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3/29/2016 c2 82Solemn Coyote
My first thought on reading this scene was "well, that went from zero to one hundred real quick."

My second thought was: "oh god. I'm going to have to critique the sex, aren't I?"

Because I am. Going to have to critique the sex, that is, because it's the axis that this scene turns around. It's well-written and totally works from a male perspective, and it plays nicely with the bewitchment that's been cast upon Clay by sea-snogging with a siren daughter of the tides. There's also a feyness to it that, even if it instinctively bothered me, utterly works: Clay doesn't clean up. It isn't even a thought in his mind. This, more than other single detail, communicates to me how thoroughly he's fixated.

There is little in this chapter that isn't Clay fantasizing, but throughout it your characterizations remain consistent and good. The story preserves an air of surreality, of enchantment, of compromised volition, and the fact that it's following Clay and it's his perspective that is completely subverted makes it all the stronger.

This still feels F. Scott Fitzgerald-ish, although with intruding bits of modernity. The strongest parts of the story don't have cellphones, or jets, or the like. They feel gaslit and whitewashed and prosperous, coming from a world before market crashes. Before responsibility. I think the more you can preserve that timeless sense to the setting, the stronger the piece will be. But I wouldn't worry about it too much if you need to talk about computer tablets and Uber drivers. Your language has a very Fitzgerald pacing, regardless of what you're discussing.

I'm not sure what else to say here, other than: this is good. This is still good, and I want to read even more. When my schedule allows, I'll try to get through a few chapters on my own before you win the next contest and I get to read another one anyway. :)

Best regards,

3/29/2016 c9 6Victoria Best

Really enjoyed this chapter! I think it was a brilliant choice to end the chapter with Stella walking towards him, and I absolutely loved the imagery there, especially the "hair like fire" and the "smelled electricity" lines. Compelling ending, which left the piece on a chilling note. I can't wait to read on!

Liked the mention of the tourists! I think you have really captured what it is to live in a small, enclosed space, where everyone knows everyone. This is a massive part of it - wariness of tourists. Not only does this say a lot about your world, again giving a cautious and claustrophobic feel, I think it also says a lot about Hildy. By describing how he doesn't have a problem with tourists, you're actually showing us his openness, his lack of prejudice, which I think sets him apart from the other characters, particularly the adults. Though it hasn't been explicitly stated, I get the feeling there is this divide between the younger and older generations, with the younger generation (eg Hildy) being more accepting of outsiders. Oh, oh, oh! And I think this line summed up the themes of the story!
"Maybe she's trying to find her own way, instead of doing what other people want." Such a perfect sentence - this is exactly what all the characters are trying to do, not just Gwen. Really thought-provoking stuff! It's so amazing how you can weave in these wonderful philosophical and psychological ideas. Exactly what I'm trying to do in my story, but I don't handle it nearly as well as you do :D

Absolutely love the development of Gwen in this section, "Every girl who wasn't Gwen's friend hated her, and every girl who was Gwen's friend definitely hated her." Wow! Really complex character you've created. That one line says so much about the character. Although she comes across as this popular girl who has it all, this tells us there is a lot more to her than that, that she in fact must be the opposite - quite lonely. And this makes her relationship with Clay and Hildy even more important - they are her only 'real' friends, which makes the events with Clay even sadder. Really great characterisation! :D I just think it's brilliant the way you've done it, by first showing us the Gwen that Clay sees (loud, popular Gwen) showing us Gwen through her own eyes (her trying to be loud and popular) and then through Hildy's eyes (who sees her for who she really is). Simply amazing! :D

Onto the topic of Gwen's disappearance... OMG Gwen's disappearance! What's going on there? :/ I have this really icky feeling that you're going to kill her off and I am not going to be happy, not one bit...

Very interesting that Vivienne also looks the same. I'm definitely getting the same idea as Hildy - that it's one person that keeps being reborn. If Stella's mother and grandmothers all look similar, wouldn't people have noticed? I'm guessing they kill anyone who says anything about it.

Like Hildy's humour! "Say hey to Stella."

Like the Aston-Bromwich! I don't think I've mentioned it before :D But yeah, it's great!

Only thing that caught my eye was quite a lot of "he had been" in the beginning of the chapter, which I think could be shaved a bit, as it got a little confusing about what had actually happened in the past and what the time scale was (how long ago that stuff had happened) and felt like quite a long opening. I would have liked a sharper explanation of prior events, if it's absolutely necessary (I think it could do without it, because it's clear that he's looking for Gwen).

