Dec 23 2010

Luke’s Review Forum

Published by at 7:49 am under Review Forums

This story is about a maintenance man that discovers that reality is managed and operated by a group of eccentric bureaucrats.

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Luke’s Review Forum”

  1. Luke C.on 31 Dec 2010 at 12:59 pm

    All righty then! I guess I’ll begin by tackling your questions:

    1. What are you trying to write?

    – A novel about a maintenance man who discovers that reality is managed and operated by a group of eccentric bureaucrats (but you knew that already). I’m not entirely sure what genre that falls in, but if I had to hazard a guess I’d say Science Fiction.

    2. Do you have a target audience in mind? This will help readers offer better-aimed feedback.

    – 16 to 24 year-old males, I suppose; though I’d like to think that it would appeal to a wider audience that than. As for comparable works, I can’t really think of anything that’s quite like mine, but The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy comes to mind. Except mine’s not quite as silly.

    3. How thick is your skin? This will help reviewers offer thorough and polite criticism.

    – If my work is awful, please don’t hesitate to tell me. As long as you explain why it’s awful, I’ll be happy.

    Oookay then, I guess it’s about time that I got this train wreck a-rollin’!

    _________________________________
    _________________________________

    Chapter 1
    When things fell apart

    “I don’t think the ride is supposed to bend that way,” Irving said passively, despite the pandemonium around him.
    The Royal Roulette was not especially tall when compared to most Ferris wheels, nor was it as popular as the other rides that filled the seaside amusement park. The ride was, however, completely safe. Or at least, it had appeared to be for a long time. Today, it appeared to be a heinous death machine.
    “There’s no reason for this to be happening!” a man cried out in frustration.
    The man (who was not the aforementioned Irving, but rather a fellow named Tod) ran around the structure frantically, troubled by the increasingly apparent fact that it could (and most likely would) come crashing down to the ground at any given moment. Tod looked up the ride’s terrified passengers, who were shaking in their brightly colored gondolas. Most of the people closer to the ground had already abandoned the ride, but those who were higher up when the ride stopped had no way to get down.
    Tell me, self: how could have you botched things up this badly? Tod thought to himself miserably.
    Tod knew a lot of things about the Royal Roulette, considering the fact that he was in charge of maintaining it. He knew exactly how tall it was, its maximum weight capacity, the number of gondolas it had, and even the number of its rotations per hour. He also knew that, considering the angle at which the 3rd support was bending, it couldn’t be more than 15 minutes until the ride came crashing down.
    That is, 15 minutes in addition to the 10 that had already gone by since the time that the ordeal had begun.
    The idea of the Royal Roulette’s destruction didn’t really bother Tod; in fact he had always been rather fond of the idea that someday the blasted thing would just go away altogether. He had long thought that the Ferris wheel’s roulette-inspired color scheme was incredibly tacky and didn’t go well at all with the beautiful sea behind it. But no matter how much he disliked the ride, idea that it would be destroyed while carrying a good number of passengers bothered him greatly, so he was determined to do whatever was necessary to keep the structure standing. Unfortunately, a few quick glances at the supports told him that the ride was unsalvageable, and the control panel’s refusal to operate showed that the outlook for the passengers wasn’t much better.
    Yeah, this probably isn’t going to end well.
    Tod considered calling 911 again. The local fire department had a spotless record; their response times were known for being top notch. And yet, for some reason, it seemed like today the entire team had completely vanished from the face of the earth. Despite a plethora of emergency phone calls and the department’s assurance that help was its way, the sound of sirens was disquietingly absent from the monstrous cacophony surrounding the scene. On the other hand, the sound of screams was present and accounted for.
