Critique Group – The Crossroads and The Kraken

frozen-17-critique

Let’s make some magic! Actually, critiquing is often hard work, so be ready to sing the Fixer Upper song and get to it!

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Submission #1 – The Crossroads by Sofia

Prologue

I clutched the deathly cold hand, staring at my dear sister’s pale face. Her light blue eyes once glimmered with joy, love, and life. Now they revealed nothing but Altantsetseg’s exhaustion of the past few months. The long battle that both of us craved would end soon. The joy had been decimated by the savage illness and I had to stoop close to make out her soft, quiet words.

“Rhiannon.”

“Yes, Altanti?”

She shifted a bit and tried to sit up better. “Remember that summer, when we camped out in the open in the Ekilani foothills for a week?”

“How could I forget?”

She closed her eyes and sighed before continuing. “Remember that day when I fell off the horse and nearly got trampled underfoot and lost consciousness?”

“I remember that so well. I cried so much.”

“And you prayed for someone to come and help remember? Then that mysterious man named Caerwyn showed up and nursed me back to health.”

“I remember. I was so afraid for you and you nearly died.” I let a tear slip down my own cheek.

“Please be strong, Rhiannon. No matter what happens, try to be strong.”

“Altanti, stop talking like that. You’ll be fine. In a few weeks we’ll camp out again and relive our childhood. You’ll see.” My voice cracked slightly as another tear made its way toward my trembling chin.

“Don’t forget me, dear sister. I… I’m scared, but don’t forget me. Promise me.”

“You’re going to be fine.”

“Promise me, Rhiannon!” Her eyes opened and looked right at me, pleading me to assure her.

I nodded and looked at my feet. “I promise I won’t forget you.”

She sighed and closed her eyes, falling asleep within seconds.

—-

I never saw my beloved sister again, for that very night, sometime between the physicians’ shifts, she passed away. When the physician on duty noticed right away that she wasn’t breathing, he sent some of his assistants to wake up my adoptive father the king Dionysus III of Trinkehnia and my governess Guinevere. My brother Shakiran and I were then awoken and told the dreadful news. My jaw dropped open and tears started forming in my eyes. I couldn’t speak for several minutes and then sat up in bed. I got up and then walked over to where Guinevere had moved to but collapsed in the middle of the room, crying silently. My governess rushed over to me and rose me to my knees, embracing me while whispering, “I’m sorry, Rhiannon. I’m so sorry.”

Thus began the days of mourning for my sister, the Princess Altantsetseg IV of Trinkehnia. We would first bury her in the Forbidden Courtyard and then cremate her belongings so that the illness would not spread. For thirty days we would mourn – day and night, the royal family and the members of the royal court would sit in sackcloth and ashes on the outskirts of Egneldrik, the capital of Trinkehnia, and mourn in silence.

When it was over, we would resume our daily life activities and go on with our normal life and nothing in the world would disrupt it. Nothing, that is, until that day when Guinevere, my governess, had to leave me suddenly to return to her home in the Mountains of the Appalainï for her grandfather’s funeral. It was on that day that I discovered a secret that should have never been hidden from me or the world, a secret had been laying in her journals for the past sixteen years, a secret that once revealed to me would change my life forever.

Submission #2 – The Kraken by Amy Beth

Tash ducked under the whistling sword, then swung her own blade. The steel screamed as it rubbed against Cat’s. She bit her lip, boring into his brown eyes. He matched her intensity. Knowing he was stronger, she suddenly swung her blade out of the lock and simultaneously dropped on her knees and slid between his legs.

She shot to her feet and turned just as his short, curved sword flew dangerously close to decapitating her. Without a thought she swerved right, ran up the side of the sturdy railing and wrapped her legs around his neck. As his sword crashed towards her head she threw back her torso, hanging upside down and parallel to Cat. Before he could make a move she let go with her legs and placed her palms on the polished wood floor.

She let her feet land, then swung her body up, narrowly dodging Cat’s swinging sword. She stood still as cold steel nicked her dark throat.
Tash dropped her two curved fighting daggers. She chuckled, panting. “All right, I give up.”

He smiled, wiping sweat from his brow. Gray streaks decorated his brown hair. “You’re faster than you used to be. And I’m getting too old for this.”

