Critique Group – Imagination Runner

Star Wars 7

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Imagination Runner – by Wendy

I was flying through my history exam. After studying until three that morning, I figured it had to pay off somehow. I knew I couldn’t fail this course like I had on pretty much everything else.

History and English were my strongest subjects but math and science and all of that junk, well…I preferred not to think about all of the F’s trailing my grades.

I finished up the last paragraph just as the bell rang. The library sounded like a good place to study, so I packed up my textbooks and headed that way. As I passed through the office area, ignoring all of the creepy “You Can Do It!” and “Be a Team!” posters everywhere, a familiar figure sitting on a bench caught my attention.

“Scarlett?” I asked, coming to a full stop.

“Oh, hey Alex.” She said, grinning. A black bruise covered her cheek and part of her lip was bleeding to complete the beat-up look. Her red hair was messy and her North Carolina University T-shirt was caked with mud.

“What happened to you?”

She stood up and shrugged. “Where are you going?”

“I was gonna go to the library, but I’ll walk you home.” I offered.

“Are you sure it’ll be okay with your mom?” She slung her backpack over her shoulder.

I laughed as I pushed through the glass door into the fresh October air. “She might freak out over your, uh…incident, if that’s what you mean. But she’ll like cleaning you up. Just like the good old days.”

“Thanks. Mae was really on one today. Something about how all of her friends hate her and that it’s my fault for some reason or other.” She rolled her eyes with a sigh.

I nodded. Mae was Scarlett’s crazy roommate who hated her and went on these long rants about nothing.

As we walked down the campus’s sidewalk, I couldn’t help but stare at her bruised face. “So what happened this time?”

She sighed. “It’s a long story.”

“Hit me.”

“Well, Mr. Fatpants-“

“Wait, what?”

“The dude’s, like, five hundred pounds.” She stated, keeping her eyes on the sidewalk. “Anyway, he substituted our study on economics for reading a biography on Copernicus! I mean where’s the creativity? That’s what gets me.” She sighed. “Now I know he hates me.”

I cringed. Scarlett reading a biography was like me writing equations. Neither one was bound to end very pretty.

“So you punched him in the face?”

She laughed, and then winced, placing a finger on her bruised cheek. “No, but I sorta protested. He got mad and asked if I’d like to make a visit to the headmaster.”

“And then what?”

Scarlett gave me a guilty look. “I said I bet he couldn’t even walk that far.”

I tried to hold it in, but busted out laughing.

“Hey, it’s not funny! His grandson is in our class and gave me a hard time after that ordeal and so…” her voice trailed off.

“Are you going to be ordered off campus?”

Scarlett shrugged. “I don’t know. But it wasn’t fair for him to do that. It was the economics period for crying out loud!”

“Yeah, that stinks.”

We stopped at a curve in the sidewalk and I pushed the crosswalk button. “You wanna take the bus?”

She nodded. “I’ll pay.”

“Don’t worry about it; from the looks of you the driver might think you’re a hitchhiker.”

“That bad, huh?”

“You don’t look like a normal human, to say the least.” I encouraged.

We boarded a long bus with the college’s logo pasted all over it, taking a seat near the front where it was less crowded.

The bus rattled with student noise of girls shrieking and trying to talk louder than the other. The guys were yelling for no reason at all, boasting about their football team.

“Hey, uh…” Scarlett faltered, and then shook her head. “I’ll tell you later.”

“What’s up?”

She glanced around at the crowded bus and I nodded, settling into the worn-out seat. This reminded me of our elementary school days when I’d walk her home from the principal’s office nearly once a week.

My mom always got so mad at us for finding trouble wherever we went. The habit somewhat faded with me, but Scarlett was a different story. In fact, she got me into the trouble half the time.

The bus bumped through the campus and dropped all of us off at the entrance. It wasn’t a long walk to my house from there and as soon as we arrived, I knew exactly what was coming.

I hadn’t even closed the door yet when Mom rushed in, apparently using what she called the mom-senses to detect something was wrong.

She stood in the doorway of the kitchen, hands on her hips. “Scarlett, honey,”

“I know, I know,” Scarlett slid her backpack down her shoulder.

