Critique Group – Two Sparrows and They’re After Me

Critiquing Anna from Frozen

Wake up, fellow critique fans! It’s time to sharpen our pencils and provide some incisive suggestions!

Don’t forget the critiquing guidelines. All you have to do is post a comment about the submissions below. Don’t feel like you need to critique both or the whole piece of either one. Even a short comment on one aspect can be helpful. When you critique, be sure to mention which piece you’re critiquing.

This post will stay active indefinitely, so you can come back and add comments at any time. If you are one of the writers who is being critiqued, you should subscribe to this post so you can be notified when any comments are added.

Submission #1 – Two Sparrows by Mary Kate

“Hi, Mom.” Jonathon Stone closed the creaky door behind him as he returned home after a long, hard day of searching for work. “Hello, Mom,” he called again.

No answer.

Jonathon walked down the front hallway and into the kitchen, where he found his mother sitting at the table, her back to him. “Mother?”

The continued silence led Jonathon to believe she was either ignoring him or deep in thought. Knowing his sweet, caring mother as well as he did, he could only assume it was the latter. He took a few steps further into the room, looked over his mother’s shoulder, and found the object of her downturned eyes. It was a picture. Just a simple headshot of a smiling man in a red shirt. But that smile spoke volumes. It was a pleasant smile, a playful smile, a loving smile; one Jonathon hadn’t seen since he was four years old.

Just then his mom looked up and turned to face him, and he knew by the calm, smoothness of the action that she had known he was there the whole time, yet had only just now gathered up the resolution to speak. “Ten years,” she began in a broken voice that hinted recent tears. “Ten years I’ve been without him.”

May 29th, 2005. The date leapt immediately into Jonathon’s head, and the painful memories came right along with it – so confused, yet so vivid: his father’s forced breathing, his mother’s weak sobs; that sick feeling of being too afraid to ask questions about this changing world that made no sense.

With an effort he pushed the bitterness away and went to sit beside his mother. She looked up at him and smiled through moist eyes. “Do you remember the funeral? You asked me if Daddy would be coming back to us.”

Jonathon nodded. “And you said, ‘No, Jonny. We’re going to him’.”

She sighed. “That’s right.” She closed her eyes and swallowed to hold back the tears. “That’s what he told me just before he died – ‘I’m going home, Kathryn. And I’ll be waiting for you’. And that’s true, I know.” She opened her eyes and looked at her son with the expression of a bewildered child. “But then, why . . .?” Her voice trailed off. She bit her lip.

“It’s okay, Mom,” Jonathon said softly. “Let it out.”

That was all Kathryn needed. Her head fell forward onto Jonathon’s shoulder, and then came forth a torrent of sobs.

Only a minute passed before she lifted her head. “I need to pull myself together,” she said hoarsely. “I can’t let Gillian see me like this.” Kathryn squeezed Jonathon’s hand and stood up. “I’d better get started on dinner.”

Jonathon sat at the table and watched his mom move softly about the kitchen. If only he could think of something comforting to say. He wished he could recall his dad better, though he did remember him a little: his face, his voice – the day he’d said, “Jonathon, how would you like to have a little sister?”

After that Dad had gotten sick.

Once again Jonathon pushed the memories from his mind. How awful that was, and how much more awful it would have been if he had fully understood what was going on!

Mom had understood fully what was going on. Mom, who had loved Dad more than anyone else in the whole world. That was why Jonathon felt sorry for his mom. And that was why he respected her so much. She was amazing. Perhaps she did break down and cry every once in a while, but not often. Nearly every moment she was cheerful, selfless; always hard working, never despairing. Her heaviness of heart was something she only ever shared with Jonathon. No one else could ever have guessed the pain that lay beneath that tender smile – not even Gillian. Jonathon was glad to be there for her, to let her lean on him for support. But he wished there was something more that he could do.

“Speaking of Gillian,” his mother’s voice broke through his thoughts. “Jonathon. . .I don’t know how we can keep sending her to school next year.”

