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Fic Pick of the Week (March 13th)

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J. D. Ford

Joined: 20 Sep 2007
Posts: 75
Location: Los Angeles, CA

PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 12:49 am    Post subject: Fic Pick of the Week (March 13th) Reply with quote

Sound off, people! It’s time for the dreaded, the inevitable, the inexorable Fic Pick of the Week! Would somebody please get some fanfare in here? Thank you.

We’ve got some really good stuff, some really passable stuff, and very little questionable material in this update (which is always a relief). I am thrilled at the new surge of activity on the boards (however small it may be), and the flood of new writers. Looks like Halo Fan Fiction isn’t dead, after all. Don’t believe me? Keep reading.

Worth Reading: Brotherhood In War: The Calm Before The Storm by Roxer (a.k.a. HitEmUpper)
This story was written in first person POV, which is never easy to pull off (kudos to you for that, Roxer…or HitEmUpper, whichever one you are; unless you’re two different people using the same e-mail address, I’d recommend sticking to one pseudonym to avoid confusing future readership).

You seem to have a basic grasp of who your characters are, and the dialogue is fairly believable. What you need to work on is balancing dialogue with scene description (exposition). Sprinkle it throughout, rather than dropping it in clumps. Consider how real conversations develop to make your dialogue come off naturally. Watch your tense (past, present, future), because you frequently change up in the middle of a paragraph. This is confusing for the reader (see my comments in the “As for the rest…” section). Also, find a copy of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style and look up comma usage.

Keep writing. This story is right on the cusp of being ‘enjoyable’ according to our extremely rigorous standards here at HBOFF.

Honorable Mention: Halo Clone Wars: Chapter 7 by Enthrone Darkness Triumphant
Holy action, Batman!: There’s a lot of head-smashing, bone-splintering, eye-popping combat going on here. I must admit to being ignorant of the six chapters prior to this one, so I will refrain from commenting on aspects pertaining to the larger story. Obviously, it’s a crossover between the Halo and Star Wars (Clone Wars era) universes. A tough sell, in my opinion, and Enthrone pulls it off for the most part.

I like the fact that you understand formatting to the point that I’m able to read this story without difficulty. I also like your grasp of physical reality…your exposition tells me that you know how people and objects interact in the real world. I don’t like the muddled identification of opposing forces…this is exacerbated by “rangers” not being capitalized, or even briefly identified, in this chapter. I understand that it is part of an incremental story, but it’s always good to refresh the reader’s memory (if only with a single sentence, or half a sentence). You pulled a pretty gutsy move by including another language in the story. I admire that, but question the motivation behind it. For one thing, the character seems to yell to his subordinates in English/Standard immediately prior to using this other language. Wouldn’t he be speaking in one or the other the whole time? If you have a good explanation, please ignore me, but I simply don’t understand the need to set this up for the reader…especially when the use of asterisks and footnotes will only drag them out of your world and the flow of the story.

Which brings me to my next comment: stay away from author’s notes and footnote commentary. Use good exposition and dialogue to explain your world and those inhabiting it. Only a very small group of authors can get away with anything else (Terry Pratchett being one of them). I think it’s safe to assume you aren’t one of these writers in disguise.

Keep writing. You have obvious talent for it…and continuous, open-minded reception of positive feedback will only strengthen the skills you’ve already developed. I’d also recommend checking out the book How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card.

Second Place: The Marine, the Rebel and the Sangheili: Morning Raid by QuantumSheep
I love the smell of napalm in the morning…: Well done, Sheep. You successfully dropped me in the shit. I heard the bullets zinging overhead, felt the throbbing pain of shrapnel in my lower back. Saw the carnage. Very well done, indeed. The desert environment featured in this story has never really been done well, in my opinion…until now.

My only real gripe is that you have a repetitive tendency in your exposition. Exempli gratia:
The pair stopped and quietly and quickly argued over who should help the woman, the one on the left, a young looking guy who didn't look any older than twenty-five, came running over, helping Lyssa up and directing her to where the aid station had been set up.

It’s not a serious problem…just a little splinter in the pointer finger of your writing style, which is very good. You’re at that point where you can start honing the little things. The small details that take your writing from very good to extraordinary. My only other advice would be to back up all that wonderful exposition with a little more realistic dialogue (I know this was a combat scene, so dialogue wouldn’t necessarily be flying about…just think about making these characters seem even more human, eh?). Good work. I look forward to your next submission.

And as for the winner…

Fic Pick of the Week: The Day Before Tomorrow: Part 4 by Azrael
I needed a seat belt while reading this story!: Great stuff, Az. I must admit to being a bit behind on this series, but that didn’t friggin’ matter. You’ve written this update in such a way that the reader can start up seamlessly, sit back, and just enjoy the given circumstances. I love the characters, the efficient exposition, and the pacing of the story. O’Shea and McHale’s characters are particularly well developed, with McManus a close second. In fact, all the supporting characters feel incredibly real and three-dimensional. Even down to that disguised doctor thing…really fun, by the way. There are too many positive elements in this story to list here.

And let’s talk about how well you handle Third Person Omniscient POV, shall we? Ok, ok…I’ll skip the boring part of the positive literary rant I was about to go on and cut to the praise:


Which brings me to my next point, reinforced by all the other fantastic work you’ve put online so us poor bastards can avoid the library: this is professional-grade stuff, my friend. I know it. The other readers know. You should know it. Subsequently, I’m expecting a book, screenplay, novella, or short story out of you within the next ten years.

