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Book of Shadows, Horror Excerpt

Posted: October 9th, 2010, 5:10 pm
by arbraun
This is a little more than the first page of my novel. The biggest thing I want to know is, with the first paragraph, does the graphic novel content starting the book come off as the "It was all a dream" ending that agents hate? I've been wondering about it, but have told myself that it's not a dream. I fear it may be too similar though. A critique on the rest of it would be fine too. Thanks so much for looking at my work.

Book of Shadows, Chapter One

Strong winds ruffled her hair and sprinkles of sea peppered her face, charring her appearance. She bowed her head and noticed the sea held no water, only fire. Beads of sweat erupted on her skin. A cry ripped from her throat, causing Charon, the ferryman, to turn and glare at her. He stopped rowing with the steel oar. Charon’s face wasn’t a face at all. Only a skull lurked inside a black hood. Low-flying demons with red, scaly skin and horns confirmed her worst fear—they sailed on
the River Styx, and she was dead.

Kaitidid Rogers, a twelve year old all sharp angles and jagged points, put the finishing touches on her comic book, Girl in Hell. She mused over the graphic novel. It would suck to go to hell. Maybe this comic will help people. The youngest member of a close-knit Christian family of four, she sat in the back seat with her big sister, Stephanie. The former watched her parents, Steve and Dodie, in the front seat.

She sniffed the cool air and nice new car smell. She rubbed the seats—soft and comfy. Her black hair flowed from the air rushing out of the backseat vents.

“Daddy?” Kaitidid asked.

Her dad craned his neck and met her eyes for a second. “Yes, pumpkin?”

“Are we going to MacDonald’s now that church is over?”

He nodded. “Of course, like we always do.”

“Yay! MacDonald’s is the best place to eat ever!”

A sheet of rain fell, and her dad turned on the windshield wipers.

Turning a bend in the road, he took his eyes off the street for another second while checking out a female jogger whose nipples stood out in her soaked shirt. Kaitidid cringed as he eyeballed the woman. Her mom caught him staring at the runner and gasped. The car picked up speed.

In the seconds before the vehicle ran under a semitrailer, Kaitidid went into shock and smacked into the front seat as they headed under the truck because her dad slammed on the brakes. The automobile hydroplaned. Portly Stephanie pushed her down with ease.

No! This isn’t happening!

Re: Book of Shadows, Horror Excerpt

Posted: October 10th, 2010, 12:36 am
by wordranger
I have to admit, I had to read this several times to figure out what was happening. After a bit, I realized the choppy speech was you trying to bring in the feel of reading a comic book, which you did beautifully. The problem is, though, that I didn't get it at first. The whole thing didn't make "easy" sence to me until the dialog got started.

In this part...


Kaitidid Rogers, a twelve year old all sharp angles and jagged points, What are you saying here? Is she a comic book character? Sharp angels and Jagged points? Is she an alien? put the finishing touches on her comic book, Girl in Hell. She mused over the graphic novel. It would suck to go to hell. Maybe this comic will help people. I'm thinking that a new paragraph should start here. The youngest member of a close-knit Christian family of four, she sat in the back seat with her big sister, Stephanie. The former watched her parents, Steve and Dodie, in the front seat.

After that great section of dialog, this didn't quite work for me. It seems a bit choppy.

Turning a bend in the road, he took his eyes off the street for another second while checking out a female jogger whose nipples stood out in her soaked shirt. This sentance is fine Kaitidid cringed as he eyeballed the woman. OOPS! Kaitidid is a boy? Don't know whay I thought it was a girl. Wait! She is a girl (went back and checked) This should probably read "Kaitidid cringed as her father looked at the woman" to make it more clear. Her mom caught him staring at the runner and gasped. The car picked up speed. These two sentances lost it for me and made me feel like I was back in the comic book... unless that is what you wanted.

In the seconds before the vehicle ran under a semitrailer, Kaitidid went into shock and smacked into the front seat as they headed under the truck because her dad slammed on the brakes. I think this sentace is too long. I'd try adding a period, How about... "In the seconds before the vehicle ran under a semitrailer, Kaitidid went into shock. She smacked into the front seat as her dad slammed on the brakes and they headed under the truck," Braking it up like this makes me feel less out of breath reading it, and I don't get lost in the thought.

The automobile hydroplaned. Portly Stephanie pushed her down with ease. I think saying Stephanie is "portly" is not necessary here. Maybe later when the action is not happening. It just doesn't sound right to me. These two sentances I would glue together to keep the action moving fast, like the car: "Stephanie pushed her down as the car hydroplaned."

I think your stongest part here is your dialog. It's pretty natural. I'd just worry about losing your reader before they got to that, because the first two paragraphs left me not really sure what was happening.

I am hardly an expert... I'm not published either. I also have to admit that I do not read Horror... So I may be completely wrong... these are just my impressions, and I hope they help at least a little. Good Luck!

Re: Book of Shadows, Horror Excerpt

Posted: October 10th, 2010, 6:51 pm
by arbraun
Thank you! I appreciate you taking the time to look at it.

I'm published as far as short stories and a chapter of a guidebook, but this is my first novel.

Re: Book of Shadows, Horror Excerpt

Posted: October 10th, 2010, 9:55 pm
by androidblues
I don't know about this. The dialogue is decent, but the narration reads like Dean Koontz on a bad day. I definitely tighten it and use less description with short snappy sentences to grab the reader. Stephen King does this well.

