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Author Topic: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread  (Read 11962 times)

Offline Raptori

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #30 on: June 05, 2015, 07:34:26 AM »

And @Raptori, The venerable Lady Ty's link confirmed my suspicion that seagrasses are mostly coastal things in shallow waters (because I guess grass needs a good source of sunlight). I got the impression your dragons were a lot deeper out into sea, what with giant chasms and having to draw forth flames in order to see through the gloom on top of large fishing vessels (though I guess fishermen do trawl coastal regions too).

So if you were going to adopt these dragons (which are really cool) into a bigger thing, I'd still suggest dropping that. But then you wouldn't be hiding information for a twist in such a piece either, so a lot of those confusions that hit me (and I admit I was really tired at the time I read it) would probably not have come about due to a grander scope on the region.

David, I think being called 'venerable' made my day and I am glad my family won't read this because I would never be able to live it down. ;D ;D

Yes, in reality sea grass meadows need some degree of light for photo synthesis.  The reason I made comment on this minor detail was that primarily this is a fantasy story. Within this genre I believe that, with care, descriptive parameters may allow the expression of a real world concept, without adhering strictly to established detail.  If there are glorious water dragons, why should there not also be seagrass flourishing? Even better in actual ‘meadows’?

The landscape as described allowed me to picture the scene perfectly and did not jar in any way.  I was caught up completely in the dragon’s flight and race over his ‘land’.  I believe this is where you and I differ in our expectations and that makes for good discussion and hopefully provides variety of views for the writers.

I hope @Raptori and @Saurus pursue this particular theme further as it was an intriguing tale. The sea has many mysteries still  providing limitless opportunity for imagination. Recently salt lakes have been discovered at the bottom of oceans and mini eco systems subsisting on methane with new and strange life forms. One glorious day my lifelong wish may be realised and they announce “Here be Dragons” . ;D
Yeah we'll have to see - the dragons definitely don't fit in the world our current WIP is set in, but I at least like it enough to think it could be worth exploring. It could easily have some really nice parallels to whaling and that kind of thing, which is a good start. Maybe for the next F-F anthology, since its theme is guns & dragons...  :)
 
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Offline ArcaneArtsVelho

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #31 on: June 05, 2015, 10:10:56 AM »
Thank you very much, @D_Bates!

I will try to clear up or explain some things (and maybe write a few words about your story as well) when I have a little more time.

But for now, I just say thank you!
Everything I wrote above is pure conjecture. I don't know what I'm talking about.

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Offline D_Bates

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #32 on: June 06, 2015, 12:16:00 PM »
You're most welcome AAV. And @Lady_Ty, you're right to say that the grass is a minor detail. I was critiquing it more as a writer looking at structure based on it being aimed as a twist story.

The best twists tend to be those where the story has a double meaning. The reader's led down the garden path and then hit with a detail at the end which, if they reread the story from the start with the new information, changes it into a completely new tale. That's what this story was certainly going for, it's what ClintACK's awesome whale alternative was about (by the way, you can come out of the corner now @ClintACK. Come on... That's it. Don't be shy).
As an example of a story with an excellent twist, there was one a month or so back called "Sorry, Kid." I think it was by some up and coming superstars called @Raptori and @Saurus? That was such a brilliant twist that had it been in this competition I think it could have very well won.

As this story stands though, if you go back to the start with the new information, while there's an abundance of good water references across the board, things like the grass and the flying breaks the illusion which was what I was trying to point out. You could fix the flying by calling it gliding, or you could take a step outside the box and directly describe the movements of the wings as stroking to propel them forward. For the grass, had it been changed to clumps of weed, does that really destroy the illusion of the above sea flight? The sentence is vague enough that without knowing it was underwater I would still picture the cliffs. Heck, I may even picture the grass, since tufts of long wild grass are more akin to weeds than the cultivated beds that make up our lawns.

But getting away from the short story for a moment, even if this were a scene in a larger novel I'd still criticise the grass, because as a writer myself I know it would have been a slip. It wouldn't have come about because the author was trying to build a 'different' world, but because they had a cool idea of an underwater setting but never never fully imagined it, essentially writing an upper world setting and just filling it with water. Unless the grass is a fundamental part of the plot, if they then hide behind the fact that it's a fantasy world and anything goes they're just being lazy. And while most readers won't care, it doesn't change the fact that the author's short-changing them, and this is why so many frown on the Fantasy genre as a whole as poor man's writing.

