Review my short story

I recently tried actually getting down one of the vague ideas for a short story that periodically buzzes through my head. I’m fairly happy with it for a first ever attempt at writing but I know that I still have a long way to go and wondered if anyone would be willing to give me some feedback. If anyone is interested I can send them a copy or if anyone could suggest a fairly easy way of putting it up on the internet temporarily I’ll do that.

The story is science fiction and is titled “Horatio Pimblethwaites very first dragon”

I already showed it to a friend and she made the following points

  1. I need to work on my grammar - I accept this totally, this is very much one of my weak points and something I need to work on, I’ve had another couple of runs through it but I would be very suprised if its not got plenty of problems left.

  2. It reads like a bad Douglas Adams emulation and I need to find my own style - This is something of a frustration to me because this story represents me trying to do straight science fiction and failing miserably, and I’m starting to worry that my natural style is stuck reading like inferior Douglas Adams.

  3. The narrator is a jerk - This was deliberate.

I’m not a physicist so I’d be paticularly interested in any of the dopers who are telling me if I’ve got anything wrong beyond the usual acceptable range for made up science.

Oh and many thanks in advance to anyone who is willing to have a look.

I’ll read it, but if you’re trying for Douglas Adams lite, the physics are, at best, a secondary concern.

I’ll take a crack at it.

Anyone else want a look?

Count me in.

Happy to help if I can ole bean.

Ok, sent

Is everyone getting these ok, I quite understand if no-one has had time to read the thing yet, it’s just it’s the first time I’ve tried to attach anything to a hotmail message and I’m just worrying that I’m not doing something right, if you put your name down above and you haven’t got the file yet can you tell me and I’ll try again.

Me too!

Ok but you’ll have to email me with your address, It’s not listed in your profile.

I don’t think I have my address listed in my profile, so I’ve sent you an email you can reply to if you like.

Gotta say right off – a story is going to have to work really hard to justify that title.

Got it; read it. Okay, where d’you want it – here or via email?

That bad huh :eek:

Here is fine :slight_smile:

I like the way the story works. I did see the ending coming a fair way off, but I think you intended it that way :slight_smile: I hope you did, anyway :smiley:

I’m not as much of a grammar maven as I wish I was, my forte tends to be more towards spelling. But one thing I noticed is that you use a lot of run-on sentences. A lot. Your paragraphs aren’t very long, which is great, but a lot of them tend to consist of one or two sentences that are broken up by a lot of commas and not much else. I don’t know if you’ve tried reading it out loud to yourself, but that often helps me realise where I need to break a sentence with a comma versus where I need to make a full stop and start a new one. There’s also a couple of occasions where you’ve used a semicolon where a full stop would have been better served.

I do like the way you’ve used the language. It’s a little bit verbose, but it works for the style you’re trying to achieve. I don’t think you’re coming across as a Douglas Adams clone per se. Yes, it sounds a bit like his style and certainly can be seen to have been influenced by his work, but I really don’t think you’re coming across as a carbon copy.

To be frank, if the grammar was polished up a bit (which is usually an editor’s job anyway G) this is something I’d be happy to read in a science fiction anthology/'zine. It’s light and fluffy, and a little bit funny and it doesn’t go on too long. I think you’ve done good.

Thanks :slight_smile:

I know the final twist was a bit obvious, but to be honest I was more worried about justifying the main character not working it out, being he has about 30 years and is evidently fairly smart (in a limited way), I put in a couple of lines at the end to try and justify that but it’s a bit of a stretch, I can’t think of any other way of writing it though.

I was a little bit worried that a few bit’s seem a bit rushed, especially the ending, and the “and then he spent five years looking for it and then he found it” type bits, but again I’m having a hard time seeing exactly how I could extend them with out sticking in anything pointless.

I’m not quite sure about the tone of the narrator, I like it and it enables me to work in the exposition and the explanantions of the complicated bits really well, but about half the people I’ve shown it to so far really didn’t like their fiction talking to them that way :smiley: .

Enigmatic – you’ve asked for feedback. I believe that softening my review would be doing you a disservice. This won’t be pleasant, but it’s the only way. We’re not your family or your flatmates, and we’ll tell you the truth. (That is, our true opinions; you may entirely disagree.)

Okay, let me start by noting that I’ve seen worse stories printed in anthologies which were sold in bookstores, and which I bought for money. However, they shouldn’t have been published. It’s not that the writers were irredeemably bad, just that the editors didn’t do their job. (For a prime example, check out a wretched piece of crap anthology called Full Spectrum. I’d like to bitch-slap the editors.)

Not to my taste, and too close an emulation of Douglas Adams. Too self-consciously clever and cute. However, there are probably people who love it. (Maybe you were trying more for Saki, but you got Adams. If you’re familiar with Saki you’ll probably see what I mean; if not, go read “Shredni Vashtar” and “Filboid Studge”.) There’s nothing inherently wrong with long sentences; having read a fair amount of 19th Century English prose, not to mention American writers like Faulkner and Pynchon, I’m not put off by having to navigate a lot of clauses and asides. I’d second the advice to read each sentence aloud, and see if it might sound better as two sentences. And be careful with your punctuation.

