You done bitching, Mr. O? Good. Now sit down and listen.
I want to address your misapprehensions first. Please, let me establish some credibility up front. I don't have multiple postgraduate degrees, but I am an English teacher working on my Masters. In college I won a few awards, and my writing was published in the school's anthology, but I've never submitted anywhere professionally. It is worth pointing out that having a college degree in creative writing doesn't automatically make you a good writer, any more than having formal lifeguard certification makes you an Olympic swimmer. Similarly, not having a specific degree is not a barrier to providing useful feedback. You don't have a degree in film theory and criticism- yet it is wholly unfair to say that your opinions on movies are meaningless. It would also be ridiculous to assume that no amateur documentarian could ever produce an enjoyable film (or provide helpful advice) unless that person was able to furnish credentials upon request.
More to the point, I'd like to establish some FPL credibility, which qualifies me to review FPL characters. I've written for this website for over ten years, including having created multiple Main Event winners in the old FPL, and having several characters crack the 500 point barrier in the current incarnation. Having been an FPL Character Acceptance administrator I've read and reviewed thousands of FPL characters over the last decade. I know what appeals to the voters (an extremely small subset with particular tastes,) and I know the format inside and out. I know the powers, I understand the dizzying array of ways they can be used that push the boundaries of fiction both conceptually and poetically.
I'm going to critique your character, or at least as much of it as I can stand, but first I need to speak in defense of Sir Exal. His advice was not, as you suggest, "wrong" but it was absolutely appropriate for the FPL format and audience (two things with which you have absolutely no experience.) You may claim to have several degrees, but I guarantee Exal will out Strunk and White
you any night of the week. I don't know his education, but he has a solid foundation in grammar and produces consistently entertaining and memorable works of fiction, including several popular FPL characters.
Now, just for fun, I will share my opinion of your character. You deserve much worse.
What was the first line of your post, again?
Here is my first street level character for your review.
Well to start with, you don't know the system. Like, at all. You haven't even taken the time to LOOK at other FPL characters, presumably because you're such a brilliant creative writer that why would you need to waste your time with any of us mortal single-degree-havin' simpletons. You made no attempt to get even the barest grasp of tone, composition, or learn what is on the list of available powers. You've got two powers, and even if I assume you took them both at Superior level, you're still four points off... on a fourteen point character. That's pretty terrible math, even for a liberal arts major.Summary (I know it isn’t in-format, but this is to give people a quick overview without them having to read pages and pages): Former Marine and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Norm Yaggard had both of his arms ripped off by the villain known as the Torturer, who had bet and lost money on one of Yaggard’s fights. The superhero team known as TDG got a hold of the maimed ex-fighter and outfitted him with a skull plate made of an indestructible alloy, and they replaced his regular teeth with diamond teeth. Norm, already having taken on the name “The Headbutter” due to his propensity to use his head in fights, has now donned that alias as a superhero and member of the TDG.
Like an early 90's Image comics, you've combined ultraviolence, silly gimmicks, and really awful code names into one concise package. Bravo, Marc Silvestri. Forget that Headbutter sounds like an X-rated dairy product. Forget that TDG
is an apparently meaningless abbreviation (Tiny Dog Genitals? Tasty Dude-Gravy?) for a superhero charity organization that specializes in fancy hats and mouth jewelry.
Still, this is just a summary, because even though you're about to repeat everything you just said, it's important that we, the character reviewers who have been asked to analyze this piece of fiction, be patronizingly spoon-fed everything. For as much as you're bitching at Exal for suggesting "Show, Don't Tell," you're apparently employing an advanced "Tell-before-you-tell" style. Perhaps you're developing some sort of avant-garde Straub-Huillet inspired take on the Motivated Sequence which involves boring people into paying attention?He was supposed to lose to the bull of a man in front of him, the fighter known as Charles Stone. But MMA fighter Norm Yaggard was too proud to lose.
Of course, having a stack of degrees, you'll surely be able to defend the multiple instances in this piece of writing where you have started sentences with conjunctions. This is no doubt due to some deep metatextual message- using anapodoton to counterpoint the perceived strictures of societal obligation- because after all, that's simply an artistic choice. It couldn't be due to anything so simple as, say, you not being nearly as good a writer as you'd like to believe? Norm liked to brag that, after many concussions, the accrued brain damage from fighting had caused the idea and the word “lose” to be taken completely out of his mind.
