Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the FIRST REVIEWS of 2011!!!!
It's not actually true (here's the last lot
from late March), but I knew you'd believe it, so I wrote it.
There's currently 19 stories to review, which basically means Staff is not going to get through them all in one king hit, but as you've all been incredibly patient, Staff will post as many as he's gotten to. It's a bit of a shame that BUYG staff have flagged like this. Ten people have been writing and no one's been reviewing. (Yes, Staff knows that includes him, but he's been trying and trying to get back and my work just keeps getting worse and worse.) @Craig
, if you're up to it, please feel free to return to both ratings and writings. You were a writer of absorbing skill in BUYG IV and I'm sure everyone would love to read your stuff again, albeit under a new pseudonym. @Mascaron
, just keep writing. Staff will eventually get to all the stories. We hope. @all
: Staff has traditionally written reviews for everyone's benefit, but he's not sure everyone reads reviews for players other than themselves, so that kinda becomes a waste. Well, except for the player themselves. Well... Staff assumes players read the reviews Staff writes more than just the score.
So, Staff is thinking he should instead have an introduction highlighting the things he is looking for in player's stories, rather than appear to be offering advice to or, worse, criticising that player. Would anybody read it? Let's find out. Grammar is not your father's mother.
Staff has, perhaps, a reputation for banging-on about grammar as though lives were at stake or the very fabric of the space-time continuum was under threat from Daleks. However, this is for a very simple set of reasons: grammar is easy, because it's just a set of rules; grammar makes it easier to read player's stories; grammar, therefore, makes-up about 25% of player's ratings; but it doesn't have to be perfect to get top-marks in that 25%.
(Refer also: this two year-old post on grammatical rules
Some basics: you should keep each line of dialogue in paragraphs of their own, and paragraph should have a blank line between them. Yes, it will make the story take up more space on the page. Don't worry about that. It does not take that many more bytes to download, and page-space on GTAF isn't rented by BUYG IV by the hour. But it DOES make it soooooo much easier to read, so much easier to follow what is going on if each line of dialogue is a new paragraph. Don't know what Staff means? Try this: "Martin , I need you to collect a video . "
"I'm not sure about this man , " Martin asked suspiciously . "What sort of video?"
Gavin chortled . "The kind with weed inside, maaan . "
Each person's turn to talk was a new paragraph, a blank line was between them. Each quote ended with a full-stop unless there was a "he said" after the dialogue, in which case a comma. Every sentence begins with a capital letter. Commas and full-stops go inside
the quotes, not after them.
You really would be surprised how much easier it makes reading your stories, and the easier it is to read players' stories, the better Staff feels about that story and, ultimately, the better your rating. He said, she said, they said, we said.
Now, don't feel obligated to have a "he said" in every line of dialogue. You'll note that Staff hasn't always in the example above. Furthermore, you can get away without mentioning their names at all except in dialogue, which is a really effective way of writing the mighty kubelgog
used in one of his stories that impressed Staff. It ought, however, to be done relatively early on, because you don't want to force your reader to have to re-read an entire chapter because only at the end do we learn it was Bill and Ted talking, not Gavin and Martin. UNLESS that's your intention. Dropping in at the end can make a piece of dialogue interesting to re-read when one of the characters admits to being the killer or the cross-dresser or some other salient point toward the end of the conversation that makes the reader go "ooooh, I didn't realise that. So does that mean when he said... ooooh
Do you get Staff's point? Making readers think is highly prized in writing. Messing with their heads is something of a Holy Grail, though since the price of stuffing it up is very high, you might want to hone your skills in getting readers thinking first. Which brings us to an important point. Hey! Hey! A.D.D.-boy! Focus!
Players ought to be constantly mindful of why they're writing. Yes, alright, to get a good score so you can buy the big guns and then get an even bigger score and so on. But, on the way to bigger guns is your readers. And even if you don't feel you're attracting Daily Mail-sized readership, remember that in order to rate your story, Staff first has to read
your story. So you have at least one reader.