“Now of all things…”

Mom had basically gone through the same routine for both of us since we were in second grade and now that we were in college, nothing changed.

She sighed desperately and gestured for Scarlett to sit at the bar in the kitchen. “Come on, I’ll get a hot compress to help that swelling.”

We slid into the old comfortable stools and as Scarlett was getting cleaned up by my doting mother, she explained what happened.

After a good lecture, Mom was finished. “Keep that up to your face, honey.” She handed Scarlett the compress. “Let me go find that Tylenol, I know I put it somewhere…” She bustled away to her room and Scarlett chuckled. “Your mom’s the best.”

“Yeah, I just wish she treated me that good.” I stated and swung around on the stool to face her. “So what did you want to talk to me about?”

Scarlett’s wistful smile vanished. “Oh, that.” She turned worried hazel eyes on me. “It’s getting worse.”

I raised my eyebrows. “You mean…”

Scarlett glanced over her shoulder and snapped her fingers. Fire jumped between the tips of her pointer and thumb.

“Yeah, it always does that.” I said.

“Touch it.”

I hesitated for a second but reached for the flame. “Ow!” I whispered, jerking back my hand in surprise.

“I know.” The flame burst apart into confetti without a trace of smoke.

Since I could remember Scarlett had a secret “magic” ability to imagine things that leaked into reality. Everything was just an illusion, but real fire…that was different.

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7 replies

  1. Wendy,

    Having a character who can make her imagination become reality is a cool and intriguing concept. I would keep reading.

    You developed your characters at a good pace. I would have liked to see some foreshadowing of Scarlett’s power without actually revealing it.

    Now for some details:

    First paragraph:
    *********
    I was flying through my history exam. After studying until three that morning, I figured it had to pay off somehow. I knew I couldn’t fail this course like I had on pretty much everything else.
    *********
    I had some trouble deciphering this. “I was flying” made me think the character is describing something that happened before something else happened, as in “I was flying through my history exam, but a snake bit my ankle, so I had to quit.” Using “was” in an opening sentence is usually weak. Strive for something real-time and specific like: “The test answers came to me in a flash—Columbus, Cortes, Magellan, their explorations, and their biographical data popped back to memory.”

    Also, “that morning” made me wonder which morning? Maybe better to write “until three in the morning.” I would delete “I knew” and “on.”

    Next: I preferred not to think about all of the F’s trailing my grades.

    Isn’t “F” a grade? How do grades trail grades?

    Next: I finished up the last paragraph just as the bell rang.

    Delete “up.”

    Next: The library sounded like a good place to study, so I packed up my textbooks and headed that way.
    It “sounded”? Did someone mention the library?

    Next: As I passed through the office area, ignoring all of the creepy “You Can Do It!” and “Be a Team!” posters everywhere, a familiar figure sitting on a bench caught my attention.

    How are the posters creepy? Show, don’t tell. Why is he going through the office?

    Next: “Oh, hey Alex.” She said, grinning.

    With a speaker tag like “she said,” it should be punctuated like this: “Oh, hey, Alex,” she said, grinning.

    Next: A black bruise covered her cheek and part of her lip was bleeding to complete the beat-up look. Her red hair was messy and her North Carolina University T-shirt was caked with mud.

    You need a comma after cheek. Also, you used “was” three times in quick succession. Strive for stronger, more vibrant verb constructions. For example: A black bruise covered her cheek, and blood oozed from the corner of her lip to complete a beat-up look. Her tangled red hair hung over one eye, and a ponytail holder held it back on the other side. Mud caked her North Carolina University T-shirt, hiding most of the letters in North.

    Next: “I was gonna go to the library, but I’ll walk you home.” I offered.

    I would delete “I offered.” If you keep it, you need to punctuate the speaker tag properly.

    Next: I laughed as I pushed through the glass door into the fresh October air.

    This confused me. If Alex was passing through the office to go to the library, that means the office has one entry coming from a hallway and another to the library. Why does this door lead straight outside?

    Also, since Scarlet was sitting in the office, I assumed she was waiting to talk to someone. Why is she leaving with Alex?

    Next: “The dude’s, like, five hundred pounds.” She stated, keeping her eyes on the sidewalk.

