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116 Public Reviews Given
Review Style
Brutally honest, but fair. I will give my impressions of the main points: Plot, character, setting, dialog. Then I will get into grammar, spelling, and typos. I will tell you what works, and what doesn't. As far as the star ratings go, I don't rely on them too much, but use them as a measure of an item's relative merit. Take it for what it's worth. Bottom line, my goal is to help the author improve their work.
I'm good at...
Getting into the details.
Favorite Genres
Science fiction, horror, fantasy, mystery.
I will not review...
Poetry. While I appreciate it, I don't feel I understand it well enough to review it.
Public Reviews
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1
1
Review by Graham B.
Rated: E | (3.5)
Alkareel,

This is my review of “Erden: Tale of a Land Forgotten” as requested. Except where I indicate some grammatical issues, this will be my opinion of the work.

I like this tale of fantasy about a boy with high expectations. It looks like the start of a great story. You do a good job building the anticipation toward great things that Urie expects later on. Throughout you also hint at something not happening as planned. The mysterious statue seems to be significant in some way, maybe even connected to Urie’s failure to manifest his magic. I would have liked to have seen something more on that subject. Perhaps a description of what it looked like? In fact, the setting could have used more description. This is especially important in a work of fantasy, where you are building a world and need to bring the reader into it. You could have described the mysterious statue right at the beginning, for Urie was kneeling right in front of it. The town, the mansion, Urie’s room, all could have been brought more to life. Use as many senses as you can, sight, hearing, smell, touch.

I liked the dialog. It sounded natural, the way people really speak. Urie’s feelings and thoughts are made clear, and reveal his character, bubbling over with happiness and anticipation. Also, while you can use whatever method you want to indicate an internal monolog, such as the beginning hyphen, convention is that we use italics. This is what readers expect and will make it easier to distinguish inner thoughts.

I think I should mention something about formatting. Not to put too fine a point on it, this story is an eye chart. The paragraphs and lines of dialog are squashed together and make for difficult reading. Look at a published book to see how they do it. There is a reason they format books the way they do; it makes the reading flow more smoothly.


“Past the structure was nothing. Nothing but a sheer cliff dropping down a great distance and extending endlessly into white mist.”
I would join these sentences together and delete one of the “nothings.” This is my only suggested change.

I think this has the makings of an entertaining fantasy story and I hope you keep at it. The ending hints at a journey for Urie to take, perhaps to claim the magic he believes he should have.

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
2
2
Review of A New Dawn Ch.1  
Review by Graham B.
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)

Zachary,

It is difficult to give an in-depth review based on only one chapter of a book, but I will do my best.

This looks to be coming-of-age story of a young girl with supernatural powers in a world rich with magic. I strikes me a Harry-Potteresque but with an Asian flavor to it. I feel like you may have been influenced by anime, but I’m not all that familiar with the genre so I won’t review based upon that perspective.

I like the hook you use in the first sentence: “My brother and I are twins and I believe my name should have been his.” It’s an intriguing hook that draws the reader in, but you don’t seem to capitalize on it. I think soon after making a statement like that, you should at least hint at why this is so. This could tie into the theme of the story.

Which brings me to my next point. The theme is not immediately apparent here. Of course, I only have the benefit of reading one chapter in this book, and you might draw out the theme later on, but I think you should make the theme apparent to the reader as soon as possible, especially as your protagonist is about to face another character who is, if not the actual antagonist, at least antagonistic. What is the theme here? What is the main character searching for that will eventually lead to her transformation? While not a hard-and-fast rule, I think the reader should learn the theme before the protagonist does.

I like that your protagonist is proactive and does as much as she can to maintain her agency. It always makes for a better story when the characters advance the plot, rather than have the plot just happen to them.

I hope you continue to develop this story and add to the world-building here. It looks very interesting and might make for a entertaining fantasy.

Here are some grammatical issue I saw:

“The children of these deities are treated as royalty, as for us we are treated like slaves.”
Run-on sentence. Try;
”The children of these deities are treated as royalty. As for us, we are treated like slaves.”

“AHH! I can’t keep getting distracted like this!”
This sentence suggests an inner monolog. I suggest trying to differentiate it from the narrative. Most authors use italics:
AHH! I can’t keep getting distracted like this!


That’s all I have. I hope this helps.

-Graham



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
3
3
Review of The Lie  
Review by Graham B.
Rated: 18+ | (3.0)
Nijeeoz,

This is my review of "The Lie" as requested. Except for where I point out grammatical errors, this will only be my opinion.

This looks likes a story that works in metaphor, a road trip that goes nowhere, in which the car's two occupants see something entirely different outside the windows. This story seems incomplete, like it is merely the beginning of a larger story about a woman's attempt to come to terms about how she feels about two men in her life. This arc is never concluded. While there is nothing inherently wrong with ambiguous endings, I think you could have done more to build on Layla's character arc.

The theme seem to be the secrets people keep, and how they can harm all parties involved. While Layla is definitely invested in her secret, there is no indication that she is about to learn the theme. Even though it occurs to her that her silence might still be a lie, there is no sign that she might be aware of the consequences of that lie. She seems to be mainly wrapped up in her feelings for Rex. It might help to build tension if you also give some hints as to her feelings for Preston.

I like the imagery you use to describe the road trip, a combination of beautiful and infuriating. I'm guessing this is supposed to represent Layla's feelings on the matter.

This work is well polished and I didn't see any grammatical errors. I hope this review was helpful.

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
4
4
Review of Split  
Review by Graham B.
Rated: ASR | (3.0)
S.E. Mabson,

This is my review of “Split” as requested. Except for where I point out grammatical errors, this will be only my opinion of the work.

I was intrigued by the nature of the narrative, in that it was given by an unreliable narrator. The most difficult part of this sort of work is in not confusing the reader. You gave yourself a difficult task, especially with your stream of consciousness style. However, the narrative is emotionally loaded and conveys a sense of foreboding which grows into terror, so that worked pretty well.

It was unclear what is going on outside of Mahlia’s own memories. While this is not inherently a bad thing in unreliable narratives, at some point it would help to give the readers some hints to clear up a few ambiguities. For example, how did Mahlia receive her injuries? Did she do something while in an altered state of mind, or did something that happened in a dream transfer over into the waking in the form of her bruises? The story suggests that the narrator is losing her grip on reality and increasingly cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is a dream. If that is the case, then you did a good job with it.

But another point of confusion is Mahlia meeting Silas. She sees visions of him before meeting him. Did she know him from before and forget? Did she have a premonition? It isn’t clear. The presence of a picture of Silas on her phone indicates that she did know him, and well enough to take his picture.

The last entry confused me. Was Silas the apprentice? If not, who? What did the apprentice do and how did it cause the disaster? Mahlia says she hit him. Why? If Silas gave her the memories, were they her memories or his to begin with? I understand that things will be unclear with an unreliable narrator, but you should still give the reader a clue as to how this plot plays out.

I like your development of the character Mahlia. Her pain and torment are palpable and make her sympathetic. Her motivations are a bit murky, but the story is about her being tormented by a demon after all. But it would help if you had foreshadowed the nature of the demon earlier on. Remember that it is important for the reader to know what is going on, even if the character doesn’t.

