Reviews for Evil Personified
Timbo Slice chapter 3 . 5/6/2015
And with this chapter I gotta say that this story is getting very good! I loved the slow and subtle buildup to Lucy's destructive habits, culminating brilliantly for a very intense opening to the chapter. It was just such a natural progression from the other awful things she's done and the fact that she still tries to justify it by being "cursed" really brings a clever mystery to the plot. Mixing the thumbtacks in with the Legos is such a horrific act that I'm not sure she could have willingly did it but you never know...

The interaction between Lucy and Al was great as well, there's just such an uneasy feeling with Al confiding in Lucy while she believes that he is the root of her problems and it's just kind of twisted, sad really. Not to mention that she's framing Al as well. I wonder how he'll react if he finds out?

Awesome chapter!
lookingwest chapter 6 . 5/4/2015
Plot - Hooraaay, I'm really glad that Lucy actually did something about all this for once. It was nice to see her come out clean and I think that Al's reaction to it was quite realistic and I would expect the same from anyone else. It's a lot to swallow, especially the tacks thing, I think - he was quick to guess that and I thought that was realistic as well. The letter - I actually feel like, since this story has had to do with psychological themes already, that Lucy is the one writing the letters to herself. And if that's the case then I think she reaaaally should see somebody, heh. But I suppose it also worked! It sort of negates the threat of the letter by the end of this chapter, which from a story standpoint also makes me think that she wrote the letters, otherwise it's a little anti-climactic. Unless this person has something else on her. But now that he knows it's like "eh" it's all clean, no more use with threats.

Relationship - I'm used to the projection or insecurity kind of thing with couples manifesting in a different way in regards to Jung - sort of like, for example, someone you love showers you with gifts and getaways and you absolutely love that about them and they sweep you off your feet, then you realize as you get to know them / date them more, than they actually have a crippling amount of debt and money issues and that's something that was repressed or an insecurity that you didn't pick up on because you were too distracted by the lavish treatments when they first started dating you... The idea that the repression or insecurities comes out before the dating actually even begins is an interesting one for Lucy and Al - I think I like how you turn my traditional understanding of that stuff on its head. I'm more familiar with Freud, admittedly (being in English). The letter writing (if it's really her doing it to herself) seems very Freudian, and so do the nightmares, of course. I really like how there's this deeper reading in this work on a critical or philosophical level that goes beyond just morality or the nature of evil - which is perhaps a little more supernatural. It's great! I'm glad I'm finally seeing it now - I think it really threw me off in the opening chapters because I'm used to reading so much fantasy/supernatural and not "magical realism" - which I might dare to say this fell on a bit with all those possession paranoia feelings from Lucy.

Pacing - The pacing is improving. I think this chapter probably has the best pacing so far, and I didn't exactly mind the transition paragraphs either - specifically the one where she goes from "doing the deed" with Al to then finally coming clean. The "doing the deed" language was kinda iffy to me. It's interesting that we don't get much of a description or show of their intimacy, but I suppose the story really isn't about that. It just makes me wonder if Lucy is uncomfortable about it - but then again, she does seem pretty open about sex before marriage or living with someone, for instance. Anyway, getting off track. The transition paragraph there though, I think worked well because it had this thread throughout about "coming clean" and so we got to transition through time with her mentioning what was *not* a good time to tell him, which I think worked really well!

Writing - I don't think I do this category very often for this story. But I'll check in ;) The reason I probably don't use it very much is that your writing is always clean and tidy and I don't struggle with any spots at all. Your dialogue is realistic. It's refreshing to see correct grammar with all that formatting of the tags and stuff, sometimes on FP (more than I'd like) I run into people who can't format it and I get really twitchy every time it goes astray, haha. But you've got strong writing, and imagery where it needs to be. After now reading my writing, you probably get why I would say "hey, I'd love more from the setting or this and this and this" - but I'm biased that way in my own style, and I think for the general reader you get a good picture of things, especially like in this chapter, the bluebells. Thanks for the morning read! Looking forward to more :)
lookingwest chapter 5 . 5/3/2015
Opening was sooooo relatable oh my gosh. I started dating my current bf about 7 years ago when I was a senior in high school - and we went to the same college for 4 years. So I basically got 3 years of dealing with those narrow beds and dating and it was not fun at all. I had completely blocked them out and then when Lucy started describing how uncomfortable it was I was getting flashbacks, hahaha. (Not to mention, bf is like 6'0 and weighs 135 lbs so I also understand the nobby knees thing. He actually has to put a pillow between them when he sleeps. Skinny boy probs, I guess. Shh, don't tell him I said so in an online review, ahem.)