    I would take out the tag “she stated” and just have “She kept her eyes on the sidewalk.” If you keep “she stated,” then punctuate it as a speaker tag.

    Next: Scarlett gave me a guilty look. “I said I bet he couldn’t even walk that far.”

    This makes Scarlett look really petty. If you are trying to get readers to like her, this doesn’t help.

    Next: her voice trailed off.

    Capitalize Her

    Next: Scarlett shrugged. “I don’t know. But it wasn’t fair for him to do that. It was the economics period for crying out loud!”

    Why doesn’t she know? Wasn’t she in the office to receive discipline? Or did she just walk out for no reason?

    Next: We stopped at a curve in the sidewalk and I pushed the crosswalk button. “You wanna take the bus?”

    You need a comma after sidewalk.

    Next: “Don’t worry about it; from the looks of you the driver might think you’re a hitchhiker.”

    I don’t understand Alex’s comment. Why wouldn’t a hitchhiker have to pay? And why does a bruise make her look like a hitchhiker? I discovered later that the bus is merely a campus crosser. Why would a student have to pay for that?

    Next: “You don’t look like a normal human, to say the least.” I encouraged.

    I would delete “I encouraged.” If you keep it, you need to punctuate it as a speaker tag.

    Next: The bus rattled with student noise of girls shrieking and trying to talk louder than the other.

    Louder than the other what? Do you mean louder than each other?

    Next: The guys were yelling for no reason at all, boasting about their football team.

    I think boasting about the football team is a reason for yelling.

    Next: She glanced around at the crowded bus and I nodded, settling into the worn-out seat.

    I thought they were already seated.

    Next: This reminded me of our elementary school days when I’d walk her home from the principal’s office nearly once a week.

    Why does sitting in a bus remind him of walking?

    Next: We slid into the old comfortable stools and as Scarlett was getting cleaned up by my doting mother, she explained what happened.

    You need a comma after stools. I would alter the second part to get rid of the passive voice. For example, “We slid into the old comfortable stools. While Scarlett allowed my doting mother to clean her wounds, she explained what happened.

    Next: She bustled away to her room and Scarlett chuckled. “Your mom’s the best.”

    You need a comma after room. I would probably restructure it like this: When she bustled away to her room, Scarlett chuckled. “Your mom’s the best.”

    Next: “Yeah, I just wish she treated me that good.” I stated and swung around on the stool to face her. “So what did you want to talk to me about?”

    I would delete “I stated” and just have “I swung around …” If you keep it, punctuate it as a speaker tag.

    Next: “Yeah, it always does that.” I said.

    I would delete “I said.” If you keep it, punctuate it as a speaker tag.

    Next: I hesitated for a second but reached for the flame.
    “But” usually indicates a contrast. Here it is merely a second action, not a contrast.

    Next: Since I could remember Scarlett had a secret “magic” ability to imagine things that leaked into reality.

    I don’t understand this sentence.

    I think you have a good idea. Keep writing!

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    • Wow, thank you Mr. Davis! I really appreciate your criticism and will definitely use it. I just have a quick question. How do you keep all of these principles in mind while writing? To be honest, I would have never caught half of this stuff even while editing.

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  2. I loved this!! You did an awesome job! 🙂

    I’m writing about a kid (er, teen) who can make his imagination come to life, so it’s cool to read about others who have the same ability. I also loved all the foreshadowing, not too much, yet not too little.

    Anyways, I loved it and I want to read more!

    Keep writing!!

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  3. Wow! Now I want to know what happens next! The thing with the fire caught me off guard, people with magical abilities are almost always really cool
    Keep writing!

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  4. Wendy, I loved your story!!!!! The fire in Scalett’s hand really surprised me – in a good way, though, I was like, “Whoa, that was cool. I didn’t see that coming!” You really developped your characters well, and your whole idea is fascinating. I want to read the rest now 🙂

    However, I’m confused about Alex. Is he a girl or a boy? I mean, I assumed he was a girl throughout the story, but then I read Mr. Davis’ comment and he referred to him as a boy. I didn’t catch it anywhere in the story if it specified.

    But really, I want to read the rest! What do you plan to do with the story? I’d definitely read it if it came out as a book someday!

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