Hey, Rachel! –waves-
God, I love your style. I really, really do. It’s so . . . moving. Strong. Emotional. Powerful. It makes me go “GUH!” and stare at the screen in a stupid silence, unable to form a more coherent thought than “GUH!” because I know that I’ll never be able to write such a fantastic piece. –sigh-
Okay. Moving on. I find it ironic that the two stories of yours that I’ve reviewed are both written to songs (I guess that means I’ll have to review Endlessly She Said next and go three for three) (which won’t be a problem, since AFI pwns). Um, yes. I love your use of the lyrics: the way you work them so seamlessly into the story, the effect they have on the story, and the way it intensifies the meaning of the story. I especially love the way you used the last three stanzas (are the last two stanzas? Or are they too short and just lines?). It’s brilliant.
I admit—I really had no idea who this was about until like three-quarters of the way through, at the line about him sticking with the Ministry, and then I was like “Percy! Penelope!” I guess that was your intent, though, to keep us in the dark until slipping a somewhat-subtle hint in. But I didn’t really mind knowing. The anonoymousity (is that a word?) of it adds so much feeling and darkness to it. Since we, your readers, don’t know who the main character is, we aren’t so much thinking about what we know of her, who she is, what her past is, instead, you’ve centered our focus entirely on her pain and the depth of it.
Lyrics aside, I really like the beginning of the narrative. The description of the perfect, ordinary tree, of something not really necessary to the story, but it built the tension and the character and led the way right to her darkness.
But she fingers the scars on her arm and she knows otherwise. Oh my God. I didn’t entirely understand the full effect of these words my first time through, but they still left an impression on me. And now that I do understand them . . . ! First, I love the way it’s its own line. The hint, the foreshadowing—it seems simple, the concept on the surface of the words, but then when I look deeper and find all these hidden tragedies. I don’t know what it is about the word “scars,” but it’s like “blood”—everything becomes more real and tangible and it hurts more, at least to me it does.
About the way that sitting in a room full of strangers can make you feel like you have somewhere to be, an obligation to uphold. The way that sharing in the same hushed silence makes it easier to pretend that you have something in common – a mutual resignation to the fact that this is as good as it’s going to get. What can I say about this? Really, what words are there to express how much these two lines move me? They are so full of emotion, that I feel like I can grab it and hold it in my fist. And the emotion you’re conveying, the despair, the emptiness, the bottom-of-the-world, the blackest-pit-with-no-light, it’s such a raw and common feeling, that for a moment, it’s like you’re not just talking about Penelope, but anyone in the world who has become an echo of a former self. Basically, I’m green-eyed with jealously over your mastery of words.
Bar confessions are always fun, but their even better with a sympathetic ear. At first, I thought it was going to be him, whoever him was, but then I realized that I was kind of stupid in that thought, because really if she’s so in love him, don’t you think she’d recognize him instantly? If not by his voice, then his face, surely. –rolls eyes at self- I really like that we never find out who he is. It’s a lot more realistic, I think, in terms of spilling your heart-wrenching story out to stranger (not that I really have much experience in that field). And, again, it focuses the story more on her pain and his pain and the mutual numbness. And also, it makes Penelope and Percy the only ones that matter.
“I walk by her house sometimes. Sometimes I just stand there, even if it’s raining, and I wait for her to open the door. She never does.” My eyes are burning, reading this. It’s romantic, but not in the way that makes you feel giddy, in the way that makes you cry. His sadness, his desperation, his hope—it’s hard enough, thinking about a character going through something like this, but when I think that there are actual people who feel this, who do that sort of thing . . . something in me breaks.
As she remembers the boy who sat down across from her in the library an introduced himself, hours after she had decided to end her life. Oh, my. I really wasn’t expecting this. At all. He literally saved her life. This whole story takes on a new, stronger meaning. Everything is so much harsher, so much sadder, so much bleaker. God, I really might actually cry. (As a side note, “an” needs a “d”)
You know what? I’ve gained a lot of respect for Percy.
