How good am I at establishing character?

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This topic contains 48 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Anonymous 11 months ago.

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  • #346527

    Anonymous

    Storytelling is an exercise in “show, don’t tell.” Instead of an omniscient narrator telling the audience what a character’s personality is, we should show them reacting to situations and let the audience gauge the personalities from those reactions.

    I’ve got a novel I’m working on. In this thread, I’m going to post an excerpt from that project where I try to establish the characters and backstories of one of my main characters, named Amanda. I’d like you all to post your answers to the following questions:

    1. What is Amanda’s character?
    2. Why does she fall in love with Adam so quickly?
    3. What about her backstory has caused her to take on these character traits set forth in the first two questions?

    After about five or six people reply, if everyone has the correct answers (that is … what I consider to be Amanda’s character), then I’ll assume that this excerpt has effectively shown rather than told Amanda’s character. However, if people give the wrong answers, I’ll assume my work needs improvement. Then I will post a reply outright telling you the correct answers to these three questions, and ask for your advice on how I can more accurately show (rather than tell) her character.

    Okay, are you ready? Here’s the excerpt:

    — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

    As Amanda watched Adam leave, she remembered how she first met him. It was June 17, three years ago. She was was hanging out around a bar looking for clients. There was Adam Dynasty, one of those young, up-and-coming politicians who was talking about changing the world and shit like that. Her pimp hated everything to do with politics, so if she could get this guy caught sleeping with her and ruin his career, she’d get promoted!

    She walked over and started flirting with him, offering to take him to bed. Adam was surprisingly receptive to her advances. He offered to take her on a date. There was a new movie he’d been itching to see, and-

    Wait a minute. A date? She had never gone on a date before! This was … umm … this was a new experience for her.

    Three days later, on Saturday, June 20, she met with Adam at the movie theater. After the movie, he walked with her down the sidewalk. What was he doing? Oh god, he was going to drag her to a back alley and rape and kill her, wasn’t he? Her pimp warned her about this!

    Even worse still, this politician apparently knew what he was doing! Getting caught in bed with her would ruin his career, but nobody would care if he just killed her! People like her get killed in broad daylight and no one ever cares! It was genius!

    A breeze came up, and she started shivering. This was pretty far up north from where she’s used to, so it can get kind of chilly even in June. Well, she guesses it doesn’t matter anyway. When you’re moments away from being murdered, the cold doesn’t really bother you all that much.

    “You’re cold, aren’t you,” Adam whispered at her? He took off his own jacket and put it around Amanda’s body. The cold seemed to subside, except it was hard for Amanda to tell since she could barely feel anything at all.

    Except … wait … what did her customer just do? It seems oddly familiar to her, like she read it in a book somewhere, but she can’t quite pin down exactly where she heard it, or what this was supposed to symbolize.

    “By the way,” Adam said, “Where do you live? So I can walk you home?”

    “Oh … umm” Amanda was so confused by this customer’s bizzare behavior that she was trying to figure out what he was planning. Did he want to steal her stuff after she was dead? Well, if she’s just going to die anyway, the least she could do, as a final act of defiance, is send him to the wrong apartment.

    “Uuh … Apple Woodcreek Apartments,” Amanda said, spouting out the first apartment complex she could think of that she knows for a fact exists.

    “Wow,” Adam said, “you’re a rich girl? I’d never have guessed!”

    “No,” said Amanda, panicking, realizing that her lie was only a hair’s breath away from being exposed, “I just … umm … I’m living with a friend right now.”

    “Oh, that’s too bad,” said Adam, “Maybe you can find a job soon.”

    Now Amanda was even more confused. Why would a psychopath wish something like that on a person he was about to kill?

    She nevertheless made sure that her face didn’t show fear. At the very least, she wasn’t going to give the heartless bastard the satisfaction of seeing the look of terror in her face.

    They continued walking. There were about six or seven spots where there were no witnesses and it would have given him the perfect chance to twist her neck without getting caught, but he apparently wanted to drag her fear out for his own sadistic pleasure, so they continued walking towards those rich apartments she mentioned (and even further away from her actual home).

    As they approached the gates of this apartment complex that she had never set foot in in her life, Adam asked for his coat back. When Amanda complied, he moved his head forward. Amanda froze in fear. This was it; everyone was asleep, so there wouldn’t be any witnesses. Amanda could scream, but she was too scared to! All Amanda could do was brace herself for the tunnel!

    But Adam never tried to kill her! He just put his mouth on the side of the her face for a second and then lifted his mouth off.

    “I had a great time tonight,” Adam said, “I hope to see you again soon. Goodnight!”

    Once Adam had left, Amanda started walking home the right way. She was so confused. Amanda had never had a customer who did any of this with her. Her customers were usually fairly straightforward with what they wanted from her. How was this whole movie-and-walk thing even remotely titillating?

    And what was with that mouth gesture at the end? Sometimes, her customers will put their mouths between her legs, but on the side of her face? That was just … weird. Was this his own way of marking his territory? Was it a political thing? She had never taken a politician for a customer before, so that isn’t entirely out of the question.

    And yet, there was something oddly familiar about it. She felt like she had read about this somewhere, just like with that weird thing he did with putting his coat around her body.

    Oh for god’s sake! Why is this so confusing?! It’s her job to do whatever her customers want, but trying to make heads or tails of his baffling fetishes was just making her head spin!

    Strangely enough, she wanted to see Adam again. The more she thought about it, the more she realized that she actually liked the whole movie-and-walk thing. She was scared at first, thinking she was going to be killed, but now that she knew otherwise, as she replayed those events in her head, she wanted to experience it again … and again … and again.

    An hour passed, and she reached her apartment (the real one, this time). She got on her computer and tried to look up the weird fetishes Adam had put her through. Maybe the Internet could make heads or tails of what Adam found in these weird sex acts, and why Amanda was so interested in doing them again.

    What Amanda found out from this research was absolutely astonishing. She thought this behavior only existed in fairy tails! Her bastard dad … her pimp … she never thought this was actually real?

    She wanted to see Adam again! She had to see Adam again!

    The next day, she returned to the bar to look for more customers. Adam was sitting at the table nearest the front door. When he saw Amanda walk through the door, he smiled and asked if she’d like to take a seat next to her. She quickly obeyed.

