KP Critiques – 34

Welcome to the 34th edition of KP Critiques (which Daeus has so gallantly pledged to save)! Thank you for your bravery, Sir Daeus. Even the most skilled wordsmiths shudder at the sight of an editor’s dagger, but it’s a necessary training procedure. Although you may emerge with blood splatters on your hands, your sword will be sharpened and your story will wield more impact.kpcritique34

I issue a challenge to all the squires in the audience. I beseech you to don the armor of a knight and come forward. Dost thou hear the trumpet sounding? Send us your novel excerpts!

Now, onward to the dissection of Daeus’s riveting tale!

They fled down the alley. It was a through the labyrinth of hovels, where each corner looked the same — decayed. Here was passing a heroine addict, there a dead heroine addict, there a dog, next and a wretched slag who shouted at them in wWelsh and threw a brick at them. There were nNo street lights overhead, and little moon. It could have been a A still night, but except for the robotic leg. It clanged ever a little faster than their tread, ever a little louder in their ears.

I love the action and descriptions here, but the pace needed keyed up. Usually that can be fixed by trimming a few words. Short, quick sentences (even fragments) convey tension—kind of like rapid breathing. Also, you employed passive voice (“here was” and “there were”) a few times, which should generally be avoided. In active voice, the subject acts (a boy stood at the corner); in passive voice, the subject simply exists (there was a boy standing at the corner). You can probably guess which is more interesting to read. 😉

Kayce whirled Trevor around by the shoulder. “This way.”

He gaped.

She puckered her lips. “Well mMaybe you’re okay with dying…”

Every word in your manuscript must hold worth or your story will become bogged down. Although fillers like well, um, and uh mimic real-life speech, they should be inserted sparingly (e.g. when a character is hesitating or stuttering nervously). Dialogue is much stronger without those words.

Okay is the spelling that most publishers prefer. If you decide to go with the alternative, both letters should be capitalized: OK.

No one dared go down that alley. A mad scientist who performed experiments on human beings was rumored to live in the massive shack at the end. One massive shack was it it’s end with peeled white paint that hadn’t had a new coat in eons. It was rumored that a mad scientist lived their and performed experiments on human beings. Many said they people had seen him lurking at night in his white laboratory coat and said they were less afraid of the devil. Many also claimed they had seen the devil. They were the type to be trusted on that. Trevor had been nearby once at night and heard a bloodcurdling scream come from the shack’s direction one night.

Tightening and eliminating some more passive voice. I’d suggest moving the description of the shack’s paint job somewhere else (as I’ve demonstrated below) if you feel it’s a necessary detail.

“You reckless girl. Do you want to die that way? Bby being turned into some monster?”

She shrugged. “Why not?”

If a list could be compiled of reasons why not, it would easily stretch all the way down the alley to the shack itself, but that would be fine print. There was oOne thing screameding in Trevor’s ears in bold print, and that was,: he’s was just around the corner!

Interesting metaphor about the fine vs. bold print. 🙂 You might want to be more specific about who is around the corner though, and either mention the clanking sound or the villain, because it’s a tad unclear. I thought you were referring to the mad scientist at first.

AlrightAll right.”

They dashed down the alley in a heartbeat and Kayce tried the door of the peeling white shack. “Hey, no need to climb through the window. It’s open.”

Trevor flung himself inside, pulling Kayce along, and then closed the door while simultaneously putting his finger to his lips.

“Trevor, what do you think that—”

“Shush your mouth. He’s almost—” Trevor turned saw it and froze.

If he’s facing the door, he would need to turn before he could see the interior of the shack. And you reveal what he sees in the next paragraph, so it’s not necessary to prelude it.

Although darkness blanketed Tthe shack, was blanketed in darkness with only the moonlight to cast its pale luminance through the windows., It lighted up enough though that allowing Trevor to see the outlines of his surroundings. The majority Most of the shack was looked exactly as he would have expected it. Metal scraps everywhere., Sshattered glass, chemistry tubes disorderly piled in disorder, scattered ancient volumes scattered about that looked like they had been printed in the late nineteen hundreds 1900s, feathers, cans, a skeleton in the corner, and lots of unintelligible rubbish of every sort.

You used the word sort four times in the above and below paragraphs, so I removed all but one.

In But the center of the room though, it was absolutely clean spotless. Not a speck sullied the polished floor, and in the very center of this odd the strange clearing stood what appeared to be a machine of some sorts. It was about the size of middle-class a small bedroom. and had pPistons sticking stuck out of it at odd points and electrical components of all sorts were connected to it. There were also things Trevor couldn’t identify some of the other parts had never seen before. Some sort of metal bars that had a purplish hue, a black box shaped like a snails shell with wires hooked up to it, and a pipe with a faint green glow to it that Trevor could almost imagine had a soul to it and were was laughing to itself in hushed tones.

“I can’t—”

“No can’ts, Trevor.” Kayce walked up to the machine and pulled open a door Trevor had missed form from his angle. He heard shouting in the streets. It struck him that the skeleton in the corner was smiling at him in the corner. Uttering A a muffled oath., Hhe was in entered the machine and the door was swung closed. He sucked in the warm, stifling air and held his breath. The shouting outside escalated to a pitch in the streets. Glass shattered. Screams. A gun fired. It sounded like an automatic.