Happy Easter, Rachel!
Author's Response: *griiiin* Mere, I adore your reviews! Gosh, thank you so much! I'm positively thrilled that you liked this story. Hee, I do have a thing for songfics, don't I? I've actually noticed that before; my three most recently published stories - Last Chance to Lose Control, Talk Tonight, Admiration - were all inspired my songs. *facepalm* I need to branch out. Hee, actually, I did not have an ulterior motive in not revealing Penelope's name - it just... didn't come up for a while. About half-way through, I realised that I still hadn't named her, and at that point it felt really awkward and out of place, which is when I decided to make it enigmactic. I'm glad you like the effect, though.
Hee, actually, the song Talk Tonight was written by Noel Gallagher, after he'd had a fight with his brother Liam and decided to quit the band - and he met a woman at a bar who talked him out of it. So, to me, the bar!confession was really necessary to include in a songfic to Talk Tonight. At first, this story had a completely different approach - it was more about how Percy saved Penelope's life - while it was actually happening - but it got to be more... reflective-ish and looking back on this event, and I think I actually prefer it this way. And, the main reason for this change was that there wasn't a bar in the first version. LOL.
Thanks for pointing the typo - I'll fix that straight away. Thank you so much for this wonderfully detailed review! I love hearing what works and what doesn't. :D
Hello, dearest Rachel! It’s SPEW time, so here I am, reviewing one of your lovely fics. I have to admit I’d forgotten how talented you are, and how much I enjoy reading your writing. This fic was nothing short of fabulous.
The opening to this is great. Immediately I’m wondering who the girl is, but I love the characterization you start with, how she has that eye for detail. And that first paragraph – guh. The imagery is gorgeous. It leaves me wanting more, and as soon as possible.
And actually, I realized that I’ve never really read a fic that had a self-injury warning attached to it. Not on purpose, I just never came across one that I ended up reading. So I just wanted to take a moment and say that I think you handled a sensitive subject very well; it goes with the story and is obviously not there just because someone felt like putting it there. (Let’s not even think about all the terrible fics we’ve seen.) What happens when you love a person so much that they turn into the reason you’re alive? What happens when they leave? Do you keep living? Here, we know why our character feels she has to turn to self-injury. You make it a part of the pain, and of course it’s painful to see, but it makes the story real, too.
I just love your description. She nods, focused intently on the wall behind the counter – a mural of brown, a tribute to monotony. It is nothing to look at, but she begins to think that if she stares long enough, no one will notice if she decides to fade away. That’s a fantastic bit. It really helps us identify with and understand the character. She feels alone and desperate and hopeless, and it all comes across perfectly in your writing.
As we move further into the fic, you give us clues as to who these people are. You describe snatches of their appearances, and you provide small bits of backstory through their conversation. As we learn about them, they learn about each other. I really like that; I like the…unfamiliarity of the story. It reinforces the distance of the characters, of how alone they feel. And I love trying to figure it out for myself, of course.
…that she isn’t sure if she would be able to recognise him, even if he were sitting beside her. I love the unfamiliarity, again, the distance. We’ve got these strangers here, and then we’ve got our couple, who are themselves strangers now. And while part of that is sad, another part of it is almost hopeful; she wouldn’t even recognize him, so maybe that means she can give him a new start. Maybe that means they can move past what’s happened to them. I love the glimmer of hope in this story.
And yay, we finally learn exactly who it is we’ve been reading about. I had an inkling it was Penelope, as I suspect you were hoping readers to pick up on, but I love knowing for sure who it was. I love reading stories about minor characters because I love seeing how authors flesh them out, and you of course have done an excellent job here. I feel for Penelope; even though Percy was never a favorite of mine, I still want so badly for Penelope to go to him and for them to mend their relationship. Because you wrote this so beautifully.