Get crackin’.

As for dialogue…I’ll post a short excerpt:
"'Cause this is the only rest I get 'til Covenant start shooting at me again. I'm not gonna ask when I have to stop relaxing. Counterintuitive."

I rest my case.

Before closing, I must comment on the use of COM chatter to increase tension throughout the story. Very, very effective. Subtle, frenetic, realistic. Three aspects of storytelling that I prize above a lot of other conventional wisdom. And for those negative, cynical folks out there who want me to find something wrong with this story…fine. Az doesn’t capitalize the ‘G’ when he uses ‘Master Guns’ in dialogue, which threw me off a little. There. Happy? Now shut up and go read your personalized copy of The New York Times.

Check this one out, guys. It’s a keeper.

As for the rest…

The Last Week: Day 1 by HitEmUpper (a.k.a. Roxer)
Not bad…you separate dialogue from exposition, which most newcomers fail to do. You also understand that varied description can strengthen the narrative. However, let me point out one thing you need to work on…tense. This is evident in the first line:
I took out the journal and selected a page dated a week ago and begin to read

See the problem? Watch out for that. It knocks the reader out of the flow of the story more effectively than a punch to the temple. Besides that, watch out for spelling and grammar errors. It’s worth taking the extra time to manually check the story; your readers will appreciate the effort (and say so in comments, often enough). Your greatest strength is your understanding of character and dialogue. These two are inextricably linked (check out my thoughts on that here).

Keep writing. I see a lot of potential here.

The War of Eayn by Offensive Bias
This story read like a play-by-play at a boxing match. Staccato. Sometimes six or seven lines in a row start with “He did this” or “He did that.” This isn’t crafting a story, it’s relating a sequence of events. That will not hold the reader’s attention.

Some advice? You need to open up one of the Halo novels and look at how it is formatted. Paragraph and sentence structure. Story arc. Dialogue (…a new paragraph every time a different character speaks, etc.). Also, pick up a copy of Orson Scott Card’s Characters & Viewpoint. It’ll help, believe me. Don’t get discouraged by these comments. They are meant to help you strengthen your writing skills. The fact that you posted a story here means you are interested in the craft, and it is a craft worth learning. It takes hard work, discipline, and heart…but if you keep gnawing at it, you will see improvement.

Finally: read, read, read. Good military science fiction, not garbage. Check out John Ringo, David Drake, Eric Flint, Orson Scott Card, David Weber, Jack Campbell, et alii. That’s how I learned, and it works.

Well, that about sums it up for this update. Now get out there and read some fiction!

Semper Scri, carry on.

~J. D. Ford
He who does not like Halo:CE is a dirty shisno.
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IRC Channel Operator

Joined: 27 Feb 2007
Posts: 435
Location: UNSC Frigate September

PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry tp everyone else, but Az wins hands down, agreed completely.

And J.D.'s right, the best way to improve your writing, besides just writing continuously, is reading continuously. Doesn't matter what, good or bad, so long as when you read the bad, you're thinking, "Don't write like this." Read the first ten pages of Twilight, and if what you're looking at is a bit familiar, you know where to start. Razz
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IRC Channel Operator

Joined: 18 Oct 2008
Posts: 204
Location: Nowhere in particular.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow. I have to say I'm glad I held off for another rewrite to post my chapter next week - I hate competition Razz . Good show Az, and Sheep too. Damn good show, the both of ye.
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Joined: 10 Aug 2004
Posts: 504
Location: Boston

PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks JD! Good job writers!

I'm impressed with Sheep's consistent "Marine, the Rebel..." submissions. It's a good series and I hope people are continuing to read it. It's really hard to continue and finish a series, but Sheep shows no signs of stopping now.

Hopefully I can find some consistency in my submissions, too. I'd like to finally get all of this down. Still trying to figure out the dance between McManus/Parsons as inexperienced fighters AND somehow making a difference in the occupation of Boston. We'll see.

Thanks again JD! All you other whippersnappers would do right to listen and read this man's stuff.
_________________ that's some gritty shizzle.
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Enth Darkness Triumphant

Joined: 21 Feb 2009
Posts: 30
Location: Twilight area between Valhalla and Hel

PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:52 pm    Post subject: Re: Fic Pick of the Week (March 13th) Reply with quote

I thank you for your advice and I will apply it to all the future chapters I post.

To answer the question in the following statement you posted:

J. D. Ford wrote:
You pulled a pretty gutsy move by including another language in the story. I admire that, but question the motivation behind it. For one thing, the character seems to yell to his subordinates in English/Standard immediately prior to using this other language. Wouldn’t he be speaking in one or the other the whole time?

The reason for the motivation for including the other language was because it is the Sikh battlecry. You can put it like a British officer crying "Charge" and his/her entire force starting to cry out loud and charge the enemy. The Sikh battlecry is initiated by the commanding officer and the soldiers have to reply in the fashion I wrote in. This goes back to the days when the Sikh nation was forged and the last guru proclaimed the Sikhs as a warrior race and created the battlecry in the campaigns against the Mughal Emperors, plus it also provides a zen like state to the mind where basically it is said that one makes peace with god and therefore all fear is shunned from within oneself.

Shoot did I just drabble one here? Hopefully this clarifies my usage of the foreign dialogue, and I will definatly avoid the usage of footnote commentary relating to the dialogue.

Thanks again and Cheers
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