Friday, March 24, 2017

Critiquing Opportunity! Laura Vosika

A number of the authors have volunteered to critique YOUR writing. This post is Laura Vosika's.

How this works -

You comment below with up to 500 words of your writing.
Sometime today, Friday, Laura will come by and give you feedback.

Sound awesome? Awesome!

Laura Vosika
Time Travel/Historical Fiction


  1. When she woke up, the first thing she saw was a star winking down at her from the ink-black sky.
    - then she breathed.
    And with that intact of cool night air, came a rush of info to her mind.
    It was cold. it was dark.
    She knew the bare necessities. But otherwise her mind was a blank, grey wilderness. She could almost feel memories glittering at the edges of her brain, but she couldn’t reach them.
    She whimpered, and her fingers twitched on the cold ground.
    And when they twitched, they flashed.
    She gave a small gasp, and rolled over to investigate the ten, glowing digits.
    Three, two, one – their white light faded, and she flicked them again. White dazzled her vision, and stars danced before her eyes.
    Somehow she knew that light meant safety. Light.
    And so the flashing firefly-girl tucked her softly glowing hands close to herself and drifted into dreamless sleep, where forgotten memories wouldn’t haunt her for a time, because nightmares were something she didn’t know about.
    And when her fingers faded, the only light left was that one star, doggedly shining down.

    ~ Savannah

  2. This is an intriguing opening. I would definitely read further. It gives us clear visuals and sensations--the ink black sky, the cold, the cool air, the glow and the fade of light.

    I like


    It gives a sense of pause, of time, as she's registering things and I think it works well set on separate lines. The second time, written as Three, two, one...there's a sense of a pause...but less of one. If this is what you intended, the visual change in the same three words does exactly that.

    Is 'intact' a typo? Is it meant to be 'intake?'

    When we get to 'She whimpered, and her fingers twitched on the ground,' I was a little thrown off, I think because 'whimper' is so commonly used for dogs, that I suddenly wondered if the 'she' was actually a dog. Then there were digits...but glowing. I wasn't sure at first if they were her fingers. I think that she rolls over in order to investigate the ten digits makes them seem like maybe they aren't part of *her.*

    A small detail, but I would eliminate the word 'almost' in "She could almost feel memories...." The use of the words glittering, and 'at the edges of her brain' along with saying she can't reach them, already gives the detail of them being faint, but she definitely does feel them.

    You have captured very well the confusion and emptiness of waking up without any knowledge of who or what she is, and yet having some intuitive knowledge.

    I like the use of opening with the star shining down, and closing again with that image.

    I would definitely want to read on to find out who she is and why she doesn't know who she is.

  3. “You used to know her family?” he asked. “Did they live here?”
    Again the stare. “Perhaps some of them. I haven’t seen any of them since I came here.”
    That was a no then. It wouldn’t be as easy to draw information out of this girl as he thought it might be.
    “Look, I don’t even know your name…” he began.
    “Ellisia.” She nearly interrupted him.
    “What?” he asked, surprised.
    “Ellisia. The name’s Ellisia.”
    “Pleasure to meet you, Ellisia.” He bowed his head to her. “Since I do know your name now, and you know mine, I’d be interested in knowing your connection with my friend Lae.” He attempted to infuse sincere warmth into the last few words.
    “We’re not connected. As you noticed, she won’t even talk with me. Not that I blame her – I don’t like her either.”
    “Why? What did she ever do to you? She seems like quite a nice girl.” Dontae glanced quickly over his shoulder with the last word, but the BookHall still seemed to be deserted other than the two of them.
    “Nothing.” Ellisia’s manner was careless. “Simply personal differences and lifestyle preferences.”
    “She’s never been to Academy, correct?”
    “I don’t know of her ever being in Syorien before now,” Ellisia replied. “I didn’t even know she was here now. If indeed you picked her up at the coach stop, you know more about the situation than I do. By the way, you haven’t explained how you came to know her in the first place.”
    “I believe I did,” Dontae defended himself. “I met her at the coach stop.”
    “You’d never known her before?”
    “Why would I?”
    “Then why would you meet her at the coach stop as a stranger?” Ellisia’s tones were demanding, and he felt as if she was trying to cow him.
    “I was the one sent by the palace,” he replied defensively.
    “Why did the palace send for her?” Now she sounded genuinely puzzled.
    “Because they wanted candidates for the directorship.”
    “And how did they know about her? Why would she want a directorship?”
    “I told you – through her sister. And I don’t know why – ask her, if she’ll let you.”
    “That doesn’t make sense,” the girl whispered, as if to herself. “Why would her family…?” She trailed off.
    “Yes, her family,” Dontae spoke up. “I wasn’t aware that she had any other family. It was my understanding that she was alone in the world once her sister was gone.”
    “She has family,” Ellisia admitted. Then, drawing herself up and resettling the book on her lap, she demanded, “But why do you care so much about her family? And why ask me? Ask her, if you must know.”
    Dontae sat still an instant. Then, rising, he spoke again. “You are right. I ought to ask Lae herself. It was good to meet you. I hope to see you again.”
    “You too.” Her eyes were already back on the book.
    He bowed and headed back to the entrance. She hadn’t been the most free with her information, but he wouldn’t call the effort a failure.
    Now to sort the pieces of who Lae truly was. She had to be hiding something.