Re: Book of Shadows, Horror Excerpt

Posted: October 10th, 2010, 10:31 pm
by arbraun
Thank you.

Re: Book of Shadows, Horror Excerpt

Posted: October 10th, 2010, 11:19 pm
by Mark17
I definitely don't think the beginning is a "it was all a dream" cop-out. Actually considering what happens later in the excerpt it's creepily effective. I'm a fan of including Charon in anything too. The opening graphic novel thing also works well because it gives a good sense of who Katydid (awesome name too) is. Not many young girls are writing morbid graphic novels in the backseat of their parents' cars, but it's also not so unusual to make it ubelievable. I also really liked the fact that she can go from drawing a novel about her own death to squealing over her love of McDonalds. I also love that their going from church to McDonalds, something about that seems so unholy.

I think a lot of the description can be cut out and given at a later point. The close-knit Christian family part, you can show this later probably instead of just telling it. Same witht he portly part. I like the all angles thing about her face, but it comes at a weird part, I can see why one reader might think she is a comic book character. Also I think the way it is written now the description of how the accident happens is confusing. 'He' obviously refers to the Dad (and that he is looking at a jogger's nipples with his family in the car on the drive from church to McDonalds is another great detail), but it could be clearer. Also, since it's from Katydid's point of view, you might need to bog down the pacing with the parent's names just yet, but that's not that big of a deal.

It's a compelling opening and then goes right into some serious action, if unnecessary description is taken out you're more likely to hook the reader.

Good luck.

Re: Book of Shadows, Horror Excerpt

Posted: October 11th, 2010, 12:27 pm
by arbraun
Thanks for the awesome critique!

Re: Book of Shadows, Horror Excerpt

Posted: October 16th, 2010, 7:36 pm
by Bartle001
Okay.... We're here for criticism, right? Proper spirit, all that?

Part me feels this is cheap shot, but another part of me is moved to say that I truly hope "Book of Shadows" is only a working title. I googled "Book of Shadows" and got 1,340,000 hits in 0.17 seconds.

It just sounds rather "generic" to me. Like "The Vampire's Thirst" or "The Mummy's Revenge". Of course vampires are thirsty. Or course mummys want revenge. Heck, even my mommy wants revenge, and all I did was miss our weekly dinner!

I dunno if I'm expressing myself very well. I read horror and fantasy, and if I see a generic-sounding title, I sometimes (perhaps wrongly) assume it's a generically-written book.

All this just one guy's opinion, of course.

Re: Book of Shadows, Horror Excerpt

Posted: October 17th, 2010, 11:57 am
by notw
arbraun wrote:This is a little more than the first page of my novel. The biggest thing I want to know is, with the first paragraph, does the graphic novel content starting the book come off as the "It was all a dream" ending that agents hate? I've been wondering about it, but have told myself that it's not a dream. I fear it may be too similar though. A critique on the rest of it would be fine too. Thanks so much for looking at my work.

Book of Shadows, Chapter One

Strong winds ruffled her hair and sprinkles of sea peppered her face, charring her appearance. She bowed her head and noticed the sea held no water, only fire. Beads of sweat erupted on her skin. A cry ripped from her throat, causing Charon, the ferryman, to turn and glare at her. He stopped rowing with the steel oar. Charon’s face wasn’t a face at all. Only a skull lurked inside a black hood. Low-flying demons with red, scaly skin and horns confirmed her worst fear—they sailed on
the River Styx, and she was dead.

Kaitidid Rogers, a twelve year old all sharp angles and jagged points, put the finishing touches on her comic book, Girl in Hell. She mused over the graphic novel. It would suck to go to hell. Maybe this comic will help people. The youngest member of a close-knit Christian family of four, she sat in the back seat with her big sister, Stephanie. The former watched her parents, Steve and Dodie, in the front seat. Personally, I love these two paragraphs. I think this sets up what will happen later on in her life nicely.

She sniffed the cool air and nice new car smell. She rubbed the seats—soft and comfy. Her black hair flowed from the air rushing out of the backseat vents.

“Daddy?” Kaitidid asked.

Her dad craned his neck and met her eyes for a second. “Yes, pumpkin?”

“Are we going to MacDonald’s now that church is over?”

He nodded. “Of course, like we always do.”

“Yay! MacDonald’s is the best place to eat ever!”

A sheet of rain fell, and her dad turned on the windshield wipers.

Turning a bend in the road, he took his eyes off the street for another second while checking out a female jogger whose nipples stood out in her soaked shirt. Kaitidid cringed as he eyeballed the woman. Her mom caught him staring at the runner and gasped. The car picked up speed. This was a little confusing.

In the seconds before the vehicle ran under a semitrailer, Kaitidid went into shock and smacked into the front seat as they headed under the truck because her dad slammed on the brakes. The automobile hydroplaned. Portly Stephanie pushed her down with ease. I found these two sentences hard to follow.

No! This isn’t happening!
Sounds like it is an interesting story!

Re: Book of Shadows, Horror Excerpt

Posted: October 19th, 2010, 1:03 pm
by arbraun
Thanks for the critiques. Yes, I have thought about renaming it Grimoire. I'm glad most of you don't think that first paragraph has to go, because I love it.