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Camera Obscura - 1

by Vervain

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396 Reviews

Points: 27
Reviews: 396

Sun Jul 26, 2015 9:33 am
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Pompadour wrote a review...

Hey, Anci! This is a The Big Review review~

Disclaimer: this is also a phone review; don't step on the typos. I'm going to try to keep this short.

I like your first sentence. It's very edgy and does great things for the atmosphere. It also A) managed to grip me; B) established setting and scene; and C) allowed me to acquaint myself with the narrative voice. I remember the actual first chapter, which was historical fiction, and although I've forgotten a great deal with regards to the original, I still caught whiffs of it in places. The dead uncle, Hawthorn, the general dreary air.... But the voice is much stronger here; it's not hesitant, and I like that.

That said, I'm not the biggest fan of your second paragraph. It's a bit too vague for my taste and doesn't paint as clear a scene as the first two sentences. I'm not asking for in-depth descriptionz, but speaking as someone who isn't very familiar with funerals in the west, I found it slightly odd when the narrator says 'mother began to speak'. It's somewhat flippant, but it's bordering on an ambiguous flippancy. I'd like some grit on this--perhaps some detail? You could really take advantage of this first person narration thing, y'know, by employing a little more internal dialogue. I'd really like a better grip on Cass' feelings and internal reactions to their surroundings.

I'm also keen to know more of Cass' relationship with their family, and also their reaction to the family + the mourning before they disengaged themselves from everyone else. I feel like there's more of a reason for Cass walking away from the crowd besides the fact that they thought it would be futile for them to stand around and listen to the eulogies/saw the kids on their own. Wouldn't it be considered rude for them to leave, just as their mum began her speech? Or did they actually use the kids as an excuse? I'm wondering if all the people (whom I'm assuming Cass doesn't know all that well) would be miffed at their leaving when they did, and if their actions had any consequences/repercussions. They don't seem too close.

Maybe I'm looking too much into this. XD

Hm. Reading on, I see that Darian thanks Cass for looking after Jenna, so I'm inclined to think they did leave the rest of the party simply with the pretext of looking after the kids, and maybe it isn't really rude for anyone to skip out on the burial? Anywhoo, I'm sensing a lot of family conflict here, except it's hinted at and only becomes really apparent nearing the end. I like that you're not blatant with it, but I feel like there's something missing. I can't put my finger on it--maybe it's because the narrator doesn't know these people well, and there's a bit of backstory lacking. How often does Cass see these people, anyway? And how do they know Darian but are meeting Lily for the first time? They're giving off ''I-am-in-an-awkward-situation'' vibes, and I'd really like some backstory--in the form of internal dialogue--to be conveyed, just to add a little 'meh' to the foundation.

Did Cass know their uncle well? They're being comforted and seem to be affected by his passing away, so I'm wondering if they were closer to this uncle compared to the rest of the fam.

Quick nit-pick: ellipses.

We have lost a most beloved member of our family, and today we gather here to mourn him....

^Seeing as the sentence above is not trailing of, but is a complete sentence, you need a period after the ellipsis.

"A house... Aa plantation house," I remembered triumphantly ...

^Over here, the ellipsis is being used to indicate a pause, which means that you need a space before the ellipsis as well as after. 'A plantation house' is a continuation of the same sentence, which means the 'a' oughtn't to be capitalised. Normally, when an ellipsis indicates a pause, or fragmented speech, a space follows on either side--but you can also omit the spaces on both the sides to same effect.

Spoiler! :
Like this:
''A house ... a plantation house,''...

Or this:
''A house...a plantation house,''...

Your characterisation is yummy. I love the subtle ways in which you build onto Cass and their mum's relationship. And Cass is so awkward and sweet and likeable--I'm already fond of them, and I'm looking forward to seeing how their character develops over the course of the story. (You are still writing this, right? Because I really am interested in knowing what happens next I may have to bribe you.)

The one thing I'm missing is the fantastical element of the story. BUT, Polyphemus' eye has been mentioned (the steering wheel) and I don't know if this is a red herring or just an exhibit of Cass' personal interest but askldfgh I'm holding onto that tidbit anyway.

I really can't tell where the second chapter will lead to, but I'm looking forward to Cass arriving at the plantation house ... and discovering what they actually mean to study there. Because if it's not exciting or totally unbelievable, why would they lie about it? XD

Keep me updated ifwhen you continue!

This has been an unhelpful review~



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Fri Jul 10, 2015 9:55 pm
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Carlito wrote a review...

