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  1. #1
    Chris Anderson

    A sample for critique

    This is my first critique post here (I've been following the boards for months and trying to give a little input). I'm fine with the harshest comments. I've seen how things are critiqued and I understand the risks I just want to improve. Thank you everyone ahead of time, all you regular posters are very gracious to spend your free time helping out around here.

    Basic premise of my ms is two protagonist with stories that converge. This portion is the introduction of James. I\'m not sure if this is the beginning of the book, a prologue, or something else altogether. James is the supporting actor in this book, so I\'m not sure I should start chapter one with him, although this scene is chronologically much before the start of the book.

    Light in the window.

    I am alive?

    There is no hope.

    A dog running in the grass. He can't really see it, but he knows it is behind him. He hears a happy bark and smiles. He is warm. The sun, it is so strong, almost blinding.

    No. Not bright.


    Shut again, can't keep them open.

    He forces his eyes wide and tries to focus on something in the room, something to anchor him in the real world. He keeps fighting, but then he blinks. Once. Twice. The third blink lasts longer. Minutes? Another muffled bark.

    James rolls himself and lunges to a sitting position. He presses his fists into his eyes to force the fog away and sees light and colors shift in oily circles. His forearm wipes tears off his cheek. He wills his eyes to stay open, but nothing comes into focus. It is utterly black in the room. He can feel the confined space around him but there is no visual proof. The wall is rough and cool, the glass is like a sheet of damp ice.

    He listens to the suffocating black. Nothing. He turns to his right and tries to see something, anything, but it's much too dark. Almost on their own, the fingers of his right hand stretch slowly palm down under the warm blankets. His hand creeps away from his body towards the opposite edge of the bed, sheets growing cold as he moves away from his pocket of life. He stops and prays to himself.

    Please. Please.

    His left forearm wipes wet cheeks again as he hangs there, leaning sideways on his right hand, suspended over the bed. He breathes slowly and the palm of his hand continues across the blankets, sweeping a slow arc as far as he can reach, but the bed is empty, and his hand emerges from under the blankets. James crumples onto his side and shivers. The low fog of deep sleep lifts to an altitude of frosty clarity.

    Fool. She is gone, and Death passes you again.

    He sniffs a couple times, paws at his eyes and yawns. An obnoxious, echoing yawn, pulling in some stiff air to wake himself up. Shoving the blankets aside, he does his best to jump out of the bed without further hesitation. He i's left standing on the bare wood floor as warm as frozen marble and falls back down to a sitting position. One sock is rolled up in the sheets. A lighter is on the bedside table next to two solid candles, but the room is barely tangible in the faint light. He hops on his one sock foot across the dim space to the edge of a fireplace on the opposite wall. Four, maybe five little logs. Worthless for a decent fire.

    Grabbing a soft blanket he collapses into an ancient upholstered chair next to the hearth. He pulls both legs up and crosses them in his seat, shrugging the blanket around his entire body. He takes in a patient breath. Resting his head on the back of the chair, he let\'s it out as slowly as possible, watching his warm breath rise in the air as frozen mist and slowly disappear. His eyes close again, but he\'s in no danger of falling asleep. Every inch of his body is shaking, but his mind is on fire.

    She is not here. She will never follow you. Always alone, are you not? Of course you are, and you always will be. There will not be a point to all of this. None at all. Never. You will continue to leave again and again and you will never find her. Such a failure! A God damn worthless life! You left her just as you left your mind.


    It continues with some basic action of him readying himself and abandoning the cabin. He heads into town to find himself but never does that day. Hopefully you picked up that he has amnesia and it isn't the first time he has awoken somewhere strange and new. I also want his dialogue to be "different" so I know his thoughts are not normal clean modern English.

    Here's hoping the formatting works out!

  2. #2
    RM Stanberry

    Re: A sample for critique

    Cool, but a few things confuse me.

    Another muffled bark.
    --I assume this happens after he wakes. When a dog barks in the night, near a lonely cabin in the woods, it's best to get up and see what kind of critter is raiding the henhouse, instead of meditating in a chair.

    The wall is rough and cool, the glass is like a sheet of damp ice.
    --What wall? What glass?

    A lighter is on the bedside table...
    --On first read, lighter is taken as an adjective and requires re-reading to get the meaning. Suggest matches instead of lighter.

    Went from suffocating darkness to tangible faint light in about ten seconds, seems like.

    Just a few nits. Really good imagery. Love the "An obnoxious, echoing yawn, pulling in some stiff air to wake himself up" line.

  3. #3
    Lisa P

    Re: A sample for critique

    Chris, I read all the way through and it kept my interest.

    Can't say as I could really tell he has amnesia, but knowing that, I guess it would fit.
    So does he know where he is after he wakes up, or is this a short term memory
    type of amnesia where he literally doesn't remember where he is each morning?

    I assume this is set pre-electricity since you mention the candles by the bed and the
    room being so cold.

    I'm not familiar with the phrase He i's left. Is that just a formatting problem showing up?
    If so, what should it say?

    Oh, and the line Always alone, are you not? immediately reminded me of Yoda.
    Might want to tweak it.

    Thanks for posting.
    ; )

  4. #4
    Lea Zalas

    Re: A sample for critique

    The sun, it is so strong, almost blinding.

    This jumped at me. Maybe try: The sun is so strong it's almost blinding.

    The imagery is good, kept me reading.

  5. #5
    Chris Anderson

    Re: A sample for critique

    Thanks for the hints at help so far, very helpful. I can see there are some areas I was perhaps a little too much minimalist. I should transition better between the sleeping and waking and his discovery of his surroundings.

    It's actually not set pre-electricity (1998 actually) but this cabin is based off a friends I have been to. It's a bit "rustic." Just a few paragraphs later it's obviously modern times but what he finds, but I kind of liked that not even he knew what year it was at first. I didn't make that obvious enough though.

    The character has been living between moments of time, anywhere from days to years at a time, and then wakes in a new place, sometimes years later. He has very little memory of where he was last and no idea how he gets where he is each time he "wakes." The only persistent memory he has is of the girl he left behind. I'm not trying to say all of that in chapter one, but I want to establish the feeling of amnesia, of being lost, but of despair in knowing it has all happened before and it will just keep happening over and over.

  6. #6
    sam albion

    Re: A sample for critique

    yes, the style of it is readable, no obvious amateur mistakes in the style (in my humble opinion), I'm with RM Stanberry with the "what wall, what glass", though, and the little smidges people here have picked up on probably wouldn't exist by the time you got to your final edit.

    I didn't think he had amnesia, though; perhaps recovering from an illness, or depression, yearning for a lost love, but as you say, it becomes apparent later that he is an amnesiac...

  7. #7
    Chris Anderson

    Re: A sample for critique

    Ok, so what I get from the responses is that it needs more clarification sooner on the amnesia, and I'm thinking of cutting the couple "dream" sentences all together (really not important). Other than that, I didn't get many responses. I'm happy to hear it appears it doesn't have any amateur mistakes.

    Other than that, I was most interested in whether or not it held interest and started with enough drama and pop as a first chapter or possibly prologue. Does it?

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