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  1. #1
    Don Daffron
    Guest

    No delusions of grandeur, so critique please.

    First, I know there’s nothing exciting happening in this scene, but it represents my writing style and there are several things I’m a little worried about. I won’t list them because I want to see what others have to say first. I may post another excerpt that’s written a little differently because it shows another facet of my writing I’m worried about: I tend to go heavy on description when the scene is outdoors, ‘cause I love the outdoors. That’s not the problem here.

    The two characters are members of a guerrilla force fighting a Nazi-like government intent on genocide of their people. The setting is the South a few decades into the future. The old man lives in a shack in the woods because he is hiding from the national police and soldiers, not because he is poor.



    The two teenagers smiled at each other. Their eyes shined, belying the horror of combat still lingering in their minds.

    It was the middle of a clear day, and the sun shined brightly on Sharon’s lightly tanned face. Being a blue-eyed blonde, sunlight brought out delicate highlights of her skin and hair, enhancing her appeal. Patrick marveled at how luminously alive she was, though obviously close to exhaustion. “You’re beautiful,” he said.

    She stood by the weathered wood steps of Mr. Ironwood’s shack and threw a warm smile back at him, “I’m filthy. And I stink.”

    “That’s what happens when you don’t take a bath for more than a month and you sleep on the ground in the woods. We’re lucky it’s been cold enough these last weeks to keep the ticks, deerflies and mosquitoes down to a tolerable level.”

    They had already shed their packs and weapons, piling everything on the porch, now they both took off their boots and jackets. Patrick stripped down to his waist, preparing to jump in the spring. When she took her fatigue jacket off, he stepped closer to hold her. She had always been a little shy about her body, and he thought about warning her if she went into the water with only her tank top on she might as well be shirtless, but then decided not to. She probably already thought of that anyway. Strangely, he did not seem excited about it. It was always her face that interested him. Her face was where he saw her heart, and there was nothing on this earth more beautiful than that.

    “It’s awfully cold today, and the water is not much warmer. Are you sure you want to jump in with me?”

    She nodded. “It will take forever to heat water on the wood stove, and I want to wash some of this filth off me. Besides, I can take it if you can.”

    They ran barefoot on brown grass that was frozen when the day was young, but now thawed by the sun. He was ahead of her and plunged in feet first. She was not far behind.

    The cold shocked their system, but they had braced themselves for that. Sharon came up, took a deep breath, and shivered. Her hair streamed in the fast current of the springs’ flow. Patrick came up, turned, and saw her standing on the bottom rubbing her scalp so the water would clean her hair to some degree without soap.

    She smiled, her cheeks turned rosy by the cold water. “It’s colder than I thought.” She lowered herself and let her hair stream in the current again.

    Patrick felt it invigorating. It was symbolic with him, cleansing his soul as much as body. “I forgot to take the bandage off my back. Will you pull it off?”

    She swam over. He turned around, and she removed it. She gasped.
    Spinning around in the water, he took the pus-soaked bandage from her and threw it on the bank. Seeing worry on her face, he said, “Whatever it looks like, I feel fine.”

    She was looking at him in a way that made him nervous. She moved closer, her eyes burning him. In the back of his mind he knew he was looking at her the same way. He was being inexorably pulled in. She put her hands behind his neck and head and pulled herself to him, pressing her body against his. He knew she was not holding back any of her feelings. He held her face in his hands and they kissed.

    He pulled away from her and brought his hands to her shoulders. “This is dangerous pretty girl. I promised your father. . . .”

    “What could happen? We’re not alone. Mr. Ironwood is in the shack. Remember?”

    “He’s probably asleep.”

    She smiled. “See. The bed is occupied.”

    He chuckled. “Okay smart-ass. I think I know what is happening.”

    “I’m being nice to you and you’re calling me a smart-ass and giving me the cold shoulder. That’s what’s happening.”

    “I’m just trying to keep things under control.”

    “Why?”

    “Your father’s shotgun.”

    She rolled her eyes.

    “There’s a lot going on in our lives that intensifies feelings like what I saw in your eyes. When people go through what we have over the last month, living with the threat of death and seeing friends die, it makes people want to reaffirm the fact they are alive. Thus people tend to. . . .”

    “You mean war makes people horny? I thought I was in love with you. Now you tell me it’s just the cold fact I’ve been scared of death.”

