The Blood Well, Magical Realism, 1st page Crit

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belindasmith
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The Blood Well, Magical Realism, 1st page Crit

Post by belindasmith » August 18th, 2010, 4:43 am

The Blood Well
Genre Magical Realism
242 Words


Margo studied Bill quizzically as he stood absorbed both hands pushing against the water tank stand while his head hung heavy studying the ground. The heat bearing down cast a bend in his back like a wax figurine too close to the heat. Margo sighed this tired distance between them would soon break twice. The first like a calm before the storm unheeded, taken as something else. The second would throw Margo into the storm and bustle of a life unwanted. Bill’s eyes had the shallowness of a bird’s as he finally looked at her and smiled weakly.

“A headache, head hurts” he pointed limply at his temple and grinned, an apology, for his churlishness. He bent down and slipped his feet into his dusty cracked boots.

Margo exhaled relaxing, “Are you going down to Wheeny Creek?”

“Yer, those bloody feral dogs, they’re coming in looking for water.” Bill arched his hands over his eyes searching the desiccated shimmering landscape. Bill turned and Margo watched his slightly hunched shoulders angle with each step. He turned looked at her, waved away some flies and sank into the ute.

The motor chugged to life and Bill drove away from her. The words from the radio made Bill shake his head in resigned disbelief, ‘like a frog in water with a slowly rising temperature. They remain blissfully unaware and slowly boil to death.’ How many times had he heard that recently? Was it even true?

Emily J
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Re: The Blood Well, Magical Realism, 1st page Crit

Post by Emily J » August 18th, 2010, 10:32 am

belindasmith wrote:The Blood Well
Genre Magical Realism
242 Words


Margo studied Bill quizzically as he stood absorbed i think you need a comma here both hands pushing against the water tank stand while his head hung heavy i think you need another comma here studying the ground. <-- this is an overstuffed sentence and you repeat the word study The heat bearing down cast a bend in his back like a wax figurine too close to the heat. you repeat the word heat, and this simile doesn't really work for me Margo sighed comma here? this tired distance between them would soon break twice. not sure I get this, how distance tired or not would break twice The first the first breaking but this is a bit unclear like a calm before the storm unheeded, taken as something else. <-- taken by whom? taken as what? The second would throw Margo into the storm <-- repeating storm and bustle of a life unwanted. <-- what life? why is it unwanted? Bill’s eyes had the shallowness of a bird’s interesting description as he finally looked at her and smiled weakly.

“A headache, head hurts” <-- this is also repetitive he pointed limply at his temple and grinned, an apology, <-- this comma feels superfluous for his churlishness. He bent down and slipped his feet into his dusty comma cracked boots.

Margo exhaled comma? relaxing, “Are you going down to Wheeny Creek?”

“Yer, those bloody feral dogs, they’re coming in looking for water.” Bill arched his hands over his eyes searching the desiccated comma shimmering landscape. Bill turned and Margo watched his slightly hunched shoulders angle with each step. He turned repeating turned looked at her, waved away some flies serial comma and sank into the ute.

The motor chugged to life and Bill drove away from her. The words from the radio made Bill shake his head in resigned disbelief, ‘like a frog in water with a slowly rising temperature. They remain blissfully unaware and slowly boil to death.’ How many times had he heard that recently? Was it even true?
Interesting opening. You have some punctuation issues, especially with regards to comma usage. I found myself stumbling a bit while reading because of missing or extra commas. I think the page will read a lot better once you have edited for punctuation. Also, the repetition was really killing me, really killing me (see what I did there?). Repetition used for emphasis should be used sparingly as it gets old...fast. But some of the repetitions felt more like oversights than a conscious choice. So comma usage and diction are things I think you could improve on. But this did leave me wanting to know about Bill and Margo and their relationship and already in such a brief span gave me a good idea of the setting which is difficult to do.

