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u/ExistentialistCamel · 8 pointsr/DestructiveReaders

Openings are hard as shit to do in sci-fi/fantasy. You have to basically lecture on the world without it sounding like you're lecturing them on the world: excuse me while I grab my smoke and mirrors. I'm not going to do line edits because it's view only. Instead you get my wall of text that I'm compiling on scifi/fantasy openings as I read more and more piles of it, when I should be reading something like literature (Idk, is that what the cool kids are doing?).

It's view only so my line edits will probably be limited, but I'll start with your opening two sentences.

>The café of 'Morl's Best Cuppa' was odd, green and uncomfortable to look at. It's rough exterior stood out against the trimmed vein of grey that was the rest of the city-block, like a bulb of gum beaten flat under step, ruining an otherwise pristine side-walk

Protag is looking at a building. I'm not as experienced in third person style narratives, but I'll do my best. If I was writing this in first person I'd be extremely leery of writing a description of the building for the begging portion. I do think you have an interesting world set out. There are genuinely funny moments, but it's packaged in a way that makes me want to put it down. I'd say this is due to an incomplete opening. You have characters and setting, but you don't have a problem for these characters to overcome (plot).I'm going to copy paste parts of a post that I did on sci-fi/fantasy openings that I made earlier, with significant modifications/additions (but the core idea is the same). If this is frowned upon, I'll stop. Disclaimer, I'm not saying that you should do any of these things that I suggest. This is merely my own opinions on ways to get over the initial hump that sci/fi fantasy stories face. These are some good resources/books that I've found.

In essence a good opening has three things

  1. a solid hook (I know it when I see it definition)
  2. introduction of problem (shit has to hit the fan in some way. "Walk towards bullets".)
  3. brief introduction of setting. Number three is the trickiest. Too much info and its boring, and nothing feels like its happening. It's listening to a lecture entirely on the structure of a building, with nothing about what's going on inside. Too little and it's cliche, you're just some fantasy/sci-fi hack.

    This is kind of vague and bullshitty so I'll use some examples.

    The openings in fantasty/sci-fi books are notoriously terrible. For instance, Red Rising, an otherwise half decent thriller book has the shittiest opening that I've read in a published work. But that didn't stop him from selling books out the wazoo and getting good blurbs ("Ender, Catniss, and now Darrow"), because he knows how to write a page turner later on (I'd still recommend it even though the opening is questionable, if you enjoy cheap dystopian thrills). But damn, did the opening want to make me throw the book against the wall. It's not that he doesn't do the three things that an opening should do, it's that he switches voices within it and had several narration snaps when it's clearly HIM speaking and not the main character. I'd also say that Patrick Rothfuss' opening is extremely shitty (and he says so himself), as he takes 50 pages before anything substantial happens. Thus he went back and added a prologue so the reader would feel some sort of plot in the story. Prologues are effective in scifi/fantasy for quickly introducing a problem, if your world takes awhile to build. For instance -- Harry Potter also did this to an extent, since it had the scene with his parents dying. Some openings, like the one that I'm about to discuss, have a really solid hook and immediately grab the reader. Am I saying that you should write a prologue? No , I haven't really read enough of your story to figure that out. I'm just offering a few nuggets of advice that I've seen authors use to get over the initial hump of creating the world.

    I think a solid example of a good opening in a sci-fi story, that I've read recently, is the story Wool (here's a link, use the look inside function). The hook is one of the better ones I've read, something along the lines of "Holston climbed his stairs to his death." Is it a cheap trick? Yes. Do I really care, and does it add tension to an otherwise monotonous climb up the stairs? You betcha! He explains certain elements of the silo as he gets to the different actions, e.g. "I put my hand on the guardrail, worn down one flake at a time by centuries of use." He doesn't just come out and say "HEY THE SILO IS OLD LEMME TELL YOU ABOUT MY CHILDHOOD IN THE SILO AND THEN GET TO THE PLOT DAMMNIT". In your case we see some characters mostly annoyed, bored, or not really doing much. Sure the setting is engaging, but the characters, in my opinion, aren't. The pro of an exposition opening is that you can fit a lot of information into a relatively small amount of space. The con is that it's hard to present in a way that doesn't create a POV snap, a boring tell instead of show description, and it's hard to create a problem if you're trying to be an omnipotent narrator. Dune does it, but it hasn't set a trend because it's hard as shit to do. Pride and Prejudice does it, but Jane Austen is incredibly good at writing in different tones. I'll stick to my nice comfortable first person narrative right now. I'm not a good mechanical writer, or a good writer at all yet, but I'm working on it. I do worldbuilding half decently (though I'm put to shame by the people on /r/worldbuilding)

    Another solid opening is "Mistborn;" (here's a link) a fantastic example of a dialogue driven opening. I'd say that if a dialogue opening is done right, its exponentially more interesting than an exposition opening. The problem is making the characters feel natural. I spent quite some time on my opening hammering out the robotic narration style, but I still had to go back and write a prologue because I didn't introduce the main problem of the story properly. I problem that I had is that my characters seem to stick their fingers up their butts and don't do anything. Basically a dialogue opening is harder to do, but it's well worth the effort if you can pull it off. Dialogue is also a good way to squeeze information out of your world. Want to have an explanation about scientist, well slap a scientist in there and have your protag ask some questions about it. Don't have random flashbacks in the very begging. Think about a movie that had someone fixing breakfast, and every time they did something relatively minor there was a flashback. E.g. poured some orange juice. That reminds me of my mentor who trained me in how to write a good sci-fi opening. Going to eat some Coco puffs, like me mum used to. But me mum beat me so I angrily ate the coco puffs.

    The best fantasy opening that I've ever read is Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I'd recommend taking a peek at it here. He casually just strolls in, quickly establishes two characters, a problem, and a setting in half a page. It's brilliant. I can't say I've read the rest of it though, but it's on my list of things to read. The only complaints that I've heard about Lies (aside from the usually fantasy grumbling about tropes), is that the heist narrative is too lowly for such a talented writer. I think that's a pretty good sign that hes doing shit right.

    In the words of Brian Sanderson "writing is all smoke and mirrors." In fantasy/sci-fi you have to set up scenes that are more or less infodumping segments that feel natural to the reader. E.g. travelling from town to town, "oh theres a ghost thing over there"
    "that's not a ghost its your mum!" laughter ensues
    On the bright side, it seems like you've done some good world building, so writing the segments shouldn't be too hard. I highly recommend watching Brandon Sanderson's lectures on the youtube channel "Write about dragons." Start with the first lectures he does, because they cover a lot of mistakes that people make.

    Also read this article on common mistakes that editors see (link) . Watching and reading just a little bit will help you from falling into a ton of pitfalls, like I did with my first story. I spent far too long on too little words, that were absolute rubbish. Now I've been able to get at least a consistent word count down every week, with mixed reviews (some chapters are better than others.) Basically, write consistently and read often. Potential and inspiration are bullshit. Hammer out some words, get it torn apart on this sub-reddit, pick up the pieces and repeat. Make sure to give back often, this place is awesome. I think one of my better experiences was posting a basically infodumpy chapter, and had some pretty positive reviews (aside from some pseudoscience that I quickly cut, and leapt back into the warm embrace of space opera).

    If you get past the opening hump, this article, is a fantastic way to plan how your plot is going to unfold over the course of a novel, in a concise fashion. I wish I'd found this resource sooner, cause my planning would've been much better. (I tend to discovery write, with minimal planning.)
u/JustSomeFeedback · 4 pointsr/DestructiveReaders

Some of the best I've used:

Story by Robert McKee -- As its title indicates, this book takes a look at story construction from a more theoretical perspective. McKee works mostly in the realm of screenplays but the ideas he puts forth are universally applicable and have already helped my writing immensely -- story itself was one of the big areas where I was struggling, and after reading through this book I'm able to much better conceptualize and plan out thoughtful stories.

