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After The Madness Workshop # B-14

Sunday, 1 April 2012  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

Welcome to day seven of 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 next up is …

B-14 Rachel Schieffelbein

The carpet in the school library was rough against Erwin’s cheek, but the uncomfortable floor had nothing to do with why he couldn’t sleep. No one was sleeping. Everyone was lying there in silence, the fear and tension in the air so thick it reminded Erwin of movie scenes where the ceiling is slowly coming down to crush everyone. The only difference, he thought, was that in the movies they always escape just in time.

It was hard to believe only a few hours ago he had been working out in the school gym.He remembered thinking, this day couldn’t possibly get any worse. He laughed at the thought now. Outside he heard another bang as whatever those things were tried to claw and crash their way into the locked school.

B’s notes: The first bit didn’t grab me until the last line. Maybe you could rework it to get a better first sentence hook. I’m not getting a sense of urgency with his situation above. Show us his fear with his actions. You tell us the air is thick with fear and tension, but we need to be shown it. Bring in some sensory details too. How does it smell in there? Wouldn’t there be some sort of noise? Like, the whirring of a fan. The smell of musty books. The dusty overused carpet. The sweaty smell of boys?


Erwin was on his way to lunch when he saw them. Justin had Natalie pushed up against her faded orange locker, his tongue down her beautiful throat. Erwin’s own throat tightened and his stomach churned. So much for lunch.

Natalie had broken up with Erwin only a week earlier, after dating for ten months. She was his dream girl. Not only gorgeous, she was cool, too. They had fun together. She was at every one of his basketball games, cheering him on in her tiny skirt. Then afterwards she’d tell him how great she thought he was, whether they won or lost. He thought he loved her. He thought she loved him.

Now she was wrapping her fingers around the fat neck of that dick, Justin.

B’s notes: I really like the writing here and I’m intrigued.  I’m not a fan of going from the future and then to the past. Why not just start where the story starts and work toward the library scene. Is this how you think your story should start? I think it would hook better if you start with the inciting event.  By the way, I absolutely love the title of your manuscript.

I hope this helps!

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.


Filed: Misc, Workshops

  • Thank you so much, Brenda! This is very helpful. 🙂

  • Meagan says:

    I like where this is headed, and I definitely think it can be improved by maybe mixing up where it starts. If you still want to start with the image of his face against the carpet, make sure we really feel it.

    “The carpet in the school library was rough against Erwin’s cheek, but the uncomfortable floor had nothing to do with why he couldn’t sleep.”

    “was rough against” could be stronger, instead of it “being,” it could possibly be “doing.” As in, “The carpet in the school library scratched/pressed against Erwin’s cheek…”

    “He remembered thinking, this day couldn’t possibly get any worse.” <-- that's on the side of being vague for the beginning, and it makes me wonder why, but is it important in that second?

  • What is the title, just for curiosity’s sake? And I had some of the same issues with it sounding too passive and distant for a section that needs to let us in on a tense situation right away.

    Could you start with “Outside he heard another bang as whatever those things were tried to claw and crash their way into the locked school.” and then go into your first paragraph with Meagan’s suggestions?

  • Thanks, these are all very helpful. 🙂 I think I will definitely rearrange the beginning and work on adding some sensory details. Thank you!
    And Angelica, the title is Flesh-Eating Zombies and Evil Ex-Girlfriends. 🙂

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