["The details are none of your business."] That line stuck out to me. I don't think so far we really get a lot of fourth wall breaking in her story. I'd hesitate to add it here unless you were making quips like this earlier. Maybe you were, and I just didn't notice - this one felt like it stuck out though. I'd omit it, maybe, unless like I said, you're threading that technique through from the very beginning. I mean, the narrative style does have that feeling to it, especially because you're in the past tense. You know that when you start reading 1st person in past tense, it means logically the character who is narrating will make it through the narrative - otherwise if they died or something, where are they narrating from? (It just breaks open a can of worms) BUT, I think if you wanted to frame her as using "you" a lot at the audience, maybe frame it like she's talking to someone in-story, as an idea...oh! I know. A counselor, hahaha. Or you could go all in and have her actually narrating to an audience often as well. Just some ideas. Hoping this isn't another one of my read-it-on-FP mistakes and you haven't been doing this the entire time, haha. If so, ignore me and apologies!

I suppose after reading this chapter though, my biggest question is: So what happened to all these urges? We're supposed to believe that now they've just disappeared because she found Al, and now she doesn't have any of them anymore? I suppose maybe that could be like...hmm, if I'm putting my lit studies hat on, some allegory or symbolic thing for...something. But I'm not sure what, honestly - it's a bit unclear if it's supposed to be read as a message. Oh wait. Well, I guess there's the lens of psychoanalytical criticism that could be used. Freudian maybe. Jung. That bit of dialogue about the shadow and projecting insecurity. But it's so abrupt, you know? Like a light switch - evil urges - then they go away when she admits she loves Al. She still needs help, even if they're gone, I think. I'm glad we get Celia's backup on that in this chapter. But still Lucy doesn't listen, ugh! It's kinda driving me nuts, haha. Go. See. A. Psychologist. To. Help. Yourself. Because they could probably also help you with the guilt and the fear of telling people what you did. Just don't go to Freud though, haha. I can see that reading fitting into "coming of age" I suppose - though maybe not 100% a relatable one because she seems to actually have a mental hurdle that isn't say, as relatable as Al's - depression.

I liked the plot in this chapter a lot. Again, things moving fast. But there's a cool cliffhanger ending that I wondered about happening - things seemed to be going really well for her so far, it was almost too good to be true given the things that she did! If we read this as "coming of age" - I don't think she should get away free from everything and there should be some sort of lesson there. I suppose it's nice she's trying to do nice things - but heh, if I was Amy I'd hope to find more 20 pound notes that I'd "lost" that would eventually amount to the price of my last cell!
lookingwest chapter 4 . 5/3/2015
Thank you for the PM explaining the setting - that's one of those read-it-on-FP-it's-my-fault things. I remember her moving her bed. That's really fascinating that UK and Germany have shared accommodations including the bathrooms! We have co-ed floors with shared kitchens, but not shared bathrooms - I bet there'd be a riot. Well, and I suppose rightly so - last semester at the uni where I teach, there was a group of dudes on a co-ed floor who were caught taping women in the bathrooms showering, and like I said, we don't even share them! Ohhh, America. At least they were expelled!

PS. This is for depth but I kinda just went with the flow, so the categories are all over, sorry!

Ohhhh he has cerebral palsy! Okay, nice one on that development. I think it's also great that if you're dealing with a character who has a disability, you actually raise awareness on it being a disability or something they have to work through - that yes, it limits. I always take up issues with sci-fis that have amputees who then get cyborg arms that negate there was ever an issue, for instance. If you're going to write it, write it how it is - something that really sucks. So the little hints about him wanting to play guitar, but not being able to, or the medications to help making him drowsy - all that was wonderful detail! Does it justice, I think. Although, I will say it's interesting that Lucy follows up that discussion by imagining him as a football player. Not saying the palsy would stand in the way of that - it's just that I honestly hadn't been picturing him as a type with a football build, or even a guy who would've been - oh crap - WAIT. I'm thinking American football, not UK! XD Caught myself! Okay - UK football, yeah! Better. I was like, picturing him as some giant broad-chest linebacker, lol!

