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Public Critique: Excerpt of DAWNSHIFT

Here's the second and last critique for this week, a 250-word excerpt from Ellen Wardle's YA paranormal DAWNSHIFT.  If you have the time, please give it a read and offer any advice or constructive criticism you may have.  I'll be adding my critique comment later today.  If you're interested in having a query, synopsis, or excerpt posted on Lit Rambles for critique, check out my contribute page.

DAWNSHIFT
(excerpt)
YA Paranormal
By Ellen Wardle

1. BURNT BLOOD

It was dark, the night sky was black and smooth like star-spangled velvet overlain with strips of mist and far-off snippets of the milky-way. I stepped backwards, my foot crushed a twig, it snapped with the sound of a gunshot. I felt my heart catching in my throat. I wasn’t scared of the darkness, no; I’d never been scared of the dark. I was scared of what was hidden in the darkness, the blackest night. But I was ready for it too. I was ready for him.

I could feel him close by; could feel the fear and anticipation that happened every time I had gotten this close; Every time I missed him.

Not tonight, I thought to myself, not tonight. Tonight was my night and I was ready. It had taken me months, over a year, to get to this stage. I was not losing tonight.

I knew he was watching from somewhere out there in that velvety blackness, he could be a hundred meters in any direction; I felt the hairs on the back of my neck raise and prickle I knew those blue eyes were on me, he was out there somewhere.

“Come on,” I whispered into the darkness. “Show yourself.”

I knew he could hear my voice just as easily as he could hear my pounding heartbeat. But I was ready.

“Hello Dawn.”

I whipped round, he had spoken pleasantly, like I was his friend not his hunter, like I wasn’t ambushing him here in the dark.

10 comments:

  1. Firstly, I suggest losing the entire first paragraph. It's not adding much to this scene other than filler description, and you don't want to bog down your opening with it.

    Secondly, there's some issue with repetition here. You used "feel" twice in a single sentence. "Tonight" four times in the third paragraph. "Felt" again in the fourth paragraph. And repeated instances of "dark", "night", "black", "blackness", "darkness". Show how dark it is through the way your character moves and experiences things. Don't just keep reminding your reader. You also have several instances of heart descriptions, which can be fine, but not on one page.

    Overall, be careful of how you use repetition in your descriptions. Showing instead of telling can help a lot with this, and trust that your reader can follow along.

    Best of luck!

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  2. I agree with Elizabeth on the first paragraph. I'd start with "I could feel him close by" then cut to paragraph three. All the atmosphere is still there and you're zooming into an exciting story.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Ellen!

    You have a great start here, but it looks like you need to brush up on punctuation. I see a number of comma splices and run-ons.

    I've done an example critique of a few of your paragraphs. Hopefully you can make sense of it. The comment box isn't letting me use strike out!

    ***

    It was dark [PERIOD]. The night sky was black and smooth like star-spangled velvet overlain with strips of mist and far-off snippets of the milky-way [SENTENCE TOO WORDY] . I stepped back[REMOVED "wards"], right on a twig [PERIOD]. It snapped like a gunshot in the quiet [PERIOD][ADJUSTED WORDING]. I felt my heart catch[REMOVED "ing"] in my throat. I wasn’t scared of the darkness, no; I’d never been scared of the dark. I was scared of what was hidden in the darkness [REMOVED WORDS]. [REMOVED WORDs]. [BUT] I was ready for him.

    I knew he was watching from somewhere [REMOVED WORDS] in [REMOVED WORD] the velvety blackness [PERIOD]. He could be a hundred meters in any direction[PERIOD]. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck raise and prickle[SEMI-COLON HERE INSTEAD?]; I knew those blue eyes were on me [PERIOD]. He was out there somewhere.

    I whipped round [PERIOD]. He had spoken pleasantly, like I was his friend not his hunter, like I wasn’t ambushing him here in the dark.

    ***

    Overall, I really like where you're starting. This has great potential as my interest is definitely piqued!

    I suggest combing over your writing for comma splices, excessive semi-colons, areas you can tighten, and repetition.

    This is just my opinion, of course. Give it some thought and use it how you will.

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  4. *throws monkeywrench into the mix*

    Hi, Ellen! Kudos for bravery on offering something you wrote for public critique. I disagree that the first paragraph should be cut. The descriptions there are an excellent way to ground the reader into the setting before the action starts. However, I highly agree with Casey that there are major punctuation errors (and not only in the first paragraph). I also think the wording could be MUCH more punchy to amp up the tension.

    Here is my suggestion on changing the first paragraph, and hopefully this will help you see how to make changes to the other parts.

    The night sky was a black velvet curtain overlain with strips of mist. I stepped back. My foot snapped a twig, sending a *crack* through the still air like a gunshot, and my heart caught in my throat. I wasn’t scared of the dark; I was scared of who was hiding in it.

    Less is more. And you can show her courage despite her fear with the events that follow, so no need to tell it outright in the first paragraph. Keep the tension high by letting us think she's just scared out of her wits, and then give us a reason to root for her when she doesn't back down later.

    Hope that helps. Good luck to you!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello ! I agree with show don't tell the reader what your character is experiencing. Show through the five senses. What does the "dark" sound like? Is there an eerie silence ? What does it smell like? Also use specific concrete details instead of saying she was "shocked" describe it as "her eyes were wide her mouth was gaping". That's all I got hope it helps.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hello ! I agree with show don't tell the reader what your character is experiencing. Show through the five senses. What does the "dark" sound like? Is there an eerie silence ? What does it smell like? Also use specific concrete details instead of saying she was "shocked" describe it as "her eyes were wide her mouth was gaping". That's all I got hope it helps.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ellen, I agree with what the others have posted, so let me give my two cents from a different perspective.

    I felt that sometimes, in an effort to make something vivid, you overwrote and created something that no longer made sense.

    For example, if you crush a twig, it will not snap. It crumbles.

    Another example, the sky was black and smooth, yet it's also misty and milky-way-y and starry. That's not smooth to me. That's filled to the brim with a variety of textures.

    And still another - if she is ambushing him, why does he see her first, hear her first and speak to her first? This could be character development (i.e., she's deluding herself) but if you're playing this straight than no, he's ambushing her.

    Your piece is a lot stronger without these overwritten sentences.

    All that said - I enjoyed this, and liked your innate ability to develop suspense. I think this story looks like the beginnings of a juicy, fun read.

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  8. Thank for the comments everyone. Advice is definitely needed with this. It's a shame the partial's already with someone but I will keep editing it of course. I agree 'ambush' wasn't the right word choice. It's more of a meeting, but obviously not the regular kind of meeting any average person would be having.

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  9. I also really, really like Lydia Sharp's suggestion for the first paragraph. I'll definitely take that one on board.

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  10. I agree with Lydia, especially her suggestions to write this in "deep POV." In other words, show your character's experiences as she senses them--it's the most powerful feature of first person narration you could be using to fuller advantage. The suspense you're building will hit closer to home for your reader if she feels like she's in your protag's skin.

    Strip away those filter terms that make her seem a step removed from her own sensations, such as "I felt" and "I thought." Just tell us in her voice what she feels and thinks. That one change will punch up the voice considerably through the whole manuscript.

    ReplyDelete