Undertale Reviews, Part 4 (Frisk)

Strap in, we’ve got a long one today. This fic is about Frisk confronting their evil abusive parents. Not an uncommon idea, but this is the first time such a fic was completed, I believe. Here we learn the important lesson that a group of strangers kidnapping your kid and threatening to murder you is totes okay and you should just deal with it.


Frisk

Underworld

Underground.

Compared to humans, though, monsters remained 1/500 which was a smaller then you had expected but you hadn’t known all of the information about monsters.

Conveying exact figures through narration is pretty stilted. Just saying that there are far fewer monsters compared to humans would have been fine.

“You cannot give me the cold shoulder!” She said

You’re writing dialogue incorrectly. Dialogue is written as [“Hello,” she said] or [“Hello!” she said], never [“Hello.” She said] or [“Hello”, she said] or [“Hello” she said]. This is because dialogue and speech tags are considered to be part of the same sentence, so they have to flow together. The only exception to this is if the next sentence doesn’t contain a speech verb. In that case, the second part is considered a separate sentence, so it’s written as [“Hello.” She grinned], never [“Hello,” she grinned]. Note that something isn’t a speech verb just because it’s a sound you make with your mouth, so generally stuff like “laughed” or “giggled” is in the second category. Furthermore, if you’re breaking up two complete sentences it’s [“Hi,” she said. “This is it.”] not [“Hi,” she said, “this is it.”] or [“Hi,” she said “this is it.”] And if you’re breaking up a sentence in the middle, it’s [“Hi. This,” she said, “is it.”] The same punctuation and capitalization rules apply to thoughts, except you don’t use quotation marks (or single quotes) with thoughts. This is because quotation marks for thoughts make it look like your characters are talking to themselves, which is confusing to the reader.

You were certain you could diffuse any situation

“Defuse”. “Diffuse” means to disperse over a large area.

A lot of this reads more like a summary than a story, especially the first part, which isn’t terribly interesting. I highly doubt all of this information will be relevant to the main plot, and if it is, it would work better if it was integrated organically rather than awkwardly dumped on the reader at the beginning. Spending all this time on backstory also means it takes longer for the actual story to start, which is tiring.

Your story should always start where your plot starts. Supposedly the premise of this story is to explore Frisk’s past, but you’ve given me absolutely no information on that yet, so I don’t even have an inkling of what makes this story different from all the others with the same idea.

Chapter 2

A young Loox

If a noun is preceded by an article such as “a”, it’s a common noun and shouldn’t be capitalized. You may note that while the game capitalizes monster species, it always uses them as proper names — “Not because they’re jealous of Vulkin or anything!” rather than “Not because they’re jealous of the Vulkin or anything!” in the Tsunderplane-Vulkin encounter for instance.

before examining who all was here

This is awkwardly worded.

even the ones that didn’t have legs which you were pleased about.

You need a comma here after “legs”.

I’d recommend putting spaces on both sides of your dashes, just because -this- is used for emphasis in some forms of writing, so it can be a little disorienting. It’s also more professional to use double dashes, like — (which Word will autocorrect to a full dash), rather than hyphens.

Two were classmates but the other two were a younger and an older sibling of your classmate.

Word repetition sounds awkward, so this feels kinda stilted.

….No, you still didn’t like talking.

Frisk is a chatterbox in canon. Most ACT commands involve talking. Also, ellipses are always three dots, never two or four.

Tamara whispered in a conspirator tone.

“conspiratorial”

You didn’t worry about the semantics of monsters and their reproduction habits

This is overdoing it. Frisk doesn’t need to explain every bit of their thought process in excruciating detail; besides, it’s actually better to not need a justification if you want to show how normalized this is. Conflating gender identity with “reproduction habits” is also a little weird, and I don’t see why a kid would think about it in those terms in the first place.

ruffled it’s…feathers?

“Its”. “It’s” means “it is”.

Even dad thinks so!

