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Old 02-22-2017, 08:57 PM View Post #1 (Link) Blame Michael
itssweetann (Offline)
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I'd like to start off by saying, I am not the villain. No matter what Michael says. He's an uppity do-gooder with his head so far up his ass he can't even follow his own ideals. So, just in case you want to try and ask him, don't. You don’t even have to ask me, ‘cause I’m about to tell you. So, here's how it all started.
My dad is the sort of man that has an affair, and then files for divorce. Like his wife was the scum faced cheater that he had to get away from. My mother, who was given custody of me (not like my father put up much of a fight to keep his, I don't even think he asked for visitation) ended up a sobbing, snorting, “no one will ever love me again” wreck. With nothing left aside from an eleven year old son, and a bunch of post-divorce credit card debt.
A few months after the period that I call, the age of self exploration, my mother met Samuel. Ok, so, Samuel is the type of guy that, if thirty years younger, would own a big black book filled with over a hundred Pokemon cards, and sit with his other Pokemon enthusiast friends, having Pokemon battles all through lunch. The type of guy that at one point in his life, probably said something like, “I actually like going to school,” or “wasn't their a quiz assigned for today?” Yeah, one of those people. Now, I'm not saying I don't like Samuel. I mean, all things considered, he's top stepdad material. He’s really nice to me, and has never set me on fire (My dad did it once. He said it was an accident). I'm just saying, that despite how terrible my father was at doing his fatherly duty, I still wanted my dad to be my dad. I still wanted his Saturday morning "mystery drinks", and the way he would sing in his deep baritone, occasionally attempting to rap,the way he joked, and even the way he smelled. But, Mom fell in love with Samuel, and Samuel's two kids Lydia, who, at the time, was a two year old who still believed that Santa was one day going to leave her a pony under the tree, and his son (as I'm sure you've guessed) stupid, hypocritical, self righteous Michael.
I remember when Mom went on her first date with Samuel. She came home all happy, and, I guess, she must have felt bad about the whole “dating-someone-that-is-not-my-father-and shattering-my-dreams-of-them-getting-back-together-and-living-happily-ever-after-the end” thing, because she looked at me with her guilty smile and said,
“And Sammy even has a son around your age!” all peppy like.
She only uses her chipper voice when she wants me to get on board with something. So I gave her a thumbs up and lied,
“I can't wait to meet him mom! That's so awesome!”
The first time I actually got to know Michael was at my twelfth birthday party. Mom and Samuel had been dating for about six months, give or take, and mom took it upon herself to invite not just Samuel, but Lydia and Michael to my laser tag party. Lydia and Samuel were fine. I mean, the two of them just sat with my mom and the rest of the adults in the back of the party room, sipping bottled water and nibbling on room temp cheese pizza. Michael was the real problem. When we played laser tag, he'd do stuff like follow my friends and I around, shooting at our backs non-stop, and laughing like it was funny or something. And then, he'd say
"The probability of me actually hitting a moving target is fairly low. On the other hand, you troglodytes run, and all I have to do is follow, point, and shoot. Survival of the Fittest. Charles Darwin. Look it up."
I mean, that’s a basic breaking of the laser tagger code, but it wasn’t just that. Once we got back to the party room, all he did was insult all my friends that had been playing him, using these long words that no one could understand. And when we gave him blank stares in response to his overly complicated jabs, he'd give us this “I can't believe you're such an idiot” stare, and explain it in his naturally condescending voice, “I suppose I can try and explain using simpler words…” And then insult us to our faces! Not only that, but we kind of look alike. Not that I'd ever admit that out loud, but if a random stranger saw us walking together down the street, they'd probably believe we were biologically brothers. And the fact that throughout the entire party my relatives, and the parents of my friends, kept coming up to us exclaiming, “Wow, I would think you two brothers if I didn't know any better,” really started to piss me off. I was tempted (on more than one occasion) to simply shout, “yes, how funny. I don't own a mirror so I had no idea I looked similar to the son of my mom's boyfriend. Isn't it just so spectacular?!” But, I didn't say anything. I let my mother's relatives, and Samuel’s relatives (when he finally took us to meet them over winter break) make stupid remarks on how our similar appearances had something to do with fate, and other ridiculous notions.
And then, three years later, when Michael and I were both in eighth grade, Samuel proposed to Mom, she said yes, and I had two new step siblings. Yay me.

