K.J. Sylvan

Creator of "The Forest Stories", a series of soon-to-be published fantasy novels and short stories.

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Great concept, just needs some polish!

This story was interesting to dive into, and is focused more on plots and events and the characters' immediate reactions to them than on delving into characterization. It works very well for this story, and if military and action is your type of thing, you might be interested in giving this a shot! I was particularly interested in hearing what III had to say when he showed up on the screen; that guy seriously seems like a badass!

My one big critique for the writer is punctuation for the dialogue. The dialogue itself, the actual words the characters are saying, are perfectly fine. But there are consistent mistakes with the punctuation concerning the dialogue. For example, at the beginning of Chapter 2: "Quite the opposite, sir" Lowell responded, "Both IV and V have been eliminated." should read:
"Quite the opposite, sir," Lowell responded. "Both IV and V have been eliminated."
If you are are writing that the character said something, no matter what the tag is (in this case it's "responded", but it could be "said", "whispered", etc.) then the dialogue phrase right before it should end with a comma, not an empty space or a period (unless of course they are shouting or exclaiming, then use question marks and exclamation marks!). It should only end with a period if the dialogue is interrupted with an action, for example:
"Quite the opposite, sir." Lowell turned to look him straight in the eye. "Both IV and V have been eliminated."
If this is ever confusing, go grab your favorite novel off the shelf and flip to a scene where you know there's a lot of talking, and carefully read it over. Look for all the punctuation (the things we normally don't notice when we read) and really take note of how they do it. This is the kind of thing that you're not really supposed to notice while reading, but as writers we have to train ourselves to take note :)

Finally, one other small suggestion. In the first chapter, right after the scene break, General Lowell talks to a young reserve. But the part where it tells us what the young reserve is doing is a bit of a mouthful to read, because we are also trying to keep in mind the question Lowell asked so that we can understand the upcoming answer. Try breaking it up a little bit, either with commas, or into two sentences, so the reader can better take it in. Here's a couple possibilities:
"Have you been able to locate him yet?" asked General Lowell. He was talking to a young reserve, who was focusing on redistributing access points for multiple communication channels, hoping to locate a specific signal.
or:
"Have you been able to locate him yet?" General Lowell asked a young reserve. They were focusing on... ect.
I bet there are even more ways to do this, but these are just my thoughts! Try experimenting and see if you can find a way that works best for your style and story.

You've got really good concepts and a nice grasp of actual dialogue lines, and I would love to see you write more to this. This is the kind of concept that some people go crazy over so if you polish it a bit, I bet you'll gain more readers :) Good luck and happy writing!

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Fun in a Spooky Way

This was a fun read! I enjoyed some of the imagery the writer employed and liked the twist at the very end, which I wasn't at all expecting, but I suppose the tone of the story threw me off a little bit. I got the feeling that, no matter how strange the circumstances or events, nothing would have surprised the female lead character. She seemed like a seasoned paranormal detective, as she showed no real fear, but rather excitement at the prospect of walking into the haunted house and even at the sight of a ghost! She spoke to it so readily and didn't really seem concerned with strange blood-colored splotches on the walls, and it made me feel like she'd done all of this before even though we know she hasn't. That would be my main suggestion: maybe tweak some of her reactions, and her actions and words, so that they all fit together more seamlessly. But I have to say, I did like her attitude. If the writer was going for more of a "fun" tone rather than an eerie one, this works, but maybe it would help if her excitement was emphasized by having her realize she should be frightened, should be put-off by blood-like splotches and visions of ghosts, and even she's surprised that she isn't. I just think it could use some clarification.

My only other problem was some small things with her internal monologue, where we were told things outright that I'm not sure made perfect sense. Such as "Obviously she was supposed to take the [object] to the [address] and use it for something, but what?" I don't think that would be obvious at all. I would have assumed the address was whoever had sent it, but I think it would take some pondering to realize maybe I should bring the object there. The story might flow better if you had her bring the object along because it was in the box with the address, and only once inside, notice that the object was reacting to the location and think "Maybe I was supposed to bring this here?" This is just a potential example that might feel more natural. I also found it quite intriguing, yet a little confusing, that the object fit into the back of the instrument she later finds. I suppose the whole point is that this is some mysterious, ghostly artifact, but maybe making its purpose just a tad bit clearer might help the reader feel more satisfied? Just some food for thought.

