Critique Corner #7: MERCURY RISES

By: Scarlett Kol                                                         

Genre: YA Speculative Fiction           

Lead-in: Our protagonist, Mercury is the daughter of important government official and has run away from home for reasons unknown at this point. She thinks she has been spotted and has returned to her hotel room to collect her things and run again. She enters the room and realizes she’s not alone.

I knew who it was before I bothered to turn on the lights. The smell of expensive hair gel mixed with ambition and a hint of sweat could only be one person — Christophe.

He sat poised on the bed. His left foot crossed over his right knee vibrated with either impatience or anxiety from sitting on the cheap hotel sheets. It would have been funny if I didn’t want to lunge across the room and strangle him. If I was certain no one would come looking for him, I would consider it.

Crossing my arms, I leaned against the door. “What do you want?”

He stood up and adjusted his French cuffs under his jacket. He used to look like a kid playing dress up when he wore a suit like this, but right now he finally looked the part. An adult. A man of purpose. It was disgusting.

He cleared his throat. “You know why I’m here.”

“Which is exactly why you need to leave.” I pointed toward the closed door.

“Why do you need to be so hostile? Your family’s been worried about you. He started to walk toward me. “I’ve been worried about you.”

I narrowed my eyes to sharp slits and he stopped. Smarter than I thought he’d be. I braced myself anyway.

“I don’t know why you insist on these games. You’ve been gone almost three months this time. I think they get the point.”

“If they did, you wouldn’t be here.”

“I know this isn’t how you expected things to work out.” He ran a hand through his short spiky hair. “I’m not even going to pretend that I know what you were trying to do, because the truth is I don’t. I never know what is going on in that head of yours. But I’d like to, if you’d just let me.”

“I appreciate the offer, but I don’t feel much like talking. So why don’t you crawl back to my father and tell him that I’m fine.” I moved into the bathroom threshold allowing him a clear path to the door. “Let him know I said hello.”

“I’m not leaving here without you.”

“Then I guess I’ll have to go without you.”

“You’ll never make it around the block. He’s got security everywhere.”

“Fantastic. It was that guard, wasn’t it? He recognized me.”

He nodded. “There is a helicopter waiting for us not far from here. I’m here to take you home.”

Resting my head against the door frame, I fought back the tears threatening to fall. It was over.

“You didn’t think he would let you walk away again did you?”

“Why not? He can’t make me stay.”

“Of course he can. You’re a minor.”

Christophe took my arm and pulled me to him. I fell against his chest as his palm rested on my hair, his chin sitting gently on the top of my head. The heat of his skin seeped through his thin dress shirt. It was almost comforting.

“It’s going to be okay.”

7 thoughts on “Critique Corner #7: MERCURY RISES

  1. myinnermg says:

    Oh, you’ve got me interested Scarlett! Why did Mercury (love that name, btw) run away? The history between her and Christophe is charged and intriguing. You have quick intense dialogue throughout. What I’d love to see, though, are some feelings on either side. They talk back and forth to each other very naturally, but I can’t tell what they’re feeling, ya know? I made a few specific notes below to give you an idea of possible opportunities to add some emotional detail.

    Overall, I think this sounds like an amazing story. I hope some of this direction helps. Very best of luck to you, Scarlett! (-:

    Melyssa
    @MyInnerMG

    Title: Mercury Rises

    Author: Scarlett Kol

    Lead-in: Our protagonist, Mercury is the daughter of important government official and has run away from home for reasons unknown at this point. She thinks she has been spotted and has returned to her hotel room to collect her things and run again. She enters the room and realizes she’s not alone.

    I knew who it was before I bothered to turn on the lights. The smell of expensive hair gel mixed with ambition and a hint of sweat could only be one person — Christophe.
    He sat poised on the bed. His left foot crossed over his right knee vibrated with either impatience or anxiety from sitting on the cheap hotel sheets. It would have been funny if I didn’t want to lunge across the room and strangle him. If I was certain no one would come looking for him, I would consider it.

    (Very curious what happened to cause their hostile history)

    Crossing my arms, I leaned against the door. “What do you want?”
    He stood up and adjusted his French cuffs under his jacket. He used to look like a kid playing dress up when he wore a suit like this, but right now he finally looked the part. An adult. A man of purpose. It was disgusting. (Great display of her feelings on authority figures here).
    He cleared his throat. “You know why I’m here.”
    “Which is exactly why you need to leave.” I pointed toward the closed door.
    “Why do you need to be so hostile? Your family’s been worried about you. He started to walk toward me. “I’ve been worried about you.”
    I narrowed my eyes to sharp slits and he stopped. Smarter than I thought he’d be. I braced myself anyway.
    “I don’t know why you insist on these games. You’ve been gone almost three months this time. I think they get the point.”
    “If they did, you wouldn’t be here.”
    “I know this isn’t how you expected things to work out.” He ran a hand through his short spiky hair. “I’m not even going to pretend that I know what you were trying to do, because the truth is I don’t. I never know what is going on in that head of yours. But I’d like to, if you’d just let me.”

    (Right here, I’d love a little bit about how Mercury feels when he says this to her. Does it stab at her heart? Make her sick? Sorry?)

    “I appreciate the offer, but I don’t feel much like talking. So why don’t you crawl back to my father and tell him that I’m fine.” I moved into the bathroom threshold allowing him a clear path to the door. “Let him know I said hello.”
    “I’m not leaving here without you.”
    “Then I guess I’ll have to go without you.” (considering putting this “you” in italics)
    “You’ll never make it around the block. He’s got security everywhere.”

    (And how does she feel about this? -Now I sound like a therapist. But I wanna know. (-: Is she just so sick and tired of being guarded? More determined to get away because of it?).