Tash grinned. “Oh really? I thought you did pretty well.”

“All I did was twist around and try to keep up with you.”

Tash shrugged. “You taught me a lot.”

He smiled. With a sigh he strode across the deck and took the wheel from Red. She skipped down the stairs and stopped short of Tash. “So Lin said he saw the float, but he also said we’re being tailed.”

Tash swallowed a gulp of freshwater from her canteen. “Well then.”

“It looked like a pirate rig.”

Tash rolled her eyes. “Great. Competition for our prey. Are they too far to identify?”

Red nodded. “Yup. We’ll just have to take the British before they get here.”

Tash nodded. “And leave them the plunder.”

Red grinned, splaying her fingers and showing her sister tiny blades hidden between each finger. “All right! They’ll think me unarmed. As always.”

Tash smiled, looking over the younger woman. Her dark hair was held in a high pony tail, but the ends still passed her dark shoulders. She wore a strapless fighting top and short leggings, same as Tash. Yes, she does look unarmed, but woe to the man who underestimates her. I know she has hundreds of tiny blades and razors hidden expertly on her person. Ah, yes. Woe to the British who challenge my sister.

Tash climbed up the rigging, loving how the wind tousled her hair. With every step she took on the rope ladder her excitement peaked, until she was standing on the tiny, unguarded platform with Lin. He turned to her, brown eyes only checking who she was before turning back to the sluggish ocean. Without a word he handed her the old brass telescope. “Thanks.” She muttered, not expecting an answer from the mute Asian man.

She peered through the glass in the direction he pointed and identified the large British ship they had been tailing for two days.

She smiled. “No one escapes the Kraken.“

Lin smiled his answer as she surrendered the telescope. He shook his head and pointed behind them. “The pirates.” She muttered and held the glass to her eye once more. A larger ship followed them only ten miles behind. “She’s gaining quickly.”

Lin nodded, holding his hand out for his prize possession.

With a small smile she gave it back, and then slipped down the rigging, landing in a roll. She ended up on her feet, not in the slightest unbalanced. “We’ve caught our prey and are yet prey.” She announced to the gathering crew.

Men of many races and origins listened respectfully. She continued. “We are being tailed by a pirate rig. By the looks of it this ship is a British craft, abducted and altered for banditry purposes. It is gaining quickly, but not quick enough. We will raid the Sea Eagle speedily, then leave the plunder for our fellow pirates.

“Do not kill when it’s not necessary. Do not risk the whole crew by fulfilling personal vendettas or gathering loot. I will choose one person to take a few pounds.

Everyone else will only search.

“And if you see the accursed one, betray all orders to get him and bring him to me. But do not risk his escape if you have no help in bringing him alive; simply kill him and make absolutely sure he is dead. Go on. Lin, you find treasure with Jehan and Alfeo to guard you. And now, arm yourselves!” She watched with pride as her crew scattered, donning weapons of all kinds.

Tash assigned six men to man the cannons and guard the ship if the pirates attacked, then stood waiting as the Kraken drew up close behind the Sea Eagle. “How close is the pirate rig?” she asked Lin. He showed two fingers. She gave a low whistle. “Only two miles. We’ll have to hurry.” She watched amused as the British tried to secure the ship. But their cannons couldn’t hit them, as they were directly behind. She could hear them shouting and could see their red and white sailors scurrying around like ants.

Tash turned when she heard Red chuckle. “Look at how they try to prepare themselves. It is a soldier transport, just like Lin wrote.”

Tash turned to her sister. They stood eye to eye, only a year apart. “Let’s do this.”

She bent and picked up a coil of thick rope with a large metal hook at the end. Knowing Red was doing the same on the other side; she stepped over the side and fell through cool air. Tash held her breath and closed her eyes as she plunged into the icy water. Blowing bubbles, she opened her eyes and kicked powerfully, careful to not waste her oxygen.

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14 replies

  1. Submission #1 – The Crossroads by Sofia

    Sofia,

    This is quite good—thoughtful and intriguing. You show emotions well in the opening.

    Now let’s get to some issues:

    First: I clutched the deathly cold hand, staring at my dear sister’s pale face. Her light blue eyes once glimmered with joy, love, and life. Now they revealed nothing but Altantsetseg’s exhaustion of the past few months.

