An old critique dissected (Part 4)

You’ll notice as you read this last installment of my little rant that there are no original responses from me until the end.  The explanation is simple:  I became so frustrated with the critique itself that at times I was actually nonverbal and unable to respond.  I also became tired of attempting to get clarification/explanation from the critiquer when it was obvious that none was forthcoming — ever.  So the vast majority of what I have to say here is being added as I type the blog post…

As always, the original feedback from the critiquer are in normal type, my original response is in bold-face, and my later thoughts about the whole thing (typed as I type this post) are inside double parentheses.

(Warning:  In this final installment, some of my thoughts/responses to the critique get rude.)


(Part 4)

“Stephan Dragonborn didn’t want to be found, else he’d (he wouldn’t have?) not have gone missing to begin with.”  Yeah but he had a son who was twenty when he left… isn’t that a big reason to want to be found? Unless his son was in on his secret?  Maybe play with this?

((“he’d not” vs. “he wouldn’t” So the critiquer doesn’t like my slightly old-fashioned — or maybe just British — choices on how to form some contractions.  Deal with it.  It fits the character’s voice, and it is neither confusing nor grammatically incorrect.  I doubt the critiquer could give any reason for the suggested change other than ‘Me and my friends don’t talk this way.’  Also, I don’t understand this comment:  “Yeah but he had a son who was twenty when he left… isn’t that a big reason to want to be found?”  As for the son being in on the secret… That’s contrary to everything I’ve ever written in this setting, and would also be repeating another plotline/complication with other characters in another story.))

“Tell everyone?  (I’d have to/I’d) At least tell Jonathan, king in Haefenspoint (King of Haefenspoint),

((What’s with the “I’d have to”?  One more time, it’s should, not must.  Don’t make me throw something at you.  Capitalization… Does this issue look familiar, Loyal Reader?  *grin*  No, really, “king” only needs to be capitalized if it is used as a title before the name or a form of address; otherwise it remains uncapitalized.))

who hadn’t seen his father in centuries?  (Who had been missing his father for centuries? Searching for his father for centuries?)

((No, because either of those choices means something that isn’t accurate.  I say what I mean to say.  Whoever told you that “seen,” like “said,” is a word to be avoided whenever there’s some thesaurus snot you could use instead is wrong.))

Had the passing of time since Dragonborn disappeared made it any easier for his son?

((And Alandra, the POV character in a first-person story, would know this how…?))

Could you make mention of Jonathan’s name when you explain his age (earlier) when his father disappeared?  I guess it depends on how involved Jonathan is/will be in the overall story as to what you choose to do (or not do) here.

((Ya think?  Please don’t assume — as some readers have — that every single person mentioned in passing in this story is going to be actively involved and present at some point in it.  I’ll make it easy for you:  Jasper Greyphoenix isn’t in this story, either — for which he is grateful, I’m sure, since his author is so cruel to him sometimes and makes him have awkward conversations with his friends and tell them things he would rather never say to anyone… *waves to Loyal Reader, then laughs maniacally*))

“I had been hired to do a job, and a good finder doesn’t ask (questions? A good finder doesn’t ask what exactly?)

((It’s implied — I know how much the critiquer hates that –– that ‘a good finder doesn’t ask why she’s been hired to find something.’  Obviously she has to ask some questions, or she couldn’t be a finder at all.))

I just hoped Devin knew what he was doing?”  How does this relate to what Devin is doing?

((You mean, how does this relate to Devin hiring a finder to look for Stephan Dragonborn…?  Or did you jump to the erroneous conclusion that “what he was doing” referred to something else entirely?))

Note – I feel there’s something I don’t know,

((I won’t comment on that — too easy))

something Alandra isn’t sharing,

((You’re right!  This story is told after the events in it — you know, past tense and all.  That means Alandra, the character telling the story, is keeping the resolution to herself until she gets to the part of her narration where it actually happens.  To do otherwise would ruin the story — make telling it pointless, in fact — and generally be no fun for anyone.))

mainly I feel the reader needs to know her motivations for why she so strongly believes Stefan Dragonborn is responsible for his OWN disappearance

((You need to know her motivation for believing something?  I do not think that means what you think it means.  *grin*  As for why she thinks Stephan — please note the spelling and don’t mess it up again, else I’ll be forced to say harsh things to you — chose to disappear… This is something a lot of people have been wanting to know for a long time — and yes, I DO say so in the story.  Learn to pay attention.  Assume he’s not dead, because there’s no evidence of that.  Assume that if he’d been captured, someone would have talked — why bother to do that and then keep it secret?  Assume that the very lack of evidence concerning his whereabouts is itself evidence of someone deliberately hiding the clues.  And if all else fails, assume that sometimes the protagonist isn’t going to explain every frakkin’ detail of her thought processes when those details aren’t the most important things in what she’s talking about.  ‘Sides, have you ever tried to explain a hunch?))

