Sunday, 24 June 2012

Critique contest Entry no. 5.

Many thanks to this author for submitting to our critique contest. For your own chance to win a 10 chapter professional manuscript edit and $20 ebook voucher, follow @katherineamabel and @lisaslanding on twitter and tweet "I'm in!" Share your thoughts here for extra entries in the draw, and check out the rules to score even more! (

Title: Doppled in Grey
Genre: Science Fiction
First Page:

The beast is gasping for breath, swaying and stumbling. B is still shooting, I can feel the vibrations in the air, but it is no longer doing any more damage. The monster is too far gone. I finish it off, watching blood pour out of both orifices. I try to slide off of its side, but before I do, it is on the ground, crushing my leg with it. It screams of pain, and I do in return. I can’t feel anything except for the shocking pain emanating from my leg. B runs towards me, but halfway there he pixelates out, and I am all alone, save for the thing on top of me screaming just as loud as I am. I shut my eyes and bite my lip, taking in the pain. None of this is real. Once it dies I will be back on level eight and everything will be fine. None of this is real.
Seconds turn to minutes, which turn into hours that drag by slower than a slug. The beast has stopped heaving awhile ago, but I am still here. I push on the thing’s cold scaly back to see if I can push myself out. I don't budge. I push harder still and my leg only moves slightly but enough that I know what I am supposed to do.
I scream louder than I ever have, and tears prick my eyes as I try to push myself out. The pain is unbearable, but I stay conscious as I keep pushing. My eyes are squeezed so tight nothing would be able to break my concentration. I push again. The thing is only covering my knee now but my thigh is covered in blood. I need to get out, I must.
Another scream escapes my lips as I push again. Only to the ankle now. I take a deep breath the same words still going through my head.

This is not real.
I am determined to get out with this last push. All my muscles scream out with me and my heart pounds in my throat. Sweat drips from my body and I can feel it giving way. I am almost there. Every last bit of will in me is going into this last push. My eyes flutter and for a moment,and I can feel golden light surrounding me. I breath a sigh of relief before finally falling to the ground once more. My ankle is still caught but I am still pushing. I am almost done. I can feel it. I'm almost there.
And then a last sudden scream of shock escapes my cold lips.
“Welcome back to reality, Daze.”


  1. I like the introduction – the opening paragraph has me really intrigued. I got stuck on the repetition of the word pain twice in two lines though, especially since I think that the second of those lines (mainly the phrase …except for the shocking pain…) isn’t as strong as it could be. And seeing it crop up again just sticks out for me in paragraph one. I also got stuck on… I PUSH on the thing’s cold scaly back to see if I can PUSH myself out. Even if you change one of those pushes I think that’d be fine, because I actually like the rhythmic repetition of push in the push harder line. Sorry if this seems nitpicky, but I just figure when this lands on an agent’s desk you want your word choice to look as meticulous as possible.

    Shouldn’t it be… The beast stopped heaving a while ago…?

    There’s a word missing here somewhere… I take a deep breath the same words still going through my head.

    Also, what is Doppled? It comes up as not a real word. Do you mean dappled?

    On a larger scale I love how you’ve captured the frustration and tension of the character trying to free themselves, but I see that it takes up your first 440 precious words of your MS and I’d like to have seen a little more (world building, what’s happening, characterisation etc). I want more reasons to read on rather than just being extremely curious (which I am, btw). I get that the character is a bit badass but I want even more of a reason to care about what happens to them.

    Overall, great job! And thanks for entering. 

  2. The opening lines made me think the POV character was on the ground shooting at the beast. It might be good to add some kind of sensation – the body lurching beneath them, or something – to signal to the reader that we’re on the back of the beast right from the outset.

    “It screams of pain” – is that the beast, or the character’s leg?

    I think the imagery of trying to pull out from beneath the beast is good, but give more of the sensation to make it an emotional experience. Exactly how does the pain feel? Is it shattered? Piercing? Burning? How does the rest of the POV character’s body react?

    I’m definitely intrigued about what “Daze” is doing in this virtual reality and why he/ she has to go through it. But I’d want to see that the interaction with the beast is a specific necessity – not just a painful experience to pull the reader into the book. I’d be disappointed if it turned out he / she was training to fight humans. I’m really hoping the opening is a picture of what’s to come!

