Please welcome today’s aspiring author, Reese Ryan, ready for a peer critique.
Take a moment to read the excerpt and leave some thoughtful feedback in the comment section below.
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Please note: This excerpt is taken from the beginning of the work.
“You’re the last person in the Free World who isn’t on Facebook, Charli!” Morgan Holland, my best friend since college, proclaims as if it were akin to eating soup with one’s hands or an inability to walk upright.
I sit across from Morgan at our usual Max & Erma’s booth debating my response. Her plea isn’t new, but today she’s really worked up about it.
“Don’t you think you’re being a touch melodramatic?” I return to the Nachos Grande I’ve been attacking mercilessly. I’m starving. All I’ve eaten today is what I scavenged from the conference room deli tray.
“No! I’m not!” Morgan pokes the air with her salad fork. “Everyone is on Facebook these days. Everyone.”
“My parents aren’t.” The corner of my mouth rises in a slight smirk. “Guess I come from a long line of social media slackers.”
“It’s not that long a line,” Morgan counters. “I’m Facebook friends with your niece, Shelli.”
I shrug my shoulders and make a mental note to ask my sister, Tess, about it when I get home. Then I dig into my nachos again.
Morgan folds her arms, nostrils flared and eyebrows raised. She’ll wait as long as it takes.
“The fact that my 12-year-old niece is on Facebook proves my point exactly. Facebook is for kids. We’re grownups. We don’t always act like it, but we are.”
“My 80-year-old nana is on Facebook!” Morgan shrieks.
Three 20-somethings giggle, shaking their heads in collective disbelief. At 29 I’ve become a relic.
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Peter Adamson says
I really liked this excerpt. The only negative I have about it is the use of the word ‘plea.’ I sincerely believe that it is more a statement made than an actual plea from a friend. A simple plea does not necessarily result in such an intense response. I think the word ‘statement’ is, perhaps, the better word to use because it is a statement being made about Charli not being on Facebook.
My immediate reaction to the first person narrative: very well done. It gets the reader into the mind of the narrator and I love the manner in which the dialogue and inner-thoughts build up to the point where such a young person is considered to be a ‘relic’ of the modern age. This point has been exquisitely woven … and in a very short span of time.
I particularly like the use of Charli’s facial expression (the smirk) to denote the derision she feels toward’s Morgan’s ‘statement’ and the way the former dismisses the latter by appearing somewhat indifferent to the statement by focusing on her need to sate her hunger. The there is the shrug of the shoulders to to punctuate Charli’s indifference to Morgan’s statement, which the latter finds infuriating (folds her arms and flares her nostrils).
The point of view of the friend is lucid and therefore leaves no doubt as to what she thinks about her ‘relic’ friend. The word ‘relic’ is brilliantly juxtaposed with the belief of the narrator’s friend, even though the actual word isn’t used by the friend.
The reader doesn’t know who the ‘Three 20-somethings’ are, but their giggling would have lent support to the outraged Morgan and underpinned Charli’s belief that she is, indeed, a relic.
This short excerpt is well-crafted and I encourage Reece to be a tad more selective about the words used to underpin perception and belief.
By the way: I’m not on Facebook either. But then, I am a relic … if such is measured by age alone. I’d love to be a 29 year-old relic.
This excerpt made me want to read the rest of the story. The characters are both real and clearly defined. It also rings true. As someone who has been resisting the Facebook urge, I get my share of “Get with it, already!” comments. The one thing I’m wondering about is this: if this is the hook of the story, where is the driving question? Why should I stick around and continue reading this?
Reese, I really enjoyed this excerpt. I found that I was interested in both of your characters and your voice feels natural for this scene. I like your use of colour in the first paragraph (inability to walk upright) and humour. I wonder if you should take out the exclamation points or only use one of them. It makes me picture her screaming instead of just being adamant. Other than that, it sets the stage nicely and lets us know who this story is about. I do agree with Cindi that there isn’t a conflict yet, but I think you still have time in the first scene for that to be presented (as long as it gets soon in the very near future, lol). Great job.
Tamara Pratt says
Hi Reese, I too like this excerpt. NOT being on Facebook is just as controversial it seems as what some teenagers might post for the attenion of 800 + friends. I must admit though (and perhaps it’s because my connection to Facebook is largely through teenage daughters, and the fact in Australia, our University students are graduated by the time they are 20 / 21 years for the most part), I thought Charli was younger again than 29 years. The comment initially: ‘y best friend since college’ might have been better served by amending that to include the timeline, so we know that her best friend since college has been so for the past 9 or so years. It’s just a thought. I also agree the conflict, the inciting incident, is not yet there — we don’t know what is at stake for this character, but you have time to allow for this. Maybe the mention of the conference deli tray could infer her profession (for example, is she a secretary who has brought the food to the room vs a high achieving corporate ladder climber who is being served the food?) and just push us a little further into her world and what her situation might be. Overall, I enjoyed the character interactions and would read on.
Pamela Saha says
Awesome style. Clearer lines. The characters are alive. Dialogue and description off the scale great. One problem though. The character who says that this whole thing is melodramatic, merits no more attention than nachos, and deserves a smirk is the “point of view” character. As the audience, I am siding with the point of view character. After all I’m in the point of view character’s head. The character who is passionate, flares her nostrils, and jabs at the air with a fork has no apparent driving force other than wanting her friend to not be a relic and I’m not in her head. This makes me agree all the more with the point of view character, the discussion is less interesting than nachos. See what happens if you switch point of view characters or give your current point of view character some skin in the game. I can’t wait to read more from you. When I’m in the head of your character with the powerful motive and passion, I know that I will be putty in your hands and keep turning the pages.