Like you, I'm also a nature lover, and one of the reasons I chose to write fantasy was because I wanted to go and explore the heights of mountains, the thick of the forests, the depths of the sea. I think some of the most fantastical things are right outside these concrete penitentiaries of civilisation that we hide away in.
If I were to write a deep ocean scene I could say the cliffs of the gorge were sprinkled with tufts of grass and rubble, or I could describe the jagged stone walls pricked with holes like a petrified sponge. Bubbles blew out in places and tickled the clinging tassels of waxy weeds. The light pouring from Ayatton's hot chest illuminated a cloud of otherworldly colours as a school of fish washed down into the depths. He scanned the dark cliffs for the entrance to the cave which held the air prisoner; they almost appeared to be throbbing to the beat of the ocean's current. His target was confirmed when a mighty ray exited the wall like a floating leaf with a piece of string tied to its stalk. Ayatton swept his wings back and glided on towards his target.
Obviously I took a few liberties here and you would expect another author to also go into more description than is allowed in a short story, but the point is that nothing I wrote was me intentionally making things up. I tried to keep it as real as I understand it from things I've seen on TV, but just because I'm hooking the land into our world does it make it any less fantastical?
Were I to want to use the seagrass, I could describe the disturbance in the vast stretch of crystal ocean coast where the dragons were frolicking in the meadow of swaying seagrasses, each playfully snapping at the other's limbs, churning up the sun-kissed white sands to turn the clear water foggy. I pulled all that out of the picture from the link you sent earlier, because it's a beautiful picture worthy of a beautiful scene.

At anyrate, I digress! The bigger issue with Raptori's story was that some didn't quite get that it was underwater.
On looking at it again, I think the real problem was that there wasn't quite enough direct references to the water once the twist was revealed.
Looking at the ending again, the only line that makes mention of it was the fountain of water following him up as he breached the surface. If you happened to not take that in for whatever reason (which is easy to do when you consider the exciting action going on at the time) there's nothing else that really tells you they're in/on water. All the rest is ambiguous text that only works if you've come to that realisation. Even when you're talking of ships and boats, unfortunately, due to the wonders of modern sci-fi television and video games like final fantasy there exists enough flying vessels that are labelled ships and boats--and in fact many are shaped and move like them too--that when you're already immersed in an elevated mountain land the mention of them doesn't break the illusion.
You could drum this home with a few added extras for clarity:
- He breached the surface [of the sea] with a roar
- the surface/[roof/ceiling] of his [ocean] world spread out beneath him in all directions
On a grander scale, you could well scrap the whole battle and just focus the story on the race. The race is exciting--more so for me than the fisherman battle--and after you've taken us around the underwater course, possibly even starting with them wading through that meadow of grass, you can punch the twist home by finishing up with them breaching the surface of the water at the finish line.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2015, 08:51:52 PM by D_Bates »
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Offline ArcaneArtsVelho

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #33 on: June 06, 2015, 03:39:24 PM »
Okay, about your critique of my story, @D_Bates.

All of your suggestions made sense and none of it came off as too harsh. Still, I wanted to write this response to let you know what was going through my mind when I was reading your critique as well as when I was wrting my story.

So...

Adverbs/adjectives: Yes, this is an issue in my writing. Your examples do a very good job at showing how I try to, in a way, force the atmosphere to the reader even though it's already been set. I have to work on spotting the words that aren't really necessary and/or end up detracting the effect of the sentences or the whole story.

The watchman: The watchman at the gate is basically a doorman; he opens the gate if a farmer has stayed out late, and he gets his boss if any strangers want to enter after dark. And of course he can go on top of the wall occasionally to make sure that nothing sinister is happening outside. There are other watchmen that patrol the town centre. So the doorman basically only needs to be able to hear if someone is knocking on the gate. Silly job, not very well thought through, and not explained in the story. What was I thinking?  :D

The corridor: In retrospect, yes, the corridor should have been an alley and there could have been some sort of peephole through the wall (or something) to make it a better place for the watchman's post. When I wrote the story I thought that the confines of the corridor would add to the dread and that the goats' bleating would somehow echo in the corridor, making it less clear to the watchman what was making the sound. But overall an alley would have been better. Again, silly me.

The belfry and the cat: Although you make a very good point about setting the story to a single location, to me the belfry needs to be this separate, unreachable (for the killer), and safe location where the watchman can calm down enough to fall asleep. And as for the cat, I thought that having the watchman wake up with the cat for the first time would be nicely reflected by the end when he actually woke up (with the cat). (<- Not exactly sure how much of that sentence made sense.) In any case, I think that if you had a cat in your lap, you might wake up when it leaves. No? At least if you're not in deep sleep at that moment.

