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Distortion Critique 5

So I put out scene one from Distortion for a writer's critique. Here was the result:

It's amazing how awesome this feedback was. You can live with your stuff long enough that you become blind to it. I have a lot of work to do (first novel) but I've studied the craft long enough to understand everything everyone is saying. Besides all the specific points, the two themes I noticed were a lack of emotional/physical reaction (nothing to keep you in Ash's head) and the Great Sin (show don't tell). I also changed tense and didn't notice (no that was not on purpose). There were many other great points, and I have a lot of work to do. Thanks again to for making a community for writers.

Inline Critique

Out of
Fromthe corner of his eye, through the window of The Grounded Cafe, Ash saw two men dressed in black combat gear duck behind a car.

scrib is doing weird things with your spacing . I'm seeing big gaps between text.
Coolness rushed down his spine, and his muscles tensed.

He reached for his sidearm

He shook his head, and looked again, they were gone.

Ash relaxed and sank back into the leather bound chair; alone, in the corner of his favorite coffee shop.
try as show like Relieved, he stretched and settled back in his seat, alone in the corner booth of his favorite coffee shop.

Always keep your back to the wall, be near the most exits, but never too visible. It was like breathing, it never stopped... even in civilian life.
italic thoughPost-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD. That was the diagnosis they’d
clarify this theyassigned him.
(If you are diagnosed with PTSD you're license to carry a fire arm is revoked)

your thoughts are jumping around here. can you add a segue sentence to get from PTSD to a job description?
As Dean of Military Science, Ash's job primarily lay in administrative work and policy these days, plus a few sessions counseling the younger cadets, and would-be trouble makers. He was quite overqualified for the position, but he ran a tight unit.

He stared at the faces of the pedestrians as they passed by the window. Hurried. Busy. Buried in their smartphones. So oblivious to the world around them, or the little clouds that float around their shoulders.

again big jump. if you make the observation personal it will 'flow' better. you need to connect the seprete thoughts a hair. he ran a tight unit --what the connecting thought to the faces and then leaves? maybe the leaves remind him of happier times or the faces remind him how he used to be oblivious too. but add the connecting thoughts
The leaves began to fall
this is a hair too much as it seeems like they literally fell from the trees right then maybe try dreid leaves swirled past the window or something which implies a few not all, most turning shades of orange and yellow, matching perfectly the Pumpkins that
were dottingdotted porches and windows through the city the past few weeks.

Acommotion outside broke his train of thought... Everyone
to vague say who like the couple passing stooped or Two businessmen or whoever they are
was stoppingstopped, turn
eding, and star
eding in the same direction, a few moving toward the distraction.
too many vague words. take your time and describe the scene so we can see An older man motioned motioned the gray haired woman who accompanied to stand back and forward following the two suited men.

Ash stepped outside to see what was happening, turned a corner, and nearly ran into a bystander. A brisk evening breeze broke past his collar
and...finish the thought caused him to shiver/made him tighten his jacket/woke him up/ etc.

A man in a tattered
and dirty suit with a graying beard
was standing
stood (use tense words where applicable)on top of a pickup truck screaming
maybe add what he screamed insults or gosspelat nobody in particular.

"You always did love Mother best... I know...
elipses are trailing off I think you want the mdash here for short pausesThat's why... You couldn't keep your mouth shut..." On he went, incoherently.

Just as Ash took a step closer
to the bystander or screamer, the man
I assume you mean the screamer but clarify turned to stare him directly in the eye.

In a deeper, gravelly voice: "You... What do you want with us?"

Ash took a step back.
cool but better if you tell the reader how it freak it him A shiver of unease replaced the cold chill.

Then the
try to avoid using THEN and instead describe what he did as he did turned back to his one-sided conversation.