But anyway, really loved this! :D keep writing!
3/20/2016 c1 9TheBeastlyPrincess
Nice! I like your use of light bulbs and moonshine because it accentuates the burning interest in the girl. I also like the salty air and the sand and her aquamarine eyes. She would have to be a redhead. Altogether an enticing start! i like these touches because it is very visual and I can easily picture the scene.

I also like the thoughts which are almost self-doubting, typical of a freshly graduated prep-school student. I like this because it reminds me of a story I read called "Catcher in the Rye."
3/19/2016 c8 6Victoria Best

Let me start by saying I absolutely love your ending! The lines, "It's old Sea Islands superstition," and then finding out that Ubera meant witch. So chilling! You handled that reveal so well. Great shock factor!

The tension in this was also wonderful. Things start full speed, full tension, and carry on right till the end. I have to say, I am loving these chapters in Hildy's perspective. He is certainly an interesting character, and it's great to see him trying to work out the mysteries. And he's funny. I didn't get 'funny' vibes from him in previous chapters, but I did in this one, with the "yes, she is stupid" and the "epitomised bimbetta trophy wife." Not funny in a 'haha' way, but funny in a very dry, clever way. Love it! Exactly my sort of sense of humour. I would have loved more lines like this earlier, perhaps? Only because I didn't see him as a funny character until this point.

And aww, he's scared of lobsters :p That's a unique idea :p And I like the line, "Or a guy, he thought, but he didn't say." I thought he was gay in previous chapters, so I'm hoping that I'm right :D Would be very interesting if he actually 'liked' Clay. Certainly would add even more complexity to the dynamic.

I also love the worldbuilding here, now with the Sea Islands, who seem to have their own languages. Is this your own creation? I would be really impressed if it is! in fact I would have liked to have seen this sooner, because it's a really striking idea, and you know how much I love worldbuilding and language crafting :p I also love the Settler's Rock idea also. Again, great worldbuilding and wonderful concepts. So much imagination in this piece!

Oh, I forgot to mention in previous chapters, that I love the way everyone in Loreley knows each other. There is this stifling, claustrophobic feel to the story. Everyone is looking at each other's last names, and using it to identify them, like the way Hildy immediately runs through the names on the rock and connects them. Everyone is judged by their lineage. Creepy stuff! And altogether makes for a thought-provoking piece touching on prejudice, family footsteps, and perhaps even honour and dishonour.

I found the conversation at the end particulalry interesting, because it's like we're seeing different fractions of Stella and Anthony. First through the eyes of Gwen's aunt, and now from the eyes of Hildy's great grandmother. This almost reminds me of the Witch of Portobello, in the way that we see perspectives on what Stella is or what she could possibly be, from different people with different ideas. It's hard to know, at this point, who is right (Gwen's aunt suggested more of a vampiric figure than a witch). Which is great, because it keeps us guessing, like you're throwing some clues, but some red herrings also. It's definitely both unique and grabbing!

I wasn't a fan of the opening of the chapter. I felt it was a little too long and the details in it were quite bland (Hildy making coffee). It says a lot about the character, the way he likes his coffee, and is a nice, easy slip into the chapter, and quickly brings in his thoughts, but for me it was a little long. It could easily be just a few sentences, possibly even just one. I just wanted something snappier, something to draw me in straight away. I wanted the beginning sped up a bit, until we get to the mention of Settler's Rock. The part where he is looking at the paper could go also, or be shortened. Perhaps you could even start the chapter with Hildy asking about it? And then he looks at the paper whilst his mother speaks? Just some ideas :D

And I would have liked more description about the boulder, rather than just the names on it and "big." Could be a chance for some great writing!

Anyway, loved it. Keep writing! :D
3/7/2016 c7 Victoria Best

Wow, this was a mesmerising chapter, the strongest I've seen so far, actually. That ending! Wow! That was breath-taking. The whole chapter felt disconnected and dream-like, really reflective of Clay's dissociated state. Really wonderful writing. I'm blown over! The mysteries are getting thicker here, which is great to see, and I loved the gorgeous imagery you used throughout, especially the descriptions of the vision of Stella in the rain (amazing scene when she turned out not to be real) and the scene on the cliff. I think it's safe to say that at this point, Stella has definitely 'poisoned' Clay's mind, and it's really wonderful the way you show it, through the hallucination, lack of sleep, and the fact he nearly dies. Really, really great.

