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  1. #1
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    Desperate For Critique!

    Hello All,

    Below is a draft of the first few paragraphs of a novel I'm attempting. The history is accurate, also use of terms like "tis" etc. Is it interesting? Boring? Confusing? Pace too slow or too fast? Wordy? Are the characters interesting and realistic? I'm very new to fiction and would appreciate any feedback - I'm not sensitive.



    THE NEW HAMPSHIRE GRANTS (MODERN SOUTHERN VERMONT), SECOND WEEK OF MAY, 1757


    If only she...


    Thoughts about Betsy vanished when Philip Moore heard the strange noise coming up the path. Hemlock needles scratched his face as he tilted his head and held his breath. For several moments, he heard only the usual murmurs of the deep forest at mid-day, pierced by the shriek of a jay. Then, low voices seeped from behind the trees down the path and his fingers curled around his pistol. He was already secreted in the deepest shadows of the hemlock but took another quiet step back. A frown creept over his face as he squinted through the branches.

    They would not be talking...'Tis someone else ... He set the pistol barrel on a branch and slid his thumb to the hammer. As he watched through the needles, a form approached the path through the lattice of leaves and trees.

    A muscular Indian wearing leggings and a breech cloth glided from the woods. His stern face and chest were painted in black and red streaks and two feathers dangled from his scalp lock. He gripped a tomahawk in his right hand, held low by his thigh. A musket hung across his back, the muzzle sticking up above his shoulder. Close behind him was a young white man, dressed in the dirty uniform of a Lieutenant of the La Reine French Regulars. A Charleville musket was strapped loosely, almost casually over his shoulder.

    The Indian's eyes darted toward the hemlock as he stepped onto the path and he began to raise the tomahawk.

    "Non! Taxos! Arretez!" the Lieutenant said in a hoarse whisper. He held out his arm toward the Indian but did not touch him. Nostri Domine! Nostri Domine!

    Taxos halted and lowered the weapon, his stare fastened on the hemlock.

    "Peccatis nostris," Philip called softly, completing the password. His gaze lingered on the Indian then he uncocked the pistol and slipped it into its place on his belt. He picked up his knapsack and stepped from the hemlocks into sunlight dribbling onto the path. "You're very late today, Lieutenant," he said, walking toward them, smiling faintly but keeping his eyes on the Indian, his hand near the pistol. "Tis after mid-day."

    "Yes, yes, but no matter," said the Lieutenant brusquely with the lilt of a French accent. He hooked his thumbs on the belt around his coat, the red cuff on his sleeve dusting the scabbord for his bayonet and hatchet. "Is your horse up the hill?"

    Philip nodded. "Yes. At the top. Just behind the boulders." He swung the knapsack over a shoulder, the faded burn scars on his hands glistening briefly in the sun.

    The Lieutenant jerked his head toward the hill. "Taxos apportez moi le cheval, si'l vous plait," Grunting, the Indian shoved the tomahawk into his waistband. He flung a dark glance toward Philip then bounded up the rocky incline as spritely and silently as a lynx. Tufts of hair edging his leggings fluttered as he climbed.

    "Are you ready, mon ami?" asked the Lieutenant, watching Taxos disappear around the boulders. He reached into his coat pocket, withdrawing a large handkerchief and turned to Philip. "Oh, and I want your pistol, if you please. Now."

    Philip stared into the boyish face then slowly pulled the pistol from his belt. "This wasn't part of the agreement," he said, his voice quiet but tinged with alarm. "I'm not a prisoner." He placed the weapon into the other's outstretched hand



  2. #2
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    Re: Desperate For Critique!

    J,

    'Tis of my ol' gran's bedtime stories it reminds me, it does. That said, my old gran didn't cotton to an adjective for every noun. She didn't like padding either, so would take a hatchet to unnecessary description. And she was quick death on adverbs, replacing them with better verbs on a wholesale basis.

    Quote Originally Posted by Julie
    If only she...

    Thoughts about Betsy vanished when Philip Moore heard the [s]strange[/s] noise coming up the path. Hemlock needles scratched his face as he tilted his head and held his breath. For several moments, he heard only the [s]usual[/s] murmurs of the [s]deep[/s] forest at mid-day, [s]pierced by the shriek of a jay.[/s] Then, [s]low[/s] he heard voices [s]seeped from behind the trees down the path[/s] and his fingers curled around his pistol. [s]He was already secreted in the deepest shadows of the hemlock but took another quiet step back. A frown creept over his face as he squinted through the branches.[/s]

    They would not be talking...'Tis someone else Italics for thought. And that's your entire novel's quota of ellipses. ... He set the pistol barrel on a branch and slid his thumb to the hammer. As he watched through the needles, [s]a form approached the path through the lattice of leaves and trees[/s] an [s]muscular[/s] Indian wearing leggings and a breech cloth glided [s]from the woods[/s] into view . His [s]stern[/s] face and chest were painted in black and red streaksperiod and two feathers dangled from his scalp lock. He gripped a tomahawk in his right hand, held low by his thigh. A musket hung across his back, the muzzle sticking up above his shoulder. Close behind [s]him[/s] the Indian was a young white man, dressed in the dirty uniform of a Lieutenant of the La Reine French Regulars. A Charleville musket was strapped loosely, almost casually over his shoulder.

