Page Critique Friday 11/12/10

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

Page Critique Friday 11/12/10

Postby Nathan Bransford » 11 Nov 2010, 22:51

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 548 pages up for critique. The random number generator at random.org says.....

154!!

Congrats to Jaime, whose page is below:

Title: Waiting for April
Genre: Paranormal Romance


Two families sat around Henry Brice’s outdoor setting, and I knew them both, but there was no one my age here. I didn’t mind, as I got along with adults better than I did with people my own age, anyway, so I took a seat and answered questions about my plans for college while I waited for my parents to come back outside.
“Shortcake, would you help set the table, please?” my father asked as he emerged from the house.
I nodded and smiled, but as I got up I noticed he had a grin on his face. Narrowing my eyes at him suspiciously, I headed inside. There were a few people in the kitchen, so I waited for them to finish what they were doing before I made my way over to the cupboard. As I pulled out some plates and stood up, I accidentally backed into someone standing behind me.
“Sorry,” I said as I spun around, almost dropping the plates.
Scott Parker moved to steady me. I was speechless as he took the plates from me and gave me a tight-lipped smile before walking away. Straightening out my skirt, I tried to remember how to breathe as I watched him walk outside, turning to look at me as he backed out of the door. My mother held it open for him before coming into the kitchen.
She smiled. “Good looking young man, hey?”
I blushed and tucked my hair behind my ear. “I hadn’t noticed.”
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Re: Page Critique Friday 11/12/10

Postby charlotte49ers » 12 Nov 2010, 15:32

Two families sat around Henry Brice’s outdoor setting, and I knew them both, but there was no one my age here. I didn’t mind, as I got along with adults better than I did with people my own age, anyway, so I took a seat and answered questions about my plans for college while I waited for my parents to come back outside. - I like the voice here, but I think you can slim this section down some and still get the information and voice across -

“Shortcake, would you help set the table, please?” my father asked as he emerged from the house.

I nodded and smiled, but as I got up I noticed he had a grin on his face. Narrowing my eyes at him suspiciously, I headed inside. There were a few people in the kitchen, so I waited for them to finish what they were doing before I made my way over to the cupboard. As I pulled out some plates and stood up, I accidentallybacked into someone standing behind me.

“Sorry,” I said as I spun around, almost dropping the plates.

Scott Parker moved to steady me. I was speechless as he took the plates from me and gave me a tight-lipped smile before walking away. Straightening out my skirt, I tried to remember how to breathe as I watched him walk outside, turning to look at me as he backed out of the door. My mother held it open for him before coming into the kitchen.

She smiled. “Good looking young man, hey?”

I blushed and tucked my hair behind my ear. “I hadn’t noticed.” - Adorable :-) -


I liked it, though I found myself wondering why all these people were at her house. I'd like to have that explained a little sooner. :-)
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Re: Page Critique Friday 11/12/10

Postby abc » 12 Nov 2010, 16:23

off the cuff---

I like what is happening, but it doesn't feel like an opening. I think you need a stronger beginning with more intro to the character or setting. This feels like somewhere in the middle or towards the end of chapter one.

Cute, though. I like cute.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 11/12/10

Postby BCarle » 12 Nov 2010, 17:17

I like your first page. I'm curious about who this Scott Parker fellow is, what will happen when she returns to the outdoor setting, how their relationship will evolve, and how her parents seem to know how she'll react already. The voice is good, you let us know her[?] general age and social preferences, the state of her nerves, and we aren't bogged down with a lot of description. Things are happening.

That said, a little more description/grounding would be nice. Just a smidge. I would like a little clarification on where they are. Henry Brice's means little to me, and I'm still not clear if it's a restaurant or someone's home [nevermind] . Outdoor setting could be a cafe's dining patio or her family's driveway or garden, so maybe a more concrete noun there.

Other than that and a few prepositions I'd strike (because everyone should be like me, naturally ;) ), I have little criticism to offer.

Two families sat around [unless you mean they were scattered, you might reconsider this preposition -- just seemed off and derailed my attention right away] Henry Brice’s [a restaurant, a neighbor -- might specify with Henry Brice's Bistro or Uncle Henry Brice's or some such] outdoor setting [patio? courtyard? garden?], and I knew them both, but there was no one my age here. I didn’t mind, as I got along with adults better than I did with people my own age, anyway, so I took a seat and answered questions about my plans for college while I waited for my parents to come back outside.

“Shortcake, would you help set the table, please?” my father asked as he emerged from the house [Ok -- house -- missed that the first time. Might not be necessary at all, but maybe you could strike the Henry Brice's above and add that later or establish the relationship. My uncle Henry Brice...].

