Thursday, June 14, 2012

Friday Feedback: Fear is a Thing on Hummingbird Wings & How Philosphers Lie

The big fat liar, RWE.
The great philospher Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Do the thing we fear, and the death of fear is certain."

Ralph Waldo Emerson is a big fat liar.

Sorry, but it's true. In a second you'll see what I mean.
 And, seriously. If you take the "Waldo Emerson" away, how philosphery-ish does the name Ralph really sound?

At any rate.

I have a guest writer/pal on Friday Feedback today, and trust me, you're in for a treat (HERE ARE THE FRIDAY FEEDBACK RULES. If you've never "played" before, please read them before you participate).

Anyway, when I read Lena's excerpt for my blog, it practically made me cry. It definitely made me covet. Plus, "guest author" means double trouble, as she and I will BOTH be back to give you feedback this weekend, so be on your best behavior.


Lena does her own fancy schmancy introduction so, without further ado, I give you author Lena Roy.

Hello Gae and *people of Gae’s world* -
<><><><> <><><><> <><><><>
Lena would never lie to you.
I am both honored and terrified to participate in Gae’s Friday Feedback, but I am turning 44 next week and I am about to send a PDF of my current manuscript, India Flips, to my agent (Edward Necarsulmer of MacIntosh and Otis) so it behooves me to jump in.
Even though I’m terrified.
Even though I am a creative writing teacher myself with Writopia Lab. (I am the Manager in Westchester and Fairfield Counties.)
Even though I have one published book: Edges (FSG).
Even though I am already used to rejection and I still write through it.
<><><><> <><><><> <><><><>
ML'e - not a liar

And, even though, AND especially because, 
I am Madeleine L’Engle’s granddaughter.

How dare I attempt to follow in her footsteps?

I’d love to meet all of you! You can find me at www.lenaroy.com and on my author page on Facebook.
Now what excerpt will I choose? I will be brave and choose the opening lines, because that is what I have the hardest time with. Oh, who am I kidding – it’s all hard! But I wouldn’t have it any other way as it makes my heart happy.

*gae, here, jumping in to add a quick description for you of Lena's first beautiful book, Edges: "
After his mother dies and his father begins drinking again, Luke decides to leave New York City.  Though he’s just sixteen, he finds a job and friends in fantastic, otherworldly Moab, Utah—the last place his family was happy together. Back in New York, eighteen-year-old Ava finally admits she has a drinking problem. But life doesn’t automatically get easier when she joins Alcoholics Anonymous. When circumstances—or fate—bring Ava to Moab as well, she and Luke both must figure out how to heal their families and themselves.
NOW to her excerpt from India Flips:

From India Flips:

"How many birds have been sacrificed to this death trap?” I mutter to myself. I am staring out of the windowed door to a large deck of a house for rent, for sale, for living and dying in the exurbs of New York City. I am staring out this false sense of security, this symbol of change, of possible carnage. Some birds don’t sense boundaries and end up getting hurt: some birds like me.
As if on cue, a tiny hummingbird flies toward me and I long to pull the door open, but for once my hands are paralyzed. Am I hoping that it will mistake the glass for open space? Could I be that cruel? As the bird gets closer - its ruby neck, exposed and vulnerable - my hands start to twitch into action and reach for the sliding door. My fingers tug, pulling the force up my arms and I give up. Unwilling to take my eyes off the hummingbird, I put my hands on the window, hoping that my physical presence will be enough of a boundary.
The hummingbird’s natural habitat is lush with trees, grass and even a pond. Why would it want to come inside? Go away birdie, I will silently. Stick with what you know, where it’s safe. Where you are safe.
Am I ready for this disaster? I mean, it’s the cycle of life, right? It’s all happened before, and it will inevitably happen again.
Except that this time it doesn’t. The tiny beak makes an ell turn just in time and the air in my throat hisses with relief. It must have been loud because Janie calls out from the living room where she is trying to ‘visualize her own furniture’ - maybe she’s even imagining us all sitting on her couch. I can’t tear myself away from the window, where the hummingbird has come back and is staring at me, flapping it’s wings ferociously. What are you looking for, buddy?
“Indy? You okay?”
“Um, yeah,” I manage to say as she walks through the room.“This dining room is pretty sweet.”
“Come look at the bedrooms!” And she disappears.
I don’t want Derek to move to this house or any other in Westchester. I want him to stay living across the street from me in our little corner of Manhattan. 
My hands move over my plaid skirt tapping out a rhythm, my purple Doc Marten’s stomp as I drum to Radiohead’s Creep. I may not be able to stand still, but at least I stay in one place.
- Lena Roy (& gae)

128 comments:

  1. This is definitely compelling writing; even though I'm not entirely clear about the narrator and the circumstances here, I'd read on to learn more. I was especially taken by the small action of India placing her hands on the window to deter the hummingbird. So much meaning in one little action! On the negative side, I thought it was occasionally a bit heavy-handed and obvious (Hey reader, look! Symbolism!), and there were two unnecessary apostrophes (it's and Marten's).

    Loved the sensory details throughout--lovely.

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    1. Thank you Jan, for catching those darn apostrophes! (It's an illness I am in recovery from: apostrophitis!)

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    2. Yes, Jan, I feel so clearly her fear for the hummingbird. But she's afraid of something larger, isn't she, Lena? I want to read more to have her whole situation revealed. The hands moving over her skirt may be tapping out a rhythm, but I feel there is more going on that makes them restless? She is disturbed and her friend is aware, and I feel that in this very short scene.

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    3. We talk about hook and sometimes, for me, it's just the exquisite writing that's the hook for me. For me, this is the case here. The line Micki points out below about the exurbs, the moment with the hummingbird and the one you point out, Jan, with her hands on the window like that, yes, yes, yes... want to read. Plus, I know what the book is about and that is intriguing too! ;)

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    4. also, apologies, one of those apostrophes is my fault -- we caught it earlier and I thought it was removed?!? Blogger was giving me a time of it late last night...

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    5. I definitely get the sense that the MC is lost in her own thoughts and is almost worrying about the bird instead of thinking about Derek. Then she has to think about Derek. And I really want to know what's up with Derek...why isn't he finding his own place and why does he has to move here and how is he related to the MC?

      There were a few parts that were confusing for me. I didn't get the death trap part with the bird. My mind wanted to think of a death trap or some kind of strange place...but the more I read on, I had to tell myself it was just a building/house. Right? I guess that was confusing for me. And then, I might be obtuse, but the word "exurb" is new to me so I didn't know what that meant. It was hard for me to read NYC but then not envision skyscrapers and high rises and such. And because I didn't know the word "exurb" I had to grapple with that.

      I hope it helps to hear what was confusing, I hope to give you an idea of how a reader might think through the text and what was unclear for me. I do really want to know what is going on with the MC and with Derek though. :)

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    6. Yes - helpful! Somebody else said too that it wasn't clear enough that it was a sliding glass door. (Birds will sometimes mistake those for open space.) Thanks Jen!

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    7. Yes, I want to know what is up with Derek-whether or not he is good for her, to her...what kind of history they had together. And I want to know more about how this "good" girl navigates her destructive instincts...the ones that perhaps make her think less of herself than she should.

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  2. Here's a random entry from my micro fiction blog, in which every entry is exactly 100 words. I'd love some feedback--thanks!
    ***
    The Millbury Public Library consisted of 537 volumes, previously the property of Harold Pershing. Now his daughter Margaret maintained the shelves, with an organizational system sensible only to her.

    Cam Willmore walked in holding an index card. Margaret squinted at his cap; he removed it and asked, “Do you have any books by…” He showed her the card. “…Dumas?” He pronounced it dumb ass.

    “No,” said Margaret. “I don’t.”

    He scanned the shelf behind her. “You sure?”

    “Good day, Mr. Willmore.”

    When he left, she walked to a shelf and lovingly caressed the spine of The Count of Monte Cristo.

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    1. Wow, you have told us so much in 100 words! We really learn so much about Margaret - from the way she keeps the library, to "squinting" at the boy's cap. We see her love of books through her refusal to give Cam the book. Is he making fun of her or is he just ignorant? It has definitely left me with a lot to think about. Thank you for putting yourself out there too!

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    2. Jan, what Lena said. And I love this: with an organizational system sensible only to her.

      Look forward to your 100-word posts like little candy favors. :)

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    3. I literally laughed out loud when I read "he pronounced it 'dumb ass.'" I love how the piece is so series and then you add that unexpected phrase!

