Art I Couldn’t Resist From Artist Alley

MCM London Comic Con is already behind us, but as per, it’s Artist Alley I always loved the most. Fandom art and original beauties await! This year I took my partner along as a photographer, and both of us spent most of our money on art we can’t hang up yet because we don’t have a house. But here are some of our favourite creatives:

Wei Li Wonka

I was not only excited to discover Wei Li’s art but touched to meet such an excitable young lady. My eye was especially drawn to her tea collection – people bathing in teaware/wearing tea cups. I love tea and work in a tea house; I now wear Wei Li’s badges to work! Her style is soft and delicate, sometimes pastely, sometimes stark and bold. It has an air of innocence and wonder, much like the artist herself, and I will certainly be procuring more of her art.

 

Find Wei Li on her blog, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

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Evangelion Manga Reviews: Apocalypse and Beaches

What are the spin-off mangas like?

evangelion_144Are you a fan of the popular anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion? Do you want to know what the spin-off mangas are like? Then this review is for you!

I’m a fan of the original series and most of its varing manifestations. I while back I was surprised to discover that there are two manga series. They are, for the most part, published fan fiction and not written by Hideaki Anno but that doesn’t mean they are bad.

I’ll be scrutinising use of plot, writing skill and characterisation. The two manga series in question are: The Shinji Ikari Rising Project and Campus Apocalypse

There are no spoilers in these reviews, but they are aimed at people who already know the characters and are aware of the original plot.

The Shinji Ikari Rising Project – Volume #1

NGE_ShinjiIkariV1This particular spin-off manga, by Osamu Takahashi, drags us into an altered universe with gorgeous artwork featuring our favourite leading characters – primarly, Asuka Langley Soryu.

It takes a while for any serious plot to kick in – chapter 6, to be precise. The lives of Asuka, Shinji, and Rei are completely mundane and revolve around sexual comedy and romantic angst. In a world where Shinji’s mother is still alive and living in a family unit with Gendo Ikari, the story tries to explore how the chosen three teenagers would compete and interact if dating was their only worry.

We’re led through this alternate universe by Asuka who has been friends with Shinji since the age of four. This childhood bond is threatened when the beautiful Rei Ayanami moves to town – capturing Shinji’s interest – and forces Asuka to consider if she wants to be more than Shinji’s friend.

It’s beautifully drawn but plot points concerning the EVA are jarring and feel out of place in an average world where no one even vaguely mentions the Angels. There is no tension or threat of an imminent attack, which makes the EVA project feel slightly superfluous, like an attempt to create danger where there is none.

The first volume is light hearted compared to the original anime series and takes a somewhat heart-warming look at the dynamics between Rei, Asuka, and Shinji. In fact, it acts like a harem in which Rei and Asuka fall over Shinji, and Shinji himself frequently catches glimpses of female underwear; torn between the attractions of two striking young women. So if you’re not a fan of series like Oh! My Goddess this might not be the adaptation for you.

Saying this, Takahashi has done a fantastic job of staying true to the original characters’ personalities and it might be worth giving it a go just to enjoy spending time with Asuka and company. They have been altered to better socialise with each other as there’s an uplifting sense of friendship and love beneath all their pranks and bickering. Even the adults, especially Misato Katsuragi and Gendo, have a cheerful disposition that seems unhampered by dark, NERV secrets.

For those of you hoping for shipping fanservice, Takahashi does a grand job of teasing you with hints at yaoi, yuri, and het pairings all around.

It’s a calm and casual approach to Evangelion. The plot is vague and distracted with summer festivals and beach trips, but the characterisation is gripping and makes it worth reading if you want a closer look at ‘what might have been’ had Shinji and Asuka come from a happier environment. Mechs are not promised!

I personally don’t enjoy this kind of manga, so I won’t be buying the rest of the series. For those of you who do like harem-esc manga, this seems like a good one.

  • Fantastic characterisation,
  • Beautiful artwork,
  • Superfluious plot.

Campus Apocalypse – Volume #1

campus-apocalypseCompared to The Shinji Ikari Raising Project, Ming Ming’s Campus Apocalypse is an original and thoughtful alternate-reality. Corporation NERV, Shinji’s high school, the Angels and the characters themselves have been shaken up and re-imagined. This one is my favourite of the two.

Mystery arises from the get-go when Shinji spots his classmate running around at night with a Giant Spear (a.k.a. the Lance of Longinus) and an unknown guy. He puts this out of his mind until the next day at school where he attends NERV Foundation, a Catholic high school.

His curiosity is peaked when ‘the unknown guy’ turns out to be a transfer student by the name of Kaworu Nagisa who has a particular interest in Shinji, and a suspicious attitude towards Rei. Little does Shinji know, his curiosity will plunge him into a world of Angels, EVAs, Cores, AT Fields and prophecies – but not as you’d expect.

Compared to the original series, the art style has a more modern, anime feel. Ming has poured his own touch onto the page rather than perfectly mimic Anno’s drawing, which is part of what makes this series stand out.

I wasn’t sure if Ming’s story would be particularly good, as the first “in-class-scene” has a forced tone of humour. It’s more a case of, ‘look, isn’t this FUNNY?‘ than it actually being humorous. I was thrilled to discover that the story takes a compelling turn and has an exciting take on all the tech/techno-babble from the series. The Angels are especially interesting in this adaptation. In fact, it was the appearance of the first ‘Angel’ that hooked my attention.

The mood of storytelling has kept with the original – dreamy, brutal, symbolic (to a sensible degree) – and promises to be an insightful interpretation. The characters are true to themselves, especially Rei, Shinji, and Asuka. Like the Shinji Ikari Raising Project, Shinji’s abandonment issues have been toned down but he is a lot truer to his original characterisation with unforgettable, well implemented mantras such as, “I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away!

