Penname: Bounce [Contact][Report This]
Real name: James E. Geoffrey II
Member Since: 01/06/08
Reviews by Bounce
Summary: Dean is diagnosed with an illness that requires long term care. This leads to the Winchesters becoming a family and getting a taste of normal or as normal as things can get for the Winchesters.
Categories: Wee!chester Characters: None
Chapters: 29 Completed: Yes Word count: 217402
[Report This] Published: 18/08/07 Updated: 25/06/08
Reviewer: Bounce Signed
Date: 28/06/08 Title: Chapter 29: Chapter 29
Perhaps the most difficult fan fiction to write for Supernatural is the “Weechester/Teenchester” stories. Really good examples of the genre keep the characters both recognizable and yet subtly different because the boys are not yet the men they will become. Outstanding examples of the genre successfully strike that balance while staying loyal to the mythology and tone of the show and give the reader some insight into how that mythology and those characters came to be.
That is why, by any standard, “Westcott Preparatory Academy” (WPA) deserves to rank among the finest example of the type. By turns, funny, charming, comforting, disturbing, and sad, it is an opus – at 29 chapters no other word fits – that shows deep psychological insight, a profound sympathy for its characters and an astoundingly high level of craftsmanship that one rarely finds in professional writing let alone in fan fiction. It is no exaggeration to say that if you plan to read only one piece of Supernatural fan fiction this year, make it “Westcott Preparatory Academy.”
The story itself is simple and straightforward, when 16 year old Dean Winchester is diagnosed with diabetes, dad John and brother, 12 year old Sam are compelled to settle down and live a normal life. Moving to be nearer to Bobby, John eventually gets a job at an exclusive preparatory school which allows him to get the boys into the school tuition free. Sam is predictably excited and Dean apprehensive. Both boys and dad gradually find themselves growing happy in their new lives, but in the background, hovering like an ominous cloud is the life of Hunting and the temptations of the supernatural. Eventually, Dean is forced to make a choice between his increasing happiness and the obligations of duty that come with knowing more than other men.
The true genius in the story is the way in which it lets the reader know, without laying it out in so many words, how the Winchester boys ended up being where they are. It answers many of the questions that perceptive readers and fans may ask about the show. Why do Sam and John end up parting so bitterly? Why is Dean, a seemingly handsome and able young man, so tortured with doubt? Why is Bobby so seemingly dedicated to the family? Or even, at a mundane level, how does young Sam, a kid living most of his life on the road, end up getting into Stanford law?
The author answers some of these questions straight out, but others, with consummate skill, she merely hints at. Of course Sam is able to get into Stanford because he has an elite institution in his academic background. Suddenly the stretch seems that little bit more plausible. Of course Sam grows resentful toward his father as suddenly a life that was never open to him, and that he could only guess at, a life of friends and school and normality, becomes real – and when he is forced to leave it, the seeds are planted for a bitter dispute. Interestingly, it is a dispute far in the future, and we only get a taste of it in the story. Brilliant!!
Purists may scoff at the idea of Dean with diabetes, but it is a shrewd plot device. As fans of Supernatural know, Dean is the more emotional and instinctual but more reserved and outwardly less expressive of the Winchester boys. By giving Dean an illness that he must adapt to in terms of a lifestyle, Dean is forced to confront feelings and frustrations that would normally stay well below the surface. Moreover, as the illness requires Dean to rely on his family – instead of being the one always relied upon – he is forced to interact with them in a different way, and they to him. In short, the author gives the reader a realistic way to see into the nature of the characters.
That view is spot on. John Winchester is a tough ex-Marine who has seen a dark reality of the world and knows, as any Marine would, that he must confront it, not simply to avenge his beloved wife, but to protect his family and other innocents. Yet he is also a deeply devoted and loving father. His harshness comes from his need to protect his family from something that is quite literally beyond the imagination. When life becomes “normal,” he is able to let his guard down a little and do the things that any loving father would do for his children.
This, by the way, is entirely in keeping with the mythology of the show, where we have been told that John “doted” on his boys and where, even after Sam angrily went off to Stanford, we know that he kept tabs on his otherwise estranged youngest son. (Even Sam’s understandable upset when, at age 9, his father gave him a pistol to guard against the monster in the close takes on a whole different light. John’s action seems extreme, but in the context of a father who knows of the dark reality of monsters, but who cannot always be there to protect his son, it is an understandable step. To the son what looked extreme, to the father looked like the only precaution he could take to protect those he loved.) This constant recurrence, both direct and indirect, to the mythology of Supernatural is part of what makes WPA so effective. It is a story not just about the characters, but about the show itself.
The portrayal of Dean is even more effective and almost painful for that reason. The Dean we all know is there – yet convincingly younger. He has been taking on his family’s burdens and is cautious about his relationships. His love for his family is unconditional and he is deeply upset when his father and brother fight. When Dean actually discovers that someone wants to be his friend – the inaptly named Gray – his wariness and happiness in equal measures is poignant. When he falls for the local girl, his tenderness is palpable. Playboy Dean is gone and the young gentleman comes to fore. In short, we learn that Dean is a man who loves and loves deeply, and because he loves deeply he offers that love only with great reluctance. This is, in short, the Dean we will see on Supernatural. The tough guy who cries over his brother’s broken body and who will offer his own soul to save that brother. Again, the dark cloud of “Supernatural” hovers over the horizon, and in the 17 year old we gain a glimpse of the future.
We also see Dean’s painful lack of self-confidence. Never having trusted anyone outside his family, and there having to always meet his father’s rigorously high standards, he has not learned how to trust himself. When he thinks his best friend may have betrayed him, Dean thinks not that his friend was wrong, but that he was a fool. When his illness causes his father and brother pain, Dean blames himself. This too, is the Dean we will come to know, and it is achingly sad. Made more sad still by the fact that when he realizes that he is happy, he thinks that he is wrong for feeling that way.
The portrayal of Bobby and the pain that drives him to adopt the hapless Winchesters as a second family is also effectively explored, more strongly in fact than in the show itself. In the show, Bobby’s protestations of loyalty to the boys has always seemed a bit flat. Without backstory, it seemed almost perfunctory. Yet, WPA fills in the gap in a very realistic and moving way. Suddenly, Bobby is not just gruff Hunter and mentor, but a hurting man whose love for the Winchesters is noble becomes it overcomes that hurt.
If any of the major characters comes out a bit weak, it is Sam. WPA mostly deals with Dean and his relationship to his father, brother and friends through the prism of his illness. Consequently, there is not a lot for Sammy to do. He is what we expect him to be, a studious kid who loves to have friends and worships his brother. Underneath that, the author skillfully points toward that longing for normality that will lead Sam to break with his family. This part is all well done.
Unfortunately, the author’s treatment of Sam seems uneven. Most of the time, Sam seems younger than his 12 years, with his expressions of love and admiration for his brother seeming more appropriate to a younger child. Yet, on at least two occasions, Sam is made to say things that seem way over a 60 year old. (“Don’t deny this to me,” being one example.) This variation weakens the reader’s perception of Sam and loses some of the drama of his story.
There is an upside however. By making Sam seem younger than a 12 year old, the author is able, paradoxically, to magnify the depth of the relationship between the brothers. In Sam’s boyish enthusiasm and love for his brother, and Dean’s indulgent treatment of his younger sibling, we see the true depth of the love between them. It has been well said that the Winchester brothers often seem to be deep in a deafening trumpet blast of unstated emotions. Whether by accident or by design, the author’s handling of Sam gets around that problem.
The other characters are developed in varying degrees. Gray, Dean’s friend, is a likeable “fish out of water” young man. It is not hard to see how such a character could earn Dean’s trust. Kelsey, Dean’s girlfriend, does not stand out, and while we are told that she is a great girl, the only real exposition we get suggests that she is anything but. One wishes the author had explored this relationship in greater depth. If we can presume that this was Dean’s first love, it certainly would have added another layer to the author’s already insightful study of the older Winchester boy’s character.
The weakest characterizations are of Gray’s family and the “rich” kids at the school. Given what a likeable young man Gray is, it is a wonder that he does not get one of Dean’s rifles and take his whole family out in one postal rampage. None of these characters is anything more than one dimensional, not even stereotypes really – but caricatures. It’s as if they were cloned from the Ewing clan on “Dallas.” The headmaster of the school similarly seems not so much like John Houseman on “The Paper Chase,” as John Houseman pelted by gamma rays and transformed into the Headmaster Hulk. Many of the remainder of the teachers and students rarely get past the “intellectual snob/spoiled rich kid” archetypes.
There is nothing absolutely wrong with this, per se. However, one wishes the author had resisted the temptation to stereotype. There must be, in all of fiction writing, at least one or two well mannered, kind rich people, right? At any rate, it is a minor criticism, but given the author’s deep psychological insights into her characters, it is a surprise nonetheless.
For all its strengths, WPA does have its weaknesses. The school prank on Dean seems really quite contrived and not very convincing. If these kids are such spoiled rich brats, they could certainly have come up with something better than this. (Sorry, not going to tell you what THIS is – you’ll just have to read and decide for yourself.)
The story has a habit of briefly folding back into digression, thereby slowing the pace and causing the story to drag in parts. Though, to take with one hand and give back with the other, on the whole it has to be said that almost all of the detail the author provides ends up having some significance in the broader story. Even at 29 chapters, there is very little wasted writing here.
