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Title: "Invalid Item Ch 1

The Hook
Qualities of a good hook: the main character is introduced right away, he/she is in a distinct location, and he/she is doing something interesting. If done well, those things will encourage a reader to continue.

Your first paragraph:
Jean walked into Bill Knapps, and asked the hostess for a table for two in the front dining room. She wanted to watch the door for her friend Helen. She needed to run an errand before picking her kids up from school, so she was hoping Helen wouldn't be running late. She had asked if they could meet earlier than usual, as her husband, Charlie couldn't pick the kids up for her.

This opening paragraph does a good job of introducing the main character and putting her in a distinct location. However, waiting for a friend isn’t very interesting. There’s no tension in the scene. Jean doesn’t seem nervous or excited about the prospect of the meeting, and there’s no important reason given for why she needs to see her friend. It seems like just an average day and a normal meeting. This hook isn't the most effective at encouraging readers to continue on. (See the line-by-line for punctuation corrections.)

Plot and Characters:
There are two main parts to this chapter. Both introduce basically the same idea but with two separate groups of characters. The second part goes on to introduce the preacher and his beliefs.

The plot of the chapter is presented in a simple way so anyone can understand it. The characters (Jean, Helen, Bethany, and Nicole) are realistic and seem like typical women. They’re believable and will appeal to people who want to read Christian fiction.

At the end of the chapter, the preacher challenges his listeners to read a book and return to another meeting in two months’ time in order to have a discussion about it. That seemed like a logical way to end, and it also sets up the expectations of the readers for chapters to come. That is all a very good. *Smile*

You have the makings of a very good first chapter here. Any reader will find it easy to follow the action and the points you are making. However, there are a couple of things that might be smoothed out to streamline and simplify the chapter.

The first scene with Helen and Jean is interrupted several times when the waitress talks to them or brings them their food. Since the waitress isn’t part of the plot, there’s no reason for her to come so many times. She’s not important -- the dialog between Helen and Jean is important -- so the focus of the scene should stay on what they’re saying to each other and the interruptions by the waitress should be taken out.

Like the first scene of the chapter, the plot of the second half is easy to understand. However, since both halves cover basically the same information, I’m not sure why you needed the first scene with Jean and Helen. The second part of the chapter moves to two new characters, Bethany and Nicole, and you repeat much of the information you gave in the first scene. There’s no real reason to introduce Jean and Helen at all unless they are recurring characters and will be back in later chapters. Even then, there’s no reason to explain about the meeting, the preacher, and the book twice. If you’re trying to give the impression that all the people in town are talking about this event, you do that in the second part where Bethany recognizes many people at the meeting.

I really liked the details about the setting in the first scene. You even described a place that wasn’t the setting but was full of originality:
There the Bill Knapps looked as if they allowed the children to color all over the walls. It had the most awful wallpaper she had ever seen. Each time she walked through the entrance the room almost screamed at her.

This description is excellent. *Delight* It not only describes the wallpaper, but compares it to the scribblings of children. That certainly puts a vivid picture in my head. Using the word “screamed” at the end also intensifies the effect. I also liked the mention of the "goo" in the hair. It was interesting and helped me visualize the character. Great work in those places!

In the rest of the chapter, neither the setting nor the characters were given much description. Since the setting of the second half was called the Little Theater, I had pictured a small place in my head, and I was very surprised when one of the characters mentioned there were a thousand people in there. It made me stop and try to re-imagine the whole scene. You never want to make your reader stop because they’re confused. It would be a good idea to pay some attention to the setting description and the physical descriptions of the characters (beyond the clothes that one wore). Describing age, hair color and if they’re fat or thin would have made it much easier to “see” the scene in my mind.

See the line-by-line below, and pay special attention to the places I mark with a *Noter* because I explain a grammar rule or a type of writing technique.

If you have any questions about the corrections or if you don’t understand something, please feel free to email me and I’ll explain it more in depth. I’m happy to help. *Bigsmile*

LJPC - the tortoise

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Grammar in red.
Suggestions and comments in blue.
Repeated words and phrases in bold.