    1. Hi, Erika,

      I'm heading out to work soon and will write more this evening, but wanted to give two short thoughts.

      The first is, the dialogue is well done. It feels very natural, very real, and it conveys a distinct tone between Elisia and Dontae.

      The conversation builds interest and tension, both.

      Because this is an excerpt, there may be things that happened prior to what's here that explain it--but in just this section, the dynamics between these two seem a little bit contradictory in that they appear not to know each other and yet she seems willing to keep answering questions.

      When I think about being in her position, I'd be asking who he is, why he's asking me all these questions about other people's families and my friendships (or not) with other people.

      I would also suggest giving a little more sense of setting. Again, it may be prior to this scene, but all we know here is that they're in someplace called BookHall, but nothing about what this place is, if there are other people around, if they're sitting or standing (except for the comment far at the end where she resets the book on her lap).

  4. Thank you for taking the time to critique our stories!

    For context: this is from my Berstru Tales series, which is fantasy. The Circle is a coalition of people from the six main nations of this world (or, one continent on the world, anyway) that's been quietly maneuvering itself into power.
    Jared paused at the bar to order another cup of coffee, after another brief dispute with the barmaid. Then, with the warm, bitter drink in his hand, he walked over to the table where the other young man waited. "I'm guessing you're the one who sent me this note?" He fished the paper from his pocket and held it up to show to the man.

    The man nodded. "I am." He regarded Jared with suspicion. "And you are . . ."

    "Jared Alyron. You're with the Circle, friend? So am I. Just joined about a week ago." Jared sat down across from the fellow, confident as if this meeting had been his idea, not the other way around. Best way to put someone off their guard when you thought you might be in trouble, that- act like you wanted to be there. "Now, how about your name?"

    "Alan. Alan Bryson." Alan's suspicion wavered for a moment. "You're with the Circle as well?"

    "That's what I said, isn't it, friend? If you need to see papers or whatever, I have them." Jared patted his pocket, though the only paper he had- his contract- was in his bag in his room. "Anyway, you don't think I'd be traveling with the lady Bianca if I wasn't of the Circle?"

    "I wasn't certain." Alan lost all trace of suspicion, leaving him with nothing but naive honesty in his round face. Poor fellow; whatever years he might have on Jared, Jared was far more experienced than he. "Her brother sent out an urgent missive by carrier pigeon to all the nearest towns two days ago, saying his sister had gone missing and giving a description of her. And he said she was a target of anti-Circle forces, so . . ."

    Jared forced a laugh, glad he'd had enough practice that it sounded natural. "Ah, should've thought of that- I expected she'd leave a note. I'm friends with the D'lynns- it's how I found out about the Circle. Jordan- Bianca's brother, you know- asked me after I joined if I'd come help him convince Bianca to join us as well. No luck yet, but she's taken a fancy to me, and when I was leaving Port Metre, she asked if she could come too." He winked conspiratorially at Alan. "Couldn't say no to a lady as pretty as she is, could I? And I figured it'd give me pleny of time to put my persuasive powers to work on her."