The detail on diabetes gets to be a bit overlong. While having such detail draws the reader more deeply into what Dean faces, it also tends to bewilder. At some points, frankly, eyes will glaze over and a bit more editing here for the general reader would have been nice. That said, the author must either have diabetes or know someone who does, because everything she writes on both its physical and psychological dimensions seems bang on and very convincing.
There is also a bit of “disaster fatigue” here. Dean seems barely able to pull his head above the parapet when something else awful happens to him or someone he cares about. Really, if the Winchester luck were really that bad, it is a wonder that they were not eaten by a Rakshasa a long time ago. For the most part, each problem is plausible, but strung together Dean starts to look a little like Mr. Magoo.
As far as the boy’s names are concerned – Samuel Francis Winchester and Johnathan Dean Winchester – the latter is a problem. Both are a problem in that, according to Jared Padalecki, the show’s writers have not assigned either boy a middle name, so the potential exists that at some future date, this bit of WPA might be contradicted. More important though, while naming Dean after his father would seem in keeping with what John and Mary might have done, as an exercise for the reader (and viewer) it causes a slight headache. The reader must constantly stop to remind himself just who it is the author is referring to. While this is kept to a minimum – Dean is usually simply called Dean – it is still distracting. It would have been better to keep Dean AS Dean and not as a middle name. (May I suggest, per another piece of fan fiction – Dean Scott Winchester? )
Finally, one bit of the mythology that the writer may have made a mistake on regards Dean’s neck chain. In WPA, the amulet on the chain is given to Dean by Bobby to cure him. However, as we know from “A Supernatural Christmas,” the chain was a gift from Sam – with no supernatural attributes. In fairness, the author does not make clear if the amulet in the story is the same one that viewers see Dean wearing on the show. However, if that was the intention, it is a break with the mythology and many readers who are fans of the show may object. That said, it is not certain and as the author has promised a sequel to WPA, perhaps the matter will be clarified in the future.
In the end, WPA ends on a poignant and sad note. It is a note we saw in “What is and What Must Never Be,” but is more painful because, unlike the Jin’s induced fantasy, this is a “true” story, and the pain of all is palpable. The dark clouds of the future hang over WPA and one becomes wistful. This is helped by the author’s skilful handling of language. She knows how to write a scene and to create powerful emotions and it is a safe assumption that many a reader will find tears welling up in their eyes if not rolling down their cheeks.
The author of WPA has created a story that compares not unfavorably to R.F. Delderfield’s “To Serve Them All My Days,” and it is a stunning accomplishment. That is high praise and it is every ounce deserved. From inside jokes – Dean asking his brother, “Are you psychic or something?” - to heart rending emotion – Dean finally breaking down in his father’s arms – the author of WPA has scarcely put a foot wrong. To say no more, WPA is a long read, but it is worth every minute.
P.S. To the author: I saw all of your various pleas for a review and I ached to respond. However, I hope that you will not mind that I waited till the story was completed. The ease with which a writer can lose his way is so great that it is a hazard to write an early review. That you kept up such a high standard from start to finish is a real tribute to your talent and skill and I hope you will consider writing professionally. You are THAT good!
Beware!!! No-one knows what really lurks in the dark. And No-one walks alone at night.
But what if it didn't hide in the dark? What if it was right behind you the whole time? Waiting, wanting, needing to hurt someone, to hurt you. What if that evil was part of you? Nothing but a mere shadow. Your shadow.
Watch your back!!!
Categories: General, Action Characters: None
Chapters: 2 Completed: No Word count: 2723
[Report This] Published: 13/11/07 Updated: 02/12/07
Reviewer: Bounce Signed
Date: 29/08/08 Title: Chapter 2: Chapter 2- Zara
The first rule of the critic is that he should never review a story that is incomplete. The danger is that if he does, he will have to later recant that which he has written because either a bad story will turn to gold. Or more often, a good story will go bad.
However, sometimes, given sufficient reason, the rules should be broken. "My Shadow at Night" provides such a reason. Written by a young - and presumably pretty tough if she is willing to face the critics - 13 year old, it is a story that has more than a few flaws, but that also holds some tantalizing potential.
First to the flaws. "My Shadow at Night," like may stories written by amateurs, utterly lacks in pacing and development. The author is in a hurry and therefore she does not devote the time and detail necessary for her scenes to evolve. The result is a sense of truncation and a concomitant loss of mood and atmosphere. This is perhaps not surprising in such a young writer, but it weakens the story nevertheless.
Further, where detail is provided, it tends not to be very convincing. There is perhaps no better example of this than in the newspaper headline that send Sam and Dean into action - "Young Girl Dies Suddenly." Really? That's it?
If such a headline is all it takes to get the Winchester boys in gear, we should soon expect them to collapse in bewildered exhaustion. People dieing suddenly is not exactly unknown for the most common reasons, after all.
Of course the problem is that the headline is no headline at all - and that no newspaper would ever run one like it. This is a small detail, but on such details stories are built, and it is clear that the author was again in too much of a hurry to think through a more logical and realistic spur to action for our heroes.
Further, the news story gets no explication. So there is no explanation of why its headline would catch Sam and Dean's attention. Consequently, the reader is left to fill in the gaps.
Writers cannot expect their readers to cover the gaps, and therefore they need to make sure that all the holes are filled so that the foundation can be laid for a solid and logical story. That takes patience and an attention to detail that, again, the author has not quite yet mastered.
Having said that, for all its undeniable weaknesses, "My Shadow at Night" offers some astonishing strengths and the potential for a complex and sophisticated story. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is in the opening of the story itself.
Too much "Supernatural" fan fiction fails because it does not capture the "feel" and "flavor" of the show. The result is that the reader ends up with a story that happens to be about two guys named Sam and Dean Winchester. That is not the problem here.
"Shadow" opens with a mysterious murder as viewed by someone watching the victim. This is exactly how some of the best "Supernatural" episodes open and the author captures it, notwithstanding her otherwise weak grasp of tone, with near perfection. One can almost hear a reader exclaiming - "This is what a Supertnatural episode feels like," and can almost see the word "Supernatural" flashing on the screen as the opening credits roll.
That is an astonishing bit of writing and the author deserves much credit for her grasp of the Supernatural's "television tone." Not an easy thing to pull off - as much other fan fiction demonstrates by its failure to do so.
Also impressive is the author's development of the monster. Not so much because the monster is original - though it pleasantly is - but because of the author's deft handling of the beast. Early on we see the monster, but we are not told its name or origin. Rather, the author cleverly drips out little bits of information about the creature through the dialogue of her characters.
This is an exceptionally clever technique as it allows the author to generate the chills without losing any of the mystery. That mystery, one assumes, will be what Dean and Sam unravel as the story progresses. Very shrewd and a great way to keep the reader engaged.
Most incredible, however, is the author's handling of her characters. To digress for one moment, it has to be said that - so far - characterization in the story is very weak. The plot is only two chapters long. Sam and Dean have only put in one brief appearnace in which their dialogue barely sounded like the characters we know. For the rest, there has been a profusion of supporting characters, none of whom are more than sketches.
Yet, the author has managed to set up a positively fascinating parallel. Her protagonist - Simon - is the son of a female hunter who blames himself for his father's death and yearns for a normal life. This is a brilliant juxtaposition to Sam - the son of a male Hunter who is involved in the death of his mother and who sought that normal life and paid the price for doing so.
Yet, where Sam is intellectual and quiet and committed to helping others, Simon is emotional and bitter and seemingly self-absorbed. The stage is set here for an astoundingly complex psychological and moral interplay.
So far, Sam and Simon have not even met, yet the dramatic possibilities here almost boggle the mind. The questions just beg to be asked and answered.
Will the similarities between Sam and Simon drive them together or apart? Will Sam find in his tormented mirror image a friend or an antagonist? Will Simon be a spur to Sam to continue on as a Hunter, or will he be a reminder to Sam of his own desperate yearning for a normal life?
These questions, of course, cannot be answered because the author has not completed the story. Can a young writer really pull this off, or will this tantalizing plotline be lost by a writer whose reach has exceeded her grasp? It remains to be seen.
That said, a tip of the hat must go to a young author who has hit upon a fascinating and potentially very deep idea. Will the story pay off its promise? There is no way to know for sure other than to say - stay tuned.
Thanks for the review and the advice, im really grateful.
Whilst visiting Pastor Jim in Boxborough Massachusetts, Dean is hit by an uncomfortable sense of Deja-vu, whilst Sam has the uncomfortable feeling that the Pastor may be hiding something. What is it about this picturesque New England town, that could be so terrible that Dean has blocked it out and Jim is happy to keep it that way?
Many Thanks to the Brilliant BulletBabe and her awesome Banner making skills - I LOVE it Louey!
Categories: General, Wee!chester Characters: None
Chapters: 10 Completed: Yes Word count: 40565
[Report This] Published: 04/04/08 Updated: 16/04/09
Reviewer: Bounce Signed
Date: 01/06/08 Title: Chapter 4: Chapter 4
In general I don't like to review something that is incomplete. However, a tip ofthe hat to what you've got so far. You have a real eye for detail and an excellent "ear" for what your characters sound like. Nicely done , so far so good, and keep it up. You have captured my interest, that's for sure.
