I can definitely see why this one-shot was recommended in the "Recommend a Historical Fiction" thread. You are a WONDERFUL author!
The imagery really jumps at me, you're awesomely talented at description. For example, this line:
The red-gold brick of the house glowed in the early morning light, the two main wings reaching out like lion’s paws, drawing in the unwary prey.
Wow. Just... pure wow.
This story is loong, with 8689 words. All the same, I never once felt bored, or felt the need to do something else for a while. This is mostly because of the ASTOUNDING writing, but partly because of the intriguing plot. The story unfolds really well, and was very interesting.
You also have this wonderful way of breathing life into objects by using anthropomorphism- if I spelled that correctly. The way the Painter in the story fondly calls upon the muse as a "She", and in the same way addresses a building... It all adds to the impact of the story.
We shared an understanding of the need to bury yourself in work while the muse was speaking, since far too often she would go silent all too soon.
is very true, whether of painters, artisans or even, writers like us.
I found all the characters very three-dimensional and interesting- the unsureness of Philip, the sadness of Helen, the nature of Helen's father... All very well done.
However, I found that the story shifted tenses now and then. It disturbed the flow, and seemed very jarring. In fact, I found in a few sentences, you use both present and past tense!
Wisps of silky, smoky hair tickled my ear as I shift her slightly on my hip.
Stepping cautiously into the bedroom, I instantlyhave an armful of cloth thrust at me with the command, “hold these.”
^ Also in this, 'Hold' should be capitalised.
Barring these minor things, I found this a beautiful read, one that I'd recommend to everyone.
Wonderful work- I applaud you!
Author's Response: Thank you very much for all your kind words. This has always been one of my favorite of all my writings (writing it was kinda personal rather than entirely made up) so I'm glad to know it shows. As for the tenses (oops) I should go back and fix those. That has always been my biggest bane as a writer. (Even academically- you should hear what my thesis advisor had to say about that :) Ah, well.) Thank you again, and I'm really glad you liked it!
Hello, there! =) I've been meaning to write a review for this wonderful one-shot for a very long time, and I'm glad that I'm finally getting around to it. This is such a rich story, and it truly deserved to win the QSQ for Best Historical.
What I immediately found appealing was the entirely believable portrayal of...well, everything. Your writing is so vibrant; the characters and setting leap off the page. All of it is authentic to the era in a delightful way in that none of it feels contrived, but immediate and real, from the dialogue to the details of surroundings. I particularly enjoyed the scene at Martine's house; their playful, natural bantering and and the depiction of everyday life was a lot of fun to read.
Your characterization is such a pleausure to read because it's so indirect, and allows the reader to get to know the characters at a natural pace. The entire flow of this story is very impressive; you take your time unfolding both the events and the characterizations, but the story never drags. It makes for a very satisfying experience.
The entire premise of this fic is very clever, I think. The connection to the wizarding world isn't blatant, and it's more interesting for that. Helen is a very lovely character, though I felt that you got slightly carried when describing her a couple times; for instance, when you mentioned that she twisted her curls when she was self-conscious, which Phillipe would not have been able to observe in that short amount of time, and when you described her as “neither divine nor secular, angel nor demon.” I also noted with interest., though I'm not sure if it was intended, that the gaudiness of the Fitzgerald house points to Hepzibah Smith, and makes a wonderfully subtle connection to Hufflepuff.
While overall I quite like your prose (the paragraph where Phillipe describes autumn in London is particularly lovely), there was some awkard wording in places: the first part of the letter at the beginning of the fic, and the the use of the word “grasped” in the sentence, “mother frowned again as I retreated back into the kitchen where I eagerly grasped the welcome arrival of my brother-in-law.” It would have been clearer if you had said something like, “mother frowned again as I retreated back into the kitchen, where I eagerly grasped the welcome excuse of the arrival of my brother-in-law to avoid her questioning.”
