Nick R B Tingley

Crime Writer currently working on his new novella 'The Butcher of Barclay's Hollow' Blog: https://nickrbtingley.wordpress.com

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A hopeful vision

In simple terms, this Planet of the Apes type story is well told and has moments of pure genius. The story is engaging and relatable and, despite its setting in a presumed earth future, it almost reads like a story that could have been set in prehistory. The main character and her journey follows the regular hero's journey route to great effect and the hopeful tone that the story ends on was rather refreshing despite the fact that it was treading on well-worn ground.

The story itself was relatively well presented but I must admit that I was surprised that the location in which the vast majority of it was set didn't really seal itself in my mind. I had trouble visualising it and that ultimately caused me to have moments where I almost gave up reading it.

I say it quite often but I think in this case this advice would really push this story over the edge in to a perfect score territory - humans perceive the world with five senses and we should really have our stories presented as such. This story was wonderfully crafted (almost masterful in fact) in terms of the visuals. But that is only one of our senses. The little we heard from sounds was usually related to dialogue and not the world around the characters. Again, with smell there was only one mention and that was in relation to one character smelling another... What about taste and the touch of the air or the leaves?

In some cases and stories you can get away with not mentioning things in large amounts. But when you're trying to build a vivid world like the one you have here, the absence of those details make a real impact. As the saying goes, God is in the details. If everything is about building a vivid image in your mind, it runs the risk of making it seem less real because your mind is desperate to fill in the bits from other senses and can't find any data to use.

That being said, I could find no flaw with your characterisation or dialogue. Occasionally the pace fluctuated between moments of quite high and low intensity but I think you just about got away with it.

A beautiful story that is very believable and real. Now the task is to make the world just as real...

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Masterclass in Horror

Normally when I write a review, I like to be able put something constructive in so that the author has a potential avenue to explore. And, whilst I am planning to do the same thing here, it should be noted right from the outset that (for this story at least) it is not really needed.

This story was a fantastic example of a masterfully crafted horror story. The author plays with tension in a fantastic way and, barring a few cliched moments, keeps your heart racing. I was engrossed from beginning to end and thought there was very little that could be really done to improve it.

That being said, I do have a couple of points that I feel are worthy of being pointed out here.

The opening section with the room mate felt a little drawn out. This story could have quite happily started with him already on the I-10 and would have achieved the same result (we didn't necessarily need to see the chicken being eaten for that to play an important part in the story). I very nearly lost interest in these opening chapters and, whilst the plot after this point more than redeemed it, I wonder whether it is worth maybe cutting it down or losing it all together.

The description used in the story was just right - not overwhelming or lacking. There is even use of smell and touch, and this is given as much weight as sight and sound which is something I find a lot of authors miss. I often find that tension is built by combining all five senses and this story (with the possible exception of taste although I think that is covered by the chicken... maybe?) utilises this to great effect.

One thing I would point out is that, regrettably I saw the final twist coming a fair while before the final reveal - although this was not due to bad writing. It's always important to remember that Horror and Crime fans will be looking for the twists in a story which means, as writers, we have to work that little bit harder to keep them on their toes. In that respect it may be worth revisiting those characters and events to see if there is any way of making that twist more surprising. That being said though, the twist itself was quite satisfying and the open-ended finish was a nice touch as well.

There are always ways of improving a story, things could be changed around or lost, but I think this story is great the way it is. Full house and voted. Wonderful story.

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Awesome First Draft

I really enjoyed this story - the plot was nicely paced in its build up and it was easy for me to visualise what was going on. I think the ending in many ways was inevitable from the beginning but was still an awesome way to finish off the story.

That being said, it is very obviously a first draft. The narrator rambles a little, particularly in the opening paragraphs and it almost felt like a person talking to themselves rather than to an audience. The style is very rigidly stuck to which, whilst perfectly acceptable, does give off the impression that the writer himself isn't entirely sure where the story is going - but I imagine things like that would be sorted in later drafts.

