Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What's Broken? #1

TITLE: The Legacy of the Eye
GENRE: Science Fiction Romance

David and Catrine are leaving the school grounds for the first time since their enrolment at the age of 2. They are both 18, unsupervised for the first time, and on their way to meet the council. Catrine is nervous, David looks ready to conquer the galaxy.

David led her down the footpath closest to them, which started by a simple two-tiered stone pool and bowl adorned solely with the letter W three times around its circumference. They followed the path toward the larger fountain farther ahead. The violet beds on either side were in different shades of blue, dark-colored at first then lighter the deeper into the park they walked. The fragrance of the flowers, on the other hand, intensified toward the middle of the Center Gardens.

The perfume in the air stirred Catrine's empty stomach and she soon regretted their route. She squeezed David's hand for support when her step faltered and he halted.

"What's wrong?" he asked. "You look pale."

"Just a headache. I should have eaten more for lunch." And breakfast.

"Let me help you to the fountain. You can splash some cool water on your face."

He slipped his arm around her waist and her heart rate doubled its pace. Catrine took a deep breath to clear her head, but the cloying smell only made her dizzy. She staggered the next few steps towards the lilies that surrounded the fountain, leaning on David for support. She needed to get away from the perfume of the flowers, so she buried her face in his chest to mask the scent.

He enveloped her in a hug and his hand stroked her back. "Relax, Cat. You're just stressed about the proposal defense. Everything will be fine."

His voice was low and soothing. Aided by the smell and warmth of his body, Catrine could feel her anxiety dispel. When she looked up several minutes later, David’s dark eyes smiled at her. She wanted to thank him for being there, so she rose to her toes to give him a kiss. But instead of the friendly peck on the cheek they had often exchanged, their mouths joined in an embrace that did not let go.

Catrine tasted the sweetness of the lilies on his soft lips. It mingled with the alluring smells around her and the enchanting melody of trickling water coming from the fountains in the park. The kiss that had started as endearing gathered intensity like the scent of the flowers throughout their stroll in the garden. Catrine interlaced her fingers with the hair at the nape of David's neck and pulled him even closer. The hands that held her seemed to burn her skin through her tunic.

Then David broke off the kiss gasping for breath and stepped back. “Why did you do that?”

I did? “You kissed me too.”

He ran his fingers through his hair as he turned his back to her. “You started it.”

“I didn’t mean to.” Or did I?

Catrine needed to sit, but she saw no bench. They had never kissed like that before. And considering how much time she had spent with David in the last eight years, no one else had either.

David grabbed her hand. "We're late."

He dragged her through the violet bed, heading northeast.


  1. Hi, first I'm curious if this is the beginning of the book? I'm hoping not since there are too many questions I hope were already answered by the time we get here.

    You have a sweetness to the descriptions and the characters that's very appealing. I do hope that Catrine is a little less of a wilting flower prior to this scene.

    I think the biggest problem here is sentence structure. There a lot of extra words, passive phrases. One sentence after another can be tighter and cleaner. For example, the first sentence: you don't have to say 'closest to them' you can just say 'down the closest footpath' and instead of 'toward the larger fountain farther ahead' 'toward the larger fountain'. In other words, the fact that the fountain is further ahead is implied by them walking. The fact that the path is closest to them is implied by saying 'closest'.

    This sentence should really be two - She squeezed David's hand for support when her step faltered and he halted.
    She squeezed is one thought and he halted is a second thought. The way it's written right now it sounds that she squeezed his hand when she faltered AND he halted. (him halting caused the squeezing).

    I kind wish I knew what came before this because I'd like to know why she suddenly kissed him and why he is so apparently uncomfortable about it.

    With some tight edits, you can have a very nice romance here. Good luck!

  2. Thanks Emma.

    Just so you know, this is pages 3-4 of chapter 1. A previous version of the first page can be found here:

  3. Out of curiosity, what is the time period here? The language feels a little formal and puts some space between the story and the reader. And I think it goes along with what Emma said about tightening tighten this up. I think that will help pull the reader in more and help the flow. For example, “Instead of the friendly peck on the cheek they had often exchanged” maybe just say “instead of the customary peck on the cheek” and “Catrine interlaced her fingers with the hair at the nape of David’s neck” might work better as “Catrine gripped David’s hair and pulled him even closer”.

    When you’re describing their kiss, I think it might have a stronger impact if she is more focused on the feel of him pressed up against her and what the kiss does to her physically and emotionally rather than trying to weave in imagery about the flowers and the fountains. You don’t have to get too graphic, but I think we need to get a feel for what it does to her so we can start to fall in love with David from the start (if he’s our love interest). Also, the smell of the flowers was initially making her sick, so it’s a little confusing that all of a sudden the scents are “alluring”. Really it’s David that is alluring and something about him is blocking the intense smells that were making her sick, right?

