Review of: Aquarianna (v2) 

reviewed by MSeyf on 11/25/2010
Credited Review
Lost at seaÖ Credited Review
Ok. As I'm sure you are aware this is a spec for a $100M+ period fantasy adventure. A hard as hell sell at the best of times. With that in mind it needs to be bulletproof to even begin to entertain a cat's chance in hell of being produced. At present itís far from it. I'm gonna pull no punches with my review but please bear in mind that everything that follows is motivated by my desire to pinpoint and expose problems and suggest potential workable solutions to them, if my tone comes across heavy handy apologies in advance. Iím a Brit (weíre stiff assed that way or so Iím told Ė expect the worst lol.)Ö

Iím not sure what the concept is exactly. Little Mermaid meets the 20í000 leagues? It's stuck between far too many different kinds of stories. There is 'a save the mermaid' free willy type thing that to my mind sits uneasily alongside the seafaring treasure-hunting sea monster killing kinda stuff thatís more traditionally what youíd expect from this genre. Can it work? Maybe. Does it right now? No. Whatís the macguffin? Is it the mermaid? The medallion? Whatís the goal? Get treasure? Kill monster? Find the sweetheart?

Pulling off this kinda SP is a bitch.

You have 10-15 pages. In that 10-15 pages you need to Set up your fantasy/period world, the concept of it, itís foundations, itís history, it's rules and it's quirks. Then you need to introduce your protagonist (Luke the Tattooeen farmboy), set up the status quo ( Luke bored on Tattooeen- intergalactic oppression) and THEN create the incident (for example the now immortal hologram message: ĎHelp me Obi Wan Kanobi, you re my only hopeí- call to adventure) that turns this protagonistís world entirely on it's head. That's ALOT of leg work. A ton of pipe to lay and you have to do it on the move without stalling the story to do so. To show not tell. How much of your world is like the real Victorian world (as it was) how much of it is fantastical? Set this up clearly so the audience knows where they stand.

Also the concept of whalers killing sea creatures for no particular reason is kinda outta whack in this modern era imo. The sea monsters at too close to Ďwhalesí for comfort. Today where whales are endangered and most children outside of North Korea equate the term Ďwhalerí with evil bastard without a second thought. Something to consider.

Crippled by the structural issues (more on this to follow). I was left detatched and emotionally unengaged when the action kicked off. It was unclear who was chasing after what and why we the audience were supposed to care about any of it?

Far too many characters. Many of whom donít contribute to the forward progress of the story at all. Itís hard to discuss the characters independent of structure since the structural issues undermine most of the characters and make them pointless or less compelling or whatever. What is the protagonistís arc? Heís caught awkwardly between searching for a love lost at sea and seeking bloody minded vengeance? And his desire to save this mermaid is hardly noble either since it's to use her as bait? And then there is that treasure or lack thereof?

Everyone's motivations are muddled and confusing. Too many factions. And not enough clear tangable goals to anchor and guide the story. Or direct the audienceís interest and engagement.

I donít give a damn about that mermaid btw. Sheís not a character. Sheís a mute but also totally devoid of any sort of personality. Sheís a static plot goal/maccguffin stuck in a fish tank. Whatís more the protagonistís motivation to save her is related to his cynical desire to use her to get revenge. Also why she is definitely going to serve as bait for the sea creature anyway? Isnít clear. Why not make her look exactly like the lost girlfriend?- but with a fishís tail or something? So that the connection is obvious/clear. And Ďhow on earth did my long lost girlfriend BECOME a mermaidÖí becomes the central mystery DRIVING the protagonist along withÖ ĎI gotta save herí? Give the other supporting characters ANOTHER different reason to want to free the mermaid. i.e to use her to lead them to treasure or to a monster they want revenge on or something. So that protagonist goes along with them but has a different agenda thatís related to HIS individual fatal flaw of his lost love and his inner goal of resolving her loss? This will create tension within the crew and improve the story imo.

Also poor poor Ardan. He defends his home (the sea) kills whalers that intrude on it. And is then murdered when one whalerís son comes back and throws a spear through his heart? And weíre supposed to be on the damn kidís side and cheer about this?

Right out of the block your race car stalls. Kill the love interest OR the father, not both in quick succession back to back like you do.

We donít have enough time to care about either character. Your protagonist has 10 years. For the audience itís the next scene.

If you must kill both (father and sweetheart) at the start, then kill both during the SAME single incident (I'd advise against that too tho). At present the script essentially has two back to back totally different inciting incidents that detract and undermine each other. One sets up a love story the other a moby dick-style revenge. If you have to kill the father too do it much much later. Well into act two at the Ďall is lostí, by which point we might know him and the protagonistís relationship to him enough to give a damn.

Think of it as Luke Skywalkerís uncle dies (early on-point of no return - no one really cares - but it's the call to adventure)Ö.Then about an hour and a half later just before the finale is set upÖ the mentor/ master Obi Wan dies (everyone loves him, kids cry etc). Thatís how itís done. Because thatís how it works.

Too much on the nose expo. Various characters have a tendency to state their motivations and emotions literally. But again the problems with the motivations are fundamental and at the level of structure which is why I think characters end up reminding us and themselves of what these are in on the nose fashion all the time.


As a big fan of Moby Dick/20kleagues/Jules/HG Wells/Atlantis and all that stuff I really wanted to like this. But the structure is imo in need of a fundamental rethink. Sorry I donít have more positives to add. Hope this helps one way or another with the rewrite and best of luck.

Page by Page

P1-10 Ė Nice story book feel to it so far.

P13 Very on the nose outburst about the father. Find another more subtle way of showing this loss.

P10-13 The protagonist has sustained to huge emotional hits before weíve had enough time to give a damn about the guy.

P15 -17 Structural problems. Two massive tragedies back to back one in flashback.

P17 Too many characters have come and gone already. Who is who?

P20 This dirty dozen stuff doesnít quiet work. Who are these people? Why should I care?

P31-35 The treasure issue is raised as too much of an afterthought. To the pirates/crew at least it should be the main and only motivation for the proposed misadventure.

P 35 You might want to check this but Iím pretty sure there wasnít a country called Senegal as such in 1850 but a collection of chiefdoms locked in combat with each other and with colonial oppressors. I think modern Senegal was created in the 1960s?

P40 trim this dialogue it rambles.

P41 very on the nose. The protagonist is explaining his motivation as it should only appear on the writerís character sheets and bios.

P57 This stuff is coming into it FAR too late. This stuff belongs in the first ten pages or as near to them as you can get it. Think the Ark back story in Raiders.

P60 Suddenly real people from Brit period history arrive on the scene? This hasnít really been signposted properly in advance.

P64 Blackwood has been away for what feels like forever. Forgot who he was.

P67 This business about the mermaid dying outside sea water feels like a contrivance.

P74 Make Aquarianna look exactly like a mermaid version of the missing girlfriend-and essentialy BE the same woman transformed or something like that. This love stuff is too little to late imo.

P91Iím feeling sorry for Ardan. Wondering what happened to the treasure? Why is this all boiled down to being only about revenge?

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