Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Offer up your page (or query) for Nathan's critique on the blog.
agyw
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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by agyw » October 1st, 2010, 3:41 pm

I would read more of this, and the two criticisms I would offer, too much interjection and a difficult comparison to The Lovely Bones, would be noted. I think Dearth of Reason did a wonderful job of bringing the flow and writing to the point. The only reason I interject, I think this could be pushed slightly further in voice. Voice can be the rhythm of language, which I think is being employed here, but also the terminology and phrasing. Perhaps with a few choice words or patter, not only would we get the idea of the grandmother, but the feel and placement of her... is she southern, pushy and demanding, retiring, wistful? Further, perhaps more could be revealed about the granddaughter, if this is for the younger readership, as they would have to relate to her and not the grandmother. But I like there are so many questions that I want answered- hence I would read on.

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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by Nathan Bransford » October 1st, 2010, 5:15 pm

This excerpt has an engaging style, and the voice has potential - on a sentence to sentence level I don't have many nitpicks (though the punctuation seems a tad off), and while it may rely just a bit too heavily on interjections to establish a conversational tone, I think the voice has a strong sense of character.

I have two main thoughts. The first is opening the first sentence with someone who is dead. I know there's a temptation to want to just go ahead and alert the reader that the narrator is dead in the first sentence, but over the past few years the "Description description, but then again, I'm dead" opening has become so common it's become a bit of a cliche. As far as "But then again, I'm dead" openings this one is not objectionable on its own - there's really nothing wrong with it, except perhaps with the semi-colon. But I have to caution that this is one of those openings, like someone waking up or looking in a mirror or an opening along the lines of, "It was a day like any other, but little did X Character know that things were about to change," that could have an agent inwardly groaning. I think it's probably better to ease into a dead narrator rather than trying to force it into the first sentence.

Secondly, I wonder if there could be just a bit more done to lead the reader from one idea to the next and make sure the reader is grounded in the narrative. The narrative jumps around from one thing to the next without necessarily keeping the reader filled in, and there were parts where I had a hard time tracking what was happening -- I wasn't exactly sure how the narrator gave the lawyers the picture if he/she was dead, then angels were helping but I wasn't sure how or with what. With a bit clearer organization, I think the voice will really shine.

My redline:
Nathan Bransford wrote:
Title: The Vestibule of Heaven
Genre: "Book club" fiction
Word count: 250

I knew her, of course, the first time she came to the house; (Not sure why the semi-colon is used here, doesn't feel totally natural) one of the advantages of being dead is the ability to see beneath the surface.
When I willed the house and all its contents to her "her" feels like you're holding out on the reader. Why not call her Kelly here?, I hadn’t ever seen her, not in all the thirty years since she first slipped into the world ;. aAll I had was her first name, Kelly, and one faded Polaroid picture of her at about a year old. I knew she had June Rose’s red hair and Victor’s green eyes; beyond that she just looked like a baby, like they all do at that age.
I gave the lawyers a copy of that picture, but I didn’t have much hope they’d ever be able to find her. But I wasn’t counting on the angels This feels like non-sequitor. Counting on them for what?. I think they helped Helped what?. At any rate, eventually—I don’t keep track of time any more;, could have been a week, could have been years doesn't ring true since narrator was specific it had been thirty years earlier—the lawyers found her, and she came. My granddaughter came to me at last.
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. I never expected to be around even to see how it all worked out. But things are different on the other side from what I’d thought, and it looks like myleaving her the house was a pretty important thing for me as well.

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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by Regan Leigh » October 1st, 2010, 5:34 pm

[quote="Nathan Bransford"]I have two main thoughts. The first is opening the first sentence with someone who is dead. I know there's a temptation to want to just go ahead and alert the reader that the narrator is dead, but over the past few years the "Description description, but then again, I'm dead" opening has become so common it's become a bit of a cliche. As far as "But then again, I'm dead" openings this one is not objectionable on its own - there's really nothing wrong with it, except perhaps with the semi-colon. But I have to caution that this is one of those openings, like someone waking up or looking in a mirror or an opening along the lines of, "It was a day like any other, but little did X Character know that things were about to change," that could have an agent inwardly groaning. I think it's probably better to ease into a dead narrator rather than trying to force it into the first sentence.