    Your order of revelation of the sick person goes like this “the deathly cold hand,” then “my dear sister,” then “Altantsetseg.” Your sequence starts vague and progresses to specifically personal, which allows for confusion.

    When readers see “the deathly cold hand,” they might wonder, “Whose hand?” Then they read “my sister’s pale face,” some might think, “Oh, I guess it’s her sister’s hand,” but that might not be true. The sister could be standing alongside the point-of-view character as both look at a person in a bed, perhaps their sick or dying parent. The sister’s light blue eyes revealed Altantsetseg’s exhaustion. Who is Altantsetseg? The sister? That’s not clear. It could be the potential third party. One person can reflect the exhaustion of another person.

    The meaning clarifies later, but it is better to avoid possible confusion and start with the person’s name so that the references to that person, including the pronouns, are obvious. Also, I think you should begin with a peek at the visual setting. I assume you mean something like the following:


    I clutched Altantsetseg’s deathly cold hand as she sat up in bed, pale and gaunt. My dear sister’s light blue eyes once glimmered with joy, love, and life. Now they revealed nothing but her exhaustion of the past few months.


    As you continue with the memories, it would be helpful to build the visuals as you go, including facial expressions, something like this.


    Altantia grasped a knitted shawl draped over her lap, her brow tightening. “And you prayed for someone to come and help. Remember? Then that mysterious man named Caerwyn showed up and nursed me back to health.” (I added a period after “help” to clarify. I think this is what you meant.)


    Next: “She sighed and closed her eyes, falling asleep within seconds.”

    The “ing” form of the verb is supposed to indicate action that is simultaneous with the main verb, so this indicates that falling asleep within seconds occurs at the same time as the closing of her eyes. I think it would be better this way – “She sighed, closed her eyes, and fell asleep within seconds.”

    When I read the next portion, I felt a bit jarred by the references to royalty. I had no idea that the two characters were princesses. I think you should foreshadow this in the prologue, not in the dialogue but maybe with a few scene-setting details that provide hints about their status.

    Next: When the physician on duty noticed right away that she wasn’t breathing, he sent some of his assistants to wake up my adoptive father the king Dionysus III of Trinkehnia and my governess Guinevere.”

    I would delete “right away.” Also, her reference to her father is long “my adoptive father the king Dionysus III of Trinkehnia.” It seems odd that she would she refer to her father that way. I think you should bring out the details later and in this context settle for “my father, the king” or some other short reference.

    Next: My brother Shakiran and I were then awoken and told the dreadful news.

    There is no need for passive verbs here. Activate them. “The assistants then awakened my brother Shakiran and me and told us the dreadful news.” If she has only one brother, then you need commas, like this – my brother, Shakiran, and me

    Next: My jaw dropped open and tears started forming in my eyes.

    Why “started forming”? Better to write “tears formed in my eyes,” though I would probably take out “in my eyes” since tears don’t form anywhere else. Since she is lying in bed, the jaw doesn’t drop open easily. That happens when news of tragedy loosens the muscles so that gravity pulls the jaw down. I don’t think that happens when lying in bed.

    Also, let the reader feel the time pass, the sadness, and include visuals. Show the same kind of emotion that you did early on.

    “Where Guinevere had moved” is quite vague. Where was she? Standing in the middle of the room? Sitting in a chair? A clearer description would provide Rhiannon with a reason to get up.

    I would probably rewrite like this:


    My muscles went limp. Tears welled. I stared at the young assistant’s sad eyes, unable to say a word. He turned and, with shoulders sagging, shuffled out of my room and closed the door. The thud and click sounded like a death knell.

    I looked toward Guinevere’s bed, empty. She sat nearby in her study chair, hands covering her face as she wept.

    Forcing my muscles to flex, I slid out of bed and walked toward her. My legs trembled, then buckled, and I collapsed to my knees in the middle of the room. Tears broke through. I moaned, “Oh, Altantia! Altantia! I love you so much!”

    Guinevere rushed over, knelt, and embraced me while whispering, “I’m sorry, Rhiannon. I’m so sorry.”


    Next: We would first bury her in the Forbidden Courtyard and then cremate her belongings so that the illness would not spread.