“…plastered with posters and pictures and filled with mobiles and models…” This sentence brought a little bit of stomach acid up to the back of my throat. Too much alliteration. If you’re writing a saga in 10th Century Norse, then you can use that much alliteration. Otherwise, you’ll just annoy people. Avoid alliteration. (Easy to remember because it’s alliterative.) Or rather, have a little alliteration. Break it up a bit.

Horatio is the only character identified as an individual. The other character, really, is humankind in general. I liked the way they got about the same kind of superficial character development (granted, it’s only a roughly 2700-word story). Humankind is clever and sex-obsessed; Horatio is clever and dragon-obsessed. (The little comical interlude about militant feminists and incredibly stupid men is too hackneyed to work; might have worked forty years ago. Clunky rather than whimsical.) It would be nice to have some sense of the internal Horatio; we’re shown the external evidence of his obsession (in fact, that’s basically the whole story) but not much hint of what goes on inside him. An additional fifty to a hundred words, in four or five chunks, tied to events and actions, could take care of this.

The basic idea is a clever take on the well-known device of multiple alternate universes. The prospect of nearly infinite possible worlds being reachable is a great vehicle for a story of obsession. Probably a good idea not to spend too much time trying to make it sound scientifically plausible. I’d like it if you made it clearer exactly what aspects of dragonhood make the creatures inherently unlikely, and how that would be reflected in your imagined multiverse. I didn’t feel you had a good handle on this; or else you didn’t communicate it clearly. This is a real structural weakness, but entirely fixable – have some fun with it and the story will be signficantly more enjoyable.

The denouement would be better if the physical elements (plummeting dragons) weren’t introduced earlier. I’d throw out the three paragraphs immediately before the final paragraph. I like the last paragraph. (The first and second sentences begin with the same words; I’d change the second one so that the meaning was similar, but a little less impersonal. Something like “we may imagine”.)

There; that’s all meant to be constructive criticism. If you think I’m wrong, tell me to stuff it. Whatever you do, keep writing. Did you say this is your first attempt at writing a story? In that case, you’re miles ahead of most beginning writers, and I’m really impressed. At least you finished it, which is more than I can say for most of mine.

Oh, forgot to mention – don’t rely on spell-check software. Have somebody proofread every word. We all make errors in spelling, grammar and syntax from time to time.

Don’t worry, my friend was much harsher :slight_smile:
I’d agree with most of your comments, a few things in particular

Style - As I said, I’m not trying to emulate anyone it’s just how it ended up coming out, I’m not even a huge Adams fan (although I think he’s brilliant at using the English language) it was just what the end result seemed to come out like.

I’d love to write in a more serious style but I find trying too much harder and when I tried to write dialogue it didn’t work out well at all (didn’t seem in any way natural).

The alliteration I wouldn’t normally use at all, I was just trying to use it to get that discordant effect and try and give an impression of a room which could give you a headache, but I guess that didn’t work too well.

Character - I’d love to pretend that I was considering humanity as a whole as another character, but that didn’t strike me at all.

Obviously Horatio himself is an entirely one dimensional character, and as such I’m not really sure how to flesh him out more. I did consider suggesting that he did have some other things in life other than his obsession, maybe a neglected family or worried friends, but I was worried that it would detract from the ending and possibly make the story darker than I wanted.

The comic interlude I wasn’t sure about and most of the joke is very well worn, but I left it because I wanted to say something about how his invention was effecting everyone else and I quite liked the punch line (or lack thereof) at the end. I know everyone says the hardest thing about writing is chucking out the bits that you like but don’t work.

Plot - I think you nailed one of the reasons I was unhappy with the ending, I can see what you mean about the repetition now you point it out.

I would probably have gone into more detail about the improbability of dragons but while I was writing this I was reminded of a Terry Pratchett book (Guards Guards I’m fairly sure) which makes similar use of the improbability of dragons and discusses it at length (and I’m fairly sure I’ve encountered the idea all over the place to be honest) and I found it hard to write about with out feeling I was borrowing too much from that.

I would say one of the points that I was tried to get across (probably not clearly enough) was that Horatio was limited to universes in which the laws of physics were similar enough to our own that he could visit them, and that by implication there were plenty of less unlikely dragons that he couldn’t get at.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to give such comprehensive feedback, and I’ll certainly try and take your advice on board.

I do have a few ideas for further stories, including “The further adventures of Horatio Pemblethwaite” (I was thinking about exploring the idea I suggested in this Thread

Posted by me:

Case in point: I misspelled the title of one of my favorite stories, “Sredni Vashtar”.

Posted by Enigmatic:

Interesting! I should have seen that. Good idea; just a little work on that sentence and you’ll nail it; you want to concisely paint a picture that creates the desired effect. I’ve found this one of the harder things to do in writing – just take a vivid image from your head and translate it to the page along with its emotional resonance. When something like that really works, it’s maybe the closest thing we have to telepathy.

We should also note that a lot of writers consider the short story a more difficult form than the novel: you have to communicate character, theme and story in a compact form, without the more leisurely pace of a novel. And your story is almost a short-short, which is even tougher.

Anyway, please keep writing, and I hope we’ll see more of your stuff in the future!

May I please. :slight_smile: