Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Critiquing Opportunity! Rachel Greene!

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

How this works -

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

Sound awesome? Awesome!

Rachel Green (Aubrey Hansen)
Christian/Sci-fi/Alternative History



  1. Hit me with your best shot, ladies & gents! :D I do not go easy on people, but I love critiquing, so I will help you in any way I can!

  2. Thank you for offering to do this, Rachel. This section is from the beginning of my unpublished inspirational fantasy novel trilogy, Living Sacrifice.

    Zezilia (Notation for the reader to tell them who is the speaker in the 1st POV of the current section)

    I was the disappointment. On the day of my birth, my mother cried for I was not a son. The son they hoped, prayed, and sacrificed for, the seventh son who would become the Sept Son. He would have taken the highest position under the High King and restored the glory of the Ilars. I knew the story as if I had been there from before my conception. The tale of my family, Father retold it every year on the anniversary of my birth.

    I resolved this year would be different. The shame, the disgrace, and the pain in my father’s eyes might fade if I proved useful. A woman of marriageable age could advance the family by way of a profitable match. Marriage, the only way for a woman could please the goddess. I cringed.

    Glancing around the tablium, the living area of the main house, I found myself alone, which was just as well. Mother lectured a servant in the next room. My father and most of my brothers had long since scattered about the house and grounds pursuing their own interests. I was supposed to be practicing my music, but I couldn’t keep my mind on my task.

    Outside the open glass doors of our main house, the depths of gardens beckoned. I harkened their call. Behind me two of my six brothers argued loudly over who would take first in the foot race tomorrow. As their voices rose the call of the quiet appealed to me all the more. Finally I could resist no longer. Slipping through the doors, I reached the first turn of the path before they noticed my departure.

    Heavy blossoms of deep red and orange bobbed in the breeze as if ushering me into the cool depths of the gardens. The broad, deep green leaves of the organza ferns reached out to brush my face and hair, tracing dew trails over my clothing. I slipped deeper into the wild heart of the garden, down where the tamed groves gave way to the chaos of nature. The border was unmanned, but clearly marked by a vast bramble of brandleberry bushes. Unfortunately, their crimson fruit reminded me of my neglected duties.

    It was a year of six, an extra day of feasting and dancing to celebrate the goddess and her bounty to us. Only here, deep in the gardens, I could find peace from the bustle of preparation for the week ahead. Why did it have to be a long year this year, the annum of my presentation? I hated that I was born on the first day of the high week. It brought extra attention when all I wished to do was hide.

    “Child, curb your thoughts.”

    I jumped at the sudden voice, rough and raspy. Turning around in my small haven, I beheld the strangest sight. A short man, only slightly above my height, stood in the midst of the brandleberries.

    1. Your writing style is beautiful! Your command of words is strong. It's a good balance between keeping the narrative moving and inserting just enough description to add flavor without bogging it down. That is a hard balance to achieve. So based on your writing style alone, I would keep reading.

      A good amount of character and backstory was introduced, so no complaints there. My main two hesitations are these:

      --While you have a good descriptive voice, I did not get any kind of solid impression about what the time period or location was. You describe flowers and emotions well, but I didn't get a strong feel for where I was. You used a few foreign words (i.e., "tablium"), which is good, but if your only social cues are words people have to look up in the dictionary, then that isn't going to paint a clear picture for the casual reader. I would insert a few (English) descriptors here and there. Instead of saying "trails over my clothing," you could say something like "trailed over my silk dress" or "trailed over my toga"--both of which would help ground us in a time period. Right now, while your words are pretty, I feel a bit lost, since I really have no clear idea of where or when we are.

      --Other than that, my only qualm is to be careful with how you handle the arranged marriage plot. It is historically accurate for many time periods, but it is still grossly overdone. I know you write a lot of romance, so most of your readers probably love that kind of stuff. ;) Just be careful to handle it in a way that doesn't make your story seem like a copycat of so many other "I'm a woman from an ancient culture and my only purpose was for me to get married" tales. Historically accurate or no, a cliche is a cliche, and needs to be handled with a fresh voice.

    2. Thank you!

      I will definitely look over the first chapter with your comments in mind. You have a very good point about adding more clues to time period and culture even though it is a fantasy. A lost reader is never a good thing.