– simply the previous mentioned ‘Stephan Dragonborn didn’t want to be found – that was certain, else he’d not have gone missing to begin with’ is definitely not enough!

In a noisy bar in Avalon, and if you don’t know the reference, ask someone else… I’d been searching for two weeks, and still nothing but a handful of rumors, all unverifiable.  So I called the number Devin had given me, to tell him I was considering dropping the job.”  ‘In a noisy bar in Avalon, and if you don’t know the reference, ask someone else…’  you know what?  No, I don’t know the reference, and I find it rude that it’s suggested I ‘ask someone else.’  This to me doesn’t sound like Allandra.

((*sigh*  This is the one place where nearly every reader confuses Alandra, the narrating character of this story, with me, the author.  This is especially ironic coming from a reviewer who earlier told me more than once that I, as a man, was doing a bad job of writing a story with a female protagonist.  There was no confusion of identities then, was there?  Don’t tell me I’m being rude when Alandra says something you don’t like.  That is, quite honestly, too stupid for words.  Y’see, if it was me, I’d tell you exactly where the line came from, and possibly — if I’d had enough coffee recently — even tell you exactly how it related to this story, and what other fiction it makes me think of… Alandra, on the other hand, is a lot more discrete than I am, and although she does think of this, she doesn’t feel the need to go into a long explanation about it.  And for what it’s worth, I’ve had readers recognize it and guess all on their own how it relates to this story, and I’ve had readers look it up and then guess how it relates, and I’ve had readers just shrug it off and trust the author to give any information that is actually needed.  And then there are people like you, critiquer-like person, the same kind who get pissed because they’ve never heard of ‘Harrison Denmark Fan Club’ and think I shouldn’t be mentioning bands that aren’t famous here and now, the same kind who cannot be bothered to pay attention to what they’re reading and then chalk any confusion up to author’s incompetence because, after all, what does the author know about their own story, anyway?  *rolls eyes*  As a reward for anyone who has read this rant so far without being frightened away, I’ll share what Alandra chose not to:  The reference is to a line from a song titled “Southern Cross,” by Crosby, Stills and Nash:  “In a noisy bar in Avalon I tried to call you”.  You see perhaps why Alandra would have thought of this just now?  The next line is, “But on a midnight watch I realized why twice you ran away,”  and I’ll leave you with that small bit of foreshadowing…))

What kind of rumors had you heard during your two weeks of searching?

((What kind of rumors did I hear?  None whatsoever — I’m just the author, and I’m not in the story.  What kind did Alandra hear?  Good question, and I’d have given those details if I was writing a 35K-word novella rather than a 3,500-word short story.  Alas, I had a maximum word limit and could not.))

Two weeks doesn’t seem like a very long time, but then I’d need to know the ‘average’ time a ‘search’ takes to put this into context.

((It isn’t sufficient to know that Alandra, who has done this kind of work many times before, thinks that two weeks is not a short time?))

Why was Allandra going to drop the job when earlier she said that she herself had a personal interest in Dragonborn’s disappearance?

((Yeah, ’cause no one ever decides that, although they’d like to do something, it seems not to be possible at this time…))

Was she just disappointed she was getting nowhere and the average case normally took a lot less time?

((See, you figured it out all on your own, without needing it spelled out in excess detail that the character wouldn’t give…  It isn’t entirely accurate, but close enough.))

“Have you ever gone Up?  Not many of us do – fear, I guess, of being offworld if the Gate should close again is what keeps more from going.  Otherwise we’d take the sky for wandering as we’d once taken Terra.  Some do anyway.

