Hello There :-)
I really enjoyed reading this story. The narrative itself was very descriptive and had that lovely omnipotent story-telling air to it. I was very curious when I started reading this, as the summary of the story gives very little away.
The description of the orphanage at the start was really wonderful. I could clearly picture the building and that sense of decay that lingered there. I also really appreciated the fact that you chose to set the story on a rather normal summer day, with “a certain aura of laziness” so in contrast to the horrible event which happened there later that day. The whole introduction set the scene very well and flowed effortlessly into the third paragraph where the story really starts.
As the story unfolds we learn that it is about a young Tom Riddle, a character I personally find very interesting. I think you did a wonderful job with the five year old Tom. His characterisation really was spot-on. He seemed childish and yet had this strange maturity and nerve for someone so young. I’m very glad that you didn’t go too far to the extremes with him. The little details you threw in were so perfect – the way he liked to get up early in the mornings, his impatience and the way he’s used to getting his way. (I was very curious how he would charm the cook to give him more food...)
The way that the look on a five-year-old Tom’s face can intimidate a hardened twelve-year-old was also very realistic. The thoughts that ran through the older boy’s mind (Will he punch me? That’s insane, he can’t punch me. It won’t be allowed! *paraphrased) really gave you a wonderful insight on the effect the boy Riddle had on people around him. He had an aura of power that I’m sure would have been apparent even at such a young age.
The language you used when describing the effect Tom had – “His neck burned, and his throat, parched, yearned for water. He found that he couldn't move at all. He flailed his arms, tried to get his inefficient voice cords to strike up a note, and even pleaded with his eyes, but nothing worked.” – were really chilling.
And then Tom made the most dangerous revelation of all – he realised that he possessed this power. When you described the glee and satisfaction on his otherwise blank face i was SO strongly reminded of the Voldemort we see in GoF just after he raises again, so very well done indeed.
The final line is probably the most shocking, especially as we know that he did do it again, and again, and again. For a five year old, that boy was evil!
I have no real crit – I enjoyed the story very much indeed!
I have to admit, the title and summary made me wonder if the story would have been better placed in the Humor category, but reading the opening paragraphs helped me shift mental gears. There's a Series of Unfortunate Events quality to the narration, an airy tone lightening dark deeds with observations of understated humor.
...it always smelled better early in the morning....
As much as I enjoyed hearing Jude Law's voice in my head reading to me, I think the story would have had more dramatic impact if it had been in Tom's pov. Omniscient puts distance between the reader and the characters, and it would have been compelling to see directly through Tom's eyes.
Some people tend to notice comma misplacement; I notice repetition. In this story, one and only (although they make a lovely phrase together) were used so frequently they became a distraction.
The "Promise me" line was one of my favorites. The words were so strong no emphasis was needed.
I liked the ending and felt the story led up to it nicely.
There's no doubt that Tom will "do that again"!
My, my, Shar. You've taken two subjects that are incredibly hard to characterise well-- Tom Riddle and five-year-olds, and you've managed it like a pro.
The first paragraph did exactly what a first paragraph should do-- it drew me in. I loved the imagery, I could literally see and feel the old place. The way you described it was amazing, your choice of words is impeccable, and the first few paragraphs just dripped with a certain class. :-p
Looking at the reviews that people have written for this story, the change in perspective is one thing that all of them pointed out. But I personally did not even realise the change in the perspective from Tom to John, let alone feel it jarring. Whether that is because of my dumb-headedness or the quality of your writing I truly don't know.
“So what, you wimp? What’ll you do, go complain to Harving?”
“There, that’s done, for one thing. Whaddya think, you can simply stare at me, and I be a little sissy like you and apologise?”
I personally felt that the second part that I quoted here was a little jarring, and looking back, I think I know why. In your story, Tom talks with perfect English, and the first time John talks, he too talks in perfect English. But when his speech is suddenly full of grammatical errors, it stands out a lot. I think you should change either one of the two instances where John talks, perhaps the second one.
I must say that while I can see Tom behaving the way he did here, I personally don't know if a five-year-old would do so. All the five-year-olds I know are still scared of what they do, and they simply aren't so sure of themselves. Five years isn't even first grade, and for Tom to be happy when another boy is rolling on the floor in pain, and be sure that he wanted to do something like that seems rather unnatural to me. Well, Lord Voldemort is unnatural, but I definitely would have found it more believable if you had made both Tom and John older.
"Promise me you will never ever take my toothbrush again."
I really like this line, mainly because of the emphasis. I could easily hear him saying it, and that's a sign of a good writer.
Looking back at the one shot, it seems really short. But I never felt that while reading the fic, and I definitely felt satisfied with the story, and didn't feel that it left questions unanswered, or that it felt rushed. For being able to tell a convincing and interesting story within such a short word limit is very tough, and for that I have to applaud you.
To conclude, I just have to come full circle to the starting of the story, the title. The title doesn't seem to lend itself to a dark story, in my opinion, and seems somewhat more comical. This may just be me, but I would prefer it if the story had a title that reflected it more. But on the whole, this was a lovely story, and I can see why you made Featured Author. :D
Wow, Shar. When I read this my expectations formed from the title were totally blown out the window. I wasn't sure where you were going with this when I read the summary, but I did end up liking where you took it.
I'm guessing this is one of the first, or perhaps the first, moments Tom begins to discover his own power. You’ve captured him extremely well. He’s dark, scary, and yet there still is a little bit of innocence there. You haven’t written him hurting just anyone, but a bully. I think this was an excellent choice as it shows that his first wrong-doings were basically to stand up for himself. You can still sense something sinister, however, and guess that this will be escalated as his life progresses.