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Re: The Blood Well, Magical Realism, 1st page Crit

Post by Christy_H » August 18th, 2010, 2:44 pm

Margo studied Bill [quizzically- OMIT] as he stood absorbed[COMMA] both hands pushing against the water tank stand[PERIOD] [OMIT -while] His head hung heavy[COMMA] studying the ground. [OR, HIS HEAD HUNG, HEAVY, WHILE HE STUDIED THE GROUND.--ALTHOUGH YOU JUST USED THE WORD STUDY. WAS HE REALLY SEEING THE GROUND? MAYBE HE WAS JUST STARING AT IT. The heat bearing down cast a bend in his back like a wax figurine too close to the heat. Margo sighed this tired distance between them would soon break twice. The first like a calm before the storm unheeded, taken as something else. The second would throw Margo into the storm and bustle of a life unwanted. Bill’s eyes had the shallowness of a bird’s as he finally looked at her and smiled weakly.[I'M NOT SURE I UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO SAY HERE. SIMILES AND METAPHORS ARE GREAT, BUT YOU HAVE A LOT IN JUST A SENTENCE OR TWO.]

“A headache, head hurts[PERIOD]” [H]e pointed limply at his temple and grinned, an apology [OMIT COMMA] for his churlishness. He bent down and slipped his feet into his dusty cracked boots.

Margo exhaled [relaxing-POSSIBLY OMIT. EXHALING LEADS ME TO BELIEVE SHE WAS TENSE AND HOLDING HER BREATH. EXHALING ALONE TELLS ME SHE RELAXED], “Are you going down to Wheeny Creek?”

[YER? DID HE IGNORE HER QUESTION?]“Yer, those bloody feral dogs, they’re coming in looking for water.” Bill arched his hands over his eyes searching the desiccated shimmering landscape. Bill turned and Margo watched his slightly hunched shoulders angle with each step. He turned looked at her, waved away some flies and sank into the ute.

The motor chugged to life and Bill drove away from her. The words from the radio made Bill shake his head in resigned disbelief, ‘like a frog in water with a slowly rising temperature. They remain blissfully unaware and slowly boil to death.’ How many times had he heard that recently? Was it even true?

[WHAT WERE THE WORDS FROM THE RADIO? HE WAS SHAKING HIS HEAD AT THAT OR THE DOGS? I FEEL LIKE HE TOTALLY IGNORED THE GIRL AND JUST DROVE OFF. IS THAT WHAT HAPPENED?]belindasmith

I apologize for using the CAPS. I'm new at critiquing and it seemed easier than using the color, but now it looks like I'm yelling at you, which was not my intention!!! I think you have a great start. Your voice is there, which is hard (for me). I think you tend to overwrite a bit. Sometimes it's better to write simpler sentences--and just say what you're trying to say--so your readers understands what's going on. I'm sorry if I missed something obvious. I'm a little sleep deprived today, so it could just have been me! I'd read on to find out how magic finds these characters!

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Re: The Blood Well, Magical Realism, 1st page Crit

Post by stephmcgee » August 18th, 2010, 5:06 pm

belindasmith wrote:The Blood Well
Genre Magical Realism
242 Words


Margo studied Bill quizzically as he stood absorbed I agree about the comma both hands pushing against the water tank stand while his head hung heavy studying the ground. The heat bearing down cast a bend in his back like a wax figurine too close to the heat.I like this image. Margo sighed this tired distance between them would soon break twice. This sentence reads very awkward for me. The first like a calm before the storm unheeded, taken as something else. The second would throw Margo into the storm and bustle of a life unwanted. Bill’s eyes had the shallowness of a bird’s as he finally looked at her and smiled weakly. I'm not a fan of this sort of thing. I'd rather be shown, either now or in the unfolding of events throughout the book, this happening. This sort of reveal what's to come feels boilerplate.

“A headache, head hurts” he pointed limply at his temple and grinned, an apology, for his churlishness. Show me the churlishness. He bent down and slipped his feet into his dusty cracked boots.

Margo exhaled relaxing, “Are you going down to Wheeny Creek?”