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein -- if McKee's book is written from a theoretical perspective, Stein's takes a practical look at how to improve writing and editing skills. The mechanics of my writing have improved after reading this book; his examples are numerous and accessible. His tone may come off as a bit elitist but that doesn't mean he doesn't have things to teach us!

On Writing by Stephen King -- A perennial favorite and one I'm sure you've already received numerous suggestions for. Kind of a mix of McKee and Stein in terms of approach, and a great place to start when studying the craft itself.

Elements of Style by Strunk & White -- King swears by this book, and although I've bought it, the spine still looks brand new. I would recommend getting this in paperback format, though, as it's truly meant to be used as a reference.

Writing Excuses Podcast -- HIGHLY recommended place to start. Led by Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells and Mary Robinette Kowal, this is one of the places I really started to dig into craft. They're at Season 13.5 now but new listeners can jump in on Season 10, where they focus on a specific writing process in each episode (everything from coming up with ideas to characterization and world building and more). Each episode is only 15(ish) minutes long. Listening to the whole series (or even the condensed version) is like going through a master class in genre fiction.

Brandon Sanderson 318R Playlist -- Professional recordings of Brandon Sanderson's BU writing class. Great stuff in here -- some crossover topics with Writing Excuses, but he is a wealth of information on genre fiction and great writing in general. Covers some of the business of writing too, but mostly focuses on craft.

Love this idea - hopefully I've sent a couple you haven't received yet!

u/Write-y_McGee · 3 pointsr/DestructiveReaders

Ok, so I promised you that I would comment on this piece, if you posted it, so lets just jump right in!


Just because you are writing non-fiction, doesn't mean that you get to ignore the process of telling a story. In fact, it may be that the elements of a story are
more important in non-fiction than fiction.

When was the last time you picked up a chemistry text book 'for fun'? But how about
The Elegant Universe? Or A Short History of Nearly Everything? If you haven't read the latter, you should, as it is probably one of the greatest non-fiction science books of all time.

What makes these books more engaging than a standard textbook? They are telling a story. They are leading the reader on a journey of discovery, but are introducing that discovery in a way that makes the reader feel they have some skin in the game. They introduce problems (and questions) that demand answers. They introduce characters that are trying to solve them. There is antagonists (even if it is just nature) and heroes (even if it is just nature). And all this is introduced from the start.

In other words, they have a hook.


So, lets think about your hook:

>I recently put aside my doubts that all of "reality" was anything but a simulation, created by an advanced civilization, and went for a long walk (for the sake of exploring the "fun" consequences, of course).

Not. Good.

First, you don't really introduce the problem. Sure, you said you put aside some doubts, but doubts of what? What do you mean by simulation? What do you mean by 'advanced civilization)? Why do I care what you are thinking? Why Do I care if you went for a walk -- and why do I care if it were long?

Do you see the problem? You introduce a string of loosely defined terms, which gives us a loosely defined problem. It is hard to care about a loosely defined problem. Worse you give us a character (YOU) that the reader know nothing about, and then probably won't care.

Do you know who the reader does care about? Themselves.

So, I would give a hook that is something related to the reader. You already mention The Matrix, and so you might just start a hook with something like:

"What if the matrix was right all along."

Something like this introduces a well-defined problem (borrowing from popular culture to do so), and then also a character that the reader cares about: themselves.

>I then, more quickly than expected, traversed the five stages of grief and arrived at an interesting realization.

  1. What are the 5 stages of grief? Why not just list them?
  2. Why do I care how quickly you arrived at them.
  3. I don't know who you are, and how fast you expected to run through the five stages of grief. So, 'quicker than expected' tells me nothing.
  4. The way this is phrase, it sounds like you were expecting to run through the five stages of grief. If that is the case, then why? I am struggling to understand how thinking the universe is a simulation might induce grief?
  5. The ending of this is cheap, because you tell us there is an interesting realization, but then you don't give it to us. In my opinion, you should probably never directly assess that something YOU did is interesting (let the reader decide that), and you certainly shouldn't make a claim without immediately backing it up. Therefore, this is a bad end to the sentence.

    >I'd like to retrace my steps with the hope that you too will attain the same simulated peace that I now possess. Where to begin...

    The hook is now over. I do not know what the problem is, I do not know why I should care that you are having this problem, I don't know what your position is or why I should trust that it is 'interesting' and you claim.

    If I were not reading for critique, I would not read past this. You need a better, stronger, hook, to draw the reader's attention to the problem that you wish to discuss, and show them how this problem relates to their own life (i.e., why they should care about it).


    The other issue this piece has is the that give above in bold -- you routinely issue judgement statements without sufficient support. Let us look at some:

    >the largest of the looming obstacles becomes the realization that all of reality as we know it could cease to exist for reasons beyond our control or even understanding.

    How is this an obstacle? And obstacle to what? This just seems to be a fact of
    one particular type of simulation.

    What if the simulation was being run in a manner such that it could not be interrupted? The technology to run this simulation is beyond our grasp, so why couldn't such a mechanism exist? You are making a claim that appears to have no foundation other than you think it to be true.

    >It is a reasonable assumption that a civilization advanced enough to simulate literally everything must first have achieved a certain level of peace and stability.

    There appears to be a logical flaw here. They did not simulate EVERYTHING -- just the things in the simulation. In fact, THEY must exist outside of the simulation, so that is not everything. In fact, if the laws of physics hold in their own universe, then the simulation we would be in would, by definition, be required to be MUCH simpler than their own world. The laws of thermodynamics dictate this. Therefore, this simulation would just a simple model of something.


    >After all, it's a bit difficult to investigate the nature of reality and advance science while you're busy trying to avoid being brutally murdered by bloodthirsty marauders hell-bent on wearing your skull as a hat

    What if, and I am just widely speculating here, the desire to avoid the fate you propose led someone to invent some new technology to avoid this -- like maybe a helmet? Or a better sword? Or something?

    Complete peace seems more likely to motivate technological advances. If all was perfect, then why change anything? Our invention of technology is a result of struggles against nature and others. Thus, violence and strife are primary motivators for technology, and it seems more logically sound to argue the
    opposite of what you are claiming.

    > This would mean that our creators posses at least the ability to perceive us as valid life forms, and as such, subject to the same rights as themselves!


    We accept that bacteria are life forms, and do not extend to them the rights that we grant other people. Where is there
    any support that one would expect creators to grant rights to their creations that are on par with their own? I see absolutely zero support for this position. Maybe is exists, but if it does, you need to supply it.

    >The opposing perspectives could be summed up as follows:
    >1. Simulations capable of producing conscious simulants should not be created, since the act of turning off such simulations would be an act of genocide.
    >2. The knowledge obtained from simulations outweigh the ethical implications; the end justifies the means.

    This is a false dichotomy. They could also assume that we are not worthy of rights. You have not established that. So, they could view us with EXACTLY the same view we extend to simulation of people in video games. Do we consider their rights? If not, then why would they consider ours? This has not been sufficiently established.


    Just as a story needs to have a cohesive plot, your non-fiction needs to have a common thread that connects ideas back to the major problem.

    In Star Wars: A New Hope, the story continually comes back to the problem of Luke establishing himself in a wider world. We care deeply about him, and his feeling of insignificance.

    In your story, you MUST return to the same idea over and over again. The problem just structure your discussion of everything else.

