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  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Posts
    10

    Critique for my YA novel

    Background info: Main character, Kaylie's, parents were both brutally killed and as a result she turned to drugs and alcohol until one night she was hit by a car. During the accident she temporarily died and came back to life with the ability to see the dead and read minds. Now her Aunt is sending her to a reform school to try and get her on the right path.

    “We’re here!” Aunt Paulina singsonged.
    I twisted in my seat, eager to get a clear view of the school. But upon looking at it, I felt my jaw drop, “You’re kidding.”
    Of all the places we had driven by the school happened to be the only one experiencing cloudy and ominous weather. The dull light that was able to shine through the thick grey clouds illuminated the dark bricks of the castle-like complex. The large columns seemed to warn off others rather than inviting them in and the barred windows made me question if they ever let anyone out. Turkey vultures swooped through the air around the grounds and I knew before I even rolled down the window that the smell of death in the air was prominent. The small doors that did permit entry into the complex seemed incongruently tiny to the surrounding structure. Enclosing the grounds was a thick twenty-foot wire fence with three coils of ominous barbwire at the top. My stomach plummeted at the thought of having to spend the next two years locked away in there. I could just die…again.
    “It’s… well its picturesque, don’t you think?” Paulina breathed.
    “If you’re taking the cover picture of a low-budget indie horror film maybe.”
    Paulina chuckled and reached over to take my hand. The touch sent a rush of Paulina’s innermost thoughts and feelings through me. Paulina was scared, but she was also desperate. Scared to send me to a place like this, but desperately hoping it would help me. As much as part of her was looking forward to having the house to herself again, ultimately her intentions were good. And like that, I couldn’t let myself show how terrified I was. At the end of the day this school wasn’t for me, it was to finally give her some peace of mind after a year of terrible events.
    I frowned away my fears and forced a smile, “I’ll be okay, really. See you Friday.”
    I gave my Aunt a quick kiss on the cheek and jumped out of the car before she could see that I was lying. The school had required me to send all of my belongings in advance so they could be checked for safety. Already sounds great doesn’t it? So, I didn’t have anything to bring with me other than the clothes on my back, which made for an easy get away from the car and the peering eyes of Paulina.
    It was a short walk up a pebbled drive to the front door, a monstrous sized wooden panel with a golden knob. Unsure of whether or not to knock, I decided to let myself in. The environment inside was gloomy at best, and seemed even more frightening than it was on the outside. Dim lighting from flicking fluorescent lights above me illuminated the small corridor I was standing in and the air smelled musty and old. It felt as if I was directly stepping into a coffin. Cameras were placed in an alarming frequency along the tops of the walls with blinking red lights to let you know that ‘the man’ was always watching. A slow creaking had me jumping to my right to lock gazes with a large burly woman with her dark hair pulled back so tightly her face looked strained and stretched. She wore khakis and a black polo shirt with the school logo stretched across her broad, almost manly, shoulders. Her frown was so intense it looked as if it was continually plastered on her face, making me feel entirely unwanted. For a second, I wanted to run full speed back to the car and not look back.
    I let my thoughts wander in a way I often did when I was trying to peer into the thoughts of someone else’s head. It had taken me a while to learn how to control the mind-reading. Once I did, I tried to avoid peering into someone else’s brain at all costs because it seemed too intrusive, but every now and then I would slip into a daydream and someone else’s thoughts would wander through my head. Sometimes though, I would do it on purpose, like on this particular occasion, if I needed to get a feel for what I was about to step into.
    Not another one of these brats, the woman thought as she asked, “You must be Kayleine Taylor?”
    Yup, I was going to love it here, I thought sarcastically.

  2. #2
    Rogue Mutt
    Guest
    Put an extra return between paragraphs next time you post.

    Learn to format dialog. Actions or anything not a synonym of said is not a dialog tag so you got lots of editing to do.

  3. #3
    Rogue Mutt
    Guest
    In case you're wondering what I mean:
    But upon looking at it, I felt my jaw drop, “You’re kidding.”
    Should be:
    But upon looking at it, I felt my jaw drop. “You’re kidding.”
    OR
    But upon looking at it, I felt my jaw drop. “You’re kidding,” I said.
    And also:
    I frowned away my fears and forced a smile, “I’ll be okay, really. See you Friday.”
    Should be:
    I frowned away my fears and forced a smile. I said, “I’ll be okay, really. See you Friday.”

    I'm also not sure how you frown away fears, but that's a whole other issue.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    1,142
    Ditto what RM says.

    Watch out for "filter" words: I heard, I saw, I felt… These can interpose a psychic distance between the reader and the story. And drop the adverbs (search for words ending in 'ly').

    Also, when asking for critiques on a new work, its customary to post the opening passages (as opposed to something from, say, chapter 3). Not only does this offer a sample of your writing, but it also shows how effectively you're opening your story. Remember also, those opening pages are the ones you'll be submitting to an agent when you begin querying.

  5. #5
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Posts
    10
    Thank you!!

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Elkins Park PA
    Posts
    343
    But upon looking at it, I felt my jaw drop, “You’re kidding.”
    Look at this from the reader's viewpoint. They hope to be entertained, not just informed on what happened. Rather than hear about it, they want you to make it seem real—as if they'e just as much "there" as when watching a film. But here, you place effect before cause. We're told what happened before we learn what caused it. How can that seem real to a reader? In life, cause always comes before effect.
    Of all the places we had driven by the school happened to be the only one experiencing cloudy and ominous weather.
    If you were seeing a place for the first time, would you form your opinion of it based on the weather? of course not. So why give a weather report?
    I decided to let myself in.
    This is a very dispassionate way of stating it. Instead of being with the character living it, the narrator is explaining it as an outside observer remembering. If the character walks up and opens the door, does it matter to the plot that they had to decide to open the door rather than knocking?
    Dim lighting from flicking fluorescent lights above me illuminated the small corridor I was standing in
    You're over-describing. If you don't mention which corridor won't the reader assume that it's the one the character is in? Let implication work for you, because every unnecessary word slows the narrative.
    It felt as if I was directly stepping into a coffin.
    Crypt, or the equivalent maybe. But a coffin is a lot smaller than a hallway.
    Cameras were placed in an alarming frequency along the tops of the walls with blinking red lights to let you know that ‘the man’ was always watching.
    You can't say "tops of the halls" becasuse the character just arrivced, and can describe only what they know.

    And, it's way over the top. The hall has cameras showing what's happening, so the number is irrelevant. The blinking lights are more than irrelevant. Cameras send a picture. They don't blink when someone selects it from a bank of cameras.
    She wore khakis and a black polo shirt with the school logo stretched across her broad, almost manly, shoulders.
    Too obviously a description of Miss Trunchbull from the film Matilda.
    Yup, I was going to love it here, I thought sarcastically.
    This line demonstrates the problem I see. You the author, pretending to be the character at some unknown later time, are describing the events to the reader rather then having the character live it in real time. In her viewpoint, it would be, Yup, I'm going to love it here. The italics tell us it's a thought, and what went before makes us know it's sarcastic.

    First person gives us greater ability to enter editorial comments, but story should take place in real time, in the protagonist's, not the storyteller's viewpoint. The faqct thaqt they aqre, nominally, the swame person matters not at all, because they cannot appear on stage together.

    In all, then writing is better than most I see on sites like this. But too often you're explaining things from an external viewpoint. You might want to look at this article, for one way of getting deeper into your protagonist's viewpoint.

    Hang in there, and keep on writing.

  7. #7
    Rogue Mutt
    Guest
    Ooh Greenstein put a little more work into his boilerplate critique this time.

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