Jonathon sighed. This didn’t come as a surprise to him. “I’m sorry, Mom.”

“Oh, honey, it’s not your fault.”

“I thought when I left school to get work I’d be able to bring in enough to keep this from happening. But I’ve done hardly anything to help.”

“Now, Jonathon, that’s nonsense. You’ve been working very hard and have been a tremendous help to me. I’m proud of you. Don’t be ashamed of your best. No one can ask you to do more than that.”

“But I can do better, Mom. I’ll look harder. I’ll get up earlier and stay out later. I’ll sell my stuff, and we’ll find a way to send Gi to school – and maybe even me one day.”

“Listen, Jonathon, I don’t want you making any more sacrifices than you already are. As it is, it’s not healthy for you. You don’t eat, you don’t sleep, you don’t dress warmly. You’re too hard on yourself.” She stopped and put her hand on Jonathon’s shoulder. “There comes a point, son, when we simply can’t afford it anymore.”

“But we’re not there yet.”

“Yes we are. Not only can we not afford to pay for Gi’s education, but we can’t afford not to have her making money herself. She can get a job – she can clean or babysit or something. And I’ll keep working hard, and you’ll keep working hard – and maybe one day we will put her back in school. In the meantime we can save up to fix things like the roof, the furnace, the window. As long as we can’t afford necessities, we certainly can’t afford the luxury of an education. Do you understand?”

Jonathon paused, then said quietly, “You’d have to admit to Gi how poor we really are.”

“She’ll know soon enough,” Kathryn sighed.

“I guess you’re right. I’m really sorry, Mom.”

Kathryn leaned forward and kissed Jonathon’s cheek. “Don’t be,” she said. “I really am very, very proud of my hardworking boy.”

Jonathon smiled. “More hard-searching than hardworking, honestly.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out the earnings of the day. “Thirteen dollars and fifty cents,” he said, placing it on the table. “For you.”

 

Submission #2 – They’re After Me by Katie

Hide.

I sat huddled between two oak trees. My legs were drawn up to my chest and I could feel my heart pounding against them. It took all my effort not to pant heavily and give myself away.

They were after me. They were always after me.

“You two go check the perimeter, we’ll stay here and look. It’s still in here. I can smell it.”

It. That was me. Always an it. My back stiffened against the tree trunk and I tried to gather myself into an even tighter ball. I needed a plan and I needed one now, otherwise I was as good as dead.

I calculated quickly in my mind. There were two checking the perimeter of the forest – if it could even be called that, it was so small – so that left five on the inside, if my calculations were correct. I could risk being seen and crawl to the next tree only fifteen feet away, making my way towards the outside, but that was such a huge risk. They would see me before I was even halfway there. There of course was the option of attacking them, but that was even stupider than my first plan. I only had five bullets left in my gun and who knows when I’ll be able to get more, maybe never.

That left my last plan. I stood up slowly, uncurling myself.

“Check that way! Check every tree, it could be hiding behind one.” The leader called. I needed to move and I needed to move now. I moved quicker than I thought possible with my heart beating that fast. My feet shuffled in the dirt and I was so thankful that it was summer so there were no dead leaves to crackle and give me away.

Pulling my gloves out from my pants pockets, the mark on my left wrist caught my attention. It had been there ever since I can remember, but sometimes it still startled me.It looked as it always had; a light blue S with two dots, one on the top and one on the bottom. Shaking my head, I slipped the gloves onto my hands in a haste. Good thing I made sure I brought these with me instead of dumping them with a lot of the other things back there. That was the only way I could slow my pursuers down for a little while but I already missed my multiply tool. I didn’t have any time to think about that.

My gloves instantly suctioned to the tree. Thank you Granddad! I walked up the tree slowly, being held up only by my hands. If the gloves slipped off… I slapped myself mentally. No need to think about that. It wasn’t likely to happen anyways, Granddad had made the elastic band around the wrist pretty tight.

“See it yet?” One of them called.

“No,” Another one yelled back.

I could hear them below me as I got higher and higher in the tree. I stopped for a moment to watch.

