Red Pencil Thursday

Red Pencil ThursdayMy volunteers for Red Pencil Thursday represent a wide spectrum of writing experience. I’ve had published authors and Golden Heart Finalists in my hotseat. Today, I have Kim Mercier, a self-described newbie just finishing her first manuscript.

I have to do a mea culpa. I’ve been so in my “book head” this week with my own WIP, I was late getting this critique back to Kim. Sorry. So we don’t have her responses, but I hope she’ll join us here today in the comments. I know she’ll appreciate hearing from YOU as well.

The Wickeds:  The Scandal of Lord Reynolds

Kim was concerned that this title is long. She included The Wickeds because she plans 3 stories based on each of 3 friends who were collectively known as “the Wickeds” when they were in school. There have been longer titles published. The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber comes to mind. It’s a long title, but it so works! I can imagine a way Kim’s “Wickeds” title could be banded across a cover.

“A green dragon tattoo?  How positively scandalous!“

Oh! What a fun beginning. My only question is did you research to make sure decorative tattoos would have been available to your characters in this time period? Body art has reached quite a zenith in our own time. I wonder how sophisticated it might have been in earlier eras.

Alexandra Dunforth gave the beautiful brunette a doubtful look.  The woman didn’t look scandalized, in fact she licked her lips as if she had just eaten a sugar biscuit.  The brunette, Alexandra thought her name was Lady Aston, and her blonde friend, Mrs. Martin, were focused on someone in Lady Dobson’s crowded ballroom.  Alexandra turned her attention from the group of women surrounding Lady Castor to peer around Mrs. Martin.

A few too many names tossed out in short order. It makes it hard to keep everyone straight. It might help if you replace the woman with Lady Aston in the second sentence and eliminate the doubtfulness about her name later. If you want to introduce all these characters that’s fine, but try to spread them out over several paragraphs.

The discussion of a tattoo was vastly more entertaining than Lady Castor’s discussion of a tea cozy.  Before her uncle had abducted her from Helmsby Abbey and installed her in his London townhome, Alexandra had been reading a gothic novel whose hero had sported a tattoo.  How she would like to see the real thing.

I recently learned that the word townhome is a fairly recent (since the 1960’s) development. Use townhouse instead.

“My husband has seen the tattoo himself.  Satan Reynolds., Mrs. Martin took a deep breath., “I beg your pardon, I mean Lord Reynolds, the Marquess of Cambourne, discarded his shirt after a boxing match at the club.  The shirt was covered with his opponent’s blood.  While Lord Reynolds waited for his valet to produce another shirt, everyone at the club saw the tattoo.    Richard says the tattoo’s quite beautiful, in a common sort of way.  It covers the whole of his back.  The tail . . . ” She paused for dramatic effect, “wraps around his navel.”

I made a stab at some punctuation changes. You can’t use a comma if your dialogue tag is action instead of a tag (he said, she said). However, smarter people that I will have to weigh in on the correct way to do this.

“I should like to see that.” Lady Aston purred.

Ok, there you need a comma instead of a period because while Lady A purred is descriptive, it’s still a dialogue tag.

Alexandra stood on tiptoe.  Her height kept her from all but a peek of a tall man with glossy blue-black hair making his way across the ballroom.  The aristocrats parted as if they were the Red Sea and the dark haired man was Moses.

How about Her lack of height in the 2nd sentence?

“He’s quite something, isn’t he?  A paradox.  London’s most notorious despoiler of women and also its most eligible bachelor.”  Mrs. Martin was warming to her subject.

“Yes,” Lady Aston agreed, “that business with Lord Ranson’s wife—but that was years ago.  I’m told Reynolds did the honorable thing by firing into the air and allowing Ranson the opportunity to shoot him.  Ranson, the idiot, was so startled by Reynolds’s actions that he put his gun down and shot his own toe off..”

Snort! Lovely anecdote. We love a scoundrel with a sense of fair play.

Alexandra shook her head.  She didn’t understand the point of a duel.  Duels sounded very romantic but they rarely turned out well.   It was a stupid way to settle an argument.  She found the honor of men questionable at best and the honor of a titled gentleman nearly worthless.  One had only to look at her detestable uncle, Odious Oliver, to see that.  She scanned the room idly for her uncle.  He was no doubt gambling away what was left of her dowry.

Lady Aston opened her fan, her eyes never leaving the dark head that was still bobbing through the crowd.

Bobbing doesn’t sound very heroic. Can you think of a different verb here?

“Satan Reynolds has the most appalling reputation.   Just look at the company he keeps, he-”

“Keep your voice down, Helen!”  Lady Aston looked around to see if anyone was listening.  Her eyes passed right over Alexandra, immediately dismissing her. “You wouldn’t dare call him that to his face.”

If she’s objecting to the Satan, it needs to be at the end of Helen’s speech. Otherwise too much time has elapsed.

I really enjoyed this opener, Kim. Thanks for letting me take a look at it.

My name is Kim Mercier and I write under Anna Davena (Erotic Romance)  and Kathleen Ayers. (Historical Romance).  After twenty years in media/marketing sales I left my day job to pursue my Masters in Communication and focus on my writing.  I’m happily married with one son and live in Houston, TX.

Now it’s your turn. What suggestions do you have for Kim to make her writing stronger?

5 thoughts on “Red Pencil Thursday

  1. Kim Mercier says:

    Thanks to everyone for their comments and support! I have revised the first chapter a bit based on your comments and those of my local critique groups.

  2. Marcy W says:

    Great opening, Kim. I’m already intrigued by your hero and he’s not even across the dance floor yet. — I agree with all of Mia’s comments. And I really like the “Odious Oliver”, which tells me a lot about both our heroine and her uncle. I’d love to read more, please keep going! And thanks for sharing.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      “Odious Oliver” really does tell us all we need to know about her uncle, doesn’t it?

  3. Barbara Britton says:

    Hi Kim,
    I loved your opening sentence(and the description of the dragon tatoo wrapping around to his navel, later).
    I agree with Mia that the second paragraph has too many names. A lot of work for the reader’s brain in an opening hook.
    I do like this story and would keep reading. Could you give me a few more tidbits about Alexandra? We know she’s short and her uncle is a cad–gambling away her dowry–but I’d like to know more.
    Great job!

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Thanks for your insight, Barbara. I agree we need more of Alexandra’s reactions to what’s being said about Lord Reynolds.

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