    The Indian'[s]s eyes darted toward[/s] faced the hemlockperiod [s]as he stepped onto the path and[/s] he began to raise the tomahawk.

    "Non! Taxos! Arretez!" the Lieutenant said in a [s]hoarse[/s] whisper. He held out his arm toward the Indian but did not touch him. Nostri Domine! Nostri Domine!

    Taxos halted and lowered the weapon, his stare fastened on the hemlock.

    "Peccatis nostris," Philip [s]called softly[/s] whispered., completing the password. [s]His gaze lingered[/s] He watched [s]on[/s] the Indian then he uncocked the pistol and slipped it into [s]its place on[/s] his belt. He picked up his knapsack and stepped from the hemlocks [s]into sunlight dribbling[/s] onto the path. "You're very late today, Lieutenant," he said, walking toward them, smiling [s]faintly[/s] but keeping his eyes on the Indian, his hand near the pistol. "Tis after mid-day."

    "Yes, yes, but no matter," said the Lieutenantcomma [s]brusquely[/s] with the lilt of a French accent. He hooked his thumbs on the belt around his coat, [s]the red cuff on his sleeve dusting[/s] near the scabbord for his bayonet and hatchet. "Is your horse up the hill?"

    Philip nodded. "Yes. At the top. Just behind the boulders." As He swung the knapsack over a shoulder, the [s]faded[/s] burn scars on his hands glistening [s]briefly[/s] in the sun.

    The Lieutenant jerked his head toward the hill. "Taxos apportez moi le cheval, si'l vous plait," Grunting, the Indian shoved the tomahawk into his waistband. He flung a [s]dark[/s] glance toward Philip then bounded up the rocky incline [s]as spritely and silently as a lynx[/s]. Tufts of hair edging his leggings fluttered as he climbed.

    "Are you ready, mon ami?" asked the Lieutenant, watching Taxos disappear around the boulders. He reached into his coat pocket, withdrawing a large handkerchief and turned to Philip. "Oh, and I want your pistol, if you please. Now."

    Philip stared into the boyish face then [s]slowly[/s] pulled the pistol from his belt. "This wasn't part of the agreement," he said, his voice quiet but tinged with alarm. "I'm not a prisoner." He placed the weapon into the [s]other's[/s] outstretched hand.
    Cheer up. At least she won't whack you upside the head with a stick every time you put in a useless adverb, like she did me.

    Stan

  3. #3
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    Re: Desperate For Critique!

    Hello Stan,

    Thanks for taking the time to review. As I said, I'm not sensitive and I think you've made some excellent revisions. That said, was your grandmother related to Lizzie Borden? On a more serious note, did you think the pace of the extract was too slow? Was it interesting? Thanks again.

  4. #4
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    Re: Desperate For Critique!

    I like it. The pace is fine, once the padding is gone. Nice little twist at the end of the piece that ramps up the tension.

    Overall verdict: Readable, after some polishing.

    Stan

  5. #5
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    Re: Desperate For Critique!

    Hello Stan,

    Thank you for your comments. I've read some of your other posts and it's pretty clear to me that you know what you're talking about, at least in this arena. I can see the redundant description and the weak adverbs now that you've pointed them out. Argghh! How does one know how much other description to omit without turning the piece into written oatmeal minus the cinnamon!

  6. #6
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    Re: Desperate For Critique!

    Quote Originally Posted by julie
    Thank you for your comments. I've read some of your other posts and it's pretty clear to me that you know what you're talking about, at least in this arena. I can see the redundant description and the weak adverbs now that you've pointed them out. Argghh! How does one know how much other description to omit without turning the piece into written oatmeal minus the cinnamon!
    Ah now. That be the rub, as old gran used to say. Knowing what's padding and what's necessary, now that's what makes a writer.

    For me, the test is to ask myself if the reader can make sense of a scene. If so, not another word is required. As writers we want to write lyrical, evocative prose. But the reader wants a clear and concise story, with a bit of voice as a bonus. So who do I write for? The reader, because--as old gran said--'Tis hard to make a writin' livin' if nobody buys the dang books 'cause the writin' makes their heads hurt.

    Stan

  7. #7
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    Re: Desperate For Critique!

    I think that this is quite good, actually. I was engaged and your description was interesting enough to keep me from skimming.

    I really only had one suggestion. I would cut the mention of Betsy at the very beginning of the section. The reason I say that is that it's a wasted mention. By the time I got to the end of the excerpt, I had completely forgotten that you brought her up. I'm assuming that you're going to get to Betsy and her story and I think you should just introduce her at that point.

    When I got to the end of your piece, I wanted to read more. I think that counts as a success.

  8. #8
    Shaun .
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    Re: Desperate For Critique!

    I read it through and, though I paused from time to time in order to fully comprehend, I enjoyed it. Your descriptions are good, but I can't critique this. Everything about it is foreign to me. Go with Stan's advice. He thinks smarterer than me. Thanks for asking my opinion though. Sorry I couldn't be of any help.

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