Critique Group – A Welcome Retreat

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The author has requested help naming the world these characters are in.

A Welcome Retreat – by Isaac

Through the dark, murky woods he raced, sweat pouring from every possible sweat pour on his body. How long had he been running? He couldn’t remember. He had been focusing all his attention an energy to running from the Beast. Had he lost it? How much longer could he continue to run like this? Was there a safe haven ahead where he could take a rest? Should he just give up to the Beast in surrender? No, he had to keep going until he was sure he had lost it.

“Is that a cottage up ahead?” He thought. He turned around to see if the Beast was in sight. It wasn’t. He had a little time to ask whoever lived in the cottage if he would hide him. It was worth a try. He knocked on the door and as he caught his breath he asked the Maker for help. Someone was coming to the door. They were opening the door.

“Hello,” The man, probably in his forties, who answered the door said. “What is your name young man?”

“Nathaniel, sir.”

“Well Nathaniel, my name is Joshua. What are you doing out here at this late hour all by yourself?”

“Uh, well,” Nathaniel stopped to catch his breath. “I can’t explain now but I need you to help me by hiding me here for a little while.”

“Where are you parents?”

Nathaniel didn’t say anything but Joshua understood.

“I understand. Well, for now, come on in,” He said with a wave of his hand towards the inside of the quaint, little cottage.

As Nathaniel followed Joshua into the sitting room he noticed portraits of many people. Each of the portraits had a plaque with the name of the person on it and two years with a dash in between them. Most of them had the same last name. Probably ancestors and dear friends. Oddly enough some of the canvases and plaques were empty except for one date and a dash. One of them, though, stood out and he thought he recognized the person in the picture but he couldn’t put his finger on it so he kept walking.

When they arrived in the sitting room Joshua sat down and told Nathaniel to have a seat.

“Well, now that you are safely hidden indoors and are comfortable tell me a little about yourself and why you are out in the woods.” Joshua said.

“Well, I am a pretty much just a nobody kid who was just out and about when the Beast tried to kill me. I don’t know why but he did and so I have been running from him for who knows how long.” Nathaniel replied.

“I see. Well, how about you stay here for a day or so until the Beast has lost you and then you can go.”

“Thank you, sir” Nathaniel said with a sigh.

“Are you hungry? There is some fresh venison cooking right now and should be done in just a few minutes.” Joshua offered.

Nathaniel didn’t know what to say. He didn’t want to take this man’s food but he was famished. He decided to ask for food. “I am famished if you have some food to spare for me.”

“There is enough extra. Since the wife and kids are out of town for the week it’s just me and I can’t finish a whole deer myself.” Joshua answered.

“Thank you sir,” Nathaniel said, thanking the Maker for this man’s kindness.

While Nathaniel waited for the man to finish cooking the venison he looked around the room. Everything seemed old and worn like it had been passed down for generations but it still looked nice. It was probably very well cared for. Then there was the piano. He felt like he had seen that piano somewhere but again, he couldn’t think of where he had seen it.

As he continued to survey the room he noticed that on the mantle above the fireplace was a set of armor and a sword.

“Dinner’s ready!” Shouted Joshua. “Come and get it!”

Nathaniel quickly hurried into the kitchen, dining room area. Once Joshua had gotten his share Nathaniel got some of his own also. As the two of them ate in silence, Nathaniel admired the fancy oak table that they were eating on and the intricate wood work on the matching stools.

Once dinner was over Nathaniel offered to wash the dishes but Joshua refused.

“You are my guest,” He insisted. “I will not allow you to do the work that I can do myself while you are under my roof.”

Nathaniel finally gave up, not willing to have an argument with this man and possibly ruin the friendliness that the man was giving him. While Joshua was washing the dishes, though, Nathaniel saw the perfect opportunity to go back and study the portraits. Especially the one that he had thought he had recognized the person in. He arrived at the portrait and began to study it.

“What you doing?”

Joshua’s voice snapped Nathaniel back into reality. How long had he stood staring at the portrait?

“Just looking at this portrait.” Nathaniel said still a little surprised.

“Good friend of mine Malachi was.” Joshua reminiscently explained. “Passed away about five years ago when his house was destroyed by the Beast’s minions. He and his wife Esther were both found dead right outside of their house. Their son, whose name isn’t coming to me right now, was never found. We expect he ran for his life and found some way to live on his own. He was a bright one. I can’t remember him that well now. It’s been a while and I’m not as young as I used to be so my memory of him has faded a bit. I do remember, though, that the age he was then plus the five years would make him a young man now.  Still wish we could find him but haven’t even found a trace of him.”

Nathaniel thought the story sounded slightly familiar but again just brushed it off. “That is very sad. I’m sorry?

Then there was an awkward silence that lasted for a few minutes as both Joshua and Nathaniel studied the portrait of Malachi and thought.

