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  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2016

    edited for writing critque

    Kisses can be scandalous.
    The priest was so delicate, so sweet-hearted, so tender, and yet so masculine. His hair was mussed up and a little damp from sweat, August in Minnesota is muggy and the air thick with mosquitoes. He swatted a few of the naughty little bugs but knew it was futile; they always won in the end. Plus, he didn’t like to kill any living thing, even things as irritating as these.
    “They have as much right to dinner as I do,” Father Cedric Briar said, deciding not to swat one that was feeding on his arm.
    Such things made Marceline Donaldson love him even more. He wasn’t just thoughtful and moral; he put those thoughts and beliefs into action in the most literal of ways.
    They were picnicking on the banks of the Mississippi River. The massive, cross-continental waterway had its headwaters just a couple of hours north of where they sat. Father Briar was always inspired by the power of the river and came down to eat, rest, and pray beside it whenever the state’s notorious weather allowed it.
    Kisses can be wild.
    Wild like the pine forest around them. Deer, black bear and timber wolves still roamed those woods and despite being an animal lover, she always felt a little unsafe when they walked out to their special, private lunch spot among the towering trees.
    But that unsafe feeling was thrilling, too. “Isn’t that part of the reason you keep doing this?” she asked herself, “because of the illicit thrill?”
    It was 1954 and the Catholic Church was a still one of the most powerful institutions in America. To be involved with a priest was definitely wild, wild to the point of being a little bit dangerous. Every time she contemplated it, the love affair made her titter. Marceline was a good girl! A very good girl, and she didn’t do things that went against Minnesota’s conservative culture, much less things that went against God’s command for his priestly representatives on Earth!
    Kisses can send one up with the stars and the comets.
    The day was so lovely he couldn’t help but turn his thoughts to God. A couple of Whooping Cranes flew overhead, their majesty lifting his thoughts along with them. “Grus Americana,” the amateur birder and professional holy man noted. The spring thaw had filled the river with crisp, cold water, proving that winter didn’t last forever (although it often felt as though it did) and that life could renew itself indefinitely.
    And if life could renew itself, why couldn’t love? With this smart and dedicated woman, even that felt possible to Father Briar. Her eyes were pools of compassion and curiosity, her skin soft and fair and he grace unparalleled by any woman he’d ever known.
    This was not a man who ever thought he’d be challenging the rules and restrictions of his church; no, Cedric Briar was a lover of order. He’d joined one, even. The Society of Jesus, the Jesuit Order.
    But love was trumping order.
    She spread out the contents of their picnic basket. They had rye bread with butter and thick slices of ham with which to make sandwiches. There were ruddy red potatoes, first boiled and then sprinkled with dill and lemon juice before being chilled overnight in the refrigerator. There were fresh carrots and spring onions. And there was chocolate, a brand new treat that they both loved, a confection known as M&M’s.
    She hummed a poppy little tune as she prepared their lunch. “Did you bring the mustard, Cedric?”
    “Forgot to pack it, sorry! There is more butter in there, though. What is that you are singing?”
    She was a little embarrassed. “I heard it on the car radio when I was driving to pick you up. It is a new song called “Rock Around the Clock” by a young man named Bill Haley.”
    “Haley like the comet?” Father Briar asked.
    “Yes, exactly. In fact, that it the name of his backing band. Bill Haley and the Comets.”
    “It is a catchy little tune.”
    “It is, but popular music like that isn’t going anywhere. It’s all a flash in the pan. Speaking of which, why did you bring a pan?” she asked, lifting the heavy cast iron thing out of the wicker basket.
    “I thought I might catch a fish and fry it up,” he said, motioning to the river.
    “I never knew you fished.”
    “Avidly! This is the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” after all. We all fish.”
    Marceline was a transplant for the Pacific Northwest, a place both very much like Northern Minnesota and very different. But she was a city girl and Brannaska was a small town in the woods, surrounded by the famous lakes, German Catholics, and Scandinavian Protestants who were all united by a love of hockey and a folk hero lumberjack of gigantic proportions named Paul Bunyon.
    So there had been some culture shock. “An adjustment period,” he’d told her, reassuring. “You’ll grow to love the quiet and the fresh air. The people will grow to love you, as I did, and you’ll flourish. “Bloom where you are planted,” I always say! And, tumultuous as it was, fate has planted you here. Thank god.”
    “Thank god,” she agreed, passing him a sandwich.
    He ate greedily. This was another thing that attracted her to him; he was, as her mother would’ve said, “a good eater.” Although, had her mother known she was involved with a priest, well, all hell would’ve broken out.
    Kisses can make liars of the most honest of men.
    They held hands. As a working person, a lady who’d done noble labor with her hands, her knuckles were round and her palms calloused, although her nails were immaculate and painted a space-age color. His seminary ring was cool as she laced her fingers through his.
    “Do you ever take this off?” she asked, spinning it around on his finger.
    “Sometimes I think I should,” he said, suddenly serious. A cloud passed over the sun and he wondered if the mercurial weather wasn’t about to go bad on them.
    “Why do you say that?” she asked, wiggling a bit closer to him, trying to keep the mood light and summery. The winter had been so harsh. Seattle is rainy, to be sure, but the snow laid over Minnesota like death blanket, a burial shroud, for unending months.
    But now, like the blooms around them, their love was flourishing.
    “Every time I kiss you I wonder about the vows I took. As joyful as our love is, it is impossible for me to forget that I am breaking a solemn vow to God.”
    As if to prove a point (“or make a dare to the divine,” she speculated), he kissed her, soft and sweet but full of longing and desire.
    “Sweeter than those little chocolate candies,” he said.
    “More nourishing than bread and water,” she agreed, taking a bit of both and enjoying the view of the river while he held her close.
    Thus the afternoon passed. They ate all the sandwiches but rationed the M&M’s, eating only three an hour so they’d last through the sunset and into the night.
    They’d rarely had so much uninterrupted time together. It had been a long time coming, Marceline’s move to Minnesota. It wasn’t that she wasn’t committed to him, oh, she very much was! But he was a priest, a working, wonderful priest, with parish and congregation to worry about and watch over.
    Life in the Upper-Midwest was harsh and unpredictable, even when it was beautiful and bountiful. Father Briar was known throughout the woodsy and hardscrabble region as a pillar of the community and an organizer of care and relief for the afflicted and the needy. The church was a necessary part of the social safety net in a country where the government had only recently developed one.
    She loved to be so close to it, and therefore to God. And yet so far away! Despite herself, she too had doubts about the morality of their affair. “What does Jesus think of me?” she wondered, laying back into the arms of Father Briar, “how could he find something so pure and so blessed to be sinful?”
    As if reading her mind, Cedric said, “now is not the time for deep thoughts, my dear heart, now is the time for enjoying the evening.”
    A man and his son drifted by in a wooden canoe, fishing for bass. They were well up river from home and he didn’t believe anybody would recognize him, but he reflexively pulled his hat a little lower over his eyes to shield them, just in case.
    Feeling him tense up, she asked “do you ever dream of being free from it? Free from the hiding and the secrets? Free to be ourselves, free to be in love? Free to think about the future?”
    “Ah, the future. The first stumble of many doomed lovers,” he joked, a little darker than he’d meant.
    “We aren’t doomed.”
    “No,” he agreed, “far from it.”
    From there they flowed into a discussion of the future.
    But their past was equally interesting…

