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2nd September 2013- Ben Moore - Fever

Ben Moore

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Hi Ben, here are my thoughts.


Now I can appreciate the way you tackled the opening to the story. Getting directly into the dialogue and letting it unfold as it goes. Now this is great, but as much as no one likes an info dump I do feel like more information is needed. Just some brief exposition inserted here and there to help bolster the questions that are immediately raised in the dialogue. Or even just a build out in the dialogue itself. I struggled to identify with the sociological situation, how this world functions. I got glimpses from what was being said but not enough.... so I started to lose interest. 


Took me a while to clock what AC was. Perhaps just use the full term.


I enjoyed the cornwall section of dialogue this felt natural and was good to have a bit of humour to lift the story a little.


Ok you have this great piece about Carl in here, I have to say I found this the most natural and engaging part of the chapter. It seemed to flow a lot more than the other sections. But it does feel a little like it's just plopped in the middle. I know you are giving reference as Chloe and Jerome are discussing him but it doesn't quite sit right with me. Especially as you have already switch POV on me once. A second time just snags me right out the story line.


The section on Carl and end section of the chapter work a lot better than the beginning. It feels like you found your style more. 


Now I am not great with punctuation and grammar and I appreciate first drafts will not be perfect but there is a lot of work to be done on spelling and structure. 


Just a few things I picked up on:


". He was nondescript, aggressively so in a cheap suit" being aggressively nondescript .... this doesn't work for me at all its seems like a bit of contradiction.


"unfeeling bureaucracy had much to recommend it in Jerome's opinion." this sentence had no meaning to me at all.


"hair brunette always dyed either blond or red," it seems the reference to her being a brunette is redundant since she has died hair and you wouldn't be able to tell anyway. It makes the description confusing and stands in the way of building a character profile in your mind.


I like where this story is going, you obviously have a firm idea of the world and politics which are intriguing from what you have written so far. I think you just need to communicate those ideas more concisely and give a better build out as an introduction to a story. 


I look forward to reading more

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Hoo boy. Where to start...


Let's do the positives first. 


1. I'm really intrigued by the plotline. You do a great job of dropping hints in dialogue and exposition without info-dumping to keep a reader hooked for more. 

2. Solid characters. Despite Jerome's "bad acting", he seems competent at something, as do Chloe and Carl. 


While that's only two, they are really key. 


Less positively,


1. Grammar and PoV are a wreck. "your"-"you're" mistakes are elementary and shouldn't really be a problem. The Oatmeal has a great series of comics on simple mistakes like that and how to fix them easily. 


As for POV, the constant switching between first-person, tight third-person and omniscient is incredibly jarring. Pick one stance and stick with it. The only reason to change is if it's vital to the story (see Name of the Wind). 


2. I realize that as a Brit, you probably have less knowledge of American social structures, but if you're setting a story in the South, it's something you really should brush up on. 


e.g. If Chloe is from Georgia, the term "Yankee" is highly derogatory, as is anything associated with Sherman (see Sherman's March to the Sea). The word is comparable to "nigger" in its offensiveness. 


Furthermore, Carl would have been convicted of aggravated grand larceny and never would be released to a chain gang. He would be stored in a medium-security prison, at least. Sentencing, at least for present time, would be at least ten-twelve years, serving five-seven (with good behavior). I realize that could change depending on the events of The Fever, but I thought you ought to know. 


So yeah, research up on that. Justified is a television program (which ought to be available on Netflix) which ought to help with the southern culture, as is Alex Bledsoe's Tufa series (The Hum and The Shiver; Wisp of a Thing). Note, these take place in Appalachia, which are more aggressively "Southern" than most Georgians; The Walking Dead, however, does take place in Georgia and is more accurate (also available on Netflix). 


I anticipate the next installment.




Minor note: in contrast with Ria, I really like the phrase "aggressively nondescript". It's something Gaiman would probably use.

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Hey Ben!

I think you have something here, but as Ria already noted it has a few issues as it is now. I'll assume this is a first draft.