    She had made up her mind earlier that morning: She wanted Adam to be her new pimp. She was going to be whatever kind of woman Adam wanted. She was going to be his main hoe, come hell or high water, no matter what she had to pretend to be. She was going to be as beautiful for him as she possibly could. She was going to be a freak in the sheets for him. Everyone loves girl-on-girl, right? Well, she was going to be the best damn lesbian you ever did see! She was going to learn how to cook, how to clean, how to-
    — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

    At that point, I intend to have something in the present snap Amanda out of her flashback. So this is the end of her flashback.

    So what do you guys think? What do you think is Amanda’s character and backstory?

  • #654671

    Anonymous

    Never saw ho spelled with an e. Is that a regional usage?
    A hoe is a flat bladed instrument used in the garden.

    The ending really confused me.

    1
    Clearly Amanda es una puta de calle.

    2
    It is not clear she fell in love or whether it is the uniqueness of the situation confusing her.
    Wanting Adam for a pimp does not sound like love to me.

    3
    She is a bastard who is a whore and her her father is a pimp.

    Now as to establishing character all I got is that Amanda is a naive prostitute. Was there more ?

    The politician is not believable and has no character to speak of.
    The 3 year gap is strange.
    Adam as the name for a female is even stranger.

    Somewhat interesting and done fairly well but does not motivate me to read more. I presume that was done in chapter 1, page 1, graf 1.

    There is no indication that this is a flashback. To snap her out next you need to have established that it was a flashback earlier.

    The ending would make me go read something else at this point.

  • #654672

    Anonymous

    Are you even trying?

    deddmann_writing wrote:
    The ending really confused me.

    How did it confuse you?

    Quote:
    1
    Clearly Amanda es una puta de calle.

    What is that? Are you using English?

    Quote:
    2
    It is not clear she fell in love or whether it is the uniqueness of the situation confusing her.
    Wanting Adam for a pimp does not sound like love to me.

    Quote:
    3
    She is a bastard who is a whore and her her father is a pimp.

    What exactly gives you the idea that her dad and her pimp were one in the same?

    Quote:
    Now as to establishing character all I got is that Amanda is a naive prostitute. Was there more ?

    Her occupation is not the same as her character. 🙄

    Quote:
    The politician is not believable and has no character to speak of.

    I asked for Amanda’s character, not Adam’s.

    Quote:
    The 3 year gap is strange.
    Quote:
    Adam as the name for a female is even stranger.

    What gave you the idea that Adam was a girl?

    Quote:
    Somewhat interesting and done fairly well but does not motivate me to read more. I presume that was done in chapter 1, page 1, graf 1.

    Actually, no … this is in Chapter 4. The excerpt in my OP actually begins near the bottom of Page 50.

    Look at the very first sentence … “As Amanda watched Adam leave-” I figured that sentence alone should have tipped you off that some events had necessarily occurred in the story beforehand.

    Quote:
    There is no indication that this is a flashback. To snap her out next you need to have established that it was a flashback earlier.

    Why doesn’t the very first sentence of that excerpt (“she remembered how she first met him”) tip you off that this is a flashback?

    Quote:
    The ending would make me go read something else at this point.

    At this point, I wonder if you even read it at all, or just skimmed over it, noticed a few keywords, and assumed you knew what the story was.

  • #654673

    Anonymous

    I just want to clarify … my irritation with deddmann_writing’s criticism is not because he is disagreeing with me. Quite the opposite, in fact. I welcome constructive feedback on my work.

    Instead, my irritation stems from the fact that he clearly didn’t even read the excerpt before commenting on it. This is best evidenced by the fact that he believed Adam was a girl … when the excerpt never made even the slightest mention of that.

    If he wasn’t going to actually read the excerpt and give a well-thought-out reply, he didn’t have to respond at all. He wasted my time by commenting on something he had barely skimmed over.

    If anyone wants to make a SERIOUS attempt a critiquing the excerpt, I’d be happy to hear what you have to say.

  • #654674

    cypher
    Participant

    Try putting excerpts in the Critique section, stebbinsd. Your work is protected there. It isn’t on this general board. Perhaps Terry can move it for you.

  • #654675

    AngelinaK52
    Participant

    I moved this to the critique section under Thriller/Suspense.

    Remember OP, a critique is meant for you to read and think about, not get upset and respond.

  • #654676

    Anonymous
    T.A.Rodgers wrote:
    Remember OP, a critique is meant for you to read and think about, not get upset and respond.

    JMHO, but writing an actual critique should also require reading and thinking about, not just posting comments without explanation or based on faulty reading. Again, JMO…

  • #654677

    AngelinaK52
    Participant

    I do see how deddman could think Adam is a female. The last paragraph has Amanda saying she will be the best Lesbian for Adam. Adam could be a transgender politician.

  • #654678

    Anonymous
    T.A.Rodgers wrote:
    I do see how deddman could think Adam is a female. The last paragraph has Amanda saying she will be the best Lesbian for Adam. Adam could be a transgender politician.

    But read in context, Amanda is simply stating she will be whatever sort of whore Adam wants her to be – including the “girl on girl”. That entire paragraph is about her deciding to do whatever Adam wants her to do because she wants him to be her pimp.

  • #654679

    Anonymous
    stebbinsd wrote:
    I just want to clarify … my irritation with deddmann_writing’s criticism is not because he is disagreeing with me. Quite the opposite, in fact. I welcome constructive feedback on my work.

    Instead, my irritation stems from the fact that he clearly didn’t even read the excerpt before commenting on it. This is best evidenced by the fact that he believed Adam was a girl … when the excerpt never made even the slightest mention of that.

    If he wasn’t going to actually read the excerpt and give a well-thought-out reply, he didn’t have to respond at all. He wasted my time by commenting on something he had barely skimmed over.

    If anyone wants to make a SERIOUS attempt a critiquing the excerpt, I’d be happy to hear what you have to say.

    ======

    I read the entire thing before I answered your questions. I read it again before commenting.
    So I guess you are saying that my masters certificate in English is not worth what I paid for it.

    I did not skim this. I actually read it unlike other posts here that I do skim.

    I went with what was written at the time that I read it. And I used logical deductions to try to understand what the sitrep was.

  • #654680

    Anonymous
    ostarella wrote:
    T.A.Rodgers wrote:
    Remember OP, a critique is meant for you to read and think about, not get upset and respond.

    JMHO, but writing an actual critique should also require reading and thinking about, not just posting comments without explanation or based on faulty reading. Again, JMO…

    ==========

    I answered the questions posed and added my impressions.

    My reading was not faulty. I read it carefully and replied to what it actually said.

    At least I read it and commented on the OP. Everybody else is merely discussing my take on the piece.
    Nobody else has read it and commented at all; except for T.A.Rodgers who saw what I saw that led me to conclude Adam was a female, otherwise it would not make any sense to me.

