|Hi, Bryce Raffle This is response to your request for a critique.
I liked the premise of the story. I love a good ghost story. I loved the series Ghost Whisperer and Sixth Sense. The overall story is intriguing once I got to the bottom of the chapter.
I didn't get an overall sense of the era or place at the beginning. The names are old and the references are old 1700-1800 England. Because most people are going to go that route, I'd suggest you give the reader a firm setting at the beginning. Show an object in the room or something that sets the time and place. Even if it's something like She struck the flint to light the candle.
It isn't until the end that we get there are horse and carts in Trafalgar Sq, England. Little clues inserted before helps the reader get a sense of the setting, not just bodies moving around on a blank screen.
I like that you give the situation in the beginning. Not like Sixth Sense where we have to go through the movie wondering what was going on. You tell the reader up front this is going to be about solving a murder. Who the subject is and how the MC finds out about it.
I didn't get Evelyn's motivation. Why does she talk to dead people? I sighed. I was going to be late for work again.
With a wayward glance back at Pickwick’s break fast, I set off after the ghost. Why? here is a good place to insert a little thought. Instead of saying she couldn't scream at every ghost. How about something about her past experiences? Standing at the top of the stairs we stared at each other and and I sighed. There had been other's like her. I'd seen them since I was a child. they no longer scared me, but their appearance often surprised me. This wasn't the normal ghostly apparition but stood there in a full form. Then describe her appearance.
I like Evelyn. She seems a woman with a purpose. Then you gave me a and odd reaction. She sobbed. This isn't the reaction I would attribute to Evelyn. She seemed to have a stronger constitution and this put me off. Having compassion is not the same as crying. After looking up and down the street where no one took notice of the girl I looked at her again. She was indeed a ghost. She didn't move when I approached the curb. Her eyes locked with mine and I felt her need. The one that called me to her. "What do you want? What happened to you?" I knew she couldn't talk, but I thought maybe we could converse in telepathy. I'd never done it before but it could be a first. You wrote Evelyn didn't expect an answer. Then why did she ask the question? Without any hand motion she turned her body and moved away. I looked at the sidewalk that now filled with the morning commuters. I had to get to work. She stood in the middle of the road. Her look of impatience moved me to turn and follow her. Cars and pedestrians passed through her and she didn't register their journey. then add the journey through the market. Here again I wasn't sure of the era. There are markets in places today, at this point of the story.
We have two characters and since this is the beginning chapter we don't need to know everything about them. I would leave all the back story with Mr. Pickwick until later since this is a dream sequence. In dreams the action moves the dream. I do go off on tangents in a dream but not like that. I'm a writer and details can distract me. I rarely get back on the same tract until the next night.
Here's another thing to think about. Who is your audience? Women I'm guessing for the most part. Then they want to know what she's wearing. Below I give a suggestion of where to start. If you do that, then when she's in her room, have her dress in what women would wear.
From my wardrobe I took my black work dress from its hook and gave it a good shake, hoping the wrinkles from its hanging overnight disappeared. Once on I button the front to the small white collar and tie the ribbon around the neck arranging the tails to lay flat, still showing under the collar points. The mirror reflected my brown hair pulled to a knot at the nape of my neck, the body of a (insert age) woman with a trim waist and slim hips hidden beneath the folds of the skirt. Giving a shake of my shoulders, lifting my chin and spinning on the heels of my boots, I headed to the stairs and the break fast I could smell wafting to my room. This is just a suggestion of how to show the reader who Evelyn is. A strong woman, not afraid of her dreams and still a bit unsure of the life ahead. She seems to want to face it head on.
What I didn't care for was the detail in the dream sequence then having to do the same thing all over.
My suggestion is to start with her waking. Then having a bit of trouble remembering exact details of the dreams. Something about monkeys. She struggles to recreate that part as she dresses, looking into the mirror combing her hair, she might remember the girl's hair, her mouth sewn shut. She bares her teeth at the mirror. I'm glad my lips aren't sewn. When she goes down stairs she greets Mr. Pickwick. You don't need to explain their relationship at this time. other than to mention he is her surrogate father figure. I'd also wait until later to talk about the photo.
Then as she has the conversation with Mr. P she gets a sense of impatience. Thinking about the girl in the dream she steps onto the porch and there she is, just as she was in the dream. Then she follows her to the museum. When she sees the monkey in the palm the rest of the dream floods into her mind. She might reel from the memory and the details flood her mind. Now what? The dream gave no clues as to what happened. My question to you is why did she have a dream that gives no details but she sees a ghost. Suggestion. Leave the monkey out of the dream since there isn't any connection to the murder. If you want to have a clue in the dream give it an obscure place. See a hand putting it there. See her hand grasping it from someone or something that lends to the fact it's important to WHAT?
Here is where you can leave the reader with a hook to turn the page. She might remember there were two other monkeys. Where are they? What do the monkeys have to do with a dead girl? (turn the page to find out)
This way the reader isn't back tracking. The flow pulls the reader to follow the ghost to find what happened to her. The reader is on the same journey as Evelyn.
So remember when you do any rewriting. She gets a call to action (from her dream) She is curious. Then sees the object of her dream on the street the same as the dream. She might ignore it at first (from the top step) Refuse the call. Now is where to tell the reader her motivation. Why does she follow the girl? She Answers the call. She sees the scene and the clue of the monkey.
I'm anxious to read on. I want to know how Evelyn interacts with the ghost and how you will present the clues of what happened to her. I hope I've given you something to look at as you move forward with this captivating story.