Sample Critique 1

Critique of "Climbing Twilight" by David Lowrey

Story by JD Williams

Hi Jim-

You have a good idea here and some interesting fantasy beings to portray. Here's a few suggestions on how to make them more interesting.

(BTW, sometimes when I get critiques, my first reaction to 'suggestions' is like Commander Kern to Riker in ST- The Next Generation: "If this were a Klingon ship, I would have killed you for your 'suggestion.'" But I usually get over that in a few minutes ; )

As a reader, I had a few problems getting through this one, because I was distracted by the thought dialogue.

"*Did the wind blow in your eyes?* I thought. Sensing my thoughts, ..."

"*It's almost time, Little One.* Her thoughts came suddenly into my mind."

Three aspects to the dialogue:

First, a few details on the psi powers might be useful, how they work and what limitations they have. For instance, would they know if, *I have to go to the bathroom,* or *By the way, you're really a jerk. Oops, I didn't mean that -- I really like you, I was thinking about someone else.*

Second, thought dialogue usually follows one of the standard conventions below:

1. I'm thinking, he thought. Isn't Dave a jerk.

2. "I'm thinking," he thought. "Isn't Dave a jerk."

3. I'm thinking, he thought. Isn't Dave a jerk.

Compare, *I'm thinking,* he thought. *Isn't Dave a jerk.*

All three conventions are used but No.1 is best because there's less interruption of the flow of the narrative. Quotation marks interrupt, and italics raise the volume of the thoughts. *Asterisks* scream. As an unconventional method of denoting dialogue, they immediately distract the reader from the story, shaking him or her right out of the flow of the story like riding on a bumpy road with old shocks. They do provide a sort of fantasy quality to the dialogue, but your job is to do that through characterization and setting.

Third, you are bordering on creating an alien dialect, which can create a lot of challenges for a writer; especially if it's a dialect unknown to the reader. I'm sorry I can't offer any advice here, except that I always try to stay away from dialects; they're too hard to write effectively - even if I use them myself in everyday life.

On setting, where is this fantasy world in relation to the reader? It could be a redwood forest type of setting -- similar, say to Endor or the pacific northwest; or another dimension. The most important thing here is how is their world related to us?

Climbing ... is an interesting description of the lifecycle of fantasy beings, told from the perspective of the child, but the story could be summed up: I came into puberty, my mom told me the facts of life, I resisted, she died and I took her place. I would add a few more plot twists to this, perhaps create someone who interferes with the normal cycle of life and creates problems for them to overcome. Readers usually enjoy a story better if there is a human they can identify with, or a human-like character. Perhaps your plot could thicken by introducing a human interloper to their world, threatening their way of life.

BTW, I wouldn't send this to "Writer's of the Future" just yet (just a personal opinion). Climbing... is a great start on an interesting world. Allow us to get closer to the characters, tell us more about where they are, and make life more difficult for them. Then, definitely send to the L. Ron Hub guys.

With warm regards,

David Lowrey