The Cursed Seed
- Traumatising content
Vance Voss is a carefree young boy, spending his days leisurely with his family. However, an unfortunate occurrence during his Bloom Ceremony soon turns his life upside down as he is thrown headfirst into a world of magic and conspiracy.
This is my first attempt at writing a story. I have never considered myself a great writer, but like many others on this site, I am an avid reader and thought I would give it a shot.
Please share any constructive criticism or feedback you may have. It will be a tremendous help as I continue to write this story.
-Cover Image is not my own. Will take it down upon request-
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This is a first glance review that focuses on the technical aspects of writing and the conceptualisation of the story at hand.
Disclaimer: All my ratings range from 0.1 (poor) to 5.0 (outstanding). As such, a rating of 2.5 might be considered average. Most scores I hand out are slightly below that.
I make all of my remarks with the intention of helping the author develop and improve his story. Harsh as my comments may at times seem, I usually invest a lot of time and effort into writing these reviews – I wouldn't if my intention were to simply bash young authors into submission and shame.
Brutal honesty – engage!
Orthography: 2.4/5 – Religiously average
The Cursed Seed's presentation is serviceable. There are no horrible mistakes that might force potential readers to wrinkle their noses at either spelling or grammar, but there are still quite a lot of slips that manage to dilute the overall readability and effect the text has.
My old professor once told me, 'If there's one objective error per page of (unformatted) script, you're slipping. If there are two, you're failing.'
While I'm not holding anyone to that standard, I still think you might want to be a bit more thorough. If you think you can't, ask someone for help.
In what follows, I'll point out some of the recurring errors – within chapter one only.
Bad dialogue markers
'“Vance!” His mother yelled, “How[...]'
→ The dialogue marker belongs to the exclamation. As such, it needs to read: “Vance!” his mother yelled. “How[...]
'[...]we are also very lucky to have Baron Balor joining us tonight on this special occasion,” Auron gestured to the man […]
→ Period. To gesture is not a dialogue marker at all.
'As Vance collected his thoughts he was surprised, ‘For Eldrin to be […]'
→ same as above.
‘All she ever does is read’ he mused, ‘she was probably just worried father would scold her again if he found his study was a mess.’
→ Missing comma (after read); full stop instead of comma (after mused); capital S (ibid.)
'Vance’s brief respite was interrupted by Violet excitedly pounding loudly on his bedroom door, “Vance c’mon!'
→ To pound is no dialogue marker. Full stop instead of the comma. Also, don't have two adverbs surround one verb. Use a stronger verb instead, like to hammer, for instance. Lastly, there should be a comma before 'c'mon'.
'[…]standing next to Varin, then politely bowed.'
→ Comma unnecessary (incomplete sentence connected to a main clause). If you want to emphasise the temporal sequencing, use a dash instead.
'Vance politely replied, as he began […]'
→ same as above
'Come, come, I know you must be tired from your trip and we mustn’t let the stew get cold.'
→ Missing comma (compound sentence).
Also, to get a bit more effect, I'd add an exclamation mark.
→ 'Come, come! I know you must be tired from your trip, and we mustn't [...]'
'Right away Ma’am'
→ Missing comma (direct address)
'Pickmo are blind and burrow underground, thus they hunt for small reptiles and insects through sound vibrations.'
→ Another compound sentence. This time, however, I don't see the need for it. Also, you use 'thus' as an introductory element. Usually, it's up to the author to separate single words in that manner, but I'd advise to do it.
→ 'Pickmo (is that a no plural term?) are blind and burrow underground. Thus, they […]'
'--' is not an emdash. This issue can be fixed within ten seconds (auto-search and replace)
'Academy.’ Although […]'
→ missing space
→ Fictional dish and animal. Better capitalise it to warn your readers.
'Popping into the tunnels expecting to catch their prey only to receive a mining pick through the skull.'
→ Incorrect sentence structure (missing subject).
As a rule, your characters can speak like that – your narrative voice shouldn't.
Language and style: 1.95/5 – unrefined
Crispness of language
'Vance Voss swung his feet about lazily, perched on his favorite branch he could barely make out the shape of his mother, and the small frames of the Hobb housekeepers, Lyn and Pip, as they frantically prepared for his father’s arrival later in the evening.'