  • #654681

    Anonymous
    stebbinsd wrote:
    I just want to clarify … my irritation with deddmann_writing’s criticism is not because he is disagreeing with me. Quite the opposite, in fact. I welcome constructive feedback on my work.

    Instead, my irritation stems from the fact that he clearly didn’t even read the excerpt before commenting on it. This is best evidenced by the fact that he believed Adam was a girl … when the excerpt never made even the slightest mention of that.

    If he wasn’t going to actually read the excerpt and give a well-thought-out reply, he didn’t have to respond at all. He wasted my time by commenting on something he had barely skimmed over.

    If anyone wants to make a SERIOUS attempt a critiquing the excerpt, I’d be happy to hear what you have to say.

    ============

    Adam was a girl was the only logical conclusion that fit when Amanda said she would be the best lesbian.

    I actually read this carefully.

    I did not critique anything. I answered your questions which is what was asked.
    I added some impressions for what they were worth which was apparently nothing so please reject them and move on.

  • #654682

    Anonymous
    stebbinsd wrote:
    Are you even trying?

    Quote:
    There is no indication that this is a flashback. To snap her out next you need to have established that it was a flashback earlier.
    Why doesn’t the very first sentence of that excerpt (“she remembered how she first met him”) tip you off that this is a flashback?

    Dunno why. It just did not tell me it was a flashback. I did wonder why it was noted that she had met him 3 years earlier. But it did not strike me as meaning flashback at all.



    At this point, I wonder if you even read it at all, or just skimmed over it, noticed a few keywords, and assumed you knew what the story was.

    I read it all carefully — twice. So either I am an idiot whose English is worse than my spanish or else the fault lies in the stars or wherever Shakespeare said it laid.

  • #654683

    AngelinaK52
    Participant
    ostarella wrote:
    T.A.Rodgers wrote:
    I do see how deddman could think Adam is a female. The last paragraph has Amanda saying she will be the best Lesbian for Adam. Adam could be a transgender politician.

    But read in context, Amanda is simply stating she will be whatever sort of whore Adam wants her to be – including the “girl on girl”. That entire paragraph is about her deciding to do whatever Adam wants her to do because she wants him to be her pimp.

    It just seems strange that she would think that. Plus why would Amanda think Adam is a client? No money changed hands. Money didn’t even come up? And if she thought he was so nice, why would she want him to be her pimp? Again, he never said anything about being in charge. He never mentioned sex. He was a complete gentleman. The complete opposite of a pimp. And even if she never had that kind of treatment in her life, she can’t be that naïve to think this way could she? Does anyone think a politician would risk exposure to be a pimp? Maybe pay for a hooker, but actually be the pimp?

    Just thinking out loud.

  • #654684

    Anonymous
    T.A.Rodgers wrote:
    ostarella wrote:
    T.A.Rodgers wrote:
    I do see how deddman could think Adam is a female. The last paragraph has Amanda saying she will be the best Lesbian for Adam. Adam could be a transgender politician.

    But read in context, Amanda is simply stating she will be whatever sort of whore Adam wants her to be – including the “girl on girl”. That entire paragraph is about her deciding to do whatever Adam wants her to do because she wants him to be her pimp.

    It just seems strange that she would think that. Plus why would Amanda think Adam is a client? No money changed hands. Money didn’t even come up? And if she thought he was so nice, why would she want him to be her pimp? Again, he never said anything about being in charge. He never mentioned sex. He was a complete gentleman. The complete opposite of a pimp. And even if she never had that kind of treatment in her life, she can’t be that naïve to think this way could she? Does anyone think a politician would risk exposure to be a pimp? Maybe pay for a hooker, but actually be the pimp?

    Just thinking out loud.

    I haven’t had a chance to give the whole piece a thorough reading (working extra hours this week) but just at a glance and after reading that entire last paragraph, I just don’t see where one could assume Adam was female or trans. And again, only at a glance, it would appear that Amanda has had no “normal” contact with people – but this being an excerpt I’m assuming there’s some explanation elsewhere.

    And hopefully after work I’ll have time and energy to look this over – hope that satisfies deddmann’s schedule.

  • #654685

    AngelinaK52
    Participant

    1. What is Amanda’s character?
    2. Why does she fall in love with Adam so quickly?
    3. What about her backstory has caused her to take on these character traits set forth in the first two questions?

    1. From what I have read, I view Amanda as young and naïve with virtually no contact with humans. She can only view the world from a prostitute POV as if that is all she’s ever known.
    2. I see the love only due to her being so naïve.
    3. Maybe the backstory is not clear enough because it seems very awkward how it’s approach. Are you saying that she’s thinking back 3 years prior when meeting Adam for the first time?

  • #654686

    Anonymous
    ostarella wrote:
    T.A.Rodgers wrote:
    ostarella wrote:
    T.A.Rodgers wrote:
    I do see how deddman could think Adam is a female. The last paragraph has Amanda saying she will be the best Lesbian for Adam. Adam could be a transgender politician.

    But read in context, Amanda is simply stating she will be whatever sort of whore Adam wants her to be – including the “girl on girl”. That entire paragraph is about her deciding to do whatever Adam wants her to do because she wants him to be her pimp.

    It just seems strange that she would think that. Plus why would Amanda think Adam is a client? No money changed hands. Money didn’t even come up? And if she thought he was so nice, why would she want him to be her pimp? Again, he never said anything about being in charge. He never mentioned sex. He was a complete gentleman. The complete opposite of a pimp. And even if she never had that kind of treatment in her life, she can’t be that naïve to think this way could she? Does anyone think a politician would risk exposure to be a pimp? Maybe pay for a hooker, but actually be the pimp?

    Just thinking out loud.

    I haven’t had a chance to give the whole piece a thorough reading (working extra hours this week) but just at a glance and after reading that entire last paragraph, I just don’t see where one could assume Adam was female or trans. And again, only at a glance, it would appear that Amanda has had no “normal” contact with people – but this being an excerpt I’m assuming there’s some explanation elsewhere.

    And hopefully after work I’ll have time and energy to look this over – hope that satisfies deddmann’s schedule.

    ==========

    I have no schedule. You can read and or comment as you see please. Preferably on the OP and not my take on the chapter that was posted.

  • #654687

    Anonymous
    T.A.Rodgers wrote:
    1. What is Amanda’s character?
    2. Why does she fall in love with Adam so quickly?
    3. What about her backstory has caused her to take on these character traits set forth in the first two questions?

