My Introduction to 2nd Round of SPSFC2 Judging
As we start the second round of the SPSFC2, I’d like to congratulate all the authors who made it through. This time around, I will not be sharing whether I’m going to advocate to move the book forward or not, but I will be reviewing all the eight books Team Escapist voted to move forward. Ahem, make that seven since I’ve already posted my thoughts and review of Night Music by Tobias Cabral, which made the quarterfinals. And I will use the same rules as before; if it is a favourable review, I will also post it on GoodReads. But if it is not a favourable review, I will only post it on my personal website.
What I’m looking for: NOT plot. I’m not looking to judge an idea, but how that idea is presented throughout the story. Is it balanced? Does it flow without too many interuptions? Does it make sense? Are there plotholes? I’m looking at the construction of the story and the quality of the storytelling, and if all the building blocks are there to make sure the story works. This is why it doesn’t matter what sub-genre the book falls under, be it romance, mystery or dystopian. It’s all the same to me as long as the story is told well.
Characters. I need someone, or a group, to route for. And I need an antagonist to hate, or at least dislike. There must be a purpose to all the character’s actions and dialogue, they need an agenda. And they need to to relatatable, at least to a degree. Most of all, I want to understand who they are without having to take a 45 degree turn out of the story to read chapter upon chapter concerning their backstory.
Which brings me to story flow. There isn’t only one way to tell a story, but all stories must work. And they must drive forward. Even if you’re using the dreaded flashback, the flashback must be pertinent to the story at hand and mean something to the current situation in the book. There should be peaks and valleys throughout the story, failures and wins, tests and trials and decisions made, that all relate to the story the book is trying to tell. Unless you’re writing an autobiography of your characters, the current story is important, not the previous stories that made up the character's life. Please dont start stories with a laundry list of chapters introducing each character. It’s boring. You might love your characters, but the reader hasn’t had a chance to get to know them yet, and reading about what they are doing before the actual story begins, is boring. Yes, we should see them in their everyday life, that way we can fully appreciate the turmoil and upheaval when it happens, but chapters of backstory is not the way to open a book. It’s like being presented the character manual so you can understand the story. Character development, as well as story actions, should flow seamlessly throughout the book. This is very important to me.
So, harsh as I may seem, I’m trying to be transparent in how I’m judging the books. What qualifies me as an expert? Nothing. I read and I write science fiction. That’s all. We are all volunteers judging this contest, and we all have our own specific judging parameters. That said, good luck to all, and I can’t wait to read our quarterfinalists, and see what the other teams put forth in January!
Author of Nexus Point
book #1 of the Time Ranger series