More critiques

A few quick critiques to start the morning- more bracing than caffeine. As always, my opinions are my own, and while I love to generate ideas and offer suggestions, the critiqued should feel free to ignore them. ;-)

13. Brigid, Wicked Sensibility - I love urban fantasy! Although I didn't get to find out what was fantastical in this one. Still, it's a well-written first page. I noticed a slight tendency to overwriting- examples are "Rebecca flung herself into the car in a vain attempt to escape the nighttime November cold." and "He hesitated, and she was sure he was going to refuse or take some action borne of desperation." The phrasing doesn't seem quite natural, and interrupts the flow of the story. Overall, though, I think this is a good first page: action right away, believable reaction by the main character, you've raised story questions I want to know the answer to (what is he hiding from? why is he bleeding? etc). Actually, on second thought, I might move the action a little closer to the beginning- do we really need to know it's cold and November and Maryland right away? Could you work that in when he's getting out of the car- that might be more natural than the detailed description of his clothes (would she really be paying so much attention to clothes in that situation?), his open door lets in the cold November air, or something? And then just start with "There was a man in her car."

Okay, I'm getting too long with these again. It's just so much fun...

14. Christy, Viva! - I think I would start with "The numbers on the bedside clock", and work in the bit about loud music later when you say the music gets turned up. If I hadn't been reading this with a view to critiquing it, I think you would have lost me in that first paragraph, because I didn't know why I should care that the music is giving someone a headache... But once I know she's a prostitute who doesn't seem to want to be one, it gets interesting. That's your hook, and what will make me want to keep reading. (This entry was short, so that's probably why the critique is short. And here I thought I was getting better!)

15. A. Genova, For Sparta - Oh, wierd. a friend's WIP has a villain by the name of Melaina, which is not exactly a common name. I'm guessing she's not the villain in your story, let me adjust my thinking. Okay. The writing is good. You work description into action nicely- I especially like the part when she runs up the hill. But I wound up a little confused. I think this is possibly because I have no idea what the story is about at this point, and if I were an agent I would have already read your query and know a little more about what was going on. The first three paragraphs seem to be a childish game of hide-and-seek, although I didn't realize she was a child until she "flung her small body" behind the tree. But then the "Melaina, you can't hide from me forever" line sounded more sinister than I expected. Still, she was *grinning* as she hid from him... but then she's chanting in her head for him not to find her. I like the revelation of character in the scorpion encounter- she's not going to let her fears make her do something she doesn't want to, even if she *is* a child. I think I want to know more about what's at stake- is it really a simple game of hide-and-seek? Is the scorpion really harmless, or is she in danger? If it is just hide-and-seek, then I'm not sure this is the right place to start, because there's no conflict, just a fond memory or a child having a fun time with or father or friend. I want to know that too- who's looking for her?

16. Jessica, Repose - Love this. You have a fabulous way with words, they seem to flow almost.. magically. So I'm going to focus on the problems- I didn't realize at first that Mairead had just entered the cellar, I spent the first few paragraphs wondering if her mother had locked her in or something. Also, I thought she was much younger, and the soldier's fingers on her thigh gave me quite a start- I thought it was going to be an abuse story. These things are easily cleared up- make her close the door before she leaned against it, maybe say "her mother hadn't told her stories like that for years" instead of just a long time, which can mean something different to a young child. Now, why doesn't she know the soldier's name? That bothered me a lot, it didn't immediately seem to fit with the character. She seems like a rebellious young girl, sneaking off to meet a lover while her mother is away- not knowing the name of who she's going to sleep with puts it on another level entirely. That's pretty trashy, and might make her a little too unlikeable? I'll finish up with more praise- strong voiced character, you pulled us right into the story, it's easy to see that there's conflict between the girl and her mother. I'd definitely keep reading.


Hi Amy,

You reviewed my Sparta story this morning, and I wanted to thank you. You're very insightful, and your comments have got me thinking.

I also appreciate your review of Jessica's Repose. She's in my writing group, and again, I thought you were on the mark. Isn't her writing lovely?

You have a very nice way of critiquing, where you point out problems, but in a way that doesn't sting. Thanks again.

January 31, 2008 at 11:42 AM  

Thank you! I love critiquing, so it's nice to know that I'm doing it in a good way. And I really love to get people thinking. Often we as writers really need someone who hasn't been thinking about the story as long as we have, who can see different possibilities in our stories than we can.

Jessica's writing is very lyrical (kind of reminds me of Patricia McKillip, actually), but your style accomplished exactly what it needs to as well: you both pulled me into your stories.

Let me know if your writing group ever needs an objective critique! ;-)

January 31, 2008 at 2:38 PM  

Wow! Thank you for the kind comments and the thoughtful critique, Amy. Everyone in my writing group already knows the character and the story, and so it is very helpful to get a completely fresh perspective on the opening.

You bring up some excellent points. I didn't realize that her age wasn't clear, probably because I know how old she is (she's 24). :) Good point about not knowing that she just entered the cellar, as I can see how the scene may be perceived as more sinister than it is.

Yes, Mairead really is somewhat trashy near the beginning (she just met this soldier and brought him home). I am a bit worried that she is possibly an unlikable character, but think that I've given her credible motivation for her actions, however misguided they might be. And she does change by the end, I promise! She's just flexing her wings, testing out the newfound independence that the war has given her.

I agree with Annette that you have an encouraging, yet honest critiquing style. I really appreciate you taking a look and I'm glad you enjoyed it!

And Annette, you are too kind, as always!

January 31, 2008 at 3:29 PM  


Thanks for the compliments! And it's hard to see all of a complex character's motivation on page one. I'm sure you do provide good motivation, and hopefully someday I'll get to buy the book and find out what it is!

January 31, 2008 at 4:32 PM  

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