|Reviews for Gavin: A Wrinkle in Reality: September 2033|
| Persnickety Fox 2/25/12 . chapter 1
First of all, I think this story is good because the content is intriguing. There are just things I think can be improved, and I feel the need to point out some of these things. I want to share my general impression as well.
I didn’t know approximately how old these characters were until about 40% into the story. Ethan and Abby’s actions just told me they were students, but not teenagers. The description of Alyssa made me think the characters were in primary school; she sounded like a child, what with her rumpled paper and primitive drawing with all her friends in it. With nothing else to go by, I thought they all were much younger kids until the school was mentioned as secondary. The characters themselves aren’t referred to as teenagers until much after that. So in the beginning, not only are the character ages unclear, but the setting (type of school) was unclear for quite some time. This was off-putting to me, especially since the first scenes flew by quickly without telling me what I wanted to know.
Secondly, I appreciate the effort to be more creative with descriptions and imagery. That said, there are a lot of run-on sentences that are trying to fit in too much information at once. I found that those efforts bogged the writing down by making things less clear or way too clear.
Here’s an example where a description lacked clarity: [The dim overcast heavens released a silvery mist…] The phrase sounded nice, but I was confused about its meaning. By definition, “mist” constitutes a cloudlike mass of water vapor. Mist vapor doesn’t fall down; it just floats. Therefore, I thought the phrase meant there was a fog.
But then later, this is written: [The rain ceased again.] That surprised me (it had rained twice already?) so I had to go back and reinterpret what was written before. Though the first quote sounds nice and profound, it uses the wrong word. “Mist” should be replaced by “sprinkles” or “light rain” so that the meaning is clear. This will help clear up confusion.
Here’s a part that lacks clarity: [They reached their classroom at the edge of the dispersed students arriving at their seats as the teacher began to speak.] From what it says, Ethan and Abby have reached their classroom, which is located at the edge of the dispersed students. These students are in motion because they are arriving at their seats, so the edge of that group is moving as well. That means the classroom is moving, too. While this is happening, the teacher begins to speak.
That’s quite a lot of information that does not make sense when strung together like that. But that can be remedied by switching parts up so that the meaning is more concise. It could be written like this:
They took their seats when they arrived in the classroom, just as the teacher began to speak.
Here is a part where the descriptions are way too clear: [Assuming Poppy was in the kitchen with the apples, still cleaning as she promised she would be that morning, the children approached the western door at the right end of the home.] It doesn’t matter where the door is in relation to the house or even that there is a door. By default, people enter houses through doors. It just matters that the teens are looking for Poppy as they approach the house.
There is another part where the description had too much information: ["I have to go home," Astin sobbed fresh tears into the cornflower collar, "but I can't."] I found that including the color of someone’s shirt took away from the fact that a crying kid just lost his father and could also lose his sister. The information was extraneous and took away from the point of the scene.
Additionally, I know that cornflower refers to a shade of blue. But I don’t think that’s common knowledge. If a reader has to be involved in an emotional scene, referring to lesser known colors interrupts the flow of the piece and creates a disconnect; the reader has to find a dictionary and come back to the scene later. In this instance, the information hurts rather than helps. So for emotionally-charged scenes, I suggest keeping the word style simple so the flow doesn’t break.
Plot: Because the structure of the story seems to be a day-in-the-life type thing, it would make sense that Ethan goes through the mundane before the important stuff happens. But this does not help with the tension or development of the main issue: Ethan’s friend Astin just lost his father and could lose his sister. I felt that the four scenes—the roll call, the asthma attack, the Alyssa attack, and the basketball game inquiry—could be left out of the story because they are too short to be significant and do not further the plot. They have nothing to do with Ethan’s interaction with Astin. I don’t think it’s necessary to contrast daily school routine with the Astin’s life-changing news to such an extent. It’s like watching characters wake up and brush their teeth and shower and eat breakfast; it’s unneeded information.
On the flip side, I did find the scenes after that well-written because ithose/i were significant. The dog plot point was a lovely touch and the stories were quaint. The progression from silent dinner to heartfelt conversation was compelling; ithis/i is what I mean by tension and plot development. The chores to distract Astin, the uneasy dinner, the laughter turning into tears—ithat’s/i what relevant. These scenes made me care about the characters, wonder what they would do next. This did not happen earlier; I didn't care about the girls or guys Ethan met because they came and went so quickly I knew I wouldn’t see them again. Moreover, I knew they didn't contribute to the main story. Like commercials, they interrupted the scheduled programming.
Diction: I am not fond of the use of food to describe hair color. That said, I am not sure what “gingerbread hair” looks like.
Dialogue: Because this is centered on Irish families, I can’t judge whether or not they sound natural or realistic. That’s a culture gap I can’t go around, so I’ll leave it alone.
Grammar: That is tricky. There are run-on sentences that don’t particularly make sense and some dialogue tag grammar that need minor adjustments, but for brevity’s sake, I’d be happy to clarify meanings and grammar over PMs or docx.
In the end, you don’t have to take my suggestions. I’m just doing what I can to help. Again, I found many of the plot-relevant scenes compelling. I look forward to reading more of your work. P. Fox from the Roadhouse