“The last — and least easily followed — rumor has led me Up but not Out, to one of the orbital stations.  Rumors run fast in the void, they say, and someone – maybe inspired by my own planted hints – claimed to have seen Stephan Dragonborn eight years ago in a tavern on Thule Station.”  I think swapping these two paragraphs around, so it reads (from previous paragraph) – “In a noisy bar in Avalon, and if you don’t know the reference, ask someone else… I’d been searching for two weeks, and still nothing but a handful of rumors, all unverifiable.  So I called the number Devin had given me, to tell him that I was considering dropping the job (end of previous paragraph), especially as (new paragraph) the last – and least easily followed – rumor had led me Up but not Out, to one of the orbital stations.

((Um… So you think she’d choose to quit because one of the rumors leads to a station?  Yes, she does say that not many of her people ever go off-planet — and do not complain that she didn’t use that term exactly, because what do you think “Up” means in this context? — but that is a far cry from saying no one else does and she won’t do it either.))

Rumor runs fast in the void, they say, and someone — maybe inspired by my own planted hints (clarify!) –claimed (claims) to have seen Stephan Dragonborn (only!) eight years ago in a tavern on Thule Station.

((No clarification needed for a reader who pays attention.  “I dropped a name in the nets and listened for reaction.”  You did read that sentence, didn’t you? The present tense “claims” is flat-out wrong.  Why say ‘only eight years ago’?  It doesn’t work.  Again, it suggests things that I don’t mean.))

Have you ever gone Up?  (I don’t know about asking the reader this

((I don’t know about why some readers cannot get this first-person narration thing.  She’s not talking to you, idiot, she’s not the same person as the author, and maybe you need to get your head out of your butt, ’cause it’s got to be really hard to read that way.))

maybe instead just explain why not many of ‘you’ do

((Did that.  In fact, you’re about to quote it at me.))

Not many of us do — fear, I guess, of being offworld if the Gate should close again (.  This) is what keeps more of us from going (than currently do?).  Otherwise we’d take the sky for wandering as we’d once taken Terra.  (At least) Some do anyway.”

(Oh, yeah — chop up a sentence that has good flow, and then add some diluting phrases and inaccurate thoughts that don’t reflect what the narrating character thinks about it all, and suddenly we have… something that it totally wrong for the character voice, totally wrong for background about the setting, and awkward as hell.  Unnecessary passive verb use, too.))

“Running out of ideas fast, I did real-world what I do in the nets.”  (replace “did” with what exactly what it was he resorted to doing)

((I see that the critiquer has done away with all pretense of seeing the protagonist as female:  The author is male; therefor the character must be male, too, no matter what is written.  As for what she did, you were told that already, so ask yourself how ‘dropping a name in the nets and listening for a reaction’ would translate to something done in person… Or just keep reading to the very next sentence and find out:  “I sat in that tavern, thinking and occasionally listening to the conversations around me.”))

“and complained about shadows” (I  know I’m being ridiculously trivial with this one, but you mentioned ‘shadows’ earlier

((It would almost make sense for me to use the single quotes here — I have… a different perspective, which will cause the Loyal Reader to laugh when he catches on — but it does not make sense for the reviewer to do so.  Single quotes used like this have a connotation of “so-called” which is… well, ironic in a way that the critiquer cannot possibly be doing deliberately.  “Information overload…,” Loyal Reader.  Think about it.))

when describing the interior of Johansen’s “just where the shadows were deepest” maybe have them complain about something else?

((Actually, that’s not the part where Alandra complains about shadows — that would be when she says that the lighting’s too dim for her liking at Johansen’s — and these guys… No, it has to be as written.  Authors love to plant inside jokes as treats for their friends; this is one such.  You don’t need to get the joke to get the story.))

And the real question – when is enough editing enough?! lol

((Well, my story was better edited than your critique, so maybe you’re not qualified to decide that.  Not to mention the fact that I’m a professional proofreader and editor and thus, aside from just needing a second set of eyes to double-check my writing, am more than capable of managing my own grammar, thank you very much.  I like getting reader feedback — it helps a lot, when it’s honest, which of course requires that the reader actually reads the story and judges it by what it is attempting to be rather than by what the reader would have written if she was the one writing a story — but damn! The critique would have been half as long merely from leaving out all the incorrect ‘corrections’ and demands for information that shows up less than half a page after where the critiquer says ‘I don’t get it. You left something out.’  Honest reader feedback also requires that the reader not have the agenda of proving that the author is incompetent because the author has been getting too much positive feedback from other critiquers and must be taken down a notch in retaliation for the crime of having a Y chromosome…))

“This was bad.  A finder, and I didn’t even know how to go looking anymore.”  Maybe replace ‘looking’ possibly play on word ‘find’ (finder/finding…)

((I thought that not using such a blatant play on words would avoid cheesiness.))

