Review Request- BLACK ROSES

8 years ago | alex5927 (Member)

I am writing a serial novel at the moment. I've released a pilot chapter, and I was hoping that somebody could review it for me. Starting the week of January 6, 2013, I will be releasing three episodes per week, on Sunday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Until then, however, I will only be releasing on Sunday. The serial novel is about a group of assassin teenagers that live around sixty five years in the future. One of them starts off with a super power, and one of them gains super powers within the first few episodes. The serial is inspired by Japanese anime, so, at times, it will probably get a little weird.
It can be found here:

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Page: 12


  1. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    Can't give a real review until the story goes live with more chapters.

    To start you off, though:

    * Don't start off a story with someone waking up. It's cliche. Start closer to the main conflict.

    * Don't start off a story with your protagonist's description in the first 5 paragraphs.

    * The font doesn't scan well. Georgia and Times New Roman read better on a computer screen. The white on light gray is also kind of hard to read (Though my own site uses something similar). That thing with 'episode 1: the assassins' is almost unreadable, the letters are so fat.

    * The story, right from the outset, feels very stiff. A lot of it is that it feels like I'm being given too much in the way of exposition and details key for a story's introduction. 'I woke up on the first day of 2079'; 'Lilith, my partner, had brown hair and brown eyes, and she was wearing a mini-skirt and pink shirt.'; 'A Skybike is a motorcycle that flew, and didn't have wheels.' - It doesn't feel like someone's natural train of thought (and we're in the narrator's head right now, given the 'I') and as a consequence, it feels like you're deviating from the main character's perspective when you're focusing on details that the character wouldn't think twice about. It's really spoon-feeding the reader.

    * It sounds cliche, and it pains me to write, but there's an old adage that says 'show, don't tell'. This isn't explicitly true (you can't -always- show), but you're doing an awful lot of telling. For example, you say, 'I was one of the most elite assassins the world had ever seen.' (You say this a lot) but it would be a lot more effective to the reader if you'd demonstrate this by conveying that professionalism and effectiveness through a scene. Let them come to their own conclusions. (Again, the fact that you aren't is the spoon feeding I referred to earlier). Another example: 'She looked disappointed, but that wasn't a surprise. She was always disappointed when we couldn't just show up at the target's door and shoot him in the face.' - You could delete this line without changing anything else and the dialogue can convey this fact. Your readers aren't idiots, and the reader can figure it out based on her excitement at getting to be the one to use the gun.

    * Contributing to the 'stiff' feel is the lack of details. To use a metaphor, you're painting with very broad strokes, but there's no little things that let me fill in the blanks. Is the city pristine, or filthy? Is the skybike sleek or bulky? Is the girl coworker old? young? fat? African-american? Latino? Thin? Muscular? What kind of shirt is she wearing? Button-up? A frilly blouse? Does she have a round face? A roman nose? Thick eyebrows? You've got a picture of what's going on in your head, but it's your job to convey that picture to the audience.

    * You use 'I' a lot. This is hard to avoid with a first-person perspective, but basically every sentence starts with it, which hurts the flow (the smoothness of the writing that allows the reader to get caught up in things). More important, the heavy 'I' use is characteristic of males, which makes the protagonist feel like a guy. Up until you revealed her as a sixteen year old girl, I was assuming a guy in his mid-twenties (with long black hair in a ponytail and a leather jacket).

    * The writing feels stiff. Lots of short sentences. You also start sentences with quite a few words obviously intended to string them together.

    Just to give you an example of what you're expecting readers to process, read this snippet of text:

    There was a boy inside, wearing a green shirt and blue jeans. He had a hat with a duck on it. He was masked and sitting in a device.

    I stepped up to him and took off the mask.

    “The key,” he said. “Get the key.”

    I looked around, and saw it in a box on one of the shelves.

    It was red, and it looked ceramic.

    I leaned over and picked it up.

    That was when everything went wrong.

    That's a rewording of your first chapter's conclusion, with descriptions swapped out. How much of a mental picture are you getting of the scene? The device he's sitting in? The box, the shelves? Did it make sense, immediately, what I was referring to when I said 'it was red and it looked ceramic?'? How old do you think the boy is?

    Try reading your chapter aloud to yourself. Does it feel natural? Does anything stand out as a word you're using too often? Does it feel like it could be your main character's train of thought?

    All in all, you want longer sentences, more general description, a more relaxed flow in the prose, take your time introducing us to the world instead of laying too much groundwork at the start, show instead of telling and paint a more complete picture with details to make us feel like we're immersed in the setting.

    It doesn't get discussed a lot, but writing is really an interaction between you and the audience, a transaction. They give you their attention and read your story (supporting you in your endeavors, one way or another) and you give them a complete story. Black Roses doesn't feel like it's holding up its end for the audience. It isn't painting the full picture and offering prose or description to really pull the reader into another world and sell them on the story that's being told... and that's liable to mean that the reader won't maintain their end of that unspoken bargain either - they won't necessarily read.

    Always have the audience in mind as you write. What are they interested in knowing more about? What details do they want? How can you hook their interest and build tension to keep them going? When we're talking face to face, we can use gestures or tone of voice to craft our words and we can read the other person's body language to decide if we should cut our explanations short or if they're interested enough that we should push on with more description. As an author, we don't have this - we have to imagine the audience and what they'll think, then shape the text accordingly. This will always take several drafts to refine.

    Think about your audience, because Black Roses feels more like a story that's written for you, the author.

  2. Amy Kim Kibuishi (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    Hi Alex! I read your first chapter. I, too, am inspired by anime so I know what you mean about things getting weird lol! Also this means I automatically liked the setting/character designs/plot. It did feel sort of a dry read, if you know what I mean? Almost like a script where actions and surface looks are described and that's it. I like writing that delves deeper into a character's moods, connecting their moods with events from the past, and writing that establishes atmosphere and emotional settings.

