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Friday, February 10, 2012

Variety Critique: From "Lodore" by Ranee` S. Clark

Surprise! That's right. What kind of monster would I be if I didn't subject myself to the same torture I ask of all of you? So I've decided to try and entice more critiques out of you guys by ripping something of my own up. I chose the opening pages of a finished first draft of "Lodore." It is a light-fantasy set in an imaginary kingdom in a time period that has the feel of the twenties. (One of those historical periods I really like.) It took over two years for me to complete this draft (I set it down numerous times), and I haven't looked back at it in a while (as will be obvious by the amount of red you see below). I wish I could look at all my work with a clean set of eyes, the way I was able to see these two pages.

Mother had been {Two telling words, right off the bat. Yikes!} right, but that didn’t surprise any of us. She said year after year since I turned sixteen that her girls simply had {Use a stronger word than “had;” perhaps “need”} to be ‘seen,’ {Use double quotation marks always, unless you’re a newspaper editor and if the quote is inside another quotation} and the rest would be taken care of {Passive voice. Perhaps something like “and our stunning looks would take care of the rest”}. Despite the fact that her {Confusing pronoun use (I abbreviate PnU). The last female(s) mentioned is “her girls,” which makes it confusing as to which “her” this pronoun refers to.} husband was indecently poor, her daughters were equally beautiful. {It sounds arrogant, me praising one of my own sentences, but I make sure I do this in all things I critique: praise what I like. I happen to really like this sentence.} The most beautiful, according to several sources, in Lodore and possibly on the continent. In fact, there were several men who were willing to stake their honor on the fact that they had {Unnecessary word (UW)} never before seen four such beautiful girls. {I’ve thought this since I started writing this story, but I think this paragraph is too full of back story and description that could probably be placed elsewhere in the story.}
Still, Aunt Ottie, my father’s younger sister, was reluctant to give up her box {What kind of box? Her cardboard box?} for us. Well, she would come, of course, but she had much more distinguished guests in mind for opening night at the opera. Madam Charlotte was performing, after all.
“Yes, I’m sure you intended someone far richer to accompany you.” Mother {Attribution punctuation (Ap). I’m a little embarrassed to see this here, but I did start this draft over two years ago, before I knew about that. J Still, I’m glad it’s here for demonstration purposes. When using an attribution such as “said,” don’t use a period at the end of the preceding sentence. Use a comma, a question mark, or an exclamation point. Don’t capitalize “he, she, they.” Example: “We’re going to the store,” she said. “We’re going to the store?” he asked. “We’re going to the store!” they exclaimed. If the attribution comes before the sentence, use a comma. She said, “We’re going to the store.” Use a period with a tag or beat (action). She held open the door. “We’re going to the store.” “We’re going to the store.” He walked out with her. Check out these posts for more information: http://raneesclark.blogspot.com/2011/03/things-you-need-to-know-now-grammar-is.html and my go-to-girl, Grammar Girl http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/attributives.aspx} had said gracefully to her moderately rich sister-in-law. “Considering how intent you’ve been on marrying Alvin to Miss Tinby, I would venture a guess you have her and her parents in mind?”
Ottoline Edmunds stiffened at the slight. “Of course I’d be more than willing to have the girls next week. You know I’m very generous with my box.”
Mother gave her a mollifying smile. “Oh, yes, Ottie. Of course.”
At this point Tilda made a {Diluting the action with more words than necessary. http://raneesclark.blogspot.com/2011/12/decluttering-part-2-diluting-action.html} perfectly timed interruption. “No one knows how soon Lodore may be going {I’d suggest “may go to war”} to war. The sooner one of us gets a husband, the better. All the rich men might be dead when it’s over—or worse, poor. It must be tonight, Aunt Ottie. All the best parties will be at the beginning of the season.”
Mother had given {UW – perhaps, “gave”} Tilda a reproachful look, but it was all for show. The ladies of Black Park were experts at influencing whomever and whenever they wanted—well, all except Ari. She couldn’t lie, especially about husbands and love. It didn’t matter, though, since she had Gabe.
Aunt Ottie sniffed. “Perhaps tomorrow.” {AP} She conceded.
“Oh, Aunt Ottie!” Linny wailed. Her abject disappoint was a perfect companion to Tilda’s bold honesty about our pitiable situation. “But all the girls are saying that {UW} everyone is going to be at the opera tonight! Oh, really, Aunt Ottie, please.”
Aunt Ottie’s mouth twitched. Perhaps she realized she was being manipulated {This phrase is just full of things that make me cringe. Passive voice, too many forms of “to be.” Maybe reword: “Perhaps she realized her nieces were manipulating her.”} by her nieces.
It was my turn. I turned to my mother {One thing I commonly advise when I critique is to pick one name for everyone and refer to them at least 98% of the time by that name, especially for family members. Unless variety is absolutely necessary, use Mother, Father, etc. instead of my mother, my father, my brother . . . }, displaying my excellent talent for complete indifference. “I think we should ask the Baldwins. Anna and Elizabeth will be glad to have us with them. Especially if Tilda can persuade our cousins to join us at intermission. Which of course she always can.” I let my eyes rest innocently on Aunt Ottie, but she wasn’t fooled for a second.
Her lips straightened out to form a thin, dangerous line. She couldn’t bear the thought of her sons flirting with girls like Anna and Elizabeth Baldwin. “Very well.” She {AP} finally hissed {Use the mundane words! Use said and asked 99% of the time. Don’t use attribution words that a normal human can’t actually do, e.g. hiss, laugh, smile, etc. If you doubt me, try hissing and saying your sentence at the same time, try it with all the other words. From everything I’ve read, you should use said and asked in general, leaving out attributions like shout, shriek, etc. A reader’s mind skips over “said” and “asked,” whereas using shriek, shout, hiss, etc. jars the readers mind and causes him to pause, which disrupts flow. Keep it simple and let the dialog drive it. Using “loud” attributives is another form of telling.
“I never want to see you again!” she shouted. (The shouted is almost repetitive here. We know by what she said that she’s angry.)
If you want backup:
http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/said.shtml}. She composed her voice and went on as she stood. “I’ll send the car for you.” Without another word she had {UW} swept furiously {Another UW – adverbs in so many cases. Here, “furiously” isn’t necessary. We can tell by Ottie’s actions that she’s angry. “Swept” is quite enough. . Beware of: really, quickly, and very. They are often redundant and unnecessary. Take adverbs out wherever it doesn’t change the sentence or tone. If you can’t take one out without changing the meaning or tone, try to reword and drive the sentence without the adverb. Use the adverb as a last resort.} out of our drawing room.

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About Me!

I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.


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