Hello, Carole :)
Wow, what a fabulous story! I really have not been reading much outside of QSQs, and I am so glad I chose to read this one of yours, because I very much enjoyed reading it. All the characters, both original and canon, were fully-realised, which I think is important for what is quite a character-driven piece. I thought it was exceptionally well-written, too, with quite a different feel compared to most of your other stories -- as Natalie said, it could convert into OF quite easily since it’s a mostly OC cast, so maybe that’s something to think about.
I’ve found that one of the biggest challenges in writing OCs is making them normal. So often, OCs have tragic backstories or amazing superpowers, and it was lovely to see such ordinary characters in this story and yet with each of them having such distinctive characteristics. Danny was so likeable and confident, and I found his nonchalance and detachment when it came to the people he had flings with on the beach fascinating. Details like that really made him stand out, and I felt so sad for him when he seemed to dismiss commitment so quickly with Oliver. And it was great how you slowly unpeeled layers of Danny’s character: though, to begin with, he was confident, by the end, it was clear Danny was actually really insecure, and even though he was comfortable with his own sexuality, obviously certain other people weren’t, like Mike. The complexity of the characterisation really was what made the story enjoyable for me.
I also found it interesting that Danny was the one who made a move on Oliver, as I’m so used to seeing Oliver being quite domineering and a lot stronger in the books, whereas here, Oliver seemed a lot more vulnerable. I think you explored that rather different side to Oliver wonderfully, particularly at the beginning with the cricket match when Oliver seemed quite shy at first, but then his competitive streak got the better of him. I really liked how you showed so much of Oliver’s character -- through Danny’s eyes -- with the cricket match, the way Oliver was obviously very skilled at the game despite never having played it before. And you did a great job with the awkwardness of the sex; Oliver’s inexperience was so endearing to read about, and given he was just coming to terms with his sexuality, it makes perfect sense that that was something he wouldn’t know much about. However, I did think that, at times, the sexual situations were a bit much for the 6th-7th rating (especially with the use of “cock”), so perhaps consider pushing the rating up to Professors?
The other more minor characters, like Kay and Mike, were really well fleshed out. I particularly liked Kay, and I found it amusing that she and her brother were chasing after the same guy. Kay provided some welcome comic relief to the story, I think, and though I found Mike annoying, again, he was characterised excellently. So were Oliver’s parents -- having known Oliver’s father’s abusive backstory, I still found the scene when he found Oliver and Danny shocking and heartrending to read, but at the same time, I think you dealt with the subject sensitively. I was so glad to see Oliver’s mother come to the rescue, although I wasn’t entirely sure of her character. At first, she seemed really likeable, especially when she was helping Danny get to the hospital, but when she was with Danny and she told him Oliver wouldn’t be seeing him again, I thought there was something dubious about her. Why was she so mean to Danny? I have a feeling she might have been homophobic, but I'm not really sure. Hmm. That isn’t criticism, as such -- I would just like to read more of her, because she is certainly a fascinating character. :)
Your use of first person was expertly done -- I loved how well you captured Danny’s voice, because it really established the foundations of his character, which is so important for an OC-centric story. I know it’s not always your favourite POV to write, but I definitely think it was the right decision here. It made the story so much more personal, and never was it stilted or did it break the flow. Instead, I felt I really got to know Danny throughout the story and was a lot closer to his emotions, and I think that’s what made the romance and Danny’s attraction to Oliver so convincing. And after reading Drowning, Not Waving, I feel that events are put into perspective so much more, seeing Danny’s side to things. I especially liked the use of words like “grockle”; using local dialect always helps add that extra bit of authenticity to the narrative, and it added to the realism of the story.
Even though this story was mostly driven on by characterisation, I thought the little details were excellent, particularly the Muggles’ suspicions about what went on in Tinworth. I liked how this fits into canon perfectly, with the mentions of the war later on and the fact that Penelope Clearwater went to the same school as Danny. I really liked how you could make those connections with canon and yet not make it seem shoehorned in. The fact that the story was written from the point of view of a Muggle just makes that even more impressive :)
On another note, I thought the ending was a little rushed. The story seemed to wrap up too quickly for my liking, and I would have liked to know how things went with Oliver and Danny and why Oliver decided to return when he did, but I appreciate that you had a word count restriction because of the challenge. Nevertheless, I did like the fact that Danny became a writer, since, as a writer myself, I really do understand why Danny essentially self-inserted in his novel. And Danny wrote supernatural novels! That made me smile, because I can see that happening for sure, given Oliver’s mother did magic in front of him and everything -- it makes sense that Danny would be intrigued by magic and would want to write about it. That was yet another wonderful touch to the story, and it said so much about Danny as a Muggle: the fact that he didn’t seem scared by it but was fascinated by it was such a refreshing change from what I normally read about Muggles discovering magic.
