Page Critique Friday 10/22/10

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

Page Critique Friday 10/22/10

Postby Nathan Bransford » 22 Oct 2010, 11:02

Okay! You all remember how this works. Below is the page up for critique. Feel free to chime in with comments, create your own redline (please note the "font colour" button above the posting box), and otherwise offer feedback. When offering your feedback, please please remember the sandwich rule (Positive, very polite constructive feedback, positive). In order to leave a comment you will need to register an account in the Forums, which should be self-explanatory.

I'll be back later with my own comment, and I'll update this original post with a link to my comment in case anyone wants to click to it directly. There will not be a separate thread, just this one.

And if you'd like to enter a page for a future Page Critique, please do so here.

As of this posting there were 536 pages up for critique. The random number generator at random.org says.....

519!!

Congrats to Robin, whose page is below:

Title: MYTH
Genre: YA Fantasy/ Thriller

I pump my arms to run faster. My ponytail bobs behind me slapping my neck and back, the rushing wind wicks the beaded sweat from my forehead.

It feels so good to run my route again—seven miles: one mile to the high school, five miles around the worn track and one back. I should probably take it slowly, but running like this invigorates me, it awakens my cells. I feel alive again. More alive than I’ve felt in three months.

I get to the track and run through the rusty gate, brushing past cobwebs. It looks like I’ve been the only one keeping the weeds at bay, in my absence they’ve pushed through the broken red clay, looking like possible life on Mars. The ground is firm; the Georgia sun has been unforgiving this summer, baking the clay into rocks.

But this is my track, my sanctuary.

I push myself to go faster, pump harder this lap. My heels hit the rigid ground, fiercely, rolling onto the balls, propelling me forward, powerfully. My ponytail no longer bounces on my back. Although I am moving rapidly, everything around me slows, becomes still almost. I think about her: My mom, my Mama.

I was here three months ago when several police cars screeched past leading a fire truck and an ambulance. Three helicopters followed the caravan flying overhead, their spinning blades a raucous chorus. My stomach tightened, not because of a cramp, but because I sensed that something had gone wrong. Very wrong.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/22/10

Postby ted » 22 Oct 2010, 12:01

I like seeing the protagonist in motion to open the story. The first paragraphs paint the scene well and create an atmosphere of intensity and energy. We sense that this narrator is driven by something that will soon be identified, and that she won't be shy about confronting it. She's already overcome some kind of setback, and now she's ready to kick some butt.

For me, the sentences about running could be compressed by eliminating a few extra words and unnecessary paragraph breaks. And the segue into the emergency flashback is a little abrupt. Maybe the narrator could see something beside the track that triggers the memory.

Overall, I like the narrator's voice and am curious to know what happened to her (and her mother) three months ago. And I want to know what new challenge is about to confront her. Nice job.

****

I pump my arms to run faster. My ponytail bobs behind me slapping my neck and back, and the rushing wind wicks the beaded sweat from my forehead. The first and second paragraphs can be combined, since there's no logical break between them.

It feels so good to run my route again—seven miles: one mile to the high school, five miles around the worn track and one back. I should probably take it slowly, but running like this invigorates me, You need a semi-colon here to join two complete sentences. it awakens my cells. I feel alive again. More alive than I’ve felt in three months.

I get to the track and run through the rusty gate opening it first?, brushing past cobwebs. It looks like I’ve been the only one keeping the weeds at bay, ; in my absence they’ve pushed through the broken red clay, looking like possible life on Mars. The ground is firm; the The Georgia sun has been unforgiving this summer, baking the clay into rocks.

But this is my track, my sanctuary. Again, this should be part of the preceding paragraph. On the first page, it doesn't seem important enough to be a one-sentence paragraph.

I push myself to go faster, pump harder this lap. My heels hit the rigid ground, fiercely, rolling onto the balls , propelling me forward, powerfully. This tripped me up, because it says that her heels are rolling onto the balls of her feet. Maybe: My heels hit the ground fiercely; the balls of my feet propel me forward. My ponytail no longer bounces on my back Why not? Speed? "My ponytail flies in my slipstream now"?. Although I am moving rapidly, everything around me slows, becomes still almost. I think about her: My mom Mom, my Mama.