    Throughout his life, Tod had always cherished the quiet times when he could stop and think. This, sadly, was not one of those times. However, on better days he would spend a good deal of his time thinking. He would think about many things: his life, life in general, the lives of others, ways to improve the mediocre seaside amusement park where he worked, books he had read, people he had met; the list goes on and on. However, to his irritation, the present situation was calling for him to think, but he was having trouble doing so.
    I need to do something, Tod kept telling himself. He couldn’t wait for help any longer. He had to take matters into his own hands. But every time he tried to think up a solution, he was overcome by the inescapable fact that the deterioration of the ride supports and the inoperability of the control panel were due to his own incompetence. He was well aware that beating himself up for something that couldn’t be changed was eating up precious time, but he still couldn’t quite concentrate on finding a solution.
    There’s no way I can watch all these people get hurt.
    He turned his back to the scene. In doing so he noticed a row of game kiosks where guests threw basketballs into nets (or at least attempted to) in order to win prizes.
    Nets!
    Grabbing a pair of wire cutters from his tool belt, he ran over to the kiosk and started cutting the nets off their hoops. If these had been regular basketball nets, they wouldn’t have been of much use. However, these had been made specifically for the midway, and they created a nice, long tunnel for basketballs to roll back down to the player. They would be perfect for constructing a safety net.
    Okay, now for the next one, Tod thought as he finished cutting one of the nets free.
    “Groooooan,” went the Royal Roulette’s supports, which were getting closer to buckling completely.
    “Hey,” Tod cried to a group of teenagers that were watching the terrible catastrophe unfold “Help me tie these nets together!”
    It didn’t take long for the teens to realize what Tod was up to. In a matter of seconds, they were rushing over to help. He was momentarily amazed by how eagerly these people were assisting him. For some reason he had assumed that nobody would help him and that he would have to save everyone on his own. He wasn’t entirely sure what made him think this.
    Good grief, I’m not even 30 and I’m already thinking like a cynical old man.
    The group of eighteen people (Tod included) worked as quickly as their fingers would let them, cutting nets open and then linking them to other ones. It was tedious work, but with so many people it seemed to Tod that all the work would be done with time to spare.
    Then the control panel exploded in a burst of flame.
    That’s lovely. Now I really wish the fire department were here.
    Tod dropped his wire cutters and rushed to the source of the blaze.
    Okay, how am I gonna solve this one?
    Once more, nothing was coming to mind.
    “Keep working!” he called to the teens, who had been momentarily entranced by the fire.
    Smoke billowed heavily from the tongues of flame that lurched from the charred remains of the sole method of operating the wheel. While the fire itself didn’t appear to pose any immediate danger to the passengers, Tod knew that there was still a risk that the fire would spread to the rest of the park, not to mention the fact that it would probably expedite the Royal Roulette’s collapse. It occurred to him that the smoke would probably be bad for the passenger’s lungs, but his concern for their health was eclipsed by his concern for their lives.
    Tod stomped his foot on the ground in frustration. Why, oh why hadn’t he taken better care of that ride? Surely none of this would have happened if he had only done his job right! In his moment of misery, he glanced up at the sky. He noticed that the weather was absolutely beautiful; the sky was blue and clear, and the sun reflected over the sea in that certain way that made the waters seem even bluer and deeper than usual. He quickly turned away from the beach in disgust. There it was: mile after mile of fire retardant, and yet it was all too far away for him to simply get a bucket of water and run back. No, by then it would be too late. He may succeed in putting the fire out, but by then the wheel would have already fallen flat.
    “Hey, are you going to help us with this thing or not?” called out one of the teens.
    Tod snapped out his deep thought and looked back at the work going on at midway. There were fewer teens now; he surmised that some of them had been scared away by the explosion.
    “Just a moment,” Tod replied. “I’m trying to think of a way to put out the fire.”
    “Can’t that wait until we get those people down?” the teen asked back.
    Tod glanced at the slowly growing fire under the Royal Roulette.