Hey! I'm here for the big review contest! This is a little on the older side, but hopefully you'll still be able to find this useful :)

I'm not sure if you're planning on continuing this (or if you have and just didn't post it here), but I think you should. You have a really beautiful writing style and really interesting characters. I love the gender stuff you have going on with your MC. I'm sure you'd agree that literature needs so much more diversity, and it's really refreshing to see something different. I'm not sure exactly where you're going here with the plot (but it's a first chapter so obviously everything doesn't - and shouldn't - be 100% spelled out). But, I think you introduced some nice seeds, and there are many things I want to know.

They buried my uncle on a pale summer day. I stood in the shade under the oak tree and watched from a distance as they lowered his casket into the ground head-first.

Great opening. Love the first line. Love how, in two pretty concise sentences, you catapult your reader into the world. I can picture this setting and what's going on like it's right in front of me.

I had excused myself when my mother stepped up to speak. There was no need for me to stand around and listen to them talk about him—they would all say the same thing, anyway—so I grabbed a bottle of water from the cooler in the back seat of my car and took my place, standing guard over the picnic blanket where my youngest cousins played.

That second sentence is suuuuper long. It took me a couple of tries to take in everything you're saying there.
Something I wondered throughout this piece - what does the rest of the MC's family think about the absence? Does the family notice? Do they care that the MC decided to skip out on most of the ceremony? Do they find that offensive or rude?
I'm not sure how you would work that in because this chapter is so focused on the MC - it's just something I was curious about. Maybe the MC could speculate about what the family thinks?

The massive shadow under the canopy had dissipated a little, but it must have been suffocating under there.

I would appreciate a little more description of the setting here. What canopy? (From reading to the end I know that the funeral is taking place under a big canopy, but on a first read it's a little confusing).
I love the MC's voice! That touch of cynicism and sarcasm - love it. So well executed :)

Some had jobs or lives to get back to, people to meet, places to be.

This line felt a little disjointed and out of place to me, compared to the rest of the paragraph. I get that you're talking about the people at the funeral, but it doesn't quite work for me.

She stumbled under the oak tree's shadow—I reached out to steady her by the shoulder, and helped her sit on the little memorial bench.

Same with the canopy - what memorial bench? They're still by the toddlers, right? Did the MC sit on the bench after taking up a spot by the little kids? You say that the MC "stands guard" over the toddlers earlier which gives me the visual of the MC literally standing over the blanket.

"It's just death and all, it tends to last forever.

Love. This. Line. So. Much. And then the follow up with the casual 'do you want a water?' Beautiful. I love this MC!!

Half of me wished that I hadn't felt feminine this morning.

I really like the subtle gender stuff you have going. I mentioned this at the beginning, but I love how you executed it. I love reading stuff like this where there's something "different" about the MC, but it's not the entire identity of the character or like a plot point, the character actually still a person.
(You give clues, but not enough for me to know what sexual and/or gender identity we have going on here, hence the use of "the MC". I don't want to use the wrong pronoun(s).)

"In my car," I mumbled as I found my keys in my pocket, then, "I'll grab you one, don't stand up."

I think you could do a period after 'pocket' and take out the ', then,' altogether.

My family would be the ones to forget hydration at a funeral.

This confused me because we've already seen that the MC has water in the car and has been drinking water. Is this in reference to the greater family and the lack of foresight to staying cool?

With a wry smile, I found my beat-up little car in the line of other little black cars. Wrenching open the one working door to the back seat—if I didn't use enough force, it would jam on me again, and then I'd have to crawl through the front—I grabbed three bottles of water, just in case, and made my way back.

The slashed part didn't do much for me. I thought it felt like extraneous detail.
Also, is there a reason why there's all this description of the car and getting the water this time and not the first time the MC got water from the car? Obviously you don't want it twice because that's repetitive. Were you trying to avoid too much detail in the beginning?

"That's good, I was worried it was just me.

Just me that didn't know the name of a cousin?

She held her hand out to me, and I shook it, the cold metal of one of her rings cutting into my hand.

I love these little details you add in. It makes the whole story feel more real and like we're dealing with real people.

It felt wrong to talk about the Darton side of my family at a Waitely funeral,

There's one of those seeds I mentioned earlier.

I cringed at my own attitude and sat on the edge of the bench, next to Cousin Lily. Mom never got to spend much time with the Waitely side of the family, and these were the people she'd grown up with. I couldn't imagine going ten years without seeing my cousins on the Darton side.

So is this why the MC doesn't care much about the funeral and doesn't want to be there? She didn't know this side of the family very well/didn't know this uncle very well?
Why did cousin Lily skip out of the funeral? Does anyone notice or care that she's gone?

