Let's begin with your strengths.
I've read through the fic, and found quite a lot that I liked. You have a number of clever and unique ideas, particularly in how you approach the Pokemon world, and that, in my opinion, is what forms the core of Pocket Monsters. I couldn't help but grin whenever I read about the culture that surrounds Pokemon battling in your world. You've realized perfectly that battling is a sport, with its own fandom surrounding it, full of viewers cheering at home. I've had the same thought myself, and I love that you've chosen to make that a part of the fic. I think it's one of the best things about this work.
It's clear to me that you've taken on the task of making a Pokemon world that is more than the place where Ash Ketchum and Pikachu live. And then there are the questions you explore about the nature of the relationship between people and Pokémon—it’ll be fascinating to see where you go with that. You obviously aspire to take things to the next level, to treat the setting maturely and realistically, and for that I applaud you. That's my ambition as well.
Some nice touches I particularly liked include the way battles are described, full of energy, blood, and physical intensity (just be careful not to be overdramatic) and the fact that not everyone in the Pokémon world knows every detail about battling the way a real-life fanboy knows it. I especially enjoyed your discussion of Milo's familiarity/unfamiliarity with the type chart, and the way you described the Paras which appears in Part Four--you really made it seem like an unsettling, alien creature, which of course such a Pokemon would be.
Your characters come off as very human compared to most fanfiction I've read. Props to you for that. You clearly understand the aggressive social culture of teenagers, which comes across well in Milo and Andy’s conversations. I think I liked Izzy most of all: she seems like a strange yet engaging person with her own way of looking at the world. She’s odd, but she doesn’t seem like she could be out of place among the people I know.
You also have a knack for vivid imagery. You choose excellent images to highlight the scenes you describe, images which really bring out the emotions that you want to instill in the reader and set the stage for the actions which take place there. I can easily envision Milo and Andy’s classroom, or the streets outside Viridian. It’s obvious you put a strong vocabulary to use as well.
Those are the strengths that stand out to me about this work. I think you can certainly be proud of them: you’re not merely one of the crowd.
But if you want to make your writing better, there are definitely a number of things you should look into. Let’s examine them.
First, a word on the title: I don’t think it properly represents your work. Pocket Monsters, Battling, and Quests are all things we’re very familiar with as readers. The pages of the Writer’s Workshop are filled with such words. But don’t you want something unique, something that grabs people’s attention? “Pocket Monsters” itself might work—I understand this is part of a series? If so, then I think a different subtitle would be better. Something intriguing and thought-provoking. Like Pocket Monsters: Dreams of Birth, or something like that. Obviously you should pick your own, though.
But leaving that point aside, I would say this about your work: the most important area you need to address is your style.
It’s obvious that you understand the rules of grammar along with the structure of the English language, and can summon up an eloquent vocabulary to put them to work in grand sentences. That’s good, but it’s not enough. Style is something different: it’s the way you put your words together , the way you organize them so that they can have the maximum possible impact on your reader. Style needs to be fluid. Natural. Style is the point at which you and your reader meet, and as such, it should consist of making your sentences as clear and effective as possible.
I think many of us writers, having been readers all our lives, get to a point where we know how to throw sentences around that sound extremely erudite and intelligent, and we feel like pretty cool cats for doing so. But there’s a next step for us, which takes a long, long time to complete: learning how to write sentences that don’t just sound intelligent, but make your story as immediate and vivid as possible. That’s certainly been true in my life. My recent work has taught me that my previous work has been kind of lazy, in the sense that I relied on sounding intelligent and avoided direct meaning in favor of pontification. These days I spend a long time deciding which words to use and why: it can be a struggle sometimes, but it’s one well worth taking. Honestly, I think sharpening one’s style might be the biggest journey one takes in the professional writing world. (When we’re just talking about the writing end of it.)
But I’m being very abstract. In order to give you some concrete examples of what I mean, let’s look at the start of the piece.
“… This world that we live in is quite simply, a wondrous place.
A place like no other in the universe. It is a place that we humans have called home for thousands of years and a place we share with the countless species of amazing creatures that roam the land, air and sea around us.
Boasting a vast array of amazing abilities, these non-human beings are examples of the wonders and complexities of nature, their powers embodying the core elements that make up this beautiful planet of ours. The strength and tenacity of rock, the gracefulness and nourishment of grass, the purity and freshness of rushing water, the power and speed of lightning...
And just as we humans are a diverse species – with each individual person possessing a totally unique personality to go with an equally unique set of talents, strengths, and weaknesses – these creatures too represent this diversity.”
I love your imagery here, and it’s a good way to open up the fic, but reading this passage feels odd and difficult. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I realized that it was a matter of style. Some of these sentences feel smooth and immediate, but others feel awkward to read, because the reader spends most of his or her time trying to figure out the sentence, rather than enjoying its meaning.