“Yer, is that supposed to be a "yes?" Because I read it as a colloquial "you." those bloody feral dogs, they’re coming in looking for water.” Bill arched his hands over his eyes searching the desiccated shimmering landscape.I'm intrigued by this image. Show me more, please. Bill turned and Margo watched his slightly hunched shoulders angle with each step. He turned looked at her, waved away some flies and sank into the ute. He's already turned in the sentence before this last one so I'm confused. The sentence reads very awkwardly, either through word choice or improper punctuation.

The motor chugged to life and Bill drove away from her. I feel like I need a transition here so that I'm aware he's headed for the car, or whatever vehicle he's in, and that the radio is on and it's not just music. But that's just me, most likely. The words from the radio made Bill shake his head in resigned disbelief, ‘like a frog in water with a slowly rising temperature. They remain blissfully unaware and slowly boil to death.’ How many times had he heard that recently? Was it even true?

I think it's an interesting start, but I kind of don't care about the characters. In the first page, I want to be given some reason to care about the characters. That's what will keep me reading. Some of the imagery is very strong and I would love to see more of it peppered into the page where there are perhaps weaker moments. I can see the landscape, barren and yet aglow with the heat of the day. But I have a hard time picturing the action between the two characters.

I do like the voice that seems to be coming through. It's distinct and different from the character voice that's coming, but not in a bad way. I think that the differing voices will make it stronger throughout as you might not need dialogue tags so much and yet be able to tell who is speaking when.

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airball
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Re: The Blood Well, Magical Realism, 1st page Crit

Post by airball » August 18th, 2010, 11:50 pm

Earlier comments are right on in a lot of ways, so I'll try not to duplicate.
belindasmith wrote:The Blood Well
Genre Magical Realism
242 Words


Margo studied Bill quizzically as he stood absorbed both hands pushing against the water tank stand while his head hung heavy studying the ground. Way too much going on in this sentence, and it's pretty confusing. What is Bill being absorbed by? What is a water tank stand? Is his head studying the ground? (If so, how?) Or is he avoiding her gaze? Try breaking it in half, with one sentence on Margo's studying, and what she sees, then a second on what Bill is up to.

The heat bearing down cast a bend in his back like a wax figurine too close to the heat. Agree - the metaphor falls flat. It should be more vivid or something we relate to. Margo sighed this tired distance between them would soon break twice. I can't figure out what this means. Can distance break? Before going in to a break in the relationship, establish what that relationship is. Is Margo Bill's mom? Girlfriend? Sister? This seems really important. The first like a calm before the storm unheeded, taken as something else. The second would throw Margo into the storm and bustle bustle is really weak compared to stormof a life unwanted. Bill’s eyes had the shallowness of a bird’s as he finally looked at her and smiled weakly. Overall, I think this paragraph comes too early. We're seeing a relationship at what seems to be a turning point, but have no idea what that relationship is, or why we should care. Get us into the characters' minds, and then we might give a damn.

“A headache, head hurts” Unless this says something about his character, omit "head hurts" - that's implied by "headache" he pointed limply at his temple and grinned smiled weakly?, an apology, for his churlishness Churlishness isn't quite right. He's been silent and uncommunicative, but not churlish.. He bent down and slipped his feet into his dusty cracked boots. He should pull his boots on. You can't slip boots on, especially if they're dusty and cracked.

Margo exhaled relaxing, “Are you going down to Wheeny Creek?” Hmmm. Does it have to be Wheeny? Conjures Teeny-wheeny or whiny.

“Yer, those bloody feral dogs, they’re coming in looking for water.” Bill arched his hands over his eyes searching the desiccated shimmering omit shimmering landscape. Bill turned and Margo watched his slightly omit slightly - they're hunched or they're not hunched shoulders angle with each step. he's only turned, so there are no steps.He turned looked at her, waved away some flies and sank into the ute. What is a ute? Where I'm from it's an Indian tribe, which I don't think is how you mean it here.

