REVIEWS: Like Crying of Laughter (original fiction, 18+ NSFW)

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SirMustapha
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REVIEWS: Like Crying of Laughter (original fiction, 18+ NSFW)

Post by SirMustapha » Sun Jan 01, 2017 10:01 pm

As it turns out, this is my first ever fully erotic novel. The language is frank and unapologetic, so read at your own risk.

As far as the plot (?) is concerned, this might as well be Treasure Hunt's older, edgier bisexual sister, for better or worse: two girls, troubled in their own ways, fall into a passionate, almost desperate relationship laden with mischief, mild fetishism and naïve defiance. Whether it's good or bad to them, they probably don't care. ... or are too scared to find out.

Even though there's plenty of very graphic and frank sexual language, all those parts are relevant to the story; if you feel like skipping over those parts, though, the story should remain intelligible. The entire story was written in Portuguese, and the translation, I admit, was kinda hastily done. The chapter titles all share a thematic link, but it's not relevant to the story (it's just me being self-serving).

Anyway, less rambling, more smut.
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"This is the scientifical truth, which is much better. You shouldn't let poets lie to you."
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Re: REVIEWS: Like Crying of Laughter (original fiction, 18+ NSFW)

Post by c_nordlander » Thu Mar 21, 2019 10:22 pm

Yowch, took me two years to review this...

I like the concept of this story a lot. Two characters starting out by having a purely sexual relationship that develops into a romantic one is a fresh and interesting idea, even if I've seen it a couple of times before. And I appreciate stories that use sex scenes for character development, not just titillation. Also nice to have a story that's matter-of-fact about things like polyamory and open relationships without making it seem "forbidden" or propagandising either for or against.

Aside from that, it's a pretty regular romance story. I must admit, I'm not a big fan of romance or erotica, but I sympathised with the characters, especially towards the end. The reason for
Spoiler
is believable and original. That whole part of the plot was well written, as was
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The bit where
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just felt plain good to read.

Letícia isn't the most memorable protagonist ever, but she feels real, and I liked her courage and occasional weakness. Janaína is tough and likable; it's easy to tell why someone would fall for her, and Roberto is again a likable and fun person. There are no characters I felt were badly written, though of course some felt flatter on account of getting less pagetime. I like the way you've written the non-romantic relationships as well as the romantic ones, such as the solidarity between Letícia and Roberto, and the strained father-daughter relationship. None of the drama feels forced or like it goes too far. The way you deal with issues like homophobia and machismo feels realistic and not exaggerated. One thing that stuck in my mind was
Spoiler


The sex scenes... I didn't find them that arousing, and I'm not worried about insulting you by saying that, since that is such a personal taste thing. They're not badly written, just a bit long and... flavourless? It's possible that you could have cut one or two of them for a more streamlined story, but this is your novel, not mine. I did rather like the scene where
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But yeah, personal taste.

In general, I found the narrative writing a bit dry and succinct, in and outside the bedroom. I mean, I appreciate that you don't make it overly florid either (I tend to go to the opposite extreme and add huge amounts of description), but it did feel a bit artless. Some sentences are good, in a bare style, for example: "Janaína sat on the back seat, from where she could barely see Letícia’s face." It's not a stunningly poetic sentence, but it shows the scene perfectly, without wasting a single word. In particular, I would have liked a bit more description of characters: I think that would have gone a bit towards making the sex scenes feel more compelling. Then again, some writers like describing their characters, some don't. Both are valid choices.

Bear in mind, when I say that the writing feels a bit too dry, I'm talking about the narration. The dialogue is better, vivid and realistic. Though I did find the dialogue in the
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a bit melodramatic; I think pruning that down a bit would have made the moment more heartwrenching. Less is more and all that.

To sum up, a good dramatic story (even if I'm not a romance fan), with three-dimensional characters I enjoyed spending time with. I was pretty neutral on the sex scenes, and found the narration a bit sparser than I liked. But it's a good story, recommended.