Wow - THANK YOU! I was so touched that you reviewed earlier than you normally would to let me know that you are liking this piece - that means a lot, and is a real boost. You are very kind with your praise - thanks for the compliments on the writing. It is such a relief that others appear to be enjoying my ramblings - but when they 'get' where you are coming from .... that's pretty awesome.
Am very happy that this story seems to be entertaining you - and especially for your early review!!!!
Prank war challenge. Hope you get a giggle! Sam and Dean are back to school soon and Sam has a new game he wants Dean to play. (13&16)
Categories: Wee!chester, UnGen Challenges, Humor Characters: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 3920
[Report This] Published: 13/04/08 Updated: 14/04/08
Reviewer: Bounce Signed
Date: 06/08/08 Title: Chapter 1: Chapter 1 - I double dare you
One of the problems that sometimes develops with Weechester/Teenchester stories is that they really go nowhere. They do not add to the mythology of the show, nor do they give insight into the characters that viewers of Supernatural will come to know.
In effect, they are not stories about the Winchesters - they are just stories. Often well written and entertaining, but really just stories that could be applied to any characters but, in these cases, are simply given the names Sam and Dean.
That was what I expected with "Daredevils," a story about the "prank wars" between the Winchester brothers that was alluded to by Sam in the television episode "Hell House." Instead, the reader will be surprised to find an amusing story that captures the Winchester brothers. It is a story that is funny, not at all related to the supernatural, and yet that gives the reader a glimps into the normal lives of two boys who, because they have anything but a normal life, have only each other for friendship and companionship.
The pranks are remarkably funny, but never so off the wall as to be unbelieveable. Moreover, they are never cruel, something to which these two brothers who truly love each, would not descend.
Lines are pushed in "Daredevil," but they are never crossed, and the effect is both entertaining and wholly consistent with what we know about the men Sam and Dean will become. As with any good Weechester/Teenchester story, these are not yet the men readers know from the show, yet they are recognizable characters. Rightly, the author alludes to in the boys the men that they will become.
Oddly enough, the climax of "Daredevils" is not a joke, but a "chick flick" moment. The story is not structured that way, but it is in effect what happens because it is that moment that make Dean and Sam not just two characters in a story, but actually Dean and Sam.
The author handles this perfectly. The moment is brief, logical in ts positioning in the story, and expertly captures the tone of the brothers. It is this moment that keeps "Daredevils" tied to the "Supernatural" universe and makes it work.
The authors who try to give us a glimpse of the "normal" life of the Winchesters are, of course, on to something. The two elements that give Supernatural its singularity and dramatic power is its emphasis on family and the debt that we owe to our past, and the fact that it is the story of two (relatively) ordinary men with an extraordinary mission.
Those authors who attempt to show that even the Winchesters were normal boys and that they had normality in their lives, even if their lives were not nromal, give depth to charcaters that viewers of the show have grown to care about. In effect, these "day in the life" stories flesh out teh characters and make them real.
Sometimes, however, the effort to show that normality loses the distictiveness of the Winchesters, and the reader is left with just another story about two kids.
"Daredevils" is not one of those stories and the author deserves high praise. This is funny, this is even touching - and most of all, this is about the Winchesters. There can be no higher praise than that.
I must start off by thanking you from the bottom of my heart, because I don't just see your review as compliment to my story, it's also a huge compliment to my writing abilities. Sometimes as a writer we get so caught up in the audience that we forget to let go when writing, and by restricting ourselves, we stop our flow and stifle our creativity. Like I've said, some of my earlier stories have lacked some of the things mentioned, and it was down to forcing my writing to come, instead letting it take me. When I started reading this review, the first sentence read "One of the problems that sometimes develops with Weechester" and I thought, Oh no...lol
Then I said…Phew! Though criticism is always welcome, it’s always a better feeling to get the thumbs up ;)
And then I got to the middle, and it was even more enjoyable to read your review, to know that you expected to be disappointed, but was pleasantly surprised. I feel overwhelmed to have a reader truly enjoy this story, and recognize that it more to do with the boys relationship than the game itself! The fact that my goal to show they were normal boys who experienced some normality in between their 'abnormal childhood' shined through for you, makes me blush...
It's an achievement to write Sam and Dean...not two boys with everything the same, except their voices! Thank you for the boost.
Then on top of all of that you found it funny and believable *Grins* I'm happy that my sense of humour is shared with the readers, because I was literally laughing while writing it.
"the author deserves high praise."
I'm so humbled by your words and all your compliments to my writing and the story "Daredevils" It is one of my favourite stories, so I'm glad you were captured by it and pleased of the outcome, I am truly touched by your high praise.
Stars too...you spoil me. LOL
Thank you, Bounce
“It’s okay, Dean,” John reassured his oldest son. “Sammy will be fine. We’ll figure it out. Why don’t you go back to bed?” Dean shook his head yes, but remained planted where he stood next to John’s bed, holding his little brother’s limp hand in his... (A wee!chester story)
Categories: General, Wee!chester, Humor, Misc Characters: None
Chapters: 7 Completed: Yes Word count: 17616
[Report This] Published: 04/05/08 Updated: 06/07/09
Reviewer: Bounce Signed
Date: 01/06/08 Title: Chapter 3: First Test
As I mentioned elsewhere, I don't generally like to review things that are incomplete. That said, so far what you have here is really superb.
You have managed to capture the characters and keep them true to what we know and therefore recognizable, even while taking them back to what they were BEFORE we knew them. That takes skill in a writer. Kudos.
Also, I have to agree with the reviewer who mentioned John kissing his boys on the head. It is a small detail, but well placed. We already know from the episode "Home" that John Winchester "doted" on his boys. There is no reason to believe that after he gave his life over to hunting - especially when the boys were young - that anything would have changed that.
By adding that small detail you subtly kept your story linked to the show's mythology. That demonstrates a real eye for detail on your part and helps the reader stay linked to characters that he knows.
Very nicely done. Keep it up.
I am very flattered that you took the time to write such a complimentary and detailed review of my story so far. I know many writers like to paint John in a more negative light, but I like to believe that as important as finding the yellow eyed demon was, he never forgot about the love he had for his boys. It's fun to write about all of the characters when they were younger and I'm glad that you are really enjoying the story.
Reviewer: Bounce Signed
Date: 01/06/08 Title: Chapter 3: First Test
To Lia 76 - I hope that it is not inappropriate to respond to an author's response in this fashion, but I really wanted to add that I think you struck gold with your insight into John Winchester and that it is what makes your story work so well.
(That and the fact that you managed to brilliantly fit the personalities we have come to know so well into two growing boys. Outstanding.)
The boys could not have turned out as they did - their deep concern for each other and their commitment to hunting - if John had not been a good father. He did what he did because he had to avenge his wife and because he came face to face with a dark reality that most men never see.
In fact, when you think of how he could have easily left the boy's behind, you see what he was really trying to do. He went on the hunt because he was both driven by grief and because, ex-Marine that he was, he saw a terrible threat that had to be faced. In this connection, he raised the boys to face a terrible darkness. They paid a price for it, but it also protected them from a deadly danger. (In fact, it is Sam who suffers because he turned away from what his father had taught them.)
What John Winchester did, he did out of love and not out of obsession or self-indulgence. By the way, you also capture Dean's love of his family very well, too.
Anyhow, I am prattling on for a person who said that he did not like to review incomplete work, but the more I thought about it, the more impressed I became. You demonstrate some real psychological insight and out of the box thinking. That is what separates the good fiction writer from just the average, and you really deserve high praise.
You have a bit to go yet, and lots good go off the track, but thus far you really have me hooked and I look forward to further installments and the opportunity to review the completed work.
Author's Response: I don't think it was at all inappropriate for you to respond to my response to your review. I LOVE to hear from readers and all too often there are no reviews or reviews don't give enough detail. So bravo to you for taking the time to give that to me. So "prattle" away if that's what you want to call it, but that communication really drives us writers to keep posting AND make what we post worth posting. I'll try hard to stay on track with John, the boys, and the plot of my story. I agree with your take on them as well. You said that I have some psychological insight? My interest in people lead me to a career in social work and those of us in that type of field have seen a lot...which does help when writing fan fiction.
Reviewer: Bounce Signed
Date: 03/06/08 Title: Chapter 3: First Test
To Lia 76 - Thanks. and believe me, I am happy to "prattle on." I just was not sure that turning the review section into my own personal e-mail was appropriate or fair to other readers. That said, please be assured that when you complete this story that I will give it a full and extended review.
If I am any judge of these things, and I have 20 years experience in politics and political writing, so I hope that I at least have some qualifications, you have some real talent here. You may have gleaned your insights from your experience in social work, but it takes skill to translate that into a compelling story.
A story is not just plot, but characterization - which is where many writers go wrong. Your characterizations are incredibly effective. I don't want to give anything away of what I plan to say in my completed review, but just to cite one point, I look at your opening vignette of Dean at Sam's bedside and go "Wow!" Superficially, that is a very simple and straightforward scene, but there is some incredibly deep insight there in its handling of both Dean and John - and you have not even yet integrated it into the story!! (I don't want to give away yet what I see in that scene, but it is amazingly effective and links very well to what we know of the characters as portrayed in the show.)
Bottom line, it is not easy to take very well known characters, alter them just enough to make them fresh and different and yet keep them recognizable - all the while adding depth and heart to the portrayal. That is a real writer's hat trick and I say again, while any writer can lose a thread and maybe not meet the promise of his or her potential, I see no signs of that here and I am hooked and waiting eagerly for the next installment.