It has been pointed out in previous reviews that there is very little in terms of character development for other characters than the narrator and that this might be something that needs working on. I agree that a little work is needed, but I think the minor characters are pitched just right given that the story is centred around a person who cannot have a meaningful relationship with anyone because he would end up influencing them. I think someone who has had to deal with that all their life is unlikely to put much thought into the people around them and, given that the story is very much written from the main characters' POV, the lack of any serious description of other characters is actually very fitting for the story being told. That being said, I think this aspect of the main character's personality could be played on a little more than it is currently.

I also think the references to superheroes got a bit much, although the anonymity of the main character was a particularly nice touch.

All in all, not a bad story. It has a way to go but, for a first draft, I'd be very happy with that.

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Some signposts...

I was kind of approaching this one from two different angles. On the one hand I'm not massively into romance and find it difficult to relate. On the other I am into my thrillers so my review is largely geared towards that aspect.

In one respect this is a very good story. It is well written for the most part and there are technically very few issues. Any issues with the writing that are there are not enough to jar you out of the story. The author builds up a certain amount of intensity and tension in the lead up to the reveal and the characters are very engaging.

The plot itself, whilst intriguing and well presented, does tread on very familiar ground though which meant, whilst I had moments where I wasn't entirely sure where it was going, a lot of the twists and turns were relatively apparent before the reveals. In fact, the final reveal became relatively evident shortly before the end of the struggle between the two characters which, whilst not ruining the story, did make the ending feel like an unnecessary reveal.

The problem with writing thrillers is that they can be very formulaic and if your reader is in anyway into their thrillers they will be on the look out for the twists and turns - it is what they expect from a thriller. This means as a writer, you need to work hard to make those twists so subtle that the reader never sees them coming - I think perhaps that your emphasis on the mental facility background gave yourself away an awful lot. Had this been subtler you may have sold it better. A good example of a story that uses a similar idea to great effect is Secret Window, Secret Garden by Stephen King if you are interested.

That being said, this is not a bad story by any stretch of the imagination and definitely worth a read.

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I want to see more

First and foremost, I'm hoping that this is going to be developed into a longer book, or at least a series of shorter books. I was a little unsure of the premise at first but, as I got further through the first chapter, I began to enjoy myself. The conflict within the academy, both on the arena and between the classes, the personal stories of the main characters and the landscape of the final battle seemed well tuned and brought the story to life.

I particularly enjoyed the main character. I have a love of the anti-hero and this character, whilst not typical, fall into that category; the disinterested way that he moves through the events of the story made him fascinating to follow and (after years of reading the academy story about a character who wants to be the best or win glory for his house etc) was quite refreshing.

But, and there is a but I'm afraid, it felt a little rapid for my taste. Whilst I like the idea of them having to fight the moment they arrive, it doesn't give much room for development of the storylines, particularly with such a short chapter following it. I always find that battle scenes are far more interesting to me as a writer than as a reader and, with two large battle scenes taking up a large portion of the story, it did leave me feeling a little distant by the end.

That being said, I'm not a massive sic-fy fan, and yet the writer's use of technology and the small amount of explanation that this entailed didn't overwhelm me or lose me at any point, which I always consider to be a good sign. I felt completely lost in the story and completely failed to spot any glaring errors or phrases that jarred me, which speaks wonders to the author's technical writing ability.

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A short but promising chapter

I'll be honest - there's not a huge deal I can gleam from such a short chapter, but I can give you my first impressions that may be helpful to you.

I love stories that barrel straight into the plot with very little introduction and that seems to be where you're going with this one. As such, this kind of story would have me interested from the outset. However, I would have to agree with the previous review that it does seem very thin on the ground which doesn't help your execution of this opening. One of the things that writer's often fail to remember is that we have five senses that we use to observe the world around us; if you really want to draw your reader in you must be willing to utilise all of them. What does the crime scene look like? Are there any smells? Can the detective feel a breeze or is the air humid and heavy? All of these things help the reader step into the character's shoes.