Jean walked into Bill Knapps, (no comma) and asked the hostess for a table for two in the front dining room. She ("she" refers to the last female mentioned, in this case, the hostess.) Jean wanted to watch the door for her friend(comma) Helen. She ("she" refers to Helen) Jean needed to run an errand before picking her kids up from school, so she was hoping Helen wouldn't be her friend wasn't running late. She had asked if they could meet earlier than usual, as her husband, Charlie(comma) couldn't pick the kids up for her.

*Noter* The sentences all start the same: "Jean/She (verb)" This style can get boring for a reader, so the sentence structure needs to be varied. Pick out recently published books in the library/bookstore and study the way the author alternates the sentence structure.

She really enjoyed eating at this restaurant more than the one in Saginaw. There(comma) the Bill Knapps looked as if they allowed the children to color all over the walls. It had the most awful wallpaper she had ever seen. Each time she walked through the entrance(comma) the room almost screamed at her. Here(comma) the carpet was plush green with a slight maroon pattern,(period) It it was so much nicer. Even when families brought their younger children to eat(comma) it still seemed quieter than the other was.
This paragraph makes me think that Jean doesn't like children. Was that your intention?


Pulling into the parking lot, Helen was glad they were meeting early as there weren't many cars in the lot yet. It looked like rain clouds were forming in the distance, and she forgot had forgotten her umbrella once again. At least if it was raining when she was done eating, she wouldn't have to run very far to her car.

Walking through the front door, Helen turned left and let her eyes roam over the tables looking for her friend, Jean. Seeing Jean wave at her, she told the hostess she was meeting her friend, and the hostess walked her to the table she pointed out, handing her a menu.

*Noter* The sentence structure repeats in these two paragraphs by beginning three of the five lines with -ing verb phrases. Try to make sure paragraphs in a row don't begin with the same sentence structure.

"Hi, Helen". *Paragraph* "Hi, Jean". They spoke at the same time, like usual, then burst out laughing.

"Thanks for meeting early this week." Who says this? Put a dialog tag.

"Works for me,(period) Maybe maybe this time I won't get caught in the downpour."

*Noter* I noticed that you have a number of "comma splices" in this chapter. A comma splice is when two independent sentences are connected into one line with a comma in the middle. Even if the sentences are about the same idea, if they can stand alone (are independent), they need to be separated into two different sentences by using a period not a comma. Check to see if the sentences can stand alone by reading them separately.

"Don't tell me that you forgot your umbrella again?"

"Okay, I won't."

Just then the waitress showed up to take their drink order. They told her they were limited for time and were ready to order their Taco Salads and sweetened ice tea.

"Don't you ever get tired of the same thing every week?" the waitress asked.

"Maybe if we had it year around, we would," Helen replied.

As the waitress left to get their drinks and put their order in to the cook, Helen turned back to Jean. "So you said you had a lot to talk to me about,(period) What what gives?" While waiting for her answer, Helen noticed that Jean had taken more time with her hair today. Not only had she washed and dried it, but she must have put some type of goo in it, as it had gentle spikes all over.

"Well, you remember I was talking on the phone to Melanie,(no comma) last Sunday afternoon? Melanie's pastor talked on Sunday at Mass about making a commitment to walk like Jesus."

"Wait a sec, Jean, here comes the waitress with our teas." (Put the following paragraph here because it's all Helen talking.)

After the waitress left, Helen continued, "didn't Didn't you tell me last week that people in Joe's church are doing the same thing? Hah! It sounds like the church people are at it again(comma) trying to pull a fast one on us. Actually, it sounds kind of weird to me."

Jean replied.(comma) "My mom said she heard Rev. Foster talking about a meeting with all the ministers of all the denominations in the area and how they met recently (No reason to write both about the meeting and how they met. It's the same thing, so I took out the first part.) and listened to a preacher who read excerpts from a book that was written many years ago. I guess the title of that book is ‘In His Steps’. (put the period inside the apostrophe, not after)

"And Helen, before you say anything, it is a real book, although it was written in the early 1900’s. Rev. Foster said that all the ministers were encouraged to read the book and to make available to their parishioners to consider making the same commitment for one year.

"My mom and dad were talking about it at dinner after church," Jean continued. "They said that the preacher said that told them that each member of each denomination might come up with a different idea on how they can put into practice what Jesus would do in their own life. That it might be easy to judge whether someone is really doing what they’ve committed to do, but each person would probably be directed differently, and that God is the only one who will really know how serious each individual really is."