Ash could see (scratched for filtering)a large creature
stood/crouched/hulked/lurked behind the man. The bottom half
of the creaturewas more mist than form, as though it were made of smoke. The top half was like a man, with the head of a bull. It was charcoal, and streaks of white painted across the chest.
<--try these as ACTIVE sentences. (without the lazy was were) like --Formed of mist, the top half of the creature resembled a man with the head of a bull. A smokey charcoal color, streaks of white lined its chest.

could feel his palms turn
ed cold, and
he felt as though he couldn't movehis legs

A smaller creature
sat/crouched/lurkedon the homeless man's shoulders, screaming into his ears. He couldn't
hear understand(changed to match screaming. if the little creature is making no noise change screaming)the
conversationwords, but
Ash could tell that the homeless man
was respondingnodded in response
and that he had only been hearing one-half of the conversation. Ash looked around and nobody else seemed too surprised
off word freaked out/to notice/,
mdash for a bigger more dramatic pauseas usual.

The large creature stared directly at Ash, cocked his head to one side and disappeared along with the smaller one.
did it take the smaller with it? take your time and really describe this. The homeless man
stoodby himself again
., then his eyes narrowed
and. He leapt off the truck and ran at Ash.
add a hair more description. show us the mans body language and face. is face contorted with hate is he snarling? what are the bystanders doing through all this?

It took all his training to keep from being pinned down.
show the fight first, you need to blend the scene. and build it The old man was wiry but stronger than he looked.

like--Claw like hands gripped his shoulders. Foul breath panted in his face as the man grunted,trying to force him to the ground. Ash twisted his body in a move learned in basic and forced the grasping hands from his shoulders. (feel frree to keep/discard any of this. I dont mean to change your voice. I use it as example of what I mean.)
Ash let out a cry, "Jesus!"
Jesus!" he exclaimed as he pushed his attacker away, gagging on the scent of unwashed skin and rotten teeth.

The wiry man stepped back
., his eyes darted around, as though
he lookedconfused.

That was all Ash needed. In 30
thirty(always spell numbers)seconds he hog-tied the man with his own belt.

The police were just arriving.
<---too fast. your rushing again. Show us the car arrive like-- A police car pulled up with sirens blaring. the crowd began to disperse. A few of the spectators held cellphones p, filming the encounter. new para "Charlie's at it again... Let's take him in
the officer said as he exited from the passenger side.

Three big men in uniform put cuffs and a muzzle
? never saw or heard of this. maybe describe so we can 'see' it on the old man, and threw him, rather harshly, into the back of the squad car.

Ash heard someone behind him
avoid filtering wherever you can. instead describe WHAT he heard. like rapid footsteps approached., "Those were some moves, Marine."

"Airman. Uh... Thanks. No harm done."
Ash noticed
cup crushed beneath him, the ice, coffee, and cream covered the sidewalk, and his jeans. "Well... Almost no harm anyway."

"Why don't you let me get you another… on me."
a balding man said. He shifted the pile of paper in his arms to offer his hand, covering the logo with two E’s overlapping on his yellow polo.

Ash looked up to see 
Filtering --if this the speaker attach the tag to the dialougea balding man in blue slacks, yellow polo, and a pile of papers in his arms. A logo with two E’s overlapping bore prominently on his chest.

"The least I could do for a man who'd be willing to step into a situation like that,protect all these people.
a tad off. he didnt step in he was attacked. maybe handlea situation before it got out of hand What's your name
, son?"

"Ash. I need to
get some new change myclothes. I don't think I need any more caffeine right now. But thanks for the offer." With a wave, he set off toward home

Ash headed down the sidewalk, past the shops and restaurants. There is
csratch and instead say where she isa girl crying, typing away on the phone. A little red frog on her shoulder
was yelling
yelledinto her ear. Ash could only imagine what it must be saying.

A little old lady
wrong tense you were in past perfect now your in present so change all the is to was
sitting sat behindinside a window at the nursing home
. She is knitting something, probably a blanket. A large man
, wearing
in all white, stands behind her, smiling. He looks up at Ash, his smile fades slightly, and then returns. He looks
is a perfectly good word but generic there are many more descriptive words that can be used in its place.  use them when appropriate. like /peered/gazed/ stared/etcdown to her again.