    The problem you REALLY have is this: if we are a simulation, do we have moral rights?

    So, this needs to guide EVERY single fact you introduce.

    Did the dinosaurs have rights? Then what do we make of the morality of the meteor coming in? What do we think about mammals taking over their environment?

    If we do not have rights in the simulation, then should we care about murder?

    These are interesting questions, that can be tied back the strange idea of us existing in a simulation. They provide stronger jumping off points for the tangents you are taking. They will provide a structure and focus that you are currently lacking. You need to identify a theme, and stick with it, very closely. In the same way that all actions in Star Wars were related to Luke gaining an understanding of his place in the galaxy, your story MUST always come back to the idea of Morality within and without a simulation.



    The idea that you are discussing is interesting, but the manner you are doing it in is not yet engaging. The reason is that you have not introduced the problem with a proper hook, and you do not identify and tread near an established theme within the piece. These are elements of story telling that will serve you well in non-fiction, as in fiction.

    If you want more information on this, try reading [
    Writing Science*]( THough this is aimed more at the academic writer, it is a great place to start for understanding how to frame the introduction to serious non-fiction. That is, how to identify the story you are trying to tell, how to make a compelling hook, and then how to follow through on the themes that make your hook compelling.

    Let me know if you have questions!
u/written_in_dust · 5 pointsr/DestructiveReaders

Welcome to RDR! Congratulations on publishing your first thing for critique, it's a big step as a writer.

Disclaimer: The usual - I'm just an amateur like most people here, take my comments (and everyone elses) with a healthy helping of salt, pick the comments that resonate with you. You're the writer, not us.

Disclaimer 2: You're a special snowflake, because you get a second disclaimer that nobody else gets :) I have to admit I feel a bit uncomfortable critiquing a submission about suicide if you tell me upfront that the guy who told you it was good was your psych. I'll just assume that you didn't come here to hear the fluffy duffy "things get better" stuff, so i'll just focus on what you wrote, and give you my blunt impressions as a reader, same as I would with anyone else.


I think you're an asshole for being able to write this well at 15yo. Shit man, the stuff I wrote at that age was nowhere near this. So yeah, good job in general. There's plenty of room to polish and learn to improve, but I would say you have definitely got talent, and if you develop it well you can build yourself up into an awesome writer. Don't underestimate how long that takes though - people sometimes forget that a guy like George RR Martin had been writing professionally every day of his life for 25 years by the time Game of Thrones came out.

Every now and then there will be people on r/writing asking for tips on how to become a better writer, read some of the tips there, like the responses to this guy's thread. As resources, I would definitly recommend Brandon Sanderson's lectures on youtube, Stephen King's book, and the Writing Excuses podcast.


I'm not the intended audience for this. I'm a 34yo with 3 kids, I've had my teenage angst years and I'm glad I'm past them. I'm also glad facebook and whatsapp weren't around when I was your age. I liked the quality of your prose and the overall style. I didn't enjoy the 2nd person POV (more on that in a second), and I wasn't a big fan of the ending. Some parts got a bit repetitive, and I found the story a bit lacking in interactions. That is, what makes a character in a story interesting is the interactions with other characters or explorations into the setting; we got very little of that here, and spend most of the story inside his head.


Okay, let's talk about the big one here: you choose to write this piece in the 2nd person. Writing in 2nd isn't easy, and there are not many people doing it. Most people nowadays write in a tight 3rd person limited POV. This article has some good insights into the effects of writing in 2nd person.

For me, 3rd person allows us to empathize with a certain character, and go through their emotions by mental association. But 2nd person more or less forces the emotions down my throat. When you write something like this:

> You laugh at yourself. “Oh wow, you really fucked this one up man… priceless”

That doesn't work for me, because my psyche rejects it like a bad transplant. It's like you're forcing me to feel those emotions, and it feels dishonest because I don't feel that. But if you tell me in 1st or tight 3rd person about somebody else who does genuinely feel that, chances are very good that I will empathize by association.


> “Fuck it. If I’m going to die before the next time I wake up, I might as well ask her out… just to see what happens.”

  • Works for me as an opening, although on a technical level the sentence can be improved.
  • I'd question whether you really need "before the next time I wake up" in there.
  • The "just to see what happens" is already more or less implied in the "might as well", so explicitly spelling that part out for us felt a bit redundant to me as a reader. But whether or not you cut that should depend a bit on your audience - in prose for a Young Adult audience, writers tend to leave stuff like that in to make it a bit more obvious to the readers, while in prose for an older audience it tends to be left implied. Basically YA books are sort of "training" the audience in this type of things, while older audiences tend to be better at filling in the blanks.
  • The sequence you chose for the "if i die - ask her out" construction is descending in tension rather than building up, which makes it less punchy. Consider flipping it around into something like "I might as well ask her out, if I'm going to die anyway." That is of course, assuming that you consider "asking her out" to be a less daunting prospect then "dying" (which you really, really should :p ).
  • There's a concept in writing called "promises" which basically mean that the start of your story more or less telegraphs to your audience what the story will be about. The start of a James Bond or Indiana Jones movie show them in full action, which tells the audience what to expect in the rest of the movie. You do this well, although my expectation after the opening line would be that the story would be about MC asking out the girl, not about MC killing himself.


    > With a push, an asphyxiation, and a squeak of wheels against bamboo floor,
    > You end it.

  • So the main character dies. Too bad, I was just associating with this guy.
  • For me as a writer, this felt like the easy way out of the story (I don't mean to imply that suicide is the easy way out of whatever problem, that's a whole different can of worms which I am not equipped to have an opinion on, I mean this just from a writing point of view as a way of resolving the story here).
  • The "asphyxiation" is too on-the-nose in my opinion, too much rubbing it in our faces. We know quite well what's happening and don't need it spelled out for us. Trust your audience to fill in the blanks, your writing will be better for it.
  • Same with "You end it." It's not needed, the previous sentence implies it.
  • So a simplification could be something like "With a push, the wheels squeak against the bamboo floor.

    (more to come in part 2, gotta run to a meeting now, will continue this evening)
u/Wendy_Black · 3 pointsr/DestructiveReaders

Hi there!

So, not in a cruel way, this made me giggle.

A while ago, I started to write a story about two Scottish thieves living in London who steal from the wrong person and end up in trapped in a series of tunnels beneath the London underground (called Underlondon). One of the most powerful characters in Underlondon was a short, fat man called The Rat King. He had a large spy network (called The Rats) in both Underlondon and London proper -- where his surface agents were disguised as homeless people.

The Rat's main enemies were a secret society on the surface called The Owls, who were strongly entrenched in government -- especially in the shadow cabinet -- with a goal to gain absolute control of the UK.

I won't overindulge (because I'm here to help you, not talk about my own story :S ), but the moral of the story was: don't steal your bosses' safe, because you might end up involved in an underground civil war that you didn't even know existed.

It was just the amazing coincidence of Rat/Owl and Mice/Hawk that made me smile :) You haven't read Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere by any chance, have you?


So, I'm not a literary agent, but there is a blog run by one that you might be interested in called Queryshark. I think I learned about that from DestructiveReaders, actually.

Writing a good query letter is super important, because not only is it the way you get an agent, it's also the way you sell your story. You have to boil down your entire novel -- in your case, 85,000 words -- into a short, sweet, passage, give it to someone, and make them want to read more. It's like the ultimate test for your book.

Because you want people to read your book, you need to make them want to read your book. This is really hard to do, because you can't appeal to every individual at once, so you have to choose your target audience and make it as good for them as you can.