    If her illness was so contagious, why did Rhiannon have such close contact with her?

    Next: For thirty days we would mourn – day and night, the royal family and the members of the royal court would sit in sackcloth and ashes on the outskirts of Egneldrik, the capital of Trinkehnia, and mourn in silence.

    “Mourn” is repeated. I suggest replacing one of them with “grieve.”

    Next: When it was over, we would resume our daily life activities and go on with our normal life and nothing in the world would disrupt it.

    Since “activities” is plural, maybe you should have “lives” instead of life. Yet, that phrase is a bit redundant, considering that you already wrote that normal activities resumed.

    The rest of the paragraph alters the verb tenses from “would” do something, as if the future is anticipated, to regular past tense, and even those verbs are not precise, such as “had to leave” instead of simply “left.”

    Since the final two paragraphs are a narrative summary, I would write it all as past tense and stay consistent, something like this (take note of other minor suggested changes):


    Thus began the days of mourning for my sister, the Princess Altantsetseg IV of Trinkehnia. We buried her in the Forbidden Courtyard and then cremated her belongings so that the illness would not spread. For thirty days we mourned – day and night, the royal family and the members of the royal court sat in sackcloth and ashes on the outskirts of Egneldrik, the capital of Trinkehnia, and grieved in silence.

    When it was over, we resumed our daily activities. Nothing in the world disrupted them. Nothing, that is, until that day when Guinevere, my governess, left me suddenly to return to her home in the Mountains of the Appalainï for her grandfather’s funeral. It was on that day that I discovered a secret that should have never been hidden from me or the world, a secret had been lying in her journals for the past sixteen years, a secret that would change my life forever.


    It would be cool to foreshadow the journal, maybe by showing Altantia holding it while sick.

    You’ve done a great job. Keep up the good work.

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  2. Submission #2 – The Kraken by Amy Beth

    Amy Beth,

    A pirate sea adventure! Avast matey! I will have to stop what I’m doing and check it out. You have a cool idea. Lots of intrigue.

    Please be patient with the many critiques. Because of time constraints, I didn’t add much tactfulness to my comments. I mean no offense. I am just trying to be efficient.

    First: Tash ducked under the whistling sword, then swung her own blade. The steel screamed as it rubbed against Cat’s. She bit her lip, boring into his brown eyes.

    My first problem was pronoun confusion. When I first read “she bit her lip,” I thought the “she” was Cat, because that is the closest antecedent, and Cat is more often the name of a female. The problem cleared up soon after, but it is better to avoid any confusion.

    You reported the steal screaming before you reported the rubbing. That’s out of order. The rubbing occurred first.

    “She bit her lip, boring into his brown eyes.” She bored into his brown eyes? That seems odd. I’m not sure what you meant. I think it needs rephrasing.

    “He matched her intensity.” How did he do that? What did it look like? I can’t picture this.

    “Knowing he was stronger.” Can you show the strength instead of telling it, maybe show her weakening under his pressure?

    “She shot to her feet and turned just as his short, curved sword flew dangerously close to decapitating her.”

    The shooting to her feet and turning were reactions to the curved sword flying close, so the sequence is out of order. Earlier I pictured the swords as straight, so you might want to put that detail in earlier.

    “Without a thought she swerved right, ran up the side of the sturdy railing and wrapped her legs around his neck.”

    If the point-of-view character does something without a thought, it isn’t logical to report that there was no thought. It requires thought to consider that there was no thought. Also, what sturdy railing? Since you used “the” sturdy railing, it sounds like you have described it earlier. You have no scene setting, so readers have no idea that a railing existed.

    How does one run up the side of a railing? I can’t picture that. Also, since merely running up the railing enabled her to wrap her legs around his neck, was he standing next to the railing? Or did she jump from the top of the railing onto his shoulders. Some transitions seem to be missing.

    “As his sword crashed towards her head”

    How can a sword crash toward something? It makes no crashing sound while in motion through the air.
    “she threw back her torso, hanging upside down and parallel to Cat.”

    The “hanging” form of the verb indicates that this occurs at the same time as the main verb, threw. She cannot be hanging upside down while she is throwing herself back. Better to write, “she threw back her torso and hung upside down, parallel to Cat.”