    1. Hi, Sarah, you did a good job of creating immediate tension with the question of what Jared wants and if he's going to be found out. The opening lines are very easy to see...the warm drink, fishing the note out of his pocket.

      We learn right away from his thoughts--'best way to put someone off their guard....'--that he's got some experience with being in potentially tense situations and managing people, that he knows something about human psychology and probably about fooling people.

      It raises the question of whether he's using this talent for good or for bad. (The reader may know from what has come before this excerpt.)

      Some of my response to this has more to do with not having the full backstory, so I'll post it as questions. Does the reader already know by this stage in the story...

      Is the reader clear on whether The Circle is good or evil? On whether Jared and Alan are good guys or bad guys? On whether Jared intends harm to Alan, or is a legitimate member of the Circle?

      I was a bit thrown by Alan's responses. He sent the note, yet he asks who Jared is, with suspicion. It's possible this makes sense in the full context but seeing only this excerpt, it seems contradictory, as does Alan's immediate change from 'suspicion' to accepting Jared's word. It sounds as if the Circle is a highly secret organization playing with high stakes. I would expect Alan to be more cautious if he doesn't know who Jared is.

      I wouldn't expect Alan to give his full name immediately. Alan comes across as young and naïve, and it would need a plausible explanation throughout the story how someone in a small and highly secretive organization working toward (world?) power remains so naïve.

      I was also confused as to Jared's statement that he's traveling with the lady Bianca, when Alan has heard that she's gone missing. Does Alan know that Jared is with her already, and why does he accept Jared's word that she is a willing travel companion when her brother believes she's missing and the target of anti-Circle forces? He seems very willing to accept that Jared is telling the truth (that Bianca is a willing travel companion) and Bianca's brother is simply wrong.

      Did Alan know before Jared's question (I wouldn't be with the lady Bianca, would I?) *that* Jared is with Bianca? Is this something the reader learns prior to this excerpt?

      I would like to see more description in the scene--is the room they're in bright or dim, is it crowded, are they seated far away from others? Give some brief description of Alan and Jared, and maybe show an action or gesture or two.

      We get a good sense of Jared's character throughout from his internal thoughts, from his way of taking command of a situation where, apparently, he is *not* being fully honest, through his manner of speaking, and his casual announcement that Bianca's taken a fance to him.

      You do a good job with showing, not telling, and definitely leave many hooks of what is really going on with Jared and Bianca, of his intent toward Alan, and more. You show his arrogance with his attitude that he will work his persuasive powers on her.

      The dialogue shows the tension between these two.

      Thank you!

    2. Thank you very much for your advice! This is from partway through the book, so the reader already knows whether Jared, Alan, and the Circle are good or bad (morally grey but leaning towards good, decent guy on the wrong side, and definitely bad, if you wanted to know), and whether or not Jared intends harm to Alan (he doesn't, and he's technically a legit member, but he's having second thoughts about joining them). Background also explains some of your other comments (including the bit about Alan's naivete- this takes place in a more rural area, and while he's technically part of the Circle he's very low down in the chain, thus why he's easily awed by Jared throwing around names of people very high up in the Circle, but he's not a total idiot; later in the scene he does insist on sending a message to confirm Jared's claims). Others I'll have to work on. Thank you again!