For those of you who ship Kaworu and Shinji, there are enough intense stares between the two boys to make fangirls die of giggles.

This is a compelling adaptation with narrative skill and unexpected re-imaginings of the original series. The artwork isn’t quite as mesmerising as Takahashi’s but the plot makes up for it by the book load. I’ll be buying the next volume.

  • Gripping story,
  • Unique alternate universe,
  • Well written.

Are you a big fan of the Evangelion series?

Evangelion Manga Reviews: Apocalypse and Beaches

evangelion_144What are the spin-off mangas like?

Are you a fan of the popular anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion? Do you want to know what the spin-off mangas are like? Then this review is for you!

I’m a fan of the original series and most of its varing manifestations. I was recently surprised to discover that there are two manga series. They are, for the most part, published fanfiction and not written by Hideaki Anno but this doesn’t mean they are bad.

I’ll be scrutinising use of plot, writing skill and characterisation. The two manga series in question are: The Shinji Ikari Rising Project and Campus Apocalypse

There are no spoilers in these reviews, but they are aimed at people who already know the characters and are aware of the original plot.

NGE_ShinjiIkariV1The Shinji Ikari Raising Project

Volume #1

This particular spin-off manga, by Osamu Takahashi, drags us into an altered universe with gorgeous artwork featuring our favourite leading characters – primarly, Asuka Langley Soryu.

It takes a while for any serious plot to kick in – chapter 6, to be precise. The lives of Asuka, Shinji and Rei are completely mundane and revolve around sexual comedy and romantic angst. In a world where Shinji’s mother is still alive and living in a family unit with Gendo Ikari, the story tries to explore how the chosen three teenagers would compete and interact if dating was their only worry.

We’re led through this alternate universe by Asuka who has been friends with Shinji since the age of four. This childhood bond is threatened when the beautiful Rei Ayanami moves to town – capturing Shinji’s interest – and forces Asuka to consider if she wants to be more than Shinji’s friend.

It’s beautifully drawn but plot points concerning the EVA are jarring and feel out of place in an average world where no one even vaguely mentions the Angels. There is no tension or threat of an imminent attack, which makes the EVA project feel slightly superfluous, like an attempt to create danger where there is none.

The first volume is light hearted compared to the original anime series and takes a somewhat heart-warming look at the dynamics between Rei, Asuka and Shinji. In fact, it acts like a harem in which Rei and Asuka fall over Shinji, and Shinji himself frequently catches glimpses of female underwear; torn between the attractions of two striking young women. So if you’re not a fan of series like Oh! My Goddess this might not be the adaptation for you.

Saying this, Takahashi has done a fantastic job of staying true to the original characters’ personalities and it might be worth giving it a go just to enjoy spending time with Asuka and company. They have been altered to better socialise with each other as there’s an uplifting sense of friendship and love beneath all their pranks and bickering. Even the adults, especially Misato Katsuragi and Gendo, have a cheerful disposition that seems unhampered by dark, NERV secrets.

For those of you hoping for shipping fanservice, Takahashi does a grand job of teasing you with hints at yaoi, yuri and het pairings all around.

It’s a calm and casual approach to Evangelion. The plot is vague and distracted with summer festivals and beach trips, but the characterisation is gripping and makes it worth reading if you want a closer look at ‘what might have been’ had Shinji and Asuka come from a happier environment. Mechs are not promised!

I personally don’t enjoy this kind of manga, so I won’t be buying the rest of the series. For those of you who do like harem-esc manga, this seems like a good one.

  • Fantastic characterisation

  • Beautiful artwork

  • Superfluious plot

campus-apocalypseCampus Apocalypse

Volume #1

Compared to The Shinji Ikari Raising Project, Ming Ming’s Campus Apocalypse is an original and thoughtful alternate-reality. Corporation NERV, Shinji’s high school, the Angels and the characters themselves have been shaken up and re-imagined. This one is my favourite of the two.

Mystery arises from the get-go when Shinji spots his classmate running around at night with a Giant Spear (a.k.a. the Lance of Longinus) and an unknown guy. He puts this out of his mind until the next day at school where he attends NERV Foundation, a Catholic high school.

His curiosity is peaked when ‘the unknown guy’ turns out to be a transfer student by the name of Kaworu Nagisa who has a particular interest in Shinji, and a suspicious attitude towards Rei. Little does Shinji know, his curiosity will plunge him into a world of Angels, EVAs, Cores, AT Fields and prophecies – but not as you’d expect.

Compared to the original series, the art style has a more modern, anime feel. Ming has poured his own touch onto the page rather than perfectly mimic Anno’s drawing, which is part of what makes this series stand out.

I wasn’t sure if Ming’s story would be particularly good, as the first “in-class-scene” has a forced tone of humour. It’s more a case of, ‘look, isn’t this FUNNY?‘ than it actually being humorous. I was thrilled to discover that the story takes a compelling turn and has an exciting take on all the tech/techno-babble from the series. The Angels are especially interesting in this adaptation. In fact, it was the appearance of the first ‘Angel’ that hooked my attention.

The mood of storytelling has kept with the original – dreamy, brutal, symbolic (to a sensible degree) – and promises to be an insightful interpretation. The characters are true to themselves, especially Rei, Shinji and Asuka. Like the Shinji Ikari Raising Project, Shinji’s abandonment issues have been toned down but he is a lot truer to his original characterisation with unforgettable, well implemented mantras such as, “I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away!

For those of you who ship Kaworu and Shinji, there are enough intense stairs between the two boys to make fangirls die of giggles.

This is a compelling adaptation with narrative skill and unexpected re-imaginings of the original series. The artwork isn’t quite as mesmerising as Takahashi’s but the plot makes up for it by the book load. I’ll be buying the next volume.

  • Gripping story

  • Unique alternate universe

  • Well written

Are you a big fan of the Evangelion series? Have you read either of these mangas, too?

