Review Request: Fooled

Hi, I would appreciate a review on my web serial Fooled:

I go back and forth between thinking it's great and hating it. Feedback on both the story and the site design would be much appreciated, if you do get a chance to review, if you could do it on this site would be awesome:

P.S. The first chapter may come off as "telling rather than showing," initially it was supposed to be a prologue but I decided to make it the first chapter in the style of a historical account, so that technique was by design. ;) The later chapters should be better about showing.

So you wrote the all-important first chapter, the chapter responsible for the all-important first impression that hooks or repulses a reader, in the "telling" style, the style most likely to annoy discerning readers, on purpose?

I process most of the submissions for WFG. I've read a lot of prologues. I have yet to read one that improved the story it was in.

The problem is simple: you are telling all sorts of background we have *no* reason to care about yet. Like a compulsory history class in high school, it's boring. Cut it.

I believe it IS possible for a prologue to play an important part in the story. When I considered deleting mine, readers protested so much that I decided to keep it. For some, the prologue was the only reason they kept reading past the first few chapters.

I haven't read yours, but maybe you can find a rewrite it with more showing and less telling? You could take the single most important message and create a scene around it. As Chris said, you don't want your prologue to feel like a history class.

I thought chapter one might be tricky for some readers. None of my beta-readers mentioned any problem with showing vs. telling, so I thought maybe I got away with it. I do think that telling has a place sometimes, I was wanting to go for a "background narration" type feel. I just feel that as readers get further into the story, they will appreciate this information, as it affects the whole rest of the narrative. Chapter 1 gives background motivation for the characters so you understand them better when the time skips ahead in chapter two.

In fact, the main way I can defend the opening is that it "does" involve a scene, but it is described in the narrative, rather than through dialogue, because the pacing is too fast to support dialogue here. I think telling is more like writing "he was angry" instead of describing "his face turned red, hands clenching into fists." You can get away with "showing" even through the narrative...or at least that is what I thought!

That's just explaining my idea, though, don't want to be that obnoxious person that asks for advice and doesn't take it. I appreciate the differing viewpoints, how it might throw off other readers, so I will see if I can come up with a way to at least improve the intro even if I can't cut it.

(Edited for clarity)

The proper use of a prologue is a hook, something to engage the readers. To do that, you don't want to give them an introduction to the world; readers don't care about that until they have an emotional investment in the story. Do two things in a prologue: Put your characters in front of the reader, and make the readers care what happens to them.

It's the scene, the action, the awareness of them as people, that makes them care. Dry background information does not.

Infodumps are always bad. Do your worldbuilding in small chunks, over time, each tidbit coming up only as the readers need to know it. I've gotten good mileage from the technique of hinting at things about the world long before they're fully explained. This makes the readers interested in learning more, and gives them a feeling of satisfaction when they finally do.

Hey, for anyone who decides to read past the first chapter, maybe you could give your opinion on whether chapter 1 is in fact necessary, or if I'm wrong? I mean technically there are clues from chapter 1 all throughout the rest of the story, referring to the descriptions there. I thought it would help to have that scene (going off my own preferences as a reader), but maybe the readers can figure enough out without an "infodump"?

I read the first two posted chapters. To be honest, the second chapter could use some editing, too, as it is still pretty loose (a lot of background and internal state without yet having given us a reason to care), but it is markedly more readable than the first one.

What I tend to see most, when reading new submissions, are two types of prologue:

1) The backgrounder the author wrote to work out the world of the story for themselves, and that they then figured they should use because, well, all those words were a lot of work to write.

2) The alternate beginning the author wrote and then couldn't decide to get rid of, and so put two beginnings in, in hopes that if the first one didn't work for some readers, the second one would.

Both are really bad ideas.


I view good prologues as a chance to show the reader the action of the story in a microcosm -- you can start in media res, give the readers a taste of what's in store, and cut out without any strong strings attached. You can give them what the story promises in full, compacted into small package, and then after that, start building in a traditional rhythm. At least, that's the kind of prologue I'm personally interested in.

Reading this, I felt like it was tough to get through it. I think to get readers interested in the history of a setting you need to give them a character first. I could've dealt with a bit of exposition, but I feel like this is too much too fast.

One thing though: I like your art! I feel like, if you want to have a big prologue that shows off the history, maybe you could incorporate more art and less words. Like a little webcomic intro, a visible but mysterious history.

Then later on you can fill in any blanks through the characters.

I guess all those years of reading Victorian lit (basically 100% exposition) have come back to shoot me in the foot! Thank you for the critiques.

First: change chapter headings to chapter 1, chapter 2, none of this chapter 1 part 1 stuff - chapters don't have parts, they ARE parts.

The first chapter starts like a historical document of an event, which could be a stylistic choice. But the second paragraph references OTHER historical documents, and if they were important we would be reading them.

And that paragraph is "telling" - where were the documents found? Who found them? What did they experience? Think the part of Lord of the Rings: the fellowship of the Ring (film) when Gandalf goes looking for histories on the ring, panicking, poring over dusty tomes. The film shows us what the original text merely hinted at, which is why modern literature thinks cinematically. Depict a scene, don't tell people how to feel about it or what to think.

Here is one of your paragraphs:

Did they fire once an hour? That seems slow. Did they fire 24 in quick succession? It is unclear. Why would that be significant?

Now try this:

"Vincenzo nocked an arrow to his bow and drew back the string. One of the abominations flew past the battlements, its wings a blur. His keen eyes focused on the monster's armour plating and spied a gap that exposed flesh. He ignored the knot in his stomach that the repulsive creatures inspired and took aim. Vincenzo loosed his arrow and his heart soared as it struck the intended target. He started to smile, but the demoni flew on, unaffected. His face fell and his stomach tightened worse than ever."

The most "telling" part is describing his eyes as "keen" because that isn't something the audience could see in a film. But it's an unnecessary word because hitting his target implies it. However, it could be defended as part of the writer's style.

You can defend a word choice. You can't defend a bad chapter.

Personal quibble with anyone on this site: it is kind of obnoxious to come to the forum asking for reviews when you haven't reviewed anything yourself. This community exists because of voluntary communal participation. Otherwise it would be just Chris, more overworked than he already is, and he's a volunteer too, making this place possible for free.

Ok, thanks for the comparison, that helps me to see what you were saying a bit better. I had altered my style a lot already for this story to be less exposition and more dialogue, which I guess is a good thing since there is evidently still an imbalance of the two that needs fixing. Maybe it would be better if I launched into Prince Leo's perspective from the start instead of giving the more detached "report" of the events.

As far as reviews go, I haven't been on the site very long, I'm still looking around and getting my bearings! Some of the stuff I've learned in this thread will hopefully help me to be a bit pickier when I do get a chance to review some of the others stories that have been posted.

Little OT but it's been brought up:

I've fallen way behind on my reviewing lately. It's been a hellaciously busy season and I haven't had the time to pick up new reading material, much less review it! But I did a lot of that when I first joined up; after submitting a serial and before it gets accepted and posted was a great time for me to get involved, since that was really the only way for me to contribute at that time. I've got several newer serials bookmarked that I want to read, hopefully next month when the crazy abates.

Point being, the period of "still looking around" is your reviewing golden age. It's by far the best way to establish yourself; you want to be somebody who contributes.