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Thread: For Michelle

  1. #1
    SpookyDude
    Guest

    For Michelle

    Hi Michelle,

    Before I comeplete my critique, I must ask a couple of questions.

    First, in the beginning of the scene the woman (I don't know her name and I should, yes?) is experience doubt about her looks. Is she self-conscious of her beauty or does she really consider herself ugly?

    Is she experiencing "low self-esteem"? I think these will help me to understand what she is going through.

    I will wait for your answer and then complete my review. I like to read it a couple of times and then give my feedback.

    Okay, it's late and I must sleep so the two remaining good brain cells can recharge.

    Cheers,

    Jon



  2. #2
    Michelle Burtin
    Guest

    Re: For Michelle

    Hi Jon

    The woman's name is Maika. She's a German artist. Emerald Moon is one of her paintings, that Robin purchased. That's how they met. Maika is no divine beauty, but she's quite pretty. Only she sincerely finds herself ugly. (I know what it is, I just can't stand the look of myself in a mirror.) It's no self-consciousness of any beauty at all. She just hates herself, not only with regards to her physical appearance but also to everything she does, her painting, her dealing with her mother's disease. Her problem is a total lack of confidence and self-esteem, and this feeling of worthlessness keeps creeping on her. She tries to fight it, but it will come back. (I wouldn't like you to think that she cries from beginning to end of the story though!)

    Robin is an American writer living in Germany. They met a few times as friends after their first encounter, then he suddenly disappeared from her life. In fact he sent her some emails which she never received so didn't answer. Therefore he assumed that she didn't wish to see him anymore. What comes immediately before the excerpt I sent is a dialogue in which they become aware of this misunderstanding.

    Well, I hope it helps you to understand the excerpt.
    Thanks for your interest in my piece.

    Michelle

  3. #3
    SpookyDude
    Guest

    Re: For Michelle

    Michelle,

    I don’t want to change your tone or writing style, so please take my comments with a grain of salt. I read and re-read the scene several times to get a feel for it. In general, I like what I read. However, I did have a few areas where I was confused by either setting or dialogue.

    I actually didn’t like the guy so much because he came across as a jerk. I don’t know if that was your intention, but when someone tells me to get over it, I want to smack them.

    I have a few comments imbedded throughout the piece. Please remember that these are just my opinions and other people may have a different perspective. Overall, I did and do like the writing. I think you have an ability to express yourself very well and it comes through. But, I also wanted to see less narrative and more movement of the characters. I also felt there were times when you tended to tell me rather than show me a situation or emotion. I marked an example in the piece.

    Okay, I just wanted to say thanks for sharing this piece. I must also remind you that my comments are strictly included from my perspective. I don’t want you to take comments personal and please feel free to disregard.

    Comments are below:

    He says he was reminded of me constantly as he walked past Emerald Moon
    I didn’t know what the Emerald Moon was until you told me, so initially I thought it was a destination or landmark of some kind. Maybe you’ll need to work in that it’s a painting somehow or is it already discussed earlier? and was sorry that what he had thought would be developing into a strong friendship was to stop so suddenly and unexpectedly.

    A strong friendship!
    This is the setup for the next series of events. How does this revelation affect her relationship with this guy? Does she resent him now or resign herself to accept their relationship?

    The words tear at my heart. Friendship only? Oh, he means so much more to me. I thought the feeling was shared. But I see I was wrong. Of course , he can’t love me.

    I am so ugly. So hideous, with my too long nose and too pointed chin, my plain features, my dull hair, my too short size, my too large bum, my crooked smile, my too thin lips.
    Self-edification? Errr…I didn’t know how to deal with this because her description was too much and I had a hard time relating.