And here's proof that these critiques help more people than just the one writer that gets picked.

The opening to my MS:
“Rise and shine, pretty boy!” I shout at him, but he doesn’t respond. Of course not. Almost two months have passed and I’m still dead.

Well, crap. :D *Ponders edits for the opener. Again.*
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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by J. T. SHEA » October 1st, 2010, 5:54 pm

Nathan, why do you consider 'different...than' to be better than 'different...from' in the last sentence?

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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by Remmik » October 1st, 2010, 5:59 pm

Regan Leigh wrote: and I’m still dead.

Well, crap. :D
LOL! Thanks for sharing that, Regan Leigh.

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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by Regan Leigh » October 1st, 2010, 6:03 pm

Nathan Bransford wrote: Congrats to katehyde, whose page is below:

Title: The Vestibule of Heaven
Genre: "Book club" fiction
Word count: 250

I knew her, of course, the first time she came to the house; one of the advantages of being dead is the ability to see beneath the surface.
When I willed the house and all its contents to her, I hadn’t ever seen her, not in all the thirty years since she first slipped into the world; all I had was her first name, Kelly, and one faded Polaroid picture of her at about a year old. I knew she had June Rose’s red hair and Victor’s green eyes; beyond that she just looked like a baby, like they all do at that age.
I gave the lawyers a copy of that picture, but I didn’t have much hope they’d ever be able to find her. But I wasn’t counting on the angels. I think they helped. At any rate, eventually—I don’t keep track of time any more; could have been a week, could have been years—the lawyers found her, and she came. My granddaughter came to me at last.
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. I never expected to be around even to see how it all worked out. But things are different on the other side from what I’d thought, and it looks like my leaving her the house was a pretty important thing for me as well.

I was a little lost in following the info and character thoughts. I think it's a good concept and interesting premise. Mostly I was left wanting to hear more emotional connection stuff instead of all that background information. Does that make sense? Maybe hold off on the details of lawyers and wills and focus on what it feels like for this character to see and be around Kelly. IMO, I'd rather get invested in your MC before reading the details and the how's of what is going on.

Again, hope this makes sense. The day job fried my brain today. :D
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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by Nathan Bransford » October 1st, 2010, 6:06 pm

J. T. SHEA wrote:Nathan, why do you consider 'different...than' to be better than 'different...from' in the last sentence?
I think I'm wrong on that. Don't mind me.

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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by Regan Leigh » October 1st, 2010, 6:06 pm

Remmik wrote:
Regan Leigh wrote: and I’m still dead.

Well, crap. :D
LOL! Thanks for sharing that, Regan Leigh.
Yeah, I read Nathan's crit and growled loud enough to make my dog bark. :D Stupid openers. Always demanding edits.
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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by J. T. SHEA » October 1st, 2010, 6:20 pm

I think both are correct, Nathan, as is 'different...to'. On a quick search of texts, I found Joe Konrath, for example, uses 'different...than', but your most famous client uses only 'different...from' in THE RIVER WAR (3 times). I refer, of course, to Winston Churchill!

BTW, is it true that Curtis Brown have a special seance room for contacting long deceased clients?

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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by Nathan Bransford » October 1st, 2010, 7:14 pm

J. T. SHEA wrote:I think both are correct, Nathan, as is 'different...to'. On a quick search of texts, I found Joe Konrath, for example, uses 'different...than', but your most famous client uses only 'different...from' in THE RIVER WAR (3 times). I refer, of course, to Winston Churchill!

BTW, is it true that Curtis Brown have a special seance room for contacting long deceased clients?
I'm no grammar expert by any means, but I think different "than" is an accepted modernization though different "from" would probably be best here because it's an older character.

Ha - no seance room, but that would certainly be a good place for writing advice. We should look into that.

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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by katehyde » October 1st, 2010, 8:07 pm

Thanks for the feedback, everyone. Most of the questions people asked would be answered by reading another page--you can't fit everything into the first 250 words!

