Monday, July 1, 2013

First 250 Words Smash! #21

Most Wonderful Author: Ariana
Most Evil Critique Master: Sarah
Working Title: N/A

Everyone in Miss Sue’s home knew how much I liked to sleep in as long as possible, even when it was a school day. So obviously, that was the one thing that wasn’t possible for me. It wasn’t the whole idea of waking up that I had a problem with. Actually, it was the sound of an air horn going off right next to my ear.

The sound woke me instantly, and as I did every time this happened, I sat up with a jolt, momentarily forgetting that I was sleeping in the top bunk. As usual, I collided with the ceiling, further molding an impression of my forehead into the drywall. I was actually surprised there weren’t any cracks yet. As I groaned in pain, rubbing my head, there were the unmistakable giggles of my worst enemy.

“Ahhhahahaha! Gotcha Scottie!” laughed my ten-year-old roommate.

I turned to face the blonde-headed menace, but he bolted from the room. “Simon! You are SO dead!” These words barely left my mouth before I jumped out of bed, running after the little pest that I was forced to share a room with.

As surprising as this may sound, this scenario was not unusual. Simon somehow knew the exactly when I wanted to sleep in and planned his attacks accordingly. I’m not exactly sure what possessed him to make my life miserable, but for whatever reason he found pleasure in it. I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised since he had autism after all.

Strong Points –
There’s some good characterization here, as in I could just about peg how old Simon was even without the giveaway. Scottie’s voice is pretty definite as well, and he sounds more mature than his ten-year-old counterpart, which, I’m wondering if he’s not really older at all and if being in a home has forced him to grow up a little faster than most kids do. That’s just the sense I get!

I also liked how the action reveals a part of the setting, like how Scottie bolts upright without even realizing he’s in the top bunk, hitting his head off the ceiling. That’s an awesome way of naturally revealing surroundings as characters interact with them. I also love the image of the ceiling with the impression of his forehead. Little details that bring some real character to the bedroom.

Some Tips –
There’s a lot of telling that isn’t needed in the intro, and I understand the compulsion to fill in all these gaps as quickly as possible when the story begins with action, but the filler isn’t reading organically and actually slows what should be a quick pace.

As an example, the first paragraph could be cut entirely, beginning with the horn blaring and Scottie smacking his head off the ceiling. Now, instead of the scene reading like he jolts awake, hits his head, recovers, realizes it’s Simon and chases after him, the scene reads more like he thinks about how the sound makes him hit his head every time, and then he hits his head, and then he thinks about how he’s surprised the ceiling doesn’t have any cracks yet, and then he recovers, and then he chases after Simon and begins reminiscing about it and how Simon’s autistic.

That exposition dramatically slows down the story, and it also gives the narration more of this recounting feeling, instead of an event currently happening that the reader is entrenched in. My advice is to cut out all that unnecessary filler, let the story unfold naturally, and drop those details sparingly, or imply them and let the audience infer it themselves. Don’t be afraid to let readers walk ahead as opposed to holding their hand and leading them step-by-step.

Also, think about how you’re using your dialogue tags, not just in this passage but throughout your story. The one used here is quite redundant, since the dialogue shows Simon laughing, and the dialogue tag is, “he laughed”.

I can also tell from “These words barely left my mouth before I jumped out of bed” because this stage direction comes after the dialogue has already been spoken. Think about the placement of stage direction and dialogue, which is leading into which, because if dialogue is explained after it’s already been spoken, the reader either ignores it and moves on, or has to stop and reread.

Be aware of word choices, and it’s good to be specific. “I collided with the ceiling” gives the image of Scottie bodily colliding with the ceiling instead of simply his forehead. Also, “there were the unmistakable giggles of my worst enemy.” Where were the unmistakable giggles? “There” doesn’t tell us.

Some details could be unpacked, such as “I jumped out of bed, running after”, since he’s on the top bunk and I found myself wanting a better visual of this. I’d also suggest avoiding clichés, such as “my worst enemy”, “blonde-headed menace”, and “the little pest”. Even if your audience is middle grade or younger teen, clichés are like a comfort blanket, widely understood, safe, but also substitutes for braver, more telling word choices.

Finally, I think it’d help to have someone who knows their grammar and punctuation to check over a chapter or so with explanations to all their edits. Comma placement is a pretty tricky thing, and seriously subjective!

Would I Keep Reading?
Not quite yet. Though there are some enticing questions presented in the opening, I’d like to see some more done with the narrative first! (Also, feel free to take what I said here and apply it to the other intro you sent us and resubmit – I haven’t read it yet, since I like to do fresh readings, but you might find similar issues you can fix.)

Good luck! ♥

No comments:

Post a Comment