I also noticed rather a lot of errors with commas and semi-colons. There are many sentences lacking commas to separate clauses, such as “winking at Johnny I neatly pilfered a slice of the freshly baked pie,” where there should be a commas inbetween “Johnny” and “I,” and “you have a commission?” Martine asked eagerly; her blind devotion to my talents was cheering if somewhat misplaced,” where there should be a comma before “if.” The semi-colon errors consist mainly of being used as commas, such as in this sentence: “I sputtered; sure I had heard her incorrectly.” Semi-colons are used when two sentences go together, as in one adds on to the other, but two clauses are part of the same sentence and need a comma. There was also a lone tense error that I'd like to point out: “Stepping cautiously into the bedroom, I instantly have an armful of cloth thrust at me with the command, “hold these.” You slipped into present tense just in that sentence.
I'm sorry if that seems like a lot of criticism. I can asssure you that I greatly enjoyed your story; it's entirely unique and well-developed, and shines with a sort of inner light, much like Helen. Congrats again on the award!
Author's Response: Wow; thank you very much for the detailed review! I apologize for all the grammatical errors- I originally wrote this very hurridly over summer break and never had time to edit it before I left the country for a month and a half- oops. I'm glad that the characters all seemed so real; they felt like real people to me as I wrote them. So much so, as a matter a fact that at a few points they even began invading my dreams at night! I appreciate all your criticizm, and if the history of it rings true I can only credit Charels Dickens, Alexander Dumas, and the dozens of library books and college professors I depended upon to help me with my research. Thanks, again!
That was beautiful! That made me want to cry, laugh, smile and scream. And I dont know why..
Author's Response: oops, double post. Well, thanks again!
That was beautiful! That made me want to cry, laugh, smile and scream. And I dont know why..
Author's Response: Thank you very much for your praise, I'm really glad you enjoyed the story!
That was amazing. It was beautiful and visual, with emotions to go along.
Author's Response: Thank you very much for your kind words! I'm really glad you enjoyed the story.
This is really beautiful. The imagery is amazing. You have a natural talent for gorgeous writing that doesn't seem forced. I love the story as well. The relationship between Phillipe and Helen is perfect. I love that they don't marry. It's too rare that authors are brave enough to write a story about such brief (and realistic) relationships. They don't really mean anything but at the same time, they mean everything (if that makes any sense).
Just a little bit of nitpicking...
In the first chapter, you switch back and forth between past and present tense quite a bit. I'm not sure if it was intentional, but it really disrupts the flow of the story...
Reaching down, I pluck little Marie off my boot and whirled her around while trying to, surreptitiously, shake some life back into my tingling foot...Wisps of silky, smoky hair tickled my ear as I shift her slightly on my hip.
That's something you might want to pay more attention to.
Anyway, it's a wonderful story. Keep writing!
Author's Response: Thank you very much for the review. I understand what you mean about the relationships, perfectly. There are many kinds of love and not all lead to forever. Thanks for catching my grammar mistakes- I wrote this in a bit of a hurry so at the time so I didn't have an opportunity for much proofing.
Aw, what a wonderful story! The words you use to describe things are beautiful! I especially loved how you described Helen and her portrait:
I suppose it is unfair of me to say that she was nothing like I expected; she had none of the aristocratic arrogance of her father, nor his dark and dashing good looks. She was small and thin, looking more like fifteen than the eighteen or nineteen I supposed she was. Her pale hair was not golden, but instead the rich yellow-brown of ripened grain. She had pulled it back into a messy knot at the back of her head, but little strands escaped around her ears in small curls which she would twist the wrong way about her fingers when she felt too self conscious. Her heart shaped face was slender, but the determination in her pointed, elfin chin was strong. A smattering of cinnamon freckles ran across the bridge of here nose which turned up in the most un-aristocratic way. Her large eyes were wide set, like two pools of melted chocolate and above them her fair arched in perpetual puzzlement. She was all sunset tones, the yellow rose; a fact much aided by the simple apricot dress she wore.
I had a clear view of what she looked like, which I loved. And:
The sunlight gleamed over her shoulder, pouring over the table and book like a river of honey. All else was the smoky dusk of shadows veiling another realm of mystery and imagination. The pages of the book ruffled, caught in the breeze as they were lowered, and caught in time; forever falling as gently as a drop of rain without ever bursting on the cold pavement. The small tapered fingers hovered, a blue-black stain running along the first two where ink had leaked from her quill. Her wheaten hair tumbled down in tendrils like the gently swaying arms of a willow in the wind. The hint of a smile played on her lips, the serene countenance of her face a stark contrast to the shadows into which she stared. Each lash of her eye was dark, as though laden with tears, but her eyes burned with the gentle glow of the sunlight.