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    4. I like this, too! It's funny - whether he meant to be annoying or was truly not sure how to sound out Dumas - it's funny. Especially because she's so intense when it comes to books!

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    5. Jan-

      I love how you've built the sense of a librarian protecting her books, like a lioness lovingly protecting her cubs, or a dragon judging one who would enter her the chamber of her hoard. Is this supplicant worthy?

      You've perfectly captured her sense of power, making the remove his cap with just a look. She's wise and powerful and just a bit wicked. I love it.

      You may also have solved another problem of mine. I think maybe I need to practice some flash fiction of my own. This would also be great practice for narrative and revision for my students. Thanks!

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  3. I really like this line: "I am staring out of the windowed door to a large deck of a house for rent, for sale, for living and dying in the exurbs of New York City." I love the image of the hummingbird and the brief connective moment they seem to share. I'm definitely curious enough to keep reading!

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    1. Oh, Micki, me too on that line!!!! Me, too!!! And, Janie trying to "visualize her furniture" cracked me up when I read it! :)

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    2. Yes, that line about the furniture made me think of some kind of Yoga exercise. Is there a "Psychology of Furniture Placement" other than Feng Shui?

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  4. Okay, before I even read through your writing, Lena, I have to say your intro increased my own worry levels. You see, I'm one of those people who has Madeleine L'Engle high on a pedestal. I won't gush here, because I've done it elsewhere, but I just had to put it out there.

    Now - on to reading your excerpt and then posting my own :)

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    1. I know - can you feel my worry level too? I feel like I'm on an episode of: So, You Think You Can Write?

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    2. The first time I met Lena, she was so poignantly talking about the blessing and burden of being Madeleine's granddaughter. I think Lena has to be braver than most. I love her writing and think it stands beautifully on its own in this world. :) Now, I have to stop for a minute and go make my kid some lunch. Apparently, he doesn't care that I'm a not-very-famous author. He's hungry! ;)

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    3. Every time I post something i feel like the low scorer on "Jeopardy," so I'm definitely on the same "So You Think You Can Write" game show and getting the consolation prize: "Elements of Style"!

      Gae, too funny.

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    4. Glenda, you're doing just fine! Here, there, everywhere. Just breathe and try to enjoy it :)

      And, btw, thank you for all your wonderful input. <3

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    5. Lena -

      Thanks again for joining us this week!

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  5. I'm intrigued by the character you are painting for me. She's so full of energy, barely tamed. I like the details about her hands, and how they constantly are in motion. I work with students like that - the ones who are bubbling over with energy that they can hardly control.

    I'm curious about their situation. Who is Janie? Who is Derek?

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  6. Here's my excerpt from the middle of Chapter 7 of my YA WIP: As I watch Jordan scramble her way around the intricate tunnels, slides, and ladders that connect the various sections of the playground equipment together, I catch another glimpse of the boy I noticed earlier. He has dark brown hair that has soft curls framing his face. Why does he seem so familiar to me? I start to scan my mental rolodex containing the faces of younger siblings of my friends, of my cousins, of anyone who may resemble this kid—nothing surfaces.

    I shrug my shoulders and return my attention back to Jordan who is completely enthralled by the spider web-like rope section of the jungle gym she is currently playing on.

    A moment later, a flash of memory causes my chest to tighten and I find it difficult to breathe. As my pulse picks up speed, I feel light headed as I feel a light breeze flow over my skin causing the prickly sensation of goose bumps. Thankfully, there is a bench directly behind me and I stumble backwards to sit down. The playground spins around me so I close my eyes, hoping when I open them the spinning has stopped. I open my eyes moments later relieved to see everything is stationary once again, but I still feel woozy and unfocused. I close my eyes again and take a few deep breaths.

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    1. My curiosity is piqued! I am assuming that the recognition of the boy and the memory are connected? And it's traumatic? I want to keep reading! (One note - the word FEEL is used twice in the same sentence.)

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    2. Micki, can't help myself, here we go! A super-fast flash edit to take out extra words and make you shine:

      As I watch Jordan scramble her way around the intricate tunnels, slides, and ladders that connect the sections of playground equipment, I catch another glimpse of the boy I noticed earlier. The soft curls of his dark brown hair frame his face. Why does he seem so familiar to me? I scan my mental rolodex containing the faces of younger siblings, of my friends, of my cousins, of anyone who may resemble this kid—nothing surfaces.

      I shrug and return my attention back to Jordan who is completely enthralled by the spider web-like rope section of the jungle gym she plays on.

      A flash of memory tightens my chest making it difficult to breathe. As my pulse picks up speed, I feel lightheaded; a light breeze flows over me causing goose bumps to prickle. Thankfully, there's a bench behind me and I stumble backwards to sit down. The playground spins around me so I close my eyes, hoping when I open them the spinning has stopped. I open them, relieved to see everything is stationary once again, but I still feel woozy and unfocused. I close my eyes again and take a few deep breaths.

      Yes, no? Maybe so? xo gae (Keep going! I like this story :))

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    3. maybe rhythmically, "prickle on my skin..." ? :)

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    4. The playground image with its intricate web of stuff to play on is a very clever parallel to a child's life and the problems children face. Why didn't I think of that, I scold myself as I read. I would like to know more about the playground toys, etc. Today's playgrounds are much different from the ones from my childhood. I want to be able to see the colors, shapes, sizes, etc. in my mind. Also, I'd like to hear snippets of conversation from the children. I think these things could help create tension as the narrator ponders who this kid is. Does that make sense?

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    5. It's so interesting how a reader makes all the difference! I just got back from lunch and the park with my kiddos so I can completely imagine where Jordan is playing. :)

      I definitely want to hear who this boy is - I'm wondering if there's an element of fantasy/magic in this book or if she's just overwhelmed with emotion. It almost seems as if the boy or something is making the light breeze come at just the same moment when she realizes who he is. I'm not sure if I should be scared or worried for this character because the boy is there - but I want to figure it out. :)

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  7. (And now... the next segment of the story I've been working on. This follows last week's scene where Cassie is drawing a picture of Meghan)


    “What…. Cass…. What is that?”

    “See, Megs? That’s what was tickling your neck. Isn’t she so pretty?”

    ****

    So many years later, and I still feel a little shiver run down my spine as I gaze at the paper. It’s a childish drawing, but it’s clearly me sitting under a willow tree. Perched on one of my shoulders is a tiny creature with wings. It sounds beautiful; until you take a closer look and see the sharp teeth peeking out from behind her delicate lips.

    It was all just childhood fancy; one that I’d put behind me years ago. That fine line between imagination and delusion? I was building a career studying people who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, see that line. Yet the memory makes me want to reach up and brush off my shoulder, just in case.

    “Enough of this nonsense,” I mutter, stuff it all back into the envelope, and toss it on the counter. Fifteen minutes later I had fed Socrates, fed myself, and was ensconced at my small desk with my backpack gaping open beside me. Brain scans, with brightly lit regions, fill each folder. No names, just numbers to identify each subject.

    Hours pass in a haze of silent sorting. The quiet is a blessed relief after the incessant chatter of the magpies at the lab. Two piles, or more, depending on the region of the brain lit up in the scan. I’ve been doing this task for long enough that I hardly have to think about it.

    “That’s a steaming heap of fewmets, Megs, and you know it!”

    Startled, I jump up and gaze around the empty room. Socrates opens her eyes to glare at me reproachfully for daring disturb her slumber, then stretches and stalks to the bedroom to resume napping.

    The scent of wet earth and fallen leaves fills the room, though it hasn’t rained in days. I rub my eyes and look down at my desk.

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    1. This is my first time! I was planning to comment on Lena's piece first, but this one reached out and grabbed me, Maria. The "sharp teeth peeking out from behind her delicate lips" is especially effective as it was set up. I am intrigued. There is lots going on between one scene and another, and at first it seemed too busy. On re-reading, though, I get a real sense of time passing and of something building.