When a title (like “mom” or “dad”) is used in place of a name, it’s capitalized like one. Remember what I said about common nouns having articles in front of them? This is the reverse: if a noun doesn’t need an article in front of it, it’s probably a proper noun.

You’re dropping a lot of commas. I’d recommend getting a beta reader to help you with them, and/or reading up on comma usage.

The blades appeared to have been welded onto a pair of old shoes.

This is cute.

–some of which gave your group dirty looks

This is an aside, so you need to close it with a second dash.

“Do not worry, little one. These things take time. And after all,” he looked

This is interrupting speech with a non-speaking verb. The rules for this are kinda complicated. There’s no official standard, but I’ve seen three ways of doing it: an ellipses, a dash, and no punctuation but a dash outside the quotes. So this should be either [And after all…” He looked] or [And after all –” He looked] or [And after all”–he looked]. Which one you choose generally depends on the tone you want to convey. Since the non-speaking part is long and Asgore is talking slowly, I think an ellipses would work best here, since that conveys a long and unhurried pause.

This ends very abruptly.

Chapter 3

Also where Toriel says “heart” there’s actually supposed to be an emoji heart. I couldn’t figure out how to fix it because of the coding. Imagine it’s there.

Hm, maybe you could try a Unicode heart? I’m pretty sure the code accepts those.

Somehow you had even convinced some of the older teens over to join in on the field trip and have food.

“Older teens over”…? I can’t parse that. You might have to reword it.

Sans is great here, but I’m still disappointed by how long it’s taking to get to the main event.

Chapter 4

she had caught the interest of a number of scientists from her introduction of Mettaton

Hm, how would that work? I imagine scientists would be very intrigued by Mettaton’s sapience, but that’s only possible because he’s possessed by a ghost, which isn’t something that human tech can replicate. The mechanical design is pretty impressive, but modern engineers have accomplished similar feats of articulation.

“Are they tears of joy as well?” Asgore added. You nodded quickly. “THEN LET’S MAKE THEM CRY MORE!!” Undyne shouted

This is very Undyne. :)

This is sweet, and a good intro to the issue of Frisk’s family. I can’t help but feel that the story would have been stronger if it had started here, however.

Chapter 5

You had suggested that the playing monsters should all wear socks (because that’s what it says to do in the game) but they had all been scandalized at the thought of bearing their socked feet in front of company. You looked down at your own socked feet. They never seemed to bother anyone before.

Scandalous. . . ?

You didn’t understand monsters.

That seems a little odd. In the game, it’s Frisk who acts scandalized by socks, never anyone else.

It had become a ritual after you awoke from nightmares to rinse your face and to look in the mirror. You always had to make sure it was really you especially after nightmares like you had tonight.

This is a nice detail.

some of the face he made

Typo.

You could never your feelings for him

Dropped a word here.

The party games are cute but they completely murder the pacing.

Chapter 6

Now that Toriel and Asgore were aware that they were alive, they would probably tell you to leave.

Why would Frisk think this? They know Toriel and Asgore love children and are heartbroken over Asriel and Chara’s deaths. They might think it would be better for Frisk to be with their birth family, but I doubt they’d go against Frisk’s wishes on the matter. Is Frisk meant to be an unreliable narrator here?

“….”

This is a visual art convention. It doesn’t make sense in prose, where there are other ways of conveying silence.

Wait, I’m confused. Are Asgore and Toriel living together? Did they reconcile? Is this addressed in one of the earlier shorts?

Chapter 7

One of your earliest memories as of your grandparents.

“is”

“TV” is generally capitalized, since it’s an acronym.

She didn’t look much older than you remembered but then she always wore quite a bit of make-up.

Ehh, is this going to do the thing where women who are pretty and wear makeup are evil? Because that’s really, really skeevy.

“Golly, your mother is a pretty human, Frisk!” Asgore complimented in a low voice.

It is also pretty skeevy that this is the one thing Asgore decides to comment on. How would he even know what an attractive human looks like?

If they had any parents I would have thought they would wish to return to said parents

This is pretty stilted, unless the point is to sound stilted. “To return to them” would sound more natural.