That being said, there are a few (base, human) things that seem to have near universal appeal -- love and conflict, for example. In your query letter, there seems to be conflict between Hawks and Mice, but you don't really play it up, which I think might be a mistake.

Another thing that is interesting is someone that wants something. Why is being a Mouse the only thing that Sasha and her family will do? Does she want to deliver medicine (even though you make a point of saying she's three deliveries from retirement), or is it the only thing she can do?

Finally, having a little mystery is a sure fire way to get people invested. You seem to do fine on this front, though, with mention of the King who has a grudge against humanity ('why?' the reader asks) and of the shadowy assassin that has his sights on Sasha (again, 'why?' the reader asks).

Using what you've given me, the way I'd write a query letter for your story would be something like:

> It's dangerous being a Mouse, but Sasha has no choice.

> Delivering medicine to the sick and abandoned is a noble deed indeed, some would say, but they don't know the fear of being stalked by the Hawks.

> After making three more deliveries, Sasha will be relieved of her duties as a Mouse, and can safely retire to live in peace with her family. But with Hawks ripping Mice from their homes, a prolific serial killer on the rise, and the grudgeful king watching everyone's move, will Sasha be able to make her last drop?

I don't know that it's any good, but it's short, and it (hopefully) gives any potential reader enough to entice them to at least read the first chapter.

I'd give it a go :)

Good luck!

u/snarky_but_honest · 1 pointr/DestructiveReaders

Glad you like it! It's fun working on something that's not a boring black-and-white label with idiotic client demands :) :| :(

>I like the filter and the image on 2.0

Yesss. Remember how I bashed on filters earlier and said they were a crutch? Behold! NO FILTER was used in 2.0. The background art is unedited. >:D

>Titling is something I struggle with because I don't have a great program to do it with.

I'm guessing you use something like Good program for certain things, but limited. Better options are:

  1. GIMP. It's free, and I totally could have made cover 2.0 with it. I know this because I used Gimp for years. It has everything you need for titling. Even font beveling, which most free programs lack.

  2. Photoshop CS2. Too old, you say? Wrong. CS2 has every feature I used to make 2.0. I would know: I have a copy of that decade-old software running on my backup computer, and it's got more than enough bells and whistles for cover design. A used copy on ebay runs $20 to $50.


    Before I offer critiques on your covers, I thought it might be useful to explain how I made mine in enough detail that you could replicate it.

    Here we go.

  • The background art was public domain, as I mentioned. The only decision was where to crop, since the painting is three times as large as the final cover. The church was an obvious focal point. The open sky provided plenty of space for a title, and the road offered adequate room for an author name.

    Note the church steeple is not actually centered on the cover. This is because of the gaslamp on the right side. If I cropped with the steeple smack in the middle, the lamp would be crowded against the edge of the cover. Compromises.

  • The top ornament was free off 30 seconds of searching for "ornament" found it. Surprisingly came in a golden gradient, so I didn't have to tweak it all.

  • The title font was free for commercial use, found on google fonts. I picked a serif font because that's what the majority of fantasy books go with. (Sci-fi generally uses sans-serif, and other genres have their own conventions.)

    The line spacing between "Magical" and Mischief" was tweaked to be close, but not cramped. "Mischief" was reduced in size to make it line up better with the top line.

    I applied a bevel effect to the font to give it that carved 3D look. A subtle external glow effect was applied to make sure the title was the dominant element.

    Also, the title is on a higher priority layer than the ornaments, allowing it to rest on top of them. This lets me position the ornaments ever-so-slightly behind the letters, adding further dimension to the design and preventing a sterile look that often comes when elements are positioned too carefully.

  • The bottom ornament is just the top ornament flipped. They were actually part of a single image when downloaded, but I split them. They were manually resized and positioned.

  • The subtitle is Times New Roman. This font gets a bad rap in the design world, but it's compact, sharp, discreet, and never offended anyone. Come at me bro.

    Positioning was a no-brainer. I put it below the horizontal line of the church roof, and above the heads of the left-hand carriage riders. Margins are comfortable.

  • The two gaslamp sparkles were free again on pngtree. The left sparkle was resized and rotated to avoid a duplicated look.

  • The wisps of smoke through the lower half of the art is just me sweeping the dodge tool with the mouse. (Also possible with a low-opacity white paintbrush.) I did this to balance the bottom half of the image against the lighter title and ornaments. It lends a mysterious feel too, I think, which fits the theme.

  • The author name is the same font as the title, beveled slightly less because small fonts appear too thin when over-beveled. There is no glow effect here, unlike the title, because the result would appear too light when layered over the dodged smoke.

    The margin between the name and the bottom edge of the cover is similar to the margin between the upper ornament and the cover's top edge. I would actually prefer the name a touch higher, but then it would cover the carriage wheels. Compromise.

    And that's how I slopped it together :P

    Onward to your cover critiques!

    I already went over your Insulan Empire cover, and it's the simplest and weakest, so no need to flog that horse again.


    Writers talk about starting books with a hook, and the same concept applies to graphic design. This cover lacks a visual hook. If I'm scrolling through Amazon I'd barely giving it a second glance, and why should I? The title, White Nights, doesn't tell me anything. The art is a photograph of a building with a nigh-unnoticeable man standing in the left corner. No emotion or sense of story is evoked. It's a testament to the perils of public domain covers.

    The position of "White" is too far to the right (note the difference between the margins on each side) but its vertical placement is not bad. "Nights" is crowding the right edge, probably because you didn't want to cut off the N's flourish. I found it interesting that later, with City Spirits, you allowed the C's flourish to bleed off the cover. Good instincts. It's a bold choice, works well if the font supports it, and the human eye can effortlessly follow invisible curves.

    I'm not a fan of the title font choice. The loopy fancy letters are more typical of romances (click it) than dark fantasy. The name and sparkles only drive that nail further. Genre confusion.

    The author name's font clashes with the title. The position of the name is high, and the
    L in Stanley is running into the I above it. Justifying both names flush left and moving them down, level with the top of the road and just right of the figure would be a logical position.


    Conceptually, there's disconnect between the title and the art. The cruise ship is a strong image, but I struggle to draw a link between it and Here Be Dragons. I'm not sure what to expect from the story. In comparison, imagine a murder mystery with a similar cover and the title "Vacations Shouldn't be Fatal"--a sense of story is immediately grasped.

    This isn't a bad cover technically. The title is a little cramped with letters bleeding into one another, but still legible.

    The bottom margin on the author name is good, and reflects the title's top margin.


    Again with the harlequin romance font ;P

    Seriously, you changed Krovt to this, but the previous font was a far better choice for a ghost story. It had a rough, uneven, creepy quality. Shoulda kept it.

    You mentioned it, but I don't mind the low contrast--a white cover fits the title name and theme. And I already said I don't mind the
    C's flourish bleeding off the page. I DO mind how close "Spirits" is to the edge. The author name has the same problem. It's crammed in there.

    The dark grey graphic in the lower left is distracting, drawing attention to an empty corner, and looks cut off at the bottom. The other graphic sweeping through the middle looks cut off on the right. Neither convey meaning or serve a design purpose.


    Technically sound. Good choice of a longer font to give a short title more real estate. Very wide margins on the top and bottom of the cover, but they're perfectly equal, so it comes off as bold and stylish instead of a mistake. The only weakness is lack of a hook. An unknown fantasy name and indecipherable art (especially at thumbnail size) make for poor lures.

    L and E in Louise are chopped off by the last name. Adding a bullet point to dot the I would aid comprehension.