(Note: I found quite a few grammatical errors in it, mostly obviously Portuguese-into-English ones, plus a couple of typoes. This sounds horrible, but of course you're going to get more errors in a full-length novel than in a ten-page short story. If you want me to, I can PM you a list of them so you can fix them.)
Last edited by c_nordlander on Fri Mar 22, 2019 3:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: REVIEWS: Like Crying of Laughter (original fiction, 18+ NSFW)

Post by SirMustapha » Fri Mar 22, 2019 1:50 pm

I admit I was especially nervous when I saw this review, because I realise there are countless ways in which a story like this can crumble to pieces. I'm relieved that isn't the case. :) But your assessment is totally fair, and I can't disagree with anything. You really picked up the gist and the intention of the story, so I couldn't use the "oh, by my intention was different" excuse even if I wanted to.

I think I can see some of the reasons why the narrations can feel dry and flavourless in many spots. One part of this is a kind of personal ethos of trying to let the characters themselves do as much of the narration as possible. I love writing dialogue, and I love it when the dynamics between characters carry the story along. So I end up trying to erase my role as narrator even when it's required. This is something I must work on. I do prefer that write in that "bare style", as you described it, but I don't wanna be stuck to that, or use that as an excuse for not adding immersion to the story.
The lack of visual description of characters, yes, this did bother me when I reread the story recently. This is partly because... honestly, I don't have a very visual mind, and building an image for the characters takes a lot of energy and focus (I've even tried doing drawings of them, but the images in my head are still very abstract); and because I don't have the habit of keeping notes on the story, I get worried that the descriptions will become redundant, or even contradictory. Either way, this is something I need to work on.
I understand there's a lot of personal taste involved in what makes sex scenes interesting or flavourless, but it's still good to get an opinion. After all, the whole point of these scenes is to put the reader in the minds of the characters and get their sensations and feelings across. I also wanted a language that's frank and honest, not shocking or edgy or vulgar, and avoiding euphemisms and metaphors. It's up to me to find how to add flavour to the text without losing this earthly style and falling into easy cliches.

There's another aspect to this, which I guess can't be easily picked up just by reading it, but that I need to look at more carefully: I'm a white guy writing about a black girl in a relationship with another girl. As much as I approached this story as being 100% (... well, 99%, I guess) character-driven and feel justified for having created these characters, it was still awkward for me, and it's possible that the text suffers from this. I kept imagining scenarios in which I'd be criticised for writing about struggles that aren't mind and that I hold no stakes on, or something like that, and it unnerved me. I also worried of being accused of lots of things, e.g. fetishising lesbianism, romanticising a relationship of "abuse" and/or dependence, falling into a "white saviour" narrative, or even the extremely negative interpretations one can make of... y'know, a white girl causing physical pain to a black girl, even more so in a sexual context. Mind you, I'm not playing the "I'm being oppressed by political correctness" card here; it's just that I was too self-aware and scared of following my intuition, my critical analysis and the fact that I'm not sick. And if these subjects were already complex in 2017, they've only escalated since then.

... so, tl;dr, I've got work to do, and your review was super fair and helpful. As always. :) And I'll be thankful if you send me the typos and errors you found.
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Re: REVIEWS: Like Crying of Laughter (original fiction, 18+ NSFW)

Post by c_nordlander » Sun Mar 24, 2019 7:55 pm

It's a very interesting point about trying to eliminate the narrative voice from the story. I like that idea, though as you can tell from my reaction, it didn't quite work for me in practice. Well, from what little I've read of "The Error", I can tell that you're not stuck to that style. And besides, you do you.

I know you've said before that you're not a very visual person, and to be honest, neither am I. (And when I started looking through your story again, I noticed that you described Janaína on the first page, if briefly. I think some of my criticism might be down to me reading this story in short bursts and so forgetting things in between reads.)

As for the race and sexuality stuff, I know what you mean, and you didn't phrase it badly at all in your post. The racism against Letícia feels shocking, but believable (I know Brazil has a bunch of weird racial hangups that are very different from my own homeland's weird racial hangups). As for the depiction of a lesbian relationship, I honestly can't tell. Part of it of course is that I'm not lesbian myself, and part of it is that, more depressingly, same-sex relationships in online stories written by straight guys and girls (and probably some gay guys and girls, too) tend to be so fetishised that I don't really know what to expect from one that isn't. But you seem to avoid clichés, you wrote your characters as real people, and you dealt with their relationship maturely and realistically. I don't know what else to say.

Since I liked the story, I think you did well on all these fronts.

I'll definitely send you the list. It might take a while, though.
But if you're not convinced that I'm invincible
Put me to the test;
I'd love to lay this rivalry to rest!


-- "You're Only Second Rate", The Return of Jafar
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