Here’s our fourth fiction excerpt ready for critique.
You can check out the previous ones here:
- Not Quite, YA fantasy
- Feathered, YA fantasy
- On the Thames, literary short story
As you can see, YA fantasy seems to be the most popular genre amongst our readers. Still, I think it’s wise to mix things up every now and then.
Keep an eye out later this week for another call for excerpt submissions, which will include all genres except fantasy and YA fantasy.
Please leave some feedback for this aspiring writer:
I was nervous and it had nothing to do with the cop car trailing us. It was a common occurrence in this small town at nearly two in the morning and we weren’t planning any mischief, despite what our young appearance suggested. I looked fourteen. Silas looked eighteen. We were closer to three hundred.
Pretending not to notice the headlights at our backs, we kept sauntering astride on the cobblestone walk. I briefly wonder what they thought about us — a boy and a girl wearing all black in late September, with no other company. Not too long ago getting caught in such a state would have had severe consequences. At the very least it would damage one’s reputation, at worst one would be executed as a witch, unless there was an excellent reason. Times were different now, as evidenced by the car speeding up, leaving Silas and I in darkness.
“That’s it,” I said, nodding my head to indicate the building that was a few feet off. It was hard to miss. The structure easily took up its own city block. Silas paused to look at the building, the nearby lamppost providing enough light for us to clearly see it.
With the color leaving the bricks, the plaster decaying and the few decades of grime and graffiti on the walls, the place looked abandoned. Anyone passing by would be certain there wasn’t anything of interest inside — which was the point. Not just anyone could know of this place. But I knew about it. It’d been a sanctuary to me for the past four years and I wanted Silas to see it.
Potential Feedback Prompts
When you respond, you might consider:
- your immediate reactions
- likes and dislikes
- anything that seems unclear
- language issues
- point of view
- general encouragement
Thanks for your help, and thanks to today’s author for this excerpt!
Join the discussion
This is a pretty intriguing set-up. Where are they going? Who/what are these people? I like that you’ve used tension and mystery to build interest.
Here are a few things that might make your excerpt cleaner:
-“I was nervous,” is telling your character’s emotions. Is there a better way to SHOW that she’s nervous?
-The way your second sentence is structured, “It was a common occurrence,” seems to refer to “I was nervous,” which I’m sure you don’t mean. Can you rephrase the second sentence to be clearer in relation to the first sentence? I also might change “and” to “but.”
-“Sauntering astride” doesn’t seem quite right. Check out the definition of “astride” and you might see what I mean: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/astride.
-“I briefly wonder,” changes you from past tense to present tense. “Briefly” is probably unnecessary, as well.
-“Leaving Silas and I in darkness,” should be “leaving Silas and me in darkness.” If you take out Silas, it would read “leaving I in darkness,” which would be incorrect.
-There should be a comma after “decaying” in the 4th paragraph.
-Perhaps a few more telling details could make this set-up clearer. You want there to be mystery, but you also want your reader to be able to really picture this in their minds. Silas seems like a silent/passive partner in this scene. Could he be a little more involved in some way, perhaps through a bit of dialogue?
Thanks for your excerpt, and all the best!
P.I. Barrington says
First off this is not bad but there are some habits that need to be broken now. The constant use of passive voice starts with the first sentence: “I WAS nervous and it HAD nothing…” Try to replace passive verbs: was had had not, weren’t etc., with action words or sentences. I agree with Suzannah that the word abreast is what you confused with astride. Abreast is walking side by side. Your sentences do seem very simplified and while I mostly applaud that, I think you can free yourself up for better flow of reading. Also, as Suzannah has mentioned you can identify the people & places without giving anything major away. Not bad but needs a lot of passive voice revision though I do like the suspenseful set up.
Eva Porter says
I liked the contrast you seem to have set up here, the abandoned building as sanctuary, the “teenagers” being closer to 300. All is not what it appears so that intrigues me.
At first, I thought the language was a little high brow for a kid, until I got to the 300 year old “kid” part. Then it fell into place. The clues drop easily into place as well without you fussing over them–for example: “Not too long ago getting caught in such a state would have had severe consequences. At the very least it would damage one’s reputation, at worst one would be executed as a witch”
It seems like there’s just enough explanation to keep me interested, without an info-dump up front.
I liked the opening sentence. Yes, it’s passive, but it’s interesting and made me wonder what was going on.
I like the sentence “Not too long ago getting caught in such a state would have had severe consequences.” That reinforced the 300-year-old mind set of the main character because being burned at the stake certainly seems, to me, like something that did happen a very long time ago.
I like the description of the building; I can picture it easily. The phrase “color leaving the bricks” was a little odd, though.
An abandoned building seems like just the place that errant teenagers would hang out after midnight, so wouldn’t the cops wait to see if they went in? It seems that they approach the building right after the cops leave.
I’m not sure a boy and girl being together late at night would peg them as witches in any time period…the girl might be considered loose, yes, but a witch? That was really the only thing that pulled me out of the story.
i’m interested in why these two are 300 years old, why the narrator’s been living in an apparently not-abandoned building for 4 years, and why she’s so nervous to show it to him.
Thanks to everyone who commented. I will consider all the suggestions that were made.
Cam you made the comment that: “I’m not sure a boy and girl being together late at night would peg them as witches in any time period…the girl might be considered loose, yes, but a witch? That was really the only thing that pulled me out of the story. ”
I’d written: “Not too long ago getting caught in such a state would have had severe consequences. At the very least it would damage one’s reputation, at worst one would be executed as a witch, unless there was an excellent reason.” because my intent was to explain the differences. Back then kissing in public was illegal…or close to it. And they had a lot of ideas about people in general being outside after dark. A boy and a girl together, unescorted…Yes. It could be as simple as the girl being given the reputation as a trollop, but if the right things were said, by the wrong people…. Someone could accuse the two…of performing witchcraft. I thought I’d explain my thinking, my word choice. Apparently I’m not clear enough on this though, so I’ll have to address that.
Suzannah and PI Barrington: You are correct. I confused astride with abreast.
Thanks again to everyone who offered their comments.