Archive for December 10th, 2007

Dec 10 2007

Holliequ’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

What I’m writing: A fantasy novel. Two teenagers from our world – Victor Coburn and Zoe Stockton – are somehow transported into another. There they find themselves on a quest for forbidden knowledge, mixed up in a war, and ultimately called upon to help save all creation. (That sounds really bad written like that. I’ll think about it a bit more…)

Target audience: I’m not aiming at a specific gender right now. Age range is probably something like 13 – 16.

Preferred style of reviews: Spare nothing, but please try to be polite about it.

Best references: My favourite fantasy novels are probably The Belgariad and The Mallorean by David Eddings, but I’m pretty sure I’m writing for a younger audience, haha. Least favourite work . . . I’m probably going to get lynched for this, but the Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkein. Only because I felt the narrative was a bit of a drag and a lot of the characters (particularly the women) were a bit flat. All that said, I loved The Hobbit.

[start story]

Victor swore loudly as a motorcycle raced past, only inches from his feet. The roar of the engine faded into the city traffic as the machine disappeared altogether. Victor quickly lost his scowl, shrugging as his dark eyes resumed their former activity: searching for some way through the maze of cars filling the street. Even though the traffic was basically at a standstill, he had trouble convincing himself that it was safe to cross the street – mostly because of people like that motorcycle rider. Very few motorists, it seemed, paid close attention to 16-year-olds trying to cross the road.
–I think pumping up his motivation might make him more interesting in this paragraph. Good description, though.

After a few seconds more of tentative steps forward, and then hasty steps backwards, Victor sighed and gave up. He glanced at his watch, groaning as he realised that he was already late for work – about seven streets away. Not only that, but his Dad had a meeting in just under an hour and had, somehow, managed to leave all the materials he needed at home.
–Much better, I think.
–I think that the urgency here might be assisted by faster-paced sentences. What would you think about “He glanced at his watch. He was already late for work, seven streets away. And his Dad had a meeting in an hour and had somehow managed to forget all his materials at home.”

Annoyed by the thought that he was going to be late to work because of his forgetful father, Victor didn’t pay much attention as he raced down the street. Instead, he concentrated on exactly what torture he’d put in place for motorcyclists when he was mayor of the city, no, Prime Minister. As he hurried up the steps of the grand office building his father worked in, he had just decided that having their bike torn in to scrap metal before their very eyes would be a suitable punishment for dodging traffic.
–“having their bike torn in to scrap metal before their very eyes would be a suitable punishment.” I”d recommend tightening this a bit. “tearing their bikes into scrap metal before their very eyes would be suitable punishment.”
–I’d think about replacing the phrase with “mayor of the city, no, Prime Minister” with just “Prime Minister” or “mayor” because I think it paces better.
–“had just decided” would probably be smoother as just “decided.”
–I really like the detail about him thinking about tearing their bikes into scrap metal. The humor is subdued but effective.

He opened the doors and entered, mind elsewhere, and he was embarrassed to find himself walking straight into somebody else. “Sorry, wasn’t looking where I was going,” he began automatically, beginning to crouch and gather the papers the person had dropped.
–I feel that this scene is a lot easier to place geographically than the last version.
–“mind elsewhere” sounds kind of awkward or, alternately, British. I’m not sure whether it feels awkward to me just because I’m American or whether a UK/Canadian/Australian/NZ publisher would react similarly.

“That much is obvious.”
–I think this is very smooth. I like the word choice.

Another pair of hands joined his in trying to gather the documents together, but Victor wasn’t paying attention to them any more. He knew that voice. The boy stared in shock at the girl he had bumped into.
–The first sentence here seems unproductive. It could probably be removed.

“Zoe? Zoe from history?”
She rolled her eyes. “No, it’s Zoe from Mars. Honestly. Did Michelle’s stupidity start rubbing off on you?”

–I love this. She strikes me as very well-characterized and more than slightly humorous.

