Open Pen

Twinpathy: An Open Pen Critique

I am finally posting the Open Pen Critiques that were submitted a while back. Thanks for being patient as I post each one over the next few weeks! Today, we have a novel excerpt from C.B. Cook who blogs over at The World of the Writer. In fact, if you love the story posted here, you can head over to her blog where she has turned this into a series and read more!

C.B. Cook would love to have a simple question answered: Would you keep reading? Also she would love to hear your thoughts on characters, action, and really anything else that crosses your mind.

Next week, we have an piece from Sami P., and the week after that, we will be critiquing a novel excerpt from ReadLoveExpress22. If you could like to have a piece critiqued, you can check out the rules and submit on this page.

Have a great week, and thanks for your comments on C.B. Cook’s piece!

God bless,

Gabrielle

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Twinpathy: Part 1 by C.B. Cook

Hello, my name is Albany, and I have a telepathic connection with my twin sister, along with the ability to read minds. Brooklyn can sense and manipulate emotions.

Well, that may not be the best start, but I’m pretty proud of it. It makes this sound like it’s going to be an awesome story. Which it is. But the beginning… well… I promise it’ll get more exciting than this.

“Go fish.”

Denver, my older brother, moans and draws a card from the small stack. “How can you guys beat me at everything?”

Brooklyn, twin sister extraordinaire and social butterfly, gives him a mischievous grin. “You’re just too obvious.”

Denver gives me a helpless look, and I shrug. “I’m losing, too.”

“And if I win…” Brooklyn studies her hand. “You have to treat me to dinner, Denver.”

He makes a moaning sound. “Okay, fine. But not tonight. You know I’ve got a date.”

Brooklyn makes a face. If there’s one thing she dislikes, it’s Denver dating. She would definitely prefer to only have to share him with me and Mom and Dad. It doesn’t matter to her that Ezra’s a sweet, slightly awkward girl that Denver’s gone head over heels for. It also doesn’t matter to her that she hardly does anything with him, anyway… but I digress.

“Two,” Brooklyn says to me. I mutter something under my breath and hand a card to her. She sniffs the air. “Your cookies are burning.”

I fly into the kitchen. I’m no cook, but I had to try the bacon cookie recipe I found. I mean, hello, bacon and cookies! My two favorite foods just have to be amazing together. I should’ve known I’d burn them. I can’t cook anything.

I pull out the extra crispy cookies just as the doorbell rings. “You should get that while you’re up,” Denver calls. I roll my eyes. I’ll be he and Brooklyn are laughing. I hate checking the door. Technically, since Mom and Dad aren’t here – they’re on a date – Denver should answer the door, since he’s the oldest. But of course they’ll make me do it. I check the cookies. Yep, they’re burnt enough that no one will want to eat them, not even me. I’ll have to beg Mom to try the recipe for me. What a waste of bacon and cookie. I sigh and wipe my hands on a towel before heading to the door.

I peer out the peephole and don’t see anything until I look down. There, on our doorstep, is a little girl in a ratty red dress, hair tangled and face smudged. She looks around eight years old, maybe a little less. I send a mental image of her to Brooklyn before opening the door.

“Hello,” I say, gazing at her. I notices she’s not wearing shoes, and her dress looks fairly new, just a little dirty. “Who are you?”

She looks up at me with haunting blue eyes – hollow, scared, lost. Her mouth opens, as if she’s going to speak, but an odd expression crosses her face. She wobbles, then crumples to the ground, out cold.

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16 thoughts on “Twinpathy: An Open Pen Critique”

  1. Hello,
    I loved it! So yes, I would keep reading! One thing I would change is this line: “I’ll be he and Brooklyn are laughing.” It just doesn’t make any sense.
    I really loved how you used cities to name the characters. It definitely makes them rememberable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. First off, I really like this. I love how you personalized the story by adding the fact that the character likes bacon and cookies and when introducing that you had great voice. I, personally, am not a fan of opening books with the POV character talking to the audience and I feel it would be far more intriguing if the readers found out about the sister’s telepathic connections on their own. It’s rewarding for readers to unravel mysteries by themselves and they commit to books more easily when they do. However, some people like the narrating thing so that’s your decision. Great job at introducing conflict at the very start. I would definitely keep reading. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I know a lot of people don’t like the narration, so I might change it, but it’s also something my main character would do. 😀 Thanks so much for you comment!

