Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Offer up your page (or query) for Nathan's critique on the blog.
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Joined: June 29th, 2010, 11:37 am

Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by denisepetrey » October 4th, 2010, 9:52 am

I love the idea of this story, but I'd like to be drawn in more slowly. With her soft voice, grandma (is she the main character, or will it be Kelly?) comes off as introspective, but still a bit nonchalent.

It was good for her to give the house to Kelly. Why? Was she not generous in life? How long has she been dead? I assume from the Polaroid that she knew Kelly, or of her, before she died. I too, was confused about how the lawyers took possession of the photo. And why would attorneys have to seek out the woman's own granddaughter, and how did the angels help? Wouldn't the transfer of property have happened fairly soon after grandma's death?

As a reader, I don't need all that information up front, but being immediately jangled by things that don't seem to add up threatens my suspension-of-belief. Your writing style comes across as warm and fluid, but I think the pacing and depth suffer due to tangled sentences and doubts.

Maybe this is a story that's close to you, and one you can tell from a perspective that can touch hearts. Please keep writing. Maybe you could leave this manuscript once in a while and work on something else, then go back to it with fresh eyes. When a piece is emotionally evocative for us, we sometimes believe that we've communicated something clearly when really we're just thinking and feeling it, yet not putting it wholly on the page.

Good luck.

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Joined: October 2nd, 2010, 3:51 pm

Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by caes » October 5th, 2010, 4:00 am

This is not a bad start. It does a pretty good job of building curiosity and suspense, and I think that its anticipated plot about a grandparent's love from beyond the grave will strike a chord with many readers. I would agree with other critiques that suggested some stylistic, grammatical, and structural changes. I wouldn't recommend, however, merely editing out words so much as consider why you chose them in the first place. I'm thinking that you're trying to create a particular cadence for the narrator's voice that, for the readers, will feel authentic and consistent throughout. You don't want to dull its impact by making it grammatically perfect. At the same time, all your sentences--including phrasings, expressions, dialogue--should be able to withstand close analysis. For example--why does the narrator say in the first sentence, "of course"? It would seem to unnecessarily break the flow of the sentence, but maybe it's intentional. Every word, every comma, every detail should be intentional. Be prepared to justify even minutiae because, as you can see, you may be called on to do so.

One further concern I have is that the story and characters will be overly sentimental and one-note. Even your stated genre, "book club" fiction, would seem to promise a Lifetime movie-type, chick lit-aspiring, and ultimately, unambitious undertaking. A good story is a good story, and you don't have to strive for edginess and darkness to deliver one, but the narrator is already sounding a bit too idealized and tear-jerking, as in this sentence, "When I made that will, I only thought of her—that I could maybe give her something to make up to her for everything she’d lost, a piece of the family she’d never had." It may not be a fair criticism as we've only seen page one, but the chance of attracting the non-bookclub reading public might be greatly increased by the author including a healthy dose of unpredictability, a dash of realism, and at least some measure of complexity. You have a potentially exciting and compelling premise--now it just needs to go beyond the mundane and ordinary.

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Joined: October 5th, 2010, 5:04 pm

Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by benjaminkeay » October 5th, 2010, 5:12 pm

Sorry for the lateness of this post - killer weekend (by which I mean bathing the dog and cleaning the condo). At any rate, I think an opening like this works best if it's done subtly. For example, when the narrator says, "...from this side..." (or whatever the exact phrase is) we have a perfect opening into the main character being dead. If rephrased to read more like "from the great beyond" or "in the afterlife" the readers ascertain that the narrator is dead, which reads a little smoother than just stating, "BTW, I'm the dead corpse in the room." Overall a very interesting premise - a little chick-lit for my taste but not off-putting. A decent job.

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