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Review - A Life to Remember

This is a place for all Original Works to be reviewed. Please make sure that you review in a constructive manner as any members caught insulting other members or their work will be dealt with accordingly.

Moderators: Hades [Forge], Hera [Sammy]

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ChaosShadoWolfe
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Review - A Life to Remember

Post by ChaosShadoWolfe » Mon Feb 26, 2018 12:53 pm

Short story here
~~~~~~~
So, first off; I wrote this when I was bored. Or at least, started writing this when I was bored. It evolved into what it currently was because I ended up having a feeling that I might end up doing something a little different.

So, what's the big deal with this "experiment"? Well, I've never done a mid-story switch from First to Third person, and I felt like I should try it out in a story. Just to see whether I could pull it off or not, and possibly I might have been able to, I don't know. That's why I have this thread. So you can tell me.

So, a little bit more backstory is appreciated, I assume.

Well, back when I was but a wee-little lad, well, I wasn't little anymore by then but, details. Anyways, I used to play this video game called "Halo 3 ODST", and I was always fascinated by it. I loved the gameplay, the story, and the way it panned out with you playing as "The Rookie" and while you skulk through the night, you find specific things and then you switch to the daytime adventures of your squadmates. The concept of the ODSTs is something I liked about the Halo universe a lot; Regular soldiers, but incredibly skilled at what they do. So, I tried to have that feel here. I failed in my own opinion, because I haven't written in a while so I'm a bit rusty.

That being said, I think I got the general feeling of the story across and, despite me cutting a segment as it could have come quite close to what someone could have experienced, you got a good feeling of who the main protagonist was and what he stood for by the end. Though, had I probably developed it more, it would've had more of an effect than it currently has. So yeah, I'm rusty as I couldn't develop a character sufficiently enough in 7 pages in my opinion.

Anyways, thank you for reading and I hope to see some good feedback on the story from you.
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Hera [Sammy]
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Re: Review - A Life to Remember

Post by Hera [Sammy] » Mon Feb 26, 2018 10:47 pm

Okay, I want to start by saying that, compared to a prior war-themed story of yours I remember reading some time ago ('A Realistic Threat', maybe?), this shows real, real improvement in terms of writing quality. There are still some grammatical issues but I know you were only working on this yesterday so I'm sure after a few read-throughs you'd probably pick them up (just as a head's up, you alternate between 'Libritsky' and 'Libritski' throughout). That said, I do agree that you haven't really been successful in developing Libritsky as a character. The fact that, as a reader, I didn't feel anything when we discover his heroic death (and I'm pretty easy to hit in the feels in that respect) suggests to me that something has gone wrong in the build up.

I think you start pretty strong. The drill instructor laying into the well-meaning soldier, telling him he'll never make anything of himself etc. is probably a bit cliche but it does successfully serve the purpose of painting Libritsky as an underdog that the reader wishes to see succeed. The opening scene isn't perfect but at this point I'm rooting for him as a character. It all starts to go a bit wrong for me when he reaches the dormitory. The 'ladish' banter is a fine start, we get a glimpse of a supposedly close friendship which humanises him, gives us something to relate to but you then completely lose me at the scene with Deema.

I really don't understand the scene itself, nor what it contributes to the overall narrative. So, Libritsky throws a pillow at Connor, misses and hits Deema in the face. I suppose I can wrap my head around someone being mildly disgruntled about taking a pillow to the face but why on earth does she react by forcibly straddling him? This whole scene just throws me. Is this a child-like, grappling reaction to being annoyed with someone? Because that seems totally out of place in the setting. The fact that she's angry while doing it, the indication of a lack of consent on his part and his emotions afterwards hints at borderline assault.
“Deema, calm down. Connor dodged, and unfortunately, you were behind him.” I apologized. She had always had a temper and frankly it terrified me.
The dialogue seems ill-fitting if he's genuinely terrified of her especially given that they were laughing and joking together not a few lines earlier.

Then we get to April and the punching bag. Honestly, I think you have two female characters that serve no purpose beyond, potentially, trying to demonstrate that Libritsky is an object of interest to women. The fact that April describes what's been depicted more like an assault as Deema letting him know she's interested is bizarre and a bit disturbing, particularly when she then alludes to the fact he's been pressured into a situation he was uncomfortable in. Then there's that weird bit when he sizes up to her... Honestly, this whole section just confuses me. I think you need to sit back and ask yourself what you're looking for from this scene? What are you trying to invoke in the reader? What are you trying to tell us about Libritsky's character? At the moment you have him being poorly treated by a woman, getting upset and then being rude to a woman he's apparently interested in when she comes to check he's alright, immediately extinguishing any sympathy or impact you may have garnered from the Deema moment. For me, this whole section just doesn't work or contribute to the overall narrative at the minute.