Here are a few grammatical issues I saw:

Coldness and a feeling of being touched by darkness must its favorite the...thing, I mean.
Try rewording this. I’m not sure what the hesitation is supposed to signify.

The Chester cat smile.
Is this a Lewis Carroll reference? If so, then it should probably be “Cheshire Cat.”


But, I could have sworn Silas, and I was on the couch watching a scary movie seconds before she appeared.
“were on the couch”

Gave me memories of a lifetime of being hunting like a lionesses prey.
“hunted” and “Lioness’s”

I hope this was helpful.

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
5
5
Review by Graham B.
Rated: 13+ | (2.5)
Highcountryauthor,

This is my review of “I Love You no matter What” as requested. Except for where I point out grammatical errors, this is only my opinion of the work.

Reviewing specific chapters of a book is always difficult because context is always missing unless I read the entire book. That will probably be the case here when I give my opinion on these chapters. I took it upon myself to skim further chapters into the book, but I didn’t have the time to give the entire thing a comprehensive read, so keep that it mind. That said, I will address a number of structural issues with this book and ways I think you could improve it. Don’t take this as me trying to rewrite your book. That’s for you to do. I’m simply trying to help you realize this story in a way more compelling to the reader.

You picked a fraught subject for your book – the aftermath of a sexual assault. This subject would seem ideal for a plot brimming with tension. Of course, tension is the ideal underpinning of any good story, and is essential to motivate your characters and drive the plot. And what I noticed about this story, at least for chapters 1-10, is the lack of tension after the inciting incident.

You did a good job setting up the characters, and that was the story’s strong suit. The driving forces behind Lisa’s actions are clear, though upon skimming the rest of the chapters, the story seemed to be more about Jack than Lisa. Lisa, having been traumatized early on in the story behaves in a way that would be appropriate for someone in her position. But after a while, the character development seems to fizzle for her. I think it would have helped to add a scene where she confronts Ken during his criminal trial. I have heard that this often gives assault victims closure in real life. Perhaps she could do so later in the story in order to move on. Or maybe she fails to move on, and that has its own consequences. In any case, Lisa doesn’t seem to struggle much for most of the story. Everything goes well for her after her move to Colorado, with only the barest hint of her trauma haunting her, and that with no discernible consequences. She does well on her debut at Lucinda’s and everything just falls into place from there. But what if things hadn’t gone well? Just spit balling here, but what if upon taking the stage, Lisa glances outside, sees a black pickup truck, and her trauma comes back making her unable to perform? Don’t be afraid to pile adversity on your characters. It makes it that much more satisfying when they overcome it. The movie "The Shawshank Redemption" achieves a very satisfying ending after two excruciating hours of piling one terrible thing after another onto Andy Dufresne. That’s called a release, and it’s the best feeling in the world for a reader if done correctly.

I also wondered whatever became of Lisa’s father. It looked like Dan was supposed to be an important character, but after Lisa moves to Colorado, we don’t really hear from him again. Skimming the other chapters, I see that he sends roses, then Lisa has to deal with his death and her own relationship with him, which is a nice touch. I felt her loss, her lack of closure when she discovers the truth. But what about Dan himself? Having him deal with his struggles with his relationship with his daughter would have added more depth to the story. Perhaps he starts drinking. Perhaps his business starts to fail. Perhaps his guilt over his failure to protect his daughter keeps him from trying harder to reach out to her. Having those struggles affect his relationship with his wife would have added complexity as well. Also, the description of how Dan handled Lisa’s visit home seemed rather perfunctory. I would have thought there would be more tension in this family gathering. All of this would have made Lisa’s feelings about her father that much more poignant when she fails to reconcile with him before his death. In any case, I thought Dan should have been more prominent in this story.

Jack was probably the most well-developed character. You do a good job setting him up as an awkward teen trying to fit into his role as a surrogate father figure. His own struggle to be the man Lisa needs him to be and his own moral failures are a mirror to Lisa’s own struggles with her distant father. I think you did the best with Jack's story.

I think Emily could have been fleshed out a little bit more. As Lisa’s best friend, she would have known Lisa the best, been privy to the secrets that Lisa would keep even from her parents. I think there should have been more happening during Lisa’s first visit home. This would have been a good opportunity to show the readers how much the characters have changed since Lisa left for Colorado, and whether their relationships still work the way they used to, yet another avenue for building tension.

I noticed that you wrote in third person omniscient point of view. That’s hard to do well, and can often confuse the reader. I would suggest for using third person limited instead, and dedicating each chapter to one particular character’s point of view, which is common among mainstream authors. This will also help keep the reader in the character’s shoes, so to speak, but this is a more stylistic issue than a functional one.

The dialog was functional, and did its job, but it was unconvincing. Perhaps the biggest problem is that the dialog itself didn’t convey much emotion. Instead of using adverbs as qualifiers to do this try finding the words that the characters would use to express their feelings. One way to do this is to get into your character’s head, try to feel what they feel, then say the dialog out loud. How would that character feel after uttering the words? How would the receiving character feel? Aside from these issues, the dialog made sense and there was nothing contradictory about it.

One more thing I would suggest is to emphasize what Lisa lost after her trauma. The most obvious thing of course is her innocence, and you touch on this throughout the story. But it helps to have a concrete item, a metaphor to stand in for this loss. This could be an emotional hole that the character tries but can never quite fill. You almost do this when you make it clear that Lisa has given up volleyball. It doesn’t have to be volleyball, but it should be something that she has a strong emotional connection with.

There wasn’t much in the way of grammatical errors. This was a very polished work, but here is what I found for Chapters 1-10:

“"Where's Dad," she asked, excitedly.”
Use a question mark: “Where’s Dad?” Also instead of “excitedly” try to show how she feels in her own words, or describe how her feelings are affecting her body language. Minimize the use of adverbs. As Stephen King said, “The adverb is not your friend.”

“The flashlight cast its' glow on Lisa huddled on the ground”
No apostrophe on “its.”

That’s all I have. I hope this was helpful.

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
6
6
Review of The Last Goodbye  
Review by Graham B.
Rated: E | (3.5)
Xara,

Returning to "The Last Goodbye," here are my thoughts.

This is better. You clarified some of the ambiguities of the plot and the story makes more sense now. More importantly, you expanded some of the details on the narrator's relationship with their mother. It looks like you took my last review to heart and made changes accordingly.

But I think what would help would be to consider why you are writing this. What is the purpose of this story? Is it part of a larger one? Will this lead into the narrator examining his/her life in some way? Is it just a study in a character's emotional turmoil? How will the narrator be transformed by this experience, if at all? These questions are not for me, but for you to ask yourself moving forward.

That's all. I hope this helps.

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
7
7
Review of The Last Goodbye  
Review by Graham B.
Rated: E | (3.0)
Xara,

This is my review of “The Last Goodbye,” as requested. I am assuming it is fiction, though it has an autobiographical ring to it. I can relate, for I wasn’t there when my own mother passed, and I still think about the things I would have said in those last moments. In any case, here are my thoughts. Except where I indicate grammatical problems, this will only be my opinion. (I will be referring to your protagonist as “they” as I am not sure of their gender.)

