REVIEW: The Error (original fiction, mature content)

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SirMustapha
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REVIEW: The Error (original fiction, mature content)

Postby SirMustapha » Thu Jul 20, 2017 3:05 pm

This is a story originally written around 2013, revised and translated this year. Toni is just about to get into college, and he comes across the girl of his dreams. Of course, things are about to get a little twisted for him, but he thinks he's fully prepared to handle every situation. He's a grown man, after all, and nothing could get in his way.

There's a small share of mild, but mature sexual content in this. Even though this is not erotic fiction, some discretion is advised.
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"Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles"

-- Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"
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Re: REVIEW: The Error (original fiction, mature content)

Postby gkscotty » Fri Jul 28, 2017 12:26 pm

I've only read the first ten pages so far, more to come later. For now, this is what I have to say...

First thoughts: interesting structure, lots of short chapters. It's a pretty clear gimmick but it's good.

Characters seen nice and sympathetic, but not really standing out to me yet. They seem to have pretty generic interests and goals.
That said, I can tell I'm still in the setup section of the story and haven't got to the real inciting incident yet. So no doubt they'll develop further as they start to face some hardship.

I'm finding myself a little put off by the tendency of the narrator to start directly addressing the reader and whether or not they should be reading the story. I feel like it's taking me out of the story somewhat.

Going to continue reading...

Nitpicks:

Chapter IV:
They agreed to meet on the bus stop > They agreed to meet at the bus stop
“I can cover you up if you don’t have the cash.” > “I can cover you if you don’t have the cash.”
Image

It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was Us, what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do bad things. - Jingo, Terry Pratchett
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Re: REVIEW: The Error (original fiction, mature content)

Postby SirMustapha » Fri Jul 28, 2017 2:38 pm

That's excellent! I'm really glad for your comments. And even though you're still very early in the story, you've given some very important and thought-provoking opinions already. I won't comment for now because I don't want to contaminate your own impressions. Suffice to say, you may notice that the narrator is a bit of a character of his own in this story, and that's one aspect that I'm very interested in seeing critiqued. I look forward to seeing more!
"Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles"

-- Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"
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Re: REVIEW: The Error (original fiction, mature content)

Postby gkscotty » Fri Jul 28, 2017 2:52 pm

I had been worried that Paula seemed like she was over-idealised. The bathroom scene came as a bit of a shock then, showing that she's got controlling and possessive aspects to her personality. More interesting.
And Toni's a little bit homophobic, though he seems to be trying to be cool about it.
Religion debate was quite good, if my guess is right then it's mostly there to make Alice look good. And then Paula immediately look bad.
Am I alone in always thinking of the cello as a "feminine" instrument? Not that guys couldn't play it, but when I think cello player I think of a female. I think maybe it was just that much more girls than boys played it at my school, but you could say the same for a lot of instruments.
Getting the feeling that Toni and Paula have hit the rocks pretty hard and pretty fast. I feel like the "Error" in the title might turn out to have been the initial relationship.
I really liked the little cappuccino conversation :D
And the cello scene is pretty sweet. Alice feels like I feel about sincerity. I'm enjoying this.

Read up to page 31, more to come.

Nitpicks:

XVI:
Toni was a little worried about the money he kept asking his parents, > Toni was a little worried about the money he kept asking his parents for, orToni was a little worried about the money he kept borrowing from his parents,
She waited in the platform when the group got off > She was waiting on the platform when the group arrived.
Toni glanced with curiosity at the stores > Toni glanced curiously at the stores
Image

It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was Us, what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do bad things. - Jingo, Terry Pratchett
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Re: REVIEW: The Error (original fiction, mature content)

Postby gkscotty » Fri Jul 28, 2017 4:12 pm

So something you do occasionally that's a little off-putting to me is stuff like this. (and I'm sorry I'm not capturing every example of this, you're not doing it very frequently but I don't have time to do a line by line critique)

Toni couldn’t interpret her reactions very well when he made that kind of
comment, even when he said them without malice. She looked uneasy, almost offended,
making gestures as if trying to push him away. He barely imagined that she actually
trembled, and her legs went limp, when she heard those things. She almost disbelieved
him when he talked like that. What truly bothered her, though, was that Toni was a
forbidden guy. He wasn’t the one who should be saying that! He couldn’t be anything
more than her friend. Yes, friend! Such a nice guy like that, the kind of which she’d
never find in a software development course, and what’s left for her? Being his friend. It
was pathetic


This paragraph definitely starts off in Toni's point of view, but seems to abruptly change to Alice's halfway through, which leaves me the impression Toni is thinking "What's bothering her is that I'm a forbidden guy! It's pathetic that I'm the only nice guy saying this to her."

I would split things up a bit and make it clearer that the thoughts toward the end of the paragraph are Alice's.
Image

It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was Us, what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do bad things. - Jingo, Terry Pratchett
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Re: REVIEW: The Error (original fiction, mature content)

Postby gkscotty » Fri Jul 28, 2017 6:09 pm

I have no idea what Fruit Salts are in this context. Seems to be an antacid? Maybe just a Brazil thing these days.
The discussion about walking around undressed at home seems a little off, from what we've seen of this character I can't see Toni asking about it or having this conversation. Maybe that's just me though.
I can see how the discussion about urges etc is relevant to the story, but getting there felt a little off.
And now Toni is being a bit of a dick.
Toni and Paula now seem completely broken as a couple.
The conversation in Alice's flat is pretty damn awkward, but I like how she's debating him over homosexuality.
The title for chapter XLIX is pretty good, when compared to the content.
... and then I forgot to keep taking notes.


