Saturday, December 7, 2013

First 250 Words Smash! #25x3

Most Wonderful Author: Kaitlyn Noble
Most Evil Critique Master: Sarah
Working Title: The Underground Prince
History: Previous Submission || First Submission


Previous Submission:

One moment I am laughing with my father. The next thing I know, the castle I call home is a war zone.

Father tells me to go into my room and lock the door until he says it is safe. I can hear in his voice that he’s scared but trying to hide it, so I hide my own fear and stand a little straighter. Right after I agree, father runs down the hall with my uncle towards the armory. I obey my father’s orders and run towards my room, excitement in my veins that there’s actual fighting going on, but also fear. Fear of what might happen. Knights and guards are blurred shadows as they hurry past me. Servants and other castle workers scatter in all directions. Some carry bed sheets or baskets of food, since they were trying to prepare supper beforehand. One slams against the old tapestry in the dining hall, and it moves uneasily. As I run past, a few servants tell me to get to my quarters before I am killed, either by the enemy or my father, because I’m “too young to be so close to the fighting.”

As I round another corner, boots sliding on the slick rock, I hear bits and pieces of news about the battle. “The Galbactians have attacked!” “They’ve come back with a vengeance this time ‘round!” “They’re gaining ground fast, they’ve already breached the inner walls!” There’s one bit though that makes my heart stop.


Revision:

One moment I am laughing with my father. The next thing I know, the castle I call home is a war zone.

Father tells me to go into my room and lock the door until he says it is safe. The words are spoken anxiously, his voice low and firm. I nod once and force my shaky legs to stand straighter and be still. Right after this, father runs down the hall with my uncle towards the armory. I let my posture slouch in defeat and run towards my room, annoyed that there is actual fighting going on that I must miss. It’s hard to keep my hands from punching the nearest wall as the blurry, fleeting shadows of the castle guards hurry past. The further I go, the more servants and other castle workers I see scattering in all directions. Some carry bed sheets or baskets of food, since they were trying to prepare supper beforehand. One stumbles and slams against the old tapestry in the dining hall, and it moves uneasily. A few glare at me, shouting for me to get to my quarters before I am killed, either by the enemy or my father, because I’m “too young to be so close to the fighting.” 
As I round another corner, my boots sliding on the slick rock, I hear bits and pieces of news about the battle. “The Galbactians have attacked!” “They’ve come back with a vengeance this time ‘round!”


Strong Points:
As you might have noticed, I’ll be taking over this revision on Victoria’s behalf to help give more perspective in this revision. I volunteered myself right before she volunteered me, so I’m happy to put in my thoughts!

I can see how you’ve applied some of what Victoria’s said, and that’s awesome. There are some new details, and also “showing” of his frustration through the line, “It’s hard to keep my hands from punching the nearest wall,” which is a solid sign of characterization that we didn’t have before. The additions definitely help.


Some Tips:
However, while the additions help, revisions are still quite timid and minute. I understand what Victoria’s been trying to explain about this intro, and while there are certainly some improvements, her points still stand: the intro reads like a summary of events. It feels like the main character is recounting over dinner to someone a moment that happened. I’m not fully immersed in the story because the action is described in a retrospective way.

Let’s take the very first line.

One moment I am laughing with my father. The next thing I know, the castle I call home is a war zone.

This is a summary. In fact, this could be the first line of a synopsis (which is usually in third person, not first, although it’s not unheard of). I can picture reading the summary on the back of the book and this being the first line. That’s cool, but it’s not as effective in the actual story.

This is what Victoria means by telling. That first line is the core example of “telling” versus “showing”, and while there are certainly times where “telling” is absolutely appropriate (and some might argue that this might actually work here), both Victoria and I agree that this opening line loses the potential drama of the intro.

What Victoria has been trying to explain is to utilize action for greater impact. Let’s take the very first line here:

One moment I am laughing with my father.

This can be unpacked with action. What are they talking about? Where are they? What’s the relationship between them? What’s their connection? What do they look like? All of these potential questions are lost because, instead of beginning with action, the action is summarized.

The next thing I know, the castle I call home is a war zone.

‘War zone’ means nothing to the reader. Was there an explosion? Are there fires? Did someone run in and announce a siege on the castle? What are the stakes? What is the conflict?

Also, ‘The next thing I know’ or other modern idiosyncrasies are actually kind of like ‘throwaway lines’, or clich├ęd phrases that don’t really carry their weight.

Let me try to give a real concrete example of what I mean. Keep in mind that this is just my own personal exploration of the story and not intended to be used for anything other than just a basic example. Let’s take the third line:

Father tells me to go into my room and lock the door until he says it is safe.

And to demonstrate “unpacking”, “showing” and “action”, I’ll write it like this:

He grabs me by the shoulders, his leather hands too stiff. “Son, go to your chamber.” I hardly recognize his voice, both stern and firm, yet each word quivered on the tip of his tongue. “Lock the doors. Stay quiet. Stay hidden. Do not come out until I’ve sent word it’s safe.”

My own voice cracks in my throat. “Father—”

A resounding boom rocks the castle and challenges my balance. Father recovers first and shoves me away. “Go.”

Again, this is just an example of something that could have been explored from that single line, where the narrative can take the reader into “the moment” of the story instead of glaze over it. I want to see how dad’s anxious, not just have it told to me. Moments like these are what really bring home the contrast and stakes of the story.

For me, the entire first line can be unpacked to fill the first 250 words. I can see it. There’s a lot that we lose as readers when it’s all crammed together into a single line of telling. Personally, I would definitely suggest a whole rewrite, because I think you can do much better than this. Brave restarting fresh and think about what matters as you write—what should be conveyed, and how.

But before you brave another revision, I’d definitely advise you to check out our masterpost of exercises. Some of the exercises also have examples, and I’d recommend checking into those as well (especially on the pacing side, because I think that’ll help you a lot).

Also, I’d recommend picking up a book in your genre (middle grade or young adult fantasy, I’d guess) and read critically like a writer. Take notes, mark passages with stickies or post-its, and really learn how the author’s craft functions in scenes like yours. Study how the author keeps the reader rooted in the story and avoids summarizing events (or, conversely, uses summaries of events to benefit the story, because not all “telling” is bad).


Would I Keep Reading?
I want to see some big changes if you decide to do another revision – I’d also be super excited if you did. I love to see huge improvement, and once you let go and really get into revising, I think you’ll do something awesome!

Good luck! ♥

1 comment:

  1. Hello!
    I think the opening is interesting and it would be wonderful to read the whole.
    Also I think the critic is very constructive and I'm learning so much just for it.
    Thanks!!!
    Elisa,(14- Spain)

    ReplyDelete