    I'm guessing you changed the name to City Spirits because you thought Krovt was a hard sell for a title, and it is, but heck, just putting a ghost or something on the cover is enough of a hook you could leave the name as is. In that case, the foreign title might be more intriguing than confusing. In fact, I'll prove it:

    I hop on pngtree, search for "evil," and find this guy. He'll do.

    Then I fire up, just to prove the point. I paste mister cat into a new layer and set his blending to "screen" so the original shows through. Pumping up the brightness makes him white, tweaking hue makes him blue. Set the opacity to match the rest of the cover, and hey presto.

    Adding a pronunciation symbol over the title plays up the foreign angle, and the author name is made more legible with a paintbrush and line tool, again using screen blending. Ten minutes and what do we get? A pretty cool cover.

    This concludes Snarky's School of Slipshod Design.

    No refunds.
u/I_am_number_7 · 1 pointr/DestructiveReaders



I liked this story; I thought is was intriguing and I want to know more about The Seeker Society. I was disappointed it was so short--looking forward to the next installment.






The title fits the story and I thought the title worked well. It doesn't reveal anything about the genre, but that isn't always necessary. I thought the title was the right length.




Seemed like this was meant to be the hook. I think it should be placed earlier in the story, but I get what you were doing with the scene setting in the beginning. I think the story flows well.


Sentence structure


The sentences were easy to read. I disagree with some of the other critiques; I thought you did a good job introducing the characters and showing Paige's boredom with her life. 


"Maybe they couldn’t fly to Paris, but surely they could take a road trip. She’d decided to research on her own."




I'm curious to see what the Seeker Society is going to be about. Will it be similar to the movies The Game or Nerve?


There was some description of the setting but I thought there could have been more:


"Jason’s muddy work boots on the carpet and the crumpled papers he’d scattered on the kitchen table."


"There was a tumbler on the coffee table and Paige knew it would be half-full of cheap vodka."


"The mess of opened containers and sauce packets were visible around the corner"


Maybe you could include some details about Paige's workplace; that is part of the setting. 





There were a few sentences that I thought revealed a bit about Paige's character by the way she interacts with her environment:


"The clutter frustrated her, but she’d been meaning to clean tonight anyway."



This tells me she likes neatness and order around her. She might be a bit of a controlling person, but not overly.




Jason and Paige seem to be opposites: he is a bit of a slob and a homebody, while Paige is a neat and organized person who wants to travel and have adventures. Jason could easily be the antagonist throughout the story.


The antagonist needs to have goals though; and Jason doesn't seem to have any.




The story ended before it really delved into the plot or the goals of the characters.




The story dragged a bit during the scene where she is researching on her computer. Also, I think it would make more sense for her to do that research on her home computer. Since Paige's job doesn't seem to be a big part of the story you might want to cut out that part altogether and just have her do the research at home. Jason seems to do his own thing, so it would seem Paige would have a lot of free time when she is not at work.




The descriptions were fine; except for Paige's workplace, which I already mentioned.




Since Paige is the MC and the story is told from her POV the story might work better told in first person. I could be wrong, but I thought the third person narrative you chose resulted in too much exposition.


Stories in first person narrative can be very popular. Here is a good example


Also an adventure story!!!




I thought the dialogue was fine; I didn't notice any problems there.


Closing remarks


Your story definitely needs to be longer. I haven't checked yet to see if posted an update; I hope you did. This is a strong beginning; keep writing!!




u/dtmeints · 2 pointsr/DestructiveReaders

What a great way to learn language! I fully support it. We'll start with...


You may be surprised to hear this, but your grammar and mechanics are nearly perfect. I'll make some suggestions in the doc to point out some quirks, but for the most part your punctuation and syntax are right on.

On the other hand, the translation is really affecting your...


It's difficult enough to make sentences sing in one's own language, so don't be too hard on yourself here. It'll come with practice and reading a lot of English. But I want to give you some guideposts for helping your sentence construction not sound so Uncanny Valley, where it's technically correct but just off in some way. Usually because it's not how a native speaker would phrase something.

Let's take this third paragraph...

> Ryd sat up straight after the sound of running water woke her up. She stretched with a rather loud yawn before stumbling out of bed. Instead of making her way to the bathroom, she started collecting the pieces of her school uniform and the books she needed that day. With eyes still half closed she grabbed her bag and just stuffed the books into it. She tossed her bag and the pieces of her uniform on her bed while she went on her way towards the bathroom.

... And rewrite it.

> The sound of running water woke Ryd. She stretched and yawned loudly, then stumbled out of bed. Since her sister was still hogging the bathroom, she started collecting the pieces of her school uniform and the books she'd need that day. She stuffed the books into her bag without fully opening her eyes, then tossed the bag and uniform onto her bed and shuffled toward the bathroom. “Liz! My turn!”

Here's my thought process:

Sentence 1: While not wrong, it's narratively weird to say "X happened after X happened." Why not just put the events in the order they occur?

Sentence 2: Turning "with a rather loud yawn" into "and yawned loudly" tightens up the sentence. The "before" is technically correct, but "then" is more common.

Sentence 3: "Instead of making her way to the bathroom" assumes that we would assume she'd go straight to the bathroom. Changing it to "since her sister was still hogging the bathroom" adds logic to what she's doing (and the "hogging" lets the reader know how Ryd feels about her sister already). Also, "the books she'd need" just sounds more right because she doesn't need them in the moment but she will need them for the school day.

Sentence 4: I put the part about the eyes second because two sentences with introductory clauses in a row feels bad rhythmically, in my opinion ("Since her sister was still hogging the bathroom" and "With eyes still half closed"). I took out "just" because the verb "stuffed" gives a sense of unceremoniousness on its own. Then I took out the "she grabbed her bag" because it's implied in the stuffing action.

Sentence 5: I combined this into sentence 4 for flow. Much of this action is fairly mundane stuff, so we want to get through it quickly, without belaboring it. "The pieces of the uniform" can be shortened to just "uniform." Also, she didn't toss them while going on her way, she tossed them and then went on her way. And finally, as a writerly touch, always look for more colorful verbs that can tell how something happened. I chose "shuffled" here because it shows that Ryd is still tired and grouchy—she barely picks up her feet.

If you need a resource for finding those colorful verbs, I cannot recommend Choose The Right Word by S.I. Hayakawa enough. It's like a thesaurus, but it tells you the connotations and hidden meanings of the word too.


I'm sorry that was a lot of words for a tiny cross-section, but hopefully it's stuff you can apply across the board.

And congrats on being able to write an intelligible story in a second language! That's incredibly impressive on its own.

u/King_Cudjoe · 2 pointsr/DestructiveReaders

I used to hate it when authors and instructors say "Show, don't tell." I hated it because most of the time, they didn't tell me how to show. I'll try my best to help you do that with this critique.

Showing is simply describing a thing as it exists, or as it happens.

Your telling, in particular, comes out through fancy language and excessive blocking.

I like where you began with your story. When a character committed some great crime, beginning the story in a prison cell is usually a good place to start from. The reader will forgive the exposition, because prisoners kept in solitary confinement have nothing but time to contemplate how they ended up there. That said, exposition from a lonely prisoner has to be interesting, and it has to sound like something they'd think to themselves in the dreary solitude.

There are elements to keep me interested, but MC isn't an interesting person. You are trying to make him interesting, and it isn't working because you're falling into the trap that ensnares fantasy writers in the early drafts. That fancy language, and the painstaking description. Don't worry, We all do it. I do it. But it's a habit you need to break, as it will yank the reader right out of your story.

I want to know more about your story, but it reads like stage directions from an aspiring English Ph.D student.

