Write Wow!

Writing tips and techniques from the publisher of Swimming Kangaroo Books. Send your 3-page writing sample to be critiqued to dindy@swimmingkangaroo.com with the word "critique" in the subject heading. Your submission will be critiqued on the blog, but your name will not be used unless you give permission.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Critique of Excerpt from DreamKeeper

(My comments will be in Purple. Words and punctuation that need to be deleted are in red. Words and punctuation I added are in purple.) At the end I will have general comments about the passage.

One cloudy night, five-inch Asima flew down gently onto Calley’s quilted bed. With a voice like whispering children she said, “This is your third nightmare this week, my dear.” nice description!

The thirteen-year-old girl with long, dusty-blond hair tossed, mumbled, and sighed in her sleep.

“You must believe in yourself and allow others to get to know you,” said Asima. Children like Calley touched a special place in Asima’s heart. It was hard for them to understand a world without rules, fairness, love, and swift justice.

Calley rolled onto her right side and then back again. “No,” she mumbled in her sleep. “Please. . .that’s not it.” Sweat dotted her forehead, collected into a drizzle, and then slid into her hair. Again, nice description!

Asima rose from the girl’s bed and then backed a few feet away; the time had come; more coaxing would be required for this one. It had for several lately; times changed. She’d already dealt with several stubborn and difficult nightmares tonight. The petite fairy’s body felt heavy. A tightness pulled her back taunt as strings on a violin. Asima concentrated on transforming.

“You must be the DreamKeeper,” a bass voice hissed from the depths of Calley’s body.

Surprised, then irritated, Asima narrowed her eyes. She didn’t recognize this one.

“The others told me to be wary of you.”

She’d hoped to fight fatigue a bit longer, but Asima’s concentration shattered. Too many Class Three nightmares night after night, one after another, along with a hollow loneliness.

“Why don’t you save us both time and yourself the embarrassment and leave?” Asima told him.

A deep, husky breathing vibrated out from the girl’s abdomen, and grew louder before beginning again. “I will leave when I’m ready and not before.”

Asima clicked her tongue and then released a long sigh. “Your friends forgot to inform you what I’ve done to them, especially the defiant ones.”

All at once, a blast of hot, sulfur-air exploded at Asima, nearly knocking her off her feet. A dark-green head rose from Calley’s chest, oozing shades of black and sickly-pale slime that slid together and dribbled down from it. “The others are weak; both in power and in attitude. You are the one to leave. This girl child is mine.”Nice!

Asima shook her head. “If we must go through this then so be it.” She’d have to use the rest of her energy. How she’d hoped this was the last nightmare tonight. Is she concerned that she might not be able to handle this demon- that he make take the last of her strength so she will be unable to handle other nightmares?

The DreamKeeper turned first in slow circles, and then in quicker ones. In moments she blurred.

Thunder rumbled outside and through a slightly opened window, where a flash stabbed through the blanket of darkness. A loud clap of thunder followed before another flash. This one emulated emanated from within the bedroom through starting a thick mist to crawl around Calley’s bed. Asima materialized from it into her human-size form.

“This child is not yours,” she stated. “Leave now!” She stared into the reddened eyes of the demon and added, “Are you sure you know of me?” "Stated" seems to be a weak attributive. She is making a declarative stand against a nightmare. This warrants a stronger attributive. The entire paragraph seems weak in contrast to the rest of the passage.

The demon shot a return look with half a smile. Its face distorted, turned a deep shade of ebony; black as the most hideous sin.

General comments:
Aaah! You left me hanging! I'm dying to know what comes next!

This is a well done passage. A few grammatical errors and word choice issues, but those would undoubtedly be taken care of in the final edit. Your opening grabs the reader, pulls him into the story and establishes the scene. Nice job.

For our exercise, let's look at the following paragraph:

“This child is not yours,” she stated. “Leave now!” She stared into the reddened eyes of the demon and added, “Are you sure you know of me?”

The attributive, "stated" is weak considering the context, and the overall tone of the paragraph seems subdued compared to the rest of the passage. So your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to rewrite this paragraph. Use a stronger attributive, and change the tone to make it fit the rest of the passage-- Asima is tired, she is being threatened by a demon she's never seen before, and she evidently has a reputation. What is she going to say to the demon?

You can either post your rewrites as comments are email them to me at dindy@swimmingkangaroo.com

If you email your rewrite to me, please put the following in the subject line "Paragraph Rewrite."

Of course, if you have general questions or comments about this passage or about writing in general, please post them. Give our writer as much constructive feedback as possible!


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Blogger Swimming Kangaroo said...

Here is the rewrite from the author-- see how much stronger it makes the passage:

“This child is not yours,” she said with fury in her voice. Asima attempted to hold onto her thread-bare patience. “It appears you don’t listen to warnings. They are accurate. You should be wary. I am Asima, protector of the dreams of Earth’s children. So show more respect.”

7:07 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Thank you Dindy for the critique. I think what you provide is a treasure and I wish you the best. I don't know of any other publishers who provide this type of thing. Your suggestions were very helpful and appropriate.

Chris, the author of 'DreamKeeper.'

4:09 AM  
Blogger Swimming Kangaroo said...

You are very welcome, Chris!

4:23 AM  

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