On a final note, I have to mention the use of the lyrics. As you and I both know, songfics can be totally lame and annoying, and oftentimes the inserted lyrics detract more than they add to a story. But here, I love the lyrics. They fit in so wonderfully, and I think part of that is because of your love for music. I think you understand music so fully that you can work lyrics into your writing and they seem like they really belong there. Awesome, awesome, awesome.
Now I think this review has finally reached its end. I thought this was excellent, dearest Rachel.
Author's Response: Oh, yay! I always love getting SPEW reviews, and Leanne reviews, obviously. I really did have fun writing this story. At first... I didn't mean to conceal Penelope's identity until the end of the story - it was just one of those things that happened, you know? It felt sort of out of place to name her in the beginning, and then I just... didn't really get around to it for a while. >.> And about the self-harm warning; it's such a subtle part of the story that I'm pretty sure I could have rewritten like two lines and taken the warning out. But you're right... I really wanted to make the point of just how far gone Penelope was into her desperation. And like, including the vague mentions of self-harm felt right in the story. I'm quite glad you enjoyed it, though, despite a dislike of Percy. That was actually my biggest fear while writing this story; about half way through I thought 'wait a second... is Suya one of those people who loathes Percy?' *facepalm* Thanks for the fantastic review, though! *hugs*
Hey Rachel! :D
I have to say, I really enjoyed this fic. It was an excellent character study of sorts. You’ve managed to take a really minor character without a fleshed out personality, and you made her real. You made her ache and you made her feel pain, and you did it in such a beautiful way.
What I love most about this fic is the emotion that is just dripping from it. Penelope’s pain is palpable, but not in a way that seems overly done or dramatic. The sentence structures and placement, as well as the diction of the fic, really give hand to feel of this fic, and I like that. Your writing style works really well for this type of story.
I also wanted to say that I like that you didn’t let the reader know exactly who she was until the very end. You gave subtle hints, and I started to pick up on them and had an idea who the girl might be, but I really like that you don’t concretely show it until the end. It seems sort of ambiguous before that, and I think that really allows the reader to have a stronger connection to her.
With Penelope as a character, I think you’ve done a great job in creating a personality for her. I’d always imagined that she just went along with Percy, but I really like that you showed the opposite of this notion; that she and Percy were not of the same mind. I think that gives her character a bit more depth.
She can’t make sense of it, how the four short words are substantial enough to cause her to fold the note into sixteenths, rip its corners, crumple it into a ball and throw it across the room, yet are a tribute to a promise that she cannot let go of; one she cannot throw away. But she wants to. She needs to. She hasn’t forgotten.
Talk to me.
If only it were that easy.
I really love this. I think it’s the style that really gets me; you have a distinct, wonderful writing style that I really enjoy. From the very beginning, it draws the reader in.
In fact, she has heard them all before, so many times that they play through her subconscious like a recording that doesn't understand its time has come to an end.
I really, really love this, dear. The simile is amazing. You’ve taken a fairly common comparison – the broken record – and gave it new life.
Usually I’d pick out more quotes as I read, but I just got sucked into your story that I completely forgot about that. I guess that’s a sort of good and bad; on the one hand, I don’t have more specific example to show you what I like, but on the other, the reason for this lack is because you’ve written such a captivating piece. :D
She has taken to visiting the inn, lately, though she can’t say why.
mmm. I’m not entirely sure that first comma is needed.
As she remembers the boy who sat down across from her in the library an introduced himself, hours after she had decided to end her life.
It should be ‘and introduced.’
That was all I noticed. As you can tell, I really, really liked this fic. I love it when author’s take obscure minor characters and give them a story and a voice. I’ve never before read a fic with Penelope, but after reading this, I can see the relationship between her and Percy, and Penelope as a character, in a different light. In a good light. In short, very well done, my dear.
