Welcome to the 36th edition of KP Critiques! May others be inspired by your bravery, Lady Kate. 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 Kate’s intriguing tale!
There are lots of things in the world I guess no one was ever really made to understand. Different things for different people sometimes, but for the most part it all boils down to the inevitable. Things like destiny. Love. Evil. Death. I know a lot about death. But destiny especially.
Mine was really strange.
I’m not even sure I’ve figured it out all the way yet. I’m trying though. And one day I’ll get there.
But here I am, overstepping myself. Before we dive into the deep philosophical stuff, I guess you need to hear the start of it all. My story is a strange one. Sad, some would say. But I prefer to think of it as incomplete…
This is the most unusual story opening I’ve ever read. But in order for it to bear its full impact, I’d recommend removing the voiceover above, which diminishes the suspense and is telling more than showing.
Also, your writing will be stronger if you avoid qualifiers like very, really, pretty, etc.
I was a Spade. Not a Club, thank goodness,
nor even a Diamond, and not a Heart —, which was a mercy — but a Spade. Jefferson Daniels was my given name, but Mom and Dad were the only ones that who had ever called me that, and they were gone died before I was old enough to appreciate it that about them. Gone before I was able to appreciate a lot about them, actually. They were the only real thing I‘d knew known. People who’d They’d look at you me in the morning with a smile in their eyes and say, ‘“Good morning, sleepyhead. Double rations this morning. With sugar. Special allotment from the House.“ ’
Always use double quotation marks for dialogue.
I still missed them sometimes.
I didn’t when I lost them. Too stunned, I think. But the shock of losing them caused me to I forgot forget them quicker than I should have. It was so easy… they made it easy. To forget. Forget tThe pale sunshine that came slanting down through the walls of the Maze on especially bright days Up There. Mom’s voice calling me down in the morning. The brilliant scarlet butterflies that sometimes came down and fluttering ed in the filthy gutters. The wilted but still colorful flowers I’d sometimes find on the headstones … they made it so easy to forget all of that.
sometimes I think maybe I let the memories fade them.
Who is this ambiguous “they”? I couldn’t tell whether you were referring to Jefferson’s parents or someone/something else. You want to stimulate curiosity in readers, not confusion.
But anyway. After my sixth birthday, no one called me Jefferson anymore. There was nNo one left who else knew that about me . Only, except for the Diamonds, and they who were never really too keen on all that proper names anyway. They Pprobably thought it was too dangerous for a commoner like me to have my own name. They’re funny like that.
So Jefferson Daniels was buried in the grave my parents shared. I became Spade #37. I was given my shovel. And the night became my home.
Well, tTechnically I ate and slept in the Box , with the other Spades. But the night was home to me. I learned to love it darkness as I had never loved the light. See, lLight makes made you me notice, things. Makes you feel, things. Makes you and confront things ugly truths I you don’t didn’t really want to face confront. Ugly things. Not necessarily ugly lies, just ugly truths, which are worse.
This story contains several fragments. It’s fine to have a few, but be careful not to overdo it.
I had a lot of those ugly truths. And I didn’t want them popping up around the corner in broad daylight and
making me ask arousing questions. Because iIf I started began asking questions of myself, well, then I’d start questioning the Order of Things, and we all know where that would have landed me. A a Club would be dispatched on the orders of by You-Know-Who and to plunge a knife between my ribs quicker than you one could say ‘grave robber ’. So that’s why I liked the night. It Darkness gave me a sense of security ; all that darkness. Sometimes iIf you I pretended hard enough in the dark, you I could can actually fool myself into believ eing nothing’s there. Tthat the world is was right and fine. That the shovel in your my hand isn’t wasn’t caked with rancid dirt, and wood splinters ., and Ssometimes blood. That the headstones all around you, leaning like jagged grey gray teeth in the circle of your my red lantern, aren’t weren’t carved with names of actual people. And Tthat some the smaller headstones were just smaller because whoever had them put there couldn’t afford a big ones.
You’re inside Jefferson’s head, so don’t pull the reader out by employing the second-person pronoun you.
Be careful to keep your verb tenses consistent. In view of how the story opened (“I was a Spade.”), I think you meant to write this in past tense, but then you switched to present tense.
You can I could believe all that in the dark.
makes made the robbing easier.
I love the emotions and the mystery this passage evokes, but it feels underdeveloped—as if you were experimenting with an idea and your main character is still in the formation stage. I wasn’t 100 percent sure whether the story was literally about a spade from a deck of cards or if you were doing a play on words (either concept would be interesting, but you need to clarify your intent).
A word of caution about the mention of grave robbing: Jefferson’s occupation might disconcert some Christian readers if they don’t first understand the world you’ve created. Readers have to empathize with the protagonist’s struggles before willingly following him through his exploits. Readers might be able to connect with Jefferson’s apparent desire to ignore reality, but not if that reality concerns morbid deeds for which a motive or reason has not been established. Are all spades expected to rob graves, and why?
Basically, the story needs more direction, and the beginning could probably benefit from some action, since all Jefferson does is wander through his mind and memories. Maybe you could describe him digging up a grave as he ponders his lot in life, or show him interacting with one of the other card suits. If you could expand on the premise more, I think this could be a unique and fascinating story.