Carole, I have to say, this is one of my favourite stories by you. I enjoyed it greatly. Good luck in the challenge, and I will try to remember to nominate it for the QSQs next year!
Author's Response: Flailing at the SPEW review. Thank you so much, Soraya, this means such a great deal to me because I did work at this story. It's been in the process of being written for well over a year, so when I finally set down to write it, it was with some trepidation.
I'm pleased you picked up on Danny's insecurity, largely covered by his dismissive attitude. I do think, that in spite of our much more liberal times, that some people are always going to be very uncomfortable around homosexuality, or they just take the pee the whole time. Mike, whilst I'm sure he'd say he's fine, is so unrelaxed by it, and although I don't think he'd ever be overtly prejudiced, he's never going to condone Danny's lifestyle.
Hmm, interesting what you said about Oliver's mum. In DNW, she is far more sympathetic, but Oliver is eighteen in that story, and here he's sixteen and this is the first time she's realised that her son might be gay. I don't think she's prejudiced, but she is very protective and knows what her husband could do to Oliver. Yes, she's not at all nice to Danny, (although she gives him Skele-Gro) but there's a part of her that is also protecting him. If there's any prejudice in her, it's a slight prejudice against Muggles because she's seen their reactions towards witches and wizards. Danny is one of those Muggles who is always going to be aware of magic, bit like a Squib (although he's not) and I think Selena is wary of that. When I eventually finish Riptide (the DNW sequel) you will see a little more of Selene and Robert Wood which I hope will hel;p slot this and her actions into place.
Gah, so much else I really should say after such a wonderful review, but I can't put it into words. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. ~Carole~
I don't have a lot to say, but I hope the following few words can fully convey how much I enjoyed this.
I love how different this was from your other fanfics. There is something very OF about it. The characters and settings are so refreshing, and without Oliver being a wizard, it would still have been engaging.
This is in my opinion one of your best, seriously. The ending had me grinning!
Author's Response: Thank youuuuuuuuuu! I think the ending was a tad rushed, actually, but I had a deadline to reach. If I get the chance after the comp, I'll add a little more, perhaps.
I am pleased you liked this, Nat because this was one of those fics that kind of took over (you know that feeling) and so I wasn't sure if it actually worked and was interesting or whether it was just me quite liking it. Ohhh, and OF ... hmmmmmmmmmmm .... thinking, now :)
Thank you very much again :D ~Carole~
So glad he came back. Thanks for writing this.
Author's Response: Thank you for the review. One day I will finish the story that follows DNW and is Cedric based. And, yes, one day I will write more Lions - ooops. Thanks again, Ruchira, you are very kind and patient :) ~Carole~
Different. Very good.
Author's Response: Thank you very much. Glad you read and enjoyed it. ~Carole~
I loved it! What a great opportunity for the OC challenge, to follow up such an amazing story. I really liked Danny as a character. He's so straightforward and confident and refreshing. It was neat the way you introduced him (and his sister) through the cricket match. Knowing less than nothing about cricket, that was fun to read.
Then as I kept reading, and they hooked up, I remembered DNW, and thought "Oh noooooo" and then they were caught. :( That was intense, and so very sad.
Mrs. Wood was interesting. I remember her being supportive of Oliver in DNW, yes? And she comes across that way here...until the end, and then I'm not sure if she's supportive of him and just protecting him, or if she is really a bit of a meaniepants. She helped Danny, but she was rather curt about it, wasn't she?
What year in school did you set the beach scenes? It might be good to have a date so we know how many years have passed when we get to Danny's book at the end. That was super cool. That made me forget the sadness of the beating a bit and smile. It was also very cinematic (I can even name the film, lol) and quite lovely. Yay them. Good for Oliver. Loved Danny. Great fic. Crummy review, lol. Good luck in the challenge!
