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Protected Planet: The Other Kaitlyn
Please note: This excerpt is taken from the beginning of the work.
Bran and Xendra were happy. Together they walked, hand in hand, back from tending the palfreys, the dog-ponies, this planet’s version of gentle horses.
‘We’ll have to name the two we brought from the smaller continent. They’re recovered well now. The kaitlyn are pleased, too,’ Xendra said. Her light brown hair waved in the warm breeze, her loose tunic and trousers showing her slim outline.
Yanni and Xillia have put a lot of work into helping them trust people again,’ Bran said. ‘They should be consulted on names. Yanni is getting to be quite a good aircar pilot too.’
‘If you say that, First Officer Bran McNulty, that means Yanni is an excellent pilot.’ Bran was without doubt one of the most skilled pilots who’d ever been in the Space Navy or Merchant Space Service. His once pale face was now bronzed, his dark brown hair lightened by the planet’s sun. His brown eyes smiled into her dark grey ones.
Back at Homecamp, preparing stew, they they were interrupted.
Two kaitlyn came into camp. Xendra reached for Bran’s hand, already beginning to go deep into herself to ask the cat-beings what they wished.
The two kaitlyn extended their hands, each taking a human hand in his own forepad, long finger-toes, claws carefully retracted, curling round the soft human hands. Sensing came to Bran and Xendra.
Trouble. The smaller continent. Kaitlyn need help, territory in difficulty, plants sick, dying. Go. Meet – lake with river.
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The first thing that struck me was that we know what palfreys are, but not kaitlyns. At least until the kaitlyns show up four paragraphs later. Maybe the explanation of both palfreys and kaitlyns could go together where they are first mentioned. Being that this is the start of the work and it being sci-fi we expect some things we don’t have any idea about, so I think it’s okay to put them in without describing them at first. Although they do need a bit of explanation not to long afterwords.
Not real sure about Yanni and Xillia either. With the introduction of palfreys and kaitlyns, I’m assuming that they are similar beings to Bran and Xendra. While they may not be (and don’t have to be) I get the feeling that they are humans at this point. I am interested to know if they are, interested enough to want to keep reading.
Overall, an interesting start to the story.
An intriguing start! I love the ‘otherness’ of the world I perceive from these paragraphs. What I suggest is showing not telling at the beginning. The first sentence can be completely deleted. You show us that they are happy by walking ‘hand in hand.’ Simply eliminate the first sentence and substitute their names for ‘They’ and the reader is shown the feeling instead of told.
Another confusion I have is POV. Are you writing omniscient? This is a hard thing to do, and I’m not sure it is carried off in these opening paragraphs. If you wish to continue in omniscient, I suggest pulling back further and not diving straight into dialogue. One way to do this would be to combine your physical descriptions you have peppered through the piece into the first few paragraphs. Show the characters walking hand in hand, Xendra’s hair swirling, her clothes fluttering in the warm breeze and Bran’s bronzed skin, etc. The reader then gets the sense of the camera zooming into focus from above and that no one character is the narrator. Then end the paragraph with your great palfreys! This will leave the reader intrigued with the otherness of your world.
Although if you want to use a particular POV, then have Bran or Xendra look at the other and notice how the wind acts upon the other. If you want distant POV, then describe the wind blown articles as anyone or a camera would see them. If you want close POV, describe the physical traits in terms that would be important to them. Xendra would notice something about Bran different than he would notice about her.
Next, I caution adding more characters into these beginning paragraphs. It feels too cluttered and is hard for me to discern which character is important for me to follow let alone the idea of palfreys. Give your reader at least a page to settle into your character before adding others. You have two in the first paragraph, you add the palfreys and then you talk about katilyns (I think cat-like beings is a strong enough descriptor since it is similar to what you gave for the palfreys).
Another ‘telling’ that could be dialed down is Bran’s pilot expertise. Xendra’s internal note of his pilot skill could be shown more if some insignia or badge Bran that denotes his expertise glints in the sun and she has to squint. Or maybe she squeezes his hand and chuckles, poking the badge and delivering her line.
The last confusion I had was Xendra ‘going deep into herself’ as a description. Personally, that connotes a withdrawal, a barrier being erected. But from later sentences, I realized it is preparation for a subconscious exchange. Might this be better portrayed as an opening of her senses? Maybe breath deep and center herself thereby opening her thoughts to the katilyns?
I like the promise of a rich world story you have achieved in these paragraphs and the hook at the end delivers the notion of urgency that compels me to read further. Good start!
brenda a. harris says
I like Sci-fi so I’m excited about the unique characters. I would like for the story to draw me in, to excite me. The ingredients are there. The spices are missing. Right now it’s bland, but with a little tweaking it will succeed. Best of luck. 🙂
I liked this excerpt and there are a few things that could help to bring it even more to life for me.
I have a vague sense of the world of the story, so appealing to a reader’s senses (at least three) to show them what the world is like would help make it more vivid. What do the characters see (e.g. scenery), smell (e.g. vegetation) , and feel (e.g. wind, temperature)?
It is always a good idea to open with conflict to give the reader a reason to keep reading, so, for me, the opening scene and the dialogue doesn’t work hard enough at that. If it were me, I would delete this entire scene and starts with Bran and Xendra already on their way to meet the kaitlyn to find out what is going on on the smaller continent and why the plants are dying.
Also, real-life dialogue doesn’t have a place in fiction, so while a couple will happily discuss mundane matters in real life, the dialogue in a novel has to work much harder. At the very least, it has to portray character and voice and motivation; reveal relationships; and it should always further the plot in some way.
Two characters are introduced in the opening dialogue that we haven’t met yet, so we don’t have a reason to care about them. They have no role or a reason for the reader to remember them. I would avoid referring to characters who don’t appear in a scene at all and whom we don’t know, but wait until they appear in a scene and have some action and dialogue and conflict or goal of their own.
The way we find out that Bran is a first officer in the Space Navy is also a little clumsy. Xendra has no good reason to give him his full title and job description. A better way to do it might be to have one of the kaitlyn refer to him by his title, for example, if using formal titles when greeting people is important in their culture. Otherwise, you can reveal his title and job description when he actually meets up with other pilots or officers in the Space Navy when he is back on duty further into the novel.
Other than that, the glimpse I had of the story’s world is definitely one that I would be interested in reading more about.
I hope this is of some help. All the best with your writing. 🙂
Cindy Brown says
Suzannah, this comment is for you actually. I am awarding you with The Sunshine Award, which is mainly for bloggers, but you are a site that I follow and learn from the content you provide and that gives me sunshine, so I’m nominating you anyway. It’s great that you feature other writers and give them free help in this forum. There will be a link to your site in my Wednesday Woo-Hoo post this week ;0)
Thanks for doing what you do.
The excerpt look so great! It made me want to read the entire piece already.
Many thanks for the comments. I did find it difficult to set the scene, and cut it to 250 words and still make sense. That anybody at all picked up on who the palfreys and kaitlyn were, including my humans mixed in, I am simply grateful for.
I take the point about dialogue, POV – it is omniscient since I had telepathic exchanges involved – how does a cat converse with a person otherwise, I mean?
Brilliant tips, help, many thanks. The story, such as it is, with all its faults, is at http://ritejoy.wordpress.com on a tab there, under the title Protected Planet 3 Elder Kaitlyn. Thanks again.