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Constructive Criticism

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Be careful what you ask for!

But since you asked for feedback, and I have temporary insomnia at the moment, here's a few overall comments:

1) the text you're using is hard to read -- IMHO -- at least, using Safari 2.0 under Mac OSX. Sure, the background is cool on its own, and the white typeface is large and clear enough, but the two clash together in a way that makes it hard to absorb the story with such a busy background. Maybe I'm a fuddy-duddy, but I believe fiction (and even non-fiction articles) should be presented with a plain background, resembling as close as possible typeset copy in a printed book. To me, text superimposed over a picture only works as a title page, a cover graphic, or an advertisement -- not for an entire novel.

2) I have no clue *when* or *where* the opening chapter takes place. I'd like a little more information on the surroundings and time of where we are. Is it the future? The past? The present? What country are we in? We know the language is English, but are they speaking with an accent? What do the people wear? Are there guards with guns? Is the lead character in handcuffs or prison garb?

I need more visual clues. What does the place smell like... feel like... look like? Is it plain? Modern or old fashioned? Steel walls or stone? Painted or dull? Dusty or clean? Is it like a hospital or a jail, or more like a school? Locked doors or open? Any posted signs anywhere? Any clocks? Any noises going on, like alarms or background people? We have utterly no clue from your lack of description. I need more information to believe this place really exists.

3) We know little or nothing about your protagonist other than he's older than 6. Find a way to tell us more without going into blatant self-description. At worse, have him look in the mirror and tell us what he sees. Is he tall or short? Fat or thin? Young or old? Any scars, physical problems or deformities? I'm not even sure if he's even human for that matter, though the judge does call him "Mr." (And what does the judge look like? Where does he sit? Is he a judge from the 1800s with a white wig, or a modern judge in regular black robes?)

Alternately, at least have the psychiatrist give Longley a few shreds of information. Otherwise, the opening chapter is so cold and detached, it doesn't grab me and make me want to read more.

4) finally, if the lead character is charged with a crime, I bet it's written down somewhere. Everybody arrested (at least in the U.S., and I assume in the UK) is given a piece of paper that lists the charges. At least then, he'd know exactly what's going on. Or if he's not sure, have him actually ask the psychiatrist or another character.

As is, your story might be great, it might be terrible, or it might be somewhere inbetween. But from what I've seen so far, it's hard to make me want to read more after so much is left unsaid in the first chapter. If you can fix these problems, or at least try a new approach that isn't so frustrating for the reader, I think you'd make the story much more accessible to more people.

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A lot of the things to do with where/when/situation etc you remarked on are intentional-I'm writing this from Kris's perspective, and (becoming evident in other chapters), he has no clue about his situation, the date or pretty much any details of himself. For that reason, the reader has NO information that Kris doesn't and everything Kris knows, the reader knows.

There are reasons that authority characters are witholding some vital information. Some information is given in early chapters, but there is going to be a trickle throughout the story.

There is purposely very little information on him at the beginning, and throughout the story there will be times when he is missing important parts of his history.

Regarding the background, i'm currently rebuilding the site in a more lowres-friendly manner so that will be adressed then.

I'm taking it that you only read chapter one from your comments? As i want to give the reader only information that Kris knows, and i want to ensure that a lot of information is reserved until later on in the story. After the extra descriptiveness, do you have any suggestions for making it more accessible? The only way i can see would be combining several chapters into one larger chapter, and all this would do is make the time in between publishing future chapters longer.


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I agree, Chris, be careful of what you ask for, you may get more than what you want here. In a good way of course.

To the Pecman, I'd like to say, I've read the story in its entirety as reader first and I have done some editing for Chris as well. I found the first chapter a little confusing as well. As you read on, things start to clear up. As for the time and place issues, I concluded the story takes place now and in England somewhere. You'll find references as you read on that will help you decide for yourself. My opinion of course.

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Yeah but if you lose the reader at the first chapter nobody ever GETS to the second chapter. Most online stuff I give up after three pages if SOMETHING doesn't get my attention.

This particular story I got about 6 paragraphs in before I said "fuck it" and clicked away. This has nothing to do with the story or whether or not it's good. I'll never know. It was very hard to read the text on that very pretty background and I felt confused which made me decide to leave rather than read. And I love sci-fi which I assume it is based on the background.

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He's on the DeweyWriter forum and so a few AD members know him. I'd suggested before that he join the forum and visit the site.

I don't see it as a problem for an author to ask for feedback from writers and editors here.

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Beginnings are critical for stories. You've got to grab the reader and draw him into the world of your story. In fact many publishers say that a manuscript is sold by its first 5 pages.

Why? Publishers have stacks of manuscripts- the competetion is brutal. He wants an excuse to drop that story and move on to the next one. If your opening isn't strong, then it will be a rare reader that will stick around for the middle or the end.

Bginnings are espically important to the genra of science fiction. It is the beginning that sets the ground rules for the universe in which the story takes place. The beginning introduces characters and concepts important for the story. It also sets the tone and the tempo for the rest of the story.

Oh yeah-

:cheers: Welcome Harrod! :sunny:


:geek: :lol:

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Thank you for welcoming him, James, it was very courteous of you, all things considered.

Here's the new thread in our WELCOME FORUM:


Just FYI. Please direct visitors there, if you can (though the forum and thread are both labeled to that purpose).


TR, trying to be sweeter

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Yeah but if you lose the reader at the first chapter nobody ever GETS to the second chapter. Most online stuff I give up after three pages if SOMETHING doesn't get my attention.

Yes, exactly. I agree with 100% of what you say.

My time is so limited these days, if I'm confused or put off by the first chapter of any novel, there's very little chance I can get convinced to read further. I don't doubt that the later chapters of the story reveal more about the character and explain the situation, but I think there's a way to provide significantly more clues and more detail to make the story more interesting.

Harrod200 didn't address my other notes -- adding more description, giving us more details about where and when the story takes place and so on -- and those would go a long way towards improving the story. Strictly IMHO.

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