At the moment you have a plot (or the beginning of a plot rather), now your job as a writer is to bring it to life and once you start doing that, your writing style will naturally improve white dramatically.

Technically, there is not a lot wrong with the way you write. My only comment is to be careful about switching who is talking in the same paragraph. By and large, if the character that is speaking changes then you should start a new paragraph - it makes it easier for the reader to follow who is talking at any given time. There is an idea that you should let your reader thing for themselves and let their own imagination input into the story, but when it comes to dialogue you should always try to be straight up and not let your reader work to hard. Otherwise they may lose interest.

Hope that helps. It looks promising and I'd be interested to see where you go with it.

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Good Plot, but needs a fair amount of work...

Ladies Close Your Eyes is an odd piece. On the one hand, the story is written with an enormous attention to detail and (as some of the other reviews have already pointed out) it is very easy to visualise the locales that the author is describing. On the other, there is a huge amount of suspense riding through the story, which lends itself quite nicely to the plot.

As a story, it is intriguing, dark and weirdly captivating and - from the very first moment - it made me feel very uncomfortable, which I imagine was the point.

However, it is not without its issues that I think need developing or rethinking.

In the first instance, I found it very hard to develop any emotional attachment to any of the characters. In fact, for the first two chapters, I was unsure of who was even the lead in the story because we learnt next to nothing about the main players. By the time the penny finally dropped and I started taking a stronger interest in James, I had already been desensitised by the dark events of the first few chapters so - even at the final stages - I didn't really care too much about what happened.

No matter how horrific a character is acting in the first few chapters, there has to be something to make the reader root for them. If the reader is convinced that they don't like the character, then they will have very little interest in finishing the story.

On a writing note, the story is littered with spelling and grammatical errors which also threw me a little bit. The style feels a little stunted as well - at various points I began to wonder whether this piece would be better off being written in first person as that would allow the sudden changes diversions of thought and the lengthy descriptions that you have already. Also, there were a couple of times when you changed tense - it usually only lasted for a small scene, but there were occasions where it suddenly changed mid way through the action, which jarred me out of the story and forced me to go back and re-read bits again.

Finally, If there was one thing I would say needs to be improved on, I would say it is the introduction of new characters. Every time a character is introduced, the action is halted for a paragraph so that we can be given a complete physical description of the newcomer. This jars the story somewhat and isn't really necessary. As a reader, I don't need to be told every aspect of someone's appearance in the first moment of meeting them - it can be spread out a bit. Instead of describing Edd (for example) in one go, you can say he's a plump guy who desperately wants to look young. Then later on you can have him stuff his hands in his cargo pants, or brush back his boyish hair or have James chuckle internally about Edd's giant head....

Basically, you don't need to separate your actions from your descriptions - especially when you are introducing more than one character. There are always creative ways moulding the two together.

The long and the short of it is this: I think you have a good plot here - the premise is good and the way you unfold the story isn't bad at all. But the style needs to be worked on a fair bit because, at the moment, that's what's letting it down - for me at least.

Keep going with this one. Redraft it a few times and I think you'll be on to something...

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Brutal and honest

I have to admit, I was having trouble getting in to this story. As much as I wanted to be engaged, I was struggling to find the story for the vast majority of it - it felt as though the story was a prelude to a much longer tale.

All that changed with the final section and I must applaud the author on their honesty and willingness to show the true brutality of Dolly's situation. It isn't often that you can walk away from a story like this and still feel that you enjoyed it, but on this occasion that is precisely what happened.

However, my initial point does still remain. It felt very slow and, had it not been for the short length of the piece, I may have given up before the final reveal. The characterisations were believable, if not a little cliched at times, and the writing is unique enough to separate this work from the more traditional stories that deal with similar situations.

