|Review of yueni's "You Know I Never Play Nice."
||[Nov. 23rd, 2004|01:41 am]
The Critically Constructive Feedback Project
|||||La Station Mir - Bénabar||]|
Title: You know I never play nice
Warnings: BDSM slash
Before I start, I think it would be honest to admit that I reviewed this fic, going into it knowing that 1) I don’t like PWPs, and 2) neither Viggo nor Bernard really do it for me. But I like a challenge and find it more interesting to concentrate on something I am not as biased about initially as I would if I were reading Dom and Billy. J
I have to say I got quite into it, so that’s the first good thing about it. The opening paragraph is fantastic. The images, the flow of the words... it’s a perfect opening paragraph as it immediately grabs the reader and throws him right into the head of Theoden. I don’t quite know how to explain this but you know how sometimes you will string a great sentence, bring up a fantastic image and succeed in rendering it for the readers to see as well? That’s what this first paragraph does for me.
Once I realized where you were going with this, I was quite taken by the idea. I love the idea of getting into the character’s head only to drift back into the actor’s head later to show how the actor gets into the mood, gets into his character’s mind frame. That is indeed a great idea. The actual realization of it, though, can be very tricky.
I think here, the first thing that made me pause and reread to make sure I understood was the fact that at no point do you give names. Yes, it’s easy to assume at the beginning that it’s Theoden whose pov we’re being shown, but you don’t say so, you don’t name him, and neither do you name Bernard. As a result, when you get to the subtle shift from Theoden to Bernard, it jars a bit.
Nobody ever entered a room with such presence. Nobody else could ever command attention simply by existing. He admires it, and also despises it.
The problem here is that taking into account the preceding paragraphs, and looking at what happens next, we don’t know who is talking. Who admires? Who despises? Is it Theoden who admires Aragorn and despises him as well? Is it Bernard? is it Theoden who admires Aragorn and Bernard who despises Viggo?
The line between ambiguous and confusing is very fine, and maybe a better hint as to who we are dealing with at this point could help the readers stay in the story and not stop to wonder whose thoughts they’re reading.
The lack of names is actually one the recurring problems I encountered with the fic. As I said, I love love love the idea of switching between Theoden and Bernard like this, and it really works well except for the fact that too many “he” tend to confuse the reader, especially after Viggo/Aragorn enters the scene.
“Ten thousand?!” The worries double, and now he is nearer. Nobody ever looked so good wounded and dirty like that. It should be outlawed, illegal.
In the part where you write “the worries double, and now he is nearer”, who is “he”? Yes, it is possible to guess we’re talking about Viggo/Aragorn, here, but you haven’t given his name, you haven’t even given Bernard’s name at this point and that is a bit confusing. Especially since in the same sentence, you give us a piece of Theoden’s mind along with a piece of Bernard’s. If I understand this sentence right, Theoden’s worries double but it is Bernard who registers how close Viggo now is.
Of course, the deliberate blurring of the line between these two is expected and probably intentional given what you’re trying to accomplish, here, but like I said, the line between ambiguity and confusion is very thin. I believe this first part of your fic would have benefitted from clearer lines between Bernard as Bernard and Bernard as Theoden. I’m back at the names, here, but I do think more quoting of names would have helped.
The transition between the first part where Bernard is fighting off his impulses and trying to be his character and the following one is swiftly done. I like the struggling to get to the end of the scene and the relief that comes with being done. By then, you’ve managed to nicely build the frustration over Bernard’s desire to grab Viggo and throw him down on the floor, lol.
However, once we leave the set and move to the next part (the sex part, yay!), another problem arises: you have a tendency to switch povs unexpectedly.
Since the first paragraph, we’ve been reading things from Bernard/Theoden’s pov, but in the following paragraph, you switch clearly to a Viggo pov.