“I walked over to the bar for a drink (seems to be an ‘obvious’ thing to do, maybe reword?)

((Reword to what?  Please clarify ‘obvious’ here.  Do you mean that it should be obvious that she’s going to the bar for a drink and that shouldn’t be stated?  Do you mean that going to the bar for a drink is an “obvious” action and she should be more subtle?  Do you mean that having a character go to the bar for a drink is a cliché thing — after all, lots of people have written scenes in which someone goes to a bar for a drink, so it’s all been done before, time to move on already? — And yes, that last was sarcasm, perhaps not something the critiquer deserves at this time, but I have certainly heard enough ‘It’s a cliché to EVER write ANYTHING that can be compared AT ALL to ANY other story’ comments that it’s really, really getting on my nerve.  At any rate, suggestions to reword need to be accompanied by suggestions on how to reword.))

Some kind of honey wine, because I don’t like the taste and wouldn’t drink most of it.”  Clarify?  If you don’t want to drink it, why not get lemonade?

((*rolls eyes*  If you’re in a bar and plan to do any sneaky stuff — spy on someone, blend in so you can get info from the other patrons, whatever — you DON’T let yourself be seen with a designated driver’s beverage, because then it will be obvious that you’re avoiding inebriation, which — unless you are a designated driver, something which has no relevance in this setting — is going to make you stand out rather a lot.  But alcohol that you won’t be tempted to drink much of — that lets you blend in without the risk of getting drunk.  Class dismissed.))

Do you want to drink desperately and drinking something you don’t like will deter you?

((I suppose this would make sense if I’d ever indicated that Alandra has a drinking problem… And off my brain goes on a skitter that leads a lot closer to my own fiction than I’ll ever admit.  Look, an airplane!  Anyway… Please stop with the second-person treatment when discussing the protagonist.  She isn’t me.))

Doesn’t make any sense (to me) as it is.

“the bartender was chatting with some other guy (what other guy?

((It doesn’t matter.  This is in a bar — there are other people present.  Exact details of every person in the room are not relevant or desirable.))

How many ‘normal guys’ have there been(?!)

((Define ‘normal’… And be glad I’m not asking you to define ‘bambi’ while you’re at it — I’m in that kind of mood.  Do you mean normal by Alandra’s standards — and do you assume that she would define normal as meaning her own species only?  Or do you define normal according to the kind of people you know personally?  Something else entirely — normal for this place, maybe?))

oh and you may want to go back and be a little more descriptive with the ‘iron’ characters physical appearance maybe by the way, because this is fantasy!)

((*rolls eyes again*  The people wearing iron jewelry are Terrans: your own species, although obviously not your own culture — I hope! — as this story is not set in the here-and-now.  It is permissible to have humans in fantasy stories, you know; it’s not a requirement that every character be a trendy half-vampire/half-angel/half-faerie teenage ninja robot.  The exact physical description of aforementioned Terran bullies is not given because it doesn’t matter, just as the physical descriptions of the other patrons at Johansen’s was not given, nor the physical descriptions of each and every person at the bar on Thule Station.  Lingering close-up shots of walk-ons and crowd extras would be weird and misleading.))

“Here you are, fire-hair,” he said as he handed me my glass.”

((Y’see?  The bartender comments on Alandra’s appearance because it is unusual or worthy of comment — to him.  Alandra doesn’t describe the appearance of the guy the bartender is talking to because she doesn’t care.  I see, by the way, that aside from telling me not to say anything about shadows, the critiquer has no comment on this bit from earlier:  “A group of men at the next table – foreigners all, by their varied accents – discussed travel arrangements and complained about shadows.  Guess they didn’t like dim lighting much, either.  One of them had reddish hair and green eyes, but he was too tall ever to be mistaken for the man I was looking for…”  *sigh*  Loyal Reader got it, and it amused my clone-sibling immensely, which was why I wrote it in the first place, but still, I did hope that other readers would at least think, ‘Hey, why is she noticing these people in particular?’  And it gave me a chance to work in an indirect description of Stephan Dragonborn, by comparison to the man here.  I could have said that one of the other two was really tall and had dark hair, and that another one looked vaguely familiar to Alandra and she’d much later feel really foolish for not recognizing him, but why go into all that?  The reviewer missed the details when I did give them…))