    Oh I am so ugly I should hide away. I understand what you’re saying but I think these two thoughts would be better if they were broken up or at least lead into the fantasy later? Why? Because first you’re talking about how ugly and worthless you are and then jump right into ‘if he only knew’ which is a transition and I was confused. (sorry) If he knew that I formed such fantasies about him he would be repelled and run for his life. And I can’t even paint. If I could I would sell my work, I would be renowned. And on top of it all, as if it wasn’t enough, I killed my mother. What??? She can’t paint and killed her mom? I don’t know if this works or not, but maybe she’s trying to say how pathetic she is and it’s not coming across as such. Just my thoughts.

    Slowly the worthlessness syndrome creeps into me again, aggravated by remorse and guilt, gnawing at my inner core and devouring what little self-esteem I have managed to hammer inside since the previous crisis. I stand up and walk to the window. Delete ‘Some’ and begin with children Children are playing further down the street and the sound of their voices reaches me through the pane. I rest my head on the cold or cool glass. It feels delete ‘cold and’ good on my forehead. Robin has stopped talking. I don’t know what he is doing. Watching me probably. use ? instead of a period because you’re questioning (yes?) Wondering.

    “I understand it must be hard for you.”
    What is hard on her? I understand her death must be hard on you.

    He shouldn’t have said that. I break down. Sorry, but I thought of a car breaking down. Maybe you can just skip to the next sentence which shows me she broke down and cried. Show me, don’t tell. I can feel my shoulders heaving in rhythm with my sobbing. I have no tissue handy. Oh, what a mess I will make of my face. I don’t need to be further disfigured, that’s What’s that? Too vague a description of how she feels about her doing further damage to her face. bad enough as it is. I fight the tears back as hard as I can but the grief that I have been trying to stifle for a month overflows and inundates my face. I can hear the soft sound of his steps approaching, then feel the slight pressure of his fingertips in my nape. He takes my hand and quietly draws me away from the window. Then he wraps his arms around me, pulling me gently nearer him, and I lay my head on his shoulder. I am aware that I am messing his jumper with tears and snot but am powerless to prevent it. He doesn’t speak, he just caresses the back of my neck softly; he doesn’t shush me like Beate does, he just gives the comfort of his presence, the reassurance of his male shoulder.

    He just helps me to cry.
    How does he help you to cry? Sorry, but I would think he’d let to cry, but help would mean that he too produced some tears or was pinching you so you’d cry?

    I don’t know how long it lasts, five minutes, maybe more. Gradually I relax and my breathing becomes more regular. A bit ashamed of myself, I withdraw a little from him and he lets go of me. Sniffing, I go into the kitchen where he follows me, and turning away I blow my nose noisily and persistently.

    “It’s my fault if my mother died. I left her when she needed me. She called me and I wasn’t there. I’ll never manage to forgive myself.”

    Okay from here on, I think we need some movement and break up the dialogue a little. Where are they and what are they doing? I have a hard time visualizing the surroundings. I know about the window pane, but give me a little more, not much. I don’t need the whole room described for me.

    “Look at me,” he says.

    “I must recover first. The sight must be horrendous.”

    “You need to get away from here a little. You know what we’ll do? No what? -- We’ll go to my parent’s house in France. You’ll love it. ‘Read this passage out loud to yourself. People don’t speak in perfect English and contract sometimes. I’ll take you or It’s peaceful flows a little better.’ I will take you there. It is peaceful, no neighbours neighbors , no road, no cars. It is like at the end of the world. They are in residence now. They can pamper you. My mother will just love looking after you. You won’t have the slightest thing to do, except paint if you feel like it. The house is located at the top of a hill, and the view we have from there is wonderful. The sight, the air, the smells, the silence, they’re fantastic. I think he needs to take a breath somewhere in this dialogue. Have him pause or shuffle his feet and touch her before the continuing. You can stay there. You can make long walks in the forest. I’m sure that’ll help restore your cheerfulness tremendously. You must accept that your mother is dead. Gee, this guy is really sensitive. I wanted to smack him. You must come to terms with it. You must overcome that sense of guilt. I’m sure that there you will manage to find peace with yourself.”
    One little thing I learned from the word ‘You” and that’s it is a big finger pointing at you. I try to avoid starting off a sentence with it. For example: ‘Stay here if you’d like. ‘ I think this is a bit softer than starting out with a You. But that’s just my opinion.

