To Dust You Shall Return by Sean Melican


Tell us what you thought about the July 2005 issue!

Moderator: Editors

User avatar

Master Critic

Posts: 550

Joined: December 31, 1969, 08:00:00 PM

Location: Atlanta, GA

Post August 03, 2005, 01:00:05 PM

To Dust You Shall Return by Sean Melican

Writing effectively in present tense is difficult.<br><br>Writing effectively in second-person is even more challenging.<br><br>Doing both at the same time either means you’re an extremely skilled writer or an alien with brainwaves to match.<br><br>What a bold, daring story! I can’t think of anything that would immerse a reader more than having you actively participate in a drama as it unfolds. The world is stark and real, full of imagery and colors, a painting formed with words, with phrases such as “The skies are gray like an old man’s eyes”. The mythology and setting seem very well researched, giving the world further weight. A land set within a turbulent juxtaposition, the fading time of Cuchulainn and the upcoming era of the one God. Just executed very well all-around.<br><br>A couple of quibbles. The first is a formatting issue that hopefully one of the editors can fix. About a quarter of the way down, a large portion of text seems inadvertently underlined. Unfortunately, it happens at a critical point in the story, causing a major distraction.<br><br>The second item is that you really don’t realize who you are until over 2000 words into the story when the son says, “Mommy?” It’s sort of implied in the beginning with the fourth paragraph that you’re a woman, but I had mistakenly thought that the love briefly mentioned was one’s love for his chieftain or king. Granted, I did think the phrase “…his mustache tickles when he kisses” very strange at the time, but I shrugged it off as an odd choice of words.<br><br>I really hope people aren’t dissuaded from reading this due to the use of present-tense, second-person narrative. There’s a real gem here.
"Even the straight arrow needs a crooked bow."
- Samani


jaimie l. elliott

[b:2o4dvkjg]Check out my website:[/b:2o4dvkjg]
http://www.jaimie.org/
User avatar

Editor Emeritus

Posts: 3244

Joined: December 31, 1969, 08:00:00 PM

Location: Kaukauna, Wisconsin (USA)

Post August 05, 2005, 12:36:49 AM

Re: To Dust You Shall Return by Sean Melican

I have to admit I slipped up and didn't realize I'd missed a story until Jaimie posted his critique. Apologies to the author.<br><br>Like he did, I was struck by the second person. I've never even considered writing a story in that manner, making the reader the main character. A truly unique treatment.<br><br>Now, Jaimie found things "stark and real, full of imagery and colors, a painting formed with words". No disrespect intended to my esteemed colleague, but I disagree with this assessment. <br><br>If I'm the main character, I'm going to perceive things in all the detail I can, using all my senses. While I liked the gray sky and the red eyes of the birds and demons, I never noticed a description of the demons that went beyond a vague, bony, man-like shape, all black, with flapping clothes or maybe skin and all red eyes. There are demons throughout this story, including some that come close enough to bite the main character in the neck. If something's that close, you think you'd get a good look at it.<br><br>They climb aboard a ship of some kind of design, but they only thing I knew of it was that there were oars & benches and seaweed between the boards to keep them wet. I didn't know if it was a galley only, or more like a Norse sailing ship that can also be rowed, or something entirely other. They travelled to a some fortress of unknown design beyond that it had a gate and corridors. I was really quite lost over what exactly they were laying seige to and how they were fighting.<br><br>Furthermore, there was a host of character names (more than I could keep track of) and scarcely little description I could use to try to keep them all straight. In fact, I became so befuddled over the names, I didn't catch on that the demon kidnapped the son until they were confronting him at the end.<br><br>The plot was mostly hack & slash, with an underlying theme of conversion to one god from many. I have a hard time saying that just converting as she fights on really constitutes character growth and a proper character arc. In the end, I thought the main character largely wooden and one-dimensional. The priest was less so, but I never got the hang of him, either. Everyone else seemed pretty much an extra.<br><br>I guess in my gut I couldn't say that this story had enough forward momentum to satisfy my tastes. I wasn't driven to read on because I wanted to see what was going to happen next. Instead I kept reading to see if I could figure out what was going on.<br><br>Also, apart from the occasional Latin bit, I thought the priest should have had a distinctly different sound to his dialog. A Roman-educated priest in a Celtic land... Well, he just didn't sound right to me.<br><br><br>All in all, I was gripped by the second person, but not by the characterization or plot development. Obviously, as an editor at a respected magazine, this author may have skills that I am unable or unworthy to perceive. In either case, it just didn't strike home with me.<br><br>Nate
Hardcover, paperback, pdf, eBook, iBook, Nook, and now Kindle & Kobo!
Image
A cooperative effort between 17 Aphelion authors. No part of any sales go to Aphelion.

