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The Beta Club: Parachute Jump (Women's Fic) - Agree with my Crit?


It's Beta Club Tuesday!  Women's Fiction is on the agenda today.  Read on and let the author know what you think!  Remember, this will be the only Beta Club of the week, so give it all you got.  ;)

For newbies:  If you haven't been here on beta club day yet, don't be afraid to jump in with your comments.  All feedback is welcome as long as it's constructive.  And if anyone has an itch to be critiqued, the rules for submitting to the Beta Club are under the "Free Critiques" heading at the top of the page.


Alright, please read through the author's excerpt, then provide your feedback in the comments.  My detailed critique is below. 

Author: Michelle S. (check out her blog!)
Title: Parachute Jump
Genre: Women's Fiction

I should have known that when the grandmother I had never met showed up, banging on the door like she was the police in pursuit of a criminal, that things would never be the same. I actually knew before she showed up. He had been gone for close to ten days and our mother hadn’t gotten out of the bed at all that entire week and a half.
We didn’t know where she had come from or how she had known to come. Curtis guessed that mom had probably called her as a last resort. We all knew that she hated her mother and where she had come from back in North Carolina.
“She’s a wreck,” Curtis had said after he had come from her room, his hands empty of the bowl of chicken noodle soup he had entered with.
Claude was quiet, his analytical demeanor sizing up the situation. Dad was gone and mom was quickly deteriorating into a useless heap. He glanced at the small pile of mail that sat on the coffee table. Bills would be due. So would the rent. It wasn’t looking good. He wouldn’t tell us for years that he had been the one to call Grandma.
I had never seen a picture of her. She was a myth. Resembling the fairy godmother from Cinderella, in my mind. She would float in, not on wings, but something like wings, smelling of cinnamon and peppermint and sprinkle us with her sweet hugs and kisses. So when Claude finally opened the door to her, I was taken aback. She was tall, which none of us were expecting since our mother stood at a measly five feet and four inches. At twelve, I already towered over her.
Besides her height, I couldn’t help but to notice how pale she was. She looked like the sun was her enemy. I could see the blue lines of her veins through the skin in her arms, which were clutching a brown bag close to her chest. Atop her head was a mass of curly brunette hair with sprinklings of gray, the front that she had pinned back with gold bobby pins.
“Curtis?” she asked apprehensively looking back and forth between Curtis and Claude.
“Claude,” he corrected her and stepped back from the door to allow her inside.
“Right. Claude,” she said as if she were committing his features to memory.
She would need to in order to tell the difference between him and Curtis. They were twins; fraternal, but still similar enough in looks that sometimes it took a second glance to confirm whom was who.
“And Imogene?” she said, turning her attention to me as she stepped through the threshold and into our living room.
I nodded. Not sure what was appropriate. A “nice to meet you” or a hug. I didn’t offer either and neither did she.
She glanced around the living room, taking in the pale yellow on the walls, the English ivy plants that hung from the corners looking thirsty, and the brown leather couches that had been discolored and sunken in over the years. In our mother’s absence, only Claude straightened up regularly, placing our dirty dishes into the dishwasher and picking up our discarded snack containers. The floors had gone with out vacuuming and dust had settled onto the surfaces.
“Where is your mother?” she asked, finally looking back to the three of us huddled together near the door, unsure of what we should be doing.
“She’s in her bedroom. Last door on the right,” Claude volunteered.
She nodded and gazed down the hallway to the left taking a few steps. She stopped momentarily and looked back at Claude as if to confirm that she was going in the right direction.
Claude nodded. “Last door on the right,” he repeated.
Curtis waited until Grandma knocked and entered our mother’s bedroom before he headed down the hallway.
“Where you going?” Claude whispered loudly from behind him.
“To listen,” he said, not bothering to whisper.

Below is my detailed critique.  Please select FULL SCREEN to view, then once the document is open RIGHT CLICK to ZOOM and view the comments.

