Thursday, April 25, 2013

First 250 Words Smash! #13

Most Wonderful Author: Karlia || disneyprincehiddles @ tumblr
Most Evil Critique Master:
Working Title:

The thing about duels is, there's supposed to be a winner. Only this time, Katiana knew that even if she didn't lose, all was still lost. With one hand behind her back and the other holding a rapier pointed at her opponent, Kat started thinking hard and fast.

How to win. How to win and then get out of here. How to win, get out of here and NOT give away her purpose for falling into this mess to begin with.

Internally Kat winced at that thought. Sir would NOT be happy with her if she gave his identity away before all was ready for him.

Strong Points –
Definitely bold of you in sending us only 106 words! This opening is good in that it’s quick to ask the Big Question and instantly generates tension. Very sweet. I love that it doesn’t waste time in jumping to the story.

Some Tips –
I actually think infusing words with stronger connotations and weight into the narrative would generate more connection and even more tension. This writing exercise has tips on how to do that.

An example is when she’s holding the rapier, but “holding” itself is a very neutral word, more mileage would come from unpacking her apprehension by using a stronger word, such as gripping or squeezing. Maybe her fingers tremble, maybe her palm is sweaty, maybe the tendons in her arm are pulled tight.

Also, the opening lines are a bit telling versus showing, which is typically a no-no. I’m on the fence about them, but I wonder if they’re trying a bit too hard for the dramatic flair, or giving away a little too much too quickly.

The opening sentence could certainly be condensed to something along the lines of “Duels are supposed to have a winner,” and then continue into your second sentence. “The thing about” and other empty phrases don’t carry their weight in narratives. Sometimes they work for character voice, but oftentimes they come off clunky, and when a phrase becomes cliché, readers tend to skim them anyway. You don’t want your readers to ever skim over your narrative.

I’d also suggest you read Writing What Your CharacterThinks, as I believe that might help you integrate your character’s thoughts more naturally into your narrative. It could also help you to read about “distancing phrases”, which is found in Breaking Writing Habits.

Additionally, be wary of using mixed actions that don’t make sense, such as “Internally Kat winced,” as the word “winced” is a physical gesture, not a mental gesture, as implied.

I’d recommend getting to know some more rules of grammar and format. Comma splices, such as in the first sentence, are often jarring. The idea communicated in the second sentence is muddled with the arrangement of each subordinate clause, and the commas also fracture the flow. This is a question of style, of course, but it’s still a good guideline to keep the idea communicated in each sentence as clear as possible. Keep in mind that each comma is a natural pause.

Also, in regards to formatting, words in complete caps for emphasis generally go against formatting rules (though I have seen contemporary YA fiction that utilizes all-caps). Usually, stick to italics, but a guideline that my professor once told us is to use italics only when emphasizing a word completely changes what the sentence means.

 “I didn’t know she was going to wear that sweater.”


“I didn’t know she was going to wear that sweater.”

Or even:
“I didn’t know she was going to wear that sweater.”

Would I Keep Reading?
Not quite yet, not until the prose is strengthened and the flow moves at an easier current. I like the conflict and I like that we start with the action, but I think more work on the narrative would help tremendously!

I know you’ve been waiting a long time, so I hope you revise and resubmit. I’d really like to see what you do and I want to say yes!

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