Oddly enough, whereas with the last two charries I read I found myself getting more into them as they went on, I had the sort of opposite reaction with Gwen. I liked her straight away. I liked that she had a voice, I thought that the writing moved well, and I actually liked that she just up and left Alex and Daniel in her first thread because she didn't feel comfortable with them. And I really like that her lumpy, cliched "I MUST SEARCH FOR FRIEND X" plotline quickly moved into the background, because I've already made it clear what I think about those.
But reading though Gwen's threads, my interest in her flagged a bit. She falls in with Michelle and Virgil, decides that their plan is great (at least until she meets up with someone with a better plan), and comes of as something of a third wheel. Her passive nature combined with the posting/writing style makes her fade into the background too much. This can work at times, like after the first announcements when she's all consumed with terror and doesn't give a crap about Michelle and Virgil's argument. I liked that. But after Michelle gives her a hug, Gwen's back to tagging along, cheerleading the plan, and not much has really happened after that, so her plotline seems to be at a standstill right now.
And that's the thing with Gwen; she's so reactive instead of active that her posts come off as a bit uneven. She's consumed by despair because of the announcements, or because Michelle told her Dave took a header. She's disappointed because the others won't go along with the group's mass suicide plan. Her actions never drive a thread forward, outside of maybe a question or statement at the very end. So she's just reacting, in a different way, to what's happened before, with her reactions being spelled out to the reader each time. Gwen's thoughts come off as too blunt or obvious -- we always know what she's thinking and why. With her steadfast belief in Michelle's plan, for example, we can understand that it's mostly a bullshit delusion on Gwen's part, so the narrative doesn't have to make it so obvious.
I guess it comes off as maybe working to have a deep character wrestling with complex issues, and as a result they come out seeming shallow instead. Gwen isn't shallow, and she's had some really good moments, but the attempts to explain her thoughts and feelings often read as trying to hard, like in the cases below:
She stood in the doorway of the bedroom, frozen momentarily with indecision like a river in winter.
She was long-gone, lost in a spiral of terror. She was broken like the wings of a fallen bird, lost as a sad, lonely little lamb in a murky wood, and scared like her youthful self at night listening to her parents fight.
Similes and comparison can work very well, but three in one sentence is pushing it far beyond the pale. And when one falls totally flat, like in the first example (how is a river iced over for months on end frozen "momentarily?") it stops the reader dead. Obviously, this kind of stuff is by no means restricted to one character, but I did notice it on my readthrough here.
Well, my initial reactions to Alice, according to my notepad, were "lol bitch", and "oh god not Ms. Logical". But don't worry, because being Ms. Logical is not automatically a bad thing. It's just really tough to maintain that character as likeable and readable over several threads. Thankfully, you're not doing a bad job with her, and she's a good combination with Casey and Carlos. But she does fall into some of the traps I really dislike about characters who are supposed to be detached or antisocial, particularly when it comes to dialogue. Far too often, Alice sounds like a robot.
When she talks, it's like she has to repeat or restate everything at least once, at it comes off as grating. For example, all in one post:
- "Guess the owners really didn't want anyone getting in while they were away. Bit excessive."
- "We should look for another way in. Windows, back door, whatever. Don't wanna leave empty handed if we don't have to."
- "Should we just make a break for it? Supplies aren't worth confrontation."
Again, this obviously isn't a unique thing, but I did notice it a lot with Alice. And this repetition does tend to bleed over to her internal narrative as well. Like with Gwen, there's often too much direct explanation of Alice's thoughts, and while I like that said thoughts are detailed and fit her character, there's still a sense of "ok I get what she thinks about Theo, now let's see what she does with those feelings."
It is great that Alice CAN go a lot of different ways and do a lot of different things with those feelings, though. She could be an interesting character to keep an eye on, but I think the delivery needs some tweaking. And to get to my next point, she, Casey, and Carlos seem to be lagging pretty badly timewise when it comes to keeping up with the days and announcements, and that can be an absolutely killer (no pun intended).
RIGHT, of course I never abandoned this. I'll get Mirabella in my next post, and because I'm too damn nice, I'll do Megan and Finn as well. As for the other latecomers, sorry, but I can't reward ya for jumping in after I'd officially said no more. If I do another round of critiques after I'm done the next three, you're free to request them then.