| OFFICIAL CONTEST JUDGE'S REVIEW
Thank you for taking the time to enter the August 2021 round of the "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest" . Enclosed please find the following review, for your consideration.
Your take on the prompt was unique and interesting. I liked the creative, out of the box thinking.
The biggest issue I had with the narrative was that there were very low individual stakes for the characters in a story that was ideally suited to have high stakes. Both of the characters are fleeing a legitimate global catastrophe and just kind of casually having a logical conversation about it. There are also a few times where the narrative inexplicably resolves itself, like when the story mentions that they reached a major highway and, "The heavy traffic was going the same way they were," and yet, a few minutes later, they manage to pick up a passenger and drive uneventfully to Kansas City.
All three of the characters (Barbara, John, and their passenger Martha) all seemed a little detached. They talk about a globally catastrophic event with mild interest, barely registering the millions of people that would be dead at this point, and instead spending a significant amount of time marveling over the scientific phenomena and lamenting the loss of their favorite beach in Malibu. It would be understandable if there were one character (Barbara, for example, whose professional interests would be piqued by this event) that had a sort of detached awe or fascination by the phenomena, but when they all have the same perspective, it ends up feeling like there's very little human connection in the story.
Much of the dialogue was quite expository, from explaining the phenomena to one another in detail, to saying things for the benefit of the audience. For example, if Barbara and John have been married years, neither of them should ever have to utter the sentence, "I know that I am a scientist, and should know better." They both already know their partners's profession. Similarly, they would have already had plenty of conversations about her mom and the move to Kansas City, and the circumstances that led to it. They wouldn't need to spell it out in casual conversation with one another. I would try to rework the dialogue so that it's more natural-sounding and realistic.
I'm not sure how one "frog-march[es] their equipment back to John's pick-up." To frog march is to "force (someone) to walk forward by holding and pinning their arms from behind." It feels like the use of the wrong word here.
Overall, I appreciated the originality of the premise, and think this is the start of a compelling story. The narrative, characters, and dialogue need a bit of an overhaul to iron out some of the rough patches, but this is a good foundation for a compelling story.
I hope you've found this review helpful. If so, please consider paying it forward by reviewing the work of another WDC author!
Jeff | "Rating & Reviewing Philosophy"