Cheri is going to start an amazing series of posts (dates yet to be determined) of looking at author’s techniques and styles and analyzing them with a critical eye. With this, perhaps, she will give readers insight and future writers a peek into the minds of authors and why or how they do what they do.
Cheri is an amazing person and a Master at her craft. (For those who are just joining us, she has her Masters in Creative Writing so, yes, pun fully intended.) For those reasons, it makes it hard for me, a simple-minded layperson, to critique her chosen profession. To say the least, I have always felt unqualified to provide any feedback.
And yet, Cheri has always encouraged me to tell her exactly what I dislike or have problems with in her writing.
I am a reader and ultimately all readers know things. I have learned to filter through those things that I like and dislike and learned that some of these things actually have some merit to wise sages like my mentor. I also learned that it is only through a sharp, critical eye that one’s own work will improve and one becomes a more informed and better reader.
So here I go, delving off the deep end in my first attempt to analyze my ‘head monk’ in our prompt given to us by one of our Banana Bunch, Sanjiv: Write a light horror-romance about a socially-anxious monk. You can read both pieces here.
The Mill House by Cheri
Plot: We are first introduced to a head monk that Sai, who is a young acolyte (a word that I had been trying to pick my brain to find in my own piece and failed) and our MC, is trying to emulate. He falls short because of his anxiety and instead makes a few “bad decisions” after finding a woman in a broken mill. We find out about the woman and why she had called out for help.
As Cheri mentioned, having inside knowledge into stories make it hard to read it as is.
Character & Narrative: Characterization is completely given through use of descriptors. Anxiety and personality for Sai is quickly given and shows his thought process. Rei is equally formed through the use of descriptors. We learn more from the way she tells us things than when readers were told directly that she is “weak and not particularly beautiful.” Her sharp tone, “breath [that] smells of blowflies.” and her “hair [that] falls over her face like cobwebs.” gives a haunting image.
The use of third person limited perspective gives a wider view of Sai and his surroundings while still connecting the reader to one character and leaving Rei a mystery. Third person limited is when you use third person, but the focus is on one character’s perspective. You only know what the character knows and observes. The present tense of the piece puts the reader right in the moment as events are happening.
Structure: The piece is choppy, skipping from scene to scene which leaves readers scrambling to gain their bearings each time adding to the frantic nature of the piece. Moments were long and drawn out, others were short and left much for the reader to imagine, forcing one to take an active role in the story.
This also makes it hard to keep up sometimes. The beginning was meticulously crafted which made the jump to the end (after Sai kills the rabbit) happen very quickly. I almost wished that there was more development between the characters after that point.
She uses dialogue effectively both to give readers an idea of what the characters are like and to move the story along.
Technique: Cheri provides wonderful insight into all things, though, and gives hints and foreshadowing throughout the piece. “If Sai had just taken the main routes up to the rail with the rest of the group…” is told to readers in the first paragraph and “So Sai makes another bad decision…” She also uses little clues to set the tone. “Her voice is wistful but her fingers dig into Sai’s wrists like fangs.” And the reader immediately knows something sinister is happening.
What I take away from Cheri’s pieces is the amazing use of descriptions and how every word can be used in more than one way: to set the tone and to describe what is happening. She chooses every word, fully aware of the situations in which they are used and uses the best word each time.