Peer Review by seaomelette (United Arab Emirates)

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By: sophiacollins

Pop music fills the brightly lit store, blinding Carol and causing a shattering sequel to be let out through her lips. Her tasteless Nike sneakers aggressively scuff the lino floor, and she grumbles at a small child in front of her. The rosy-cheeked boy, around six or seven years old smiles up at Carol’s face. Her wrinkles are accentuated by the harsh lights, turning her ugly. He mistakenly steps forward; some children have yet to develop the highly essential sixth sense for Carol Mackintosh. 
“You! You!” she snaps at the boy. The poor kid’s mouth stretches out to his ears. He says sweetly, “Hello ma’am!” 
“Do you happen to know where 50 Shades Darker is, small boy.” He musters a blank stare, the boy cluelessly shrugs saying no. Carol shakes her head, extends her slouch and mutters to herself. “The stupidity of children these days,” and she sticks her finger down her throat pretending to gag. Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin screams into her ears on a walkman connected to Beats Studio headphones, simultaneously blasting out her sentience.  Her black, gothic and suitably voluptuous dress tips the staff recommendations stand as she parades the store. 
As Carol nears the service desk, the teenage saleswoman intuitively backs away. Carol settles her full chest onto the desk, obnoxiously pretending to snore. Her powdery face imprints it’s deep age lines onto the poor girl’s mousepad creating crevices like a valley. The victim cautiously shuffles toward Carol noticing the eruption taking place before her eyes; the deep rumble of her mocking snores and the smell of stale ham which follows each exhale. The worker found the amount of mess her customer was making disturbing. Especially within only a few minutes; there was a sea of dribble and a mountain of makeup on just the mousepad. 
“How can I help you?” she timidly mumbles. Carol stares at her nametag with her head still on the mousepad. 
“Aimee. That’s cute. Grab Fifty Shades Darker for me, will you?
“I’ll have a look, but there aren’t many left. It’s a popular book.”
“Aimee, really, your incompetence does not interest me. Please get it.” Carol orders decisively. Aimee spends the next few minutes trying to find the book. She stumbles away, weighed down with terror as if Carol’s words were weights embedded in the soles of her shoes. Aimee, fortunately, locates a stray copy between a few non-fiction books and gives it to Carol at the desk. 
“This is the last copy ma’am. Is this all you want?” Aimee asks. 
Carol found herself tapping on the service desk, trembling, staring at a thin book titled 'How to Help Yourself in Times of Grief'. Aimee, becoming worried for both parties, kept her distance. Carol, noticing the eyes on her, took to averting her gaze to an iPhone charger, pretending to read the information. Carol looked embarrassed, and lost some sparkle in her eye, but she shook her head and slipped back into herself. She held up the book, twisting its spine, pulling the cover, scrutinizing the blurb. She progressed her examination by throwing it on the ground, kicking it, stomping on it. She places the newly tattered book on the counter concluding her exhibition. 
“Aimee. I told you your incompetence was of no interest to me. I told you what I wanted,” Carol deeply inhaled, “A godforsaken. Hardcover. Fifty Shades Darker,” Carol spoke with an unlikely clarity and classiness. Aimee found this disturbing. 
“You didn’t ask for-.” “-nevermind, you can leave your phone number if you wan-” The exhausted girl offered. Carol, already halfway out of the store proudly presents her two middle fingers.

Peer Review

Oh my god, this excerpt. EEE, I love it so much! I honestly have no idea where to start. For one, your descriptions of Carol and her chaotic interactions with other characters in the bookstore were on-point and seriously hilarious. From this brief excerpt, I felt like I had already gotten a great introduction of Carol, and now I'm practically dying to read more about her! And for another, the sarcastic humor in this piece is astounding. I'm all for it, and I've spent several minutes reading and re-reading my favorite parts and hyena-shrieking.

Carol is such a vivid character - I feel like she's exploding out of my screen and into my face. Your hilarious descriptions of her appearance, and her interactions with the kid and Aimee at the service desk gave me this fantastic connection. Carol wasn't just floating around, doing her own thing, but she was actively interacting with other characters and solidifying her existence. Considering how impactful Carol's first introduction is, I don't think any additional details are necessary! To the contrary, while I wouldn't like to encounter Carol Mackintosh in real life, I'm extremely excited to read more about her in your full novel.

The progression of action in this novel excerpt was superbly written. If you were a movie director, I'd say your camera work was amazing. The narrator's camera panned really nicely over the scene, and I felt like I was right in on the action and meeting Carol face-to-face.

It's honestly super hard for me to find any faults in this piece, but I would suggest varying your sentence structure and clarifying some bumpy sections to make this excerpt even more impactful. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved your sentences. They were well-written, uproariously funny, and gave me the sense of whirlwind action. However, a little variation in structure and length can go a long way. I've highlighted some paragraphs to give you a better idea of what I mean, but the key idea to remember is "Spice things up!" A favorite analogy of mine is cupcake decorating. Imagine you have a bunch of sad, boring, bare cupcakes just begging for decoration. While a uniform line of vanilla-swirled cupcakes is delicious, and very aesthetic, which would be more interesting - a wacky lineup of rainbow, glittery cupcakes or a identical lineup of white ones? The rainbow cupcakes, for sure! As not to bore you with cupcakes, try applying the same mentality to your sentences. Consider switching up sentence length (i.e. short, long, long, short, short, short, long) and sentence structure (start one sentence with a participial phrase! throw out a short, screamed sentence next! end a sentence with an assortment of phrases!). There are a ton of possibilities, and reading your piece aloud can help you determine whether a paragraph is too monotonous in structure and needs some spicing up. Reading your piece aloud can also help you find any grammatical errors, missed punctuation, or typos you might have missed. I've pointed out a few minor ones throughout your piece, and I'll leave it to you to find the rest. Best of luck, and happy writing!

I was never lost while reading this excerpt - rather, I was so bombarded with imagery that the mere act of reading turned into a fascinating 4D movie of sorts. From the beginning, I immediately grasped that Carol had just waltzed into a bookstore, and was ready to wreak absolute havoc in there. I don't think you have to add any additional detail about Carol and her mischief (it's stupendously vivid as is), but I would suggest fleshing out the surroundings a little to match. For instance, when you mention Carol's gothic attire knocking over displays, I'd love to see a teeny bit more of that action. Shelves clanging? Books scattering on the floor? How does the floor look like? Clean tiles unfortunately defiled by Carol's grubby Nikes? These are just suggestions though, and you totally don't have to follow mine exactly, so take it away!!

This excerpt was like a chaotic rollercoaster ride, and while I'm not one for actual rollercoasters, I'm always down for a literary one, and this piece was so well-written at that. I'd absolutely love to continue reading this novel, and I'm sure whole hordes would too! If you ever feel unmotivated or stuck or discouraged, just remember that writing a novel is tough work, and it's okay to feel a little down. Take it easy on yourself - have a break from the keyboard, put down your pen, and snack on chips frantically or whatever meets your fancy. Novels aren't meant to be perfect from the first type, and writing them is a process that takes time, effort, and lots of breaks in between. Keep hacking at it, keep writing!

Reviewer Comments

I hope this review was helpful, and if you have any questions, just ask me. I'll be happy to answer them! Best of luck in the competition!!