Three eliminations in, Fourth Fiction, the first ever blog based literary reality show, has seen the ‘new-age nonsense’ of Isis, the ‘beat-meets-street’ stylings of Fido, and the ‘virtual unreality ramblings’ of enigmatic Fyor voted off in favour of the remaining nine contestants. This second part of my litcrit of the contestants novellas-in-progress continues where my previous post left off.
As the only contestant writing a narrative in verse form, Omar has pitched his literary tent further out than most of the Fourth Fiction writers. This idiosyncracy gives his story a whimsical quality that suits his subject, the aftermath of the Pied Piper story. Omar gives further character to his work by filling this antiquated narrative form with references to contemporary issues, ideas and technology, such as the new Apple OS Snow Leopard, scientific knowledge regarding the development of the human foetus, relating how this tale is told on computer screen and even providing links to web pages in the rhyme.
All of this helps to turn the (so far) slight narrative into something that is a pleasure to read. The problem with this is when you compare it to some of the really successful novellas that are emerging as the weeks progress, Omar’s effort just can’t stand up. It would be nice to see the story really start to fly in the next challenge, with some lyrical language added for spice. I would imagine though, that if Omar continues as he is, when the field thins to six or so writers we will see him voted off, however pleasant his tale has been up until that point. That said, the talking rat at the end of his Round Four challenge response has me eager to read on.
Igor’s novella has an interesting premise and the back-story provided so far fleshes it out nicely. The problem action in the opening has been shoved to one side so the narrator can give us the set-up. A better start might have been to give us the details of just how ‘an arseholed chav pushed (the narrator) off a three-storey building.’ That scene, told as it happened would have given the story some much needed action right at the start. At the time of writing, Igor has posted three challenge responses and despite writing ‘let’s get on with the story,’ he has failed to do that.
The narrative voice is convincing though and indicates that once Igor gets the ball rolling this could well be a contender. The main character asserts that he has ‘more to offer than pain, suffering, and bitterness. There is light. Bright, piercing and cathartic. But first I must wheel myself through the tunnel.’ If Igor can get round to telling the story of that journey through the tunnel, spreading out the backstory rather than feeding us it in big lumps, he might still save himself from mid-competition rejection.
Another writer focused on backstory is Rhae. At the time of writing, she has posted three challenge responses, all of which have been heavy with world building. The reader is still yet to be introduced to a main character of her sci-fi novella, which immediately gives the reader a reason to switch off. The back-story is well developed and at times interesting, but the opening of a novel needs to introduce a clearly defined main character the reader wants to discover more about and Rhae simply avoids doing this.
Before re-reading Rhae’s post I could not have told you much about them from memory beyond the plot having something to do with dna. Even after re-reading, if you wanted to explain what this story is about to someone unfamiliar with it, it would be a struggle to explain in a quick and clear way, primarily because we have no idea who this story is about. People want to read about people. Other contestants have managed to create believeable and relatable characters in the thousand words or so of the first few challenge responses. Rhae needs to give the readers someone to grab hold of before their attention wanders to one of the other competitors.
Nora seems to confound expectation. On the surface her story started out presenting itself as a typical romance, then subsequent episodes taking her into erotica territory. In the comment threads of her posts she has admitted that writing in the genre necessitates a certain amount of ‘cheesy’ action and dialogue and in that are she hasn’t disappointed. Her novella-in-progress is filled with ‘inflamed mounds,’ ‘ripe fruits,’ a fair amount of thrusting, and characters say things like, “Why you deceitful scoundrel!”
The pacing of the story manages to elevate Nora’s story though. Thus far she has managed to provide solid cliffhangers at the end of her posts, thus ensuring that readers want to see what happens next, and her Round Four post is particuarly ‘gripping.’ Nora, ‘happily-married Christian mother of four,’ seems to be revelling in telling this explicit look at a modern marriage.
While her chosen genre is not one that would normally interest me, Nora seems to be succeeding where many of the others have failed. She is giving us action from the word go, with back-story filtered only where necessary. I suspect I am not alone in hoping Nora gets the chance to write in Round 5 so we can find out just what Arthur is about to tell Catherine. It needs to be good, both for Catherine and the readers.
Looking to Round 5
That concludes my criticism of the nine remaining novellas-in-progress. It’s probably clear who my favourites are. The vote will open at midnight, make sure you vote out the writer you want rejected. It’s probably clear from the above criticism who my favourites are. While we wait for the result, why don’t you use the comments to big up your favourite.