Lay A Paragraph On The Altar Of Critique

Last week’s post about critiquing opening lines generated a fascinating — and holy crap, robust — fusillade of comments back and forth, which is exciting to see.

So, let’s do it again.

Or, something similar, at least.

What I want you to to do is to grab a paragraph — hopefully a shorter one, but that’s your call — and offer up that paragraph for critique. Drop it into the comments, and let folks talk about what would make it stronger — in terms of description, metaphor, clarity of language, characterization, what-have-you and blah blah blah.

You can grab something from your current WIP.

Or, if so inclined, write something new.

One paragraph only.

If you’re offering up a paragraph for critique, it’s only fair you offer commentary to someone else.

Be respectful of others. Say good things as well as bad.

Let’s do it.

477 comments

  • Why do you worry? I have first read the paragraph before I looked at the introduction and just by reading I got the timeframe and I had immediately a kind of wild west scenery in front of me. Slight correction: It could also be a Gaucho scene, given the melancholic voice. From the short paragraph you’ve written, I get a picture of an old man that has gone through a lot. He’s tired and probably sits in front of an old petroleum lamp and writes down his life. I love the tone and the pace and I would continue to read.

    • Thanks! That’s really what I wanted to evoke– the character isn’t necessarily old, but he’s hard-used and believes himself at the end of his life.

      I appreciate your input, and I think after posting it to the comments here I’m actually inspired to work on this piece some more..

  • Alright here’s a paragraph from my crime/fantasy WIP.

    Bogdan chewed his nails. His eyes flittered across the hungry sea. The moon shone brilliantly down onto the water, but Bogdan didn’t have time to revel in it.

    Any feedback will be appreciated!

    • Sooooo short! I’ll try my best, though.

      Bogdan is nervous about something. He’s near the seaside, close enough to see the reflection of the moon on the water’s surface. It’s night-time, a clear night, and I’m guessing that the moon is close to full.

      I’m also guessing that Bogdan is either a soon to be victim, or a reluctant (anti?) hero. He’s either anxiously (unwillingly?) meeting someone at his location, or walking down a path to somewhere else in a hurry.

      It’s not a bad opening paragraph. It raises a lot of questions and makes me want to know more about who Bogdan is and what he’s doing there. It’s a very good example of how a scene can be set and a character (and some of his attributes) introduced in a very small amount of words. A good start I’d say.

      • Thanks! Yeah this isn’t really the opening paragraph, but it is an opening paragraph. The book is structured into parts focusing on different characters, and this is the opening to the fourth of those parts.
        You’re analysis was pretty on point, he is definitely an anti-hero eventually slipping into a villainous role.
        Again thanks for you feedback!

  • This is my first time posting on this site, so, here goes nothing!

    This is part of a dream in my current WIP:

    “I was running up an alley. I wasn’t sure why I was running, but I felt fear unlike anything I had ever known. Everything had a hazy, unreal quality to it. I saw rose bushes on my right, but they looked fuzzy and actually faded from my vision when I tried to concentrate on them. I looked behind me and saw darkness and it was closing in on me. I pumped my legs faster but it didn’t feel like I was moving forward. I thought I was scared before, but in that moment, I became my fear. I knew I was screaming, but no sound was coming out. I was confused and didn’t know why this was happening. All I knew was I had to keep my legs pumping. I couldn’t let the darkness catch me.”

    • Cool. I liked it, but I think you might want to go even more dreamlike with your imagery and prose.
      For instance you could make the prose more choppy and fragmented to really sell how otherworldly this dream is.
      Anyway I don’t know if that’s the feel you were going for, but that’s my advice.

  • Captain Walton had lied. And for that Clay thanked – and cursed – his name once a week. And this week, September 13th, 1878, had started all mixed up like a mud puddle in a stampede, but he now had found enough dirty silver for his research and a little nest egg to boot. But he hadn’t stopped looking over his shoulder since he left Leadville.

