Page Critique Friday 8/27/10

Offer up your page (or query) for Nathan's critique on the blog.

Re: Page Critique Friday 8/27/10

Postby Valerie63 » 27 Aug 2010, 13:24

TITLE: 'APOSTLE'
GENRE: CRIME
WORDCOUNT: 250

A white Transit van pulls into a long straight road by the town park,I would place a period after park and cut the rest of the [/b[b]]line.[color=#FF0000][/color] slows for the speed bumps, then indicates right. It p Pulls into a small car park in front of the two-story honeystone building that is Oakham Police Station.

For a minute, no-one gets out.

I would cut this line Rain falls on the van’s windscreen. Andy Webb sits in the driver’s seat, one hand still on the wheel, the other holding a phone to his right ear.You should take the first part of this line out or show us how Andy's exhausted. An exhausted man in his late thirties,Capitol H he’s staring fixedly ahead. He’s listening.

From the a instead of the passenger seat, Jean Webb,his mother, looks out at the grey morning.Cut this line out, it drags the story-- unless, of course, there is going to be some kind of gunplay and we need to know the layout of the park. Across the road, towards the park bandstand, at the green swathes of grass falling away to the children’s swing and the play area. In the background, the huge church spire reaches to the sky.comma its l Leopard gargoyles strain high up on leashes, stone eyes blinded.I love this description! Combine the line and it's in contrast to Jean "looking."

Cut this first part Her son, on the phone,Why is Andy doing some kind of deal on a set of second hand radiators.comma e Even now, in the car park of the bloody police station –cut the rest of the line even under these circumstances - he can’t let the job go.cut the first part of the line-telling vs showing Although there’s no enthusiasm in his voice,capitol E even today comma he’s promising to drive up to Melton to pick up parts for plumbing.I hope that reader gets the payoff from the build up of the even today by the middle of the second page.

Andy, aware of his mother’s disapproval,quickly agrees to pay over the odds for the gear, and cuts the call. He throws the phone onto the van’s dashboard, where it disappears into a mess of paperwork and empty takeaway wrappers. Closes his (perhaps something descriptive that conveys exhaustion, ie blood shot) eyes, rubs them.

I think this could be a great beginning.I think the writing is suffering from my own personal sins-- over writing and telling not showing. I want to know what the significance of the day is. I want to know if we're about to hear a gunshot. They are many possibilities of where the story could go.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 8/27/10

Postby Nathan Bransford » 27 Aug 2010, 14:21

I think this page has an interesting style, and is able to build an interesting atmosphere in the beginning. I thought the dispassionate tone worked at first, but gradually as the page unfolded I started to get confused because the page does too little to help us understand how one thing is fitting with the next, and the narrative perspective is going in a couple different directions.

Within third person narratives there are a few different ways to tell a story, whether it's omniscient, or (most commonly) limited to a particular character's perspective. Head jumping is very difficult to pull off without distracting the reader, and on this page there seems to be a little of both techniques. It seems to be tied to Andy's perspective at first but then jumps abruptly to Jean's perspective, and Andy is no longer called Andy but instead Jean's son. Then it goes back to Andy, and Jean is no longer Jean but called Andy's mother. It took me almost fifteen minutes to unpack what was actually happening here - for the longest time I was trying figure out who Jean's son was.

Either this perspective needs to be omniscient (and Jean is Jean and Andy is Andy) or it needs to be tied specifically to one or the other of these characters. But it has to be consistent. It doesn't work to keep jumping heads without warning.

I'm also just a tad concerned that we're getting a bit too much telling regarding emotion ("an exhausted man," "aware of his mother's disapproval", etc.), and I wasn't sure that this tone could sustain itself over the course of a novel. But without seeing more of the manuscript it's tough to know that for sure. I also wondered if a bit more could have been done to explain the deal that was going on since the perspective is ostensibly omniscient.

Ultimately, I worry that the narrative perspective may need to be re-thought here, but at the very least there's a style that could be used to good effect.