  2. #2
    Rogue Mutt
    Yup, nailed it. This needs a lot of work.

  3. #3
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    what do you mean "nailed it"

  4. #4
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    why don't you just stop replying to everything I post Mutt head!

  5. #5
    Rogue Mutt
    Quote Originally Posted by regina View Post
    why don't you just stop replying to everything I post Mutt head!
    That's a good insult..if you're six.

  6. #6
    Rogue Mutt
    Quote Originally Posted by regina View Post
    what do you mean "nailed it"
    I said, "Though I'm guessing if you posted a sample in Writing Critique I'd say you're not even ready to submit a query. "

    Nailed it! You're definitely not ready to submit a query.

    His hair was mussed up and a little damp from sweat, August in Minnesota is muggy and the air thick with mosquitoes.
    Comma splice. Use a semicolon instead.
    “Isn’t that part of the reason you keep doing this?” she asked herself, “because of the illicit thrill?”
    she asked herself. "Because of the illicit thrill?"

    A couple of Whooping Cranes flew overhead
    whooping cranes

    “I heard it on the car radio when I was driving to pick you up. It is a new song called “Rock Around the Clock” by a young man named Bill Haley.”

    It's redundant to say "car radio" and then "when I was driving." Also, a song title--or anything else with quotes around it in dialog--you use single quotes, not double quotes. 'Rock Around the Clock'

    And if life could renew itself, why couldn’t love? With this smart and dedicated woman, even that felt possible to Father Briar. Her eyes were pools of compassion and curiosity, her skin soft and fair and he grace unparalleled by any woman he’d ever known.
    You're head-hopping. You start from the woman's point of view and then you randomly jump to the man's point of view. Look up "Point of View for 3rd person" to find out how to do it properly. The gist of it is, don't keep skipping from one character's perspective to the other. Plus you have all this authorial intrusion with these little asides: Kisses can be scandalous, But their past was equally interesting, and so forth. Authorial intrusion is basically breaking the fourth wall, where you, the author are speaking directly to me, the reader.

