Critique #4

October 7th, 2010

This is from an urban fantasy. Set up:  Kathryn and Jimmy had been dating but not sleeping together, and she broke it off. They live in a rural area, and are, in fact, standing on the front porch of a modular home, formerly known as a trailer. No one else is around. Jimmy has never been abusive before now. Neither has Kathryn, although she doesn’t know she has more-than-human strength rolling through her blood now. Jimmy is confronting her not because she dumped him, but because he thinks she putting out for someone else when she wouldn’t for him. She slapped him and he slapped her back.

 “I know he was with you last night. Out parking. And I know he didn’t go home last night, so I figure he’s cozied up here. Getting a little somethin’ somethin’ that should be mine.”

“You arrogant asshole.” Kathryn’s blood rushed to her face as her anger trampled down her fear. One quick step and she raised her hand, arcing her arm as hard and fast as she could as she returned Jimmy’s slap, with interest.[I feel like this sentence is saying the same thing three times- she raises her hand and arcs her arm and returns a slap with interest. I’d cut one of those and stick with your favorite (mine would be ‘She raised her hand to return Jimmy’s slap… with interest.’)

It was his turn to stagger a step back. He rubbed his jaw and grinned at her. “You really shouldn’t have done that. I don’t take shit from women.” He rolled his shoulders, watching her. [You start off with a great threat from Jimmy, and then follow up with him being passive. The scene would carry a lot more weight if he says that and then wades into her, giving her a chance to defend. It also makes him a clear aggressor.]

Kathryn planted her left foot and shifted her weight. Her right foot went back, toes resting lightly on the snowy deck. She dimly registered that she was standing barefoot in the snow.[I like this little paragraph, but I think you should move it to right after she slaps him. I also think you should get a little more visceral with the barefoot in the snow part. “She dimly registered that she was standing barefoot in the snow.” is pretty dry. Ever stuck your bare foot into snow? Your skin prickles with sharp ice crystals, the shock of the cold drives your blood to seek warmer climes, your bones ache, etc. You’re not hurting the pacing of the narrative at all to use a visceral, descriptive sentence instead of a simple declarative.]

When he came forward, [How did he come? Did he charge in a bull rush? Did he sidle in like a nervous prizefighter? Give us something we can see in our mind.] she was ready. The first time. His slap missed but the backhanded blow half-connected with the side of her head. [And how did that feel? It’s not going to hurt the pacing to give us some “insider information” about Kathryn’s feelings, so long as you limit it to a few words here and there. Put the audience inside her head.] She blinked back stars, pivoted and drove her foot into his stomach.

Out of practice, she didn’t have as much force as she should have. His reach was longer. She hoped her head was clearer. [I think these prior sentences could be cut. They’re too dry and analytical and drag the pacing down.] He grabbed her from the side then slipped on some ice. She brought her heel down on the inside of his knee and he went down. [This, by the way, is extremely painful and he might not bounce right back up again, unless he’s really drunk. It also doesn’t take much lateral force to dislocate a knee. With her unknown more-than-human strength, it’s very likely she would dislocate it with this type of blow. That would be, uh, pretty difficult for him to recover from. Maybe if you decide to have that happen, she responds to his name-calling instead of a new attack from him.] He lurched back to his feet, swearing at her, calling her bitch and whore and worse. [Don’t tell us what he said; have him say it. That has more power in the narrative. You may have a problem typing out the words “You fucking cunt whore!” but the fact is, that will make Jimmy seem more real and make Kathryn’s response more valid.] One clout connected with her shoulder, another glanced off her skull. When he charged her, every self-defense class she’d ever taken deserted her. She danced to one side and skipped around him. She grabbed his arm and used his momentum to slam him into the porch railing. [“Dancing” and “skipping” are playful, lighthearted verbs. They don’t convey the right feel for a combat situation unless she’s toying with him and enjoying herself doing it. How about “She dodged to one side and attacked his flank by grabbing his arm and slamming him into the porch railing.”

[Pacing-wise, this should be part of the previous paragraph as it completes the action begun with her slamming him into the railing.] He stayed bent over it for a minute. She thought he’d give up, go away. But he stood up again and came at her, limping a little.[Or a LOT if his knee is hanging sideways. 😉 ]

Nothing fancy this time, she aimed straight for his crotch and poured every bit of anger and misery she felt into her effort. [“Her effort” is taking the easy way out. What did she do? Did she punch his nuts a la the Cockknocker? Seismic knee-lift? Fire a fifty yard field goal between the uprights of his legs? Don’t leave the action up to the reader to imagine; show us what happens instead.] The contact lifted him off his toes. When he came down, he kept going down, but Kathryn grabbed his hair before he could fall and slammed his face into her knee.[I like the imagery in this last sentence, but it should be broken into two sentences for better effect.]

Pain shot through her leg. If that hurt him half as much as it hurt her, she’d be happy.

He collapsed to the ground. The sounds coming out of him sounded like a cat with a hairball stuck halfway up its throat.[This is good. One of the best descriptive sentences in the entire scene. This is the kind of visceral feeling you should shoot for in your combat as well. Ew. LOL]

If she acted quickly, she could bring her heel down, hard, on his throat and stop that noise forever. Stop everything about him forever.

[I feel like you’ve got a good start to a scene here. The Hero and Opponent are clear, as is the conflict. Don’t be afraid to wade in and get your hands dirty, though. Dry, analytical description makes for a boring scene. You showed you’ve got the sense of powerful phrases in that next-to-last paragraph. Bring that skill into the rest of the scene and it will POP. Thanks for your submission!]

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