I quite like your writing style. The level of description is quite refreshing; you don’t get carried away but you do provide great imagery for your readers. The first paragraph was especially nice to read. The walls could have used a coat of paint, and a lot of pipes needed repairing. The building, in fact, provided nothing more than the basic necessity of shelter. I love this; it gives great insight into the lifestyle the orphans must lead.
My main concern with this story was the perspective. I see that you’ve chosen omniscient narration, however I found that the jumps from Tom’s to John’s point of view were sightly disrupting. I’d have much rather liked to see the whole thing from Tom’s perspective. Even this part where the magic hits John – seeing Tom’s reaction to John’s pain would have been just as effective as being inside John’s head, and would actually have given us better a insight into Tom’s character.
"Promise me you will never ever take my toothbrush again." I like the emphasis on my here. It’s as if you’re implying that Tom couldn’t care less if he steals someone else’s toothbrush, so long as he doesn’t do it to him. That’s selfish, and an entirely plausible character trait for a young Tom Riddle.
Tom only wondered if he could do that again. This, I believe, is excellent characterisation. You’ve shown similar excitement in Tom that we see from Rowling herself in (I think) Dumbledore’s memories. He’s proud of his abilities, and eager to see what else they can do to help him. This is something that you have done really well; Tom can’t control any aspect of his life, and now that he has his magic, he’s finally able to take back some of that control. So great job on that.
Most window panes were broken, and those which weren’t, were covered in layers of dust. I don’t think the comma is necessary after ‘weren’t’.
Five-year old Tom got up that morning with a frown on his face. This should be Five-year-old.
Also, the spacing at the end is a bit funny. I think you need to create a gap between two paragraphs, and then delete the second gap between the last two. :)
Basically, I really like how you handled this story and Tom’s character. After all, he’s an exceptionally difficult one to grasp. I appreciate how you’ve created a medium between innocent and evil. Of course his malice wouldn’t be entirely developed at age five, but I do think that with a history like his he’s bound to show some of it. You’ve done that pretty much perfectly.
I was somewhat mislead as to what this story would entail by its title, but I’m very glad I opened it despite my expectations, as this is a really great short story that handles a difficult concept very maturely. So well done.
- Your SPEW Buddy Cassie :)
Buddy! [hugs] :D
I am very impressed that you would take on Tom. He's a character that is hard to get, especially as a young child, because he's really not your typical kid. I think you did rather well with him; having him say little is a good touch of characterization, because I don't think Tom was a man of many words, and I think he was much more intimidating when he didn't speak. This paragraph, I thought, especially showed your grasp of the character:
A slight flicker of surprise registered on Tom’s features, but it disappeared as soon as it had made its appearance. A mixture of satisfaction and momentary glee played upon the otherwise blank features then, and Tom went up to John, now confident that he could do no harm.
As he's young, he wouldn't exactly know that he could do that, and he still wouldn't know what exactly he was doing or how he was doing it. Having the surprise be momentary was a good choice, because I think at first he would be slightly surprised, but then he would simply be satisfied that he was somehow giving the boy what he deserved. You showed that well.
I like the way you set up the beginning, starting with a detailed description of the orphanage. It set the mood for the fic and gave the reader a good picture of the desolate place that was Tom's home, if you could call it that.
This is a short little snippet of Tom's life, but I think it serves as a good piece of insight into Tom's life that sort of follows along with the memories we saw in HBP. Its a great missing scene that could very well have been in the books. Yours writing sort of reminds me of JKR's; its very straightforward, for the most part, but there is a lingering sense of openness that I think is achieved with the last line of this fic.
However, I do think that the point of view in this fic needs a bit of fixing. It sort of switched throughout the fic from Tom to John; one paragraph we were reading about Tom's feelings and thoughts, the next about John's. Even in the second to last paragraph, you switch from Tom to John before the paragraph is over. This doesn't really effect the understanding of the fic, but it leaves the reader with a feeling of inconsistency and slight confusion.
Also, I did find a few nitpicks:
The grass in the lawn outside gave the impression that it had not been cut in ages, and what was presumably a flower bed, was covered more with weeds and imprints of boots.
That second comma shouldn't be there; it makes the sentence read awkwardly and makes it feel disjointed.
Most window panes were broken, and those which weren’t, were covered in layers of dust.
It is the same for the second comma in this sentence.
Only two people did, one who would rather forget it as a hallucination prompted by an empty stomach, and another who thought nothing of it, as it was only a beginning to what would turn out to be a long history of misdeeds.
The first comma should, I think, be a colon.
Whaddya think, you can simply stare at me, and I be a little sissy like you and apologise?
I'm not sure if you simply meant it to be the way the boys speaks, but I thought I would point it out anyway, just in case. The 'I be' is incorrect; it should be 'I would be,' or something along those lines. But again, I don't know if you simply meant it be that way, so if you did, don't mind me. lol.
One thing he knew,though, even amidst his confusion. He sure didn't want a confrontation with this boy again.
There should be a space between the first comma and the next word. Also, there needs to be a space between this sentence and your next paragraph in the fic.
That's it! This a nice, short little read and I quite enjoyed it.
So! I love this fic.
I think it’s incredibly daring that you wrote Tom. I love your characterization; I think you got it pretty much on the stop. The only thing I want to point out quickly is that between the third to last and second to last paragraphs, you’re missing the space between the two.
Now, I think that this is a completely rational fic…After all, if Tom doesn’t like something, he lets you know. He isn’t one to not…
I can certainly see this as one of those points where the other boys learn not to mess with him, else bad things might happen. It’s interesting. But I have to admit, when I read the summary, I never thought it would be able Tom.
I can’t really think of anything else to say, except that I love this story.
Great job! And I’ll make sure to read all your other fics!
Author's Response: <3 ily. Thanks so much for the review! And I'll clear up that formatting error. >.< I don't know why paragraph tags hate me so much.