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Critique Request: The Fight in the Dog

I like my critique like I like my coffee

By Madoka MoriPublished 10 months ago Updated 10 months ago 2 min read

It was almost exactly a year ago that Vocal held the New Worlds challenge, where we were bid to write the first chapter of a science fiction novel. This was my submission:

I didn’t place in that challenge, but I fell quite in love with my entry. I truly do want to flesh it out into a full novel — I’ve got a fairly complete outline that I’m pleased with; I know exactly what I want it to say theme-wise, and have a fair amount of plot mapped out. I actually used this story as the focus of my first time trying NaNoWriMo last year, but… well, let’s just say that burnout is very real.

I’ve been trying to get back in the saddle recently, however. I keep coming back to this story, and I was hoping to use this lovely new Critique community get some feedback on it.

I’ve got some specific areas that might be a good jumping-off point, but I’d love to hear any and all feedback: even something as vague as “I don’t like the middle bit” is potentially useful. I recently read Murakami Haruki’s Novelist as a Vocation, and he mentions something to the effect of proofreaders being always correct at identifying something that doesn’t work (he goes on to say they are rarely correct as to why, but let’s ignore that for now. Anyway I’m no Murakami).

Without further ado, here are my specific points of inquiry:

- The story has, by design, a very strong voice.

What do you think of it? Is it too much? Is this voice evenly-applied (i.e: does it drop in and out)?

- There are parts written in bold.

What was your first reaction when the switch occurred? What do you think is happening? Does this artifice bring you out of the narrative?

- Probably the most common criticism I receive in my writing is a lack of characterization.

I think that’s fair, but often because it’s part of the story, or simply not important to it. This, however, is very character driven, and as a result I’m worried I’m up to the task. What do you think of this character and how she is depicted in the narrative?

- I am quite aggressively anti-comma.

…that’s it. Sorry, there are no questions here. I am aggressively anti-comma. I am comfortable with this. You can try telling me to use more but I won’t.

Also, some bonus questions for those of you who have finished a long-form piece of writing to your satisfaction:

  • Did you start at the beginning and follow the narrative through to the end, or did you jump around when writing chapters?
  • How much of an outline did you have? How well did you know the ending?
  • Did you edit as you went along? If so, how thoroughly?

Really looking forward to hearing answers to these! I would appreciate it if you put them in the comments of this article rather than in the chapter of the story itself, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t.

I do want to be very clear and up-front here: I’m an adult who’s put a piece of writing in a public forum, and I’m publicly asking for critique. You can be direct. You can be blunt. You don’t need to worry about my feelings; I’ll be alright. It can feel cruel to critique a person’s work very directly, but I prefer the bitter medicine.

Thanks in advance for any insights! I really appreciate anything you might offer up.

Feedback Requested

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Madoka Mori

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Comments (6)