I won’t go into too much detail here, as this is a very short work meant to address the feelings of loss and regret. But I will address one theme I saw in this story: secrecy. I’m not sure what your intentions were in having your character hide the diagnosis from their mother. I would hate to think what would be going through that mother’s mind, wondering why her health was deteriorating. Personally I wouldn’t consider this a particularly moral action. I saw a similar theme at work in the movie “Dad” starring Ted Danson, and I would recommend a watch as it plays on the theme of secrecy. Perhaps this is something you could delve into further. Also, I’m not sure how you would be able to get a doctor to diagnose their mother with cancer with the mother being aware of it.

There was one part of the plot I didn’t understand. The main character stated that they had a meeting they had to attend, but “decided not to attend it.” They then went away for two days. So clearly, the protagonist did decide to go to the meeting. If they initially decided not to go to the meeting, then changed their mind, you should make that clear. Also, you state that on the way home, they took some of their mother’s favorite things. This suggests that they brought things from home, as opposed from gifts purchased elsewhere. Perhaps you could expound on the what sorts of things the protagonist brought home; it would bring more detail to their life and their relationship with their mother. The reader learns nothing about the protagonist’s mother other than the fact that she has cancer.

One nitpick here: you capitalize “Mom.” If you are referring to someone in the proper sense, like “Jack” or “Mary” then you capitalize. But if you are referring to the common noun “mom” as it seems like you are doing, then you don’t capitalize.

“Tears started streaming down my face, I felt that if my world had ended.” This is a run-on sentence, and also “I felt that if my world had ended” doesn’t make much sense. Did you mean “I felt as if my world had ended?”

I think you should build more on the relationship and why the death of the mother has such a devastating effect on the protagonist. The more the reader cares about her, the more they will sympathize and feel what they are feeling. Otherwise, you are just telling the reader that the protagonist is sad, and not really demonstrating why.

That’s all I have. I hope it helps!

-Graham



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
8
8
Review of Not Yet!  
Review by Graham B.
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
MjoShmo,

I am reviewing this in response to your request. My apologies for the delay; I have been neglecting my account of late and didn't see it in time.

This is an interesting character study and an examination of how people deal with grief and find closure. It would seem that Ruby had a particularly difficult time coming to terms with her loss. Here are my thoughts. Other than where I point to grammatical errors, they are just my opinion.

Plot:

The plot was just meaty enough to advance your character’s development. Given that this is a character-driven story, it works. The inciting incident of the delivery of the book is all that was needed.

Characters:
You created a portrait of a character experiencing not only grief, but apparently guilt. Where does this guilt come from? Does Ruby blame herself, or she experiencing survivor’s guilt? You created raw emotions for her, but I think it would help a little to outline the circumstances. However, this certainly isn’t necessary to make this character sympathetic to the reader. I like the way you reveal Alex’s character through her illustrations in the book, her imagination still delighting her mother. The last line in the book: “N OT RELLY! ITS YOR TURN NOW !” was especially poignant, as if Alex was telling her mother to keep living. I found the characters to be quite real and sympathetic, even the ones not present in the story.

Setting:

The setting conveyed the state of Ruby’s life – in disarray. You used every sense to bring it life, as if it were a character itself. Nice job.

Dialog:
There wasn’t much dialog, just enough for the delivery man to make his contribution to the story, but it worked.

Grammar:

I didn’t notice any grammatical errors.

This story hit home on the topic of grief. I think it also explores the importance of closure in any mourning. I think it also draws the reader in with its descriptive imagery. While some of the descriptions were a little bit over the top, it works well as an organic whole. I’m not sure what the point of the red text was, and I suggest taking it out, unless there was something implied in it that I missed.

Good job with this, and I hope it does well in the contest!

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
9
9
Review by Graham B.
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
K5Rakitan,

I am reviewing your story “Kaiba’s Prostitute” as requested. This review is my opinion on the work according to several parameter which I will outline below. I am not familiar with the lore of Yu-Gi-Oh! or its attendant fan fiction, so my perspective will be wholly on the merits of the work itself.

It looks like this is only the first installment of a series, or perhaps a novel. If that is the case, you should make that clear in the description or your notes. Here are my thoughts.

Plot:

The story starts to build tension in chapter 2, then it seems to fizzle out after that. Seto’s behavior is clearly intended to shock the reader, but the other characters’ reaction mutes it to some extent. This whole story seems like a way to introduce the reader to the characters, which is fine as long as you follow up in later chapters.

Characters:

The characters have the potential to be interesting, but their reactions to various situations were unconvincing. Joan behaves like an experienced prostitute, but it is later revealed that she has only had one client prior to Seto. Marc’s playful reaction to Seto’s proposal also seems off considering the circumstances. What was the goal of the story here? Was it to introduce the reader to polyamory and sex work in a positive way? I got that you were trying to treat it as a perfectly normal thing, which the story does, but I think you missed an opportunity to address the issue of polyamory and whatever prejudice exists against it. The closest you came was with the dress shop owner. Since polyamory and sex work seem to be the central theme in this story, I think you would have done well to have more characters react to that, and build tension that way. That said, I think you did a good job bringing the characters to life and making them convincing.

By the way, the Japanese are really into Halloween. When I was in Tokyo on Halloween in 2015, I saw more people on the street in costume than not. It was crazy. The Kaiba brothers would likely be very aware of that holiday.

Setting:

There isn’t much to say here. I didn’t get the sense of where the characters were. You describe a Victorian-style building and a vague description of the offices where people work, but nothing much beyond that. The setting is as important as any character. It will influence their thoughts, emotions, and actions. It can come to life and tell a story of its own, influencing the plot. Keep that it mind, and try to use as many senses as possible when describing the characters’ interaction with the environment.

Dialog:

This was the best part of the story. The dialog felt real and gritty, and the characters’ emotions struggled to escape between the lines. There were layers of subtext in the dialog that told of what the characters were thinking that were in tension with what they were saying. Excellent.

Grammar:

I didn’t see any errors in spelling or grammar.

Conclusion:

This story was a well-polished piece of work which looks like the first act of a larger story. The hook at the beginning was rather weak. Try a hook that foreshadows or sets the stage for the conflict that the protagonist will grapple with throughout. While the themes of polyamory and sex work were prominent, they didn’t seem to affect a change in any of the characters. I would recommend building on that. The dialog worked well, and you executed the rest with a lot of technical skill. I can’t recommend anything beyond that. Keep it up!

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
10
10
Review of Time to tango  
Review by Graham B.
Rated: ASR | (3.0)
Noodles,

This is my review of Time to Tango, as requested. Except for where I point out technical errors, this will be my opinion of the work.

This was story was rather cryptic, and the theme was opaque, especially when compared to the description. I'm not sure where this story is going, even after reading it, but here are my thoughts and my observations.