This is the kind of thing Exal was talking about. In the FPL you've only got the character sheet and that's it. Eschewing the opportunity to provide an honest moment of entertainment in favor of an exposition dump is a good way to guarantee a string of losses for your character. There are a dozen ways to make this tidbit more enjoyable to read, the most obvious of which is to actually have Norm bragging. You've also got a bit of an awkward, weak, reflexive construction here- maybe one of your college degrees should've taught you how to diagram sentences?It didn’t help that, against the counseling of nearly every MMA trainer he had been with, Norm liked to head butt. He really liked to head butt. For this reason, he had begun to be called “The Headbutter” by fans and critics. The name stuck.
I'm sorry, but there is no way anyone can take "The Headbutter" seriously. At best, it's an off-brand shampoo; at worst it's a kind of marital aid. Norm struck out with a leg, Muay Thai style. But it was a feign.
I checked both Merriam-Webster and the Oxford English Dictionary to be sure, but everyone seems to think feign is only a verb. Perhaps your brilliant creative mind has created a new kind of hybridized gerund, heretofore unseen in English. We are so lucky you decided to grace us with your talent.As the brutish Charles Stone dodged the kick, Norm moved in for a headbutt.
Is Headbutt one word or two? I wanted to consult an expert, but there is a lack of internal consistency in your writing, so I had to go with those Philistine hacks over at OED. The crowd, their expectations sated, cheered. Some of them booed. But whatever.
!? Holy cow, that's a catachresis worthy of Alexander Pope himself! Also, I commend you on the standalone sentence "But whatever." Rarely has a writer's command of the English language been so great that contravention of the basic "a sentence needs a clause" maxim really worked to underscore the take-no-prisoners attitude of the protagonist. You, sir, are truly a genius of the highest caliber.After the headbutt, Norm tackled the blood-drooling Charles Stone, and then proceeded to deliver more headbutts.
Rare is the intellectual author who can also pull off a gripping action scene. Norm's severely limited fight repertoire helps highlight his blue-collar, working class upbringing. The exergasia of various "headbutts" and "head butts" illustrates the numbness of Norm's daily routine. Beautifully done.Norm could feel a headache coming, but he liked those. Headaches told him he was alive.
I was sure you couldn't top "more headbutts," but here you've produced a beautifully understated defiance of Bentham's Utilitarianism in a single sentence. I am absolutely in awe of the depth of character you've provided- and revealing Norm's latent homosexuality through public sadomasochism is pure brilliance. After the barrage of head butts, Charles Stone’s face resembled a bowl of oatmeal. With blood in it.
I'm trying to figure out the pattern of headbutts vs head butts. At first I thought it was sloppy and random, but I'm starting to see that when it is two words, those are the parts of the story when Norm is conflicted externally, and when it is one word, the conflict is internal. I'm open to clarification. Also the anapodoton continues with the questionable division of "With blood in it" into its own sentence. I have to admit that confuses me as well... are you deliberately writing poorly to make a point about the dichotomy of privilege and education? There were a few more maneuvers, not all involving Norm’s head, but the fight soon had to be ended due to Norm’s brutal assault on his opponent.
I'm on firmer ground here- the dismissal of any part of the fight that doesn't specifically involve contact between two heads really helps bring the focus back to Norm's disgust at his own latent homosexual urges. This, in turn, helps clarify the clever double-entendre of the character's derisively cruel nickname. In the locker room afterwards, Norm was confronted by the same thugs from before, the thugs who had told him he had better lose the fight tonight, or else.
Starting in media res allows us to jump right into the brutal kinetic energy of pure headbutting action, but now we learn that there are thugs, who existed before. A less astute reader might complain that there were, in fact, no thugs mentioned anywhere before, but those people just need to have faith that this will be addressed in the writing."Our employer isn’t going to like this," one of the thugs said to Norm, murder in his eyes.
Again, your brilliance is beyond me here. It looks like you've utterly forgotten how to diagram sentences and appended "murder in his eyes," to the place where the predicate nominative pronoun would cause the most confusion as to just whose eyes have murder in them. Should I be inferring that Norm and the nameless thugs are interchangeable- that he feels like a "nobody," in his life? Help please, the depth of sophistication is beyond me.Before becoming an MMA fighter, Norm had served as a Marine in the United States Military. He had seen death, and he had done his fair share of killing. So he wasn’t easily bullied into doing anything.
I think... I think this anapodoton is a signpost to the duality of Norm's despair and the TDG's philosophy of limbless MMA exceptionalism? I have to admit I'm getting lost, your genius sometimes masquerades as really awful storytelling so convincingly that I forget I'm reading one of the most important and compelling works of fiction from the early 21st Century."It’s like I said before," Norm said, nonchalantly turning his back to them as he placed his gloves in his locker. "I’m too brain dead to know what the word lose means."