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    2. This scene takes place shortly after the opening of my MG historical fiction: Kate has just arrived at her new home in a small town for her first teaching position in 1914. She meets Thaddeus the dog in this scene (though they are formally introduced later in the book). Deep breath, here goes:

      As she clambered out of the truck, a long-legged yellow dog came tearing around the corner of the house, followed closely by a huge chicken. Red-brown feathers ruffled by the breeze of her passing, she was a bird on a mission, intent on pursuing the gangling beast before her. Kate watched curiously as the scene played out. She was no stranger to animals, having grown up in the country as she had, and she was seized by a feeling of familiarity as dog and hen continued their single-minded journey across the yard.
      Suddenly the dog changed course, veering directly toward Kate. She wondered just how this would go as she watched the rangy animal lope in her direction. Large jowls flopped as the dog ran, making a beeline for the folds of her skirt; strings of drool ran freely from the jowls as they loomed nearer, swinging from side to side. Kate lifted her eyes to gaze beyond the approaching dog to the rocketing mass of feathers careening along toward them both. She had only a moment to wonder what the chicken would do before the large, blocky head made solid contact mid-thigh, knocking her backward to lurch against the cab of the truck with a solid thump.
      She righted herself and stretched out a hand to pet the dog, who was now happily ensconced in burrowing its slobbery head into her skirt in greeting. She glanced up once more to see the chicken, which had come to a full, sliding stop just short of careening into dog and woman, pecking industriously at the ground nearby, seemingly oblivious of anything out of the ordinary in her surroundings.

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    3. For some reason, my comment wasn't recorded Maria, but I loved this! Read through 3 times. I love your theme of imagination vs. delusion . . .

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    4. That captures it exactly, Lena, what Maria's excerpt made me feel too.

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    5. And I've just had quite a visceral response to yours Valerie - I feel as if I am right there, and as if the dog jumped on me! Well done.

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    6. Ooh, Maria!! Really good stuff here. Love the interaction with the cat and the last paragraph really has me hanging! I also love how, whatever unreal-seeming thing is about to take place, it's set against the stark contrast of brain scans! Love it.

      The tenses in this para. are confusing me:

      “Enough of this nonsense,” I mutter, stuff it all back into the envelope, and toss it on the counter. Fifteen minutes later I had fed Socrates, fed myself, and was ensconced at my small desk with my backpack gaping open beside me. Brain scans, with brightly lit regions, fill each folder. No names, just numbers to identify each subject.

      Keep going!

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    7. Thanks, all!

      Yes, Valerie, I think the format of the current time, then flashback, then thinking about the flashback, then current time again is something I'm going to have to iron out. It does seem confusing in parts, especially out of context of the rest. I'm not sure whether I'll have to flesh it all out with more detail - separate it into small chapters - or what will help with that.

      Lena - Thank you! Yes, that is exactly what I'm going for. I'm hoping saying it "flat out" with the character like that isn't overdoing it, but I guess I can always go back and pull that out if I expand and it doesn't feel needed any longer.

      Gae - you're partly responsible for the "brain scan" idea. You pointed out the file folders in the earlier chunk, which made me think about what exactly she was doing more deeply. *grins* And thanks for the tense idea. I think it goes back to what Valerie said - there is a lot of "back and forth" in times and it feels a bit jumbled. I'll play with that.

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    8. Your poor, tired, stressed out MC. Now she's doing work at home and she's hearing things! I like being able to read how this story is progressing. I wondered if you were going to add some kind of fantasy/magic/sci-fi element to it. I'm not sure if you are or not but it certainly seems like maybe. I'm definitely curious. What's going on with Cassie!?!

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    9. Maria, your excerpt intrigued me. I liked the contrast of something fantastical with the science of brain scan. The sudden line with the fewmets made me laugh (and made me think of Calvin O'Keefe...)

      The sensory input at the end was interesting. It made me wonder if there was a portal nearby or a creature she can't (or won't) see.

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    10. Hi Maria,

      I loved the sharp teeth peeking part as well! The brain scans part is also intriguing.

      I wonder if there is another way to signify the going back in forth in time. I don't know...maybe a phrase like "then I'm back again ...." or "the sound of the ___ reminded me where I was..."

      Just a thought. Great writing! Good luck!

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    11. omg, val, see?! I totally missed your piece because it's in a reply you made to another piece! Okay, I'm going back to read it now. Sorry! :) (Glenda, if you see this, THIS is why silence doesn't necessarily mean anything at ALL about your writing. See?!?)

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    12. Okay, Val, read your excerpt and really enjoyed the picture you painted of this scene. It feels old fashioned in a wonderful way, a luxurious view of animals in nature that we don't get to lavish in in the new millenium... etc. In fact, if I could make one suggestion it would be on revision to take out a few choice descriptive words... for me, there's almost too much so that you get lost more in trying to sort out every sense, color, movement, etc. If you pulled back a tiny bit, I think it would really pop. does that make sense? if you want, and you beg, I'll do a superspeed flash edit. ;) And, Val, GREAT job! Welcome to Friday Feedback. Keep going!

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    13. I like Val's descriptions, too. I can totally picture the slobbery dog and then it cracks me up that the chicken comes out after him but after he stops running she's just back to her pecking. I know the MC likes animals but I would like to hear how she reacts when it's all over. As a reader, I'm cracking up at how easily the chicken just goes back to doing her own thing so I wonder if the MC laughs out loud or rolls her eyes or shakes her head. Definitely keep going!

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    15. Oh, that would be lovely - I want, and I am begging,please, Gae! I know, I put my piece in as a reply and then realized it later in the day and worried about it for hours. Gaaaah. Now I know the drill. And when I re-read my excerpt here, I was thinking that I really needed to take out some of these words! I am very glad to hear you suggest that too, Gae. Ready to trim and refine. Or bow to a superspeed flash speed edit. 8-) Or both. Thanks for the wonderful feedback. I was very surprised to find that big dog lolloping across the yard myself!The encouragement about the old-fashioned tone helps lots! I've enjoyed working on keeping that consistent throughout.

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    16. LOL, Val, you're adorable. I'm not sure *I* know the drill here, so don't worry about it. Just would have felt terribly if I didnt see your excerpt. The reason I didnt do a flash edit on yours is because when I'm doing them here, I try never to take out "voice" words, substance words -- whatever the heck you want to call them -- but only excess non-essential words and because so many of your word choices are that - substantive choices, I was loathe to do it. I will try for the "fun" of it, but know it's just that. I really loved this little piece of yours. Here goes: superspeed flash edit 3.0 (btw, have I mentioned I lurve your opening sentence!?):

      As she clambered out of the truck, a long-legged yellow dog came tearing around the corner of the house, followed closely by a huge chicken. Red-brown feathers ruffled by the breeze of her own motion, she was a bird on a mission, intent on pursuing the gangling beast before her.

      Kate watched curiously as the scene played out before her. She was no stranger to animals, having grown up in the country as she had, and she was seized by a feeling of familiarity as dog and hen continued their single-minded journey across the yard.

      Suddenly, the dog changed course, large jowls flopping, as he veered directly toward Kate. He was making a beeline for her skirt, strings of drool swinging from side to side. Kate shifted her gaze beyond the dog to the rocketing mass of feathers careening along toward them both. She had only a moment to wonder what the chicken would do before the large, blocky head made solid contact mid-thigh, knocking her backward against the cab of the truck with a thump.

      She righted herself and stretched out a hand to pet the dog, whose slobbery head was now happily ensconced in her skirt in greeting. The chicken, however, had come to a full, sliding stop just short of careening into dog and woman, and was now pecking industriously at the ground nearby, seemingly oblivious to anything out of the ordinary.

      Okay, that was not quiet superspeed, because I moved and combined a few things. Take what you like, dump what you don't -- it's more to illustrate than to say "this is the only way." And, btw, I also LOVE this sentence: Kate shifted her gaze beyond the dog to the rocketing mass of feathers careening along toward them both. Hilarious! So, again, what I hope to do, is make some briefer to make those really pop, and btw, in some places you had already done an excellent job of that. And this type of stuff I do is NOT something EVEN I would be capable of -- or should bother with -- on a first draft. First drafts ARE to get it down... I just love to show you guys how really stellar your writing is (which is only revealed for ALL of us, during revision ;)) xo Gae Keep going, Val!

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    17. I also love this sentence: The chicken, however, had come to a full, sliding stop just short of careening into dog and woman, and was now pecking industriously at the ground...

      chicken. full sliding stop. LOL! Keep going girl! :)

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  8. I was interested that Indy saw herself as a bird. I wondered that she hesitated to open the door to protect the hummingbird and also wondered if she'd done such things in the past. Indy mentions being hurt by missing boundaries in the past, so I am interested in finding out what events shaped her. I'm also curious to know more about Derek and Janie.

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  9. This is a piece of a scene I'm struggling with right now. Two people in the village were attacked while on duty. My main character Sedgewick is a healer's apprentice and is trying to help despite being indisposed himself earlier in the evening. Sedgewick is currently applying pressure on a wound. His brother Cole is an apprentice to the village guard as our Edwin and Thacary, the ones who were attacked.