    Basically, I feel your first chapter is missing its soundtrack. We don't have music or visuals to work with in prose, but we have poetry to orient the reader and give them a sense of place. I feel if you could weave a bit in on how the main character feels it would be really engaging. You have a lot to work with - parents murdered at a young age, a teenager who kills people for a living - I imagine your characters have a LOT of baggage that would be fun to poke at!

    That's one of my favorite things. Making my characters suffer. Muhahaha!

    Anyway, you're giving this all away online for free so I wouldn't stress about it TOO much but just have fun with it. Good luck! Keeping update schedules is hard but a worthy practice! :)

  3. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    Yeah, Amy notes the important thing: Write and have fun. My post was a little critical, but I tend to review/critique like I would want to be reviewed and critiqued, (I don't want people to hold back, or I won't be able to improve my writing), and that means my stuff may come across somewhat harsher than is typical. I hope it's taken for what it is and that you keep writing rather than get discouraged.

  4. Amy Kim Kibuishi (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    I was about to echo what wildbow mentioned too with "show don't tell." I was going to mention that because there are a few paragraphs that are all tell baby haha! Slow it down and show me what happened with her parents. I mean, to me, that whole paragraph talking about her backstory is a whole chapter in itself and it would be so fun to write! Don't let those juicy bits go to waste!!

    And Wildbow, sometimes you gotta dole out the tough love to improve your craft! I thought your crits were generous and valid, as always.

  5. alex5927 (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    Thank you so much, everyone!!! I will be modifying the first part, and possibly completely rewriting the second part! I'm serious when I say that I appreciate your help. I need to get people that don't know me to critique my work, because everyone I know seems to either hate me or love me, and it is very hard to get an unbiased opinion. Thank you especially to Wildbow, your help is the most I have ever had from anybody. So, again, thank you!

  6. alex5927 (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    Also, Amy, the girl Rose finds at the end is named Kiera. I took that name directly from Death Note, which I recently watched in the span of around three days. That shows that there's something wrong.

  7. alex5927 (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    I've taken down the website, I've changed the main character's name and gender, so the title and URL no longer make any sense. I will post the new URL once it's running.

  8. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    One tip I'll give you is be sure to read other stuff. If all you're consuming is visual media (manga), you won't be picking up the subconscious or underlying nuances of written language. Reading is the whetstone against which we hone our best writing tool - our brain.

    Which isn't to say manga is bad. Just don't forget about literature too.

  9. Amy Kim Kibuishi (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    "Reading is the whetstone against which we hone our best writing tool - our brain." Dang, Wildbow! It got all epic in here for a second haha I love that. ^^

    Alex, hm. I hope you're not discouraged! It is the internet, after all, and is fluid. Meaning that you can always go back and change things and it doesn't have to be perfect. Heck, I've already rewritten my first paragraph several times after posting. :P

    Anyway, be sure to let us know when you get the new url up! I'm looking forward to seeing the changes. :)

  10. alex5927 (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    ROFL Hells no. I actually don't read much manga or watch much anime, but last week I impulse-bought a ton of manga on Amazon, after watching the entire Death Note anime in three days, not to mention that I just finished playing Final Fantasy XIII (took me 2 years), which was quite obviously anime-turned-video game. So, there's bound to be a lot of anime junk at the beginning, and I'm not gonna just go and change the entire universe just cause my once-per-year anime high wore off. Actually, once the story gets going, its somewhat like 1984, only in the future, with magic and demons and all that weird anime junk. Or, at least, the way I saw it when I was writing out my outline, which I sometimes ignore until the end... Oh, and the website is now

  11. Alexander.Hollins (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    Let us know when you put up the rewrites, the idea for the story seems great so far.

    On the show don't tell.... The main ways to think of it are storytelling versus describing. We're used to telling stories orally to people, telling them what happened to get the idea across. But when you have a book, you aren't face to face relaying a story, you want the reader to BE THERE. you want them not to absorb the details and events, but live them, feel them. So instead of saying, x happened, you give them the scene, and let them watch it unfold as if they were standing there when it happened.

  12. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    So I don't want to get into the whole "show don't tell" thing because my advice is different and I like everyone on WFG too much to pick a fight :-) but I do want to push back (very gently!) against one thing Wildbow said in his first post:

    Think about your audience, because Black Roses feels more like a story that's written for you, the author.

    It's ok to write a story for you, the author, and want other people to like it too. You don't have to market first, write second -- you can write what you want and then hope it catches on. Pay Me, Bug! was a story I wrote for me. The Points Between is absolutely a story I'm writing for me first. So is Curveball, though it just so happens that it might also be somewhat marketable if I can play my cards right. You can, perhaps, legitimately point out that none of these stories were nearly as successful as the really successful serials on this site, and that's fair -- but if your basic mindset is to write "for you" first, trying to change that will increase the chance of you abandoning your project a lot more than anything else. Web projects can be profitable, but web projects generally demand you be willing to do it for yourself alone first, because most of the time building an audience takes time, and a lot of it. For every LOLcat there are a hundred LOLdogs and ten thousand WTFhamsters.

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  13. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    Oh for sure. I'm my number one fan (and my number one critic). I get what you're saying, ubersoft. When I set out to write Worm, I set out to write the kind of story I wanted to read; something I wouldn't be able to find on the bookshelves.

    But there's a difference between writing a story that you'll enjoy as the author, and writing without any consideration for the audience.

  14. alex5927 (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    Episode 1 is up:
    Definitely not the same as originally, I started out with the parent murder, since I've retooled the whole story so that that small thing plays into the bigger plot.

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