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  1. #1
    Jessie B.

    A snippet. Please critique.

    I've been writing since I was old enough to hold a pen, but it's been a long time since I had my work critiqued.

    This is the first "chapter" of a novella/short story I'm working on. I would love some opinions.

    “Silent as the fog he stole into her bedchamber, illuminated only by the struggling light of one dying candle. A book lies open on her chest, gently rising to the rhythm of her sleep. Tender fingers pass across her cheek, pale and cool as marble. A sigh, and he lies his forehead against hers, black curls against wispy blonde. Silent as she stirs, silent as he kisses her, silent as...”
    “He's a vampire, isn't he?”
    Interrupted, Maria's head snapped up from the thick ream of paper in her hands.
    “It's just that they're all vampires, Maria.” Natalie continued. She was a thoroughly modern woman, from her pinstripe business skirt to her thick brunette hair in a matronly bun. “The reviews for 'Ethereal Elegy' have been abysmal. It's too dangerous for you to keep recycling old concepts.” Maria gripped her first draft tightly, her knuckles turning pale. Compared to Natalie, the novelist was disheveled. Her own hair, thin and copper, was haphazardly tied at the nape of her neck with three elastic bands. In ripped jeans and a paisley bohemian top nobody would have guessed she was an award-winning author.
    “My fans like vampires.” Sitting back in the armchair, Maria tossed the proposed book onto the wooden coffee table in front of her. Maria clashed with the lush surroundings; antique bookshelves and velvet chaise lounges, sconces made of tarnished silver, even the telephone was ancient.
    “Well the critics hate them, at least for now.” Natalie shifted, crossing her long legs. “The 'paranormal romance' genre is dying. People want happy endings.” The publisher's speech was gentle but firm, she had long since learned that creative people, especially writers, needed to be handled delicately.
    “Happy endings?” Maria planted her face into her palm before Natalie could see her eyes roll. “They're monsters Nat!” Exasperated, the author sunk back into the great armchair, making herself smaller and smaller.
    “Sexy, gorgeous, and sensual monsters. If they're so evil, why are they so sympathetic? Why make them human?”
    “Humans are monsters. At least they can be.”
    “Are you trying to tell me you won't publish 'Moonsong?' It's the sequel to 'Lullaby'; I've been blogging about it for weeks, you're going to disappoint my fans.” Maria was petulant, pointed. “It's part of the Adrian Bennett series. My fans love Adrian.”
    “Maria.” Finally the novelist stopped, still restlessly shifting in her chair. She had turned completely to the side, staring at the stained glass window instead of Ms. Tash. Natalie leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. “Honey, you don't need to tell me how many fans you have, or what they like. We\'re not talking about your fans here.”
    “I write for my fans.”
    “Your fans alone can't write your paycheck, and let's face it Maria, your website has been declining in hits and you haven't been on a bestseller list since 'Hunter's Hymn'. I know those things don't mean anything to you, but as your publisher it's in my best interest to help my writer succeed.”
    With a sigh, Maria clamped her hands over her eyes, blocking out the multicolored light. Publisher. She thought heavily. This was not Natalie the friend, not Natalie the confidant, not the Natalie who had stuck by her when so many others could or would not. “What exactly do you want me to do Nat?” Her hands muffled her defeated voice, and she slid them upwards to rake them through her bangs. Natalie smiled gently. Writers were always temperamental, and if that alone was what made a good book, Maria would never fall off the New York Times bestseller list.
    “I just want you to tone it down a little, try something new. No more murderous main characters, maybe back off of the vampire angle...”
    Maria jolted upwards, swinging her legs off the arm of the chair and planting her bare feet firmly on the carpet. “You're being unreasonable!” As she stood she threw her hands over her head, bringing them down to grip her her curls as if she meant to pull them out. “Vampires have been featured in popular entertainment since before Bram Stoker! Movies, novels, television series', even children's books are written about vampires and you want me to back off?!”
    “Maria...” Natalie warned.
    “Christ, Nat! What do you want from me? One of those dreadful modern romances where everyone communicates over instant messaging and MySpace?”
    “Modern romances are popular right now...”
    “They're @!#$! Why would anyone read something so mundane? I write fantasy! I write about the terrible and the unbelievable! I don't write sitcoms!” Maria's cheeks were scarlet, and Natalie knew she was past the point of reasonable negotiation.
    “We'll talk about this later. I've got to get going, just think about what I've said.” Standing, Natalie lifted her purse over her shoulder and turned to leave Maria and her tantrum behind.
    “Wait...” Maria ceased hissing and spitting, her tone plaintive. “Nat...aren't you going to take 'Moonsong'? Aren't you going to at least read it?”
    “Later, Maria. After you give me a few chapters of something that isn't about Adrian Bennett.” The the door closed behind her, leaving Maria alone in her ostentatious house.
    “There's nothing wrong with Adrian Bennett.” Slumping down onto the sofa Natalie had been sitting in, Maria slid the manuscript across the mahogany table, scanning the first few paragraphs in silence. A grandfather clock chimed as she turned the page, and with a heavy heart Maria stood. “Happy endings...” As she slipped out of the room, there was a soft thump as the first draft of “Moonsong” came to rest at the bottom of a wastebasket.