Orange Squids, Killer Ghosts and Filming a Film

Hello! It’s been a while and I do apologise. I’ve been writing all over the internet but now is the time to share the fruits of my labour. I’m here to tell you about an awesome website run by squidmasters, praise Maureen Johnson‘s latest book and how one of our uni assignments is to film a short film.

Squidoo
I’m a lucky student, I really am. Some of the content I can choose to write about is the stuff of dreams. This term my essay assignment was: Compare and contrast the theme of religious reformation in Final Fantasy X and Dragon Age II. Gosh, that sounds like terrible research. I’d have to read Final Fantasy wikia and watch Dragon Age videos – maybe play a little bit of each game to refresh my memory…

This paper has probably been the most enjoyable I’ve had to write so far – even more enjoyable than my steampunk dossier. As I was researching the symbolism of Yu Yevon script (you should click that link, it’s a great article) I found a great, critical study on a lovely looking website called ‘Squidoo‘. At first, I was baffled by the overwhelming squid theme. I mean, it’s fun, but what is it all about?

To be honest, I still don’t understand why squids are everywhere. I think it’s just a clever branding gimick but I love it all the same. I joined up to click Like on these fantastic articles about Final Fantasy X and within a matter of two days I was addicted and publishing my own squid work. Now here’s the part I’m excited about: I get paid for those of you who visit my articles (Squidoo calls each post a ‘lens’)! That is, however, if you view my lenses without ad-blocker as it’s the advertisements that pay us writers. The advert system on Squidoo is actually pretty clever and relevent as I’ve clicked off to discover some interesting stuff when browsing other squid-peoples’ work.

My lenses so far:
What Makes A Novel ‘Steampunk’?

Steamboy: what makes it a reasonable steampunk film?

A critical investigation into the debates surrounding the film Memento

– From the titles alone you might be able to discern that these are academic essays. It took a lot of research and effort to write them. Now that they’re online I hope others who are researching the same topics will find them useful as I found Helluin’s Final Fantasy lenses useful.

Lensmasters I Love Already:
LadyLovelace
Helluin
Susan52
MitchAllan

The Name of the Star
I did something crazy but fun last month. I agreed to buy five of Johnson’s books for five people on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and ship them over for World Book Day. I’ve had a copy of TNOFTS moping on my shelf for a while now and it’s only recently that I decided to join in the reading fun and pick it up.

I couldn’t put it down. I finished it in four days. Having graduated from teenagedom it’s been a while since I have managed to read a Young Adult book. Johnson has achieved writing TNOFTS for all ages. It’s told from the perspective of Rory, an 18 year old American student who has moved to a London boarding school, just in time for the return of Jack the Ripper.

The story is tense, gripping and equal parts heartwarming as it is chilling. Each of the characters, especially Jazza and Boo, were compelling, believable and fun to meet. There were times when I didn’t want to hunt for ghosts – despite how fascinating – but hang out with Jazza instead. I felt clever for working out the clues and on edge after finishing numerous chapters. There were a few nights when I felt afraid to turn off the light to go to sleep.

One day I will probably have children and I would like to share with them The Name of the Star, but regardless of your age I recommend giving this book a chance. I’m 99.9% sure you’ll thank me.

Filming a Film
The joys of group work. Actually, this group project is the most fun I’ve had since coming to university. I hate group work, I really do, but so far almost everyone has been fantastically easy to get along with (bar that one person I won’t name *twitch*).

We’ve been discovering the difficulty of filming (in general), handling actors who’ve got a stick up their arse, organising props, positioning the boom-mic out of shot, the magic (or impossibility) of proper lighting equipment, dressing in each other’s clothes, racing against the sun to ensure lighting continuity, the unrelenting cry of a flock of seagulls when trying to film a poignant scene and numerous other challenges.

I’ll be sharing a blooper reel soon enough and, if the rest of the group doesn’t mind, the short film itself. For now, screenshots:

Writing Reviews [part 2]: Tips & Examples

Transform your inner reviewing kitty from this…

A few weeks ago I explained how important it is to know the formula of writing a review – particularly when the review is to help other writers improve. This week I’m going to be a little more detailed and give a tip on how to style your review. Style is, of course, not quite as important as the formula and this post in no way explains the only method of reviewing.

Before I go into that, what do I mean when I say ‘style’ and ‘formula’?

Formula: A method of doing or treating something that relies on an established, uncontroversial model or approach.

Style: A quality of imagination and individuality expressed in one’s actions and tastes; A customary manner of presenting printed material, including usage, punctuation, spelling, typography, and arrangement.

Formula is a lot more ridged and you should really know what goes into writing a review. Style is less important but it does contribute to the overall effect. The method within this post is how I approach reviews. This is in no way the correct style but it’s useful to know about. Let me state that I’m no expert. I’m just a pleb with a pen like most other human beings. I just know some stuff. Japanese word of the day: 研究 (kenkyuu) = research.

Here we go:

This isn’t about you or me

The best way to distance yourself from the writer is make it clear you are focused on the text. How do you do that? Avoid the subjective personal pronoun ‘I’ as much as possible and, most definitely, the pronoun ‘you’. This will feel strange at first but the story is what is being discussed, not ‘you’ and not ‘me’. What this does is focuses our critical opinion and distances the author’s emotions – not entirely, of course, which is why you must still phrase yourself carefully.

Example: “This story has terrific flow and a strong, consistent, narrative voice. Susan is a believable old lady and her relationship to her daughter and her community is heart warming. The pace is well managed – a wonderful example of writing down thought and speech without making the scenario confusing, or inconsistent.

The only section that may need consideration…”

As you can see, I’ve managed to talk about some of the key strong points and I’m about to discuss its potential weaknesses. At no point was it necessary to say ‘I think you didn’t do this well’ or ‘I think the dialogue is strong’.