*continues to buffoon around story like true American*

Okay so, after reading. The technique of your transitions between scenes could use some work. I still think the pacing is a little off, even when we're digging deeper into these scenes. Someone who just tried to kill themselves might not bounce back that quick from it - I found that perhaps the only unbelievable characterization about this whole thing, otherwise, just the transitions from scene to scene could use some slowing down. Or I'd cut some and add-to instead. I don't know if they need to leave and go eat pizza to have that conversation, or if it could just be an offshoot of another one they already have earlier or later at the dorm. If you'd asked me if I thought they'd be making out by Ch. 4 after reading Ch. 1 - I would've said no way, but somehow you've managed to turn Al around, and I liked that and think it adds to his characterization. He feels more believable in general, after all this.

Their different conversations (if I kind of block out that he just tried to kill himself) all seemed believable and a lot of the time - cut. Al took a dig at vampires though! C'mon Al, give me a chance here, I might be able to change your mind, mine don't sparkle, I promise! (Unless it's with the blood of their enemies) ;D I liked that Lucy did feel bad about the things she's done - but again, I'm not a huge fan of her because she has yet to come clean, heh. I know it would be hard to come clean about something like that, but she could at least, like I've been mentioning, at this point see about poking around for a counselor. But her concern was great. Yay. Glad to see an inkling of that. There was also a nice moment when she mentioned that this is the first relationship with a boy that felt serious. And it was realistic to me in the ending that they didn't actually do anything but snuggle - that hit home, haha. I wonder if this will segue into another nightmare after the end, or if Lucy will finally get some peace. Though...I'm conflicted wondering if she deserves it!

Ahhh! After all this, I really really don't think Al's actually the Devil incarnate. Because like...if you did turn around and reveal he was...and he actually does have cerebral palsy, haha, that would probably not be a good route to go takeaway-wise, just one author to another. So I'm completely perplexed about all this "possession" stuff earlier in the story at this point. You've got me really interested now - I mean, what's up with it? Mental, supernatural, fantastical? Ah, not even your genres give it away! 'General' - tease! :) Guess I will have to keep reading to find out!
HarryPotterForever3 chapter 1 . 5/3/2015
I like how you can clearly see Al being the face of evil. It's very descriptive and the beginning caught my attention. It really brought you in like who is this evil? I would like to know what made Al this way or if he was always evil. The word choice made it exciting to read and enforced the meaning. I like how you kept the story going while explaining the character. Lucy is human and it shows how human she actually is. Fairly disturbing first chapter, but I know that is how it was meant to be. Especially Al's sly smile and evilness. Can't wait to read on and see what happens to Lucy and her friends,and how evil al is in the next chapters
lookingwest chapter 3 . 5/3/2015
Character - I wish we had more characterization of Al before this point in this chapter. Things felt a little sudden with him suddenly sitting there with the bleach. I mean, just a slight conversation a little bit here and there would've been nice just to keep the reader on their toes wondering if he's really as bad as Lucy thinks he is or not - and then if we got this scene, it might feel less melodramatic and more plausible or it would stun us more. Character-wise, I just felt like it came out of nowhere / happened too sudden because we don't have any of that earlier development. But that's just one opinion, too. Still, I'm glad we at least finally *get* a development like this and conversation with Al. The complexity of his character finally comes through. I suppose if he really is the Devil or something, he'd be inclined to do something like this to win over sympathy or get closer to Lucy, but honestly, Lucy has felt like a very unreliable narrator this whole time, so who knows. I'm kinda more inclined to believe Al at this point, given all the terrible things Lucy has done so far. I'm not holding back here and will admit after this chapter: I really don't like her, haha. But in like, a good way, not a "your writing of her is falling short" way - after tacking a bunch of kids with tacks and making them bleed - that shit is awful. She needs to seek psychiatric help, even if it is a Supernatural cause. I also hate how in like, the opening two paragraphs she's like "Okay this is the last straw" - and then does nothing about it. Pfft, okay sure, Lucy, lol. Move on to torturing children, I guess you haven't found your last straw yet...

Plot - I'm interested to see where the plot will go with the tacks though - she planted them in Al's room, right? We never got a follow up to whether she actually sent a friend to go borrowing something to have the friend notice though, but maybe it won't come up again. I did like the interesting hint about the envelope being in his room with his nickname on it. It makes me wonder if someone was writing him death threats. It's a little hard for me to swallow that none of her friends suspect her the least bit, especially the stair thing because Lucy actually pushed her friend and it's like...wouldn't she have felt Lucy's hand pushing her? I thought for sure she was caught when she did that - but maybe all her friends do suspect her and Lucy just doesn't notice. That's the joy / fun with first person POVs. I find her unreliable in more ways than one - I think you portray that really well. It'd be a nice twist if she found a letter with a nickname everyone was calling her, too! ...Ah, I had something else to say about this but now I can't remember. If I do, I'll bring it up in my next review, eep!

