I have had five critiques on the opening two chapters of my novel and phew they don’t hate it. I averaged 3.5 stars out of 5 over all. I scored highest on concept, structure and dialogue. Character was still a three. So that’s ok.
Everyone thought that my main character Leah sounded a realistic eighteen year old with a serious problem (she just found out her older sister is dead), though a little more exposition on her personality and her relationship with her sister would strengthen the opening. They thought the set up of the story worked and was intriguing.
Things I need to work on:
In places I slip into telling the reader my characters feelings rather than showing them. I need to look at published authors to see how they show internal thoughts/dialogue in first person.
My body language description around dialogue and emotional scenes is lacking in places, given the shock/anger/grief the family are experiencing.
I’ve used flashback a little to show snippets of the sister relationship. I’ve been unsure how much to put in. A tutor recently said he hated them and stories should always flow forwards. But in a murder mystery, where the story unfolds in two timelines, the younger sister is retracing the steps of her big sister to find out how she died, flash back is essential I think. It’s a question of how much and how often. One critique said the flashbacks really helped to expose the characters and conflict, more so than the opening police scene. Something to think about.
My novel starts with a quote from an American Poet Laureate called Louise Gluck.
“Of two sisters, one is always the dancer, one the watcher.” This is the premise of the novel, the core theme is the sister relationship, in all ist conflict and contradiction. From the critiques I’ve learnt this is a strong concept but it needs to have a stronger presence in the opening chapters. The older sister Jenna, the dancer is dead mysteriously, the younger sister Leah, the watcher is compelled to find out why. But in so doing their roles are reversed and there is danger as she follows her sister’s footsteps to the end.
All this I’ll have to tighten up after completing the first draft. So back to drafting!