The graduation and first mission are both better though, in terms of character development you might want to think about what you could do to make them more emotive. He's graduating, leaving behind asshats who've treated him poorly, about to embark on his career etc. If this is supposed to function like a diary, you've got a lot of room to be emotive with language. Similarly, his first mission and his first kill. It's a great opportunity to shed light on who he is as a man. How is he feeling before/during his first drop? How does taking a life make him feel? As it is, that scene tells us more about the squad leader than it does about Libritsky.

Finally, the ending. It took me a few re-reads to realise that the penultimate paragraph was written by the Major and not Libritsky. The 'He made it a habit to write before and after his missions.' line really threw me. Otherwise, though, I think the shift in perspectives worked pretty well and I think, with some tweaks to the earlier sections of the story to further develop Libritsky as a character, it has the potential to be a really powerful and hard-hitting ending.

Gosh, sorry this has run so long! I hope it's helpful. :smile:
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ChaosShadoWolfe
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Re: Review - A Life to Remember

Post by ChaosShadoWolfe » Tue Feb 27, 2018 12:00 am

It is very helpful. I'm not the most expressive person myself, so it's still a little touch-and-go for me to work emotions into a scene, though I am glad there's an improvement compared to past endeavors, even though I felt like I didn't really improve much.

And lets not talk about that one. There's a reason I deleted it completely xD In addition, that's more than half a year ago. I personally mirrored myself more towards 'Diplomatic Tension' than that one, due to this one following a similar theme.

Honest to god, I'll probably never really be able to write believable emotional scenes on my own but that's a neat little challenge to overcome I'd say.

Onto the real response now;
I think you need to sit back and ask yourself what you're looking for from this scene? What are you trying to invoke in the reader? What are you trying to tell us about Libritsky's character? At the moment you have him being poorly treated by a woman, getting upset and then being rude to a woman he's apparently interested in when she comes to check he's alright, immediately extinguishing any sympathy or impact you may have garnered from the Deema moment.
This confusion is a result from me deleting a full scene, featuring the act. Unfortunately, it featured the reason why she behaved that way but when I was bound to post it, I had second and third thoughts about the scene and decided to scrap it from the released version due to it potentially hitting home with some people. The reason why it made the following scene fall flat is due to the impact it had on the protag's psychy; he was being emasculated by someone he trusted, and while he got away relatively unharmed, being forced into a relatively helpless position against his will made him feel, less of a man. Its the reason behind him acting the way he did. Like I said, important scene that was practically essential to the development of a more... humane character. That was the point of those scenes; showing that he wasn't untouchable.

Similarly, his first mission and his first kill. It's a great opportunity to shed light on who he is as a man. How is he feeling before/during his first drop? How does taking a life make him feel? As it is, that scene tells us more about the squad leader than it does about Libritsky.
I would reckon that, during a skirmish, you don't really think about what you do. You try to keep your emotions out of it, though considering this is supposed to be hindsight writing, I could've gone a little bit more in depth with how he felt regarding taking a life.

In addition, I did describe how he felt during the drop. "There was nothing you could do anymore. Only, pray. Pray, that it didn’t smash too hard into the soil below or into someone else. And I got excited, I could hear it. My breathing, it went crazy inside the helmet." Hopelessness, followed by fear, followed by excitement because he knew what he was going into. I could've made it much clearer, but I felt like due to the adrenaline that this scene would produce, it should keep a rather quick pace. What I should've done however, when there was the calm moment I should've slow writing down; go more into detail, describe the environment more, really go into the nitty gritty. The same that I should've done inside the castle. I think the first mission was something I rushed through to get to the ending. I could've written seven debriefs like that, but I opted not to which sacrificed a lot in terms of story telling.
It took me a few re-reads to realise that the penultimate paragraph was written by the Major and not Libritsky. The 'He made it a habit to write before and after his missions.' line really threw me.
Thank you, that was the point of the sudden perspective switch. A smooth transition that you wouldn't pick up on immediately, only until it was made absolutely clear that it wasn't the original person that was writing it. Like you said, had I done a little more in terms of character development this twist would've been hitting a whole lot harder, which is why I was a little critic of myself and rightfully so. It was rushed in the end, you can see the sheer difference in writing quality at the start and towards the ending. While the first few scenes were done relatively well, the ending was just rushed and it showed. And that's generally what I tend to do unfortunately, rush things out when I feel like it's done. But the whole story was meant as an experiment to see if I could pull a sudden death off without tipping the reader off to it.

Next milestone; writing emotional characters xD oh, and seeing if I can drag it a few scenes along before tipping the reader off to the death.
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