“I still can’t believe he,” she stressed the word

Using italics on “he” would help convey this better.

Chapter 8

You had been a “girl” when your mother had dated and married him. It was a quirk of your mother’s. She never could remember what your true gender is. That’s what happened when she barely changed your diapers when you were a baby.

This confuses me. The last line implies the mother doesn’t know Frisk’s physical sex, but the doctors who deliver the child are supposed to tell you that — so is this supposed to imply she didn’t have a nice clean childbirth in a hospital? But if Frisk is trans or non-binary then that’s irrelevant anyway. Furthermore, if Frisk has strong feelings on their “true gender”, why don’t they just tell their mother what they prefer to be called? Or do they not know/care themselves?

your tooth and hairbrush

This sounds a bit like it’s referring to a brush for both teeth and hair. Maybe add a hyphen after “tooth”?

Why doesn’t Frisk ever argue with their mother about the gender stuff? Is there supposed to be an implication that they tried before and got a bad reaction?

A child had gone missing there couple months ago.

Dropped a word here.

You wouldn’t become one of the lost souls!!

Multiple exclamation points look very strange, especially in narration. I’m not sure if they’re necessary here.

Your parents didn’t seem to like the monsters very much.

Show don’t tell. We haven’t actually seen much evidence of this; their one interaction with monsters was tense but polite, and there were plenty of other possible reasons for the tension.

“What do you even care?!” Your mother demanded in a quieter but just as distressed voice. “You don’t even like him!!”

“Because that is our grandchild whether we like it or not and you will NOT harm that child!!”

This kind of doublethink is depressingly realistic. I’m actually feeling pretty sympathetic for Frisk’s mom.

Chapter 9

Your grandparents were nicer to you in an effort to comfort

This doesn’t make grammatical sense. “At comfort”, perhaps?

The worst part was learning you were unwanted.

Huh? That wasn’t very clear in the last flashback. It sounded like she did want to take care of Frisk but physically couldn’t, so she broke down from the stress and did something she regretted. Is this supposed to be the grandparents’ influence?

“Mommy’s off to get us a rich daddy, baby. Then we don’t need to worry about money anymore! Be good while mommy’s away!”

Yeah, this really sounds like someone who’s extremely desperate and at the end of her rope.

Your step-father married your mother after your tenth birthday. People called it a “shotgun wedding”.

…How is it a shotgun wedding?

She seemed to think that now that you were ten you could start wearing makeup and deodorant and jewelry but none of that interested you whatsoever. In the evenings she would go out with her new fancy friends.

Okay, so.

I presume this is supposed to show she’s evil. The problem is, Frisk never communicates with her. Frisk never tells her they don’t want the pretty things. Frisk never tells her they’re bothered by the isolation. They keep it all to themselves. It’s unreasonable to say someone is evil for not being able to read their kid’s mind. If Frisk did speak up about this and she ignored them or worse, then that would be evil — because it would show active malice and dismissal of Frisk’s well-being. This reads more like she’s in over her head and doesn’t know how to raise a kid properly, but means it’s possible she’d make a better attempt if Frisk brought it up. It’s true that people can hurt others through ignorance, but that doesn’t make them inherently bad people. The only people I would condemn here are the grandparents — they seem to have abused her to begin with and refused to support her properly, then abused Frisk into being unable to communicate their problems.

Chapter 10

Your mother warned you that if you didn’t let the barber style your hair, it would just get buzzed. Your protests were silenced.

Okay, this is actually evil. For consistency, though, I feel you should have included more stuff like this earlier rather than just her being really busy and neglectful. Unless you were meaning for it to be ambiguous at first and then for this to reveal she’s evil.

Your friends’ silly messages made your day but most of them worked during the day.

Repetition.

Everyone deserves a chance at happiness

Dropped the period here.

“…They, um…don’t really like monsters.” She stated it like it was a fact. You nodded sadly to her.