This phrase is Norm's "Who is John Galt," I get that much, but what is the significance of turning his back? You've just pegged him as former Marine with combat experience surrounded by thugs who are angry with him. Is he turning his back because he has accepted his fate and wants to die, or is there a subtext I'm missing?A hand shot around Norm’s neck before he could move his prodigious head. "Hold him there!" A thug said. "Let’s see how good he is without that head of his." Amid the jeers of the other thugs, the thug grasping him back the neck proceeded to choke him into unconsciousness. "Before I retired from fighting," a voice whispered into Norm’s ear, "I had been known as the best submission expert in the MMA."
More reinforcing of the homosexual undertones- Norms "head" is questionably described as "prodigious" which some readers may infer means he is hydro-cephalic, but I believe that, rather than "large" you were going for the secondary definition of "unnatural," a word used by Norm's mother and priest to describe his gay urges. The way Norm submits to the thug who is "taking" him from behind, while being whispered to, really pushes the homosexual imagery. After those words were uttered, all became darkness for Norm.
He awoke on a table in a dark, dank room with earthen walls and pillars of rotting wood. Something else was rotting in there as well. Bodies. Norm could remember the smell from his experiences as a marine.
The sensual imagery continues, as does the aversion to colons and semi-colons. Before anyone suggests that a man with multiple college degrees doesn't know how to properly use punctuation, I'd like to say that I really get your choice to make "Bodies" its own sentence. Your aversion to proper grammar is a fundamental aspect of The Headbutter as a work of fiction, it's intensely autobiographical and there's a Faulkner-esque stream of consciousness running through this scene. "Who ha!" A face said above him. The face was masked in metal; strips of leathered flesh hung from the metal mask like hair. "Those were my men who warned you earlier. You should have taken their advice and lost. The Torturer had a great deal of money on that fight."
The grand introduction of the sophisticated antagonist, paired nicely with Norm. What makes these two so appropriate for one another is that neither is able to speak with any personality or character, but are rather bound by fate to be obviating mouthpieces for expository development. The way Norm and The Torturer aren't real characters, but rather two-dimensional slaves to the overarching cliche is really poignant, in a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
sort of way."Who is this Torturer fellow?" Norm asked. "I’ll bash his face in with my head." Here Norm struggled against the restraints at his wrists and ankles, his head whipping up again and again like a snake trying to strike.
"Others call me the Torturer," the man in the metal mask said. "And you will do nothing of the sort today. Nor to-morrow for that matter. It’s time to go to work."
Making the Torturer a passive-aggressive character obsessed with time certainly plays against the expectations of... ok I'll be honest, I'm losing faith in the narrative. I know you have so many degrees in writing that you must surely be crafting a masterpiece of the highest caliber here, but it's so far on the bleeding edge of brilliant that it really just resembles high school level writing. Again, I only have the one degree, so I know I'm not fit to judge your genius, but I don't think The Headbutter will capture the imaginations of the masses.The Torturer raised a whirring saw. It whined as it spun, like a beast hungry and teased. It was a torture device only in the crudest sense—it could maim, and cause a great deal of pain while doing so.
You are a super genius writer, right? Your posts suggested that you are so incredibly gifted that you are beyond reproach by anyone less than a qualified expert. It's just... I've read a lot of literature, and this is really starting to seem like drek. I mean, I see what you did there, punctuating the second sentence incorrectly to draw attention to the adjectives as they describe both the rotary handsaw and Norm's fear of his own desire, but if it wasn't for the clever parts about Norm secretly being gay this whole thing would seem like a colossally mediocre character.As the Torturer’s tool did its grisly work, rendering Norman Yaggard armless, the Torturer spoke to him as quietly and calmly as a dentist taking out a child’s teeth. The Torturer spoke of many things to Norm during the whole process, but chiefly he spoke of how life would change for Norm without arms. Everything from eating his food, to how the rest of society viewed him.
Again, I must be missing something... why avoid the parallelism of the conditional tense halfway through the last fragmented, subjectless sentence? Is it just to challenge the reader's expectations of what is acceptable? I don't know if I buy that... I think it would be too easy to confuse that for just being a mediocre writer.Everything would change for dear Norman, and without arms he would truly have to make good use of that head and face.
I just can't do it any more. Even if you somehow spin Norman into some sort of anadactic supervillain apologist, manipulated by the vagaries of his benefactors, becoming a shill for their own apostate philosophy, I can't do it. I can't read this crap. Normally, I'd be able to make it to the end, offering helpful tips and oblique references to Buffalo Springfield lyrics, but your attitude has just ruined the character for me.
This is not very good writing: not by FPL standards, not by University standards, and certainly not by the standards of someone who claims to have multiple literary degrees. Either you are lying, or you managed to acquire two degrees without learning the first thing about creative writing- and I'm not sure which is more depressing.
Whatever the case, you owe Sir Exal an apology.