Most Evil Critique Master: Sarah
Working Title: The Beginning
Every fibre in her body told her to run. She didn’t though.
Hop then. Hop if you need to.
She still didn’t. Instead, she fiddled with a stray piece of her brown hair nervously, waiting for something to happen. Body poised, she stayed crouched, waiting. Maybe an order from Snake, or Magpie would come through. Her ear piece was silent though, only static streaming through.
She felt nervous. Something should have happened by now. She should be on her way back to base by now... not crouching there like a petrified rabbit. Ironic, considering her code name was rabbit.
This thought did not make her smile though, or ease her frayed nerves. Alys wanted to be back in her room curled up where it was safe, reading. Back in a familiar environment. This should be a quick mission, checking out an area for Intel, see if they could save some children. She felt like she was in danger out here, where people could hurt her, harm her. She did not like the stillness, it made her feel unsafe, targeted. It made her feel like someone might shoot her-
Wait, there was an order.
‘Rabbit, go back to base. Everything’s clear, over and out!’ Her ear piece relayed, buzzing in her ear. Euphoria washed over her, and she quickly concentrated, the familiar feeling washing over her. She could see in her mind’s eye that it would take at least four hops to get near the base, maybe five.
Strong Points –
I like that the passage builds on tension right away. The question of conflict is a quick way to draw a reader right in, asking a big question that only reading on can answer. This can be a very tough thing to do in just a few paragraphs, but it comes through nice and strongly. The way she fidgets and the way she’s poised and ready and waiting are the strongest, clearest conveyers of tension while still giving readers something to picture. Even the mention of stillness really twists up the nerves.
Some Tips –
There’s a lot of unpacking that can be done with this, overall, but mainly we can sum it up in two categories:
- Distancing phrases
I’m tackling the setting, specifically her surroundings, because I haven’t got a single bit of it yet. I was able to get a bit of Alys, crouched and waiting, but I couldn’t see where she was crouched, what the area was like around her. I didn’t have a place to picture the area she’s checking for Intel, or the stillness. Her fidgeting and her posture gave me a great taste of her, and a taste is a good measure for an opening scene, but I didn’t get any taste of the where. The World in Words exercise might help you out there, especially with the tips section.
Now, with distancing phrases (which you can read a little more about from the article I linked to you, a bit further down as well), as an example, feel/felt is used a total of five times in the passage. Phrases like this can be useful when trying to communicate a sense of uncertainty in what the character is feeling, or a sense of removal or distance, but that isn’t the case here. The main character is very close to her chemistry and what she’s feeling. The Breathing Atmosphere exercise help you with that.
Also, many other words are reused, such as “though”, “through”, “by now”, “washing/ed over her”. These words draw attention to themselves because, while common, aren’t common enough to go without notice. Also, they might be word tics. These are words that writers cling to, comfortable words that allow writers to coast instead of explore new ways to describe things. Try writing without using any of these words, break the habit, or search the entire story for how often you use these words. Then, you’ll start to see how often they actually do show up, and when you go to use it as you’re writing, you’ll be more aware of it.
The repetition also manifests in other ways, such as announcing “Wait, there was an order” just before giving the order, and then giving the order and announcing it after with, “Her ear piece relayed, buzzing in her ear.” These extra repeating phrases don’t carry their weight in the narrative. Paring it down to only the necessary bits, such as the ear piece buzzing and the actual order, would cut out a lot of fat and allow more of an opportunity for other things to be introduced sooner.
It might help to check out some of the other exercises, such as making description work harder, unpacking details, and maybe conveying mood. Playing around with these might help build on tools to bring out more details wherever possible.
Also, make sure to check out proper formatting for manuscripts, because bold is very rarely used.
Would I Keep Reading?
I’d rather wait to see the writing made stronger. For now, it’s a no, but I hope these tips help and I’d definitely like to see a resubmission!
Good luck! ♥