⚫⚫⚫

“Caden, please take your elbows off the table,” Mom isn't even looking at me as I slide spaghetti into my mouth.
“You aren't even looking at me.”
“It’s a mother's instinct.”
“Makes no sense,” I grumble as I slide my elbows off the top. Just before my elbows hit lap, an idea crosses my mind. “But Michael’s are too.”
Mom looks across the table, her eyes scanning as if she can’t see. Picture of fruit, ding in the wall, old collapsing bookshelf, window, and then they stop. Her eyes are focused just a bit beyond Michael’s head,
“Michael, please take your elbows off the table.”
Michael shoots his head up, first staring at Mom, and then glaring at me. He lifts his elbows out of his lap, his fork making a slight clink as he rests it on his plate. Samuel smiles at me, and I think he thinks that smile is supposed to convey some secret message. But if it is, the message is lost on me. I smirk at Michael’s glaring face, and think of all the ways I can kick him under the table without getting caught. Lydia takes the sudden silence of the dining table as her opportunity,
“Jessica is not my friend anymore. She said, that only she can be the mommy when we play house but-”
I clear my throat, “besides Mom, Michael and I have more important things to worry about than elbows on the table.”
Michael shoots me another glare as he picks up his fork. I watch as his fingertips go blue, hands slightly shaking. Samuel gives me another secret message smile, and turns back to Lydia.
“I’m five, I can be the mommy too! And Jessica said she’s four. So why does-”
Mom laughs, “well whatever you think you two are going through, know that your father and I have been through the same experiences, just at a different time.”
Michael snorts, and, for once, I agree.
I push the spaghetti back and forth, tomato sauce coating the sides of the plate, “sure mom, I'm sure you've experienced-”
A sharp pain goes up my leg. I swivel my head, to see Michael staring me down.
“Yeah mom, I'm sure you had to deal with no cell service preventing you from doing your homework all the time.”
She rolls her eyes, and Samuel laughs as the two of them push away from the table, towards the kitchen, with Lydia following.
"And then.... and then she said to me that if I want to play, I have to be the daddy! But I don't want to be the daddy! I want to... I want...."
“What the hell is wrong with you!”
“What Michael? Was that kick supposed to be some sign? Or was it just "High and Mighty Michael" finally stooping down to Caden's level?”
"Idiot! You know what I'm talking about. It sounded like you were about to tell her everything!"
"You're the idiot! Like I would tell her! 'Oh yeah mom, I forgot to tell you. A few months ago while you were out of town, Michael was doing some crazy shit and-’"
"Shut up! The kitchen is right over there!"
"Boys! No arguing! How many times do I have to tell you!"
"Yeah, yeah! We know!” I turn back, “What the hell Michael! Are you trying to get us into trouble?"
“What the hell me? I should be saying that to you! You did that on purpose.”
“Well what if I did? It’s not like it’s my fault we're in this mess.”
“You are such a… such a....”
“Such a what?"
“Such a three year old! Grow up! We're fifteen!"
“Don’t tell me to grow up! Why don’t you grow a pair and-”
“Boys-”
Okay Mom!”
“You used them on her didn't you?! I told you-”
“Oh, like I’d listen to you!”
“You would if you actually had a brain!”
“Oh, you’re so funny! Acting like Mr. Hero all the time.”
“Well you sure aren’t!”
“I could if I wanted!”
“Whatever. No hero would do that to his mom.”
“Cause you know all about mothers?! Where is yours exactly?”
“Screw you!” Michael pushes away from the table angrily, “you’re the villain of this story. You know it, I know it, and before long, everyone will too. And don’t ever talk about my mother again.”
I let my eyes wander. Picture frame, ding in the wall, collapsing bookshelf. With Michael gone the room feels empty, and I notice the sudden icy chill. My shoulders quiver, and I see that my fingertips have gone blue. My chair scrapes the floor as I gather my plate and fork, heading towards the kitchen.
How could I be the villain when it’s all his fault? It's not like I asked for these powers.
  