They shuffled around, guns drawn, sitting loosely in their hands. I could only see two of them from my vantage point.

Where are the others? I needed to locate them. My hands started to burn and I felt myself growing weaker. Beads of sweat dripped down my forehead onto my bare arms.

I moved over to the closest branch and let my feet rest there, hands still lightly holding onto the tree. My heart beat now from both panic and from using muscles I didn’t normally use. The sweat kept dripping down my face. I wiped my face on my shirt but not before one single bead of sweat fell off my face down to the ground. “No,” I whispered, horrified.

“Here!”

All five of them were at the base of my tree within seconds. I could see their black and white tuxes through the branches. They looked awkward in this dark forest with their suits.

Go boy, go! I could hear Grand Dad shouting within my head. My feet felt heavy under me but I knew I needed to start moving, this was life or death. I felt like a deer in headlights, every inch of my body frozen. I would have thought that time would have ticked slowly, feeling frozen and all, but it didn’t. It just kept moving at regular speed.

Move, Kiran, move! I shouted at myself. That seemed to work because my feet came unglued and my hands worked quickly as I climbed up the tree. Faster, faster. My hands were moving so fast that my feet had a hard time keeping up. They scrambled against the tree’s rough bark.

I could hear the men below me. They were fast, but somehow I was faster. I couldn’t let them catch me, I just couldn’t. No doubt they’d kill me the same way they killed Grand Dad and Father, burning them alive at the stake. Or maybe they’d do it like they did with Mother and Sister, starving to death in prison. Either way would be just as cruel and inhumane.

The leafy treetop greeted me as I made it to the finally branch. Where do I go now? The nearest tree was roughly nine feet away but that would be a good distance to try and jump. And if I didn’t make it? Broken limbs at the least and then death by the men.

I let go with one hand on the tree and shoved it into my pants pockets, searching for anything to help me. I had a pocket knife, my gun, the last of my bullets, some rope, key chain flashlight and matches along with a few other things. Could any of these help me? My brain swirled in effort to think of something. One of my pursuers was advancing on me, I had to do something.

I hated to use my gun, I hated killing people, but I had to. I clutched the gun tightly and loaded a bullet into the shoot.

0


Categories: Critique Group

Tags: , , , ,

31 replies

  1. Mary Kate,

    I enjoyed this excerpt. You did a good job with realistically bringing out emotions and providing the goal for the protagonist.

    I liked how you introduced the relative poverty right away with the creaky door. That’s good showing without telling.

    I would take out the last name. Point-of-view characters usually don’t refer to themselves by their full names. If you want to provide the last name, there are other ways to do so, which I will mention soon.

    Jonathon walked down the front hallway and into the kitchen, where he found his mother sitting at the table, her back to him. “Mother?””

    I would delete “he found” and write “where his mother sat at the table …” Phrases like “he found” or “he saw” or “he heard” sound like a narrator speaking, and that hurts the intimacy of the point of view.


    The continued silence led Jonathon to believe she was either ignoring him or deep in thought. Knowing his sweet, caring mother as well as he did, he could only assume it was the latter. He took a few steps further into the room, looked over his mother’s shoulder, and found the object of her downturned eyes. It was a picture. Just a simple headshot of a smiling man in a red shirt. But that smile spoke volumes. It was a pleasant smile, a playful smile, a loving smile; one Jonathon hadn’t seen since he was four years old.


    You have a good deal of “telling” above that is unnecessary, such as “led Jonathon to believe” and “he could only assume.” Also, you tell readers about her character rather than showing it. Here is a suggested rewrite that employs more intimacy and showing. It also gives a way to provide the family’s last name.

    She remained silent. A Kleenex box sat near her elbow along with several wadded tissues. Jonathon nodded. Grief had again visited the dear lady and enveloped her in its weeping embrace. He took a few steps farther into the room and looked over her shoulder. She held a photo in her trembling hands, a simple headshot of a smiling man in a red shirt. A caption read, Harold Stone. His smile spoke volumes—a pleasant smile, a playful smile, a loving smile; one Jonathon hadn’t seen since he was four years old.