Also loved the chilling set-up to the scene on the cliff, especially the song on the radio with the haunting lyric, "you came to me from out of nowhere." Very fitting for the story! Altogether created a lot of suspense, a great build-up to the action.

I don't really have much in the way of ideas for this chapter, because it all felt crisp. I just had a few minor comments. I wasn't a fan of the opening line; it felt too long and had too many uses of the word "the" in it, and I also thought a more striking ending would be great too, as 'sank into oblivion' is quite an overused way to describe falling asleep. And I also would have liked to have seen something more after the sentence, "a shiver passed through him." I feel like there would be even more to Stella's presence than just a 'shiver.' Restless feeling? Feeling of icy fingers over skin? Spidery sensation? Something more than just 'shiver,' if that makes sense. Could be an exciting piece of description!

Thanks for the read! :D
3/6/2016 c6 Victoria Best

Wow, love the extra information this gave us. I'll start with that, because that was definitely the highlight of the chapter! :D My first guess was that Stella was a ghost, but I love the 'immortal vampire' theory and the idea that she preys on young guys and sucks out their life force. I think that's unique and really amazing, actually, so I really hope there is some truth in that and that it's not just a theory. Maybe not the vampire part, she could be some completely different creature, but I definitely love the idea of draining 'life force' rather than blood, and that actually seems to make sense, because of the way she seemed to be levitating when they kissed. Almost like she was consuming his energy and making herself more powerful! Really great ideas, i can't wait to see what you've really got planned.

The highlight of the chapter definitely has to be the information that Stella's dad drowned, and was apparently 'senile and demented' at the time. The line, "his skeleton is still down there,' is such a chilling, powerful line! Loved it! Probably the best writing so far! Ahhh, can you tell I'm really happy about this section :p I also like the idea of drowning, going back to that idea when Clay was nearly drowned in the first chapter. It's like there is a pattern here.

I also loved the information about Gwen. You have really fleshed her out in this chapter. She started out somewhat one-dimension, this very specific 'type' of character, but this has completely changed my opinion of her. The line, "maybe I wasn't some big love story," was phenomenal. It just spoke to me, you know? It's an interesting idea that this whole time, she may have just been deluding herself into thinking there was something there, and this was just such a sad moment showing her at her most vulnerable. I could really relate to her at this point and empathise with her, which I think is a really hard thing to get readers to do with a character like Gwen, who can come across somewhat stuck-up. You made her real in this chapter :D I also think she's got a great sense of humour; that line about the dungeon made me smile, as did, "got Dillon puke in their hair." :P

And some beautiful writing in here, particularly this line, "it was mutual surrender; they melted together."

"Crazy drinking game that only he knew the rules to." Yes! This is exactly what a teen party is like :p I have a friend exactly like Hildy :p It's great that we get sentences like these, reminding us that the characters are just teens after all, and bringing bringing in the themes of identity and coming of age.

Really enjoyed the ending also, and the way you handled the descriptions of Anthony. Yay for cliffhangers! Yay for mystery! Yay for suspense! :D

Okay, here are my comments:

"Questions kept coming as Gwen walked..." I think this sentence is way too long.

"Silver tipped waves," and "warm light flickered through." I didn't like this part, and I will explain why, but it probably won't make much sense :p But basically, the line, "sharp as razor blades" was a really striking image, and I immediately got a sharp, intense, ominous vibe. And then it was immediately followed with this very poetic, calm imagery. It just didn't seem to follow, you know? I wanted to see more of this striking, almost chilling imagery. Something harsher and sharper and ominous. Not the romantic "warm light" and "silver tipped waves." I think different imagery would follow better, otherwise it contradicts somewhat. Does that make sense?

