As you might recall back in March I talked about what it means to review writing and why it’s so important. As part of that, I shared that in April I would be the impartial judge in a writing competition for the Empty Pages Writing Club. Everyone submitted up to 30 pages of anonymous text to be read, critiqued, and ranked with their peers.
I read these stories and ranked them according to Plot/Conflict, Setting, Character, Symbolism/Theme, Point of View, and Writing Style. Each category was worth up to 5 points meaning a story could earn up to 30 points total. Stories have been read, reviewed, and ranked– and now it’s time to talk about the stories!
For my other Empty Pages short story reviews, check out:
Title: Madness of the Midnight Length: 29 pages Genre: Fantasy
Madness of the Midnight and 103PB-1930-35-1117 both tied with a score of 20/30. I didn’t want there to be a tie for 2nd, so I ranked this story 3rd after considering which story I enjoyed reading more overall. That said, something key to my enjoyment of this story was the use of 2.0 spacing, appropriate margins, and a font size of 12. I appreciate that everyone was trying to get as many words into their “under 30 pages” as possible, but physically this was the easiest story to read. THANK YOU for that. Authors: Consider your readership! We want to enjoy the story just as much as you. 😉
Our protagonist has been coasting in a dream-like state in life since his brother died. Not going to work, not answering phone calls, not even attending the funeral. On his way home from an errand to acquire food, only because his body requires it, our protagonist is suddenly hit by a car and passes out. Next, we meet Lucas Trebly. An unexciting person, Lucas wakes up in the middle of a literally fantastic war. He is on a battlefield surrounded by unrecognizable landscape, technologies, and peoples. Thus begins Lucas’s quest to get back home through the lands of Twilight and Midnight. A quest not only to get physically home but to find himself again.
I was super conflicted with this short story. When the story begins, I was immediately hooked into the conflict and loss of our protagonist. However, the story quickly changed directions and I never really got into the new fantasy element. The chain of events followed a strong story arc, but the rising action was disappointing and flat, making the climax and falling action which followed also anti-climatic.
I like the bones of this story but I struggled with execution, particularly around the 3rd person PoV section which tells instead of shows and the lack of character development, as you’ll see below.
We have three distinctly different settings: Reality, the world of Twilight, and the world of Midnight. I appreciate the different settings and the contrast they provide each other. Yet, as mentioned above, I was told everything instead of shown it. This was redeemed by the symbols they represented (addressed below) and by how time is described. Time is so critical to this story. It became more than just an element of setting which I really appreciate.
This is my biggest pain point in this story. All the characters except our protagonist were flat and uninteresting. We were told everything, their dialogue was dull, and their motivations felt contrived and silly. That said, most of their purpose was to act as symbols. But it doesn’t excuse the adequate execution. With a little tweaking around these characters, I think they could easily become more realistic.
Point of View: 5/5
OH MAN. Where do I start?! This is my favorite part of this short story. It begins in 1st person protagonist where our protagonist is suffering from the trauma of a sibling’s death. Then, when our protagonist gets hit by a car (yikes) and blacks out we are suddenly reading in 3rd person dramatic. Then, at the end we switch back.
It. Is. Brilliant! 1st — 3rd — 1st. I adore adore adore this.
As you’ll read below, the writing style didn’t line up well between these two PoVs. But that doesn’t change the brilliance of execution here.
This story is just ripe with themes and symbols. I am super impressed! Some symbols felt like symbols for the sake of symbols, or perhaps I didn’t understand them all, but these symbols showed us how our character was coping with grief. It was powerful. And it wasn’t over the top. I never felt like I was being hit over the head with symbolism.
The theme statement was the easiest for me to identify: Everyone experiences pain and loss, but healing takes time. No, it isn’t fair. There aren’t answers. But be patient with yourself. Don’t fall victim to your own pain and loss, or others will suffer as well. And let me tell you, I can certainly relate to this.
Writing Style: 2/5
As I mentioned above, I adore how the 1st person PoV section is written. The 1st person sections blew all the other writing out of the water. But that strength just showed how weak the 3rd person perspective is. It’s obvious the author is a stronger writer in 1st person. I lost focus and motivation for reading there.
Overall Score: 20/30
This is the story I struggled the most with of the four of them. I love what the author is trying to do; I love the bones of this story. But the execution was off. The characters were flat and the reader was told instead of shown. The writing was amazing in 1st person, but dull and uninteresting in 3rd person. I wanted to love this story more than I ended up loving it. But I think with some simple tweaks Madness of the Midnight could become a much more powerful tale.
What Do You Think?
- Have you read any stories lately which switched PoVs? Which ones? Did you enjoy that?
- What interests you more in a book: plot or characters? Why?
- Do you enjoy finding symbolism in your reading? What is a book you read in which you found the symbolism to be gripping?