→ too long, too complicated, too dry, too diffuse; all in all, an unfortunate choice to start off your story
Also, the first comma is thoroughly confusing. Then, you're missing some (after 'branch') and adding some unnecessary ones (before 'and the')
Your missteps with the punctuation marks make this sentence almost unreadable. Also, try to shoot for shorter sentences unless the length serves a purpose (and carries information in a pleasant way). I'd completely revise the sentence.
→ Vance Voss swung his feet about lazily. Perched on his favourite branch, he could barely make out the shape of his mother or their Hobb housekeepers as they all frantically prepared for his father's arrival.
Frankly, these sentences are still barely acceptable. For instance, we don't know what a Hobb is. The decision to keep the explanation for later is good, but giving us the term for the race without an explanation is unfortunate. It just confuses. Why not describe how their frames are minuscule – even when compared to his delicate mother.
I also intentionally cut their names because you should never overload your readers with names, especially not in the first paragraph – and that goes doubly so for minor characters.
These are your first sentences. They don't need descriptions of secondary characters that won't be all that important. What you need here is a hook, something interesting. Sadly, your first sentence almost ruined it for me already.
Generally speaking, I've also observed a tendency in your writing to aim for wordy descriptions and paragraphs. You might want to watch out for that.
'His mother turned and began briskly walking back on the path towards their house.'
I really don't like this sentence.
Firstly, you can't 'begin to walk'. Either you're walking, or you're not. Beginning to walk implies walking. You cannot start to move your body without moving your body. Thus, it is superfluous. Additionally, your first few sentences lack a bit of variety in their structure. Maybe have a look at that. And lastly, the position of the adverb is not very felicitous.
→ 'Briskly turning on the spot, she walked down the path whence she came.'
Even now, we have to ask, 'Where else could she be walking.' So far, we haven't been given a lot of options as to where else she could storm off to.
Brevity is the soul of wit.
→ 'Briskly turning on the spot, she marched off.'
We cut the sentence by about half the words and didn't lose one iota of meaning. I won't point it out in this length again, but every sentence you have to ask yourself: 'Does each word add something?' Not only (!) filler words and adverbs can weaken the effect of your writing.
'Once inside, Vance raced up the back stairs […]'
Even here you might argue that the sentence carries dispensable information. After all, any building I could imagine fitting into your world up to this point wouldn't have stairs on the outside.
This is bordering nit-picking, but I just want to make my point. You really need to examine each of your sentences like that.
If you want him to enter the house, the connection between the introductory phrase and the main clause need to change.
→ 'He scampered inside, racing up the back stairs.'
By the way, is it important that the house has two staircases? I don't seem to recall you ever mentioning that again.
'As Vance crested the hill on which his home sat […]'
I believe this is the fourth time in half a page that you mention that the path climbing the hill leads to his home. Somehow, something needs to change here. Maybe give the hill an interesting name? Or describe the vegetation? What does the rest of the area look like?
You don't need to drown your readers in descriptions, but here you're doing the very opposite; you're drowning them in stuff they already know.
The sister is mentioned to have a 'tiny pink tongue' and 'small pink lips'. You've made your point that she is small; don't repeat it unnecessary or at least colour it differently. Maybe use something like slender or petite? Also, describing humans as pink once is...already more than enough for my mental health.
Again, I'm not trying to offend, but google the colour pink and imagine a human having natural lips of that colour. Gross!
'Popping into the tunnels expecting to catch their prey only to receive a mining pick through the skull. Vance tried desperately to quell the laughter rising in his chest as he imagined the dumb critters popping their heads out of the ground excitedly before getting smashed.'
This is more or less the same issue. You literally repeated the description from the previous sentence. A simple 'Vance found the thought hilarious.' would have done the same without stooping to repetitions.
Also, the reaction is over the top and unbelievable. It's not like he's never thought about them, is it? As such, it's a bit awkward that he can't even suppress his amusement.
I'm not trying to be mean, but you can probably cut at least one-fourth of your writing without either lessening the effect or doing away with information. Again, I'm not even talking about filler words and adverbs (which you use aplenty). Your writing reveals a common mistake of novice authors:
Everything happens dramatically.
If Vance is tired, he finds 'his eyelids growing heavy as he sunk into the warm embrace of his mattress.'