The typos and sentences: Thanks for pointing these out. I'm glad that there weren't too many mistakes or "oddities". I'm not at all confident when it comes to writing in English (or any other language now that I think of it). I am a little surprised that I had messed up the "relieve/relief" part, since I usually check  idioms and things like that meticulously. Well, I guess I just need to pay a little more attention to these things in future.

That's it I guess. Thank you again! I really appreciate that you took the time to go through my humble story and give such excellent suggestions. I would almost say that you cast pearls before swine.  ;)   But, I do try to learn from your wise words.



About your story:
As I have no delusions of being able to give you as detailed and useful a critique as you gave me, I'm just going to say a few things that popped into my head when I was reading your story. :-[

I liked your story a lot. If I wasn't laughing at the end after the first read-through, then I was at least grinning like an idiot.  ;D   And as I'm reading it again, it still makes me smile.

There was plenty of foreshadowing for the twist, and it was really inconspicuous until I reached the end. It's kind of funny that "bead eyes" or "felt tongue" didn't trip any alarms in my head  :o ; only the "soft face" of the vampire made me stop and wonder for a moment, but then I just continued with a shrug, thinking you meant his skin was soft or something like that.

Quote from: D_Bates
Whenever his course hairs tickled the insides of her thighs...
Should that be "coarse"? Or is there perhaps some meaning to the word "course" that I do not know (which is entirely possible). "A course" seems to be a row of loops (or something) in knitting, so is that it? Anyway, that wasn't really a big issue.

After my first read-through I thought that the story could have been a little longer, with more witty "sub stories" revolving around the 'real versus toy' idea. But now that I think of it, the story would have probably lost some of its punch if it had been much longer.

But yeah, I liked your story, I think it had one of the best twists of all the stories in the contest, and you had even managed to incorporate the original theme of the contest into it. So, great job!  ;D

Now I must go and brush up on my critiquing and writing skills.   ;)
Everything I wrote above is pure conjecture. I don't know what I'm talking about.

I'm a perfectionist but not very good at anything. That's why I rarely finish things.

Offline D_Bates

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #34 on: June 06, 2015, 06:16:10 PM »
Good call on the coarse hair, AAV! You see, you just can't get them all. What a difference a fresh pair of eyes can make. And don't beat yourself up on yours. They really are so easy to do despite being the first thing everyone whines about--normally with a sentence that has a mistake in itself! At the end of the day you wrote 1500 words and there was, what? Four issues with spelling/grammar that I picked out, and only one of those was a typo. That's less than a 0.004% error rate. There are professional accountants who would kill to work on books with an error rate that low! And in terms of fixing them, once spotted it takes less than two seconds to do so.

Just to clarify a few points from your responses, I wasn't saying that they should be in an alley, just that I mistakenly thought that he was. That would make even less sense in terms of his job description.
As for him being the doorman, though I knew he was near the gate, I thought the corridor was slightly up the wall.

I still think you'd be better to scrap the doorman attribute and just have him as a lookout. Him being the doorman doesn't really add anything since the gate never opens or gets mentioned again.
Also, as the doorman it's unlikely he'd be in charge of the bell. When you think of bells: bells are high up in towers so that when they're rung the sound can be heard across a large area unimpeded by buildings. For your standard church bell/town bells, the reason they're placed in inaccessable towers with ropes on the ground is to prevent vandalism and for convenience. They're rung at specific times, and the person doing it doesn't really want to have to climb the tower every time to do so.
But in terms of an alarm bell, which is the impression I get this one is, somebodies going to be assigned in its location to smash it the moment something's wrong. If somebody sees a fire or an approaching band of these marauding barbarians then every second counts. They're not going to want to have to run across the wall and down to the gatehouse to ring the alarm--especially as the gatehouse is going to be the first place lost if a force manages to sneak up and breach the defences. So in that respect I don't think there's an issue with you putting him up in the bell tower.

Regarding your other concerns, first of all it's great that your using the setting as a means of reflecting the character's state of mind or to enhance the events. However, I don't think the confines of a corridor would be any more terrifying than being stuck up in a tower where's there's only one way in and out.
As for the watchman calming down enough to fall asleep, again, I don't think you have to worry. While I can totally see him being cautious as he walks the street with concern niggling in the back of his mind, being a guard I don't think he would have that much fear of becoming a victim himself, especially while at his station. You did mention that the previous victims were farmers and maids, and there's a reason most career murderers target prostitutes and people walking/living alone in secluded areas--and it's not because they're looking for a challenge. I think the soothing presence of the cat and the mystical circumstances going on is more than enough for you to put him to sleep without the need for there to be a safe place to do so.
Finally, the cat was more a suggestion than a critique, and I could totally believe the cat moving would wake him up if he was just dozing. Perhaps I've played too much Silent Hill in my time, but I'm used to the guy suddenly waking up alone to a strange noise; he notices the bloody pawprints on the ground; follows them down the stairs and out into the misty streets'; a shadowy bundle of meat sits in the middle of the road, flies dancing above it; he kneels down to inspect it closer... Ugh, it's a skinned cat! Stunned, he's left wondering wtf is going on when--
BAM, knife appears from behind across his throat.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2015, 06:35:44 PM by D_Bates »
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Offline ArcaneArtsVelho

