Hi Amelia, success at last. :) I have gone through your first chapter. My comments are in CAPITALS so don’t think I’m shouting at you. I also use [ ] to draw your attention to my remarks. As you read through always keep in mind that I am merely expressing an opinion or giving advice. This work will always be your own, so use my comments or toss them as you think best.
Now to start reading!
“Why, in the name of all things decent, did I let you convince me to ride the last seven leagues in this cursed conveyance!” The dark-haired young man WHO clenched [the] A crown in his hands, finally allowed his peevishness and embarrassment to burst out. THIS IS A GREAT START. IT IS CALLED A ‘THRUSTER’ BECAUSE WE ARE THROWN RIGHT INTO THE STORY.
“It is merely a carriage, your Majesty.” YOU NEED TO IDENTIFY THIS SPEAKER
“It’s the devil’s own invention is what it is! Cloth and timber cobbled together to make a coffin on wheels.”
“You are sitting upright, your Majesty, not laying down dead.” AGAIN IDENTIFY THE SPEAKER. YOU HAVEN’T REALLY SET THE SCENE, SO, AS A READER, I DON’T KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE IN THE CARRIAGE.
Wriggling in [the] HIS snug tunic, the king gave his cousin an irritated look. “I’d rather be riding my horse! The men back there were right, only gentle-ladies and the infirm ride in these contraptions.” He scrubbed the sweat from his face with a limp handkerchief, longing for the cooler air of his mountains. “It is absolutely stifling in here! Doesn’t help my nerves to be lurching about in this oven. I don’t think I could save face if I heaved my lunch on the princess’ feet. What a way to impress one’s future bride!”
His cousin allowed only a sliver of a smile to appear.
“Or, I should say my possible future bride.” The young king crossed his arms and felt his face fall into the scowl that was becoming customary. He knew he looked like a stubborn four-year-old; Henri had told him so this morning during their last argument. WHO IS HENRI? “Oh, and if you don’t want me in an evil temper when we arrive at this castle, [you’d better leave off ] THIS SOUNDS TOO MODERN. JUST USE ‘STOP’ calling me ‘Your Majesty’.”
“As you wish, Cornelius.” His cousin smiled blandly at him across their knees in the rocking vehicle then flicked his gaze outside the window.
If Henri OK. HENRI IS THE FELLOW PASSENGER, BUT WE NEEDED TO KNOW THIS EARLIER. cared about Cornelius’ discomfort, he remained outwardly unworried. His only concern seemed to be with making a good impression on the local peasantry. Raising his hand, Henri waved pleasantly to the men and women along the road.
Cornelius turned the crown in his hands. He did not want to put the cursed thing back on his head. It would only fall off again. He spied his cousin’s travelling bag and shoved the circlet inside.
He sighed and began fidgeting with his glove. [Though] ALTHOUGH the buff, thin leather gloves had become like a second skin in the past few years, the lowland August heat and his anxiety made him consider removing them. He decided to be comfortable. BRING THE TWO PARAGRAPHS TOGETHER TO MAKE ONE.
But then Cornelius remembered the stares he had received the last time he had gone without gloves in public. He smoothed the leather back over his hands.
Henri watched him for a moment then spoke in serious tones. “It is very important to secure friendly ties during our stay, you know. With that shadowy group, the ‘Manum Sinister’…”
“I thought you said it was the ‘Band Sinister’.”
Henri pursed his lips for a moment in irritation. “Whatever they call themselves, they are getting more bold. BOLDER The whole royal family of Burkhard ARE dead, missing or in disgrace and [only] ALL in a mere two years; PERIOD. USE SEMI-COLONS VERY SPARINGLY. THEY ARE RARELY NECESSARY. makes one suspicious. They are getting sloppy and impatient.” WHO ARE? He grunted. “You [many] MAY need outside help to keep your throne.” He paused to glance sharply at his younger cousin. “Are you listening?” YOU HAVE INTRODUCED SOME NEW SUBJECTS HERE. I DON’T KNOW WHO THE BURKHARDS ARE IN RELATION TO CORNELIUS, AND I DON’T KNOW IF THE BAND OF ROBBERS ARE THREATENING HIS FAMILY OR ARE THE CAUSE FOR THE DEMISE OF THE BURKHARD FAMILY.
THIS COULD BE ONE OF THOSE THINGS WHERE YOU, AS AN AUTHOR, KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON BUT WISH TO KEEP YOUR READERS IN THE DARK. IF IT ISN’T THEN A LITTLE MORE DIALOGUE SHOULD CLEAR THINGS UP.
Cornelius rolled his eyes to meet his companion’s glare and snorted. “Why is it when you USE ITALICS NOT BOLD TO STRESS A WORD. understand all of this political chess game and underhanded plots, I’m the one who gets the throne and all of…this.” He waved his gauntleted hand disgustedly to encompass themselves and the hated carriage. “You actually like this stuff, the protocol and the manners and the intrigue – all of it!” He tried slouching in his seat but there was little room. “You even look more regal.” His voice was a bit disgruntled.
It was Henri’s turn to snort. “We look practically identical!”