    1. From what I have read, I view Amanda as young and naïve with virtually no contact with humans. She can only view the world from a prostitute POV as if that is all she’s ever known.
    2. I see the love only due to her being so naïve.
    3. Maybe the backstory is not clear enough because it seems very awkward how it’s approach. Are you saying that she’s thinking back 3 years prior when meeting Adam for the first time?

    ========

    I agree with your take. Some of the disconnect is our not seeing the first four chapters that would provide a lot of clues and backstory to use to better evaluate this sample.

    That said, we read the sample in the OP and we came up with similar conclusions. Stebbinsd said he would look at 5-6 replies and then decide about how well he did in establishing character. It would have been nice if he had waited before hijacking his own thread with a screed on my impressions of the sample.

    It would be helpful, for those with a middle chapter to post for comments for us to look at, if the OPer gave the basic facts needed from earlier chapters to set the context so we don’t get misled by what we actually read not being complete.

  • #654688

    Anonymous
    T.A.Rodgers wrote:
    ostarella wrote:
    T.A.Rodgers wrote:
    I do see how deddman could think Adam is a female. The last paragraph has Amanda saying she will be the best Lesbian for Adam. Adam could be a transgender politician.

    But read in context, Amanda is simply stating she will be whatever sort of whore Adam wants her to be – including the “girl on girl”. That entire paragraph is about her deciding to do whatever Adam wants her to do because she wants him to be her pimp.

    It just seems strange that she would think that. Plus why would Amanda think Adam is a client? No money changed hands. Money didn’t even come up? And if she thought he was so nice, why would she want him to be her pimp? Again, he never said anything about being in charge. He never mentioned sex. He was a complete gentleman. The complete opposite of a pimp. And even if she never had that kind of treatment in her life, she can’t be that naïve to think this way could she? Does anyone think a politician would risk exposure to be a pimp? Maybe pay for a hooker, but actually be the pimp?

    Just thinking out loud.

    ==========

    I read it as Amanda thinking of Adam as a replacement for her pimp. He would protect her and provide for her and she was willing to do anything he wanted. Whether Adam was actually a pimp is unlikely but s/he/it was a congressperson:)

  • #654689

    Anonymous

    Not a full critique, since you only asked for answers to your questions. I will say I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn’t a full-on “backstory”, but at the same time, it’s a little too fragmented to really get a “grip” on the whole situation. Anyway, to your questions:

    1. What is Amanda’s character?

    She seems very suggestible, or possibly living without any understanding of a “normal” reality. She doesn’t seem to be very logical at all. I’m not sure if she’s “simple” or just never been exposed to it.

    2. Why does she fall in love with Adam so quickly?

    I believe she thinks she’s in love with him because he intrigues her – apparently he doesn’t act like anyone she’s known, and it’s pleasant. A form of puppy love, perhaps

    3. What about her backstory has caused her to take on these character traits set forth in the first two questions?

    I have to assume that there’s been some kind of brainwashing or brain injury, since Adam’s actions stir “memories”, however vague, and since she seems to have no understanding of human interaction outside the web of prostitution.

  • #654690

    Anonymous

    Ok, now that I’m finally getting some actual critique here, it seems that I haven’t done a very good job of establishing Amanda’s character with this excerpt. Here are the answers I wanted you to give. I’d like you all to tell me how I can adequately establish Amanda’s character more efficiently.

    — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

    1. What is Amanda’s character?
    She is a tortured soul, someone who sees herself as an object because that is all she has ever been treated as. I had hoped the phrase “her bastard dad” would have conveyed that she had been abused as a child. She has obtained a job as a prostitute, not because she enjoys that kind of work, but because she has been convinced, because of her years and years of abuse, that it’s the only thing she’s fit to do.

    She wants Adam to be her new “pimp.” What she really wants is for Adam to be her boyfriend, and for her to leave the prostitute life. But she doesn’t understand the difference. To her, prostitution and abuse is all she knows.

    Same goes with Amanda wanting to be Adam’s “main ho.” What she really means is “girlfriend,” but she can’t comprehend such a concept because she’s never experienced love before.

    On a side note, her dad is not her current pimp. I just want to nip that in the bud right here. She left her dad’s house at midnight of her 18th birthday and never looked back, getting a job as a hooker in a completely different city. Although the excerpt I’ve provided doesn’t say that, I do intend to make that clear elsewhere in the novel.

    2. Why does she fall in love with Adam so quickly?
    He is literally the first person in her entire life to treat her like anything but a punching bag and a piece of meat. The basic chivalry that Adam shows her on their date – which we normal people consider “standard” date behavior – is so far and beyond anything she had experienced before that she views Adam as her knight in shining armor, literally sweeping her off her feet and riding off into the sunset together.

    I figured that the sentence “She thought this behavior only existed in fairy tails” should have hinted at that naivety, even if it didn’t state this outright.

    As far as Amanda was concerned at this stage in her life, Adam is the most romantic man on the entire planet, hands-down. THAT’S why she wants Adam to be her boyfriend (even though, in her mind, all she can comprehend is “pimp”).

    3. What about her backstory has caused her to take on these character traits set forth in the first two questions?
    She was repeatedly and constantly abused by “her bastard dad.” She never knew her mom (I don’t even intend to explain, anywhere in the book, what happened to her, because I don’t see that as necessary for the story I’m trying to tell), and for as long as she can remember, her dad would beat and rape her. By the time she even so much as started kindergarten, she had absolutely no self-esteem and thought that this was just how the world worked … that she’s just destined to suffer and that’s all there is to it. That’s why she never complained to her teachers or guidance counselors about her situation; she didn’t think she even had any grounds to complain because she thought the whole world was like this.

    In short, I want Amanda’s character to be a tragedy. In this regard, my intent is to make her a foil to Adam, who I intend on portraying as a triumphant champion for the helpless, although in this excerpt, the only hint to that character arc is that he’s in the political career (remember, this is only 1 excerpt out of an entire novel).

    — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

    Ok, now that you know what I’m trying to do with Amanda’s character, please advise me on how I can more effectively convey this character & backstory to my readers.

  • #654691

    Anonymous

    Here, maybe this will help.

    Here is a very, very similar character from a few years ago. She has a very similar personality & backstory to Amanda, though with slight variations.

    In case you’re having trouble following the story, just know this: “Caps” are the currency in this fictional universe, “psycho” is a highly addictive drug, and “The sole survivor” is the player character in this video game. Got it? Good. Now on with the character analysis:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-DbAXlYpVU

    So what exactly is this story doing correctly with Cait’s character that I am failing to do with Amanda?