Setting - I really liked the moment where Lucy describes Al's room and we learn about how ordinary it seems. Having that forward or frame her later conversation with him when he's with the bleach was a good idea. I was a little confused about where they live though - they're in student housing right? It must be a lot different since he has an upstairs, heh. I always lived in a tiny cramped dorm room with a roommate! But that seemed plausible, I just got a little disorientated with where Lucy finds Al when he's trying to drink the bleach. She gets up int he middle of the night to go to the bathroom - so the bathrooms must be on each floor, like student housing that I'm used to - and they must be co-ed? Or did Al slip into the women's bathrooms and he was trying to off himself there? Or do they share the same apartment? I didn't think they did. So...*reads it again* Oh - is he in HER bathroom? Like he slipped into her room? Overall, I just found that unclear. Maybe it's because I'm not used to the student housing overseas or how that works. But since we haven't had a returning setting description of their housing since Ch. 1 when it's introduced where they're living, it'd be nice to get a reminder or some clarification (also for just, US readers I suppose, who might not be used to seeing co-ed bathrooms, though we do have co-ed housing floors). I recognize this is only Ch. 3 but I suppose it could also be the long gaps between chapters due to FP-reading. Either way, sorry, didn't follow it!

Enjoyment - This is my favorite chapter so far. It has pushed me over the edge with Lucy. I'm fed up with her and frankly, her not going to seek help from someone about this or even going to the Student Counseling Services (idk, we have them here for free - don't know how it is across the pond), is really characterizing her as just...well, nasty. Like yes okay, perhaps she's being driven by an evil Supernatural force. BUT it says a lot about her that she doesn't even try to seek help / talk it out with a professional even after she says "this is the last straw" - I think the bit with torturing children was worse than even pushing her friend down the stairs. That's awful. Oops I think I already ranted about that, aha! Sorry, point: this chapter really riled me up with Lucy, lol. Al I'm still suspicious of - yeah, he could be some demon/devil thing that is just playing her, but since there's a lack of characterization before this point, who knows. I do enjoy that this story plays with the idea of protagonists and antagonists - I feel like it's really ambiguous at this point and there aren't many stories on FP that deal with anti-heros - which I honestly feel like Lucy is at this point!
lookingwest chapter 2 . 4/27/2015
Similar to my last chapter's comments - I still feel there's an issue with pacing and scene. But I won't go into a huge detail about it because I feel like you already got the point of my crit last chapter - so, same kind of suggestions and things apply here. Just blowing up the comments instead of sweeping over them. You can tell this same story, I think, with only one or two bigger / more in depth scenes.

Character - Lucy's names starting to harken to Lucifer for me, haha, and I'm wondering if that's something intentional or not. But her unreliability, like your other reviewers have mentioned, is done really well - moreso even than the last chapter I think since it comes through more now that main facets of the work have been established. She does seem to judge a book by its cover without anything backing it up other than looks - but it also reminds me of the fact that the mad are usually mad because they don't know they're mad (sometimes). So Lucy's big point about her seeing a doctor and her thinking that she'd sound crazy...well. It does make me wonder if she does have a mental disorder of some sort that's only now rearing its head. I'm not sure you've played up the supernatural element enough yet for me to be completely convinced this is all on Al. At this point I'd say the same as her friends - she should see someone. A mental health doctor, specifically.

Question: Why does everyone else start to call him Evil Al? That was really unclear to me. Seems like he just sits alone a lot and kind of looks different? I might've lost a connection between the last chap and this one on the nick. Did Lucy come up with that nick specifically and start spreading it around about him? Just wasn't following the reason everyone else started calling him that - especially if her friend is blowing her off about believing he's actually trouble, if that makes sense.

Oh! One more question - what exactly does a cripple hand look like in this case? Is it the whole arm like um...well I'm just not sure. Or is he missing fingers like a genetic disorder? (I knew someone like that back in college). I'm assuming it's something he must've been born with but...since it's such a big part of him, it might be something else you want to go more in depth with other than just the word "crippled" - I'm surprised actually that Lucy isn't really obsessed with it or thinking about it all the time. If it's kind of the mark of him actually being evil personified, maybe that would be like a symbol or thing that really festers a person down and wears on them. Haha, it's certainly got me thinking, that's for sure!