  • Mark E. Cutter4 months ago

    Well, Hello again Madoka Mori. Long time no see. I read this story when it first came out and thought it was a top contender for the number one slot in that competition. I'm shocked to find out it didn't place... You have asked for critique of a piece, which is an essential part of the comment section for any story--how otherwise are we to become better writers? I'll do my best because you leave little room for critique with the quality of your work. The voice of your character is excellent. It IS evenly applied, almost too evenly, but I'll get to that in a minute. I didn't feel that your characterization lacked, and that was down solely to the richness of your character's voice. Her stream of consciousness revealed a great deal about her. The bold text. As I began reading, the bit of foreshadowing about letting the rage out just before you switched over to the bold text didn't do the job as well as you may have intended. I thought the battle scene was being described boldly (sorry) and it felt gimmicky to me. I thought you were missing an opportunity to highlight the schism in your character by assigning the bold text to the rage in her. It wasn't until I got to the part where Akari exclaimed that this was SO MUCH FUN that I realized that was exactly what you were doing. Using bold text to separate the "normal" Akari, if there is such a person, from Akari, the murder mote and gleeful killer, is a great idea. It worked incredibly well at the end of the bold passage, where you switched in and out between bold and regular text, highlighting that the murder mote doesn't like to go back in the box. Perhaps during those bold passages, creating a greater disparity between the two voices would help increase narrative tension rather than relying more on the bold text to let us know who is talking. Still, that depends on where you want her to go and how deep the box needs to be to separate the two. Commas. I throw them around like chicken feed on a Sunday morning, but you do you, as someone else has commented. The writing does not suffer from the lack of them. Except in one place. To my mind, When Akari has her fist down the merc's gullet, she observes that the sensation is "better than sex it was amazing." Some pause there, whether commas (or even longer, an m dash or ellipses), could have drawn that moment out a little bit more and dialed in on how murdery Akari gets when she lets her little fren' out of its box; how much she enjoys gruesome slaughter. As written, it was a little flat. That's really all I have. Loved this story. Your battle scenes are top-notch, and they are notoriously difficult to write. The last long-form I wrote was co-authoring my wife's memoirs; we did that straight through. It all depends on your personal narrative process, but writing the story linearly does help to keep from having to shoehorn disparate parts together.

  • The run-on sentence/paragraph: "Then if by a million-to-one chance, literally one million to one, this imaginary example person is plucked from their introspective drift before their air runs out or they descend too far into the Earth's gravity well by a passing cargo hauler, so that they feel suddenly like they’ve been brought back to the world of the living to commit some grand scheme of unfinished business like a ghost or that crow guy from the old movie, well." works for me, but the separation of "plucked from their introspective drift" from "passing cargo hauler" by two phrases makes it a little difficult to follow. In the paragraph beginning, "His eyes go wide...," you have the compound sentence (triple) "I’ve never felt such a deep connection with another person before it’s more intimate than sex it’s amazing" without the commas you so detest. In this case it makes it very difficult to read the first time through. I wouldn't use commas. I'd use periods. "I’ve never felt such a deep connection with another person before. It’s more intimate than sex. It’s amazing." Alternatively, I like using a long dash between the second & third sentences: "It’s more intimate than sex--it’s amazing." I still have the same question about the "gene-hacked fungus" "biohazard" becoming inert so quickly. As to the questions you raise: I thoroughly enjoy the voice of your main character by which you've managed to flesh out her personality quite thoroughly already. The bold face for the adrenaline-laced fight sequences works very well for me. As I've already indicated, I think you've done an extremely good job of developing her character already in this first chapter. I feel I have a pretty good sense of who she is. Except for the comment I made above, my high school debate coach would tell you not to listen to me on the issue of commas, lol. While every comma I used in papers I wrote for him was technically correct, they rendered my writing almost unreadable. I use was too many & have to work hard at cutting them out. I've only done long form once & it was decades ago (& not very good). I did write it straight through without jumping around, edited repeatedly all the way through, & knew both how it began & how it ended (both of which were essentially the same) before I wrote a single word. Other than my tendency to edit throughout the process, I wouldn't say that's how I would do it anymore.

  • The Dani Writer10 months ago

    Still grinning about what you said with commas. I enjoyed reading this. You motivate you do you do you do! (Notice no commas!) Novel eh? Hmmm. *Naughty grammar thoughts...* Thanks for sharing Madoka!

  • Kendall Defoe 10 months ago

    I may give it a look...even if you are a comma chameleon (they come and go; they come and go...oho). 😉

  • L.C. Schäfer10 months ago

    I will be back to offer some critique after reading the piece, but I just want to say... Crack Fox doesn't get used enough, and for his inclusion THANK YOU 😁

  • Babs Iverson10 months ago

    Like the bold or embolden type. I haven't attempted a long story or novel. When it comes to creating, you can start from the ending. You know how the story ends Then, you build the story. In other words, a story can grow from the middle, the end, or the beginning. Wishing you the best!!!💕

Madoka MoriWritten by Madoka Mori

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