Author Topic: Quick 500 word critique--Upper MG fantasy  (Read 3145 times)

Offline DrCarter2001

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 239
  • Karma: 34
Quick 500 word critique--Upper MG fantasy
« on: June 21, 2012, 07:42:17 AM »
Hi everyone, I just did a great online workshop with Mary Kole through WD on MG/YA characterization and she requests a 500 word writing sample by midnight tomorrow. The sample is supposed to show introduction to a character or a character interaction, so I chose the introduction of my MC from "The Siren and the Whale". I've tweaked it based on her suggestions; what do you think? Does this excerpt give you a good sense of the MC's character? If you're not impressed with this sample, I have another one I could use from a later interaction, but at the same time, if my MC introduction isn't up to snuff, then I really need help fixing it! Thanks so much!


THE SIREN AND THE WHALE EXCERPT/MC INTRODUCTION

When Madame Beauvais reached the crest of the hill, she found Marie playing with a shell near the water’s edge, her dark curls slicked against her head. Sand covered her chocolate skin in patches. Blue-green waves lapped the sand near Marie’s feet. The girl giggled and taunted the waves with her toe. A medium-sized wave approached and receded at the last second. Marie giggled again.
Madame Beauvais waved and shouted: “Marie! Get away from the water now. It’s time to go!”
   
Marie’s brown eyes smoldered at being disturbed. As she recognized the orphanage director, her anger slipped away. Although she disliked the way Madame Beauvais yelled at her for not following the rules, she heard it was much worse at other orphanages or on the streets. Besides, the old woman was direct and honest—qualities Marie respected. She held up the shell and said, “Jean-Paul said LaSirène can find my mother. She likes seashells.”

“What have I told you about the Siren?”
   
Marie lowered the shell and stared at it. “That she does not help children.”

“What else?”

“She lures people into the ocean’s depths and drives them mad.” The shell had pretty red spots on the back. When Marie turned it over and tilted it back and forth, different colors rippled in the sunlight. “Manman liked seashells—she would have loved this one.”

“Leave it.” Madame Beauvais held out her hand. “We have to go. I must get you and the others back to the orphanage.”

Marie hugged the shell against her chest. “No. I want to talk to LaSirène. If she likes this shell, I can convince her to find my mother.”

 “Marie! How dare you talk back to me?”

“I’m almost twelve years old and I’m tired of being told what to do.” Marie took a step backwards toward the water. She wobbled as the sand shifted before spreading her feet for balance. Her hands tightened into fists and she said, “Manman is out there somewhere. Sometimes, I hear her calling my name at night.”

“Don’t be silly. You’ve been with us since you were four years old. I doubt you even remember your mother’s voice.” Madame Beauvais’s brow furrowed as she gazed up at the other children, who had resumed their circle game. “This is all Jean-Paul’s fault, filling your head with stories. He’ll have to work extra hours for telling you things that can never come true.”

“What?” Marie stumbled backward as if she had been slapped, barely catching herself.

The color drained from Madame Beauvais’ face. She turned back to Marie, who staggered further away. “Oh, Marie,” she said. “I didn’t mean that. I was just frustrated.”

“You always said my mother loved me.” Tears streamed down Marie’s face. With every step, it seemed like her feet would never touch ground again. “You said you would take care of me until she returned. You promised she would come back.”

Offline ChokeCherry

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 505
  • Karma: 114
    • Kidbits
Re: Quick 500 word critique--Upper MG fantasy
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2012, 09:03:32 AM »
 :clap: Very good! But since you want someone to get nit-picky on the MC, here I go...

The sentence 'Besides, the old woman was direct and honest—qualities Marie respected' made me do a double-take just because it didn't fit the age of Marie's voice until that point.  Marie would have to be older to have such insight, and the actions and dialogue hint at a 7-8 year old.. maybe 9. So when I got to the point where Marie is place at 12 years old, I was very surprised. (I only say this because I have a 7 yr. old and a daughter who just turned 13, so I can compare.)

Otherwise,  Marie comes over very sweet and naive. A cute character and I just want to pick her up and hug her  :hug: (she's just not coming over as 12)

Hope this helps! And take it however you want - I'd never claim that I'm always right  ;D

Offline Zooks

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2859
  • Karma: 595
  • www.MaryVettel.com
Re: Quick 500 word critique--Upper MG fantasy
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2012, 09:05:30 AM »
Hey DrCarter - cool that you did the online workshop w/Mary Kole.  I got swept away - ignore ad lib.