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #35 on: June 07, 2015, 09:54:42 AM »
Just to clarify a few points from your responses, I wasn't saying that they should be in an alley, just that I mistakenly thought that he was. That would make even less sense in terms of his job description.
Oh, I know that you mistakenly thought that he was on an alley, and I didn't mean to say that you thought it would have been better but that I thought it would have been better.  :)   And as for why I thought it would be better for him to be on an alley, well, then he would at least be able to see and hear (more clearly) what was going on around him. But if he was just a doorman, then, I suppose, he should really be at the gate and not in a corridor or an alley however many meters away.

I think you are right about scrapping the doorman idea. I do think the watchman should be a lookout in a watchtower on the wall with the bell right next to him. But... for the story to work he would have to abandon his post and go somewhere where the killer doesn't find him because the killer IS in the town and he kills a watchman and skins a cat at the other gate. So the only reason the killer doesn't kill his intended second victim, our main character, is because he can't find him (and the cat). Of course the watchman could always go on top of the watchtower, i suppose, or maybe even all the way down into the town (to find the goats that make the strange noise). Still the fact remains that, for this story, he needs move to an alternate location where he avoids the killer (and falls asleep to dream of his own death or perhaps to have a premonition of the other watchman's death).

As for the watchman calming down enough to fall asleep, again, I don't think you have to worry. While I can totally see him being cautious as he walks the street with concern niggling in the back of his mind, being a guard I don't think he would have that much fear of becoming a victim himself, especially while at his station. You did mention that the previous victims were farmers and maids, and there's a reason most career murderers target prostitutes and people walking/living alone in secluded areas--and it's not because they're looking for a challenge.
But this killer is a monster who kills whoever he fancies!  :o   Maybe I should have stated in the story that the killer had killed soldiers and the like before...  :-\   But then again, that would probably make the main character be too on edge to fall asleep (assuming he is a real person with real fears). I don't know.

Perhaps I've played too much Silent Hill in my time, but I'm used to the guy suddenly waking up alone to a strange noise; he notices the bloody pawprints on the ground; follows them down the stairs and out into the misty streets'; a shadowy bundle of meat sits in the middle of the road, flies dancing above it; he kneels down to inspect it closer... Ugh, it's a skinned cat! Stunned, he's left wondering wtf is going on when--
BAM, knife appears from behind across his throat.
I haven't really played enough games from the Silent Hill series to have them influence me, but I see how something like that could work in the story.  :)

I have played a lot of other games, and they do influence me, maybe more than anything else (which is a little bit unsettling). First person shooters are closest to my heart, but I don't think I have ever tried to show that affection through my writing. Maybe I should write a first person versus third person shooter themed story for this month's multiple POV contest? How would that work, I wonder? That might not make sense to people who haven't played games like ARMA in which you can use both POVs and the third person POV is unfair and "cheaty" in certain situations.  :-\
« Last Edit: June 07, 2015, 09:59:19 AM by ArcaneArtsVelho »
Everything I wrote above is pure conjecture. I don't know what I'm talking about.

I'm a perfectionist but not very good at anything. That's why I rarely finish things.

Offline D_Bates

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #36 on: June 07, 2015, 10:53:37 PM »
Ah, okay. I didn't realise that the reason he survived was that the killer couldn't find him at his post. I thought that they were being killed in their dreams and the animal was a means of which he put them to sleep to do so. Our protagonist just woke up early due to the alarm that went off in the other tower.

Hmm, that's a difficult one to solve. Not quite sure how you could pull that one off. The problem is that if you show the murder, even though it's clear that it's happening through a dream. the natural assumption most will make is that the protagonist was actually at risk. The only way to clarify that would be to state that they caught the murderer loitering around the watchman's post. But I think that would feel a tad anticlimactic.