I was here three months ago when several police cars screeched past, leading a fire truck and an ambulance. Three helicopters followed the caravan flying overhead, their spinning blades a raucous chorus. My stomach tightened ,not because of a cramp, but because --I sensed that something had gone wrong. Very Irrevocably and utterly wrong.
Last edited by ted on 22 Oct 2010, 12:22, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/22/10

Postby sgf » 22 Oct 2010, 12:03

I thought this first page does a nice job introducing the story's protagonist. The reader also learns what will probably be the story's conflict: 3 months ago something bad happened, maybe something to do with the protagonist's mom. While the mystery is good, I found the last paragraph a little confusing, partly because of the tense shift, and partly because I thought the last line was too vague.

Regardless, the excellent visual descriptions and the deft way the character was established would hook me into reading on.




I pump my arms to run faster. My ponytail bobs behind me slapping my neck and back, the rushing wind wicks the beaded sweat from my forehead. I loved the image of the bobbing ponytail and the use of "wick" here.

It feels so good to run my route again—seven miles: one mile to the high school, five miles around the worn track and one back. I should probably take it slowly, but running like this invigorates me, it awakens my cells. I feel alive again. More alive than I’ve felt in three months. Here the mystery is established. I wondered what happened three months ago to make her stop running.

I get to the track and run through the rusty gate, brushing past cobwebs. It looks like I’ve been the only one keeping the weeds at bay, I believe everything after the comma makes this a run-on sentence. Consider starting a new sentence here.in my absence they’ve pushed through the broken red clay, looking like possible life on Mars.The image of the weeds poking through the red clay was excellent. The simile of it looking like possible life on Mars made me pause though. I liked it but it was also somehow distracting.

The ground is firm; the Georgia sun has been unforgiving this summer, baking the clay into rocks.

But this is my track, my sanctuary.

I push myself to go faster, pump harder this lap. My heels hit the rigid ground, fiercely, rolling onto the balls, propelling me forward, powerfully. I think this is a case where cutting out the adverbs would make this sentence smoother. "hit" implies fierce, as "propel" already implies powerful. My ponytail no longer bounces on my back. Although I am moving rapidly, This part might be unnecessary, if you feel that the focus of this sentence should be her changing perception. everything around me slows, becomes still almost. I think about her: My mom, my Mama.

I was here three months ago when several police cars screeched past leading a fire truck and an ambulance. Three helicopters followed the caravan flying overhead For me, this reads as if the helicopters are following a flying caravan (i.e., not the police cars, truck and ambulance), their spinning blades a raucous chorus. My stomach tightened, not because of a cramp, but because I sensed that something had gone wrong. Very wrong. Here's where the tense shift confused me. Up until the last paragraph, this chapter was written in present tense. This last paragraph was written in the past tense, which is fine for the most part since she's recalling what happened 3 months ago. But for me it was unclear if the protagonist was remembering how her stomach clenched and how she had sensed something wrong, or if she's presently experiencing these things. The tense suggests the former; that they're memories. But I thought the detail of remembering her stomach tightening seemed a little out of place (wouldn't she just remember the incident itself?)

Thanks for sharing your excerpt and hope some of this helps!
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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/22/10

Postby bcomet » 22 Oct 2010, 13:31

I love the story in this as well as the character. Both are accessible and get-able.

My only concern here is the use of present tense. It's a choice, but present tense can get awkward quickly as well as self-conscious.
I wonder about past tense as a possibly smoother choice?
But that may just be my taste.
However, I think it would be an interesting exercise to workshop this piece over, using past tense, and then, side-by-side, compare which one really would be more effective for the story.

Again, well done. I am engaged.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/22/10

Postby Nathan Bransford » 22 Oct 2010, 15:27

I think this is a strong page that shows a good mix of details and personality. The voice is believable without feeling overdone, and I like that Robin allows the scene to unfold, just focusing on the senses and surroundings, before doubling back to what had happened. Nice work.