The dialogue is strong, it is consistent and the pace is well managed. Learn to recognise the talents and pit-falls of a piece of writing and make concise statements about them. That said, it does take practice to recognise universal strengths and weaknesses of a piece and not what is your opinion (but you’re reading this post so I’m guessing you intend to exercise your reviewing ability). What do I mean by this? When you notice the factors of a story that make it awesome or shite, you think, I’m quite certain everyone thinks the dialogue is amazing and not just me. This would make it a universal strength and ‘not just your opinion’.

The screenwriter Danny Stack is in love with this method of critiquing and I’m going to quote him so you can see how I agree and disagree with his approach:

There is no ‘I’ in ‘Reader’ so avoid phrases like: “I don’t think this works” or “I laughed out loud” because the coverage shouldn’t bring attention to the reader, it should be wholly focused on the script. Your comments represent what you think so there’s no need for any first person narrative. Some comments like, “in this reader’s opinion”, are okay because it helps to qualify the balance of critique being offered. Also, don’t try to be too funny, jokey, glib or dismissive. This doesn’t help anyone.” page 8

Stack’s approach to reviewing is intended for the eyes of an executive and not for the writer, but he does justly say that a review should be wholly focused on the script/novel/extract, not the reader or writer.

Sometimes it is just you

It’s not likely that you, reader of this blog, are writing a review for a film director or agent – you’re writing a review to help an author improve. In this case, it’s not always possible to omit yourself from a review. You are just one person, after all, and how you respond to a piece – though valid – might not be universal. When this happens it’s necessary to fall back on the SPP ‘I’. This usually happens when you find something about a story that’s confusing, vague, offensive, potentially unnatural or you just aren’t familiar with the genre rules.

Example: “There was also a swap in tense that didn’t help, which is: ‘says’ instead of ‘said’. I understand this was deliberate but (and it may just be me) it didn’t quite sit right. I just thought I should point it out in case it proves jarring for someone else, too.”

As you can see, I made it clear to the author that I’m not condemning them for their choice, nor have I phrased myself as if my opinion is certain. Many other people might disagree with me, and the majority rules, but I felt it was important to bring this use of tense to the author’s attention. Now, if I’m the only one who ever says this line is problematic, the author will know it’s just me and can easily dismiss my opinion, or vice-versa.

Bad Example: “There was also a swap in tense that didn’t help. I found it confusing because I don’t think it feels right, even if it was a deliberate choice.”

Can you see how, if read with the wrong intonation, that second sentence can be misread to sound condemning or absolute?

Always think about what is your opinion and what is clearly bad or beautiful writing.

What to look for

Sometimes after reading an extract, the reader can think: “Man, what am I going to say and where do I begin?” But this is where knowing the basic structure of a review is a valuable tool of reference. This also depends on how in-depth you’re willing to go. Obviously, the more thorough you are the longer it will take. This is why editors (or at least freelance editors) get paid so much. It takes time. For the rest of this section I’ll be quoting Stack almost verbatim.

A safe starting place is CONCEPT: is the idea any good? Is it commercially appealing or more intellectual and discerning? Or is it just a shameless rip off of a million genre flicks before it? Or does it bring something new to the table? Is it genre?

PLOT: Does it make sense? Is it convincing and/or original? Too predictable maybe. Jumbled?

STRUCTURE: is there a basic understanding of craft on display? Is it a join the dot three-act-structure or does it contain a solid and reliable framework to tell its story? However, the reader shouldn’t get bogged down with restructuring tips because it’s not a full-throttle editing exercise. You’re a reviewer, remember that even if the line is blurred.

CHARACTERS: Are the central and minor characters believable, original, compelling, inspiring, colourful, loathsome, boring etc? Decent character development or emotional journey for the protagonist? Effective use of subplot with the supporting character?

DIALOGUE: Distinctive, realistic, off-the-wall, on-the-nose, funny, dull, plain, quirks, true to each character?

TONE: Does the writer have an original voice; is the tone of the story consistent to the genre etc?

PACE: Pace, rhythm, tempo. Scenes start too soon, too late? Cut too soon, too late? Boring segments with little dramatic impact or importance? Where does the pace flag? What’s its overall effectiveness?

SETTING: It is important to the story – does it make a valid and visual contribution to the characters and plot? Does it effectively build a fictional world and hold it up?

Not all of the points above need to be addressed in a casual review but if you’re feeling lost on what to talk about, these are the key factors.

Final Example

I don’t write perfect reviews myself, I just know what makes a good review. A useful review. Here is my final example, a review I wrote for the opening chapters of The Power Inflicted by Sam Kearns. I now hope you have all the basic tools you need to write good reviews as well. Hooray!

There is nothing fundamentally broken about The Power Inflicted to point out! This is very typical of the Epic Fantasy section and is lavished with beautiful descriptions. The metaphors and imagery used throughout are vivid; I could almost feel the mud of the mangroves.

Saying this, there are some sentences that try too hard to be descriptive. As an example: “He would test his endurance and his agility in the clustered jungle at the centre of the islands where the foliage was thickest”. It might be better to cut out ‘in the clustered jungle’ as it goes on to say ‘where the foliage was thickest’, which imply the same thing. Aside from these few clustered sentences, the rest of the narration flows wonderfully and has maintained being descriptive without over-saturating the reader.

The dialogue may also need a little consideration. It’s so very close to sounding natural but not quite there yet. A few exchanges between Tantha and Parus felt staged, like an anime. These are few but it might be an idea to read out the dialogue with a friend.

My final note is something that personally bothered me. There’s a lot of standing on the cusp, lips and tide of the sea. It’s a beautiful scene, a beautiful beach, beautiful descriptions – I can feel the water tickling my toes and smell the salt air – you don’t need to keep reminding the reader that Tantha and Parus are stood by the water’s edge. It was by this point (example coming) that I didn’t want to see the sea’s edge mentioned again: “Parus clasped her arm as they stood on the cusp of the sea and stared in wonder.” It might just be me who was irked by the one repetitive imagery, however, which is why it’s a personal add-on.

