Sun 16 December 2018
(my comments on “A magical love affair” by charmed9292)
I have to admit reading of this story was an exercise in frustration for me. I think the general idea of Petunia and Severus crying over one another’s shoulder is a great. Both of them are nicely complicated and somehow tragical persons, so they provide great opportunity for writing a good story. Also, the beginning of the story (Petunia waking in a bad mistaking Severus for her teddy bear) is great and actually pretty neatly written. However, the moment they open their mouths, the execution falls down completely, which is sad given this is mostly a dialogue story. I see couple of reasons for this:
Language. There is just no way how two teenagers under the influence whiskey both in the middle of mental breakdown talk to each other in the long multi-clause compound sentences using words like “albeit”. Get yourself a long swig of whiskey and before writing each sentence down, pronounce it loud. I think the only sentences you are allowed to use are something like “You broke her heart, you bastard!” and even that is too complicated. Runaway sentences, sentence fragments … those are structures you should prefer, not long complex statements you have.
I know that English is probably not your native language, neither it is mine (hello from Prague!), but English really doesn’t work well with complex complicated compound constructs. Make it more simple, make it more simple, make it more simple. KISS principle (keep it simple stupid!). Full stop is your best friend in the world!
Language issues relate to
Too fast reconciliation. I just don’t believe that they would overcome their issues so fast and easily.I and the public knowWhat all schoolchildren learn,Those to whom evil is doneDo evil in return.
-- W. H. Auden, 1. September 1939
Exactly because how broken and wounded they are, they are more likely to hurt each other, to spew their prejudices over each other, they will fight, and only after long struggle they may forgive each other. And only through their eventual mutual forgiveness they may find some path toward each other. You fell in the trap of every other author: you want to have them together so fast, you make it too easy for them. And I, as reader, punish you by not believing you. I just cannot accept they would pour out their hearts to each other so easily. They are generally horribly wounded and in result rather awful and pathetic persons. Only through forgiveness and asking for it, they can find a way towards each other. At least for at least half of what you have written so far they should misunderstand each other, distrust each other, and they should be rather nasty to each other. Only in the last two chapters (when they fight about their attitude towards Lilly) they begin to be at least slightly believable (ignoring horribly convoluted language, see 1.) Which relates to
Show, don’t tell. Again, I don’t believe that so broken and damaged teenagers would be capable of so deep introspection and self-reflection. I don’t want them talk about how much distrustful they are to each other, I want them to show it. They are on the edge, or beyond the edge, of loosing their control, they have no hope for their lives (perhaps they are even a bit suicidal?), they cannot talk like Sigmund Freud next to his analytical couch. Don’t bother me with their psychological self-analysis, show me what state of mind they are in.
I am sorry for harsh words, but reading of this story made me really frustrated. There is so much opportunity, such great idea, parts of the story are brilliant, and yet in the end the result is falling far far short of what can be achieved. What Michael Crichton wrote:
Books aren’t written - they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.