September 29, 2018 at 9:47 pm #50010
I had an assignment to take a famous quote and incorporate it into a new background in a way that keeps its meaning and strength. So here’s a 750 word story snippet I wrote and I was wondering if anyone could offer critique and feedback. It would be greatly appreciated. 🙂 Thanks!
"Young people, you must pray, for your passions are strong and your wisdom is little."C.H.SpurgeonSeptember 30, 2018 at 2:07 pm #50060
@libby, wow!! An amazing story!!! And I can’t believe you wrote a story so short!!! That’s like sooooooo hard!!!! I loved the description you used and the way you described some of the speech as dripping. The only thing I noticed was a few adverbs, but I’m not sure they could be deleted without changing the meaning. This was a great story!!!
Living in a world of mystery and dangerous predicaments while working with the AWESOME Meraki's.September 30, 2018 at 4:57 pm #50082
I really like this story. 🙂 You did an amazing job! It makes me curious about the lives of both Sergio and his father. Offers much to be pondered. All in all, I say well done! It was particularly gripping, at least for me, especially for something with so little background (not at all saying that’s a bad thing, I’m just comparing to say, novels, where you grow to know the characters and their stories over a course of time, yk xD). By the end of the story, I admired Sergio’s father for his courage and resolve, and honestly felt really sad for Sergio on many levels. I kind of felt attached to them, which was a feat given the length! Good job Libby!!
As for the general make-up of it, I think it all kind of comes down to taste in a lot of areas, and what I like may be different from what, say, you or someone else may enjoy. I don’t really know the actual rules for what makes a well-made story. Therefore! I will limit my critique to simply this:
Two stories below him, an old, withered man slept, curled up against the cold walls of his imprisonment.
If it were me, I’d probably end up changing this word because “imprisonment” to me has always seemed like an idea, as opposed to an actual concrete place. Terms like “cage,” “container,” or even just the actual word “prison” may have suited it better. Also a thing to remember (only pointing this out because I have a ridiculously hard time with it myself xD) is that bigger words don’t always mean higher quality writing. I’ve read a few stories where it seemed there was a three syllable word every other sentence and they weren’t that good, and others where the author used the simplest terms and it was revolutionary. (Not to say your writing wasn’t good, though. I loved it!)
Some things I loved about this piece were:
A ridge of tooth-marks dug into his frostbitten fingers.
Bruh. That imagery tho.
“You know you will die.” It was Sergio who said this. He meant it to be stern, but it came out as a weak plea.
I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS. IT SHOWED THAT SERGIO WAS STILL HUMAN AND I WAS JUST LIKE ASHDSADFSADOGSHDGFSKDFS SERGIO DON’T DO THIS BOI
Great job yet again! Enjoyable read. Keep up the good work! 😀
Oh also, forgot to mention, the quote you used belongs to one of my favorite speeches of all time. If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend it!
- This reply was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by Grace.
Secretly Hedgehog Jones. Don’t tell anyone.October 1, 2018 at 1:10 am #50137
@parker Thank you so much! You are so encouraging! I’m so glad you liked it!
I know, I use a lot of adverbs. Which ones were you thinking?
@h-jones Wow, thank you! I try so hard to make readers feel attached to my characters, but I never actually thought I could succeed at that – it’s so hard! I’m so happy you liked Sergio, too. I got attached to him, thought up a background story for why he is the way he is, and because I understand him so well, I’m really sad for him, too.
Ah, yes, I do have a problem with big words. I type them down and don’t even think about it sometimes. I think you’re right. And I will definitely change that. Would “prison” or “cell” be a better word? Or is there another word that would be better?
I love the parts you liked as well – the frostbitten finger part was probably one of my favorites to write. 🙂
As for the quote, yes, I love the speech! So powerful and motivating!
Thank you both so much for your comments! They made me smile so much. I love any critique because, even though I passed on the assignment, I know I can do better and want this to be tippety-top polished. Thanks guys! 🙂
"Young people, you must pray, for your passions are strong and your wisdom is little."C.H.SpurgeonOctober 1, 2018 at 6:09 am #50140
Hi Libby! Thanks for sharing with us.
The language you use for describing the environment doesn’t match the tone of the rest of the story. There’s a beautiful picture of the night sky and all that, but it clashes with the tone of the characters’ actions.
