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August 02, 2007



Some feedback:

The behavior of the characters is a bit surreal to me. Why did the woman just let the narrator come in, and why does the narrator evince any real surprise? Perhaps I would need more of the story as context for this; I'm not sure how otherworldly a tone you wish to set.

There's also a question of pacing. The direct narrative prose is on the sparse side of contemporary style, sketching rather than portraying action, while the letter is dramatic at length and almost expository. To some extent the contrast represents the difference between the narrator and the letter's author, but it also makes the letter seem somewhat overwrought (or the first person narrative rather terse, but since the reader encounters that style first, it's the default). When I write, I frequently find myself writing segments that don't work because of tonal or stylistic mismatches with the narrative in which they're embedded. I haven't seen enough to say if that's happening here, but I figured I'd make the critique anyway.

I think you're being fairly ambitious with your craft, and mostly succeeding in sounding natural. that makes me want to read more even though this is, of course, merely a draft and though I doubt this will turn out to be the sort of story I'd usually read.

My experience with ambitious prose has been pretty rocky: over the course of long works I have produced a great deal that is noticeably substandard juxtaposed with passages around it. This has moderated after several hundred thousand words, but I still find it discouraging to look back and recognize I have a great deal of inadequate work to rewrite. Further, part of that moderation has been abstaining from including some inspired prose that would not fit.

So those are my thoughts, but this is only seven (paperback) pages of a prologue during which I'm ordinarily still getting my bearings with an author, so I feel it's premature to say that any of it is applicable. I just wanted to reflect my contemplations.

There are, of course, a number of ways to tighten up, tweak and otherwise fine-tune this prologue - usually it's good for prologues to be a bit shorter, for example - but that's inevitable in a draft and I doubt my feedback there (at least at this stage) would serve your vision well.

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