As far as "book club fiction" as a genre, Nathan defined it himself a while back. Other possible labels are "upmarket" or "commercial literary." I certainly would not call it fantasy, though I might accept magical realism.

The voice is intentionally a little diffuse; the narrator is a chatty person. Kelly comes on in the next scene (most of the book is from her point of view) so I don't think we need to see her directly on page one. But I will look at this again and see what I can tighten up.

Thanks,
Kate

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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by wordranger » October 1st, 2010, 8:15 pm

I like the idea, It drew me in, but I must admit that I had to re-read a few things to try to "get" what I think you were trying to say. The first sentance, for instance.
I knew her, of course, the first time she came to the house; one of the advantages of being dead is the ability to see beneath the surface. I think it's the "of course" and the punctuation and placement that threw me. It just doesn't read easy for me, although that may be part of your characterization.

What I thought was interesting, is that a lot of the other readers (I didn't read them all) said it was a grandmother. I thought it was a grandfather. Grandmother didn't even occur to me. You might want to find a way to make that more clear, unless it is within a line or two on the next page.

My next thought was that there is a LOT of punctuation here. The sentances are really long. It may work well for reading out loud, but for me it was a little hard to read. For instance...

When I willed the house and all its contents to her, I hadn’t ever seen her, not in all the thirty years since she first slipped into the world; all I had was her first name, Kelly, and one faded Polaroid picture of her at about a year old.
For me, the read would be easier with... I hadn't even seen her when I willed the house to her, and she was already 30 years old. All I had was her first name, Kelly, and one faded polaroid picture of her as a baby.

Again, that is just a suggestion. Big long sentances are wonderful, I use them too. Just be careful not to overdo it...

I knew she had June Rose’s red hair and Victor’s green eyes; beyond that she just looked like a baby, like they all do at that age. OOPS There's another pesky semicolon. Couldn't it just be a period?

I gave the lawyers a copy of that picture, but I didn’t have much hope they’d ever be able to find her. Perfect. I like it

But I wasn’t counting on the angels. I think they helped. Perfect again.

At any rate, eventually—I don’t keep track of time any more; could have been a week, could have been years—the lawyers found her, and she came. Great thoughts. Love the idea, not crazy about the wording. This is one that I had to read a few times. You do love those semicolons, don't you?


My granddaughter came to me at last. Very nice

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. This is a beautiful sentiment... but another one that I had to read over. It has something to do with the "something to make up to het fo everything she'd lost" part. Technically, it is fine, so I'm not sure what to say, but for some reason it doesn't read right to me.

I never expected to be around even to see how it all worked out. But things are different on the other side from what I’d thought, and it looks like my leaving her the house was a pretty important thing for me as well. Perfect. I like it.

Overall, I think this is really neat, and this isn't really my genre, so just getting me interested means you may have a great idea. Don't worry about it maybe being "hard to write" as someone else wrote. Make it your own, and run with it.

I'd love to read more, or see your re-write after you absorb all the feedback from this group.

Good luck!
Words are your friend.
Don't be afraid to lose yourself in them.

Jennifer Eaton, WordRanger
My Novelette LAST WINTER RED will be published by J. Taylor Publishing in December, 2012

Take a Step into My World and Learn From My Mistakes http://www.jennifermeaton.com/

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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by SSB » October 1st, 2010, 9:01 pm

I want to read more.

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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by wilderness » October 1st, 2010, 9:18 pm

I loved it. I guess I haven't read that many books about dead people because I was intrigued -- I wanted to immediately read it and find out how the grandmother and the granddaughter interact (I'm hoping they will and this is a sort of reverse ghost story).

I would normally have a litany of criticisms regarding all the semi-colons and asides...but when it works, it works. I think the asides and conversational tone added up to a great voice.

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Re: Page Critique Friday 10/1/10

Post by lizhollar » October 1st, 2010, 11:03 pm

I really liked the first line. It drew me in. I got a little confused about the age and life/death status of everyone and had to go back to re-read. It may be intentional to keep it a bit foggy, but it definitely required a re-read for me to understand it. A small thing, but I thought there were too many hyphens and ; (I can never figure out how to use ;s). Still, I liked the concept and am interested in how a relationship can develop between these two sides.

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