Peer Review by ALangford (United Kingdom)

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By: Becky H

Suspicion seemed to be the only thing present in the room as they all sat around a long wooden table, with scattered chairs, chairs that were filled now that he had entered.

The man didn't look that unusual compared to the rest of the people sat around the table, nor did he look unusual when compared to people wondering the streets outside of the building they had been guided into. The masked individuals stood at entrances, exits and watched them, faces obscured and only eyes visible.

His hair was an unnaturally dark black, obviously dyed as there was no other colour to it than that, flat dulling darkness. Murky green eyes peered out from under his hair, looking around at the surrounding people with an odd curiousity, before his face settled on a slight smile as he took his seat. Though the smile certainly wasn't pleasant.

The fabric of his suit moved with him as he took a seat, and his dark black tie floated slightly as he fell down into his chair. The other's around him didn't interest him that much, he saw them as his enemies, it was what he had to do. If he saw them in any other way he wasn't sure that he would be able to do what he came to.

Though he reminded himself of one fact in the back of his mind, that the other's had came for the exact same reason. Money was quite the motivation, he decided, as he glanced towards his watch absentmindedly, not taking in what time it was.
Perhaps it didn't matter at all to him, as he wasn't even aware of where he was. The car he had been directed into had all of the outside blocked off, and he had been lead into a back alley; through a derelict door and into an oddly extravagant room full of people.

That brought his thoughts to the reason he was there, as he had thought of earlier, money was one reason. Freedom was another, he couldn't bare another day with the same old job and daily boredom that he had endured.
It was his own personal hell, one that had seemed unescapable until he had recieved the letter.

Of course, he had heard the whispers of such 'disgusting things' happening, though that was only how others seemed to regard them. He saw it as survival of the fittest in action. It didn't matter, neither did they as long as he was fine. Intelligence was his highest redeeming quality, though others might of considered it to be his hubris.

Of course, even though he said that the others didn't matter, he cared for some people that he knew, family and coworkers that he would rather stay away from the whole mess.

Though he held no one in the room with such a regard.

The others, competitors he supposed, didn't have to be given such a right. They weren't people that he cared about, so why would he want anything for them?

A piece of dull black hair twirled around his fingers as he talked, and he leant back in his chair surveying the room yet again. He wondered why the others were there, of course the monetary value of the prize was what had led a few of them there. Nervous looks flickered across a few faces in the room, but other people seemed to be enjoying themselves quite a bit. A woman with blonde hair reaching down her back, and extravagant black clothing draped across her looked quite smug, almost as if she was enjoying herself in such a situation, as if she was completely prepared for what would happen.

​She leant against her hand as she glanced around her, and her appearance portrayed complete confidence. It was clear to the green eyed man that she thought she could win. If that thought was true, then she would certainly be a powerful enemy. Someone in his way. 
​Another notable pair was the siblings sitting close together near the edge of the table, strawberry blonde hair fell on their faces and silver eyes peeked out from the brother's fringe, while the sister had warm brown eyes and a gentle smile as she reassured the boy. He looked terrified, which, the suited man thought, seemed like a very normal reaction to this situation.

​He didn't seem like a threat, at least not for now, it was very likely, the man concluded, that his sister had brought him along. An accomplice, or a foil for a plan.

​Now the girl with a warm smile peaked his interest, she looked about seventeen, while her brother might have been a year or two younger. Curiosity filled the man's face as he watched them, being that calm in such a situation wasn't a usual reaction.

​He deemed her to be a threat, she seemed empathetic enough to her brother, yet he was sure that she wouldn't have a problem going against himself. Though she was young, they were both incredibly young. They were  flowers among a garden of thorns, people who wouldn't even bother to appear unassuming and innocent. Though the boy didn't seem like he was trying to act that way, maybe he was just that good at deceit, or maybe he was as he seemed. 

​He shifted a strand of his coal coloured fringe behind his ear; decidedly, he chose to stop investigating the others and turned to the masked individuals guarding the exits with an intense curiosity. He desperately wanted to find out why someone would go to this length to stage such an elaborate event. One that he had only heard of in rumours and urban legends. He was certain that this wasn't the first time this had occurred.

Answers didn't seem to be forthcoming soon, so he glanced at his watch, again not taking in the time, and with a smile, he looked ahead to what would happen next.


Finished, any advice is helpful. Thanks.

Peer Review

It's that continued sense of tension and suspense throughout the piece which really caught my attention. From the outset, you personified 'suspicion' which was obviously really effective in setting the tone for the rest of it, and you gave out minuscule details as the story went on without revealing to the reader what the actual situation was. Although infuriating to read, it was really engaging and held my attention throughout because I was constantly analysing every sentence to pick up some hint as to the actual plot.

One of many things you're very strong at is succinct but really elegant description. Your descriptive sentences are the ones with the most individuality and uniqueness of voice - it's in them that you really experiment with style and tone. You don't just stick to the typical descriptions - 'black hair like a raven' - but use much more unique turns of phrase like the 'flat, dulling darkness'. This really helped to make the character seem real because he wasn't just a caricature. However, it might be useful if you could experiment with more ways of developing that character - does he have any more physical tics - for example he might have a habit of scratching his wrists or flexing his hands. You might also consider alluding a bit more to his personal life and relationships or past to add depth to his character.

I don't think I can suggest anything here - I obviously would have liked to know why he entered the room or how he got there but given that this is a novel excerpt I assume that I would have been given this information before were I actually reading the novel. I think what made this so incredibly strong was that it did sustain that mystery throughout, and expanding scenes and giving more detail might detract from that.

I don't really have a sense of setting from this. To an extent that's a good thing as it may add to that sense of isolation and mystery, however I think it could make this even stronger if you referred a bit more to the protagonist's surroundings. You can describe setting whilst retaining that tension and mystery, perhaps trying to indicate a sense of strain using the physical layout of the room or using some form of metaphor to show this. In terms of the senses you don't really refer to sound either - is it an eerie silence, or is there uneasy chatter? Equally, is the smell stale or sterile or sickly sweet? You could describe the texture of the chair and show your character's heightened awareness and attention to detail.

You have a really strong individual voice which I could really feel throughout this whole piece. Your writing style is so elegant and you aren't afraid to use more unconventional means of description. As I've said, it was so incredible that you managed to sustain such tension throughout this and I found it really enjoyable to read in that regard.

Reviewer Comments

Well done - I really enjoyed reading this and look forward to reading more of your work in the future!