Saturday, October 9, 2010

My Writing Critique of Teen Writer

Dear Alec,
So good to meet you a couple of weeks ago while speaking down in California. Thanks for giving me samples of your writing to review. I can tell that you take it seriously and are applying yourself to writing in a focused way. I very much enjoyed reading your 100 word piece and especially thought it was effective the way you featured the writer's craft, writing people into existence. Great piece. You might consider working on the final line to make it flow out of the rest with more purpose. Perhaps you write yourself to sleep... or something along those lines.
Let me suggest a few things for you to consider on the two chapters you gave me. In the opening paragraph, I wanted you to show me, let me hear Brook tell about her friend who was almost captured by Russians in Paris. Try dialogue, with Draven's thoughts interwoven with her talking.
Which brings up another matter that I think will help your writing on this piece considerably. I don't get a clear enough sense of point of view, who the story is really about, who I'm supposed to identify with, care deeply about. You've chosen to write in 3rd person, but that does not mean that you can't and should create the story with a primary persona in view. Draven, in this case. But you do shift to parents, and to Brook(e) in your description. Readers need to see the world primarily from the point of view of one of the characters, the way each of us actually does experience the world. That means go closer on Draven's inner struggles (avoid cynicism, unless that's him, and for a reason that the plot of the story is going to work out; don't just make him cynical because teens can be that way; write with purpose).
You do some description on page one for example where you describe two things that don't go together in the real world. For example, when our smiling is growing larger we aren't ordinarily hardening in the eyes (7th paragraph, 1st page), and we don't stare and look from time to time; one type of looking excludes the other. Top of p 2, avoid too much logistics that stiffle the forward motion of the story: wave, wave back (try describing a more specific wave, type of hand gesture Brooke uses, and Draven gives meaning to it), walked back to sidewalk,, B closes door. You don't need this kind of logistical description here or in any other place. Save it for the deeper meaningful human conflict descripters. Your reader can make the assumptions about what it takes to get back onto to the sidewalk. When he's cooking eggs and bacon, this is your place for drawing the reader authentically into the talk; appeal to sounds and smells more throughout your manuscript. The real world is taken in by us with five senses, andyou should work at appealing to more of them in various ways and degrees.
In chapter two, for example, avoid describing the morning air as a stand alone description. Use it to develop Draven's character; show the effect of the brisk air on him: does he it make his eyes water, jolt him more fully awake at its cold, show the effect of him breathing it in, and thereby reveal more of what makes him tick. You introduce his love of art and drawing sort of out of the blue. Have hints earlier of him drawing or wanting to draw Brooke, or her commenting on something he had drawn.
Overall, my sense is that the story could be an exciting one, but it needs to reveal a more real protagonist. Draven does it all, disarms dastardly armed thugs with ease, draws, does archery, you name it. He can do no wrong, so it seems. And that, frankly, is not the way any of us are. Where are you going to take him? What changes does he need to make in his character; what problem does he need to overcome? How is he going to do it? And what changes in his understanding of who he is and who he ought to be will doing so force him to make? 
Though it is a futuristic tale, it will only work if it is like the real world, the world you and I live, struggle, stumble, flounder, and overcome in. When I write, I am always asking myself, what do I need to know and understand about my deeply flawed self in a broken world? And how can I create  an irrepressible longing for the solution--which is found alone in Christ and the gospel of grace. Don't preach, but give your reader deep longings for what and who alone can fix this troubled world.
Keep writing! And keep in touch!
Christ alone,

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