Today I’m posting a before and after of sorts. This is a scene ‘before’ I critiqued myself, then the same scene ‘after’. I’m posting this to show how scenes evolve after a critique. Feel free to offer your thoughts and suggestions!
Kersey Ledger sat in the therapy circle with eleven other crazies from Ward B. She held her hand to her nose, attempting to strike a contemplative pose rather than blatantly plugging her nostrils. The air stank of unwashed bodies and rotting chicken—thanks to Bo Coray and his chicken fetish. The suicidal, homicidal, or just plain psychotic didn’t care about trivial things like hygiene.
Dr. Payne handed a sheet of paper to her and held out the box of crayons for her to chose a color. They didn’t trust the residents of Ward B with pens or pencils. Guess no one had ever gotten shanked with a crayon.
What color should she choose? If she chose yellow or orange Dr. Payne would accuse her of trying too hard to be cheerful. If she chose red, he might think she was angry or having violent thoughts. If she chose blue or gray he’d accuse her of being depressed. If she chose black he’d assume she spiraling down a black hole. Whatever color she chose, she was going to have to defend it during their individual session tomorrow morning.
“Kersey, take a crayon.” Dr. Payne’s voice sounded like a calm ocean, but underneath the surface she heard the excited current. He wanted an excuse to increase her meds and decrease her ability to think clearly.
Shit. She grabbed the purple crayon. “Sorry.” Great. Now she was going to have to defend why she’d stared at the damned crayon box so long without choosing one. It wasn’t like she could tell him the truth. That the level of control he had over her life scared her almost as bad as that day.
That day. Her hand wandered to the six inch ridge of puckered flesh scarring her neck. Stop. He might see. If he did he would ask about that day. He would demand she talk about it or else put her on more meds. (end)
This is what it looks like when I critique myself. Every page looks like this. To anyone else this would look like a confusion of colors and lines and scribbles, but to me this makes perfect sense. I use Margie Lawson’s deep editing on everything I write, so that accounts for some of the colors. The words circled with lines drawn between them are all repeated words (echoes) that I found. I used some form of the word ‘choose’ seven times! Yikes.
Kersey Ledger sat in the therapy circle with eleven other crazies from Ward B. The pungent funk of unwashed bodies and rotting chicken—thanks to Bo Coray and his chicken fetish—hung heavy in the air. The suicidal, homicidal, or just plain psychotic didn’t care about trivial things like hygiene.
Dr. Payne wore his usual attire—three-hundred dollar shirt, perfectly tailored pants, and shoes so shiny when he stepped in front of her she could see her reflection in them. He looked too GQ to be a psychiatrist in this underfunded, overpopulated dump of mental hospital.
He handed her a sheet of paper. In what had once been bold letters, but now were more in the realm of fuzzy gray from over photocopying, it read:
Practice an attitude of gratitude!
List three things you are grateful for today!
Gratitude? Seriously? After two and half years of living on Ward B and dealing with Dr. Payne, there wasn’t a whole lot to be thankful for.
Dr. Payne held out the box of crayons to her. They didn’t trust the residents of Ward B with pens or pencils. Guess no one had ever gotten shanked with a Crayola.
“What color are you going to choose?” His words themselves were benign, but each syllable was threaded with judgment.
Her pulse pounded in her veins, her face got hot, her hand holding the paper began to shake.
If she selected yellow or orange he would say she was trying too hard to be cheerful. If she picked red, he might think she was angry or having violent thoughts. If she grabbed blue or gray he’d accuse her of being depressed. If she chose black he’d assume she wanted to disassociate. Whatever the color she was going to be wrong. She’d spend all of tomorrow’s individual session with him defending tonight’s color selection.
“Kersey. Take. A. Crayon.” Dr. Payne’s voice sounded like a calm ocean, but underneath the surface hungry sharks swam.
Shit. She grabbed the purple crayon.
“I can stay after group to help you process your reluctance.” His tone was full of fake helpfulness.
“No no no. I’m sorry. I was just daydreaming.” Great. Now she was going to have to come up with a reason why she’d stared at the damned crayon box so long without choosing one. It wasn’t like she could tell him the truth—that she had been trying to out think him. The level of control he had over her life scared her nearly as much as The Bad Man.
He moved on to Bo, handing him the paper and giving him a crayon, but she still felt the burden of his gaze on her—watching her, assessing her, looking for an excuse—any excuse—to increase her meds and decrease her ability to think.
She settled her hand over the six inch ridge of puckered skin scarring her neck. The old injury was always cold and the heat of her palm soothed something inside of her, reassuring her soul that she had already survived the worst of life and she would survive Ward B and Dr. Payne too. (end)
Only after I’ve critiqued myself, only after I’ve done everything I can do to make this the best it can be, only then will I send this on to my critique peeps to have them go over it too. And still they will find all sorts of things I didn’t see! That’s the beauty of getting a critique from other people. How about you? Do you see anything I need to change? I’d love to hear from you.
**Are you brave enough to be featured on Cheeky Critiques? Before you answer I need to tell you full name of this blog. It’s “Cheeky Critiques and Chocolate Too!” Every person who submits words to be critiqued gets chocolate chocolate chocolate! Just send your first 350 words to firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll critique them and then post the critique here so everyone will have a chance to read them and offer their thoughts. And I promise to make your critique much easier to read then mine!**