I don't understand the significance of the desk, what it means to these characters, where it is. I guess I'm looking for an anchor. These characters are at Hometown High during lunch and Andy is a junior. Ellie Last Name is reading the table because...that sort of detail.
Yeah, I getcha. That's all actually on the next page of the novel. I was trying out a scene to pull people in but perhaps I should dot a few of the details through the first bit to make sure I don't make it too confusing. Thanks for the feedback, it's very helpful!
Actually itís very good apart from a few errors. It drew me in and I would read on.
In general and I know this sounds silly, I donít really read.
This thing in my view is pretty much publishable if the story holds?- And I would have actually read the whole thing.
Today I suck, tomorrow I blow. I am eating curry without teeth
It's not bad. Definitely got potential. Even though there were some instances of awkward writing, it piqued my interest. There are some good devices here that will snatch at the reader's attention.
Usually I pick the first couple of paragraphs and comment on those, but for whatever reason today I decided to be madcap and pick on some stuff drawn at random from toward the end. Here come the caps!
Scrawled in black pen in the corner of the table, I spotted my name. LITERALLY YOU JUST SAID THE PROTAGONIST (HERSELF, NOT JUST HER NAME, HER ACTUAL PERSON) IS SCRAWLED ON THE TABLE A wave of anger coursed through me. NO. WE ALL DO THIS FOR A LONG TIME BEFORE REALIZING IT DOESN'T WORK, SO YOU'RE IN GOOD COMPANY, BUT NO. "A WAVE OF ANGER COURSED THROUGH ME" IS NOT AN IMPROVEMENT ON "I GOT ANGRY." IT'S JUST A WRITERLY CONCEIT. TO IMPROVE ON "I GOT ANGRY" (WHICH, LET US BE HONEST, IS FLACCID, GORMLESS WRITING) YOU NEED TO HONE IN ON CONVEYING THE REAL EXPERIENCE OF ANGER. MY CHEEKS BURNED, HEAT AND SWEAT BATHED MY FOREHEAD AND SCALP, MY LIPS DREW AWAY FROM MY TEETH IN A FERAL SNARL, ICE FORMED BEHIND MY EYES, ETC.
I stood quickly, IF YOU CHOOSE THE RIGHT VERBS, YOU OFTEN DON'T NEED ADVERBS, ESPECIALLY ALL-TOO-COMMON ONES LIKE "QUICKLY" slung my bag across my shoulder and marched to the car-park. "MARCHED" IS A GOOD EXAMPLE. TELLS US EXACTLY HOW SHE'S MOVING WITHOUT DROSS LIKE "ANGRILY" OR "STOMPED LOUDLY" Half the class stood about half-asleep, I GET WHAT YOU'RE TRYING FOR HERE, BUT MODIFIERS LIKE "ABOUT" AND "HALF (ASLEEP)" SHOULD BE AVOIDED WHENEVER POSSIBLE. ALSO, WE'RE ALREADY OUT TO THE CAR PARK WITH HER IN OUR MINDS, SO NOW WE'RE WONDERING WHAT THE CLASS IS DOING STANDING AROUND THE CAR PARK - MUCH LESS HALF-ASLEEP. WHAT THE HELL IS HALF-ASLEEP, ANYWAY? IS THAT LIKE BEING A LITTLE BIT PREGNANT? and I pulled up my hood to hide from them. NOW WE'RE IN THE CAR PARK, THIS CONFUSES THE READER MORE...BECAUSE IT COULD BE A HOOD ON HER SWEATER OR IT COULD BE THE HOOD ON HER CAR.