Sorry for the vagueness above, but I didn't want to give anything away for the story and was hesitant to even say that much! I hope the writer don't mind that or my suggestions, which were meant to be constructive and not critical. I think this writer could be great at writing paranormal detective mysteries where courageous lead characters charge straight in and engage the ghosts and ghouls, because that's really what this felt like to me (until the end, of course, which once again was a great little twist). Overall, I had a fun time reading. Good work! :)

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Don't read this before bed!

I am so glad I didn't find this story at night! This eerie tale gets downright foreboding as it goes on, and you simply know there's more going on than what it seems... and sure enough, the grim turn at the end is not unexpected, but still makes you shiver.

I really enjoyed reading this and had no difficulties with the story or the writing; nothing made me stumble or double-back to better understand it, and I hardly saw any mistakes. There may have been one or two but I was too engrossed in what was going to happen next to really notice them. Great job to the author! I've voted for this in the Harrowing Horror contest and wish you luck!

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Every Villain Thinks He's the Hero

I love when we get to see a story from a different perspective, and "Malcolm" is definitely one of those! We see inside the head of a man who feels wronged, and we watch him decide what to do, think over the options and settle on the ones that most of us would not think are the right choice. Yet the way he thinks through it, you almost understand where he's coming from, and you keep reading with a morbid fascination to see what will happen next. It's a fairly short read but an interesting one, and I would definitely recommend it if you have some spare time!

I only have a few suggestions to the author. I found some spelling mistakes here and there (check the opening paragraphs, where "is" should be "his"), and one instance where a sentence seems to have been left unfinished and didn't completely make sense. Also, I have to admit, the extra bit at the end of the story left me confused. To be perfectly honest, I couldn't follow what was going on. Why was the victim back again? Or was that really not him and was someone else? Or were we seeing the scene being "replayed" in a slightly different way? Personally I feel the story was strong enough without it, unless you have a good reason for it and want to edit it to make it clearer. Either way, good work overall! I would be willing to read more from this author again.

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A Beautiful Return to the Sea

As someone who feels a connection to water and oceans, maybe I related with this a little too much, but I simply thought it was beautiful. In a lot of ways I want to end the review right there because I'm having trouble finding words... this short piece just grabbed me, and the writing was emotional and expressive and there was something real and tangible about it. I wasn't completely sure what was going on or how it would end, but I had suspicions it would be something along the lines of what ended up happening, yet I still felt surprised and intensely interested to see it play out. I really enjoyed this entire thing and would gladly read more from this writer; I honestly can't even find anything to critique! They just have a wonderful style. Great job and I can't wait to read more!

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Short and sweet but evocative

This was a fun read. I'm not familiar with the source/inspiration at all, but it didn't matter one bit because of the way it was written; you could infer everything that you needed to know, and honestly the information wasn't as important as the feelings evoked between the two characters. This was a super fast read but I really enjoyed it, and only found a few small mistakes in the whole thing... a few instances of there being no space between the period of one sentence and the first letter of the next, and "We really need to work on your attitude, John Sheppard," is missing a quotation mark at the front. I hope you don't mind me pointing those out to you, and otherwise, good work! :)

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Great ideas, execution needs work

There are clearly some really great, creative ideas that drive this writer, and the images that explain the magic are a great way to start off. However, I found my mind wandering a lot while reading because the flow and atmosphere of this story is off; it reads like a summary in some places, then jumps into dialogue that does what is called "info-dumping", where the background and world-building information is all thrown at the reader at once. I found this to be difficult to follow and too much to take in, but the ideas themselves are very interesting and the entire thing could be easily improved by spreading out this information throughout the story. For example, rather than have all the creatures of the world all revealed in dialogue, I suggest that the writer has their main character learn about the creatures along the way, or a few at a time when they become relevant. I get the feeling that this writer would be fantastic at doing world-building for RPG games, or creating encyclopedias and bestiaries for their worlds, but I think that when it comes to including those aspects int an actual story or novel they need to try a different technique. It might even be the case that they are simply super excited about the information they've created and are really eager to share it with the reader, so they wove it into the story like this. This actually happens to a lot of writers (I'm guilty of it, too), and so I suggest taking highly detailed notes and compiling encyclopedias for yourself to get it out of your system, then afterward, carefully pick and choose what should be included in the story and when. I've had to do this too, and it makes everything much easier to read and so much cleaner as a written work, it's just hard as heck because it feels like you're hiding away your gems and not showing anyone. But a good writer always saves the best gems for the time and place that will make them shine brightest :)