Cousin Lily nudged my shoulder—my head snapped up, and my heart scrambled into my throat. Don't zone out, Cass. Sitting up straighter, I swallowed the fear and took a deep breath to slow my heart rate.

This part confused me a little. Was the zoning out Cass thinking about the family? Why is Cass afraid?

The way she tilted her head from side to side, her carefully-pinned curls kept bouncing.

When I was a kid, I always envied hair like this :p

but we were interrupted by a four-year-old's artistic interpretation of a royal fanfare.

Glad you didn't forget about them. :)

"No problem." I shrugged and smiled back at Darian

I would include his name when you first introduce him as the little girl's father. It took me a second the first time I read this through to figure out who Darian was.

About a quarter of the original party remained, and the lump in my throat warned me I was going to cry again.

But Cass hasn't cried yet... (that I remember anyway).

"I'm going to a..." I tried to think of the words for it, but they escaped me. "A house... A plantation house," I remembered triumphantly, "in Georgia. One of my father's old friends is offering to teach me."

This confused me the first time I read it, too. After the Darian stuff, I forgot what the context for this comment was.

All their eyes seemed to be trained on my uncle's grave, however, and there was no savior coming for me.

I'm curious about what Cass is hiding or why there's all this anxiety and apprehension about talking about the plans.

I also found the interaction with Cass and the mom at the end to be super curious.

Overall, really interesting and well-executed first chapter. I really hope you continue this because I'm curious to see what direction this will go. This is labeled as fantasy, but to me it feels more like contemporary right now. Obviously that could change with coming chapters.

I love, love, love the MC and the voice, and I was seriously sitting here thinking how I can make the MC in my own book shine like this one. It's seriously so great. :)

Let me know if you continue this, because I'd be super curious to see how it develops from here! And let me know if anything I said was confusing or if you have any questions!

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359 Reviews

Points: 455
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Thu Feb 19, 2015 9:03 pm
steampowered wrote a review...

Hello, steampowered here for a review! This is probably going to be a really short review, as I can find very little wrong with it and I'm struggling to think of decent feedback, but I'll try my best...

First of all, I loved the interactions between the characters, and the dialogue was really realistic. This story has raised a lot of questions about the conflict and tension between the families - as well as the intriguing mystery of who and what these people really are... You also really conveyed the fact that it doesn't take a lot to make her mother annoyed or angry - perhaps she's a little... unstable?

I also really liked Cass - her... slightly cynical?... approach made it more light-hearted, and I could kind of identify with her thoughts and feelings.

They buried my uncle on a pale summer day.

I really liked this opening sentence. I was browsing through works when I stumbled across this one, and the first line hooked me immediately. My only comment on it (which is an incredibly minor nitpick) is that perhaps it should be "summer's day." However, both seem to work so I'm not sure. Whichever one you prefer, I suppose.

One thing I noticed that I wasn't sure about:

"I mean, I have my car..." I licked my lips and bit back the sarcasm with another sigh. Mom wouldn't like it if my behavior report came back negative.

Maybe it's just me, but I personally didn't understand how what Cass was saying was sarcastic...

Overall, I thought this was really well-written, and I have very little criticism to give (hence a relatively short review) This chapter was brilliant - it's a really good introduction to the world and the characters, and has raised a lot of questions about the conflict and tension between the families - as well as the intriguing mystery of who and what these people really are. There's clearly some kind of magic going on, but I'd love to find out more about it and perhaps the significance of the ring in the next chapter. You're such an amazing writer! *curls up and dies with envy*

Hopefully this helped, and feel free to let me know when you upload the next chapter! :)

Vervain says...

Thanks for your review!

Yeah, I wasn't so sure about the sarcastic bit either, but I think that it kind of helps to show that Cass isn't too sure of their emotional reactions to things, either. Living with their mother for their whole life, they've been talked down to about being "sarcastic" even when they aren't, so. That's a line that will probably face the Evil Pen of Revision.

You don't get to find out much about the significance of the ring for a while, unfortunately :P Or perhaps fortunately, it'll keep you reading. In the next chapter, however, we do get into Georgia (because it's boring to read long plane flights) and we meet another quite interesting member of our cast.

I'll tag you when I update <3 Thank you, again!

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346 Reviews

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Reviews: 346

Thu Feb 19, 2015 1:51 pm
Pretzelstick wrote a review...