Nobody could see me like this. Nobody would understand. GOOD
I turned around the back of the math building WHAT? WHEN DID WE GET FROM THE CAR PARK TO HERE? IS THE MATH BUILDING BY THE CAR PARK? THE READER'S LOST and slumped against the wall. Two words, written in black. Two words were all it took to make my hands shake, to make me double over, fighting for control. I LIKE WHAT YOU'RE GOING FOR HERE BUT THINK YOU NEED TO WORK A LITTLE ON THIS - THE BREAK SEEMS TO COME AT THE WRONG PLACE. THINK THE FIRST SENTENCE SHOULD INTRODUCE THE IDEA THAT THE WORDS HAVE AN EFFECT ON HER, AND THE SECOND CAN REINFORCE IT. FOR EXAMPLE: "TWO WORDS, WRITTEN IN BLACK, WERE ALL IT TOOK TO MAKE MY HANDS SHAKE. TWO WORDS MADE ME DOUBLE OVER, FIGHTING FOR CONTROL." I breathed slowly, eyes closed until my focus returned. DON'T REALLY LIKE "UNTIL MY FOCUS RETURNED"; TOO CLINICAL FOR THIS EMOTIONAL SCENE. ALSO THINK ABOUT THE PUNCTUATION HERE - BELIEVE IT WORKS BETTER WITH A SECOND COMMA
Nothing in high-school is sacred. HIGH SCHOOL ISN'T HYPHENATED No life-changing moment is yours alone to cherish or regret. Everything is passed around, cheapened and twisted into something whispered over lunch. RINGS HYPOCRITICAL AFTER SHE WAS SO BLASE ABOUT READING THE GOSSIP Something scrawled on Alexis’s table. NON SEQUITUR Something you have to face, every day, whether you’re ready to or not. READER DOESN'T GET THIS AT ALL; I'D DUMP IT AS YOU'RE ALREADY DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO TOO MUCH NAVEL-GAZING
Just my two cents. Good luck!
Last edited by John Hawkwood; 11-25-2011 at 05:06 PM.
That's really helpful!! You're right on about my lazy adverbs and purple "wave of anger"!! I'm seeing the light
And I'm a constant abuser of the whaddyacallit ambiguous noun thing like "scrawled on the table" - which is obviously an error! Gotta train myself to see them.
I think that when I walk her through the crowd in the carpark it is just a distraction. In my head I know what's going on (kids waiting for bus to take them on field trip), but when I've described it properly in other edits, it took too many words away from the momentum of her response to the words on the table. As it is, yeah, it's confusing. Not enough words. I can see how it loses the reader and think I will just have her walk somewhere else.
I really like your edit with the hands-shaking-losing-control bit. In fact, all of your edits I like a lot and will go over them and try and distill them into ideas I can apply to the rest of my writing! Thanks!
Thanks Martin! I really appreciate the positive encouragement, it's nice to know I'm not nuts in thinking I have something here under the errors. More motivation to really get it right.
Originally Posted by belle ball
Enjoy the curry. I am making an Aussie thanksgiving dinner for my American significant other.
Yeah, I'd like to reiterate that I do see some good writing here. I try to be encouraging with everyone on this board, but I don't parcel out actual praise lightly. Glad you found the comments helpful!
Thanks, John, that means a lot. I never thought I'd work so hard on something in my life as I have this novel. Made the mistake of turning the best idea I had into my first novel. Of course, the writing stunk (really, really stunk) in the first few drafts, but the idea was too good to give up on and start something new, so I've been slaving away, scrubbing out as much of my stinky first-novel writing as I can. If I could go back in time I'd save the idea and write something else as my first, to learn - but it's done now This site, and critique like yours has been incredibly helpful!
Originally Posted by John Hawkwood
Not horrible. A few things I noticed right off - first, you attempt to describe every single bodily movement and facial expression. It reads like you're trying to be a director instead of a writer. That makes your writing tedious and clutters it very quickly.
Second, pronouns are your friends - use them. A female and a male converse - if ever there were a place to use pronouns without fear of ambiguity, that's it.
Third, your setting is ambiguous. I gather she's outside at a high school of some sort, perhaps summer school, if she’s squinting at the sun at 6 AM, but then – she’s wrapped in two layers of fleece, so it must be cold. Is this Alaska or something? No, there’s a beach nearby. Where the heck is she? I don’t know.