I still haven’t seen any hard evidence for this. They could simply be overwhelmed by the strangeness, upset by their volume and activity, or upset at the fact their child chose the monsters over them. If we saw them acting coldly toward other, completely unrelated monsters, that would demonstrate this better, because there would be less ambiguity as to what their motives were.

You didn’t understand how all women seemed to have the ability to fight that way.

Really not a good idea to start spewing lolwomen misogyny in a story about how misgendering and traditional gender roles are Very Wrong. Not a good idea to do it ever, really, but it’s particularly dissonant here.

You’d never heard your mother sound like that before except when your step-father talked to particularly pretty women.

I presume you’re trying to make a parallel to different kinds of jealousy. The problem is that, with the way you’ve set up their relationship, there are plenty of very good reasons for her to be concerned about him cheating on her beyond just jealousy. It seems like she’s completely dependent on him for financial support, so if he leaves her for someone else she’ll be ruined. It’s very reasonable for her to freak out over that, while this is just petty.

Chapter 11

You goggled at her.

I think you mean “boggled”.

You were afraid of what Toriel and Asgore would think of you for abandoning your parents.

Why? Frisk knows that Toriel and Asgore are distraught over their absence and seem pretty cold toward the parents. It’s a little odd to conclude that they’d judge or hate Frisk for going back to them.

“You didn’t know.” She stated.

“Stated” isn’t a very fitting speech verb here; “stated” is more synonymous with “declared” than “said”. “Stated flatly” might work, but “said” would also be fine here.

You saw the edging of blue in the light and even though your hair stood on your end you had a strong feeling it wasn’t for you. “That isn’t what I asked.”

Wow, that’s really awful of him. I presume you’re trying to show him being concerned, but this reads as extremely aggressive, since in canon, the blue glow only happens when he’s using his powers. That catapults this from “serious face” into “overt threat”. I also have no idea why he thinks acting extremely angry and pushy would make an abused kid more willing to open up instead of less.

It wasn’t….It wasn’t

When an ellipses doesn’t end a sentence, you don’t capitalize what comes after it.

“They’re monsters¸ dear. You’re not SUPPOSED to like them!”

Ah, here we go, finally collapsing the wavefunction on Schrodinger’s Moral Judgment. I think I see the problem now. This is a trap that a lot of writers fall into: Because you know everything about the plot and characters, you know a character’s full motives and morality as soon as they’re introduced, so you see no problem in using that to judge them in the narration. However, the readers don’t know that stuff until you reveal it explicitly. I’ve continually said that I didn’t want to pass judgement on the parents because their behavior was ambiguous and could be explained by a variety of possible motives, some less terrible than others. It’s only now that I know their specific motives — but the narration was acting like this was obvious from the start, which just baffled (and spoiled) me. This makes sense from the perspective of an omniscient creator, but not from the perspective of an outsider. With a limited perspective, everything has to flow logically from the limited information known to the protagonist.

Did you see what that…fish…almost did to him?

And this part is actually a pretty reasonable concern. Monsters are potentially really dangerous, and the most generous possible interpretation of what they saw is that monsters can underestimate human endurance and it’s really easy for them to hurt people by accident. I would be pretty wary of letting my kid hang around people like that, even if they assured me that no really it’s okay.

Okay wow, my sympathy for the mother just shot up. I assumed she did want a child and just overestimated her ability to take care of one, but her parents saddled her with a massive resource sink she didn’t even want or plan on? No wonder she’s such a mess. It was still wrong of her to abandon Frisk to the wolves, but she was objectively right, she was not ready for the responsibility and other people forcing more responsibility on her is not doing anything to help that.

You were angry but you didn’t want to fight anymore. You hated fighting.

This seems out of character. Frisk was willing to confront every monster in the Underground and got a positive result from it. It’s a little weird that The Most Determined Person Ever wouldn’t even consider standing up to their parents when they actively chose to fight Toriel and Asgore for much higher stakes.

Chapter 12

You didn’t resist

Technically correct but nonstandard. The usual phrase is “couldn’t resist”.

You waited at crosswalk

Dropped a word.