Heya pretzelsing here for a review(and I am feeling like I am typing quicker than thinking :D )
Okay so I usually skip intros but I have trained myself to give my reviews with great detail and with the scroll ;) Let's jump right in:

First of all to start, you didn't really show me Cass' emotions about her uncle.Was she close to him?Was she sad and crying or sobbing? Was she indifferent and wanting the funeral to end(that's how she acted). I really would like to know this: What is Cass relastionship with her Uncle?

I kind of thought that this was weird:

I had excused myself when my mother stepped up to speak.

I would think that Cass would want to support her mom and be there for her while she was saying her speech. It would be more logical for her to skip everyone else's speeches and just stay exclusively at her mother's speech(that's what I would have done if I was bored) 8)

I think that here this sentence could be split into two separate sentences:

Wrenching open the one working door to the back seat—if I didn't use enough force, it would jam on me again, and then I'd have to crawl through the front—I grabbed three bottles of water, just in case, and made my way back.

I would rewrite this to make it better flow and say: "Wrenched open the one working door to the backseat, I knew that if I didn't use enough force, it would jam on me and I would have to crawl through the front. I grabbed three bottles of water, just in case, and made my way back."

This looks better in two separate sentences! :o

This sentence didn't make really sense:

It felt wrong to talk about the Darton side of my family at a Waitely funeral, so I took another long sip of my water and glanced back over at the canopy instead.

What?:shock: Why can't Cass talk about her family? I think that's it's normal to catch up and talk about both families, since Lily and her have really nothing else to talk about, why shouldn't they talk about her dad or her house? What's wrong with this?

Here are two quotes to take a look at:

"We drove. Mom doesn't do the turbulent metal tube at high altitudes thing."

"I don't do airplanes, either.

To make it clear here, how do you do airplanes? :? You can fly in them, sit in them, wait in them, get transported by them, but do them? That just doesn't match!

You need to put a question mark here:

"Really, then. Going to continue the Waitely tradition?"

"Really then?" is how this should look like because Lily is kind of asking this in a questioning tone. :)

The next sentence isn't really a cliffhanger like I personally like it, and honestly it doesn't really make me want to read more. :/ Maybe you could be creative and write something else like:

"I was glad that I would be boarding a plane in a couple hours!"
"I couldn't wait to see the plantation, and of the things that awaited me there..." (ooh- I like that one :D )

Anyways this chapter has potential with editing and polishing up. I truly hope that this review helps and as always I encourage you to keep on writing!


Vervain says...

First off, you remark that Cass "seemed to act" like they were bored and indifferent. That's because I was showing their emotions and not just telling the audience, "I was bored and indifferent." Showing is a valuable technique in the writer's arsenal, because a book of "I was bored. I did this. I did that. I was happy." is going to get tired really fast. Not to mention, since Cass is separating themself from the funeral, it's unlikely that I'm going to delve into any massive explanation on the topic of their relationship with their uncle. It's hinted at later on with the interaction between Cass and Darian, that Uncle Si (the guy being buried, if it wasn't clear) was near and dear to all the family, not just those steadfastly mourning him.

As for you telling me what's "more logical" for my characters to do: That's nice, now how about you develop their characterization and decide why Cass should stand around and listen to their abusive mother's speech when they were already bored in the first place and they don't really care for funerals. I know what I'm doing (most of the time) when it comes to my characters' actions and reactions.

The sentence you said should be split in two makes no sense when split in two. This is because the inner clause is being used as a descriptive sentence, so that the outer clauses could stand on their own without it altogether, but it adds a little more humanity to the world. If I get another review mentioning that sentence specifically, I'll rethink it.

Cass isn't comfortable talking about the Darton side of their family at a Waitely funeral because of the tension between almost all of the old witch families%u2014considering that the Waitely family has managed to offend nearly everyone with their past, it might not be wise to bring up people they aren't too fond of.

Next, "doing" airplanes is a colloquial term meaning using them as vehicular transport. Not all characters are going to speak perfectly all the time, and it makes it more realistic if they use slang, shortened language, or phrases that fit into their world. As their world is our modern world, it's perfectly acceptable and normal to say, "I don't do airplanes."

The final sentence of the chapter isn't meant to be a cliffhanger for the plot, because I figure what the reader has learned from the first chapter%u2014minimal, skimming information on the characters except that there's probably some kind of magic involved and there's been a death%u2014is enough to keep them reading at least through chapter two if they've gotten this far. Actually, I despise cliffhanger endings to chapters unless they serve a narrative purpose, and having more than a few cliffhanger chapter endings in a novel will actually kill all cliffhangers for your readers and they may begin to hate the narrative device.

Your review is appreciated.

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