So, with this in mind, remember that every word you type MUST -- one way or the other -- add to your story. There should be NO wasted words, no wasted thoughts, no wasted paragraphs. It should all somehow add to the story by telling your readers about the characters, about the situation the characters find themselves in, or about the main or minor threads of your storyline. Of course mentioning that your protagonist finds Russians to all be criminals is a fine statement, because it tells us your character is either a racist, has bad experiences of Russians , or both. This might be useful to know about your character when Micky introduces his business partner, Ivan.
And it is fine to tell me about the bums on the sidewalk warming themselves by the open flame from the recently exploded gas mains your character's recently exploded when fighting the Jamaican gangs. This adds character to your environment, a small piece of humour, and may provide a brief opportunity for your character to recoil, should be be "hobo-ist".
BUT... and this "but" is big and furry: DO NOT GET CARRIED AWAY! Make these asides brief, or your readers will get bored reading about the stock prices in Japan and wondering what the fridgemagnet this has anything to do with Jamaican gangs encroaching on Ivan's territory. No, no, no: I infer, YOU imply.
Players also ought to be constantly mindful of why
they're writing. You're writing to entertain your readers. You're writing to make them read your waffle and say "Why, that's quite good." And the path to this enlightenment is getting your readers engaged. Engaged readers care about your story, they care about what you've written. They actually, for reasons the rest of us might find quite mad, WANT to read more about your characters.
Engaging a reader is achieved, in part, by implying facts, rather than out-n-out telling them. Staff doesn't want people to over-read that, but as a general rule it is better to say that "Lil' Frankie was shaking so hard a great stream of p!ss appear beneath him" than to tell me outright "Lil' Frankie was sh!t-scared." Get expressive. Don't have your protagonist say it would be bad to drop the torch into the water, tell your readers the water was murky. Make them infer that dropping it would be bad, don't instruct them to realise that.
The only real exception to this idea is when the think you need them to realise is critical to the story moving forward. But, it is still better to get them to figure out what is important than to tell them. Some things your readers will read as obvious. Sometimes you need to make it obvious, but don't just SAY it, imply it Lastly, firstly.
Opening lines; Staff cannot be more effusive about good opening lines. They're very important because they grab your reader's attention. Have a look at Rush's opener. A *good* opening line. Drops the reader in at the deep-end. (Who's nervous? Why are they nervous? Where are they sitting that they should be nervous?) It demands answers in your readers' minds and this is a very good way to start a story, becasue now the reader must keep reading to find out those answers!
Alright, enough from Staff or this post is going to exceed length limits. (It's already >8kB long!)
______________________________________ Apologies for the gargantuan length of what follows...
Apologies not every story has yet been reviewed. There's a lot, and Staff thought posting what he had was better than making these the " first reviews of 2012!! "
Apologies not everyone who wrote a story has had one reviewed.
Apologies if anyone's feeling miffed by a review. Staff was actually pretty impressed with the quality of these stories, and is actually looking forward to reading more.
And apologies future reviews are unlikely to be this long. Or maybe that's a good thing.
______________________________________ AceRay The Albanian Mob | ??? | Chapter 2: Ghosting Gez $40 + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending
Overall, you should be fairly happy with this effort. There is certainly room for improvement, but you've managed to make an interesting story that, despite its GARGANTUAN length, Staff actually found easier after the first third to follow through to the interesting end.
That said, there were some issues. Obviously, this being an
Staff-review, there simply HAS
to be some attention paid to grammatical errors
. :-D That said, Staff admits to being a little loathe to get back into critiquing people's grammar -- least of all you, AceRay, who's put in more effort than anyone into writing -- but old habits will not die. :-p
No, seriously, Staff wants players to attention to grammar because it does represent a quarter or so of your score and it's pretty easy to get right, really. It's just rules. Getting the rest of your writing is harder to teach. (Huh. Maybe that's why Staff likes to pick on grammar, aye?) "Otto, I'm making popcorn, can you go off and check on it" He says as they scroll
should be: "Otto, I'm making popcorn ; can you go off and check on it , " h e says , as they scroll
line of dialogue for each individual person should be its own paragraph, and paragraphs should have a line between them. So: "I don't know man; there is nothing I really want to buy." I say.
