Jennifer Eaton of http://jennifermeaton.com/sunday-snippets/ has initiated this Critique Blog Hop. Post the first 250 words of a work in progress, check out the rules and join us. Other submissions are at the bottom of this post.
Thank you to all participants and readers for your input. I appreciate your time and helpful comments. Below is the start to a short story, Two Calamities.
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The storm blustered, gaining ferocity by the quarter hour, wind whistling and whirling cotton ball snowflakes around the corners of the red insulbrick house. Squalls whooshed into gaps and cracks shoving wintry breath through the thin walls with only paper for insulation. The foundation of the house wasn’t even anchored in cement, but sat in doubt on blocks of cement, one at each corner, and one in-between on each side.
“Shush, shush, Rosa. Try to relax. You doing fine,” said the husky voice of her sister-in-law who pulled the wool blanket tighter around her own shoulders. Julia refreshed the damp cloth for Rosa’s forehead in a bowl on the nightstand, and leaned over the twisting silhouette.
Ragged breathing surfaced from the bundle of blankets in the upstairs bedroom. The wind shrieked; the springs creaked. A groan escaped from the old-fashioned metal bed, joining Mother Nature’s howl and fury.
“Julia, this time worse than other two. I so tired. Where my children? In bed?” Rosa rolled onto her side. She pushed off her forearm and elbow but fell back against the pillow, exhausted and sweaty, as if she’d been shoveling the fast accumulating snow outside.
“At work. Don’t worry about children. Cousin Anna take them when she visit this morning. They sleep there tonight. You must concentrate on new baby only.” Julia crossed herself with trembling hands. Prego Dio. It is time for doctor, but Julia has no phone and no-one else is here to send for him.
“Rosa, listen. I must go downstairs to ask neighbour call doctor. I back quick.”
Julia flapped a weak hand in the air.
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Click on over to these great writers to check out and critique what they’ve posted!
April 21, 2013 at 12:41 pm
Okay!!! Nope…sounds like too much work…I am still recovering!
April 21, 2013 at 2:01 pm
I love your opening two sentences. The paper thin walls implies poverty and the blustery weather just sets the mood. The sentences about the cement though and the houses foundation – were you trying to show the family as poor? Otherwise your don’t really need those two sentences. It doesn’t add a lot of visual. Also this sentence is a little awkward, “She pushed off her forearm and elbow but fell back against the pillow, exhausted and sweaty”. Maybe ‘she pushed up onto’ to imply that she was trying to get up? Otherwise this is a great start. Great tension and a serious mood has been set up. Quick question for myself – is this a historical and where is it taking place?
April 21, 2013 at 2:50 pm
This is actually a very nice scene. I am slightly concerned with the “Dark and Stormy Night” beginning, which I don’t particularly like but I have heard agnets just hate that.
If you keep the opening, my suggestion would be to make it a bit more active. Here it is changed up a bit.
The storm gained in ferocity by the quarter hour. The whistling wind whirled cotton ball snowflakes around the corners of the red insulbrick house.
The shorter first sentence makes a better mood. Do you feel the change with the active sentence structure?
April 23, 2013 at 3:17 pm
Thank YOU, Jennifer. Active verbs. Active verbs. I slip up without realizing I am.
This is a new approach for me as the storm has everything to do with the story and is almost a character. Guess I took my eyes off the ball. Thank you, again.
April 23, 2013 at 3:34 pm
Then leave the storm beginning. Just make it active so it has more punch. Good luck!
April 29, 2013 at 9:10 pm
I’m back to the drawing board. Thanks for taking the time to come back again, Jennifer.
April 21, 2013 at 5:57 pm
Great opening, you can feel it, see it, hear it. That’s impressive.
April 22, 2013 at 1:31 am
I think I might either skip the first paragraph and get straight to the action or move it down the page? Good story that I would like more of!
April 29, 2013 at 9:12 pm
I’ve been add and subtracting here and there. The suggestions are all helpful. Thank you, Gilly.
April 22, 2013 at 7:31 am
The scene can be set with a shorter description of the storm and its impact on the home. I think the poverty is set up with this. I like the change Jennifer suggested.
The suggestion M. Ziegler made for a change to the one sentence is also one that would help.
The only other problem I see is her sister leaving in a storm unless this will be part of the story, the desperation.
April 22, 2013 at 12:30 pm
Very vivid description Tess.
To be poor – never an easy thing.
April 23, 2013 at 11:18 pm
What everyone said about the active verbs and shortening stuff.
Unlike some, I like the foundation. Up to you, of course. But maybe: “The foundation of the house wasn’t even anchored in cement, but sat in doubt on blocks of cement, one at each corner, and one in-between on each side.” could become “The foundation of the house huddled in doubt on blocks of cement, one at each corner, and one in-between on each side.”
““Shush, shush, Rosa. Try to relax. You doing fine,” said the husky voice of her sister-in-law who pulled the wool blanket tighter around her own shoulders.” The dialogue tag is a bit confusing here. Maybe something like: “Shush, shush, Rosa. Try to relax. You doing fine,” her sister-in-law pulled the wool blanket tighter around her own shoulders.
Outside of your verbs, though, your storm description is chilly and terrifying. I especially feel the wind. Brr!
April 29, 2013 at 9:05 pm
Your suggestion is cutting more to the chase. Thanks for the suggestions. I appreciate your taking the time to being so thorough, Caitlin.
May 19, 2013 at 2:18 pm
You really captured a mood, a situation, and the personalities. I found this very engaging, Tess. Well done!
May 24, 2013 at 8:47 pm
I’m shining up a lovely red apple for you. I hope you like it. Thanks you, Naomi. You are most generous.