it. I only feel like an extra line someplace, a little more weight placed on the circumstances so that they contrast more ironically with Petal's disappearance, would sharpen it a little more.
2
2
Review by Seuzz
Rated: E | (4.5)
I never know how to review flash fiction pieces. They naturally don't have scope for the kind of thing most stories use to establish themselves, so I always have the nagging feeling that there's some quality they're meant to have that I'm not aware of. It worries me that, whether I like a piece or not, I'm missing a vital point.

That disclaimer aside, I really like "The Red-Headed Crush." It captures the jumpy teenage feeling of having a crush, as well as the (possibly misguided) hopes and (possibly justified) fears associated with them. For instance, I especially like the sentence "Some people considered her a red-head," which is a sensation way of conveying her talent for self-deception without actually stating that she is wrong to believe this. I also like the detail about the scar, which is a much more vivid note than hair or eye color.

I think my only critical comment would be about some of the wording, which is a little awkward in places. "Her left hand twisted" and "Her right hand traced": Why couldn't this be "She twisted a shock of her strawberry blond hair with one hand and traced lazy circles around the name 'Jeremy' with the other." There are a few other places like that. Given the extremely tight form, I'd give each sentence a hard look to make sure it either vividly conveys detail or characterization. But this is a matter of polishing.
3
3
Review by Seuzz
In affiliation with  
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Horror stories are hard to write, and they are even harder to review. So I'm going to open with a caveat that I'll be repeating several times. You shouldn't take this as a critique, but as a data point.

I know of know of no formulas -- or even vague guidelines -- for how a horror story should be structured; never mind trying to generalize about the atmosphere they are supposed to create. So when I confess that "Love You to Heaven and Back" left me dissatisfied, it's not because I have strong opinions on the way such things should be written. The most I can do is try to gesture at what troubles me about it, and the nearest I can come to explaining myself is by pointing to the way the story reveals itself as it goes along.

In terms of atmosphere, it begins with gloom and melancholy, deepens into horror, and ends in despair. I assume this is quite deliberate, and in the abstract I can understand the temptation to structure a story in such a way -- it certainly increases the tension as nastiness piles on nastiness. If this is what you wanted, I can tell you it was successful. But -- and again, this isn't a criticism, only a report by one reader -- it didn't entertain me. I don't mind a nasty ending. Some of the best stories out there come with sticky ends, and I've read some marvelous stories that end even more bleakly than this one. (Like Lawrence Watt-Evans's story "Dead Babies," which is about exactly what you'd think a story with that title would be about.) But this story's unrelieved descent merely left me unhappy.

Possibly this is because the story moves in a straight line, with each awful revelation piled upon an earlier awful revelation. There is no retreat, no relaxation, and there isn't even a hint of mystery. There is no hint, for instance, that there was anything mysterious about the killings until the monster shows up, and there is no hint that there is any secret behind the kind of thing the monsters are until the very final paragraph lands on us. It's like being hit and hit and hit again.

The overall effect is very "purple" -- not in terms of prose, which is for the most part admirably restrained -- but in terms of incident. Atmosphere depends upon contrast, and so stories need to contain contrasting moods in order for the governing emotion to register strongly. Without contrasts, a story will likely come off like it's just screaming at you. If a story is already unpleasant -- because of its incidents -- the screaming will just make it worse.

I do like the idea of "Love You to Heaven and Back" -- the mystery of a murder, the horror of the facts, and the black irony of the final reveal. I don't object to any of these singly, nor even together. Actually, I think one reason I find this story so hard to review is that it contains nothing intrinsically objectionable. Rather, it is objectionable because of what it is missing -- variety and temporary relief from the tension. If I were to be presumptuous, I'd suggest that it would be better if it were longer and introduced episodes to break up the grim atmosphere. Show us the scene and mystery of the murder; withdraw to another locale and tease us with red herrings about the cause; gradually hint at before revealing the occult monster; send tantalize the heroine with a possible way of banishing the thing, and send her on a quest to do just that; then close with the final reveal that withdraws that hope.