I nodded and smiled, but as I got up I noticed he had a grin on his face[Nowhere else for a grin to be ;)]. Narrowing my eyes at him suspiciously["Narrowing" already showed this.], I headed inside. There were a few people in the kitchen, so I waited for them to finish what they were doing before I made my way over to the cupboard. As I pulled out some plates and stood up, I accidentally backed into someone standing behind me [implied in the backed into bit].

“Sorry,” I said as I spun around, almost dropping the plates.

Scott Parker moved to steady me. I was speechless as he took the plates from me and gave me a tight-lipped smile before walking away. Straightening out my skirt, I tried to remember how to breathe as I watched him walk outside, turning to look at me as he backed out of the door. My mother held it open for him before coming into the kitchen. [The sequence there made me pause -- he backed out and then her mom held the door open? Maybe he backed out the door she was holding open, something more simultaneous or the other way around.]

She smiled. “Good looking young man, hey?”

I blushed and tucked my hair behind my ear. “I hadn’t noticed.”
Stuff. Things. Blog. Untitlement
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Re: Page Critique Friday 11/12/10

Postby lana_lorett » 12 Nov 2010, 19:42

First, congratulations for being selected and thanks for your submission.

I like the protagonist. She is believable. In addition, knowing that the submission is a paranormal romance intrigues me and makes me want to know more.

I do think that the writing needs some tightening. Here are some suggestions:

1) The term “as I” or “as he” is used very frequently (I counted 8 times). I don’t think it is incorrect, but too many of them in close proximity is distracting.
2) Some of the sentences are long. Consider breaking these up for ease of reading and for setting a nice pace.
3) Since this is first person, I would think that ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ would be used instead of ‘my mother’ and ‘my father.’
4) Since this is first person, I wasn’t sure if one would use the term ‘Two families sat…’ if she knew them. Perhaps ‘The Smiths’ and ‘The Browns.’ Also, the term ‘outdoor setting’ was somewhat generic and made me stop. In addition, if the first paragraph’s goal is to set the stage, consider concentrating more on how she is feeling.
5) There are some passive sentences. Consider making them active.

I included some quick examples to illustrates these points.
----------------------------------------------------------------
Two families sat around Henry Brice’s outdoor setting, and I knew them both, but there was no one my age here. I didn’t mind, as I got along with adults better than I did with people my own age, anyway, so I took a seat and answered questions about my plans for college while I waited for my parents to come back outside. (long sentence)

Example:
There I was, spending another Saturday night with my parent’s friends. I scanned the backyard. Not one person my age. Oh well. I sat close to the Browns and the Jones. At least I knew who they were and, for some strange reason, I got along with them better than most people from my school. It didn’t take long for the conversation to shift in my direction. Everyone wanted to know about my college plans and I didn’t mind talking about them.


“Shortcake, would you help set the table, please?” my father asked as he emerged from the house.

Example:
“Shortcake,” dad said from behind, “would you help set the table, please?” He had a lopsided grin, the kind he couldn’t avoid when he was hiding something. I narrowed my eyes and headed inside.


I nodded and smiled, but as I got up I noticed he had a grin on his face. Narrowing my eyes at him suspiciously, I headed inside. (passive) There were a few people in the kitchen, so I waited for them to finish what they were doing before I made my way over to the cupboard. As I pulled out some plates and stood up, I accidentally backed into someone standing behind me.

Example:
As usual, the kitchen was packed, even though most of the appetizers and drinks were already outside. I squeezed my way to the cupboard and grabbed as many plates as I could. “Excuse me,” I said, backing up, straight into someone.


“Sorry,” I said as I spun around, almost dropping the plates.

Example:
I stumbled. Someone grabbed me, helped. “Sorry.” I looked up. It was Scott Parker, the <description here>. I froze, and for a moment, I was sure I didn’t breath.


Scott Parker moved to steady me. I was speechless (why?) as he took the plates from me and gave me a tight-lipped smile before walking away. Straightening out my skirt, I tried to remember how to breathe as I watched him walk outside, turning to look at me as he backed out of the door. (passive and long sentence) My mother held it open for him before coming into the kitchen. (Earlier, the narrator said she was waiting for her parents to come outside. You mentioned the dad coming out but not the mom. Here it seems the mom was outside).
She smiled. “Good looking young man, hey?”
I blushed and tucked my hair behind my ear. “I hadn’t noticed.” (I like this)

Example:
“Let me help,” he said, taking the plates off my hands. He gave me a tight-lipped smile and walked outside. Mom held the door open for us.

“Good looking young man, heh?” she whispered.
I blushed and tucked my hair behind my ear. “I hadn’t noticed.”
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Re: Page Critique Friday 11/12/10

Postby ReenaJacobs » 13 Nov 2010, 15:37

Thanks for sharing your opening, Jaime. It takes a brave soul to do so. :)

One thing I can say is your editing is tight in terms of grammar and spelling. Good job. :) It makes the passage easy to understand.

