Written: Story Critique 1

Last week I shared a snippet with you from a story in progress. I had three readers offer their thoughts and critique on the piece. Today and next week, I am going to show you how to accept and reject the critiques and apply them to your work. We will work with the first two comments today.

stux / Pixabay

The questions I asked to guide the critique are:

  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.

First up, we have Adan Ramie’s comment:

Okay, here we go…

1.Does the opening grab you and hook you right away? Absolutely. With gun control and all the mass shooting deaths still fresh on my mind, the way this opens immediately draws me in.
2.Do you “bond” with the characters in these few words? I think I bonded with Meredith a lot better than with Della. I can see, though, that we’re about to learn more about Della, and I’m curious to see where her story arc goes.
3.Are there any parts that take you out of the story? I think if you took “not 6:01” out of the line by the father, it would improve it tremendously. I think it can be left unsaid and still be understood.
4.Too much or too little description? A good amount. Nice balance with the dialogue.
5.Does the cover make you want to pick up the book? Yes!

And my response:

  1. Great! She likes the opening, so I’ll leave it alone.
  2. Good, my main character is established within the first section of the story.
  3. This line: ““Stupid girl! I told you to be home by 6:00, not 6:01.” The addition of 6:01 is to show exactly how strict and tyrannical the father is. But, as Adan noted, is it actually necessary here? Are there going to be other opportunities throughout the story to SHOW this in better ways? Hmm. Since the story is not complete yet, I decide that I’ll make a note of her suggestion, but leave it as is right now.
  4. Good. I’m walking the line just right.

She had no further suggestions, which makes me happy, so I move on to the next comment, which comes from Emma T. Gitani:

Does the opening grab you and hook you right away?
– Absolutely it does! First line grabbed by third I hooked.

Do you “bond” with the characters in these few words?
– Yes, I have bonded with both characters Mere and Della. (Though I’m unsure who’s story this is).

Are there any parts that take you out of the story?
– <> I’d switch the order here. Della studied…Mere frowned. – suggestion only but it did make me pause.

Too much or too little description?
– Nothing jumped out either way… Good job!

Does the cover make you want to pick up the book?
– Well it kinda scares me. Based on the story I see where it may become horror and with that cover, I’d almost bet on it. I’m a lightweight in this genre. LOL

Suggestions for improvement appreciated.
– <> Typo
– <> He opened

You grabbed my attention and kept it. Look forward to more!
Great job!

And my thought process on her offerings:

  1. Yay! That’s two votes for a solid opening. Best left alone.
  2. I have developed two characters enough to make this reader care about them. Good. That makes the rest of the story easier to write.
  3. The lines she mentioned: “A frown creased Mere’s forehead. Della studied her client quietly.” I think this was a great suggestion. It does make more sense the other way around. Suggestion accepted.
  4. Another vote for perfectly balanced description. Yay! This means my work at tightening sentences and creating the right amount of visual is effective.
  5. Yes, my cover describes the contents of my book perfectly. That it scares her some is a bonus, as that was my intention. (Note this isn’t related to the story, but as the designer, I want to make sure my covers lead the reader into the story.)
  6. She offered a suggestion, which was a typo she caught. This is the line she found: “He open his gun cabinet and pulled out a rifle and shoved it in Della’s face.” It is in fact a typo, that if left uncorrected changes the tense of the story, in the same sentence with two other verbs, which is a big no-no. Obviously I accept this suggestion. In fact, the sentence could be tightened up a little more: “He opened his gun cabinet, pulled out a rifle, and shoved it in her face.”

Her note of encouragement at the bottom of her comment added a nice touch to her critique. It confirmed she actually enjoys the story, which is what matters most to me.

Next week, I will break down the longer and more detailed critique offered by editor, Cyndi Lord. She really gets into the nitty gritty, which is fantastic. Stay tuned!

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Stephanie Ayers

Executive Creative Director at Our Write Side/OWS Ink, LLC
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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