Saturday, February 26, 2011

Critique Session Entry #9

TITLE: Anywhere
GENRE: YA-Historical

Okay, so three words can’t kill you, right? I’m not even going to say them ‘cause I’d said them more times than I already should. They’d been my wish words, but you should never wish on just three words. Best to fill out the spaces. Get into specifics.

So the beginning. It had been a long week and it was scorching hot for the most of it, but I summoned what energy I could for this one thing, holding my ground – what little there was to hold. Let me tell you, doing something like that against my father took way more energy than I had. He’s a ‘back down from nothing’ kind of guy, but I’ve got his blood in me – apparently - and as much as I’d like to think otherwise, we share this one thing in common. I’m not the backing down type either.

Still, expecting imminent failure, I take this as a practice moment, a chance to hone my skills for something more significant, knowing of course, that something significant will one day come. It’s bound to, right? Life can’t just float along simmering at the edges without anything happening.

So it’s the moment of stare down. I’m staring. He’s staring. You’ve gotta try, otherwise you end up this vessel of nothingness, going along with anything and everything and completely loosing yourself to silence, and it’s a quick fall into oblivion once you’ve chosen that route. Why does that instantly make me think of my mother?


  1. Sorry, but I'm not hooked at all. This doesn't really make sense. All I know is that your MC is having a stare-down with his/her father. I think you need a stronger hook. Granted, this is just the first 250 words, so we don't know if this picks up speed further on down the line, but hooking the reader is key.

    I just don't see how this bit could have anything to do with the story.

    Also, I would start with "It had been a long week..." I think that's a better opening than what you currently have here.

    Polish and come back. Good luck!

  2. I'm sorry, but I can't say I'm hooked. This confused me and I was left wondering what exactly was going on. I liked your opening line, but then it doesn't seem to have anything to do with the rest of this.

    Perhaps a re-write and jump right in to the stare-down would help? I kept waiting for something to happen, but nothing really did. Perhaps the stare-down itself would be a good place to start and from there get in to WHY they're having a stare down, build some tension.

    It has potential! Good luck.

  3. I agree with Mad and Lizzy that I'm very confused. Apparently this MC has wish words, a set of three words he repeats to himself (herself?) but I don't know what they are. And I'm not sure about why its important to wish on more than three words.

    For the second and third paragraphs, my confusion continues. Why is he (she?) holding his ground? What are the stakes? What's important here?

    You've definitely put us in the MC's head, with what they're thinking, but it needs more than that. I need to see what the MC is seeing. I need to know what he knows. There is obviously real tension here between the kid and his father. So I agree with Lizzy, start with the stare-down and let us know what the MC is seeing, who he's staring down and why.

  4. I like the voice, which to me sounds female. However, this also sounds contemporary, not historical.

    She says "Get into specifics" yet everything here is vague, which leads to confusion. It's hard to relate to the MC since I have no idea who she is, what she wants and intend to do about it, and what she's up against right now. At least give us a hint, a clear hint.

    Sorry, not hooked.

  5. I really did like the first paragraph. Especially the first line. But, like the others said, I got kind of lose in the middle. I was confused with what was going on. I'd like to some action or maybe some dialogue happen so I can stay hooked after the first paragraph.

    I really do like your voice though and I think you've got a lot of potential. :)

  6. I think this has potential. I'm getting a sense of your character and the dynamic between her/him and the father but I need a bit more.

    First, where are they? Give us some context. Is this historical? Again, I need context with details like the manner of speaking, clothes, surroundings, etc.

    Make me *believe* it by working on your world-building. And, yes, historicals need world-building just like fantasies do. ;-) Good luck with this! :-)

  7. I actually like it--it has good voice. But it goes on too long. I want some of the setting filled out along the way, and the opening narration condensed/cut from the four paragraphs there to two or three. Your second to last sentence is too long--I'd cut about half of it out. And something to clarify the MC's gender early up might be helpful.

    Also, it can get too wordy, trying to emphasize the voice. For example, with, "Let me tell you, doing something like that against my father took way more energy than I had."
    I'd take out the 'let me tell you' bit. I agree with Shahira. Those are my thoughts--great potential there. =)

  8. I'm afraid I have to agree with the others. I have no idea what is going on except that your MC is having a staring contest with his dad (He felt like a boy to me.)

    Why is he having the stare down?
    What are the three wish words?
    Where is he? (I can guess he's home, but where is home?)
    When is he? If this is histoical, let us know what time period we're in.

