Welcome to the 35th edition of KP Critiques! May others be inspired by your bravery, Lady Tessa. 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.
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 analysis of Tessa’s tale!
A timid knock on the bedroom door started Charles Galing’s day.
“Come in,” he called sleepily. He sat up and pushed back his orange curls. Deep set eyes, bleary with sleep, Blinking his bleary eyes, he looked questioningly at Mary, his maid, as she entered.
By detaching Charles’s eyes from his person, they’ve become “floating body parts.” This is a bit of a POV breach as well, since Charles can’t see his own eyes.
Mary twisted her apron in her hands. “I’m sorry, to be
abothering yer so early, sir, but there’s a caller downstairs. ‘E’s mighty anxious like to see yer. I’ve shown him into the drawing room.”
Charles frowned. He couldn’t remember anyone saying that they were coming over, and not at this ridiculous hour. He nodded to Mary.
“Tell him I shall be there presently.”
The maid bobbed a curtsy and hurried from the room.
Charles swung his long legs over the edge of the bed and stretched. He rose, walked over to the window, and drew back the heavy drapes. The sun’s rays tinted the English countryside in a golden hue. He rubbed at his eyes. ‘Bother this caller.,’ he thought.‘Still, I guess I mustn’t keep him waiting.’
If you’re already inside a character’s head, direct thoughts generally don’t need appended with he/she thought. Also, thoughts should be italicized, not bracketed by quotation marks.
Ten minutes later, Charles trotted briskly down the grand staircase and strode into the drawing room. The stranger, his back to him, gazed into the crackling fire. It was early spring and the mornings were still quite chilly.
I’d recommend tweaking the above paragraph and opening the story there, because it’s considered clichè to begin a novel with a character waking up and going through the motions of dressing, etc. Instead, maybe describe Charles yawning, rubbing his eyes, and grumbling to himself about being aroused at such a ghastly hour as he descends the stairs. That way readers will immediately be ushered into the crux of the scene.
Charles tugged at his cuff and raised his eyebrows. “You wished to see me, sir?”
Although the Charles was lord of the grand Birchwood estate, Birchwood, he still showed respected up to his elders. His mother had died in childbirth, leaving his father, Sir George Galing, to raise his only son alone. The old gentleman, much respected and admired, had done a wonderful job. Charles was all that his father had hoped for. Polite, charming, handsome, studious, and above all, sensible.
I’m skeptical of some of the sentences in this paragraph because you are telling Charles’s attributes rather than showing them through his behavior. It might be a good idea to cut those parts and let Charles’s actions in the story testify that his father raised him to be honorable and well-mannered.
How old is Charles supposed to be? I get the impression he is young, but I can’t discern how young. Teens or twenties? Perhaps try to indicate his age more clearly.
A terrible carriage accident a month ago had robbed Charles of his father, and he the young man had become the earl over the large property.
The more adjectives and adverbs you can whittle out, the better.
He now suspected the gentleman before the fire was one of his father’s many friends.
What causes him to believe this?
“Was it important?” probed Charles.
“Yes,” replied the other man in a voice deep and quiet.
“Won’t you sit down?” Charles gestured to the chairs around the room. “Can I get you breakfast or a drink?”
“Wine,” said the man. “And I’d prefer to stand, if you don’t mind.”
“By all means.” Charles pulled the bell and Mary came scurrying scurried in. “Wine for the gentleman, and I’ll have my breakfast in here.”
“Yes, sir,” she said and, casting a quick glance at the stranger, hurried to do her master’s biding.
Charles walked over to the table and sat down. From this angle, he could see the man’s face., which was framed by
Sstraight brown hair framed his face. His Ttired brown eyes watched the fire’s every flickering movements. Lines creased his face, and Charles was unsure whether they were caused by a smile creases or worry caused. He thought perhaps the latter.
Time passed in silence and Mary appeared with a tray. She handed the glass of wine to the guest and placed Charles’s breakfast before him on the table.
“Thank you, Mary, that will be all for now. Please close the door after you and tell the others I am not to be disturbed.”
After she had left, Charles began eating. He kept glancing at studied the stranger as he chewed. The glass of wine remained in the stranger’s hand, untouched.
Charles sat back and rubbed a hand over his belly. ‘Ah, ” he thought. ‘Mary is a good cook.’
“I wish to buy Birchwood.”
Charles jolted upright reacted as if he’d been slapped. The dishes rattled on the tray as his knee hit the table.
Show, don’t tell his reaction.
“I beg your pardon?” asked Charles sputtered, aghast.
“You heard me. I wish to buy Birchwood.”
“I’m not selling,” replied Charles. He stared at the man. “Tell me, wWho are you?”
The man glanced glared at Charles sharply. “I will pay whatever price you ask.”
“I am not asking a price, because I’m not selling. And if that’s all you came for, you can leave now.”
“You don’t understand,” stated the man. “I am going to have this land. It means a lot to me.”
“It cannot mean more to you than it does to me.” Charles felt his temper rising.
Keep in mind, using the word felt is usually a sure sign that you’re telling rather than showing a character’s emotion.
A thin smile appeared on the older man’s face. “My dear boy, do you really not know me?”
“Of course not,” snapped Charles. “Now, please leave.”
“I think not.”
Confusion and anger burned in Charles’s eyes. “You refuse to leave?” he asked.
“That is exactly what I mean. Precisely. And if you don’t mind, I will take up accept that offer of breakfast and a chair.” He promptly sat down and drank a mouthful of wine. “I am still willing to buy it from you so that you have some money in your pocket when you leave.” Here the man paused to swallow another mouthful of wine.
Charles clenched his teeth, his lips taut a tight thin line.
“Or Otherwise I will have you forcibly removed. After all, I am more entitled to it the land than you.”
The above line needs some action or a tag to tie the speaker to the dialogue.
“How dare you?” spat Charles. He spun on his heel and strode over to the bell. “Leave, or I will ring for the groundsmen to escort you off.”
“The groundsmen won’t be of much use to you. They know who I am.”
Charles breathed heavily. This man was so aggravating. Not only had he disturbed his sleep, but now he acted as if he owned the place. “Will you not,” he said, trying to control his temper. “Will you not tell me who you are?”
A lapse into telling again.
“Who I am? I suppose I could.” The stranger shook his head at as if recalling a distant memory. “It has been many years since you last saw me.”
Your protagonist can’t know for definite what the stranger is thinking; he can only guess.
“Saw you?” asked Charles.
“My dear boy,” the man glanced up from peering into his empty glass. “I am
,” he paused. “Y your brother.”
Whoa. That last line was like a bomb dropping. This entire scene has loads of potential and is intriguing, but the conversation between the two men seems somewhat drawn out and contrived. It might help if you grounded the characters to the setting more by describing the surroundings and added an extra layer of mystery to the stranger. Maybe you could have him roam around the drawing room, touching furniture and decorations as if he’d always lived there. Anything that would make your protagonist uneasy.
Now I get to spend the rest of my life wondering why this Charles character was unaware that he had an older (possibly evil?) brother. Do please save me from that fate and finish writing the book, will you? 😉