"Well, I want to buy a van, man! It could be awesome to ride...
...should be: "I don't know, man, there is nothing I really want to buy," I say.
"Well, I want to buy a van, man! It could be awesome to ride...
Lines-between-paragraphs just makes your text easier to read. I'm sure you tried to compact it all because the story was taking up too much real estate on the forum page, but don't: someone's gotta try and read little tiny characters all bunched up together. And Staff knows you reserved adding extra lines for between the sections of your story, but don't bother -- people will figure out what is a new section and what isn't from the narrative. And if you're still worried about making a section break, and you can't split the story up (obviously not if you end-up with two 500-word stories), then insert an actual, physical line or a bullet or something like it into the story to make it clearer. You'll find Aragond has done this, as have others. It's not a bad habit, though you ought to try to make the narrative tell this story rather than relying on lines or bullets. Just better.
Finally, the phrase bight to eat
should, of course, be bite to eat
. And " Wait until they are out of site
" should be " sight
". While " Isaac runs swiftly threw the traffic
" should be " through
Now, grammar aside, Staff knows this will be shocking (moreso given it's Aragond reviewing), but at 4,147 words, this story is too
long and might have benefitted from some trimming or splitting in two. Don't be afraid to make a story out of the first 2,000 words that only establishes the characters a little more, in which nothing of action happens. That can still be interesting, if done right.
The thing is, it took 1,500 words before the story really began, when we meet Isaac. Establishing the background, the introduction isn't a bad idea, but if the meat of your story, is going to be 2,647 words, you might want to ditch or severely tighten anything extraneous that doesn't explicitly add to that story. Because Staff thinks the latter 2,600 words were good reading, but worries other readers won't be so diligent to wade through the first 1,500 to get to the good stuff.
Not that the first 1,500 words were bad. It's just they didn't seem to add anything, didn't seem to have a point to them. The bit about the Xbox wasn't bad, but Staff was left wondering whether you weren't just describing your last Sunday afternoon rather than telling a story. In the same way, once Otto leaves the house the story appears to be inspired by actual GTA IV gameplay, which is not a bad thing. (Staff happens to know this is exactly where much of the inspiration for events in Aragond's stories comes from, and I'm sure it applies to most writers in BUYG - afterall, BUYG is a GTA IV-themed story-writing game.)
However, you should have a point behind it, it should somehow add to the story, to understanding the characters, or to explain the plot. Be judicious with what you write, be purposeful. Always be mindful that you're writing to entertain your readers, and writing to tell them something important about the story, your characters or the setting.
Where this seems to break down is the interruption in Otto's mission by an altercation in the middle of the street which compactly takes place within a single paragraph (albeit one Staff was panting at the end of), from putting on a coat to pelting down Mohawk Avenue to flee a cop. Same thing applies to the immediately following interaction with the bum. And then the hot-dog vendor, and the street names, and the bums in the alley. What is the point of these? You seem to pick them up as interesting asides, but then toss them away equally quickly (" but there was no time for that
"). If there was a point, if you were seeking to tell your readers something with these distractions, then do that. But not so haphazardly. Be deliberate and spend some time on these asides. But then, of course, split the story in two. Because, boy!, making this leviathan any longer would cause fuses in Staff's head to blow!
Anyway, once we meet Isaac, the real story begins. (I suspect Isaac had " green , beady eyes
", rather than " greed, beady eyes
", perhaps?) The drive was long, but you managed to keep Staff's attention with some interesting dialogue. Good work! Time passing is most easily conveyed to the reader by dialogue, by a conversation, and you managed to have enough of it, drip-feeding your readers little facts, to keep the story well-paced. This Staff liked. Also much appreciated was the whole subterfuge at the airport -- interesting and well done. (Though you should stick to calling the car's boot a "trunk". They're American characters, I guess.)
I don't think " Isaac then makes an evil look at an imaginary camera
" and the whole actor business really worked. We're at the exciting pointy-end of the whole story and you're getting distracted. Keep the pace going when you get toward the end, don't let your readers start re-imagining the whole story with Isaac as a Frenchman.