And I finished it. That was quite enjoyable. I don't normally read this kind of romantic story at all, it's not really my thing, but I did enjoy what I read.
My apologies for not taking more notes, but I was just reading on.

The characters were good. Toni felt a little wishy-washy, but I think that was the point. He needed to learn to both loosen up and take responsibility for his own feelings and actions. He often came across as self-absorbed and entitled, but I think he got over most of that by the end. Alice was good, lots of interesting things to say and a well rounded character. Really if there's a character I was disappointed in as the story wore on it was Paula, who kinda becomes a vague antagonistic force once Alice is introduced. Plot threads that primarily involved her pretty much get dropped once the initial sex scene is over, and overall her role in the plot was Existing So That The Relationship Can be Wrong.

But it made for a good days reading, thank you for posting it!
Image

It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was Us, what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do bad things. - Jingo, Terry Pratchett
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Re: REVIEW: The Error (original fiction, mature content)

Postby SirMustapha » Fri Jul 28, 2017 8:51 pm

That's a whole lot for me to think about. All your points are well made, and I can only think of a few things to try to explain.

The narration and the prose style, to be frank, reflects perfectly my state of mind back when this was originally written, around 2012/13. I was attempting to distance myself from the characters somewhat. It made sense back in that time, but if this story were written today, it would've certainly been very different in that aspect, and I didn't know if I wanted to "fix" that, and make it more coherent with my current style, or preserve that and keep it true to its origins. I ended up choosing the latter.
(I'd still keep the short chapters, though. I know it's sheer gimmickry, but I take pride in having a chapter that's zero words long. It's the grindcore of literature.)

The switching of perspectives mid-paragraph is an annoying tendency I have, and it's hard for me to prevent it. It's just how my mind works when I'm thinking about the interactions between the characters. It helps build the scenes, but not to actually describe them. I'll have to pay more attention to that.

I'm not surprised that the cello would seem feminine, and some pieces written for it (e.g. The Swan) have that character for me. Over here, though, it's still socially "weird" somewhat for females to play large and heavy instruments. But I admit I have a penchant for women playing low-sounding instruments (e.g. Tina Weymouth, of Talking Heads).

Spoiler


I probably wouldn't have pondered upon these points if it weren't for your feedback, so that's massively appreciated. Thanks a lot, Steve!
"Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles"

-- Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"
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Re: REVIEW: The Error (original fiction, mature content)

Postby c_nordlander » Sat Jun 01, 2019 9:53 pm

I'm sure I've said many times that most romantic stories tend to leave me cold, but I do like infidelity stories or other love triangles, if done well, obviously. And this is done well. Both the story itself and the characters treated the situation with the gravity it deserved, and you left me guessing right up till the end whether
Spoiler
and whether it would be a good or bad thing if he did. Kudos for that! In all, the plot felt realistic and proceeded naturally.

The very individualised writing style certainly stood out. In the first couple of chapters, it did feel like it was running the risk of getting grating, but as the story went on, it became a bit more subdued, which I think was a good thing. The short chapters were original and an enjoyable touch. The ultra-short ones were a bit of a gimmick, but you didn't overuse it.

The characters weren't all that memorable, but they're solid, three-dimensional people. Toni was the deepest (which of course makes sense, given that he was the viewpoint character); I really admire how deeply and honestly you explored his emotions. He's the best kind of character, the one that feels like a real person; he does some weak or even wrong things, but as a reader I can't see him as a bad person, because I'm as fallible myself. Paula and Alice both felt like real people. That little scene with Alice playing the cello for Toni was excellent. Paula did end up feeling a bit less interesting as she got sidelined for Alice (seems like Steve felt that way as well), but it makes sense: if she and Toni had a perfect relationship, he probably wouldn't have got a crush on Alice.

Spoiler


The psychological depth is by far the best thing about this story. This is the first of your novels where I've found fresh psychological insight, and that is not a bash at you: there are loads of great stories that still don't break any new psychological ground. The description of how Toni fights or rationalises his feelings in various ways is uncomfortably real and honest, and I just love the scene where he finally faces himself and makes his decision. It's a personal triumph, but it's hard-earned enough that it doesn't feel cheap.

Spoiler


The erotic scenes feel a lot hotter than the ones in Like Crying of Laughter. Your writing has got better since then, and you show more of the characters' perceptions and emotional responses, not just what their hands and genitals are doing. (I realise that was at least partly a conscious decision in LCoL.)

I think this is the best of your original fiction that I've read, hands down. Toni's psychological development is great, and like I said, the writing is simply good. I don't have many complaints. The first ten pages might feel like they took a while to get off the ground, but developing Toni's and Paula's relationship was important, and there's no law saying that stories have to be exciting all the time. I do have a little bit of a nitpick with the story:

Spoiler


That's not even a big problem, though. Really enjoyed this: a good dramatic story and some very incisive character development.
The noose draws tighter;
This is the end;
I'm a good fighter
But a bad friend;
I've played the traitor
Over and over;
I'm a good hater
But a bad lover.


Elinor Wylie, "Peregrine"

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