If I had to say one thing about it that may be worth looking in to it would be that I would have liked more of a sense of the setting. For me, there wasn't really enough description of the location which seemed a little surprising considering it could have greatly enhanced any sympathy we have for Dolly. For example, the writer could have made more of the fact that the ground was covered in snow - Dolly's breath could visibly hang in the air, her feet could sting with the could, she could taste the snowflakes on her tongue - that sort of thing.

Generally speaking though, a good story tackling a brutal topic in a brave way. I have voted for this story but my ratings are not as high as others who have reviewed simply because the main thing that kept me involved with this story was the short nature of the piece rather than any particular interest from the writing. Had it been a longer piece, I cannot guarantee I would have read enough of it to appreciate the great plot.

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Good Plot but I was looking to save time

I love the plot of this story. It is a very rare thing to find a time travel story that isn't cliched or goes over the same ground as every other story, but the storyline for this one was engaging and different.

However, I found it really difficult to get into the story, in large part down to the writing style. In many respects, almost ironically given that the story deals with time, it felt like I was reading a history/science book - I was reading about lots of things that happened but the writing left me feeling rather passive to the whole affair. There was nothing that gave me any insight into the character or the environment, nor any sounds or smells or tastes to draw me in to really engage with the story. As such, I found myself regrettably quite disinterested and looking for my own ways to save time so that I might reach the end quicker.

Likewise, at times the author felt the need to point out every small detail. It felt a lot like the emotion and storyline were being sacrificed for the niggling details that I didn't really need to know. I could have perhaps ignored this were it not for the fact the author also felt the need point out every time the character noticed that he needed to save time - the first couple of times worked well enough but once I clocked on to the pattern I felt rather like I was being patronised and that I, as the reader, wasn't being trusted to understand what was going on.

I can't help but feel that this story might have lived up to the plot had it been more stringently edited, cutting out a lot of the details and replacing them with some characterisation and atmosphere.

As I said before though, it is a great plot without a doubt, but it feels a lot like a story that only consists of a plot and for me that is a major problem...

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It took me a while to make something of this piece....

I had to leave this story for a little while after reading it before sitting down to write this review just to let it sink in and I'm very glad that I did. On initial reading, I didn't really feel very much and I ended up walking away from it because I figured that I just didn't get it. But when I came back to it again, I realised that my lack of any kind of feeling is actually the point really. I suppose if anyone feels the same when they come to review this piece, my advice would be to leave it for a while and see how you feel about it later because time completely changed my perspective on it.

As a reader, we are following a main character who has been emotionally severed from the rest of the world and it is difficult to read something like that without also feeling slightly detached. In that sense, I think the author hit the nail right on the head there.

Technically this is a great piece and I would certainly be interested in reading a little more at some stage. The only real reason that it drops any stars at all is because, whilst I could appreciate it, I couldn't really bring myself to say that I enjoyed it. But it certainly left me intrigued to find out what happens next so as far as I'm concerned that shouldn't really be a downer.

Nicely done, even if it did leave me feeling a little melancholy....

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Good story let down by some basic problems

I really enjoy stories that break the formula in weird ways and I think, plot wise at least, this story does that relatively well. In this literary take on the movie 'found footage' genre, the reader is really allowed to get into Sky's mind and observe as her mindset changes through the story. I think it works quite well as a short story, but what I would say is that it may benefit from a few more dates in the diary before the day it starts with at the moment to allow the character to build up before the story proper starts.

I also think that the dialogue was a bit too heavily laden with backstory. I can see why you have written the dialogue in that fashion, but when backstory is explicitly spoken through it, it tends to jar the reader out a little and makes them feel like they are being spoon fed. A reader likes to be able to interpret the work themselves and, for me at least, the abusive background was spelled out quite nicely by the brief mention of her stopping at the mirror on the way out.