“Well, Let me show you where you will be sleeping,” Joshua offered, breaking the silence.

“Sure,” Nathaniel absentmindedly replied.

As they walked towards Nathaniel’s sleeping quarters he continued to ponder the story. Why would the beast do such a thing? Why would he kill a family with a young boy? Why was the Beast so mean? Nathaniel had no idea. The ways of the Beast were very mysterious.

“Here’s your room,” Joshua again snapped Nathaniel out of his thoughts. “Here’s your bed and if you need anything at all just tell me.”

“Thank you, will do,” Nathaniel gratefully replied.

Once Joshua had left the room Nathaniel decided to lay down in the nice warm, cozy bed and think more tomorrow. For now he was tired and needed to rest up from his adventure.

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8 replies

  1. Isaac, the story is intriguing, and I want to know more about this Beast and whether or not Joshua is trustworthy. Good job.

    When you start with intense action as you have, it is difficult for readers to sympathize with the character. We don’t care about him yet. You have not provided anything to allow for an emotional attachment.

    Also, you don’t provide motivation. Why is the beast chasing him? Why is he in the woods? I suggest starting with Nathaniel walking in the woods without being chased. Allow some time to show us his internal dilemma. Give us reason to fear for him. Then let the beast chase him.

    Now some details:

    “Through the dark, murky woods he raced, sweat pouring from every possible sweat pour on his body.”

    This is overwritten (and pour is spelled incorrectly.) Just write that sweat is pouring. We don’t need to know that it’s coming from every pore.

    “How long had he been running? He couldn’t remember.”

    You don’t need the second sentence. If he is asking the question, obviously he doesn’t remember.

    “He had been focusing all his attention an energy to running from the Beast. Had he lost it? How much longer could he continue to run like this? Was there a safe haven ahead where he could take a rest? Should he just give up to the Beast in surrender? No, he had to keep going until he was sure he had lost it.”

    This is a lot of interior monologue for someone who is running, apparently for his life. Trim it. Also, “and” is misspelled in the first sentence.

    “Is that a cottage up ahead?” He thought. He turned around to see if the Beast was in sight. It wasn’t. He had a little time to ask whoever lived in the cottage if he would hide him. It was worth a try. He knocked on the door and as he caught his breath he asked the Maker for help. Someone was coming to the door. They were opening the door.

    Quoted thoughts should be in italics, not within quotation marks, then you don’t need “he thought.” Also, this is also overwritten. You can shorten it a lot and still give us more visuals, something like this:

    A cottage appeared ahead, light from within the front window guiding his way. When he glanced back, the beast was nowhere in sight. He rushed to the old wooden door and knocked, praying for help as he caught his breath. Seconds later, footsteps sounded, and the door opened.

    “Hello,” The man, probably in his forties, who answered the door said. “What is your name young man?”

    “The” should be lower case. Asking his name first seemed odd. He would probably say something like, “What can I do for you at this late hour?” or “Are you all right? You look frightened.”

    Can you give us at least one detail about what the man looks like? Telling us he is probably in his forties provides no visual. Tall? Round? Glasses? A big nose? Wearing jeans? Just a couple. Let the readers draw in the rest.

    “Uh, well,” Nathaniel stopped to catch his breath. “I can’t explain now but I need you to help me by hiding me here for a little while.”

    Since “Nathaniel stopped” is not a speaker tag, you need a period instead of a comma after “well.” Also, you already said he was catching his breath. I think the last sentence is too long. He should say something like, “Can you hide me?”

    “Where are you parents?”

    This is another odd question. Since Nathaniel asked to be hidden, the obvious response would be to say whether or not he would hide him.

    Nathaniel didn’t say anything but Joshua understood.

    Why didn’t Nathaniel say anything? How did Joshua understand? What did he understand?

    “I understand. Well, for now, come on in,” He said with a wave of his hand towards the inside of the quaint, little cottage.

    You already said he understood. Why the repetitiveness? “He said” is a speaker tag, so the H needs to be lower case.

    As Nathaniel followed Joshua into the sitting room he noticed portraits of many people. Each of the portraits had a plaque with the name of the person on it and two years with a dash in between them. Most of them had the same last name. Probably ancestors and dear friends. Oddly enough some of the canvases and plaques were empty except for one date and a dash. One of them, though, stood out and he thought he recognized the person in the picture but he couldn’t put his finger on it so he kept walking.

    Watch for verbs like “he noticed” and “he thought.” These are narrator phrases that harm the intimacy of point of view. This paragraph indicates that they have already entered the sitting room, but the next paragraph has “When they arrived in the sitting room,” as if they hadn’t already down so.

    “One of them” points to the empty canvases, since they are the closest antecedent to “them.” I don’t think Nathaniel would have recognized anyone in an empty canvas.

    Another question, if the plaques had names, did Nathaniel read the name of the person he recognized? Wouldn’t that have told him who it was?