    *

    Opening my eyes gave me no more insight into Edwin’s wounds than touch alone. It was too messy, too dark to get my bearings. Mistress Yates frowned as she worked, disregarding many of the supplies I’d chosen. I barked out a request for light and a few of the crowd came closer, brandishing their lanterns aloft. What had felt like solitary darkness returned to a worried congress. Edwin’s drawn face was chalky, contrasting sharply with the grime and gore flecked across it. He was nearly motionless, his breaths doing little to move his frame. I forced myself to focus, to not think of Edwin as Edwin.
    My brother knelt beside me, the creak and give of his joints at once familiar. “How can I help?”

    Gratitude almost made me smile for the purpose Cole lent me. “All these folk here and not one of your guard. Fetch them.”

    “Thacary said it was Traffickers.”

    “Then get the mayor as well. None of us are safe if they are here.” My knees hurt where my knees dug into the road. Mistress Yates was threading a needle beside me so I edged over, bumping into my brother as I did so. I raised my chin to study him. “Why are you still here?”

    Cole swallowed, working to get his voice. “Thacary’s arm is dislocated.”

    “I can’t put it back in the socket right now. My hands are needed here.” Dislocation hurt but it would not take Thacary’s life from him.
    My brother roughly took to his feet. He set a hand on my shoulder, his jaw clenching. “When…you’re done, will you see to Thacary.”

    I inhaled sharply with what he was not saying. No matter how big he was, Cole was my little brother. These were the people he trained with every day. “Yes,” was all I could muster in response. “Now, please, get the mayor and guard. They need to see.”

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    1. I see why this is a struggle, because you want to set the dramatic tension just so - I would struggle too! Yet what a fine job you did of creating a complicated relationship between the brothers, and raising the stakes with every word. Kudos!

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    2. wow! What an AUTHENTIC voice you have here! For me, who doesn't read much of this type of thing, a little cumbersome to keep in place, BUT hugely admirable. Really skilled, I think.

      One needed edit popped out to me: My knees hurt where my knees dug into the road. I think the second knees can be made a they!

      GREAT stuff! Keep going! :)

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    3. I like how things are so bad that he has to prioritize how to help people. It's apparent that something horrible is/has gone on here but it's hard to not know what exactly. And I feel like I have no idea who the people are, the guard, the mayor, and then there's a crowd. I want to know - it's a matter of would I know more if I had read the whole thing? Would I have a better understanding? Probably. I do feel horrible for whatever has happened...

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    4. Thank you for the feedback! Gae, thanks for the editing catch. I found a typo after I posted as well.

      Jen, I can see how it would be confusing to not know who everyone really is. That's my fault for grabbing something from the middle.

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    5. This voice is awesome. I don't really need to know anything about the story to be placed right in it, just from our narrator. Word choice and name choice is really working for me here.

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  10. Wow, Madeleine L'Engle. I love her. I worship how she thinks. I read A Circle of Quiet slowly so it would last longer. But enough about that, you are a writer too! You did an amazing job of sharing how India has trouble sharing her own emotion. I felt her heart beat as the hummingbirds when she hesitates in knowing how to make a decision. I wonder if staying in one place IS the right thing for her and would want to find out.

    Here is what I'm working on this summer. Please give me what you've got. I have a grandfather who (is only famous in Middle English circles), but who used to re-grade my English papers. Ouch.
    _________________________________________________________________

    As we head to the Island on the ferry I catch my breath as the heat of the sun warms my hair, the salt of the sea touches my tongue, and the smell of familiar gas and exhaust floats around me. I look to the island and know that I am supposed to be excited as my brothers clearly are, but instead a great sob builds inside my chest. That familiar heat spreads from my throat to my face and I have to will the tears not to come. I hope they will think they are from the wind. I love the boat and the sound the dock makes as we land on the other side. I watch the men (and sometimes women) jump from the boat to the dock and secure us there with huge iron bolts and slidey things that seem old and strong. We all hop back in the old Caprice Classic and head to our house.

    We pull up to the house and even though it is beautiful and right on the water, I know I will miss mom the whole time. I hide my sadness. I don’t want dad to think I don’t want to be here, but I’m already wondering when I can sneak a phone call in to check on what mom is doing. I grab my LL Bean duffle bag. It’s brown canvas with two green stripes. I love it. It is heavy because it is mostly filled with books from my summer list. I drag it up the wide plank stairs to my room. All four boys stay downstairs together in those two rooms, but I sleep upstairs where there are also two bedrooms. My dad and stepmother sleep in the room next to mine. I open the balcony door and take a deep breath. It will be a long two weeks.

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    1. Lovely piece, Kimberley! I especially love the first para. and how you make me feel and smell and taste that setting. Keep going!

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    2. I can definitely feel the heat - and the extra heat - from being on the boat. I can also relate to that feeling of being upset when other people aren't and trying to just act like nothing is bothering you. For a second I thought the mother had died...but she hasn't so I'm wondering why she does miss her mom so much. I wonder what the next to weeks have in store for you MC!

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    3. Wow - I'm really taken with the image of movement, but choking back tears. You capture the ambivalent feelings she's having beautifully. Well done!

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  11. There were no comments when I checked earlier...I was coming back to be the first, but apparently everyone else had the same idea! :)

    I'm excited you are here, Lena! Everyone will tell you my writing is girly, so I might as well tell/warn you first myself. Thanks!!!

    *******

    I adjust the strap of my dress and turn to Sarah, “Well?”
    “Well,” she looks at me through her bangs, “he’s still hot.”
    “Typical.” I say as I grab a kabob skewer and bite a chunk of grilled pineapple off. We sit in silence, me analyzing my dinner like if I stare at it long enough it will come to life and tell me what to say to Hayden when I see him, and Sarah absently looking anywhere but in my direction.
    “He…” She starts.
    “Zp,” I flash my fork at her like an irate crossing guard who doesn’t think you’ve slowed down in time to avoid careening through a school zone when, clearly, it’s a school day and kids are present. She stops and I resume my silent eating.
    “But…” She turns to me.
    “Zp,” I say again as I raise my fork in the air between us.
    “Nina…” This time she’s stern and I resist letting my fork leave my plate. Instead, I roll my eyes and take a swig of my lemonade and listen. “He is totally the same old Hayden, well the same-old hot-new Hayden, but he’s still the same guy. Don’t stress. You have nothing to be ashamed of, no reason to feel bad. Just be you. I love you.”

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    1. P.S. I'll be back later to comment on everyone's!!!

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    2. Hi Jen. Interesting segment. Some of the grammar is off, but I can't tell if it's intentional.

      We sit in silence, me analyzing my dinner like if I stare at it long enough it will come to life and tell me what to say to Hayden when I see him, and Sarah absently looking anywhere but in my direction.

      me analyzing my dinner is just not right, but maybe that's the way the character talks. Plus this sentence seems too long. I'd break it up into smaller chunks.

      I like the crossing guard analogy except for clearly, it’s a school day and kids are present. I don't feel that part is necessary.

      I don't think you need my in front of lemonade... she doesn't seem like the type to grab someone else's lemonade.

      Finally it makes me wonder just what happened between her and Hayden to make her feel ashamed.

      Hope I'm not being too nit picky. I've been doing a lot of critiques lately and it shows.

      Nanette

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    3. See, this is where that "voice" thing comes in! I connect with the voice(though think you could break things up and/or use a bit more punctuation to clarify things in that long sentence) -- so I read the "wrong grammar" as the character's teen voice and here it works for me. Breathless, nervous, excited over a boy... on the other hand, the crossing guard simile may be a little more overworked than it's worth, but that's easy... it might be simple enough to say like an irate crossing guard... we all get what follows anyway... food for thought. And, this, Jen: "“Zp,” I say again as I raise my fork in the air between us." Yep, that made me laugh, that bit of dialogue. :) Keep going!

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    4. I love this line the best...
      “Zp,” I flash my fork at her like an irate crossing guard who doesn’t think you’ve slowed down in time to avoid careening through a school zone when, clearly, it’s a school day and kids are present. She stops and I resume my silent eating.

      It sounds so rushed, breathless... I can hear her voice even though she's just narrating and not speaking this part. Love it!

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    5. Thanks all for the feedback! Gae and Maria have read what comes before this so it does tie in with the voice for this main character *I think*. She's meant to be chatty inside her head and to show how she does get worked up over things.

