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The Teenaged Nitpick Critiques: 5

Wednesday, 26 September 2012  |  Posted by Brenda Drake


Title: A QUESTION OF FAITH
Genre: YA Paranormal
The attic door was always secured and padlocked, but now the stairs hang down into the hallway like a lolling tongue from a particularly dark and dusty mouth. [So, this is unnecessarily wordy in my opinion. Your opening has to be strong and punchy. I’d go for “The attic door is finally unlocked. And I can’t get in.” or something better. But remember to keep it simple and hook-y.] 
Something heavy thuds against the floor above my head, and I jump. What on earth [Actually, “what on earth?” is not something teens say all that often.] is Mom doing up there?
Eager to finally learn what secrets the attic contains [why is she so eager? Why is the attic so important?], I ascend [“ascend” is pretty awkward.] three steps when a trash bag plows into me. Thankfully, the bulky bag is rather light. [I’d cut this paragraph, too. It feels very overdone. Instead I’d hint at why the MC cares so much about this attic.]
“Crystal! What are you doing here?” [Be careful of making the mom sound too stilted. You need to give parents personalities, too, especially in their dialogue.] Mom stands at the top of the stairs, her arms crossed, another bag dangling from her right hand, an annoyed—or is it worried?—expression on her face. [You already show us she’s annoyed with the “arms crossed” line.]
Wrinkling my nose [I doubt she’d actually wrinkle her nose] With a sigh, I pick up the bag and descend [“descend”, like “ascend” is still awkward.] the steps. “I wanted to see—”
Mom hurries down the stairs. “Can you take these bags down to the living room for me?” Her smile looks forced. She forces a smile.
“But…”
She hands me the other bag, then lifts the steps, closes up the attic and padlocks it before I can even get a glimpse inside it. [And how does this make her feel?]
Shrugging half-heartedly, But I do as she asks and drop the bags near the living room desk, half wondering what’s inside them.
Rubbing my eyes [is there a reason why almost every sentence starts this way?], I can feel a headache coming on, and I still have homework to do. I sit down in front of the computer when Mom comes into the room.
“I’m sorry for snapping at you, dear. [Yeah, can’t imagine a mom saying this. “Dear” in itself sticks out, and so does “snapping at you.”] You just caught me by surprise.” Dust is sprinkled throughout Mom’s dyed hair, covering her strawberry blonde strands with gray.
Honestly, this can use some work. The writing is too wordy, the characters feel a little stilted (only from the first page, at least), and I think you can clean it up more. But my biggest issue is with the attic. I’ve heard “mysterious attic” stories before, so I automatically want to know what sets yours apart. Get to, or at least hint at, the hook right away because otherwise I’m not as engaged as I’d like to be. Hopefully hinting at why the MC cares about the attic will get to this hook. Otherwise, I think this can be good. Good luck!

* Comments are welcomed. Each critique comment you make on the entries’ posts, is an entry into the drawing to win one of five 500 word critiques from me (Brenda). It can be ANY 250 words — your query, the first page, or a page any where in the manuscript that you want a second pair of eyes on.

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