    I realized I still don’t know if this is a male or female POV. I think it’s critical to give the reader a really strong gauge of who’s eyes they’re behind right from the first lines. Otherwise the rest is harder to sink into because my brain keeps wondering what to picture – male or female? Humanoid or otherwise? I got enough from this to figure this is a human (or something like it). But I was really distracted not knowing if it was a male or female.
    Intriguing opening. Good luck!

  3. Just looking at the above comments, I assumed this was a female POV, on the basis of all the screaming alone. Maybe that says more about me. But whatever the gender turns out to be - they certainly have some attitude.

    I liked the concept that they were fighting some kind of monsterous beast. You really land us right in the action, so your pacing was good. But I was a bit disoriented trying to figure out the position of the POV character. So I agree with Aimee about placing your character from the start.

    With the shooting by B, the character could feel the vibrations, but it wasn't doing any damage. I'm not sure what the it referred to in that sentence.

    Also the bleeding out of both orifaces - I didn't have a good mental image of the beast except that it was big, so this was also a bit confusing. Did it only have 2 orifaces. It's hard to tell with mythical beasts.

    Great use of the word 'pixelates'. As a reader I went what - and then aha - OK virtual reality. Now I'm grounded.

    As with the pushing, the screaming was loud several times. But I loved the hours dragging slower than a slug.

    Also where you've put 'nothing would be able to break my concentration'. You could lose words if you used 'could break...'.

    I really thought the character was going to be stuck in the game for a moment there. So very interested to see where you take this concept. I enjoyed it, and hope the comments helped.

  4. This read very slowly to me. It's supposed to be an action sequence, so I don't think you want this.

    This is due to the long sentences you have. They are verry long, about 10 words each on average (just a guess). Short sentences = more action. It's a faster read, so it gets to be actiony (is that a word? Hehe.)

    I also don't know what happened with the vibration things.

    The blow-by-blow action really hurts the narrative, and it leads to excessive skimming. We don't need to know every single action B did (why don't you give the full name? Just wondering; if it's for a reason, then ignore me). We need to know more about the FEELINGS, THOUGHTS, and EMOTIONS. Who cares what he did? It's what he's thinking that matters. What he feels.

    What are the stakes? What is running through is mind? We don't need to know the details of his actions.

    I hope this helped :)

  5. I think you fell into the "start with action" trap. Action and suspense is good, but when you start with something this action packed its not only hard to follow but the reader doesn't care about the characters yet.

    I like this scene. I think its written pretty well and would be very useful at another part in a story. Just not the beginning.

    There are too many things I don't know yet. Who is this character and why are they fighting a beast. And what is this beast.

    I don't know where they are, who they are, or really what they are doing. These are questions that shouldn't remain unanswered in 500 words.

    Either way, I think you should start in another place. Even if it's a few minutes before this scene. Them walking up to the beast, including a little dialog, or something. I want to know the character and I want to care about him/her if you do that you can have a sucessful beginning.

    Good luck.

  6. I won't correct any grammar here as there are bigger issues. I have no idea what your creature looks like. You have blood spurting out two orifices, which would be a pretty horrific image if I could imagine it. But I can't imagine those orifices or the face in which they belong.
    I have no idea who/what your narrator is. The narrator is something that needs to be established early on or your reader can't invest him/herself fully in the piece. And, in particular, with first person the reader should begin to feel/imagine that they are the narrator. That's really hard to do here.
    Action: Starting with action is a good idea to grab interest, but you have to do it well. It has to be clear as mystery doesn't work well with action. However, your sentence arrangement must be so that it doesn't read like an A,B,C direction pamphlet, nor can you start all or the majority of your sentences with I.

    I really think you have a great idea for a beginning (especially with it being a science fiction - I'm not a fan of the usual slow-moving sci-fi) it just needs some tips, tucks and tweaks.
    Keep working at it, though, and you'll get it right. Can't even tell you how many versions of a first chapter I went through.

  7. I love the concept. It immediately puts me in a live video game of sorts, where the MC is caught in a level and maybe to her horror, she is stuck.

    The only comment is to get her out a tad sooner to accelerate the reading.

  8. I'm intrigued from the start. A question: does B have a real, full name? If so, I'd rather have that at the start then have to guess who B is later on.

    I'm going go guess this is a virtual reality or video game the character is in? If so, what a unique plot idea. This sounds very interesting and is well written. Good luck