Furthermore, never tell your readers how to feel, let the situation or sometimes the characters' dialogue do that for them. So, instead of " I decide to get up, holding the torch firmly, not wanting to drop the torch into the water, which would be catastrophic.
", maybe try this: " I decide to get up, holding the torch firmly so as not to drop and lose it in the murky water.
" This lets the reader decide that dropping the torch in the water would be a bad thing, which readers prefer.
Finally, don't end your stories with " Who knows what the future could hold?
" It's too conversational, too much like an episode from 1960s Batman, and not at all reflective of the grim situation. All you needed to do was lose that sentence alone, because crashing " down on the mattress
" into a deep sleep, " filled with
feelings of mystery confusion and fear.
" actually sounds very cool.
Overall, though Staff has a lot to say about your story (1,460 words worth!!), he did like it. To keep Staff's attention for over 4,000 words is an astounding
achievement in itself!
But, please do consider ways of shortening any future effort. Now, since you have a substantial backlog of stories, Staff will not re-state any issues over and over, but mention them only the first time he sees them, which should help shorten these reviews! the mighty kubelgog Petrovic Bratva | The Cabaret Club | Part 1, Chapter 1 $39 + $0 = $39 Player card pending
Straight into it! POW! And Staff likes that.
However, Staff's not entirely convinced of the premise. A gang war doesn't start by negotiation, does it? They don't all sit down and say "we're going to war and some o' youse is gonna be dead by Christmas", do they? It just doesn't ring true. That said, Staff is not deducting dollars for it.
Still, Staff liked the story-telling. Everything was tight and to the point. Punchy. You do need to patch-up the grammar, though. Commas at the end of quotes ("Pluck you , " he said.
), and the "he said" should be in lowercase unless "he" is someone's name. Stick to the rules around "your" and "you're" (not " youre
"). And " Before I knew it , we were there.
" should probably be the beginning of a paragraph since it's a new topic, but generally you got the paragraph breaks right.
Overall, at a thousand words, it's a right length, fast-paced, ends on an explosive high, keeps Staff interested, and despite some minor grammatical issues and a plot device Staff wasn't entirely convinced of, this caught Staff's interest to be looking forward to more. That's what counts. the mighty kubelgog Petrovic Bratva | The Cabaret Club | Part 1, Chapter 2 $37 + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending
I'm willing to bet the murder statistics are the body count from your latest game in IV, amiright?
To put them in historical perspective, according to this
, a murder rate of 1,153 people a year would make it the highest only since 1996, and positively enviable compared to the 70s, 80s and 90s. (Alright, fine, that's for NY state entirely. But, according to the NYPD site, in 1990, NYC saw 2262 people killed, so NYC does represent most of the state's murders.)
Just thought I'd toss that in.
Alright, to business. Read Staff's notes above on grammar. Please do keep dialogue in paragraphs of its own, each paragraph with a blank line in between. Do have capitals begin every sentence, even dialogue, and full-stops at the end of dialogue (inside the quotes), unless you're adding the "he said" at the end, in which case a comma. There's also sentences without full-stops, and the quotes seem to appear before the space at the beginning of a sentence, which is just odd.
Despite this, on the grammatical positives, when dialogue is one person speaking, as Kenny was, not adding "he said" every time, as you did not, is a good thing. It's often better to convey facts in your story by inferring it, to tell us without actually
telling us, not telling your readers outright. And that includes the who's talking. Now, I had to deduce it was Kenny and not Alexei talking from the fact that he refers to Alexei as the second driver. Now, that is very good style
, and Staff is impressed. Although, it's not-so-good to have that inferred fact mentioned at the end of Kenny's paragraph. Maybe adding a line earlier to tell us this would have meant I didn't have to re-read the paragraph this time firmly realising it was Kenny speaking. Maybe just like this: "Close the door and take a seat . " I t wasn’t really the warmest welcome I had been expecting. " You know Alexei, right? Okay, Lev , we are short on muscle, you know this."
D'yaknow what Staff means?
This whole inferring
business, you should have tried instead of lines like This last man intrigued me.
