Red Pencil Thursday
My comments are in red. Berinn Rae’s are in blue. We hope you’ll add yours at the end of the post! And if you’re interested in becoming an RPT volunteer, check out the details here!
It wasn’t the first time a good idea had come back to bite me in the ass, but I was afraid it might be the last. Making a quick sign of the cross, I stepped into the ship, the flashlight slicing through the blackness while a persistent beep broke the silence.
Mia: Excellent first sentence. Not only is it clever, it introduces the protagonist in a memorable way as a bit of a snark and it dropkicks us into a potentially dangerous situation. I like that you’ve used auditory details as well as visual to set the scene. Well done.
Berinn: Thank you! :-)
It took no time at all to find the pilot in the ultra-modern cockpit. Built like a quarterback, he was intimidating even slumped over the instrument panel. Covered head-to-toe in a silky black flight suit that gave no glimpse of skin, it was impossible to see if the man was injured. Or worse.
Mia: He’s slumped so unless he’s a heavy sleeper, it’s safe to assume he’s at least injured. However, pilots are usually not the quarterback type. One of the surprising things about the Mercury astronauts was how small they were as a group of men. They couldn’t be taller than 5’11” or weigh more than 180 lbs. But maybe your ship is bigger than the Mercury capsules. ;-)
Berinn: Good points. Since this isn’t a human spaceship, it’s got to big enough to hold sexy alpha-male aliens. It sounds like I need to add another sentence about the ET-ness of the spaceship.
Shaky with cold and a hefty injection of fear, I held out my palm an inch from his covered face and felt the heat of shallow breathing through the thin fabric. The breath I’d been holding rushed from my lungs in a frosty puff of relief. He was alive.
Mia: Covered face? With what? I need more info.
Berinn: Will do!
As I began to check for injuries, a small sound caught my ear. Shining the beam toward the rhythmic plip-plop, the light froze on rivulets flowing down the wall toward a crumpled mass of sparking instrument panel. Bending down on one knee, I dipped a finger in the liquid and smelled. My heart stopped.
Mia: Well, that’s the end of your story then. Her heart better not stop. It can skip, lurch, or do the bugaloo, but don’t let it stop.
Berinn: Shoot. I’ll fix that. Good catch.
The airplane—or ship or whatever this freaking thing was—was going to blow.
Mia: Part of worldbuilding is giving your readers some unique details. Have her name this dangerous liquid specifically. Since you’re doing a futuristic UF sort of story, make something up and we’ll believe she knows her incendiary stuff.
Berinn: Good catch. I’ll add a description on how the smell reminds her of jet fuel.
In a rush, I fidgeted with the peculiar seatbelts. Something clicked and, with a blur, they retracted into the floor. He fell, and I slid my hands under his arms to keep him from hitting the floor. At the risk of hurting him more, I pulled him from the seat. It took a few grunts and several seconds to get the man to the doorway, pausing just long enough to gape at the trail of fuel that had now become a river.
Mia: I don’t think she’d pause in this situation. How about having her see the river of fuel from the corner of her eye or having the smell of the fuel grow stronger?
Berinn: Never thought of that. Easy fix.
The thought of being blown up inspired me to move faster. Even with the adrenaline rush, it took every ounce of strength to pull the brute to safety. With one last heave and a small miracle, I dropped him onto the back of the ATV, the rack not quite wide enough for his torso, his arms and legs dangling over each side. I leaped onto the seat in front of him and gunned the throttle. The engine roared and tires kicked up dirt.
Mia: If this guy is going to end up being the hero, do you want to call him ‘brute’ here? When the action speeds up, it’s a good idea to use shorter sentences. They read faster. Give this paragraph another think and see how you can simplify it. Here’s an example:
The threat of being blown to tiny bits made me haul ass. Adrenaline screamed through me as I pulled the pilot to safety. I dropped him onto the back of the ATV. His arms and legs dangled over the sides of the narrow rack. I leaped onto the seat in front of him and gunned the throttle. The engine roared, tires kicking up dirt.
Play with it till you end up with something you like.
Berinn: Wow. I really like how you reworded the paragraph. I’ll definitely play around with this paragraph and the following ones to amp up the action.
Mia: Rewriting is the fun part. Getting the story out is my challenge.
Ignoring the small branches whipping at my face, I tore around trees and slashed through gullies like an axe-man on speed. I drove no more than a hundred feet before a massive boom rocked the ground and a blast of air came out of nowhere. I held onto the ATV to keep from being sucked back toward the ship. Holding my passenger down with a one arm death-grip, I hunkered over the handle bars and pushed the throttle in all the way. The ATV chewed its way forward inch by inch through the ravenous blast.
Mia: As a historical author, I’m not up on modern culture at all. I don’t get the “axe man on speed” reference. Is this something your readers will understand? I’m also having trouble visualizing her driving hunkered over the handle bars and holding down the guy who’s presumably behind her. It was all she could do to haul him out of the ship with two arms. Is there a way she could strap him in quickly instead?
Berinn: I had struggled describing what she was doing in this paragraph. I’ll give it another shot, and I love the idea of strapping him down. Definitely makes things easier.
Mia: I always advise authors to hit the ground running and this opener certainly qualifies! You’ve set us up for an adventurous story with a kick-butt heroine.
Berinn: Thanks so much for the help, Mia!!! I absolutely love Red Pencil Thursdays and have gleaned some great tips off your posts (especially this one ;-)). I welcome any/all feedback to help me launch Sienna’s story off right.
Berinn Rae is the author of steamy romantic fantasy. Berinn lives in the Midwest with her husband and an incredibly spoiled sixty-pound lap dog. She flies a decent airport pattern and throws a very bad game of darts.
Now it’s your turn. What suggestions do you have for Berinn?