    A story is a series of connected events. If you read back over this, you'll see nothing happened. There are no events. Basically, your MC talked. To me. And I'm not in your story. (grin)

    You've done a great job of capturing your MC's voice. The next step is to let him 'do' something. Let him walk in the kitchen or wherever they are and confront his dad about whatever it is he's confronting him about. Let us see it happening as it unfolds rather than having your MC tell us. Put things in the scene like a newspaper or tv show that give us an idea of what time period we're in. Use common slang of the time. Put us where you want us to be.

    In most cases, by the end of the first page, we should know who your MC is, where he is, what he wants, and what stands in his way. Try working those elements into your opening.

  9. I think I'd have to agree with everyone else, this entry didn't necessarily pull me in, have me on the edge of my seat. Perhaps you could try starting right off with the action, have some dialogue and not tell about the experience. I like how you express his/her thoughts though, so maybe you could mix that in with the dialogue and action at the begining. You've got the potential for a hooking story beginning! :) Keep trying!

  10. Thank you all very much. I appreciate it so very much.
    I'm posting a rewrite on my blog for any of you that would like to take another look - I would be very much indebted. Thank you again.
    Such a wonderful thing to be a part of.

  11. I liked the overall idea of the piece but the most confusing bit was the time period. You say this is historical but MC talks in a very modern day way and I'm not able to guess when this piece is set.

    That being said, I will jump over to your blog now and look at the update. :)

  12. I think I better clarify. Someone once told me that anything outside of the twenty year bracket was historical. This piece takes place in 1967. White girl ends up stuck in Detroit when the city burned...thanks greatly to her darling daddy.
    I suppose I should call it historical/contemporary! Ha! Even more confusing?!
    Thank you Misty. I'm afraid, I submitted this rather late, as I presently live in Australia. Next time, I'll be giving it more time and thought, but I am so very grateful for all your comments.

  13. Escape Artist, I know you're just trying to clear things up so we can understand better, but, as Authoress said, and I quote,

    "Please don't pop into the comment box and try to explain yourself or defend things. Just read quietly and sort through the feedback, deciding what is helpful and what isn't. Whining isn't pretty. :)"

    But, I did read your revised version, and I have to say that it's much better! Great job!

  14. I'm afraid I must be the minority because this had me hooked. I like the voice, I like the MC's rambles. I don't really care that this isn't going anywhere because it's entertaining to read. Only problem I had was some of the words didn't seem historical such as "gotta". I'm not sure if they said that back then. Otherwise, I liked it and I would read on. I did read the revised version and I'd say that one is better than the one you have here, but I like both. :)

  15. I love historical fiction but I don't see anything historical here. With historical, you need to ground the reader in a world as it once was - that means you need to be specific with details that evoke the right time. In your opening, I do not know where your MC is. He has a strong and likable voice but he's not talking about anything that makes sense to the reader (yet). Try mixing his internal thoughts with some external action and description, so we know when and where we are (essential in historical fiction).

  16. Hihihi - my verification word was Vater which is father in German. An omen?

  17. Hi, #9!

    I must say that you have a strong voice that comes through in this excerpt.

    I like this overall character reveal: "He’s a ‘back down from nothing’ kind of guy, but I’ve got his blood in me – apparently - and as much as I’d like to think otherwise, we share this one thing in common. I’m not the backing down type either."

    I'm not feeling the tension I need right off the bat. Perhaps you could clarify that she's in a staring contest at the get-go, fill in some of the introspective things, and then come back to the tense situation?

    Good luck with this!

  18. You've got a definite voice here, which is a really good thing!

    Overall, this excerpt is hard to follow. Pare your writing down; less is more.

    Your first paragraph uses past perfect tense twice (I'd said, they'd been), which bogs things down.

    In general, you've used a lot of words--some of them quite clever--to not say very much. This is all set-up. My guess is that there's going to be a great confrontation between the MC and her father! But it's taking too long to get there.

    Start with the conflict! Then you'll have our attention from the get-go.

    Good work!

  19. A good voice to the story, and an excellent first line that got me completely hooked! I was really curious reading what happened next and what those words were, though I was confused by the times I finished it.
    The first paragraph was good, but afterwards, it was more confusing as I went on. I could almost feel the tension between the character and her father--which was a good thing. But please cut down the complex parts a bit.