If Vance forgets to clean up his room, the realisation strikes 'him in the gut with a force like the blow of a hammer.'
What do you even want to convey with that? That he has a trauma about not cleaning up his room? There's an inadvertent, almost comical disparity between the information given and its presentation. There's too much drama!
You'll also notice that your readers won't ever sit on the edge of their seats if your entire novel has too high a tension. If Vance nearly has a collapse over forgetting to clean up his room, how will you ever describe it if something truly dreadful happens? Because, at that point, your readers will be jaded towards your descriptions.
Usually, this would be an entire point of my review, but I'll only leave one remark here. One of the problems I noticed in your writing is that, often, there's a glaring disparity between the character's subjective passage of time and what readers would assume to be natural.
The lesson Vance gets can be read within two minutes. Vance, however, reacts and acts as if he's sitting in the middle of a four-hour lecture. It just doesn't fit. Either you need to tone down his reactions and gloss over how much time really passes, or you need to leave a little hint for the reader that a lot more time is actually passing, and you only showed a part of the lecture.
Characters: 2.5/5 – rigid
Seeing as Vance is your protagonist, the first chapter should've left some kind of strong impression. I've read your first chapter twice before writing this, but Vance, as I see it, is just an ordinary boy. He's not particularly funny, he's not particularly smart, he's not particularly social, he's not particularly asocial – he's not particularly anything, except lazy. You can portrait your protagonist in either a good or bad light, but having him stagger on the stage dressed in grey rags of boringness just isn't cutting it.
Also, why exactly does he wonder so deep into the forest? Any kid living near a forest knows not to do it. Especially seeing as he's familiar with the general area, I find this behaviour suspect. It smells of a forced plot development, especially since you say it's just to escape the oppressing atmosphere at home. That's not really a reason. It's not like the forest gets more 'foresty' the farther you venture.
Most of the other characters don't stand out to me.
The only exceptions to this were the older sister (her being torn about Vance's chance at the ceremony was well done), and the father (though that only applies to the latter half of the first arc). Him switching gears from generally benign to taciturn and downright scary was interesting.
You might be wondering why I don't use their names.
As it happens, I'm writing this review a few days after taking notes on the story. But since you decided to name all Voss characters something starting with V, I literally cannot remember anyone but Vance.
It's neither funny nor does it achieve anything for your story. This is a serious issue: you should never introduce characters that sound too similar or act too similar, especially not in that short an amount of time. If you did it just for the giggles, because you found it cute, or some minor world-building reason, I suggest you change that. Unless there's a mind-blowing reveal that justifies this, it's really harming your story. No reader wants to get confused when starting with a story – at least not by constantly wondering who is actually who.
Story: x/5 – score withheld
Your story has some promising elements. I like your take on how people gain their powers. I like the whole story about the Beast Seeds – and Vance's father's backstory. I would've enjoyed it more if his father had actually been meaner towards him, if we'd seen that he's still conflicted about Beast Seeds. His whole 'but I'm over that' speech is a bit of a disappointment.
But, truth be told, I don't have any real gripes with the story except – maybe – the pacing. Your story picks up speed slowly, but it's not a critical weakness. Still, if you want to do yourself a favour, have a look at the first three chapters and really question every sentence, asking yourself what this description, that character, that development really does for your story.
The reason why I can't rate this bit of your story (even though it's probably around 3.35/5 and, therefore, far above average) is that your other weaknesses like your tendency to get lost in dramatics or your wordy paragraphs overshadow your story.
Intellectually, I like it, but I just can't get into it.
Verdict: 2.2/5 – Interesting growth story suffering from narrative flaws
Your first chapters are on the weak side. I feel like the later instalments are substantial improvements but a story starts with its beginning. If that lacks polish, your whole novel will suffer for it.
If you focus on sharpening your expressions, cut down on wordy phrasings and filler words, and – importantly – really think about where you want to shoot for dramatic effect, you might make the Cursed Seed work. If you have questions, feel free to pm me.
I wish you good luck!
- Overall Score
As of chapter 11 this is looking quite promising. Interesting world and characters.
- Overall Score
- Nice story, interesting characters, decent grammar.
Paragraphs are a tad wordy though.