Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Critique Party #2

Remember - I'm moderating the comments. This is meant to help one another, so be nice.

Our goal is to help each writer make their page stronger.



The Devil's Utopia, a YA dystopian novel by Amanda Plavich




Whispers have been flying between the mouths and ears of the Forsaken all day, but I’ve done well to stay away from the talk. I’m as intrigued about the outsider as anyone, but don’t see much point in generating hushed theories behind cupped hands. It’s a waste of time considering I’ll be able to see the truth with my own eyes in a matter of minutes.

I’m the first one assigned to serve the outsider in his cell, which is typical. I’m beginning to think Frau Griselda wants me to die of a heart attack, but then she’ll be short a kitchen hand. She probably just wants a good, hard laugh at my expense.

I hate her.

“What do you think it’s like?” Felix asks as I stare into the darkness of the stairwell.

“I don’t want to think about it.”

I twist to face him and watch while he slaps mayonnaise onto a thick slice of bread. It strikes me how odd it is to have the entrance to the dungeon in the middle of the kitchen. But why not, I guess?

A couple of younger Forsaken take a few steps into the kitchen, but as soon as they spot Felix, they gasp and scurry off. He chuckles, but I can’t help feeling sorry for them. Felix is kind, especially for a Cherished, but we’re taught to stay invisible when his type are near.

“I’ve heard outsiders have five arms and are so dumb they’re practically drooling.” His words jar my thoughts away from the young ones. I stare as he brings his sandwich to his lips and takes a large bite. My mouth waters a bit as I haven’t eaten anything that looked that good in a while.

11 comments:

Holly Dodson said...

Amanda, I remember your first lines from the contest on ACP -- I like the way you've changed them a lot!

This is a very compelling first page.

I would suggest establishing the setting more quickly. At first I imagined her standing and peering into a dark stairwell from, possibly, a dark room. Then you said they were in a kitchen, then they were at a table eating...I had to keep readjusting my view to incorporate the new information. Maybe start with eating at the table, show the kitchen, then have her peer toward the dark stairwell. That way we have a firm basis in the world.

I'm very interested in where the story goes. I like her voice, I'm already interested in what the MC has to say, but we've gotten 2 names now and no mention of the MC's own name. Maybe I'm being nit-picky, but her name helps me relate to her.

The line ...A couple of younger Forsaken... needs more clarification. Where are they coming from? The dungeon? That's what I pictured, because I don't know anything about the rest of their surroundings. This ties into my other comment. I think if you slow it down a little -- not a lot, I know you don't want to lose readers -- it could add another layer to the story. Tell us about the surroundings and show us MC's reaction to them. Does she like this place? Is she comfortable? Or does it feel like prison? You may do this later, but I think it will help set the tone even better if you establish it right up front. Without dragging it out. Boy is that a lot of qualifications or what?! lol Clear as mud.

And I'm assuming you tell us what a Cherished is in the next few pages.

I would definitely keep reading! :) Good job!

LTM said...

Hi, Amanda!

I love the mood you've created here. It's really dark and felt like hell (Devil's Utopia) or some old castle... and I think that's what you wanted, right? :o)

I agree w/Holly--I kept having to back up and say, "Wait... OK. Wait..." ;p I do think if you established in like one sentence where we are, that'd help. Like maybe she does something/prepares some food or soemthing *in the kitchen* for the opening line of P'graph 2? Just a thought.

(I still didn't get that was where we were til I read Holly's comment--then I went back and "Ahh!")

My questions were like this: What's this "Cherished"? Are they like bounty hunters? Why must they stay invisible but MC seems chummy w/Felix? Why does she feel sorry for the little kids? Why's she so hungry? ;p

I'm sure you answer these questions soon, and for that reason I want to read more...!

V. good stuff! :o)

Amanda said...

So helpful! I tend to make things too short and it leaves a bit to be desired, so having it pointed out (places where you were jarred, etc.) helps so much!

I'm glad the beginning reads better, though. I'm trying! lol

And yes, I picture an old castle-ish type feel to the building, so I'm glad it evokes that image to a point!

KO said...

Amanda-
you've piqued my interest. There are a few moments when I think "what?"-- but that's typical for the genre.

I won't know what a Forsaken or a Cherished is right off the bat, but you'll tell me soon I'm sure. I like the names-- they are evocative and give me an idea of the "castes" if you forgive the term. It's not much, but enough to know Forsaken probably isn't a good thing while Cherished is (which is supported by her ill-treatment by the Frau, her hunger, Felix's food, etc).

I guess I'm saying that I don't know what everything means right now-- but that's okay. I would expect to have to immerse myself in the world a little first.

I like your use of language (whispers flying between the mouths and ears, hushed theories behind cupped hands) *sigh* really nice.

The only pause I had was over the SLAP of mayonnaise. It seems a heavy word for sandwich-making. I think it jarred me because I am imagining (at this early stage) light, delicate creatures-- not the drooling 5-armed peeps. So slapping mayonnaise on a sandwich seemed too large a term. But I could be wrong, and Cherished might be large, powerful creatures who love nothing more than slapping mayonnaise on EVERYTHING.

