Old Writing Critique: Jailbreakers #0.5
Posted December 27th, 2019 by Zelda
in a perpetual predicament
A/N: Ena did this and now I'm re-joining the bandwagon because I love doing these.
In case you don't know, an old writing critique is a post where I make fun of my own terrible writing from years ago and you get to laugh at me. It's not entirely satire though; in the spirit of trying to be a good kp rolemodel for ye of the new generations I will do my best to make legitimate educational-ish comments while I drag my younger self through the mud.
Jailbreakers was a story that I completed and posted to kp in its entirety in 2016/17. Unfortunately I wound up deleting all of the chapters as a way to avoid starting trouble between my mom and my grandma. I'm still kind of sad about losing that, but here I am, older, more experienced, and ready to bully myself before anyone else gets a chance to. Let's begin!
I generally dislike prologues because they get misused a lot in interenet stories. A prologue is not just a really short first chapter, there should be something to set it apart from the rest of the story. It can be a look into the future as a way to create a round ending or anticipation for the ending, it can be a look into the past before the story begins (as this prologue is), or it can be written from a POV that is never used again in the story.
“Mo-om,” That hyphen hurts my eyes, it should not be there. Claire very first sentence: misspelled the protagonist's name.whined from the backseat, “Lisha won’t stop bugging me!”
Lisha stuck out her tongue at Claira, and Claira rolled her eyes. Alisha is sixteen and Claira is thirteen, and I know sibling rivalry is A Thing (because I have siblings) but like... are they young enough to act like this?
“I know who you liiiike.” Noooooooooo. No. I know I was trying to avoid italics, but this is worse. This is much worse. Lisha sang, leaning heavily on Claira’s shoulder.
“Bug off.” Stop writing dialogue. Just stop. You're bad at it. Claira shoved her sister away. Sweat was beginning to bead down the back of her neck, the air conditioning in the tiny Sunfire was working at full capacity to combat the blistering summer heat, but it hadn’t succeeded yet. Mhmm, yep. This is set in Canada, that blistering summer heat is lies.
“What? Are you shy?” Lisha leaned on Claira again, and batted her thick eyelashes up at her younger sister Can we not with the epithets? They weaken the writing a lot and it can't afford to be any weaker. Claira shoved her off again, but not before cracking a smile.
“Aha!” Lisha exclaimed, “Gotcha! I knew you had a crush, I knew it!”
“Shut up!” Claira shrieked, scowling.
“Keep it down back there girls, mommy is trying to drive.”
Claira watched her mom’s green eyes flicker up to the rear-view mirror, her forehead wrinkled the way it always did when a headache was setting in. Claira's forehead, or her mom's?
“MOM WATCH OUT!” Lisha screamed. Don't use all-caps in your dialogue. Don't do it. Don't make me read that garbage.
Something fast and big slammed into the side of their car. I was trying to achieve a sense of disorientation by making the description vague, but I think if another vehicle smashed into the car she was in, Claira would get a pretty good look at it. It's also implied that the other vehicle was, yes, fast and big. If it were small and slow it wouldn't have been much of a problem. Claira could only watch as the window shattered and the metal doorframe crumpled like a pop can right on top of Lisha. This seems like a good time to point out that I didn't use this character's given name at any point throughout this prologue (it's Alisha btw). Shards of glass and metal sprayed everywhere, catching Claira across the face. She screamed. Her hands went up "went up" to shield her face as her head whipped back and cracked against the window. The screech of metal-on-metal-on-ashphalt filled the air. Cracks spiderwebbed across the glass window from the impact of her skull slamming into it, she heard a chilling sound, a hollow snap that she could have sworn came from inside her head, Damn bro, her brain popped. and then the world went dark.
Okay, awesome, that's the end of that chapter. I think it's been very well established that I can't write dialogue to save my life. And if you're better at writing than younger me, you'll have noticed that nearly all the dialogue tags are wrong and trash, and there are comma splices because I can never escape those things.
This is a chapter that I've re-written a million times and can never get right, it's a piece that I thought was vital to the story. The playful bonding of the sisters before tragic loss, the crash, the very moment that Claira loses her sight. It all seemed worthy of its own chapter because how else was I supposed to get across how momentous and dramatic this moment was for Claira? And, okay, yeah, I really like writing angsty dramatic scenes. Looking back now it's obvious to me that this could have been cut even if I'd managed to salvage that awful dialogue. Anything and everything that is explained in this prologue is explained elsewhere in the book, meaning this scene offers nothing but cheap shock value. And I'll have you know that I prefer my shock value expensive.
The end, tune in next week for chapter one!
See more stories by The KP Mom