Viggo has left for the trailer, the Cuntebago, to be precise. He’s thinking of doing some photography over lunch, having spotted some interesting lighting that might suit his mood this day. He wants to experiment after his chat with one of the gaffers. Discussing photography with the crew is always an interesting experience. He has some ideas that he wants to play around with. The lunch break would be the ideal time for him to toy around, so to speak.
Or so he thinks.
This is highly confusing, especially since you’ve been using as many “he”s as possible instead of quoting names from the beginning. Therefore, since we’re still reading with Bernard’s voice in mind, there’s a moment of confusion when Viggo’s voice comes up. This could be very easily fixed, with a couple of simple words. To give you an example, you could have done it as follows and not have confused the readers with switching povs.
Viggo has left for the trailer, the Cuntebago, to be precise. He’s probably thinking of doing some photography over lunch, having spotted some interesting lighting that might suit his mood this day. He most likely wants to experiment after his chat with one of the gaffers. Discussing photography with the crew is always an interesting experience for Viggo. He probably has some ideas that he wants to play around with. The lunch break would be the ideal time for him to toy around, so to speak.
Or so he apparently thinks.
The idea is to have everything still described from Bernard’s pov, which would tighten the flow of your story, keep the reader closer to the heart of it and not distract with small confusing moments. J
The same problem happens a couple of times again after that, particularly the first time Bernard catches Viggo by surprise. You alternate Bernard’s pov with Viggo’s but unexpectedly and randomly, and also without any clear hint that you are going to.
Bernard has other plans, and none of them have anything to do with lighting or lenses and filters. No. His plans have more to do with ripping clothes and shoving a certain man against a counter, a wall, anything and having his way with him. He knows Viggo likes it rough. He knows Viggo likes the unexpected, and the unexpected he will get.
He is hovering uncertainly between two different filters when he is suddenly slammed against a wall. Hard. He growls and shoves back. He’s raring to fight. He had plans, damnit, good plans.
There is a moment of confusion here for the reader, a moment when that “he” in the second paragraph should be Bernard but isn’t.
Then we get to the sex. o__O Yay! We likes it, precious!
Your pov in this second part is a bit tighter again, even though clearly no longer Bernard’s but Viggo’s. There is another shift towards the end, when Bernard fucks Viggo, and I again think it would have been better if you’d stuck with one or the other, not switched back and forth. But actually writing the sex scene from a different pov isn’t necessarily a problem, really. I found the passage between the two parts confusing for the reasons I just listed, but writing the sex scene from Viggo’s pov could have worked if you’d stuck with it to the end, as well as made your pov change clearer, introducing a marker here, like a line of dots or stars to show a change.
The played antagonism between Viggo and Bernard with Viggo pushing and Bernard giving him the pain he needs to derive pleasure from is nicely done. I don’t know much about BDSM myself outside of what I have read, so I won’t go into details, but it worked for me. The spanking, Viggo’s provocation, the relationship between the two with Viggo being a very bossy sub… I liked all of that very much.
I also very much liked the last paragraph, the way you make Viggo strangely triumphant despite his position as the sub in their relationship. I thought this went nicely with the way Viggo provoked Bernard all along yet took the pain happily. I do however again believe that this last note, this last paragraph would have been much better received if you’d been more coherent in your pov. For this last line to bear all of its weight, you would have needed to make sure the sex scene was told from one pov (preferably Viggo’s), and one pov only.
In short, I enjoyed this fic, it’s a nice hot read, but… your weakness clearly resides in the way you don’t stick with only one voice throughout the story (or at least throughout the scenes, as changing povs can be done from one scene to another). Having read a few of your other stories, I noticed that this was something you do in a lot of your work, and I think many of your fics would benefit from a tighter pov.
Your strong point, though, is the vivid way you manage to paint your pictures, as in the opening paragraph to this story which I have said—but will say again—I enjoyed very much.
I did enjoy reading and reviewing your work, and I hope I helped a bit. I’m always willing to discuss anything from this review with you, of course. Hope you had as much fun reviewing as I did! ;-)