My redline:

Nathan Bransford wrote:TITLE: 'APOSTLE'
GENRE: CRIME
WORDCOUNT: 250

A white Transit van pulls into a long straight road by the town park, slows for the speed bumps, then indicates right. Pulls into Not sure about the repetition of "pulls into" in the first and second sentences a small car park in front of the two-story honeystone building that is Oakham Police Station.

For a minute, no-one gets out.

Rain falls on the van’s windscreen. Andy Webb sits in the driver’s seat, one hand still on the wheel, the other holding a phone to his right ear. An exhausted man in his late thirties, he’s staring fixedly ahead. He’s listening.

From the passenger seat, Jean Webb looks out at the grey morning. Across the road, towards the park bandstand, at the green swathes of grass falling away to the children’s swing and the play area Not a sentence - careful with these fragments. In the background, the huge church spire reaches to the sky. Leopard gargoyles strain high up on leashes, stone eyes blinded blinded by what? Not sure I understand this image. Kind of goes without saying that they can't see if their eyes are stone.

Her son Very confusing as Andy had first been described as Andy Webb, now suddenly he's "her son." It seems like a third person is being introduced, on the phone, is doing some kind of deal on a set of second hand radiators. Even now, in the car park of the bloody police station – even under these circumstances - he can’t let the job go. Although there’s no enthusiasm in his voice, even today he’s promising to drive up to Melton to pick up parts for plumbing.

Andy, aware of his mother’s disapproval another perspective shift, agrees to pay over the odds for the gear, and cuts the call. He throws the phone onto the van’s dashboard, it disappears into a mess of paperwork and empty takeaway wrappers. Closes his eyes, rubs them.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 8/27/10

Postby GeeGee55 » 27 Aug 2010, 14:25

Cudo's to Porthmeor Beach for submitting your query and cudos to all those who made the effort to comment. It's also brave to comment. Sometimes, after I do and then read other's comments, I think, I was so out to lunch on that one. Anyway for what it's worth:
TITLE: 'APOSTLE'
GENRE: CRIME
WORDCOUNT: 250

A white Transit van pulls into a long straight road by the town [color=#0000FF]park[/color], slows for the speed bumps, then indicates right. Pulls into a small car [color=#0000FF]park[/color] in front of the two-story honeystone building that is Oakham Police Station. - the repetition of park here threw me off, and I'm not familiar with the term car park, also, does it mean the cars are small or the place where the cars park is small?

For a minute, no-one gets out.

Rain falls on the van’s windscreen. Andy Webb sits in the driver’s seat, one hand still on the wheel, the other holding a phone to his right ear. An exhausted man in his late thirties, he’s staring fixedly ahead. He’s listening.

From the passenger seat, Jean Webb I think I need to know right here that she's his mother looks out at the grey morning. Across the road, towards the [color=#0000FF]park[/color] bandstand, at the green swathes of grass falling away to the children’s swing and the play area. This is a nitpick, but I think it reads better as: Across the road, towards the bandstand, green swathes of grass fall away to.. In the background, the huge - needs a more specific adjective, or maybe omit it church spire reaches to the sky. Leopard gargoyles strain high up on leashes, stone eyes blinded. - the use of blinded rather than blind gives a strange mood, makes me wonder by whom?

Her son, on the phone, is doing some kind of deal on a set of second hand radiators. Even now, in the car park of the bloody police station – even under these circumstances this might be an opportunity to give a hint at the circumstances - he can’t let the job go. Although there’s no enthusiasm in his voice, even today he’s promising to drive up to Melton to pick up parts for plumbing.

This change to describing Andy's POV was a bit too abrupt for me Andy, aware of his mother’s disapproval, agrees to pay over the odds for the gear, and cuts the call. He throws the phone onto the van’s dashboard, it disappears into a mess of paperwork and empty takeaway wrappers. Closes his eyes, rubs them.- This sentence fragment doesn't work for me. I like fragments, but they have to flow from the previous sentence, and this one doesn't [/quote]

The voice is very distant, but I'm okay with that. Maybe there is a reason you've chosen to present the work that way. It's certainly very visual; I can picture everything very well. And the situation, two people sitting in a van outside a police station, that's enough to get me interested.