As you can see, these aren’t major problems. The pieces IS fairly typical of the genre and might need work to stand out amidst other Epic Fantasy novels, but it’s an enjoyable read. You write with vivid flourish. 🙂 ”

You can read the opening chapters of The Power Inflicted by Sam Kearns [here] Thank you Sam for letting me use this review!

Bibliography-ish-but-not
dictionary.com
Script Reading in the UK: The Complete Guide by Danny Stack [see his blog here] or [download the chapters here]

…to this! Clever cat indeed.

Related articles

How to write critical reviews; a skill every writer should learn.

NOTE: There is a hyphen between every paragraph because wordpress keeps trying to delete the breaks. Sorry!

I recently joined a site designed to help writers improve. It works on the basis that for every review you give, you get one in return. The more popular your work gets the higher up ‘the list’ it goes until a publishing company reads it. Rather professional sounding, wouldn’t you say?

It worries me (and in some cases infuriates me) how unprofessional some of the members of this site can be when writing reviews for other people. Bare in mind, these are not newspaper reviews, these are the type of reviews intended to help people become stronger writers. Aforementioned members seem to have no clue about how to write a review. By all means, they know what they’re talking about but not how to phrase themselves. I don’t care how many pieces of work you’ve had to trawl through, your professionalism should not slip and no one is unworthy of your time.

Below I have written the Dos and Don’ts of writing a critical review and, in the same vein, how to receive reviews. If you are a writer this is an important skill.

So, yes. These are things (listed in what I feel is the order of importance) that have bothered or offended me, but I hope I’ve made strong and valid points that you can take away from this post. 🙂

Let’s begin…

Writing Reviews and Giving Criticism

  1. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it
    As a reviewer, you are reading someone’s work to help them, not to assert your authority or flash your experience. Let me say that again. You are reading someone else’s work to help them improve. This does not mean you are entitled to the author’s gratitude and it does not mean that your opinion holds water. Your opinion is your opinion, it is not necessarily correct and when you give your opinion be diplomatic. Don’t force it down someone’s throat – this is a good rule for life, too. There is a difference between your opinion being correct and your opinion being valued; informative.

    This means think before you speak. It’s all well and good pointing out the flaws of a piece of writing but delivery is key. Speak honestly but kindly. Phrases like: “Your descriptive prose sacrifices clarity for a stylised approach which I am charitably assuming is intentional” are not kind. The point ‘your prose lack clarity’ is a valid opinion and a very useful one for the author to note down. The delivery, however, is full of snobbery and gives an impression of disgust. ‘I am charitably assuming’. You are not being charitable. The author is not to be pitied or looked down upon.

    This attitude is what makes writers look like snobbish, elite and self-indulgent twats. So you’ve been published six years, had marvellous reviews throughout your career and have met Lady Pembury, have you? That’s nice. Did you leave your manners at the writing desk, too? Nine times out of ten, no one made you read the text. Even editors in the publishing industry can read the first page, the first chapter, and then decide the rest isn’t worth their time. You should never try to make the author feel grateful that you took the time to read their terribly unpolished work and then took the time to write a review as well. Who do you think you are?

    Part of this is down to the internet (where we shall assume you give your reviews), that screen blocking you from face-to-face interaction. Your intonation does not travel well through text. You have to remember: one sentence can be read in many different ways and with many different inflections. Be clear when you phrase something. What sounds friendly or funny in your head may not translate on the page. Also, this is the internet 😀 If you just can’t make something sound as nice as you intend put a bloody emote. It won’t offend the other person, just don’t abuse emotes to the point they litter the review. Make an effort before resorting to an emote.

    Delivery is one of the most important things to remember when writing a review. Even the most hardened of writers can be stung by pompous or snide remarks. It makes them feel resentful for trusting you to be professional.

  2. Honesty is the best policy
    Always be honest. This does not mean you are allowed to say, ‘this is shit’ – please see the section above. Lying to the author gets them no where. This can be particularly tough if you aren’t used to editing your friend’s work. If you are editing for a friend, though, you are under even more obligation to be honest. You are a safe person, your friend trusts you and they will be grateful that you pointed out their ‘baby’s’ flaws before the big bad world got their hands on it, so don’t panic if the plot-holes outweigh the gems. Being thorough is extremely helpful.

    Unfortunately, if a writer cannot handle criticism (criticism, not rudeness) then they are probably not meant to be a writer. The problems with any Meisterwerk won’t go away unless someone points them out and it’s up to the author to take on board what we, as the reviewer, say. But whether they do or not – that’s a different matter all together. Remember: you’re being honest, and this honesty is based upon your opinion. The author doesn’t have to bow down to what you think should be changed.
  3. Don’t just seek out its flaws
    A review should consist of the bad and the positive. If I were to focus on everything wrong with your personality, rip it to shreds, hold these things in front of you and then say goodbye, it’s very probable that you would want to give up on being ‘you’. I know, you’re critiquing the work and not the person and the author especially needs to remember this. But if you focus on only the negatives of someone’s work it’s very likely they will feel like a failure and never want to write again. They will, of course, get over it if they’re passionate enough, but still. They’re a writer – you’re probably a writer – this is what you both love! What did you enjoy? What did they do well? And don’t just say, ‘Joey is a nice character’, give the author a little satisfaction.