    • Lots going on in this little paragraph. I really like the opening, makes me want to know the story behind Captain Walton. The 3rd sentence “And this week…” is a bit confusing though. I had to read it a couple of times. Also, the conjunctions tend to get repetitive – “but he now had…” “But he hadn’t…” I took a stab at switching it up a little while still keeping your tone:

      Captain Walton had lied. And for that, Clay thanked – and cursed – his name once a week. This week, the week of September 13th, 1878, had started all mixed up like a mud puddle in a stampede. Clay had corralled it in though. He now had found enough dirty silver for his research and a little nest egg to boot, even if he hadn’t stopped looking over his shoulder since he left Leadville.

    • This is definitely an attention-grabber. I want to know what the Captain lied about and why Clay is looking over his shoulder. As for structure, I feel this is too many sentences that start with a conjunction for one paragraph. I would drop the “And”s. Is the exact date important? It just reads a little awkward to say “this week” but then have a specific day. It might be better to say, “*This* week, in September of 1878, started all mixed up, like a mud puddle in a stampede. Even if he hadn’t stopped looking over his shoulder since Leadville, he now had enough dirty silver for his research and a little nest egg to boot.” where ** indicates italics.

  • The wind drove me forward, as it did all things. My people, the livestock, and the dust. Torrential wind slapped at my backside as I made my way along. Hood over head, the thick sheep-hide cloak shielded my weather thickened skin from the brunt of it. Still, as it pressed upon me, it was a constant reminder of the urgency of our migration.

    • This is nice because even though I’m not really sure what the situation is here I get a very good image and feel of what is going on.
      The main character obviously isn’t having a good time, but he/she is tough(for some reason I’m leaning she). Plus you’ve weaved the description into what the character is feeling which is great.
      Again if this is an opening paragraph you might want to ask yourself if you want to set the stage with what’s going on a little more, but if not this could work nicely.

      • Thanks :) yes, it is a she. Was thinking of it as an opening paragraph, but I’m still on the first draft, so who knows what the first thing will actually be when it’s done. Lol.

    • This is really well done. My only advice would be to change that last sentence to “Still, it pressed upon me, a constant reminder of the urgency of our migration.” That gives you an action verb that jibes with the rest of the paragraph.

  • Alan sat on a barrel to eat; the sea was calm with only a light wind in the sails. He chewed on meat that was tougher even than usual; it was wise to take time over it or his stomach might rebel.

    ‘I’ve been at sea four years now and still not accustomed to it.’

    In truth it was only his digestion that baulked at nautical life, in most respects Alan had adapted quickly. He could shin up the yards to take sail in, take his turn in the tops watching for Spaniards, scrub the deck free of any and all mess and he could load a musket faster than anyone; but he was self-critical. He wanted acceptance but always felt the outsider.

    ——————————————————————-

    This is the opener from my latest effort. Alan isn’t English, but he’s on an English ship at war with Spain.
    I want readers to understand his dilemma from the outset. Have I succeeded?

    • Ahh, sea-stories. Good times!

      Firstly, I don’t think your semi-colon is warranted. I can’t see how it connects the second part of the sentence to the first. Would he not have been sitting on a barrel to eat if the sea was not calm? Would he have been sitting on the floor instead? Or would he not have been eating at all?

      It would be good if you could describe the barrel a little better. What’s in it? Is it loaded with gunpowder or shot for the cannons? Is it citrus fruit to try and fight off scurvy? Is it the pickled remains of some of the slaves dead in the hold? By elaborating a little about the barrel you might help to give a subtle hint about what kind of ship Alan is on.

      Also, why was the meat tougher than usual? Had he just picked a bad piece? Or was it the last of a rapidly dwindling supply? Maybe one of the barrels he was sitting on was leaking and letting a little water or air in, turning the food. In my mind, Alan’s journey is near its end, because the meat is tough (and therefore probably old) and I’m guessing maybe the ship is heading to port soon?

      I had to double-check ‘baulked’ as I’ve only ever used ‘balked’ but my dictionary says either is cool in this case, so thanks for introducing me to a variant! At the comma after “nautical life”, however, I would personally change that to a semi-colon to make the sentence flow better.