						Last edited by itssweetann; 03-14-2017 at 08:11 PM.
					
					 Reason: The comments that Nevermore made really helped me. After re-reading, I discovered that there were many areas I could improve.
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Old 03-11-2017, 10:36 AM View Post #2 (Link)
Nevermore (Offline)
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For clarity, all edits, and my own commentary, will be in red. For the most part, I will be simply commenting on the existing content or suggesting additions rather than specifically changing anything. There will however be the occasional grammar correction/punctuation insertion. I will use the f (aka slash thingy) to signify things to be removed. Hope this ends up being helpful to you!

I'd like to start off by saying, I am not the villain. I liked this as an opening line. It's relatively short, and quickly grabs my attention.No matter what Michael says. Because you know what, Michael is an uppity do-gooder with his head so far up his ass he can't even follow his own ideals. I got the vibe that this was intended to be delivered as a snappy insult type of thing, but the sentence felt clunky somehow. I think it might be because of the 'because you know what' bit at the beginning. I think the sentence would be even better if it just started with 'Michael is', or even just 'he is'. For me, the 'you know what' bit stretches out the delivery of the most crucial part of the sentence, rather than simply jumping straight into the best part, aka the insult.So, just in case you want to try and ask him, don't. You don’t even have to ask me, ‘cause I’m about to tell you.
My dad, the sort of man that has an affair, and then files for divorce, like his wife, my mother, was the stupid, scum faced cheater that he has to get away from, left us about five years ago. This sentence is a pretty major run-on sentence. I can see the message you were trying to convey (i.e that the father is the sort of person who would have an affair and then promptly file for a divorce, treating his wife like she'd been the sum-faced cheater who needed to be avoided/ditched), but it's a bit too much crammed into a single sentence, particularly when that sentence is only punctuated by commas. You'd need some pretty careful punctuation to fix some of the clarity issues inherent to a sentence this large. As is, you have too many different sub-phrases (things like 'my dad', 'and then files for divorce', 'was the stupid,' etc) and a whole lot of ','s, which isn't enough to convey the proper meaning behind the sentence without coming across as clunky and difficult to read. Try shortening it a little? Or perhaps dividing the sentence into two or more smaller sentences? My mother, who was given custody of me (not like my father put up much of a fight to keep his, I don't even think he asked for visitation) ended up a sobbing, snorting, “no one will ever love me again” wreck. With nothing left aside from an eleven year old son, and a bunch of post-divorce credit card debt. Decently strong sentence so far, although I'd continue to recommend condensing sentences whenever possible. Less is often more. That being said, I won't mention it again unless I have a specific suggestion
A few months after the period that I call, the age of self exploration,Maybe put this phrase in italics instead of surrounding it by commas for emphasis? Unless you did indeed want it read without any intonation/emphasis, putting 'italics' around just about any word generally makes the reader emphasise that word in their head. Try reading your sentences aloud in order to figure out what punctuation 'sounds' best. my mother met Samuel. Ok, so, Samuel is the type of guy that, if thirty years younger, would be one of those guys that owns a big black book filled with over a hundred Pokemon cards, and sits with his other Pokemon enthusiast friends, having Pokemon battles all through lunch. The type of guy that at one point in his life, probably said something like, “I actually like going to school,” or “wasn't their a quiz assigned for today?” Yeah, one of those people. Main character is starting to come across as somewhat mean-spirited. If it's an intended part of the characterisation with future plot-relevance, it makes sense, and thankfully the description is amusing enough to maybe pass as 'snarky comedy'. However, the difficulty becomes making the reader empathise with a character who is kinda crappy to people. It's possible - and even a useful