    “Probably not, but I guess it’ll have to.”
    That was easier said than done. True, he and the teens could probably get near enough to the Ferris wheel without getting burned by the flames or inhaling too much smoke, but that was under one condition:
    They would have to stand under the falling Ferris wheel.
    Yup, there would be no other way. Tod could see that the fire was adamantly burning on the side nearest to him, but neglecting the other side of the wheel entirely.
    “Grooooooooan…screeeech….” went the Royal Roulette.
    Oh, shut up. This is hard enough without you rushing us.
    Tod glanced back at the teens. They were on their way with the makeshift safety net.
    Let’s just hope this thing doesn’t catch fire.
    He grabbed a section of the net and made his way over to the wheel with the others. Up until that instant, the fire had been relatively small. Sadly, the instant afterward, a great ball of fire erupted from the base of the wheel.
    “I…I can’t do it,” said one teenage boy nervously.
    The group stopped for a moment and stared at him. Was he actually quitting? Was he just going to give up, and let the twelve remaining people do the rest without him?
    “Fine!” a girl exclaimed angrily. “If you want to let all those people die, then go!”
    But the first boy wasn’t listening. He was too busy running away as fast as his adolescent legs could carry him.
    “Forget him, let’s keep going!” Tod called to the teens.
    After this quick and melodramatic distraction, the team continued their mission and spread out in front of the Ferris wheel. There wasn’t anything to tie the net to, so they just pulled it as taught as possible.
    “Your attention please!” Tod yelled to the passengers. “Due to circumstances beyond our control, I’m afraid we must request that you leap for your lives onto this net, preferably one at a time. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
    “Are you out of your mind?” exclaimed the woman in gondola #5. “There’s no way on earth you’re going to get me to jump down there!”
    “Ma’am, the Ferris wheel is broken, on fire, and going to collapse in five to ten minutes. On top of that the fire department is being superiorly tardy, so there’s not much choice.”
    The woman still didn’t look convinced, and neither did the other riders.
    “Graaaachoooong,” groaned the wheel.
    The attraction lurched forward. It wasn’t a very big lurch, but it was still more than enough to change the riders’ minds. In a matter of seconds, people were preparing to jump.
    “One at a time, please! You in the fedora, you go first! We’ll go clockwise from there!”
    One by one, people jumped from the structure. Most of them ran away as soon as they were safe, but several of them (including the man in the fedora) stayed behind to help hold the net. This turned out to be very fortunate, since several of the ride’s passengers proved to be quite large. Everyone was landing relatively unharmed, except for one fellow who bounced off the edge of the net and fell to the ground. He reeled in pain, but still managed to make his way to safety.
    “Okay,” Tod said, “I think we’re almost d—”
    “GRACK!” went the Royal Roulette.
    The structure heaved forward once more, further than it had the last time. The sudden jolt caused several people to fall out – onto the net, thankfully enough – and Tod felt like his arms were going to be ripped out of their sockets from all the strain. But the trouble didn’t end there. After the latest lurch, the wheel hadn’t stopped moving. It was continually descending, albeit slowly, and every second its pace seemed to quicken. Before long the one-at-a-time rule was being completely disregarded.
    “Everyone, please calm down!” Tod yelled. “You may land on somebody else or make us drop the net!”
    These words were barely out of his mouth when the man leapt from the ride. Tod’s arms strained painfully when the man hit the net.
    “Next!”
    One by one, people jumped from the structure. Most of them ran away as soon as they were safe, but several of them (including the man in the fedora) stayed behind to help hold the net. This turned out to be very fortunate, since several of the ride’s passengers proved to be quite large. Everyone was landing relatively unharmed, except for one fellow who bounced off the edge of the net and fell to the ground. He reeled in pain, but managed to make his way to safety.
    “Okay,” Tod said, “I think we’re almost d—”
    “GRACK!” went the Royal Roulette.
