Soraya, you really need to stop fishing for complements about your writing. :) Seriously, this is really good, despite what you said on AIM.
Marvolo comes across quite loudly, in my opinion, and he is in character to the point that I'd quite like to punch him. His dialogue, especially, really stands out to me, and I'm quite impressed by how much you show about him through just his tone. The way he screams more loudly at Merope as she becomes more afraid and more powerless, I think, really captures how cruel he is. The way you use caps really emphasizes this, for me, because it vividly distinguishes the climax of his anger from the build up. Your sparse use of caps, however, keeps me from getting a headache (thank you). From this story, I can definitely tell where Voldemort gets the nastiness from.
I found the first scene the most heartbreaking. What makes it so sad, I think, is that Merope comes across as a young and innocent girl, who's trying to do everything she can to avoid her father's censure. Yet, because she can't live up to his impossible expectations-- e.g. she can't levitate a laundry basket without being taught how, especially since she's not allowed to use magic outside of school-- he screams at her. I found it horrible to see that, regardless of what Merope does, her father will still abuse her. And, despite this, she still names her son after him-- so I think you definitely showed that he "inflict[s] psychological hurt on" her.
My favorite thing about this fic is the way you incorporate the different definitions of "to bruise". I like how it keeps the story focused while also providing a more general picture of Merope's life. The basic plotline fits so well with what Dumbledore tells Harry about Merope's life in HBP, but you add context and emotion to the story, which really adds another dimension, I think. It makes her decisions both to seduce Tom and to give up magic and die right after her son is born feel so much more understandable for me. It's easy for me to sympathize with her desire to be loved, in the context of her abusive childhood, and from that to understand why she gives Tom the love potion. After enduring her father and brother's abuse and having Tom abandon her, I can understand why she chooses (or at least Dumbledore presents it as a choice) to give up and die, even though it leaves her son alone.
I like how you use present tense and repetition to show that the feelings and abuse encapsulated in each moment are ongoing. The way you define "to bruise" at the beginning of each section (with exception to the last one), I think, ties the different moments together fluidly. Even though each definition of "to bruise" is different, they all define the same word, which makes it feel like each type of bruise/abuse happens in every part of her life. The present tense, in my opinion, amplifies this by making it feel almost like the different scenes are happing continuously.
The repeated definition of "to bruise" makes defining 'to heal' at the end of the fic much more powerful for me. The fact that the definition of 'to heal' only shows up once makes the feeling of healing, along with the definition, feel very isolated in the piece. It suggests, to me, that the semi-optimism that she shows in that moment is short lived and that she experiences far more bruising than healing in her life. This makes me feel worse for her, and it makes much it harder for me to judge her. In addition to that, I do appreciate that you end this fic on a somewhat less depressing note.
I really enjoyed reading this fic. I like how you use the unique format of this fic to give insight into Merope's life and into her decisions. Now, since this was a fic that you didn't think was good, I'm quite curious to read a story that you've written that you actually like! :)
Author's Response: Megggggggggggg! Thank you so much for the lovely review, and apologies for taking a while to reply -- I’ve been busy with cooking and stuff.
I’m glad you liked Marvolo. Yes, he was very loud and horrible, and it’s great to know you liked the dialogue! It’s one of the few things I pride myself on, though it wasn’t all that in this story. Oh, ha, I didn’t think about where Voldemort gets his nastiness from, but you’re certainly right :) And yay to you not getting a headache XD I definitely think caps need to be used sparingly so that they’re more effective. I hope that was the case here. Also, I think I just remembered why I wrote this story: I was chatting to my brother a while before the challenge cropped up, and he was telling me a really terrible story about a girl he knew whose father did exactly what Marvolo did with the knife, to her. And I just couldn’t get it out of my head, how horrible someone must have been, how twisted, to do something as disgusting as that. So yeah. That’s where this all began.
The thing with Merope is that, at the end of the day, Marvolo -- despite how much of a son of a biatch he is, she still views him as superior to her because that’s the way she’s been brought up. And I think the fact that she has had the whole blood purity thing drilled into her skull since a very young age means that she would still want to honour her father in spite of everything he did to her. It’s horrible and doesn’t make much sense, lol, but that’s how I see Merope’s mind working, anyway.
Everyone seems to like my definitions thing, lol. I really should use that kind of structuring more. To begin with, though, this story was a rather big mess in that it had no structure whatsoever. I tried everything, even tried a song, but it didn’t work, so I ended up going to the dictionary, hehehehehe. It’s lovely to know that you thought it worked. And I’m glad you understand Merope -- you probably understand her better than I do, haha.
I usually fail epically at present tense, but it’s annoyingly addictive, too, and I’m glad you thought it was the right choice. I think so too. If it was written in hindsight, in past tense, I don’t think it would have worked at all because of how tense it was. And I liked giving Merope a slightly more optimistic ending, even though we both know how *that* turns out.
You are fabulous and far, far too kind, Meg. I was pretty gobsmacked when this was nominated for a QSQ, given how unhappy I was with it, and I also fainted in shock, almost, when no one sporked this in SBBC. I think my Next Gen and femmeslash is generally better, and in particular (if you’re asking for recs, haha), I think my favourite fics are Broken Glass, which is Louis/Lily, and I Will Lay Down My Heart, which is Albus/Rose. But I think the only one that is reasonably well-written is my Rowena/Helga, The Caustic Ticking of the Clock.