    Paul Bunyon.

    Besides all that, if this is where you're beginning, it's just dropping the reader into this love affair without any setup. The girl comes off as so naive and immature the way she's gushing about this guy. I'm not sure how old she's supposed to be, but I'd guess 15 or 16.

    Bottom line is go read some books on writing, read some good historical romances to see how it's done, and maybe take some classes to shake the grammatical errors. Don't waste your time and an agent or editor's time querying something that's obviously not ready for professional scrutiny.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Elkins Park PA
    Kisses can be scandalous.
    And mashed potatoes have no bones. Both that and your first line are true, but neither matter. You open with a general statement for which the reader has no context. As we read it we don't know who's speaking, or what prompted the statement. So for a reader it's data, not story. Perhaps later it may have context. If so, later is when it should appear.

    And this is not a minor point, because here is where any agent or acquiring editor would probably stop reading.

    But that aside, the reader, after this, expects you to expand on it and give the line meaning, but instead:
    The priest was so delicate, so sweet-hearted, so tender, and yet so masculine.
    From a reader's viewpoint:

    Priest? What priest? What do you mean by "delicate, and the rest? You know. And that knowledge makes the line work when you read it, because it "fills in the blanks." But the reader is wondering what this has to do with a kiss. And the reader doesn't know what the term "masculine" means to the one speaking. They also don't know if this is the narrator's opinion or that of the protagonist.

    In short, because they don't know where they are in time and space, what's going on, or whose skin they're supposed to be wearing, the line has no meaning to anyone but you.

    Here's the problem: you, the author, are talking to the reader about the story—telling the story—as though the reader has the same image in their mind that you held when you wrote the words.

    To show you why that can't work, look at the opening to this graphic novelAsk yourself if the words would have any emotional impact without the pictures.

    The problem you face is that there are no pictures on your page, so the words must supply the emotion. But storytelling is a performance art, where how you tell it matters every bit as much as what you say. Take a simple phrase like "Good morning." Spoken one way and it's an invitation to make love. In another and it's a simple acknowledgement of someone's presence. In another it could mean, "Hello, you bastard, I'm about to kill you."

    But for it to mean anything but the dictionary definition of the words we must either hear it spoken, or know how it was spoken—and have context for the why of it. But on the page your voice, and all the tricks of speaking are silent, so the reader, without having context or your intent, must guess.

    And on the page your expression, your gestures, and your body language, as you read the words is unknown.

    So in short, you cannot tell the reader a story using verbal storytelling techniques. And from start to finish that's what you're doing. Bad news, I know, but writing is a profession, after all, and quite a complex one. And since in our schooling we're trained in the skills employers need, not fiction writing professionals, we all leave school exactly as prepared to write fiction as to remove a diseased appendix.

    In other words, if you want to write like the pros you have to know what the pros know. And that's bad knows, given that you've spent so much time, worked so hard, and put so much of yourself into this. I wish there were a way to change a few lines, and edit a bit, but there's a lot more to it.

    Definitions change. A scene is not a scene, when you change mediums, for example. One on the page is very different from one on stage or screen, and the elements that make it up are different.

    Because vision and sound are parallel senses, a single glance at a stage setting or video, will tell the viewer about the setting, the era, the characters, and the ambiance. But reading is a serial operation, and any attempt to give what comes in that glance will take several minutes of reading, and bore the reader because nothing's happening. Yes, there are ways around that, but you need to know them in order to use them. As Mark Twain noted, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” And at this point, not having studied the craft, you have a whole bunch of, "just ain't so" to fix.

    But on the other hand, someone who is serious about writing will spend a bit of time and money on their writer's education, and reap the benefit of all the work and experimentation that has been done over the years. And, if you truly are meant to be a writer the learning will be fun, and have you saying, "Why didn't I see that myself?" over and over again.

    Your local library system's fiction writing section can be a huge resource. You might also want to poke around in the writing articles in my blog to get a kind of overview of the issues you need to work on. They're written for the newer writer.

    Hang in there, and keep on writing.

    Jay Greenstein

  8. #8
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Thanks for your reply. I did reply back and it is gone.
    This was started as a prologue.. that is way too long.

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