Can't wait to see what Nathan has to say.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 8/27/10

Postby GeeGee55 » 27 Aug 2010, 14:32

And Nathan was posting at the same time as I was. Thanks to Nathan for keeping this page critique in the forums for those of us who are interested.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 8/27/10

Postby Regan Leigh » 27 Aug 2010, 17:20

I don't think I have anything constructive to add since you've already been given such good advice. But I did want to say thanks for sharing, Porthmeor Beach! I know it isn't easy to post your writing and allow others to view and dissect it. ;)
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Re: Page Critique Friday 8/27/10

Postby charlotte49ers » 27 Aug 2010, 18:07

Nathan Bransford wrote:
TITLE: 'APOSTLE'
GENRE: CRIME
WORDCOUNT: 250

A white Transit van pulls into a long straight road by the town park, slows for the speed bumps, then indicates right. Pulls into a small car park in front of the two-story honeystone building that is Oakham Police Station. The sentence fragment threw me off.

For a minute, no one gets out. No hyphen.

Rain falls on the van’s windscreen. Andy Webb sits in the driver’s seat, one hand still on the wheel, the other holding a phone to his right ear. An exhausted man in his late thirties, he’s staring fixedly ahead. Doesn't read right and info dumpy - show me. He’s listening. I'm a little confused here and had to read it twice - I couldn't tell if Andy is in the white van or in something else because in my head, I'm an outsider to the van and then am thrust inside of it with Andy - I'd pick a perspective with the opening and stick with it. Start with what Andy is doing as opposed to the can as an separate object.

From the passenger seat, Jean Webb looks out at the grey morning. Across the road, towards the park bandstand, at the green swathes of grass falling away to the children’s swing and the play area. Again, sentence fragments not flowing well for me. In the background, the huge church spire reaches to the sky. Leopard gargoyles strain high up on leashes, stone eyes blinded.

Her son, on the phone, is doing some kind of deal on a set of second hand radiators. Even now, in the car park of the bloody police station – even under these circumstances - he can’t let the job go. Although there’s no enthusiasm in his voice, even today he’s promising to drive up to Melton to pick up parts for plumbing.

Andy, aware of his mother’s disapproval, agrees to pay over the odds for the gear, and cuts the call. He throws the phone onto the van’s dashboard, it disappears into a mess of paperwork and empty takeaway wrappers. Closes his eyes, rubs them.


Ok, I'm giving it a go. I feel a little *safer* here than out in the open on the blog. I'm weird.

Anyway, thanks for being brave and putting yours up for crits! Over all, I feel I stumbled over the description and couldn't connect with the characters. I'd rather you give me more of the emotion of the moment and characters as opposed to the external stimuli. If that makes sense. Anyway, hope that helps some! :-)
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Re: Page Critique Friday 8/27/10

Postby Beethovenfan » 27 Aug 2010, 18:35

I really liked all the imagery. I got a good feel for the setting and had a good laugh at the trash on the dashboard as I can relate to that! I think it would be a good move to make most of your sentances full and complete. Sometimes you can get away with sentance fragments, especially if it helps emphasize a point. But they should be used sparingly or they lose their effectiveness.
I am left wanting to know what's going to happen next, so that's a good sign! Give it a few revisions and you will really have something!
Thanks, Porthmeor Beach, for allowing the rest of us to learn from you! :)
"Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine."
~ Ludwig van Beethoven
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Re: Page Critique Friday 8/27/10

Postby Leonidas » 27 Aug 2010, 19:12

Nathan Bransford wrote:A white Transit van pulls into a long straight road by the town park, slows for the speed bumps, then indicates right. Pulls into I don't think the repetition works here. a small car park This is the second time you've used the word park in two sentences, you might want to substitute this one with "parking lot" in front of the two-story honeystone I like this description because I haven't read it before. building that is Oakham Police Station.