  • #654692

    Anonymous

    I think before anyone can advise you, we’d have to know where in the story this excerpt takes place. If it’s nearly the first thing people would read, then you’d get the reactions you did here. There’s no context for any of it. If it’s later in the story, then you have ample time to ‘drip feed’ the backstory to the reader.

    But let’s also consider the characterization. An excerpt, any excerpt, is not going to give readers a true sense of who a character is. It’s like watching a couple in a department store. You don’t know them, don’t know what they’re actually looking for – you only see them seemingly wandering the aisles, interacting with each other, maybe with a clerk. You can make some assumptions, as we did here, but it’s all conjecture. Readers learn about the characters over the course of the story; it’s a building process. Because the excerpt didn’t provide enough clues to the real story is not because you failed – it’s because it can’t be done.

  • #654693

    Anonymous

    ostarella wrote:
    > I think before anyone can advise you, we’d have to know where in the story
    > this excerpt takes place. If it’s nearly the first thing people would read,
    > then you’d get the reactions you did here. There’s no context for any of
    > it. If it’s later in the story, then you have ample time to ‘drip feed’ the backstory to the reader.

    Although this comes around Chapter 4, as far as Amanda’s backstory are concerned, this is honestly the first real glimpse the readers currently have into her past. 90% of the story is supposed to be told through Adam’s point of view, not Amanda’s.

  • #654694

    Anonymous

    stebbinsd wrote:
    > ostarella wrote:
    > > I think before anyone can advise you, we’d have to know where in the story
    > > this excerpt takes place. If it’s nearly the first thing people would read,
    > > then you’d get the reactions you did here. There’s no context for any of
    > > it. If it’s later in the story, then you have ample time to ‘drip feed’ the
    > backstory to the reader.
    >
    >
    > Although this comes around Chapter 4, as far as Amanda’s backstory are concerned,
    > this is honestly the first real glimpse the readers currently have into her past. 90%
    > of the story is supposed to be told through Adam’s point of view, not Amanda’s.
    ==============

    I think it would work better if we had seen more of Amanda earlier.
    You should listen to ostarella and what she says.

  • #654695

    Anonymous

    There actually was a scene told from Amanda’s point of view that came earlier in the book. However, I can’t show it to you now, because my desktop computer is broken down and I can’t access any of the files there. I actually bought an adapter that was supposed to convert the internal hard drive to connect via USB, but as this thread can tell you …

    http://www.tomshardware.com/answers/id-3548078/sata-usb-adapter.html

    … that didn’t work out as well as I had hoped.

  • #654696

    Anonymous

    Oh, I’m feeling peevish tonight. This was just not done well at all. Rip it up and start over.

  • #654697

    Anonymous

    stebbinsd wrote:
    > There actually was a scene told from Amanda’s point of view that came
    > earlier in the book. However, I can’t show it to you now, because my
    > desktop computer is broken down and I can’t access any of the files there.
    > I actually bought an adapter that was supposed to convert the internal hard
    > drive to connect via USB, but as this thread can tell you …
    >
    > http://www.tomshardware.com/answers/id-3548078/sata-usb-adapter.html
    >
    > … that didn’t work out as well as I had hoped.
    ==========

    I buy usb HDs and attach them to my XP computer with no problem. Some even to my 98se box. And I have put external HDs into cases and used them via USB.

    I suspect that you are running into win8 or win10 problems not with the HD adapter. That said you might need to install drivers for the adapter.

    Else you may have a known problem where the laptop shuts down usb ports at random because of a power setting. Go figure. Only the whiz kids at microslop know why then inflicted that bug on us. I had to do a lot of searching to find that answer to just use a usb mem stick on win8.

    Other than drivers or the power glitch I would say you might want to switch to linux and get rid of windoze. You can dual boot with linux on the laptop. You can buy a magazine at B&N with info and the full opsys on a DVD ready to use. You will still need to download updates but mostly it is straightforward and you have a better opsys whose TOS dont say that all your (data)base are belong to them.

    I would suggest multiple backups on assorted media. I always keep documents and recent files on a usb stick immediately , as well as alternating HDs that I back up everything to weekly or biweekly.

  • #654698

    Anonymous

    I already have a thread for my computer problems. Can we please keep this thread to critiquing my work, so I don’t get confused?

  • #654699

    Anonymous

    Alice Holt wrote:
    > Oh, I’m feeling peevish tonight. This was just not done well at all. Rip it
    > up and start over.
    ===========

    That is one way. I think he could edit and revise what is there to make it work. Hopefully shorten it a bit too which a good revision should normally result in making happen.

  • #654700

    Anonymous

    > That is one way. I think he could edit and revise what is there to make it work.
    > Hopefully shorten it a bit too which a good revision should normally result in making
    > happen.

    But HOW do I revise it so as to more accurately convey Amanda’s character?

    Remember, Amanda is a side character in this story. The main character is Adam. Amanda’s primary role in the story is a foil to Adam. So I don’t want ot make her a pivotal character; I only want the readers to know what her character is so she can be a stark contrast to Adam.

  • #654701

    Anonymous

    stebbinsd wrote:

    > But HOW do I revise it so as to more accurately convey Amanda’s character?
    >
    > Remember, Amanda is a side character in this story. The main character is Adam.
    > Amanda’s primary role in the story is a foil to Adam. So I don’t want ot make her a
    > pivotal character; I only want the readers to know what her character is so she can
    > be a stark contrast to Adam.

    Just to rephrase what I said earlier – this excerpt can’t be revised to accurately show Amanda’s character without a huge infodump included. You don’t want to do that. Particularly since she obviously has a very complicated history, she needs to be “introduced” earlier and gradually, and developed throughout her “participation” of the story. And perhaps her very complicated history needs to be simplified. Maybe it has to be complicated or her character won’t work – or maybe there’s too much focus on the history of a secondary character. I don’t know, since obviously I haven’t read the entire story, but I think it’s something to consider.

    This particular section needs work, no doubt, but again – no author can expect to accurately explain a character in a short excerpt. It’s a snapshot in time which gives a snapshot view of the character.

  • #654702

    Anonymous
    Quote:
    without a huge infodump included. You don’t want to do that

    Yes, I already know that. Take a look at the very first paragraph in my OP. You can clearly see that I already understand that.

    Hey, I’ve got an idea. What if I introduce a third character? In the excerpt I provided, Amanda decided she was going to fake being bisexual for Adam’s titilation. What if I introduced another woman.

