A new Life Critique by Ginny Swart

Story Name:  A New Life 

Author:   Grant Griffiths

Assessor:   Ginny Swart

Date:  2 June 2009


This story was delightfully local in theme and content, and "local" was carried through the whole piece very well. The characterization of Jolene was good, the writer really got into her skin and she came across as completely real. Aunty Maurida was also well drawn.

The story moved forward quickly and held my attention from the start. I liked the way Auntie Maurida subtly hinted at the possibility of helping Jolene's pregnancy in other ways.

Tying in her sudden realization that life was full of promise when she looked at the mountains was a nice touch, especially contrasting it with the squalor of the Wynberg street she was in.

A few nitpicks:

The opening sentence was a bit clumsy and drawn out.

Most of the dialogue sounded authentic and lively, but if you're using local colloquialisms, you need to check the spelling of these:

lekka is spelled lekker

Koeksisters is spelled koeksusters

Doilie is doily (this is not an Afrikaans word)

Also, I know they are almost part of our vocabulary today, but Baby-Gro is a registered trade name so should take a capital letter. 

Remember, when you sub anything to any editor or competition, always use one-and-a-half or double spacing format.

just three minutes, that's all it would take!

The quality was poor, she could see that. Holding it up to the light, you could easily see how transparent it was. It would wear through in a couple of washes.

Here, you flip very quickly from her thinking about the shop to being in it. This needed a double space to indicate passing of time/space. Also, what was she holding up?

The story veers between Jolene's Point of View (POV) and Auntie Moerida's. In a short story you need to stick to one person's POV, so that all the action, all the thoughts the reader is privy to, come from one person.  You kept to Jolene's POV until here: but she could tell that the young woman would not be eating any, and then went into Auntie Moerida's.

The word "put" has been used too closely together in the lines below - within three lines of each other. Rather use the word "placed" for one of them.

Jolene put two koeksusters

Jolene put the test kit

By the way, Put and get are two words that should always be replaced with a better word wherever possible. They totally dead verbs that don't describe the action at all.

There are great images here:

her red mouth round like a small port hole, her painted eyebrows floating high like two curved sails...

his clouded eyes... good subtle way of telling the reader he'd taken a few drinks.

The rest of the story is rather lacking in imagery, but you have a story to tell and you told it well.

The way she lovingly left Cliffie the test results and a chocolate bar, then walked away, leaving the decision up to him, was a rather indecisive ending. I would have preferred to see Jolene finally come to the decision herself, and act on it.

This story, with its very local feel, could make a good story for You magazine. Why not have a go - tidy it up a bit, format it in double spacing and send as an attachment to the editor.
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