But as I said at the top: Take this as only one person's reaction.
4
4
Review by Seuzz
In affiliation with  
Rated: E | (4.0)
I like this story quite a bit. It has the air of a fairy tale.

I only have two suggestions.

The first is that I miss the chance for a description of Iqbal at work painting. The story is about labor -- surely we should the laborer at his craft.

The second is to shorten the beginning -- there is too much of a delay in getting to the action. In fact, I think the story would be best if it opened with the second paragraph, with the information conveyed by the first paragraph woven in. For example:

*** The sun was shining in its full glow when a finely dressed man with well-kempt hair and beard stepped into the crossroads. "Does anyone here know how to paint?" he demanded of the dozen toilers -- artisans, masons, painters, and builders -- who sat there, their tools stacked before them, waiting for potential employers. ***

The description of the day's vibrancy, heat and humidity -- which is all very nice -- could wait until Kamal and Iqbal are on their way, between the line "Let's get going" and "Kamal's house was as good as they come."

There are very strong bones here. I mean only to suggest ways of polishing them.
5
5
Review by Seuzz
In affiliation with  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Disclaimer: I don't understand how flash fiction is supposed to work. Corollary: You should probably ignore everything I say.

I like the progress of this story, and I especially like the way the progress is recapitulated in the rejected shop names.

I have only two small suggestions, both subject to my opening caveat.

First, I'm not certain that the first three sentences contribute anything to the story. It seems to me they could be eliminated without loss. Second, I think the story would be more vivid if the sentences spoke in particulars rather than generalities. E.g., instead of the vague (and cliched) "Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Stan was being groomed to be a leader of industry," give the sentence details to convey the wealth he was born into and the fate he was being groomed for, e.g., "Hand-delivered into the environs of Winchester County by a physician specially retained to stage his debut, Stan played as an infant under the same polished walnut boardroom table he was being groomed to preside over." The sentence "He gave Ronald McDonald a chance" comes closest to using this kind of concrete detail. The more sentences use that kind of vivid touch, I think the stronger it would be.

This probably doesn't seem like much to say, but it would be bad form if a review were longer than the piece it's meant to review.
6
6
Review of Roommates Forever  
Review by Seuzz
In affiliation with 30-Day Bloggers Group  
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
I see this was written for a flash fiction contest with a pretty constrained word count. I agree that it couldn't stand much cutting. The simple fact is that the idea is too large for a 300-word limit.

I don't have much to say about it in its current form. It's an expository skeleton for a story -- an outline with some brief character notes -- but I like the architecture. I like the balance (the "odd couple" relationship) between Floyd and Jake, and I like the twist ending with its implication that they were finally only able to strike an accord in a very bloody way.

So I think it's a good basis for a story, and that if it were unfolded, so that the expository bits were revealed in a series of concrete vignettes, the result could be an entertainingly nasty piece of work.
7
7
Review by Seuzz
In affiliation with  
Rated: ASR | (5.0)
This is very nice. I like it a lot. It is obvious that there is going to be a twist at the end, but it is not predictable, and the last two sentences nail the happy nature of the conclusion with exactly the right degree and kind of obliqueness.

I'll preface my one suggestion with a disclaimer: I understand that this piece was written under a word count, so this is not a criticism of the entry but only an observation about improving the work outside the competition. I don't think the piece should be appreciably longer, but a few more detailed descriptive touches -- of her home, of the coffee shop, of her preparations -- would be nice. The only large change I'd urge is that the nature of the telephone call -- which was explained in the prompt -- be included (though maybe as no more than an aside) early in the story so that we understand the circumstances.

Otherwise this is just really neat and gave me a big smile.

Wonderful sig created by Terryjroo
8
8
Review by Seuzz
In affiliation with  
Rated: E | (4.0)
This is a neat idea for a story. I think it would be better if it used more concrete details, though, and if the ending had a stronger ironic resonance.

I'm calling it an idea for a story because it only sketches in the abstract form of the protagonist's desire and her problem. This is not a matter of "telling" vs. "showing" -- it would be too tedious to "show" Karie's desire and her struggle. But the related details could be more vivid.

