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Subject: Re: The story: Death is Unpredictable (PREFACE AND CHAPTER ONE)
Author: Ludwig   (Authenticated as blaaarg)
Date: September 28, 2012 at 10:40:16 AM
Reply to: The story: Death is Unpredictable (PREFACE AND CHAPTER ONE) by Alison
It's not bad at all. Post-death stuff is one of the funnest areas to hypothesize about, and you've done a good job.

You've gotten mostly comments on your plotting - what you're trying to portray. They were harsh, but I'd say accurate and potentially helpful; your plots/actions tend towards the hysterical. This piece's plot is definitely an improvement over the previous two, though there are still issues. And, honestly, a bit of melodrama is fine, if it's what you feel like working through. It just needs to be contextualized well

I think you're also looking for technical advice - how effective your writing is at portraying your plot - and you've gotten 0 of that, which is a shame. You've got a lot of good natural technique, and because your writing is clear and immediate the places where it could use work cry out happily to be sculpted. I'm not an expert or anything but I'll try to give some advice.

One of the major technical issues is pacing. It's hard to let go of the notion that you have to narrate everything that happens to your character, every line in conversation, and in more or less real time. So we often find ourselves writing out long, cumbersome prose that we realize is cumbersome but don't quite understand why. In this excerpt, I think you'd agree with me that the conversations with Jolie bog down the piece, and are wearisome to read. Also, summarizing some of the conversation rather than narrating it relieves you from the responsibility of dealing with creating realistic speech patterns... but that might be a cheap trick

So, maybe instead of narrating the entire conversation, it could go something like...

-MC is introduced to Jolie
-Jolie is described in detail or whatever
-Brief dialogue, a few questions that explain to the reader what's about to happen, as MC is lead to Jolie's room
-Summary of what happens there and what they talk about, interspersed with descriptions, meditations, and occasional quotations from both of them

It would be easy for this to come out dry, but I think it would be great for you to experiment with it. Maybe write a few different drafts of this scene, varying the amount of real-time narration you do.

Another technical issue that might spill over into plotting is that sometimes you get a little ahead of yourself, or behind yourself. I know I explained that badly. I guess I mean, you have a trajectory in your head for how the story should go, but it doesn't quite match up with what you write. Characters know too much or too little in the service of your larger vision. Here's the place it stood out most for me:

“Well, I think he’s waiting for someone special. The boys think he’s an in-the-closet gay. Is that how you say it?” She began painting my nails the same color as Kevin’s eyes. “All I know is that he’s been wanting to settle down for awhile.”

“Why?” I asked confusedly. Kevin looked just a little older than me. Why would someone that young want to get married?

“Oh, sweetie, he’s not as young as he looks. Why, he’s older than me!” Jolie laughed as if it was funny, but I didn’t get it. She sighed. “Sweetheart, I am three hundred and forty three years old.”

I felt my mouth open in shock. “What?” I screamed indignantly.

Unless she's been thinking out loud again, which isn't indicated... take the non-dialogue away and see how it reads.

"All I know is that he's been wanting to settle down for a while." (it's a while, not awhile)
"Oh, sweetie, he's not as young as he looks. Why, he's older than me! Laugh... sigh... sweetheart, I am 143 years old."

For me, it's not realistic that Jolie would answer "Why" with "He's not as young as he looks." This would make a little more sense...

"All I know is that he's been wanting to settle down for a while."
"Why is that weird?" (or something)
"He's pretty young to want to settle down, right?"

That's an example of getting ahead of yourself. An example of getting 'behind' yourself would be the MC's extreme "WHAT?" reaction to Jolie's age. I mean... they're all... dead. Is it that weird for someone to have been there for a long time already? I feel like there's a lot in a mysterious post-life world that even a simple character wouldn't take for granted, like the idea of aging, and what aging would mean if it didn't mean getting closer to death.

This part was also quite awkward:

There was a moment of silence as Jolie scrubbed my hair with sweet-smelling lavender. “Where am I?” I asked quietly.

“What do you mean?”

“Is this Heaven…or Hell?”

She smiled at me as if she found me amusing. “Neither.”

I looked at her confusedly. “What’s this place called?”

“Fallen,” she answered immediately as she squirted more shampoo onto her hands. “Home of the Riddles.”

“The what?”

“Riddles. We’re not Angels, and we’re not Demons. We’re something between the two.”

I took a minute to process what she was telling me. “I’ve never heard of a Riddle before.”

“We’re rare, that’s for sure,” Jolie said.

“Obviously,” I muttered, taking a handful of bubbles and blowing them away. I couldn’t remember a time when I had felt this pampered.

Only in that... well, we learn that she's not in heaven or hell, that she's a "Riddle" in "Fallen," and we have no idea what that means and neither does she. But instead of learning about it - or at least having the narrator voice some pretty obvious questions only to be hushed up, and then have to be satisfied by her own observations - she just goes on to feeling pampered.

I might edit more in later.

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