      Like

    2. I agree with Carmen. The story was interesting, and Albany was a likable character. The introduction threw me off when she broke the fourth wall though. Other than that, I would love to read the rest of your story PROVERBS31TEEN! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Greetings 🙂
    I would most likely keep reading! I liked how you made the characters personable, but as the previous commenter (Carmen N) stated, I also am not a huge fan of books with just a single character’s POV, as I feel it restricts the other characters. I think it would be interesting if during an argument Albany kept retorting to Brooklyn’s arguments before she even stated them while Brooklyn manipulated her emotions 🙂 Overall, this sounds like a really interesting idea!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey, C.B!

    (By the way, it is slightly strange calling you C.B. Cook—it is so formal, and I first got to know you through the comments where you are Proverbs31Teen. Do you have any nicknames for online? Otherwise, I might improvise and call you Ceiby.)

    I have to agree with some of the other commenters on what they are saying about your first paragraph. I don’t mind the first person and single person POV (personally, I prefer only a single POV in a story, but I have seen multiple POVs work very well, too.) My problem with the introduction is that it is so simple and obvious that it isn’t very interesting. Your intro sounds like any teen might write in introduction in their own story, but that is actually an issue. Your intro sounds like any teen could write it—it sounds like poor writing, and I know you are a great writer. I know you can write a much better introduction while keeping your character’s voice. To be frank, if this was the first paragraph of a book that I picked up off a shelf, I would not continue reading. I would suggest rewriting the first paragraph and completely taking out the first person POV there (but leaving it in the rest of the novel) and making it more literary and eloquent in nature. That could contrast well with your second paragraph and flow into the comments, “I’m pretty proud of it” and “sounds like it’s going to be an awesome story,” better (because right now there is nothing to be proud of in the first paragraph.) Also I think the contrast would actually showcase your character’s voice even more when we reach the second paragraph.

    When I came to your third paragraph (“Go Fish.”), I couldn’t help but wonder why you have your first two paragraphs at all. There is an jump from the second to the third paragraph, and all the information you give in the first two paragraphs could be incorporated much more naturally in the narrative rather than in exposition. Also your character’s voice is very clear in the rest of the story, so you don’t need the first paragraphs to establish her voice. Maybe consider cutting the first two paragraphs?

    I am not sure that I like how aware Albany is that she is the narrator. I think little sprinkles of “fourth wall” breaks are fine (such as your second paragraph), but maybe limit it to once a chapter. I was beginning to get annoyed by the time I read the “I digress” comment from her. You can cut comments like that without taking anything from the story.

    As for your characters, I do think that I like Albany, but I would appreciate less narration and fourth wall breaks from her (as I said before). That makes her a bit annoying (to me anyways), but I think she is generally a likeable character (and I liked her more as I read on.) You did an excellent job giving her quirks and a distant personality. The excerpt is short, so I did not get to see much of Brooklyn, but in general, I think she might not be quite as likeable. She seems manipulative (how she gets Denver to take her to dinner) and the reader suspects that she might be cheating in the game because of her powers. Also the fact that she is so possessive over her brother, is an “extraordinaire,” and “social butterfly” doesn’t endear her to the reader. She seems too perfect and at the same time too unlikeable—at least, that is my first impression. Maybe give her a few more acceptable flaws (like being clumsy or bad at board games) and then make it clear that she isn’t cheating in the game and has higher morals. I don’t know how big of a character Denver is, but while he doesn’t stand out as a bland character, I do feel like he was just the stereotypical older brother. Maybe give him a few goals, motivations, and quirks of his own, and he will become more “real.”