She was a puzzle, an enigma this girl. Both dark and light, sorrow and joy, strength and weakness portrayed in her frame. Neither divine nor secular, angel nor demon. She was everything at once, and yet there was nothing you could label her. In short, she was herself.
Lovely! The story is very sweet, especially the very end. Is there a particular portrait that was mentioned in the books or movies that lead you to write this?
An excellent job; you deserved to win the Quickie!~
Author's Response: Thank you very much for both the compliments and the review. I did not base the painting off anything from either the books or movies, but instead composed the whole thing in my mind. I fell in love with a honeyed-sunset tone palette and once the colors drifted into my mind it set the mood and then drew the picture itself. However, since I am better at painting with words than a brush, this story was born. Creating the character of Helen (and Philip) just helped me refine the details of the painting a bit more.
This is possibly the best story I've read on Mugglenet and I'm feeling so ashamed that I read it only because it was a winner of the Quicksilver Quill awards! Really, it was a great story, with a brilliant main character and amazing description. I particularly liked the way you described how wizarding paintings are given life - I think that was probably my favourite part!
Great job! This'll definitely go to my favourites!
Author's Response: Thank you very much for all your kind words, I'm flattered. I really enjoyed creating the characters of Phillip and Helen, they just seemed right to me, and I spent a lot of time thinking about them. I'm glad to know that all came out in my writing! Thanks again, and I'm really glad you enjoyed the piece.
This is a delightful story.
I have a quibble about a historical anachronism that I found a bit jarring. Acrylic paints were not developed until the 1940s, and so should not have been for sale in the early 1800's. I don't think that artists of that day would have been buying their oil paints in tubes yet - I think that they would be mixing them from pigments and oils - a much more arduous process, and one that allowed artists to have secret recipes, I suspect.
I loved how you talked about painting in colour - the shadows being blues and purples. At that time the yellows would have been umber, iron oxides and ochre, the bright colours cadmium and the blues would have been cobalt. I love painting in oils because of the sensuous feel of the paint, acrylic feels like plastic to me, which of course, it is.
Author's Response: Thank you for the review. As for teh anachronism of the paint, I did intend for them to be oils. The tubes were not refering to color but merely to the base substances with which he could mix his paint- however I do see how I rather poorly worded that. Oops. I very much agree with your sentiments on oil paint versus acrylic. I like the weight of oil, even the way it takes for freaking ever to dry. It makes it much more workable. Anyway, thanks again for the review, I'm really glad you liked the piece.
I also was blown away by your imaginative, touching piece. As an OC story, it stood very well, leaving me wondering how intertwined the Magical and Muggle worlds may have been at different times. For a witch and wizard to be familiar with classical authors who we'd presume were Muggle felt right to me. I can't accept that all Magical folks were as oblivious to Muggle culture as the Weasleys in the HP era.
Anyway, Portrait Painter (and you) are now among my favorites.
Author's Response: Thank you very much! I believe that in the past when witchcraft was actually believed in and persecuted, a witch or wizard would have to be far more aware of the muggle world than a witch or wizard living in the skeptical modern world today. Besides, it really is amazing how much magical theory and philosophy actually overlap! Anyway, thanks again for your lovely review and compliments!
Oh! I should have reviewed this ages ago, Kristin darling, and now I'm doing it for a class. >.< My apologies. This is my personal favorite out of everything I've read by you, gorgeous poetry included.
My favorite part of this story is that you didn't force it into romance. You can be intimately connected to someone for a few moments and not fall in love, and that's refreshing to see that in HPFF when so often, all roads lead to love. *giggles*
I also truly loved every one of your OCs. i wish I could have seen more of Helen's father because I want to know what there was to hate so much in his character -- not just his actions. I also wanted to see the Helen/her father dynamic in live-action!mode, even if she does tell us a little about their relationship.
I really think you NEED more scenes with the family to break up the scenes with Helen and Philip because the family is ADORABLE! :D *pouts* More, more!