    “Before he could make a move she let go with her legs and placed her palms on the polished wood floor.”

    Add a comma after “move.”

    “She let her feet land, then swung her body up, narrowly dodging Cat’s swinging sword. She stood still as cold steel nicked her dark throat.”

    If she dodged the sword, how did it nick her throat? Also, how can she see the darkness of her own throat? This is a point-of-view error. In addition, it is the nicking of her throat that makes her stand still, so the actions are out of order.

    Next: Tash dropped her two curved fighting daggers. She chuckled, panting. “All right, I give up.”

    She had two curved fighting daggers? I thought she just had a sword. You mentioned no daggers.

    Next: He smiled, wiping sweat from his brow. Gray streaks decorated his brown hair. “You’re faster than you used to be. And I’m getting too old for this.”

    This is the first indication of his age. It would be much better to indicate this earlier.

    Next: He smiled. With a sigh he strode across the deck and took the wheel from Red. She skipped down the stairs and stopped short of Tash. “So Lin said he saw the float, but he also said we’re being tailed.”

    Repetitive “he smiled.” Think of something else. Also, what deck? What wheel? Who is Red? Who is Lin? What float? Who made the statement about Lin? Was it Red, Tash, or Cat?

    If Red skipped down the stairs, that means that Cat was upstairs with Red. Yet, Red stopped short of Tash, meaning that Tash was downstairs. How could they be at two different levels since they were fighting?

    Next: Tash swallowed a gulp of freshwater from her canteen. “Well then.”

    What canteen? Was she holding it during the fight? This item came out of nowhere. Why fresh water instead of just water? Is it in contrast to salt water? Are they sailing on an ocean?

    My questions have a reason. You begin with intense action that has no scene setting. I have no idea where the characters are or anything about them. I have no sense of who is who or why I should care.

    Start the scene with some setting. Show the deck, the stairs, and Red and the wheel and that they are on a ship. Let me know the names and genders right away. Show them preparing their weapons for battle. Give me a reason to care about this training session. As it stands, while reading it, I didn’t care at all, because I had no clue why they were fighting.

    Next:


    “It looked like a pirate rig.”

    Tash rolled her eyes. “Great. Competition for our prey. Are they too far to identify?”

    Red nodded. “Yup. We’ll just have to take the British before they get here.”

    Tash nodded. “And leave them the plunder.”

    Red grinned, splaying her fingers and showing her sister tiny blades hidden between each finger. “All right! They’ll think me unarmed. As always.”


    This dialogue comes across as contrived. They seem to be talking about things they all already know. This chatter appears to have one purpose, to inform the reader, which makes it an unlikely conversation. Also note that the nodding is repetitive.

    Next:


    Tash smiled, looking over the younger woman. Her dark hair was held in a high pony tail, but the ends still passed her dark shoulders. She wore a strapless fighting top and short leggings, same as Tash. Yes, she does look unarmed, but woe to the man who underestimates her. I know she has hundreds of tiny blades and razors hidden expertly on her person. Ah, yes. Woe to the British who challenge my sister.


    It seems odd that Tash would describe her sister with such detail, considering that they probably see each other every day. This comes off as a contrived way to describe Red. The descriptions need to appear in a natural way in line with the action.

    Also, why is a fighting top strapless? It seems to me that having no straps would be a severe disadvantage during a fight. Bare skin is more easily cut, and the danger of losing the top is much higher. The final three sentences switch to present tense, indicating to me that you are quoting Tash’s thoughts. If so, these thoughts should be italicized.

    Next: Tash climbed up the rigging, loving how the wind tousled her hair. With every step she took on the rope ladder her excitement peaked, until she was standing on the tiny, unguarded platform with Lin.

    What rigging? You haven’t mentioned it before. Whenever you use “the” such as in “the rigging,” that indicates that readers have already been told about it.

    Also, how can excitement peak more than once? A peak is the top, the highest elevation. There can’t be more than one. The way you wrote it, it seems that her excitement stopped peaking when she got to the top. I think that would be the peak.

    Next: He turned to her, brown eyes only checking who she was before turning back to the sluggish ocean. Without a word he handed her the old brass telescope. “Thanks.” She muttered, not expecting an answer from the mute Asian man.

