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  1. #1
    Rachelle Tucker
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    First part of my book, please critique

    Chapter One

    She slipped into the alley and behind a rubbish pile. It smelled of rotting meat and didn’t look much better. The guards walked past her, still talking amongst themselves; they hadn’t even noticed her. As they walked on, she drifted back out and headed down the alley. Coming to an old fence she hopped over without hardly touching it. Afraid the guards would come back, she nearly ran the rest of the way out of town.

    She got back to her camp; a nice little glade surrounded by thick trees and foliage. There was a rotted out tree stump sitting in the middle in which she had nestled her baby brother earlier that morning to sleep. She took him out, changed him into the clean clothes she had washed before she left, then fed him the milk she had stolen. She hated stealing, but they had to eat. After her mother died shortly after having him, she had little choice in the matter. Oh, she could have gone to live with her aunt; as she was supposed to; but she had heard her mother and aunt arguing. She just wanted to drain their magic to make herself more powerful.

    Bound and determined never to allow that woman to become more powerful if she could help it, she had run away and taken her baby brother. Now she didn’t trust anyone to watch him while she worked; she never knew who was on her aunts’ side. She knew her aunt was hunting for them. So she begged or stole; they didn’t need much anyway, mainly food and soap.

    Her brother was sleeping again, so she put him back down and put the force field back up around him. She always had it around him when she wasn’t right there, and she needed to wash his clothes again. She always chose a spot next to a river because she had to wash his clothes a lot. He was constantly spitting up on them.

    She went down to the river. Here, the river was wide, about thirty feet across by her estimation, and ran quite fiercely. But if she walked downriver just a bit there was a little inlet where the water didn’t move as fast. These were all up and down the river; so she always tried to camp near one to use to wash and bathe. As she was coming back from the river, she heard someone talking. She snuck up to the edge of her camp, and saw a boy sitting right next to the tree stump where her brother was hidden. He was alone and he looked mad. “…they can’t make me! I’ll never go back. Don’t care if I starve to death! Think they can whup me ifn’ I don’t do mah chores. I’ll show ‘em! They need me no matter what they say. I’ll just…”

    He kicked the stump and inadvertently woke her brother. Now he was crying loud enough to wake the dead. The boy looked around and she got a good look at him. He was oddly dressed in an oversized green shirt with too tight brown pants. He was too thin, attesting to too many missed meals, and his cheeks were sunken in. His dark brown hair looked as if it hadn’t seen a brush in a long time and was too long, covering up one eye. The one brown eye she could see was haunted; the look of a beaten dog.

    He had figured out where the sound was coming from and was walking towards it. The girl jumped from her hiding spot and ran between them. “You leave him alone, or I’ll turn you into a toad! I can do it, too!”

    The boy had jumped so when she’d sprung out into the clearing that he tripped and landed flat on his face. He quickly curled up into a ball and started crying out, “Please don’t beat me ‘gain! I’ll be good, promise! Do everthin’ ya tell me to, just please don’t beat me!” When nothing happened, he looked up. Instead of seeing the overbearing presence that was the orphanage mother, he saw a scrawny girl of around 13 or 14 in clothes no better than his own. Her boys’ trousers were ripped as well as her shirt that was too tight. She had dark shoulder length red hair that curled around her ears. Her dark skin attested to a lot of recent time in the sun, and her green eyes gave away misery.

    She was just standing there staring at him, so he stood up. He could see she would be pretty if she only took care of herself, and wore decent clothes. “Who’re you and what’re you doin’ here? And why’s there a baby squallin’ in a tree?” he asked. He could see the baby now, its’ face all scrunched up and red from its’ crying. She went over and waved her hand over it before picking the baby up while keeping one eye on him.

    “My name is Sara and this is my baby brother Joseph. He’s crying because you kicked the tree and woke him up. Who are you?” she replied calmly. She had seen from the way he had hollered before that he had been abused - a lot - and she didn’t want to startle him. He would never leave if he curled up in a ball again.



  2. #2
    Member
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    Re: First part of my book, please critique

    Hi Rachelle,
    I wasn't able to read all of this due to time constraints, but there were a few things that jumped out at me that kept the work from being compelling enough to finish it. I've only got a few minutes here, but the prose seemed very stiff and lacked depth - to me, it had a lot of she did this, then she did that feel to it.

    Also, the word choices were not always descriptive of the situation. For instance, in the first paragraph, she drifted back out... I don't think drifted works here - I picture something like an apparition floating about, drifting with the wind or something like that. Maybe a verb like scampered, scuttled, sneaked, or something along those lines would work better.

    Sorry I can't offer more. You'll get good advice here from folks who know what they're talking about. Just be ready and don't take things personally - for the most part, folks here tell the truth, which isn't always what we want to hear.