The other big problem I had with this story was the punctuation for dialogue. This is not the first Inkitt story I've come across where this is an issue, but this was my #1 thing that made it difficult to read, so I wanted to point it out to the writer. When a character speaks, and their line is followed by "[name] said/asked/replied" etc, the dialogue right before it should never end in a period. It should always be a comma. For example:
"I told you Rosetta." Jay replied. "I knew it would make you feel bad." should be:
"I told you Rosetta," Jay replied. "I knew it would make you feel bad."
This doesn't seem like a big difference, but it's crucial for your work looking professional and also for the flow of the story. When the reader sees a period, that's a full stop, but when a comma follows the dialogue line, it flows better into telling us who is speaking, and this or an ellipsis (...) are the only correct punctuation there. There are times when dialogue ends with a period, though, and that is when, rather than the text telling us who is speaking, it implies who is speaking by using an action, or a "beat". For example you could change the above to:
"I told you Rosetta." Jay was wearing a self-satisfied smirk. "I knew it would make you look bad."
Or, for a totally different sentence re-imagined:
"What a cute little boy, bossing me around! I think it might be fun to use magic!" Rosetta giggled and jumped out of her bed, surprising the patients in the room. "I'M GOING TO LEARN MAGIC!"
^--You could just put that all together rather than break it into two paragraphs, and use capital letters to show she's shouting rather than telling the reader.
Another thing about dialogue: Try not to give a really long line of dialogue, either a super long sentence or several sentences, and only THEN break it up with "[name] said". I absolutely love the Harry Potter series but that's actually my biggest gripe with it, is that, when there are 5-10 characters in the same room, it lets you read a huge line of dialogue before bothering to tell you who's speaking. Now, your story was actually better than that because for the most part it was only Rosetta and Jay speaking, so you could follow who was who as it goes back and forth without too much confusion. But for example, having a big long paragraph and then at the end saying "Jay asked" is unnecessary because we already know he's speaking and the line ends with a question mark, so all the dialogue tag does is disrupt the flow.

And lastly, one final tip: When using dialogue tags ("said', "asked", replied" etc.) try to stick to "said" as much as possible. Even if someone asks a question, you can sometimes use "said" if you don't want to interrupt the flow, because "said" is practically punctuation in the sense that it doesn't distract the reader at all; people's eyes skip right past it and their mind stays hooked on the story content. But when you have lots of "exclaimed", "asked", "replied", "pestered", etc. the reader starts to see those more than the actual line being spoken. You should use those to break monotony ("said" does get boring) or to clarify or for emphasis: So for example, "exclaimed" can be a good way to show the character is speaking louder than usual, if it's not already evident, or that they are always excitable but that only works when other characters are sticking to "said" and "asked". Don't over-use it or it loses all of its punch. Meanwhile, tags like "pestered" can almost always be gotten rid of: Show that she's pestering him through the dialogue line itself, or through her actions; make her put her hands together and beg, pull on his arm/sleeve, or ask incessantly. But have her "say" it, not "pester" it :)

I would love to see the write go back through and clean up the first chapter of this story. These ideas are so creative and interesting and deserve that kind of attention from them. I also hope they don't mind my review/critique, as I am earnestly just trying to help. Thanks to the writer for putting their work out there because that takes courage. Never stop writing!

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Fun for Spirited Away Fans

As a fan of Spirited Away and Miyazaki films in general, this was an interesting read. I've only read the first couple chapters so far, but the entire plot with with spirit world/human world connection crumbling is super intriguing, and I would get a little thrill every time a character that I remembered, like Zeniba, would show up. The entire idea of there only being a few access points left to get to the human world and the talks of oncoming war make me want to keep reading and see what happens next, and the limited interactions between 18 year old Chihiro and Haku really make me wonder what's going on! I also loved how the writer incorporated the extinction of the Japanese river otter into the story as a sign of things to come, that really shows some great planning on their part. They also write good dialogue, and I loved the descriptions of Haku's senses (especially scent) going into overload because of the human world. Hopefully I'll be able to read more of this later! Good job and keep it up!