    Next:


    Just then his mom looked up and turned to face him, and he knew by the calm, smoothness of the action that she had known he was there the whole time, yet had only just now gathered up the resolution to speak. “Ten years,” she began in a broken voice that hinted recent tears. “Ten years I’ve been without him.”


    I think that long first sentence is unnecessary. If she would speak before she turns, that would show readers that she knew all along he was there.

    Next: “With an effort he pushed the bitterness away and went to sit beside his mother.”

    “Went to sit”? Did he actually sit? In what? Have him pull a chair over and actually sit.

    Next: “She looked up at him and smiled through moist eyes.”

    This pulled me out of the story a bit. We smile with our lips. Why mention the eyes?

    Next: “She closed her eyes and swallowed to hold back the tears.”

    This is a POV shift. Jonathon wouldn’t know why she swallowed. He could guess, but this phrasing indicates knowledge.

    Next: “That was all Kathryn needed.”

    Why the change to “Kathryn”? Would Jonathon refer to her that way?

    Next:


    Jonathon sat at the table and watched his mom move softly about the kitchen. If only he could think of something comforting to say. He wished he could recall his dad better, though he did remember him a little: his face, his voice – the day he’d said, “Jonathon, how would you like to have a little sister?”


    “He wished” and “he did remember” are narrator words that damage intimacy.

    Suggested rewrite:


    Jonathon sat at the table as his mom moved softly about the kitchen. If only he could think of something comforting to say, a tidbit from Dad’s history that would make her smile. Yet, Dad was little more than a phantom memory and his legacy a collection of Mom’s stories retold over the past ten years. Still, some words whispered back to life from time to time, like the fateful question he asked one day. “Jonathon, how would you like to have a little sister?”


    Next: Once again Jonathon pushed the memories from his mind. How awful that was, and how much more awful it would have been if he had fully understood what was going on!

    The first sentence states that he pushed the memories from his mind, but the next sentence indicates that he did not. He is still thinking about them.

    Next:


    Mom had understood fully what was going on. Mom, who had loved Dad more than anyone else in the whole world. That was why Jonathon felt sorry for his mom. And that was why he respected her so much. She was amazing. Perhaps she did break down and cry every once in a while, but not often. Nearly every moment she was cheerful, selfless; always hard working, never despairing. Her heaviness of heart was something she only ever shared with Jonathon. No one else could ever have guessed the pain that lay beneath that tender smile – not even Gillian. Jonathon was glad to be there for her, to let her lean on him for support. But he wished there was something more that he could do.
    

    I think you should delete this entire paragraph. These are issues to show, not tell, and you have already shown several of them. The paragraph sounds like a narrator summary, and it halts the story.

    Next: “Speaking of Gillian,” his mother’s voice broke through his thoughts.

    Instead of this voice phrase, which is already obvious, I would establish a visual. Where is she? What is she doing. As it stands, you have only a voice.

    Next: “This didn’t come as a surprise to him.”

    This again sounds like a narrator.

    Try this instead: Jonathon sighed. Mom’s words again cut deeply, though the topic had become routine.

    The following conversation felt contrived to me with too many words that feel like they are saying them just to inform the reader. Surely they have already talked about these issues. I suggest clipping it into a “we’ve-talked-about-this-before” kind of conversation and make the bemoaning specific and concrete. Also add some visuals.

    Here is a rewrite of the beginning of the conversation to give you an idea of what I mean.


    “It feels like I left school for nothing.” He ran tight fingers through his hair. “There’s nothing out there. No jobs. No apprenticeships. Nothing more than a little yard work sometimes. I can’t even scrape enough together to buy a gallon of milk!”

    “Jonathon, don’t worry. I know you’ve been trying.” She put an oven mitt down and caressed his cheek. “I’m proud of you. You’re doing your best. No one can ask you to do more than that.”