    I’m a little hesitant to do this. After all, I don’t want this to be an erotic novel. Giving Adam TWO girlfriends dangerously borders that line. But as long as I refrain from depicting any explicit sexual activity between them, I should be okay.

    Maybe I could use Amanda’s relationship with this other girl to help explain Amanda’s character better by giving Amanda her own foil. Someone who grew up with a loving family and who is confident in herself and her abilities. Then audiences might pick up on Amanda’s character better, and notice how Amanda is, in turn, a foil to Adam.

    Just a thought. It’s 9:30 in my time zone and I was up all night. So maybe I’m just not thinking clearly and this is the dumbest idea you’ve ever heard. Let me know what you think of this idea and I’ll check the thread tonight after I wake up. Goodnight.

  • #654703

    Anonymous

    ostarella wrote:
    > stebbinsd wrote:
    >
    > > But HOW do I revise it so as to more accurately convey Amanda’s character?
    > >
    > > Remember, Amanda is a side character in this story. The main character is Adam.
    > > Amanda’s primary role in the story is a foil to Adam. So I don’t want ot make
    > her a
    > > pivotal character; I only want the readers to know what her character is so she
    > can
    > > be a stark contrast to Adam.
    >
    >
    > Just to rephrase what I said earlier – this excerpt can’t be revised to accurately
    > show Amanda’s character without a huge infodump included. You don’t want to do that.
    > Particularly since she obviously has a very complicated history, she needs to be
    > “introduced” earlier and gradually, and developed throughout her
    > “participation” of the story. And perhaps her very complicated history
    > needs to be simplified. Maybe it has to be complicated or her character won’t work –
    > or maybe there’s too much focus on the history of a secondary character. I don’t
    > know, since obviously I haven’t read the entire story, but I think it’s something to
    > consider.
    >
    > This particular section needs work, no doubt, but again – no author can expect to
    > accurately explain a character in a short excerpt. It’s a snapshot in time which
    > gives a snapshot view of the character.
    =======

    Agree that it would work better if Amanda were shown earlier and this flashback is focused with just the info needed.

    New TV show called Valor used flashbacks very very effectively. There have been several and each just related to a later scene to give the context and significance to what is happening and will happen. They could have shown all of it originally or all of it during the first flashback but the way they limit the amount works very well.

  • #654704

    Anonymous

    stebbinsd wrote:
    > > That is one way. I think he could edit and revise what is there to make it
    > work.
    > > Hopefully shorten it a bit too which a good revision should normally result in
    > making
    > > happen.
    >
    > But HOW do I revise it so as to more accurately convey Amanda’s character?
    >
    > Remember, Amanda is a side character in this story. The main character is Adam.
    > Amanda’s primary role in the story is a foil to Adam. So I don’t want ot make her a
    > pivotal character; I only want the readers to know what her character is so she can
    > be a stark contrast to Adam.
    ===========

    Like ostarella said. It would work better if Amanda shows up earlier which lets you show parts of her character as the story moves on.
    You can contrast the two of them without any flashbacks by showing their characters as being different.

    If Amanda is the foil to Adam then she is a main character. It takes two to tangle. At least the theory books claim that.

  • #654705

    Anonymous

    deddmann_writing wrote:
    > Like ostarella said. It would work better if Amanda shows up earlier which lets you
    > show parts of her character as the story moves on.

    I told you … there’s another excerpt told from Amanda’s point of view that occurs before this excerpt, but I can’t show it to you right now because my main computer is broken down.

  • #654706

    cypher
    Participant

    I think you deserve an award, stebbinsd. To receive 34 responses to a post in the Critique section is an unheard of achievement at a time when most posts receive little or no response. Well done for getting people talking! 🙂

  • #654707

    Anonymous

    Oldtimer wrote:
    > I think you deserve an award, stebbinsd. To receive 34 responses to a post
    > in the Critique section is an unheard of achievement at a time when most
    > posts receive little or no response. Well done for getting people talking!
    > 🙂
    ================

    He asked specific questions. More people are willing to do that than a general ‘critique’ of the whole thing.

  • #654708

    Anonymous

    I am very late to throw my two cents in, apologies, been busy and away from forum a while.

    I was initially suspecting that Amanda was an alien or an android, who knew nothing about human behavior or emotions. (even the bastard father remark could fall in with that, androids must be created, hence, father. or an alien could have a father too) Her behavior and reactions didn’t seem to make any sense in regards to human beings to me.

    Obviously, she was a prostitute that had only known that along with violence. That she had to do research to discover what courting/romance looked like was very odd. Had she never watched TV or a movie, at least once?

    And there was no way to infer that she was falling in love, merely wanting to move from a violent pimp to a kinder one.

    Her immediate reactions to all of his kind/normal courting behavior was strange, to me. Perhaps, she should instantly emotionally react to the kind gesture or words, as in favorably, wanting to move towards it, it would be human nature to enjoy those gestures and gravitate to it, I believe, and would be instantaneous. then, her mind, based on her abusive past, would jump in and tell herself “No, I can’t trust this, this guy clearly must have an angle or be about to kill me” and things along those lines. That’s my thoughts about it.

  • #654709

    Anonymous

    stebbinsd wrote:
    > But HOW do I revise it so as to more accurately convey Amanda’s character?
    >
    > Remember, Amanda is a side character in this story. The main character is Adam.
    > Amanda’s primary role in the story is a foil to Adam. So I don’t want ot make her a
    > pivotal character; I only want the readers to know what her character is so she can
    > be a stark contrast to Adam.
    The thing about the work for me was the the entire piece was in Amanda’s point of view. It’s hard for me to think of her as anything BUT pivotal because I spend the whole segment in her head.

    If she’s a side character, then I suggest don’t go there. Stay away from her POV. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t show.

    This is a troubling example, but have you ever watched an abused dog treated with kindness for the first time? There’s examples on YouTube. I don’t want to get explicit, but you can see that the dog is scared. It wants to escape. Because touch isn’t a kindness. It’s a weapon.

    > she remembered how…

    > Wait a minute. A date? She had never gone on a date before! This was … umm … this was a new experience for her.

    Do you see the issue that I see? Have you ever gone “umm” when you recalled something from years ago?

    You’re giving me the reader a deep dive into who Amanda is, but Amanda is going to go away. Why give us that investment, and then take her away?

    I think the answer to your questions is that less is more.

    Well… there’s another answer: Amanda is far more a part of this story than you intended.

