After The Madness Workshop # B-1

Welcome to After the Madness Workshop! Shelley Watters, Erica Chapman, the writers at YAtopia, and myself will critique the first 250 words of  two brave writers’ manuscripts per day for the next seven to eight days. There are four blogs joining in to offer up suggestions. Click on my partners’ sites in my sidebar to view the other critiques.

And my first critique is …

#B-1 Laura Toeniskoetter

The last few remains of sunlight reflected off of the building across the street, glistening in pink light and mixing with the dark colors of the building to create a rainbow. B’s notes: This is a lackluster first sentence. I’d start it off with a better hook. Something that will grab an agent’s interest. In one room, a light burned inside. It added a flame to the rays of color. If I held my hand up, I could put the fire out, and the whole rainbow would be ruined. B’s notes: How does this move the story?

As the last sliver of light disappeared into the night, I took my spot in the kitchen, in between the refrigerator and the wall. The tight spot would be easily missed.

The metal of the refrigerator was cold on my arm. Cold and sleek like the rest of the apartment. It lacked a homey feeling and screamed of a bachelor pad. B’s notes: This is good.

The couch was an off-green color with modern wood framing and stiff cushioning. A glass table sat in front of the couch. Another table sat on the side. It was inside its single drawer that I’d found gun number one. The other was stuffed in his bedroom dresser.  

B’s notes: Here’s what piqued my interest. The guns. Why are they there? And what is she going to do with them? Why did you put this in past perfect tense? Why not start out with her entering the apartment and recovering the guns, and then showing us the apartment with the actions going on around it?

Throughout the entire apartment, there’d only been one item that made it seem like a home, and not just a place to live: the picture of his fiancée. Deceased now, she had been pretty, to say the least. Looking at that picture while covering the apartment, I’d wondered if her death had anything to do with the way JonathanWalker had turned out. A man with a successful life ahead of him, and he threw it all away to try and help some budding terrorist group in the Middle East.
 
B’s notes: The writing and description is done well here, but I’m not hooked. All the rainbow and furniture descriptions aren’t pulling me in. You only have 250 words to hook an agent. Use it and start with the dramatic action. You can always bring in all this description throughout the first chapter. Just don’t do it in the opening.

Remember this is subjective and others’ may feel differently. So I’ll now pass it on to the readers to critique. Please leave your comments, and remember the rules of critiquing … be nice, which I’m sure you all will be, but I have to say it … you know.
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7 comments to After The Madness Workshop # B-1

  • I agreed with Brenda. Tell us who the mc is and what’s happening, then you can describe their surroundings. It’s okay to sneak in a description among the action, but you need to hook the agent right away. Tell them why this character is worth reading about. What’s the conflict. I like that (she or he?) is hiding, and found guns…those tell me something good is here, but the rest is fluff that could be taken out. Here’s how I’d put it. Start here…

    ‘As the last sliver of light disappeared into the night, I took my spot in the kitchen, in between the refrigerator and the wall. The tight spot would be easily missed.

    The metal of the refrigerator was cold on my arm. Cold and sleek like the rest of the apartment. It lacked a homey feeling and screamed of a bachelor pad.

    A table sat on the side. It was inside its single drawer that I’d found gun number one. The other was stuffed in his bedroom dresser.

    Then the next paragraph disconnects me and goes into back story…I’d cut that and go straight into the action. (why is she hiding? Is someone entering the house and she’s not supposed to be there…if so, show us that….we don’t care about a picture YET. We want to know the mc and what is happening NOW, not a few moments ago) Hope this helps 🙂

  • My biggest issue is I don’t have a sense of who’s head I’m in or why we’re in this cat’s appartment. I get show/don’t/tell but we need a frame of reference or it’s like starting with dialogue and becomes what/where/why/who cares.

    That last paragraph, (retooled, of course) would be the ideal jump-off point. Then follow with the preceeding paragraphs, after judicious trimming. Additionally, I’d like a little more detail on the weapons, (I’m a dude, sue me). If not make/model, at least style, which tells us somethings about this cat. Are we talking gran’ pa’s revolvers from nineteen-and-fifty-two? Those are heirlooms, more comfort/luck than bit’ness pieces. Or are we talking stainless-steel automatics? That screams older/ex cop or gun noob/novice/bought stolen or on sale. Or, finally, are we talking black automatics? The vogue gun of the moment with both pros and those who like to pretend.

    Good stuff, as-is, I’d stick around for another page or two, if it came highly recommended.

  • Wonderful suggestions from both LateToTheParty and Amber. It’s amazing how different people notice different things while reading.

  • From the opening paragraphs, my guess was that this was literary fiction, but then the final paragraph suggested another genre, possibly thriller or some kind of mystery or suspense book. I loved the opening passages’ world building, but they seem kind of juxtaposed if this indeed isn’t literary fiction. Then again, I’m used to books with a slower, gradual opening since I’ve mostly read older books most of my life.

  • Wow, you guys pointed out a lot of great stuff. Thanks guys!

  • Though I enjoyed the play on colors with the first and second lines, it was my sense of place that left me wanting. I wasn’t sure if we were in an apartment, townhome, living room. It isn’t until the mention of taking up a spot in the kitchen that I feel a sense of place.

    Actually, the story seems to “begin” with this paragraph: “As the last sliver of light disappeared into the night, I took my spot in the kitchen, in between the refrigerator and the wall. The tight spot would be easily missed.”

    Then I got to the last paragraph and this felt like an even stronger starting point, giving purpose, placement and a haunting clue of what the reader can look forward to on the reading journey.

  • I had to read the beginning twice before I realized there was not a real fire. I’d lose the color bit, and start with the guns.

    I’m curious about who the main character is, and why he/she is sneaking about looking for guns. I think that might work better to get our attention.

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