plot device in certain cases - but not necessarily easy. Your mileage may vary on this one, as it could just be a matter of my personal opinion. Now, I'm not saying I don't like Samuel. I'm just saying, that despite how terrible my father was at doing his fatherly duty, I still wanted my dad to be my dad, and Samuel, well... he most definitely is not my dad. This definitive statement of 'definitely is not my dad' without an explanation of what that is supposed to mean makes it come across as a bit hollow, especially since the main character has already spoken quite venomously about his father only moments prior. You don't necessarily NEED to have the main character ponder the deep mysteries of fatherhood or some bs, but you could mention that even with the worst example of fatherhood possible, Samuel was STILL most definitely not his dad. Or something. But, Mom fell in love with Samuel, and Samuel's two kids: Lydia, who, at the time, was a two year old who still believed that she was a princess, and that Santa was one day going to leave her a pony under the tree, and his son (as I'm sure you've guessed) stupid, hypocritical, self righteous Michael.
I remember when Mom went on her first date with Samuel. She came home all happy, and, I guess, she must have felt bad about the whole “dating-someone-that-is-not-my-father-and shattering-my-dreams-of-them-getting-back-together-and-living-happily-ever-after-the end” thing, because she looked at me with her guilty smile and said,
“And Sammy even has a son around your age!” all peppy like.
She only uses her chipper voice when she wants me to get on board with something. So I gave her a thumbs up and lied,
“I can't wait to meet him mom! That's so awesome!”
The first time I actually got to know Michael was at my twelfth birthday party. Mom and Samuel had been dating for about six months, give or take, and mom took it upon herself to invite not just Samuel, but Lydia and Michael to my laser tag party. Lydia and Samuel were fine, I mean, the two of them just sat with my mom and the rest of the adults in the back of the party room sipping bottled water and nibbling on room temp cheese pizza. Michael was the real problem. The whole time we were there he talked about stuff that none of my other friends could understand, and when we gave him blank stares in response to his overly complicated questions, and overly vocabularized stories, he'd give us this “I can't believe you're such an idiot” stare, and explain it in his naturally condescending voice, all “I suppose I can try and explain using simpler words…” Again, maybe this is by intention, but the main character is still coming across as a bit of a prick. It doesn't help that he makes accusations against Michael without providing direct evidence of WHY he's an asshole. So far, all he's guilty of is talking about things other children can't understand, having a high vocabulary, and asking complicated questions. If anything, that makes him sound like a relatively smart dude. It'd help if the main character provided anecdotal evidence - i.e something Michael said that was deliberately condescending or confusing, him being pretentious, calling people stupid in overly complicated ways, etc - of the things he is saying. 'Michael is a prick because he hates puppies.' generally works a lot better than 'Michael is a prick.' Not only that, but we kind of look alike. Not that I'd ever admit that out loud, but if a random stranger saw us walking together down the street, they'd probably believe we were biologically brothers. And the fact that throughout the entire party my relatives, and the parents of my friends, kept coming up to us exclaiming, “Wow, I would think you two brothers if I didn't know any better,” really started to piss me off, and I was tempted (on more than one occasion) to simply shout, “yes, how funny. I don't own a mirror so I had no idea I looked similar to the son of my mom's boyfriend. Isn't it just so spectacular?!” Separate this sentence into two sentences. Start the new one by removing the 'and' after 'piss me off' and starting with 'I was tempted...' But, I didn't say anything. I let my mother's relatives, and Samuel’s relatives (when he finally took us to meet them over winter break) make stupid remarks on how our similar appearances had something to do with fate, and other ridiculous notions. And then, when Michael and I were both in eighth grade, Samuel proposed to Mom, she said yes, and I had two new step siblings. Yay me.