      In the same paragraph, using the word “take” twice in quick succession doesn’t really sit well with me, but I can’t offer a better alternative off the top of my head. Maybe tweaking the sentence structure might help. But if you’re happy with it, no biggie, it’s just a personal niggle.

      Towards the end of the paragraph I’d again remove the semi-colon and replace it with either a full stop,(making your last two sentences short and punchy) or replace it with an en-dash or em-dash.

      You otherwise painted a good picture using appropriate boat terminology (honestly, I don’t know much boat terminology, but it worked for me) and the mention of the musket coupled with your mention of the Spanish gave me a good estimation of the time frame.

      I know you didn’t ask for an in-depth feedback, but I wanted to say these bits before addressing your actual question; did you succeed at showing the readers that Alan is not English, but that he is on an English ship at war with the Spanish. In some ways, yes. I understood that Spaniards = Bad. But from your opening paragraph, I wouldn’t have known that Alan is not English, or that he’s on an English ship. And here’s why.

      Alan, these days, is a very English name (although originally, it wasn’t). If you introduced me to a guy named Alan, and asked me to guestimate where he came from (and I hadn’t heard him speaking), I’d be guessing Northern England or Scotland. It’s not as popular a name as it once was, but I’ve predominantly heard it used in North East/West England and Scotland, and couple of times in Wales (with some slight variation in the spelling) yet have rarely heard it used south of Birmingham.

      If you told me it wasn’t England, then I’d be guessing America, especially with the way you have spelt it. I wouldn’t guess Alan to be from Europe unless you used one of the less anglicised versions of the name. I like to use this website when checking on etymology of names: http://www.behindthename.com/name/alan though perhaps other readers/writers use different sites/books for helping to establish setting/authenticity where names are concerned.

      Second reason, is that there was no indication (other than Alan’s name) that the ship might be English. How ’bout you have Alan running the St. George’s cross up the mast, or something? And when he talks, if you don’t think you can convincingly add an accent to your dialogue (or don’t want to keep it up through the entire story), what about adding something after, along the lines of, “his voice still heavily accented even to his own ears after four years at sea with his English crewmates” and have Alan say something about the damn Spaniards or the quality of the meat?

      Right now, it sounds like Alan’s the outsider not because he is a foreigner amongst English men, but because he has a bit of a squiffy tummy.

      Anyhoo, enough rambling methinks. I hope this helped you, even in a small way, and good luck if you do decide to make any changes!

      • Thank you for all your suggestions. I didn’t really expect an opening paragraph to answer all the questions a reader might have and this is just a first draft. Alan has another name but his Captain (and protector) named him Alan because he couldn’t pronounce the real one, all of which comes out over the next few pages.
        I shall re-write this section, probably several times.

  • Anwar Dib was large, one hundred and fifty kilograms of large. Sitting outside a café in Lygon Street, he sipped coffee on the footpath, talking to another wannabe gangster about the best way to hide money from the police if arrested and losing the hard earned through confiscation under the proceeds of crime act. The crime act was the gangster’s worst nightmare, after assassination. It was some comfort sitting in a cell for a stretch aware of the money you had stashed upon release. A stretch and no money left, well, that was real hard time. After telling the wannabe his thoughts, Dib stood, drained the dregs of coffee and slowly, his only speed, headed toward his car.

    *Feedback appreciated!*

    • This is good. I really like the scene and how much information you get across in just a short amount of time. I would definitely be interested in reading more. Just a few things I noticed…

      I think money should be described as hard earned from the beginning. The way it is now makes it sound like only the money that is confiscated is hard earned.

      The sentence “It was some comfort sitting in a cell…” needs a comma after comfort and stretch. I think it would make it easier to read. I would also add something to “upon release” because the sentence reads the money was stashed upon release, rather than waiting for him when he gets out.

      The only other thing is “his only speed” in the last sentence seems to be misplaced. I think it would be better in the beginning sentence when you are describing Dib.

