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  1. #1
    Kimberly Knowlton

    Critique my chapter?

    I've read some of the critiques on this board and was frankly pretty impressed. I thought I'd give all of you a little more to critique...as if you have nothing else to do! This is just a first draft, and actually, about three chapters in...I haven't fully worked out the first few chapters. However, I am pretty pleased with this one (not to pat my own back or anything). So, please please please give me all the feedback you can.


    Ireth pulled me away from him and into a nearby room. She closed the door softly and turned to me. When I started to protest she put a finger to my lips.

    "He's not yet one of us," she said quietly.

    "Neither am I!" I exclaimed. "My transformation isn't complete!" I was breathing hard, my chest heaving. "And what do you mean, 'he's not yet one of us'? He's like me? Why is he here?"

    "It's true my dear, he'll be one of us soon enough. He was born to it, as you were. As to why he's here, many times humans such as David and yourself are drawn to our places of importance, such as our home and this church. He likely has no idea why he felt compelled to come here."

    "You're saying he travelled over five hundred miles from home and hasn't a clue as to why he did it?" I asked.

    "Certainly. Can you explain why you suddenly showed up on my doorstep?" she looked at me pointedly. I shook my head. "Anyway, it's wonderful for me. I don't have to go find him and convince him to come here with me. At times that's a bit tricky," she mused. "I just have to take you home."

    "I want to stay here." When she looked at me sharply I almost relented. But then I thought of David and pushed on quickly. "Look, he's my best friend. He's been with me through the best and worst times of my life. Up to a few weeks ago we did everything together. Ireth, I need to be here."

    She thought for a moment. She had her eyes closed and seemed to be having a debate with herself. Finally she spoke.

    "There is a very strong connection between the two of you, no?" I nodded slowly, wondering what she was getting at. "Do you love him?" she asked bluntly. I looked up, startled.

    "I...yes, I do." I hadn't known it was true until now. With a start I realized what would have happened had I changed and he didn't: I would lose him. "I'm not doing this without him," I declared stubbornly. Ireth was silent for a moment.

    "Very well, you may spend the week here while he goes through his training. Then you may change together. However, you must think carefully about your feelings for one another. We do not dabble lightly in affairs of the heart."

    "What do you mean?" I breathed.

    "We mate for eternity," she said shortly. "Now go. You'll find David just outside, in the grove." She departed quickly, leaving the door slightly ajar.

    I slipped through the door and walked quietly to the doors of the church. I cursed under my breath as the hinges squeaked. I let the door slide shut behind me and looked around. Finally I spotted him, only a stone's throw from the door, half-hidden under a massive oak tree. I walked toward him quickly, but stopped a few feet from where he sat. He looked up at me.

    "My God! It is you!" He stood up and pulled me to him, wrapping his arms around me tightly. I pressed my face to his chest, inhaling the spicy scent of him. He drew me down to the bench, asking questions.

    "Where have you been? Why did you leave? Why are you here?"

    "It's hard to explain," I began. He stiffened. "I didn't run away and get married or join a nunnery, if that's what you're thinking!"

    He laughed. Then he grew serious again. "But you left no note, no word that you were okay." He looked down. "I was worried," he confessed.

    I clasped his hand tightly. "I'm sorry, truly I am. If I had known I wasn't coming back, I would have told you. I simply went for a walk, and didn't take the normal path to the park. I ended up walking down a street of glorious mansions. As I was walking along, I saw a woman in one of the gardens and called out to her. She invited me inside for tea and we spent the afternoon talking. David, you should have been there! She told me of things you wouldn't believe!"

    "Is this the same woman who pulled you away from me earlier?" he asked softly.

    "Ireth, yes. Ireth Arcamenel. She's a teacher," I ventured.

    "She doesn't look normal. She looks too, well, too perfect. No human can be that perfect," he said. I laughed.

    "You have no idea how right you are!" I giggled. "Anyway, she said she had something to show me and took me to a large room. It was a huge library; there were thousands of books. Then she pulled back a drapery, and there was a giant tree painted on the wall. It was so beautiful. And it was covered in writing. I moved closer to read it, and it was like a family tree. Ireth pointed to a spot on the tree, and there was my name, and my parents' names!"

    "It can't be," David whispered, almost to himself. "It hasn't been seen for hundreds of years!" His hand tightened on mine. "You've seen it? Could you show it to me?"

    "When we get back home," I promised. "My guess is that you're on the tree as well. When I asked Ireth how I could be on the tree, she explained that a select few were chosen from birth to be special, and that's how we come to be on the tree. Every couple hundred years or so, a few more are chosen, all over the world."