Also, again there were a lot of rhetorical questions, especially in that opening section, which made this too similar to the previous chapter - I wanted more of a distinction between the two perspectives. I also don't think they are very 'Gwen' like - rhetorical questions imply self-thought, introspection, working problems out slowly and rationally, but I think Gwen is the opposite of this. She is irrational, and impulsive, and fierce, and fiery, and would not be contemplating so deep. Maybe just a lot of 'it doesn't make any sense' rather than 'does this make sense?" So this would help not only to characterise Gwen through the way she shows her confusion and introspection, but also to distinguish her 'voice' from the voice of Clay (the voice we see in the previous chapter at least). Let me know if I need to make it clearer what I am trying to say :p

A little bit too much 'talking' at the end of the chapter, but I think this is one of those things that will sort itself out through general editing, so nothing to worry about for now :)

Finally, not so sure about the line, "Moans coming from the bathroom ceased." Simply because I got a completely different image to the one you were actually trying to convey XP Maybe "heaving sounds" or "violent, sloshy retching" or something to that effect instead of "moans" :p

Anyway, loved it! I will try and fit in another review by the end of the day! :D
3/6/2016 c5 Victoria Best

Another wonderful chapter! I don't really have much to say about this one; it all felt crisp. Also loved the way you handled the exposition near the end of the chapter. Perfectly woven into the narrative, so it never felt distracting or awkward. I definitely need to take tips on you for this! This is one of my big struggles, as you pointed out in my third chapter!

I also loved the opening. It's great that we get straight away into these gorgeous sensory details. A big explosion of sensory information all at once, and I love it. Definitely started the chapter with a bang! My only comment would be maybe the opening line was a little awkward, "natural oil-based wax." Why not just 'candle' or something to that effect? Just felt quite technical, which some readers might not appreciate being thrown with straight away in a chapter.

I also liked the way you dealt with the previous scene. I was worried we were going to get a chapter about Gwen's aunt and what exactly she had to say about Stella, some massive conversation, which I think I would have found tiring, so this was a great way to summarise the conversation without losing any of it, and also without losing the overall effect of suspense. Great job with this! :)

I think perhaps there were a few too many rhetorical questions in this, and, personal preference, but I don't particularly like seeing them in a narrative as I think they are quite a standard way to show confusion, if that makes sense. Just very overused in books / films to create this effect. I thought there were especially too many in that second half, especially that paragraph filled with them. I just think there are a few too many for a chapter of this length. Perhaps you could tone it down somewhat, and find another way of showing his confusion? Rhetorical questions work and are wonderful, of course, but less is more! :) And it would be interesting to see some unusual ways of showing confusion. Just an opinion though, other readers may feel very differently!

Anyway, this was such a perfect chapter. I couldn't find anything else to concrit because it's all amazing and I love the way the story is developing. Is this on my favourites list? I am sure it is, but I will add it again just to be sure :p

Onto the next chapter I go!
2/14/2016 c4 Victoria Best

Another strong chapter. I think it was good that we got away from Clay for a bit and back to Hildy. Nice break from it all and again built upon the mystery in the story. It's definitely brewing further, what with Gwen's aunt's revelations. I still stand by my guess that Stella is a ghost or other spectral being. I like where you have cut off the chapter also; it definitely made me want to continue reading.

"A frazzled girl." Wonderful word choice! Unusual and striking and fits the character perfectly. I can clearly picture her looking sort of dishevelled, unwell, just not quite with it. Frazzled. Loved it :)

I love the descriptions we get of Gwen in this chapter. It also contrasted with the way Clay has never introduced her - here you are showing how little Gwen means to Clay, that he has never noticed her appearance in the chapters centred around him. Clever writing. I like the description of her as, "Sharp-eyed, perfectly coifed, tanned and attired queen." You say a lot using only a few words. I got a clear image of this confident, social queen, used to being the centre of attention. At the same time, you contrast this with the way she looks now, "slightly jaundiced skin instead of crisply tan" and the fact that she is still in the same dress. Again, this is saying a lot with few words. We not only get an image of how she normally looks, we get an image of how she looks now, and what this implies - her feelings for Clay and how the events have affected her. So yeah, this was just excellent. You say a lot with few words. I really applaud you for that! :D And it was nice to see a more vulnerable side to this character, who has normally been so forward, confident and unfazed.

I really enjoyed the banter between Hildy and Gwen. They bounce off each other naturally and it adds some humour to the otherwise sombre tone of the story, which I think is definitely needed in a story like this, that has the potential to be quite heavy. My favourite lines were, "You should have let me go home and change," followed by, "then it would be like four p.m." Ha! Very relatable - reminded me of conversations I've had with my own friends.