    “I didn’t say that and you know it. What I said took nothing away from what we feel for each other. Besides, it’s true. Whenever something big happens that scares people, makes them face their mortality, the birth rate goes up nine or ten months later.”

    She giggled. “You’re probably right. Maybe I should ask my parents if something scared them nine months before I was born.”

    “Will you stop being sarcastic? People do it for other reasons also.”

    “Like what?”

    “You know.”

    She tilted her head, her familiar smirk on her face. “Like what? Tell me, know-it-all ---------



  2. #2
    Josh Lemay
    Guest

    Re: No delusions of grandeur, so critique please.

    Honestly, I really liked it. I know that isn't so helpful in finding faults in things, so I'll mention a few, but I don't think they were too big to detract from the scene's "likeability."

    The part in the beginning where it says "Their eyes shined" and then the next sentence where it says "the sun shined" seems like it could use a rewording. Perhaps a slight change like "Their eyes sparkled," or something. "Shined" twice in two sentences like that seems overused, that's all.

    The part explaining Sharon's features in the beginning seemed like an over-detailed info dump at first, but when you mentioned Patrick marveling at her, it made more sense. My personal opinion, but if you put the part about Patrick marveling somewhere in the middle or beginning, with the features he's marveling at after, I think I'd like it more.

    Minor pet peeve and easily fixable: She stood by the weathered wood steps of Mr. Ironwood’s shack and threw a warm smile back at him, “I’m filthy. And I stink.” There should be a period before the dialogue, not a comma.

    I like your character's talking and it seems realistic to me. One minor thing I thought I'd note is that they tend to go from using contractions, to not, or vice verse. Things like "it will" changed to "it'll" make the dialogue, or even regular sentences, flow better and make it easier to read, without changing the meaning. I understand that sometimes characters talk more "properly" by not using contractions, but I didn't get that feel in your sample here.

  3. #3
    Don Daffron
    Guest

    Re: No delusions of grandeur, so critique please.

    Thanks.

    The comma instead of period is a typo I missed. There are two paragraphs where I didn’t put a line space between. That was an error when reformatting for posting.

    I see your point on dialogue. Keep in mind though, this teenage boy is supposed to be going on thirty. He’s already leading grown men and women into battle and has their respect. He’s still a teenager though.

  4. #4
    Don Daffron
    Guest

    Re: No delusions of grandeur, so critique please.


    Oh, and the two “shinings”: I did that on purpose to tie the sun and their eyes together as far as how bright they are. I was trying to say these two teenagers are happy because of each other despite their circumstances. I guess it didn’t work. That can be changed easily enough.

  5. #5
    Don Daffron
    Guest

    Re: No delusions of grandeur, so critique please.

    On the “marveling” part, I think transposing the sentences will help. I just wish I could see these things in the first place.

    Thanks.

  6. #6
    PennMom Asks
    Guest

    Re: No delusions of grandeur, so critique please.

    I was interested even though I thought it would be some Nazi-esque blood bath. Caught me off guard with the romantic flavor. I liked it, Don. I'd keep reading.

    There were a lot of adverbs at the very beginning though. "brightly, lightly, luminously...."

  7. #7
    Don Daffron
    Guest

    Re: No delusions of grandeur, so critique please.

    I will delete brightly.

    The killing is aplenty, but comes later. It is at its core, a story about the verities of the human heart: what a person really values, and what price that person is willing to pay for those values.

  8. #8
    Don Daffron
    Guest

    Re: No delusions of grandeur, so critique please.

    One bit of advice so far I’m not sure about: contractions. Is it really a good thing to do that with every word that can be in dialogue? Is it an all-or-nothing thing?

  9. #9
    Gregory Haley
    Guest

    Re: No delusions of grandeur, so critique please.

    “There’s a lot going on in our lives that intensifies feelings like what I saw in your eyes. When people go through what we have over the last month, living with the threat of death and seeing friends die, it makes people want to reaffirm the fact they are alive. Thus people tend to. . . .”

    Don:

    I have two teenagers. It's not unreasonable to assume teens would have thoughts such as these, I just don't think they would say it out loud this way.

    The rest is wonderful! Can't wait for the book!

  10. #10
    Don Daffron
    Guest

    Re: No delusions of grandeur, so critique please.

    I think this boy would. He does and says a lot of things a normal teenager wouldn’t. Like waiting until marriage even though she makes it clear she’s ready to sleep with him.
    I appreciate the advice though, and I see your point. Most boys wouldn’t say that.

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