Plot:
The story seems to take place over two days, both of which Aneesa encounters two elderly people on the street who mistake her for someone else, and who also seem to exist in her own imagination. The story ends in Aneesa's death, which is implied. I got the impression that Aneesa is unhappy with her life, and what exactly happens next? I'm thinking that her deceased parents take her away from it all, but again, it's cryptic.

Characters: This story is a character study of Aneesa, and in that respect it works well. We get the sense of a life coming off the rails, or at least stuck in a rut. You give a bit of description of what she looks like to this effect. Since the story is so short it's hard to get a further sense of the character without further development, but you do a good job within your constraints.

Setting: The prevailing attribute of the setting is emptiness, meant to convey a sense of Aneesa's life I would guess. There are just a few intrusions into it, which Aneesa seems to be trying to avoid, like Aunty Nazli. The story hints, via the black Audi, that others are wrestling with similar issues. The rain is present at the beginning and seems like it might be an important element, but we never see it again. Maybe revisit that.

Dialog: Not much there. Dialog can reveal much about a character. Of course it looks like you are trying to express Aneesa's isolation, so not much dialog would necessarily be called for, but still, it's a useful tool for character development. Even dialog can be useful in expressing a character's isolation.

Grammar:
I didn't see a misspellings. I saw what looked like sentence fragments that you seemed to be using for stylistic purposes. It's probably okay, but don't overuse it. There is one point where you didn't capitalize Aneesa's name. I didn't see any other issues.

This story looks like it follows the character's life over two days, to its end when it becomes apparent that she is suffering from some sort of delusion, or experiencing something supernatural. It's not clear what's going on. I didn't get that sense that the character changed, or had any particular character arc other than to die at the end. Was that the point? She rejected some sort of lifeline from the hereafter and paid the price for it? You did a good job foreshadowing with the taxi driver screaming at her on day one. Perhaps build on that. Overall, I think some sort of change in Aneesa's outlook or some realization about her life would have made the story more satisfying. Thanks for sharing this and keep it up.

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
11
11
Review of Life in Death  
Review by Graham B.
Rated: E | (4.5)
Anita,

Great story! It reminds me of Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman." This is my review as requested. It is my opinion of your work and you can take it for what it is worth.

I like this story you tell about Death becoming tired of his job, and then finding a reason cherish his work again. You gave the concept of Death a human face and identity, and made him someone to sympathize with. What would our outlook be if we had a job like his?

Plot: The plot was cohesive and made sense. This was a brief story of someone in despair about his purpose in... er life? Then finds a reason to carry on. The inciting incident - the school shooting - happens before the beginning of the story. There is no need for the reader to see it. We know what's going on, and you do a great job setting the stage.

Characters: Despairing Death, indifferent Pain, busy and non-nonsense Life. You bring these concepts to life with your characterizations. These characters, in addition to embodying their concepts, also seem to symbolize Death's journey of the soul. You have made this a very spiritual sort of writing, and the characters give Death even more depth. This is where the story really shines.

Setting: The setting here also tells the story: a school cafeteria where horrific violence takes place, a maternity ward where life begins, and an old man's hospital room where he is living out that last few moments of his life. The setting symbolizes Death's journey perfectly.

Dialog: The dialog flows naturally, and sound like people actually speak. No problems here.

Grammar: I did not see any grammatical errors.

I hope I have helped out with this largely positive review. I usually try to find something wrong to harp about, but I'm at a loss. Nicely done!

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
12
12
Review of Yawara  
Review by Graham B.
Rated: 18+ | (3.0)
Torin,

This review is in response to your request. With the exception of grammatical corrections, this review is my opinion.

This short story looks to be a character study of a malevolent person, and the circumstances that brought this character about. The story repeatedly emphasizes the dark nature of Steffen Crow. Here are my thoughts.

First of all, while you go into great detail on how the character Crow came to be, this story can’t seem to settle on a voice to tell the story of Crow. The first act briefly takes place at an unspecified present in his life, followed by a long backstory. I will go into more detail below, but I think a clearer delineation between the plot action and the exposition is needed here.

Plot:
This part is difficult to evaluate. It looks like a chapter in a book which explores a character’s backstory. The first act with Crow on the plane seems almost unnecessary, something which would come in another chapter, or would precede this one. Also, the part of Crow getting up to pee didn’t seem relevant. While going to the lavatory, did something catch his eye? Did a thought occur to him while he was going that would have some bearing on the plot? Nothing seem to come out of this. I would recommend omitting events that have no relevance, as they end up being a distraction.
Later on, when going into Crow’s history, the story shifts back and forth between a documentary-style exposition, and a more intimate story. This method is not necessarily a problem, but it is difficult to do and maintain your voice. I recommend setting the scene and acting it out in your mind like a play. I know it helps me.

Characters:
This is the most relevant aspect of this story, in my opinion. Crow’s backstory gives an excruciating amount of detail on how he became the man he is. However, at the end, I still don’t know what his agenda is, his goal. I’m also not sure what he cares about, and what motivates him. Does this show up in later chapters?
The character Karl seems improbable to me. How does someone like this come from “milquetoast” parents like you describe? It seems that there is another story here, as there is no indication that Karl had an upbringing similar to Steffen’s. Also, for a fifteen-year-old to be a “sensei” also seems improbable, though maybe through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old Steffen he might be larger than life. There’s a dynamic at work here (beyond the abuse) which might be worth exploring. Is Karl an unusually accomplished martial artist, or does he just seem that way to the young and naïve Steffen?

Setting:
There isn’t much to say here. Since the story is mostly backstory and exposition, there isn’t much description of the setting. This is often a neglected portion of writing. The setting can be rich and vibrant, and can often be a character in its own right.

Dialog:
Again, not much here. There are a few words uttered by Karl, Kara and Steffen, but nothing I would call dialog. In exposition, it’s not very relevant, but if you are telling a story, dialog can reveal a lot about a character in just a few words.

Grammar:
I didn’t notice any errors.

This story could be built out into a larger work, and that’s what it looks like you are doing. Is there a redemptive arc for Steffen Crow? There is a lot to work with, and you have certainly given yourself a challenge. Best of luck to you.

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
13
13
Review by Graham B.
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Bob,

This is a review of your work, “Ken Reaches for the Heights.” This review is my own opinion, and you can do with it as you see fit. Any questions I pose in this review are rhetorical, and are only for your benefit.

The first paragraph had an excellent hook, and immediately told me the important stuff about Ken. That’s a great way to start and it pulled me in. Here are my further thoughts:

Plot:
The plot was straightforward, and was a nice, compact journey from the ground to the fifth floor, and out of Ken’s pit of fear to the realization of his strength. That he ended up rescuing a love interest brought the story full circle.

Characters:
That the story was about Ken was obvious. The whole story was his character arc, and you wrote it well. Kate’s character isn’t given a lot of words, but in the last few paragraphs, she come off as someone who jumps right in without hesitation. A contrast to Ken? The only thing I can’t figure was the little girl’s behavior. Why did she go out the window to get help? Why not go into the hall and bang on some doors? A small detail, and doesn’t affect Ken’s arc.