  2. #2

    Re: A snippet. Please critique.

    "Silent as the fog he stole into her bedchamber, illuminated only by the struggling light of one dying candle. A book lies open on her chest, gently rising to the rhythm of her sleep. Tender fingers pass across her cheek, pale and cool as marble. A sigh, and he lies his forehead against hers, black curls against wispy blonde. Silent as she stirs, silent as he kisses her, silent as...”

    (1) Silent as fog is a cliche. Best to start with something fresh.

    (2) you're tense jumping: stole into bedchamber, book lies open.

    (3)A book lies open
    He lies his forehead

    Repetition is not your friend.

    (4) Silent as fog
    Silent as she stirs
    Silent as he kisses her
    Silent as . . .
    Yeah, we get it, but this is entirely too much "silent."

    I couldn't continue.

  3. #3
    Jessie B.

    Re: A snippet. Please critique.

    I always have trouble with tense. The first paragraph is taken from the writer whom the story is about, she's rather wordy and cliché, it was mostly intentional, but I'll look over it.

  4. #4

    Re: A snippet. Please critique.

    Are you saying it wasn't your writing? Because, if it isn't, you should let us know. We're trying to critique your work, not someone elses. It doesn't do you much good if I don't like some other writer's first paragraph.

  5. #5
    Jessie B.

    Re: A snippet. Please critique.

    No, sorry, I only realized how that sounded after I wrote the response, and there doesn't appear to be any sort of editing function on this board.

    It's all my writing, but the first paragraph is in the voice of one of the main characters, who happens to be an author. Excerpts from her work are written in "her voice", which is somewhat different than my own.

    I probably shouldn't have mentioned it at all, but it's always hard to take critique when you haven't had it in a long time, and for some reason I felt compelled to justify why it was written the way it was.

  6. #6

    Re: A snippet. Please critique.

    Oh, okay.

    You don't have to justify anything, Jessie. But when you ask for a critique, you might actually get one, and I know that can be rough.

    Thanks for the clarification.

  7. #7
    Joe Zeff

    Re: A snippet. Please critique.

    There is no editing; there is only poorfraeding.

    I understand what you meant: the first few paragraphs are from the book the novelist you're writing about is writing. Thus, it's her writing style, not yours. She's wordy, overwritten and fond of cliches. Once you stop "quoting," those issues go away.

    Quoting an imaginary writer is always an interesting exercise. In Children of the Lens, Doc Smith had the MC of the series pretending to be a novelist. He gives us a quote from the book that's a marvelous send up of his own, rather purple, style. Vastly overwritten, enamored of adjectives (never use one where you can fit in three) with a syntax even more tortured than Doc's own. All in all, a delight to read. BTW, Doc Smith is somebody you read in spite of his style, not because of it. For all his purple prose, he knew how to write a gripping story that didn't stop for a second.

  8. #8
    Nan Hammond

    Re: A snippet. Please critique.

    Arg.... I wanted to read, really I did, but the italics make my eyes cross.

  9. #9
    John Getreu

    Re: A snippet. Please critique.

    I think it works. I would however keep the cliched quotations to a minimum, ( which I think you have done ).

    What would be interesting was if you had Maria then become involved with a real vampire whom you paint as a fantastically cruel, inhuman, but seductive monster ( ten times worse than her ficional one ). Eventually both women become ensnared in his power, ( even as Natalie continues to badger Maria about different characters ) then you have your real life but unlikely hero ( who must be introduced early in the story ) perhaps a rejected suitor of one of these women, who proves to have the immense courage needed to recognize and combat this monster and... I'm sorry, my mind does wander sometimes.

  10. #10
    The Midnight Writer

    Re: A snippet. Please critique.

    cliche in the first sentence. stopped reading there.

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