I submitted Efraim’s Eye to the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. It did not win an award; there were 2,800 books submitted. But, I did receive the judges rating which is as follows:
On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is “needs improvement” to 5 “outstanding”:
Structure & Organisation: 4
Product Quality & Cover Design: 3
Character Development: 4
The judges commentary is:
“The writing crackles with authenticity, and tells a compelling story that lends itself to the thriller genre. The crosscutting of scenes and shifting between viewpoints is cinematic in nature, and so this book would lend itself quite well to being filmed commercially. The cast of characters, especially Paul as he emerges to become the primary protagonist, are individually and collectively, certainly strong enough to command center stage throughout the novel and will successfully engage the reader’s interest in wanting to know what will happen next. This is a really entertaining plot that could easily appeal to a wide audience.
The novel would benefit from some additional character and peripheral description during dialogue. For example as a character speaks, ‘he ran his fingers through his dark curly hair’, or, ‘she spoke faster than usual, no longer in the slow monotone’. In these two hypotheticals, the curly hair and the speech pattern would have been introduced early on as character tags, and referring to them keeps these characters fresh in the reader’s mind during dialogue. Similarly, as during ‘real life’ conversation, characters can be aware of their surroundings: hot or cold or rainy? Some detail catches the eye, there’s a noise in the background, perhaps pleasant, perhaps bothersome, but in either case noticeable. This sort of texture will enliven dialogue on the printed page.”
I think the feedback in the second paragraph above is very helpful, and I agree particularly with the first comment about additional characterization. I think additional characterization beyond the dialogue itself is helpful to the reader, not only as a character tag or reminder, but as an indication of the character’s personality and emotional state. I think one needs to be careful of peripheral description of the setting. The question for me is: does it contribute directly to the situation in which the characters find themselves or to their state of mind. If it does, by all means add it; if it doesn’t, it will seem extraneous.