To finish off, your control over detail and wording is simply superb. The way you slip it telling details like Voltaire or Napoleon astound me. Your description as always is one of your greatest strengths -- the flow of the lines is powerful and alluring as you tell a scene.
A bit vague on one part, however...does Philip make weekly withdrawals or deposits in his Gringotts account? Not a necessary detail but I was bothered by it. Heheh.
Brilliant work. Probably and possibly your best yet. *hugs*
Author's Response: Kumy, thanks so much for reviewing my baby- you are entirely right, this is my favorite and best yet. It is a romance, but it is also one that will never get off the ground. Phillip and Helen are friends, in a way he is even in love with her, but they both know that it will never lead to marraige so no move is ever made by either of them. Bittersweet, but it happens all the time in life. I understand that you want more scenes and I will begin by saying that I wrote this entire piece in a week between work and dance in the summer so I had little enough time to even crunch this out. And now that it is finished I am loath to touch it because I'm afraid anything I add will not come out the same as the rest of the piece because it has been so long. *sigh* As for Philip, he actually makes weekly exchanges, turning in Galleons but recieving pounds so that he can buy food in the Muggle world because it is a bit cheaper there if you know where to look. Anyway, thanks again and wonderful to hear from you!
This is probably one of the best fics I have ever read.
I loved how you started it off with a letter about a painting and then have it blend into a flashback that goes deeper into the story. How you not reveal the identity of the person who wrote the letter definitely added a lot of mystery. It was a great beginning for a story.
The character of Helen really intrigued me. I loved how you addressed how she is related to Hegla Hufflepuff without directly implying it. She sounds like a very sweet and beautiful character, yet have her whole life steeped in tragedy. Helen sounds like the perfect tragic heroine. The ending really resolved her need to finally be in Hogwarts.
I would also like to address the point of view. I thought it was interesting to read this story that is told through the eyes of the artist painting the portrait. I’ve only read stories about the subjects of the paintings, so I found it refreshing to read something associated with art and told through the view point of a very devout painter.
And so ends my little review.
Author's Response: Thank you for the compliments, I wanted this fic to both stand alone while still tying into the wizarding world so it is nice to know that all my threads fell in place. Helen really was the beginning to this entire piece, everything was designed around her, even though I realized she would never work as the narrator. I have to confess that with most art, I find the artist more interesting than the subject. The art is good, but theirs is the hand that created such beauty. It seems like a very powerful thing. Anyway, thank you for the review and I hope I answered your questions with all of my rambles.
Wow. That was a stunning story, truly stunning.
I'm going to make an assumption, and that's that you are an artist, because, though I'm not a particularly good artist, I can see that you have an artist's eye in your description (or, you just write wonderful description) of the painting of Helen.
I also really liked some of the wording you used. For example, the line that said, "I was little David, armed with nothing but canvas and a brush; but could even they slay this Goliath?" It is a wonderful metaphor and really brings to life the size of the building in comparison to Phillip.
One thing I really appreciated was a how well-rounded Phillip was. He has gone through difficulties in his life, but still has a sense of humor and he just seems....real.
Alright. So, in the beginning of your fic, I was rather confused because I couldn't tell WHO was the narrator, mostly because this is an entirely OC piece. I was also really confused about how these characters related to the Wizarding World at first, before I realized they were all witches and wizards (or at least...most of them were). The only thing I would suggest is more clarification, unless the mystery was intended to add to the story.
Anyways, overall, really nice fic!
Author's Response: Thank you kindly for your compliments. I hate to burst your bubble, but my mother is actually the artist in my family. I just scribble around but paint better pictures with my words than my brushes. But it does help to understand the processes behind the painting for a story such as this. I will go back and look at the beginning to see if I was a bit too unclear, but I did want the characters to reveal themselves to you as the story unfurled rather than begin with this is A and this is B and so on. Thanks again!
Coppercurls, I just want to congratulate you on a story well done! Your style was absolutely amazing! The way you managed to suck the reader in with such beautiful imagery, and diction is a rarity these days, so you should be very proud of your work!