You use a lot of adverbs and filler words, and have some lines that seem to exist because you like them (and they sound nice on their own, definitely!) and not because they contribute meaningfully. Like:
“Suddenly, it sputtered and the light disappeared—the man did not.”
Why would we expect the man to disappear? Other times we deal with lines like this:
“Terror and rage stormed across the beautifully sleek countenance of the young man.”
You’re using a ton of syllables in a situation where we want a fast pace and as tight language as we can get., and for all that we’re not getting much direct description. What does it look like to have terror and rage transform a sleek countenance?
I don’t like the final line/title, but that’s just me. Making it the title is like spoiling the punchline to a joke, and, I mean, you cribbed a terribly famous line without a hint that the character in question is actually quoting it.
I agree with H. Jones that you do a pretty good job of characterizing the pair in such a short time, though! It could be a lot stronger if you tighten your prose, but it was effective. Keep up the good work.
"...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and MargaritaOctober 1, 2018 at 10:08 am #50161
@libby, here are adverbs that I noticed that might could be changed.
wearily struggled–maybe you could show us he’s weary
breathing heavily–gasping for breath, taking long breaths, etc
breathed laboriously–again maybe show us its laborsome.
I will say that this story was really good and that I loved the descriptions you used.
BTW, I love the quote you have from C. H. Spurgeon on the bottom of your posts.
Living in a world of mystery and dangerous predicaments while working with the AWESOME Meraki's.October 1, 2018 at 11:27 am #50186
@libby You’re more than welcome! 🙂 Oooh, Sergio has a backstory!? *gasp* Ya know, this is the sort of tale I think I’d be interested in reading. If you ever do more with it, I’d be happy to be a beta. *thumbs up*
Personally, I like the word “cell,” but yeah it really is all up to you. xD
Also, @taylorclogston has a lot of amazing advice that I’ll probably end up following myself. xD Very good bits, those.
Secretly Hedgehog Jones. Don’t tell anyone.October 1, 2018 at 7:48 pm #50277
@h-jones Aside, I now notice, from completely missing the point of the OP =P Sorry Libby, I didn’t read slowly and carefully enough to realize the quotation was the point of the whole piece! Just disregard that bit about me not liking the line.
"...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and MargaritaOctober 2, 2018 at 12:50 am #50329
@parker Thank you for showing me those places – I didn’t realize there were so many. Ever since someone told me how many I used to use (and there were a lot more than just these) I have been struggling to change that. I’m glad you noticed!
I love that Spurgeon quote, too! So true and so motivating!
@h-jones Yes, Sergio has a backup story. I would love to write this story sometime, but life is busy right now. However, I’ll be thinking about it, and hopefully get around to it soon! Keep me on it!
@taylorclogston Thank you so much for your feedback! I am so glad you wrote all this down!
I never thought about how much the environment ought to affect the story before, but now you mention it, I realize it’s so true. I will definitely get around to that!
Yes, I do make use of fillers and adverbs. They are my weakness, and I still struggle with them a lot. Are there any places that particularly bothered you – apart from the ones Parker mentioned?
And that line about the man not disappearing does seem really silly. 😛
You’re right. The “sleek countenance” line I wrote, not because it fit with that passage, but because I liked how it sounded. You asked me “What does it look like to have terror and rage transform a sleek countenance?” I could see it in my eyes as I wrote, but I didn’t have my reader in mind.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write all this out for me. I really appreciate it! I helps me remember that I’m not the best and it’s teaching me a lot. Please, if there’s anything else I can work on, please let me know! Thanks!
"Young people, you must pray, for your passions are strong and your wisdom is little."C.H.SpurgeonOctober 2, 2018 at 9:24 am #50354
@libby, I think we all tend to use adverbs too much. I myself do. I used to use an infinite amount until I learned to use stronger verbs. I’m not anywhere near perfection yet. Strange thing is, people tend to notice the mistakes in others’ works and not their own.
And, yes. That quote is encouraging.