Characters shouldn’t address each other by name very often, because it sounds too formal.

I couldn’t tell who voiced the muffled oath. I assume it was Trevor, although it could have easily been Kayce, or someone outside, or even the skeleton. 😛 Also, the passive voice in the sentence after it implies that a magical force lifted Trevor into the time machine against his will. I don’t think that was your intent. If Kayce pulled him in, you need to mention that. 

“Trevor?”

Trevor pursed his lips together and held his finger to them.

Kayce shook her head and whispered., “It’s locked.”

He gasped in more stifled air and looked for a window they might escape from through.

“I can pick it if—”

Someone had entered the room.

If this is the end of the chapter, it’s a great place to stop. I recommend describing a noise (footsteps, the door opening, a creak, etc.) that would indicate someone had entered the shack instead of simply stating it though. Show, don’t tell. 🙂

Overall, I enjoyed reading this excerpt. It piqued my curiosity about the characters and the stakes, but it wasn’t so vague that I was lost. It mainly needed some tightening (I’ve never reviewed a manuscript that didn’t), and I’d advise you to watch out for passive voice in the future. Keep on churning it out, Daeus, because you’re doing fine!

Profile photo of Brianna Storm Hilvety
Brianna was born with a rumble in her veins. She finds the tap of a keyboard to be soothing like the pitter-patter of rain. She has been a writer for a decade, a freelance editor for a few years, and a bibliophile from the moment she pronounced her first syllable. Proudly a Silver Member of The Christian PEN, she serves on their team as Graphics Coordinator. She exudes her passion for speculative fiction and helping young writers by being an Associate Editor at Castle Gate Press and the Copy Editor/Director of Graphics for Kingdom Pen. When she isn’t poring over words, she may be spotted shooting her Canon, riding The Breeze (an all-terrain vehicle), or romping with her dog, Zookie. Purple is her signature color, and she refuses to recognize all other claims to it.
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Comments

  1. *Gives out last dying wish, clutching dagger at heart*
    “Cary on… for the… KP must… get critiques”
    *RIPs*

  2. And thank you, Brianna. I didn’t know I used the passive voice so much.

  3. Yay, another critique!
    I love the color to this, Daeus— the setting is very strange an unfamiliar, yet vivid and real at the same time. The mixture of common things and completely out-of-this-world (literally 😛 ) things works very nicely, which isn’t easy to pull off.

  4. Brianna, I wish you could mentor me! How did you learn so much about editing fiction? That’s what I hope to do one day; any advice? (One thing I caught–“Alright” should be “all right.”) Daeus, the plot is very suspenseful; I was at a football game, but got completely sucked in to the tension of the story. Good job to you and Brianna!

    • I’ve always been a grammar Nazi and had a penchant for polishing other people’s writing (plus, I’m a voracious reader). A few years ago, another editor advised me to join an organization called The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network. (If I’m talking to who I think I am, I believe you’re already familiar with that place, and I spoke to you on the e-mail loop last year. ;-)) I took some courses there and landed a position at a small publishing company called Castle Gate Press. So that’s my story in condensed form. 😉

      My advice would be this: read and pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Know your grammar rules inside and out, but also have the proper reference books handy for when your memory fails you (and it will). Be aware that it’s not easy to get started as an editor, but keep persevering and learning. If you truly love it and feel that it’s your calling, that part will come naturally.

      You have a sharp eye. 🙂 Not too many people would have noticed “alright” since it’s a common informal spelling. I may have missed that one when I was transferring my edits from a Word document to the post (which wasn’t an easy process—especially since it was my first time posting something on KP). I realize now that “welsh” should have been capitalized too. But it just goes to show that even editors aren’t perfect—we’re human too. 😉

      • Haha, me too (grammar Nazi and voracious reader)! And yes, I am a part of the Christian Pen, and I remember talking to you. It’s been so helpful, hasn’t it! Castle Gate Press looks awesome; a publishing company like that is what I hope to have someday. I definitely need to take some more of those courses; I took the Copyediting and Proofreading for Clients course with Mrs. Kathy, but that is the basics. But I am going to college next fall as an English major and hope to work with the literary journal if they have one, so I’ll definitely get to test the waters there.
        Thank you for that advice and compliment. Yes, I know it is very easy to miss things, especially after you’ve read it so many times you feel as though you’ve memorized it. : )

    • Oh, and if you’d like a little mentoring and don’t mind others seeing, I recommend that you submit a novel excerpt to KP. 😉 I’ll attend to the critique personally.

      • I’d like that very much! I’ll just have to come up with a novel excerpt to give you…I usually just write short stories, but I have some ideas for novels. Just don’t know where to start! : ) Thank you so much for that, though!

    • Wow, I probably would have watched the football game. 😛

      • Haha, well, I always enjoy a good story anywhere. But our team won by one point in the last minute of the game! Definitely a God-thing. : ) Just in case you were wondering.

  5. I can’t believe there have been 34 critiques! That’s crazy! Props to our editors (and also props to Daeus for gallantly reviving our practice)! xD

  6. Oh, is this the time machine story? This is awesome! I hope we get to see the rest of it someday.

  7. Critiques are one of my favorite posts! Thanks, Daeus! Looks like a great beginning to your time travel story (assuming this is the one you mentioned on the forum awhile back).

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