Honest Critiques

No, I mean it. REAL honest. Email your excerpts or full stories, up to 1000 words or so, to honestcrits [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk. Synopses would also be welcome. My backlog is so daunting now that I recommend not submitting anything you are not prepared to wait a couple of months for a response on.
  • Click here to find out what this blog is all about.
  • Friday, August 19, 2005

    Two paragraphs

    Jason has sent in the first two paragraphs of his novel.

    That's me, lying on the bed, stuck like a pig over the fire and taking in nutrients like breathing because I don't have a choice either way. If sanitizer is life then I can smell it as it passes my nostrils and nourishes my atrophied muscles the best it can. White is the only color that gives the illusion of cleanliness and I know I'm in trouble when my eyelids get the strength to open and I see that everything in the room is covered with it. The last white I remember seeing before I fell was a woman’s teeth and the marshmallow white of her eyes. For some reason I think she was smiling when it happened but I can’t for the life of me remember her name.

    There's a tube down my throat, a needle in my arm, and I follow the white clip on my pointer finger to a cord that is connected to a machine on my left. It beeps a rhythm I remember from a very long time ago. I’m guessing this is the machine that tells the doctors I still have a pulse. My hand twitches and the clip falls to the floor faster than the machine flat lines. I hear a laugh in the room and am startled when I realize it’s my own. My life is a dream that the doctors say I’ll never see. My eyes close as the nurses run in to save my life.


    Jason might be trying a bit too hard here. Some of the effects he's going for aren't coming off. A person lying in a hospital bed does not in any way look like a pig stuck over a fire, for instance, and so already the reader has the sense that they are not in safe hands.

    There are some awkward sentence constructions here that add to that impression: "If sanitizer is life then I can smell it as it passes my nostrils and nourishes my atrophied muscles the best it can." What is the object of 'smell' here - 'sanitizer'? 'life'? Can sanitizer or life nourish muscles? I think what Jason wants to say is that breathing air is nourishing the atrophied muscles, and that the smell of sanitizer is the only impression his protagonist has of this process. Whatever he's saying, it's muddled.

    Or this: "White is the only color that gives the illusion of cleanliness and I know I'm in trouble when my eyelids get the strength to open and I see that everything in the room is covered with it." What's everything in the room covered with - white, the illusion of cleanliness or trouble? It's supposed to be the colour white, but the object of the verb is right at the other end of the sentence and so it's difficult to make out.

    It would be better to ditch things like "My life is a dream that the doctors say I'll never see" and just concentrate on clear description of where we are and what the protagonist is thinking, feeling and observing. Make some of those troublesome sentences into two sentences, provided there are two things that need saying. Smooth the whole thing out.

    I've picked on the bad bits. It's not all bad. There are as many OK sentences as iffy ones. The thing is, readers, agents and editors will spot the iffy ones instantly and think that it's not worth the effort to keep reading. Rewrite, think hard about every word, and don't give people an excuse to think that.
    Torgo, 2:06 pm

    3 Comments:

    You're completely right about everything, I was definitely trying too hard. I guess I was just trying to make it "deep." If that makes sense. Thanks for helping!
    Blogger Writing_PA, at 5:42 pm  
    Glad to be of help. If I can generalise wildly for a second here, 'deep' is something that I tend to associate with very clear and unshowy prose. Simple ideas are deep and universal; complex ideas are more particular to people and situations.
    Blogger Torgo, at 9:51 pm  
    Hello! Super work performed. Top PAGE, further so!
    Anonymous Lindsay Polk, at 1:41 pm  

    Add a comment