    I hope this helps some. Good luck!

  4. I agree with Emma that this could benefit from some tightening. In addition to the passive phrasing she mentioned, I thought there were too many adjectives in the paragraph that describes the kiss: "alluring smells" and "enchanting melody" could just be "the scent of the flowers and the trickling of the fountains." (Also, "alluring" was an odd word choice, considering the flowers had been making her sick.) The sentence that begins "The hands that held her..." could be intensified by shortening it to "His hands burned through her tunic."

    David's line of dialogue that began "Let me help you to the fountain" sounded stilted to me. It would be fine if he always spoke in a formal manner but the rest of his dialogue is much more natural.

  5. Hi,

    I too think it could use a bit more tightening. I also agree with Rebecca about the fountain line.

    I liked the garden once I could visualize it but found the initial description a bit confusing.

    I, too, want to know why her kiss has such an effect on him, and I'm wondering if the proposal hearing is what I think it is? :)

    For this being the first 3-4 pages, I'd like to see a tiny bit more sci-fi-- I feel like world-building should be strongly in place this early in the book.

    But please take this with a grain of salt-- such a short excerpt makes it difficult to critique without nailing things you probably do just fine elsewhere. Hope this is helpful!

  6. The first paragraph reads like directions. I usually skim these paragraphs in novels. What flowers are giving off fragrance? Be specific. If it's the violet beds (assuming you mean the type of flowers not the color of the flowers), I don't recall them having much of a scent.

    How did the perfumed air affect her stomach? Stirred doesn't say positive or negative.

    Now the lilies mentioned later could be overwhelmed in scent. I used star gazers in my wedding attendant bouquets and they about knocked them out!

    There's quite a bit about the perfumed flowers. I would mention it maybe once in the paragraph where you mention the "cloying smell" and leave it at that.

    I agree that the language sounds very formal in places. But that conflicts with lines like, "Relax, Cat. You're just stressed . . ." that don't sound as old-fashioned.

    "When she looked up several minutes latter" sounds like she took a nap on his chest.

    "Their mouths joined in an embrace that did not let go" - This is beautifully worded, but I would have expected a more tentative kiss first and then work up to this line. String the reader along.

    Why did he have the taste of lilies on his lips? And before the smells around her were making her feel faint.

    "Why did you do that?" - seems so negative. It seems like an accusation. He could say that they can't do this.

    "And considering how much time . . ., no one else had either." - Not sure what the no one else had either means. Perhaps that neither of them had kissed anyone else. It really made me stumble.

    Last line about the direction (northeast) - replace with where they are going.

    I'm not seeing what propelled her to kiss him in this scene. This is only 3-4 pages into the ms, so I'm assuming we don't know prior to this section. Did she think he wanted to kiss her? Did she misread something he does as a sign? You can make it seem like a mistake on her part and then have him pull away surprised, but not angry. Give us something. Perhaps she notices how soft his lips look and she decides to taste them.

    Hope this is helpful. Good luck with your revisions!

  7. I found too much description of the scenery, it overpowers the action. There are too many things you are trying to get into the readers head - the pool, the letters around it, the fountain, the violet beds (which get another mention further on), the colour of the violets, the fragrance of the flowers, the lilies that surround the fountain ... sorry - I got a little muddled trying to 'see' all this as I read.

    Secondly, you mention smells lots of times, not only is she overwhelmed by smell, she can taste it on his lips too. I know it's good to include all the senses, but the kiss scene has three separate references to smell alone.

    I didn't 'feel' the kiss. Your description doesn't have enough emotion, and their reaction seems MUCH to calm and accepting. You're telling me that 'the hands that held her seemed to burn her skin' - show me this, show me what she's feeling. What does she feel as she puts her hands around his neck and pulls him closer

    Then you drop the whole bundle and cut it all short by having him drag her off towards the violet bed.

  8. Some of your phrasing is a little too long. For me, it slowed things down too much.

    You have beautiful writing and a clear gift for description, but I found this focused a little too much on the external imagery, and not enough on what Catrine is feeling in the moment. The kiss wasn't exciting; it lacked tension and emotion, because of all the imagery and metaphor about the park. It was good imagery, it was just out of place; it interrupted the kiss.

    Try and get inside Catrine's head; think what her body would be doing, where her senses would be most focused, question how much she wanted this kiss.

    But just to say, you clearly have a gift for writing. Everyone has different strengths. While I don't think anyone needs to teach you how to set a scene, it might be worth looking at kiss scenes you've enjoyed and analysing what made them good.