Finally, just a sentence that threw me: “I had two hours on a bus to endure before being dumped at the beach - my least favorite place on the planet.” That sentence can be understood as either a past or a future event. The next sentence sort of indicates future maybe, but not clearly. Which is it?
I trimmed your piece by using pronouns and cutting some of the directing. Tell me how you think it reads:
Alexis wants Mr Cross.
Sash shaves his back.
I traced my fingers across the glitter nail-polish messages, grinning at a decade of high school gossip scratched, painted, and cut into this most holy of lunch tables. If Alexis or her minions knew I sat here, they’d disinfect the seat. Unpopularity is contagious, you know.
But at six o’clock in the morning, the hair-straightener brigade slept in their mansions, while I sat here wrapped in two layers of puke-colored fleece waiting for the rest of my bio class. I had two hours on a bus to endure before being dumped at the beach - my least favorite place on the planet. Now seemed as good a time as any to catch up on gossip.
A shadow cut across the table. “Ellie? Oh my god…”
I squinted into the sunrise. Andy Jackson frowned at me from behind a pair of yellow sunglasses. Andy was a celebrated member of the gossip table; I just read more than I wanted to know about his anatomy. He sat opposite me, and said “You know Alexis will eat you alive if she finds out you’re sitting here."
“Pffft, she’d never eat me. Too many calories."
He didn’t smile. “You’re totally dead. Hey, speaking of dead, the homework you did for me sucked.”
Great - a customer complaint…my favorite way to start the day.
He pulled some pink papers from his bag, leaned towards me, and whispered, “I got an F.”
“I see that. The, uh, enormous red letter on the front is a bit of a giveaway.”
He scowled. “Drake knew I didn't write it, which means you messed up. I want a refund.”
Oh, geez. It was way too early to deal with this level of stupidity. I said, “You see how the paper is pink, Andy?”
“You see how the writing is purple, and there are little flowers in the margin?”
His brow knitted in confusion, a more or less constant expression of his.
“You're meant to copy it out in your own handwriting, genius. That's why I put it on such pretty paper. I didn't think anyone would actually hand that in.”
His cheeks reddened. “But you didn't tell me that.”
“No refunds. If you have a problem, take it up with the principal. I bet he’d love hearing about our little arrangement.”
He crammed the papers back into his bag and stammered, “It's... it’s a stupid story anyway.”
I wanted to say How else could I make it look like you wrote it?, but instead, I just shrugged and smiled.
Andy pointed to the edge of the table and sneered, “Someone wrote one about you in pen over there.” Then he stormed off.
I frowned and searched for my name. He was probably bluffing. My last date was a play date, and I wasn’t sporting a new nose or bigger boobs. The only two people who knew enough to embarrass me shared my banishment from this table. If I reached the holy grail of local gossip, I felt sure I’d know about it. I scoured the layers of marker and polish for anything remotely connected to me, then froze.
Scrawled in black pen in the corner of the table, I spotted my name. Anger coursed through me.
I slung my bag across my shoulder and marched to the car-park. Half the class stood about half-asleep, and I pulled up my hood to hide from them.
Nobody could see me like this. Nobody would understand.
I hurried to the back of the math building and slumped against the wall. Two words…just two words put a tremble in my hands and doubled me over like a kick in the stomach. I breathed slowly, eyes closed, until my focus returned.
Nothing in high school is sacred. No life-changing moment is yours alone to cherish or regret. Everything is passed around, cheapened, and twisted into lunchroom gossip - something scrawled on Alexis’s table, something for you to face…every day…whether you’re ready or not.
If I found out who wrote it, I’d gladly kill them, tie them to the table, and burn the lot.
Last edited by John Oberon; 11-28-2011 at 09:49 AM.
Thanks, John (Oberon) for taking the time to go through it. I'm editing it to make it clear where she is, what's going on with the field trip, etc. I'm also kicking out a lot of the "directions" - I agree, I lean on them as an amateurish crutch and am slowly getting rid of a lot of them. And pronouns, yes - adding some of them! Thanks very much.