"But I think there might be something else going on. Something seriously fucked up." I did feel this line was somewhat dramatic / over-kill. Felt like a voice-over line in one of those cheesy trailers for horror films. And would a boy be sounding so dramatic? Unless you are implying something by this, like Hildy being very in touch with his feelings, quite dramatic personality, etc., I would suggest changing this to something more 'guy.' Or at least have Gwen comment something joking like, "haha, that's a bit dramatic, Hildy, what are you on about?" rather than just immediately taking what he says and worrying about it. Just didn't feel natural to me. I don't think she would have 'believed' so quickly.

Also, I felt the scene at Miranda's was a little long. Quite a lot of dialogue in there and I found my attention drifting. Is all the dialogue in there a hundred per cent necessary? Could some of it be removed? Maybe the "what questions do you need to know?" sort of stuff, which felt like 'beating around the bush.' I would have liked it to get to the point faster. I know the 'faffing' is necessary to look convincing, but it could easily be paraphrased rather than shown to us.

Finally, do the characters know any other swearwords than "fuck?" :p I did a quick control plus f and it was in here 11 times! This is a lot for a chapter of this length. Mix it it up a bit :) Swearwords, like all features, lose their effect the more they are used, especially when it is the same word again and again.

Other than that, this was pretty solid. Onto the next chapter I go!

Keep writing!
2/8/2016 c3 Victoria Best

Loved that we got a section in Hildy's perspective. He is one of my favourite characters so far - I love his carefree, easygoing attitude. And wow, that ending. She was floating? That was pretty surprising :p I'm guessing that the story Hildy hears has something to do with this also, and I liked the ominous feel to the chapter, with the "she is a bad person," part, and the lines about Hildy worrying.

So, I'm going to take some guesses here, and say that it looks like that she is a ghost? A very 'real' ghost? Will be interesting to see if this is the case and how it is possible for other people to see her. Or if this is going to turn out really Inception-level of whacky and be like that Clay actually did drown and this is some weird hallucination thing :p I'm prepared for the wackiness! Bring it on!

"Just like all the other girls Hildy had gone to school with." Wow, wow, wow! I love this sudden twist. I almost got the feeling here that Hildy was a little jealous, which is really unexpected, considering that Clay definitely feels this same way about him, what with the line about him being his competition in the last chapter, and when he immediately assumes Stella likes him. Really interesting dynamic developing here, the two best friends actually both feeling some resentment towards each other. Love it!

Loved the line, "As if he were already familiar with the space," and the description of Clay. I thought that was a clever way to introduce a description of us, by setting it through Hildy's eyes. I liked the mention of his "silvery hazel" eyes - very unusual and striking image, and it contrasts nicely with Stella's goldeny eyes. It was also interesting that one of the first thing Hildy remembers about him was his smile. I definitely got the feeling that he admires him a lot, possibly even more than that? Too early to say. The contrast in the narrative style was also very well done - I definitely got the feeling that it was a different character 'speaking', especially because, judging by this section earlier, Hildy is a lot more in touch with his emotions, I think, than Clay. Also nice to see that he is just trying to look out him and seems genuinely concerned. He's a good friend, so I'm hoping Clay isn't going to mess things up too much.

"Gitane blonde." Maybe think of your own brand of cigarettes :)

"It was gross and unattractive. But things were fucked up and bad and lighting another cigarette..." Okay, I didn't like this sentence, and the reason why is probably going to make no sense, but I will try to explain it as best as I can. When I read this first part, it sounded as though Hildy was about to justify his actions. It sounded as though he was about to say, "But things were fucked up and bad and lighting another cigarette made them at least bearable." Something along those lines. So to see the sentence finish with "wasn't going to help," threw me a bit. Does that make sense? Maybe get rid of the "but" at the beginning of the sentence.

"Vintage steel ten-speed," yeah, I have no idea what you were talking about here :p I couldn't picture the bike at all. Maybe something more generic here, alongside the snazzy stuff, for readers like me with no bike expertise :p

Not much to say about this chapter. All felt solid. Keep writing! :)
2/8/2016 c2 Victoria Best

Loved that ending! You're doing a really wonderful job with the developing mystery here. It was quite surprising. It left me wondering what's really going on here and why she has this sudden interest in hm. I'm guessing she is there for a specific reason, maybe she wants something or needs to tell him something. Great cliffhanger! Certainly made me want to continue reading.