She wants "fame" -- but what does "fame" mean to her? To have her name plastered online and in print? To have her picture everywhere? Her opinion sought? A colorful vignette imagining the glorious experience of being famous -- the popping flashes and the gasping crowd as it surges at the scarlet carpet while the Botoxed reporters thrust microphones at Karie's face, say -- would tell us what kind of fame she wants, and why *this* contest will get it for her.

Similarly, it would be nice to get vivid details of what it's like to be distracted and unimaginative while trying to be creative -- if you're anything like me, you know what *that* is like. The hot headache caused by an empty brain; the wrong words scraping against each other and refusing to spark ideas. Also, the joys of procrastination: the blessed ding of a text or email alert; the obsessive emptying and loading of the dishwasher; the plunging of the hand into a box of Pop-Tarts, and the snap decision to go to the grocery store NOW because there are only five left. I think details like these would be nicer than "Nothing done".

Also, and I hate to say it, but: It's kind of a cheat to not reveal Karie's great idea at the end, unless you want to turn the secrecy itself into a joke about the way writers can fool themselves -- she announces she's got the idea, maybe, and promises herself she'll tackle it after school, but once she realizes she's lost she discovers she's forgotten that winning idea. (I've lost so many ideas because I've delayed writing them down.)

The ending: It seems like there is supposed to be some irony there, but I'm not sure what it is, because the horror of delaying so long that her sister gets the call is not itself ironic. Perhaps her sister kept distracting Karie and that's one reason she couldn't come up with an idea? Perhaps her sister has ideas -- multitudes of them -- but doesn't want to be famous?

Finally, even in its current form, I think the existence of the sister should be established earlier so that it doesn't come out of nowhere at the end. Also, unless there is some undercurrent I'm missing, I think the sister's name should not be so similar to Karie's. I had to go back to reread the beginning and ending to confirm that these were different people.

I mean all of these suggestions as dabs of plaster onto an already strong skeleton.

[Edited to include signature and include affiliation]
Wonderful sig created by Terryjroo
9
9
Review by Seuzz
In affiliation with  
Rated: E | (3.0)
I'm not sure how to review this piece, as I'm not certain whether to treat it as a story or as a memoir. These forms make different demands.

As a story it lacks a problem for the protagonist. A romance -- and this piece is billed as a "fall romance" -- no less than any other kind of story needs to put the protagonist in danger. Danger of losing the loved one; danger of getting the wrong loved one; danger of losing something else that's desirable in order to get the loved one. In this story, I do not know what Beth is in danger of losing.

As a memoir -- or as something written perhaps to resemble a memoir -- it also lacks tension. It is written as a series of scenes (Beth wondering where Jason has got to; Beth and Jason going to Wisconsin; Beth and Jason going to Nevada) that don't have much to do with each other and don't shed much light on their characters or what they mean to each other.

The title and subtitle and the final paragraphs are supposed to convey an autumnal glow to the piece. As it is written, this is only mood when it could be theme -- change brings loss but it leaves memories that can return and renew with the seasons -- but there are no incidents that dramatize such a theme.

There are also details that strike odd notes. Beth and Jason have been seeing each other for two years, but they have not yet met each other's parents? This seems like something that needs explanation if it's to be plausible. I am also struck by Beth's emotional reaction to being away from Jason for two days. If they have been together for two years, it seems to me she should not be so shy about calling him up if she wonders where he's got to; conversely, if they are often apart for several days at a time, she should not be so worried about not hearing from him.

There is also a major shift in point of view in Wisconsin, where characters are introduced as "Beth's Dad", "Beth's brother", etc. The rest of the story is in first person; the correct attributions should be "my dad", etc.

The prose style is smooth enough that nothing jogged my attention unduly. The supporting characters are not vivid, and the dialogue is functional, but that may not matter much in a story that is probably meant to focus so strongly on the protagonist's feelings.