Thanks for sharing-- I would definitely read more.

Alicia Gregoire said...

Amanda,

I really like the opening sentence - it pulls me right in and makes me want to read more.

The placement of "It strikes me how odd it is to have the entrance to the dungeon in the middle of the kitchen" seems out of place in the paragraph you have it in. It would fit better if you tag it onto the paragraph where the narrator is staring down the stairwell.

I thought that Felix was preparing food for the outsider so I was pulled out a bit when it turned out that wasn't the case.

I love the voice and I too was able to get the feeling of a castley place. I wanted to know more about the Foresaken and the Cherished, as well as the protag, but it's the first page so, um, yeah.

I'd definitely keep reading!

Susan said...

I really have nothing to add in terms of criticism. Everyone covered everything I noticed...

I'm a little curious about you use of the word "Frau" -- are they in Germany or is she supposed to be German? I'm just wondering since technically I'm a German Frau, and the word stood out to me. :)

Otherwise, great job! I love the words Forsaken and Cherished -- you sucked me into the story with those terms. And I love that you quickly establish the difference between the two groups by showing us Felix. Awesome start.

-Susan

Amanda said...

Thanks so much for all of the crits! I love stuff like this. It helps so very much!

And there is a definite German influence (that is intentional), but they aren't in Germany. :-)

Sarah Enni said...

Amanda! Didn't have internet until now so sorry for the late addition of my two cents! In no particular order:

I agree with many of the other comments, especially what Holly noted about setting. At the beginning I got this very Silmarillion-esque angel vibe (NERD alert) because there was no clear setting, and the word "Forsaken" is so evocative. I pictured the whispers floating out in space, and then it really was in a kitchen, which is quite different ;) A little more setting in the first few lines would help a lot.

I also love your beautiful language, but for some reason the word "generated" tripped me up. Don't know why!

I also thought the Cherished in the kitchen was making food for the MC to serve.

The word "Frau" seems to clash a bit with "Forsaken" and "Cherished" to me. I have a clear mental image of what I see as a "Frau,"
but not so in the case of the other words. This could definitely be your intention, just wanted to point it out!

Oh, I was also curious about why the MC didn't have to hide from the "Cherished," though the other Forsaken had to? Sure you explain that later on.

Overall I definitely got a mysterious, dystopian vibe. I would absolutely keep reading!

Laura Ann Dunks said...

Whispers have been flying between the mouths and ears of the Forsaken all day, but I’ve done well to stay away from the talk. I’m as intrigued about the outsider as anyone, but don’t see much point in generating hushed theories behind cupped hands. It’s a waste of time considering I’ll be able to see the truth with my own eyes in a matter of minutes. (Good!)

I’m the first one assigned to serve the outsider in his cell, which is typical. I’m beginning to think Frau Griselda (Frau makes me think of Germany. If your book is not related to Germany then you may want to use a different name or create one of your own as this could be misleading.) wants me to die of a heart attack, but then she’ll be short a kitchen hand. She probably just wants a good, hard laugh at my expense.

I hate her. (excellent use of a short sentence/paragraph to move the pace and increase the tension.)

“What do you think it’s like?” Felix asks as I stare into the darkness of the stairwell.

Continued...

Laura Ann Dunks said...

“I don’t want to think about it.”

I twist to face him and watch while he slaps mayonnaise onto a thick slice of bread. It strikes me how odd it is to have the entrance to the dungeon in the middle of the kitchen. But why not, I guess? (Good use of internal monologue.)

A couple of younger Forsaken take a few steps into the kitchen, but as soon as they spot Felix, they gasp and scurry off. (Should you start a new paragraph here? I believe a new paragraph should come every time a new character speaks or performs an action.) He chuckles, but I can’t help feeling sorry for them. Felix is kind, especially for a Cherished, but we’re taught to stay invisible when his type are near. (Good! Raises questions!)

“I’ve heard outsiders have five arms and are so dumb they’re practically drooling.” (Should you start a new paragraph here?) His words jar my thoughts away from the young ones. I stare as he brings his sandwich to his lips and takes a large bite. My mouth waters a bit as I haven’t eaten anything that looked that good in a while. (Again the last sentence raises more questions.)

Continued...

Laura Ann Dunks said...

I think your voice fits YA and your genre well.

You have raised a lot of questions for me. I want to know what an outsider, the forsaken and cherished are. I want to know why they have a dungeon and what the deeper truth behind this dystopian world is. I want to know if these fantasy creatures are human-like or entirely different.

Your first sentence and paragraph are not perfect, but they are very good, raise tension, conflict, and questions.

Your structure and grammar, punctuation, etc is good. There are a few places where I believe you could restructure the paragraphs to follow the rule, which I mentioned.

This is very promising, thanks for sharing.

Laura
~X~