      I have done arranged marriage plots before, but this one isn't one of them. I intended to mention the expectations of her family and society to contrast against later when she doesn't follow anyone's expectations. :) Does that make sense? This set of books will have romance, but it won't be the main plot line, which will be introduced in the next paragraph after the end of this sample.

      Thank you again! Seeing the beginning through new eyes helps so much. :)

  3. I struggle in fight scenes and ones with high action - be as harsh as need be.... =)

    Noll watched his brother slump to the ground, a spear aimed at his neck. His face paled and he weakly clasped the sword.
    The Knight he had been fighting nodded. “We want you alive, but dead will do if it must—I leave the choice up to you. How would you like it?” Through the man’s black mask Noll saw dark eyes glistening.
    Rage and fear trickled through him. He trembled. His brother…was he dead? The evil around him felt of death. Something warm trickled down his neck. They wouldn’t kill Nick—not now. They couldn’t. They needed information…didn’t they? He’d heard them speak.
    Flee. Flee. Noll’s heart pounded. He looked over his shoulder and back at Nick. Nick moved and opened his eyes. He groaned and Noll could’ve sworn he heard it. “Run.”
    Noll glanced back again. Woods. Safety. He turned on his heels and ran.
    The two men sprinted on Noll’s heels, calling out curses and bloody threats. An arrow hissed in the air. Noll bent his head, almost doubling over.
    The moon disappeared behind the clouds once more. Weeds slapped at his legs, another arrow grazed his hand. He ran harder. His breath screamed in his lungs. The blood continued to trickle down his neck.
    Noll tore across the dark field heading towards the safety of the threes. They stood before him, black, daunting. He skidded in the dirt. Thirty paces away, then twenty, then ten. His heart hurt in his chest.
    “Almost there. I’m almost—Ahh!” His feet tripped him, and he felt himself rolling.
    Something sharp hit his arm. He cried out but his words were lost. They danced in his head. They refused to be processed.
    His thoughts began to spin faster. The darkness swirled.
    Suddenly he stopped. Silence settled. A death silence. Still. Cold. “I’m going to die. I’m… I’m sorry Nick.”

    1. This was actually pretty well-paced! You focus on the emotion (how the character FEELS about what he's doing), which is important. That made it feel more visceral and personal, and helps keep the pace moving.

      There were just a couple of places where I lost track visually of what was going on:

      --The first paragraph. This is just a case of ambiguous pronoun's (too many he's, not sure which guy is doing which action), easily fixed.

      --"They stood before him, black, daunting." While I understand that you're trying to convey that someone suddenly blocked his path, the phrasing is very passive "they stood before him" and breaks the immediacy of the rest of the scene. We were seeing this through his eyes, until this awkwardly passive phrase.

      Other than that, it was strong overall. If you use the same method for other action scenes, you should do fine. Figure out what the emotion of the scene is (in this case, fear, leaving his brother, pain, death) and who the POV character is (in this case, it was through Noll's eyes). Then make sure you tell the entire sequence through that same set of "eyes"--if it's in Noll's POV, don't deviate from what he can see and what he feels.

    2. This really helped - thanks bunches!

  4. This is from a portal story I am writing.

    Close to 20 minutes later, Maisie glanced at the clock. “Goodness! It is already 8:00! Keith, go tell your cousin that I said he had better get his backside down here or I won’t give him any breakfast before he goes to school.”
    “Oooo! Scary!”
    Everyone looked up. Alex stood in the doorway…still in his pajamas.
    Maisie, hands on her hips, glared at him. “Young man, just what do you think you are doing down here in your pajamas?”
    ”I’m getting up so that I can have some breakfast!” his innocent tone made Keith roll his eyes and Maisie shake her head, but Wil and Mel burst into giggles. Rommie gave them a warning look, choking back a snicker of her own, but it only sent them into bigger fits. Alex winked at them as he slipped past his mother and behind Rommie reaching out to steal a piece or fruit from her bowl.
    “Would you like to die today?” Rommie’s tone was quite normal, but she held a wooden spoon poised to come down hard on the hand of anyone who dared to snitch.
    “You’re no fun!” he complained.
    “We are plenty of fun…when you play the right games!” she retorted as she began mixing the fruit again. Quick as lightning Alex’s hand shoot towards the bowl but Rommie grabbed his wrist before he even touched it and grinned triumphantly up at him.
    “There is nothing you can try that will catch me off guard!” she told him sweetly, “Remember, I have 4 brothers!” Everyone else in the kitchen clapped and cheered. Alex headed towards the door pretending to pout. In the doorway he turned and shot Rommie a grin. “Be back in five, Mom,” he said. They heard his voice in the hallway and a few seconds later Ori and Felicia came into the kitchen.
    ”I’m so sorry we’re late,” Ori apologized. “Rommie I can’t believe that you let me sleep through my alarm!”
    “You have been really tired lately,” replied Rommie, her eyes twinkling mischievously.
    ”Where did that come from?” asked Ori.
    “Oh, that was the excuse that Wil used when I found her and Mel down here in their Prince John’s.”
    “Oh really?” Ori turned to the two youngest girls. They hung their heads. “We will be having a talk later,” she informed them.