I like this piece and, of course, have questions.  When does this take place?  It seems dated to me - maybe late 1800's, early 1900's. I need the picture set - what is Marie wearing?  What is M. Beauvais wearing? What time of day? Mid-day with piercing sun?  Late afternoon with fading heat/light? Is her stomach growling with hunger having missed lunch? Heading back for lunch? Supper?  How did Marie slip away from the other children? Where was M. B. when M slipped away to go to the water's edge? I'd like to see more description, more intensity, more action and have a better sense of time/place.  I think you've got room to build up the tension - if that's what you're going for.  Good luck with this.  

When Madame Beauvais reached the crest of the hill, she found Marie playing with a shell near the water’s edge, [I thought Marie was a much younger child at first, could you say M. B. found 12 y.o. M?] her dark curls slicked against her head. Sand covered her chocolate skin in patches. Blue-green waves lapped the sand near Marie’s feet. The girl giggled and taunted the waves with her toe. A medium-sized wave approached and receded [is 'receded' an MG word?  I'm all for encouraging vocabulary building, however, you don't want your reader to perhaps falter in the first paragraph.  'slipped away'?] at the last second. Marie giggled again. [giggling at the waves makes her seem younger than 12, esp. if this is in present time]
Madame Beauvais waved and shouted: “Marie! Get away from the water now. It’s time to go!” [I paused to wonder how far away M.B. is from M.- shouting at her to be heard above the sound of the waves is one thing, but is she a distance away, up a hill?]
  
Marie’s brown eyes smoldered at being disturbed. As she recognized the orphanage director, her anger slipped away. [who else would Marie have thought it was? Calling her by name? Her attire?]  Although she disliked the way Madame Beauvais yelled at her for not following the rules, she Marie heard it was much worse at other orphanages or on the streets. Besides, the old woman was direct and honest—qualities Marie respected. She held up the shell and said, “Jean-Paul said LaSirène can find my mother. She likes seashells.” [Marie speaking in normal voice, not shouting to be heard?]

“What have I told you about the Siren?” [has she walked closer? no longer shouting?]
  
Marie lowered the shell and stared at it. “That she does not help children.”

“What else?”

“She lures people into the ocean’s depths and drives them mad.” The shell had pretty red spots on the back. When Marie turned it over and tilted it back and forth, different colors rippled in the sunlight. “Manman liked seashells—she would have loved this one.”

“Leave it.” Madame Beauvais held out her hand. [so she has closed the gap - you need to show this]  “We have to go. I must get you and the others back to the orphanage.”

Marie hugged the shell against her chest. “No. I want to talk to LaSirène. If she likes this shell, I can convince her to find my mother.”

 “Marie![would she include Marie's middle name or surname for effect?]  How dare you talk back to me?”

“I’m almost twelve years old and I’m tired of being told what to do.” Marie took a step backwards [when did she get to her feet? I thought she'd been sitting?] toward the water. She wobbled as the sand shifted before spreading her feet for balance. Her hands tightened into fists [no longer holding the shell?] and she said, “Manman is out there somewhere. Sometimes, I hear her calling my name at night.”

“Don’t be silly. You’ve been with us since you were four years old. I doubt you even remember your mother’s voice.” Madame Beauvais’s brow furrowed as she gazed up at the other children, who had resumed their circle game. “This is all Jean-Paul’s fault, filling your head with stories. He’ll have to work extra hours for telling you things that can never come true.”

“What?” Marie stumbled backward as if she had been slapped, barely catching herself. [the water swirling around her ankles? wetting the hem of her dress? If so, the salt water making the hem of her pale pink sun dress a blood red?]

The color drained from Madame Beauvais’ face. She turned back to Marie, who staggered further away. [why? staggering away purposefully from M.B. or because the undertow had taken hold of her feet?  We want to see it/feel it with her] “Oh, Marie,” she said. “I didn’t mean that. I was just frustrated.” [would this adult tell her charge that she was frustrated? wouldn't she blame the child for causing her to feel/be frustrated? Again, this would be based on the time period of this piece when adults would never have spoken so openly to a child.]