“You know what I meant, Henri! You hold yourself erect for hours at a time and nod, oh so precisely and every person knows you belong in the higher echelons. Why can’t I do that?” he fumed COMMA as he turned [his] TO gaze out the window.
“You could, you know,” was his cousin’s steady reply. NEW PARAGRAPH. Cornelius flicked him a glance, then [continued staring] RETURNED TO STARE at the gently descending hills covered in fields of grain, pasture[s], and a few copses of trees.
The marquis spoke to the back of his cousin’s head. OK, THIS IS THE FIRST TIME YOU HAVE MENTIONED THAT HENRI IS A MARQUIS. THAT NEEDS TO COME EARLIER. MAYBE YOU COULD ALSO TELL US HOW THE TWO ARE RELATED? “Do not let your grief over Dolf consume you. Yes, he would have been a fine king, had he not died. However, you cannot drift along and allow present mediocrity to throw a flattering light on Dolf’s brief span as ruler. It will not enshrine his memory with the people. They will instead grow restless…” YOU NEED TO GIVE US A BIT MORE HERE. DON’T ASSUME YOUR READER WILL MAKE THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE MYSTERIOUS ‘DOLF’ AND THE TWO IN THE CARRIAGE.
SETTING THE SCENE AND DESCRIBING RELATIONSHIPS IS BEST DONE UP FRONT. A GOOD PLACE TO SET THE SCENE WOULD BE IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE FIRST PARAGRAPH, BEFORE THE DIALOGUE. IT ONLY NEEDS TO BE BRIEF, JUST LET US KNOW WHO IS IN THE CARRIAGE.
And it continues...
But in the end of the chapter, when the main body of the critique is finished, my friend added these words:
THIS IS A GREAT START AMELIA. YOU HAVE A LOVELY WRITING STYLE. VERY EASY TO READ. YOUR DIALOGUE FLOWS VERY NATURALLY. AS I SAID BEFORE YOU NEED TO MAKE SURE YOU SET THE SCENE. THIS IS USUALLY DONE WITHIN THE FIRST FEW PARAGRAPHS OF A CHAPTER. ALSO I DON’T YET KNOW WHAT ERA THIS IS SET. THE DESCRIPTIONS ARE VERY GENERIC, AND COULD PASS FOR ANY CENTURY.
DON’T BE DISCOURAGED BY THE AMMOUNT OF REMARKS THAT I HAVE MADE. REMEMBER I AM READING THIS SPECIFICALLY TO FIND POINTS WERE THINGS CAN BE IMPROVED. IF I WERE READING THIS AS A READER IT WOULD BE A DIFFERENT CASE.
AS I SAID BEFORE, YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF THIS, SO YOU WILL KNOW WHAT TO TAKE ON BOARD AND WHAT TO DISREGARD. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO COMMENT ON MY COMMENTS. :)
That last part made me just glow! "...great start...lovely writing style...your dialogue flows very naturally..."
Okay, that part, the ending with the positive encouragement, that makes me willing to roll up my shirt sleeves and start pounding the keyboard. Let's get that speaker identified. Let's get those paragraphs shoved together. Some of this is murky, okay, how can I clear this up. I am ready to fix-it-up, not toss it in the nearest trashcan. Why?
Because the critique came with some caveats, acknowledgements that this person is not God, nor the creator of this work. I have final say. I may have a purpose in doing things that she is not aware of (because I know what will happen 60 pages into the book). Maybe this line is foreshadowing or whatever. But that doesn't mean that I shouldn't look at it and be sure its as clear as it can be. I don't want to lose a reader and a critique partner can help you find those quagmires of sloppy prose.
But best of all, this critique came with plenty of praise. Did you notice after my first paragraph, she wrote "great start" and about how my sentence followed a type that 'thrusts' the reader into the story. That's what I intended and she 'got it'. That gave me enough guts to read the rest of the critique and really listen to her advice.
Good stuff to remember when my kids do something stupid/naughty/dangerous/just plain wrong.
1. Take a little breather first to get perspective. And go to another room so they don't have an audience. Nobody likes to be reamed on in public.
2. Then, tell them what they did right, or how much I love them, or appreciated something they did that day. That will get their ears open.
3. Next, give the painful analysis of the part that needs fixing. (Ouch!-never fun) Try to get their viewpoint on the event to be sure that I didn't miss something. Skewed info equals skewed judgement. But it also helps them do a self-critique. And gives me the opportunity to stand in their shoes for a moment.
4. Then, when the big ugly part is over, we can make a plan for fixing the situation and making it better.
5. Last, pile on the praise. Because everybody needs to hear that they're doing okay, especially after they've been reamed on. And everybody can use a hug then too.
Especially when you are seven or nine or eleven and your world is falling apart because Daddy is out of state with his new job and Mommy is stretched thinner than a crepe with selling the house and packing the stuff and faxing out papers and searching online for a new house and cleaning up after five little boys and fixing dinner and helping with homework and breaking up fights...ad nauseum.
Oh, and writing a book...in her spare time.
Okay, enough about me and my domestic arrangements!
So I am thinking...Maybe all of us could use a little help to become a better critique partner.
Yeah, I think I learned something just by writing this all down.
If you got something out of this too, then Wahoo! You can be my cherry on top.