Dialogue - Not too much of it here, which was a bit disappointing after the last chapter's setup - I really thought we'd get more of a characterization of Al. I think it goes back to scene/pacing. If you slow down moments, it'd be really nice to be "shown" character personality or even brief interactions instead of just told only through Lucy's perspective. As in - she tells us he's creepy and weird but we don't really see it. All we see is him touching her sometimes. I think this contributes to Lucy's unreliability too. Which again, I like - but, I dunno, I feel like the lack of dialogue *combined* with the fast pace is making Al's characterization suffer a bit. I wish I knew more about him other than his face values and Lucy's constant paranoia. Though I do also understand some of that has to do with tension and building plot conflict. Looking forward to seeing a convo between the two, though.

Plot - All the incidents Lucy has where she's behaving badly do a great job showcasing that something is up - but what, of course, we're not sure yet. I do feel as though they kinnnnd of (again maybe relating back to pacing, sorry, I'm like a broken record), started feeling like a list of events. Heavy on the "listing" part. I don't think we need all of these told to us or all the instances she's seen Al around and he's touched her to get the point that she's deeply troubled / upset and believes he's the cause. But I think if I had to choose, my favorite would be the big with Amy and the homework assignment because it also came coupled with Lucy's annoyance when she had to help her friend rewrite the paper. That part particularly made me get frustrated with Lucy too - I almost have this feeling when I was finished that well... I'm not sure I really like her that much. But I'm interested to see how things unfold plotwise still, in regards to how this might not be on her, but on Al. The part where she was having sex dreams with him was also scary. Built tension with their relationship!

Ending - I'm not 100% sure why we've ended where we end in this chapter - but that feeling I've got might be because of that "listing" feeling I was getting from the chapter as a whole. It just didn't feel climatic to me at all or to even end on any revelation that Lucy could not have had until that very moment - maybe that's why. The bit with the New Years Eve party and her just not going felt a little like all the rest of the incidents once she feels bad about it. I suppose the only new feature is that she now feels the touch lasting longer - but that same detail could be tacked on with other moments, like the bit with the heirloom in the previous paragraph, if that makes sense. I almost am wondering - why end here when she could've asked the same question four incidents ago? (The "why do I deserve this?" bit). But I do feel asking that question is relevant, just not perhaps as tension-filled as I would've liked. I don't think every chapter should end on a cliffhanger, by any means though - just that if they have some sort of revelation, it might be one better executed through events that are different from other events so far or... Like maybe she actually speaks to him in a conversation and it goes awry and that's when she asks the question? Just another suggestion! Totally am interested to continue reading though so I hope I'm not coming off that way :) Your story makes me think a lot, as you might be able to tell, heh, so that's a good thing - I'm very invested in seeing it along!
m. b. whitlock chapter 10 . 4/27/2015
RG Depth #4,798

So, the final chapter! Before I get into the meat of my review I just want to congratulate you on completing a fine story with a true beginning, middle and end and very entertaining twists and turns and a solid character arc for your protagonist Lucy. I don’t know if this story was completed some time ago or whether you just wrapped it up recently but it is truly an accomplishment to complete something (sure seems that way to me anyway, I have ‘completion problems/anxieties’ I suppose). So congrats on finishing your short novel! (This work is just on the cusp of being a novella btw, at least 17,500 words traditionally.)

I’m going to start with notes and then go on to an overall analysis. Not going to bother with categories this time because you know what I’m getting at ;):

“In class he was as brilliant as ever,”
One overall critique I have of this story is that you sometimes tell us stuff about these characters in an abbreviated way instead of showing us. There are lots of reasons to do this, chiefly is that it saves time. If this is just a first draft that makes sense. First drafts often should be simply about sketching out the plot and the characters and then for more finished rewrites you go in and illustrate the details. But the line above is a good example of a place where more information earlier in the story would help, would increase the impact of the whole chapter I feel for your readers. I really never got the impression that Al was particularly brilliant in class. This is because you never showed us any scenes where Lucy and Alan were in class together. I think if you focussed on a particular class with an interesting professor (a psych class on human relationships, perhaps?) it would be a great place to show their changing relationship over time.

“I went on walks, revisiting all our former haunts. It was dreadful to think how happy I'd been back then, even whilst lugging my terrible secret around.”
I like how again you are showing us a reversal/inversion of the situation in the beginning of the story. Lucy was obsessed with Al to begin with, but ostensibly obsessed with avoiding him and his toxic, ‘evil’ touch.