    I have a fantasy story I need to polish. In that fantasy story, my main character stumbles upon a woman trying to operate a farm after her husband died. My character stays with her through a year, and turns the place around into a successful farm that he teaches her to run. At the end of that year, he’s thinking his journey is over. This is the home he was seeking. There’s sexual tension that never boils over. But then… she’s killed by roving bandits. My character is back on the road.

    You know what I was forced to realize? After 60 pages and a whole year of his life, my character is right where he started that section.

    I had to kill that section. And some critique partners who read it, they were angry. I mean PISSED. They loved Jacqueline. What I had in my head wasn’t what showed up on the page.

    Maybe the Amanda you wrote isn’t the Amanda you intended? That could be good OR bad.

  • #654710

    Anonymous

    RobTheThird wrote:
    > This is a troubling example, but have you ever watched an abused dog treated with
    > kindness for the first time? There’s examples on YouTube. I don’t want to get
    > explicit, but you can see that the dog is scared. It wants to escape. Because touch
    > isn’t a kindness. It’s a weapon.

    Well … yes … I thought I did that! When Adam went in to kiss her goodnight, she was afraid she was about to be murdered. Doesn’t that count?

    > > she remembered how…
    >
    > > Wait a minute. A date? She had never gone on a date before! This was … umm …
    > this was a new experience for her.
    >
    > Do you see the issue that I see? Have you ever gone “umm” when you
    > recalled something from years ago?
    >
    > You’re giving me the reader a deep dive into who Amanda is, but Amanda is going to go
    > away. Why give us that investment, and then take her away?
    Wait … go away? At what point in this entire thread did I ever even so much as imply that I had any intention of killing Amanda off by the end of the story?

    > I have a fantasy story I need to polish. In that fantasy story, my main character
    > stumbles upon a woman trying to operate a farm after her husband died. My character
    > stays with her through a year, and turns the place around into a successful farm that
    > he teaches her to run. At the end of that year, he’s thinking his journey is over.
    > This is the home he was seeking. There’s sexual tension that never boils over. But
    > then… she’s killed by roving bandits. My character is back on the road.
    >
    > You know what I was forced to realize? After 60 pages and a whole year of his life,
    > my character is right where he started that section.
    >
    > I had to kill that section. And some critique partners who read it, they were angry.
    > I mean PISSED. They loved Jacqueline. What I had in my head wasn’t what showed up
    > on the page.
    >
    > Maybe the Amanda you wrote isn’t the Amanda you intended? That could be good OR bad.

    Again … when did I even so much as IMPLY that Amanda was going to be killed off?

    I can totally understand your peers not liking that plot twist.

    Just on the small synopsis you give me, I see what you were trying to accomplish. You were trying to tell a story that ends in tragedy, just like Romeo & Juliet or Hamlet. Moral of the story: Sometimes, crap happens and there’s nothing you can do about it! Life sucks; deal with it.

    But I still understand why your peers didn’t like the twist. It essentially undoes the entire story. It’s a deus ex machina – a plot device that resolves the conflict by effectively negating the entire plot! A common example of such a plot device is … the entire plot was only a dream.

    The only time I ever saw a deus ex machina used effectively was in a two-part episode of Family Guy where Stewie actually kills Lois and takes over the world, only for it to all be a simulation. However, the only reason that deus ex machina worked is because the characters called attention to the fact that it was a deus ex machina; essentially, that show was SATIRIZING the deus ex machina, and THAT’S how it worked!

    But I have no intentions of killing Amanda off. If I have any deus ex machinas in the story and don’t realize it yet, Amanda being killed off is NOT one of them!

  • #654711

    Anonymous

    jackitaylor wrote:
    >Perhaps, she should instantly emotionally react to the
    > kind gesture or words, as in favorably, wanting to move towards it, it
    > would be human nature to enjoy those gestures and gravitate to it, I
    > believe, and would be instantaneous. then, her mind, based on her abusive
    > past, would jump in and tell herself “No, I can’t trust this, this guy
    > clearly must have an angle or be about to kill me” and things along
    > those lines. That’s my thoughts about it.

    I thought I covered that in the excerpt in my OP:

    “Strangely enough, she wanted to see Adam again. The more she thought about it, the more she realized that she actually liked the whole movie-and-walk thing. She was scared at first, thinking she was going to be killed, but now that she knew otherwise, as she replayed those events in her head, she wanted to experience it again … and again … and again.”

    How does that not fit what you’re suggesting?

  • #654712

    Anonymous

    Um, I can’t help but notice that you seem to be pretty defensive when responding to comments. The point of asking for feedback is generally to see how other people perceive your writing, so arguing with those perceptions kinda defeats the purpose (arguing as in “But I did that!” – if you had, or had effectively, it wouldn’t have been brought up). It also tends to make people not want to comment further. If you don’t understand a comment, ask for further explanation; if you don’t agree, just thank the person for taking time to comment and move on.

  • #654713

    Anonymous

    ostarella wrote:
    > Um, I can’t help but notice that you seem to be pretty defensive when
    > responding to comments. The point of asking for feedback is generally to
    > see how other people perceive your writing, so arguing with those
    > perceptions kinda defeats the purpose (arguing as in “But I did
    > that!” – if you had, or had effectively, it wouldn’t have been brought
    > up). It also tends to make people not want to comment further. If you don’t
    > understand a comment, ask for further explanation; if you don’t agree, just
    > thank the person for taking time to comment and move on.

    I apologize if it comes off that way. When I say “I said x in my excerpt; why isn’t that good enough,” I’m not trying to be defensive. To the contrary, I’m trying to understand why, exactly, my excerpt is insufficient for this purpose.

    Let me put it this way: Remember earlier, when I said had a broken computer? Well, I just got finished wrapping up an ebay transaction with a vendor by the username Foxgrandmalovesflowers, where I purchased multiple parts at once, just to be absolutely sure I replaced the defective part. One of those parts was defective itself. So I contacted the vendor and asked for a partial refund. We reached an agreement and he Paypaled me $45 per the agreed-upon partial refund.

    Well, he said that I was being “aggressive” when dealing with him. I didn’t understand what he meant.

    So here’s the conversation we had, in regards to the aggressiveness.

    https://s1.postimg.org/67gnx2ur9r/Dealings_with_Foxgrandmalovesflowers_Part_1.png
    https://s1.postimg.org/1ry8rtjfmn/Dealings_with_Foxgrandmalovesflowers_Part_2.png
    https://s1.postimg.org/89wgl4trqn/Dealings_with_Foxgrandmalovesflowers_Part_3.png
    https://s1.postimg.org/1oemu3q573/Dealings_with_Foxgrandmalovesflowers_Part_4.png
    https://s1.postimg.org/6sqbjdpupr/Dealings_with_Foxgrandmalovesflowers_Part_5.png

    Part 4 is especially on-point in this discussion: “How am I supposed to learn from my mistakes if people don’t point them out?”