    1. What's the purpose of this scene? Clearly you have several unique characters with great personalities and interesting relationships. But this conversation itself lacks a clear motivation, or punchline, if you will. Is Alex stealing fruit the main joke? Or is the main point a mother's struggle to get all her kids down to breakfast before the bus leaves? Is the primary purpose to show how the kids interact in the morning? Right now it rambles--too many characters, too many conversations, too many punchlines. It makes it hard to keep track of who's who. Fiction is real life with all the boring stuff cut out (or so they say), so when dealing with scenes like this with a lot of characters and a lot of moving parts, it's best to pick a main goal and stick with it. Then we'll be able to appreciate your unique, dimensional characters more, instead of trying to track too many conversations.

    2. :) Yeah, this is the end of a scene. Thinking about it now, I should have picked a different one, because this doesn't make as much sense without the previous part.

  5. At last came the gifts, and the fairies lined up to see the infant princess and bestow their gifts. Everyone listened with bated breath.
    “Beauty,” said Anathese. “With chestnut curls and eyes like stars, her beauty shall be surpassed by none.”
    ‘‘Song,” said Belinda. “Her voice shall be as sweet as a songbird’s, and she shall own the command over any instrument.”
    “Grace,” said Chamomile. “On the dance floor and off, she shall command the grace and poise to charm all who see her.”
    “Wit,” said Destinia. “She shall never be at a loss for words.”
    “Wisdom,” Emmala added. “She shall also know when to hold her tongue.”
    “Kindness,” said Frannis. “She shall have a large and open heart for all she knows, and for her people.”
    Olgerta now stepped up to the child’s side and clucked her tongue. “Such a tiny thing she is to demand our attention and magic,” she observed. “I suppose I shall forgive her parents’ slight against me, and give her a gift of my own.”
    The entire room collected their breath together. Here it came: the curse of spindles and death.
    “Love,” she said, after taking a moment to revel in the suspense. “In her sixteenth year, she shall find true love, taste true love’s first kiss, and die in her lover’s arms.”
    The king sprang to his feet. “You cannot! The fairy tale—”
    “The stories don’t always flow the same way, my king. She shall be a Sleeping Beauty, and that is all that matters.” With a cackle and a burst of smoke, Olgerta disappeared from sight.
    The silence was deadly, and all eyes turned to Geneva, the youngest fairy, who was supposed to give the antidote to the curse.
    “Death-like sleep!” she spluttered, knowing what was expected of her. “She won’t die, just fall asleep, only to be awakened by” – the normal cure was true love’s kiss, but Olgerta had just declared that to be the curse – “perhaps a spinning wheel shall help?”
    The king went to his young daughter’s side and brushed a finger over her dark curls, knowing what the story now demanded of him. “If the spinning wheel shall be her salvation, then I cannot banish them. Instead, we must do what we can to prevent her falling in love. Until she turns seventeen, she shall hold no contact with any young man within twenty years of her age, be they prince, servant, or peasant. Perhaps then the curse may yet be adverted.”

    1. Well that started off very familiar and then took a turn... :D

      This is a great twist on the story. In terms of plot, I have no complaints.

      That seems like an excessive amount of fairies. Not that you have to have just three, but that's a ton to keep track of. Do you need that many for the story?