⚫⚫⚫

“Caden, please take your elbows off the table,” Mom isn't even looking at me as I slide spaghetti into my mouth. Hm. This shift into present tense is interesting, but I'm not sure if it's interesting in a good way or not. Tense has a very important place in defining the tone/pacing of the work: a shift in tense means a shift in tone/pacing. Many (most?) stories are only ever written in a single dominant tense (excluding tense used in dialogue between characters). The tense shift has to MEAN something. Is it a shift from past to present? Real life to memory/flashback? Some sort of alternative dimension? You could technically use a tense shift to do a whole lot of cool, wacky things, but unless the context (aka: meaning) of the shift is carefully defined throughout the entire story (i.e certain tense always used in certain situations), a shift in tense will come across as messy rather than clever.
“You aren't even looking at me.”
“It’s a mother's instinct.”
“Makes no sense,” I grumble as I slide my elbows off the table.
Samuel smiles at me, and I think he thinks that smile is supposed to convey some secret message, but if it is, the message is lost on me. Michael smirks, and I think of all the ways I can kick him under the table without getting caught, while Lydia starts her story of what happened when Jessica wouldn't let her be the mommy when they played house again for the fifth time. I turn to Michael, staring until he looks up meeting my eyes.
“Besides Mom, Michael and I have more important things to worry about than elbows on the table.”
Michael shoots me a glare as he forks more spaghetti into his mouth. Samuel gives me another secret message smile, and turns back to Lydia.
Mom laughs, “well whatever you think you two are going through, know that your father and I have been through the same experiences, just at a different time.”
Michael snorts, and, for once, I agree.
“Sure mom, I'm sure you've experienced-”
A sharp pain goes up my leg. I swivel my head, to see Michael staring me down. I shoot him a glare,
“Yeah mom, I'm sure you had to deal with no cell service preventing you from doing your homework all the time.”
She rolls her eyes, and Samuel laughs as the two of them push away from the table, Lydia following them, her story crashing on. Show, don't tell. Whenever possible. It'd be a pretty neat and possibly comedic moment to have Lydia's inane babble about playing house trickling into the otherwise serious conversation, regardless of whether anybody is listening to her or not.
“What the hell is wrong with you!”
“What! Do you really think I'm that stupid! I can't talk to my own mother about what I want when I want?! Don't you tell me what to do Michael! So shut the hell up!”
Michael turns away, “Well you shouldn't toe the line like that. It's ridiculous. Why must you always be a rebel. Why can't you just do the right thing?”
“No, you do not get to paint me as the villain. I am not the villain!”
“Then act like it! My god you are so puerile!” This exchange feels...colourless. More like a stock conversation between supposedly angry people. It can basically be broken down to: "You suck!" "You think I'm dumb? No! I do what I want!" "You shouldn't be bad. Be good." "You don't get to call me bad! I'm not bad!". There's no mention of the fact that Michael was kicking Caden under the table, which is the perfect chance for Caden to take a jab at Michael's supposed 'maturity'. Caden could have also called out Michael's behaviour as manipulative, (because kicking him under the table instead of speaking to him like a normal person is shitty behaviour) rather then simply yelling 'YOU DUN TELL ME WHAT TO DO!'. Mostly, it feels like this exchange is a lost opportunity to make the characters show a bit of personality, or clarify the complexity of their relationship.
“You know I don't know what that means! Why can't you just talk like a normal person! I get you're smart, and I'm pretty sure everyone in this house knows that you're smarter than me!”
Michael pushes away from the table angrily, “juvenile, childish, unsophisticated, babyish. That's what puerile means.”
Once Michael is gone I notice the sudden icy chill in the room, and I can't help but shiver.
How could I be the villain when it’s all his fault? It's not like I asked for these powers. Now, THAT is interesting to me. Powers? And apparently they are somehow all Michael's fault, if Caden is to be believed? It might help to fluff up the superpower reveal a bit (is there frost on the walls? Are Caden's fingers turning blue? etc.), but that's up to you. I honestly wish there'd been more subtle hints about this earlier on in the story (this last bit clearly happened a good bit after 'the incident' (whatever gave Caden his abilities), like the briefest mention of something being a bit off about Michael, or something weird happening at the Laser tag part. If anything, the laser tag party is a perfect place to drop hints like this: you already mention 'complicated questions' and 'advanced vocabulary'. Maybe give specific examples of him saying something weird/philosophical/science-ish (if he's some kind of mad scientist of super-powered person or something)? Or even directly related to 'the incident'? There's nothing else in the story at that point to make it obvious what it means to the reader, allowing for a nice 'aha' moment later.