    I looked up at David. He was staring at me in disbelief. Slowly, his eyes took on a faraway look, and he started whispering softly to himself, as if he were reciting lines from a book. I leaned closer to hear."

    "And every four hundred years a new set of initiates are chosen. They come from all walks of life and every corner of the globe. They are the chosen ones, gifted with special abilities. Some do not know they have these abilities. Others discover them later in life..." He went silent. I knew the passage, for Ireth had had me read it only a week ago. "You're one of the chosen?" he asked.

    "As you are," I said quietly. "How do you know that passage?"

    "A book in my father's study. I read it several times. My father caught me reading it one evening and told me it wasn't time for me to learn such things. I never saw the book again. He knew," David said in wonder. "How long have you known about me?"

    "Only since Ireth pulled me away from you in the church. I convinced her to postpone my transformation. She's going to let us do it together."

    "I'm glad," he said simply. He pulled me close and wrapped an arm around me. "I thought I lost you."

    I felt a sob in my throat as I remembered that he very well could have. If he hadn't been one of the chosen, he would have lost me. I shook my head at the thought and slipped my arms around his waist, burying my face in the crisp linen of his shirt. I cried softly against his chest, tears pouring down my cheeks. He held me close, stroking my hair softly.

    When I had cried my fill I sagged against him, spent. He held me tight, whispering softly to me. Then he lifted my chin so my eyes met his. He stared at me, his eyes searching mine. He touched my lower lip with his thumb, stroking it lightly.

    "So beautiful," he whispered as his lips touched mine. He kissed me slowly, his lips moving gently against mine. He touched his tongue to my lips, and I opened them eagerly. I wound my arms around his neck and pressed against him. He kissed me thoroughly, and I was left breathless. I pulled away from him reluctantly, thinking of Ireth and what she had said earlier.

    "We need to find Ireth," I said quietly. "I've been away too long." I closed my eyes and reached out to her with my mind. "She's in her rooms." David nodded and stood, pulling me to my feet. We walked slowly across the lawn, my skirts rustling in the breeze. I led him inside, murmuring spells of silence and invisibility. David looked at me curiously. I smiled at him and led him through the maze of halls and staircases, going ever deeper into the church. Finally we came to the bottom of a large winding staircase to the ornately carved wooden door that led to our quarters.

    "Open," I commanded. The door swung open slowly. We walked through and down the hall. "Close," I called over my shoulder. The door shut just as quietly as it had opened. I pulled David quickly down the hall to Ireth's door. I started to knock.

    "Enter," she called. I grinned and pushed open the door. David walked in behind me, then stood next to me. His presence filled the little room. I saw Ireth glance at our clasped hands in amusement. I flushed.

    "I see you have found David and told him our secret," she began. "Very well put, might I add." I nodded once, smiling. I figured she had been listening. "Welcome David."

    "Ireth. It's a pleasure to meet you," he said with a bow. Ireth smiled in approval.

    "I know you are probably eager to begin your training, but this evening we will simply get you settled and properly fed." Almost on cue David's stomach growled loudly. I chuckled. "Since Lucina has the trainee's quarters, I will have to put you in one of the other rooms."

    "I think there's enough room in my quarters for two of us," I said boldly. "It's a large set of rooms. More than enough for two; we won't be stepping on each others' toes. No need for him to be uncomfortable."

    Ireth gave an unladylike snort. "Indeed," she said dryly, then sighed. "Very well. Lucina, you will tell him what I told you this afternoon?"

    I nodded. "I will. I promise."

    She smiled. "Good. Now David, let's get you something to eat."

  2. #2
    Mandy Pauza

    Re: Critique my chapter?

    The dialog is not terrible but felt forced. It becomes rather like an info dump in the middle, and my eyes glazed over a little. I don't have advice here other than to make every word count and keep them few as possible, or spread them out. For example:

    "She doesn't look normal. She looks too, well, too perfect. No human can be that perfect," he said.

    Nothing wrong with this other than as a reader it felt forced and clunky. I’d say pick two of the three and see if it reads faster. Or reduce the sentences to fragments, since we tend to converse in fragments more often than full, proper sentences. (Hell, I don’t talk like I critique, for that matter.) So, perhaps:

    “I didn’t think she looked normal…too perfect…no human is that perfect.”

    Read them both out loud at normal conversation speed.