      Obviously just my opinion, but otherwise, I liked it!

    • Really interesting ideas here. Anwar Dib sounds like the start of a cool character; I’d love to hear what he sounds like. Maybe you can use dialogue here so we can watch the scene instead of having it described?

      Are they both wannabe gangsters? If so, why? Is there something they can do to show us why they’re wannabes?

      It looks like there are great seeds for conflict here too. Maybe they disagree about what’s worse; assassination or the crime act? Maybe they can argue about how best to stash money?

      I love the idea of having a nest egg that makes prison bearable. Dialogue could help you here too to show examples. Here’s just as an idea:

      “Man, Arnie the Sliver did five years and walked out to the tune of $300,000! That’s how ya do it, that’s the life,” the wannabie said.”Yeah, but Tommy Twosies tried that and spent four years dreading going home. Went away with nothing but three kids worth of dental bills to come home to and moth balls in his pockets. Frackin’ crime act,” Dibs grumbled.

    • Are you going for a pretty dark mood here? If so, you nailed it. I read “gangsters,” “arrests,” “hard time,” and “crime” over and over, and I get a very dark and shady vibe, similar to the mood while reading “The Godfather”. The only thing that takes away from it is “wannabe” repeated, I think that makes it seem just a bit trivial.

      Then again, this might be just because where I live (middle of nowhere, USA), “wannabe gangster” implies someone who is a bit pathetic in the way they try to dress and speak like thugs, not so much an aspiring criminal.

      I think Helen might be onto something by moving “his only speed” to the first few sentences, but it works well where it is, too.

      Also, I think you should leave “losing the hard-earned” exactly as it is. That’s a very good line.

      • Thanks Helen, Ryan and KV for the feedback. Helen, I agree with ‘his only speed’, I still play with that line and yes, the comma has been added! Ryan, unfortunately Mr Dib gets shot dead at the end of the chapter. I like you’re idea about some dialogue between the two, thanks! KV, my writing is dark. I live in Melbourne, Australia and ‘hard-earned’ is common Australian slang for cash. The reason I have ‘wannabe’ in there is in Melbourne we had a large gang war that fascinated-terrorised the whole country. In a decade we had some crazy number, around 50, gangsters get killed but the main guys we’re all well known through the media. For us, it was like watching a TV show, so hence, wannabe is kind of a localism, if that makes sense. Thanks again guys!

  • There was a ripple. It was small, comparatively speaking; a pebble dropped in a tranquil pool of deep water would have cast larger waves. But still, it was a ripple, and to those who were attuned to the subtle pulse and flow of the aether, the ripple was a bright beacon, a flare of distortion indicating something had passed through the fabric of reality. Within an hour of the ripple being felt, the Lesser Council had convened within the Morning Hall of the great citadel of Shatterstone.

    – – – – – –

    My latest opening paragraph. Unfortunately, wordpress comments strip the formatting. Italic emphasis is on the “something” which had passed through the fabric of reality. Hope I’m not too late to the critique party!

    • Love it. I keep revisiting it and re-reading it. It has a poetic feel that sets the stage for something massive and exciting. I don’t know if you need (“it was small, comparatively speaking;) the phrase that follows illustrates that point elloquently, and it shows without telling. I think you can cut other bits too to make it cleaner and hit harder. You’ve picked wonderful adjectives but they do slow down the reader. You may want to use them a bit more sparingly. Primarily because it feels like you’re building urgency and excitement with phrases like “within an hour”. Shorter chopier sentences can help you achieve this and get the pace going. Also, you could simplify phrases like “within an hour of the ripple being felt,’ to just “within the hour”. At this point, we know you’re talking about the ripple.

      Don’t take this as gospel, I know I’m looking at this paragraph out of context, but here’s a possible example:

      (There was a ripple. A pebble dropped in a tranquil pool would have cast larger waves; but those attuned to the subtle pulse of the aether saw it as a beacon. Something had passed through the fabric of reality.

