Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Page Critique: OUT OF THE WATER

Today's post features an excerpt from of a historical romance by Deniz Bevan.
Note: This excerpt is from the MIDDLE of the novel, but the gist is easily attained by context.

Out of the Water

"What are you dreaming of?" He asked in a low voice.

"Colours," she whispered. “All the women had such pretty dresses today. I can’t remember the last time I –"

His arms came about her, his lips rested on the nape of her neck. "You’re beautiful in your own colours, Peri," he murmured. "But we’ll find a dress for you at the next port, if you like."

She looked down at her hands, clasped together on her lap. As she watched, her fingers separated, her right hand moved to the side, and landed above his knee.

His fingers pushed aside her collar and kisses moved along her bare shoulder.

"What are you doing?" She asked, again in a whisper.

"You’ve cast a spell on me, Peri. The dragon has turned into a man."

His breath had quickened; hers as well. She shifted, ever so slightly, so that his lips approached hers, grazing along her cheek.

Footsteps pounded on the deck above their heads; loud cries echoed from bow to stern. The others had returned.

He pulled away from her and she rose, shakily, to her feet. Her wreath had fallen over one ear. She slipped it off and met his gaze. He had one hand outstretched still, as though he would tug her back to him, keep her in his cave. Yet he said, "fly away, Peri, fly away. The dragon won’t try to keep you."

She held herself steady until she was back in her own cabin, then collapsed on the berth, shaking, clutching her wreath.

"I wanted to stay," she said aloud into her pillow.

An Ambiguous Sentence
1. Peri's hand sounds like it moves on its own accord: As she watched, her fingers separated, her right hand moved to the side, and landed above his knee. While it's as though she's surprised her hand is moving, against her better judgment, it sounds a little too detached--at first I even thought there was a possible typo and she was watching the man's hand moving.
2. Having her fingers "separated" almost sounds like they dissolved/split.
3. "To the side" is a little vague, and I'm not sure it adds much to the info of the sentence since it doesn't indicate it's moving toward the man. Could just be me.

Dialogue and Other Punctuation
1. The first word of a dialogue TAG is never capitalized. The line is considered all one continuous sentence, even when there's a question or exclamation mark.
This line: "What are you dreaming of?" He asked in a low voice.
Should read: "What are you dreaming of?" he asked in a low voice.
This line: "What are you doing?" She asked, again in a whisper.
Should read: "What are you doing?" she asked, again in a whisper.
2. The first word in a line of dialogue is always capitalized.
This line: Yet he said, "fly away, Peri, fly away."
Should read: Yet he said, "Fly away, Peri, fly away."
3. Be careful not to overdo semi-colons in novels. Though acceptable for use in novels, semi-colons are more commonly seen in nonfiction writing. The two instances here are quite close together; one source suggests no more than one semi-colon per page. Consider making one of these instances into two separate sentences. I'd choose the second.
His breath had quickened; hers as well.
Footsteps pounded on the deck above their heads; loud cries echoed from bow to stern.
Change to: Footsteps pounded on the deck above their heads. Loud cries echoed from bow to stern.

Wording and Little Things
1. Be careful not to use too many descriptors for the word "said." Some variety is nice, but a simple "said" is only used twice in this passage. Too many variations can be distracting. In this excerpt, there are: asked, whispered, and murmured.
2. The words shaky and shaking are too similar and used close together. Perhaps one could be changed to a synonym such as unsteadily or trembling.
3. I'm having a hard time visualizing Peri's dress. This dress has a collar that he pushes aside, but it somehow leaves her shoulder bare? It may not be an issue, however, since her dress may be described in a previous scene.

Summary: Kudos & General Thoughts
Ah, the almost-kiss. This seems to work well in a romance novel (or other genres for that matter), despite making the readers gnash their teeth because it was so close! It creates tension and interest, which help to drive the story forward. I love the name Peri, which Deniz says is the man's nickname for the main character's real name (Rosa). The story as well as the dialogue seems to flow well, and the characters, setting, and the general romance are interesting.

Can you add any other helpful comments to the above critique?
Have you ever written an almost-kiss into any of your novels or writings?
Do you find the intricacies of dialogue punctuation confusing? (when to cap, whether/when to use commas, periods, or dashes, etc.)


  1. Good critique. I didn't get some of the dragon things, but probably because I'm missing the rest of the background.

  2. Great job, Carol. I think writers in the UK tend to use a lot more semicolons than we do in North America. Or at least JK Rowling used a lot of them.

