Untitled by Ingrid T.

LEIGH: I want to thank Ingrid for allowing me to critique her entry and to share comments. Since I frequently see common threads in student work, it’s useful to point out areas where many writers stumble, as well as areas where the writer has strengths she can build on.

Chapter 1

There she was again.

Paul sighed as she walked towards him. Her gait was smooth and her body flowed like water over a rock. As she walked closer, he let his eyes drift down the long line of her body. A small moan escaped form LEIGH: from his throat.

LEIGH: Interesting comparison here, her body flowing like water over a rock – it’s something that’s unusual and therefore makes the reader stop and take note.

She was a goddess. In all his days he had never seen a woman who was such perfection. She was tall and long legged. Her skirt was short and you could see her thighs flex with every step that she took. The halter top that she wore exposed her toned arms and shoulders. Her skin tone was a peaches and cream, that just begged to be tasted.

Her hair was the color of warm caramel and hung down her back and over her ass. God, he loved her ass. It was round and firm, more than a handful.

LEIGH: Nice description, letting the reader see exactly what Paul sees. The detail about legs and thighs and halter top and skin tone is more useful than the bit about being a goddess or being perfection – those things are more general and less meaningful. And I wonder if a guy would say “brown” rather than “caramel” – since it’s usually women who go for precision in colors – but perhaps since caramel’s a food, he might.

He shifted on the bench trying to adjust the erection that was growing behind his zipper of his jeans.

It didn’t help.

LEIGH: Yep, this sounds like a guy. But it also makes him sound a little creepy – sitting on a public park bench getting a hard-on fantasizing about a woman he doesn’t know.

She was close enough now that he could see her lovely golden-brown eyes. They reminded him of amber in the sunlight. Almond shaped and surrounded by thick black lashes.

LEIGH: Another nice description – I particularly like amber in sunlight, and almond shaped – very precise pictures.

He wished that she would turn them his way and just notice him for once.

She didn’t.

She passed him without a glance, leaving the lingering scent of vanilla and musk. He closed his eyes in frustration. Damn!

Opening his eyes, he turned to watch her go. She looked just as good going, as she did coming. His eyes fell on her luscious ass. Another moan sounded, as he all but drooled watching her hips sway with every step. He continued to watch until she turned the corner and disappeared from view. He slumped against the back of the bench, feeling glum. The rest of the day was downhill from here.

He had been sitting on this bench everyday for the last three weeks, ever since he first got a glimpse of ‘The Goddess’. His first view of her stunned him so much, that he stumbled and almost tripped at her feet.

Talk about humiliation! He wanted her to notice him, but not that way. He tried following her a dozen times, but she disappeared every time. It was almost weird the way she did that.

He settled further down on the bench. She was going to notice him, even if it killed him!

LEIGH: Here’s where I really start to wonder about Paul. Three weeks he’s been watching her, and he hasn’t made any move yet to draw her attention or start a conversation or apparently even smile at her to further their acquaintance? Why hasn’t he done something before now? What would a hero do? I suspect he’d have figured out a way to start a conversation long before now. Paul’s hesitation and lack of self-confidence makes me wonder if he’ll be a hero I can believe in, one I can trust to take care of the heroine.

******

He was sitting on the bench again.

He had been there every day for the last three weeks as she went home. Ever since se LEIGH: he practically fell at her feet, the man had held her attention. He had thick black hair that hung almost to his shoulders. It looked silky and shiny. His eyes were a warm chocolate brown. His face was handsome in a rough was. Long jean-covered legs were sprawled out in front of him and crossed at the ankles. He wore black tennis shoes on large feet.

His t-shirt was tight in all the right places. He looked big and strong, just the way she liked a man to be.

Physically he was the stuff her dreams were made of.

LEIGH: Another nice lyrical description, full of good details. And there’s a very nice symmetry to the way you’ve set this up, with the two of them having an almost poetic coincidence of thought as they consider each other.

In spite of the physical package, though, that wasn’t what caught her interest. It was the way he looked at her.

She saw him watching her as she walked up the street, and put a little more glide in her step as she neared him. She watched as his glance started at the top of her head and went all the way to her feet. He didn’t look at her the way most men did, with just lust on their faces. Yes, he had that, but he also looked at her like the sun rose and set at her feet. That was the different part. No one had ever looked at her like that before.

She walked past him without looking at him and she could feel the disappointment seeping from him. She felt his eyes burn down her body as she walked away.

