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John Garvey

Adjusting to Change by LJbutterfly

Excellent
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Great hook. You can't just read the first sentence.
Wonderful ending. I feel such happiness at the outcome for a character I only know through a few sentences.
Notes and suggestions:
(1) "onset Parkinson's Disease" didn't make sense to me. She's obviously too old for it to be considered early-onset Parkinson's. Just make it Parkinson's. And this is more a matter of opinion, but the conjugation "Mother had been diagnosed..." seems like a more rational fit to me because you're talking about a recent event and "was" is ambiguous. Or something. Plus you get your word back.
(2) Sometimes an extra adjective can backfire, subtracting emotion rather than adding it. I would simplify the sentence "Incessant tears raining ...", probably by cutting the word incessant. If her eyelids are swollen, and tears are "raining," you've made a pretty clear case that she's grieving.
This is a good story. If it weren't, I wouldn't critique it. I hope this is helpful.
Best,
John
Comment Written by John Garvey on 15-Sep-2021

Shut In by Benjamin Clayton

Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level

This was delightful--very funny, warm, and believable. The characters spoke in a way that sounded natural and authentic. Harley and Hunter really sound like siblings, and I love how you captured their little hang-ups like worrying about being seen as stupid. The teasing and the reassurances were just right: neither harsh, nor overly sensitive stuff that a kid wouldn't actually say.

The only thing that bugged me was the sentence, "I wondered who they were?" I know sometimes people make statements and end them in an upward lilt like they're questions, but I find it distracting whether written or spoken. I would ax the question mark.

Thanks for sharing!
Comment Written by John Garvey on 30-Aug-2021

Don't Call Back! by DeboraDyess

Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level

So satisfying and funny! Nice use of color formatting to keep it unambiguous with regard to who was speaking. Maybe I should have done that.
Good use of details (especially the closing dialogue between the couple) to make it sound natural and plausible.
Comment Written by John Garvey on 16-Aug-2021

To Be or Not To Be a Sheep by Lynn Assimacopoulos

Excellent
Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted

This is such a sweet story. Thanks for sharing it. I have a five-year-old daughter and I enjoyed several things about it.
I don't think you need to shorten this, but I think you could strengthen it by bringing the conflict in sooner. What's the conflict? A four-year-old girl's endearing stubbornness nearly costs her the chance to take part in the annual Christmas pageant. The first paragraph shares a lot of details that create context and make the story feel real, but one might ask: What sort of story is this going to be? Why am I reading it?
Introducing the conflict sooner--or alluding to it--opens up a story loop in the reader's mind. That's a little uncomfortable, in a good way, because it makes us want to come full circle. It makes us wonder: How is this going to end? Will it be some kind of hilarious fiasco? Will it be poignant? How will this shape the characters' lives?
Conflict is basically the difference between a story and a narrative. (All stories are narratives, but not all narratives are stories. Stories are more interesting.) So I think if you were to rework this, or submit it somewhere, introducing the conflict in the opening paragraph would improve it.
There's one sentence I think is unnecessary: "He went on to thank the Sunday School directors and all the children." I would probably cut it.
All that said, this was well-written and I enjoyed it! I hope this review is helpful.
Comment Written by John Garvey on 12-Aug-2021

Aftermath - 1945 by Pantygynt
Chapter 13 of the book Miller's Bequest

Excellent
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This is the second book chapter of yours I've read, and I'm delighted. I don't just get on FanStory to praise people, but I do want to start by highlighting some of the many strengths of this: I love Lorna. I love Jack. I don't get to see enough of Jack in this chapter to say this definitively, but they both seem very three-dimensional (or four-dimensional; or five ... depending on how you look at things). The plot and character development are captivating. Though the story circles around events that took place nearly four decades before I was born, I can feel the newness of it through the characters' eyes.
Now I have to be picky to be of any value to you, so here are some ideas I'm offering. This is so subjective and none of these changes are strictly necessary, but I think if you try them on like clothes some of them will fit.
1) Since I'm not reading this story start-to-finish, I look at it sort of like I'd look at individual, short stories. That means I'm thinking of the opening line (and paragraph) as a hook. This may be a useful way to think of chapter openings, particularly if you do live book readings. You start here by saying Jack needs to be more outgoing. So do I. I think there are more intriguing ways to say this. You might be able to re-order the first paragraph so the opening sentences convey more information and emotion. For instance, "Jack knew he couldn't shut himself off from the outside world forever, though it was a tempting prospect on many dark days since those flickering flames had danced into his Spitfire's cockpit, to devour him. Of course Lorna would be the one to ..." you get the idea.
You're a better writer than I am, but I do offer the modest advantage of ignorance: ignorance of the characters and ignorance of the context. So I'm coming into this halfway through and thinking, "If I were distracted and busy, and I put the book down for a few weeks (I wouldn't), what would give me a shot in the arm to resume reading?" Perhaps that way of thinking can lend more freshness to chapter openings. I'll have to think about it more. This is mostly coming to me as I write.
2) A lot of this stems from my personal ideas about style, but I think there are some things you can do with punctuation that will make this just marginally more emotive (There is nothing wrong with your punctuation). For instance, I would consider italicizing Jack's thought: "God, she's lovely, when she's animated!" I like to italicize unspoken ideas, especially if they're emotional. And I also like to break up phrases with em dashes more than most writers do. To me it separates layers of information in a way that flows better, and I think there are places it would work well here. For instance, "They had declared their love for each other on numerous occasions--together by the fire in his cottage, in this very office, even over the phone--but that was not the same thing as marriage."
None of this is objectively right or wrong; it's got a lot to do with my psychology and style. But I do stuff like this with the intent of making my own writing more dynamic. I think it subtly modifies the pace and pulls people forward.
I'm really comfortable with differences of opinion, so regardless of whether any of this works for you, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Whether you agree or disagree, any perspective you wish to offer will give me something to chew on, and help me to improve as a writer. I feel priveleged to be reviewing your work.
Comment Written by John Garvey on 12-Aug-2021