“You always said my mother loved me.” Tears streamed down Marie’s face. With every step, it seemed like her feet would never touch ground again. “You said you would take care of me until she returned. You promised she would come back.”
THE ARCHIMEDES SOCIETY-Humor
THE KNOTTED GUN - Suspense
THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT-RomCom
NOOKS & GRANNIES-YA
GATSBY DELANEY - 7TH GRADE IMPRESARIO - MG
THIS AIN'T NO COWBOY MOVIE-YA
BROGWIN FRAYNEY & HOW HE NEARLY SAVED A KINGDOM-MG
DEATH AT THE DRIVE-IN - Gen'l Fiction
A SCOUNDREL'S TALE-Humor

Offline DrCarter2001

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 239
  • Karma: 34
Re: Quick 500 word critique--Upper MG fantasy
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2012, 11:11:19 AM »
Thanks for the helpful suggestions Zooks and ChokeCherry. One thing I should mention though is that for this excerpt, Mary specifically did not want the beginning of the story, but an example of characterization, even if it comes in the middle of the story. There is an entire page that precedes this excerpt describing the setting and also describing Madame Beauvais. Good point about what Marie is wearing--I can comment that she is wearing a bathing suit.

The story takes place in Haiti moments before the 2010 earthquake (again, this is described in the first page). Because Haitian orphans are raised in a different environment, they often behave a little more immaturely than we might typically expect for children raised here in stable households (explaining why she giggles and acts somewhat younger). Of course, orphans growing up on the streets might "toughen" up faster than expected, so it depends a lot on the individual and the experiences they encounter. As a result, Marie is more innocent and less worldly than other 12 year-old characters might be, though she matures quite a bit over the course of the story.

Okay, so I made some edits and I agree it reads better, but please see what you think. Without the descriptions of setting, etc for this sample, is it still possible to appreciate the characterization?

Thanks again!



REVISED SAMPLE:

When Madame Beauvais reached the crest of the hill, she found eleven-year-old Marie playing with a shell near the water’s edge, her dark curls slicked against her head. Sand covered her emerald-green swimsuit and chocolate skin in patches. Blue waves lapped near Marie’s feet.

Madame Beauvais shouted as she climbed down the path: “Marie! Come away from the water now. It’s time to go!”
   
Marie’s brown eyes smoldered as she looked over her shoulder. Her anger slipped away when she reminded herself the orphanage director yelled a lot, but life would be much worse on the streets. At least Madame Beauvais had never lied to her like everyone else she met. Marie held up the shell and said, “Jean-Paul said LaSirène can find my mother. She likes seashells.”

“What have I told you about the Siren?” Madame Beauvais stopped a few feet away and wagged her finger.
   
Marie lowered the shell and stared at it. “That she does not help children.”

“What else?”

“She lures people into the ocean’s depths and drives them mad.” The shell had pretty red spots on the back. When Marie turned it over and tilted it back and forth, different colors rippled in the sunlight. “Manman liked seashells—she would have loved this one.”

“Leave it.” Madame Beauvais held out her hand. “We have to go. I must get you and the others back to the orphanage.”

Marie hugged the shell against her chest. “No. I want to talk to LaSirène. If she likes this shell, I can convince her to find my mother.”

 “Marie Chante'! How dare you talk back to me?”

“I’m almost twelve years old and I’m tired of being told what to do.” Marie took a step backwards toward the water. She wobbled as the sand shifted before spreading her feet for balance. Clenching the shell in her fist, she said, “Manman is out there somewhere. Sometimes, I hear her calling my name at night.”

“Don’t be silly. You’ve been with us since you were four years old. I doubt you even remember your mother’s voice.” Madame Beauvais’s brow furrowed as she gazed up at the other children, who had resumed their circle game. “This is all Jean-Paul’s fault, filling your head with stories. He’ll have to work extra hours for telling you things that can never come true.”

“What?” Marie stumbled backward as if she had been slapped.

The color drained from Madame Beauvais’ face. “Oh, Marie,” she said. “I didn’t mean that.”

“You always said my mother loved me.” Tears streamed down Marie’s face. With every step, it seemed like her feet would never touch ground again. “You promised she would come back.”