Author's Response: good god, this is the second insanely fabulous review I've gotten in a matter of two days. I'm very spoiled! :D Ah, thank you so, so much for the feedback, Nikki. One of my absolute favourite things in fanfiction is taking a character who doesn't have a large roll, and fleshing out their personality. I really had fun writing this story. Percy/Penelope intrigues me so much, and I've written so many different angles to this pairing. I like this one, though - the idea that they had a falling out because Percy left her... and I like the idea that they get back together eventually. Thanks for the nitpicks - I'll fix those right away. Thanks again for the review, Nikki! I'm so glad you enjoyed the story. :D
I’ve tried to write this review about fifteen times and every time, I stop and wonder just how to say absolutely everything that I’m thinking and feeling. It’s like…there are all these emotions just overloading me and I’m not sure how to convey everything in this review. But I’m going to try because it’s a damn crime that I haven’t reviewed this yet.
I guess I want to start by talking about the song. I think you know by now how I feel about this song. Just everything about it is beautiful and heartbreaking and so ridiculously true. Not only that, but I really think it just worked perfectly with this fic. It’s not exactly the easiest song to write to, because I think that most fics would either come out too mushy or overdramatic, but yours was nothing like that at all.
Right onto the pairing. Um, basically: LOVE. I don’t think I’ve ever given Penelope Clearwater a second thought when reading the books or writing fanfic. She’s just…not someone you imagine playing any other role than being Percy’s girlfriend, but you totally took her character and invited this amazing backstory and gave her life and desperation. I loved that so much. I know that you were initially worried that I wouldn’t like Percy or that pairing, but honestly, I didn’t even care because I was too obsessed with your prose.
That brings me to my next point. You, my friend, win like Jesus at writing. Ok, that’s like our go-to phrase but honestly, Rachel, I can’t tell you how well you write. There are just lines that you come up with where I literally have to stop, go back, read it again and just let it sink in because they touch me so much. For example:
She’s never cared much for drinking, but there’s something addictive about the mood. About the way that sitting in a room full of strangers can make you feel like you have somewhere to be, an obligation to uphold. The way that sharing in the same hushed silence makes it easier to pretend that you have something in common – a mutual resignation to the fact that this is as good as it’s going to get.
Um, yes. I don’t know how many times I’ve read that passage but it gets me every time. Just the way you capture everything about the bar scene and about how drab and bleak it can be. This is a feat for someone who isn’t even old enough to enter a bar.
Another passage that made me gape a little was your description of the man at the bar. This one:
He does not seem to be much older than her, but he couldn’t have gone to Hogwarts, because she doesn’t recognise him. He has light hair, clear eyes, soft features. The sort of person who you pass on the street every day; the one you don’t notice until you run into them and their appearance comes into clear focus – more distinct than ever.
Holy god, this was so perfect. I love that you kept him a mystery and that, although he wasn’t exactly a crucial entity, he played an indelible role in the fic. I love that, as an author, you just created someone (but without playing him out to be some sort of saviour or preacher) and made him have such an effect on Penelope.
I think I started talking about how much I loved Penelope’s characterization but then I went of on some random tangent so ANYWAY, yes, she was love. I mean, I know that both of us have a bit of thing with writing people who are broken, but god you do it so damn well. You know how some people write suicidal or self-harming people as these woebegone and absolutely helpless individuals who suddenly have this stupid revelation and do a complete 180? I HATE that because for the most part, it’s not true. Most of those people find a reason to stop hurting themselves…or they don’t. It’s not like this huge dramatic thing, with bells and whistles and everything. My point is that you wrote it beautifully because you made Penelope into a human being with real reasons for hurting herself and for losing hope. People get too caught up in the actual act of self-injury or suicide and don’t actually pay attention to the reasons. You didn’t do that. In fact, you mentioned it only really briefly and I think that really added to the emotion.
