[SWC] The Promise I made to You
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November 1st, 2012 (9:22 PM).
Miz en Scène
And this has completely slipped my mind. Apologies, Cutlerine/Anon for not responding earlier, and thanks both of you for the reviews. It’s much appreciated. Now, I’ll probably do a point by point response, though I may not catch all points, because it seems easier and faster to do that way. Then I’m going back to get back to work and cry for a bit because of the work.
But yeah, anyway:
Originally Posted by
Well, now this has been a long time coming. You've been conspicuous by your absence for quite some time now - I think the last time I saw you post a story was, what, a year ago? More?
Yeah, I’ve been busy the past year. Coupled with me dropping off forums in a big way, this kinda lead to my hiatus of sorts. I usually only go online in the forum world to keep up with some VM conversations, and they’re not necessarily on PC, mind. Anyway, the fact that you’ve noticed my absence speaks volumes to me, if I’m not being too presumptuous, so there’s a thanks from me.
Although I have to say, the wait seems to have been worth it. In a way, I'm quite glad I didn't get a chance to enter the SWC this year, because I don't like my odds going up against a story like this. It's like a thin, fragile swirl of dark powder across glass: I have no idea how the events within it happened, I don't need to know how the events within it happened, and I'm now struggling to justify a simile that made no sense.
I’m sure you would have done amazingly. I’ve always held your stories in high regard to begin with.
Joking aside (as if that could ever happen), it really is a great story - far better than Havisham, at any rate. Your central character is no Patrick Bateman, but for some reason I can't help thinking of American Psycho when I read it, especially the line: "I have all the characteristics of a human being: blood, flesh, skin, hair; but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust." I have no idea why - this doesn't strike me as particularly relevant; your characters are not psychopaths - but I thought I'd share it anyway, because, um... just because.
OK, joking finally aside (hopefully), let's peel the skin back and take a look at the meat. The main idea is great - the sense of a seismic shift in their relations is there, like a wound just barely scabbed over, and I think your decision to not elucidate the great secret works better than any revelation would; it allows the reader to build castles in the air that (I know from experience of having people predict what's going to happen next in my stories) are usually wildly different from what the author imagines, and often more satisfying for each individual reader.
Actually, that reminds me of the time I bound a story together with a twist of metal wire because I ran out of staples, and accidentally ended up adding another layer to its meaning - but that's irrelevant. Sorry, I have a propensity for digression. Where was I? Oh yeah, the half-hidden secret.
Yeah, so that's great.
I was actually labouring under the impression that the current fic wasn’t as fleshed out or as emotionally-involving as Havisham, if that could be said about Havisham, but the ambiguity and the first person seems to have worked to my advantage at least.
Nary. Nary. Nary. Nary.
OK, so I'm overreacting, but nary? I know there's often a temptation to use the word 'nary', but honestly, it always comes across (to me at least) as hideously pretentious and the mark of a character I can't take seriously - unless it's used in an intentionally humorous way in dialogue or something. The whole way through the story, I was thinking to myself, Remember, this character is the kind of guy who says 'nary' seriously - and that kind of spoiled his character for me. I found it quite a bit harder to sympathise with him, because that - and a few other bits of literary pomposity that crop up in his narration - make him seem to me to be the kind of person whose presence I can't actually tolerate. That's not to say it wasn't a good portrait of a person overall - it was - and perhaps you intended him to come across that way, to give him a little more three-dimensionality. It certainly gives another aspect to his - wait, am I even criticising anymore? I'm not sure. Hm. I may come back to this point.
Yeah… this little bit of literary pomposity is going to be on my mind forever. And not just because it’s bad practice, it’s also because I’ve been the biggest protester against intellectual elitism in academia (the things I’ve seen) for the longest time and also because I was complimented just a few days prior for not giving into the temptation of using the thesaurus in my writing (which wasn’t a fic). It’s this little bit of self-hypocrisy which stings the most. Ugh… *headdesk*
On a similar but unrelated note, Celebi's first line of dialogue is... well, frankly, it's pretty wooden, which is surprising given the way you handle the rest of it.
“A few deaths are to be expected,” you respond. “No one can build a case against us on a few measly deaths. It’s all part of the job, and you should know this.”
In sharp contrast to the main character's dialogue - and in fact Celebi's later dialogue - this is flat, stilted and kind of uncomfortable. (As I believe was once said about a particularly ill-made chair.) I'm not really sure why it happened; I suspect it's just one of those things. You know. Things. That happen. Those things.
Ah, well, this bit’s surprising, to say the least. That line was, uncomfortable to write, because, as you say, it draws a perfect analogy to an ill-made chair. But I felt that way about almost all of the dialogue in the fic, even the end which was supposed to be the most ‘emotional’ part. I mean, I felt the dialogue was the weakest part of the whole fic – it was supposed to stand up on narration instead. This isn’t an excuse though; this is just my mild surprise at the criticism not being spread to the other bits of dialogue around the fic.