There are just two things I'd say.

The first: don't be afraid of short sentences! There are sentences that feel a bit chopped up with commas, and rather than getting us into a rhythm, I felt like they slowed things down. Especially with someone who's running, short sentences mimics the experience - if we were to talk while running we'd speak in clipped sentences, not with runons with commas. I think this might flow better if it were broken up a bit into more sentences.

My second comment is about the last line. I'm always a little bit wary of repetition for emphasis, or for following up with "Literally." or "Seriously." because to me it shows the hand of an author a little too plainly. This might just be a personal reaction so take it with a grain of salt, but I feel like a character would know how wrong they were sensing it was, and thus would just say it was "very wrong" instead of "wrong. Very wrong." I don't know that so much is gained by the repetition.

Other than that, I think this is in very good shape. My redline:

Nathan Bransford wrote:I pump my arms to run faster. My ponytail bobs behind me, slapping my neck and back,. The rushing wind wicks the beaded sweat from my forehead.

It feels so good to run my route again._Seven miles: one mile to the high school, five miles around the worn track and one back. I should probably take it slowly, but running like this invigorates me,. It awakens my cells. I feel alive again. More alive than I’ve felt in three months.

I get to the track and run through the rusty gate, brushing past cobwebs. It looks like I’ve been the only one keeping the weeds at bay,. In my absence they’ve pushed through the broken red clay, looking like possible life on Mars. The ground is firm; the Georgia sun has been unforgiving this summer, baking the clay into rocks.

But this is my track, my sanctuary.

I push myself to go faster, pump harder this lap. My heels hit the rigid ground, fiercely, rolling onto the balls, propelling me forward, powerfully "propelling" already conveys powerfully. My ponytail no longer bounces on my back. Although I am moving rapidly, everything around me slows, becomes still almost. I think about her: My mom, my Mama.

I was here three months ago when several police cars screeched past leading a fire truck and an ambulance. Three helicopters followed the caravan flying overhead, their spinning blades a raucous chorus. My stomach tightened, not because of a cramp, but because I sensed that something had gone wrong. Very wrong.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/22/10

Postby Down the well » 22 Oct 2010, 15:42

Nice job, Robin. :)
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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/22/10

Postby katehyde » 22 Oct 2010, 17:47

Excellent, Robin. Something about the running makes a good setup for the introduction of the tragedy.
I too was tripped up by the non-bobbing ponytail and a couple of run-on sentences, but the repetition at the end didn't bother me; it makes sense rhythmically. Your style is smooth and engaging.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/22/10

Postby Robin » 22 Oct 2010, 18:39

Holy Crap!!!!!

I cannot believe I missed this!!!! I took a little break because of self doubt. Had a good pity party until I got a pm about my page critique. Thank you so much. I really needed a nod of confidence. I was feeling so terrible, I even applied to a creative writing program thinking I was terrible and needed to sit back and study for a few years.

THANK YOU!!!!!!!
Robin
"A glass slipper is only a shoe. Dreamers who only dream never have their dreams come true."

http://www.RobynLucas.com/
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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/22/10

Postby Adam Heine » 22 Oct 2010, 19:41

This is really well-written! My only hiccup was when she went into the flashback. It felt ALMOST heavy-handed to me. But I'd read on, because whether or not it was heavy-handed really depends on how the next few pages play out.

I think about her: My mom, my Mama.

I was here three months ago...


Maybe instead of the above lines, the protagonist could say something like running is the only time she feels normal, alive after what happened to her Mama. Then "Three months ago on this very track..."

It might be a little more subtle. But of course that depends on whether the character is actually feeling those things about running :-) In any case, very well done, Robin!
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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/22/10

Postby Mira » 24 Oct 2010, 14:42

Robin, I really like this page. I like your pacing, and how you let things unfold naturally. I think you write with a smooth flow. This is great.

And thank you, Nathan, for your critique. As someone who tends to like long sentences, that was very helpful - as always! :)
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