This fic was incredibly emotional because you feel for Penelope. You can feel the hurt in each and every step. You understand why she runs away and pushes everyone away. I love the bar scene, where she seems to have an answer for everything the man asks her, but it’s as though she doesn’t really believe it herself. It’s like…kind of as though she’s on auto-pilot. She just answers in the way she’s done a thousand times before, because she tells herself it doesn’t matter, that she’s not hurting as badly as she could, but that’s not true at all. As a reader, you can feel that and it hurts all the more. You have such a way with words and expressions.
Which brings me to the ending. Oh my god, the ending. I don’t even have coherent words for the ending. I love it. I just do. It was open-ended, and you know that I LOVE that but it was so beautiful and poignant, and you really get the feeling that Penelope is trying to get her life back on track. In the end, that’s all you can really ask for: hope, and someone to hold your hand when you can’t hold yourself together. I know that Penelope found both of those things.
I feel like I should offer one minor piece of concrit but the only thing I can think of is that, at the bar, Penelope is ordering Firewhiskey but you say she’s drinking it out of a bottle. And she has like three. I’m pretty sure that if she wanted to be drunk off her ass, that would do nicely. >.> That is seriously the only thing I even remotely found wrong in the story. It’s not even wrong, per se. Just depends on how well she can hold her liquor.
One more thing:
But she fingers the scars on her arm and she knows otherwise.
I cry. Every time.
I think I’ve exhausted the word limits of MNFF’s comment box, so I’ll just say that I love this fic, though not nearly as much as I love you. Thank you.
Author's Response: I've tried to respond to this review about fifteen times, but it's hard when all I really want to say is 'thankyouthankyouthankyou and I'm so glad you like this fic'. Like... I am. You have no idea. Like, when I was writing the drabble, I feel like I couldn't really say everything I had intended in 800 words, and then when elongating the fic, I felt like I had a really hard time getting to the actual point. So the fact that you think it works means SO damn much to me because ultimately, I just wanted this fic to be about redemption, moving forward and asking for help... and I'm sure you know why, but anyway, just like you said, I didn't think that the self-injury was necessarily the foreground to this fic. Like... the way I saw it was that Penelope did hurt herself in her desperation, yes, but the point was more about what desperation can do to you, rather than the act itself. I consciously didn't go into much detail about that because I wanted more to talk about how that shaped Penelope's life and how that drove her to hurting herself in another way - by denying herself the relationship that she needs with Percy - out of fear of becoming the person she had been before she met him. But, like you said, this drives Penelope to be on a sort of auto-pilot, like, she KNOWS that her words are empty and pointless, but by saying these things to the stranger, she thinks that she can convince herself that she believes what she's saying, as long as he does as well. But when he challenges her and can see through her facade, she starts to wonder who exactly she's trying to fool.
OMGGGGGG, you have no idea how hard I laughed at your con-crit, because when I was writing I kept thinking 'goddamn, Penelope certainly is drinking a lot'. The only reason I did that was because I think it's obvious that I could have told this story from the dialogue alone, which would have been ultimately pretty failing and boring, so I kept trying to add something physical to the story, and one can only run their hands through their hair and sigh [the two things which I think are included in every damn story I write] so many times, hence the incessant need to order the liquor. I love how well my trying to make that inconspicuous backfired on me. FAILFAILFAIL.
But anyway, writing this story was really important to me, because, just like you said, I wanted the ending to be hopeful - to show that it's never too late to make the choice to take the necessary steps to putting yourself together... and I couldn't help being very proud of Penelope for what she did at the end. And, yes, I love you. ♥
Rachel! :D Admittedly this is the first fic of yours that I've read thus far, but rest assured I'll be hunting down more of your writings in the near future. This was very nicely-done. The flow of the story is seamless, and I especially love all the little turns-of-phrase you've incorporated in the narrative. The dialogue is also very believable, and I love how you've transformed Penelope, a character we see very fleetingly in canon, into a well-rounded person. Overall, excellent job, m'dear.
Author's Response: Lei! Wow, this was unexpected, but I'm quite glad that you enjoyed it! Thank you very much for the review, my dear.