    What’s nice about the character? How did that really good scene make you feel? Did a particular description flare vividly in your imagination? If there are only negative remarks in your review the author may come to the conclusion that the whole thing is shit. This doesn’t mean you have to spend paragraphs praising them on what you think they did right, it means you have to give the writer hope. They should feel eager to improve their work come the end of a critical review. Always end on a positive, if you can. If the Meisterwerk was blatantly written by a monkey with a paintbrush stuck up his nose and purple dribble for ink, well… Just be nice. It still has feelings.
  4. Make an effort
    You took the time to read it. Brilliant, thank you! You made notes on things that need improving. Even better! Oh, wait, why have you dumped your initial, unedited thoughts on the page and not made transitions between each of you brief points? You just copy pasted your notes, didn’t you? This is not particularly helpful. It’s about as helpful as writing an instruction sheet on how to build a 34 piece Christmas tree. If you’re going to write a review go the whole ten yards and be helpful, be detailed. Give some suggestions, examples and explain why something did or did not work.

    OK, so maybe you didn’t enjoy what you read and maybe it really was stressful to read, but if you’re going to write a review at least put some effort in. Reading it was effort! I hear you cry with weary rage. Oh, was it? I’m sorry to hear that. Please, I really want to know what you didn’t enjoy and why it was stressful. May you help me by explaining what was wrong? Perhaps tell me tomorrow when you’ve had a break and time to think about it.

    Thank you, I really mean it. From, the author.


Receiving Criticism

  1. Some people are just douches
    This will never justify being spoken to like an imbecile or treated like a turd, but some people just don’t know how to be nice and have a pole wedged firmly up their arse. Don’t let these people get you down. This can be extremely hard, I know. Maybe I wrote the worst heap of words since P.C. Cast and her daughter Kristen Cast, but why did some reviewer have to treat me like cretin unworthy of their time? They didn’t have to treat me that way. They didn’t even have to say they detested my story, but for whatever reason they are a bitter person and felt they had a right to speak unprofessionally to me.

    Find a close friend who understands your plight, share your woes and then get over it.
  2. Don’t lash out, that’s just immature
    Someone just took the time to write you a review. You read it. Overall, they didn’t like it and their negative points outweigh the positive. Don’t you dare throw a tantrum and tell them they are wrong to have such a negative opinion of your work.

    “I think you’ll find everyone else likes my work! It’s had 5 star reviews. Yours is the worst review I’ve ever had. Please don’t ever read any of my work again.” I have received something like this almost verbatim. I was shocked. I had tried my best to be as honest and friendly as possible, which was hard because zes story was incredibly racist. You want help, don’t you? You want to improve as a writer? You won’t improve if all you ever hear is half-hearted reviews praising your work.


    Do not take a review personally. Take a deep breath and reread it later after the initial sting has worn off.

    Is the reviewer fair to you? Have they been thoughtful and explained as much as possible why they feel something didn’t work? Have they tried to point out the positive things? This is a good review. They have been honest with you and tried hard to make you understand what might be wrong.

    On the other side of the coin, have they been snide? Unhelpful? Made remarks that really hit you in the gut? Then you have every right to feel hurt, but don’t lash out. You will only look like a fool and more of an asshole than the person who wrote your review. It is horribly hard (honestly, I know) but if you HAVE to say something, say ‘thank you for reading my work’.


This post is already long enough. Next week I’ll share examples of how to write reviews and tips on how to distance yourself from the author.

I sincerely hope this has been helpful. Now I need a mug of tea. Mitch Allan, where are you?!

Lemons

My Five-Year-Old-Self has found satisfaction.

Last night, on a spontaneous whim, my boyfriend took me to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: part 2. This series has been a constant throughout my childhood, woven into the fabric of my development, and etched into my heart. It is no exaggeration when I say I am emotionally attached to the characters of Harry Potter.

For the past fourteen years I have known and grown up with Harry, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. I can’t remember every plot detail but I can tell you silly things like: Remus’ son is named after his wife’s father, Teddy. Don’t try playing HP trivia games with me.

During the seventh film, when Harry discovers Snape’s past and learns what he must do to kill Voldemort, the tears flooded over my cheeks and down my neck. Here was the moment where my fantasy hero was closest and lost to me all at once: a moment where Harry – self-absorbed dick that he is – is braver than I could ever be. I wanted to wail, which is unlike me. I wanted to sob my heart out but somehow I manged to half-strangle myself into silence.

For those who have invested a huge chunk of themselves into the series, this film pulls it all together. It’s not the end, it’s satisfaction. Fourteen years is very a long time to love and wait for visual indulgence.

Many criticise the epilogue and I admit to hating it when I read it for the first time, too. It seemed corny, tacky and downright cheap to my fifteen year old self. But now that I’ve watched it, seen all the films this past week with an older perspective, I feel complete. Everything has been tied up and I think fans deserve that. Having watched the epilogue I feel utterly explosive (in an epic, liberated and satisfied sort of way) and perhaps that’s because I’m now planning and making my own future – my adult life: children, a career, a home…

I’ve grown up with Harry. Thank you, Joanne Kathleen Rowling. I can’t wait to read to my children, as my father did for me.

London Demo: the BBC doth lie but at least I wasn’t arrested.

2010, November 10th, London: remember that date. Today was the biggest student demonstration seen in London in twenty years, 52,000 students, and I was proud to be a part of it. What were we fighting for? The right for younger generations to attend higher education. Education is for everyone, not just the rich. If the Tories want to keep out the poorer people of society, they will have many to answer to, as proven today.

Our coach pulled up at Whitehall around 11:30 and we were raring to go. The street was already packed with people, banners and the invigorating sound of chants against cuts. Mitch and her boyfriend (Phil) are familiar with the rally scene, shall we say, and we instantly snuck away to join the Pompey squad and their megaphone. It’s alright, we know them. We didn’t just gatecrash their group.

We wove our way right up to where the speeches were being made, surrounded by the incredible architecture of Whitehall, inventive slogans (or slanders) and Socialist Workers flaunting their newspaper. Being a person who is vertically challenged, I never saw the speakers and their microphone quality was awful, so we barely understood a word that was said; but the passion of each sentence was most definitely not lost. I couldn’t help but cheer with the crowd every so often or make ‘Native American Indian calls’. Someone up there was pissed off and so were we.