    “The” old brass telescope. This indicates that readers already know about the telescope, but they don’t. Maybe “his” instead of “the.”

    Next: She peered through the glass in the direction he pointed and identified the large British ship they had been tailing for two days.

    You should mention the pointing before the peering, because it happens first.

    Next: With a small smile she gave it back, and then slipped down the rigging, landing in a roll.

    The “ing” form (landing) is supposed to indicate action that is simultaneous with the main verb (slipped), so this indicates that landing in a roll occurs at the same time as the slipping, which is not the case. Maybe better to write. “With a small smile she gave it back, then slipped down the rigging and landed in a roll.”

    Next: She ended up on her feet, not in the slightest unbalanced.

    Would she normally have been unbalanced? If being unbalanced was normal, why would it be mentioned?

    Next: “We’ve caught our prey and are yet prey.” She announced to the gathering crew.

    Did the crew begin gathering before she spoke? If so, mention it first. Also, “she announced” is a speaker tag, so punctuate it like this: “We’ve caught our prey and are yet prey,” she announced to the gathering crew.

    Next: Men of many races and origins listened respectfully.

    It seems odd that Tash, who is familiar with the crew, would think about them in these terms. Also, what does respectfully look like? Use more specific visuals to bring this out, something like this: A dark skinned Haitian laid down a coil of rope and looked her way. Two Chinese women ceased chatting and turned toward her.

    Next: She continued. “We are being tailed by a pirate rig. By the looks of it this ship is a British craft, abducted and altered for banditry purposes. It is gaining quickly, but not quick enough. We will raid the Sea Eagle speedily, then leave the plunder for our fellow pirates.

    When you mentioned that she looked at the ship ten miles away, you noted none of these details. Then she describes the details. If she sees the details while looking through the telescope, then you should report them at that time. Otherwise, you are blinding the reader to what Tash notices and mentally processes.

    Next:


    “Do not kill when it’s not necessary. Do not risk the whole crew by fulfilling personal vendettas or gathering loot. I will choose one person to take a few pounds.
    Everyone else will only search.
    “And if you see the accursed one, betray all orders to get him and bring him to me. But do not risk his escape if you have no help in bringing him alive; simply kill him and make absolutely sure he is dead. Go on. Lin, you find treasure with Jehan and Alfeo to guard you. And now, arm yourselves!” She watched with pride as her crew scattered, donning weapons of all kinds.


    Why a new paragraph for “Everyone else will only search”?

    Regarding her instructions, does she give these instructions every time they attack a ship? If fulfilling personal vendettas or gathering loot doesn’t risk the crew, would it be all right for them to do so?

    I sense that there should be a pause between “… he is dead” and “Go on” and then another pause before “Lin, you find …” At these points, you need to insert what are called dialogue beats. Show some visual movements that provide pauses in the speech.

    Why does she assign Lin to find treasure since she just warned against gathering loot?

    What does watching with pride look like? Give readers a visual. Also, the crew scattering and donning weapons is the cause of her looking on with pride, so you should mention those actions first.

    I am having trouble figuring out what Tash’s motivations are? It is clear enough that she wants to capture or kill the accursed one, but why does she want to give the loot to others? I think you should clarify the mission early on.

    Next:


    Tash assigned six men to man the cannons and guard the ship if the pirates attacked, then stood waiting as the Kraken drew up close behind the Sea Eagle. “How close is the pirate rig?” she asked Lin. He showed two fingers. She gave a low whistle. “Only two miles. We’ll have to hurry.” She watched amused as the British tried to secure the ship. But their cannons couldn’t hit them, as they were directly behind. She could hear them shouting and could see their red and white sailors scurrying around like ants.


    Why would a ship be unable to shoot a cannon toward the rear? That leaves them woefully unguarded.

    What does watching amused look like. Give readers a visual. Also, the British securing the ship is the cause of her watching amused, so you should mention the securing first.

    “She could hear them …” and “could see their …” You don’t need to add these phrases. Just report the shouts and the sailors scurrying. Since this is from Tash’s point of view, she can see any visual you report, and she can hear any sound you report.

    Next: Tash turned when she heard Red chuckle. “Look at how they try to prepare themselves. It is a soldier transport, just like Lin wrote.”