Another tag to No Rest For The Wicked. The first hour after midnight. Just thought that with Dean gonewhat would be the first thing that Sam would do and this is what has come to mind.
Mr Kripe I mildly hate you for letting my boy go to Hell, even for a little while.
I own nothing
Categories: General, One Shots, Missing Scenes Characters: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 556
[Report This] Published: 23/05/08 Updated: 23/05/08
Reviewer: Bounce Signed
Date: 08/08/08 Title: Chapter 1: After Midnight
It is difficult to do proper justice to “After Midnight, “a description of the hours immediately after the death of Dean Winchester in the Supernatural episode, “No Rest for the Wicked.” (NRFTW) In truth, not a lot happens. Yet, this is a one shot – more actually a vignette - whose incredible depth rests paradoxically in its silence and in the simplicity of its action.
To truly grasp the power of “After Midnight” , it is necessary to point out the flaw in the episode that inspired it. “No Rest for the Wicked” was an episode that admittedly upset a lot of Supernatural fans and kept many others on the edge of their seats, but emotionally, it was unexpectedly thin and it left the viewer without that sense of poignancy that many experienced with Sam Winchester’s death in “All Hell Breaks Loose” (AHBL).
In NRFTW, there was at the climactic scene a quick shift from Sam’s grief to the scene of Dean in hell. In and of itself, the shift to the scene of Dean in hell was a mistake. Dean’s fate should have been left to the viewer’s imagination. However, what is more relevant here is that by shifting so quickly from Sam to Dean, the viewer was deprived of not only what would undoubtedly been some powerful acting by Jared Padalecki, but was also denied the emotional connection to Sam. Torn between grief and horror, the story produced neither. The result was that a lot of air went out of the emotional bubble, and most critically that appreciation for the connection between the brothers was lost.
To some extent, this was unavoidable and one sympathizes with the difficulty that the screenwriters of NRFTW faced. To simply repeat the emotional scenes such as those that viewers saw of Dean in AHBL was a non-starter. Beyond that, the screenwriters were faced with the fact that they are writing about the only family in TV history who all died - and lived to tell about it. That’s tough to write out of, and so the result was a disconnect and separation from Sam. A separation probably amplified if not foreordained by Mr. Kripke’s oft repeated reluctance to get too “wussy” and “chick flick” with his characters
This is where “After Midnight” steps in. The author gives us back Sam and it is as powerful as any moment in Supernatural fan fiction. One almost wishes it could have been portrayed on the screen.
The characterization is perfect. This is not Dean in a Sam suit – screaming “What am I supposed to do,” and running off half cocked with a wild plan. Instead we have Sam, quiet and self-contained and in emotional turmoil.
The author brilliantly gives effect to that emotional turmoil by providing absolutely no dialogue. There are no quotes in “After Midnight.” What conversation there is, between Bobby and Sam at the opening, is brief and told in the omniscient voice. The silence is never broken and that gives to the poignancy of the vignette a depth and profundity that dialogue could never have evoked.
That is why, in no small measure, “After Midnight,” although one wishes it could have been portrayed on the screen, the truth is that it simply would not work there. The emotions are too powerful and the actions are too sublime, to be conveyed in actual images. One senses that seeing “After Midnight” on the screen, it would have seemed too awkward and too discomforting. The purity of the emotions would have been lost in the seeming superficiality of the action.
The author of “After Midnight” notes that there is no angst in the vignette, only sadness. That is almost certainly wrong. There is anguish in this small story deeper and more profound than in fan fiction twice its length.
This is unblinking bleakness and total abandonment. This is profound pain and unimaginable grief. This is the unspeakable agony of loss and desperation. This is an attempt to “make vivid that which cannot be revived,” not out of morbid self-indulgence, but out of a deep loneliness that comes when the bonds of brotherhood and friendship are irretrievably severed. Most of all, though, this is, in the written word, about love – a love pierced to the heart, yet a love that endures and transcends pain and loss. A love given expression, and therefore life amid death, in a few simple actions of tenderness and compassion.
What sets Supernatural apart from other similar “horror” shows is its focus on family, the ties of brotherhood and the love and loyalty we owe to our past. In a mere handful of words “After Midnight” brings the reader back to that bedrock foundation of the show, a foundation that, perhaps unavoidably, was lost in the last few minutes of NRFTW. The effect of “After Midnight” is both agonizingly painful and, its own way, sublime.
Most of all though, and far more importantly, it is beautiful.
James, first of all thank you for taking the time to sit and write such an in depth review to this story.
Sam had a whole year to think about this moment but having time to prepare for someone's death is I always feel worse than to lose that person suddenly. Dean reaction in AHBL was just that, a reaction, no real though to what he was doing behind it, the crossroads deal was secondary to Dean's need to have his brother with him, and in a way Sam's death was more about Dean's sense of loss than it was about Sam's death.
The writer's probably did not want to repeat that and therefore I felt that Dean's death was more about where Dean was sent rather than Sam's loss and Sam's loss was important.
Sam had a full long year (apart from the part that was torn from us with the writer's strike) to think about what his brother had done for him and time to try and find someway to stop him dying. It was his inability to find an out for Dean that made me write this. Dean wanted to stop the deal but more importantly he didn't want Sam to die so as a consequence Sam was left watching the clock tick down, unable to do anything for his brother because Dean wouldn't let him. Nobody let him. He then had to watch as Dean died.
I wanted to give Sam that chance to do something for his brother, to fufil his need to help Dean and this, the tending to his body after death was perhaps the only thing, as I saw, it that was left to Sam. I didn't want Sam to speak because the person that Sam would normally share his thoughts with was Dean and Dean was dead. I solely wanted this to be about Sam's final attempt to look after and tend to his brother.
The last line was written because I truly believed that Sam's would have been in hell, he had let the brother than had always protected him and looked after him die, and die for him to live.
Thank you again for the kind review. Mary x
Dean just wanted Sam to unwind. A night out ends in a disaster of a decidedly non-supernatural nature. A Teenchesters short story. Rated for strong language and gritty issues.
Categories: General, Wee!chester Characters: None
Chapters: 3 Completed: Yes Word count: 12075
[Report This] Published: 18/06/08 Updated: 23/06/08
Reviewer: Bounce Signed
Date: 23/06/08 Title: Chapter 3: Our dark spots are pretty dark
There's a reason for tradition, or so the saying goes. Yes, and there is a reason for dramatic formulas. It is becasue, when they work, they can give the reader an insight into characters that might otherwise be lost in more unconventional storylines.
Altered State is, to say no more, a formula story. There is almost no turn in the plot that a reader cannot see coming a mile down the road. However, in this case, that is not a criticism. It is a read well worth the time, and it shows that even the Winchesters had a normal life - well, sort of - and that training to be a Hunter is not necessarily a defense against human recklesness, immaturity and cruelty.
Given what the Winchesters do for a living, any story that grounds them in the reality of normal life should be considered a plus. Part of what makes the boys engaging is that they are ordinary men with an extraordinary mission. However, that quality of ordinariness often gets lost in the bizzare tales on Supernatural. Stories like Altered State mitigate against that tendency.
However, if the story of Altered State works as formula, its Achille's Heel is charcterization. Not, oddly enough, of the supporting characters, who are reasonably well drawn for supporting players. Rather, it is Sam and Dean who do not shine, leaving the reader with a vague sense that something is a more familiar than it ought to be.
Part of the difficulty with writing "Weechester/Teenchester" stories is that the author is always stuck on the horns of a dilemma. He has to develop his Sam and Dean in such a way that they are recognizable, but yet has to keep in mind that they are not yet the men they will become and therefore have to be different.
This is also important for engaging the reader. Sam and Dean have to be subtly different, otherwise the reader will quickly realize that he is reading about a grown Sam and a grown Dean with, in effect, a "teenager" label slapped on their foreheads.
That is where Aleterd State falls a bit flat. Sam is everything we expect him to be. Shy, intellectual, studious and torn between the life he leads and the life he wants to lead. Even the story's revelation about Sam is not without antecedent (or is it precedent?) We have seen Sam get drunk while "on the job," (see "Playthings,") so the twist in the story is less striking than might be supposed.
Similarly, Dean is the Dean we already know. Cavalier, protective, hot tempered. It is all 100% Dean Winchester.
This is best illustrated in the way Dean deals with Sam's tormentor. Dean executes a clever plan that would have been perfectly consistent with the disciplined forethought of a mature 30 year old with years of experience under his belt. However, it is less plausible coming from an angry 20 year old. Twenty year olds simply are not that disciplined and controlled - especially less so in the case of Dean, whose impulsive nature as an adult is already a recurring theme of the show.
Therein lay the problem. While teenaged Winchesters will be more similar to their future selves than would, say for example, pre-school Winchesters, there should still be differences. Those differences are harder to bring out, but they require illustration both for purposes of dramatic development and because otherwise we are not reading a "Teenchester" story, but simply another Winchester story.
This is, in so many words, the problem with Altered State. The readers simply should not know these charcaters as well as we do. Because we do, the formula aspect of the plot serves no purpose. We don't see anything different, but rather we see Sam and Dean, only in this case, the monsters are teen agers, so to speak.
Happily, there is one tremendous exception to this failing in Altered State. The portrayal of John Winchester is nothing short of extraordinary.
