In-House Critique #1

This kicks off the in-house critique session I’m hosting. There are a few places left. If you’re interested, see here for details.

Name: Feywriter
Title: Trinity Coven
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Blog: http://marywjensen.blogspot.com

First 250 words:
The black Labrador squirmed in Kaelin’s arms as she wrestled it into the filled tub. Jep consistently fought bathtime. She finally got him in and reached for the shampoo, one arm holding Jep still. She worked the suds into his fur, working up a nice lather when the office phone rang.

“Miley? Can you get that?”

The shelter owner didn’t answer. The phone rang on regardless. “James? Anyone else here?” They must have left for lunch already. Kaelin groaned. Maybe if she took her time washing the dog, the caller would try again another time. Five rings, six, seven. Jep was well rinsed off and tensed to escape at the first sign of weakness. Kaelin released him in defeat and he leapt out of the tub. “Don’t go too far. You still need a good dry and a brushing.”

Ten rings and still going. She dried her hands on a towel, then threw it on Jep’s back. The lab shook himself, dislodging the towel and spraying water. Kaelin ducked around the corner to grab the phone. She returned to retrieve the towel and kneel by Jep, now gnawing on a rubber bone. She answered the phone on the twelfth ring, tucking it between her ear and shoulder.

“Animal Haven. How can I help you?” She ran the towel over the dog.

A young male voice answered. “Is Kaelin Fontaine available?”

“That would be me.”

“My name is Blake Wyndham. I was notified recently of your parents passing. I’m sorry.”

Readers: Would you read on? Why or why not? What did you like? What didn’t you like? What could be changed?

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6 Responses to In-House Critique #1

  1. Merrilee says:

    I wouldn’t keep reading. While the writing is clean and serviceable, the actual events are not interesting at all.

    I am guessing that the writer was trying to develop tension about the phone call by not being able to reach the phone quickly. But the reader has no knowledge of what’s at stake, so there’s no tension.

    It’s not until we actually hear what’s on the other end of the phone that we get a spark of interest, but not enough to draw us on further.

    I would either

    (a) drop the dog wash completely, and open with answering the phone, or

    (b) Put some real tension in there.

    What if Kaelin was expecting a call back for a job, the job of her dreams? What if she was expecting a call from an agent about her book? And what if Jep was a danger to other dogs, and she didn’t dare let him loose? Now we have a choice – let Jep loose or lose the chance of a lifetime?

    The direction to take would depend on the rest of the scene.

    One final note about confidence; have faith in your writing. Don’t repeat something that is obvious.

    >> The black Labrador squirmed in Kaelin’s arms as she wrestled it into the filled tub. Jep consistently fought bathtime.

    We can infer from the first sentence that Jep doesn’t like to be bathed. The second sentence is unnecessary.

  2. AshN says:

    I wouldn’t keep reading for two reasons. One, lack of tension, as Merilee has already pointed out and explained, and two, the prose style is stiff and repetitive. The sentence structure doesn’t vary much from the subject-verb-object order aside from the description of the continual ringing, resulting in a style that reads as monotone. I see glints of humor in the descriptions, but the prose nearly snuffs them.

    I would work on varying sentence structure more. Changes as simple as “Ducking around the corner, Kaelin grabbed the phone” would be enough to break the monotony.

    Good luck!

  3. Great writing. I’d read on. I assume that Kaelin didn’t know that her parents have died (although, as an afterthought, perhaps they died years ago?), so I’m keen to find out what happened.

    I don’t think the beginning was the best hook you could have used. That alone wouldn’t make me read on. To strengthen your beginning, you might like to try being a bit mysterious, perhaps? Make the reader wonder what’s going on, before revealing she’s washing a dog.

    I like how you’ve described what’s happening. All the descriptive words you’ve used have provided a good mental image. Although, looking at the previous comments, I’d have to agree that perhaps you have used too much description. However, you haven’t described what Kaelin looks like, so I think you should add that. It doesn’t have to be a large description, perhaps just slip in a few facts here and there. Describe how Jeb splashes water onto her [colour] hair, or how she wipes a strand of hair out of her [colour] eyes.

    Great job!

  4. […] Little Scribbler) is holding an in-house critique session on his blog this week.  Check out the first two entries; mine goes up tomorrow, so if you want to have a crack at my work, drop in and have […]

  5. Feywriter says:

    Thanks for the feedback everyone.

  6. […] people who sent in their excerpts for you all to critique.  If you missed any, you can see them here, here, here and […]

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