Author's Response: Hi!!! thanks for the review. Okay, the year of the beach scenes is Summer 1992. I made a vague reference to it by mentioning that Oliver had failed his Astronomy exam, and I think there's a reference to him being younger than eighteen and still being at school. I was going to put a date at the top, but I was getting very confused in my head - ha ha - and decided to just post this instead.
Yes, you're right about Mrs Wood being very supportive of Oliver in DNW, and yes, she is a bit different here. My feeling is that at this point she doesn't like Danny (who is rather opportunistic) and she also has this slight prejudice against Muggles, having been brought up in Tinworth (which is a Muggle and Magical village near Shell Cottage) and possibly suffering from being called a 'weirdo' . So she probably thinks Oliver is just going through a phase. It's two years later in DNW that she looks back and wonders if perhaps it wasn't a phase. Of course, I hadn't written this when I was plotting DNW, but it seemed to grow on me as I wrote Footprints. The other thing is that Oliver doesn't see this side of her. When I eventually finish Riptide (the Cedric side of the story), you will hopefully see Lena Wood from both Footprints and DNW perspective.
Hahahahah - there's a film? fantastic - who's playing Danny? I picture Michelle Fairly as Lena Wood, but that is because I've been watching GoT - ha. Thanks so much for the review - Carole
Even knowing what happens in this story, I was entranced. Danny is just so lush. I love his cool confidence and put-on nonchalance about his dalliances. I think the fleeting nature of them affects him more than he wanted to or allowed anyone else to believe.
Oliver was very reminiscent of the withdrawn bloke we saw in DNW, but his excellence in sports and laser-like focus when it comes to it were very much canon. However, the way he most stood out is how you made him your own. The young man who stood in front of a prone Danny and took a lashing from Robert was the man who went back to Hogwarts and fought in the battle. You brought that full circle subtly, and it was greatly appreciated.
I loved the minor characters in this, like Mike the Twat Cricket Player, Kay the Slutty Sister Who Enjoyed Her Conquests, Robert the Bastard Git Dad Who Needs to Rot in Fiendfyre, and Mum the One Who Knows What Needs to Be Done To Protect Her Boy and Her Family. And that was obnoxious to type. Anyway, I just thought the cast was well-played in roles that make sense and intermixed well to help set up the story.
Gah. My lovely boys. I was grinning like an idiot while they were messing around, and I actually thought Oliver's lovemaking was in character, if that makes sense. The boy is good with his hands, but he was firm and focused on what he wanted to do. And Danny, the dear, he definitely cared about Oliver enough to help him into it. I know most girls shrink off at the thought of oral, so that Danny wanted Oliver to be comfortable spoke volumes about the difference between his thing with this 'grockle' and the others who had come before.
And yayyyy, the book signing! I'm glad Oliver had that chance to be confident in who he was (both as a wizard amongst Muggles and as a gay man) to shout it to the whole bookstore that he was the one Danny wrote about. And then the note. Unf. Say YES to the hut, my loves. If only to be a leering fly on the wall...
This was a gorgeous fic, Carole, and I have brought you nothing but flailage. However, it is all I have to offer in turn for this stunning character portrait. Thank you for writing this, and thank you for giving Oliver the chance to meet Danny and learn to be what he is and not what is expected.
Author's Response: Thank yooooooooooo *flaiiiiiiils* at the review. I did, in the end, ebjopy writing this. there were parts when i wanted it to die in fiendfyre - ha ha - especially when I knew I had to write the violence because I really didn't want Danny to get hurt, but it had to be done :( because I'd already written it in DNW. Why do I do such foolish things without thinking of the consequences?!! Silly Croll!
Ah, Mike-the Twat - ha ha. I dk why he became such a twat. Originally he was going to be Dan's best friend, but that didn't work very well, so he became a prat. Kay I rather liked. i now imagine her getting knocked up by one of her conquests and living forever in the fading seasdie town ... unless she marries Mike the Twat.
Glad you spotted Danny's insecurity. I think he's so used to holiday flings not working out that he had more or less given up, but then Oliver wasn;t his usual pretty boy. Hmm, I wonder if it would have worked out. I think the fact that he was a Muggle was a barrier, but also Oliver is so focused on Quidditch and winning, would he really find time for Danny. When he's older, however ... But *sigh* Cedric will always be in the way.
,br> So pleased I made you flail. I got so much satisfaction finally getting this written, so anything else is a bonus, but flailage is wonderful! Thanks again ~Carole~