It would have been so easy to portray John Winchester as the warrior automaton that so much fan fiction makes him out to be. Instead, what the author gives us is a John Winchester who is a tough, driven, but loving and compasionate father. Where the author could have made John a drill sargeant, she instead makes him a three dimensional dad reacting in the way any loving father would.
This the author brings out expertly in small scenes and vignettes. (Nothing beats in the whole story the moment when John kisses his unconscious son's forehead. There is more charcaterization in that single moment than in almost whole of the rest of the story.) Kudos to the author who shows that her portrayal of Sam and Dean is not the product of a lack of skill or talent.
To sum it up, John Winchester is "into" this story, while Sam and Dean seem to be a bit just going through the motions. Still, just for the portrayal of John Winchester alone, the author elevated what might have been an acceptable story into a genuinely good one.
In her response to one of her other reviewers, the author admits that she is more comfortable with Mr. Kripke's characters than with developing her own. One suspects that this is the root of the issue.
Because the author is more comfortable with Sam and Dean, she is less challenegd by them and therefore less inclined to push the dramatic envelope. (John is a Kripke character, but not much developed in the show and therefore the author takes more liberties.) Consequently, we get what we already know, but nothing more.
Still, one should not be too hard on the author. It is hard with two such iconic characters to tweak them, and adding in the age factor of the story, even some of the best Hollywood writers would have had a tough time. (If you want to see professionals mess up characterization, see three of the four post-writer's strike episodes of Supernatural.) So the author has nothing to be ashamed of.
To the general reader, Altered State is a workmanlike take on the life of Sam and Dean Winchester the way they were, so to speak, and a useful reminder that there is life outside of Hunting. That we are seeing Sam and Dean pretty much as the charcaters we already know is a weakness to be sure. But hey, there are worse things than seeing the boys in action, and it has made Mr. Kripke a lot of money after all, right?
*is gobsmacked*. Thank you for your constructive and extremely well thought-out feedback. I always ask for story feedback and you’ve not disappointed.
Firstly, in the cold light of day, I totally agree with your point about my characterisation of teen Sam and Dean. With Sam in particular, I feel especially keen now to attempt a story which focuses more on his character as a youngster and fleshes him out beyond the studious, shy teen we can all easily imagine him to have been. The problem with Altered State is that it was originally intended as a one-shot which (as I found out) was never going to happen. But I kept it as a short story – and this only allows for so much character study focus or else the plot never moves forward ...anyway that’s an excuse I guess.
However, I disagree about Dean’s actions in relation to Carl. I could imagine a young Dean doing something so restrained as beating the shit out of Carl and then having the cops pick him up – I don’t see that as a particularly clever plan (mainly because I thought of it). With Dean’s life experience and no doubt, with all the hunting, he’ll have been faced with seeing Sam injured before. I like to believe Dean would have a sense of maturity at twenty-one beyond that of people twice his age especially considering he’ll have faced more than horrors than most battle weary soldiers. Therefore it doesn’t strike me as odd that he would think out his actions and exact revenge in the way that he does in this story. It might have been interesting and ultimately more satisfying to see him totally lose it. But I think that would have been doing his character a disservice, Dean’s smarter than that and again, out on a hunt if Sam were injured by something supernatural, I could see Dean using his head, experience and instincts to ensure the creature (or whatever) is exterminated.
The Teenchester setting served in this story to show that Sam was at an age where Stanford was becoming a distinct possibility for him and therefore, in a fashion, gave him motive for taking pills – which is a bloody hard thing to sell at any rate. Anyway as I’ve said, I totally take your point about the Teenchester characterisation and that is something I shall take away with me and hopefully learn from. I certainly agree that because I am undeniably more comfortable with Kripke’s take on Sam and Dean that I didn’t attempt to make them my own – whereas I did feel a strange sense of license to ‘play with’ John’s character more. That you have so astutely focused on that has been a real eye opener to me because I would never have recognised it in my own writing. A very valuable lesson learned.
I only started writing fanfic, of any kind, in December 2007 and am working hard on improving as a writer. I certainly ‘miss’ more than I ‘hit’ and yet feel like I am learning. Your comments are refreshing, (and as I’ve already said) valuable and eye-opening so thank you for the time and effort you have taken. Liz x
Summary: A Wee!Chester oneshot. Four-year-old Dean struggles to understand exactly what's going on during that awful night-- November 2, 1983.
Categories: Wee!chester, One Shots Characters: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 2267
[Report This] Published: 22/06/08 Updated: 22/06/08
Reviewer: Bounce Signed
Date: 25/06/08 Title: Chapter 1: Back Into the Flames
It is arguable that the hardest Supernatural fan fiction to write, and the kind that requires the most skill, is "Weechester/Teenchester" fiction. This is because the writer is always faced with the problem of making the charcaters recognizable to fans who know the characters. Yet at the same time the writer must make Sam and Dean sufficiently different both to reflect the fact that the boys are not yet the men they will become, and simply because the author has to find a way to keep the reader interested. Not an easy thing to pull off.
Add into that tweaking one of the most iconic moments in all of Supernatural fandom - the death of Mary Winchester - and you begin to appreciate just what an accomplishment "Where's Mommy," a "weechester one-shot" truly is. It is an almost perfect angle on what is certainly Supernatural's most pivotal moment. One that manages to capture the flavor of the show while giving the reader a fresh and interesting take on what should be well trod ground.
"Where's Mommy" fills in an interesting moment in time and answers the question of just what did happen in those immediate moments and hours after the famous fire that launched the Winchester family on its poignant yet bizzare trajectory. In it, the author shows what happens as Dean and John watch their lives go up in an untherworldly blaze and explores the immediate "shock effect" that it has on both. An effect that will reverberate for the rest of their lives.
This is truly fascinating ground and requires an enormous attention to detail. The author cannot alter in any significant way what fans of the show know down to the molecular level - and who will not be charitable toward an author who is too frivolous with dogma. In this, the author is completely succesful by in effect, weaving in and out of those moments that readers saw first as viewers of the show. Consequently, what is new is blended with what is not, thereby satisfying both reader loyalty to "holy writ" and the need to bring something different to the table.
As plot, it blends seemlessly and the reader finds himself thinking - as the reader should think when reading a Weechester piece - "Oh, that's what happened." The quickest way to know that a Weechester story has failed is if the reader is suddently reminded, in the midst of reading a story, of something in the show that it is inconsistent with the story. In "Where's Mommy" that never happens and it is a real tribute to the author's skill.
Another tribute is the author's deft handling of characterization. Typically, "one shots" are, for obvious reasons, somewhat weak in that department, but not this time. The John and Dean Winchester we see in "Where's Mommy" are recognizable as the characters we will come to know, but not dogmatically so.
In the author's rendering we can see John Winchester the trained ex-Marine, but also the doting father we are told that he was in season one's episode "Home." We see this in John's authoritative tone of voice with Dean, and also as he nervously changes baby Sam's diaper as a way to link his mind to the normal as his world goes up in flames. We also see it John's insistent pleas to the firefighter when Dean's gone missing.
The contrast is expertly portrayed. This is a man who is capable of taking charge, but he is also still the family man whose world has not yet been shaped by the experiences to come.
The handling of little Dean is as equally deft. This is a four year old boy, but he demonstrates in small ways those qualities of loyalty and courage that will become not just marked, but central, to the man that Dean becomes.
Experts will argue whether it is nature or nurture that is most predominant in the shaping of human character, but the author of "Where's Mommy" is not in doubt. It is nature that triumphs and little Dean shows all the courage, ingenuity and loyalty that will be his trademark charcteristics by bravely going back into the fire to find the mother he loves. Dean is portrayed as a four year old, but there is just enough there to see the man he will become.
Indeed, similarly, it is not hard to imagine how John will nurture these very traits in his son as he sets out on the path that will change their lives. Moreover, it is possible to see that he will do this out of not obsession, but out of the love and compassion that guides him as he comforts Dean in the hospital after the fire.
It meshes brilliantly and in "Where's Mommy" the lingering clouds of the future are captured without the author ever bludgeoning the reader over the head. From little Dean's bedside, it is possible to imagine, without being told, what the future will bring.
For all of that, "Where's Mommy" has a few arguable flaws. The author well prortrays John Winchester in the emotional turmoil of the fire, but the impact about seeing his wife floating on the ceiling is seemingly missing. To be sure, amidst the chaos it is not something John would have dwelt upon. Still. it is not something that would not have escaped an ex-Marine's attention, either.
Especially since the story is told in the third person omnicient, it would have been more realistic to have thrown in a line something to the effect of John thinking, in passing, "Did I just see what I saw? This kind of thing does not happen, must be from the smoke.." and then dismissing it as he deals with the immediate problems. In a moment of tumult and desperation, such random thoughts would not be unusual.
Also, the portrayal of the firefighter is a bit odd. Firefighters are trained not to be dismissive of the potential for people - especially children - to be trapped in buildings. A trained firfighter would not dismiss John, but would immediately begin to question him. Still, for dramatic effect, it works and I cheerfully concede what the authour would be right to charge: "You could not have done it better." Nope, I probably would not have.