    Don't know about the rest of ya'll, but I like these format buttons - hopefully they'll work.

    Good luck,
    d.

  3. #3
    Junior Member
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    Re: First part of my book, please critique

    Hi Rachelle,

    I'm responding to give you encouragement, because I know how it feels to put yourself out there.

    I think you are have a great story to tell. I like the strong, protective nature of your MC and the odd predicament she is in. Keep working on it.

    I agree with Cur that there is a lot of "telling" here and more interesting adjectives are needed. Take a fresh look at it and keep writing. I believe you will get the story in you out successfully.

    Best of luck to you.

    Pam

  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    Re: First part of my book, please critique

    Uhm, Pam.

    I haven't commented on this thread. I think you meant you agree with d. Leroy. Not a big deal.

    Thing is, now and then I inhabit other people's minds. D.Leroy puts up with it gracefully. Well, there was the one time I directed D to, oh, never mind.

    I do that because living in a goddamn cave near the top of a mountain gets pretty boring. Winter is setting in. That'll mean six snowbound months holed up in here listening to Mrs. Cur play the lyre. She's a good musician, but I gotta tell ya', six months of Claire de Lune (sp?) is 'nuf to make a raggedy ol' curmudgeon get a little stir crazy. Hell, I never even knew Claire.

    (D.Leroy, hope you aren't offended by my silliness.)

    Cur

  5. #5
    Junior Member
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    Re: First part of my book, please critique

    My sincere apologies, Cur.

    I must have been thinking of you fondly from your post on my thread. Sorry!

    "Claire de Lune is great," she said.

    Rachelle - my apologies for hijacking your post. Sometimes that works to your advantage. Hope so!

    Pam

  6. #6
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Re: First part of my book, please critique

    Yeah, lots of bad word choices, poor construction, poor attention to detail, empty verbs. Take your first paragraph. Which smells and looks bad – the alley or the rubbish pile?

    I take it this story is set in the distant past, or in a fantasy land with little technology and lots of magic, where most people lead meager lives. Tell me, who’s throwing away meat in a setting like that? Most people in an age like that would view meat as an unsurpassed delicacy. How about “rotting flesh” or “dead animals” instead of “rotting meat”?

    So she slips down the alley, the guards pass, then she drifts back out of the alley and heads down the alley. Tell me how that makes sense.

    The whole piece is like that. Allegedly Sara always puts a force field around Joseph whenever she leaves, but the first time she picks him up, she does not remove any force field. You see?

    You riddle the piece with the verbs “to be”, “to have”, and other empty verbs, and unnecessary words. That weakens your writing. Read this:

    She took him out, changed him into the clean clothes she had washed before she left, then fed him the milk she had stolen. She hated stealing, but they had to eat. After her mother died shortly after having him, she had little choice in the matter.

    She changed him into the clean clothes she washed before she left, then fed him the stolen milk. She hated stealing, but her mother’s death shortly after his birth left little choice.


    Use simple past or present tense verbs, active voice. As much as possible, eliminate the following verbs:

    1. Any variant of the verb “to be” (be, been, being, am, are, is, was, were)

    2. Any variant of the following verbs. Writers may utilize some of these verbs to good effect as nouns or adjectives, or as verbs with a meaning different than ordinary. Ex: The boy suffers deep want; He is a man on the take (or make or go, but careful with idioms); His use of her shows glaringly on her face.

    to have - have, having, has, had
    to do - do, doing, done, did
    to take - take, taking, taken, took
    to make - make, making, made
    to go - go, goes, going, gone, went
    to see - see, seeing, seen, saw
    to look - look, looking, looked
    to use - use, used, using
    to get - get, got, getting, gotten
    to keep - keep, keeping, kept
    to seem – seem, seeming, seemed
    to want - want, wanted, wanting

  7. #7
    Member
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    Re: First part of my book, please critique

    Cur... you've never posted a single thing that's offended me and I always look forward to seeing your words pop up here. You know... there are worse things I can think of with which to be holed up throughout the winter than a good musician. Hell, I could be there.

    d.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    Re: First part of my book, please critique

    It smelled of rotting meat
    a rotted out tree stump

    The "rot" repetition does not help you. Lots of other words to use.

  9. #9
    Eric Mettenich
    Guest

    Re: First part of my book, please critique

    Hi Rachelle. You're posting a little early in the writing process, I think. Still lots of work to be done to tighten up your story.
    You should know that you read what you think you wrote. So try reading your work out aloud, that can help.
    Also use Word to show you word usage so you can spot which words are being overused.

    Above all don't despair and keep on writing.

  10. #10
    Junior Member
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    Re: First part of my book, please critique

    John
    Do you really think that this degree of detail is necessary?
    I imagine that Rachelle does know how to conjugate verbs. It is more the change of POV that disturbs.
    Not a lot more to be said, unfortunately.

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