[Edited to include sig.]
Wonderful sig created by Terryjroo
10
10
Review by Seuzz
Rated: E | (4.0)
This is a neat idea for a story. I think it would be better if it used more concrete details, though, and if the ending had a stronger ironic resonance.

I'm calling it an idea for a story because it only sketches in the abstract form of the protagonist's desire and her problem. This is not a matter of "telling" vs. "showing" -- it would be too tedious to "show" Karie's desire and her struggle. But the related details could be more vivid.

She wants "fame" -- but what does "fame" mean to her? To have her name plastered online and in print? To have her picture everywhere? Her opinion sought? A colorful vignette imagining the glorious experience of being famous -- the popping flashes and the gasping crowd as it surges at the scarlet carpet while the Botoxed reporters thrust microphones at Karie's face, say -- would tell us what kind of fame she wants, and why *this* contest will get it for her.

Similarly, it would be nice to get vivid details of what it's like to be distracted and unimaginative while trying to be creative -- if you're anything like me, you know what *that* is like. The hot headache caused by an empty brain; the wrong words scraping against each other and refusing to spark ideas. Also, the joys of procrastination: the blessed ding of a text or email alert; the obsessive emptying and loading of the dishwasher; the plunging of the hand into a box of Pop-Tarts, and the snap decision to go to the grocery store NOW because there are only five left. I think details like these would be nicer than "Nothing done".

Also, and I hate to say it, but: It's kind of a cheat to not reveal Karie's great idea at the end, unless you want to turn the secrecy itself into a joke about the way writers can fool themselves -- she announces she's got the idea, maybe, and promises herself she'll tackle it after school, but once she realizes she's lost she discovers she's forgotten that winning idea. (I've lost so many ideas because I've delayed writing them down.)

The ending: It seems like there is supposed to be some irony there, but I'm not sure what it is, because the horror of delaying so long that her sister gets the call is not itself ironic. Perhaps her sister kept distracting Karie and that's one reason she couldn't come up with an idea? Perhaps her sister has ideas -- multitudes of them -- but doesn't want to be famous?

Finally, even in its current form, I think the existence of the sister should be established earlier so that it doesn't come out of nowhere at the end. Also, unless there is some undercurrent I'm missing, I think the sister's name should not be so similar to Karie's. I had to go back to reread the beginning and ending to confirm that these were different people.

I mean all of these suggestions as dabs of plaster onto an already strong skeleton.

[Edited to include signature]

Wonderful sig created by Terryjroo
11
11
Review by Seuzz
In affiliation with  
Rated: E | (4.0)
This is a neat idea for a story. I think it would be better if it used more concrete details, though, and if the ending had a stronger ironic resonance.

I'm calling it an idea for a story because it only sketches in the abstract form of the protagonist's desire and her problem. This is not a matter of "telling" vs. "showing" -- it would be too tedious to "show" Karie's desire and her struggle. But the related details could be more vivid.

She wants "fame" -- but what does "fame" mean to her? To have her name plastered online and in print? To have her picture everywhere? Her opinion sought? A colorful vignette imagining the glorious experience of being famous -- the popping flashes and the gasping crowd as it surges at the scarlet carpet while the Botoxed reporters thrust microphones at Karie's face, say -- would tell us what kind of fame she wants, and why *this* contest will get it for her.

Similarly, it would be nice to get vivid details of what it's like to be distracted and unimaginative while trying to be creative -- if you're anything like me, you know what *that* is like. The hot headache caused by an empty brain; the wrong words scraping against each other and refusing to spark ideas. Also, the joys of procrastination: the blessed ding of a text or email alert; the obsessive emptying and loading of the dishwasher; the plunging of the hand into a box of Pop-Tarts, and the snap decision to go to the grocery store NOW because there are only five left. I think details like these would be nicer than "Nothing done".

Also, and I hate to say it, but: It's kind of a cheat to not reveal Karie's great idea at the end, unless you want to turn the secrecy itself into a joke about the way writers can fool themselves -- she announces she's got the idea, maybe, and promises herself she'll tackle it after school, but once she realizes she's lost she discovers she's forgotten that winning idea. (I've lost so many ideas because I've delayed writing them down.)

