Please welcome today’s aspiring author, Yve Camino, ready for a peer critique. Take a moment to read the excerpt, then please leave some thoughtful feedback in the comment section below.
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Small puffs of dust rose as her bare feet pounded the sun-baked track, She ran like a soul possessed. Would she be too late? In the distance she saw a recognisable shape through the heat shimmer, she called out ‘Johnny, Johnny’ but hardly a croak rasped out of her dust dry mouth. He hesitated, glanced back over his shoulder and stopped, a smile transforming his pale features as he began to walk back towards her.
‘I thought you weren’t coming, what happened?’
She pointed to the backs of her legs where angry red welts criss-crossed.
‘I could have stayed in my room all day or get the razor strap.’
‘That must have really hurt, you should have stayed in your room.’
‘I wanted to be with you.’
Her shining green eyes gazed up into his. He squeezed her hand and said: ‘Hungry?’
‘Let’s go to my place first, the frogs aren’t going anywhere and Wilma can put something on your legs.’
Skipping beside him to keep up with his long strides, she marvelled at how he always knew just what to do – it must be good to be 7. She wasn’t even 4 yet..
‘What did you do this time?’
She shrugged her thin shoulders ‘I think I forgot to feed the chooks.’
The old wooden gate protested wearily as Johnny pushed it open and held it for her to squeeze through. ‘Beat you to the house’. She scampered ahead and touched the verandah post first. Of course it wasn’t really fair, because Johnny couldn’t run. Her Mum said it was because his heart didn’t work properly and that’s why he hardly ever went to school.
Potential Feedback Prompts
When you respond, you might consider:
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- likes and dislikes
- anything that seems unclear
- language issues
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Rose Byrd says
The opening sentence is perfect. Then there is a mismatch with both point of view and language in the second sentence with “like a soul possessed”. As the character runs forward, it would have been helpful to place the character with descriptions of any plant or animal life, angle of sun, etc. Then the language, the action, the dialogue all match well from this point forward. I really liked that we did not know right away the ages of the two characters. Also, the lead up to the boy’s health condition was effective. The strong attachment of the girl to the boy was quite well established with the incident of taking a strapping rather than miss being with her friend. I also really like the use of the the word “chooks.” It placed these characters quite well.
yve camino says
thank you for your valuable comments and encouragement means a lot to me.
Cathryn Leigh says
Very intriguing. I presume they were going to catch frogs. But the girl sounds a bit older than not quite four. Some of it’s the lack of contractins, “should have” instead of “should’ve”. My kids (4 and 6) use a lot of contractions, and I think it’s because it’s what they hear, and potentially because even when said separately they sound together. Also, would expect more energy in her answer to his question of “Are you hungry”, something like a vigerous head nod to go with her, Mmmmm (by itself you I couldn’t tell if she said yes or no). I know with my son (age just 4) excitement often gets in his way when talking so he takes lots of starts before he says what he wants. My daughter (age just 6) less so . It’s hard to write kids, at least I find it so. Other than that I found the description well worded enoguh to give me a feel for the place, while not being inudated with details, and the old wooden gate – its weary protest brought a distinct sound to my mind. *grin*
Yve, I’m impressed that you’ve submitted your work here for a public feedback. Congratulations on being selected. First off, as a reader of this piece, I’m interested in seeing what’s going to happen to these characters. Mission accomplished! As for areas you might want to revisit — if I were you, I might play with eliminating and/or freshening up some of the adjectives/adverbs. Some of the combinations you’ve used here are familiar and could be either left out (giving the nouns and verbs more power) or made more unique. Specifically, “bare feet pounded”, sun-baked”, “soul possessed”, “heat shimmer”, “dust dry mouth”, “angry red welts.” One more thing, both characters do sound more verbally advanced than their reported ages. I wish I had a suggestion for how to tweak that, but it’s a challenge I’ve never attempted. Good luck as you continue. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished story!
Laurie MacNevin says
Hey Yve! Kudos for putting your work out there for all of us to read. You have really captured the atmosphere of the day with your descriptions. I can feel the dusty-dry air and the heat as I’m reading.
I would focus on the dialogue a bit more, it doesn’t flow as smoothly as the rest. For example, I was really surprised to discover that your characters were four and seven years old because the dialogue didn’t hint at it. Listen to some actual four and seven year olds talk and listen to the words they actually say (not what you interpret them to be saying). Kids shorten words, leave words out, use incomplete sentences. See if you can translate the lines you have into actual kidspeak and maybe it will flow better.
florence fois says
Great that you have had the courage to submit your work for public critique. I love the concept and the tension you begin to build in this opening. Ditto on the adjective parings, i.e. “bare feet pounded.” True that you might find their voices. Kids do speak in short-clipped sentences; most of us speak in contractions. Maybe you might want to put in their reflective thoughts as they speak to each other … get into their heads and give the reader a glimpse of the origin of those red welts.
Having been here and done this, I can also see that you are at the beginning of your journey. Take a deep breath and enjoy. This story has excellent possibilities.
Ann Marie says
Great to see your work, it was a great read. The main thing I noticed was that the children’s dialogue was too old, I was surprised when you gave their ages. But the atmosphere was well evoked, and I was drawn in. I’d like to read more, which is the best compliment.