Don't tell me that the protagonist are intrigued by Brother
, make ME
intrigued myself. You want your readers to feel those emotions because that's what makes a truly GREAT story: emotional connection. So, maybe, instead just describe Brother
's cool and calm manner of speaking, or go straight into what he wore.
Same goes for: I was behind a gas tank. Obviously not the greatest place to stay when bullets are being fired
I know bullets are bad for gas tanks. You don't have to tell me when it's "obvious". So, instead, tell me how you're reacting to realising you're in a bad place to be caught, and how the hell you're going to get out from behind it. So, maybe
something like this: As the bullets began flying, I realised I was caught behind a gas tank, so I made a dash to the car where the rest of the guys I picked up where hiding behind.
Eh, even Staff isn't convinced, but it's in the right direction.
Also bear in mind that unless it is important to the story that your protagonist is stuck behind a gas tank, unless it adds to the drama, you don't have
to include little facts like that. Rule of thumb: unless it adds to the story, lose it.
Overall, though, this is a pretty good effort. Sanjeem Gambetti Family | ??? | This Goombah, he's a Putz: Part 1 $32 + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending
Firstly, if you're not trying to be artsy or "different" as some novelists are want to do, don't centre your text. The English-reading eye is attuned to scanning a page left-to-right-then-down-a-line, so it becomes hard to find the next line and therefore takes much longer and is more tiring on the eyes to read when the beginning of the next line isn't on the far left.
However, that said, one-line-per-paragraph wins you back the browny-points, as does the 919 words. Good work. But, DO read Staff's essay on grammar: you're missing a lot
of commas and full-stops.
Instead of " ...quickly strolled over to his car. It was a silver Sentinel.
" you could have shortened it to: " quickly strolled over to his silver Sentinel.
" Just shorter and punchier.
Finally, the sentence " It was very early in the morning, so early you'd think it was still nightime and not tomor r ow.
" doesn't really work. If that's something that one of your characters is thinking, then express it as a thought bubble, but unless you're writing in first- or third-person narration (that is, the narrator is a character either in the story or someone else completely), your narrator should be seen and not vere heard. EVER. So, there is no "you", and all observations should be strictly third-person and informal, written professionally
not in the way someone casually thinks. Do you understand Staff's meaning?
Your story is a set-up, an introduction and overall it was fairly well-done. The characters, the plot, the environments were all very clear and involving. (Staff had the distillery clearly pictured in mind.) But, you're letting your story down with what seems to be a lack of reviewing: a lot of spelling and grammatical errors. (Staff's rating is sympathetic, though, since, if memory serves, you are not a native-English typer.) Mascaron Petrovic Bratva | The Cabaret Club (Perestroika) | Chapter 1: I Shot You Down $44 + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending
Staff was *very
* impressed with this impressive first-time effort. That you have not posted since a few days after this story worries Staff that his adoption of you as acolyte with have failed to take and Staff will never again read your wares.
While there was 1,582 words and good grammar (though please do consider adding line-breaks after dialogue paragraphs), it was the nice writing style completed by some "implying" gold and pearl-encrusted phrases that made this an consummate joy to read.
" The wrong words jutted up so often, jagged and ugly, slicing through conversations. ????? instead of blood, food instead of ????.
" VERY good expression, especially " jagged and ugly, slicing through conversations.
" BRAVO! Coming across gems like these expressions in stories makes reading them so much more pleasant. As does the line beginning " Would all those paper targets...
" It's evocative. Dare Staff say, it's an example of the very engagement
the introductory 1,400 words prattles on about. In one, short, expressive sentence, the reader immediately realises Kostya is a greenhorn who got gun-trained in back alleys but has never really fired a gun in anger. The reader's mind then floods with thoughts around Kostya's readiness to be in this situation.
Furthermore, the reader is left to infer these things, as you haven't spelled them out, but implied them with the phrase " count for anything in a narrow alley, up close and personal?
" Engagement. Good stuff! As is the line " the cleaners were hard at work scrubbing away the bloody smear
". Again, you do not state that Lev's broken body was dumped at the hospital, you hide that statement amid clever phrases. And that you seemlessly segue into the GTA-IV storyline and emerge at the end in the post-Niko Bratva was a brilliant set-up for subsequent stories!