Living in a world of mystery and dangerous predicaments while working with the AWESOME Meraki's.October 2, 2018 at 12:02 pm #50380
@libby Absolutely! c: And oh my wordie, I understand about life being busy. xDD A bit of encouragement; you can do it, whatever it is that you may be doing, because it’s Christ who gives you strength. *clap* *clap* *clap*
Secretly Hedgehog Jones. Don’t tell anyone.October 2, 2018 at 2:09 pm #50398storyjoy@storyjoy
Aaaaaaaaaaaaah!! This is sooooo good!!! I got really attached to the characters, and reading this gave me so much inspiration and a bunch of ideas for new scenes/stories I’d like to write. xD
Speaking of the “cold walls of his imprisonment” – When I read that I at first kinda cocked my head like “…huh?” but then I thought about it some more and I actually really like it, it seems to make it deeper than just describing what’s physically happening, if that makes sense. 😉 But you go ahead and change it if you prefer, of course ;P 😀
*cartwheels out*October 2, 2018 at 5:39 pm #50438
@libby It’s not so much that particular ones bothered me so much as adverbs are really tricky to use in general. I think it was… maybe Dan Wells? on Writing Excuses said adverbs are an inherently lossy format. You’re relying on your reader to have a mental shorthand for whatever you’re saying. The tradeoff for less powerful language is saving time.
Like, say you need Tim to walk away in a really angry manner. You could spend the most time and effort and actually describe him stiffening his upper arms and shoulders, making his whole face cold and saying things under his breath and tensing up his jaw and just doing all the little things someone does when they’re ticked off at someone and just need to leave.
But that takes a lot of words and a lot of pace. The rest of the scene also has to exist around that bit, and if you spend a ton of time on this bit and not as much on all the other bits you’re pointing to the reader that it’s really important that Tim’s angry and walking away. That could very well be what you need.
But maybe the important part is how Julie turns to Bob after and says “Wow, what a baby! He just can’t take a joke.” And this sends Bob introspecting as he realizes Julie is showing a pattern of being condescending to other people, just like that Christmas party…
So in this circumstance we want to use only a bit of pace to show Tim’s angry departure. We can say something like “stormed out,” or we can say “walked angrily.” I personally don’t think there’s actually much difference between these, and in fact while prevailing wisdom says you should generally use “strong verbs” in lieu of adverbs or be verbs, I think the sound and precision of the words used are more important.
Like, “whispered” and “murmured” are two completely different things, but often you’ll get advice to use either to replace “said quietly.” Use “whisper” if they’re actually whispering. Use “murmur” if they’re actually murmuring. “Said quietly” has a nice little sound all its own that I happen to like.
Long, tired ramble short, use words that sound nice and actually portray what you mean and what the scene needs. In my humble opinion.
@parker I can only speak for myself, but I definitely justify my own adverbs (and other questionable style choices) more than I do in the work of others. I have a hundred reasons why it’s okay for this character to be confusing here, and none of them are probably good reasons. I sure know I’d not accept any of them from another writer.
"...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and MargaritaOctober 4, 2018 at 12:42 am #50694
@parker I know, right? It’s so hard to see my own mistakes, but other people’s just jump out at me. 😉
@h-jones You’re awesome! <3
Good news! I decided to give it a go! Doing NaNoWriMo for the first time ever, and this is definitely motivation to get it done. 🙂 You convinced me!
@storyjoy Thank you! That’s so encouraging. I have no idea where this story came from, but I’m excited to see where it goes. I’m so glad it offered new inspirations for you!
@taylorclogston That makes it clearer. Thanks for explaining. So you aren’t advocating getting rid of all adverbs – which was going to be my next question. 🙂
I do tend to justify myself when using adverbs. Like saying they sound good, or leave something to the reader’s imagination. It’s so hard to let go of lines or words you are attached to.
I do have one question, and this is for anyone. I describe Sergio as “a darkly handsome man with ebony hair”. Is there anything wrong with this? I mean, I use “darkly” to describe how handsome he is because I want people to imagine him in their minds and not have me dictate exactly what he looks like. Should this have a place in my story, or ought I to change that to something else. Sorry if this is really confusing. I would love any feedback on it.
"Young people, you must pray, for your passions are strong and your wisdom is little."C.H.SpurgeonOctober 4, 2018 at 5:53 am #50697
I describe Sergio as “a darkly handsome man with ebony hair”. Is there anything wrong with this?
I think it works. “Darkly” isn’t trying to do all the work in the sentence, the -ly flows well into “handsome” on the tongue, and you’re not trying to get the reader to do too much work figuring out what it means.
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