    He covered her hand with his. “Thanks, Mom, but I’m not giving up. I’ll sell my coin collection and my baseball cards if I have to, but we will find a way to send Gi to school – and maybe even me one day.”


    I hope that helps. Keep up the good work.

    0
    • Thanks so much, Mr. Davis! I really appreciate your time and advice. I had been thinking I need to improve my portrayal of the surroundings, but I didn’t really know how to go about it. This will really help.

      0
      • Hi, Mr. Davis – I had a quick question on my piece. I notice you discourage writing from the position of a narrator rather than sticking to the thought process of the POV character. I had thought, since I was writing in third person, the use of a narrator was acceptable. But it is better, even in third person, to write as much from the character’s head as if it were in first person? And is it ever appropriate to employ an omniscient narrator?
        Thanks!

        0
      • Mary Kate,

        I frequently advise to stay away from narrator-like phrases when you are trying to dive into the character’s mind. Phrases such as “she saw” and “she heard” are unnecessary when in deep POV mode. Even using omniscient POV, such narrator phrases are often unnecessary and pull the reader out of that inside-the-skin feel.

        To summarize, the use of a narrator is perfectly acceptable in third person, but when you go into the character’s head, try to stay away from the narrator phrases. As long as you are in the character’s POV, they don’t help.

        0
  2. Submission #2 – They’re After Me by Katie

    Katie,

    I enjoyed your piece. You have a good knack for suspense.

    I avoid beginning with intense action. Without an introduction to your point-of-view (POV) character, readers have no emotional attachment. They don’t even know whether or not to cheer for this character. Should this character go free? Be captured? Readers are blind to this crucial aspect.

    I would start with a couple of paragraphs with this character already hiding and provide some interior monologue that gives readers the information they need to orient themselves to this character’s goal, motivations, and worthiness.

    Next: My legs were drawn up to my chest and I could feel my heart pounding against them. It took all my effort not to pant heavily and give myself away.

    “Were drawn up” is a weak verb phrase. It sounds like someone did that to him or her. And “I could feel” is an unnecessary introduction. Just report the feeling. Since she is the POV character, you don’t need to say that she feels it.

    “It took all my effort” is telling. Show us what he or she did to avoid panting.

    Try this: I grabbed my legs and drew them to my chest. My heart pounded against them. I sucked in a breath and held it, the only way to keep from panting and giving myself away.

    Next: “You two go check the perimeter, we’ll stay here and look. It’s still in here. I can smell it.”

    This dialogue has no introduction or speaking tag, so readers don’t know who said it or where it came from. I suggest an introductory beat, such as: A gruff voice pierced the forest, no more than twenty paces away. “You two go check …”

    Next: “It. That was me. Always an it.” I like this. Very cool.

    Next: My back stiffened against the tree trunk and I tried to gather myself into an even tighter ball. I needed a plan and I needed one now, otherwise I was as good as dead.

    This sounds like the back stiffened on its own, and “I tried to gather myself” is telling. Show the character doing this: “I flattened my back against the tree trunk and pulled my legs tight against my body until my ribs hurt.”

    Next:


    I calculated quickly in my mind. There were two checking the perimeter of the forest – if it could even be called that, it was so small – so that left five on the inside, if my calculations were correct. I could risk being seen and crawl to the next tree only fifteen feet away, making my way towards the outside, but that was such a huge risk. They would see me before I was even halfway there. There of course was the option of attacking them, but that was even stupider than my first plan. I only had five bullets left in my gun and who knows when I’ll be able to get more, maybe never.


    This is a nice rundown of a thought pattern. I think, however, that the introduction is lacking. It tells what is about to happen. And the character can’t calculate anywhere except in the mind, so it sounds a bit strange. I suggest changing it to: My mind racing, I scanned the area. Two pursuers were checking the perimeter of …

    Also, I would introduce the gun earlier. It came as a surprise to me that the character wouldn’t think about it until now. Also, punctuate the ending like this: “who knows when I’d be able to get more? Maybe never.”