Used properly, lengthy blocking and florid descriptions can make a scene pop. For example, in The Wise Man's Fear, Patrick Rothfuss describes his character on the business end of a bitch-slap that seemed to call all of time, space, and gravity into knocking him on his ass:

> "If I say she slapped me, you will take the wrong impression. This wasn't the dramatic slap of the sort you see on a stage. Neither was it the offended stinging slap a lady-in-waiting makes against the smooth skin of a too-familiar nobleman...
> ...A slap is made with the fingers or the palm. it stings or startles. Vashet struck me with her open hand, but behind that was the strength of her arm. Behind that was her shoulder. Behind that was the complex machinery of her pivoting hips, her strong legs braced against the ground, and the ground itself beneath her. It was like the whole of creation striking me through the flat of her hand, and the only reason it didn't cripple me is that even in the middle of her fury, Vashet was always perfectly in control..."

There's so much description happening, but it's happening in the service of describing the power and control of a skilled martial artist who's just slapped a man silly. This also came after pages and pages of tension-building between these two characters.

Now here's your description of a man taking your MC by the chin:

> "Minar stepped close and reached out toward him with one hand. His wrist twisted as it passed the metal rods separating them and he stroked Narius under the chin with one finger, pausing just before it slipped off. Narius was forced to tilt his head back as Minar lifted his hand slightly. They locked eyes. Minar moved in closer. He smelled like pine sap and Narius clenched his teeth, responding to the uncomfortable advance and the fading memory of the outdoors. Minar’s finger curled and his thumb rested on the point of Narius’ chin. He opened his mouth slightly and broke his stare, instead casting his eyes downward."

You see the difference? there's a lot happening, but what, exactly? And why?

Reading through your draft, I get the impression you're building tension between these two characters by swinging the balance of power. Narius, confident and clever, has the upper hand in his own mind. But Minar has news that will annihilate Narius's confidence. The scene begins with Narius having the upper hand, and ends with him crumbling into a hollow and pathetic shell. This is great! Psychological intrigue is as essential to a good fantasy story as politics, battles between armies, and wizarding duels. But you're spoiling the intrigue in this scene in the following ways:

1) Leaving nothing in your MC's mind to our imagination, thereby preventing us from identifying with him:

> Narius’ wide eyes fixed themselves where a rod flawlessly met the floor. What felt like hours passed, though Narius knew better than to assume they would leave him unguarded for more than ten minutes. It was difficult for the prisoner to comprehend anything beyond his own swirling emotions. He felt his exposed fingers and toes become numb from the cold. Every so often, he saw wisps of ghostly mist swirl from the corner of his eye, catching firelight.

2) Occasionally describing him in a way he hasn't described himself (i.e. "The prisoner")

3) Describing every last detail of where every thing is, and how the characters interact with those things:

> Two thin shadows blocked sections of the sparse light that leaked under the heavy metal door. Through the wall of bars to his left, Narius watched the entrance and heard the latch snap as it released. Minar, captain of the guard at the high security prison where Narius was held, knocked twice before barging in. Narius wished he wouldn’t knock. The metallic ring resounded off the barren walls of the near empty room and lingered in his sound sensitive ears.

> Minar’s smile died as his gaze fell upon a rickety desk in the corner diagonal to Narius’ cot. Atop it rested a wooden tray. Cold steamed vegetables, a stale roll, and diced meat smothered in a gravy-like sauce lay largely untouched.

4) In addition to being painstakingly described, sometimes your description of the things isn't even consistent with how your main character feels about them:

> He placed to stool before the bars and sat. He was careful to mind his outrageously long, brown horns, which grew at a sharp backward angle from the top of his head. They cascaded in a gently arced fashion vertically down his back and stopped hear his hip bones, the ends curving slightly away from his body. Narius thought they were garish.

I won't repeat the critiques that have already been made about structure. But getting back to what I was saying about florid language, you seem to dip in and out of that mode of storytelling, and I get the sense you aren't completely at ease with it. That's fine, as long as you pare down your language so the reader can understand you. For example, this sentence reads like you are putting on a show of Narius's carelessness for the reader:

> “Is that a promise?” Narius carelessly dropped the roll on the floor, strode back across the cell, and sat once again on the cot, mirroring Minar with his own legs.

But this sentence reads like Narius is putting on a show of carelessness for Minar:

> "Is that a promise?" Narius tossed the roll to the grimy floor and sat on the cot, mirroring Minar's cross-legged pose.

Be yourself. High fantasy doesn't become high fantasy by trying to imitate the writing styles of Tolkien and Brooks and Martin. You have to let your ideas take it there, and you have to get your language out of the way.

I've gone through your draft and made suggestions throughout. I'm happy to answer any more questions you might have, either in this thread, or over PM.

u/Rimshot1985 · 3 pointsr/DestructiveReaders

Hello! Thought I'd try my first stab at DestructiveReaders on your story. Lucky you. Disclaimer: I'm a professional editor... of marketing materials--not fiction.

Here's what you requested be dug into:

1) Narrative Style

I think people are telling you it feels detached because it needs another heavy edit. I'd recommend reading On Writing Well by William Zinsser. I think his advice could help you clean your prose up a bit. I see what you're trying to do to add tension, but your sentences don't flow together as nicely as they could. Another suggestion would be to read your work out loud and assess where it doesn't sound right.

2) Worldbuilding

I can see that you're trying to give the story an ominous tone with your prose, but try to favor showing to set the tone. The dramatic language should be a second layer to back up what's happening in the story.

For example, your story begins with three paragraphs of what I'd called "preamble". More effective would be to open the story by starting with the Kalina looking out her window at the mourners. I feel like you're repeating the fact that the Czar's daughter is dying too many times. Readers will understand after you mention it once.

I'd also recommend not saying "the Czar's daughter" repeatedly in the beginning. Start with "Kalina, the Czar's daughter..." and the refer to her as Kalina beyond that. Even better would be making one of the mourners wail something like, "Kalina, our Czar's daughter! We mourn you!" to be more artful about the exposition.

Everything being "red" might be a little too on-the-nose of a metaphor for a book about communism, but maybe that's just my taste.

Overall, too much showing and not telling. Just one example of many: "...dying people should not speak, it is improper." I want to see an example of somebody chastising her for speaking (or something), not just be told that it's improper. Readers want to care for Kalina, and building tension by showing that she can't even speak, even though she's dying, would be more emotional.

The image of a mourning crowd outside the dying princess' room is and makes me want to know more. Why is she dying? Why do they love her so much? Good stuff.

3) Dialogue

Use your dialogue to drive the story and the amount that you're (again) showing. For example, in the scene where Kalina interacts with her mammoth, start with "I'll come back, Lyuba." And then describe what she does with the mammoth from there. There's a whole paragraph of telling above it that could be worked into the action after she first speaks to her pet.

I'm actually at work now, but hopefully I can do some line edits tonight.

Overall, I think it's an interesting concept that could be helped with some screw tightening.

u/Containedmultitudes · 3 pointsr/DestructiveReaders

I'm only a recently active poster, but I hope to remain so. I just moved and I'm between jobs so I started writing a novel (stave off madness from the job boards) and was looking for some strong critiques. I really like the premise of a semi-enforced give to get critical community, because it helps build the skills of everybody involved.