Some novels start slow and work. But with only 250 words to grab the readers' attention, we lack the luxury here. I think with the exercise, an important question to ask is: Does this beginning have pop?

The first 250 words in this case don't offer enough to truly draw me in. The reason is too many mundane things are happening--people sitting around, grabbing dishes, the typical things one would expect in everyday life. When I think of fiction, everyday life doesn't come to mind. But the exciting and dramatic events which could occur in everyday life, now that draws me. :)

A question you might ask is: Am I starting this in the right place?

One technique I use is to delete the beginnings and see if my novel still makes sense. For example, if you started the scene from inside the house, would your novel be lacking? No? Then the outside scene is fluff which can be deleted. Next, If you started with her pulling plates out the cupboard, would it ruin the novel? Keep chopping until you come to the point where your novel degrades if you cut one more scene, and you'll find the beginning. That may be the next scene, it may be six chapters in.

The other item I think the writing could benefit from is a bit more descriptions. I didn't really get a feel for the setting or the characters. I also noticed you used "smile" quite a bit. Try not to let that expression be a catch-all. You might have to dig deep to show emotions with more variety, but it'll be worth it.

Again, thanks for sharing.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 11/12/10

Postby Nathan Bransford » 14 Nov 2010, 09:49

One thing that stood out to me when I first read this was the dialogue, which I really like. It feels natural and provides flavor without feeling forced. I actually think more of this page could benefit from that kind of flavor - there's a bit of a lack of specificity in some of the descriptions that I think could have added to the scene and given this more of a sense of place.

I also wondered if perhaps the opening encounter could be just a bit more unique, and again wonder if more specificity could be brought to bear. I wasn't quite sure what it was about Scott Parker that made the narrator's heart go a-flutter, and we actually have to piece it together from the ensuing dialogue rather from the character's own perspective.

Lastly, there were a few sentences, including the opening one, that I had just a bit of trouble unpacking. But I think the overall effect of the page is fine, and with some added detail I think it will be on its way.



Title: Waiting for April
Genre: Paranormal Romance


Two families sat around Henry Brice’s outdoor setting, and I knew them both, but there was no one my age here These thoughts don't seem to go together to me - if she knows the families why doesn't she name them? And I also wonder if the outdoor setting could be described (wicker? plastic?). I didn’t mind, as I got along with adults better than I did with people my own age, anyway, so I took a seat and answered questions about my plans for college while I waited for my parents to come back outside.
“Shortcake, would you help set the table, please?” my father asked as he emerged from the house.
I nodded and smiled, but as I got up I noticed he had a grin on his face Both characters are smiling, so it seems odd that she would be suspicious of his smile. Narrowing my eyes at him suspiciously This feels like third person description in a first person narrative. First person narrators tend to just describe their own emotions and actions a bit more straightforwardly (e.g. I narrowed my eyes at him. Something was up., I headed inside. There were a few people in the kitchen, so I waited for them to finish what they were doing before I made my way over to the cupboard. As I pulled out some plates and stood up, I accidentally backed into someone standing behind me.
“Sorry,” I said as I spun around, almost dropping the plates.
Scott Parker moved to steady me. Think there could be some more description here I was speechless as he took the plates from me and gave me a tight-lipped smile before walking away. Straightening out my skirt, I tried to remember how to breathe as I watched him walk outside, turning to look at me as he backed out of the door. My mother held it open for him before coming into the kitchen.
She smiled. “Good looking young man, hey?”
I blushed and tucked my hair behind my ear. “I hadn’t noticed.” good
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Re: Page Critique Friday 11/12/10

Postby Jaime » 14 Nov 2010, 12:50

Two things ran through my mind when I opened this thread. The first being, 'I LOVE page critique Sunday!', and the second, 'Holy crap! That's MY page!" :)

Thank you so much for your critiques! I'll definitely be following the advice. The agent I really, really want has the partial for this novel, so I hope the faults in this first page aren't big enough to warrant a 'no thanks'! Agent, if you're reading this - I'M TOTALLY OPEN TO CHANGES/REVISIONS!!! ;)

Originally this scene was a flashback in another chapter, and I was going to cut it completely but my betas insisted I leave it. But ReenaJacobs and Nathan, you're absolutely right - there are descriptions in the next page that should be brought forward, such as who the other families are and why Scott makes April lose her senses.

Lana_Lorett, you've got some really helpful advice there. It should be more straightforward considering it's first person, and more description is needed to establish the setting. Thanks :)

BCarle, I should have put my Captain Obvious glasses on sooner so I could pick up on phrases such as 'grin on his face' before posting this page for critique. Thankfully, that changed to 'grinning from ear to ear' before submitting the partial :) But there are other things you've suggested that will help me tighten it - and I'm all about the tightening!