And you had almost lost your life.

Not… really? Frisk is immortal. Dying might be a bit upsetting but it doesn’t carry nearly the same weight as it does for us.

This seems… sudden. The past four chapters have been nothing but Frisk wallowing in denial, even after their parents did similar things to this (hating on monsters, taking away the phone), then suddenly they go the whole mile. A sudden epiphany is realistic, but narratively, it works best if there’s a clear progression the reader can follow. Frisk has stayed at about the same level of discomfort as when they first moved in with their parents instead of their naivete slowly getting chipped away.

At this point the series branches off into a oneshot fic retelling this scene from Sans’ perpsective, which I also reviewed:

A Little Chat

This does a good job of showing a scene from a different perspective. A lot of stories just rehash the same thing without adding much new detail, which is very boring.

Sans liked kids but these screams got on his already thin nerves

What? Sans is extremely chill and patient in canon, else he would have turned Frisk into a fine paste whenever they kill Papyrus.

He was furious. He could feel his eye socket burning with magic.

Uh, wow, he’s unstable. It’s really not unreasonable for parents to be leery of their kid hanging out with someone with a hair-trigger temper and power incontinence.

No curtesy

“courtesy”

“how many times are you going to hurt Frisk?”

This is like asking “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” It’s making an incredible number of assumptions about them and is extremely aggressive. Sans has just demonstrated he’s not here to listen to reason.

Your child. They’re the savior of my whole race. All of us monsters? We have this thing called magic. And you know what we use magic for?”

Oh excellent job Sans, give the abusive parents more reason to hate and fear Frisk. I’m sure they definitely won’t take it out on them.

They were taking Frisk back whether or not the kid wanted to leave.

Sooo he’s basically going to do exactly what the parents did in chapter 12. This makes him less abusive than the parents because…?

Okay, so. Consider this from the parents’ perspective.

Your child disappears for a year. When they come back, they’re in the company of a notorious criminal gang who you’re told killed lots of people before they were justly locked away. Your child seems to have a good relationship with the criminals, but when they meet up again one nearly suplexes the kid. Even if they really do have your kid’s best interests at heart — which you have no way of knowing for sure — they’ve just proven that that isn’t enough to ensure your kid’s safety.

You remember your kid used to be outgoing, but now they spend all their time cooped in a room chatting with their criminal friends. You don’t know what they’re chatting about, and you don’t know a whole lot about the situation to begin with. They could be inducting your kid into a crime ring or a global conspiracy to overthrow humanity for all you know. Maybe you don’t think it’s that extreme, but you still think they’re being a bad influence, so you cut off contact.

Then one of their criminal friends shows up, asks you if you’ve stopped beating your kid yet, then when you don’t answer, threatens to murder you if you don’t give the kid back, all while demonstrating he has godly power and implying his fellows have the same. The moment your kid comes back into sight, he suddenly starts acting friendly and like nothing happened. He also acts like a barely-restrained psychopath throughout all of this.

How would you react to all of that? Your worst fears were just confirmed. Monsters have demonstrated themselves to be extremely dangerous, they’re extremely possessive of your kid, and they seem to be hiding just how dangerous they are, as if they know your kid would cut off ties if they saw. Would you believe your kid’s claims that they’re totally buddies and everything’s fine after that? I certainly wouldn’t. I’d do exactly what the parents do here: take my kid and get as far away from the psychos as possible. Kids can’t always be trusted to know everything about a complex situation or display good judgment; part of being a good parent is knowing when your kid isn’t in their right mind and needs an intervention.

We know from context that these people aren’t the best parents, but they’re not the spawn of Satan either, and you’re not doing a very good job of portraying Sans as any less abusive. The morality of this narrative feels very muddled.

People have issues. I know kneejerk shortcut moral judgments are a common trait among humanity, but I’m particularly baffled that this is showing up in the fandom for Undertale, a game that is all about how it’s wrong to judge based on first impressions and that you should assume the best of people. It might be because the game was a bit too perfect and saccharine; that seems to have sent the wrong message, that people are only deserving of respect and forgiveness if they are unrealistically perfect saints.