    The structure heaved forward once more, further than it had the last time. The sudden jolt caused several people to fall out – onto the net, thankfully enough – and Tod felt like his arms were going to be ripped out of their sockets from all the strain. But the trouble didn’t end there. After the latest lurch, the wheel hadn’t stopped moving. It was continually descending, albeit slowly, and every second its pace seemed to quicken. Before long the one-at-a-time rule was being completely disregarded.
    “Everyone, please calm down!” Tod yelled. “You may land on somebody else or make us drop the net!”
    Despite Tod’s cries, people kept on jumping – and falling, as Tod realized – out of their gondolas. For a split second Tod let the rope slip out of his hands, but he quickly grabbed it again.
    The Royal Roulette didn’t have that many gondolas, and each one couldn’t have held more than four people, unless one or two of them were exceptionally small. So why was it that the number of people jumping from the structure seemed to be infinite? The pain in his shoulders had made Tod forget all about the time remaining (if he had stopped to think, he would have guessed around three minutes, give or take a couple), and just when he thought he couldn’t take anymore, the flow of people stopped.
    “Is that everybody?” asked one of the net holders.
    “No, there’s still a family in that green one!” said the man in the fedora.
    Tod looked up at gondola #0. Inside he could see a man, a woman, and a little girl, all of them huddled together. The girl was sobbing hysterically in her seat, and her parents were trying to calm her down.
    “Get out of there, we don’t have any time left!” Tod called out to them.
    The man (whom Tod assumed was the father of the girl) nodded to Tod. The man then gently picked up his little girl and set her head next to his. He pulled his wife close to them, and together the parents whispered something to child. They were still for a few seconds, and right when Tod was about to say something else, he saw the father toss the young girl out of the gondola. She thrashed about in fright on the way down, but she landed safely on the net.
    “SNAP!” went the 3rd support.
    One of the supports was now broken entirely, and the Ferris wheel promptly started hurling towards the ground. Well, not exactly hurling, but that’s what it seemed like at the time. To Tod, everything was moving in slow motion, but he was still aware that the wheel was falling very, very fast. Or at least faster than he would have liked. He gave it no more than a minute and a half, assuming that the ride didn’t just completely fall apart before then. Tod’s fellow rescuers, apparently deciding they had saved enough people, quickly abandoned the net and ran. Feeling deserted and helpless, Tod looked up at the couple in gondola #0, who were holding each other tight while they watched the ground come closer and closer.
    It was my responsibility to make sure something like this didn’t happen. Some job I did, huh?
    Tod considered running. He was ashamed of himself for considering it, even as he considered it. However, considering his consideration for the considerably distressed couple, he decided that such a considerable consideration would be inconsiderate.
    “I’ll catch you!” he screamed to the couple.
    What? What, what, what? Did he really just say that? Where did that idea even come from? Would that even work? The couple looked at him like he was crazy. Tod thought he was crazy, too, but only for a moment. No, it wasn’t completely insane— the two were slightly more than halfway up. They might have even stood a slight chance of barely surviving the fall without him there to break it. But he wasn’t going to risk that. He stretched out his arms.
    “No, seriously! Just jump down, I’ll catch you in my arms! It’s my fault you’re in this situation, anyway!”
    The wife shook her head, understandably believing Tod to be out of his mind. The husband, however, believed differently. Something in Tod’s voice told him that this mere maintenance worker would be willing to stand there and wait for them until they all perished. Without giving the situation another thought (there wasn’t time for any at that point), he whispered something to his spouse and proceeded to shove her out the gondola before she could realize what was happening.
    After the woman landed on Tod, she initially couldn’t tell if he was still alive or not. He had been knocked to the ground and his eyes were closed, but he was breathing- at least for the time being. Maybe ‘alive’ isn’t the best word to describe how Tod felt at that moment. He was still in control of his earthly vessel, but he felt more detached from it than anything else. Despite his out-of-body sensation, searing pain coursed through his body.