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Definitely worth reading!

This was such an interesting piece. I love what the author did here, how you are only shown so much but shown just enough to understand the monotony of the routine, the person's confinement, and memories of what they've left behind, all while only showing you precisely as much as you need to see in order to understand. This author has an excellent command of what information the reader should be privy to and it really shines in this short piece, which left me wanting more in a good way. It is both very interesting and rather unsettling, but more than feeling unsettled I was just t the edge of my seat waiting to see where the story was going. I would recommend this to anybody who has a few spare minutes and wants to check out something worthwhile!

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A New Take on an Old Classic

I had no idea I was reading a re-done version of an old fairy tale until the story really began to take shape, and that very surprise is what hooked me, so I will say nothing to ruin the surprise. I enjoyed the author's writing style and liked their use of descriptions. The way they weaved certain words and turns of phrase was interesting and fresh to me, so I very much enjoyed that.

I only found a couple small mistakes, or little sentence fragments I might have omitted, but overall there's not much to correct that isn't simply up to taste or personal style. Good job to the author, and I can't wait to read more from you!

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A Fun and Interesting read!

This was a fun and easy read. Nothing made me stumble, but I was able to get through the story fast due to its good pacing and interesting characterization. I enjoyed the differences between the brothers and I especially liked Matthew and John's interactions; you can tell they're both close and rely on each other. I also really liked the grandmother and the twist at the end! Poor Matthew certainly wasn't expecting that and neither was I. I really enjoyed the surprise!

My only suggestions are that some paragraphs early on are quite long, but don't have commas. This is a bit of a problem throughout, and there are some sentences that could really use commas for clarity's sake. For a small example: "Heck, even he knew that dense as he was." could use a comma after "that", as I had to re-read it a couple times to understand it. I would also suggest cutting down on the physical descriptions right in the midst of when they're walking to meet their grandmother, and the conversations there. It felt a little forced and odd because so many people were watching them. It was the only part in the entire thing that seemed to screech to a halt right when it should have been moving along, but really, that is my only criticism. Everything else was really good and I'd love to read more! Good work!

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Well-Written, Witty, and Relatable

This was a fun read, one very well-crafted with excellent diction and semantics. This writer knows their stuff! I'm hard pressed to find any criticisms and finding it just as hard to choose a favorite part of this piece, although this line is certainly up there: "I'm sure you'd have admirable qualities much to be desired by one who resides in an environment in which independent thought is discouraged. Which, again, includes nobody I can personally recommend". I love the way this sentiment is written, and that is just a taste of what this short but poignantly amusing piece has to offer. If you've ever had writer's block, you'll want this piece in letter form so that you can deliver it yourself next time!

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A Sensory Journey with a Chilling End

This story starts off with very strong sensory cues, with scents and sounds and visuals; it makes you see and feel everything that exists in that space and time, which paints a picture but also drags you into the shoes of the point of view character. This is extremely important for this story, because the character seems to almost be "swimming" through their feelings, thoughts, and longings, being dragged through them by the tide of this writing style. And it pulls you, too, like gravity.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this and couldn't help but wonder what the end would bring. It wasn't what I would have expected when I first started, but by the end, I was hooked. Great style, great flow to the work, and very riveting; once you start you can't stop until you reach the last word!

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I need to know what happens next!

I went to this author's page to read a work they had suggested, but ended up clicking Flight of the Kestrel first, and I am so glad that I did. The first chapter really got me hooked. Their description of the city, and the way they weave the story and historical background in with the plot and dialogue is well done, and I found myself really rooting for Jorene. By the end of the first chapter I had no choice to click the second to find out what happened next, and by the end of the second I actually said, "Oh come on!" when it ended, because I was completely engrossed. I really hope the writer will keep working on this story in the future!

My only critique as of now is that the second chapter needs another editing pass-through. There are spelling mistakes and missing words (more frequent as the chapter goes on, I bet they were writing it very eagerly!) but I could still understand what the sentences meant in every case, so nothing left me confused. Also, this isn't a problem in the first chapter at all, so please don't let that stop you from reading if you see this review! I would only suggest that the writer go back to chapter 2 and read through carefully again to correct some things.