Finally, as regards Dean, everything works except for his response when John tells him definitively that Mary will "not be coming back.' The author has Dean scream before he withdraws into himself. There is nothing absolutely wrong with this, per se. Still, one wishes that authors could resist the dramatic scream just once in a while. (Nothing so ruined Dean's eloquent soliloquy over Sam's body in AHBL Part II as his scream at the end, "What am I supposed to do?" Up to that point, it was brilliant. After that, overwrought.)
The conclusion to "Where's Mommy" would have been no less effective, indeed would have been more so, had Dean simply hugged his father first and sobbed, and then simply pulled out of his father's embrace and turned away. Same ending, but a different tweak and, at least debatably, more realistic. This is, after all, a boy who was brave enough to venture into a burning house. Such toughness does not seem consistent with an outburst.
To be sure, we know that Dean will be the more emotional of the two brothers. Still, we also know that Dean will be the one who hides it better. Both in current context, and with regard to the character that readers will come to know, a SLIGHTLY more subdued reaction would have worked better.
That said, all of these complaints are trivial - indeed, are at best debatable. They do not detract from a well done story, but are merely suggestions that would have added that "little bit more."
Regardless, the bottom line remains: Who needs a little bit more when you have this much in such a small package? This is one author who gives you more bang for the buck, and one "short" that really stands tall.
Thank you for your in depth review. I appreciate both your kind words and your critique of various perceived flaws.
Regarding a couple of your observations/mild criticisms, I’d just like to mention a couple of things.
1. With John not dwelling on the horror/oddity of seeing Mary burning on the ceiling, I think my mindset was that he was in complete and utter shock and hadn’t really absorbed everything he saw or experienced that night. That would come crashing in a little later when the immediate drama ended and the night grew quiet once more. It is possible that I could have portrayed that a little better, but all in all, I’m still happy with it.
2. The firefighter—I was attempting to portray the firefighter as skeptical for a few seconds as to the possibility that Dean would have somehow gotten past them all when they’re stationed at both doors and gone back inside the house. I know they wouldn’t question the possibility of someone being trapped when they first arrived, they would immediately begin a search. Perhaps the portrayal here is somewhat inaccurate; it is hard to say not having firsthand experience. However, that being said, I have written a lot of firefighter fanfic and have had it read often by actual firefighters who’ve told me that I do a pretty realistic job of portraying them. Admittedly though, I didn’t have any of them read this particular scene.
3. Dean’s scream? I understand what you’re getting at. In my head though, it just seems like a four-year-old would have a dramatic, angry, and somewhat violent, reaction like that. I merely went with what was “screaming” in my head.
All in all, you had many, many nice things to say about this oneshot and I truly appreciate it. Again, thank you for taking the time to read and leave a review.
Banner by me
While investigating a mysterious illness, Sam becomes a victim. Dean and John race against time to find the culprit and save the youngest member of their family. Pre-Series. Dean is 17, Sam 13. Hurt Sam, Angsty protective Dean and John
Categories: General, Wee!chester Characters: None
Chapters: 5 Completed: Yes Word count: 16483
[Report This] Published: 18/07/08 Updated: 20/09/08
Reviewer: Bounce Signed
Date: 18/07/08 Title: Chapter 1: Chapter 1
So far very good. I make it a point not to review pieces that are incomplete, but I wanted you to know that this looks very promising. You have a very strong sense for your characters and the relationship between the boys - as well as John. Nice job and keep it up.
Oh thank you so very much! Hearing I have them right means so much! I won't keep you wating long for updates, promise!
Reviewer: Bounce Signed
Date: 22/09/08 Title: Chapter 5: Chapter 5
The new season of “Supernatural” has begun. Dean is back from the dead, and Mr. Kripke, with that delightful “pulling the wings off of flies” sensibility that he brings to his creation, has already signaled ominous omens for the relationship between the Winchester brothers. That is why it is serendipitous that “De Miraculis Sui Temporis” (DMST) has come along. It is a piece of fan fiction that is not so much about Sam and Dean Winchester, as it is a moving tribute to the relationship between two brothers and how it gives them the strength to face the powerful evil arrayed against them.
It might seem strange to refer to a “Teenchester” story as a tribute, but in fact it is an accurate description. For in truth, not a very great deal happens in DMST. In very brief compass, thirteen year old Sam is stricken by a mysterious illness that progresses rapidly and has taken the lives of a number of other children. John Winchester determines that the cause of the affliction is a supernatural entity, and goes off with Bobby to destroy the creature, while 17 year old Dean stays behind to comfort and nurse his stricken younger sibling.
Paradoxically, the monster element of the story works out to be no more than a subplot, effectively taking John and Bobby out of the way so as to explore the depth of the relationship between Sam and Dean as the younger Winchester faces death. This is an unusual approach that may leave some readers a bit befuddled, but as a dramatic technique it proves surprisingly, if counter-intuitively, effective because it allows the reader to explore the motives of each of the three characters.
With John Winchester there is the fight between his paternal instincts and his need to hunt down a force that is killing not only his child, but many other innocent children. There is a tendency in some fan fiction to portray John as an indifferent father and ruthless automaton. However, in DMST, with the monster element in the background, John’s dilemma takes on a surprising reality. It is not so much what John is doing on the hunt, it is the fact that to do what he needs to do, he must leave behind the son he loves.
Had the monster story been more to the fore, invariably the reader’s focus would have been on how John attempts to save Sam. By making the hunt a subplot, DMST gives sharp relief to John’s dilemma. Interestingly, it is a dilemma that fathers (and many mothers) face every day, if not in quite such a dramatic way. Namely, that of leaving the family they love behind to go out into the work world. Brilliantly, the author has made the eldest Winchester seem human and real and all the more poignant and heroic for it because, its macabre nature notwithstanding, John’s choice is a choice many of us share have to make, too.
Just as John’s anguish is given powerful reality, Dean’s situation is even more profoundly illustrated. The author again shows incredible insight. Many writers would have Dean chomping at the bit to go out and hunt down the beast suspected to be killing his brother. The author of DMST tries something different. Intuitively she understands that Dean’s role is to hold the family together and that therefore his motives are more conflicted.
Dean understands the need for his father to go out on the hunt and ultimately he acquiesces to it. However, that does not stop Dean from arguing with John, begging his father to stay behind so that the three of them can be together. Echoing across the argument is the line that Dean will utter in the season one episode, “Salvation:” “The three of us. We’re all we have. We’re all I have.” While Dean knows that his father’s choice is the right one, it conflicts with his instinct to hold the family together and it is breathtakingly painful to read.
The rest of the story then turns on Dean’s efforts to comfort his brother. Here we have Dean not as mediator, but as protector. At one level this becomes just a series of touching conversations between the brothers and a few small and otherwise nondescript actions. Dean takes his brother for a ride in the Impala. Sam complains about his brother’s choice in television programs. Sam, even as he struggles for breath, attempts to make jokes and humor Dean, knowing the older brother is always uncomfortable with the dreaded “chick flick” moment. At the same time, Dean finds different ways to engage his younger brother’s inquisitive mind and to be that source of strength that John’s circumstances do not allow him to be for his youngest.
Each brother tries to be strong for the other and at the same time each struggles to find ways to reach out in sympathy to his sibling. The effect is not just deeply emotional, but it becomes an exploration of the elements of brotherly love and the strength that it can give.
What makes this especially remarkable however is that the author is not really successful is conveying the “voice” of the brothers. As always in “Weechester/Teenchester” fiction, the problem is how to make the brothers recognizable, yet take account of the fact that they have not yet grown into the men that they will become. Most writers approach this problem by attempting to replicate in dialogue the way Sam and Dean “sound,” and then attempt to tweak it to account for the boy’s age in the story.
The author of DMST does this to some degree, with the typical Winchester banter and the mandatory “bitch/jerk” exchanges duly appearing in the story. However, it does not stand out and there are moments when, at least in terms of voice, the brothers almost sound, if not interchangeable with each other, at least not distinctively themselves. This should be a flaw, but instead, the author attempts something far more surprising and daring.
In effect, she uses action to convey character. So yes, Dean may not sound exactly like Dean, but in everything he does the reader is left in no doubt that it is Dean we are seeing. In effect, we know Dean not because we hear him, but by seeing him. The skill it took to make this work is remarkable and the author deserves high praise for executing such a complex literary maneuver. While this could have been a disaster, she manages to pull it off like a pro. It could have flopped. It definitely does not.
DMST has other weaknesses. The monster subplot gets perhaps more space than it deserves and is almost a bit of a cheat. After all the time spent on it, the story’s resolution does not really depend on anything that happens in the course of the hunt. The reader is given numerous theories and leads and a requisite scary moment or two, but in the end, they don’t matter all that much. Thus, while keeping the hunt as subplot works in the end to give the story its power, as part of the story itself it is a bit of a distraction.
Similarly, the resolution to the story turns on the improbability that Sam would never have had the occasion in ten whole years to tell his brother just what it was that ultimately saved Sam’s life when all seemed lost. Given that, at a minimum, it is unlikely that John would have left the mystery of his son’s recovery unexplored, no matter how much he would have been relieved by it, this is one detail that just fails to ring true
That said, this second false step is one for which the reader should be grateful. Because it sets up what has to be one of the most elegant and moving resolutions ever in “Supernatural” fan fiction.