      The dialog is good overall, but I feel like more attention should be made to Olgerta. There should be more drama, more flourish, more presentation. You don't need to slow it to a crawl--if you're going for a classic fairytale feel, you want to keep it short and sweet--but right now you glaze over a huge, important part of the story (the other fairies' blessings, the curse, AND the king's response) in 500 words. That's a bit of a breathless pace. Even fairytales take some time to use rich language to convey the emotion of the scene.

      Similarly, more attention to the youngest fairy's feelings, and the king's grief and response, would be good.

      Basically, this feels almost like an outline. The content is all good, but it's just a bit hasty, that not enough attention is being given to pivotal plot points.

    2. Seven is actually the traditional number for the fairies, and this chapter is pretty much the only time you'll see them. I like having the full seven because it gives me more liberty with the gifts.

      I'll keep the rest in mind though!

    3. Okay, just have to mention that this was AH-MAZING and I seriously need more! I want the rest of it so bad :D. Are you planning to publish this story at some point, Kendra?

      ~ Savannah

    4. This is Poison Kiss, and will probably be the next book that I publish. I just need to finish writing the last two-three chapters, do the edits, and find a cover art.

  6. This is a scene from chapter 2 of my WIP, Surrender's Strength, Book 3 in my Truth from Taerna series. Thank you for being willing to critique!

    The platform at Cross-Country Central was gray and indistinct in the foggy dark. Faintly, Laelara caught a glimpse of dark figures moving to and fro across it. “Two other passengers, at least,” Father noted as he stopped the oxen. With a deft motion borne of a practiced hand and eye, he tossed the lead rope over the hitching post, swung down from the wagon, and gave a hand to Laelara to help her over the wheel. With her trunk in his other hand, he accompanied her across the intervening space to the platform.
    Climbing the six wooden steps, Laelara glanced from side to side. No stage yet. She must not be late. Father headed straight for the other end of the platform, where a wall studded with windows and a door rose. At one of the open windows, Father spoke to someone inside, then Father returned to Laelara.
    “Your passage ticket,” Father explained, holding out a small square. “Show it to the coach driver, and he will let you on. And someone from the school will meet you in Syorien.”
    “Thank you.” Laelara strained to speak in a prim voice. She reached out and took the ticket from his hand. This was a little uncomfortable. She wasn’t a child anymore.
    “May Adon Olam be with you,” Father spoke. “May His guidance follow every step of your way.”
    “Thank you.” The words came out more naturally this time.
    “Can I—can we pray?”
    Laelara shrugged. “Of course.”
    Father reached for her hand and raised his head. Laelara glanced uncomfortably from side to side before also raising her head. The other people on the platform didn’t appear to be paying any attention…but still…so many people scoffed at those who followed Adon Olam. Her attention snapped guiltily to Father’s words.
    “…and be with her and guide her everywhere she goes and in everything she does. May she know You in all of her ways. May she delight in You and find You as her everything. Thank you, Adon Olam. So be it, even so.”
    “Even so,” Laelara muttered, quickly lowering her head. She sneaked a few glances from side to side. Good, they hadn’t gained anyone’s attention.
    “Laelara Ellith.” Father rested his hand on her shoulder for a moment. “Adon—Adon Olam be with you.” He paused. “Come back and visit. I will see you—see you later.”
    “See you later,” Laelara echoed.
    She gazed into his eyes for a long moment. He gazed back. Why were goodbyes so awkward? She felt trapped, not able to say what she truly felt or thought.
    Sighing, she pressed her lips tightly together and nodded. “Goodbye.”
    Was that almost a sob? Laelara grasped her trunk and turned towards the front of the platform. Still no coach was in sight.

    1. This is solid, but lacks a little bit of flavor. It's competent, and it's clear what's going on, and you have a couple good phrases of description. But it feels a little bit stiff. Consider coloring the text with a few more well-placed phrases of description (you don't need to bog it down, but a sentence here, or a word or two here, can add a lot of color) and using stronger, more emotional verbs. "Muttered" is a strong word--it has a feeling. "Paused" does not. It doesn't give us a very visceral experience. We don't FEEL his hesitation. This is a big moment for these characters, to let a little more of themselves seep in, so we feel with them, instead of just observing narration.

    2. Thanks! I will keep this in mind as I edit this scene.


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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