Interesting word choice ‘booby prizes’:
“All the men in the world were nothing but booby prizes.”
That sounds like a sex toy prize to my US ears. ;)

Like this line:
“Goodness *know* how much drink he'd already had. "What's wrong with you?””
Little fix needed though I think, ‘Goodness knows’, no? ;)

Like this local speech! Never heard the word ‘stroppy’ before. Cool:
“"Why so stroppy, hen? I think you need –“”

Interesting character moment here:
“"You heard her," said Alan in his calm-but-dangerous voice.”
Here is another example of where some expansion in your story could help. I never got the sense that Alan could really come off as dangerous. Some little scene closer to the beginning where he defends a little kid or something… maybe…? It could be a place where Lucy sees evidence that he’s really a good guy but maybe thinks he’s putting on a show to mask his truly evil nature…?

“"I'm okay." He sounded softened.”
Like the concept here. But maybe ‘He sounded softer’ might flow a little smoother… No big deal though. :)

This is very cute!:
“"Oh, what the hell," he said. "I'm done. I just can't be mad at you any longer. Come here, you fricking nutcase!" And he wrapped me in his arms.”

Interesting voice Lucy has here:
“I don't know if it's what you were hoping for, but that's what you're getting because that's what happened. Honestly.”
I never got the impression in the start of this piece that Lucy was ‘telling a tale for posterity’ or anything. Now this old school ‘narrator voice’ comes in and it seems a little forced. Again, a little set up for this in the first chapter would smooth this out nicely and give the whole story a bit of a ‘fairytale’ tinge, which I think would be delightful. :)

Like this distinction. Seems to be the true theme of the story:
“You can teach yourself to be kind from the inside out - it's the difference between being a good girl and being a good person.”
Not to repeat myself ad nauseam, but developing this theme a bit more early on would also give this part, the whole ending in fact, more resonance and impact.

Overall critique:

I really enjoyed this whole story. I loved the twists and surprises and found your characters mostly to be quite believable and relatable. A few characters however could use some development I think. Gemma is the first to come to mind. She has such a pivotal role and when her true nature is revealed it is a little hard for me to buy. She just isn’t developed enough, we didn’t see enough scenes where she exerted her influence I feel. I understand that you want Gemma’s manipulations to be a surprise but the best surprises are ones IMO that have been set up before, that an engaged reader might have guessed or could easily go back and find the clues for. I think a great place to expand Gemma’s character is the Kevin Louise break up. You said you had reasons for not showing us scenes leading up to it but having read the whole story, I don’t see how holding back on that break-up helps the story.

Also, who is Steve?! Really want to know. I mean, she wrote this whole incriminating diary, mostly addressed to this über evil Steve dude and then you don’t reveal who he is. He should make an appearance I think. Maybe he’s a teacher she’s lusting for or is having an illicit affair with… Or he’s imaginary, who knows. It would make it easier to buy that she’s the real villain (and believe that she wrote that diary, cause it is really convenient for the plot that she has a full confession unlocked, unhidden ready for anyone to discover in her room) if you drop clues about this mysterious person she’s into.

Jack and even Amy could use some development too. Jack in particular seems pretty nondescript.

I will also admit I was just a tiny bit disappointed that this turned out to be a bit of a conventional romance but I think you did such a good job with your main characters, Lucy and Al that I really was/am happy for them at the end. I love the intense dialogue scenes between them throughout this story. Probably the strongest parts of the whole thing. You don’t hold back anything with those scenes and they ring very true. This is something either you got or you don’t as a writer. So, again, congrats, you got it. :D

Okay, before this review becomes a novel in itself I will sign off. ;)

I hope you don’t think that because of the criticisms above that I didn’t like this story. I liked it very very much, one of my favorite pieces I have read so far this year I would say. Good stuff! Keep it up and if you ever want a set of eyes on a rewrite, mine are yours.

Very best!

mbw
lookingwest chapter 1 . 4/27/2015
Opening - I like the first paragraph - I think it hooks even though it's a little disorientating as far as what's happening. I read the first paragraph a few days ago, just on a lark, and I didn't get it was a handshake until reading more - I know it says they're clasping hands, but there's something to say about that ambiguity too since I think it ups the mystery of what's going on. I think though, it'd be cool to come back to the hand a little more - as far as like...what it actually felt like temperature-wise, or maybe how he shook her hand. People have different kind of handshakes and I think they always say something about the person too, so you might be able to have a little more fun there with a sentence or two for characterization. Was it firm and confident, a little too hard with the grip? Or limp and quick?