    Next: Introduce the speaker earlier, like this: “Check that way!” the leader called. “Check every tree. It could be hiding behind one.”

    Then break the paragraph and start a new one with a gut-level reaction, then the plan, then the execution of the plan with more specific words: I cringed. I had to move, and I had to move now. I ran faster than I thought possible. My heart raced. My feet shuffled in the dirt—no dead leaves on this summer night to crackle and give me away.

    Next: “Pulling my gloves out from my pants pockets, the mark on my left wrist caught my attention.”

    The subject is the mark on the wrist, so you are saying that the mark pulled the gloves out. I suggest: When I pulled my gloves from my pants pockets, the mark on my left wrist caught my attention.”

    Next:


    It had been there ever since I can remember, but sometimes it still startled me. It looked as it always had; a light blue S with two dots, one on the top and one on the bottom. Shaking my head, I slipped the gloves onto my hands in a haste. Good thing I made sure I brought these with me instead of dumping them with a lot of the other things back there. That was the only way I could slow my pursuers down for a little while but I already missed my multiply tool. I didn’t have any time to think about that.


    The last action we saw was running. Now the character is carefully studying a mark. Did the character stop running? If so, at what point? This seems like a long pause for someone desperately trying to get away. I would find another time and place to examine the mark.

    Next: My gloves instantly suctioned to the tree.

    What tree? The character was running. Have the character stop next to a tree that he or she thinks would be a good place to hide. This provides the motivation to pull out the special gloves and climb. As it stands, readers are wondering, “Why the gloves?” The reader needs to be in on the thought process and motivations for the action of the POV character.

    As the story continues, you again have voices seemingly coming out of nowhere. At this point, I would allow your character to see them first and mention what they are doing. Eliminate sensory introductions like “I could hear” “I could see” “I knew” “I felt” introductions. They are redundant. Whatever visuals you report, we already know the POV character can see them. Whatever sounds you report, we already know the POV character can hear them. The same is true with what is known and felt.

    Next: “Go boy, go!” This is the first indication that the character is a boy. I suggest providing that information earlier.

    Next: “I could hear the men below me.” Were they climbing? What sound did they make?

    Next: “The leafy treetop greeted me as I made it to the finally branch.”

    I would reverse this order (and change finally to final): As I made it to the final branch, the leafy treetop greeted me.

    Next: “The nearest tree was roughly nine feet away”

    Nine feet is quite precise. Why “roughly”?

    Next: “I let go with one hand on the tree and shoved it into my pants pockets, searching for anything to help me.”

    Is it quite difficult, maybe impossible, to search both pockets with one hand, especially while wearing a glove.

    Next: One of my pursuers was advancing on me, I had to do something.

    Advancing? As in climbing? Be specific. Show this.

    Next: I clutched the gun tightly and loaded a bullet into the shoot.

    Do you mean “chute”? “Chamber” is a better word.

    You’ve got a great start. Keep it up!

    0
  3. Mary Kate: Great job introducing us to the characters and their situation! It didn’t take long for me to feel a connection with both of them. (I guess grief has a way of making characters relatable and likable.) By the end of the piece, I was rooting for Jonathan and his mother! The fact that he hardly remember his father is another good sympathy-inducer. 🙂

    Most of the suggestions I had were already mentioned by Mr. Davis. I would like to see a few more details of the surroundings. The creaking door was a good start. Maybe a mention of a worn/scratched tabletop, or a linoleum floor, or even the size of the kitchen (likely small) would help to paint a more vivid picture. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to bog a beginning down with too much, but I think all you’d need is one or two details.

    Overall, I really enjoyed it! Now that I’ve read it, I’m even more curious about the significance of the title… It kind of reminds me of Jesus’ mention of sparrows in the Bible, but I could be wrong. 😉 Anyway, Jonathan is shaping up to be a strong character, and it looks like you’ve applied a lot of Mr. Davis’s advice on beginnings and emotional connection! Great job!