“I went back to Anglin in a hurry.  Lucky for me, there hadn’t been much rain since I’d been there.  And I found what I was looking for, snagged on the thorn bush near Johansen’s.  A dark brown hair.  Devin’s.”  No offense, but I find it hard to believe the hair was there!  Allundra’s search was two weeks….. Is there another way she can come across his hair?

((A double-l, I can overlook a few times, but this misspelling… You’ve got the text in front of you — why is it so hard to spell the main character’s name correctly?  You did it before.  This kind of inattention to detail reinforces my belief that you aren’t really paying attention to much of anything in the story.  And trust me, stuff stuck on shrubbery can stay there a long time.  Two weeks is nothing.))

Maybe he’s vain and carries a little plastic tooth comb in his pocket and that fell out when they fell on that day

((Maybe he’s not.  Maybe he’d know better, under the circumstances, even if he was.  Maybe the ‘hair stuck on a comb’ thing is so overwhelmingly cliché that I cannot find words to adequately express how cliché it is.))

(but even that’s bordering on unbelievable too unless it was filthy and she’s have to distinctly remember him using it earlier so she and the reader could identify it, okay lame suggestion

((In which case, why didn’t you delete it before posting the critique?))

But I still think it needs something more believable.

((Your inability to believe realistic things is not my problem, any more than is your inability to imagine less-realistic things.))

“I looked back at him blankly.  “Dye your hair dark,” he explained, as if I were a child, and a slow-witted one at that, “and all anyone’ll see’s another elf.””  I find it hard to believe, considering how much it bothers her, that Allandra wouldn’t have considered this already

((Alandra’s problem is frustration with people making false assumptions about her — and here, at last, you find something that the author has in common with the character.  In Alandra’s case, she gets pissed off about people assuming she’s dragon-kin because of her red hair.  She doesn’t dye her hair brown not because she wouldn’t ever think of it, but because she believes that she shouldn’t have to.  What other people wrongly assume is their fault, not hers, and she isn’t going to give in to their assumptions by making it easier not to make them.))

(and done it!  Females like having nice hair/appearance generally with our species

((And males don’t?))

so I’d assume the same would be for other species that have some form of awareness of self)

((…which, according to the way you say it, does not include the males of your own species.  Congrats — I’ve been called a lot of things by critiquers, but ‘non-sentient’ is a new one.))

The reader then learnt

((Do NOT complain about my British contractions if you’re going to spell it “learnt” instead of “learned.”))

she’d been exposed to it, noticing Terrans doing it.  Which then makes me think maybe she’s a bit ‘slow’

((…which is like the pot calling the tea cup black))

but I had already assumed being a ‘finder’ required intelligence.  The narrative doesn’t seem like that of a ‘slow’ character.

((True, the narration isn’t that of a slow character.  She isn’t slow — here or elsewhere.  You make the mistake of assuming that just because she has not done a thing, she has never thought of doing it.  See the previous comment about Alandra and false assumptions.))

“Never been ‘kin yet had aught but flame red hair,” said his friend.” I find this hard to read (could just be me! maybe ‘kin yet had aught ‘with’ that flame red hair’)

((That makes no sense whatsoever.  Allow me to translate your suggested change into more “normal” diction for you:  “There has never been any ‘kin yet who had anything with that flame red hair.”  The “with” is nonsense.  On the other hand, “There has never been any ‘kin yet who had anything but that flame red hair” is perfectly understandable. ))

At times I find when you slip into slang dialogue

((It isn’t slang, but never mind…))

It doesn’t seem to me like it’s really spoken.

((Oh, yes, because people normally use “slang” ever so much more often in writing than they do in speech.))

Try to speak it out before you write it

((Try not to be a damn parrot.))

if you’re not already.

((Actually, I taught myself how to speak informally through practice writing that way.  Was a time when I couldn’t use slang and informal diction, or drop the occasional word, to save my life.  Got over it, clearly.  My writing is better as a result, plus most people never guess that I’m autistic, because I have taught myself to talk like the herd when the need arises.  Don’t think that means that I MUST talk like the herd… or that characters in my fiction must, either.))