Ash could not see the figure
s accompanying each person
remained mostly indistinct with only a few recognizable as animals, only certain ones, here and there. Most were just clouds or mist.

"Don't worry so much
,." His doctor told him
.when did this happen? Now? or is this flashback? add the sentences to calrify it, "
TheseHallucinations may be after effects of the war. We’re just beginning to understand PTSD. The mind is a marvelous adapter to stress. As long as these phantoms
do not
don'tinterrupt your daily work, or cause you to want to harm yourself or others, you should be fine. Consider yourself lucky. Just think of them as a construct of your active imagination, an amusing distraction from the mundane realities of life."

add his feeling to that. did he think it utter bullshit or did he grasp the idea hopefully?
He turned off the street into an alley between two old buildings, and up a well-worn path into the woods, his refuge from the masses.

Ash opened the door of his cabin.

It you need to describe it. Like Nestled between a tall stand of pines his nine hundred square foot log cabin sat alone on a forested hillside. A small pine island seperated the gally kitchen from the rest of the living space. ... you get the idea. take a few sentences and show his home include the ambiaence-how he feels about it- and use at least one other sense what it smells like or sounds etcwasn't a mansion by any means, but it was more than sufficient for him. 900 sq. ft., one large open room, a loft, and a balcony.

Yes sir, he owned one fine cabin in the woods.
this is a hair odd. direct narator to reader aside. make ith thought for it to blend. italic it and add he thought somewhereAll to himself. How he'd managed to live here eight years and still not have a single friend invited over was a mystery, even to himself. Then again, you'd have to have a friend to invite one.

He liked things just so
. He liked andthe solitude.

At least that's what he told himself.

Ash took a seat on his balcony
back when your describing his house tell us if the balcony is off the back or front. and make sure it is a balcony not a porch-balcony is second floor, overlooking the hills and lake. He stared at the expansive forests, lost in time. The clock read:
6:00Sixpm, he laid down in his hammock, bundled in the overpriced winter resistant sleeping bag, and watched the stars from the balcony until he drifted off.

As sleep overtook him, he thought to himself "Yes sir, this is one fine cabin."
already stated. say something new never repeat. you could add an emotion to it to make it new but don't restate for no new info


An explosion knocks him against a wall. He barely sees, through the smoke,
wordy try--Smoke clouds his vision of troops running about, hauling rubble off of bodies, checking pulses. Some
Vague be specific, some what? are screaming in pain. Others
are shouting
what? insults directions curses? to one another. Half the mess hall is completely gone, all that is left is fire and rubble.

Ash can feel the beat of his heart in his neck,
His pulse thuds in his neck. his forehead rushed with sweat. He sees them all 
be specific--trust me it ill add depth to thisrunning around, but all he hears is intense ringing.

As the numbness subsides from his brain, shock waves hit his chest as more buildings are getting hit nearby.
explode nearby/ or as missiles impact the nearby buildings

Ash uses the wall to steady himself and works to stand on his feet.
show instead

Others will tend to the wounded. This band of Jihadist miscreants found upgraded weapons; Russian no doubt.

Ash shoots
consider changing as i think you mean run but you might mean shootout the building, down the road to the artillery unit. He grabs his rifle and heads for the highest structure, a radio tower toward the side of the camp.

He can see the launch area where the rockets are being fired from. He
you have too many sentences starting the same and too many with the same subject. reword for reader intrest so it doesnt feel like a list of actionstakes a few quick breaths, hyperventilating
, flood
ings the lungs with oxygen, one last deep breath in and hold, steadies his body.