First of all, I would like to commend you on your originality! It is wonderful to see how you incorporated your love of art, and history, into The Portrait Painter. It made the story much more believable, seeing as how you created a piece that meant something to you. Incorporating those things also added a nice personal touch. Many writers never want to reread something they have written, because they believe it to be “absolute rubbish”, but I have a feeling this is a story that you love to read over and over again.
Where did you learn how to write all that imagery? Your story was the first one I have read where the imagery just flowed naturally, and didn’t sound too overblown. Maybe it is your love of art that influenced this. I can see many artistic references in this story, particularly the lovely passages where you describe Philippe’s mediums, sketches, and “eye for design”. I especially loved this part:
“She was a puzzle, an enigma this girl. Both dark and light, sorrow and joy, strength and weakness portrayed in her frame. Neither divine nor secular, angel nor demon. She was everything at once, and yet there was nothing you could label her. In short, she was herself.”
The way you incorporated historical (and magical!) references was subtle, but brilliant, and fit perfectly well in the story. You obviously did your research, and it shows (commends correct use of French!). There were some instances where the allusions seemed just a smidge forced, but your imaginative mind and subtle way with words definitely made up for that! The letter at the beginning and ending of the story was a great way to stitch up the loose endings of your story—excellent!
All in all, I think your story was one of the best I’ve ever read, and I’m so happy that you were recognized for that! Great job and I look forward to reading more from you!
Author's Response: Thank you very much for the kind review! I admit I do like to reread this story as it is one of the best I have ever written and one I really wanted to write. (History nerd.) As for the imagry, I suppose that I simply read alot and learn from other writers, but also that I play the story out in my head while I write it. That way you can balance what you see and hear that seem to be important. As for correct use of French, I didn't do anythign too complicated, but I have had about six years of it now so it really wasn't as difficult as it seemed. Sorry if some of the allusions seemed forced- would you mind letting me know which ones? Thanks again!
I love how you start and end your story with a letter, it ties up all the loose ends and, especially the part of the letter used as the beginning, made me very curious as to what this painting depicts and why it should be of interest to the Hogwarts’ Headmaster. To end the story with the last part of the letter was a nice way to end an autobiography, because the narrator obviously can’t continue telling his story until his death, that’s just not possible, and this way the story came full circle and left nothing to be desired, no loose ends to be tied up and no questions as to what happened to the narrator and the painting after its end.
So why did I feel like I had just sold my soul?
I was already curious after the unfinished letter at the beginning of the story, but after this line I couldn’t have stopped reading even if I had wanted to, I just had to know what would happen next and if his less than positive feelings would turn out to be right and he would pay dearly for accepting the commission. This line created a lot of suspense and even though Mr. Fitzgerald didn’t appear again, I wasn’t disappointed, because in a way he really sold his soul seeing as there was as much of Helen in the portrait as there was of him and it was the best portrait he painted in his life and the most important to him, at least that’s the feeling I got in the end.
That also leads me to the magic used to ‘bring the portrait to life’. Breathing on the portrait to bring it alive seems such a mundane but yet magical thing to do, it’s perfect. I also liked that no one knows what the spell actually means anymore, it makes portrait painting seem like an ancient, almost lost art.
I have a soft spot for beautiful descriptions and imagery and your story, especially the part when Phillipe sees Helen’s home for the first time, was full of both. I loved how you compared the house to a lion and the butler just fit perfectly with the imposing image of the house your words painted in my mind. That was one of my favourite passages.
The way you incorporate the French Revolution and the problems French people had to face after flying to England into the story was truly magnificent. The way Phillipe tells Helen the story, combined with his memories that he doesn’t vocalize seemed effortless and artless, just someone telling a story without looking for pity or glory or anything at all really. I liked that a lot, especially since he didn’t try to make himself sound like a hero or his life seem like a great tragedy, it made me actually feel more sorry for him and his family than I would have if he hadn’t just told a story but tried to gain something by telling it.
Two tiny nit-picks:
The track ended a plain wooded door painted a rather cheap looking, although expensive green. A small brass knocker with the gold plaiting slowly staring to chip sat in the center. In the first sentence it should be ‘the track ended at a plain wooded door’, I think. And in the second sentence I think you meant to write ‘starting’, instead of ‘staring’.
