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I really want to like this one a lot more. It's sci-fi and really well written, I just struggled to follow it.
Firstly, the way you introduce Della. Just be careful, in the modern woke world an intro like that is frowned upon. I'm not being detrimental to yourself or the woke movement, it's just there are threads out there on social media filled with bad examples of introducing female characters and 'attractive despite the scar' fits in there, even though once you get to know Della you find she's a great character.
Then the parade of characters Della encounters on her 5-page walk to her apartment just seems too much for a short, especially as they don't have anything much to do with the story. I get you are getting across she's a well-known and liked neighbour. It just distracts. The real character here is Bret, who you refer to as Perkins in his dialogue which is a tad confusing as well.
I had no idea what was going on in the "20 minutes later" or why 20 minutes later was so important it was in the scene heading. It threw me out of the story, I had to go back and re-read that section.
Then it goes bat shit crazy. It's like Logan's Run meets the Hunger Games. I assume this Good Neighbour program means someone is going to get killed and possibly eaten (hence the soylant green reference) but it's never explained why this happens or how. And why is Della so convinced she's going to be selected, is it because she told Bret she had another scar?
And then it just ends with her making a run for it, so I was full of questions left unanswered and unsatisfied, plus I'm not sure this qualifies for the challenge. As who was the bad guy revealed at the end? There was no hidden truly evil person, unless I missed something?
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Alright. Leaving aside the emerging norms of today, this one feels long. Even for 10 pages, it drags. To be honest, I lost interest after page six knowing that some kind of action has started. The first five pages are just Della talking to the character after character. This feels necessary in order to establish relationships between the characters, however, for some reason, this renders it ineffective. Maybe coz, there is no dynamicity in the scene and rather just people hopping up one after the other to greet Della.
The starting lacked some kind of hook to pull me in. Maybe if there were some action in the opening, it would have worked. Sadly, it's not the case here.
Also, I don't see any villain in here. Della just runs away which did not suffice me. Bret is the bad one here? I don't have an idea.
Yeah, Halloween! We know that Della is a veteran of the wars and branded a hero. Writer this needs to be put into feature length format so you can further develop the characters and motivations. Thanks for the entry.
This should be getting more love purely for the exemplary writing and world building, so I'll add to what has been given by saying that.
Sometimes half the story stays in our heads, I suspect that may be the case here. I could hazard a few guesses at what's going on here, one of them being quite obviously that all is not as it seems and Della is wolf in sheep's clothing? But that's purely because of the OWC brief.
What's missing here imho, is connection with your audience, making us feel more for your Protagonist via more clarity.
I do think you created a sympathetic character up to a point, but whether she deserves it is another thing.
Like I said, terrific writing, flowed seamlessly and was a joy to read the mechanics of it all. I'm just left a bit in the dark.
I really dig the setup here. The early interactions set an appropriate unsettling tone that puts the reader on edge. There seemed to be two motivations at play here for the supporting characters: win Della's favor, or win her affections. That left me a little confused when it came time for the vote but I appreciate that all the interactions have this forced courtesy. As I said, unsettling!
Here's what I took from it: The "Good Neighbor" award is a peer-selected draft, and Della's getting re-upped for service (unless the Soylant line was to be taken more at face value, and she's ending up as food). Another page or so could have solidified the world here, Della's stakes, and what's coming next (she's running but clearly she has more of a plan than that).
My main critique would be to consider shifting more of the expositional dialogue into prose. ex: instead of Della telling us a neighbor babysits the kids around there, show us bits that lead us to that conclusion.
Never wanna start off a review with "maybe it was just me," but... I'm not really sure why this ended up the way it did, and I really don't want to guess. I think I got the gist of it, and it was written well for sure. All I'm saying is a little clarity never hurt no one. Good job!