Looking at the last paragraph, for instance, the way the sentence meanders hinders understanding and hinders the ease of reading because it goes through so many structural permutations that it leaves one dizzy. It’s not to say that you can’t use complex structures, but they should appear only as needed. In this case, you can express the same concepts with more effective language. One alternative sentence that occurs to me:
“And just as we humans are a diverse species, in which each person has a distinct personality and a unique set of talents, so too are these creatures diverse in nature.”
“And just as we humans are a diverse species—for each of us possesses a distinct personality and unique abilities—so too do these creatures display a brilliant diversity.”
This may make the idea of effective style a bit clearer. You may argue that I’ve changed the meaning of the sentence a bit. That’s true, but I would argue that I haven’t changed the meaning much, and the sentence has benefited greatly from the change.
Style, in my experience, is about wresting with your ideas and trying to pin them down into the best possible form. The meanings may shift a bit as you experiment with different structures, but ultimately you’ll find a form that not only works well, but expresses what you were really trying to say.
You could even change the sentence completely, into something that’s true to it in spirit if not in letter.
“In the same way you and I each shine with a distinct, vibrant personality and a unique set of talents, these creatures demonstrate for us the remarkable diversity of life. “
Don’t take these sentences as gospel—I’m experimenting with style as much as you are. But I think they outline the sort of changes you might make.
But can we lay out some rules for style? Get specific about it? Certainly.
There’s a wonderful book called The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, and while it’s usually discussed as a grammar textbook, I find its passages on style even more helpful. I think you could gain a lot from reading it! And it contains a lot, I think, that speaks to your writing.
Probably the biggest idea Strunk and White would convey to you is precision. Or, to use their phrase:
OMIT NEEDLESS WORDS!
Every word in your sentence should perform a function. If it doesn’t, it shouldn’t be in the sentence. Really, all the functions we could discuss here are versions of the same function: to give the reader information. This is not the same thing as exposition. A word might be used to inform a reader about the rules of a tournament, true, but there are other kinds of information. A word might be used to set an image in a reader’s mind. Or a word might be used to give a reader insight into the character who speaks it. Or it might demonstrate an emotion. Or tell us about what a person wants or fears.
So you can see that this philosophy doesn’t say that you shouldn’t have passages which exist only for the sake of exploring an image, or words which demonstrate a character’s rural background or scientific manner. These may in fact be very important things! But every word in a paragraph should count. Every word should go to achieving one of those purposes.
This is also not to say you can’t have a vivid style with ornate language and eloquent descriptions. That may be the most brilliant thing for your story! But it should be done deliberately. You should be aware of your style, and write your words consciously, making a choice every time.
I think a huge part of your problem might be redundancy. You give the same information over and over again, and as a result your sentences get long and tiring. Here’s an example:
“ “I mean, seriously. Think about how much of our summer we wasted being cooped up in this damn classroom every week!” Andy, the ever-boisterous one, continued on, still slouching at his desk.”
Your readers will get the idea that Andy is boisterous from the passage, so you probably don’t need it. Then you have the words “continued on” and “still slouching.” If “continued on” describes his speech, you don’t need it: it’s already pretty clear that he’s continuing an idea. If it describes his slouching, then “still slouching” does the job perfectly. You may not even need to mention that he’s at his desk. We learned that a few paragraphs ago.
In fact, you can apply this principle throughout a passage: has this idea already been mentioned, or are we just reiterating the same thing over and over again with different words? There are only two legitimate reasons to evoke the same idea twice: One, it’s been a very long time since it was last discussed, and you want to give your readers a review. The other is that you want to look at the same situation from a slightly different angle, in which case you will be very deliberate about the words you use. Your words will contain the new information that Milo finds Pokémon battling rather awkward, or that the streetlamps of Viridian look very beautiful this time of night. Or even the word “totally” might indicate that he’s a young, uncultured character. You can certainly use those pieces of information, but you should absolutely avoid just putting words in for the sake of having words.
Watch out for ambiguities. Sometimes it’s unclear who is doing what to whom, especially when your descriptions become entangled. Is the sturdy blue-eyed boy with short blonde hair the one seated snugly in the desk next to Milo? Or is it his hair which is seated snugly? Watch out for that.
I’m in favor of making a sentence serve multiple purposes: your descriptions don’t always have to be that explicit. For example, in a sentence when Andy is talking to Milo, you might say that “his blue eyes opened widely,” or that he has a “blue-eyed stare.” When you throw a character’s entire visual description at a reader at once, it can be distracting. Spreading descriptions out through actions that take place is a great way to balance that out.
The more ornate your sentence structure, the more you should move carefully. If a sentence gets overloaded with too many participles or dashes or changes of direction, that’s probably an indication you should spread the ideas out into smaller sentences. You may be able to shake off a lot of useless verbal clutter that way.