    Red’s chuckle comes before Tash’s turning, so report that first.

    Next: Tash turned to her sister. They stood eye to eye, only a year apart. “Let’s do this.”

    Tash already turned toward Red in the previous paragraph. Why would Tash take note that they were only a year apart? This reads like it’s a new revelation, though it is actually a device to inform the reader of something both characters already know, which is a contrivance.

    Next:


    She bent and picked up a coil of thick rope with a large metal hook at the end. Knowing Red was doing the same on the other side; she stepped over the side and fell through cool air. Tash held her breath and closed her eyes as she plunged into the icy water. Blowing bubbles, she opened her eyes and kicked powerfully, careful to not waste her oxygen.


    Red was doing the same? Does that mean that Red also stepped over the side and fell into the water? Or was Red supposed to anchor the other end of the rope?

    I think this can be great and interesting. Just apply the lessons learned throughout your story.

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    • Hey Bryan! Thanks so much! Looks like I have a lot to work on. I originally started writing this simply for the sake of writing about pirates, so I didn’t invest in the story very much. I will definitely edit it. Thanks!
      I know I didn’t make everything clear, and I tried too hard to make the beginning mysterious and gripping. I see what you have to say. As for objects appearing out of nowhere, you are completely right. 🙂 When I was writing this excerpt I considered giving more detail of the ship, but brushed aside the idea as unrealistic, as she would be focused only on her practice opponent. Thanks for the encouragement and corrections!
      Just for the sake of clearing some things up, this is Tash’s motivations:
      Her parents were killed long ago by a ruthless British Commodore, and she and her younger sister (Red) search the European seas with their father’s crew to find and kill the Commodore. Cat was their father’s First Mate.
      It will eventually be a story of forgiveness, betrayal, and fighting.
      Thanks so much for critiquing!

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    • You’re welcome. I think it would take just a couple of paragraphs of introduction. Once readers know that they’re aboard a pirate ship, then the details you include will make sense.

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  3. Submission 1
    Your writing is pretty solid and I’m not catching much telling.

    A little tip I learned to locate those passive sentences is add “by zombies” to the end of it. If it works, you’ve got a passive sentence.
    “My brother Shakiran and I were then awoken by zombies.”

    Another thing is to keep dialogue realistic. In the scene where the characters are talking about things they both remember, it feels a little off, since some of it is probably meant to inform the reader of what both characters probably know. (Since one character is dying, a bit of leeway on the issue may be allowed.) With issues like this, just think about how the characters would realistically talk.

    I’m also wondering if maybe all of this is backstory that the readers doesn’t need to know right away. I haven’t seen the rest of it, but it feels like the story really begins when the MC finds the journals so you might want to start there. Of course, I can’t comment too much on this since I don’t know the story.
    Keep writing!

    Submission 2

    I like the pacing of this, and you pick good names.

    “Without a thought she swerved right, ran up the side of the sturdy railing and wrapped her legs around his neck. As his sword crashed towards her head she threw back her torso, hanging upside down and parallel to Cat.”
    This part is confusing me. I’m having trouble seeing how she’s got her legs wrapped around his neck in a way that still allows him to try to behead her.

    I’d try to mention they’re on a boat sooner. Perhaps you could mention her working with the ship’s rocking or something during the fight?

    Another thing that I get a little annoyed with is when people are practicing with real weapons. With the moves these characters are making, it seems likely someone could be seriously hurt. I know the movies do it a lot, but I think maybe it would be best if your characters use training swords.

    This thought, “I know she has hundreds of tiny blades and razors hidden expertly on her person.” felt very off. It doesn’t seem natural for a person to think like that.

    It may also be a good idea to get to know these characters more before the action heats up.

    Overall, the story sounds quite exciting.

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    • I noticed the reminiscing as well, but, as you noted, when people are dying, they often want to talk about the past, even to people who already know the stories, so I “let it go.” 🙂

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    • That’s a great idea Jessi. Actually, the story does pick up at the journals but just a few days before.

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    • Actually, I meant to say that it starts a few days afterwards.