I was an English major, but also always an avid reader, so my favorite books have a bit of a range (representative not comprehensive):

  • Gatsby, Ulysses, The Sound and the Fury
  • Song of Ice and Fire, His Dark Materials
  • Harry Potter
  • Moby Dick
  • Paradise Lost, The Odyssey
  • Citizens, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Last Lion Churchill series, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

    I'm predisposed to find things I like in almost any piece, but because I can find really great gems I try to be rough on the rough spots. I'm most drawn to anything that is true to life, even in the most fantastical situations.
u/Diki · 3 pointsr/DestructiveReaders

My immediate advice is for you to read Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. So much of your story is weakened by unorthodox formatting, and outright incorrect formatting, the latter of which there is an abundance. I left comments throughout your Doc regarding these issues, but primarily your dialogue is wrong and you frequently exclude the necessary comma when addressing a person/character. From a technical standpoint your story is a mess; it is littered with problems, most of which are to do with puncuation. Even one mistake would be enough for an editor to stop reading your story. Your work has several dozen mistakes.

I linked this in a comment, but I'll include it here as well: How To Format Dialogue.

If you don't read the book at least read that article.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised with the direction the story took. With your incessant swearing—right there in the opening sentence—I was expecting something juvenile. How your story starts sets the tone for whats to follow, and you start with Fucking cocksuck. This piece reads like you're young albeit tackling a mature subject. I commend that, but you've got some work to do because your characters sound like teenagers.

As a whole, the idea here is good; I like it.

The Opening

I noticed your opening is extremely similar to The Cable Guy, but I don't think that was intentional. If you've not seen the film: it starts with a guy unable to get his cable working; he calls up the company for help only for a cable guy to almost supernaturally appear, he's still on the phone when the door knocks; the cable guy is eccentric but knows his stuff, and gets the cable working, later turning out to be far more than he appears. Your story deviates from there but anybody familiar with the movie is going to pick up on that.

Your opening does an excellent job of letting the reader get to know Dale. But you need to get rid of the swear words in your opening sentence—don't swear, and certainly don't swear twice, in your first sentence. Now past that initial speedbump, things move much more smoothly. The primary issue here is the pace. Everything plods.

Before I dive into the aforementioned pace: I liked your imagery with the wires appearing like snakes. But you weakened that by going into detail regarding where the wires are going and what they're for. Who cares where they go? Stick to the snakes. It will both help convey your character's mindset—he's not in a good place, he's getting frustrated—and give the reader an unsettling image to imagine. This is horror, afterall. Also, good imagery with "the guts."

I disliked the pacing because your title told me that a third-party is going to come to Dale's home. Dale isn't the cableguy, nor is his son, so I knew the horror aspect of the story had to come from whenever the cableguy shows up. So I kept finding myself thinking, "I get it, the TV doesn't work. Will he just call the cableguy already?" Much of what happens here, while, as I said, does flesh out Dale, is quite repetitive. Pretty much any info given to the reader during the first four pages is this:

  1. Dale is bad with electronics.
  2. Dale's son is good with electronics.
  3. Dale's wife is dead.
  4. The cable doesn't work.

    Consider how often you have Dale fail to get the cable working. Does he really need to go to the instructions twice? Does he need to go inside the entertainment unit three times? Is his son peeling plastic important enough to bring up twice? Do you really need to reference Speed and Band of Brothers? Does the reader need to know Dale switched cable providers? How important is it for Dale to take a nap? What would change if he hadn't drunk beer?

    There's so much fluff in your opening that is either repeating known information or not adding anything the reader needs to know.

    Dale ping pongs in and out of the unit so much it's making the scene boring. It's the same thing over and over: inside the unit, make no progress; climb out, make no progress; return to the unit, make no progress; climb out, make no progress.

    It's not until halfway through the entire story that the titular cableguy, whom I've been expecting the whole time, finally arrives.

    A man imagining his dead wife is in the room with him is interesting. A man being bad with electronics is boring. Put more focus on Dale's relationship with his wife.

    So, good job keeping things clear, but there's fat that needs trimming.


    I brought it up in my comments but I will expand on it here. This isn't good:

    > “Why won’t this work? What the hell…” is wrong here.

    I strongly suggest removing every single instance of this from your story.

    Why is that bad? For one, that is a question, so it should end with a question mark, not a period. It's not even correctly formatted, which I want you to keep in mind. Now, most importantly: using ellipses at the end of dialogue means the character trailed off. So your character spoke out loud then trailed off, which implies a pause, before finishing what he was speaking as a thought. That is jarring to read. Read that out loud with the pause that comes along with the use of ellipses. It is so jarring and unnatural.

    To hammer this point home: copy and paste your first four sentences into a text-to-speech reader and listen to what you wrote.

    Breaking rules for stylistic reasons can be fine, but you don't yet have a solid understanding of correct story formatting so you shouldn't be breaking these rules. If you want to use unorthodox formatting then read The Elements of Style first.


    I won't go into detail on this point but you're using way too many curse words. One paragraph has the word "fuck" in it fives times. At the end of page six, which is halfway through your story, I counted fifteen swear words. Out of fifteen-hundred words. Your first page is a title page, so that's an average of five curse words per page. That's too many.

    This sounds like a teenager speaking, not an adult:

    > “Wingspa…” He huffed. “No, I’m not from Wingspan. Fuck those fucking fucks. I’m a…I’m a more private cable guy. Independent.”

    You can have swearing in your story. Just tone it down a notch or two.

    Checkov's Son

    You drew a fair amount of attention to Dale's son in the opening scene. In fact, the reader knows more about the son than they do Karen. You told us Karen's name and nothing else about her. We know his son attends college, lives away from his father, is good with electronics, likes helping his dad but seems to be getting a bit sick of it, and enjoys peeling plastic of new electronics. All of that information is on your first three pages.

    Then, also on page three, the son is basically forgotten. He is completely irrelevant to the entire story. Nothing would change if you removed that character.

    I expected some kind of payoff regarding the son. Why else would you draw so much attention to him?

    You simply cannot have this:

    > His son, who was almost four and a half hours away at the college. His son, who said how proud he was of dear-old-dad for figuring out how to watch Band of Brothers on HBO. His son, who he’d just told would need to learn to start making his own phone payments now. His son, who liked to peel the plastic off of fresh electronics.

    and then immediately forget about the son character. Repeating something over and over tells the reader the thing being repeated is important. Tells them to remember it. But the reader could forget literally everything in this quote and still understand the story. Cut stuff like this down or make it matter to the story.

    As I covered in the section above: focus on Dale's relationship with his wife, or make the story about his son. Maybe have his son be dead instead. Nothing in the story requires his wife be the dead character. In fact, it would make more sense for it to be his son: much of the story is about his son being good at this stuff. So why wouldn't Hell's cable service hire him? His wife wasn't described as being skilled in this area.

    Anyway, right now you're focused exclusively on Dale and his son when the story's about Dale and his wife.

u/MKola · 8 pointsr/DestructiveReaders

Just a harmless little plug...

The Violinist is now available on Kindle Unlimited. If you have an account it's free to read. Check it out if you like crime/noir stories centered around a mystery wrapped in 1950s era espionage.

Paperback should be available by Tuesday.

u/novawentberserk · 5 pointsr/DestructiveReaders

I'm going to slide this in before the thread closes—

I have a story appearing in a horror anthology that drops today if anyone is interested. The collection includes twenty-five spooky tales for Halloween by some pretty great authors...and then there's mine, too. Shout-out to u/flashypurplepatches and u/mags2017 for helping me destroy it.

Midnight in the Graveyard

Sorry if I'm being a cheesy shill.

u/DanHitt · 2 pointsr/DestructiveReaders

notes in doc.

Good atmosphere. I would read on.

I feel there isn't enough foreshadowing of things to come, though. (Except the ash storm, which I feel was glaring exposition and should be hidden better.) This can be done subtly to match the tone.

As rachel said, I (still) don't know how old elizebeth is. That must be attended to at once.

If Liz is the main character I need more of her character shown, especially in contrast to her father.

