We are so delighted to be presenting you with our twenty-ninth installment of KP Critiques!! All of you amazing subscribers who have submitted your work for us to critique, THANK YOU!!! Through your courage you have provided us with substantial material, as well as aided in sharing wisdom to fellow writers. Receiving constructive criticism is never easy, but it’s necessary to grow as a writer!
So please continue flooding us with your wonderful critiques!
Thank you Tessa for this awesome submission!
Have you ever wanted to say that you have owned the weirdest pet in the world? A pet that no one else has owned before? A pet that makes people envy you? I have. I am a typical teenager living in a typical flat in a typical city. Boring. My name is Anna. Boring. I have straight brown hair. Boring. And nothing exciting ever happens to me. But one day that all changed.
I get what you’re trying to do here, but the repetition of boring here and then usual below is a bit much. I recommend cutting out most of them and trying to work it in a subtler way.
One day my Dad came home from work and sat down on the couch. Usual. He picked up the paper lying on the arm beside him. Usual. But he didn’t open it, just stared off into the distance. Ok, not usual. Mum didn’t notice anything wrong until we were seated at the dinner table eating spaghetti bolognese. That is, Mum and I were. Dad just pushed it round his plate. Finally Mum realized something was up. She looked up at Dad. She looked down at the food. She looked back up at Dad.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Nothing,” replied Dad.
I still don’t understand why people say that when there really is something wrong. It’s one of life’s great mysteries.
Mum raised an eyebrow. I guess she can’t understand it either.
Ha; these bits are good. There’s a very nice sense of humor to the narrator’s voice.
“How was your day?” she queried.
Dad shrugged. “Ok.”
“Have you heard some bad news?” she tried.
Dad started to shake his head and then stopped.
Mum panicked. “It’s Grandma, isn’t it? Has she had a stroke?”
Dad looked bewildered. “Mum’s fine,” he said.
I could see that Mum was entering panic mode. I could imagine all the disasters and major catastrophes flying through her mind.
“Has your brother been eaten by a lion?” wailed Mum. “Oh darling, when’s the funeral?”
Dad reached out and took her hand. “Everyone is fine. Daniel is fine, in fact he emailed me today to ask if we’d like a holiday with him.”
There was a stunned silence at the table. My Uncle Daniel has one of the craziest and most adventurous jobs in the world. He’s a ranger at a game lodge in Masai Mara, Kenya. Totally awesome.
Mum got over her shock and began to protest.
“Us? Go to Africa? How could we afford it? Think how dangerous – and anyway we’re both swamped with work.”
“Hey,” I cut in. “There are swamps in Africa, too. And probably crocodiles living in them.” Ok, not the smartest thing in the world to say.
Hahahaha; okay, I really like this main character now.
Dad shushed me and turned to Mum. “I know, so I’ve been thinking, what if we just send Anna?”
I choked on my pasta. When I’d finally regained my breath and assured Mum that I was fine, like ten times, I turned to Dad.
“Really? You’d let me go visit Uncle Daniel all by myself? Wow!”
“That’s just the thing,” protested Mum. “All by yourself. No. I’m sorry Anna, but I can’t do that. Daniel might be careless and you’ll be eaten by lions or charged by a rhino.”
“At least I have a debit card,” I quipped. Again, not a smart thing to say!
This bit might be better if you moved the ‘not a smart thing to say’ part after her mom and dad both react to what she said.
Mum gave me a ‘that’s-not-funny’ look. Dad’s lips twitched.
“I’m serious, Anna. Anything could happen out there.”
“Anything could happen here, Linda.” Dad looked Mum squarely in the eye. “She could be hit by a car, or a savage dog could jump a fence and maul her, or the flat could collapse if we had an earthquake or…”
I could see Dad was warming to his topic. If he continued, Mum would be so scared she’d never allow me to walk down the street to get an ice-cream. So I butted in again.
“I think we get the picture, Dad,” I said.
Dad caught on quickly. He stopped what he was going to say, probably that a meteorite might hit the school, and continued on with his point.
“It doesn’t stop us letting her go to school.” I knew the meteorite was going to be his next example. “Or letting her go to see her friends, or letting her live in the flat. Life is full of dangers but it shouldn’t stop us from doing things in life.”
I could tell that Mum knew she was beaten. I tried to reassure her.
This feels like an abrupt point for her mom to concede defeat. I would have expected her to try to give a stronger argument before giving up. Given that this is a short story and space is limited, you may want to consider having some of this “off-scene” so to speak, where the parents talk about this by themselves before coming to tell Anna, as then this would feel less like an abrupt decision without having to spend a lot of time on showing all the back-and-forths.
“Don’t worry Mum. I’ll be really careful and do everything Uncle Daniel tells me. And I’ll look out for snakes and other dangerous creatures…”
Dad interrupted with a meaningful cough. “Why don’t you go to your room and start making a list of the things you need to take. ‘Need’, mind you. You do have a luggage weight limit.”
I grinned and left the table. These summer holidays were going to be amazing. ‘Thanks, Uncle Daniel.’
Okay, your main character’s voice and sense of humor is fantastic. High marks for that. I’m not sure why her dad initially suggested that it was bad news that Daniel had invited her to Africa when he was clearly for it all along. Also, I might be careful with leading with the line about her having the weirdest animal ever when that animal isn’t going to show up in the book for a while, as it may then not be the most helpful hook. Other than that, though, this story was entertaining and kept me reading. Good work!
– Josiah DeGraaf