I'm getting very 'bad vibes' from her. It looks like she did leave him there to drown. Again, that's got me wondering why - first she kisses him, then leaves him to drown. Is this some sort of game she's playing? I have a feeling whatever she wants from Clay, it's not going to be something good, and I just hope that Clays stays wise, although by the way he seems almost bewitched by her, I highly doubt that he will! But then there would be no conflict, of course :p

"Snipped Gwen." The punctuation in front of this should be a comma, not a full stop. I do love the choice of the word "snipped" though. Immediately gave this sharp, pinching image, and I could clearly 'hear' her voice, especially when she's yelling at him.

"Are you gunning for her? Is that what's going on?" Love this section. Says so much about this spell thing he is under. He's so trapped that he even lashes out at his best friend, and immediately jumps to this conclusion. I have a feeling that he is going to end up losing his friends because of this.

I also liked the mention of his parents and where they were. I think there is a lot of brokenness in Clay's life, so I can understand the way he feeds from Stella's energy; she makes him feel whole.

"Her words were cracking." Aww, this was quite a sad section. I feel bad for Gwen :( Maybe you could make her more of an 'unlikeable' character, because I get that she is a little needy and used to getting her own way, but that doesn't justify his actions towards her. I found myself not liking Clay in this section for the way he treated her. Did you intend for the reader to feel this way about Clay at this point? If so, maybe you could build more on the cuter, nicer side we saw to him in the last chapter, so that readers know it's the 'spell' that is making him act this way and this is not how he is normally. Otherwise, slower readers might think this nastier side is his real personality, if that makes sense.

Is it "swaths" or is it "swathes?" Not sure if this is a UK versus US thing. I tried Googling it but I didn't find a conclusive answer.

"It was chilly." Meh. You could do better. Also not a fan of "eyes shimmering." I didn't really like the whole description at the end, actually. I just thought it was quite generic, just the eye thing and then "red hair swaying around her nearly bare shoulders." This is an intense, magical moment - her standing creepily in front of his house - and so is definitely a chance for a cool, original piece of description. "Red hair shivering like flames." That sort of thing, you know? If you decide to keep it the way it is, maybe find a way to cut down "nearly bare shoulders" - I thought this felt a little long to fit in with the sentence.

Hope that helps and keep writing!
2/8/2016 c1 Victoria Best

Wow, this is exactly my kind of story! :p I knew I would love it just from the summary, and it did not disappoint! I love the whole mystery with Stella, the way she went from this nobody who kept to herself, to this mysterious, desirable girl who makes every guy melt. Definitely something going on there, and I'm hoping, like you said in your PM, that there are supernatural forces at play here! I'm looking forward to reading on and seeing some answers!

Love the opening. "Maybe he was simply bored with his friends, or bored with Gwen." Immediately we get right into the story. No faffing around or lengthy introductions, just great writing! The party setting also gives us hints into Clay's personality - he is a clearly a social, friendly person, but tends to lose interest after a while (indicated by the fact he was actually looking forward to going back to school). This hints that he is more than just the average 'party guy', and so is a bit different to the usual guys his age. Also, in your first paragraph we are also introduced to the dynamic with Gwen. I found this interesting also, and a little sad, with the unrequited love thing. You've got a cool set up here and I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes!

Love some of the lines you use, and the fact that you aren't afraid to take risks and be innovative with language, like this line for example, "Stella was the lone unknown." Just rolls of the tongue. Simple but effective!

My favourite line was definitely, "the brilliance in her eyes was piercing." Really gorgeous description.

And the highlight of the piece for me has to be the ending. Such a powerful moment, all leading up to that kiss at the end. You do a great job with building suspense to create moments with impact.

Some comments:

"Luminous screen of phone." I don't like this line. It's quite cliche, in my opinion, to describe the phone screen as "luminous," and I also don't think it gives the right image - I always associate 'neon' with 'luminous' which doesn't work for a phone screen. Maybe a more original adjective here would be better :)

"A clear sign she was annoyed." I'm being picky here (because you're so good!) but I think this was a bit of a 'telling' line. Maybe something set through Clay's thoughts would be better here instead, like, "I can tell she's annoyed," or "that means she's annoyed," or, "that's a thing she does when she's annoyed." I think setting the sentence through his thoughts stops the sentence from looking 'telling', if that makes sense.

The other line I thought was a bit 'telling', was "Hildy was his best friend, but also his greatest competition." Maybe just let Clay's reaction, him jumping on the defence and demanding to know why, speak for itself. I already got the hint that this might have been the case.