Setting:
The setting was a good metaphor for Ken’s conflicts. The fairgrounds worked as a metaphor for life, with its a-la-carte selection of experiences for Ken to choose from and from which he never chooses the risky events. Circumstances force him onto the rickety escape ladder, which begins his Hero’s Journey. I would have liked a bit more descriptive imagery, but I understand that you were under a word-limit.

Dialog:
It flowed naturally, like real people speak. No issues here.

Grammar:
I didn’t find any grammatical errors. This was pretty polished.

Overall thoughts.
I found this to be well written, and it fits the contest prompt nicely. Good luck!

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
14
14
Review by Graham B.
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Temujin,

This is a good effort at dark humor. It's a nice symmetry between the events happening in real time, and Bob's anecdote about Billy setting off a firecracker and later becoming President. The setting is appropriate, somewhere in farm country where the silos are located. I would be careful about your tenses. Part of the story is described in present tense, where you wrote "A murder of crows erupts..." and later when you describe Bob's consumption of beer. The rest is told in past tense, except for Bob's monologue, which is appropriate. The only dialog is actually described in Bob's monologue, which works pretty well. In my mind, I can actually see Bob getting animated over his recounting of his conversation with Billy. His focus on his story is starkly contrasted with the voices of other people observing the missile launches.

Flash fiction is always a challenge, and you did a good job telling your story in a short format. Keep it up.

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
15
15
Review of The Right Swipe  
Review by Graham B.
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Anujmathur,

Thank you for sharing your work. This review is my opinion only.

This is the second time I'm sending this as the first review seems to have disappeared from the site, so apologies if you actually receive two reviews from me.

This is really great work. You set the hook with the imagery in your first sentence of dancing, something people might do on a date. Your foreshadowing of the line about "not into hookups" sets the story's symmetry up nicely.

Only a few nitpicks here. The word "proverbial" seems like more gravitas than necessary in this usage. Your use of the word "majorly" is a bit awkward.

I can't find much wrong, so that's it. They are very minor issues, and speak more to my own aesthetic sense than your grammar.

I enjoyed this, and hope you keep doing it.

Write on!

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
16
16
Review of Ikal  
Review by Graham B.
Rated: E | (2.5)
Medjay,

This story explores some interesting concepts, like Mezo-american folklore and fantasy. Here are my thoughts. Keep in mind, except for where I point out grammatical issues, this is only my own opinion.

I like this take on the Hero’s Journey. It shows that some concepts are universal and are told time and time again throughout the ages and across cultures. I like this story of an ordinary man who would slay a god.

Here are my thoughts:

There are some things that are confusing, and it’s always important to get the details right. First of all, Ikal goes forth to kill a jaguar. In the first paragraph, you state the jaguar was surrounded by its family. But Ikal ends up only fighting that jaguar and no mention is ever made of other jaguars. Are there cubs? What becomes of them? Later, the warriors kill the jaguar, but then it comes back to life. Why? You never explore this. One note: is the jaguar a male or female? Male jaguars can reach 350 lbs, so Ikal would have had to have been a mighty warrior indeed to pick up the big cat and put it on the altar. Females reach a more manageable (but still impressive) 200 lbs. Perhaps you could describe Ikal exerting the last of his strength to heave the cat onto the altar.

Later when Ikal approaches Siya K’ak, the ruler is depicted summoning the will of the gods. Which gods? Bahlam wants Siya K’ak dead. And later, Siya K’ak turns out to be a god himself. There is a discontinuity here. Is Siya K’ak doing his “summoning” just for show? In that case, you might want to describe his actions.

I don’t think the story is well served by where you place the death of Ikal’s brother. That should have been a defining moment in Ikal’s life, watching his brother stabbed and then torn apart by dogs. Perhaps this is the thing that turns him against Siya K’ak. The way the story reads, the brother’s death becomes more like a footnote in Ikal’s character arc. I feel like you should have spent a bit more time with the brother (we never even knew his name), building him up, and making him a sympathetic character so that we would feel Ikal’s pain when he is killed.

When Ikal finally meets Bahlam, I like how depict Bahlam as another arrogant god, using Ikal for his own purposes. Perhaps you could build on that dynamic in future chapters.

That’s my view on the plot, though obviously what you wrote here is not the complete story.
The grammar needs a lot of work. You generally do a good job with spelling, but the paragraphs need to be better defined in order to facilitate reading, especially in the action sequences. The aesthetics of your script are important. If you want to depart from convention, make sure you are consistent.

For dialog, most authors use “double quotes” rather than ‘single quotes’ because they are easier to see. You can do what you want, of course, just be aware of that convention. Also, you should find a way to make internal monolog more evident. Most authors put the character’s inner thought in italics. Your script should never be hard for the reader to discern.

You are inconsistent when capitalizing. When referring to “God” as a character, you capitalize, like in a name. But when referring to “gods”, you a referring to a general category of being, which shouldn’t be capitalized unless you are referring to an actual named race. Also, you sometimes capitalize jaguar. Why? Is it a character in those contexts?

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again; show me, don’t tell me. A lot of what you write here reads like an instruction manual, even the action sequences. Engage all of the senses. What does the jaguar’s claws feel like when they rip through Ikal’s flesh? What does its breath smell like? Paint a picture for the reader. Don’t forget about the setting as well. It is a jungle, after all, and there has to be something about it that you can bring to life for the reader.

That’s about all I have. I hope it helps. Keep at it!

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
17
17
Review of INvasion  
Review by Graham B.
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Stephen,

This was very creepy on multiple levels. I think the story accomplished what you set out to do. I liked how you wove together the themes of alien invasion and mental illness.

One thing that confused me thought was when the narrator said “…I do love them so…” about the bugs. There was no lead-up to why the narrator would begin to feel this way about the invaders. Maybe you could expand on the narrator’s feelings here.

You referred to the park as a “man-made miniature Eden.” Was that a religious reference? Was the invasion supposed to signify the Fall of Man (hence, the reference to “Autumn strolls”)? If so, what was the narrator’s sin?

I liked your use of language in this story, and it fits with the unreliable nature of the narrator. And in the end, while you described the apocalypse in vivid gory detail accompanied by dark foretelling of more to come, the reader is still left with uncertainty as to whether the entire thing took place in the narrator’s head. I like that ambiguity, which makes the reader question their own sanity and perceptions.

Some quibbles:
“Fear and dread routed me, unmovable in terror.”
Did you mean,”Fear and dread rooted me...?”

And why did you post-date your work for July?

Good job!

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
18
18
Review of The curse  
Review by Graham B.
Rated: E | (3.5)
LMcCulloch,

Thank you for sharing this story. This review will be mostly my own impressions and opinion, combined with some technical issues at the end.

This is a good beginning to a paranormal story and looks like it could be built into a larger mystery. However, I couldn’t help but feel like you revealed a bit too much, a little bit too perfunctorily, such as the backstory behind how Kenzie got her powers in the first place. That alone should merit a flashback chapter by itself. Also, the chapter seems to end rather abruptly, with Amber still sitting in her chair, and Kenzie doing - something. Here are my thoughts:

Plot:
You set it up well, and gradually reveal Kenzie and Amber’s history. Again, I think you revealed too much, if this is, in fact, the first chapter for a book. It’s almost as if the first chapter is a partial outline. Don’t throw too much backstory out there up front, unless you have a whole lot more to reveal. That way, you have another tool to draw the reader’s interest in throughout the whole book.