Thanks again, everyone!
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Re: Page Critique Friday 11/12/10

Postby Ishta » 14 Nov 2010, 20:22

Nathan Bransford wrote:
Title: Waiting for April
Genre: Paranormal Romance


Two families sat around Henry Brice’s outdoor setting, and I knew them both, but there was no one my age here. I didn’t mind, as I got along with adults better than I did with people my own age, anyway, so I took a seat and answered questions about my plans for college while I waited for my parents to come back outside.
“Shortcake, would you help set the table, please?” my father asked as he emerged from the house.
I nodded and smiled, but as I got up I noticed he had a grin on his face. Narrowing my eyes at him suspiciously, I headed inside. There were a few people in the kitchen, so I waited for them to finish what they were doing before I made my way over to the cupboard. As I pulled out some plates and stood up, I accidentally backed into someone standing behind me.
“Sorry,” I said as I spun around, almost dropping the plates.
Scott Parker moved to steady me. I was speechless as he took the plates from me and gave me a tight-lipped smile before walking away. Straightening out my skirt, I tried to remember how to breathe as I watched him walk outside, turning to look at me as he backed out of the door. My mother held it open for him before coming into the kitchen.
She smiled. “Good looking young man, hey?”
I blushed and tucked my hair behind my ear. “I hadn’t noticed.”


You've already gotten some great feedback here, so I'll just offer up a few thoughts, which you can take or leave:
- The dialogue here is fantastic so far - it feels very natural. Well done!
- This is First Person, but it's a distant First Person, with phrases like "outdoor setting", "narrowing my eyes at him suspiciously", "I was speechless". These phrases accurately describe what she was doing and accurately describe her environment, but they don't really let us feel what she is feeling. There is an emotional disconnect. Sometimes this works, but since this is a paranormal YA, I think you should consider closing the distance a little bit.
- Who are the families? Who is Henry Brice? And if this is Henry Brice's house, why is her dad asking her to set the table? Does she call her dad Henry Brice? You see where I'm going with this.
- I really want to know who Scott Parker is, so great job with that element of tension/suspense.

Good luck with it!
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Re: Page Critique Friday 11/12/10

Postby Ishta » 14 Nov 2010, 20:27

QUESTION FOR NATHAN: I'm not sure where else to post this; sorry.

I entered my first page a while ago, and since than I've completely rewritten it. Changed the POV, changed the voice, changed their names, everything. Is it okay to delete my entry and resubmit my revised, unrecognizable-from-the-original version? Or is that against the "one entry per person" rule?

Thanks for letting me know.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 11/12/10

Postby Nathan Bransford » 14 Nov 2010, 22:07

Ishta wrote:QUESTION FOR NATHAN: I'm not sure where else to post this; sorry.

I entered my first page a while ago, and since than I've completely rewritten it. Changed the POV, changed the voice, changed their names, everything. Is it okay to delete my entry and resubmit my revised, unrecognizable-from-the-original version? Or is that against the "one entry per person" rule?

Thanks for letting me know.


That's fine!
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Re: Page Critique Friday 11/12/10

Postby charlotte49ers » 15 Nov 2010, 11:12

Nathan Bransford wrote:
Ishta wrote:QUESTION FOR NATHAN: I'm not sure where else to post this; sorry.

I entered my first page a while ago, and since than I've completely rewritten it. Changed the POV, changed the voice, changed their names, everything. Is it okay to delete my entry and resubmit my revised, unrecognizable-from-the-original version? Or is that against the "one entry per person" rule?

Thanks for letting me know.


That's fine!


Or you can just edit your original post. That's what I did, anyway.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 11/12/10

Postby Nathan Bransford » 15 Nov 2010, 21:14

charlotte49ers wrote:
Nathan Bransford wrote:
Ishta wrote:QUESTION FOR NATHAN: I'm not sure where else to post this; sorry.

I entered my first page a while ago, and since than I've completely rewritten it. Changed the POV, changed the voice, changed their names, everything. Is it okay to delete my entry and resubmit my revised, unrecognizable-from-the-original version? Or is that against the "one entry per person" rule?

Thanks for letting me know.


That's fine!


Or you can just edit your original post. That's what I did, anyway.


That too.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 11/12/10

Postby charlotte49ers » 16 Nov 2010, 08:00

If mine ever gets picked, promise me you won't laugh at how many times it's been edited. :D
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Re: Page Critique Friday 11/12/10

Postby Ishta » 23 Nov 2010, 06:23

:-) Okay, Charlotte, I won't laugh at you if you won't laugh at me!

Thanks for answering my question, guys. Off to edit my post now...
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