Most Evil Critique Master: Sarah
Working Title: N/A
The word is only a single passenger on the train rocketing around inside Annabelle’s mind, merely one of a never-ending list, each as clear and sharp as a summer morning without any of the warmth. A shiver runs up her spine now, one born of emotion and not temperature, and hands shift over her body. Brown eyes, still filled with sleep, are locked onto the reflection in the toothpaste-spattered mirror. They watch in revulsion as skin and fat and muscle spring back into place as the grip on her thighs releases, reforming into a thick wobbling mass near the join of legs to body.
Now it’s time for her belly to suffer the spotlight. Both hands rest flat on the flab above her waist and Annabelle pushes it in as hard as she can, sucking her stomach in at the same time. Digging her fingers in slightly finds the elusive hipbones hidden beneath the surface of flesh but no matter how hard she pushes or pulls they are never visible in the mirror. She can’t even get rid of the small bulge over her lower abdomen that protrudes slightly even when she’s pulling in with everything she’s got.
Disgusting is the wrong word to use. It’s not strong enough, though for others it might be felt to convey the proper level of feeling. But there’s only one word for her, only one that can ever convey the hateful disgust that fills her.
“Fat,” she whispers to herself.
Strong Points –
The voice is very strong, with a subtle degree of intensity that I really like. Already I feel like Annabelle is a real person, and I can feel the things she feels about her body. This is a great example of showing instead of telling, because the strength in the narrative is how she shows us her fingers sinking into her flesh and searching out her hipbones. Those actions resound the strongest and really leave a sharp first impression.
Some Tips –
Structurally, you’ve really got it going. The only tips I can offer are to hone what you’ve got. The two metaphors in the beginning, for example, clash and confuse. The first one could have been simply because I misread it, but one of the first things I look for in the opening is a place to put my feet, a place to find grounding, and I automatically read that she was actually on a passenger train. This could be my own error.
The second metaphor is not strong enough. You’re at the level where you’ve got some awesome language developing, but you need to work on unpacking ideas. How is a summer morning “clear” and “sharp”? I like the addition of “without the warmth”, I love it, I think it’s totally original, but make your summer morning crisper, less vague, so that it’s at the same level as “without the warmth”.
Also, in the same vein, try to avoid using the word “they”. The sentences in your particular style are longer, wordier, less streamlined and more of a tangle (which isn’t a bad thing, and I think it really goes with the tangle of Annabelle's emotions, but could benefit from a couple more commas for natural pauses), so the subject that “they” refers to (such as her eyes or hipbones) gets muddled. If that happens, breaking up the sentences always helps. So, work on specificity, even with such phrases as “pulling in”, and unpack little things, such as “revulsion”.
The last bit on style is to be aware of the arrangement of the words. For example, “Digging her fingers in slightly finds the elusive hipbones”. I’m not sure to read it as “digging her fingers in” and “slightly finds the elusive hipbones”, or if I should read it as “digging her fingers in slightly” and “finds the elusive hipbones”. The latter is probably the correct version, but when I have to pause and reread, the structure isn't the strongest it could be.
On a more personal bit, I’m not too fond of the two words of talking to herself (both “disgusting” and “fat”) purely for the reason that I think the strength of your narrative alone completely overshadows those two words and really speaks stronger for itself. This is my personal opinion, but her actions are dominant enough to hold the opening alone, and I feel like the two words of dialogue distract from that. I think they're too "telling" for how good your "showing" is.
The same goes with “Now it’s time for her belly to suffer the spotlight.” This is a transition that isn’t needed. It doesn’t carry its weight and it straddles redundancy when her actions only echo this transition. It doesn’t add enough.
Would I Keep Reading?
Yes. The writing’s strong and I know it can get stronger, and if ever you send in a revision, I’d definitely be excited to see improvement!
Good luck! ♥