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Review of Elemental [Nov. 22nd, 2004|06:25 pm]
The Critically Constructive Feedback Project
Review of Elemental
Author: Philomel
Reviewer: Honey (inbetweens)
Fandom: Lotr RPS
Rating: NC-17

Cartography in Reverse</i>, I actually chose Elemental because of the form. I really like the symmetry of the story. You've created a wonderful literary circle of sorts: an opening line, a brief study of Cate, a longer scene in which the action occurs (and which closes marvelously with "She goes back the way she came"), a brief study of Cate, and a repetition of the opening line. What really made the structure work, though, was that Cate didn't travel in a circle; she moved steadily forward and was in a very different mental place at the conclusion than she had been in the first few paragraphs. You made a great choice in pairing that character change with the circular form and pulled it off fabulously. A story's structure can have so much impact on a reader, and this particular one has so much potential for beauty with its intelligent, clean elegance.

That said, the story describes Cate's change beautifully in the mirrored opening and closing segments. I'd really like to see more of this in the middle section as she is changing. You convey clearly that she enjoys the reality of sex, which is what she has been seeking, but I think you could give the reader more. Tell us that she is hungry for motion and has been longing to make someone scream for her and her alone. Tell us that like manages to look human even with her Arwen dresses and ears or that she always brings out the humanity and impulsiveness in Cate. Create some thematic contrast between the beginning and end of the sex scene, so the circular shape and sense of shape are strengthened, and the reader is compelled by what is happening emotionally as well as physically. Is this story pornographic? Absolutely! Does that mean it isn't art? Absolutely not! You've done a great job conveying the sensuality of the actions (she said, wiping drool from the keyboard), but the impact of the motions isn't explored as thoroughly. This doesn't have to be some cataclysmic changing point in Cate's life. But it is definitely the changing point in her day at the very least. The smallest emotional struggles that we endure are no less poignant. One way that you could emphasize Cate's conflict and resolution is to elongate the seduction of Liv. Let us know why she wants Liv and what she wants from her. I'm not suggesting that you beat us over the head with emotional imagery, of course. Just give the reader a little more to connect with on an emotional sense. Besides, seduction can be just as hot as the actual sex. (Not that this story needs any more hotness. Nngh.)

Another way to help the readers get more emotionally involved is to give us some context. When is this taking place? How does she feel about the rest of the cast and New Zealand? Has Cate been lusting after Liv for a long time? Does Liv flirt with or lead on Cate? How long has Cate felt so out of touch with herself? Does Cate always go for women? Can Miranda join the fun next time? (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

Furthermore, since the conflict of the story takes place in Cate's mind, I think it would be a good idea to limit the point of view to Cate alone. While Liv is certainly an important figure here and we can learn a lot by seeing through Liv's eyes, this is about Cate's story. Cate can only see herself and what she needs through her own eyes and the mirror, and I think that maybe the reader should, too.

The language could be tightened here and there, just to fit the simple elegance of the story's structure. For example: " 'Props, masks, fantasies,' she thinks. 'Not reality. Cheap, lightweight dressing. Playthings. No, not real'," could be shortened into "Nothing in this room is real," or something similar. You create lovely images, and often the ones that are suggested delicately are your most wonderful.

This story could work perfectly well as a PWP. It's sexy and has a good rhythm. PWPs can be perfectly wonderful at times! But there is so much potential for it to become something more complex and evocative, especially with the wonderful form you've given it. I would just love to see this become something more.

[User Picture]From: philomel
2004-11-26 07:08 am (UTC)
Thank you for this review. It has given me a lot to think about, and I may even re-write it if the ambition strikes. ;) You struck on several consistent problems for me, many of them to do with plot/storytelling (I'm used to poetry and it's been a difficult attempt to shake that off and approach fiction full-on).

I hope I can absorb your comments/suggestions and use them to strengthen things in the future.

Thank you, overall, for giving my fic a much-needed critical eye. I really appreciate the time and care you put into this. X)
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