After the rawr, rawr speeches: on we marched! Phil has probably killed his voice with all the rallying he did without a megaphone today. I was quite impressed. He and the Pompey leader bellowed out chants that many around us were inclined to join in with. Here are some of the chants today, mostly those that were my favourites:

“Phil: They say cut back.
Crowd: We say fight back!
Phil: Cut, cut, cut back.
Crowd: Fight, fight, fight back!”

“Nick, Nick, get of Cameron’s dick!”

“Nick Clegg, we know you, you’re a fucking Tory too.”

“No ifs, no buts, no education cuts.”

[song]
“Build a bonfire, build a bonfire,
Put the Toooories on the top,
Put the Lib Dems in the middle,
And we’ll buuurn the fuckin lot!”

“Tory scum, GET. OUT. We know what you’re all about.
Cuts. Job losses. Money for the bosses.”

“1, 2, 3, 4,
Nick Clegg is a whore.
5, 6, 7, 8,
He can’t keep his back straight.”

There were many more and all were creative. Three banners I must mention read as: “Dumbledoor’s Army”, “Hogwarts is FREE” and “Nick Clegg I fucked your mum”. I don’t know about you but those certainly make me smile.

So yes, down Parliament Street we marched. People towered above me waving their signs, and it felt amazing to be united in voice with so many. The BBC and other news helicopters circled above the buildings and reporters lined the streets. One woman even thrust a microphone in my face and proceeded to question me. I was slightly intimidated by the huge film camera that was on her co-worker’s shoulder, but she adamantly walked along in front of us, camera trained on mine and Mitch’s face. I’m quite an opinionated person, I won’t lie, but the one chance I get to voice my views and all my prepared statements for the day vanished. Luckily I had Mitch and a friend to jump in with helpful comments, not that I remembered my prepared statements until after the woman disappeared. Typical.

When we reached the houses of parliament we of course joined the sit-in! One of the group leaders with his megaphone was inspiring. In one shout out he managed to make twenty people join the sit-in. He must have been only eighteen and looked like a chimney-sweep, it was kind of adorable. The street gradually filled, blocking off most of the walk-way and spreading back an exciting distance. It didn’t turn out to be that great of a sit-in in the end, but we tried. The only reason Mitch and I left was to join an alleged (though fictional) larger sit-in right outside the parliament steps. A few men leaving the building walked past us however, and Phil thrust the Socialist Workers newspaper at them saying, “Would you like to buy Socialist paper, sir?” Oh man, that was hilarious.

As we trundled on down Millback Road (yup, still chanting and singing) we found ourselves charging into what would become the most talked about event on the news.

We had found the Tory HQ.

Squeezing into the centre of the so far accumulated students and anarchists and whoever the heck else was there, we knew we were in the midst of the action. A bonfire had been lit not far to our left using banners and a large burnable doll of ‘David Cameron‘ was passed through the crowd.  Our voices echoed, I tell you, they vibrated off the glass walls. Mitch and I constantly gave each other faces of disbelief, joy and excitement. We were united. Our chants rarely ceased.

Admittedly, we watched in awe as the anarchists smashed through the ground floor window and proceeded to pour into the building. Ten minutes later and they were waving down at the crowd from the roof top. I realise that from TV footage and news reports, it doesn’t look good, but when you’re actually stood there pumped with energy, adamant that your voice will be heard, “NO CUTS,” it was a brilliant moment. They waved down to us lining the railing with their flags, and it truly felt as if we were sticking our middle finger up at government.

Flares were lit and a boom-box started playing outside the courtyard loud enough for us to hear. For a few moments it was like being at a gig, I tell you, but power-to-the-people-like. I was almost given a go at shouting into the megaphone, but the crowd overpowered us with another chant! Plants were ripped up and passed over the crowd, showering one poor girl next to me in soil; though she found it amusing. We could see the reflection of four hovering helicopters in the building’s surface and the air buzzed with success. It started to go a little downhill from there.

The anarchists inside found their way onto the second floor to look down at us before proceeding to almost smash three windows. For a moment I was worried they would pound until the glass fully splintered, because I knew that the glass would have rained down on those below. Luckily the windows were severely cracked and nothing more, so for the moment, few people in the crowd minded; me included. In fact, I thought, ‘fuck yeah we smashed their freakin windows!’

Not long after that, they found fire extinguishers and set them off over the railing which was oodles of fun. I got covered in foam, although Mitch got more of a dousing than I did! And then, to everyone’s horror, they threw a fire extinguisher over the railing and into the crowd. No one was injured, thank stars. We proceeded to ‘boo’ them, but Mitch knew it was time to escape.

Hand-in-hand, we struggled and squeezed our way out as the crowd chanted up, ‘stop throwing shit! Stop throwing shit!’ which was a relief to hear. The last glimpse I caught was of those on the roof throwing either books or newspapers off the roof – I’m not really sure which.

Once outside, we saw we had made the right decision as we spotted the riot police getting ready to crash the uprising. Off we trudged back to our bus (we may have got lost, although Mitch will say that Phil got us lost) and London is quite wonderful when the roads are empty of cars/tons of people. It didn’t last, of course.

Despite being stuck in TWO HOURS OF TRAFFIC – WTF? the end of the day was just as fulfilling. Our student union president gave a speech on all his antics and what more we can do to stand up against the cuts. Everyone had stories to tell. Though I fell asleep (bloody hell I am drained) I managed to hear that one girl from our group had snuck into the building, too. Just goes to show, the BBC talk shit. The students didn’t leave early; hello we were there for most of it! and some students, not just the anarchists (though I’m not exactly thrilled), even broke into the building.