      Within the hour, the Lesser Council…)

    • This is good. It makes a point succinctly and suggests that the Great Council are a tad twitchy, apparently there is bad stuff lurking out there.
      It would definitely make me read on. I’m not really fond of Fantasy as a genre, but sometimes it ignites my interest.

      • Thanks! It’s part Fantasy, part real-life parody, but the latter only becomes apparent after further paragraphs. I know that Fantasy can be very hit-and-miss with most readers… glad this paragraph was more of a hit than a miss for you :)

  • Stitcher lived alone. She was only fourteen, but she managed pretty well for herself. She had a snug home in an abandoned warehouse, in an old office. SHe had the old desk for a table, and the office chair to sit in. The window was covered with an old blanket she had painstakingly repaired so it had no holes. When Stitcher repaired something, you couldn’t even see where the hole had been. Then she had embroidered a linked chain design all over it, like chain mail. It was as strong as chain mail, too. When someone had tried to throw rock through the window, the glass had broken, but the stone had bounced off the blanket.

    • Well, it certainly ticks all the boxes for me. I’m not usually a fan of short, tell-sentences, but it actually works quite well here, and certainly sets the scene. It gives me the impression that Stitcher’s world is small and simple, but that it’s about to get a lot bigger and more complex. The paragraph also has a parable feel to it, like the opening of a short tale involving allegory in some way.

      Wish I could offer you something a little more constructive than that.

    • From this paragraph, I definitely want to root for Stitcher in whatever may be coming..
      The one comment I have is about the use of the word old. “an old office”, “the old desk”, “an old blanket” – not sure if the repetition is intentional or not.

    • I like this premise and this introduction to the character. I think you can drop some of the passive voice and still keep the feel of it.

      “She kept a snug home in the office of an abandoned warehouse. She used the old desk for a table and the office chair to sit. She covered the window with an old blanket she painstakingly repaired so it had no holes…” and then again in the last sentence, “When someone tried to throw a rock through the widow, the glass broke, but the stone bounced off the blanket.”

    • I get the feeling that Stitcher is hiding out. Her ability with a needle implies that she has powers greater than normal and that’s intriguing. Someone throwing a rock at her window also tells me she’s in a bad environment and makes me wonder who would want to throw that stone and why?
      I’d definitely like to read more of this.

    • You’ve got a great character here! Seriously, I’d love reading a novel about a remarkable girl that can turn a blanket into armor. Gives new meaning to the phrase, security blanket!

      Other comments below have touched on the theme of a passive voice. I struggled with it for a long time. It kinda goes back to the old ‘show don’t tell’ axiom. You tell us that when “Stitcher repairs something, you couldn’t even see where the hole had been.” Maybe you can show us her actively repairing the blanket, and then testing it to make sure it doesn’t break. You’ve also told us she’s living alone in an abandoned warehouse. Maybe you can reveal that to us gradually rather than telling us right away.

      Here’s a hypothetical example:

      Example, “Stitcher stretched out the blanket and pinned it to the rack. half a dozen holes the size of baseballs stared back at her. She sighed, cracked her knuckles and grabbed her needle and thread. She stabbed the edge the first hole. Her fingers darted in and out of the hole feeding the thread. Over under, over under, over under. (ETC – – Maybe you can let us in on the magic of what’s so special about her technique. Does she use a special kind of material?)

      Stitcher brushed her hands off and stared back at her masterpiece. She grabbed a broken stapler from the top drawer of the desk. She reached back and threw it at the blanket as hard as she could. The now reinforced fabric threw the stapler full force back at her kneecap. The cracking sound and the sting of pain made her jaw drop.

      “MOM!” She screamed. The sound echoed down the hall of the abandoned warehouse. “Oh. Right,” she muttered to herself.

      Later in the scene when we see her get ready for bed, we’ll have put the pieces together. Oh, she lives here. She’s not living at home and she’s okay with that. At least she seems to be at this point in the story. That can be a great opportunity for conflict later in your story. Is she here by choice?