For a minute, no-one gets out.

Rain falls on the van’s windscreen. Andy Webb sits in the driver’s seat, one hand still on the wheel, the other holding a phone to his right ear. An exhausted man in his late thirties, he’s staring fixedly ahead. He’s Replace the period with a comma so that you combine these two sentences.listening.

From the passenger seat, Jean Webb looks out at the grey morning. Across the road, towards the park Park again bandstand, at the green swathes of grass falling away to the children’s swing and the play area. Fragment. I don't mind fragments (I probably use them too much) when they add something to the sentence or fit the style, but here this fragment just pulls me out of the story In the background, the huge church spire reaches to the sky .I think you could find a better verb than 'reaches' here. Leopard gargoyles strain high up on leashes, stone eyes blinded. I think you should reword this sentence so that we're not wanting to know what the gargoyles are blinded by. Also, I'm not sure about the straining on their leashes part; I've never seen a gargoyle on a leash, but I do like this description.

Her son, on the phone, is doing some kind of deal on a set of second hand Really nitpicky, but secondhand is one word. radiators. I thought that you were talking about another person, too, when I first read this. I know their last names are the same, but it's still confusing, because you don't automatically connect Jean and Andy as mother and son. As it's worded now, this sentence made me think that she was talking to her son, who was trying to work out a deal on secondhand radiators. Even now, in the car park Fourth time you've repeated park. of the bloody police station – even under these circumstances - he can’t let the job go. Although there’s no enthusiasm in his voice, even today he’s promising to drive up to Melton to pick up parts for plumbing. This sentence is awkward. Maybe join it to the previous one with a semi-colon to better the flow.

Andy, aware of his mother’s disapproval, how? show us her disapproval agrees to pay over the odds for the gear, and cuts the call. He throws the phone onto the van’s dashboard, either replace the comma with a semi-colon or add an 'and' hereit disappears into a mess of paperwork and empty takeaway wrappers. Closes his eyes, rubs them. Again with the stylistic fragments that aren't working in your favor. This would work better if it was a complete sentence, by adding 'He' in the beginning.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 8/27/10

Postby J. T. SHEA » 27 Aug 2010, 21:20

This does work better here in the Forums, and in this one thread instead of two blog posts.

Crime is not my genre either as reader or writer, but APOSTLE's first page read well enough for me.

I had no difficulty figuring out who was who and what was what, but other commenters' confusion indicates a problem. Nathan's suggestion about consistently identifying the characters sounds good.

I took the reference to the gargoyles' 'stone eyes blinded' to mean either the sculptors did not articulate the eyes' pupils, or the pupils had worn away over time.

The transatlantic confusion over car park vs parking lot is interesting, but no one asked what a Transit van is, or how many passenger seats it has!

Thanks to Porthmeor Beach.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 8/27/10

Postby zen » 27 Aug 2010, 21:45

Anyone who submits to the critique deserves credit for bravery. This page has the right tone for a crime story, and I like what reminds me of the dry, British crime films of the 60s and 70s. But I agree with everyone who spotted it as a screenplay. I would guess it was first written as a screenplay and then rewritten in novel format. The problem is, it hasn't been truly rewritten, but sort of transcribed. All of Nathan's criticisms why it isn't working as a novel were right.

To truly adapt a screenplay to a novel, you must re-invision it. Then embrace the new format.

BTW, I liked the "stone eyes blinded" reference, but it may have worked better as "blinded stone eyes."
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Re: Page Critique Friday 8/27/10

Postby dpwriter » 28 Aug 2010, 15:54

I like a lot of the comments here and the first redline comment is pretty thorough. I won't belabor the points they've already made.

First thing - I'm intrigued...the characters have potential and like the other reviewers said already, you just need to sharpen this to make it clearer.

Second thing - minor, but I think this will help the flow early on - move the sentence "Rain falls on the van’s windscreen" right before "No one gets out..." It seems to me this is related to that first paragraph more than the one you've put it in. And I would change "windscreen" to "windshield" because it's the more popularly used term.