In any case, I’m attributing this to the less than two days deadline I seemed to have found myself in when I remembered the competition a bit too late in the week. :/
Again, not an excuse for shoddy writing, but yeah… it’s an excuse.
but this story is very you. Despite only having read one or two things by you before, I seem to have a fairly comprehensive mental diagram of your style, preferred technique, lexis and areas of interest somewhere in the back of my head. I mention this not only as an aside, but because I think this story marries your approach with the subject better than others of yours I've seen; this isn't so very important in the context of this single story, but it does indicate (to my mind at least) that a development of your skills has occurred since Havisham (and that other one I don't remember the name of). So... yeah. Well done, I guess.
To be completely honest, I’m a bit disturbed by my style. I’ve tried to vary it (to, you know, get a bit of diversity in between stories), but when there’s a deadline bearing down on me, the best I can do is to play to my strengths. The mental diagram bit is fair because I’ve also kind of built up a mental picture of your writing style. It’s unique. So much so that I can say quite confidently that ‘yep, it’s Cutlerine’ even if it isn’t, because whatever the writer it is that’s written like that has got to be channelling you in some form. Okay yeah, that’s a bit out of line, but you get what I mean. I guess seasoned writers develop their own style over time.
Hm. I'm going to have to break it off here. Without my notes, there isn't much more I can write. I'll just have to apologise for the brevity of this review, thank you for a good story, thank the gods that I didn't put one of my stories up against it, and leave.
And thank you for taking the time to review this story of mine. I look forward to seeing you in next year’s competition. Or at least the Halloween or Christmas competitions if I can find the time to compete or, indeed, get on.
Originally Posted by
Okay, sorry I'm late, and extra sorry that I'm going to have to be brief; my workload fortunately held off on spiking until after judging was over, but it has definitely spiked. Anyway, on to your entry:
It’s just that time of year. Apologies are unnecessary.
I thought this was a very solid, enjoyable read, particularly in regard to atmosphere and a commendably appropriate use of subtlety. You do a good job of evoking a somber, cold construction site; the reader can really feel the impact the road is having on the forest and on the narrator. I also liked how the reader isn't beat over the head with the whole Celebi aspect and the inner workings of the drama between the two main characters, rather you leave more room for the reader to make connections and use their imagination.
I seem to be getting this reaction quite a bit, as you can see, and this kind of makes me happy that I didn’t add those other lines which were supposed to explain the whole how they came to be together bit. I mean, the fic was supposed to be vague, but how vague was a completely different matter altogether. I realised partway through that trying to explain the plot was really just me digging a deeper hole for myself because I don’t think I ever really thought about what Celebi was actually planning. Her whole escapade was just a framing device. It worked stylistically, but I do wonder about the what-ifs.
Not sure exactly how to phrase this, but I found that these two elements complemented each other uncommonly well. It's like how if your story had been all subtlety/mystery and no atmosphere it would have been too dry a read, and if it had been all atmosphere but no mystery it would have been too shallow, but since you got both elements down it's enjoyable to read but also keeps you thinking about what you're reading.
The atmosphere and narration was one of the scariest bits about writing this. I was trying to avoid sounding too pretentious with the narration, which I’ve heard has been said about Italo Calvino even though he’s a brilliant writer, but at the same time I wanted it to have some sort of impact, not just another descriptive piece working much like a movie would.
Really liked this bit. I love how it can be interpreted as either "can we physically knock it down," "can we morally knock it down," or both at once.
Huh, I’ve never actually thought about it this way. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the concept of morally knocking something down, but it is interesting to consider.
You mentioned scoring in your VM, so I feel some justification is called for. I reserve the tenth point for when a particular category seriously knocks my socks off relative to the other entries (or when it takes me tremendous effort to find any spelling/grammatical errors). On another year when Jax's entry wasn't in the mix, I might have given you a 10 for relevance instead of a 9. The secret was interesting and very well integrated into the narrative, and I have no complaints in that regard. I was this close to giving you a 9 instead of an 8 for plot/characters/description, but I thought the description could get a little overwrought in places. (For instance, like Cutlerine, I found the word "nary" was kind of a red flag. Reminded me of the one time I used "nigh" in a contest without irony. -_-) If I had to judge again today, I might give you a 9 anyway because the climax of the story has grown on me since I first read it, but eh. I'm out of time.
Oh no, I didn’t mention scoring as one of the negative points of your judging. I was just pointing out that you seemed to be more critical than the rest, which was good. The marks you gave me at the time are nothing to be contested; I accept those with no complaint or hints that complaints are in order.
My verdict: Visceral and intriguing. Very good, and a solid second place.
And for this I thank you kindly.
The Rainbow Chasers
SWC 2016 (1st Place)
The Promise I Made to You
SWC 2012 (2nd Place)
Why is BBCode so hard? Argh!
Miz en Scène
Joined Sep 2008
Miz en Scène
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