      Nanette - I appreciate your grammar critique - it made me really think about what I've written and if it's too non-standard grammatically. My MC talks very much how I would talk with friends. And it's funny what you said about her drinking someone else drink - because I just wrote a part last night where she does grab her friend's drink. She's very close with her besties. :)

      Thanks!!!

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    6. Lovely voice! Ditto everyone . . . Love the dialogue - sounds authentic.

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    7. Jen,
      Very cute! Love the "zp" and I can just see that happening!

      I'd put a period after school zone.

      I am very curious about what she's ashamed of! Alss, I'm curious why Hayden is not so not!

      Good luck!

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    8. Jen, I think that's exactly right, btw. Even if I "get" the voice, if someone else has a concern or issue, it's always good to take that feedback and take a look through their lens. That's what I love about a range of readers. Sometimes, my first reaction is to get incensed (sorry, but it's true ;)), but after, I always go back and think, "okay, so even if I don't fully agree, do I want to tweak it?" The answer may be no, but I'm always grateful for the fresh eyes. It's also why I made that comment about choosing a critique group where people like your particular voice. And vice versa. And by "like" I don't really mean in a positive or negative way. I can read someone's stuff and think it's skilled and good, but the voice or style still just isn't for me. I'm probably not the best person to critique them. I know that wasn't the most eloquent comment, but I hope you get my gist.

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    9. I've commented on this writing voice of yours before -- very girly, and not necessarily my thing. However, I love it. I am actually a big fan of the longer sentences. To me, it's how this character thinks. It would be weird if there wasn't that extension of "when, clearly, it’s a school day and kids are present." I can hear that sentence very clearly in my head. So maybe this is sort of my thing; who knows.

      I am a bit confused about her hands, though. She's reaching for a kabob skewer and bites a chunk of pineapple off. But then, there's a fork in her hands. Would she have this fork if she's biting off the food? Would she reach for a fork just to make her "Zp" point? And then she's taking a swig of her lemonade. Of course, she could put down her skewer and fork, but I'm not sure how much I buy into that. Instead of resisting the urge to raise her fork, could she put down the skewer instead? Or am I just overly complicating things (as I do)?

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    10. I don't think you are overcomplicating things at all! I wanted her to have something to hold up and I just naturally put a fork in her hands - I totally forgot that she was eating a kabob! I can just have her hold up her skewer...maybe a stray veggie needs to fly off the skewer as she's "Zp"ping her friend! Thank you.

      I love that you read and comment on my girly writing. I wonder if it makes sense to you because you know me? I seriously think it's mainly me talking through my MC. I'm not working that hard to do her voice...it's how I talk. Curious. Thanks, Brian!

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  12. Believe it or not this is the first character description in my novel (and this excerpt is about half way into the novel). I have avoided describing my characters. I can't decide if I should go back and fill in the blanks or not. Let me know if you like this.

    - - - - -

    "Let me find someone to give her a tour of the Temple while we talk.” Dominic’s eyes took on a calculating gleam as he looked around the room. Finally, his gaze rested on a huge man with bronze skin and close-cropped, curly black hair.

    “Kargrath, come here please.” Dominic gestured towards the man.

    Lira stared with her mouth hanging open. He was by far the most massive person she had ever seen. His wide shoulders put the blacksmith at home to shame. His movements were graceful, like a snake, ready to strike at a moment’s notice.

    “Lira, this is Kargrath. He is our newest recruit. The two of you have a lot in common. Take a quick tour and get to know each other. Since Kargrath is here all the time, he will be giving you some of your lessons.”

    Dominic stood and gestured for Jarvin to accompany him. As they left, Lira turned her gaze to Kargrath wondering how she could possibly have anything in common with this man.

    (You find out later in the chapter that Kargrath used to be a gladiator)

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    1. I really like the dialogue. This is something I struggle with. I'm never sure if it sounds the way it would coming from a real person.
      I would like to know what kind of temple it is, what artifacts are in it. Is the "huge man" real or a statue? I love your names and want to know more about the characters because of them. They're very exotic.

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    2. I also find the bronze skin to be a really intriguing detail -- making the reader wonder: real or statue. Or god-like? Nice spare description. Good work. Keep going.

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    3. Interesting. I want to know Lira's story - but I also want to know why she can't hear/be part of the conversation Dominic is going to have and why Dominic has to say, "Let me find someone to give HER a tour..." when she's right there in front of them. It instantly makes me not get a good vibe about Dominic. But I have sensitive girl-power senses so it might be that getting in the way.

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    4. Intrigued! I too love the names, and was drawn in by Dominic's "calculating gleam". What's he up to? And I love how you describe Lira by pointing to her "opposite" Kargrath - and I too am left wondering what they have in common!

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    5. Nanette,
      I like this excerpt. It is very visual for me. I am curious where this fits in your novel - beginning? middle?

      I attended a webinar (my first) yesterday on characterization. If you haven't described your characters through action, dialogue, or back story yet, I might suggest you go back and do it. I think we readers (or at least I do) start to "visualize" a character and if later we disocver our "picture" doesn't match the picture that is revealed, we might be disappointed. I'm not sure if I am making sense - just my thoughts. Good luck!

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    6. Thank you everyone for the kind remarks. This is in the middle of the novel. I had not thought about it, but it is very much in character for Dominic to talk over Lira. Women are not normally welcome in the Temple of the Guardian. Very few women are chosen to serve him.

      The anti-girl vibes get worse, much worse, in a later chapter. Fortunately by then, Lira's backbone has been strengthened.

      A couple of problems with describing characters... first Lira and another main character hide their true appearance at the beginning of the book.

      Second... how do we describe Lira when the book is from her point of view? She actually looks in a mirror at one point, but only notices that her hair is a mess and her dress is wrinkled.

      I will ponder this and try to make my mind up about what Lira looks like!

      I love dialog! It is much easier for me to write than the rest of the stuff.

      Thanks again,
      Nanette

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  13. What a great idea, Gae! Maybe one Friday I'll post my WIP. Meanwhile, Lena, I really like this introduction. It feels like a very different world and different characters than in Edges. Makes me want to read more.
    I agree, I love the gesture of India putting her hands on the glass to save the bird.
    I know you've been working and revising, so hesitate to suggest this, but for me, I could use a little bit more, maybe a sentence or two, clarifying the window and the room. I was confused until I realized it was a sliding glass door.

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    1. No, thanks for that feedback Hope - I actually decided on cutting the description of the door out. Good to know - although I did already send to my agent!

      PS Everyone - I have to start seeing my private writing students now! I'll be back later! (And get to the ones I've missed.)

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    2. Hey, Hope, thanks for stopping by the blog. I just adore this opening of Lena's... it speaks to me in a deep and lovely place. Plus, the mix of really dark concern with the humor. Good luck with the agent, Lena!

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  14. Hi Lena,

    Thanks for sharing a bit of your feelings of vulnerability with us. When someone like you (published author, offspring of novel royalty :) ) talks about their very human side, it connects us all in a unique way.

    I really liked your excerpt and would continue reading. I am very interested in the part where Indy wants the bird to mistake the glass as open. I am very curious about this - why she'd have this thought of harm. Is she "hurting"? Very smooth writing!

    Here is a little excerpt of my MG WIP

    “Any kid would be lucky to have a friend like Harold,” is what Mom always said when I complained about something Harold had done. No matter how hard I’d tried, I couldn’t convince her that Harold was bad for my social life.

    Every time I’d meet a new kid, somehow Harold was there to ruin it. And every baseball game since T ball, Harold had been there in the stands to witness and later remind me of each error and loss. But I’d finally found my answer—a way to put some distance between me and Harold—middle school.

    On the first day of sixth grade, I cracked open the door and looked outside. The bus stop was empty. So far, so good. I figured Harold’s mom would drive him to school on the first day.

    The coast was clear so I walked to the bus stop and from behind I heard, “Hey Jake! Jake! Wait up, Jake! It’s 8:03. Bus Number 6 will be here at 8:07.”

    I kept walking and called over my shoulder, “Thanks for the update, Harold. I didn’t know I was so early. Tomorrow, I’ll sleep in a whole 4 minutes.”

    Harold caught up with me and said, “I woke up at 6:30 am, but Mom said I couldn’t come out until I saw you.”

    Great. Where is that bus?

    “Hey, Jake, have you ever heard of Harvey Haddix?”

    “Yeah, Harold, I know all about Harvey.”

    I didn’t have a clue. I’d never even heard of Harvey Haddix, but I thought just this one time, Harold would buy it and not go into his never-ending monologue about one more major league ballplayer I ‘d never heard of.