Through the scope, he can see
about 10
tenof them

They only have two missile launchers. They have very little cover, firing from open desert, mostly hiding behind their Jeep and a few large outcroppings of fallen mountainside.
see how every sentence here starts with a pronoun? that's an indication that this section lacks show. change some of these up to add the show. pronouns by there nature are all tell. you are telling us what happens not showing us. this is show--two men clutch missles launchers agianst their chests as they scan the camp. a jeep and crumbled mountainside hide the rest of the attackers. bullets rip through the air. gunsmoke hands thick, clouding his vision and burning his throat.

He fires two rounds back to back, taking out both missile launchers, one
launcher explodesin the handlers face.
DESCRIBE how that looks and feels to him Ash
then begins firing one round after another as the attackers fall like
Cokesoad cans on a fence post. The rounds hit their targets with extreme prejudice.

armed men/ assailiants remain, cowering behind the Jeep. Jeeps are great vehicles for driving through tough terrain quickly, but they
are built light, not armored.
He sees one peek
s through the glass, gone.
I get he shoots him but SHOW us

The other two
attempt to climb in the vehicle
, keeping their heads down
 and drive awayscratched for POV error. The problem with that is that both seats are occupied
by?. He doesn't need to see them. Two. One.

okay making a few changes to match the next sentnace. they dont attempt to they do so scratch that. I also get what you meant know about the seats being occupied so he knows where to aim but it was really obscure as worded consder a small rewrite therer for clarity
The Jeep speeds up as it drives erratically
, then crashesbefore crashing into a mound of rocks.


Ash woke up... another nightmare, if you can call a memory a nightmare.

He rubbed his eyes and glanced at his wrist.

Red numbers flooded his vision,

He rolled over and went back to sleep.

Closing Comments

Scrib academy has a great article on filtering-what it is, why you don't want it, and how to fix it.
you want to make sure you don't have to many sentence starts in a row identical. more then two and the reader will be bored.
Try to describe whats happening not tell it. He slammed the door angrily!--The door rebounded off the wall with a thud. See, we know he did it angrily, but it's more interesting. It also helps fix the, he did this, he did that, he did this other thing, that makes a story boring.
the above site can explain better than I why you don't want all those pronoun starts and how to fix them, basically you change the subject of the sentence.
To correct the pronoun starts put the noun first. example--He got in a car.--fixed--The car he got in was red.---fixed better -- The red car he rode in smelled of cigarettes. In the last example the sentence went from passive to active with the removal of was got in was tightened to rode and interesting sensory detail was added with a smell.
go through the entire thing and replace all the was, were. could, would, and put in the correct tenses. by that I mean was and were should denote tense not be used because you cant think of a correct verb. but that being said sometimes word have a tense like--could hear=heard was wearing=wore were going=gone was running=ran etc lots of words have tenses so use then when applicable. I make a list of my common mistakes and when I think I'm done with a piece I run a scan for them.
replacing generic words for more descriptive ones will add depth. common generic words are--Look, watch, came, went, took, walk, basically action words. instead of having the charter walk have them stride pace amble march slink limp etc picture in your head HOW they do the action and use that word.
replacing the vague words will add clarity and flow. common vague words are --Area people everyone them it they stuff someone something everything things all some
it isn't unusual to have to do major rewrites, sometimes even more than once so don't let this discourage you. this is a solid first draft that just requires fleshing out and tightening.
Don't rush through the scenes, take your time and write them so we can see them.
Sorry if I offended, it wasn't my intent. Writing is so personal that any criticism can feel like an attack. all these things I mention are minor tweaks easily done. you've already done the hard part--the good idea. now polish till it shines.
If you aren't sure if you have to many pronoun starts try a software editor.  prowriting aid has a paid addin for Microsoft Word and google docs but they have a free version too. autocrit is good but costs alot more money. I highly recommend you try the free version of prowriting aid

By Darrell Wolfe

Storyteller | Creative | INFJ | Intellection | Ideation | Input | Learner | Achiever | Multipotentialite


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    Hi! My name is Darrell G. Wolfe. I am a wealth of random information and I make complicated things simple at

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