He started moving again as a tall man in a sharp suit pointedly walked around them to get to the door; Victor had forgotten that he was blocking the entrance. By this time, Zoe had managed to gather nearly everything together – she was, of course, Zoe Stockton, and therefore everything she did was done better and quicker. At least, that was what you’d think if you heard the teachers singing her praises; she wasn’t quite as bad a person as they made out. Victor was even willing to forgive the mention of his ex-girlfriend, even though that ship had sailed and been blow apart weeks ago.
–I think the first sentence here helps give us an idea of what’s going on around them, but could probably be shortened.
–The punctuation in this paragraph strikes me as a bit, umm, exotic. There are two semi-colons, many commas and two sentences separated by a hyphen.

“What are you doing here?” Zoe asked him suspiciously, tucking a stray strand of red hair behind her ear.

“Dad was working on some advertising thingy for hours last night,” he explained, “But, being useless as he is, he forgot to take it with him this morning.”
–I really like the word “thingy” here. It really makes him sound like he’s in over his head.

She smiled and shook her head. “Like father, like son.”

“Hey, I’m no where near as forgetful as Dad,” Victor protested.
–This may just be an American thing, but I’d recommend condensing “no where” into one word, nowhere.

“You always forget your homework.”

“Yes, but – that’s homework. It doesn’t count.”

“Very true,” Zoe mused, “You wouldn’t do it even if you did remember.”

He shrugged. “Yeah, well, why waste my time on something I don’t need to do?”

She sighed. “One day, Victor Coburn, I’m going to find out how you manage to do so well in school without trying at all. But not today. See you around, maybe.”

“Why, are you here all day?” he asked, surprised.

She paused long enough to give him an answer. “I’m helping my Mum.”

–There’s a lot of back-and-forth dialogue here, interrupted only briefly by elements other than what the characters are saying. It may be more evocative to mention more about what the characters are doing, what’s going on, the scenery, etc.
–I’m not quite sure what to make of the detail that Victor does very well in school. It may be inconsistent with the characterization of him as a kind of bumbling kid that forgets everything. On the other hand, it’s not so inconsistent that I think it’s particularly important to revise or remove the detail. What do you think?

Then she dashed out of the doors and down the steps to the street. Zoe Stockton was always in a rush. Victor shook his head; he couldn’t understand the need to hurry all the time. Then he suddenly remembered that he had about 45 minutes before Dad’s meeting started and about 15 minutes more before the boss arrived at his own workplace and realised he wasn’t there on time. The boy eyed the lift regretfully as he ran for the stairs, ignoring the strange looks he got from people in the lobby.
–Is the word “then” at the start of this paragraph necessary? I think that the action– her essentially running away from him– would be more sudden and dramatic if it weren’t initiated by a “then.”

His father was normally happy to see him, but as Victor burst through the door he jumped and frowned at his son. It was only after Victor handed over the massive briefcase and his father’s memory stick that the expression cleared.
–I’d suggest switching “frowned” with a more quizzical expression.

“Oooh, I would have missed that during the meeting,” his Dad chuckled (though Victor didn’t see how it was funny), ruffling his son’s dark hair as he had done when he was small. “Thank you.”
He batted his father’s hand off and ducked away. “Yeah Dad, whatever.”

–the parenthetical phrase here is awkward. It’s a long sentence already.

“I’ve seen Clara Stockton’s daughter around today,” Mr. Coburn told his son, almost casually, as he carefully placed the briefcase on his desk. “She’s a nice girl.”
–This seems like an awkward way to introduce the dad’s feelings about Zoe. It may be slightly less awkward if the son brings him his briefcase AND something that Zoe asked him to take up that way.

“She’s alright,” he replied warily.

“Quite pretty, too.”

Victor groaned. Not this again. “Dad!”
–“Not this again” seems to be from Victor’s perspective rather than the narrator’s.

“I’m just saying,” his father answered defensively, holding up his hands. “It’s, you know, an observation.”

“Not a very subtle one . . .” Victor scowled, annoyed by his father’s words – although it wasn’t so much his words as the tone behind them. His Dad was of the mistaken belief that he hadn’t quite “gotten over” Michelle yet and, apparently, a new girlfriend would solve this problem. Even if his father had been right – which he definitely, definitely wasn’t – then Zoe Stockton was not the solution.
–If the tone is what annoys the boy, then it would probably help to mention the tone when the father is first speaking the words.
–“was of the mistaken belief that” could probably be “mistakenly believed that”
–Depending on your style, a zany metaphor or simile might be in order at the end of the paragraph. “Zoe Stockton was not the solution, any more than Victor was a jelly doughnut.”