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    1. Should I feel sorry for Harold? Is he a bad kid or an ostracized one? I want to know. I'm a baseball fan, so I definitely want to know about Harvey Haddix and how baseball plays into the novel. Would a sixth grade kid call the bus a "bus"? I've heard lots of kids talk about various nicknames for the bus. Not sure why I want one now.

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    2. Dana,

      This made me giggle in a good way. The ending... Jake's exasperation with this kid. Good dialogue. Fun stuff! Keep going!

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    3. Dana,

      Love it! The kids seem so real. I already feel sorry for both boys. Harold clearly needs some work on his social skills. It almost sounds like he's bordering on Aspergers.

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    4. I agree with Maria - since I work with kids in special ed, I immediately felt sympathy for Harold. I'm curious about him especially. I just finished the second Oggie Cooder book and this kind of reminds me of Oggie, also made me think of Wimpy Kid - how he's too cool for Rowley. I hope he finds some compassion for him! I do think lots of kids will relate to someone like this. Especially any kiddo who has a younger sibling because siblings seem to pester like this in a similar way. :)

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    5. Loved it! Want more, and yes, felt sympathy for both kids. My mind flashed to Diary of a Wimpy Kid . . . would love to read more!

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    6. Thanks all for taking the time to read and comment!

      @ Glenda, Maria, & Jen - Yes, Harold has Asperger's and I'm wondering whether or not to say that or just have Jake refer to him as "special."

      @ Glenda - that is very interesting about another term for the "bus." In the South, we just call it "bus."

      Don't feel too sorry for Harold - my working title is Harold - The Kid who Ruined my Life and Saved the Day. :)

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    7. That's a great question, Dana. I'd leave it open for now and see how the story pans out. I could see the up and down side to either way of doing it.

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    8. I'm thinking the same as Maria! Especially from a child/tween/young adult perspective. They might not know what sort of disability a child has, just know that the child is different in a way. Asperger's also seems like something that is tricky to diagnose. I mean, there are plenty of people who are socially awkward or antisocial and they may or may not be on the spectrum. My suggestion would just be to leave it for not and then see what happens with the plot and decide if it needs to be addressed.

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  15. Great introduction to the characters. I'd keep reading just because it is so effortless.

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  16. Lena, I like how you take your time and create compelling images. When I was a kid I'd sit for hours watching hummingbirds. I think the parallel between the danger the bird faces and India is really nice, and I like that the bird doesn't always dive headlong into danger but turns in the nick of time. Will India? I can visualize the bird, but would be happy w/ even more description of its colors, etc. What else makes the hummingbird vulnerable besides the window?

    BTW, many years ago I read "A Circle of Quiet" and it changed the way I see the word "like" and the way I use it. Your writing reminded me of that book.

    Here's my passage. I want to know: Does it seem believable. Is it too wordy? Does the dialogue sound right for a teen and a mom? Should I change the POV from 1st to 3rd. Does it seem humorous? The plan is for this snippet to be part of a much longer piece.



    Patina knew she’d have to plot a new way of sneaking out of the house after the last time. Just as she backed her derriere out her bedroom window, the guffaw of a familiar voice halted her exit. “You wanna go back in the way you left or ya wanna use the door?”

    The low tone, almost a whisper but with more disappointment than anger, didn’t mask her mother’s voice.

    Busted. Patina scraped her leg on the Box Elder hedging lining the house’s façade as she hopped on her left foot to maintain her balance. Her bottom dangled out the window and scraped the windowsill.

    “Ouch!” Patina heard the split. “Shoot. I just ripped my pants.” She dragged her right foot over the windowsill. “How’d you know?” She asked turning to face her accuser.

    Patina didn’t get it. She’d planned meticulously so as not to arouse her mother’s suspicion.

    “Mother’s intuition.”

    That’s what momma always said. “A mother always knows.” Or some variation on the theme. But Patina knew the real reason. Mom never slept, not since That Guy climbed into his rig and headed down the highway to his new, ready-made family.

    Now mom refused to utter her ex’s name. She just called him "That Guy" whenever she had something nasty to say about him.

    “That and the whirlwind of chores you finished without moaning and groaning. That’ll do ‘er every time, dearie. Stop acting like a typical teen prima donna, princess, and I’m thinkin somethin's up.”

    Mom tapped her foot and crossed her arms. She hugged the floral fleece robe tightly to her body to prop up the girls.

    “I’ll use the door,” Patina mumbled as she brushed by her mom and shuffled up the front walk.

    Gahh. Who would have thought being a good kid would instill so much distrust in a girl’s parents?

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    1. Glenda, I think you have a good voice getting established here, and good dialogue. I think that doing any sort of dialect is always hard and can distract or "pop one out" of the flow of the story. In fact, I'm struggling with this now in my own manuscript based on my editor's feedback! It's just a challenge that I think especially can get worked with in the revision phase (meaning, keep going and worry about it later). I feel this character, though, I like her interesting name! And am curious about what happened with That Guy and how it is going to effect things. Keep going!

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    2. I think this is a great start! I'm wondering if she really is a nice kid - then why is she sneaking out? And if she wants to sneak out soooooo badly and has done this before - would she maybe be more frustrated with her mom? I think her saying "Shoot" sounds too nice. Not that you have to swear, but you can refer to her mumbling something under her breath without saying anything.

      What if you start with, "I just ripped my pants" and add more frustration in - describe how she's feeling what does she do when her pants rip - does she bang her head against the sill, does she growl or something to show that she's mad? And then you could move what is before now to fit in after that part?

      Just an idea to maybe play around with. Also, I'm not sure where the mom is - is she standing in the doorway to the room or downstairs? And then you refer to her parents but she's only be raised by her mom, right?

      Keep going!

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    3. What a lovely beginning! I am wondering why she feels the need to sneak out, if indeed she is a "good" kid. I like the idea of starting with the rip in the pants, and also need to know where the mom is. I imagine her with a cigarette and in a dirty bathrobe! Please keep writing!

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    5. Had to delete previous comment because link I added didn't work. Here's what I said:
      Gae, Jen, Lena:
      Thank you all for these very helpful comments. I think Patina wants a different life than the one I initially envisioned for her. I'm made some changes. Jen, I don't have a problem putting the "S" word in Patina's mouth. It makes her seem a bit tarnished. She's the seemingly "good/perfect" kid. I want her to be likable but flawed in a really bad way. Still working it all out.

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    6. I was a veeeeeery good kid and I would swear from time to time. Maybe just more of a description of what she does. She doesn't have to swear - but how is she mad. Surely, everyone gets mad?

      It'll work itself out - maybe as you write more you'll get more in tune with her? Don't give up!

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    7. Hi Glenda,

      I really like this. The humor is great. I like the first person POV - it gets us in her head.
      I don't think it's too wordy, except for the "Box Elder hedging lining..." Is that detail absolutely necessary? If not, maybe consider changing it so it reads more easily.

      I think the mother-daughter exchange is realistic.

      Good writing and good luck!!

      I am very curious why she wants to sneak out.

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  17. Great stuff here today, so far! For those of you who post between now and tonight, I won't be home until late, and likely wont get to your feedback until tomorrow... DON'T read into it. :)

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  18. Also, if I ever miss one of your excerpts scrolling through the chain, please let me know! It could happen.

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  19. Dear Lena-

    I love the overall voice of this character. I love that this person is fixating on the birds, creating metaphors around them and this place she is in to avoid thinking about what is really bothering her - her friend moving.

    I think the first paragraph really strongly captures the readers attention. As a reader, I am just as enthralled as she is with them, and predict that birds will be showing up again later to reinforce the comparisons she's made with them.

    Overall, you get a sense of a person who is feeling raw, like an open wound, and doesn't want to face what's coming. I am particularly savoring the phrasing of "I am staring out this false sense of security, this symbol of change, of possible carnage." I just love that wording. Beautiful and moving. Already I am feeling empathy for Indy.

    I'm too word to just choose a short passage for feedback. I posted a chapter of my manuscript that I'm currently revising for the umpteenth time. It's an upper middle grade novel called, The Secret Order of Extraordinary Outcastz.

    Here's the link: http://mojofingers.blogspot.com/2012/06/friday-feedback-secret-order-chapter.html

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    1. Thank you JessWiz - I will bookmark your blog so that I can read later!