Pacing / Scene - I've got to talk about both these things together for this chapter, I think. As far as pacing goes, this chapter was too fast for me. Too much happens time-wise - we start with an afternoon and end up weeks later, and the thing that starts to happen for me is this feeling in the writing like: "This happened. Then this happened. Then this happened after that..." Each paragraph started to get that way after the bike incident. I think there are a few ways to reframe (if you ever felt like it in a second drafting, etc.). You could 1. think about using some scene breaks. Cut out the transitions and just choose two or three moments and break them up without having to say "the next day" "the the next week" 2. You could also just focus on one scene in depth that might recall to mind other scenes that have happened - like say you started with the bike rack scene, then you could have her *recall* shaking Al's hand and not actually start there or 3. Think about the latest possible moment you could start your story - that's a short story technique, but it might work here.

I kind of like a combo or idea of using 2 and 3. I don't feel like we should start with the handshake. I feel like we should start with a full scene - setting with sensory indicators, in depth feeling - of the bike rack incident. You could do an entire chapter with just that moment in this. Blow it up way bigger, start with the mystery of why this character might be standing by the rack, thinking. Then have her start pinning all the tires, perhaps in some frenzy. You could even add in some conflict / tension by having someone see her. Then have her run off - then working in these moments of confusion, coming back to the handshake, recalling when she stepped on the snail, all that good stuff. Just suggestions / ideas to zoom in. I think I'd rather zoom way in than stay zoomed out.

Another suggestion / idea - maybe you could start with the handshake and then *immediately* she goes and does something "evil" without having to skip a day. Like you could break the scene and then have her at the bike racks a few hours later, idk. Anything just to slow the pacing and focus scene development. Hope some of that makes sense. It kind of might echo a bit of that "show don't tell" mentality - I'm totally cool with telling, I do it too a lot of the time, but here I think this reads a bit more broad and quick than I'd like (keeping in mind this is my personal opinion).

I understand there's setup that needs to be done with the friends - but does it need to be now, or could we have these characters and their backgrounds (like the couple) be introduced when they actually crop up in the story in a close-up scene? I'm interested to see though, if this story slows down after all this setup. That's entirely possible as well. I'll have to read more to find out!

Character - I'm very interested in this Evil Al character, especially because it's hinted not many other people seem to feel this same aura that's coming off him like Lucy does. I like how you work in his description in the first two paragraphs - I'd be cool if we got a bit more out of that smile in the last paragraph. Was it a wicked smile? Sly? More of a smirk? I probably overuse the word "grin" in my own work like hardcore, haha. But that would be another description point I think you could play with if you wanted to! Otherwise I think I got just enough out of his character to especially get enticed to read more - so as far as a first chapter purpose, I think it fulfills that wonderfully with Al!

Looking forward to reading more, especially to see if the pacing slows and how you deal with those up close moments! Thanks for the read, glad I finally got a chance to check out your work! :D
This Guy Again chapter 4 . 4/24/2015
This chapter was a really nice change of pace, taking a step back from the somewhat melodramatic (in a good way) previous chapter was a good choice. I also noticed that this chapter was longer, which worked in conjunction with the slowed down pace to help convey quite a lot of characterisation.

Spelling and grammar wise, as usual, this chapter was pretty much spotless!

I like how we finally get to learn a little more about Alan. You've done a really good job of making him a believable character, and it was a nice touch to have Lucy re-evaluate his appearance and realise how wrong she'd been in her first impression.

As far as the relationship goes, I'm pleased and all that things are going nicely now, but I just can't help but feel they're in for quite a bumpy road. Lucy has done some majorly nasty things, and the truth always has a way of coming out into the light. Also, I feel she kind of deserves some punishment for being so 'evil' and trying to pin it on Alan. Does that make me bad? xD

Anyway, overall this was a great little chapter. It did a lot to drive the story onwards and really gave us some nice insights into our two main characters. Good job!

-from the roadhouse.
pumadelic chapter 10 . 4/24/2015
Alan is staying firm. So perhaps it is all resolved too quickly. It could have been a longer chapter without loss of dramatic impact.

Nice that Amy is doing well.

The guy in the bar is a stereotyped jerk but that stuff happens. I really enjoyed Alan weighing in and his comment 'No woman needs to explain to any man why she rejects his advances' warrants a cheer. As he never imposed himself on Lucy, it is also true coming from him.

I would also have liked it if Lucy had used her new found assertiveness to pour some beer on his crotch while making her love confession. Followed by an attempt to kick said crotch with Alan weighing in afterwards. Buffy, fan: can't help it. But then he wouldn't have had to intervene so I'd ruin your plot point.

Good touch that she grabbed his disabled hand - the thing that initially bothered her - while only considering his pain.