As his Dad started to say something else, Victor looked at his watch – and grimaced. “Dad, I’m really sorry but I’ve got to go.”

His father looked at the clock on the wall. Scowling, he said, “Christ Vic, didn’t your work start 10 minutes ago? Can’t you keep better time?”
–Haha, I like this.

“Well, I had to come a different way to give you all your stuff for the meeting!” Victor protested
The man’s angry expression dissolved. “I should have known that would be the explanation. I’m sorry; you shouldn’t have to look after your old Dad like this. If I’d remembered everything this morning like I was supposed to . . .”
–I don’t like this paragraph. First, the father comes to appreciate the son’s efforts too quickly. Second, I think that the relationship between the father and son would be more interesting if the father appears to blame the boy for being late to work (when we know that it’s really the father’s fault).

“Yeah Dad, that’s great,” Victor said, concentrating on edging towards the door rather than listening, “Look, save the rant for later, okay? I’ve got to run. Good luck with your meeting!”
–Not necessary, I think.

Without letting his father get another word in, Victor opened the door and stepped outside before slamming it behind him. He felt a little guilty about running from his Dad without even saying goodbye properly, but he was late and getting later by the second. This thought spurred him on as he threw himself down the stairs, hoping that he’d be able to make it to work before he became grounds-for-firing late.

He reached the first floor without incident, dodging around astonished office workers like the rugby star that he was. Victor was starting to feel a little more optimistic about keeping his job when he ran into Zoe Stockton again – literally.
–I’m having trouble visualizing him as a rugby star, but OK.

“Ow!” The girl exclaimed loudly, crashing to the floor and dropping the large stack of files she was carrying. Victor stood sheepishly amongst the mess as she glared up at him. “What the hell, Victor? Are you out to get me today or something?”
–I love her lines here.

“Sorry,” he muttered, helping Zoe to her feet. “I’m not having a good day.”
“You really didn’t have to tell me that,” she answered sourly, “I think I could have worked it out for myself.”

–Her lines may be longer than necessary here. You could probably cut out her first line and use her second instead.

Victor sighed and simply started collecting the files together again as quickly as he could. After a moment, when she’d realised that he was intelligent enough not to get into an argument with her (not right now, anyway), Zoe started to help.

It took well over ten minutes, because Zoe insisted on putting back all the papers into the right files (how she knew, Victor had no idea, and he suspected she was guessing with half of them. He also suspected she would blame those ones on him). By the time it was done Victor looked like he was dancing on coals – every second in Zoe’s company that dragged by reminded him that he was getting closer and closer to a lot of trouble at work (with a capital T).
–I’d recommend axing the phrase “with a capital T.”

He was relieved when the task was finally done. “I’m really sorry about that, Zoe. Anyway, I’ll see you around, I’ve got to–”

“I don’t think so,” Zoe interrupted thunderously, “You are not getting away with this that easily!”
“But I’m late for work,” Victor protested, inwardly groaning as he imagined just what more delay would do to his welcome.

–I dislike some of the phrases here. thunderously is a kind of intrusive word… inwardly groaning seems kind of superfluous…

“Well I don’t care! I’m injured!” she retorted, tossing her hair and glaring. “Besides, aren’t you on the rugby team? This should take you half the time it would take me.”
–“I’m injured!” Haha!

“There’s a big difference between rugby and carrying a bunch of folders–” he began.
Zoe evidently wasn’t listening. She picked up all but three of the folders and dumped them into his arms. “Stop whining and get moving. My Mum’s office is on the tenth floor.”

Victor groaned. “Zoe, I’m going to be so late it’s not even funny . . .”

“Well you should have thought of that before you crashed into me,” she answered. “Come on, we’ll take the lift.”
–Comma after well, I think.
–“Well, you should have thought of that before you crashed into me.” Haha!

–What would you think about ending the chapter here?  I didn’t find the next two paragraphs very productive.

He snorted bad-temperedly. “Well, thank God for small mercies. At least we can take the lift.”