Senior Critic

Posts: 387

Joined: December 31, 1969, 08:00:00 PM

Location: Somewhere outside San Diego

Post August 05, 2005, 08:18:54 AM

Re: To Dust You Shall Return by Sean Melican

Interjecting here: Jay Mcinerney BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY (1984) was written entirely in second person. And I found it utterly engaging. I'd expect others out there as well.<br><br>So far, I'm liking this story. I look forward to seeing how it plays out.<br><br>Dan E.
User avatar

Master Critic

Posts: 550

Joined: December 31, 1969, 08:00:00 PM

Location: Atlanta, GA

Post August 05, 2005, 12:31:49 PM

Re: To Dust You Shall Return by Sean Melican

Now, Jaimie found things "stark and real, full of imagery and colors, a painting formed with words". No disrespect intended to my esteemed colleague, but I disagree with this assessment.

If I'm the main character, I'm going to perceive things in all the detail I can, using all my senses. While I liked the gray sky and the red eyes of the birds and demons, I never noticed a description of the demons that went beyond a vague, bony, man-like shape, all black, with flapping clothes or maybe skin and all red eyes. There are demons throughout this story, including some that come close enough to bite the main character in the neck. If something's that close, you think you'd get a good look at it.
<br><br>You know, after seeing this comment, I had to go back and skim through the story. Did I really misread it that badly? I chose random paragraphs to ensure I wasn't thinking of one or two particular scenes. I found the narrative to still be as full of description as I had remembered it. I think the issue is not that there's a lack of description, but rather, there are elements that Nate wished were described in more detail.<br><br>You can't describe everything to the greatest detail. A writer has to choose what pieces need to be elaborated upon, relying on the reader to fill in the rest. That's one reason why perspective is so important in things like fiction writing and art: a lot of it is dependent on the observer. That's why you need to understand the audience for which you're writing.<br><br>So the real question, in my opinion, is did Mr. Melican choose the right elements to describe in greater detail? My assessment is that he did. The vagueness of the demons actually made them more of a threat to me, a nebulous terror that I couldn't quite comprehend. But that's my perspective. I can see others disagreeing.
"Even the straight arrow needs a crooked bow."
- Samani


jaimie l. elliott

[b:2o4dvkjg]Check out my website:[/b:2o4dvkjg]
http://www.jaimie.org/

Commenter

Posts: 27

Joined: December 31, 1969, 08:00:00 PM

Post August 06, 2005, 04:26:54 AM

Re: To Dust You Shall Return by Sean Melican

This reminded me a lot of a role playing session. To anybody that has ever done any roleplaying, the whole idea of putting the listner in as the main character experiencing everything, this story really felt like a GMs narrative.<br><br>Interesting.

Senior Critic

Posts: 387

Joined: December 31, 1969, 08:00:00 PM

Location: Somewhere outside San Diego

Post September 02, 2005, 08:04:09 PM

Re: To Dust You Shall Return by Sean Melican

An excellent story. Excellent. One aspect likely to irk some readers is the vague link between names and their characters. Otherwise excellent.<br><br>Dan E.

Return to July 2005

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group.
Designed by STSoftware.