    I'd like a little more description added to the kissing part (and I love kissing parts in books). "Warm, soft lips rested on the nape of her neck" (verses cold and dry) and "seductive kisses moved along her shoulder." Of course these are totally subjective.

  3. The dialogue tag stuff is a good reminder for me. My biggest issue is nothing fixable, just that it's in the middle of a book so I wanted more context. It makes me curious to read more, though.

  4. Thanks so much for doing this Carol!

    You caught the one editorial thing I always second guess myself on - those darn capitalised/non-capitalised dialogue tags. And [giggle] on the dress thing - that's cos I haven't done my Renaissance clothing research yet...

    Thanks for coming by Chris - I'd better check to make sure I *have* explained the dragon thing beforehand...

    You just made my day Stina by thinking I'm in the UK. And, mmm, that's a lovely idea, to add more description to the kisses.

    Thanks, Lydia! Yea, I sometimes overdo it on trying not to use said [g]

  5. another great critique. Personally I don't mind semi-colons. They might be considered as a little old fashioned, but when used correctly they are fine. They are only meant to bring two full sentences into close association.

  6. Great job to the writer, the first sentence hooked me!

  7. I just love that you do this, Carol! And it's super cool to see Deniz here with her response :)
    (The support in the blogosphere is amazing :))

  8. I found this sentence very intriguing:
    "You’ve cast a spell on me, Peri. The dragon has turned into a man."

    Made me think, of course, that the man was also a dragon? Very cool. I too love the "almost-kiss."

  9. Awesome critique Carol and thank to the writer for sharing!

  10. These are so helpful to read~ thank you!

  11. Great critique!

    I often find a lot of semicolons in my writing. When reading, I don't mind a few here and there, but I tend to overuse them.

  12. That's interesting about only one semi-colon per page. I find myself using more and more of them. I'll have to check my own ms for overuse.

    Great critique! And this sounds like a great story, Deniz. Yes, I did have an almost-kiss scene in my last wip, and it's one of my favorite scenes in the entire book.

  13. Thanks Lynda! I'm a sucker for semi colons myself.

    Squee! Thanks Tana!

    I agree Jolene - I love being part of the writing blogsphere.

    Thanks Liz! It's not fantasy though [g] He's just been thinking of himself as a dragon, travelling alone and hardly speaking to anyone for some months now...

    Thanks for coming by Talei, Jess and Golden Eagle!

    Aww, thanks Susan. It's their first almost-kiss. Then there's the kiss, and then things move on from there... Yummy romance :-)

  14. Yay for Deniz! What a fantastically emotive piece of writing. I love the almost-kiss.

    I agree with you about the body parts moving of their own accord.

    I really enjoyed this, Deniz!

  15. I like this excerpt.

    Your critiques are so detailed, Carol. Nice job!

  16. I really enjoyed this too - both the excerpt and the critique!

  17. IMHO, maybe find a way to cut some of the prohouns?
    I was so into the story, I didn't notice any mistakes until I read your crit..LOL
    Guess I was, ahem, feeling the moment.

  18. Thanks so much Talli, lb, Alison and Huntress! It's great to think I might finally be writing something that works...

  19. I have something for you over on my blog, come and claim it :)

  20. Carol - your critique is spot on, as usual! :) I love the almost kiss, but I do wish I had a bit more context for this. Why is he "the dragon"? What is her role on the ship? I wanted a bit more of a flirty exchange before he grabbed her (just me), but overall I think this excerpt is very nicely done. Best of luck with it!

  21. You are amazing at critiquing!

    I'm with Liz on the sentence about the dragon becoming a man is very interesting and makes me wonder...

    Great excerpt.

  22. Nice job...on both accounts. My one comment would be this: I was a bit confused that she was sleeping by she never sat up or he never bent down for this scene to take place.

  23. Thanks Donea! I think I've got your wish for more flirtiness covered in the parts leading up to this scene in the novel :-)

    Thanks Kimberly!

    I'm glad you liked it Sharon. Actually, he kinda pulled her into his cabin for a moment while no one else was on board - it's the middle of the day [g]

  24. Excellent critique. I agree, it did seems like the hand was moving of its own accord.

    Loved this line:

    "You’ve cast a spell on me, Peri. The dragon has turned into a man."

  25. I didn't know that information about capitalization on the dialogue and the tags. Now you've got me wondering about my own WIP.

    Deniz - this was an engaging excerpt!


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