This is my personal opinion (don’t take offense),

((Too late…))

it could be because I’m Australian (probably not though)

((No, that would only explain your preferences in the spelling of certain words, if you had such.  At any rate, being Australian doesn’t excuse the lack of a comma before “though” there.  And yes, I know the Brits do it that way.  They’re wrong.  Never trust someone who has no frakkin’ clue how to use a semicolon to show you how to punctuate.  And since I don’t know anyone who has that specific speech pattern — I made it up, this being fiction and all — I don’t accept ‘this isn’t MY dialect so I don’t get it and therefor it’s not understandable to anyone’ as a valid argument.  Figure it out from context if you have to — readers have been doing that sort of thing forever.))

or I’m not familiar enough with the character yet to be able to understand their unique vocabulary

((Neither am I.  That particular character didn’t even get a name.  He’s a walk-on, appearing only here to deliver his lines, and then he’s gone.))

Rather than have an accent, could you just have him snorting or something that maybe his species is renowned for.

((Sorry — I was too busy laughing.  What did you say?  Oh, yes — you were assuming that this character is some alien species — really alien, not at all like either Terran humans or the various peoples of Alandra’s homeworld.  Thule Station is not Mos Eisley… And yes, I am telling you that you can ask someone else if you don’t get that reference.  So no snorting aliens or other hoary clichés that are older than the two of us combined.))

“No, not find.  Look for.  And tell (show/explain to him?) him the trail.  Everything fell into place (fell in place?)  Nice!

((Oh, so NOW you’ve decided that writing in a way that accurately reflects the protagonist’s voice is a good thing… By the way, “fell in place” would be saying that everything collapsed at its current location; “fell into place” says that everything abruptly arrived where it needed to be, metaphorically.))

maybe make (discretely) more references to Devin’s hair colour at the start,

((You mean more than giving his hair color before we even see him?))

like if we can see him running his fingers through his clean/dirty/greasy brown hair as he’s speaking — when Devin gets his hair tangled in that ‘thorny bush’ again tell the reader it’s brown

((…thus making far too much of an issue of it and telegraphing the plot from page one.))

We need to see him with brown hair so we can make the connection Allundra is making while she’s making it (if you can see what I mean)

((Of the couple hundred people who have read this short story, most have had no problem seeing the connection at this point, if not earlier.  Over-explaining is bad in fiction.))

“I became a finder because I enjoy discovering things, because I knew of nothing better than the sound of a secret explaining itself to whomever could ask the right questions, but I did not want to do this.”  A few times it’s mentioned a finder doesn’t ask questions which kind of contradicts this statement

((No, it doesn’t.))

(as explained earlier, I personally prefer having a finder asking questions!)

((As I explained earlier, she only means that she shouldn’t ask why a client wants something found, not that she shouldn’t ask questions that help her find it.  And I personally prefer having a critiquer ask only intelligent questions, but it seems we can’t always have what we want.))

“A single dark hair, dark-copper (burnt) bright (brightly) and (replace with ,) untouched by the flames.” ‘dark copper, burnt brightly, untouched by the flames.’ ‘dark-copper bright’ is contradictory.

((No, it isn’t.  A thing can be dark copper in color and still have a lot of sheen, can it not?  Your recommendation for change would make sense IF I were trying to say what your version says.  I’m not.))

“Only two dragon-kin who didn’t look like red-haired elves.  Jonathan was still in Haefenspoint.  If he were (was) gone, people would know, because the movements of kings are very public and because they’d be afraid he’d skipped town like his old man (fragmented, saying too much, because, because)

((The repeated use of “because” isn’t a string of one leading to another.  I cannot think of how to explain this to you; metaphor fails if the listener doesn’t have background experience/knowledge compatible with that of the speaker.  Parallel circuitry, not series.  — And why are you NOT complaining of the ‘inappropriate change in character voice’ between “movements of kings are very public” and “skipped town like his old man”?  Seems like something you’d do.))

But how many people even (now?) remember what Stephan Dragonborn looks like?  Who would recognize him, if he crossed the Gate, (‘disguised’ would suffice here) hid his identity with tinted lenses and a different hair color and a false name (too many ‘and’)?  ‘Who would recognize him, he crossed the Gate disguised?’