The ending: It seems like there is supposed to be some irony there, but I'm not sure what it is, because the horror of delaying so long that her sister gets the call is not itself ironic. Perhaps her sister kept distracting Karie and that's one reason she couldn't come up with an idea? Perhaps her sister has ideas -- multitudes of them -- but doesn't want to be famous?

Finally, even in its current form, I think the existence of the sister should be established earlier so that it doesn't come out of nowhere at the end. Also, unless there is some undercurrent I'm missing, I think the sister's name should not be so similar to Karie's. I had to go back to reread the beginning and ending to confirm that these were different people.

I mean all of these suggestions as dabs of plaster onto an already strong skeleton.
12
12
Review by Seuzz
In affiliation with  
Rated: E | (3.0)
I'm not sure how to review this piece, as I'm not certain whether to treat it as a story or as a memoir. These forms make different demands.

As a story it lacks a problem for the protagonist. A romance -- and this piece is billed as a "fall romance" -- no less than any other kind of story needs to put the protagonist in danger. Danger of losing the loved one; danger of getting the wrong loved one; danger of losing something else that's desirable in order to get the loved one. In this story, I do not know what Beth is in danger of losing.

As a memoir -- or as something written perhaps to resemble a memoir -- it also lacks tension. It is written as a series of scenes (Beth wondering where Jason has got to; Beth and Jason going to Wisconsin; Beth and Jason going to Nevada) that don't have much to do with each other and don't shed much light on their characters or what they mean to each other.

The title and subtitle and the final paragraphs are supposed to convey an autumnal glow to the piece. As it is written, this is only mood when it could be theme -- change brings loss but it leaves memories that can return and renew with the seasons -- but there are no incidents that dramatize such a theme.

There are also details that strike odd notes. Beth and Jason have been seeing each other for two years, but they have not yet met each other's parents? This seems like something that needs explanation if it's to be plausible. I am also struck by Beth's emotional reaction to being away from Jason for two days. If they have been together for two years, it seems to me she should not be so shy about calling him up if she wonders where he's got to; conversely, if they are often apart for several days at a time, she should not be so worried about not hearing from him.

There is also a major shift in point of view in Wisconsin, where characters are introduced as "Beth's Dad", "Beth's brother", etc. The rest of the story is in first person; the correct attributions should be "my dad", etc.

The prose style is smooth enough that nothing jogged my attention unduly. The supporting characters are not vivid, and the dialogue is functional, but that may not matter much in a story that is probably meant to focus so strongly on the protagonist's feelings.
13
13
Review of Sammy's Future  
Review by Seuzz
In affiliation with  
Rated: E | (4.5)
This is a nice piece that does a good job setting up atmosphere and mystery. Grandfather's actions don't make a lot of sense -- why keep the coins in a grandfather clock with a note? -- but I suspect an expository answer would just unbalance the story, and it might as well be left as is.

I think there are a few spots where the action could be better clarified or where descriptions could be smoother.

* I'd suggest "Ten-year-old Sammy watched through the crack of the doorway as his grandfather placed another gold coin" in order to make very clear who is doing what and who is watching whom. (And "peeked" might be more descriptive than "watched"; and if it is, then reference to the "crack" could be deleted.)

* How about Grandfather walked back to the living room instead of the "walking in the opposite direction of Sammy's hiding place," which is somewhat clunky. Then you can also delete reference to "no one was coming from the living room."

* Suggest: "The glow of the streetlamps filtered dimly through the curtains, and Sammy darted across the study without bumping into anything." The reference to the dim light is a very good descriptive detail, but the passive voice construction smudges it a little.

* "thumping against his skin," perhaps. That is, btw, a nice bit of description.

I'm not sure what purpose the last sentence serves, and I think the previous sentence might make a stronger ending.

There are some punctuation and spelling errors, but this is a review, not a copyedit.

NB: Resubmitted review after messing up on a setting

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