Lillian Browne says
Bravo! The story captured by imagination quite quickly and I was eager to keep reading. What about is sillies who don’t know what a “chook” is? Could you add a descrptive that would help me to visualize? I agree with the comments about the dialogue … although my children are grown now, I don’t remember them speaking like that at those ages. Also the use of the words razor strap .. have never heard those words together. I really liked the story and want to know more!
Susan @ 2KoP says
I enjoyed your piece, and especially liked some of the imagery: the small puffs of dust that accompanied her feet pounding on the track; the protesting old wooden gate. I’d like to see more of that originality in your word choices.
The voices of the children threw me, as it did some of the other readers. In fact, I’m curious about a time and place where a three year-old child would be strapped for forgetting to do a chore and then let out on her own to go frog-hunting. It seems awfully young for both of those things to happen, but I’m willing to follow you to find out more.
You’ve packed a lot of information in these few paragraphs, made us suspend belief and want to read more. Good work.
A few things seemed odd to me:
I had to read “she saw a recognisable shape through the heat shimmer” several times, because shimmer kept reading like a verb and it didn’t make sense to me. “Shimmering heat” would have been clearer, but I agree with Ruth about freshening up these kinds of images.
“dust dry mouth” should be “dust-dry mouth”
The best thing about this passage is all the questions it raised: why was she beaten? Why would she endure a beating to be with Johnny? Where are they and when does the story take place? I say this is the best part because these questions have me wanting more.
One more picky thing: while a child might certainly call it a razor strap, I believe it’s really called a razor strop. Good luck!
Marty Sorensen says
I was really struck by the idea that this 4-year old would get welts on the leg from being beaten with a belt (maybe I’m ignorant, but a razor strop is really, really old fashioned, but I don’t know exactly when this story is taking place, because if you have one you would be using a straight razor every day) because she didn’t stay in her room all day? But it’s not all day yet, so this was yesterday? The story seems scary to me.
Marty Sorensen says
Sorry, I just learned that (a long time ago) the hired hand used to threaten to whip his kids with his razor strop.
Chris Fries says
Interesting situation and compelling characters, although I echo the surprise that they’re only 4 and 7 — the dialogue seems much older than that.
Some of the nits I might pick:
— The overuse of comma splices (although the first one might be a mistyped period — the “She” afterward is capitalized).
— “hardly a croak rasped out”, yet it was enough to get him to turn around?
— “a smile transforming his pale features” — transforming from what to what? I have no image of what his features are.
— the unnamed “her” and “she” MC. I’d give her a name to help pull us in and identify with her.
— A POV slip in describing her green eyes. Most of the POV seems to be within her (we even get her inner thoughts) — she wouldn’t think of her own eyes that way.
— Some cliches. “A soul possessed;” for example.
— Ungrounded setting. When and where are we? Are we in current time? long ago? An alien planet (‘chook’?)
Overall, I think there’s a good story here, and I’m interested in reading more once a few edits are made. Hang in there, Yve! I think this will become a great piece!
Michelle McCartney says
I loved the story. Liked the way it turned out to be two children. Loved the line.”Must be good to be 7″. Showed it to my 10 year old and he thought it was good. He’s always wanted to be his big brother’s age.
Found the line ………….” could have stayed in the room all day or get the razor strap ” a bit vague. Was child given the choice ?
Could visualise the place and the two children though I have to admit to being influenced by young Jinny and Forest in Forest Gump. Nonetheless, the pathos and beauty of the story was charming. Well Done.
:*There are certainly a lot of deiatls like that to take into consideration. That is a great point to bring up. I offer the thoughts above as general inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you bring up where the most important thing will be working in honest good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged around things like that, but I am sure that your job is clearly identified as a fair game. Both boys and girls feel the impact of just a moment’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.
Glad you submitted this piece for critique. You have certainly got me hooked enough to want the rest of the story. From the moment I realised this was not a forbidden teenage tryst, as I thought at first, I had to read on. With your use of language I fell you could have given us more than that sun baked track, really taken us into the landscape without weighing the piece down with too much description. I did find the running “like a soul possessed” jarred somewhat because we are in the viewpoint of a four year old, albeit one who has had probably had to grow up far too quickly, from the life you show she is leading, I just question if that is a phrase she would know or use, and what makes Johnny turn when he does if her mouth is too dry to call him properly? When he does see her might be a good time to give the girl’s name, he could call to her or say hello, whoever. Just an idea.
I feel that if you spend time with your characters, get to know them, the way they talk, especially when it’s just the two of them, you will be able to shape this into a very fine story. Good luck with it.
yve camino says
after reading your comments I am feeling very humble and grateful for your extremely helpful critiques, I now have this little ‘maybe I can’ feeling
Kelli Burgos says
I really enjoyed the story. In such a short piece I was really able to capture what the story was about and I was curious as to what would happen next. It tugged at my heart strings, the thought of a little girl getting beaten and the connection they felt to each other at such a young age. I agree with other, there were some minor technical issues but that can all be worked out, the storyline is what counts and you have a good one. Congrats!
Wow. Loved the hooks, discovering these were young kids, the boy’s heart problem, the girl’s adoration, the place (dust, gate, chooks) came alive too, for me. Like those more illustrious than I, felt the speech was too pedantic. I didn’t get the frogs, that had me pausing to try to see where frogs fitted in, but nevertheless the story really gripped me. I’d love to hear what happens. Well done.
sandy barnes says
The beginning was a little confusing for me as I got stuck on the girl running bare foot in the dirt. I kept thinking about the soles of her feet burning.
It was a surprise that they were very young. I liked how she left that till the end.