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Season’s Critiquings

Season’s Critiquings*

 (A Critique and Parody; The First of Four in The Christmas Carol Critique Collection)

Dear Unpublished Author,

Thank you for using Writers Group Critique Service to evaluate your latest submission. To assist you in making your writing better and more marketable, your submission appears below, along with a line-by-line recitation of suggestions for improving your writing.

First the title:

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

While alliterative and unique, remember that shorter titles can appear in larger type on the spine of your book. Also, titles which are merely character names give the potential purchaser no information about the genre or tone of the piece and, thus, do not aid the potential customer in coming to a purchase decision.

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen,

Setting aside the unusual choice of second person perspective for the moment, this is a weak opening line, providing no hook to seize the reader. If the reader knows these characters, why are you telling him or her that he or she knows them? If the reader does not know these characters, he or she is immediately confused or put off by the assumption. Moreover, the series of names is ungrammatical in its repeated use of “and” instead of separating the names by comma, except for one comma inexplicably appearing in the middle, making the entire series non-parallel in structure. Also, check your research. I think the name is actually “Donder,” not “Donner.”

But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?

Rhetorical questions are a weak cousin to vivid description. Besides, the question makes no sense in light of the preceding text. If the reader knows the other eight reindeer characters, how would they possibly not know the most famous? Perhaps you mean “most interesting” or “most recent addition to the reindeer pantheon” or somesuch.

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer

This repeat of the title adds nothing and is an odd and incomplete character description. Do you mean the red nose to imply habitual drunkenness or perhaps lack of enough sense to come in out of the cold? What about Rudolph’s eyes, his torso, his antlers, his hooves? The reader deserves more.

had a very shiny nose.

You’ve already described the nose and nothing else. Shiny is also an odd choice of a descriptor. Do you mean smooth or wet or are you using the term “shiny” in the sense of the slang in the show “Firefly,” in which case your target demographic is quite limited and seems unmatched to the overall tenor of this work. You’ve also ventured into past tense here. Is Rudolph’s nose no longer shiny?

And if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows.

Enough with the nose, already. Something needs to happen or your readers will stop reading. And if I ever saw subjunctive phrasing used in a well-constructed story, I would say I was surprised.

All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names.

At last, some conflict! But if you are going to treat all of the reindeer as a collective, why bother to name them all separately? Why have eight? Wouldn’t two or three do? By giving each of the other reindeer individual qualities, they would become more three-dimensional characters. Perhaps one could be the ringleader of this bullying and a couple others eager henchmen, but yet another a reluctant participant who likes Rudolph secretly or covets his unique nose. Last, but not least, you seem to have shifted into third person perspective, a much more traditional and reader-friendly approach. Consider revising the entire story to this perspective.

They never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games.

Again, the monolithic collective of reindeer action seems to paint all reindeer as cruel and may be regarded as specie-ist in today’s politically correct environment. I also would like a lot more detail about the reindeer games, especially since I can’t think of a single one. Do they play Quidditch? They can fly and kick, so it’s a reasonable assumption. Be specific. Concrete images, not generic vagueries, fuel the reader’s imagination.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say:

Foggy? Are we in the bayou? Wouldn’t the North Pole, Santa’s traditional residence, be more likely to be snowy? A white-out during an Arctic blizzard can be a compelling setting for action and triumph over adversity, but fog? I can’t think of anyone who finds fog scary. Let’s face it, no one found the original version of the movie “The Fog” even slightly horrifying–they just watched it because Adrienne Barbeau has a big rack. And what’s with the phrase “came to say?” Isn’t “said” a whole lot simpler and more direct?

“Rudolph, with your nose so bright,

Again with the nose fetish! You undoubtedly have perverse sexual fantasies about Karl Malden boffing Barbra Streisand while Jimmy Durante watches. So far we know the nose is red, shiny, glowing, and bright, but we know nothing about the character’s inner turmoil, his willingness to face down adversity, or his growth over the course of the narrative.

won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

This dialogue seems stilted. Wouldn’t “will you guide” be more natural? Also, there is considerable ambiguity in the question posed by Santa. He doesn’t say “lead” the team of generic reindeer during their presumed flight delivering toys and he doesn’t say “light” the path for the team. Instead, he says “guide.” Is Rudolph being asked to fly along-side? Is he sitting in the back with Santa telling him when to turn? Is he huddled over a GPS device? Details drive action.

Then all the reindeer loved him

Again the collective reindeer, but this time combined with a pronoun with an ambiguous antecedent. “Him” who? Santa? Rudolph? Don’t make the reader wait until the end of the sentence to understand the beginning. In addition, the change-of-heart by the reindeer seems sudden and lacking in motivation. They love Rudolph because he is superior? Because he is usurping a job they usually perform? Why? In this tough economy Rudolph’s job ascension might easily lead to lay-offs and even one reindeer laid off is an unemployment rate of 12-1/2 percent, well above the current national average. Finally, “loved” seems an odd word choice. Isn’t “liked,” “tolerated,” “stopped teasing,” or “respected him in the morning” really more accurate?

And they shouted out in glee

Consider making this a separate sentence. Also, consider specifying one reindeer to shout. Otherwise you are implying a group shout in unison, which, given the length of the following quotation seems unlikely to be sufficiently in sync to even be intelligible. Lastly, while the phrase “in glee” is certainly better than the adverb “gleefully,” it seems archaic to modern sensibilities and results in two prepositions (“out” and “in”) in a row, which is both awkward and might be construed as suggestive.)

“Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,

Really, the full descriptive name again? No one calls someone by their full name after they’ve met them for the first time, except for mothers scolding their children. And these guys supposedly “love” him. Give some thought to an endearing nickname.

You’ll go down in history.”

This lacks credibility and is an unsatisfying conclusion to your narrative, as the statement seems so unlikely to come true. It is patronizing on the part of the reindeer collective and self-aggrandizing on your part, as the author. The world has radar, night-vision goggles, fog lamps, and guide-by-wire navigation for aircraft, yet a shiny nose is historical?

We here at Writers Group Critique Service do our best to encourage writers with constructive criticism sandwiched in between encouraging words, but I frankly see little market for this rhyming piece of flash fiction. Either expand this thin concept into a story with some artsy description, some character development, some enhanced, interactive conflict, some growth in the protagonist, and some semblance of a suspenseful story arc, or stash this piece of subpar doggerel in the drawer and try again, maybe with some aliens, some explosions, and some elf-on-elf action. Sex and violence, now that sells.


Ima Hack

Senior Critique Specialist

Writers Group Critique Service

*No ownership is claimed in “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which is owned by The Rudolph Company, L.P. and is used without permission herein under the critique and parody exceptions under applicable law.

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