      The important thing is, you’ve got a killer idea here. Run with it! I hope this helps.

    • reading your comments and looking over the piece, I realize what I have here is notes on the story, not the actual story itself. This is me trying to get the idea on paper, now I have to go back and make it something.

  • Cole stopped at the steel sliding door of his home office. He rested his hand on a tablet computer built into the wall. The screen lit up, ID lights danced over his fingertips. The door slid open. As he strode through the entry, the wall panels vanished; revealing massive, rounded window walls and giving him a 360 degree view. His Celestial Sphere was an architectural marvel; a 2000 square foot crystal ball, suspended in the sky. Five stories below, waves crashed against rocks that had endured their punishment for thousands of years. He snapped his fingers and the sound of the ocean’s spray filled the room. He breathed deep and could taste wind from the sea.

    • I like the setting. You paint Cole’s home as some sort of high fortress, silent and grim despite the technological marvel of his Sphere. It has a fortress of solitude feel about it, though that could be the waves and the rocks below, conjuring an island image in my mind.

      Your first semi-colon, after the word ‘vanished’, is superfluous, and should be either replaced with a comma or left with a regular space to that the sentence makes more sense.

      Also, stories are tales we tell. Tall buildings have storeys. An easy mistake to make, especially with such a rarely-used homonym.

      One part that confused me a little was the way the door slid open. When you described it as a “steel sliding door” in your first sentence, I thought that the word “sliding” was a verb, not an adjective, so when the door later slid open I had to do a double-take. Maybe by dropping the ‘sliding’ adjective from your first sentence would make this a little less confusing, as you later describe it as sliding open anyway.

      The second part which I found a little confusing was the Celestial Sphere suspended in the sky. This brings to mind the image of a ball either suspended from above (by ropes) or just hanging there suspended by some unseen force. But if it’s suspended in either of these ways, then it won’t have storeys, which themselves are relative levels of a building. This might require a bit of compromise; either the sphere is suspended, and it doesn’t have storeys. Or it isn’t suspended (maybe it’s atop a tower) and it does have storeys. I don’t think you can have both.

      Hope this makes sense and is of benefit!

      • Absolutely! Very helpful, thanks for the feedback. In the previous graph, he walks through the Atlas corridor, but I never made it clear that this was what held the sphere in place.

        • Ahh, my mistake; I thought this was your opening paragraph for some reason (maybe because I’d latched on to ‘opening lines’ from last week’s post). Obviously, if he’s already walked through what holds the sphere in place then some of my comments are no longer relevant. Makes a little more sense now! :)

          • Yeah, most folks are doing openers too. I tend to open my chapters with dialogue, so I wanted to get feedback on a stand alone paragraph. Still great feedback! Good call on storeys vs stories – I may use a different metric for height to avoid confusion. Not sure yet.

          • I personally find feet to be a good measurement for height, as it can be very generic (a couple of hundred feet) or very specific (one hundred and three feet) yet doesn’t sound as coldly scientific as metres (or meters if you’re American). I think something like that is down to personal choice, and the setting of the story. I’d rarely use metres in a fantasy story as they’re modern SI, but I’d use metres in something with a modern or sci-fi twist especially if I was going for something with an emphasis on science.

            Also keep in mind, when viewed from the perspective of your character’s Celestial Sphere, you’re not talking about heights here, but depths. Personally I love leagues, because they always bring me nostalgically back to Jules Verne, but sadly I think even one league would be too large a depth from your Sphere to the rocks below.

            Crazy how in-depth you can take one little thing, eh?? Well, good luck in finding a happy medium!

  • This paragraph runs against the general wisdom that opening paragraphs need to be short or punchy. And technically “His Celestial …” is a second paragraph. It’s well written and descriptive, but if you could add some tension, some sense of the stakes to be had in the novel, it could be better.

  • The cry was deafening and heartrending at once. Jack was up before the scream had died away and wrapped around Nico before the sobs started. Just like Jack had all those years ago, Nico clung to the knife as if to a lifeline.

