The Tree by Jeffrey Swencki


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Post January 24, 2007, 09:11:22 AM

The Tree by Jeffrey Swencki

This was a very moving story, with nicely drawn characters and a touch of the unexplained.  The blend of fantasy and reality in the child's imagination was particularly well executed.  One of those stories where I had to sit and nod appreciatively to myself for several miniutes after I finished reading it.

Gareth
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Post January 29, 2007, 08:58:12 AM

Re: The Tree by Jeffrey Swencki

The Tree by Jeffrey Swencki



This story was loaded with potential, there was a real effort at creating recognizable characters and a sense of wonder.  The mix of fantasy & reality was just plain great.  Fantasy Denebians saying much the same thing as Father Deneb, down at the church.  I don't recall ever seeing this approach, before.  It was both interesting and very subtle—to the point where when I finished the story I re-read it just to see if there were more of these dualities that I missed the first time.  .  .there were.

But there were also some serious structural and grammatical errors that could have been caught with just some simple proofing.  Some were confusing and some were just plain funny—but not in the good way.  To tell the truth, I suspected that this was written by a very promising teenager until I read the bio.  

Examples:

What was Abe's father's name?  5 times he was 'Brian' and twice he was 'Brain'.

--eyesore is something that looks bad.  .  .what was written was eye sore.  .  .which would be some kind of lesion, injury or infection of the eye

--pickup instead of pick up (when you're talking about a truck)  

"Oh," she continued, non-pulsed by the shock on the faces of the three family members"

Nonplussed is a state of confusion or bewilderment. It is often used as a neologism meaning 'unimpressed.'  And it also happens to be the word you were shooting for.


The point of all this is that you're actually using the wrong words.  You're making the reader translate instead of getting lost in the story.

Assuming these are just typos, they were both unusually humorous.  Consider:

"I told him I’d introduce him to a web fingered Venusian who loves to much on unsuspecting chemists. "

You were looking for the word 'munch'—I think.  Unless of course you meant to write the word 'too' instead of 'to'.  .  .and then it's hilarious.


"Watch your mouth in my presence, you lady!"  

Now that's what I call an insult!  I translated this to be a misspelled 'young'.  .  .after I stopped chuckling.  Was I right?


None of these problems are beyond the realm of a little good proofreading and an improved grasp of the English language.  And don't forget, I really liked The Tree.  It was a decent amateur effort that with a lot more crafting, would have been a great story.

Bill Wolfe

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There was one line that really jumped out:


" you didn’t mention Thomas More’s influence on..., "

A priest would certainly call him Saint Thomas More (he's a Catholic Saint) or perhaps even Sir Thomas More.  .  .unless he was talking about Thomas Moore the 20th Century spiritual writer.   See what I'm saying? What you wrote is actually wrong, so we have to translate.  In this case, there simply wasn't enough information for me to make the connection.  Even after careful consideration, I don't know what you were trying to say.  And this—in writer lingo—is considered a BAD thing.
"I am Susan Ivanova. . . .I am the Right Hand of Vengence. . .I am Death Incarnate, and the last living thing that you are ever going to see. God sent me."
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Post January 30, 2007, 02:15:08 AM

Re: The Tree by Jeffrey Swencki

See now, this is what happens when I get lazy. I usually try to fix the spelling and grammar and word-choice/typo problems (and sometimes do more extensive copy-editing, to the dismay of the authors). Maybe I allowed myself to be swept up in the simple joys of the story and its depiction of (maybe) magic -- or imagination ...

Well, that, and I was trying to get everything uploaded before I went out of town.

:-[

Robert M.
You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.

Jack London (1876-1916)
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Post February 09, 2007, 01:40:42 PM

Re: The Tree by Jeffrey Swencki

Now, here's a story that knows how to refer to Wisconsin... It's a land of modest natural beauty and innocence, unfortunately filled with far too many oblivious stumblebums, mucking up the place. That is what it's like. Plus, Mr. Swencki chose not to narrow himself down to a particular spot, and run the risk of putting in setting incongruities. Kudos there. Although, it "felt" like the west side of the state to me.

In terms of the rest of the setting, things were rather vague, but in contrast to what I'd normally say, I liked it that way. Saying too much would have ruined the disbelief. We'd have seen holes in Abe's imagination, and it would have ruined the running thought that maybe this was really happening. That is, maybe the kid was teleporting away to captain a starship. This is fiction, after all, and that way it took a while to figure out it was only his imagination (sort of, considering he talked to a blue jay and the wind/trees spoke to him).

As Bill mentioned, there were a number of spots that lacked in professionalism, and it detracted from the experience. Missing punctuation (mostly commas and a missing quote mark or two) stood out.

On characterization, I think there were too many bit players. The only steady characters throughout the whole story are Abe and Linden, the tree. Everyone else shows up, does their bit a little too strongly, then isn't seen again. Maggie is all grumping and sibling rivalry, then suddenly reverses and cares a little too much for how Abe will take the news. Then she's less caring when Abe is missing ("my brother couldn’t get lost in that woods if he were blindfolded, tied up, and wanted to be lost"). Then she's gone. The realtor is over the top, and at first it's funny, but then her oblivious nature carries on too long for me to buy it. The detective is there, swept up to tears over his own son. That was ok, but it detracted from the rest of the focus on Abe and what's happening to him. Then too, the cop is never heard from again. Then there's Kadin, who at once is treated like some young pup, and at the same time like an old friend who could tell him off. She struts in, sounds her fury, and then she's gone also.

If this were a play, I'd say the entire supporting cast overacted.

I look for characters that seem like real people. I like for them to show their character through words and actions. Then, I like to seem them grow and change throughout the story. It's obvious Abe grew older, but I didn't recognize him as the old man. That is, according to the identifiers, it said it was Abe talking, but it didn't feel like the same person. What changed him in the first 6 parts of the story into the man he is in the 7th?

One's perception of the plot is a gut-level thing. You either buy it or you don't.

I buy this.

Despite the characterization problems, and that there wasn't any rising action, no major conundrum... and since there was no climax, by my definition it isn't even a story... it did have a certain magic to it. It ended as it began, and therefore felt like the story had come full circle. Linden and Abe's lives were linked, so they could die together and that worked.


I agree with Bill. There was a core of a great story underneath this: the link between Abe and Linden, and them overcoming circumstance to be together. With a lot of crafting and revision, I think this could have been a whale of a tale.

Nate
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