Alright, so what do you think?  Are you hooked?  What did the author do well?  What things could  be improved?  Agree or disagree with my crit?

Thanks ahead of time to all of you who comment and thanks to the author for volunteering!

**Also, quick PSA...For anyone looking for a critique group, the ladies over at Critique this WIP are holding a contest to find new members.  Stop by and see if you may fit the bill! ** 

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Reader Comments (13)

I agree with everything Roni said in her crit. She did a good job. I, too, got caught up in the fact that you used so little contractions. It's the way we talk, so it's the way we like to read, too.

Also, you use the word "that" A LOT. If you go through your MS, you will discover you can remove "that" in almost every circumstance. Use every word to it's full advantage and leave the ones out you don't need.

Good job! I liked it!


June 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJustineDell

It is always intriguing to have a mystery family member enter the scene. If you can make your sentences clearer, per Roni's suggestions, you have a great premise here. Thanks for letting me read it.

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaraine Eddington

i was a bit confused right away. I think it had to do with the construction of the first sentence, the lack of contractions and the extra "that"s (those buggers sneak in everywhere!)

If you could cut some extraneous words, make these two paragraphs cleaner, it would help to ground your readers.

I didn't have a problem with you mentioning that Curtis and Claude were twins when you did, but i was a bit confused that both of them were mentioned before we reached that fact. My suggestion would be to either do as Roni said, mention they're twins earlier, or only focus on one brother until the twin fact comes up. If that makes sense.

Otherwise, i'm really intrigued as to what is going on. Just when it really started to get good, with the eavesdropping, we ran out of excerpt.

I hope this helps and good luck!

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFalen

After I read the story I was immersed and wondering what was going to happen. Unfortunately it was a little hard to get there.

The names without proper introduction were confusing. Perhaps, "My brother Claude..." at some point and then, as Roni suggested, "His fraternal twin Curtis..." would work.

Also, with Justine, too many 'that's. But overall I really liked it.

One other question, the POV of the narrator is 12, and you call it women's fiction- just out of curiosity, do we follow her story through adulthood, or is this the mother's story?

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPiedmont Writer

Yes, I agreed with Roni's comments. I was a bit lost in the beginning too, but I think you can fix that easily by grounding us in the room and introducing the characters a bit.

I know all of this has been mentioned above. There is just enough here for me to wonder about this family and read a bit more.

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharity Bradford

I thought Roni's critique was spot on!!

I was a little lost at first. And I wasn't real fond of the opening line...seemed clunky to me and a bit too long. Maybe break it up??

I am really interested in the story, so you did a great job of pulling the reader in on page 1!

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

This was great! I loved how unexpected the grandma was-she herself was a twist. :)

The only thing is that its a little confusing in the beginning, and I would agree with Roni; just do a little more showing, a little less telling.

Other than that, great job!

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOddyoddyo13

Use less passive verbs in the first paragraph. Like gramma is pounding on the door right now.

Agreeing with those above me. It would make the first paragraph less confusing and give it more zing. :D

Great start though.

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterM Pax

Thanks so much to everyone who commented today. I know it takes time to read through the excerpt and offer such thoughtful feedback, so I really appreciate you each giving the time. Hopefully, the author will find all of your great advice helpful. :)

There's a good story line developing, but the prose can be tightened up some. Get rid of all the unnecessary "thats" populating the excerpt, and come on with a stronger WOW factor at the top. There are a couple of cliches to weed out also. Keep going with your writing, you'll get there!

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngie Ledbetter

Thanks so much everyone for the feedback. You have no idea how much this helps! All great suggestions and things to change. Now it's time to get to work!

June 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter*msatch*

I am intrigued :)

I was a little confused at first, but I think once I got through the first little bit it came together for me. I think another way to mention they are twins, without saying it outright would be to have the grandma say something like "which one are you?" letting us know that there are 2 of them and its hard to tell them apart.

Overall I am interested though and would definitely keep reading.

June 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Oops, that last comment was me :D

June 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergeorgia

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