Battle of the Betas!

Beta throwdown, 2010! I’m like Bobby Flay, except with a Word document instead of red velvet cupcakes. A few lovely bloggers and I teamed up to each beta the same work, written by the lovely Sarah. Here is her original:

If Hana Larkhill had her way, her father’s body would be in a sailboat, rope and a flute in his hands, and she would watch him embark one last time toward the unknown at the eternal curve of the earth. Instead, James Larkhill lay in a sterile metal box at Faraday’s Funeral Home. Someone who did it for a living had caked his face with makeup. His delicate freckles were powdered out of existence. An old blue suit bound his body; even the strawberry gold of his curls had faded.

Hana’s mother, Noa Larkhill, hasn’t fought these depressing conventions. But she had insisted on an open casket. James’ face and shoulders were in tact and the suit covered his abdomen. But Hana felt the looming specter of his ruined lower body, smashed into irreparable pieces by an anonymous fender.

Faraday’s was cold, clean and modern—everything was black or stainless steel. Everything had razor-sharp edges. It was the kind of place that gave Hana the feeling she was being blown through by unseen drafts. She longed for home. For his family James had provided a house with a door that shrunk up in the winter and bloated until it wedged in the door frame in the summer, a house with stairs that had predictable creaks and groans, a house that moved around them like a familiar friend.

James’ death three days earlier had crushed Hana underneath deep, prolonged silence. Her mother, whose loudest expression to this point had always been in the strength of her brush strokes on canvas, rocked and wailed. Hana felt like a ghost, alone and unseen, holding her mother’s tiny shaking limbs in a room full of people that, at least today, felt like strangers.

And here are my edits:

If Hana Larkhill had her way, her father’s body would be in a sailboat, rope and a flute in his hands, The wording of this is a little awkward for me. Perhaps change it to “her father’s body would be in a sailboat, a rope in one hand and a flute in the other?” and she would watch him embark one last time toward the unknown at the eternal curve of the earth. Instead, James Larkhill lay in a sterile metal box at Faraday’s Funeral Home. Someone who did it for a living had caked his face with makeup. His delicate freckles were powdered out of existence. An old blue suit bound his body; even the strawberry gold of his curls had faded. I like the detail here.

Hana’s mother, Noa Larkhill, hasn’t fought these depressing conventions. You’re introducing quite a few names in a short span. Do we absolutely need the name of her mother right away, or can it wait? But she had insisted on an open casket. James’ face and shoulders were intact and the suit covered his abdomen. But Hana felt the looming specter of his ruined lower body, smashed into irreparable pieces by an anonymous fender. There are two sentences almost back to back that start with “But.” You might want to reword.

Faraday’s was cold, clean and modern—everything was black or stainless steel. Everything had razor-sharp edges. It was the kind of place that gave Hana the feeling she was being blown through by unseen drafts. I get where you’re going with the description, but “drafts” reads a little awkward to me. She longed for home. James had provided his family a house with a door that shrunk up in the winter and bloated until it wedged in the door frame in the summer, a house with stairs that had predictable creaks and groans, a house that moved around them like a familiar friend. I love the detail in this sentence.

James’ death three days earlier had crushed Hana underneath deep, prolonged silence. Her mother, whose loudest expression to this point had always been in the strength of her brush strokes on canvas, rocked and wailed. I’m a little confused. You said in the first sentence she’s crushed beneath silence, but in the second you say that her mother is wailing. Hana felt like a ghost, alone and unseen, holding her mother’s tiny shaking limbs in a room full of people that, at least today, felt like strangers.

So those are the suggestions I would make. Thank you so much to Sarah for offering up her work! In all, I think this is a strong opening, and I’m immediately sucked into her writing. I definitely want to read more. Thanks, Sarah!
Now go check out what everyone else did!
Alicia
Cory
Kate
Kathleen
Windy

What about you? What suggestions would you have made?

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6 Responses

  1. Kathleen says:

    I think I'm the only one who missed "intact". *headdesk*

    Great comments–and good catch on the back to back use of "but."

  2. Cory Jackson says:

    This is so interesting to see what we each do alike and differently. Great comments!

  3. Alicia Gregoire says:

    I missed intact too!

    By the way, this was really fun. I hope Sarah feels the same way!

  4. WindyA says:

    It's funny what we all liked, what we made comments on and what some of us noticed and others didn't catch. Great comments!

  5. Sarah Enni says:

    Awesome crit. It's so helpful to see how many similar things you guys are picking up on!

  6. Kate Hart says:

    I wondered if the introducing names thing bothered anyone else– really interesting to see!

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