1 chapter / 1622 words

Approximately 8 minutes to read


Prompt: "One… two… three… four…” The whispered words echoed across the lonely room, breaking the unsettling silence.


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10 months ago Hannah B. Nanna said:

I seldom receive a review that's worth my while, so I'm returning the favor.

Plot: This had an interesting plot that I don't often find myself reading. I liked the idea of a guy with anxiety having to go through this long job interview process so I could see the emotions that seem very real for this sort of situation, which in and of itself gave a plot. Toward the end, of course, the plot got a little more in depth, with an interview that seemed to indicate some type of mob lord or something and an unusual interview. I'm finding most of what I want to say here doesn't really belong in this section of my reviews, so I'll just skip right to it:

The last paragraph was a little confusing; or maybe I just found it... cliche. Waking up from a dream is so... overdone. I was so, so impressed up to this point that you tackled a dynamic story like this and so disappointed to see that the ending was that he dreamed the whole thing and it never really happened. One of my writing professors once said there's no point in writing a story that never happened, because there's no "so what?" One could argue that for a story like this, the anxious man dreams of his less anxious self, but there's no character progression in this not truly. While I'm just one little opinion in a big world of impressionable people, I'll be honest in saying that I was disappointed by the ending because I wanted to see where this went, and then it almost felt like it went no where. (Don't confuse this with me saying the whole story was bad: it was good, gripping, kept me reading and interested, but then... plop.)

My other thing: I think a title says a lot about a story, and titling a story Anxiety when it's about a guy who has anxiety... I mean... when I was reading, I didn't remember the title and I knew he had anxiety. It was only after I was done I looked at the title again and then I thought, "oh... well..." Maybe something a little less... slap-over-the-head? :)

Characters: I told you that a lot of what I wanted to write went into another section, and it was this one so I thought I'd address it. I was actually very intrigued by the concept here, the anxious character, the way he talked to himself and needed to use the restroom over and over, and how you were able to express all these little hints at his character without slapping readers over the head. In my opinion, this is one of your strongest suits in your writing, the ability to express emotion without point blank writing, "he feels sad" but instead showing us rather than telling. I liked seeing how rounded this character was based on his thoughts to himself and his fidgeting, etc. instead of being told, "Mr. Jefferson was a nervous man" and just... :D Well done.

My only suggestion here is that some point-blank is necessary, but only for character description... by this, I mean... what do the characters look like? I know the woman who leads him into the room is pretty because she says so, but what about a quick description? Is she slender, wearing a grey blazer? Is she blonde, is her hair pulled back, glasses? And what about your MC? He says he looks at himself in the mirror: what's there? Grey eyes, black? Is he Asian, old, young? I know this might seem insignificant but when readers are able to picture the person they're reading about they're able to envision the story as a whole better. I always tell people, make sure to describe yourself in such a way not just to be understood, but so that you can't be misunderstood.

Setting: Only my little note pad here, turns out I didn't write anything on this section, but I do remember there were details and you didn't fall short of describing the setting. I was always able to picture the surroundings just as they were happening. I remember when the woman pressed the button for the elevator though that it felt almost *too* explanatory. I've been urged not to be too detailed because readers get bored with the whole, "he grabbed the doorknob, he turned it. He opened the door, he stepped outside, he closed the door" type of writing and some parts, like the elevator and the walking down past offices, almost felt overly descriptive. However, this can work in this story if you make sure to add more description of how certain things make his anxiety tick, or something, then it could work: but we'd need enough emotion to lie with the setting for this to be so, and I personally felt it could have been amped up a bit. Overall, great quality for setting, better than most I've read on Figment. :)

Diction: I want to start this with a precursor: nobody has ever scathed free from my diction section. However, you're not getting my normal diction section where I tell people to use paragraphs and how to write dialogue properly. It's very, very clear you're an advanced writer: so, I'm giving you my advanced writing advice, the kind of stuff they won't tell you in your English class but will improve your overall writing quality 500%.

-You begin a lot of your sentences with "ing" words. While your sentence variety is more pristine than most on this site, the overuse of ing words too close to each other is sometimes daunting, and a once-over on this should help you locate the places where your sentences could use more variety in this manner.

-Length variation was good. Yey. :)

-Some of your sentences are fragmented. I didn't write any down in particular but just look for placed where the tense fragments the sentence.

-Adverbs: I hesitate to tell people this because so many want to fight me, but you already use so few that I think it's okay. Adverbs are the actual worst. Nobody will tell you that in an English class, but they should. I wrote down a few of yours, but not all:

"...smoothed his oiled hair perfectly back into place" "he desperately tried to produce..." "Finally, she turned down..."

So, why are these the worst, you ask? Because...:

if you take them out of the sentence, the sentence doesn't change. That's right, same sentence, less words and more than that, less *weak* words. Adverbs are often overused words that take place of description. If one says, "Bob finally breathed" then one misses the opportunity to say "Bob breathed, his face blue, his head fuzzy from lack of oxygen" or if one says, "she was perfectly happy" they can't say "she felt enamored with..." so on, so on. Short version: adverbs make it so one cannot use the best description and the best words, and they don't change the overall quality of the sentence but make it choppy. :)

-My last point is another one that's more advanced, I don't recommend to everyone because it's almost nit-picky but can do wonders. Words like had, was, been, could, so forth all make sentences weaker. For example, in your story:

"he had one minute" "he could hear" "everything was painted the light grey" "they had arrived"

More often than not, the had or was can just be taken out. So...

"he heard" "they arrived"

The reason being that had and was waters down the sentence. verbs are the action of the sentence, so it's best to just get straight to it. No need to water down the milk when the milk tastes better whole. Whole!

In instances where it isn't so easy, there's always, always, always a stronger word to replace it with to make the verb more powerful. Instead of "he had one minute" it could be "one minute remained" or "he possessed on more minute" or "He dreaded the last minute" or whatever, I don't remember to context but in essence, these types of words are weaker than more powerful one. Sometimes this tense is necessary based on what you're saying, but that's mostly if you're talking in past-past or conditional. For just past tense, no hads or was's. Just verbs.

Overall: I know this seems like I hated it, but truly, I did not. It's clear you're a very skilled writer and I was intrigued to read something like this on Figment that I wouldn't normally pick up. I have no doubt you'll be making it past the audition rounds (I know because I read some of the other entries heh) and this blows everything out of the water. Great story, well written, and can't wait to follow along with whatever you produce for the remainder of the competition. Write on!