"Helen, I remember.." (typo - two periods)

"Hold that thought a minute,(period) Here Jean, here comes the waitress with our salads". (put the period inside the quote, not after)

*Noter* In American punctuation rules, the ending period or comma in dialog always goes inside the final quotation marks.

*Noter* When friends talk in real life, they don't use each other's names in the conversation. Just pay attention next time you talk to a friend and you'll see what I mean. There's no need for the characters to address each other by name except at the very beginning. If you're trying to let the reader know who's speaking, it's better to do it with a dialog tag or an action.

"Okay, who had the one hold the avacado avocado sauce and olives?" The the waitress asked.

"That would be me", (put the comma inside the quote, not after) Helen replied while holding out her hand to take it.

The waitress put down their salads and refilled their teas, and then moved to her next table.

"Now, where were you,(question mark) Oh, oh yes, 'Helen, I remember' ", (put the comma inside both quotes, after remember) Helen prompted her to continue.

Helen, I remember talking with someone a few years back who was going to be a psychology major in college. She told me that there are Christian psychologists, but that they believe that religion is meant to be done only on Sundays, and that people would run into major problems if they incorporated their religion into their everyday life.”

(quotation marks)Goodness Jean, you sure do get into some very interesting conversations with people. How did you ever get into talking about that?”

“You really shouldn’t be surprised, Helen. You’ve heard me talk before about how it’s my opinion that the world would certainly be a different place if this country stayed with the values that our founding fathers set up. Did you know that in the early days of our country a school child’s primer was the bible? Children learned the alphabet by reading and memorizing verses in the bible. If more Christians incorporated their beliefs into their everyday lives, the world would be a better place, because we’d all recognize faster when the wool is being pulled over our eyes, rather than lamenting about society and situations that happened years ago.

“This gal, the psychology major, disagreed with me. She said too many people wore their beliefs on their sleeves, and if they kept their religion to themselves(comma) then many problems would go away.

"This salad is especially tasty today, maybe they have a new supplier for the shells, finally.
(This comment about the food interrupts the focus on the subject matter. If you want to remind the reader that they are eating, you can use an action and describe Jean enjoying her food.)

"I'm stopping at the bookstore when I leave here,(period) I called and put a hold on the book the preachers read. It'll probably only take me a day or two to read it. I'm pretty sure I'll make the commitment,(period) What what about you Helen?"

“I don’t know,(period) I’d have to think about it. I’d be afraid they’d want me to do something I wasn’t ready for, like sell everything I have to give to the poor, or move to Uruguay or something.”

“From what mom Mom heard from Rev. Foster, it isn’t supposed to be like that. You just don’t jump into decisions. You wait on the Lord till you get the answers you need. And besides(comma) God instituted free will. He won’t make you do something you’re not ready for, although He might work something on your heart for the future, it doesn’t always mean that he expects you to do whatever it is right then and there.

"Rev. Foster told my family that most of the churches in the area had already held a meeting with their congregations. It sounds like the bookstores keep running out of the book. He said that more and more people are hearing about it and wanting to know more, so one of the ministers has worked out a deal with the little theater in town to make the idea available to those who don't belong to a church in town, or who missed the meeting when the preacher was at their church.

"If you'd like(comma) I can call them to see if any tickets are still available(comma) and then we can hear what everyone is talking about."

"I'd be willing to see what all the fuss is about, and support you if you want to make whatever the commitment is, but I'm still not sure if I'll want to do it. I like being in control of my own life."


Later that month(comma) two other friends were meeting to hear what all the fuss was about. (Don't repeat the same phrase as above. Find a different way to say it.)

Bethany and Nicole were in line outside the Center for the Arts Little Theater(comma) waiting to find a seat. Once inside the theater, they realized they should have arrived much earlier as it was filling up quickly. The ushers were directing them upstairs to the balcony seating.

Once they were seated, Bethany, while tucking a stray hair behind her ear, looked over at her best friend Nicole and asked, "I wonder what this is all about? Jeremy from work told me he read something in the paper about this meeting today,(no comma)and said I'd probably want to be here. But he wouldn't give me any hints."