One thing I did notice though: you switch tenses a lot, and a some places you switch for 3rd person (Jerome did...) to 1st (I did...)


I agree fully to what Ria noted about the Carl interlude. I leke that part, only I had no clue how it fit in where it is now


Regarding this being the 1st chapter, I think you managed to show the reader enough glimpses of the world and its workings to make us ask questions and see if the rest of the story will supply answers (mystery). What you need to work on IMHO is "who is the MC and why should I care for him?" Especially the why should I care. You manage to make me care about the young couple, about Carl... but Jerome?


A word about switching POV in this 1st chapter: I don't see why. All could be told from just Jerome's POV. 


Ok, hope this helps,

let's see chapter 2 :)

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Thanks for all the great feedback guys, it's very much appreciated.


I'm writing this relatively quickly and so was expecting to have to do some heavy editing. I think I've also managed to write myself into a historic and cultural minefield, I guess I'm going to have to immerse myself in all things Southern for the next six months.  I don't know whether getting it down then getting it right will work for me or against me, but I'm going to give it a go.

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Like the others, I thought there was something intriguing here, but some problems with how it's presented. Both the tense and the point of view are inconsistent within scenes, and this made for a rough read. I don't normally comment on spelling and grammar stuff here but you mixed up your / you're a lot.


There were some nice descriptive detail, like the arrival's lounge and the guard on the way out of the car park - I really liked those. It would have been good to have something like this earlier on, as it would have helped me picture the initial scene.


The bit on Carl's background was good. It was very different in style to the rest, but it had interesting details (as a Brit, I didn't spot the inaccuracies) and was the bit that flowed best. That said, it was so different from the rest that it seemed out of place.


And I agree with Guru Coyote on needing to know more about Jerome - who he is, what he wants, what interests him - as the main character I needed more of this for me to care about him and the story.


Having said all that, I'm intrigued by the setting and where you're going with it, and you've shown enough ability in characterisation that I look forward to seeing you apply that to Jerome.


Oh, and while I have no idea what'll make accurate research, Justified, as mentioned by jParker, is worth watching just for the entertainment value. I love that show.

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Most of what I wanted to comment on has already been said, so I’ll just make a couple small points I wanted to address.


Carl’s scene: I’ve seen in the other critiques that the others thought that Carl’s bit was the best written, and I agree. I don’t think this was the place to have that particular scene however. It’s set in the past to explain the character Carl, whom we’ve not met yet and who doesn’t even appear in the present in this chapter. To me it feel like an info dump, breaking up the scene it’s placed in.


I found it jarring to read. In my opinion this part is better suited to be integrated in a scene where Carl actually has a role.


Had: You use the word had a lot to explain what the characters were doing just before they got on the scene. If it’s important for us to know what they were doing, maybe you should have started there. A lot of instances can be cut completely without losing anything, such as in the third paragraph: “Jerome had waited for most of the other passengers to leave” could just as easily have been “Jerome waited for most of the other passengers to leave”, which feels a lot more direct than the original example.


POV: You have two points of view in this chapter, Jerome and Chloe, in a rather short chapter. You also broke these points of view with a separate section on Carl, which just comes right out of the blue. Is it important to go into Chloe’s POV? Because Jerome’s could be used just as easily here and it will make the chapter feel more unified.

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Welcome to Reading Excuses!

Looks like most of my critiques have already been covered.  That's what I get for commenting late.


Overall, the writing and grammar are pretty rough, as others have said.  Most errors are consistent through the piece, so it's not just an isolated mistake.  

I can't really find a point to the story yet.  You have two points of view in the first chapter, and the POV occasinally switches from first to third.  There is also a very abrupt ending to the chapter, in (as far as I can tell) the middle of a conversation.

Keep writing, but I'd make sure to build up Jerome's character as the story progresses so the reader can identify with him.  You don't have to have an indication of where the story is going in the first chapter, but I would cut out a lot of the extra bits and focus more on introducing us to your character and world.


