Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Talking Heads" Critique Session Entry #1

Title: Short Swords
Genre: YA fantasy

Sophie and Brent live in the Under City where food is scarce and children are forced to live on the streets. To survive they must steal what ever they can get, however, if caught by the Street Sweepers, punishment is harsh. Sophie has joined Tommy's children's street gang, of which Brent is a member, but Tommy has set her up for failure.

“Who’s coming?” she tried not to yell in her panic and began wiggling faster.

Brent took hold of her shoulders and pulled. “Tommy spilt the beans. Told the Street Sweepers ye would be here. I’m sorry Soph, it’s my fault.” His panicked tugs were more hindering than helpful.

“Brent let go, I can do this myself. And it isn’t your fault, you were trying to help feed me.” She grunted in pain. “Will Tommy hang?”

“Tommy?” Brent froze. “Hang? Oh no Soph ye dinna understand. They dinna catch him. He volunteered the information. He only let ye join ‘cause I insisted but he dinna like the way ye talk.”

Sophie kicked her feet trying desperately to find something to push against. The blood in her temples was beating so hard her eyes watered, “He doesn't like the way I talk?” she whispered. “I can’t help that my grandmother made me learn fansy Upper City speech.”

New foot steps echoed down the ally. Two more men had arrived.

“Brent go!” yelled Sophie. She knew there was no point hiding now, sped was their only remaining hope.


“I’ll be out in a moment, just get out of here!” Sophie redoubled her struggles as, with one last look, Brent melted into the darkness.

“Well well well, what have we here?” asked a new voice and a pair of filthy shoes appeared in Sophie’s vision.

She stopped moving as all feeling left her limbs and old terrors took over. Twice already the Sweepers had caught her, a third time would mean death or transportation.


  1. I like this, I want to read more and see what's going to happen to her. Just a few things though, "He only let ye join cause I insisted but he dinna like the way ye talk" it feels like an explanation directed at the audience and so does "I can't help my grandmother made me learn...." I think you could make that sound more natural. Also, sped I think needs to be speed. I loved the ending paragraph, it really made me want to see what was going to happen. So, other than those few things, this was really good. Great job!

  2. This was good! The world-building is excellent. In just these 250 words I already have a sense of the place these characters are in. Really liking it!

    Just a few things. I agree with what Sarah said about explaining to the audience and them needing to be more natural.

    Another little thing that stood out to me was you used the word "hindering" -- I'm not sure how his tugs were hindering, or what you meant to say by that.

    Also, this read to me more like a Middle Grade than a YA Fantasy... It seemed to me, perhaps by the way they were talking and interacting, that they'd be younger than teenagers or maybe just preteens.

    Other than that, the tension's great and it made me want to read more. I like where this dialogue is. It's great tension! Good job.

  3. You've set up a great scene here with lots of tension. Just a few random comments:
    -The first dialogue tag ("She tried...") is not a dialogue tag; it's an independent sentence. I'd also suggest you reword this as these two items are opposites. She is trying not to panic but is wiggling which IS showing panic. Because these are opposites, it might make more sense to say something like, "She tried not to let the panic show in her voice but couldn't help wiggling faster."
    -I'm not sure I like the slang. It seems almost inconsistent--like some words sound slang and yet others sound normal.
    -The men come into view long before she sees their shoes. This is odd. I would expect her to see the shoes first (assuming she is on the ground that is). If not, it's odd for their shoes to come into view after the rest of them.

    Good luck!

  4. Very cool everyone. Thanks for your help. I will definitely been making these changes.

  5. I agree with most of what others said. In addition, I need a better sense of place right up front, because I'm not sure why she's wiggling and Brent's pulling, or why she's grunting in pain. Imo, Brent's dialogue is too muddled. Dialect is good, but too much of a good thing is a bad thing. A quick fix would be to take out all the 'dinna's. They're difficult to read fluently, and we get a great sense of the way he talks without them.

    As for making that line about her grandmother more natural, at this point, with people chasing her and panic, a quick 'I can't help that' would do well enough, and we can learn about her grandmother later, when it's more natural for her to be mentioned. 'Fansy' should be 'fancy', and there should be commas after names in dialogue, i.e. "Brent, go!" rather than "Brent go!". Also, you can take out the 'She knew', b/c we're in her perspective, so it's assumed and just gets in the way. And the line of dialogue after that seems like it should be "But--" instead of "But?", because it's not really a question, it's the beginning of a statement. Lastly, it should be '...a new voice, and a pair of...'

    I know this is just a list of critiques--I was much more eloquent the first time(blogger deleted my original crit). This definitely shows promise, and I'd love to read more once it's polished up some. Good luck! =)

  6. I really like this section! It pulls you in and leaves you wondering what's going to happen.

    But, I agree with the accent part, the 'dinnas' make Brent's speech harder to read.

    Another thing I want to mention is that I think you need to verify somewhere in the beggining why Sophie is stuck and what she's trying to get out of. It makes it confusing to read because I have no sense of whether she's standing up, laying on the ground, etc. So maybe when you are explaining how she's trying to wiggle out of something, you could put in what that something is. That might give the reader a better feeling of the scene.

    But other than this, you've done a great job, the dialogue flows smoothly and is readable. Well done! :D

  7. Since I just finished Outlander, I really enjoyed the accent (the characters are Scots, and speak almost exactly like Brent). Like others have said, I'm a little lost by what's going on, but I'm sure that's fixed in context. Also, I agree that the voice almost sounds MG. Still, I'm intrigued and would definitely keep going :)