((Wow, way to really make that passage as bland as possible!  No, really, “hid” needs to be said; the connotations are much… sharper-edged.  And for all your insistence that I spell out what Alandra discovers, here you are saying that I should not in any way explain his disguise.  WHY??))

“The next morning I called my client, and I asked him to meet me (back at Johansen’s).  I had something he’d want (made progress?) to hear (?) about, I told him.”  What client?  Devin?  If it is, I think we’re past referring to him as ‘client’ now!

((Of course it’s him.  See anyone else she’s been working for lately?  What should she call him?  She’s not ready to refer to him by his real name yet — although perhaps I’m making false assumptions in thinking that you know what that is now — and calling him Devin feels weird.))

” “You never wanted me to find anyone, did you?”  I was angry, and because I was right, I  knew he felt it” – little ambigious – does this mean if I’m angry and wrong people can’t feel my anger?

((*rolls eyes*  Please don’t be more obtuse than you have to be.  No, it means that she knows that “Devin” is ‘kin, and ‘kin CAN feel others’ anger — as well as other emotions.))

“But he closed his eyes, the coward, so he wouldn’t have to deal with it – it’s” get rid of hyphen and make full stop.

((Why?  First of all, that’s a dash, not a hyphen.  Second, the punctuation I’ve used is not incorrect and better fits the feel I want this passage to have.))

“Was I so angry because I’d been misled, or because I felt the idiot for not seeing what was right in front of me?  I couldn’t have said.  (I didn’t know?)

((Any particular reason why you want a change to what is more-or-less the same thing, or do you just like telling writers to change to your own style rather than keeping theirs?  A good critiquer makes suggestions that improve the writing in the least invasive way possible, keeping what already works intact.))

“What’s wrong, finder?” he said (asked).

((No!  Whoever told you that questions in dialogue require “asked” as the tag was wrong.  “Said” is ALWAYS a valid option.  It’s a question — it’s obvious that it was “asked” without anyone having to say so.))

“He sighed, and suddenly it struck me how truly old this man was. Even knowing that he was no more human than myself.”  Second sentenced doesn’t explain first.

((It isn’t meant to “explain” the previous sentence.  If you mean that you don’t understand what his not being human has to do with anything… It shouldn’t be too long a reach for you to guess that elves — such as Alandra — live longer than humans, right?  That is a pretty common trait for them in anyone’s fiction, after all.  But “Devin” doesn’t look like an elf — doesn’t have pointed ears, remember?  So Alandra had been thinking of him as human, even once she knew better, because for her, “not human” tends to default to “elven,” and that, as I just said, is obviously not what he is.  Plus, dragon-kin are comparatively rare, Alandra hasn’t known any of them personally, and she’s not used to thinking ‘This person who looks human may well be even older than I am!’  All far more explanation than you need, but just in case someone who didn’t read “Finder’s Fee” happens upon this blog…))

“I hear you, Alandra Kade,” he said, and I didn’t know how to interpret that (his) faint, sad smile.  “It is what I was intending.”

((Change one pronoun for another – why?))

“It’s happened twice since then.  He doesn’t contact me in person.  Just one day I get an anonymous message, through the net or by tel, saying, It’s time, hunter.  Find me.”  referring to it as anonymous doesn’t seem ‘right’ because we know it’s from him. Perhaps unsigned letter?

((Same difference, except “anonymous” has the more accurate connotations.))

You’ve picked this story apart looking for errors like someone peeling an onion looking for the seeds.  (That isn’t my simile, but it sure does fit.)  Every other line of the critique, I thought, “Did you READ it?”  You’ve told me that word choices are incorrect in places where they are NOT incorrect (as a proofreader/editor, I find that particularly annoying), and you’ve made suggestions for changes that would take all the individuality out of the protagonist and the story as a whole.

THIS IS FICTION.  Yes, the basics of punctuation and grammar apply, but there must also be room for bending the rules, or we’d all end up writing in exactly the same style, with the same subject matter.  What would be the point?  Incomplete sentences are allowed.  Really.


As you can see, I had to stop even trying to respond to the “corrections” after a while; it was too frustrating.  My reactions alternated between making “throw-my-head-at-you” gestures (something I picked up from friends in a face-to-face writing group) and muttering “Did you read it?!?”  Because I still have my doubts.


About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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