“Your mother did love you, just as I love you.” Madame Beauvais held out her hand again. “Please, come with me, and I will explain everything.”

“You’re a liar!” Marie staggered backwards, the water swirling around her ankles. With all the fury she had, she pointed at Madame Beauvais and shouted, “I trusted you!”
« Last Edit: June 21, 2012, 11:38:52 AM by DrCarter2001 »

Offline Zooks

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2859
  • Karma: 595
  • www.MaryVettel.com
Re: Quick 500 word critique--Upper MG fantasy
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2012, 03:02:46 PM »
Thanks for the info.  I'm still picturing Marie sitting at the water's edge rather than standing.  I wonder who else Marie comes in contact with who lies to her.  I'd suggest you use your Thesaurus for backward (not plural).  Good luck with this.

When Madame Beauvais reached the crest of the hill, she found eleven-year-old Marie playing with a shell near the water’s edge, her dark curls slicked against her head. Sand covered her emerald-green swimsuit and chocolate skin in patches. Blue waves lapped near Marie’s feet.

Madame Beauvais shouted as she climbed down the path: “Marie! Come away from the water now. It’s time to go!”
   
Marie’s brown eyes smoldered as she looked over her shoulder. Her anger slipped away when she reminded herself the orphanage director yelled a lot, but life would be much worse on the streets. At least Madame Beauvais had never lied to her like everyone else she met. Marie held up the shell and said, “Jean-Paul said LaSirène can find my mother. She likes seashells.”

“What have I told you about the Siren?” Madame Beauvais stopped a few feet away and wagged her finger.
   
Marie lowered the shell and stared at it. “That she does not help children.”

“What else?”

“She lures people into the ocean’s depths and drives them mad.” The shell had pretty red spots on the back. When Marie turned it over and tilted it back and forth, different colors rippled in the sunlight. “Manman liked seashells—she would have loved this one.”

“Leave it.” Madame Beauvais held out her hand. “We have to go. I must get you and the others back to the orphanage.”

Marie hugged the shell against her chest. “No. I want to talk to LaSirène. If she likes this shell, I can convince her to find my mother.”

 “Marie Chante'! How dare you talk back to me?”

“I’m almost twelve years old and I’m tired of being told what to do.” Marie took a step backwards toward the water. She wobbled as the sand shifted before spreading her feet for balance. Clenching the shell in her fist, she said, “Manman is out there somewhere. Sometimes, I hear her calling my name at night.”

“Don’t be silly. You’ve been with us since you were four years old. I doubt you even remember your mother’s voice.” Madame Beauvais’s brow furrowed as she gazed up at the other children, who had resumed their circle game. “This is all Jean-Paul’s fault, filling your head with stories. He’ll have to work extra hours for telling you things that can never come true.”

“What?” Marie stumbled backward as if she had been slapped.

The color drained from Madame Beauvais’ face. “Oh, Marie,” she said. “I didn’t mean that.”

“You always said my mother loved me.” Tears streamed down Marie’s face. With every step, it seemed like her feet would never touch ground again. “You promised she would come back.”

“Your mother did love you, just as I love you.” Madame Beauvais held out her hand again. “Please, come with me, and I will explain everything.”

“You’re a liar!” Marie staggered backwards, the water swirling around her ankles. With all the fury she had, she pointed at Madame Beauvais and shouted, “I trusted you!”
THE ARCHIMEDES SOCIETY-Humor
THE KNOTTED GUN - Suspense
THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT-RomCom
NOOKS & GRANNIES-YA
GATSBY DELANEY - 7TH GRADE IMPRESARIO - MG
THIS AIN'T NO COWBOY MOVIE-YA
BROGWIN FRAYNEY & HOW HE NEARLY SAVED A KINGDOM-MG
DEATH AT THE DRIVE-IN - Gen'l Fiction
A SCOUNDREL'S TALE-Humor

Offline DrCarter2001

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 239
  • Karma: 34
Re: Quick 500 word critique--Upper MG fantasy
« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2012, 03:34:48 PM »
Thanks Zooks! I removed two of the "backward" and clarified that Marie was crouching near the water at the beginning, and she stands with her eyes smoldering. (In a later chapter, Marie explains who else has lied to her.)

Now after I finish writing the last three chapters I'll have to go through and edit everything like this! Thanks for the support and good wishes.