However... if there must be one... this story is also a textbook case of how this same implying can miss the mark and leave readers wondering "Now, hang-on, who said that again?" The back-n-forth outside Lev's hospital bed is one case. It is very, very
good to have skillfully avoided that-old-"he said"-chestnut, but Staff was left wondering for a while whom it would give "more pleasure" to kill Vlad, because it came after what Staff assumes
was Kostya saying "Let's not", buuuut... Likewise, it wasn't until a re-read that Staff understood that Vlad had beaten-up Lev over what one assumes (but still doesn't really know) was an attempted robbery of a dealer on Mr Faustin's turf.
Yes, it's more than possible Staff is thick, or his brain mooshified after hours of reading stories. But, it might pay to carefully re-read and make sure all the salient points are clearly expressed. It's not a big complaint -- Staff managed to catch-up -- but there is a clear line between genius and madness, and this story tips over the crest a pinch too far. Regardless, a pleasure to read. batmankidal The Lost MC | The Lost MC clubhouse | ??? $28 + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending
A'right, a nice short one. At 693 words, it's probably a few words longer than "too short". It is a very brief story, grammar is missing commas -- though, on the plus-side, it is
properly formatted with lines between paragraphs -- and lacks a fair amount of background, the characters could have been better developed or described. Still, it seems you're not a native English-typer, and the story did get punch it's way succinctly to a conclusion. jacktheripper554 Pegorino Family | Pegorino Mansion | ??? $-- Not-sure-if-serious.jpg + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending
Alright, firstly, no. Just "no". Stories cannot
be that short. It reads very much like an episode from Algonquin Assassins. Secondly, "I did this. I did that." isn't a gripping style of writing. And thirdly, I get the impression you weren't actually serious about joining. Rush Pegorino Family | Drusilla's | Chapter 1 $36 rating pending + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending
From the first sentence, Staff's interest was piqued. A *good* opening line. Drop the reader in at the deep-end. (Who's nervous? Why are they nervous? Where are they sitting that they should be nervous?) It demands answers in your readers' minds and this is a very good way to start a story: 'cuz they're going to keep reading to find out those answers!
Story was brief, but at 715 words (lower limit), and actually being a pretty good "nothing happens" story, Staff won't complain. You express yourself well, but please do break-up your paragraphs at least by the lines of dialogue. Watch your commas (a few missing, such as " Nice to meet'chu , Tommy,
"), but generally grammar was pretty good. This is a good story, expertly introduced and ably concluded with the aftertaste of "Yeah, I'll have some more o' dat." (Sorry, your references to chugging tequila set Staff off.) The following are awaiting rating: AceRay The Albanian Mob | ??? | Chapter 3: My enemy’s enemy $-- rating pending + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending AceRay Pavano Family | Marco's beer and tobacco | Chapter 1: Family reduction $-- rating pending + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending AceRay Pavano Family | Marco's beer and tobacco | Chapter 2: Revelation $-- rating pending + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending AceRay Pavano Family | Marco's beer and tobacco | Chapter 3: Things heat up $-- rating pending + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending AceRay The Law | ??? | Chapter 1: The handyman $-- rating pending + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending AceRay Pavano Family | Marco's beer and tobacco | Chapter 4: Chip off the old block $-- rating pending + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending AceRay Pavano Family | Marco's beer and tobacco | Chapter 5: Dirt nap $-- rating pending + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending vinnygorgeous The Law | ??? | Chapter 1: Alphabetized $-- rating pending + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending Albokid555 Albanian Mob | Deli Grocery Tobacco Shop | Chapter 1 $-- rating pending + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending Don Giovanni Triads | ??? | Chapter 1: In The Beginning $-- rating pending + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending Don Giovanni The Law | ??? | Chapter 1 $-- rating pending + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending AceRay North Holland Hustlers | Playboy X's Loft | Chapter 1: Welcome to Liberty City $-- rating pending + $-,--- = $-,--- Player card pending Ratings courtesy of Aragond More to come!