    * * *

    Now, when you read a book, you may come across the phrase “with the last of his/her strength.” I’d like to ask you to consider what that phrase really means. You don’t reach out of bed in the morning to turn off your alarm clock with ‘the last of your strength’ (unless you had previously been wrestling a grizzly bear and your alarm clock was unusually vicious), nor do most professional boxers really finish their matches with the honest-to-goodness final remains of their strength. The last of your strength comes after what you thought was the last of your strength. It’s a strength that you didn’t know you had, a strength that doesn’t seem to come from anywhere.
    “Found strength” another commonly used phrase, but in most instances, it is used entirely wrong. As most people who have been in life-or-death situations tell you, the strength had seemed to find them, just as it found Tod that day and helped him to once more stand up and spread out his arms.
    “I’ll catch you!” he called out weakly to last remaining passenger.
    “Forget me, run!” the man replied.
    “No, really, you have to! Please! You have a wife and a kid! I have no one! ”
    This wasn’t entirely true. He may not have had a girlfriend, but on a good day he wouldn’t go as far as to say he had no one. But today was not a good one, and Tod knew that the man wasn’t going to come down without a little bit of extra coaxing.
    “If you don’t jump now, we’ll both die!” he added.
    The man hesitated for a moment. Tod wasn’t much sure how much longer he would be on his feet; he was amazed to be standing at all. Finally, the man leapt. He was much heavier than his wife had been, and the fact that the Royal Roulette ride was practically propelling him didn’t help either. Tod caught him (well, maybe ‘caught’ isn’t really the word) and was knocked to the ground. The man got up and ran away, but Tod didn’t get back up. Barely lucid, he looked up at the burning Royal Roulette.
    He had been there when it was first built. As a matter of fact, he had helped somewhat in its construction. Even though he was only a mere maintenance man, his many years at the park had earned him respect among many of the higher-ups. Occasionally they would offer him a better position, but he always turned them down. He loved being a maintenance man. He loved taking care of things that made people happy. When there was nothing from him to do, he loved to sit on a bench and simply watch families go by.
    Today, however, he had been watching something completely different. He had watched families run in terror. He had watched children cry, as well as their parents. He had watched people fall from a burning ride that he had thought he was taking care of. But somehow, none of that mattered now. True, he failed in his responsibility to keep the ride safe. But what’s the point of a ride being safe? To protect its passengers, of course. And that’s exactly what he had done.
    No, there would be no regrets. He had enjoyed his life, from being born in a small town in Arizona, to his time spent in college, and all those years in between and beyond that he had spent in this very same park where he now lay. He watched the Royal Roulette grow larger and larger. He thought about how much he loved to think, and how he wouldn’t get the chance to do so again.
    But then, that’s an awfully depressing thought, isn’t it? I mean, who wants to live the last few seconds of their life being all plaintive and introspective?
    No, he decided he would go with a smile on his face. He would go happy, knowing that in the end he had fulfilled his duty. To him, the end was not really that bad, and certainly nothing to get too worked up about.
    As Tod lay there on the pavement staring up at the fiery behemoth above him, he grinned and sighed contentedly.
    “SLAM!”

    _________________________________
    _________________________________

    A few things I’m unsure of:

    – Regarding the part where Tod gets the idea to turn the basketball nets into one big safety net: there’s probably a really good way to rewrite that paragraph, but sadly I’ve yet to find it.

    – Regarding the “considerable consideration” bit: is it amusing, or simply just distracting?

    – Regarding the “last of his strength/found strength” bit: again, does this add to the story, or is it simply taking focus off the action?

    – There are several points where the narrator’s voice reflects Tod’s view of the situation. Is this effective, or should I switch those parts to Tod’s thoughts?

    – As you probably noticed, the Royal Roulette is given dialogue in the form of onomatopoeias. Good or bad?

    _________________________________
    _________________________________

    Well, that’s it for now. Again, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to review my work. I look forward to hearing back from you!

    P.S. I composed this at 4 AM after celebrating the new year, so I apologize in advance if I did anything dumb (like omit large chunks of text).

  2. Luke C.on 31 Dec 2010 at 1:08 pm

    P.P.S. Apparently this site isn’t fond of indentations. Sorry about that; I’m not sure how to fix it.

  3. B. Macon 01 Jan 2011 at 11:46 am

    ““There’s no reason for this to be happening!” a man cried out in frustration.” This doesn’t feel natural, like something someone might say in a crisis. What would you think about the attendant running the ride or a mechanic saying something like “I don’t know what’s wrong!” or “I can’t stop it!” Also, who’s he talking to?

    I like the contrast between Irving’s calm and the grim spectacle unfolding around him.