DMST concludes by flashing forward ten years later as Dean and Sam are travelling back through the area where 13 year old Sam had come close to death. It is getting on in the evening, and the brothers visit a farm to which Dean had taken Sam to cheer him up in the days when it did not look like Sam would live. The farmer who had been there a decade ago is still there and welcomes the boys amiably. One of the animals that Sam had played with still lives and happily greets his now grown former companion. The crickets chirp, and as in the words of C.S. Lewis, golden evening light pours a dreamlike mildness over the world and “light seemed to be a liquid that you could drink.”
There is peace and for a time the brothers are not struggling against the forces of darkness, but are seemingly alone and safe, for however brief a time, in the pleasure of each other’s company. In that moment, as they reminisce, Sam has occasion to tell his older brother how it was that Dean’s love and strength saved him from demonic forces. In that moment, the power of the brother’s bond is given dramatic witness.
It is a riveting scene in its quiet beauty and it highlights not just the relationship between Sam and Dean, but in the end it reaffirms what “Supernatural” is really all about. We are assured no protection from evil, and our past points the way to our duty. Yet love endures, and when we commit ourselves without reservation to the good of the other, the gates of hell will not prevail against us.
At the moment, when all does not seem to bode well for Sam and Dean and the future of their relationship, DMST is a potent reminder. It brings us back to just what that relationship has meant to the Winchester boys – and strangely, to us as well.
Thank you so much! I'm sorry I've taken so long to reply to your review, but I was digesting and rereading and basking. I actually printed it out, it came at an odd time and well, moved another writing project along.
I think the core of the show is the relationship between the boys. Sometimes I think Kripke has strayed from his vision just a little. The characters as flesh and blood people with hopes and fears and love and all the things that make us human are getting lost in this overwhelmingly large story arc. I was thinking about it the other day, trying to express what it means to me. I think what missing sometimes are the little moments, the small choices that save a life and in the end save the world. Not big things, but the small Love, devotion, brotherhood. Nothing big, but those things change the world.
I try and put some of that into my stories, even the silly ones. I was thinking (forgive me, I'm about to make a Star Wars reference) about Luke/Han and Sam/Dean. Kripke has mentioned this comparison himself, and when you think about it, in light of those characters, it is the small choices for love and devotion that changed the galaxy. Han returned to fight beside his friends, Luke chose to end his battle with Vader because of his love for his father, which led to Vader saving his son... which led to the end of the Empire. Small choices changing the world. So too it should be with Sam and Dean. It is their relationship, that has always moved the story along. I miss it.
Thank you again for you very kind words. I am still stunned, but had to reply before anymore time slipped by.
Summary: Dean is back from hell and he and Sam are on the road again. But while on a haunt the bump into a girl Sam knew back in High School, his very first girlfriend, while struggling to solve the haunt his mind goes back to his High School years, how he met her and why his father did not like their relationship. Sexual content in future chapters.
Categories: Romance, Wee!chester Characters: None
Chapters: 6 Completed: No Word count: 6069
[Report This] Published: 07/08/08 Updated: 23/08/08
Reviewer: Bounce Signed
Date: 09/08/08 Title: Chapter 3: Chapter 1 : Reunion
As a general rule, I refrain from commenting on incomplete stories, and as you have very little here as yet in terms of plot, I confess that I don't have much to say in any case.
That said, however, I do wish to compliment you on your handling of Sam and Dean. You have quite competently captured their tone, as well as the atmosphere of the show, generally. Pretty impressive so far and I hope you can keep it up.
The hard part will be the flashbacks. Weechester/Teenchester stories are tough because the characters are not yet the men they will become. So you have to make them different, and yet still recognizable as Sam and Dean. We have to see in the boys the men they will become but are not yet. That takes skill, but the indications are you've got the talent.
Best of luck.
By the way, I have been to Iceland, and found it a fascinating and uniquely beautiful country. I really look forward to your incorporation of Icelandic lore into the story. (Which I understand it involves elves and trolls if I remember correctly.) I bet that is something that even the great Mr. Kripke never thought of and it should be very interesting.
Again, keep up the good work and best of luck. This, as I said, looks very promising.
Author's Response: Thanks a lot. And yes, Icelandic lore involves mostly elves and trolls. Especially elves. Some places are actually forbidden to be disturbed by law because elves are believed to live there :)
Reviewer: Bounce Signed
Date: 22/08/08 Title: Chapter 6: Chapter 4 Consequences
You seem to be having some technical difficulties. Your "Characters" chapter is blank and your last two chapters are exactly the same. Hope you can fix all of this as you still seem to be on track for a good story.
Summary: A Saturday morning their dad kicks Sam and DEan out of the apartment to go play at a park, and chaous ensues.
Categories: One Shots, Wee!chester Characters: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 1825
[Report This] Published: 11/09/08 Updated: 11/09/08
Reviewer: Bounce Signed
Date: 13/09/08 Title: Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Every now and then a reviewer comes across a story that he aches to give high praise, and yet cannot. He reads the work of an author whom he has come to appreciate, and upon whom therefore he wants nothing more than to heap laud and honor. It is that moment when the reviewer's heart and the reviewer's head come most into conflict, and produces only angst for both critic who writes, and writer who is written about.
That is the problem "Wheel-of-Torture" presents to me. It is a good story by a good writer, but it lacks just one teensy-weensy little something that makes or breaks it as a story. So, before proceeding, let me apologize for what follows. It gives me no joy.
Cards on the table, based on what I have seen so far, I like Sharpshooter as a writer. He has a good grasp of the skill it takes to draw pictures with words. He takes care to build his scenes slowly and with attention to detail, and he has the surest sense of pacing and timing of any "Supernatural" fan fiction writer I've yet to come across. When he's good, he's good.
A step further - "Wheel of Torture" is good. Not great. Not spectacular, but solid and eminently readable. It is the story of two boys going out to play on a Saturday afternoon while their father works. The boys get into a little trouble - nothing out of the ordinary and perfectly realistic - and it ends on a mildly humorous note. So what could be wrong with that?
Unfortunately, it has one small problem. Despite what it says, it is not a "Supernatural" fan fiction story. Replace the names John, Sam and Dean with Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, and you have the same story. This is the story of any two boys with any father on any busy Saturday afternoon, and therefore the reader who goes to a "Supernatural" fan fiction site is left wondering, "Why did I read this?"
Let me be clear, there is no better "Supernatural" fan fiction, when it is done right, than "Weechester" and "Teenchester" fan fiction. First, because it takes skill. In the best of it, the author has to make Sam and Dean recognizable to those who know them very well, yet they have to take account of the fact that these are boys who are not yet the men that they will become. So, consequently, they have to be both recognizable, yet different.
(For a superb example of this, see the fan fiction short entitled "Where's Mommy?". In the boy Dean we can see in embryo the qualities that will make him the man he will become.)
Furthermore, when done very right, "Weechester" and "Teenchester" stories show us not just how the boys became men, they explain the mythology of the show. They are stories not just about Sam and Dean, but about the show itself. They either hint at, or explain outright, how certain things in the show came to be.
An excellent example of this in fan fiction can be seen in the story "Westscott Preparatory Academy." This is story where the author offers a psychologically complex - if no doubt unorthodox and perhaps controversial - explanation of things like why Sam splits from his father and gets into Stanford, and why Dean seems to think so little of himself. It is a story where we learn about both the characters and the show itself.
However, there is an even better case for "Weechester" and "Teenchester" stories than the skill it takes to write them or the exposition they give us about the show. It is rather, that they make Sam and Dean human and therefore more accessible to the reader. In this, "Wee/Teenchester writers are on to something. When Sam and Dean are like us, we empathize with them in a way that their unusual lives might otherwise prevent.
By showing that Sam and Dean had normality in what was an otherwise abnormal life. By demonstrating how much like us they are, "Wee/Teenchester" stories help the reader to understand Sam and Dean at a profound level. For all the macabre elements in their lives, suddenly we can understand who they are and how they came to be, because in spite of everything, it is not impossible that we could be them.
(Side note: That is why I dislike the "Sam with superpowers" sub-plot of the show and why I am positively dreading the upcoming episode where Dean goes back in time to see how his parents met. The former makes Sam too non-human.
The latter, I fear, if - and it is an IF - it attributes some suupernatural events to the early years of John and Mary Winchester, will take away the thing that makes the Winchester boys most sympathetic. Specifically that they came from an ordinary family and were thrust into an extraordinary mission. Suddenly, we will not relate to the boys in the same way because they will no longer be like us.)
So what does all of this have to do with "Wheel of Torture?' Frankly, it is too much of a good thing. Yes, this is Sam and Dean as ordinary boys on an ordinary day, but that is all it is. Again, change the names and we get the same story. Consequently, the story can lay no real claim to being "Supernatural" fan fiction. It's a story about two boys. It is funny. It is even pretty well written. Still, it is not what it purports to be and therefore does not advance the reader's understanding of Sam, Dean or the show in any significant way.
Also, strangely, and unusually for the generally skilled Sharpshooter, the characterization in the story is weak. That is always a problem in "shorts," but as this story is so conventional it is a special problem in this case.
In the story, John is functionally not there. In fact, given that we know from the show that John was a doting father and also a bit rigorous, to say no more, in the discipline department, the notion that he let the boys idle away most of their Saturday mornings, except when he was busy on a hunt, seems a slight stretch. That is a debatable point, and by no means a fatal flaw, but it does sort of pop up as one reads the opening of the story.
As to Sam and Dean, there is not even the slightest hint of anything to make them distinctively themselves. Again, this is the hardest thing to pull off in "Wee/Teenchester" fiction, but it is still striking. The action of the story does not really lend itself to allowing the boys to manifest their personalities, but even the tone of voice was missing.