    “Fantastic. It was that guard, wasn’t it? He recognized me.”
    He nodded. “There is a helicopter waiting for us not far from here. I’m here to take you home.”
    Resting my head against the door frame, I fought back the tears threatening to fall.

    (these tears seem to come out of nowhere. There’s a lot of quick action and dialogue here, but not a lot about how Mercury feels. Maybe add some emotion prior to this so we sympathize with her fighting off the tears by this point)

    (I’d also suggest giving this its own line) It was over.

    “You didn’t think he would let you walk away again did you?”
    “Why not? He can’t make me stay.”
    “Of course he can. You’re a minor.”
    Christophe took my arm and pulled me to him. I fell against his chest as his palm rested on my hair, his chin sitting gently on the top of my head. The heat of his skin seeped through his thin dress shirt.

    (the image I had of him was in a stiff suit so the thin dress shirt didn’t match in my head).
    It was almost comforting.
    “It’s going to be okay.”

  2. swirlandspark says:

    Scarlette, I like this a lot! I like these two characters and I am dying to know why Mercury is trying so hard to get away from her father, especially since it appears she has run away before. She seems strong and determined—a great heroine. I have just a few picky suggestions to make it stronger but besides these, it’s very well written:
    The description of Christophe is good, but I wonder if you need the bit about the sweat. It may be enough to say, “The smell of expensive hair gel mixed with ambition could only be one person.” Otherwise it gets wordy and I’m thinking the important descriptor is his ambition and that he has expensive taste or is wealthy himself.
    In the sentence describing his foot, you need a comma after “foot” and also after “knee” to show that “crossed over his right knee” is an appositive describing his foot and the foot is the subject of the sentence. In the sentence about the French cuffs, you use the word “his” twice. I suggest changing “his cuffs” to “the cuffs.” In the sentence immediately after that, “finally” threw me off. I’m wondering if “actually looked the part” would sound better.
    Also, be careful of using “started to” It weakens the writing. Instead of: “He started to walk toward me,” perhaps you could say, “He took a step toward me. “I was worried about you.” (I do love, by the way, this glimpse into Christophe’s feelings for her.) In the next sentence: “Smarter than I thought he’d be” took me out of the action. I like knowing what’s going on in her head, but perhaps you don’t need this? In the sentence, “I’m not even going to pretend I know what you were trying to do…” I think it should be “…what you are trying to do,” since she’s still doing it.
    The paragraph where she realizes she is trapped and it’s over seemed to come rather quickly. Of course I’m not sure just from these 500 if it would make sense in the story, but I was looking for her to ask him to help her escape again or something else where she doesn’t give up so fast! She seems feisty and her reaction didn’t mesh with that.
    My one question is about the genre. This doesn’t feel speculative fiction. It seems contemporary. Is there a way to inject something into the scene that would indicate elements of this world are somewhat different than what we’re used to, even if it’s small?
    Overall, I’m intrigued by this scene. You’ve done a great job and I would definitely read on! Thank you for sharing and good luck with this. I hope this helps:) 

  3. emilygmoorewriter says:

    This is an intriguing 500 words! I especially love the sensory elements in the first few chapters. This scene raises a lot of questions in my mind. I would like a litttle more voice from the MC. Also, when Christophe runs hands through spiked hair, I thought, “No, someone that primped wouldn’t do that. He’d mess up his perfection.” Just a thought. Hope this helps! Best of luck with this!

  4. Nicole P. says:

    Hi Scarlett,

    This sounds like a very interesting story. I’m fascinated by the whole interaction between Mercury and Christophe, especially when he holds her at the end. It’s so sweet. I kind of want there to be a romance but at the same time hope not since she’s still a minor. Unless he’s her age, then have at it! LOL. But overall this scene is presented in a way that makes me want to read more to find out why she ran away and see more interactions between these two. Great job!

  5. Rachel says:

    Hello!!

    This is an interesting 500!! I’m assuming it’s from the middle of the story. I agree with the others that I’d like to get into Mercury’s head a little bit more, because then I’d feel more sympathy for WHY she ran away, but I LOVED that line about “hint of ambition.” AH! Perfect prose right there.

    Also, this guy… is he a love interest?? One of her dad’s fellow workers?? I mean assuming this is the middle of the story I’d probably already know everything I want to know about him at this point, so I won’t push this too much, but I’d really like to know.

  6. Daniel Beerse says:

    Scarlett,

    I liked your story and after 500 words I wanted MORE. You clearly have me interested and intrigued about what’s really going on here. Is her father just an important government official, or is there some corruption or power mixed in? And what’s going on with her and Christophe? (Of course being a minor means it can’t be too heavy). I also like the name Mercury and her defiant nature, it brings some spice to the character.

    I agree with many of the other suggestions already made, but I had a few of my own to toss in:
    • In this sentence: “His left foot crossed over his right knee vibrated with either impatience or anxiety from sitting on the cheap hotel sheets.” The word “vibrated” didn’t work for me. How about “twitched” instead.
    • In the sentence: “If I was certain no one would come looking for him, I would consider it”. I believe there is a tense problem and it should read “. . . I would have considered it.”
    • You could get rid of a gerund here: “Crossing my arms, I leaned against the door. “What do you want?”” just by rewording to: “I leaned against the door, arms crossed. “What do you want?”” It lends itself to a more defiant attitude too.
    • Finally, in this scene, you could eliminate another gerund and make a stronger statement: “Resting my head against the door frame, I fought back the tears threatening to fall. It was over.” How about: “My head fell back against the door frame as tears burned in my eyes. It was over.”

    Well done and I look forward to reading this story someday!

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