Characters:
Your characters are interesting and sympathetic. You seem to have them react in appropriately emotional ways to the situation. I wonder how Kenzie felt upon realizing who she was talking to? Perhaps something visceral and gut-wrenching given her complicated history with Amber.

Setting:
This opening chapter would have been an appropriate place to go into more detail with the setting. The only thing I got out of your description was a “small store” which looked like a “witches den.” What does the customer see crowding the shelves upon entering? What kind of atmosphere does the reader detect through the eyes, ears, nose of the characters? How do the characters feel about what they see, and what are the readers meant to feel? There are so many possibilities with this place. Will it be mainstay within your story, a place for it to return to in order to advance the plot? Does it symbolize anything to take place later? Does anything in this store foreshadow further developments?

Dialog:
The characters’ dialog seems natural and flows well, like people actually speak. However, there are some technical issues which I will get into below. Otherwise, nicely done.

Grammar:
First of all, I recommend a break between paragraphs. It makes reading easier. I also recommend breaking each line of dialog into its own discrete paragraph, for the same reason. If you look into published books, you will see that they all do it this way. Also, the first sentence in a series of dialog lines from the same character is usually followed by the attributor, then the rest of the dialog. For example:

“So you came here assuming that I would help you? Sorry, I can’t. Please see yourself out,” I said, turning my back to her.

should look like:

“So, you came here assuming that I would help you?” I said, turning my back to her. “Sorry, I can’t. Please see yourself out.”

See? The first sentence is followed by the attributor, then the rest of Kenzie’s statement. It’s not technically wrong, but it is convention.

“I know you’re closed, but I have an emergency,” the petite brunette said as she forced the door open,
Why did she have to force the door open? Was it locked? Did she break in?

“So should I tell you about my ghost?” She asked.
Don’t capitalize “she.”

This list is representative, not comprehensive, so I recommend a round of proof reading. That’s about all I have. I find the ideas you put forth in this chapter to be intriguing, and hope you continue to work on it.

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
19
19
Review by Graham B.
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Mikema,

This story made me laugh out loud. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. I didn’t see many problems with this story beyond technical ones.

Plot:
There was no action to be had in this story, and yet, it pulled the reader in with its sympathetic telling of an Orc finding his place in a world where he didn’t fit. You put in equal parts comedy and tragedy along with tension-building over the possible grisly fate of our heroes, and did so masterfully.

Characters:
Great job here, which it would have to be for this contest. You crafted sympathetic characters that the reader could somehow relate to, despite them being blood-thirsty Orcs. Grok’s loyalty to his friend Erirk is especially touching and perhaps something you could have built on further.

Setting/atmosphere:
Most of the atmosphere is brought to life through the characters. I would have liked to have seen a more vivid description of the world the Orcs inhabit, but I understand you being under a word limit. That said, don’t forget to describe the setting wherever possible. It can become a character in its own right.

Dialog:
It felt natural, like people speak. No problems here except for technical ones which I will address below. Good job!

Grammar:
I will address specific examples of what I saw, and let you find the rest of the errors on your own.

When depicting dialog, I saw this:
“This is going to be a disaster,” He mumbled.
You don’t need to capitalize “he” in this context.

“It’ll be fine,” Erirk's best friend Grok said.
…Erirks best friend, Grok, said.
I would suggest:
“It’ll be fine,” said Erirk’s best friend, Grok.

“You were the one who bumped into my arm.” Erirk didn’t say it with enough force to escape the rag.
You should probably separate this in to separate paragraphs.

“This place is dusty,” Erirk eyed the layer of dust on the floor of the torch-lit hallway.
This sentence is structured for attribution, but you didn’t do that. “Erirk eyed…” is not attributive. Might I suggest:
“This place is dusty,” Erirk said, eyeing the layer of dust…
Attribution, and moving smoothly on to the next clause.

Some of the chairs were occupied by various monsters from a troll eating a lamb to a hobgoblin with spectacles reading through the latest issue of Henchmen Quarterly.
You might want to insert some commas into this one, like one after “lamb.”

“…pouches on his tattered, hand sewn, clothes.”
You don’t need the comma after “sewn.” And might I suggest “hand-sewn.”

“It’s mister Tiffany.”
Capitalize “Mister” in this usage.

“…before the interview.” The Brightly capped goblin said,
This should read:
“…before the interview,” the brightly capped Goblin said,

I noticed that you capitalize “Orc” as J.R.R. Tolkien does, implying not just race, but nationality as well. For consistency, I suggest capitalizing all races, such as Goblin and Troll.

“Rags so filthy that it was everything Erirk could do to not lose his hard-won breakfast.”
This is an incomplete sentence.

“Well?” Erirk had never heard a more ominous rendition of the word well in his life.
I recommend a <CR> after “Well?”

Grok Covered his face with a palm.
“covered”

Then he saw something.
This is strange. Did he see something or remember something?

That’s all I have, though this is not a comprehensive list. I suggest proofreading and finding all instances of these errors.
Other than that, it was very well written, and draws the reader in. I think it has a good shot. Keep it up!

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
20
20
Review by Graham B.
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Breach,

This looks like a pretty good start to a fantasy story. Everything is in place here: a sympathetic protagonist, a complex and intriguing plot, a descriptive setting, and a lot of good action to go with it. Here are my thoughts:

Plot:

This being the first chapter, I don’t expect a complete story. You introduce a lot here in a few paragraphs, enough for a whole book. I wonder if you might have revealed too much. In any case, I can see many places for you to take this story. Will you eventually reveal how everybody keeps finding Branston? It seems that he is not very good at hiding.

Characters:

Good job with the characters. You bring them to life. I could feel what Branston was feeling as he went through what he did. Since plot and character development go hand-in-hand, I would expect to learn more about Faldashir in the future, but not too quickly, as it would ruin some of the mystery if that’s a priority. Will we once again meet the rider who disappeared? I did find your description of Branston’s appearance to be a bit pedestrian: “blond beard” and “brown clothes.” You did a good job bringing him to life through his actions and speech, but perhaps you could have found a way to connect the reader to him through more colorful descriptions? What do you want the reader to feel when they visualize the character?

Setting/atmosphere:
A too-neglected aspect of storytelling, but no problem here. I could almost feel the chill from the winter air. I would just say don’t neglect the setting in future chapters. You are writing fantasy here, which involves world-building after all, so creating and maintaining your setting is critical.

Dialog:
Do issues here. The dialog felt natural, like people really speak.

Grammar:
I found very few errors.

"They don't seem like regular wolves, neither." His neighbor had said.
Should be:
“They don’t seem like regular wolves, neither,” his neighbor had said.

“He didn't think he could outrun the man, already he heard the man's feet hitting the ice.”
Run-on sentence.

