Critique Group – In the Beginning

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I am posting this critique submission today, because I need to end this feature for now. I will post my reasons why later today. Since this is the last one in the submission queue, no one will be left hanging.

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In the Beginning – by Rebecca

I stared at the ceiling, crashed on my bed. All I wanted to do was sleep, but that wouldn’t happen anytime soon. School was in an hour…maybe I could get a few minutes in? I flipped over to look at my clock. Nope. No sleep till after school. Well, I could always crash in Geometry and History. Those are pretty easy subjects. Sighing, I sat up and looked at the newspaper clipping next to my bed.

“Hi Dad. Hi James and Celia. Hope you hear this, wherever you are.” Then I got up and checked the mirror. Running some fingers through my hair, I hoped that it wasn’t going to be hot today. Dark hair didn’t work for sweltering days like the past few weeks had been.

I threw on some clothes, hardly paying attention to what I wore, and washed my face. Ignored as I am, I really didn’t need people commenting behind my back on my complexion. My mom called up the stairs. “Lauren! Breakfast!”

“OK!” I called. Honestly, though, maybe I should just skip. I mean, I’m gonna be late for school anyway. Besides, it’s not like I’m hungry.

I sighed and headed downstairs anyway. If she was happy…well, that made one of us.

I managed to eat breakfast in silence-almost. Really, I picked at my food while Mom tried to get me to eat more. Then, she coughed. I looked up when she didn’t seem to be able to stop. “Mom? You alright?” She waved me off and finally got it under control.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just a tickle in my throat.” I squinted, trying to decide if she was lying or not. She was always good at hiding stuff from me. I gave up and stood. As I headed out the front door, Mom reminded me, “Remember, you have an appointment right after school! I’ll pick you up at the front door.” I sighed loudly and slammed the front door once I was through, not bothering to reply. Mom knew I hated those appointments. My therapist always talked in that annoying, ‘This is what you have to do’ voice. And they didn’t exactly work, either. I headed to the bus stop and waited. When it came, I stalked on and headed to the very back. Everybody knew to not talk to me. If they tried, all they got was a stony glare and silence. With my hair covering my face, I pulled out my headphones and played Adele.

After the twenty minute bus ride to school, I walked to Geometry. Mrs. MacDonald took roll and asked for the homework to be handed in. I slumped over my desk. I forgot again. Stupid counseling. When she came to my table, she paused for a second. I didn’t move, and she eventually sighed and walked to the next table. The hour passed slowly, and then I was in the halls again. Thankfully, public speaking didn’t normally have homework. Mr. Richards droned about the importance of eye contact–really, everybody knew that–until he was interrupted by the door opening. I raised my head. Was there a late student? I felt sorry for him. Nobody wanted to be late to Mr. Richards’ class. The principal, Mr. Kennedy, came in and beckoned to somebody outside the door. A girl entered and smiled shyly at us.

Mr. Kennedy cleared his throat. “Mr Richards and class, this is Kiana. She just moved here from Washington State. Kiana, do you know anybody in this class?” The girl–Kiana–shook her head no. I noticed that she looked a bit overwhelmed, and I remembered when I was the new girl. But Kiana should be all right. She looks like a freshman, maybe a sophomore. Yeah, she’ll be fine. I put my head back down, barely registering Mr. Kennedy’s next words. “Kiana, why don’t you go sit next to Lauren? I’m sure that she’ll be very friendly.”

“OK.” Kiana half-whispered. She shouldered her backpack and headed to where Mr. Kennedy was gesturing. Wait…me. Why did he tell her to sit next to me? I glared at Mr. Kennedy. He ignored my death stare and turned to leave. “Oh, Kiana. I’ve scheduled a person from each of your classes to get you to where you need to be. Your first period is Biology, correct?” She nodded.

“Then it’s Catherine Wilburn. And in this class…” He scanned the room, his eyes thankfully passing over me. “I believe it’s Jade Morgan.”

Or not so thankfully. I cringed inwardly. Jade was one of the meanest girls in the school. Why did she volunteer to show the new girl around? Kiana looked to where Jade was smiling and waving. I shuddered. If there wasn’t a teacher around, I doubted she’d be doing that. Probably the opposite, in fact. Kiana sat down and smiled at me. I plopped my head down on my desk again, refusing to return the smile. I felt her gaze boring into the side of my head, but I didn’t acknowledge it. Mr. Richards continued speaking, and I drifted off into my own little daydream until it was time to go. Jade smirked at Kiana, going over to introduce herself. I told myself that Kiana will be fine. She wasn’t my responsibility. But I still got a nagging feeling. I watched as Kiana’s next guide entered the room. I didn’t know her name, but I’d seen her around school before. She seemed nice, if not a bit airheaded. I turned to leave, but a voice called my name.