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    2. Jess, no way I can go "off site" to one longer excerpt without offering that to all. I love all my Friday Feedback babies the same. And no way I can do that for all... I can barely keep up here. :) Plus, everyone here really wants to be wordy and are just all restraining (some better than others *cough*). Maybe you'll find a brief little bit that captures enough for you to feel comfortable sharing here. :)

      p.s. there are good reasons I don't want more than 3 - 5 paragraphs here besides the fact I simply can't respond well to a volume of longer ones and that's that I don't ever want there to be enough here that you might worry about someone inadvertantly "lifting" a story idea, etc. That's why I ask for shorter excerpts. xox Gae

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    3. Gae- So sorry about that. I guess my big lesson this week is learning restraint. : )

      A few paragraphs:

      I whirl on the group of Glamour Minions and their Back-Up Boy Band Minions that are standing around Madison Gridley’s locker just a few feet away across the hall. I know I should just shut up and walk away. Ignore them. My mom always tells me to walk away from bullies, that you don’t want to give them a reason to target you. But I’m suddenly a volcano ready to blow, and it’s either burst into tears or completely snap on somebody.
      I choose option B - to blow up all over Jacob Keckner, who may or may not even be the right target, but he’s laughing, so that’s all the reason I need.
      “Really, Keckner? What are you, like, FIVE? Shut up!” My voice cracks, I’m so furious. I can feel that heat that has invaded my face like a conquering army. That’s fine, because it goes well with my boiling temper.
      Jacob just laughs, and everyone else in his group does, too. I can hear Evil Glamour Queen Madison snort right next to Jacob. Doesn’t she know that it makes her sound like a pig? Admittedly, even her hog snorts are kind of adorable. All right, a cute pig, but still a pig.
      “I just think it’s the start of a beautiful thing, Joey. You and your new boyfriend can hang around together. And I do mean AROUND.” Keckner the Lame gestures widely around his waist like he has an imaginary inner tube of jello around him. Some laughter comes from the Back-Up Minions, but Madison just rolls her eyes and goes back to fixing her lip gloss.
      Fat jokes. Crap-tacular.
      I can feel my face getting redder, but from embarrassment this time. At the mention of my weight, my burst of courage dies a pathetic death. I have nothing to say back. Another “shut up” would be pointless since he didn’t shut it the first time. At this point, I really am going to have to swallow my pride and walk away. I get ready to swallow my anger and walk away…again.
      THWACK!!

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    4. Aw, Jess, you did it! And I love it! I love this piece. It so captures the essence of that horrible teen time. I love this MC's voice -- I can feel the mix of pain, anger, and bravado. I can feel the humor that works for her in the midst of it. I like her already. And what has happened there at the end? Who thwacked her?!?! >:(

      gae

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    5. G-

      Like PULLING TEETH! I know. I'm sorry. I need to work on some shorter pieces. My stuff is MG and part of a larger whole, and I'm having trouble finding just a few paragraphs. It's mostly just because I'm new. I'll work on it.

      Thanks very much for the feedback. The main character isn't the one who gets THWACKED! : ) That's the sound of a member of the Secret Order, Deandra Timmons, showing up to open up a can of smackdown on the jackwagon brigade. She's a pip.

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    6. Wow, I really love this - I totally identified with your MC - felt like I was right there with her. Perfection - and I like Deandra already!

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  20. Wow - what a treat to read all of these pieces of beautiful writing! It sounds as if some of you are regulars and are good friends. And thank you for YOUR feedback. This is the first time that I've ever written anything, much less a novel in first person present tense. I am much more comfortable in third person past! I will check back tomorrow! xoxo

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    1. It's a treat for me too! It makes me wonder how you go about meeting other writers. (anyone from northwest Iowa?)

      I am taking a workshop with a lady I met through Facebook. I am not sure there will be anyone else writing YA fantasy. It will be an experience either way. I wish I could find someone to really talk things over with.

      Online is nice, but darn I'd like some face to face chat!

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  21. After reading Gae's quick description of Edges, I am very excited to read the book. With the school year coming to a close (One week left!), I am creating my summer reading list and Edges is on the list.

    I really enjoyed reading the excerpt of India Flips. The vivid description of the characters help the flow of the plot. The reader can sense the tension that the main character is feeling and the questions that she is asking herself make her seem real (to the reader).

    My hands move over my plaid skirt tapping out a rhythm, my purple Doc Marten’s stomp as I drum to Radiohead’s Creep. I may not be able to stand still, but at least I stay in one place. - I love this description (maybe, because I love Radiohead) and it is very easy to visualize the character (even though this is just an excerpt).

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    1. Thanks so much AJ! I hope that you enjoy Edges - let me know what you think! I'll be reading a lot this summer too . . .

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  22. This is an excerpt from a manuscript that I am currently working on. I am feeling confident with the first few chapters, but I am uncertain about the beginning of the story. I believe that the setting needs to be established, but I am worried about the flow and the voice (too much tell, not enough show). Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.:)


    A light, November rain falls outside and there is a foggy mist in the air. The dreariness of the afternoon makes sitting in the hallway feel more comfortable than usual. As soon as you enter the hallway, you know that it leads directly to the pool because the smell of choline is enough to leave you nauseated.

    Swimmers on the varsity boys team enter the far doorway that lead to the locker rooms behind the pool entrance. They enter quietly with little enthusiasm for the practice that awaits. They are suffering from the early season doldrums. The weeks of practice before the first official swim meet of the winter season when Coach constantly harps on endurance and technique. The workouts are long and dreadful.

    I’m on the other end of the swim season spectrum. For the first time in my life, this time of the year means practicing for the state swim finals. Our team swam to an undefeated season, the first in eleven years, won the league title by fourteen points, which represents an easy win, during the championship meet and is sending six girls to states. I get to swim the 500 freestyle and the medley relay event, but the spotlight won’t be on me, it will be on my older sister, Ally, who single handily took our team from mediocracy to league champion in three years. My sport is volleyball, but there is nothing better than swimming with my sister, Ally. We get along in the pool better than we get along at home.

    This afternoon, Ally and I are going to attempt to sneak in and swim a workout with the boys team. Of course, we have different intentions. Ally wants to get as much pool time as possible before the state meet. I, on the other hand, want to swim in the lane next to Ben Henslo. Ben is a sophomore swimmer that is built like a college swimmer. His muscles and tight stomach rival the Olympic swimmers that you see on television battling for the gold medal every four years. Ben is likely to break many school records in the freestyle and butterfly before his time is through at Foxboro High. But the best part of Ben is that he has no clue that he is an awesome swimmer. He is the most caring and sincere guy that walks around the halls at school with a permanent smile on his face. It is difficult to concentrate when I swim in the lane next to him, but it is worth every lap.

    The Foxboro High School pool is actually located in the Middle School, which is convenient for me because the eighth grade is housed at the middle school. I know that the bus from the high school has already arrived because many of the boy swimmers take the bus over after school. No surprise that Ally is still no where in sight. Don’t get me wrong, she is absolutely dedicated to swimming, but when it comes to her friends, swimming takes a backseat. She loves hanging out with them.

    Gae, Thank you for Friday Feedback! It is something that I look forward to all week long.

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    1. AJ, so glad you're here and look forward to it all week long (oh, the pressure, now! ;)) I really like this piece and think you do such a great job of setting -- maybe more than you need to. At least all at once here in this scene. I wish I were a better, more eloquent substance editor (vs. the superspeed line editor thing I can do well)because this is one of those times that I'm hard pressed to give you exactly what you want/need from what you're asking. First of all that whole show/tell thing is hard for me too -- I feel like it's one of those things that's almost impossible to explain vs. just KNOW or feel. But I dont think that's your issue here... I think your issue is that this feels a little "tight" if that makes any sense. Like you are working hard to make sure you provide every detail, and the problem is, that isn't always as exciting as we want it to be. Readers also don't need as much as we think. Funny, I just happened to see your poem you wrote based on Jo's exercise (trying to see if you were male or female) and that poem is so evocative and emotional and I feel like that's what you're missing here by trying so hard to make sure you set everything perfectly. So that's what I'd tell you: at least first draft, loosen up a bit. Don't worry about so much of the perfect description, and instead let these characters come alive and breathe and be MESSY. Don't worry if you have every detail covered. When you go back to revise later, you can see where you need to enhance descriptions if something isn't clear. So, for example (because I'm worried this might be confusing not helpful): to me, these details: "The Foxboro High School pool is actually located in the Middle School, which is convenient for me because the eighth grade is housed at the middle school. I know that the bus from the high school has already arrived because many of the boy swimmers take the bus over after school." bog the developing story down because (at least in this brief excerpt) they don't appear important or to add anything. There may be a reason you have them there, but then figure out what it is and let your characters' actions and emotions lead the way to where an organic reason for those details arises, and they slip seemlessly in? Does this make any sense at all? Keep going! Be messier! Let the characters act!