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    • Thanks! You’re right about the details needed (like location, clarity during the fight, etc) As for using training swords in this case it would completely and utterly defy this specific character’s style and personality. 🙂 Although she cares about Cat, they haven’t used training swords since she was five. 🙂 Your suggestion was very realistic and reasonable. 🙂 If it wasn’t for her character I would definitely agree. Thanks for the compliments!
      Here are their true names:
      Cat = Cornelius
      Tash = Tashima
      Red = Scarlet
      🙂

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  4. Hi, Amy!
    I really liked your excerpt, and your descriptions were wonderful. Here are my thoughts; I hope they are helpful 😉
    – I thought you did a pretty good job on your sword fight scene. I just have one comment: Tash’s opponent would not stop fighting and trying to win while Tash is making a move. So in this part “she suddenly swung her blade out of the lock and simultaneously dropped on her knees and slid between his legs” I feel like her opponent should be—at least—swinging at her.
    – “…his short, curved sword flew dangerously close to decapitating her.” Isn’t this a training duel between friends? I sure hope her friend wasn’t trying to decapitate her… This provides a bit of tension right now, but then it feels like a trick later when you reveals that she is just dueling a friend.
    – “Without a thought she swerved right, ran up the side of the sturdy railing and wrapped her legs around his neck. As his sword crashed towards her head she threw back her torso, hanging upside down and parallel to Cat. Before he could make a move she let go with her legs and placed her palms on the polished wood floor. She let her feet land, then swung her body up, narrowly dodging Cat’s swinging sword.” I hate to say it, but I have no idea what is going on here. If you can, I would highly suggest finding a friend whom you can mock sword fight with—especially if you can make realistically sized and weighted blades. Dueling with my friends, helps me a lot when I write these scenes.
    – I like to see the protagonist lose a fair and even matched fight once in a while. I liked that you did this, and you also made your protagonist strong and likable at the same time 😉
    – Ah, I really love that her partner is older, too. I feel like we don’t see enough nice older mentors in novels of late 😉
    – “Tash shrugged. “You taught me a lot.”” This sounded really cliché.
    – Tash’s description of Red felt like of out of place to me. It might be nice if you hinting about Red’s looks in multiple places rather than dump it all here.
    – Out of curiosity, what good is a mute look out man? I mean, practically, he can’t warn anyone or tell anyone about what he sees.
    – “landing in a roll” This seems a bit unnecessary and impractical since it seems that they are on a smaller ship which most likely has rope, boxes, and walking crew members all across a narrow desk.
    – “We’ve caught our prey and are yet prey.” But they haven’t caught anything yet….
    – “Men of many races and origins listened respectfully.” I’m all for strong female characters, but I really feel like this is overdoing it. You made it clear that Red and Tash are strong women several times previous to this, and so this is feels like overkill as you try to get a point across.
    – I felt like the ship they were chasing was pretty far off, now it appears that they are only a few hundred yards off of it.
    – “How close is the pirate rig?” she asked Lin. He showed two fingers. She gave a low whistle. “Only two miles.” So the other pirate ship sailed eight miles in about three minutes? You mentioned only paragraphs before that it was ten miles off, and there has been no significant passage of time.
    – “They stood eye to eye, only a year apart” I believe that this is saying that their eyes are only a year apart 😉
    – Out of curiosity, why are they jumping down into the ocean? This doesn’t make sense to me, but maybe that is just because I can’t read more 😉
    Nice job! I really enjoyed your excerpt!

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    • 🙂 Thanks for commenting! Basically, I have a lot to work on. 🙂 As for jumping into the water, that would have been revealed if the excerpt could be longer. They grab hooks, jump off opposite sides of the ship, then swim under the boat that is in front of them and hook that boat to theirs so the enemy can’t escape. What you said made complete sense…between you, Bryan, and Jessi I have a full day ahead of me. 😉
      As for the fighting I suppose I was overly inspired and expected the scene in my brain to flow into the computer, and skipped many essential explanations and details, leaving behind a holey excerpt.
      You justly questioned Lin’s usefulness. I will reveal later that he was not always mute and lost his voice in a very tragic scene. His eyes are still sharp and later it is shown that he blows a whistle in emergencies. 🙂
      And no, ships can’t go eight miles in three minutes. 🙂 My mistake. They would have to be sailing the Black Pearl or something to go that fast. 🙂
      Thanks so much for your time!

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