Written: Story Critique 2

Written: Story Critique 2
January 29, 2016 No Comments » Writing Advice Stephanie Ayers

Two weeks ago, I shared a snippet for the purpose of critique. Last week, I shared two of the comments and my process in accepting or rejecting them. Today, I share the final comment and my thought process as I apply it to my work.

geralt / Pixabay

Again, here are the questions I asked to guide the critique:

  1. Does the opening grab you and hook you right away?
  2. Do you “bond” with the characters in these few words?
  3. Are there any parts that take you out of the story?
  4. Too much or too little description?
  5. Does the cover make you want to pick up the book?
  6. Suggestions for improvement appreciated.

My friend and editor, Cyndi Lord, popped in and left a detailed critique. Her response:

Does the opening grab you and hook you right away?

Yes. It is intense.

Do you “bond” with the characters in these few words?

Yes, I did. It made me what to hug Mere.

Are there any parts that take you out of the story?

Any part that is overusing proper names and without a clear POV takes me out of the story. I am an author and editor, therefore, I read with a critical eye unintentionally.

Too much or too little description?

You did great with description. I do think in the opening, the blood stains under all the children repeatedly is unnecessary.

Does the cover make you want to pick up the book?

I love the cover. It is intriguing.

Suggestions for improvement appreciated.

The telling, rather than showing, and redundant word usage throws me off from being absorbed. I suggest that you restructure any sentence containing the words “as” and “which”.
Crisping up will help with flow. Here are examples of what I mean – “children on the neighborhood playground fell to the ground where they played,” Delete “where they played.”
I opened my eyes to dozens of faces staring down at me. Some had ugly looks on their faces, <- delete “on their faces” first, faces is an echo word, and where else woul they have “looks.”?
“The minutes ticked by on the clock” – delete “on the clock.”

Do you have a clear POV character? You seem to be in Mere’s, yet express what the therapist is thinking or feeling.

Your overuse of proper names in short paragraphs is distracting:

A frown creased Mere’s forehead. Della studied her client quietly. The minutes ticked by on the clock as silence overpowered the small office. Mere’s right hand gripped her left, and her thumb rubbed her palm absently. Mere had left the room mentally. <- Four Mere – also, when you change from one character to another, even for a sentence, you need a new paragraph.

Mere blinked. A tear escaped and fled to the floor. Mere ignored it. “I always wondered why I wasn’t good enough,” she whispered faintly. <- This is all Mere. Using “she” instead is fine.

Oh boy. I’m really glad she noted these things, because I am far from perfect. Like anything else, there is always room for improvement, especially when it comes to writing. So, lets take these one point at a time…

  1. Another yes on the opening. I think it is fairly safe to say at this point that everyone agrees I’ve managed a great opening. All my time spent watching cop and crime shows paid off. I have learned the essence of an intriguing opening thanks to the television.
  2. Another yay on the confirmation that I’ve developed my characters enough to make the reader care within the opening.
  3. Her response to this question is detailed further down in her comment.  She does pick up on something I’ve noticed a lot lately in my writing. Establishing POV can be tough when you are working back and forth between two characters, especially if they are of the same gender. You want to avoid a bunch of hers and shes, but avoid overusing their names also. For me, finding the perfect balance is a challenge. Cyndi offers hope later in her comment that helps clear this up for me, though. We will return to this point shortly.
  4. She’s okay with my descriptions also, even though she mentions all the blood stains is redundant for her. Since she is the only one who has mentioned that, I’ll make a note of it, but leave it alone. Sometimes, you have to follow the majority rules format with critique, which in this case would be 2 out of 3 have no problems with the opening at all, so it’s a majority rules deal. If enough people say the same thing, it’s wise to take note. You will get many varied opinions on your work, as there are as many different ways to critique as there are genres, and people are as different as the planets in our solar system. Listen to their advice, but before you get all huffy over something, consider if it’s something everyone has noticed. Maybe they are right. It’s a natural response to react to criticism, good or bad.
  5. I won’t worry about the cover anymore. It fits at least two of the stories within it and sets the tone perfectly for what’s inside.

And lastly, we come to her suggestions. She makes very good points in all suggestions, and reveals something new to me. Redundancy. I’ve never considered things like “where they played.” (from “children on the neighborhood playground fell to the ground where they played”) as redundant, but you know what? It is. Where else are they going to fall? Even if they moved, they realistically wouldn’t get far from the playground, so it is in fact a redundancy. I will be checking all of my writing for these types of things now.

Do you know how much I have written? Yikes!

And finally, she helps clear some of my confusion related to her 3rd question response. She reminds me that Della and Mere shouldn’t have actions in the same paragraphs, and if I focus on whose POV I’m in within each, I’m definitely overusing their names. Excellent critique, Cyndi!

I will add another though here. The story is unfinished, which means I shared my first draft. Now I ask myself if I want to apply Cyndi’s critiques now, or do I want to save them for editing? I’m lazy, so the easy answer would be the latter, save them for editing, BUT…the story is unfinished. She makes valid points now that I can change and remember as I finish the story, and eliminate some editing later. This doesn’t mean I don’t have to edit, only that I would be doing myself a favor by making the changes now and following through as  complete then waiting until it’s finished.

I realize that last statement conflicts with the whole “just write and edit later” theory, but I’ve never really believed that anyway. No, I don’t want to heavily edit every paragraph after I write it, but there’s nothing wrong with making small fixes like the ones Cyndi mentioned that can enhance the story overall as I work on it. Besides, I don’t know anyone that can overlook those red squiggly lines. Do you?

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Stephanie Ayers A published author with a knack for twisted tales, Stephanie Ayers is the Executive Creative Director of OWS Ink, LLC, a community for writers and readers alike. She loves a good thriller, fairies, things that go bump in the night, and sappy stories. When she is not writing, she can be found in Creative Cloud designing book covers and promotional graphics for authors.

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