I would like to see this again once you incorporate some of the suggestions given here.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 8/27/10

Postby hyoussef » 29 Aug 2010, 18:37

Hi,
I like the writing style and tone it sets. Something is wrong for your characters, but I'm not sure what. I got a sense of danger, but then he's talking about plumbing. That's unexpected, and kind of interrupts the mood.
Usually, when you start on the outside (omniscient POV) describing a scene, I would expect you to either continue the entire scene in that POV, or zoom right into one character's POV. I agree there is too much head hopping. I don't know who your main character is. Is it Andy or his mother?
I like the description, I can definitely see where I am in the beginning of this story. I'd like to find out more about the characters and what the conflict is.
Good writing.
:) Heather
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Re: Page Critique Friday 8/27/10

Postby denisepetrey » 30 Aug 2010, 07:28

I like the tone of this page. As others have said, it does have the 'crime' and 'suspense' flavor about it. What's given away sets the reader up for a lot of questions. And while the reader wants to know more, I too was a little confused by the changing perspective. I think had the shift from son to mother happened a little further in, when I felt comfortable with the characters (or at least had a clear feeling about their identities) it might have been okay.

There's a fine balance in there, deciding how much information to give away, when, where, and how. My feeling is that this story is probably interesting, but it could benefit from a little more clarity, especially issues with perspective.

Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 8/27/10

Postby Mira » 31 Aug 2010, 07:54

I thought Nathan's critique was terrific and captured the same concerns I had. It took me quite awhile to figure out who was who, who thought the police station was bloody, who was the son, who was the mother? It was interesting to think that was partly due to perspective shifts; I hadn't realized that.

I really don't have anything to add to the critiques. I think Nathan and others covered it. I did want to add something I liked, though, which was your descriptions. I really liked the following lines which I've highlighted below. (I especially like the gargoyle line - that's really good!) I think your descriptions add to your atmosphere, which I also agree, is building well.

Best of luck to you! I think this shows real promise, imho!

Nathan Bransford wrote:TITLE: 'APOSTLE'
GENRE: CRIME
WORDCOUNT: 250

A white Transit van pulls into a long straight road by the town park, slows for the speed bumps, then indicates right. Pulls into a small car park in front of the two-story honeystone building this is nice, and a nice contrast that a police station is honeystone. that is Oakham Police Station.

For a minute, no-one gets out.

Rain falls on the van’s windscreen. Andy Webb sits in the driver’s seat, one hand still on the wheel, the other holding a phone to his right ear. An exhausted man in his late thirties, he’s staring fixedly ahead. He’s listening.

From the passenger seat, Jean Webb looks out at the grey morning simple, but I like this. Across the road, towards the park bandstand, at the green swathes of grass falling away to the children’s swing and the play area. In the background, the huge church spire reaches to the sky. Leopard gargoyles strain high up on leashes, stone eyes blinded. I caught my breath at this. Excellent.

Her son, on the phone, is doing some kind of deal on a set of second hand radiators. Even now, in the car park of the bloody police station – even under these circumstances - he can’t let the job go. Although there’s no enthusiasm in his voice, even today he’s promising to drive up to Melton to pick up parts for plumbing.

Andy, aware of his mother’s disapproval, agrees to pay over the odds for the gear, and cuts the call. He throws the phone onto the van’s dashboard, it disappears into a mess of paperwork and empty takeaway wrappers again, simple but I like it.. Closes his eyes, rubs them.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 8/27/10

Postby marilyn peake » 31 Aug 2010, 18:31

Hi, Nathan,

Thank you so much for taking time from your already very busy schedule to do critiques! I have a couple of questions about how Page (or Query) Critique Fridays work. I remember that, when you did Monday critiques on your Blog, queries and pages could only be posted at a certain time. Is there any particular time when queries or pages need to be submitted in the Forum in order to be considered for that Friday's critique? Also, once submitted, are all the submissions in a pool from which they could be randomly drawn every week, or do they need to be resubmitted here each week to be considered?
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.
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