Nicole (I'm changing this to dialog otherwise it's "telling" from the narrator) said, "I heard some fellow workers discussing it a few days ago on a break. They were saying that there was an ad in the paper that said that there would be a meeting today at the Center for the Arts in the little theater. It was an invitation to Christians who wanted to find out how to be sure they were living a Christian lifestyle. The ad also said that those attending the meeting didn't need to expect to make a commitment at that time, but that it was merely an informational meeting. (continue the next dialog line here)

Nicole said to Bethany, "It has something to do with being a better Christian."

"I wouldn't have expected that to be something which Jeremy was interested in," Bethany replied.

"I know what you mean," Nicole said. "It was interesting listening to my friends at work talking about it,(period) I didn't even know that Sue and Roger were Christians,(period) They they never act like it. Actually, I should rephrase that. My comment didn't make me sound very Christian right then either. I better just shut up, as I'd be talking behind their back backs.

"Oh, look, it's almost 1:00pm. It should begin soon. I hope it doesn't last too long."

Bethany looked around the room to see who was there. She saw others who worked at the Meijers grocery store where she was a cashier. She didn't know all of them personally as they worked in other departments. Quite a few of the churches in town were represented. She saw people there from the group that met in the home. She recognized people of all ages who worked at the mall and other businesses around town, only a few of which she knew by name.

"This room is packed," Bethany whispered.

"I heard it holds several thousand people,(period) That's that's a lot of people come to hear what's going on."

"Shh, it looks like they are starting."

"Ooh, I know the speaker, the one back there, waiting to be introduced. He runs that church in the home I was telling you about."

(The speaker should be described here, as well as where he's standing, before his dialog.) "Ladies and gentlemen, today we have the privilege of having Rev. Paul Marble with us to explain a little bit about the book you've probably heard mentioned, titled (apostrophe)In His Steps.(apostrophe) It's a book about how each of us can learn how to walk in Jesus Christs' Christ's steps in our own lives. Rev. Marble has lived in Meadowbrook, MI Michigan for the past ten years, but I didn't meet him until a few months ago when he was traveling around to all the churches to explain what he will be sharing with us in a few moments.

"Please give a warm welcome to Rev. Paul Marble."

As he walked towards the center of the stage, Nicole noticed that he was wearing a vibrant,(no comma) yet tasteful red shirt, blue dress pants and a blue sports coat. He wasn't wearing a tie(comma) and his collar was unbuttoned. He was quite tall,(period) She guessed she was guessing he was about 6' 2". He walked with a sureness to his step that she hadn't seen in a long time.

"Good afternoon(comma) ladies and gentlemen, guys and gals. Thank you all for joining me here today. I'm believing that all of you will be very happy that you came. Before I begin, I'd like to open with a word of prayer.

"Heavenly Father, we surely are thankful for your love for us. We're thankful for your Word that you protected through the ages so that we might have it today and we're thankful for your son(comma) Jesus Christ. We're thankful for what he accomplished for us, and that your Word shows us how he walked and talked with you. Thank you(comma) God, for blessing our endeavors here today. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

"How many of you know that you're are supposed to be imitators of Jesus Christ?

"How many of you have ever heard that you can do the works of Jesus Christ?

"How many of you have ever heard or read that you are to walk in Jesus Christs' Christ's steps?

"How many of you have ever worn WWJD bracelets or given them to your children to wear? Is it just a nice slogan, or is it something you would truly like to learn how to practice in your own lives?

"I'm looking for people who would like to make a commitment for one year to try to live by the slogan, What Would Jesus Do, and reap more of the benefits of God's blessings in your lives thereby giving you more delight for living life.

"I'd like each of you who are interested in learning more to purchase a book written years ago by Charles Shelden, titled, 'In His Steps'. (put the period inside the apostrophe, not after) In it(comma) you will see a group of people who made this commitment and how they made changes in their own lives to try to live in His steps. It's a small book, but since we all have busy schedules, I will give you two months and any who are so inspired can meet again here to make a commitment to Follow Jesus.

"Contrary to the book, I'm not encouraging any of you to sell all that you have to feed the poor, or spend your life on the streets helping the homeless, UNLESS, unless (show emphasis by italics not capitals) that is how God would have you walk in His son's steps. God gave you all free will,(period) He he will not overstep that and force you to do something you are not willing to do.

"See you in two months."
   *CheckG* You responded to this review 09/20/2012 @ 11:12pm EDT
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