The apparent premise of the story has potential: a sibling rivalry, only one has been given superpowers courtesy of the other, and he's pissed about it. There's also what's implied by both the opening line of the story, and it's title: this is all Michael's fault. I get the vibe of Caden being forced to be a supervillain because of Michael, or at the very least blaming Michael's influence on him.

The problem is that too little of that premise is visible in what you've posted. The opening line hooks the reader by hinting at an idea, and then promptly ignores it, choosing instead to focus on the main character and his family life. That information might be necessary to the plot, and can even be interesting if written well, but after something like 'I am not the villain, no matter what Michael says', it feels like a let-down when that ends up being a statement about a sibling rivalry (in the readers head) rather than anything more interesting (like say, Caden ACTUALLY being a villain). This DOES make the reveal further down the line hit harder, but there's no guarantee that the reader will get there unless there's something to keep them interested in a 'boring' premise. At this point, clever writing and characterisation can make something like basic family dynamics a pleasure to read. However, it often felt more like the main character rattling off things that happened rather than watching events unfold, even in the interaction at the dinner table.

I said a few times that 'less is more', bu I should clarify: less is more when it comes to sentence length and word count. The opposite is often true when it comes to content. Things that are happening (a dish fell to the floor with a deafening crash), character dialogue or behaviour ("And then Penny set Mr. Wubbles on fire!" Lydia's bottom lip quivered with childish rage at the thought.), and overall things that 'show' rather than things' that 'tell' should make up the majority of any given story. Heck, even in situations when a character is literally describing something, 'showing' is an important what of making the message of a scene clear (how else will you know how a character feels about what they are saying?). The story so far feels like there's a whole lot more 'telling' than there is 'showing', and unless you are 'telling' a reader about something that is in itself interesting (i.e a prologue discussing an extinction event or alien invasion, a creation myth, a prophecy, etc.), the reader will lose interest. When we read, we read to be whisked away into a different place, or to 'watch' an amazing story unfold before our eyes (when words 'paint a picture' in someone's head), not to listen to someone telling us about really cool stuff that definitely happened somewhere bruh.

In closing, I'd ask you to focus more on 'showing' evidence of things happening with your work. Also, It's alright to say a lot of things in many sentences. A run-on sentence will look a lot worse than a bunch of teeny-tiny phrases with a '.' at the end. I'd love to see the base premise expanded on, but unless you can infuse a sense of character into the expository bit you've got currently written, you risk losing much of your readership long before you get there.

Try reading your own stuff aloud to see how it sounds to you. And writing detailed descriptions of people saying and doing things. Those might sound like very basic things, but you'd be surprised how much you can learn from repeated practice (I myself often struggle with describing landscapes, or very specific types of scenery).

Of course, this is all just my opinion. Take it all with as much salt as you require. I hope something I said manages to help you write a banging story!

Keep calm and write on!
__________________
Luke: "I can't believe it."

Yoda: "That is why you fail."

"You've met a terrible fate, haven't you?"

http://www.terriblefate.com/
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Old 03-13-2017, 09:50 PM View Post #3 (Link) This post is a reply - don't critique it
itssweetann (Offline)
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If you reread this, I was wondering if you could tell me how you feel about the edited version. Thank you again for your amazing help!
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