Friday, July 30, 2010

Critique Party #5

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.

Ordinary Life of the Insect Collector
, a YA mystery novel by Katharine

It’s only spring, but because it’s a clear day and late afternoon, it’s already hot. The sun casts a shadow in front of me as I crouch on the ground over the creature. My friend Liza sighs, for the second time, and fusses around next to our bikes. She’s getting impatient, but I don’t care. I can only focus on the insect.

“Bea, can you please hurry up?” Liza calls. “Some guys are coming down the street— they look like college kids, and I would rather not come off as a total freak, okay?”

“Nice, Liza,” I answer, “that is really a phenomenal way to treat one of your closest friends. If you don’t stop, I’ll wait until they’re right next to us and make myself look even weirder.”

“Is that even possible?” Liza says. She knows it’s no use: I’ll be ready when I’m ready. “Seriously, though, they’re cute,” Liza adds with a whine, dragging out the “u” in cute.

We were biking home from school when I insisted on stopping at the lot. It’s a sandy area, surrounded by a chain link fence, with a few patches of grass. The lot is completely undeveloped, which is almost unheard of around here. It’s technically private property, but everyone in the neighborhood uses it. There are often people throwing balls to dogs, or a few college kids hanging out and smoking cigarettes. I like it because you can find bugs you wouldn’t see in other places, because of the open spaces and sandy soil.

When we arrive, I put the kickstand down on my bike and walk back and forth across the sandy areas as Liza and I talk. I make my fourth pass, it’s going to be my last, and then I spot it: the cow killer.


Holly Dodson said...

I really like the voice here.

One thing that really confused me though was the sort of flashback. I think you may be better suited just reordering the paragraphs. That way we don't have to stop, feel confused, and re-read to figure out what just happened.

...It’s only spring, but because it’s a clear day and late afternoon, it’s already hot....

This could be stronger if reworded. Maybe... It's only spring, but by late afternoon on a clear day it's hot. Or something. The late afternoon and "already" don't jive...already would be...morning and it's already hot.

...I crouch on the ground over the creature...

The word creature made me think fantasy world...some kind of weird beast. Maybe say insect the first time and then creature the second time. Just so we understand faster exactly what's happening.

That's all I noticed :) Great story, it sounds like it'll be a very fun read!

Susan said...

I like the dorkiness of the MC. Yay for amateur anythings.

I do agree with Holly's comment about the order of the passage -- jumping backwards was a bit confusing. And I too expected something fantastic when she said creature.

Only other thing that bugged me (haha, pun intended) was the use of the word "bug". I dated an entomologist for three years, and (obviously) he loved bugs. BUT, he never called them that. He was always really specific, i.e. moth, damselfly, beetle, mosquito, etc.

I'm the same way with fish. I love fish, but I rarely call them just a fish. I would say a carp or a minnow or trout or sucker, etc.

I think if you drop in some specific names, then it would let her bug-obsession really shine through.

Oh, and another thing. In this line, "If you don't stop, I'll wait until..." I didn't know what she was telling Liza to stop doing. Whining perhaps?

Great job! I would definitely keep reading, especially with such an offbeat MC.

LTM said...

Hi, Katharine!

You are amazing at description. Your first 'graph is so strong and good. I love the heat, the shadow, the only focus on the insect... It's really great. LOVE it.

And I am SO jealous of your title. Titles are always the hardest part for me~

Still... I'm afraid the dialogue is a bit stilted. I'd have Liza say, "Some guys are coming... they look like they're in college and you look like a total freak."

I mean kids are brutal.

Bea's answer is good, but ditch the "phenomenal way..." part. Start after "I answer" with "How 'bout I wait til they're next to us and eat it."

or something like that. BAH!!! :D

I mean, they sound too formal to be best friends. You know? And no need to have them say what you've already established. Show their personalities in their words, you know?

Second to last 'graph, I'd just start at "The lot's a sandy area, surrounded by a chain link fence with a few patches of grass. We were biking home from school when I insisted on stopping."

Also, start with "People often throw balls to dogs or a few college..." Starting w/"There" = passive voice.

"I like it because the open spaces and sandy soil mean you can find bugs you wouldn't see in other places."

By the last 'graph I was confused. Did all this happen before the dialogue? If so, should it be in past tense? That was a little confusing.

All in all, this is an interesting start. Very promising! Yay! :o)

KO said...

thanks guys-- I am planning a massive rewrite in a few weeks and this is incredibly helpful!

Sarah Enni said...

I agree that the flipping back and forth in time is a little confusing. But beyond that I found the prose and dialogue to flow quite smoothly. I understood everything that was happening, and the characterization is fantastic in such a short time.

I love it! Good luck with the rewrite :)

Alicia Gregoire said...

Sorry I'm late to the party. I promise I brought cookies.

I'm going to echo what a few others said about the reordering of the paragraphs. It will flow better. The alternative is to eliminate the flashback and just incorporate the necessary details about the lot up top.

The dialogue is a little stilted and I like the suggestions LTM gave you.

I like Liza and was able to get a good picture of her by the way she said 'cute.'

I'm also curious about what the heck a cow killer is.