    • I love the high stakes emotional moment. A few thoughts. In line one, ‘deafening’ I get, but ‘heartrending’ for whom? If it’s heartrending for Jack, let’s see his reaction. If it’s meant to be heartrending for us, is there a way to rend our hearts rather than tell us it’s heartrending?

      Hypothetical example: The cry was deafening. [The sound of a child's life slipping away.] [The sound of a child despirately clinging to life.] (This would be heartrending for me personally because I have a baby on the way!) There are thousands of ways to rip a reader’s heart out. Have fun finding yours.

      The next line is a touch confusing. Did Jack wrap his arms around Nico? Who is sobbing? Both of them?

      The last image is beautiful, but not quite clear for me. Did Nico stab himself? If so, maybe there’s another way to show us this. I love the realization that Jack is seeing himself in Nico. I would assume Jack tried to kill himself, and how he’s watching Nico attempt the same thing. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but here’s a hypothetical way of showing us that,

      [Nico stared into Jack's eyes, blood frothing from the corner of his lips. Jack stared back and only saw himself. A shadow from his early twenties that had only survived because someone had showed up in time to save him.]

      Don’t get me wrong. Mystery is great. But we still want to know what we’re looking at, and in this draft it isn’t quite clear. Hope this helps.

      • I love what you see in a single paragraph! Backstory: Nico is 12. Jack (the MC) has rescued him from a brothel and is helping him. Nico is repressing most of his memories. Jack doesn’t push him to relive what has happened, not even to help the police. Instead, Jack teaches him self-defence. In this scene, Nico wakes up from a nightmare and Jack is right there to comfort him. The knife is reflex. Nico never strays far from it. It’s his protection and lifeline. And yes, Jack knows exactly what that feels like.

        You’re entirely correct, though. “Heartrending” was me being lazy. Very helpful – thank you for your insight!

    • I wish I could offer a little more feedback, but Ryan has already touched on most of the things I would have mentioned. The only thing I can add is that in the second sentence, it looks like Jack was up before the scream had died away, and that it was the scream which was wrapped around Nico before the sobs started. Maybe something along the lines of “his arms wrapped around Nico before the sobs started.”

      I also agree with Ryan; a heart-rending reaction to the scream would make it more believable than just being told it’s heart-rending.

      To be honest, I think some of the confusion comes from the paragraph having little context. I was looking for hidden metaphors as I was trying to work out if the scream actually was a screen, and what the knife signified (couldn’t get my head around clinging to a knife, as I assumed it had been plunged into Nico’s chest, hence the scream). With the context of history (I read your response to Ryan before hitting submit) and knowledge of the characters and the scene, the paragraph makes a lot more sense.

  • Short and to the point. I’m presuming that the speaker is referring to some sort of inter-personal issue between him (or her?) self, and Maisie? As opposed to something more physical, for example, being stuck in a maze? Because if that was a way of getting through a maze, I’d make an attempt to find some mazes and get stuck in them.

    Attempted humour aside, I think the line is punchy with a hint of desperation, of somebody who doesn’t want to continue in denial, and is spoken as something blunt and straight to the point. Without a little more, though, I can’t really comment further as I don’t know who Maisie is, and other than a vague impression of the speaker’s anguish and desire to face his (or her) problems head-on, I don’t really have any sort of emotional attachment to him/her.

    Methinks this would have been better in Chuck’s ‘opening lines’ blog post (if it is indeed an opening line), with perhaps a lengthier paragraph on offer for feedback/critique?

    • It isn’t an opening line. I think I would categorize it as the beginning of the wrap up or the ending of the denouement. They’ve been through a lot and have a way to go, but are going. He is usually straight to the point and she usually is also. She is “the Maze”.

      Thanks for your remarks!!

      • Cheers for the clarification, the sentence makes a little more sense now! I did get the impression that the line was a sort of climax of events past, of a state of being no longer acceptable to the protagonist. I’m glad my intuition was mostly correct on that point, and it shows how well you are able to put across a protagonist’s POV despite the low word count.

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