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    2. So, AJ, me again. Have an idea/exercise/challenge for you that might help. Take this paragraph where the good juicy YA action really is because it's where we see DYNAMICS between the MC and her sister and her feelings for Ben:

      This afternoon, Ally and I are going to attempt to sneak in and swim a workout with the boys team. Of course, we have different intentions. Ally wants to get as much pool time as possible before the state meet. I, on the other hand, want to swim in the lane next to Ben Henslo. Ben is a sophomore swimmer that is built like a college swimmer. His muscles and tight stomach rival the Olympic swimmers that you see on television battling for the gold medal every four years. Ben is likely to break many school records in the freestyle and butterfly before his time is through at Foxboro High. But the best part of Ben is that he has no clue that he is an awesome swimmer. He is the most caring and sincere guy that walks around the halls at school with a permanent smile on his face. It is difficult to concentrate when I swim in the lane next to him, but it is worth every lap.

      And turn that scene into dialogue -- whether current or flashback between the sisters, between an interaction that happened with Ben. So we get to see it rather than be told it (show vs tell). You don't have to keep it for your WIP, but it may help you to let these characters tell their own story by SHOWING it. Try it. Let me know if it helps or if it's a bomb. :)

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    3. Hi Gae,

      I was here last week. I accidentally used my LiveJournal account today, but last week I used my name (Andy Starowicz - swimmer that wrote a fight seen - my very first fight seen). I have been meaning to use my real name because I use it on Kate's blog posts. In addition, it is difficult enough just to be me, so having two names is almost impossible for me.:)

      First, I appreciate your kind words about the poem that I wrote using Jo's Monday Morning Warm-up. I am yet to show my father, and I am thinking that Sunday might be the perfect day. Secondly, your feedback is greatly appreciated. I am going to work tonight with the exercise that you suggested - I love the idea! You have no idea how encouraging your feedback is to me about my writing. I am learning so much through Teachers Write! and wish that I could find a critique group, in my town, that is as reliable and knowledgable as the people that I have met over the last two weeks.

      I am off to write. I will let you know about my progress - I am hopeful. Friday night is my favorite night to write because I don't have school in the morning. Thank you again!

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    4. Lol, Andy, I knew who you were once you said Andy... didn't know that was you before though. So glad my idea is appealing to you. I push myself to do a scene in dialogue when it's feeling stiff. It forces it all to come from the characters. I don't necessarily keep it, but sometimes it really helps. I'm sure your Dad will love that gift. Happy fathers day.

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    5. I agree with Gae - there is a lot of wonderful stuff to work with here and I would love to see some dialogue. Ditto on Gae's advice of starting with the action, and then peppering in the setting (as if it's a character itself.)

      The door closed behind us and my heart pounded. Ally grunted. "Shhhhh! We're not supposed to be here." It was November . . .

      Not sure if that is right or any help whatsoever - just an idea to help begin the exercise. (Which you've probably already done!) Write on!

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    6. I'm so glad Lena came and gave you a jumping off idea. :) Also, Andy, I know it's not the same as in person, but want to make sure you didnt miss the fact that Kate is going to help you all to set up/find critique groups thru the participation in Teachers Write -- did you see her post on that? with Skype and email and Google docs, etc. it's really just as good virtually. :)

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    7. Hi Gae,

      Kate posted about critique groups on Friday (a great post), and she will be on the topic again in the Monday mini-lesson. I am hoping to take advantage of the virtual critique group. With summer vacation right around the corner, it will be the perfect time to get in with a group. I email and Skype so often that I should be able to benefit from a virtual group. The reason why I really want to find a group that I can sit with is because I am better socially when I am in person. I always worry like people may take my words the wrong way in the virtual world.

      I just received my very own copy of The Pull of Gravity in the mail this afternoon.:) I was going to order it on my Nook, but I like to have the book so that I can pass it along to a current or past student. I am four chapters in, and I am loving it. I am forcing myself not to read it until all of my final grades are in the computer and my classroom website is updated for the last week of school.

      I have rambled enough. Thank you again for your ideas. Thanks to Lena as well. Happy writing!

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    8. Thanks for picking up and reading The Pull of Gravity, Andy. It actually makes me nervous to have you guys all reading... like you'll discover I'm a fraud or something. Hopefully not. *cringes* :) See you here next week! xox gae

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  23. This scene is an important one in my WIP, and one I just realized had to happen yesterday. I just wrote it, and it's very. . .well, it's very not that good yet. So feel free to tear it to shreds -- it NEEDS harsh criticism. I know I can count on you guys :-)



    Tim approached the gates, reaching for the Outsiders Badge in his coat pocket.

    “Hold it right there!” Tim froze, eyes fixed on the rifle that was staring him down. “Who are you and where do you think you’re going?” A man in full fatigues ran up to him, pistol in hand.

    Tim’s hands shook, but his voice found its footing. “I’m Tim Hollowell. I have the Outsiders Badge.” He pulled it out and showed its sapphire centerpiece, and the city’s crest.

    The man cocked the pistol. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but nobody comes into the city.”

    “Look, I know. This is new. I just earned it last week. It’s real. It lets me enter the city.” The guard took the badge and examined it. The sentry with the rifle kept his aim.

    “This is real nice. Hey, Max!” the guard yelled back to the man at the gate. “This guy Tim has a real nice fancy-looking badge! He even managed to get the crest on it!”

    “I bet Chief Granger would love to hear how he did that!” came the response. Tim’s head was moving quickly. He knew enough about how guards operated to know he wasn’t getting in the city. Shoot first, ask questions later was protocol. It wasn’t pretty, but it kept all invaders out. He knew he had to act.

    “Look, I—“ Tim’s elbow cut off his own words, landing solidly on the guard’s chin. Rolling quickly to avoid the shots coming from the gate, Tim jumped up and zig-zagged his way to the edge of the woods. His pulse beginning to race, he ducked behind a tree, certain nobody dared follow him here.

    But why wouldn’t they let him in? That was his home! They had just given him the badge! He was supposed to be helping gather information about the Outside. This didn’t make any sense.

    “You must be Tim.” A low, booming voice caught him off guard. Tim jerked his head up to see a tall, muscular man staring him down with piercing eyes. “Come with me.”

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    1. Hey, Brian,

      I'm loathe to give you any feedback since you keep $%(*%!!ing beating me at Scramble, but here goes:

      As before, this story and some of your details -- the Outside/Outsiders, the crest -- are intriguing! I'm totally interested in the story.

      Where you get wonky is in the polish -- and since you just wrote it, I'm not sure we can expect much. But I'm confused about the guys -- who they are and how many -- a guard with a rifle, the guy who ran up with the pistol, then there still seems to be a "guy at the gate"? I'm confused about how many and where and what their roles are (but that might be explained elsewhere). And then, when Tim runs, another with a booming voice? I think you need to find simple easy ways to ID each of them distinctly and then stick with the ID's in the scene when you refer to them. Also, watch for things like a "pulse starting to quicken" when it seems with all those guns it would already be pretty quick well before that. Plus, and I did this in someone else's flash edit, "started to" rarely adds anything "pulse started to quicken" or "pulse quickened" "started to walk" or "walked toward." That's why I do those flash edits.

      Back to it, buddy! Both the writing and the beating me at Scramble.

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    2. Thanks, Gae. Apparently in thanks for your feedback, you beat me last round. Let's hope that trend doesn't continue. Anyway.

      I'm realizing that I need to make sure some of the things I have as part of the story aren't just there because a certain level of crypticism is intriguing. But I think I'm keeping that in balance.

      Thank you for calling me out on those character issues. I realized it as I was writing, but sometimes it's just too important to get stuff out than to worry about all the fuzzy details.

      As for his pulse (and all that), I'm trying to find a way to balance the fact that he's probably expecting guns to be drawn, but not to stay on him after producing the badge, and is also in ridiculously good shape (so a short run isn't likely to do too much). I know I failed at this here, but any additional words of help you have are, of course, hugely appreciated :-) The "started to" cut is really good advice.

      Okay; back to writing and beating you at Scramble.

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  24. Just read through again looking for Tim's motivations and objectives. VERY STRONG. The modt important! The rest will come!

    And btw, I am totes addicted to Scramble!

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  25. Lena, thanks again for guesting! :)

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