At one point, in fact, it almost becomes possible to lose track of which boy is speaking. This is further complicated by a bit of unevenness in the portryal of Sam. He seems to get older or younger as the moment requires.
For example, compare, "Hi, I'm Sam and my big brother is Dean," to "Oh, well you get my point." The former sounds to the ear like a little boy, the latter an older boy with a bit of a wit. Well beyond the "look at my big brother" tone of the earlier line.
In a story where action alone will not help to shape character in the reader's mind, this is not a small problem. Again, it is tough to pull off, so Sharpshooter should not be held to too high a standard. Yet, it remains a significant story weakness and in this case suggests that Sharpshooter's reach may have exceeded somewhat his normally considerable grasp.
The lesson here for all "Wee/teenchester" fans is that you cannot write too much for yourselves, but must keep in mind that you are writing for an audience that wants to read about "Supernatural" and its characters. This does not require that every story be about the supernatural, nor does it require that every story be serious - as an example see a short fan fiction piece called "Daredevils." However, what it does require is some attention to the detail of the show and some obvious link to the characters beyond writing about two boys who happened to be named "Sam" and "Dean."
At any rate, in this case, the bottom line regarding "Wheel of Torture" is, to borrow a line: I paid for "Supernatural" and didn't get "Supernatural!" A timeless story of playground antics? Yes, but just not a "Supernatural" story.
Wow, thank you so much for the time and effort you put into this review!
When I wrote this story, and even while I was posting it, I was wondering what the feeling in the pit of my stomach was when I thought of 'Wheel-of-Torture'. And BAM! you just explained it to me.
I understand where you're coming from when you say 'replace the names John, Sam and Dean with Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, and you have the same story' for it is very true. (By the way, love the Sesame Street usage.)
This is something I'll keep in the back of my mind whenever I'm writing, because it isimportant to make sure that the reader is enjoying a Supernatural story, and not just a tale about two brothers who have the same names as Sam and Dean Winchester.
Again, thank you for taking the time to review my sad excuse for a Supernatural story and being gentle with your critisims.
P.S. Oh, and your words about Westscott Preparatory Academy make me want to hurry along and finish reading the story!
Summary: John missed his children's voices.
Categories: Wee!chester Characters: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 261
[Report This] Published: 12/09/08 Updated: 12/09/08
Reviewer: Bounce Signed
Date: 13/09/08 Title: Chapter 1: Silence
If you think the life of a critic might be fun, days like this one would disabuse you of the notion. To have stumbled upon, twice in one week, as I have, stories of not inconsiderable quality, written by authors of seeming talent, and yet to have to write generally negative reviews of them is no fun. Sadly, that is the fate that must be bestowed on "Silence," a "Supernatural" fan fiction piece that reaches for the heart strings, but unfortunately cannot quite tug them.
"Silence" is a "short" that nominally covers the weeks immediately after the death of Mary Winchester. In it, four year old Dean has barely uttered a word in a month, and the story reflects on how John deals with his son's trauma and his own grief. Ultimately, John restores Dean to health by evoking the memory of Mary, prompting the four year old to reassure his infant brother of their mother's love, even in death.
"Silence" is what it promises - short - and it is that, ironically, that prevents it from achieving the emotional impact it was presumably intended to ellicit. The brevity of the story reflects two deadly flaws in the author's thinking, and it is they that undermine the effectiveness and power of the piece.
First, the author writes knowing that her readers know the backstory, and second, she therefore assumes that she can forego detail and exposition because her reader's knowledge of the story will provide them with what they need to know. It is the author's reliance on the reader's knowledge that ultimately prevents "Silence" from having its intended emotional impact.
With her readers expected to fill in the gaps, the author never sets the stage. We are never invited into John and Dean's trauma. Rather, we are told about it. Consequently, as there is no build-up, it is impossible for the resolution to have any real punch. In effect, the story ends before the reader can get into the mood that the author is attempting to create.
Normally a critic should refrain from suggesting alternative ideas to what a writer proposes in her work, but what the author of "Silence" has produced has such potential, and done with care could pack such a poignant wallop, that it is worth exploring the possibilities.
One version would have been simply a longer exposition of the story that the author has given us. Only instead of John noticing that Dean is traumatized and resolving it, we instead get a more detailed story.
In this version, John, distraught by the death of Mary, does not notice Dean's pain. As he gradually becomes less self-absorbed and begins to realize the depths of his son's anguish, John at first tries, in spite of his own grief, to nudge Dean back to emotional engagement. John's attempts turn out to be feeble, and as his anxiety and concern rise, he turns to doctors and the medical profession for help. Unfortunately, no one is able to coax Dean out of his emotional shell, and John's fears that he has lost both a wife and his oldest boy overwhlem him with pain. Overcome and forlorn in his desperate fears, John resignedly places the photo of Mary with Dean. In the end. the memory of a mother's love restores Deam, and at that point we end the story as the author did.
This alternative need only have been somewhat longer than the author's original, and as the reader would have been drawn into the build-up of John's rising pain, grief and desperation, so the emotional pay-off would have been that much more pronounced.
Option B simply would have taken the story from a different perspective. "Silence" is written in the third person omnicient, with the reader seeing the action and seeing and hearing the thoughts of the characters. Instead, the story could have been taken from John's perspective. We would have seen Dean through John's eyes and we would have heard him wrestle with his grief and his pain and his desperation.
Either of these approaches would have provided the reader with the necessary involvement in the action to give the story greater power. Yet, it is a fatal conceit, especially of fan fiction writers. The author assumes that because the readers know the characters, that it is not necessary to set the scene.
This is a mistake. It takes the reader for granted, and creates not an atmosphere of intimacy and empathy, but rather the feeling one gets when dropping in on the middle of one side of a telephone conversation.
Also, as with many "Supernatural" shorts, charcaterization of the main protagonist in "Silence," John, is problematic. The author tells us that John is worried about his son, but the evidence for that is slight. Would any father, even in the midst of his own pain, really let his son lapse into a month long silenece without taking any action or seeking professional help?
We know from episodes of "Supernatural" that John doted on his boys, and that even after parting with Sam that he kept an eye on him to make sure he was safe. This was a good if desperate father and it strains credulity to assume that John would not have taken some kind of action to assure his son's physical and mental well being. Yet again, the reader has to do the author's work for her and fill in the blanks - to the palpable cost of the story's poingnancy.
Paradoxically, and this is what suggests that the author may have some real talent, we glimpse in Dean some real characterization. The author's choice of words describing Dean before the fire - cheerful and fun loving - evokes in the mind a real sense of what Dean must have been like and links us to the man the reader knows him to be in the show. It is only three words - but it is three well chosen words.
Similarly, the one line that the author has Dean speak at the end of the story sounds uncannily remincient of Dean's last words to Sammy as he kisses his brother good night just before the fire. It is not the same words, but the author captured the tonal simplicity and the sentiment perfectly. It is an effective evocation of the show's mythology, and it makes the reader weep to think what might have been had the author been inclined to write more than just 300 words. The writer clearly has an ear for little Dean's voice, now if only she can be persuaded to use it.
Of course, some will instantly contest the point. They will argue that "Silence" is, after all, a short, and that it cannot be expected to do more than be a short.
This argument falls flat on two counts. First, in strict literary terms, there is no such thing as a "short" There is a "short story," but that has rules of scene setting, rising action, climax, descending action and conclusion that is no part of "Silence." In short, "Silence" ain't.
The more important argument, however, is that even a short must, to be judged succesful, be long enough to achieve its goals. Presumably the aim of "Silence" is to raise sentiments of sadness and wistfulness, as well as a deep appreciation of the bond between the brothers - even at their young age. Again, none of this happens as the reader is allowed too little time tieing into the situation before it is resolved.
Interestingly, the effect is not unlike the clonclusion of the season 3 finale, "No Rest for the Wicked." In the final moments of that episode, the viewer was so quickly shifted from Sam grieving over his brother to the scene of Dean in hell, that the emotions were muted. In effect, the viewer never got the chance to grieve with Sam, thereby draining the emotional air out of the bubble.
Of course, the writers of "Supernatural" had a lot to cram into 45 minutes of screen time. The author of "Silence" faced no such time constraints and therefore has no such excuse. She was either lazy, preferring in effect to let her readers do her work for her, or she simply did not understand that setting the scene is the minimal prerequisite for evoking real emotion.
Either way, it is too bad. There are indications of real talent in "Silence." The idea was definitely powerful and moving. The portrayal of Dean, given especially how little there was of it, was astoundingly spot on. Had the author sought to write a story instead of merely providing her readers with an outline, she may have produced a true gem.
"What is written in haste is, in general, read without pleasure," Sir Francis Bacon once said. Surprisingly, that is perhaps a bit too harsh a comment on "Silence" and its hasty author. A little perhaps, but not by much.
LOL Dude... it was meant to be a 100-word drabble. It actually ended up longer than I intended it to be. ;)
That said, though, I do appreciate that you think I have greater talent than I showed here. I hope you'll enjoy my longer works, as this was just meant to be my way of getting my feet wet in this fandom. :)
Thanks for reading!
Supernatural is ©2006 The CW Television Network. Other content is copyright the original owners. Original content is ©2006 Supernaturaville.net