“Lauren! Wait!” I stopped in my tracks, barely believing my ears. Kiana caught up to me and said, “I never really got a chance to introduce myself properly. I’m Kiana Nicholls.”

I stared at her, dumbfounded. Walking away, I surprised myself by shooting over my shoulder, “Lauren Baxter.” My last glimpse of her was a smiling but confused face.

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6 replies

  1. I am sorry that this is the last critique, but I completely understand– something WAY more important is going on. Rebecca, (I think that’s the right way to spell it?) like your work very much. This is a very good ordinary world. It seems to be any other school, but once one gets to know the characters, it won’t be just a school. I’m sure that anyone will be able to look into this school and see a lifetime: just as your readers should. The only particular critique I have is this:

    “Hi Dad. Hi James and….”

    This confused me a tad. Is this Lauren talking to herself, remembering something, talking to the newspaper, talking to someone else in the room, or is it what the paper says? And why didn’t you say who or what it was that was communicating?

    Other than that, perhaps more description of surroundings? I’m having a teensy bit of trouble seeing how the character and her surroundings look. God bless and keep writing!

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    • She’s speaking to the paper. Her family is missing, and she’s hoping that somehow, by speaking to the article that was published about her family, that they’ll be able to hear her. It’s just one of her ways with coping.
      And thanks for your critique!! I’ll work on details.

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  2. Rebecca,

    You drew a portrait of a troubled student in an intriguing manner.

    Here are some details:

    “I stared at the ceiling, crashed on my bed.”

    Normally I think of “crashed” as an action verb. What does being crashed on a bed look like? I can’t picture this.

    “All I wanted to do was sleep, but that wouldn’t happen anytime soon.”

    Why not? What was causing the lack of sleep?

    “School was in an hour…maybe I could get a few minutes in? I flipped over to look at my clock. Nope. No sleep till after school.”

    When she looked at the clock, what did she see? How did that make her decide not to sleep? Was it not really an hour until school starts?

    “Well, I could always crash in Geometry and History.”

    Here you use crash as an action verb, so that makes me wonder even more about your earlier use of the word.

    “Hi Dad. Hi James and Celia. Hope you hear this, wherever you are.”

    This confused me a lot. Who is talking? How does looking at a newspaper clipping bring about these words?

    “Ignored as I am, I really didn’t need people commenting behind my back on my complexion.”

    If she is ignored, why would people comment on her complexion? They wouldn’t notice.

    “I mean, I’m gonna be late for school anyway.”

    Why would she be late? Is it not really an hour before school starts?

    “I managed to eat breakfast in silence-almost. Really, I picked at my food while Mom tried to get me to eat more.”

    Could you show a little more, such as what she was eating? Maybe show the mother trying to get her to eat more?

    “I looked up when she didn’t seem to be able to stop.”

    The looking up is caused by the inability to stop, so you should mention the inability to stop first.

    “Mom? You alright?”

    “All right” is two words.

    “I gave up and stood.”

    You never mentioned that she sat.

    “When it came, I stalked on and headed to the very back.”

    The antecedent for “it” is bus stop. I don’t think the bus stop came.

    “Everybody knew to not talk to me. If they tried, all they got was a stony glare and silence.”

    If your intent is to make me dislike your character, you are succeeding. I think it’s important to make a main character likeable.

    “She shouldered her backpack and headed to where Mr. Kennedy was gesturing.”

    Lauren saw this while her head was down?

    “He scanned the room, his eyes thankfully passing over me.”

    How could his eyes be thankful in doing this?

    I felt her gaze boring into the side of my head, but I didn’t acknowledge it.

    Lauren seems quite hypocritical calling Jade mean when she, herself, appears to be even meaner. Making Lauren so unlikeable would make me put this story down by now.

    “Walking away, I surprised myself by shooting over my shoulder,”

    Does “shooting” mean the same as “speaking”?

    In summary, I would like to see you give Lauren a quality that would make her more endearing to readers, something that would cause us to cheer for her. As it stands, I don’t feel attached to her.

    I apologize if my critique seems abrupt.

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  3. To all ya’ll who the thing that you will miss most about this blog is the critique group. I have recently created and finished a critique blog called The Inklings, in honor of the C.S.Lewis and Tolkien writing group. It is created for all those writers who desire for someone that they can share their work with, not only once, but all throughout their writing journey of creating their story. My vision is for it to be a place that writers can go to stay accountable, get encouragement, and receive feedback. So, if you are interested, please come visit and check it out at: http://theinklings.wix.com/inklings. And if you are feeling daring and adventurous, maybe try submitting a piece of your own masterpiece!

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  4. I would also highly recommend this Inklings site. It is very nice-looking!

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