This paragraph is a great example of unnecessary wordiness:
“And with that, the pre-taped video of Bowers' announcement disappeared from the television, and the second half of the KPL championship resumed... although at this point after what they had just seen regarding the enchanting national teenage talent search Bowers had just introduced to the world, Milo Young and Andy Morrow could not have possibly cared any less.”
Why do we need to know it’s pre-taped? If we do need to know it, it should be in a place where it isn’t as distracting. Why do we need the words “enchanting national talent search” or “introduced to the world?” We already know what it is, so we can just have a very short referral in this sentence. You can also cut words like “at this point” and “from the television.”
Definitely don’t do a new paragraph after a colon unless you’re making a really dramatic statement.
Very often, you can drop the character from the narration. I’ll show you what I mean:
“He agreed that Izzy was eccentric and nerdy, but then again, she hadn't crashed into the most popular jock in school and fallen flat on her face in front of a hallway full of classmates.”
You don’t need to say that it’s Milo thinking these things. If you just say:
“Izzy was eccentric and nerdy, but then again, she hadn't crashed into the most popular jock in school and fallen flat on her face in front of a hallway full of classmates.”
Then the audience will assume that Milo is the one who holds the opinion, because he’s the main character. You can mention that these are Milo’s thoughts on occasion, but most of the time you don’t need to unless you’re shooting for a very distant style Honestly, by dropping some of the “Milo agreed” from your sentences, you’ll reduce a good bit of your useless language, and go a long way toward connecting with your readers.
And this might especially help you when it comes to analogies. Look at this one:
“The idea of this transition made Milo feel like a Goldeen who had lived in a small bowl his whole life, feeling comfortable with his safe, simplistic routine, but was now being forced out into the vast, deep ocean to face the scary unknown. He felt sick whenever he thought of this analogy, but lately, he couldn't help it.”
You can cut so, so much of this out, and it’ll be stronger for it. The fact that Milo sort of stands outside this simile makes it awkward and corny. Try:
“He felt like a Goldeen who had spent a lifetime in a small bowl, suddenly shaken from his routine and forced out into the vast, unknown ocean. This thought always made him feel sick, but lately, he couldn’t keep it from his mind.”
“It was like being a Goldeen who had spent a lifetime in a small bowl, suddenly shaken from routine and forced out into the vast, unknown ocean. The thought was sickening, but lately, he couldn’t keep it from his mind.”
Mentioning the analogy actually weakens it. Simplifying the structure this way will make the comparison much more vivid.
Lastly, other than reading Strunk and White, there are two more things I can recommend which will help you refine your style:
Read your work out loud. Sentences that sound natural when spoken—not necessarily like dialogue, mind you, but sentences that simply seem to please the ear are far more enjoyable for a reader than those that sound awkward when spoken aloud.
And read professional authors. I’m sure you do already, but try to look at them in a whole new light. Return to your favorite works of literature, the absolute best you know, and examine what makes their style tick. What choices have allowed for the most vivid, effective communication of ideas? In short, what works? Why does it work? Can you use it in your own writing in some way? Even ask yourself: what doesn’t work in this piece? And why do I feel that way? Looking at literature this way is essential to developing as a writer. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy reading—you just start to look behind the scenes a bit.
Those are my thoughts on style. I don’t claim to be the world’s greatest expert, but more and more I’ve been coming to the conclusion that when I’m frustrated with my writing, I need to spend some time polishing the style. Sharpening it, if you will, to a point. So give it a try: I think you’ll find examining style will help you immensely as a writer.
Besides style, there are only a few other critical points I’d like to make. I feel like Milo is a bit underdeveloped as a character, compared to Izzy or even Andy. I liked the scene where we learn about his brother—that did wonders to give him more depth—but I feel like he needs something more, and I want to feel drawn to him from the very beginning. One possible avenue of exploration: what are his goals? What does Milo want out of life, besides Pokémon battling?
I think you need to draw a bit of a distinction between your narrative style and your dialogue. Generally I find it works best when the vocabulary and syntax you use in each are a bit different. Even in stories with a strong main-character lens, when people talk to each other, they use different words than those they use to think about their lives. Also, don’t neglect dialogue as an opportunity to establish character—it’s one of the best places to do it.
Finally, while your grammar is for the most part pretty tight, I noticed a few slip-ups. Can’t hurt to review the rules a bit! One I can remember is: using that to refer to human beings, as in “people that.” It should always be “people who!” Save that and which for inanimate objects. There was also some tense confusion when you were discussing the hypothetical scenario of KPL play. Even then, keep your tenses consistent: if you adopt one way of describing the scenario, stick to it.
Those are my thoughts. You don’t have to act on any of these criticisms. Your writing as it stands is definitely better than the average fanfiction. But I get the impression that you want to be more than just better than average. If you truly seek to become the best writer you can be, exploring these ideas will help you achieve that goal.