Thank you for the wonderful, SPEW-tastic review, Meg. Much appreciated :D
i agree that this story is too good for only two reviews, so i'm going to go out of character and review. i think that your story is brilliant, and i really liked how you used the various definitions of bruise to illustrate your scenes. the final section, heal, where merope decides against killing herself for her baby, was very touching. it's too bad she decided against living after the baby was born; maybe we would've had a nicer tom riddle if she survived.
fantastic story, and you explored the darkness and complexities of the gaunt family well. very nice =)
Author's Response: Hi there! Thank you for your review -- I really appreciate it. Sorry this isn't a longer response but thank you!
It's a real shame that this fic only has 1 review (although it's certainly a lovely review and I echo everything Gina said). And as she said, without you saying it, I never would have guessed that this story gave you grief. I don't know if enjoyable is quite the right word, but it was an excellent read.
I loved the idea of using dictionary definitions of bruise (and heal) as the 'titles' for each section - it was something really different and really emphasised how many ways Merope had been hurt.
Right from the first paragraph, you create a great sense of empathy for Merope from the reader, which really made me want to keep reading despite all the violence. I think that opening scene really showed why she became how she did.
I think it was very brave of you to take on writing what happened after Ogden left, and I think you did it really well. The whole idea of Marvolo cutting her and demanding if her blood was pure is just chilling and disturbing, and yet so right for his character.
There's great irony... I think that's the word... that what stops Merope killing herself is hope for her child, and yet if she had, she would have saved a lot of lives. And yet despite knowing that her and her son's ends are not at all hopeful, you really showed a sense of hope that Merope could be healed.
Despite this, and the fact that she is covered in bruises, the baby fills the otherwise empty void within her, and it is all she has to live for. And that, however little, is enough for Merope. - That was such a well-written paragraph.
The present tense was really effective, because even though this was third person, it was like I was with Merope the whole time and it really gave the story a sense of immediacy.
Great story, and sorry it took me so long to review.
Author's Response: I know, I thought I'd have more, but it appears not :( Gina's review, I agree, was a lovely one, as lovely as yours, in fact! Thank you for such a thorough review.
The reason this story gave me so much grief was partly because I had never written in that era, but also because I hadn't written anything in months (due to school and RL stuff). Thank you for saying it was an excellent read (even though I have to disagree with you :P).
This story originally had no structure whatsoever, so it was good to have something to work from and the dictionary definitions are something I've seen before in fanfic. And you empathised with Merope? Yay. Thank you so much. I really struggled with the part when Ogden left, and this entire story has been redrafted about a billion times -- Marvolo cutting her was a scene I added after the first draft, possibly. (See? I can't even remember that :D)
I don't know how you do it, Katrina -- you point out these things that I did unintentionally. I had no idea of that irony, but now you mention it, it definitely rings true for me. That last paragraph was so, so hard to write, and it took about a billion rewrites before I was semi-satisfied with it. By that point, I was too frustrated with the damn thing for me to care anymore, so I just submitted -- my point is, thank you for saying it was well-written.
You happen to leave some of the most gorgeous and thorough reviews ever, so thank you so much for this gorgeous and thorough one. <3
I thought this was quite good. Seriously, if it gave you grief, it doesn't show, and I certainly don't think it's what you referred to on your LS. :) Here's why.
First of all, I thought the very first scene was absolutely gripping. Stunning, actually, in its abusive ferocity. It kind of had me go 'Whoa' and in spite of how dark and sad it was, I wanted to keep reading, because I felt so, so bad for Merope.
Second, you did a great job with her character. You did an even better job of tying her character to the banner you were writing for and the whole idea of bruises affecting her in different ways. I thought the definitions you picked for each section and then the scene you wrote for them fit perfectly and followed a strong progression.
Third, I thought using the present tense lent it a good urgency. And your writing was overall very strong. I saw some comma issues (Ritta will tell you I'm a comma meanie, lol) but that's minor and not distracting from the overall story.
The one and only thing I wondered about was Merope using magic to float the goblet of love potion over to Tom. Did she spell him to forget that she had forced the drink down his throat magically? While I can see her forcing it on him, I think she'd have to do it secretly-a Confundus Charm, perhaps? Or just knock him out? - so he doesn't see the magic. Isn't that the most ridiculous nitpick? It's just that I could picture everything happening, but not her using magic in front of him at that point.
So stop beating yourself up. I'm impressed. I really liked it. I wish there were more but the conclusion was too right to continue. I hope it's got you writing again. Good luck in the challenge!
Author's Response: Gina! Why oh why aren't you in SPEW? This review is so gorgeous and the fact you left it for me... *flails*
Thank you so much. This story gave me so much grief mainly because of the era it was in, but also because I haven't written anything in months due to RL stuff. And you think I did a good job with Merope? You are too kind :)
I'm better at correcting other people's commas than I am with my own writing, and the thing was that I rewrote entire sections of this which didn't get sent to my betas, so that's probably why there are comma errors in it. (It's embarrassing how many drafts I had of this -- the earliest one was the crappiest.)
No, I completely get what you mean re the goblet and stuff. I might revise that when I get home from school, actually. Thank you for that, and no, it's not a ridiculous nitpick -- it's a valid one.
I'm honoured to be reviewed by you so often, Gina. Thank you for your lovely review on this crappy story, and yes, I'm hoping to write more now school's started and I need a distraction.