After thoroughly checking the ceiling for spiders, I am here with review number three. Since I didn't have any specific AoC to work off of, this one may be a bit more unfocused than my others but I shall give it my best.
I'll start with all the good stuff. First, I noticed that your POV was much, much more consistent this chapter. Even though it did switch between sections, it stayed "in place" within each section. I think that made this chapter the most reader-friendly of all the chapters so far. Second, I thought this chapter had a lot of wonderful asides in it that helped bring the chapter to life. I loved when James said, "Welcome home, Evans." I thought it said a lot about his character and how both he and Lily feel about Hogwarts. It was a sweet, touching moment that was both understated and effective. I also loved the line about Dumbledore peeling off the star like it was a sticker. I know we covered description in past reviews but this is the sort of thing that really brings the story to life. An unexpected way of describing something can take a simple action or thought and ratchet it up by a factor of ten. Personally, I find lines are leaps and bounds more effective than poetic descriptions, which can often feel very overwritten and only serves to remind the reader that they are, well, reading!
I feel like I should comment on the emotional state of the characters in this chapter since they were so prominent here, but characterization is not really my strong suit as a reviewer (or as a writer either). I will say that I did like how you lifted Lily's mood a bit here. Clearly she isn't over what happened to her or ready to take the next step in her relationship with James, but as a reader, being stuck too long inside the mind of a depressed character is just such a bummer! Even people who've gone through tragedy still have to get up, get dressed, sleep, eat... I'd much rather have a writer show me a character is sad than tell me all about it. I think throwing too much introspection on how sad a character is can isolate the reader instead of making them sympathetic. So what I guess I'm trying to say is I like the choice you made in recognizing that Lily still has a lot of pain to deal with without wallowing in it.
And since you know I can't help myself, I'll throw in a bit of CC while I'm here. First, be careful with dialogue tags. With a cast as big as yours, you will have to identify your speakers a lot - no way around it. Knowing that, you might want to keep an eye out for ones you really don't need. That way it won't burn the reader out for when you do need to use them. Second, now that I'm three chapters in (still early but starting to get a feel for things), I sensing this won't be a super heavy plot-driven story. That's not a bad thing. Some stories are more character heavy or more emotion-driven. No problem there. But if I'm right, I'd suggest keeping a sharp eye out for ways to keep your pacing vibrant. Plot is great for keeping the story moving, but since you don't really have a single "problem" that pushes it forward (no obvious end-goal/problem to solve at this point), you have to find other ways to keep things peddling forward. I didn't think the scenes you chose to depict were bad by any means, or am I suggesting that the dragged or felt really slow, but I think they might have been improved by jumping in at a different point in time.
Think about the password scene. We just jumped forward in time via the scene break, but less than 200 words in and we are jumping forward another 1/2 hour. You could have just picked it up there, with Lily telling James to hurry it up. You could still have included all the information that came before, but now we are skipping the lull/the wasted thirty minutes. In the scene that follows, I thought you jumped a little too far into the future. I bet the scene between James and his friends would have been kind of funny to read. It also would have allowed you to say some of James' internal monologue in dialogue form (which is usually just more fun to read) and also put more distance between the two Lily/James scene, which continues to give the sense of the wider world beyond their emotional drama.
Okay, I feel like I've rambled enough. Clearly I give better reviews when I have specific things to comment on. Sorry. I hope this was still helpful. I tend to try and take a forest versus the tree approach to reviewing, commenting on stuff I hope might be helpful across all chapters, not just the one I'm reading. If you want, feel free to drop more AoC in my review thread for the next few chapters. I don't mind getting specific, I just don't tend to do it with left to my own devices :P
Author's Response: You know, I never thought about showing James actually going to the Gryffindor Common Room. And now, I can't believe I didn't, and I think that's an AMAZING idea. Especially because I feel like I have the strongest hold on those four, so their scenes are always fun for me to write!
I was actually really along the same lines as you are with the plot driven aspect. The main goal of this story is to get them to graduation and show how they go from children to war heroes, that's not really a plot, but requires lots of little sub plots to keep it interesting. One of my biggest tools (and I'm giving away a secret here) I'm using is opening up the story to the other side of the war. Not a ton, but you'll see it for the first time in chapter 5. There will be chapters (not regularly either, just when they fit the best) that are almost entirely focused on Death Eater meeting or preparation with them of some sort. It only happens when whatever they are doing relates to what is happening at Hogwarts/my people in Hogwarts. I'm really excited to see what you think of the character I've chosen to look through for the first one of those in chapter 5.
I find myself over dialoging tagging too often, thank you so much for pointing that out. I'll be sure to look through this and see if I can eliminate some of those.
I'm really happy regarding your comments towards Lily's characterization. I had a few people suggest that in the second chapter, instead of skipping those three weeks, to show them. But I just couldn't for the reasons you commented on - no one wants to be stuck inside the head of person in such a dark place for that amount of time. I was worried if Lily getting 'back to real life' in this felt too soon, but like you said she *has* to move forward, she really has no choice.
This review was so helpful! I already have a little movie playing in my head of what happened once James left the Heads' Quarters. And this doesn't feel like it was rambling what so ever! Chapter 4 is massive though, so I will make sure to run over to TGS and leave specific AoC ;).
Thank you again so much! Around chapter 5 is when things really start getting a bit more twisted and we start learning about a few mysteries and such.