One thing you need to be careful of is grammar and punctuation. I had a little trouble getting into this story to begin with because you had a spelling mistake on the very first line and things like that tend to stand out quite a bit - so much in fact that I was half looking for other mistakes as I was going through and found a few more. Particularly be careful with your use of 'you're' and 'your'. You seem to get it right in the second half of the story but in the first half there were several occasions where you used the wrong one.

Also be careful of changing tenses mid-way through sentences. I only spotted it once but it only takes you doing it once before you start to do it as a habit in any particular story.

In short. I liked the premise and the story. I was little unsure of your writing style - the journal entry style I think was good but I wasn't too sure about the sure of dialogue. The occasional technical mistakes were a little jarring.

I think with a bit of tweaking you might be on to something here though...

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Beautifully written

This short piece is very elegantly put together and very poetic in construction. I found myself complete immersed in it and, although very little information was really given about the character, I felt a deep understanding with their woes and mistakes in life.

Technically this is wonderfully written and I think the writer will go a long way.

However, despite the story being very short it almost felt too long given the content which meant that I began to lose interest a little towards the end. I also felt that the actual accident almost didn't need to be mentioned as much as it was. With a story like this, where it seemed like the whole piece was about the feelings of this person after they had been cremated, the exact nature of how they came to be there doesn't really need to be mentioned. In fact, it would be almost be more interesting to allow the reader to decide for themselves how they got to that point, but that's more of a personal taste.

All in all though, a wonderful little story and I look forward to reading more from this writer.

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Plot shows promise

This set up is quite nicely done; like all ghost stories, the build up is slow and drawn which kept me interested enough to carry on reading and I would be intrigued to know where the story is going after this point.

The major drawback that I see is the sheer amount of dialogue. It seems that everything a character experiences is expressed through what they say rather than through their actions. It's easy enough to have a character to say 'I'm feeling emotional,' or something to that effect, but it is a lot more engaging for the reader if they have to work that out for themselves. At times it felt a little like I was being spoon fed the information which meant my own imagination didn't manage to kick into gear at all to help make the story real for me.

Dialogue is always tricky. One of the things to keep in mind is that in a conversation between two people, you don't have to keep saying he said, she said, he said if you've established who was speaking first. Your audience will get the idea and be able to keep up with who is saying what unless there is a break in the conversation.

I think my main issue is the fact that it felt a little too historical in how it was put together - it felt like I was reading a series of events rather than a story itself. One of the ways you can do that is by reducing the dialogue and have the characters show what is on their mind or (even better in the early stages of a story) allude to what might be on their mind without the audience actually knowing for sure.

Another thing that seems to be lacking is the experience aspect - everything was based on what the character sees but there is practically no reference to the other four senses. It is amazing how much tension you can build up in a scene by simply having someone tasting a glass of water and finding it to be a little bitter. As people, we experience the world in so many ways and the same should be true of your characters.

Generally though, I am interested by this story but I feel it needs to benefit from more character action and less character dialogue if you want to really build the suspense and get the reader dying to find out what happens next.

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Nice concept

What I love about this piece is the idea of each chapter being from a different person's point of view who is stated in the chapter heading. The concept of addressing each character as they approach the moment of death is interesting but I have to say that the execution was not on the same level. Considering this is about a group of kids in the days leading up to their death, where revenge and anger are so important to the story, I felt oddly detached from the whole thing. I feel like it needs to be more emotionally charged to get me on board but it's on the right tracks.

Writing wise, I think the style felt a little passive and didn't really engage me in the story. Writing in the present tense can be effective but it doesn't seemed to have worked for you on this occasion. I always feel that if you're going to do something odd like that, it needs to be done for a very good reason and I wasn't convinced that this one was done for the right reason.

A couple of spelling/typos and a huge paragraph to begin with that very nearly made me give up before I'd even had a chance to get in to the story, but otherwise not bad at all. I'm not going to say it's great because I think it still has a long way to go, but it definitely has potential.

Would be very interested to see what you do with this piece.

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1st Place in Fated Paradox

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