And that, in as concise as possible a nutshell, is an account of this uni student’s day. If you’re planning on going to university, I went out for you today even though I may not know your name. I want you to have the education you have dreamed of, because I LOVE university. It is your right. “The people should not be afraid of the government; it is the government who should be afraid of the people.”

This is Suzuki Scribble signing off.

Pictures from demotix. I’ll be posting the pictures we took at a slightly later date 🙂

Birth By Sleep: review

It’s 3:15AM. Why am I awake, you ask? Well, I have just played two hours of Birth By Sleep (BBS) for the PSP. There are no spoilers in this.

Now, Let me first state before I go any further, I am not an avid Kingdom Hearts (KH) fan; but I have seriously been trying to like it for the past however many years. If you’re a fan, know this entry will end positively.

I have tried to play KH1. I tried, honest to God, I tried; in fact, I’m still trying to play it. Every so often I’ll feel a bought of zeal like, “yeah let’s love this game!” but omg. The battle system is horrid. The gummie-ship is a joke. The travelling-between-worlds-experience is the shittiest navigation system since Star Fox 64/Lylat Wars (except Star Fox was fun). The levels are stupidly, stupidly hard for simpletons like me who play RPGs for the, you know, role-playing and not constant hack and slash. And last but not least, I could not give a flying frack about any of the characters. Well, except Riku, but he’s not in it enough for me to want to keep playing.

For me, therein lies the biggest fault. Riku, Squall and Cloud are the only ones I care about in KH1 – Cloud and Squall slightly redundant because I know and love them from Final Fantasy (FF) VII and VIII (here be the FF nerd). Also, Squall has hysterically dirty lines in KH if you read them wrong.

So moving on…

KH2, again, I’ve watched some gameplay because I thought: at least I personally won’t have to deal with the crappy battlesystem. Nah, I didn’t have a clue what was going on and I still didn’t care.

Which brings me to Birth By Sleep (cause let’s be honest. There’s no way I was going to, or ever will, touch Chain of Memories or 358/2 Days). I saw the trailers and thought, ‘well, it’s definitely pretty and the producers/animators have been watching gmvs for scene transitions, but there is no way I’m attempting to play it,’ when – hold on – ‘did I just see Zack Fair?’

Good. Heavens. Don’t get me started on how much I love Zack Fair, from Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core. I would travel the world, steal the Enterprise, defeat the Cylons and heal all the Nobodies just to meet Zack-freakin-Fair. My heart; it’s throbbing.

When I found out that not only is Zack Fair in BBS but that BBS is the prequel to the series (so I don’t have to know the KH plots) I bought it as soon as I could.

It’s amazing.

The scenes draw great parallels from the original games (mind-fuck) and the artwork is super smooth. I guess this is even more enjoyable to die-hard fans because I can tell the game makes a lot of hints at Sora, Roxas and Riku, but I don’t know enough to appreciate these moments. Roxas: who? Ansem: never met the first one let alone the alleged others! But I digress.

As pointed out by my cousin (a die-hard fan), who watched me play the first 25 minutes over my shoulder, the music is slightly jazzed up but very nostalgic, which works well. My cousin left before the music got super good but it has a bouncy, enrapturing quality. The boss battle music is hilariously J-Pop. Je adore.

The main characters themselves are, at first glance, an imitation of the original three; but! they are thankfully not the same after all. Sure, the same archetypes have been churned out and Terra is wanking on about the same tripe as Riku – but you know what, I care about him – and that’s all I’ve ever wanted from KH in the first place. I know there’s a good story to be told (somewhere) but who is Sora and why should I care? >_O

Aqua. Damn. Not only is she hot but she is A GREAT, NOT IRRITATING, FEMALE LEAD – OMGWHUT? Her voice actress, Willa Holland, is also fantastic. She has an earthy, mature voice, which definitely helps.

Terra, on the other hand, geeeh… His voice actor, Jason Dohring, is not bad but I personally know amateur voice actors who could do a better job. Dohring has potential, that’s for sure. Ven, however…

Jesse McCartney voices Ventus. Well, I guess I got used to it. At first, I was concerned because his diction was so poor, but either I got used to it quick or McCartney improved between recording the prologue and the opening chapter. I’d like to think it was the latter.

The set-up is divided into three chunks so far, but I’m guessing it will eventually be four. You play each character from the beginning of their story to the end, no swapping in between, and then figure out the plot holes by slotting all three storylines together; which I personally love the idea of and am keen to amalgamate. The fourth chunk will be the wrap-up when all three have a stand-off or something. I’m stabbing in the dark here; I’ve only played two hours remember. I’ve started with Terra’s story because dislike Ventus and adore Aqua, so I’m saving her for last. Despite the familiar Riku-characteristics, I am becoming quite fond of Terra in his own right.

Onto gameplay: super fun. Enough said. I enjoy it, and that’s a first. Also, save points restore all health – YES! One thing though, I’m still confused as to how you are meant to level up, equip and ‘meld’ abilities. I feel they looked at Final Fantasy X and thought, “we can do that; but sleeker!” Well, it’s definitely shiny but the simplicity of the design was lost somewhere… Maybe I’m just a moron.

Travelling between worlds: fucking bliss. I gasped with glee at how clean, simple, wooshy and fun space travel is in this instalment. Good God, it’s wonderful. You can whizz around space storms for as long or as little as you like, and not get lost.

So to wrap this up: the battlesystem, like any game, requires a little getting used to but certainly works. Space travel no longer makes me stressed. The new heartless designs are familiar but nicely redone. The voice acting is as balanced with good and bad actors/lines as it ever was. The music is wonderful and the plot actually progresses. But best of all, I love the new characters; Aqua still at the top.

It looks like I’m not just playing this for baby-Zack anymore. Well done, Squeenix. It’s now 4:30AM.

Come back next time to see Willow kick herself in the mouth for everything she said in this amateur review! *thumbs up*