100,000th Review on YouWriteOn
Many, many thanks for all the reviews. Below is the 100,000th one, which looks to be a very constructive one. The reviewer receives the spur of the moment seasonal award of a reading credit (be still their beating heart) and we will distribute their book for free in 2010 when the new publishing system funded by the Arts Council is introduced should they wish. The same applies for the writer of the story reviewed.
Seasonal greetings to one and all.
The 100,000th Review
I'll start first with all the positive aspects about the story. The stories biggest achievement is the authenticity of the first person narratorial voice. I feel you've done an excellent job in providing the reader with a strong sense of the western outlaw, who is moved from place to place by his own ambivalence and chance events. You've written in dialect without going overboard or decending into overuse of the same mannerisms, which is the sign of an assured and confident writer.
In terms of description you have included lots of nice touches, slotting in details that never threaten to clunk with the reader or make the reader aware of the text. The settings are very strong because of these details and although Jeremiah moves from place to place, staying in some areas for only a paragraph or two, the setting never feel lifeless or hackneyed.
Obviously the only thing of any use to you is what I thought could be improved. I made a list as I read the piece:
A few small things to start with. The first one being just one word. I didn't like the word vista in the first paragraph, it seemed a little overwritten and didn't fit Jeremiah's subsequent voice. Also I wouldn't use the mantle/fire phrase to describe his sexual encounter, it's a little cliched and I'd find another way around it. There are a number of places where you use two adjectives in front of a noun which didn't work for me. I know that you're constructing a distinctive voice but it felt a little adjective heavy in places.
I appreciate that the beginning sets up the ending which I thought was clever and well worked, however I felt that the opening third of the story seemed to have too much exposition that wasn't relevant or doesn't seem relevant. It doesn't seem relevant because your recounting backstory as narrative summary which eliminates any tension from the opening. I know that the story takes on the form of a final prayer but it needed more instant scenes rather than backstory. I know that these type of scenes would very hard to weave in, as you're trying to hold everything back for the surprise ending but without them the story is very heavy on narrative summary. One way around is maybe to let the reader know that the protagonist is dying at the outset. I know this removes the surprise, but in sacrificing that I feel you gain something much more important - that being constant tension throughout. If the reader knows the man is dying they are well aware that what he recounts will be directly relevant to his very impending doom. This makes the reader care a lot more from the outset and I feel it would be a worthy trade.
Overall the story is very well written. You're clearly a very capable and accomplished writer and I congratulate you on a very strong story. I would just have a re-think on the structure to ensure that the reader cares about Jeremiah's plight from the outset.
I hope that was of some assistance, though if you need anything clarifying don't hesitate to get in touch.