    I am a bit taken aback by his offer. I still have my back to him and repeatedly blow my nose as though unable to wipe my face clean.

    He touched my shoulder “Look at me.” and waited for my reaction.

    Slowly I turn round to face him. To my surprise he doesn’t gasp in bewilderment at the sight.

    “What do you think of my offer?”

    “Won’t you be staying there?”
    He is taking her there, yes? So why would she believe he wouldn't be staying there with her?

    “I’ll Is it ‘I will have to ’ or ‘I have to’ (meaning, is he required or desires) go back to Boston. I don’t want to know that you’re alone here. We can leave in three days. That leaves you time to organize things, and I delete ‘also’ isn’t necessary have things to do here before going. I’ll stay one night and leave in the morning. I’ll fly from Geneva, which isn’t a long distance from there. But you don’t need to worry. My mother is the kindest person on earth, and I’m sure you’ll like my father’s sense of humour. American humor without the U. They will love you, I’m sure of that. So, what do you think of it?”

    I leaned forward and touched his cheek – or something I can visualize. For the first time in my life I feel I don’t have to take charge; I can let the world go by without worrying that something wrong will happen. I feel at peace, relieved, and safe.
    Breathing! I want life! I know she is relieved, but how’s her heart? Sometimes it helps with emotional structure if our characters have a physical moment. Maybe you can break up the dialogue a little so we don’t have all talk and little physical contact. What are these two people doing? Just my thoughts.

    “Yes. Yes, I would love that.”

  4. #4
    Michelle Burtin
    Guest

    Re: For Michelle

    Jon

    Thank you very much for the critique. You must have spent a lot of time on it. It's very kind of you. I have read it but would like to print it and study it on paper before commenting on it. So I'll come back to you later tonight or tomorrow. There's one thing I know for sure I won't take heed of, it's your correction of "neighbours" into "neighbors" and "humour" into "humor". I like humour with you, sorry, with "u". I try to write British English, not American, so I'll keep my "Us".

    Thanks again.

    Michelle

  5. #5
    SpookyDude
    Guest

    Re: For Michelle

    Michelle,

    Please remember, my critique is just that and not personal. I belonged to several writers groups while I was in college and after, so I've gotten used to writing detailed critiques. One thing I learned, and that is to be careful and mindful of people's feelings. I try to be as objective as possible and keep in mind what the writer is trying to achieve. Sometimes it's difficult and other times it's not.

    As I said before, you have a wonderful talent and an ability to express yourself quite well. Don't dwell on my critique because it's from my perspective.

    Bye,

    Jon

  6. #6
    Michelle Burtin
    Guest

    Re: For Michelle

    Jon

    I have read your feedback with care and interest. I will change everything in connection with the language as you know better than me. For the rest, sometimes I agree with you, sometimes I don’t. I’d like to make a feedback of your feedback if you’re interested to read it.
    So, here goes.

    The reader knows what Emerald Moon is, don’t worry. It’s been said before. The painting’s been described and referred to a few times afterwards.

    “A strong friendship”: She resigns herself to accept their relationship. I thought that “of course, he can’t love me” conveyed that idea, as well as the quick description I make of her. She is so ugly he just CAN’T love her. Period. How can she resent him? It’s not his fault, it’s hers.
    BTW : I’m not sure what you meant by “her description was too much”. Do you mean that the list of her flaws is too long? That’s exactly what a woman who doesn’t accept herself as she is will do: find fault with everything. This isn’t a real description of her, she’s been described before. This is used as a way of showing her state of mind.

    Well, NO she didn’t kill her mother, and YES, she can paint. I did want to show how pathetic she is, the low self-esteem she has of herself. But if it’s not clear, I’ll have to rewrite it. Problem is, I’ve tried hard but couldn’t find another way.