Whiskers at the Window by LisaMay

Good
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This is funny and relatable to me because I have a cat with many quirks and I adore her. There are a few things you might consider to strengthen it, and appeal to non-cat people as well.
A well-written story with a humdrum opening line will get fewer readers than a mediocre story with an intriguing or amusing hook. That's a general principle; I'm not specifically commenting on this story. But the opening sentence is a bit weak. The "conflict" (which is what makes a story a story) could be stated or aluded to up-front. You could, for instance, re-order this a bit and open with the sentence, "I thought a ten-foot-tall monster with glowing eyes was staring in through the window right beside me." That captures the theme of your cat's acrobatics entertainingly, and introduces the reader to a personality through an action that shows, rather than tells, that she has a "larger-than-life personality."
But there are a half dozen other ways you could open with. I'm just giving you my off-the-cuff thoughts. The opening line could intrigue or entertain in any number of ways that wouldn't require you to substantially modify the story.
On a minor note, I love your use of the word "chirrup."
I hope this is helpful. Best wishes!
Comment Written by John Garvey on 06-Aug-2021

Pages of Life by zanya

Excellent
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I love the way this is framed, with the heroine as an author's work-in-progress, sitting in a computer file, self-aware, yet subject to neglect and modification.
In my opinion, the pacing is a bit choppy in places, and you could improve the story (in a minor way) by combining some of the paragraphs. For instance, I would have combined the paragraph ending in "vicar" with the following paragraph beginning with "All the while ...".
I noticed a minor redundancy about a third of the way in. You have two consecutive paragraphs that begin with similar sentences: (1) "However, my young creator had different plans for me." and (2) "My author, however, had more pressing concerns ..." It would probably benefit the story to ax one of these and combine the two short paragraphs.
There are a few minor punctuation errors; for instance, in the 3rd-to-last paragraph, "fathers" should be "father's."
If I sound picky, it's because this is a very clever story and it's worth the attention. Your word choice is kind of delightful: "tome," "witching hour," and "demurely" are a few examples where my mind went "Ping! I like it!" I like your writing style.
Is this based on an actual work-in-progress of yours?
Comment Written by John Garvey on 06-Aug-2021
Read and reviewed with blinders on.

Injudicious Judgment by Elizabeth Emerald

Good
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I enjoyed this quirky, worthwhile story. I have a couple of ideas that might strengthen it.
I had to re-read the sentence, "The timeframe of their births preceded those of her children!" This is an interesting detail so maybe you could re-phrase it to make it clearer.
I was left wanting to know what this story meant to you. What compelled you to write it, other than its strangeness? Did it cause you to reflect on the fragility of memory, on compassion, skepticism, or something else about the human condition? Was there something that surprised you; for instance, did you suspect that she was a pathological liar before learning she was merely chronically confused? Perhaps you could work some kind of intriguing philosophical statement or a hint at what's to come into the hook. For instance, "I had an experience the other day that's too odd not to relate," or "I had an experience the other day that left me feeling ________." Something like that would make me lean in more.
Finally, there were several details that enlivened and enriched this story. My favorite was your remark about the cat on the keyboard. Odd yet very relatable humor. My guess is that this is a key strength of yours as an author, so keep leveraging it! Kudos.
Comment Written by John Garvey on 06-Aug-2021

Bloated and Overblown by Elizabeth Emerald

Excellent
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This is delightful. I'm not familiar with the book Edit Yourself, but the way you riff on principles of concision is very witty. But I don't get why you can't start a sentence with "It."

If you were to revisit this theme, it might be fun to incorporate a few phrases like "It goes without saying ..." that automatically flag an entire sentence as pointless.
Comment Written by John Garvey on 03-Aug-2021

a single coin by judester

Excellent
Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted

What I love about this is that I kind of expected that coin to win him a jackpot. If you think about it, this guy is possibly a gambling addict, or at least he's not making all the best decisions, so I would have been happy for him until and unless I really reflected on it. (If you have a problematic relationship with gambling and you win a bunch of money on your last roll, you're just gonna turn around and lose it all I suppose, the victim of a deepening addiction.)
Your ending was vastly better. The guy's still a loser at the end of the story, but he's alive. Clever and thought-provoking.
Comment Written by John Garvey on 15-Jul-2021
Read and reviewed with blinders on.


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