You have an odd turn of phrase or two.

On Hunting:

  • Full Metal Jacket - designed to penetrate armor, expands very little.
  • Hard Point bullet expands more.
  • Soft Point - Expands more and is the most common bullet for hunting.
  • Hollow Point expands the most and are considered the poorest at penetrating armor. They are also the least reliable bullet, jamming the most due to the physical characteristics that make them expand.

    This last point may be the reason your guy, an obviously experienced killer, might use a more reliable bullet knowing his perfect shot would still kill the animal.

    People don't usually aim for the head, as a miss is more likely, when an off shot at the heart still has a chance because there is a lot of area (that will still bring down the deer) to hit if you miss the heart. Considering your piece, a head shot might be fine for your guy.

    A head shot would demonstrate high skill and possibly some sociapathic tendencies. The goal is to stop the heart from pumping immediately, as panic in the deer causes the meat to taste 'gamey'. Plus, you have to run it down if you don't kill it which most people won't even do.

    The sight of the brains tasted bitter in Liz's mouth. Let's attend to this bit. First, you said she always came with her father, then fail to demonstrate this well.
    So... "The sight of splattered brains tasted bitter in her mouth."
    Should become "The sight of splattered brains always tasted bitter in her mouth.'
    You get it right in the next sentence, but imo it's too late and is also awkward because I doubt she would vomit every time, but if it always tastes bitter and this time she throws up--it demonstrates a growing dissatisfaction with her life in direct contrast to the love she has for her father.

    When Liz is handed the rifle it is the perfect time to SHOW us her experience...your simple statement of her putting it on her shoulder (telling us nothing whatsoever)wastes the opportunity.

    Overall i'd be interested to continue but would also have trepidations. I like that you understand the killer is a particular kind of person, but you sometimes miss opportunities to show this and other times don't capture him correctly. I think more research is needed here. Try the FBI profiling book, some others about special forces and some about killers of all sorts.
u/mushpuppy · 2 pointsr/DestructiveReaders

Not sure how to do some of the fancy formatting I see here. Sorry. I'm going to have to break it into 2. Sorry for that also.

“On the outer circle please, arm’s length from each other.

Big problem with starting any scene with speech is it’s basically noise into empty space; unless it’s clear who the speaker is, you’re wrecking suspension of disbelief because there’s no environment. Might as well be God speaking at the creation of the universe.

Typically it may only take a few words to generate a scene, but you always need to set one first.

The children stopped chattering and obeyed the wiseman’s instructions.

Wiseman seems like a clunky name to me. Generally language evolves to be shorter, not necessarily more precise. And that evolution typically gravitates toward words of common usage. I'd suggest coming up with something simpler.

Additionally, of course, it comes with its own negative and disruptive connotation, as it's far too similar to "wise guy". Which takes a reader right out of your story.

Also, I can't imagine that children would stop chattering and then obey. Children chatter as they do anything. Plus, obeying the wiseman's instructions doesn't create any image whatsoever. Focus more on what they're doing as they obey.

Create a scene! Don't tell us about the scene.

With some elbowing about who got to sit where, the five kids took their places on the dark blue circle painted onto the hardwood floor.

Far too wordy. Unless you're doing it specifically for effect--and that should be rare--actions never should seem to take longer to read than they do to occur. Problem is you're overwriting and not trusting your creation of a scene. Additionally, unless it matters how many children are present, don't be so specific; for one thing, five kids sitting on a circle wouldn't create that much chaos; for another, specifying five disrupts a reader's creation of the image. Again, unless it matters, don't number things.

Further, kids is colloquial to the point of meaninglessness. Either call them by name or role in the story or something. While I suggest not being specific with numbers, here you should be more specific.

Knowing when to provide detail and which type and knowing when to omit lies at the heart of writing.

Wiseman Tybalt hauled his tired body to the blackboard

No he didn't. Not unless he had a wheelbarrow or similar device. Be precise! Say what you really mean! He forced himself to get off his chair/rise from his rock/put down his lesson planner, or whatever. He could have pushed himself to the blackboard, I suppose. And depending on your verb choice, you don't need to say he's tired. The verb should communicate that.

A great rule of thumb is to substitute verbs for adjectives whenever possible. That's a fundamental way to punch up prose, and any copy editor worth her salary knows this. Beginning writers tend not to.

took a piece of chalk, and wrote in big capital letters.

You don't need to say he wrote in chalk. We know that's what he used. When you over-describe you make it harder for your reader to make the leaps you need him to make, to join with you in the story.

He pushed himself to the blackboard and wrote in big letters DON’T THINK OF ELEPHANTS.

You see? You've shown that he was tired, shown that he used chalk, and shown that he wrote in capitals. And you've done it in far fewer words.

He shuffled back to the group with his thin wooden cane, and took his usual place in the middle.

Again, you're over-writing and saying a lot of things we already know. And did he really shuffle--i.e., does it matter that he did? Or did he simply step over the children? And do you even need to say that he did this?

He pushed himself to the blackboard, wrote in big letters DON’T THINK OF ELEPHANTS, then returned to the middle of the circle, propped his cane against his knee, and sat.

I'm not saying you have to write the way I write. But brevity matters. Every word matters. This may be the hardest thing for beginning writers to understand. Every word matters. And they don't matter in the sense that they're yours, you've written them, so they matter. They matter in the way that whether it's your name at the end of I love you matters. Details matter. Because you want to provide them sparingly. So your reader can create the world in her head.

See, as a writer you don't create the world on the page. You suggest the world. If you've done it right, your reader creates it. Two great examples of writers who understood this: Raymond Carver and James Ellroy. Neither Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? or L.A. Confidential has a wasted word in it.

u/wreckoning · 2 pointsr/DestructiveReaders

I read the first two pages, then skimmed another two looking for a hawt sex scene, or anything interesting. I became frustrated and gave up.

The prose has already been dissected at length here, so I'm not going to get into that - I did leave some line edits, but a lot of it was agreeing with things others had written.

What I'm going to talk about is character development, because that seemed to be the most glaring, and most difficult-to-fix problem.

Your characters are seriously weak. They are not interesting at all. Not the nervous dude (even when he turned out to be a girl: which I only learned in the comments, not the story). Not the shit-hot prostitute. Have you ever met a prostitute? Do you think this is what they say? Have you ever been a woman paying for sex with another woman? No you haven't? That's cool. You can still write about it. But for the love of your readers, do some research first.

This is what I think happened. You imagined a scenario where there's a brothel, then a shy character going in pretending to be a customer, and then you just wrote the first thing that came to mind. MC's nervous, so she's going to stutter. The whore has been around the block a few times, so she's going to be confident.

Don't write the first thing that comes to mind. Flesh out the story more. What if, when MC walks in, instead of being perfectly draped in silks partially revealing her full bosom, Summer is taking a whiff of her own armpit to make sure that she doesn't stink? What if, instead of being seductive and confident, she whines about how she doesn't "do" other girls and why doesn't that incompetent receptionist ever get it right?

MC's nervous. What do nervous people do? Well they stutter. Great, first thing that came to mind. Let's set it aside for a moment. What else do nervous people do? What about if MC was so nervous he got a raging hard-on just standing there with the receptionist? Oh wait, he's female, not going to work. Ok, what if MC was so nervous, she started making stupid jokes - "It's cold outside, so I'll have Summer," I said, pointing to the girl with the reddish-orange hair.

What if MC's so nervous that she can't talk at all and just stands there staring awkwardly at the receptionist? What if she wets her pants? What if she starts laughing for no reason? What if she starts hitting on the receptionist? What if she becomes rude and outspoken? Etc.