    I thought your action was pretty good, but again, I think you should limit how much you break it up with narration. Comments like “I hate checking the door” probably should be shown rather than told so that you don’t break up the action. But overall, your action was very good and your first chapter had a good pace and would keep a reader interested. There was one paragraph where your action was a bit muddled and confusion, but if you reorganize the action and thought process so that it happens in order, I don’t think you will have a problem. Try reorganizing the paragraph 12 so that it is clear that Albany first checks her cookies, sees that they are slightly burnt, and gives commentary on her cookies, then (change in topic) Denver tells her to get the door and she thinks about who should be answering the door. This way your reader doesn’t have to jump back and forth.

    Some notes on little details:
    – In your 5th and 6th paragraphs, you use “gives” right before describing a specific face; you might want to cut one.
    – Denver moans twice, in a row (paragraph 4 and 8)
    – Ezra is definitely a guy’s name. Since I doubt that Ezra will be playing a major role, you should probably pick a girl’s name instead to avoid confusion.
    – You can’t “look down” in a peephole. It is almost impossible if I remember correctly.

    Good luck with your story/series thing! I enjoyed reading this piece!

    God bless,
    Gabrielle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Gabrielle! This is super helpful. (I do go by C.B. most of the time, and I can’t think of any online nicknames, so if you want to call me Ceiby, that’s fine with me!) I have edited some of the paragraphing and content since I shared this, and I’m definitely working on the first two lines. Thanks for all the tips for narration!
      And on Ezra – she actually becomes more of a prominent character. I might change the name, but it kind of suits her, so we’ll see.
      Thanks so much for posting this, and for your critique!

      Like

      1. You’re welcome. Okay, then I might call you, Ceiby. It just looks more like a name than C.B.
        Okay. Ezra could actually be a really cool name for a girl– especially if you work it into her character and use it as a quirk. I just wanted to check and see if she was a minor character because then it could be distracting, so I am sure it will be great since she is a more major character.

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  5. Gabrielle’s feedback is awesome. I’d just add that you might want to start where the action is–reading about a bunch of teens playing goldfish and cooking isn’t the most engaging hook. It’s when the stranger collapses on the threshold that the reader starts being sucked into the story. I would recommend starting with Gabrielle hearing the doorbell. She could dump the cookies on the stove and walk past the room where her family/friends are playing games (so that we get a very brief glimpse of the scene). But get the moment of peril as close to the start as you can.

    You’ll also want to watch how much telling your narrator does (as Gabrielle mentioned in her critiques of breaking the fourth wall). Though it’s difficult, the narration will feel more organic if you show us the information instead of telling. (For instance, showing that she hates answering the door, or even that she and her twin are telepathic.)

    Since you asked about characters, this opening could be strengthened if we knew more about Albany. I don’t mean just what sort of foods she likes (though bacon cookies is a great, unique choice to be having her bake!). What does she want? What tension are we going to explore with her in this story? We don’t get much of a sense of that in this scene–in fact, we get more of a sense of her twin. Some hint about Albany’s conflict would add to the hook and pull the reader forward.

    Great draft! And good luck in your story!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. In agreement with what some have already said, I did not care for the narrative beginning. However, I loved the card game and conversation. It had a delightful feel of lightness with an undertone of competition. I was quickly interested in the three siblings. Where would Brooklyn’s manipulation take her? Did Denver ever feel left out? What kind of person was Albany? I did not love any of them yet, but I felt as though they were important and I wanted to hear more about them. Then, out of the blue, this stranger showed up and ruined everything. I threw a mental temper tantrum, I wanted to hear about the siblings, not this weird eight year old! This is where, had I been leafing through it in a bookstore, I would have set the book down and decided not to buy it after all.
    Now I can’t really say if my feelings were justified, since I have no clue where the story is going, but here are a few ideas for how the pacing might have felt better to me. One, start the story with the little girl on the doorstep, or going toward the house, then switch to the inside so that all through the card game you are wondering who the girl is (note: this would mean you would have to switch to a detached, omniscient, point of view). Two, start with the card game and build up the sibling characters until we really care about them and then drop a bombshell on them (figuratively). Three, start with the card game and have one or both twins sense that something is wrong outside thus giving the reader some warning that there is something deeper to this story than Go Fish. I do not know if any of these really fit your story, and perhaps I am over sensitive, after all no one else seems to have had a problem with your eight year old.
    Over all it was fascinating!~Jane Blake

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