Chapter 13

Ah, the earlier save was a Chekhov’s gun. Very clever.

Two pervading feelings stood out thought that could only be described as

The “thought” is unnecessary here.

Sans is going to be angry when you tell him.

But not in an abusive way or anything.

He didn’t sound angry but he was certainly less pleased than he was earlier. You felt the urge to apologize again. […] You winced. You deserved that.

Seriously this is textbook abusive behavior.

Perhaps it was because he hadn’t checked his machines that let him know about time anomalies.

Huh? Sans can remember reloads.

You took full advantage of Sans’s ingenious.

“Ingenious” is an adjective. “Ingeniousness”?

You learned to value your mother’s struggles but not forgive her for how she handled them.

Hm. I was expecting this to go the route of “no she is the worst most irredeemable ever” but this is actually quite reasonable.

Chapter 14

Asgore winced and continued,

“however we have come to an agreement together on the raising of Frisk.”

Missing capital. Also, it’s generally considered good form to place speech tags/actions in the same paragraph as dialogue.

Your mother stared at him a bit longer before looking at you. “Frisk…is this…is this what you really want?”

This seems to support my theory that it was the monsters’ influence they were objecting to, given that they’re listening now but not after seeing Undyne and Sans.

But yay, good end. Everyone gets to be happy.

And then at the narrative suddenly does a 180 and acknowledges the mom really wasn’t cut out for this so she’s not actually evil? It’s so counter to what’s stated in the actual narrative that it feels token, like Asriel saying “oh yeah pacifism may have worked perfectly throughout this entire story but it totally won’t anymore” at the very end of Undertale.

4 Comments

  1. illhousen says:
    “It might be because the game was a bit too perfect and
    saccharine; that seems to have sent the wrong message, that people are
    only deserving of respect and forgiveness if they are unrealistically
    perfect saints.”

    Hm, it seems like a pretty straightforward changeling fantasy to me, only told in reverse because Frisk is already a changeling*: Frisk had an awful life with their wicked parents, then was whisked away to a much better place where they’re surrounded by friends and get to go on amazing (if sometimes scary) adventures and get to being known as the savior, etc.

    I don’t think the person who wrote this fic thought particularly deep about themes of Undertale and how they relate or don’t relate to the real world. They’ve built Underground as a fantasy, a safe haven to escape to, and tried to built up the surface to contrast it as much as possible to maximize the voracious enjoyment of leaving it behind.

    *Which probably contributes to the narrative condemnation of their parents before they have a chance to do something worthy of it. In a normal narrative like that, by the time they’d meet monsters we’d have already seen them putting Frisk into a cupboard or something.

  2. illhousen says:
    Also, I’m currently recovering from a nasty flue and having most peculiar dreams about mathematician pirates, so it could be just fever talking, but a thought suddenly occurred to me that while Chara being the narrator doesn’t make sense in canon, it would be an interesting narrative choice for a fic. It would be an unusual bent on the idea of an unreliable narrator.

    I mean, imagine a person who doesn’t like either you or people you interact with and doesn’t really understand your motivations narrates your life. A person with an agenda, so they frame everything to their benefit (kinda like Sidereals in the first edition, every idea is a great idea when there are many of them, every idea is a great idea when it involves you holding a knife), try to replace your thoughts with theirs, but it’s always incomplete because they don’t quite get people, and so descriptions don’t match characters’ actions and you can see what’s really going on if you try.

    That, I think, would be especially interesting in the context of the current fandom and soft!Chara because the fic would start with the protagonist who seems to be going down the path of soft!Chara, with narration very sympathetic to murder and related things, framing monsters as frightening and callous and totally deserving what they get… only for it to slowly become clear that the narration is Chara’s attempts to manipulate Frisk and you need to look at actual actions, at actual words said to get the real picture.

    1. Socordya says:
      mathematician pirates

      In the West, we call them “bankers”.

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