"Garnier." I immediately thought of "Garnier," like the face creams and stuff, and I chuckled to myself. (I'm not weird or anything, I promise!) It did sort of take me out of the piece for a second. Does it need to be this name or would another name do?

Minor point, but I caught the word 'French' like six times, all close together! Gasp! French everywhere! Attack of the French!

"Then he got what he'd wished for." Just general thought, but I think this could be more dramatic - this sounds a little factual and quite sudden, considering this is such a massive moment in the chapter. There's not enough 'wow' in it. Maybe just a line of build-up towards it. Could be something like, "he looked up, distracted, and saw exactly what he had wished for." Just something like that to flesh it out a bit.

These are just personal preferences though, of course, so feel free to ignore! Have to say though, I really loved this, particularly the mystery brewing with Stella. And Clay's a pretty cool, likeable character. I am the same - I get bored with parties after a while - so I could relate to him a lot. Great first chapter. Onto the next chapter I go!
1/25/2016 c1 82Solemn Coyote
Well, I'd been wanting to read this anyway, so I'm glad you won this round and I now have an excuse. :)

First few paragraphs feel very mundane. A little bit F Scott Fitzgerald. There's no grabbing first line, which is a critique, but you evoke an interesting visual for the kind of story I think you're going to tell, which is not a critique.

Your dialog's good. Feels natural in the way that Until Dawn's dialog felt natural. Genre-natural I guess is a good way to describe it. Like it would be at home in a movie.

You tell vs. show. A lot. Some people will say this is a flaw, others will be too buried in the story to notice. I don't think it's either objectively bad or good, but it's worth experimenting a bit with trying to describe a scene without outright telling the reader facts about it (i.e. "her dress was the setting sun and silver glinted at her throat" rather than "her dress was red and she wore a silver locket") so that you can switch back and forth between the two styles with ease.

Midway into this chapter is when your description really gets going. The pacing follows right along with it. This is the kind of story that wants lavish visuals, and a little bit more embellishment at the beginning might help to pull readers in.

You introduce and characterize a lot of people very quickly and very clearly in just this one chapter. That's awesome. I wish I had that superpower. Did you sketch this out beforehand, or write as you go?

If I had to pick a word to describe this story, it would be atmospheric. If I had to pick another, it would be compelling. The storytelling itself has the same nuance as a seduction. There's a great undertone of unease running through it, and the central theme of attraction comes through clearly.

In other words, this is super cool and I'm glad I decided to read it.
1/19/2016 c1 2Murphy Chapelwood
I think you could rearrange the first paragraph to begin with the deck suspended over the cliff and end on him being "anxious to return" to college. I think it would give the paragraph more oomph. The first and last lines of any paragraph, but most importantly those beginning a chapter, need to be the most appealing or revelatory.

"On top of that..."

"...sparks had flown."

I am concerned about these stock phrases in the narration, more the second one than the first. The first could just be "additionally," but the second should probably be a re-imagining of that concept in your own words.

As of the first chapter, in the narration, there is a healthy dose of braggadocio about Clay. Mostly, it is the direct phrases that state outright stuff like: Gwen was in love with him and had been for years, him counting in his head all the girls in the party he could have, and the note about his him being an excellent swimmer. The last was summed up with the explanation of him spending his summers on the island beaches, and being on the swim team, so I felt that it was redundant. For the first two? It just comes across as boastful, and I'm not entirely sure if it is supposed to be fact or just his opinion.

The lesbian inference between Mrs. Garnier and Stella was interesting, though I suspect it has more to do with the supernatural elements of the story than the gossip suggests.

As for the rest, the writing is strong, with a superb balance between narration, description, and dialogue.

Also, the Waterhouse is a nice touch. I know that's his Mermaid, but, if I remember correctly, he used the same model for his Siren and Lamia paintings as well.
12/1/2015 c15 4InkWellWisher
I’ve finally got around to writing up a review! Sorry it’s taken so long.

Good idea, good story, I love the classic gothic archetypes set up here (remote mansion/manor on an exclusive island, an imported castle keep, with a young, mysterious woman who is surrounded by speculation and rumor). The Wydeville’s are depicted as outsiders, a fringe on the privileged society of Loreley Island. There’s also the overt twinge of the supernatural, the developing obsession to uncover the mystery. A lot of this reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock’s film adaptation of Rebecca—I highly recommend it, if you haven’t seen it. Your subversion of the typical gothic archetype by placing Clay within the heroine’s position as the unknowing woman searching for surrounding the mystery haunting their lover’s hidden past is a great idea.

