Originally Posted by TamLin01
Hello. Since there's nothing in the queue right now, I'd like to present my new story
for critique. Just let me know when I have the green light for a thread. Thank you.
Hello TamLin01, I'm a newbie here but I'll attempt a copyedit and critique. I hope this is of some use to you.
Typos; minor style glitches; inconsistencies in action and setting:
"The cathedral was empty except for they two, and they were heading toward the courtyard and then to the street, chatting as they usually did after her weekly confession."
'they' / 'they' / 'they' repetition. Perhaps 'except for the two'?
"...fortunate to have our human failings<"
'>' instead of a '.'
"Portia watched him at work, wanting to tell him how proud she was of him and but afraid to break his concentration."
'and but afraid'
"Octavia curled up around her knees,..."
Next paragraph: "Octavia leapt off of Portia's lap and threw her arms around her father's knees."
While reading the first paragraph, I envisioned that 'curled up around her knees' meant that Octavia had sat by Portia's side on the floor, not that she had sat on Portia's lap. Upon reading the next paragraph, I found these two descriptions thus a jarring inconsistency that pulled me from the story in order to reread the prior paragraph for a proper visualization.
"They were seated in the dining hall, each of the four of them secured in their own chair back to back to back, each facing a different wall to ensure that they could not accidentally glimpse one another's faces while eating."
'back to back to back' - I think this repetition is intentional, but it doesn't seem necessary given the detailed description given afterward.
"Portia inhaled the scent of roast duck and realized she had no eaten all day."
'no' - should be 'not' I think.
"Two strong hands supported her in her swoon and, half-leading and half-carrying, took her to the railing."
'her in her' - This is a perfectly legitimate sentence. But isn't there a way to reduce the repetition? Perhaps something like: "Two strong hands caught her mid-swoon and, half-leading and half-carrying, took her to the railing." Uhhh. Maybe? Shrug.
"The cold, cold wine soothed her insides."
Not sure about 'cold, cold' either. I recognize it's intentional. Personal preference.
"The stranger was naked to the waist, and around his head was a crown of grapevines, and the vines trailed down his body."
Would it be possible to remove this repetition of 'vines' like so: '...around his head was a crown of grapevines, which trailed down his body." ???
"But the man, whoever he was, caught her up in his arms and pressed her to him, seeming to crush her like a grape in a press."
This simile evoked an image of her head being crushed, with brains spilling out, as if in a horror film. Lol. I'm a weird fuck. Still, I think the problem here is that a close embrace is not comparable to the destructive force of squishing a grape, and so the descriptive image clashed with the evocative image of the simile.
"The stranger wore only loose white trousers, which she pulled down now, sliding them over his calves and knees."
'now' is redundant.
"The statues and holy icons all had sheets and towels flung over their heads to symbolize the blindness of the gods' to humanity's actions today, and there were many half-empty casks of wine scattered about, and in the dark corners of the room there were many undressed people doing very many things that made Portia's insides quiver even as her head throbbed. "
Too many subordinate clauses connected by 'and'. It's really two fragments. Could you break this up into two sentences between 'actions today, and there were' like so?
'The statues and holy icons all had sheets and towels flung over their heads to symbolize the blindness of the gods' to humanity's actions today. There were many half-empty casks of wine scattered about, and in the dark corners of the room there were many undressed people doing very many things that made Portia's insides quiver even as her head throbbed.'
"Suddenly Portia was in the midst of a mass of people, people half-glimpsed in the dark, a mass of writhing naked bodies and twining limbs."
'mass of people, people half-glimpsed' - perhaps 'mass of people, bodies half-glimpsed' to break the repetition?
"She met lips on all sides too, too many to count or keep track of, too many mouths against her naked breasts or exposed neck or pale white shoulders."
'all sides too, too many' - I think the first 'too' is redundant. There are three of them in this sentence, the later two of which are necessary for flow. But the first could be removed without trouble.
"There were other intrusions on her too;"
This is the very next sentence. This makes for four repetitions of 'too'. I'd recommend changing it to 'as well' in order to break the repetitions.
"Her exploration was interrupted when one of the woman snaked her body across Portia's, kissing her and then direction Portia's open mouth to her small, soft breasts. "
1) 'woman' - I think should be 'women'.
2) 'then direction Portia's' - I'm not clear what you intend, so I'm not sure how to suggest as a fix. But the second clause of this sentence leaves out critical information.
"Spikes of heat radiating through her every time he penetrated."
'radiating through' - perhaps 'radiated through' ???
"To Portia's surprise, the sanctuary was full of lights and people; no, she realized, not people at all, merely a line of dressing dummies wearing priest's robes and sacred golden masks in the likeness of bulls, a convocation of masks without faces behind them."
'dressing dummies' - Just a word choice issue, but wouldn't 'mannequins' be better? shrug.
"She followed Father Marlowe and he followed the strange couple, and up to the altar they all went, but here Father Marlowe warned her back."
'...altar they all went, but here...' - 'all' is redundant. Also, I would break this into two sentences. '...altar they went. Here, Father Marlowe...'
"The stranger put one bronzed hand on the bull's flank and his wife touched it on the forehead, and then the huge animal turned and trotted away, heading toward the altar, and then the world went out of focus again and the beast was gone, vanished, and if not for the blood on the floor Portia would not have believed it had been there in the first place."
This could be broken into two sentences. Notice two repetitions of 'and then'. I would recommend breaking it at: '...away, heading toward the altar. The world went out of focus..."
"The stranger, she realized, was on top of her now, taking her across the altar, right there in front of the eyes of the gods, and his wife was leaning over, presenting her breasts to Portia's mouth, and Portia's skin burned, and her body became lighter and lighter, until it seemed she was not there at all."
Again, this sentence could be broken into two. '...eyes of the gods. His wife leaned over, presenting...'
The story is well paced throughout until the very end. In the comments, one person criticized that the ending 'seemed forced.' I think the problem here is not Portia's removal of her mask, but that it happens too suddenly and too quickly. There is foreshadowing of this in Father Marlowe removing his mask in the prior scene. But for some reason, linking Marlowe's removal of his mask and Portia's recognition of his death - seemingly by her own hand - didn't connect to her removing her own mask as the final twist. I think the foreshadowing fails because these linkages are metaphorical and not repetitions of action or description, which a reader might find easier to recognize.
Another thing I noticed is that Portia is tagged as 'the witness' yet so too is she the one who wields the knife which kills Father Marlowe, incarnated as a bull. How can she be both a witness and a participant to the act? This seems an inconsistency which breaks the intended logic of the metaphor.
The prose is excellent throughout. Mistakes are either minor copyedit errors or mostly matters of style.
Thank you for a fine read and I hope my post here is of benefit toward improving your work.