"Never show the dragons," His father had said…
Be careful with this:
“Never show the dragons,” his father had said…

“"Krassos didn't send me," The man was panting.”
“Panting” doesn’t work well as an attribution word this way. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with “said.” I also noticed that you used “growled” twice in a row, earlier. Unless you are talking about an animal, I would suggest using such attributors sparingly.

“Branston thought a moment, at the very least he could get off the ice.”
Another run-on sentence.

That’s all I have for this work. You definitely set the hook with this chapter, promising an exciting story for the reader in the future. I recommend looking into how you format this. Some sentences should be separated for the sake of clarity, and dialog should also be separated from other paragraphs. But you certainly know how to tell a story. Keep it up!

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
21
21
Review of Adelphus  
Review by Graham B.
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
John,

Thank you for sharing this.

I happen to be a big fan of sci-fi and I like to encourage others to get into the genre. This story brings to mind the numerous sci-fi movies I’ve watched during the 80’s, trying to follow in Star Wars’ footsteps, as well as Firefly. You keep the action going and the reader engaged. Here are my thoughts.

Plot:

I will temper my examination of the plot because it looks like this is just a first chapter. This story starts with a bang; imminent danger for the protagonist. The story is fast-paced, definitely sci-fi adventure material. What I’m not clear on is how Dane came to be there, or what his mission was. Also, if the man confronting Dane in the hospital wasn’t from his hiring faction, who was he? How did he know about… whatever Dane’s mission was?
The plot arc ends abruptly, presumably to be picked up again in future chapters.

Characters:

The way you write Dane is sympathetic, but the reader still knows very little about him. I recommend more backstory. The other characters he encounters seem to be there just to move the story along, but I guess they are not that important. However, you imply that someone is stalking Dane when he leaves the outpost. Was it someone he encountered earlier? Maybe some foreshadowing would help will in this part of the story, as well as build some tension.

Dialog:
For the most part, the dialog seems to flow naturally. It feels clipped, truncated, like language spoken by hard men with little time to mince words. It works. But Dane’s occasional monologs sound weird. Most people don’t talk to themselves. There are ways of revealing the inner monolog of a character, with italics for example: I think, therefore I am, thought Descartes.

Setting/Atmosphere:
Good job with this. I could almost taste the dust in Dane’s mouth. The very environment itself seemed to be trying to kill him. It meshes well with the character of the colonists.
Grammar:
Some issues here. First of all, to quote Stephen King: The adverb is not your friend. I will give you two examples of adverbs from your first paragraph alone: “visibly” and “contrastingly.” Adverbs are a kind of band-aid writers use when they are not sure that they have gotten their point across. It is a weak form of writing. Is there a reason that the reader wouldn’t think the outpost wasn’t visible? Can the reader not draw the contrast between the salvation of the outpost and the destructive heat of the sun without that extra word to spell it out for them? Use strong descriptive language and there will be no need to clutter your prose with adverbs.

“Making matters worse, Dane left his gun at the encampment.”

Since this story is told in past tense, this sentence should be past progressive: “…Dane had left his gun…”

“Only the fear of death kept him going in its dull, aching longing for life.”

This makes it sound like the “fear” itself is longing for life. Try rewording.

“'Those damn cretons have us surrounded.'”

Did you mean “cretins?”

“Dane realized he was in a makeshift infirmary full of the colonies farmers”

The “colony’s farmers.” Singular possessive.

'What happened to the package!' The man bellowed…

This should be a single sentence: “What happened to the package!” the man bellowed…

“With the greed of a junky…”

“junkie,” if you mean drug addicts.

Other than these things, your prose isn’t bad. It’s pretty focused and clear. Keep it that way.

That’s about it. It looks like you have something going here: a story of personal survival, revenge, a mission, and planetary politics. I recommend clarifying some of the plot points, and keep adding to it, making sure to fill in Dane’s backstory.

And, I see that you registered on WDC only a couple of days ago, so welcome to the site!

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
22
22
Review by Graham B.
Rated: 18+ | (3.0)
Rhyz,

Here are my thoughts for Chapters 9 and 10.

There is clearly more to follow in this story, but I think I can address what you have here in detail and how it fits in to the whole as you’ve presented it so far.

One issue I keep running into is the continuity of your characters’ behavior. This is something I brought up in the previous review and it comes up again here. In a story, it is important to keep a character’s actions in line with their nature, or that character will not be believable to the reader. If the character does something illogical or incomprehensible from that character’s point of view, then the reader will cease to care what happens to them; the character becomes more like a cartoon. It’s also important to keep the characters’ actions within the bounds of what a reasonable person would do, or if not, give justification for the strange behavior, such as insanity, or intoxication. I saw this issue in these chapters.

First, Eric’s reaction to his mistreatment seemed strange. Being kidnapped and dragged to the testing ground (and being knocked unconscious) would have disoriented anyone. Yet, Eric manages to carry on a polite conversation with Leon about the light. This isn’t a huge issue, but it is one of the many minor details which add up to the whole portrait of the character.

I like how you suddenly reveal Leon’s ruthlessness. His actions show him to be a clearly driven individual who will do whatever it takes, including inflicting pain on children, to accomplish his goal. I’ve always enjoyed morally ambiguous characters who exist with one foot in the light, and one in darkness, kind of like Batman.

Then Jason’s torture of Eric commences. Eric really couldn’t call upon his power in that situation? Even when his life is threatened?

Then, during Eric’s conversation with Gareth, I would think that Gareth would be just as outraged at the torture of Lewis as Eric was. Maybe Gareth could justify staying, but I would at least expect him to be conflicted about it.

Finally, it is important to maintain the symmetry of a chapter the same way that you would the whole story: a beginning, middle and end. Chapter 10 ends with Eric talking with Shadow about martial arts training and cereal—right after his big argument with Gareth and his ordeal with Leon. The ending of Ch 10 just doesn’t fit. I recommend keeping to a theme with each chapter. Chapter 9 is about Eric’s ordeal and his reaction to it. Chapter 10 is about how he deals with the aftermath and his own family. Combat training and breakfast don’t really fit, although maybe Shadow would fit somehow.

That’s all I have for this installment. Keep on writing, and I’ll leave you with a quote from William Faulkner:

“The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself”

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
23
23
Review by Graham B.
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Rhyz,

Continuing the series, here are my thoughts in the next installment. As always, this is just my opinion.

First of all, a whole lot of exposition in Chapter 5, as told through the character Leon. Backstory is important for any significant character, but there are ways to do that make for a more entertaining read, a sort of story-within-story. Leon’s backstory reads like a data dump. He should have a character arc as well as Eric, since he is a pretty important character, and revealing his backstory through developments in the plot, changing circumstances, and conversations throughout will help build tension and a character dynamic. This should be especially true between Leon and Eric.

Eric’s reaction to Leon telling him who was at fault for the Event doesn’t make much sense. I would expect surprise, shock, disbelief, but this violent reaction seems over the top. There was nothing leading up to this point to make the reader believe that Eric was a particularly violent person. I understand if this was a plot device to set up a new character dynamic between Eric and Albert, but it doesn’t seem in character. I like how you followed through with retribution from Albert, and a follow up apology. I would have expected a bit more guilt on Eric’s part when he realized that he had hurt Lewis.