    So when you say I need to do something, and I reply by saying “I said x in my excerpt; why isn’t that good enough,” I’m not doubting your wisdom. Quite the opposite, in fact: I’m trying to learn from the wisdom & experience you collectively have!

  • #654714

    Anonymous

    stebbinsd wrote:
    > Wait … go away? At what point in this entire thread did I ever even so much as imply that I had any intention of killing Amanda off by the end of the story?
    Unimportant to me. I didn’t say kill off. You said she was a side character and not important (paraphrasing). A side character doesn’t hang around throughout a story. Even if they’re a sidekick, they have import, and meaning.

    So now I’m unsure what you mean her relevance to be.

    > Again … when did I even so much as IMPLY that Amanda was going to be killed off?

    > I can totally understand your peers not liking that plot twist.

    I said I killed the section. As in it’s no longer in the story. They actually were fine with the plot twist. But I was forced to realize that no matter how “good” that section was, it didn’t serve any function within the story.

    You may be facing the opposite. Some character you thought to be minor really isn’t.

    Maybe.

  • #654715

    Anonymous

    RobTheThird wrote:
    > So now I’m unsure what you mean her relevance to be.

    I want her to be a foil to Adam. I want her to highlight Adam’s traits (to make it easier for the readers to know what Adam’s traits are) by having her possess the polar opposite traits.

    It’s a classic literary device. One cop is no-nonsense and to the point; his partner is goofy and often impedes the protagonists’ progress. One character is innocent and forgiving; his partner is hot-headed and trigger happy. Tarzan is independent but naive to the civilized world; Jane understands politeness and etiquette but is entirely unequipped to fend for herself.

    The technique is used so commonly … because it’s so effective.

    Amanda is cynical to the extreme. Adam wants to change the world for the better. Amanda thinks that misery and abuse is just how the world works. Adam has felt misery and abuse and he’s going to do something about it. When Amanda thinks someone is going to kill her, she just stands there and waits for it to happen. When Adam thinks he’s being threatened, he fights back!

    She’s a FOIL to Adam! Nothing more, nothing less!

  • #654716

    Anonymous

    RobTheThird wrote:
    > I said I killed the section. As in it’s no longer in the story. They actually were
    > fine with the plot twist. But I was forced to realize that no matter how
    > “good” that section was, it didn’t serve any function within the story.

    So … Chekhov’s Gun?

  • #654717

    Anonymous

    I think we have very different definitions of pivotal. In some of your other responses, you stated that you did not want her to be pivotal. But..

    > I want her to highlight Adam’s traits (to make it easier for the readers to know what Adam’s traits are) by having her possess the polar opposite traits.

    That, to me, is pivotal.

  • #654718

    Anonymous

    I don’t wan’t to be influencing your own style of writing too much, but if it helps you, I wil try to give an idea of what i was talking about, and give an example of a way to show what you wanted to show.

    >
    > Wait a minute. A date? She had never gone on a date before! This was … umm
    > … this was a new experience for her.

    so why did she go? if she knew it was supposed to be like a real date, and it was so foreign to her, why did she go? What made her decide to go? would a bit of her interior dialogue be adding too much, to show how she came to that decision? Maybe you could use that to build her character/backstory a touch at the same time?
    >
    > Three days later, on Saturday, June 20, she met with Adam at the movie
    > theater. After the movie, he walked with her down the sidewalk. What was he
    > doing? Oh god, he was going to drag her to a back alley and rape and kill
    > her, wasn’t he? Her pimp warned her about this!

    This part threw me off. If she is so untrusting of him, why is she walking with him? Wouldn’t she be so untrusting and streetwise that she wouldn’t walk with him? What do you think about expanding this moment a bit with her thoughts and the dialogue? He asks to walk her home a few minutes later, so to where are they walking at this moment?

    I’m thinking something like : He asks if he can walk her home/walk with her. Then, she hesitates and go into her thoughts/feelings. Amanda felt a tightness in her chest. Nobody had ever offered to walk her home before. What was this guy up to? Oh God, he was going to drag her to a back alley . . .”

    But she walks with him anyway, Why? And why keep walking the whole way while her thoughts run wild with fear? So something made her stay with him for the walk, show us that, what about him kept her walking with him even though she was sure he meant to do her wrong? Tell us that, show us that. Maybe, that will show that she was getting to like him, despite her fear and inability to trust. Maybe that’s why I had trouble with this, it just seems like she is so terrified and sure he is going to hurt her, so why does she keep walking with him? Her behavior is contradicting her thoughts.

    > “You’re cold, aren’t you,” Adam whispered at her? He took off his own
    > jacket and put it around Amanda’s body. The cold seemed to subside, except
    > it was hard for Amanda to tell since she could barely feel anything at all.
    >
    > Except … wait … what did her customer just do? It seems oddly familiar to
    > her, like she read it in a book somewhere, but she can’t quite pin down
    > exactly where she heard it, or what this was supposed to symbolize.

    This seems like a lot of words, what about her instant emotional reaction, instead of her thoughts? Make us feel what she felt when he suddenly plops his coat on her shoulders. She’s known nothing but abuse. I would bet, when he reached for her, her heart clenched or thumped wildly , she couldn’t breath for a second. Then the coat around her shoulders and the cold subsides. Then maybe her thoughts. What did he just do? Maybe she could settle down a bit and snuggle into the coat, thinking that maybe he wasn’t so bad? I mean there’s got to be a reason why she keeps walking with somebody about to kill her right? Otherwise it kind of is confusing.
    >
    And why did she call him a customer when she knew it was to be a date in the first place? And I will mention again, that her having to research courting behavior afterward is strange, I’m sure she watched a movie or two at some point. but of course, she wouldn’t want to trust it as for real.

    A general suggestion, something to think about, if you want to show that she is falling for him, but mistrustful, what about giving us some heart/head arguments? I mean, I don’t know if you are female or if men do this too, but as a woman, I do. LIke my heart/feelings would say one thing, my mind is screaming at me “you idiot! he’s going to chop you up into pieces!” show us she was starting to like him, if that’s what you wanted to show. So maybe an emotional reaction, her softening toward him then her brain jumping in with the trust thing. Because I would find that totally believable and could relate to it. Scatter that a bit throughout, not just at the end? Does that make sense?

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