    Also, this paragraph is too wordy again. I would cut it down to something like this:

    Nathaniel followed Joshua toward the sitting room. Portraits hung on the corridor walls, each bearing a plaque etched with the person’s name and years of life. The same last name appeared on most of the plaques, probably ancestors intermixed with dear friends. Some canvases, however, were blank, and the plaques had only a starting date and a dash. One face seemed familiar, but the name didn’t register.

    “When they arrived in the sitting room Joshua sat down and told Nathaniel to have a seat.”

    This is an opportunity to provide a quick description of the room. Chairs? A sofa? A coffee table? Lights? A window to see what might be lurking outside?

    “Well, now that you are safely hidden indoors and are comfortable tell me a little about yourself and why you are out in the woods.” Joshua said.

    “Joshua said” is a speaker tag, so you need a comma instead of a period after “woods.” Also, try to put speaker tags as early as possible in a dialogue paragraph, like this:

    “Well,” Joshua said, “now that you are safely hidden indoors and are comfortable, tell me a little about yourself and why you are out in the woods.”

    As an alternative, you can begin with Joshua’s body language to provide a visual.

    Joshua folded his hands on his lap. “Well, now that you are safely hidden indoors and are comfortable, tell me a little about yourself and why you are out in the woods.”

    “Well, I am a pretty much just a nobody kid who was just out and about when the Beast tried to kill me. I don’t know why but he did and so I have been running from him for who knows how long.” Nathaniel replied.

    You have two consecutive paragraphs beginning with “Well,” and the next paragraph also has “Well,”

    “Nathaniel replied” is a speaker tag, so you need a comma instead of a period after “long.” Move the speaker tag earlier in the paragraph or, even better, start the paragraph with a visual showing Nathaniel doing something.

    That’s as far as I am going with this critique. I scanned the remainder and found the same problems. Rework your speaker tags for placement and punctuation, cut down the wordiness, and try to eliminate narrator phrases.

    I hope my comments have helped.

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  2. Hello, Isaac!

    Thank you for sharing your work with us.

    The beginning of your story is very interesting. I love reading books about characters one isn’t sure they can trust, making Joshua fascinating to me. Learning more about Nathaniel, why he was in danger from the Beast, and what the Beast is would keep me reading as well. You’ve set up some good mystery. Nice job!

    There are just a couple comments I would like to share with you.

    What struck me heavily about this piece was that some of the foreshadowing you provided was a little obvious. In the paragraph where Joshua is talking to Nathaniel about Malachi’s portrait and family, Joshua mentions not remembering the son’s name yet he remembered quite a bit about his disappearance. It seems that this son is going to be an integral part of the story, but if Joshua could tell Nathaniel so much about him, he surely would have remembered his name, especially since Malachi was such a good friend.

    It’s great that you have included foreshadowing. Many books I have read didn’t include enough, so you’re off to a good start, but it’s best to approach it with subtlety. In your piece, perhaps Joshua could very well remember all their names yet choose not to divulge them to this strange young man about whom he knows nothing. You could even use the opposite approach and have Joshua refuse to talk about the family. This is another technique for piquing a reader’s attention.

    I also thought that Nathaniel recovered very quickly from the emotional disturbance of being chased by the Beast. I know if I were in such danger, I might not be able to eat or sleep for a while. If you were making the point that Nathaniel is an experienced hunter and not easily distressed, I would tell this to the reader so they understand why he relaxed so quickly.

    Overall, I really like what you have presented. I like the mystery and the danger, so do keep writing! Just keep an eye out for little punctuation mistakes and give the readers plenty of incentive to root for Nathaniel.

    I hope I’ve helped a little.

    Warmest regards and happy writing!

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  3. I know where you live ha, jk. I just know what country. I really liked it. Like they said punctation is very important. Readers can get bored with overwriting. Seeya,You know who.

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  4. this has real promise Isaac. It just needs some clean up. I find that having a close friend or parent look over it and critique/correct helps A LOT! Some errors I found are:
    ‘sweat pouring . . . sweat pore’ don’t need to say sweat twice. We know he’s sweating, so you can just say ‘swat pouring . . . every pore’

    ‘Joshua understood. “I understand. . .”‘ this makes it a little confusing and awkward.

    Another point I noticed was that you call the house a cottage, but it has a sitting and dining room. When I think of a cottage, especially out in the middle of the woods, I think a 2 bedroom, front room connected to a small kitchen hunting lodge kind of setting.

    Good luck,

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  5. Thank you so much for all of the comments they have really helped me in my writing. Thank you especially Mr. Davis for being willing to post this on here and critique it I hope that I can post another story eventually. Thank you everyone else so far as well for your time in reading it and writing a response. Now, I still would like (if you didn’t notice it in the post) if people would suggest some names for the world that the characters are in as I have not been able to think of a name. Thank you so much, Isaac

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