Overall, great work and I can't wait to see more of it! I'll be checking out the rest of your work next :)

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Frightening yet fun!

The Holly King was an interesting take on an old legend and a battle of light versus what has become dark. I thought it was interesting, and the end was fun to read, but some of the "horror" elements (like Daniel's nightmare) seemed to set up the story for more horrific or gruesome things later that it never delivered on. I think if the nightmare was edited a bit, to be more in line with the atmosphere of the later scenes with the Holly King, this story would really come together. In truth, I thought the puppy aspect of the nightmare was a bit much; it just didn't fit with the rest of the tale at all. Apart from this, however, I enjoyed the author's portrayal of Santa Claus and the Holly King and I liked their take on the powers and personalities of each.

The only other comment I have is that I found an error: "The door to his parents' bedroom was open a jar." Ajar is the word you're looking for here, and it means that something is partially open. So the sentence should be "The door to his parents' bedroom was ajar" or "was open a little", ect. I hope that helps in the future! Good job and keep writing!

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Beautiful and Dream-like

A lovely piece that explores dreams of love and potential loss. I found myself at the edge of my seat while reading because some of the imagery was truly captivating and held me fast. The feelings this poem explores are deep and universal in a way, but the perfectness of the object of affection in the poem truly gives it a dreamlike quality, like how one may look back on memories more pleasantly than they did while living through them. And I must say, knowing the title of the poem, it was super satisfying when the word "dreamer" finally cropped up near the end; it made the poem truly come full circle. Excellent work, I would love to read more by this writer!

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No Complexity Necessary

Simple, to the point, yet evocative, this describes wind in a way that everyone is familiar with, but the brevity gives it a lot of punch. I can so easily picture this poem being overlaid on a photo of autumn leaves blowing through the air. Great work!

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Nice work!

This was a quick read but worth it. I loved the writer's portrayal of the dual aspects of snow: good and evil, softness and ill intent, and that beauty can be deceiving. It's like the softness of a snowfall versus how harsh or dangerous an ice storm can be. I feel as though certain lines of the poem could use some added punch or stronger word-choice at the beginning, but the end is particularly good with some great lines. I will be sure to read more of this writer's work.

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The Weeping Widow: Sad and Evocative

This poem is a quick read, but one that pulls you in with the strong feeling emitted by the first four lines. From those lines alone, you know the tone and atmosphere of the rest of the poem: the sadness, and the strong image of the weeping widow, which you assume will grow stronger as you read on. The rest of the poem delivers on this, and continues to return to the concept of the writer watching on, unable to save or help the weeping widow and blaming themselves; this pulls the reader in and makes them feel like they themselves are watching the weeping widow.

Punctuation is used sparingly in this, but I'm not sure if that's on purpose. Where punctuation is actually used, it gives that line a lot of "punch" and makes it stand out, naturally emphasizing it. There are generally commas within the lines where they need to be, although they're missing in a couple spots I myself would have added them (such as "Me, a viewer that can't sooth her tears"). There are also a couple lines I found took me out of the story, like "Her full pouty lips now wear an eternal frown".

Overall, I really liked this piece and loved the imagery! So sad and almost spooky.

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Fun and Unique!

This is a quick read and totally worth it! Getting a glimpse into the mind of this genie and seeing their thoughts on the passing of time, the changing of society, and how easy it would be for them to become cynical or regretful was thought provoking. I love the genie's curiosity, and the tidbits about genies you learn from this were intriguing. It leaves you wanting more, yet ends at the right time.

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Interesting read!

This was very interesting and I enjoyed reading it; you can tell you're being given a glimpse into a well-crafted world with a history behind it. It works very well as a prologue or introduction to more, yet could also stand on its own. Overall, I would recommend this!

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Strong Start, Interesting Follow-up

This story pulls you in from the get-go and makes you interested in what's happening, which is extremely important for any story but especially so for a short story or excerpt. Many interesting details about the world are shown through the thoughts and experiences of Haghuf, without said details being muddled by unnecessary words or flowery sentences. But the style is still strong and it conveys what it was meant to convey; it pulls you in, intrigues you, makes you wonder about the world Haghuf comes from.... Overall, this is very well done and makes me want to read more.

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