Victor Coburn found himself being dragged to the tenth floor, hoping that Zoe’s demands wouldn’t make him as late for work as he suspected they might – not that he could just walk off after running into her like that. And, in all honesty, at this point it probably wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway.

79 responses so far

Dec 10 2007

Retardised Whovian’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

What I’m Writing: a superhero novel about the adventures of a teenage waiter/student named Isaac Maehara. Having been abandoned in our universe by his species, he has lived in a foster family for his whole life. Being a separate species has its perks, such as the ability to convert air into energy through mental power and the ability to fly, but Isaac feels a bit cut off because of his secret. When he becomes a superhero known as the Guardian, he has to put up with a blackmailing girlfriend and a villain set on revenge, all while hiding his injuries from his family/friends and making up lies to keep his secret safe.

Target Audience: My target audience is from 12-16 year olds, but I’m not really writing for any gender. I have moments for the girls (a bit of romance and some “aaw” moments) and some for the guys (fights, showdowns and tension). I think it would attract new people to the genre, as well as people who’ve read similar things before.

Author Experience: I’m a bit experienced at writing; I’ve been doing it roughly five years (though the first three years produced nothing but crap), so I’d be “Please be polite, but I can take a bit of criticism.” I’m extremely reluctant to change big details like twists and characterization.

Comparable Works: Mine could be compared to Maximum Ride and maybe Daniel X, both of which are my favourites and the only ones I’ve read.

126 responses so far

Dec 10 2007

E-Mail of the Day


TO: OfficeofSpecialInvestigationsListServ@osi. gov

SUBJ: I’m in reptile hell, wish you were here! And a cheerful December 25 to you, too!

Our idiotic legislative branch has seen fit to direct federal Human Resources branches to “take measures this December to promote diversity through awareness of the cultural practices of diverse cultures practicing December sentiment.*”

Investigation has revealed that OSI agents culturally practice such diverse days as Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Pancha Ganapati, and the Winter Solstice Festival of The Arrival of The Dark Lord Xanthu*. If you are interested in learning about these festivals, get your ass to a library.

If you are reading this, your ass is not in a library because agency e-mail accounts are not for public use and because the consequences for violating operational security are swift, severe and sharp.

Because you do not have access to a library, allow me to enlighten you about the December beliefs of certain tribes of a certain kingdom** contained within Florida in an area that is caught between four nuclear power plants that make Chernobyl look appealing have deflated local property values. “Seminoles?” you ask.***

I’m speaking about a tribe virtually identical to Seminoles in every respect but a few: 1) scales 2) foot-long-teeth 3) a total absence of anything approaching culture or intelligence. We are, of course, speaking about the dwellers creatures of the Jurassic Arc. They are known by many names: manimals, crackodiles, mutated wastes of oxygen. As far as anyone can tell, their main purpose is to serve as the best argument against nuclear power.

Congress recently suggested that, “the government is undertaking a cultural excursion to the crocodiles of the ‘Jurassic Arc.’ Given the dearth of reptile-American federal employees, it is suggested that you partake of said excursion. It is noted that the Office of Special Investigation’s budgetary request is pending.”  

The Jurassic Arc is a fine place to spend a hellish week experiencing the filthy bottom hygienic diversity of the reptile world. National Geographic recently described the radioactive weedarium marsh as “an epic opportunity to explore a self-contained biome that closely resembles the conditions of the late Jurassic.” That all is true, insofar as the late Jurassic had 1) reptiles so vilely repulsive that other species felt the need to flee from or attack them 2) mosquitoes the size of Seminoles (helicopters, not Indians) and 3) a conspicuous lack of deodorant.

Earlier today I met a moonsuited researcher-mammal from the Environmental Protection Agency. He was positively giddy about the “sociological value” of the find here. He asserts that some fraction of the creatures here have quasi-human intelligence. Either his nose is completely dysfunctional or, more likely, the DEA should investigate whatever he’s buying from the crackodiles.

Speaking of “sociological value,” I think that it would be worthwhile to document some conversations to prepare my legal defense.

ORANGE: Hello. I’m Agent Orange.

CRACKODILE 1: Oarings!

