Sample Beta Reader Report
The Story of John and Carol
By First Time Author
You requested honest feedback and paid me a small sum of money to get it. To give you anything less than complete honesty would be fraudulent. My job is to give you my honest opinion. Not your Mom’s opinion or your uncle’s or third cousin’s brother thrice removed. This is my opinion given honestly and without any malice or ill intent. I respect the hard work of writers and know first hand what it is like to pour heart and soul into a manuscript only to have the first person who reads it tell you it was boring or hard to read or they had no idea what any of the characters look like.
That is why this Beta Reader Report includes, to borrow a phrase, the good, the bad, and the ugly. A sugar-coated report won’t do you any good at all. I’ve included all these items for the express purpose of helping you to polish your manuscript before publication. The following sections are the most common and it is likely you will see all or most of these and possibly a few more.
In spite of the female protagonist’s one dimensional and rug-like character in the beginning, it grabbed my interest and held it with an original and compelling storyline: evil antagonists, good protagonists. The story kept me turning pages. It took me four hours and twenty minutes to read your 92,000+ word manuscript.
Boy meets girl. She hates him at first, but his winning smile and charming personality gradually win her over while they face adversity and danger.
Point of View
First person point of view from the perspective of a single character, the male protagonist. No obvious instances of God-like omniscience or hopping into another character’s head. The point of view was well done and didn’t rely on “I” more than it should.
Early on, the female protagonist appears more wooden than real. She needs more personality of her own and less of the guy who wants to win her heart. Let her speak up when something doesn’t make her happy. Obviously, she is not a rug to walk over, yet sometimes the lead character does exactly that.
For example, in Chapter 3, John decides to drive Carol home, but she is furious with him for kissing her in front of her best friend’s mother at the church ice-cream social and right after she told him no kissing. John sees the anger on her face and in her body language as she pushes him away, but Carol makes no argument and already had a ride home with Alexia. In the car, she makes amicable conversation when she’d like to haul off and kick him where it counts two or three times. At least, that is what her best friend told him.
Even though she stays angry, she goes along with everything he says or wants to do. This flaw continues for too long.
Overall, a good pace. It keeps the reader interested without leading them to skim through boring infodumps or repeated flashbacks. The story develops over a steady arc. The tension reaches a peak at the right time, then resolves at the end.
Bring characters together in the narrative. They will greet each other, and the reader knows this. No need for hello, how are you, I’m fine. Put that in the narrative if it’s really necessary and also the – good to see you, see you soon, until next time. Dialog. Not conversation.
Overall, disregarding the excess that is conversation and not dialog, there is a good mix of dialog and narrative.
I had no trouble falling into the suspension of reality that captivates readers. Everything felt like it could have happened. The only part that didn’t fit—Carol’s lack of personality, in the beginning, doesn’t coalesce with the feisty and passionate character who stands alongside her partner and later falls in love with him.
Plot Holes and Inconsistencies
Remember in Chapter 7 when Carol told John that her friend Alexia had gotten pregnant by Tony and was expecting a boy? Why then was she so surprised in Chapter 12 when Alexia gave birth to a boy and not a girl?
As for the plot itself, it followed very well. Just that one minor issue with Alexia and her baby. Carol’s lack of personality in the beginning could be considered inconsistent, but you can address her character development and resolve that issue.
‘Because’ and ‘since’ have two different meanings. In dialog, it’s okay to mix them up because that is how people talk. In narrative, keep them separate.
- Since refers to a previous time. “Ever since she kissed John, no one else would kiss her.” From this, we know that no other guy would kiss Carol since the day he kissed her in the church basement at the ice cream social.
- Because gives a reason. When Alexia asked Carol why Steve would not kiss her, Carol replied that it was because John had kissed her.
As mentioned previously, you have a good hook that pulled me in and kept me reading. I did enjoy reading and stayed with it from start to finish in a single sitting. The manuscript read easily, at least for me, and I found it interesting. The lack of long pages of drudgery made it a joy to read. I liked the style, especially because you did not overuse the pronouns I, Me, Myself, etc. They popped just often enough to keep me looking through John’s eyes.
I disliked Carol’s wooden character at the beginning. She needs more personality.
John is without a doubt, both a rogue and a knight in shining armor. Easy to see both sides of him, I just wish we could see the real Carol before we get to the middle.
The romantic scene at the end where Carol turns around and there is John on one knee with a diamond glittering in the moonlight came off perfectly. I loved it. Thanks for closing the bedroom door before it got steamy. Just wasn’t needed and I didn’t miss it.
Most memorable moment—Warren has John by the throat and is literally squeezing the life out of him. In the last moment before John loses consciousness, Warren’s eyes bug out and then he crumples to the floor in pain.
From the text: “Everything went black, but I heard Carol say, ‘Go ahead, laugh at my boots.’ Who knows for how long I blacked out… Then Carol’s concerned voice demanding I wake up as her face swam into focus. A guy in a uniform taking my pulse. EMTs putting Warren on gurney. I was alive. And of course, she was mad at me.”
So perfect because no one wears work boots with her sundress and many would have laughed at her. She did use them to good effect, however, and Warren will probably never procreate, which is also good.
Author’s Requested Focus
Q: How did you feel about the lack of any love scenes, especially at the end?
A: It wasn’t necessary at all and would not have contributed to the story. You did allude to one at the end where it fits. By then, I wanted them in love and together forever. A perfect end.
Very good for a near-final draft.
Fix the minor stuff. It isn’t that much. The dialog needs minimal work to cut out the ‘conversational fluff’ and a few instances where ‘because’ and ‘since’ could be fixed. That and give Carol more personality up front. It shouldn’t take much work. Send it to a pro editor and then start pitching.
On my five-point scale, I gave this story a 4.7.
I wish all the best with your manuscript and hope you find this report useful.