    “The man (who was not the aforementioned Irving, but rather a fellow named Tod) ran around the structure frantically, troubled by the increasingly apparent fact that it could (and most likely would) come crashing down to the ground at any given moment.” I think the parenthetical phrases are awkward here.

    Tod is described as “the man” and “a man” and “a fellow named Tod” before he’s described as the guy in charge of maintaining the ride. I would recommend mentioning sooner that he’s the maintenance man.

    “He also knew that, considering the angle at which the 3rd support was bending, it couldn’t be more than 15 minutes until the ride came crashing down. That is, 15 minutes in addition to the 10 that had already gone by since the time that the ordeal had begun.” Could be: “The 3rd support was bending at such a precarious angle that the ride would surely topple within 15 minutes.”

    I don’t feel like Tod’s characterization is really consistent. He’s pacing around frantically at the start, like I think a normal person would, but then he gets distracted by how tacky the ride’s color scheme was and adds (glibly, I think) “Yeah, this probably isn’t going to end well.”

    “Throughout his life, Tod had always cherished the quiet times when he could stop and think. This, sadly, was not one of those times.” I think this is contradicted by the fairly long paragraphs where he stops to think about, say, the color style of the ride in question. In an intense crisis scene like this, I’d recommend shorter sentences and more physical details. Less coherent monologuing.

    “But every time he tried to think up a solution, he was overcome by the inescapable fact that the deterioration of the ride supports and the inoperability of the control panel were due to his own incompetence. He was well aware that beating himself up for something that couldn’t be changed was eating up precious time, but he still couldn’t quite concentrate on finding a solution.” This strikes me as maybe too cerebral for a life-or-death situation.

    “Groooooan,” went the Royal Roulette’s supports, which were getting closer to buckling completely. I feel like this tone might not match the rest of the scene. (This is a pretty serious scene, right?)

    “Smoke billowed heavily from the tongues of flame that lurched from the charred remains of the sole method of operating the wheel. While the fire itself didn’t appear to pose any immediate danger to the passengers, Tod knew that there was still a risk that the fire would spread to the rest of the park, not to mention the fact that it would probably expedite the Royal Roulette’s collapse.” I don’t think this feels as visceral and intense as it should, given the scene. I’d recommend pacing it more quickly.

    “Your attention please!” Tod yelled to the passengers. “Due to circumstances beyond our control, I’m afraid we must request that you leap for your lives onto this net, preferably one at a time. Sorry for the inconvenience.” I like this voicing. On the one hand, there’s something of a discrepancy between his polite/formal/corporate-sounding speech and the fiery explosions happening around him. The discrepancy here is smoother and more stylish here than it had been, I think. (His monologuing felt less believable).

    The character feels guilty for letting the ride come to this situation. It might help if you provided a line or two establishing that he really IS responsible. Was he looking elsewhere when something happened that he should have noticed? (Plus, that would help establish his propensity for getting distracted).


    The shift to second-person disoriented me a bit. “Now, when you read a book, you may come across the phrase “with the last of his/her strength.” I’d like to ask you to consider what that phrase really means. You don’t reach out of bed in the morning to turn off your alarm clock with ‘the last of your strength’ (unless you had previously been wrestling a grizzly bear and your alarm clock was unusually vicious), nor do most professional boxers really finish their matches with the honest-to-goodness final remains of their strength.” As far as second person narration goes, I actually liked it, but I think it’d feel less out of place if the narrator addressed readers earlier on.

    In your postnotes, you asked if this distracted from the action. No, actually, I think it adds to explaining the full measure of what he’s doing. However, the shift to second person is distracting. I’d recommend working in a line or two of second-person a bit earlier to help prepare us for it.

    “No, really, you have to! Please! You have a wife and a kid! I have no one!” I dunno. I think he comes off sounding improbably heroic here.

    “Even though he was only a mere maintenance man, his many years at the park had earned him respect among many of the higher-ups. Occasionally they would offer him a better position, but he always turned them down. He loved being a maintenance man.” This seemed to come out of nowhere. If he loved his job and had been at it for a long time, what sort of mistake did he make that threatened to kill a lot of people?