  5. Chapter 1
    Aine Gormal
    Location: FTID headquarters
    Time: 6:54 a.m.

    I hate these early morning shifts. Sheesh. As if the FTID ain’t working me hard enough already. For the love of fairy godmothers, I clocked in to my apartment at 1:01 a.m., and now they want me in… lemme check my watch… 4 hours and 59 minutes later? Not happening.
    6 a.m. is for the birds.
    I slap last night’s report down on the desk in front of the too-pert secretary. “Don’t look at the clock.”
    “You’re late.” Barra slides my folder across the desk with a whoosh. She plants her elbows on top of the angel-white desk, smirking at me. Little twerp. Like her job is hard, sitting behind a desk all day.
    “Chill. I just got the call half hour ago when I dragged my burnt-out behind out of bed. Shoulda called in sick.”
    “You take a half hour?” She raises an eyebrow. I feint a punch—feint, I swear—that barely misses her head as she ducks. I warn’t gonna hit her on purpose. Like I need more trouble with Sarge.
    “Mornin’ Sarge.” I saunter through the wide open doors into his office. ‘Course he glares in my direction. He’s got no other facial expression.
    “You’re late.”
    “Yeah.” I slump down into one of his office chairs before his desk. “You got something for me?”
    “You could say that.” He slips his wire-rimmed glasses lower down over his greasy nose and passes a slip of paper across the desk. A pic of a pale chick in a blue dress. Crystal slippers.
    “Cinderella again? What’d she do now?”
    “It wasn’t her this time.” Sarge turns back to his overly-large, antique computer and types away. “I’m sending you to the AU department, southern France, circa 1697 anno domini.”
    “Perrault?” I roll my eyes. “Please, not the Perrault again. Remember what happened when I got stuck with Rapunzel.”
    “Stop complaining and just listen already. You’re trying my patience, Agent Gormal.”
    When he gives us that look, well, we listen. Ain’t much else a person can do less they want to get fired. I lean forward in my chair, get a closer look at this Cinderella.
    “Fine then. What happened?”
    “Cinderella was murdered last night, before our nameless Prince Charming discovered her identity.”

    Chapter 2
    Location: anwindlyn, France
    Time: late into the night

    Anastasia stood over poor little Cinderella’s body, staring at the grimy blood, slimy blood, coating the tip of the high-heeled crystal slipper. This was not supposed to happen in this manner.
    Cinderella was supposed to be kept at home, picking the lentils from the fireplace. Cinderella should have done as she was told.
    But no, she had to somehow gather every lentil into the pot. She had to find herself the most lovely gown, made of silver, with crystal slippers. She had to catch the prince’s attention.
    Anastasia wanted the prince.

    1. Hi, Rebekah, very entertaining and great characterization through Agent Gormal's language, vocabulary, action, attitudes toward others, and thoughts. We have a very strong sense of personality and it's all done very well through showing, without ever 'telling' us anything.

      I came into it for some reason assuming Agent Gormal is (from the name Aine?) but realized you never actually say. We could probably do with some description of Gormal--tall, short, fat, thin, hair color, muscled, paunchy, young, older? Does she come in with her hair neatly combed and styled or thrown back in a ponytail unbrushed with chunks of hair sticking up everywhere and mismatched socks? (I'm guessing the latter, but it would make a nice detail to mention something along the lines of what she had, or didn't bother having for breakfast or that she wasn't going to rush through finding two socks....or whatever.)

      One thing I think you've done well is given distinct personality and character to everyone, including the minor characters. We don't see much of Barra--but already we have a sense of her personality and her relationship with Gormal. We already have a sense of Anastasia's personality even in so few words.

      I would suggest, since this is chapter one, giving the reader an idea what Gormal's position is at FTID, and telling the reader what FTID stands for, and what AU stands for.

      Consider giving just a little more description to Cinderella in chapter two. We only see 'body' and then a much more detailed 'tip of the high-heeled crystal slipper.' As a reader, I want to see at least a little more of Cinderella herself--the color of her hair, are her cheeks pale or rosy, are her eyes open or closed, are her limbs splayed as if she fell from somewhere, is there an expression on her face relating to whatever she last saw or does she appear to have been completely unaware of whatever was coming?

      Anastasia's callousness is obvious, but I think showing Cinderella in a bit more detail would put the reader right into the scene and also bring out Anastasia's personality and character traits even more by showing her callousness against a very clear image of Cinderella, someone the reader can more clearly relate to because they've seen her as a human being.

      Also, tell us where Anastasia is with Cinderella's body--at the bottom of a flight of marble stairs, in a storeroom beneath the castle, in the stables, in a grand sitting room inside the castle, in a forest? Is it dark or light, cold or warm?

      I would love to read more of this. It starts off with a promise of a very entertaining and fun read. It reminds me of a series my kids and I love (the name of which has slipped my mind).

    2. Artemis Fowl! That's the series I'm thinking of! Have you ever read it? Artemis Fowl is very like Agent Gormal in personality and the whole book is set within a world of fairies and elves, yet a world more like our own, with a police agency and so on, than the normal fantasy view of fairies and elves.

    3. I haven't read it, but it's now on my tbr list!

      Thanks for the critique!


Hi! Now that you've read my post, hast thou any opinions that thou wouldst like to share? I'd love to hear them!

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