CRACKODILE 2: Awwings!

CRACKODILE 3: What’s a agent?


CRACODILE 1: Eh-gint!

ORANGE: Sort of like a primordial lizard, except that I have a higher threshold to wanton slaughter and am much more effective at it.

CRACKODILE 3: What’s a threshold?

ORANGE: Getting lower by the moment.

The following conversation occurs after the three crackodiles have apparently stalked me in the wilderness to discover where I make camp each night.

ORANGE: …you woke me up.

CRACKODILE 1, 2: Hullo!

ORANGE: What are you doing here?

CRACKODILE 3: They wanted to know what your box does.

ORANGE: My computer? It’s a machine that protects my sanity by connecting me to intelligent life.

CRACKODILE 1: Compooder!

ORANGE: GAH! Slowly, put that down… or I will put you down.





Fortunately for the continuation of the crackodile species, the EPA agent happily surrendered offered his computer to me. On day four of our cultural excursion, the EPA man made the egregious mistake of bringing up Christmas. Crackodile 3 then attempted to demonstrate his tribe’s own religious gift-bringing ceremonies. The details are still unclear to me—and I hope they always will be—but the EPA agent woke up the next morning to find what is apparently the severed head of a leopluridon at his feet. The EPA agent attempted to explain to me that night that the ritual rearranging of the leopluridon’s brain tissue is meant to bring good luck.

Other Findings

  1. The next mammal to call me a “peer” of the crackodiles is going to have an unfortunate accident falling down the stairs. Onto a food processor.
  2. The next time someone wants religious diversity, they’re getting a decapitated leopluridon.




***Assuming you’re an idiot.




Here is a series of completely unrelated thoughts.

  1. I am on “an excursion to the [crackodiles] of the Jurassic Arc,” which suggests that my obligation is predicated on the presence of crackodiles.
  2. I laughed so hard during the scene in Aberration when the broad rigs her house to explode and then lures the crocodiles inside.
  3. The crackodiles live in something like a communal hut.
  4. Eglin Air Force Base is an hour’s flight away.
  5. Captain Crash can restation himself and his F-99 to EAFB at his leisure.
  6. EAFB has occasionally had issues with ordnance control. They really need to be more careful.
  7. Captain Crash’s F-99 holds three tons of bunker-busting explosives.
  8. The crackodiles have expressed an interest in flying mammals.
  9. Captain Crash is, in a matter of speaking, a flying mammal.
  10. If any crackodiles are alive by the time Congress allows me to escape, a flying mammal will be restationed to the Jurassic Arc.

2 responses so far

Dec 10 2007

The dream lives!

Published by under Football

Having trounced Pittsburgh, the New England Patriots appear to have a clear road to a perfect 16-0 season.  But they won’t go 16-0 because the Miami Dolphins are going to beat them and go 1-15.  I will further predict that their win against the Patriots will be their only win this season. 

No responses yet

Dec 10 2007

Preliminary Search Engine Optimization Results

10 days ago, I changed the title of one of my most popular articles from “Helping Girls Write Guys” toWriting Male Characters(I explained my reasoning here). I think that it’ll take 20 or so more days until I have conclusive information, but so far the article has tripled in unique hits over the past ~9.5 days compared to the 10 days before the change. I had anticipated some change, because my target audience is much more likely to use words like male/writing/characters than helping/girls/guys, but the magnitude of the leap surprised me.

Additionally, the article has become more effective. I suspect that the new title retains readers that click the Google link more effectively. “Writing Male Characters” is very straight-forward and serious; “Helping Girls Write Guys” doesn’t sound nearly as helpful.

  1. Before, the article bounced an unacceptably high ~60% of readers. That has dropped to 35%. My preliminary conclusion is that strong titles are critical to retaining readers.
  2. Including readers that bounce after a very short amount of time, the average time spent on the article has increased from two minutes to three. Excluding relatively unpopular articles that are skewed by a few devoted readers (three people spent an average of 30 minutes on one of mine), only my review of Soon I Will Be Invincible and my article on naming characters retain readers longer. And my SIWBI review is 4000 words long.
  3. With the exception of the main site at, more readers enter my site through this article than any other.


One response so far