Sharon Settle says
Nice start Reese. Very casual tone, inviting the reader to have a seat with the two friends and be a silent part of the conversation. It is hard to do that and you did it well.
The dialogue was very believable and you placed the reader well within the women’s relationship. The main character doesn’t come off as strong in personality and character as the friend.
The main thing I wondered was whether this conversation about Facebook has relevance for the plot. Or does this set up the main character as resistant to change with everything in her life? If it does, I would expect to see a reference to something else the main character has resisted.
This has potential, but while reading it all I could think of was how obvious it was that this person is a novice. I’m not suggesting you fill it will pointless purple prose, but the word and verb choice are clearly the tell tale signs of inexperience. This is something I would have written in 7th grade. The appositives, the comparisons that fail so horribly to be apt that they distract, the dialogue that is almost there, but still falls short, phrases like “attacking mercilessly” and “collective disbelief” all scream “Novice! Beginner! Look! Over here!” It portrays the author as someone who thinks they are a better writer than they truly are. If this really was the beginning to a novel, I would put it down. Also, the fact that it talks about Facebook already outdates it- three years from now, Facebook will no longer be popular, and this passage will seem outdated and strange and not relevant to the current readers.. Now that I’ve gotten all the mean stuff out of the way, I would like to reiterate that this has potential.With practice and passion, one could easily turn this around. Best of luck!
Adam D. Oglesby says
You have a lot of good things going on “seeing-wise”, the nacho eating, the protagonist’s witty observation—both internal and external. I think you succeed in pulling off what can—for many authors—prove to be a boring, momentum sapping scene: Namely, any situation where the characters sit down for dinner or drinks and basically do nothing but talk at each other.
It’s really difficult to make a dinner scene interesting. In script writing you often find restaurant scenes used for some obligatory back story, the writer knowing to quickly get in and get out before his audience keels over and expires from boredom.
You might consider—unless this Facebook angle is especially germane to your story—finding a way to shorten the scene. The visuals you’ve added are great: We see the characters and their actions. The downside is that the visuals you’ve added make the scene longer, perhaps slowing it down in a place where the pace is already inherently slow.
This might be a place where you want to hit your audience hard, bam, maybe one or two sharp visuals then get out quickly.
Consider other methods of conveying the scene’s information.
Summary (real quick for exposition that might not deserve an actual fleshed out scene).
Dialogue only—sans visual description or character designation. (Maybe it’s already obvious who’s talking.)
Or what if most of the Protag’s comments and observation take place in her head rather than out loud.
A word on dialogue. Effective writing of dialogue can be difficult. As writers we face the dual complication of creating dialogue that sounds realistic but not so realistic that it’s too unfocused and meandering to constitute a good read.
Check to ensure that your characters don’t consistently speak in complete sentences. Thought patterns in real life are often much more staccato, more cumbersome, more blundering. In heated discussions interruptions and cutting off one’s opponent are the norm.
The likelihood that one character gets to make a complete statement then is politely followed by the other character’s complete statement strikes me as a bit odd.
Finally, consider using more subtext—or characters saying something other than what they mean. Too much direct, on the nose dialogue can certainly feel uninspiring to read, tending to offer much less room for audience surprise. (All of which may seem counter intuitive since in real life people are much more likely to blurt out exactly what they mean.)
Example: We find ourselves deep in the Antagonist’s subterranean lair. Our helpless Protag is gagged, spread-eagled and stapled to a surgical table by the skin of his testicles.
The Antagonist whips out a ginormous pair of garment shears. But rather than threatening to stab, cut or maim the Protag, our bad guy instead waxes nostalgic about his days as a cutter at a textile mill and how he’d use these same shears to snip off stacks of woolen fabric piled thirty layers high.
All the while the Antagonist parades in front of his hostage and snaps the shears open and closed, open and closed. The Protag’s eyes—bucked as huge as halogen headlamps—follows every click of those shears; he quivers on the table like an epileptic with a bad case of the DT’s.
Both the Protag and the audience grasp the veiled violent suggestion and will hopefully find the scene fresher and more intimidating than if the Antagonist simply stated the obvious: “I’m going to cut off your privates if you don’t tell me where you hid my launch codes!”
So many great thoughts being shared here and many of my thoughts have already been expressed eloquently by others.
Nonetheless, here’s my two bits:
I realize that you are going for a unique first name to the main character, but here is a thought to ponder: Charli isn’t normally spelled the way you have it spelled in this story.
Maybe this is an Australian thing. I am from Canada and have always seen this name, whether male or female, written with an ‘e’ on the end. The reason I bring it up is because you don’t want your reader to take your main character’s name and immediately find fault with it. Neither do you want to give a publisher any reason not to read your manuscript or immediately start chalking up points against it.
Another thought regarding your opening line.
Let it breathe.
There are a lot of words coming at me in the beginning. You have ‘akin’, “one’s hands” and ‘inability’ all at once.
I am guessing this is a fun, chick-lit novel. If so, the ‘feel’ is achieved.
M. E Tudor says
I really liked this excerpt. I would love to read the rest of the story. I thoguht the dialogue was done very well. Great job, Reese.