I admit I would have liked some follow up on Gemma..someone running into information on her and finding she'd become a self help guru or was in jail for fraud or murdering a series of wealthy husbands...

Projection and suggestability are great themes but the attempt to keep Alan ambiguous perhaps meant they weren't explored as fully as they might have been. Overall, a great crack at the tough genre of psychological thriller with a realistic non icky romance thrown in.
pumadelic chapter 9 . 4/24/2015
This chapter is efficiently written. The interchange between Alan and Jack and Alan's note are characterful and provide drama without exaggeration. Once again Alan is both emotional but reasonable in his reaction.

Lucy's attempts to make amends are both humorous and touching. The greater authenticity in her relationship with her mother is believable and I loved the hesitant but more positive 'I'd guess I'd have to meet them and find out' Oh dear, Lucy wants to take Alan home to Mum but will she get the chance?

Her soul searching is perhaps too brief. I like kids: I have friends who find kids generically annoying but none of them would be capable of that tack incident. I did wonder if her unconscious knew about Gemma and that is why she chose to push her down the stairs..just a thought. Still, I would be more worried about my own behaviour if that was me - Gemma could have died. It is interesting that Lucy's 'wasn't nearly enough' is thoughts of confession...still on that moralistic tack whereas it is the excessive anger/resentment behind the actions that actually mirrors some of Gemma's motivation. I suppose years of being overly 'nice' might well do that to you: at least she didn't buy a gun and start firing in Toys R Us.

Her trying to reach Alan through her bedroom wall is very poignant. It also suggests her boundary issues. Bloody hell, I need to read more literature and less Psychology.
pumadelic chapter 8 . 4/23/2015
Losing the first expository line would be good so we can plunge into the chilly pool of Gemma's mind.

Her voice is exceedingly well achieved, with lots of great contemptuous phrases like 'what a champion! dumb little lambs'.

So, what do we have here? Sociopath but one who has at least one person she wants to impress: the mysterious Steve.

She does clearly resent coupledom though - I'm sick of seeing these two lovebirds, just when I had rid the world of Kevin and Louise.' The unacknowledged loneliness of the long distance narcissist.

As for her techniques; some of it reminds me of Derren Brown, planting suggestions in a genuine hypnotic manner. She reads people well so adapts accordingly. Evil Albatross is genius.
Then there is the article and the lace underwear. The most chilling part for me was the line about her pretending to encourage Amy while subtly undermining her confidence. There is an Iago like feel to her improvisations...telling a lie about rape is quite risky as, unlike the demons stuff, it is probably actionable as slander. Gemma might know this but she wouldn't care about the risk.

Strong stuff. It does still leave a problem as to why Lucy was quite so impressionable. Perhaps Gemma should have noticed that Lucy has a lot of repressed anger or that she actually fancies Alan but doesn't want to recognise it...on the other hand, there ought to be limits to Gemma's insight because she would always reduce people to their worst.
pumadelic chapter 7 . 4/23/2015
The opening paragraphs are quite wrenching as they demonstrate that Lucy's feelings for Alan were not mere infatuation. She is worried she's pushed him to suicide again. His response to her pleading letter is firm but civilised . It is betrayal on a grand scale even if it happened before the relationship started. Celia, once again, is the voice of slightly cynical commonsense.

Jack functions here as the willing gossip, a trait Gemma has used and Lucy again shows her commitment by not believing the slur. The discovery the diary is a bit too fortuitous, perhaps but going through the bookshelf is what happens when you're in a student room (along with the record collection) Either Gemma has faith in the integrity of the others (who she underestimates) or she is enjoying being reckless by keeping the diary out on her shelves.

The teaser lines from the diary are a good way to hook us in to the next chapter and display a maliciously playful voice well.
pumadelic chapter 6 . 4/23/2015
I think this chapter is perfectly paced. Lucy is torn between her desire to confess and her desire to hold onto the relationship. Ignorance is bliss. Then the next note.

The understandable hesitation she feels in telling him is put across neatly with the series of actions - did the deed, walk in the woods, revision - that delay the inevitable moment. It is nice touch that it is Alan stroking her hair and telling her she is safe - so much the opposite of what his touch meant to her previously..that pushes her into a confession.

The conversation is painful but his reaction is entirely believable; probably quite low key considering what has happened. The only thing about him that sounds a bit off is that 'Damn, you're not pregnant' - you've had him be quite straight-talking before but that sounds plain insensitive.

Poor Lucy, hoping against hope.
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