Reviewed [Oc/Aq] Week 226: Lost and Found - Feedback

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Staff member
Feb 18, 2008
I think I'll have to stop apologizing for taking so long to post comments on these.

I'll admit from the start that this really did not draw me in at any point. I recognize that it's really just a vehicle to kickstart the search for Kincaid, and as that it serves its purpose, but it kept promising intrigue that never really came up. I think perhaps there were better ways this could have been set up or at least, it would have been better served to start in media res with Laermont and Mia working together while still being suspicious of one another. I think one of the disconnects for me is that Laermont is there because he was hired to look into the ad, Mia is there because she wanted to bait in Kincaid's friends to ask about him, and they both leave after basically agreeing to continue doing what they were doing. I'm never satisfied with a chapter that starts and ends at the same place.

Style plays a huge part in drawing the reader in. You've heard the old adage, "Show, don't tell." By choosing to make Laermont a demvir, that gives you new challenges and new opportunities regarding tells. When he's sad or angry or confused, his face is going to look more or less the same; however, perhaps he clenches and unclenches his fingers, hidden away in a pocket so others can't see; maybe when he's confused, he cants his head to one side just the slightest bit; when he's saddened, the light in his eyes dims could dim faintly; a humming noise might start when he's angry, his inner workings speeding up somewhere unseen. You have all this freedom and your main constraint is to be consistent, so that the reader knows, "he tilted his head, he found something suspicious in what she just said" or "his eyes dimmed, he must be disappointed that his trail went cold."

Look at Mia's writing in comparison. It follows this line closer, with most of the writing telling you what Mia is doing and letting the reader infer from her body language or from the elements being described. Deep shadows, a playful smirk, a feminine voice, the tilt of her head. A long pause as she weighed her options on how to proceed.

At the back of the tavern, seated near a corner, was a figure wearing a hooded cloak facing the rest of the open tavern. The seats nearest to the figure were abandoned, as if they’d been left open so that anyone could speak without worry of the overly nosey. But it was the figure’s face that was perhaps the most interesting thing.

Or, more to the point, the lack of a face.

Strange and unnatural shadows clung to the hood’s opening, acting as a veil that gave only the faintest of impressions of features. The only identifiable feature were the lips, curled in a playful smirk while unseen eyes scanned the crowd for dangers -- or clients.

The air of hidden menace around this character immediately put Laermont on his guard. Even from across the room, to where Ciciely had pointed, there was a dark aura that emanated from him. The closer the detective got, the more he realized that the shadows around the man’s face weren’t moving. This couldn’t be good.

His impassive demvir faceplate helped disguise his uncertainty and there was nothing of his concern betrayed in his voice as he regarded the man. “I was directed to you by the proprietor of this establishment. My name is Quaestor Laermont. I was told that you might have information regarded Duilius Fortis. Is this accurate?”

It was the detective’s usual approach to open directly. He didn’t want to give too much away either. There were all sorts of forces in the world and after his recent experiences with mind control machines and ancient aliens in Valmoor, he was ruling nothing in or out at this point.

The figure tilted their head as they listened, but once prompted they did not immediately answer. It was several painfully awkward moments before, finally, they said, “I believe you are mistaken.”
None of the highlighted portions are incorrect. They are well-written, and the entire chapter has excellent grammar and punctuation, aside from some fragments added for style. However, they do tell us things that could be shown, instead. The prior turn ends after setting a tone for danger, but the next turn starts by telling us it's menacing and that Laermont is on his guard. Then there's repetition of the elements -- the shadows are unnatural, the aura is dangerous.

I want to encourage you to broaden your writing, try something that's less safe and comfortable. Only ever writing one way will prevent you from growing. If you try something and it doesn't work, you can either keep at it until it does or try another new thing.


Writing Week is 249

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