    Katie: Wow, fabulous job on the suspense and quick pace! You pulled me in. And the unique elements like the gloves and the pursuers wearing tuxes kept things original and intriguing. 🙂 You’ve dropped good hints about the main character, his situation, and the world in which he lives–and yet there’s plenty of mystery beckoning me to read further.

    Again, most of my suggestions were mentioned by Mr. Davis. I would reveal much earlier on that Kiran is a boy. The name is revealed at a fine spot, but his gender should be indicated sooner, because I wasn’t sure until then. (In fact, I initially imagined the character as a girl, for whatever reason.)

    Also, the transition between running to the next tree and starting the climb felt a bit unclear. And the word ‘shuffling’ felt too slow of a verb, if he’s running. Maybe something like: “My feet pounded the dirt…” (Unless that sounds too loud.)

    You had some awesome lines that I really liked–the “it” one being a favorite. 😀 And at the end, with Kiran fumbling in his pockets, my mind was racing, wondering how he’d use those seemingly inadequate objects to help him escape! You’ve got something exciting going on here, and I’d enjoy reading more one day.

    0
    • Thanks, Tracey! Aahhh, yes, the title’s from Matthew 10:29! I’m so glad you got that reference! 😀 Thanks for the advice!

      0
    • Thank you for your insight, Tracey. I see what you mean about making it known that he is a guy in the beginning so that no one is wondering. I will also try to make the scene clearer when he is running.
      I’m glad you liked the “it” part 🙂
      Thank you for your insight!

      0
  4. Katie great job! The only thing I noticed that was not pointed out by Mr. Davis was that you said “multiply tool” you might change that to “Multiple tool.”

    0
  5. Mary Kate,

    I really enjoyed your story, and love the title. I like how Jonathon has stepped up and cared for his mother and Gi. I agree with the others on describing the surroundings a bit more. Also, when you talk about the mother, maybe you could show her characteristics rather than just saying she was self sacrificing. And rather than saying she never cried, maybe you could have her start crying without telling about how she rarely does it, and then have Jonathon react in a way to signify that it’s unusual. I guess what I’m saying is rather than describing the mother in that paragraph, maybe have Jonathon remember how she acted rather than just using adjectives. I hope this makes sense…
    I love the characters, and I really enjoyed your writing style.
    Can’t wait to see what happens next!

    0
  6. You’re welcome, Mary Kate!!! 🙂

    0
  7. Thoughts on Mary Kate’s piece:
    Overall, this did a pretty good job of keeping me interested and invested in the lives of the characters, so on that front it’s definitely succeeded. There are a couple of assorted thoughts that I have on plausibility and other such concerns below:

    ““Do you remember the funeral? You asked me if Daddy would be coming back to us.”
    Jonathon nodded. “And you said, ‘No, Jonny. We’re going to him’.”
    She sighed. “That’s right.” She closed her eyes and swallowed to hold back the tears. “That’s what he told me just before he died – ‘I’m going home, Kathryn. And I’ll be waiting for you’.”

    ^^I get what you’re doing here, but this dialogue felt kind of unnatural and info-dump-ish to me… It almost worked for me just because in times of grief, this kind of dialogue is understandable. But I feel like it could use a bit more work.

    “That was all Kathryn needed.”
    ^^Switching from calling her ‘mom’ to calling her ‘Kathryn’ was confusing.

    “Speaking of Gillian,” his mother’s voice broke through his thoughts. “Jonathon. . .I don’t know how we can keep sending her to school next year.”
    ^^Is this story set in America? I’m assuming it is, but I don’t want to be an American-centrist. Because, if it is, public schools are free because of situations like Jonathon and Kathryn are in.

    ““Yes we are. Not only can we not afford to pay for Gi’s education, but we can’t afford not to have her making money herself. She can get a job – she can clean or babysit or something.”
    ^^Again, if this story is set in America, for better or for worse, single moms get a lot of welfare money. I’m not saying welfare is always enough to solve all the problems, as financial matters can still be difficult. But while you obviously don’t need to explain all of this in the first couple pages of the book, I am kind of confused about why their financial troubles are so bad.