    “I mean, who wants to live the last few seconds of their life being all plaintive and introspective?” I would say that he’s been distinctly introspective (and somewhat plaintive) throughout this ordeal. It’s unusual but I think it’d be unusual in a good way if the story helped us understand why this character would act so different than the reader would probably expect.

    I would recommend rephrasing the line with “considerable consideration.”

    “As you probably noticed, the Royal Roulette is given dialogue in the form of onomatopoeias.” It was daring but I don’t think it fit the mood. The mood, I thought, was one shaped primarily by danger and also by guilt/responsibility. The Royal Roulette’s dialogue was wackier and didn’t seem to fit in with those.

    Irving was mentioned in the first paragraph or two and then just disappeared. Generally, I’d recommend leading with the main character or at least using the side-character to introduce something about the main character or setting.

    PS: Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed your revelries; I went nuts at karaoke. I’m a Highway Star, indeed.

  4. Luke C.on 30 Jan 2011 at 8:25 am

    ACK! Sorry for the late response; truth be told I’ve been so swamped I forgot I posted this!

    Anywho, thank you very, very much for the critique. It’s been enormously helpful to me, and I’m planning to make some changes to the chapter based on your comments. I can post the revised version here, if you’d like.

    A few things:

    ‘I don’t feel like Tod’s characterization is really consistent. He’s pacing around frantically at the start, like I think a normal person would, but then he gets distracted by how tacky the ride’s color scheme was and adds (glibly, I think) “Yeah, this probably isn’t going to end well.”’

    – The glib line probably needs to be changed, but Tod’s an easily distracted guy. However, if that’s not clear to the reader, I may need to rework things a bit.

    ‘It’s unusual but I think it’d be unusual in a good way if the story helped us understand why this character would act so different than the reader would probably expect.’

    – I don’t entirely understand. What was the reader understanding?

    ‘Irving was mentioned in the first paragraph or two and then just disappeared. Generally, I’d recommend leading with the main character or at least using the side-character to introduce something about the main character or setting.’

    – You’re very right. Irving actually plays a fairly huge role in the course of the story, but if his presence and subsequent disappearance just complicates things, I may just give the opening line to someone else.

    ________

    One last thing: is the story actually interesting? I’ve been reading the critiques on Flogging The Quill, and it got me thinking about whether or not anyone would actually want to read past the first page.

  5. B. Macon 30 Jan 2011 at 3:18 pm

    ME: “‘It’s unusual but I think it’d be unusual in a good way if the story helped us understand why this character would act so different than the reader would probably expect.’ YOU: “I don’t entirely understand. What was the reader understanding?” I was expecting that he’d sound less cerebral, particularly in tense scenes. In a life-or-death situation, I don’t think there are many people that would sound natural using lines like “But every time he tried to think up a solution, he was overcome by the inescapable fact that the deterioration of the ride supports and the inoperability of the control panel were due to his own incompetence. He was well aware that beating himself up for something that couldn’t be changed was eating up precious time, but he still couldn’t quite concentrate on finding a solution.”

    Another consideration is that the character is a ride repairman that hasn’t been established as unusually intelligent. I think you could make a very philosophical and/or brilliant repairman feel believable, but the lines would really have to click. Right now, I’m stumbling on early sentences like “There’s no reason for this to be happening!”

    In terms of Flogging the Quill, I think this has promise but I’d lean against turning the page. In addition to how natural and believable the character’s voice sounds, I think my main obstacle would be that I feel the narrative gets clogged early with information that doesn’t seem to matter much. For example, the second sentence is “The Royal Roulette was not especially tall when compared to most Ferris wheels, nor was it as popular as the other rides that filled the seaside amusement park.” Also, Irving may be too major a character to take out of the first chapter entirely, but I think it would help to introduce him a bit later. (For example, you could introduce Irving later as an unusually-calm looking guy in the pandemonium when the protagonist starts looking for people to carry the nets).

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