Please critique The Losing Side - Pt. 2
Monday, October 16, 2006

Thanks for commenting about the monotone aspect; I’ll keep that in mind as I put together future chapters. That’s exactly the sort of thing that is really useful for me to know. Trying to figure out what’s interesting and what’s boring to my readers here!

I’ll try to proofread more carefully; I’ll have to admit I do tend to look more for grammatical errors than spelling snafus. Writing faster.....not sure I can pull that off!

I’m also tucking the comment about Wash away in my brain for review ;) I freely admit that Mal is the character I’ve studied most and have the deepest understanding of; I might well be guilty of underestimating Wash.

Please, if you have any other issues or things that nag at you or bore you, let me know! It’s truly wonderful to hear what people like, but without also knowing what they dislike or where they think I’m starting to stray, I won’t get any better at this! Heck, I might even get worse, which has been my concern of late.

Beginning of insanely long discussion which might interest only me:

Where Khiloh is concerned, it’s a double-edged sword. I think that Mal in particular and I’m almost certain Wash as well are well-educated and intelligent enough to recognize a Stockholm syndrome/capture bonding sort of situation for what it was, and not get caught up in it.

From my understanding, that is something that develops less as a result of any genuine kindness or caring on the part of the captor, and more as the victim reading small glimpses of humanity or the occasional absence of complete cruelty as a sign of benevolence, and the bonding that occurs is part self-delusion and part survival instinct.

Ironically enough, in trying to shape Khiloh’s character, that’s one of the reasons I made the choice to have him as completely kind as he is. If he were a less “humanitarian” character, I don’t think I could portray a genuine friendship developing without either ignoring psychological realities or portraying a Stockholm type of situation developing……..which in my opinion would be completely out of character for Mal and Wash.

If he is genuinely and cleanly a nice person, one smart enough to play the prison guard when he has to (remember, when he saw Mal in the cell after he was attacked, Khiloh didn’t throw some goody-two-shoes fit – he played it off coldly and casually enough to give Mal nightmares afterwards…..and something similar is going to happen in chapter 31), then perhaps he becomes someone that, despite his job, these guys can be friends with.

In effect, I decided to duck one set of problems by making him one-dimensional in that way, but that gives me a problem when it comes to finding other ways to make him a human and believable character.

I’ve given it a lot of thought recently, and I’ve decided that for the purposes of the story and the character, Khiloh needs to be very much the genuine good guy. I don’t write off the possibility that there could be essentially a grunt in the Alliance military who has more in common with the Browncoats than the outfit he signed on with to get a paying job. Many of us have jobs we hate and bosses we fear. I’ll leave the role of maybe likable/maybe scary character to Lee; it suits him.

But……I still have the problem of how to make him more believably and relatably human, without destroying that. This is the first time that I’ve created an original character who plays such a big role in the story, and I just don’t know how to do it, quite frankly. Joss’s characters all have complexity and depth, whereas my character? Well, he’s a nice guy. So, any and all advice and suggestions would be welcomed with open arms! I just can’t think of “flaws” to give him that wouldn’t seem trite, and I don’t know how to bring out other aspects of his personality…..very much trying to figure that out.

Thanks for all your help and advice!


Tuesday, October 17, 2006 6:53 AM


I'll have a go at a proper critique of the writing...

I only make a few suggestions about your writing technique in my reviews because you have a very solid style and grasp of technique. Going back over ch.30 with a more critical eye, I still found little to comment upon negatively. You make good use of active, strong verbs with a good variety of word choices. You punctuation and sentence structure is well done and has variation in the sentence patterns so the writing never sounds repetitious or androidal.

Point of view (POV) is one of the few weaknesses in the writing, along with scene selection choice and your overall plot structure.

Of overall plot structure I tend to be forgiving. This chapter-by-chapter, posted as its written, makes it difficult to structure your complete novel smoothly. From this regard the flow of chapter is somewhat uneven--up and down--with events not always leading seemlessly from chapter to chapter. The chapter in Lee's office which was entirely flashback is one example--it jumped in abruptly rather than nestling down into the flow.

In scene selection choice, you sometimes do include moments and interactions that don't really drive the story forward. This last chapter, 30, bogged down a bit in the middle in the housing unit. You went 'round the room through their array of reactions, then you went around again, then had Mal and Wash go around again--pull out the juicy bits and put them into the one time around reactions and then move on--a scene break would have been appropriate to advance the timeline.

I like the added detail you've put in ch.30. It added greatly to the flavor and scene setting. Many of your dialog interchanges have gotten into 'talking heads' without any grounding in their physical location and scene setting. The added detail (not overdone at all) gave the needed flavor to the dialog exchanges--it was the dialog exchanges going on too long that I think gave you the sense the scene was dragging or too long.

From point of view, POV, you need to keep in mind whose story this is. Mal's? Wash's? Both, really. And to a lesser extent Zoe's, Lee's, and Khiloh's. Those are the only POV's you should be going into; the only minds whose thought we should hear, the only eyes we should see the scenes through. Contrary to another comment I do not think you should go into Gray's or Staaker's thoughts. They're minor characters who don't merit POV scenes. What is interesting about Gray and Staaker is how *Mal* and *Wash* perceive them and think about them.

Your POV--something I've commented upon before--is generally good at keeping to one character in a scene critical to than character. But in ch.30 you wandered a bit--you delved a bit into the peripheral characters' thoughts whereas to keep a true, single-chararter POV you should have let us see them as Mal saw them, with his interpretation of what he thought they were feeling.

A better way to structure this whole chapter would have been to split in between Mal and Wash--see half strictly through Mal's eyes, and half strictly though Wash's eyes, with no others', and no author's omnicient, POVs to intrude. The closer in you get to a single character the stronger is the overall scene and its effect--you 'become' that chararcter in the writing and even the narrative word choices and patterns become unique to that single character.

Instead of us watching Mal watch through the window, we see through Mal's eyes what he see through the window. Instead of hearing how he feels about it, we *feel* it as Mal feels it. Close, tight, single-character POV. Dong ma?

In this type of focused POV I suspect you'd have answered the types of questions others had about the character portrayals. If Mal seems to saintly and accepting now, I suspect that inside he was seething and wanting to kill all the guards himself, and flashing back to his own treatment at their hands--that element was sorely missing from this chapter. And Wash wouldn't seem soft if we saw into his head at the moment Gray was chained to the gate. We'd have felt his visceral reaction to it in a stronger way than him saying he knew about such things but didn't want to talk about them.

Hope this adds to the writing critique info you were looking for. Your writing is already at a very high level, without doubt, with splendid characterizations and insights. Keep on!


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