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  1. #11
    Smiling Curmudgeon
    Guest

    Re: Short story for you to critique

    Hillary,

    This site was built when humans first roamed the earth. Posts were originally carved in stone and carried by hand from one reader to the next. Anyone wishing to reply had to carve their own stone and then carry it along to others. It was a laborious process. Legend has it that it was not uncommon for a young woman or man to "post" their material, live a long life, and die before ever receiving responses.

    Hauling stones all over hell was a job of work. In fact, this bit of history reveals that all the bull roar about the Grand Canyon being carved by the Colorado river is nonsense. It exists because writers kept chiseling out chunks of rock so they could "post" stuff.

    When you copy and paste from a Word file, add an extra space between each paragraph. Then it comes through in more readable format.

    I tried to read the beginning. Two comments. My eyes couldn't take the formatting. More important, as Jayce said, it's risky to open with back story. It can be done effectively, but most new writers prolly shouldn't try it.

    Drop your reader in the middle of something that quickly establishes something about your protag. Show or at least hint at what's at stake in current time. (Sorry if I'm just repeating Jayce.)

    You can work back story in as appropriate. Trick is, don't do it just for the hell of it. Do so if it's pertinent. Your back story may be relevant since (I assume) it relates to your protag's current view of the world.

    Okay, I scanned down a ways. Mebbe your tale begins with, "Marybelle watched her mother at the sink."

    I read a bit further. I may be wrong, but it looked like a lot of telling, not so much showing. That was just a scan, so I may be wrong.

    The writing seemed a little flat to this reader. Put some ooomph in it. Get my pulse up a bit more.

    Keep at it.

    Hope this helps.

    Feel free to ignore.

    Cur



  2. #12
    Hillary W
    Guest

    Re: Short story for you to critique

    hi smiling curmudgeon, (love your moniker, by the way)

    i think my problem when writing this story was that i was trying to really develop the mood of the story, not to make it exceptionally exciting. it was a sort of challenge to myself. when i failed with that, the story itself fell flat. i think there are a couple good parts in there (sadly, the beginning is my favorite, and should be taken out) but overall the story needs to be brought up a notch.

    thanks again for your feedback.

  3. #13
    jayce
    Guest

    Re: Short story for you to critique

    You rock, L bea!

  4. #14
    Jeanne Gassman
    Guest

    Re: Short story for you to critique

    Hillary,

    I'm really tired because I've been teaching all afternoon, but I'll see if I can point out some things that might help you punch up the prose. People have already mentioned the lengthy flashback, so I won't go into that, but there are a lot of little things here that make the writing less dynamic. One example:

    Dialogue tags-- When you have just two people speaking, you can drop almost all of the tags. Your version:

    Marybelle heard a click behind her. She turned suddenly, startled, to see her mother standing in the doorway. She held a lit cigarette in one hand and a lighter in the other. “Do you miss her?” her mother asked in a low voice.
    Marybelle’s throat tightened. “Of- of course I do, mom.”
    Her mother took a long, silent drag of her cigarette.
    “Mom- you- you don’t smoke,” she whispered.
    Her mother tilted her head sideways slightly, looking her daughter up and down. She was quiet for a long moment. “I used to smoke,” she finally said. “Before I had Miranda. When I was in nursing school. It’s an awful habit.” Another drag. “Just awful. Don’t tell your father. You know how he hates cigarettes.”
    Marybelle shook her head slowly from side to side. “I won’t tell him,” she said quietly.
    Her mother nodded. “Good. You know how he hates cigarettes,” she repeated, and turned away.


    My version with tags removed (my comments are in CAPS)

    Marybelle heard a click behind her. She turned, ELIMINATE THE "SUDDENLY" HERE, AS IT'S SIMPLY AN UNNECESSARY ADVERB. "STARTLE" IMPLIES A SUDDEN MOVEMENT. startled, to see her mother standing in the doorway. She held a lit cigarette in one hand and a lighter in the other. “Do you miss her?” WE ALREADY KNOW HER MOTHER IS SPEAKING BECAUSE YOU'VE IDENTIFIED HER. NO NEED TO REMIND US WITH THE TAG.
    Marybelle’s throat tightened. “Of- of course I do, mom.”
    Her mother took a long, silent drag of her cigarette.
    “Mom, you-you don’t smoke." AGAIN, MOM IS IDENTIFIED. IT'S CLEAR THAT MARYBELLE IS SPEAKING.
    Her mother tilted her head, UNLESS YOU'RE FALLING, THE ONLY WAY YOU DO TILT YOUR HEAD IS "SLIGHTLY." NO NEED TO TELL US THAT. IT'S CLEAR FROM CONTEXT. looking her daughter up and down. She was quiet for a long moment. “I used to smoke." THE LONG PAUSE IS ALREADY MENTIONED, MAKING "FINALLY" MERE REPETITION, AND AGAIN, WE KNOW WHO IS SPEAKING HERE. Before I had Miranda. When I was in nursing school. It’s an awful habit.” Another drag. “Just awful. Don’t tell your father. You know how he hates cigarettes.”
    Marybelle shook her head. LOTS OF EXTRA WORDS HERE. UNLESS SHE IS SHAKING HER HEAD "QUICKLY" OR IN A STRANGE MANNER, WE WILL ASSUME SHE'S "SLOWLY" SHAKING HER HEAD. “I won’t tell him." WE KNOW IT'S MARYBELLE TALKING. THE "QUIETLY" IN YOUR DIALOGUE TAG IS KNOWN AS "TELLING."
    Her mother nodded. “Good. You know how he hates cigarettes." IT'S CLEAR FROM CONTEXT THAT SHE'S "REPEATING" THIS. BY NOW "TELLING" THE READER, SHE'S REPEATED HER WORDS, THE STATEMENT HAS MORE EMOTIONAL IMPACT.

    That's just a small section, but look for places where you can cut the tags, the adverbs, and bits of repetition or unnecessary stage direction. The other thing I see a lot here is distance in your character's POV. Rather than "she could see," "she could hear," etc., cut to the chase. Your version:

    Marybelle could see a small stack of photos in the officer’s hand.

    A more direct POV:
    The officer clasped a stack of photos.

    Do you see the difference. We already know we are seeing this through Marybelle's eyes. Don't pull us back from the scene with distancing words. Just show the action.

    Hope that helps.

    Jeanne

  5. #15
    Jeanne Gassman
    Guest

    Re: Short story for you to critique

    Shoot, that should be "by NOT telling the reader..."

    Jeanne

  6. #16
    Hillary W
    Guest

    Re: Short story for you to critique

    jeanne-

    thanks, thats really helpful.

    hillary

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