It also then raises the question of what part are the animals playing in the murders? It feels almost too coincidental if he's randomly picking his victims and each happens to not only have the same breed of animal loitering in the vicinity, but one that also has the exact same skin/pelt.
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Offline ArcaneArtsVelho

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #37 on: June 08, 2015, 08:30:53 AM »
It's quite interesting to see how differently you have imagined the story/plot compared to how I did as I was writing it.  ;D   But yeah, it's difficult to show clearly that the killer couldn't find the watchman. Then again, does it even have to be that clear? I mean, most of the readers won't be going through the story with a fine-tooth comb. Well, maybe it would be best if most of the readers imagined the story more or less the way the writer meant it to be? In any case, I think the story is going to be quite different than it is now when/if I manage to rewrite it someday.

The animals are just a trademark of the killer. As for the murders, they aren't totally random, and in fact I was always thinking that the killer first chooses his (or her?) victims (i.e. two people who are very likely to be alone in a certain place during a certain period of time), then he seeks out two animals of the same kind with similar/same appearances, and then he brings the animals wherever the victims are (or makes sure some other way that they are in the vicinity of the victims).
Everything I wrote above is pure conjecture. I don't know what I'm talking about.

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Offline Raptori

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #38 on: June 08, 2015, 10:21:44 AM »
It's quite interesting to see how differently you have imagined the story/plot compared to how I did as I was writing it.  ;D   But yeah, it's difficult to show clearly that the killer couldn't find the watchman. Then again, does it even have to be that clear? I mean, most of the readers won't be going through the story with a fine-tooth comb. Well, maybe it would be best if most of the readers imagined the story more or less the way the writer meant it to be? In any case, I think the story is going to be quite different than it is now when/if I manage to rewrite it someday.

The animals are just a trademark of the killer. As for the murders, they aren't totally random, and in fact I was always thinking that the killer first chooses his (or her?) victims (i.e. two people who are very likely to be alone in a certain place during a certain period of time), then he seeks out two animals of the same kind with similar/same appearances, and then he brings the animals wherever the victims are (or makes sure some other way that they are in the vicinity of the victims).
Still no time to do a proper critique, just wanted to add that I totally got that the killer couldn't find him.  ;)
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Offline D_Bates

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #39 on: June 09, 2015, 10:44:37 AM »
It's quite interesting to see how differently you have imagined the story/plot compared to how I did as I was writing it.  ;D   But yeah, it's difficult to show clearly that the killer couldn't find the watchman. Then again, does it even have to be that clear? I mean, most of the readers won't be going through the story with a fine-tooth comb.

Yea, this is why I think these critiques are useful. The only way you have a hope of improving is if you can understand what people are seeing from your work on that very first read--which is likely the only one you'll get. Then it becomes a judgement call on your part on whether there's an actual issue there or if the reader was just having an off night--which definitely happens by the way. On my second read through of yours I read town wall near the beginning as town hall. That's totally on me, but it's a credit to your writing that despite that blip the setting was strong enough that I still imagined the corridor and the wall correctly.

Personally, I hate the word critique. It has such a negative stigma attached to it. I see it more as feedback/evaluation, and I hope that all I've written across the board here is coming back as positive as well as negative, since I've definitely tried to balance them out. It helps to know what's working as much as what isn't hitting the mark.
When I go into the deeper analysis I base it on the principle that everything is written for a reason, so I try to understand the meaning behind every word. Obviously that's not always the case, and the feedback is intended more to try and challenge you to think over the work in ways you may not have done so--I don't pretend for a second that anythign I suggest is necessarily correct. But yea, one of the real difficulties I find when writing is that it's very hard to look at my work and see it the way a reader would, because even though I've begun to train myself to erase the story from my mind, there's always that lingering knowledge of what I'm trying to do and where I am at all times.

In the case of the animals here, I guess I found that aspect of the story so different and interesting that I focused onto it. When the cat appears and lulls him into a sleep, and then the dream scene is describing his own area and ends with the cat seemingly luring him to the killer, but seconds before he's about to get murdered he abruptly awakes... I just assumed that he'd barely escaped his own death and the cat was a fundamental part of how the killer ambushed his victims.
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Offline ArcaneArtsVelho

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #40 on: June 09, 2015, 07:48:48 PM »
Critique, feedback, or evaluation, whatever we decide to call it, you do it very well. And don't worry, I consider all your comments to be positive, even the negative ones, if that makes sense. You have been very helpful.

And I hope you didn't feel that my "fine-tooth comb" comment was criticism on your deep analysis, as it was not. More than anything it was my defeatism in the face of difficulty.  ;)

To be honest, at times I have felt that you might be wasting your time trying to analyse my simple story. But I would like to think that I have learned a thing or two from all this, and perhaps even you have got something out of it, so maybe it hasn't been a complete waste of your time.  :)   Thanks again.
Everything I wrote above is pure conjecture. I don't know what I'm talking about.

I'm a perfectionist but not very good at anything. That's why I rarely finish things.