In specifics, the two that bug me most are:

"your" vs. "you're."  Definitely watch for this one.  Learn it cold and never let an editor or agent see you make this mistake.  This WILL keep you from selling books.

The switch from 1st to 3rd POV.  Especially at the start of a story, and especially for a first time writer, make sure you keep to either 1st or 3rd person, and don't switch to another POV unless you have to .  The few sentences that were from Jerome 1st person POV I thought popped out the most.  When re-writing, you might try putting this all in 1st person POV from Jerome and see how it works.


jParker's comment on the US south are very pertinent!  I can second them, being from the south myself.  This was painfully obviously a British work where the author didn't know a lot about the US customs and social structure.  At first I thought you were being satirical as this was set in the future, but nope.  Sadly, the "Cornland" bit is probably accurate.


Last, I'll also agree Carl's story kept my interest better, but needs to be in a different place.  It shouldn't be plopped down the first time we hear his name.


Keep writing!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Ben,


I know there are some issues, but I enjoyed your chapter. I'm probably repeating, sorry, but I do have a different take in places, I think.


[Page 1]


I'm not sure about ‘aggressively nondescript’, I can see what you’re getting at, but at the end of the day, it sounds like an oxymoron - I don't think it works.


I'm not sure about the mix of tenses, there seems to be an inconsistency in the application, unless it’s a more obscure pattern, and I'm not seeing it.


[Page 2]


So her father’s called Jerome as well, that’s confusing, is it really necessary? Things are disorienting enough so far, duplicating names just adds to that for me.


‘Yanky’? Yankee, surely – although I'm a Brit, but I’ve never seen ‘Yanky’ – unless it’s a corruption for the purposes of the story, in which case I’ll shut up!!


[Page 3]


I like the ‘Cornland’ exchange. I wasn’t expecting to laugh out loud, since the tone has been rather sombre and serious so far, but this passage is great. Also typo in first line, ‘You’re’.


I'm not getting the sudden switches in tense at all, and the italicised section, it’s not like thought, it’s like she’s narrating her own life, sounds strange. Also, his reaction to the joke seems over the top – doubled over laughing, really? I said I laughed out loud, but I managed to stay in my chair.


‘...Chloe knew he'd wake for a dollar...’ – nice phrase, slick and cool.


[Page 4]


Tense confusion again.


[Page 5]


‘...They asked him so hard he pissed blood...’ – nice line!


[Page 6]


‘...Carl was only a criminal for couple of days...’ – what on Earth does that have to do with anything? – I’ve got no sympathy for Carl so far – he presumably caused all those savers a whole lot of pain, since by the sound of it a bank post-22 might not be insured?




I agree with most of the other comments, but I'm not with Ria on the "unfeeling bureaucracy” line, I think the meaning’s clear enough, and it gives us an insight into Jerome’s personality. Also, I like the line "hair brunette always dyed either blond or red", it has a lyricism to it, which is no bad thing. In fact, I think that might be the issue with the interlude describing Carl’s background. It’s almost like an extended blues lyric dropped into the prose. Like one of those scenes from ‘Holes’ when we’re getting a flashback about Sam (he of onion fame) – it’s like a completely different voice although it’s supposed to be Chloe.


You’ve got a nice turn of phrase, I like the general style and the characters are convincing. I don’t like the messing around with tense. To me this is generally pretty strong writing without that, I don’t think it adds anything, in fact for me it’s distracting, going on annoying.


I'm keen to read more. I want to know what happened in 22, it sounds intriguing. Vines are hellish, I’ve tried to eradicate an unwanted ivy

from my garden, it’s a tough s.o.b.!


Like AndyK, as a Brit I missed the inconsistencies in the setting, but it’s not an excuse if you’re going to go there.


I hope I'm not supposed to like Carl, because I don’t so far. Gangsters are the pits – there’s no excuse and there’s no such thing as a victimless crime. It ain’t big, and it ain’t clever. Hang ‘em high.


Hope we get Chapter 2 soon.

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