Much of the setting reminds me of 1960’s and 70’s thriller novels, but with a much more contemporary writing style. Love The Tempest references, and the chapter 15 title referencing the poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci, which ties in perfectly with the reoccurring themes of the story. I also really enjoy all the historical details you’ve embedded into the narrative; it adds a great sense of authenticity to the setting and situates the reader in a very specific frame of reference. Your research has obviously served you very well.

Much of the plot is driven by action and dialogue, layered with character exposition. Simple sensory descriptions leave majority of setting and character description to imagination. Conflict begins to build immediately. Descriptions are saved for emphasis on details specific to the concerns of the building mystery and conflict (such as the colors of Stella’s eyes or the lily scented black ribbon).

The conflict begins immediately: characters have just emerged, and the implied intensity of the conflict (how much the character feels about a another character, or a relationship) seems a little lopsided. The reader might ask themselves why Clay seems to have become so obsessed with Stella, and why suddenly everyone else is too. But then again, that unexpected catalytic reaction between Clay and Stella works in respect to the developments of Chapter 15. I’m divided. I’d perhaps like to see a more gradual build up to the mystery, perhaps an earlier chapter of character development and setting before Clay leaps into the great, unknown tempest of a mysterious and powerful infatuation.

Despite the sparing use of physical details, however, there seems to be a lot of over-explaining of relationships between people, things, places, instead of it being implied through other literary devices or letting it unfold naturally. The conversation between Hildy and his mother in Chapter 8 is an example of giving information in a way that does not feel natural. It’s mostly the right kind of information to move the plot along and solidify suspicions, but it’s just a matter editing dialogue. On the subject of the writing, I’ll also say that there is some repetition and redundancy. Passages such as this:
“He poured the brown liquid into a tall glass over ice. He didn’t add cream or sugar. Good coffee tasted best pure and unadulterated.”
The first two sentences are already imply the third—the actions of the character speak for his opinions without them needing to be written out, nor do they contribute to the essential function of the chapter. It was already stated in the beginning of the chapter how superior Hildy considered Alvaro’s iced coffee. I can get why having the coffee there is important to get Hildy and his mother Eula to have an important conversation—it just doesn’t need so much attention given to it unless it is functioning like a metaphor or a symbol.

It seems that I’ve given a lot of criticisms here, but it mostly boils down to the voices/narration of the characters—they just need to be defined and trimmed. The dialogue needs to reflect the characters: what is said, and how it is being delivered. This is a very well researched story, with a well-organized plot—you’ve done so much of the hard work that goes into the mechanics world-building and plot that all you need to do is work on character voice/dialogue and how new information is being introduced to the reader. I hope you continue to keep working on this project!
8/30/2015 c15 9faerie-gumdrops
Crap, really sorry this took so long! I kind of took a break from fictionpress for a bit (eternal doubt/confidence issues with writing and stuff), but I’m trying to get back on track now, and I’m totally looking forward to coming back to the world of Loreley island :D. I love how even though I’ve been away, it’s so easy to come back to this and still understand what’s going on, despite all the mysterious stuff you’ve got going on. You’ve got such a great talent for beautiful imagery and clear storytelling – I love how you manage to combine the two to such effect.

AND WOW THAT WAS SOME SEX SCENE. So many gorgeous lines and pictures going on. I love how strange and intense you made it, and how you touched on loads of supernatural-y backstory. The silver letters stuff was so interesting – sort of like a magical sex wedding (although um far more beautiful and amazingly written!). Really tender too somehow – like the caressing of Stella’s stomach and stuff. I wonder whether the names thing will be important – like I know that names can be important in certain mythologies and stuff, like there’s loads of power behind them. I do sort of hope things all work out well for these guys – I totally love Stella :D

Awesome contrast between parts. Most amazing sex scene ever, then...gravel. Sexy sexy gravel. Dude that gate. So creepy. Wonderful job with setting the scene though, such a perfect level of detail to get creepy intimidating building just right :D.

Great parallel between Stella/Clay and Gwen/Anthony, the whole sparks and floating and stuff. Just what is going on, and is Anthony up to something? As usual, I am itching to find out ALL THE THINGS. This story is so full of brilliant hooks to keep readers trapped forever and every (muhahaha). Even people like me who are thoroughly lame with fictionpress.

Much love!
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