    Overall, you have some good characters and a good immediate hook, so it’s succeeding pretty well on that front. For me, the main concern is the plausibility of the situation and making sure that their financial troubles are realistic. Keep up the good work!

    0
  8. Thank you! Interesting you bring up the school situation. Actually, because of some rather unrealistic things that takes place later in the story it’s not in a real place. I have yet to work out the exact set up. Maybe it was a private school. . . and there are no public schools available. I don’t know. 🙂 Thanks for pointing that out, though. I’ll make sure to clear it up.

    0
  9. I need to stop being late to these, almost everything I would have said was already said. I did like both of the stories, especially the content and how the story was playing out, I just noticed that in both stories the flow seemed a little off.

    0
    • I would love your input!

      0
      • Katie,
        First, I want to say that I enjoyed reading your story, and I don’t want this to come off negative, it was just some technical issues surrounding the gun. I served in the military, and know about firearms and how they operate as well as combat tactics, if you would like any help with creating combat scenarios I am really good at making them realistic, as well as unarmed combat.
        What I would really like to address is the gun language. First, you had already mentioned earlier that you had 5 bullets left in your gun, most guns will automatically ready the next bullet for you into the chamber, which I am going to assume for the sake of your story that it is a pistol or a revolver for how the story was. It should be more specific what type of gun the character has, and it should be mentioned much earlier in the story that the character has a gun. The majority of revolvers or pistols will be able to hold anywhere between 8 and 11 rounds of ammunition. Additionally, you should mentioned what caliber of round that the gun uses. If it uses say 45 caliber rounds, then the character is in a much better position than if it contains 22 caliber rounds. This is a life or death situation, which the character not only should have already thought of their gun, but they should have already had it at the ready.
        Additionally you mentioned that the other characters had guns, climbing to the top of a tree would do nothing to help the character out if the other people have guns, that would be 5 guns versus one gun. However, if the character were to hid behind trees, and use those trees as cover and make each shot count, they may be able to incapacitate if not kill all of the followers. It also makes no since that your character owns a gun, but yet hates using their gun, most people that hate firearms would not own one.
        Again I really enjoyed reading your story, and I it will be really awesome once you get a lot of the technical areas straightened out.

        0
        • Also, your character mentions having an ammo shortage and that the bad guys are armed, for every enemy your character can take out there would be more firearms and ammo available to your character.

          0
        • Thank you for letting me know all of that. For some reason I had really thought too much about the gun. My father also served in the military so I could talk to him too. I guess I’ll have to go back and change my scene a bit! Thank you though, you’ve been a huge help.

          0
  10. To Mary Kate:
    Your story is fantastic! I only have two small suggestions that might make it better. For one, when Jonathon gets home from job searching, I think his day would have been more exhausting and despairing rather “hard”. Its not that big of a deal, but to me a “long, hard day” would have a lot of work involved in it, but if he was just searching for a job, that means interviews and such, not back-breaking labor. Also, when you mention Jonathon’s respect and sympathy for his mother, why not show those things rather than tell? I have problems with “showing” instead of “telling” too, so that change really isn’t that big of a deal either. Anyway, keep writing! I want to read the rest of that book!!

    0
  11. For Katie, I just have one thing. When the character is found in the tree, you say that the men in tuxes are already at the base of the tree. If they are right there, why are they not shooting or something? The character is always worrying about being shot at or caught, but when the enemy has the character in sight, they don’t seem to do anything. Maybe just have them start trying to climb up after the character or something. Still, that beginning was amazing! I agree with Bryan Davis on the phrase “It. That was me. Always an it.” That is absolutely perfect for the situation! It shows the feelings of the enemies towards the character and the character’s feelings of their opinion. I will be waiting for you to finish that book so that I can buy it! When you do finish it, you should tell Mr. Davis to post a comment saying where we can buy it.

    0
  12. Katie- I also like the “It” comment, but maybe there you could reveal Kiran’s gender by adding something like: gracing me even with the term boy would make me seem too human to them.

    0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.