So, Eric has been accepted by the Evos as one of their own, and given a room to live in. Shadow says they knew he was coming. Isn’t he the least bit curious about how they knew?

It looks like Shadow will continue to be the mysterious one, and you are continuing to build expectations about her. It will be interesting to see how she turns out.

Later, there’s more exposition by Leon. I thought you jumped the gun a bit, having Leon reveal what was so special about Eric through his monolog. This is a pretty important character aspect with huge implications, and I think it would be better to do so through plot development. In Star Wars, the audience doesn’t find out that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father until the end of the second movie. The result has far more emotional impact than if the audience had known from the beginning. It’s all about dramatic revelation, and these are pretty important aspects of the characters being revealed here.

There is a lot of action in this installment despite these chapters apparently being a setup for later plot developments. That’s a good way to keep the reader interested in the slower parts of the story. I like the time and detail you put into developing bonds between the characters. It should serve them well later on in the story. You did a pretty good job there.

If what you revealed in Leon’s monolog is to be used, then this would make for a large, very detailed story. You have a lot to work with, just don’t dump it all on the reader so soon in the story. With the huge world you are building, it sounds like you have a lot of work ahead of you. Keep at it!

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
24
24
Review by Graham B.
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Rhyz,

Thank you for sharing your work, and for requesting a review from me. This review is only my own opinion and is constructed to help you as well as I know how.

I like this take on people with powers appearing due to some unknown event. It makes me think of George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series of stories. It looks like the beginning of a larger work, so I won’t dwell much on the gaps in the plot as I assume they will be filled in later on, though I will mention them just to be sure.

Plot:
Your story seems to really begin with the Event, which you leave as an unknown. There is a six-month gap in time between the prologue and Chapter 1, during which the reader is left wondering what happened in the intervening time. I hope this is filled in later on, possibly through flashbacks.

One quibble here: Why would a game cost three hundred dollars? What sort of game is it? Also, Eric turns his pockets inside out for loose change. Was he really hoping that the loose change in his pockets would add up to three hundred dollars?

Eric and Gareth find themselves in the park, helping the people (presumably without powers) defend themselves from the Reapers. Why would Eric notice the Reapers sneaking into the crowd, but no one in the crowd notices? That’s a little hard to believe, unless the Reapers are dressed exactly like the people in the crowd, in which case, how did Eric notice them? Is that another power? Eric seems to be exploring another power he has – leadership, which for a fifteen-year-old boy is pretty impressive. Are the adults in the crowd really going to follow direction from someone this young? Eric carries out some feats of strength throughout the park scene, but no one seems to notice until he does his mind-blast thing, which marks him as a “freak.” Why didn’t the crowd notice his abilities when he jumped off the building, or the statue? Also, the crowd seemed ready to keep fighting Eric even after his display of power knocked them all down. Wouldn’t they be scared off? I know I would be. The TV on the building seems to be significant in some way, but it only functioned as a plot device to connect Eric with the other people with powers. I was expecting more from it. Maybe in future chapters?

The quarantine sets up a good setting for this story, where people are trapped and have to deal with each other, and with whatever lurking evil may have shown up. I would have liked to have known more about the quarantine, and how it’s being enforced. If you are trying to express the isolation of the inhabitants of this quarantined city, then you did it well. Is there anything else happening outside the quarantine?

Another quibble: you describe a massive structure in the city that didn’t exist before the Event. Apparently, they built it in six months, with no outside help or contractors. If it was built using powers, or if it has always existed, that should be explored as well.
You keep things moving quickly in this story, and that’s good. Just don’t leave out important details, or the story might not make sense.

Characters:
I enjoyed seeing Eric’s character develop, and it happens quickly. He seems to embody attributes of both a fifteen-year-old, and an adult, like someone who was forced by circumstance to grow up too fast. I like this development, and I think you should continue to run with it. However, I think you should have done more with Mum and Lewis. They are Eric’s family, and they would have figured prominently into his character. They would answer a lot of questions about who Eric is.

As I already mentioned, I think you should revisit the behavior of the crowd in the park, because it’s not quite believable. How would the other characters behave? I thought that “mini-hulk” caved a bit too quickly to let Eric and his family in to see the leader. I think another plot development would have been handy to nudge things in this direction. Think about the nature of each character, and how they would be inclined to respond to a situation. Their actions have to make sense.

Setting/atmosphere:
You did a pretty good job with the setting. I got a visual of rooftops of dilapidated buildings, and a ruined park. Just remember to use all of the senses, such as smell or touch.

Dialog:
Good job with the dialog. It reads naturally, like people speak. Nitpick: at one point Eric says, “I’m not going to take your bloody money.” The fact that they are talking about money in dollar amounts tells me that the setting is in North America, or possibly Australia. I’ve never heard Americans or Canadians say “bloody.” Australians might, but other idioms of Australian speech are missing from the dialog. Of course, if this city is entirely made up, then is isn’t an issue; you can have your characters speak in any way you want. Just remember the readers, and what might make the story feel authentic to them.

Grammar:
For the most part, there are no grammar issues. Here is what I noticed:

I swiveled my head to the other side of the street,
“Swiveled”

"Whoa, easy there tiger," the old man said soothingly
When one character addresses another, separate with a comma: “…easy there, tiger,”

“Guessing what was about to happen, I yelled, "Oh, NO!" and was about to stuff the sphere back into its box, but before I could, everything disappeared in a flash of blinding blue light.
Run-on sentence. I recommend splitting it between “box” and “but”

It is a massive building that takes up at least a block, is fifteen storeys high at a minimum
Typo: “storys”

I didn’t notice any other grammar issues.

I thought this was a good start to a fantasy story, and you should keep at it. Just remember to maintain continuity of the plot, and to have your characters behave as they should. In fantasy you have a lot of license to make things up, but always keep the story's authenticity in mind. It helps with the suspension of disbelief, which is the whole point of writing fiction, isn’t it? Keep at it, and you might turn out a compelling fantasy novel.

-Graham



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
25
25
Review by Graham B.
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
Bruce,

Thank you for sharing your work. I've read two of these, now and here are my impressions. Since this does not seem to be a work of fiction, I won't do my usual breakdown.

This is an extremely well-written an polished piece of work. I usually do a light proof-reading, but there's nothing to report here, so I will go into what I thought of this work. You have it in the genre of biographical, which I presume means you are telling of your own experiences. If you have worked on the rail yards for many years, I'm sure you have many stories to tell about it, which I would like to hear. The chapters I've read so far look like a documentary on the work of train operators (forgive me if I use the wrong vernacular). It is incredibly detailed, and the descriptions are precise.

I'm not sure what sort of readers this was intended for. It might be perfect for fellow rail workers or train enthusiasts. I think it would benefit from more anecdotes, like the one you provide at the end. How does a shedman's work affect his life? How did it affect the narrator's? That would put a more human face on this work.

Great job!

-Graham


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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