    “I understand it must be hard for you”: I chose “it” instead of “her death” to leave an ambiguity. Remember he has just alluded to friendship between them. Not love. No reference has recently been made as to her mother. Of course it is legitimate for her to be sad, but as none of them has just alluded to her mother, he must wonder what has brought about her sudden sadness. His question is a disguised way of knowing. He won’t though.

    I will delete “I break down”. You’re right, it tells, it doesn’t show.

    “That’s bad enough as it is”: I mean: I’m ugly. I’ll only be uglier. I don’t need it. It’s bad enough as it is. So I’ll change it for “I don’t need to be uglier. That’s bad enough as it is.”

    “He just helps me to cry”: I appreciated your humour here, but what I mean is that whereas she has kept back her tears for a month, or has been shushed out of them by her friend Beate, now she doesn’t check them. His presence helps her to relax, to let herself go. Before she couldn’t. But she needs to. He helps her do that. I chose a short sentence after a series of longer ones to put a stress on it. I think that on the contrary it is a powerful sentence.

    Robin’s speech: Yes, I am aware my dialogues lack colloquialism. I don’t contract enough. I’ll pay attention to that, that’s the easy part. What’s more a pain in the ass for me is the use of slang. That’s my problem as a foreigner. I speak too “correct” English (except here, for teasing).
    Thanks for the “you” tip (not to use it at the beginning of a sentence). And yes, I think it’s a good idea to interrupt the speech somewhere and have him do something.

    “Won’t you be staying there?” will become “Will you be staying there?” and “I’ll go back to Boston” “I have to go…”

    I want to avoid physical contact at the end of this scene. When he took her in his arms earlier in the other room, it was to console her. Now in the kitchen it would take another significance which I don’t want. Not now. I want them to put a rein on their desires. She because she thinks he doesn’t love her; she lacks confidence; she won’t be so outright as to boldly put her hand on his cheek. We don’t know why he does (put a rein on his desires); but then we learn, so it seems, a bit of his character: he is reserved, respectful of her. Sexual advances would be out of place in this situation.
    I just want to convey the idea that there’s a strong feeling between them without having it put into words or actions. But I want this feeling to be perceived, so that the last line of the chapter a few pages further down can have a lot of intensity: they have just entered his bedroom in France, the only room that his mother has made ready, for them both, unknowingly. Maika says:
    “They thought we were lovers.”
    “But aren’t we?” he replies.
    I hope I have achieved it, because to me this sentence is beautiful, when nothing has ever been said about it before.

    Yet, the last paragraph is too short. I don’t like it either and will work on it again.

    Well, I enjoyed your feedback and discussing it again with you. Feel free to make further comments if you wish. I want to thank you heartily again for the time you spent on my work.
    Good luck with your own book.

    Michelle

  7. #7
    SpookyDude
    Guest

    Re: For Michelle

    Michelle,

    I think you are going to have one heck of a good book when it's all done and said. I would be honored if you chose me to look at some of your other work.

    Best of writing!

    Jon

  8. #8
    Michelle Burtin
    Guest

    Re: For Michelle

    Jon

    Now look what you've done! I will believe it! And I'll be all the more miserable when the MS comes back rejected...

    I would be glad for you to look at other parts of my work (though I don't see why it would be an honour for you), but I'm not too keen on having too much of my work sent on the forum. Call it stupid, but I can't help it. I will need beta readers when my novel is completed, some time after Christmas. I already have one and I would be honoured if you accepted to be number two. So what do you say?

    Michelle

  9. #9
    SpookyDude
    Guest

    Re: For Michelle

    Michelle,

    Of Course, but I'm a slow reader.

    Have a great weekend!

    Jon

  10. #10
    Michelle Burtin
    Guest

    Re: For Michelle

    Thanks Jon.

    Michelle

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