Next time, she thought with a smile, she would stop and see if he was all that she thought or more.

LEIGH: Why is she waiting? If she wants to meet this guy, what’s going to be magical about tomorrow or next week? He’s been there twenty-one times already; it’s probably logical for her to think there will be a twenty-second time, but why not do something today?

There’s a tendency when we create characters to let them behave as if they have all the knowledge we have as their creators. Because YOU as the author know that Paul’s a great guy, just a bit shy, and that he worships the unnamed heroine and that he’s going to be her hero and her happy-ever-after and that he’s not going to give up and go away, this heroine is behaving as if she knows all that too. She doesn’t seem to consider that a guy watching her day after day might be a pervert, or that he might not be there the one day she decides to do something to get to know him. It’s as if she already knows he’s wonderful and he’s hers – the only question is when she’ll decide to claim him.

Chapter 2

Paul found himself on the bench the next night once again. He took a deep breath and blew it out.

He decided that it was time to be a man and stop being a coward. He would introduce himself to ‘The Goddess’. No more waiting around.

The anticipation was killing him though. Would she like him? Would she find him attractive? Hell, would she even give him the time of day? It was getting to the point that he would be lucky he didn’t throw up at her feet, the way his stomach was jumping.

LEIGH: Another interesting symmetry with them both deciding that Today’s The Day.

LEIGH: Paul’s physical reactions are very human – but are they like a hero?

She was later that usual tonight, so he had an even longer amount of time to worry about how things were going to go.

Glancing up, he saw her.

His stomach promptly dropped to his feet and he felt the contents of his stomach rise up into his throat. Closing his eyes, he drew in a slow, deep breath then just as slowly exhaled.

‘Don’t throw up. Don’t throw up. Please, God, don’t let me throw up.’ He kept up the mantra until his stomach settled some.

LEIGH: Maybe too human, here. One reference to being afraid that he’ll throw up is a good detail, one which lets us see how important this is to him. More than that and he begins to sound … I don’t know … maybe like he should be in an ad for Prilosec instead of a romance.

Felling LEIGH: Feeling somewhat better, he opened his eyes and yelped in surprise. Standing in front of him with a small frown on her face was ‘The Goddess’.

He felt his mental powers begin to disappear like fog on a sunny day. IQ, now down around 50.

LEIGH: This is cute, but again – is this a hero the reader is going to fall in love with? He seems to have so little self-confidence that he sounds more like a teenager than a mature man.

‘Are you alright?’ she asked.

LEIGH: Alright isn’t a word. It’s all right – always.

Her voice was all silk and warmth, he thought distantly. She sounded concerned.

He started smiling. She was concerned about him.

YES!! She finally acknowledged him!

His smile began to disappear and anxiety began to rush back. She spoke to him, and that meant he had to respond.

The stupid look had to go. IQ, back up over 100, please.

Shit!

His stomach began churning again and spots began to dance before his eyes.

LEIGH: Your writing style is smooth and lyrical, and in many ways this is like a prose poem. You’ve created lots of good sensory language (using scents, sounds and textures as well as sights) and easy-to-see images.

But when I look at the whole piece, my first reaction is that in the entire thousand words, nothing really happens. Paul and our unnamed heroine are like ships passing in the night. He thinks about her, she thinks about him, but there’s no interaction until the last few paragraphs. Even then, she asks one question – the only line of dialogue – and then Paul’s right back to thinking about himself, which only reinforces the image of him as an immature person.

Neither of them has learned anything about the other one; they haven’t done anything; there’s no hint of what sort of conflict these two might face – they’re just two people who have a vague interest in each other with nothing more than an initial physical reaction to base it on.

It’s much easier (relatively speaking) to write about an introspective character – the hero thinking about the heroine, the heroine thinking about the hero -than it is to put the two of them into a situation and make them talk to each other. This is a problem I see cropping up frequently in student writing. There’s a lot of thinking, sometimes even a lot of talking about irrelevant things (friends, pastimes, weather, what to drink), but there’s no action. Action carries the story forward and lets us see the characters’ problems and their developing relationship.

I’d like to see you start the story where this section ends – he’s sitting there, she walks up and asks if he’s all right, he answers… and then we start to find out what these two have in common, what they disagree about, what’s going to create tension between them and threaten to prevent them from reaching a happy ending. All that lovely lyrical language will then add texture and atmosphere to the action as you give us both the description and the events.

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