The sadness left her eyes in a blink so fast I could almost believed I had imagined it. After could you always have to put the infinitive, so this should be ‘I could almost believe’.
You’ve written a truly spectacular story here, congratulations on winning the challenge you wrote it for, you really deserved it!
Author's Response: Thank you very much for the lovely (and detailed) review! This is my favorite of my stories so I am always glad to know that it was appreciated. Also, thanks alot for the nitpicks- I must have gone over this a thousand times and my eye just skipped over those mistakes. (oops). I'm glad that you thought Phillipe's retelling of his story worked. I wanted to talk about the revolution but I was really afraid of making it too preachy or like something out of a history book. People died, important and unimportant alike. I think that they all deserve to have thier story told. Anyway, thanks again for the kind words and catching my grammer mistakes! Merci beaucoup!
This was a good story. Excellent in terms of descriptiveness and throughly amazing with the dialogue as well. Your dialogue was good, complemented the story and the era in which it was set in. But, most of all, I just loved your descriptiveness in the story. Ah,well, I have a weak spot for descriptions...The way you described things in the story was amazing. These are the lines I love, though:
I hate winters in London as passionately as I love the autumns. A grey and dreary fog hangs over the country like a giant blotter. Even the colour in my paints seems to fade into the misty nothingness, or worse, glare garishly under the harsh cold light. No, fall is my season, that last riot of tantalising hues which burst forth from every tree.
And the part about the painter's prayer was a nice touch as well. i just thought,though, since this is a story that involves magical folks, there should be a little more magic in it, maybe simple magic Martine used in her household chores and such. Wonderfully written, good work!
Author's Response: Thank you very much for your kind words. I too have a weakness for description. I understand your desire for more magic, only I feel like too many wizards use magic as a crutch, and in times when being a witch/wizard was highly suspect they would have striven to be as mugglish as possible. But perhaps that is just me. Besides, the most simple magic is done without a wand, such as turning a hank of wool into a spidersilk thread, coaxing a plant from fresh earth, or turning globs of paint into a living masterpiece. Thank you again!
This was excellent. I've never read a HP fiction that wasn't centered around Harry Potter or the Marauders at least, but with your first few paragraphs you sucked me in. You're discriptiveness was excellent, and the dialogue was very real. I could almost see the characters in my mind.
Very good work, I really enjoyed it :)
Author's Response: I'm glad you liked it, and as to the omission of Harry and the like, I find it almost more interesting to write characters we don't know and can only surmise what their life was like. Anyway, thanks again!
Wow... This is so amazingly spectacularly wonderfully great writing--and that doesn't even begin to describe it.
Awesome : )
Author's Response: Thanks for the review, I'm glad you enjoyed it!
brilliant! i absolutely loved it! sad, yet happy and amazingly detailed. keep writing!
Author's Response: Thank you very much. To date, this is my favorite piece of fanfiction that I have written, so it is very nice to know that others enjoyed it too. Thanks again!
Kristin, this story was wonderful. I love the fact that Helen was Helga Hufflepuff's neice. It took me a minute to figure that out after Helen said she would have to name her daughter Helga. It was a lovely touch!
It was a little slow in the middle, but you kept me reading, which is good. I was expecting a little more for Phillip's secret I think. I had figured he was a frenchman who had been touched by their Revolutionary War in a personal way. That part wasn't hard to riddle out from Martine and Maman.
The characterization of Phillip was fantastic though. With every line I learned something new about him and it all fit beautifully together. The ending was the best part to me though. The way you conveyed the unexpressed loved Phillip had for Helen in only three words was heart warming and heart breaking at the same time. The best line was in the last letter when Phillip says that he thinks Helen would like to go to Hogwarts at last. This story was touching and moving and very well written. Fantastic job, my dear!
Author's Response: Thanks. Helen was not Helga's niece though, she was a much later decendant. Hogwarts was founded several hundred years before my story. I think to understand Phillip's secret, you have to understand the general dislike and fear at the time which I tried to show. It would have been similar to the animosity felt in America after September eleventh, except the French and British have hated eachother for years. To get ahead in life, you did not want to be French. I'm really glad you liked it, particularly the ending. Thanks again!