The motor chugged to life and Bill drove away from her.Wait, what? Motor on what? Is he driving away from her or towards the feral dogs? The words from the radio made Bill shake his head in resigned disbelief, ‘like a frog in water with a slowly rising temperature. They remain blissfully unaware and slowly boil to death.’ How many times had he heard that recently? Was it even true? He's hearing these words on the radio? Why? Why has he heard them so often recently?
This is intriguing, but it reads like excerpts from a chapter rather than a coherent first page. Spend a few sentences introducing your characters and their relationship. Let the reader know where we are. Is this some sort of wasteland out of the Road Warrior? Or a gas station in Palm Springs? My sense is that you are trying to get the reader interested by dropping her into the middle of the action, but the action here is character-driven, and we don't have characters, just a couple of names. If Margo started shooting at Bill, character could wait, but she doesn't.

As others have said, edit, edit, edit. Read it aloud to yourself. It will help you catch repetitions and smooth the cadence of your prose.

Good luck!
Sam Thomas
Author of The Midwife's Story: A Mystery due out from St. Martin's Press in 2013
Website: http://www.samthomasbooks.com
Team Blog= http://bloodygoodread.blogspot.com

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belindasmith
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Re: The Blood Well, Magical Realism, 1st page Crit

Post by belindasmith » August 22nd, 2010, 9:27 am

Hi All

Thanks very much for the valuable feedback. I will go back and take up your suggestions.

I should have mentioned that the story is set in Australia, so a water tank stand is platform that a water tank for a house sits on. Yer is yes in Australian slang, and a ute is a utility vehicle (invented in Australia) I think Americans call them pickup trucks.

Again thanks for the time you have spent providing the feedback.

Belinda

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Re: The Blood Well, Magical Realism, 1st page Crit

Post by ericabertel » August 22nd, 2010, 11:15 am

Belinda,

Basically, everything I would have line edited has been referenced and you answered some of my questions in your reply. I had no idea what a ute was or what yer was, but I figured that meant yes in some slang.

I can't really say anything about the story because I don't have enough information. Granted you don't want to bog your first page down with too much information, but this doesn't have enough in my opinion. Work some more information into the action and dialogue. I would also be careful with over using similes. If you use them too often they lose their punch.

Suggestions:

Margo studied Bill (delete quizzically, it stops the flow) as he stood absorbed, both hands pushing against the water tank stand. His head hung heavy, scanning (avoid repeating study)the ground. The heat bearing down cast a bend in his back like a wax figurine too close to the heat. (This simile works well for me) Margo sighed, this tired distance between them would soon break twice. (This confused me. I understand there is a distance between them, but you lost me with the second half of that sentence. How does she know it will break twice?) The first like a calm before the storm unheeded, taken as something else. The second would throw Margo into the storm and bustle of a life unwanted. (again, how does she know this? Should this story be in past tense? If so, you have tense slips.) Bill’s eyes had the shallowness of a bird’s as he finally looked at her and smiled weakly.

“A headache, head hurts” (I would just say Head hurts, eliminate the repeat because it doesn't seem natural.) he pointed (limply delete)at his temple and grinned, an apology, for his churlishness. He bent down and slipped his feet into his dusty cracked boots. (Love the boot decription)

Margo exhaled relaxing, “Are you going down to Wheeny Creek?”

“Yer, those bloody feral dogs, they’re coming in looking for water.” Bill arched his hands over his eyes searching the desiccated shimmering landscape. Bill turned and Margo watched his slightly hunched shoulders angle with each step. He turned (delete, we can surmise that he had to turn to her) looked at her, waved away some flies and sank into the ute.

The motor chugged to life and Bill drove away from her. The words from the radio made Bill shake his head in resigned disbelief, ‘like a frog in water with a slowly rising temperature. They remain blissfully unaware and slowly boil to death.’ How many times had he heard that recently? The radio comment doesn't hit home since you haven't really set the scene for me yet. I can't connect that to the characters or the setting. I like the imagery, but I need you to reference why it affects him. Are they reporting a drowning or talking about the weather conditions?

The words in orange are not commonly used words. I would be careful with adding too many words that your average reader will have to grab a dictionary to understand. There's nothing wrong with expanding a readers vocabulary, but if you go too crazy it will turn then off.

I like the imagery, but, as someone before me said sometimes a simple sentence structure works best. I'll look for more posting, I'm writing a book about magic so I like the genre. I'm interested in seeing how you'd build your world.

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