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Like a Text-based Cartoon

By Rhodeworks, author of Not All Heroes

Aug 15, 2018: Music Masters is an interesting little story with some experimental ideas revolving around the usage of new media to enhance storytelling. It has a bright energy and a simple concept: music gives superpowers. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t, but it does do quite well in a few particular ways. So, let’s dive in.

Music Masters—henceforth, MM—follows a young man named Michael Kay has he finds himself immersed in a world where music is a literal source of power. From there, things get rapidly more complex as he is drawn into a musical maelstrom of a world, meeting a wide cast of characters, getting into fights and hijinks and so on.

The big thing that I noticed about MM was its sense of tone. Music Masters nails the feel of one of those morning cartoons from the early 2000s. Part of this comes from the artwork but most of it comes from the bright, optimistic tone that Hejin57 is able to evoke. This story comes from the heart of someone who truly loves music and you can really feel it. The usage of musical links in the text is a nice touch but some might think it’s too much or too distracting. Either way, it’s there for a reason.

Michael Kay and the rest of the cast are all fairly archetypal. This makes them easily understood, of course, and helps that ‘cartoon feel.’ They tend to bounce off each other pretty well with their own views, perspectives, and goals. If there’s a problem with the characters, is that there’s a lot of them and, initially, it can be hard to remember who is who and how they relate to some of the other characters and the plots as they get introduced at a fairly rapid pace.

I wasn’t struck by any particularly glaring problems throughout MM, but there were a few issues that I noted. There’s some clunky sentencing throughout, generally an issue of phrasing or word choice. And that in and of itself is related to the more noticeable issue I had with MM, which is something called ‘unpacking.’

It’s something I picked up from Chuck Palahniuk. Essentially, it’s the use of words like thought/wondered and other ‘thinking’ verbs to short-cut describing that interior thought process, but I also like to see it as describing things too quickly. MM’s pacing can flow very quickly, and I think a lot of it is to how quickly some things fly by Michael and the others. Sometimes, it’s handled a bit too quickly. But there are also parts where the story would be better served by summing things up with a few sentences and moving on. The quick pace of the story makes it all the more obvious when it has stopped for exposition.

I think MM’s later chapters got better at this and I think a strength of MM is that it has a steady plateau of consistent quality that occasionally spikes higher.

The other issue I had with MM was the use of descriptive phrases instead of a character’s name. For example, the story likes to sum up Michael as ‘the afro-haired boy’. It’s the sort of thing that puts a distance between Michael and the reader, and I don’t think MM is the kind of work that benefits from that distance. We want to be in Michael’s dancing shoes, to feel the rhythm he feels (or any of the other viewpoint characters, for that matter).

All in all, it’s a nice, easy read with a wonderful sense of fun and energy. Give it a shot and you might just fall into the groove. Who knows, maybe you’ll be exposed to some new music along the way!

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