Open Pen

Serpentine: An Open Pen Critique

This Saturday, we have a dialogue excerpt from the middle of a novel by Jane Blake who blogs over at Serious Twenty Somethings.

The background information for the excerpt is that Ristauer, otherwise called Ristel, and Tierce are brothers (Ristauer is the elder by five years), and Tierce is apprenticed to an explorer. At this point in the story, it is late November, and Ristauer has been gone for a month with two of his friends on a fun hunting trip.

Jane would love to have a critique on her dialogue: formatting, grammar, if the conversation flows, and makes sense emotionally and logically.

Thank you for taking the time to make a few comments on her piece. Even short, simple comments are very helpful.

The current queue for Open Pen is as follows:

  1. MaryAnn
  2. Gabby
  3. Readloveexpress22
  4. Elizabeth Dearman
  5. Red652

If you would like to submit a piece of writing to be critique, you can read the rules and submit on the Open Pen page.

God bless,



Serpentine by Jane Blake

Tierce woke late in the night to the slamming of the bedroom door.
“Are you awake?” Came Ristauer’s voice in a loud whisper.
“I am now.”
“Sorry. What a glorious night! Why do you have the curtains closed? It is a full moon. Do you know? I am beginning to enjoy sleeping out on cold nights. There is something exhilarating about sleeping unprotected under the stars. You aren’t asleep are you?”
“There is something I want to show you.”
“Not now, later, next week perhaps.”
“Why an earth are you telling me now?”
“‘Why on earth!’ Appropriate expression for an explorer. Mind if I open the window? It’s stifling in here.”
“Good night!” Said Tierce, and buried himself in his blanket as cold air swept toward him from the window.
“No, stay awake! I was going to tell you about what I want to show you, remember?”
“All right. What is it?”
“You must tell no one; it is a great secret.”
“What in the world are you talking about?”
“You promise not to tell?”
“No, you must promise.”
“Very well, I promise, but go on!”
“You’ll never believe it!”
“If we go on at this rate I expect not.”
“Don’t interrupt.” Said Ristel distantly, still looking into the courtyard with his back to the room. “What a glorious night!”
“I promise never to reveal that fascinating fact to any living soul, even under the cruelest torture.”
“Don’t be ridiculous! of course that is not what I want to tell you, and if you would stop interrupting, I might be able to get a word in edgewise.”
“I’m all ears.”
“No, you are all sarcasm. Maybe I won’t tell you after all.”
Tierce lay down laughing. For the moment all the reverie had disappeared from his brother’s voice and it had become even slightly sulky. But the moment was gone and Ristel’s voice came through the moonlight tingling with excitement.
“There is a dragon in Drispen, Tierce. Felletras, Nisseal, and I brought it back with us, and we are convinced that it is tractable!”
“A dragon?” Triece said sitting up again and staring. “But you were hunting!”
“Yes, hunting dragons. It was Felletras’ idea. That man is brilliant Tierce! How many years have we known about dragons? Six hundred? And until now no one has even considered . . .”
“What are you talking about?” Tierce interrupted “You said you and Felletras brought a dragon back. Back from where? Where is it now?”
“Yes.” Said Ristel patiently. “I told you, we brought a dragon back from our hunting trip. I’ll show it to you soon.”
“But dragons are dangerous!”
“Not really, not if you know how to deal with them.” Ristel stretched. “There is no way I can sleep yet, I’m going for a walk.”
Tierce lay thinking. After some time, Ristel returned and when his breathing deepened, Tierce got up quietly and closed the window. He woke in the early grey of dawn to find it open again and Ristauer moving about, whistling like a bird.


7 thoughts on “Serpentine: An Open Pen Critique”

  1. Jane, I love the personalities you gave the two brothers Ristauer and Tierce! I really liked the dialogue between these two. I thought the conversation flowed well and made sense emotionally, but don’t forget to remind the reader who’s saying what. Their conversation was great, don’t get me wrong, but if you don’t include something after dialogue, the reader will either get confused and read the conversation wrong or they will forget who’s talking. Maybe try something like:
    “Why on earth are you telling me now?” Tierce asked, feeling a bit annoyed.
    This way the reader will understand who’s talking. The loose end about the dragon caught from the hunting trip was interesting, and it left me feeling curious and wanting more of Serpentine. Please submit more pieces of this story Jane! 😀
    Happy writing, and God bless!


    1. I actually disagree with Sami here. I think you included the perfect amount of dialogue tags. If you tag every quote, then your narrative begins to get too heavy and pull the reader out of the action, and with only two characters, it is easy to tell which one is talking simply my alternating speakers.


      1. I thought it was very easy to follow. The tags you put in weren’t distracting, and the tags you left out weren’t needed.

        Aside from that, I found some technical errors, but the only major thing I noted on a quick read through was that I had to go back and reread your last paragraph to figure out exactly what Tierce did (at first I thought he was getting up to look for the dragon, you never said he stopped thinking or went to sleep, etc.). Oh, you also never made it clear that Ristel was a nickname for Ristauer. I was able to infer that because there were only two people in the narrative, but if that hadn’t been the case it could have gotten confusing, as -el isn’t a common ending for abbreviated names (Ristel as opposed to something more obvious like Risty or just Rist). It may be fine here, but it’s at least something to watch out for in the future.


      1. Hmm! This is confusing. I suppose the question is, did my lack of tags make it hard to know who was speaking? If so I would rather have heavy dialogue than distracting, confusing, dialogue. I will keep this in mind.


  2. Jane,
    I was not at all confusing in the dialog to me. It was very well written. I do have a question though: is your story called Serpentine, or is it called Lentis?
    By the way, I have already fallen in love with your characters. Now you have to finish it!


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