    I thought the narrator was a man until the comment about a nunnery. (Okay, okay, too much Anne Rice in my childhood.) Might not be an issue with preceding chapters and perhaps a name:

    "He's not yet one of us," she said quietly.

    “He’s not one of us, yet, Jillian.” She said quietly to me.

    I didn't like the term "mate for eternity" because I don’t picture intelligent creatures mating, and isn’t mating done for progeny? I'm gonna take a wild guess they won’t be having any themselves.

    Also, I’m not fond of supernatural creatures talking archaically. It feels a little too cartoonish. Unless they are living in a stone cell like the aforementioned nunnery even ancient creatures will pick up a modern cadence just to avoid standing out. (Have any relatives with an accent different than your own and find yourself picking it up after an hour long phone call?)

    Lastly, you’ve told me these two are lovers and I don’t see it:

    “He laughed. Then he grew serious again.” <-There’s so much more you can do here!

    “He laughed and I felt myself smiling along. I loved his laugh. Then he grew serious again, taking my face in his hand. “I was worried about you,” he confessed, and my heart broke to see that look on his face.

    I think the usual recommendation to read your work out loud is especially true when working with dialog. Forget your grammar and go with what flows naturally off your tongue. Then if you need to go back and put in a few words to make your character’s personality stand out it’s easy to put those bits in.

  3. #3
    Kimberly Knowlton

    Re: Critique my chapter?

    Thanks Mandy

    I appreciate your critique.

    A little background that I should have added to my original post:

    -the story is set a while back, I just haven't decided when (it'll get written in when I figure it out lol).

    -These people are well, something. They're not human, but they're not beasts either. Not vampires, but not witches; maybe somewhere in between? No blood sucking but no warty noses?! Of course, this means I have to come up with a name for their species...not an easy task to do, since I don't want to go taking from Tolkien, or anyone else for that matter.

    As I said, it's really just the first draft - errr, well, maybe second, since I added and deleted things as I typed (my first draft is usually done shorthand) And it's only one chapter. But, a few edits are needed, I see that.

    Actually, I'm surprised that I had that much with so few critiques, even from just one person. Hooray!!

  4. #4

    Re: Critique my chapter?

    Just my opinion, feel free to ignore:

    I wouldn't take it as a compliment when people don't respond to your work. Around here, it generally means they weren't interested in what they read.

    You have a ton of repetition in here. Some obvious examples, but there are lots more:

    "he asked softly.

    David whispered, almost to himself.

    he started whispering softly to himself

    I cried softly against his chest, tears pouring down my cheeks. He held me close, stroking my hair softly.

    held me tight, whispering softly to me."

    I'd especially like to know how tears poured down her cheeks if she was crying softly. Neat trick. But you can't have her crying softly and hair stroked softly in the same paragraph. Use your vocabulary.

    The whole thing needs a lot of work. Read it aloud. You'll hear the repetitions.

  5. #5
    nom de plume

    Re: Critique my chapter?

    It's a waste of everyone's time to post first-draft excerpts.

    I agree with leslee and add a bit more to her observations.

    This excerpt is boring to me. The characters are even less "tasty" than plain vanilla. If there's anything interesting about them, you'd better hint at that quickly lest your readers fall asleep. Also, the characters don't do much besides engaging in endless body language.

    Cut down on the adverbs. Get rid of just about all of them in dialogue tags.


    "Do you love him?" she asked bluntly. I looked up, startled.

    This could be something like:

    "Do you love him?"
    Her blunt question startled me ...

    and more etc...

  6. #6
    Elena Solodow

    Re: Critique my chapter?

    One thing I like to do with dialogue is pretend that my characters can't say anything that's already known to them and the other people in the room.

    For instance:

    "Neither am I!" I exclaimed. "My transformation isn't complete!"

    The old woman surely knows this, so why is your character saying this? It's a red flag that you're conveying information to the reader right here.

    I also pretend that the reader already knows everything about the novel. Just pretend that they don't need to be told anything. See what happens.

    Those tricks came from Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages. It's a must-read.

  7. #7

    Re: Critique my chapter?

    You may pretend anything you please. But don't expect the reader to pretend with you.

  8. #8
    Elena Solodow

    Re: Critique my chapter?

    I'll write my way, you can certainly write yours, leslee.

    I was just offering up an exercise that I've found helpful in the past.

  9. #9
    Rogue Mutt

    Re: Critique my chapter?

    oooh, cat-fight!

  10. #10
    Stacy Copping

    Re: Critique my chapter?

    We think alike. Scary.

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