Red Pencil Thursday
The IMPROPER BLOG TOUR is staying home today. It’s Red Pencil Thursday and we have a new volunteer for our online critique group. Since this is still nominally my blog tour to celebrate the release of Improper Gentlemen, I will choose a winner from those who leave a comment for R.A. Gates, our intrepid volunteer. So put on your critique hats and plan to offer suggestions to make the work better.
My comments are in red and R.A.’s are in blue. I look forward to reading yours!
Not Your Mamma’s Sleeping Beauty
Mia: My spellchecker is wanting to change Mamma to Mama. I’m a little worried that this title is a bit too “on the nose.” Obviously you’re doing a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Is there another way to telegraph this that’s not quite so blatant?
Ruth: I didn’t want to get too attached to a title only to have the publishing company change it, so I went with something obvious. How about True Loves Kiss?
Mia: Even though an editor might change your title, it behooves you to come up with a dynamite one. It’s your first hook and best sales tool. Put your thinking caps on, everybody, and offer up some suggestions for Ruth!
“You want me to do what?!” The science fair trophy I was admiring as I snooped around Thane’s bedroom slipped through my fingers and fell to the floor.
Mia: I like the way you’ve shown astonishment with action. Well done.
Ruth: Thank you.
“Kiss. Prince. Sabastien,” Thane said as he leaned back in his chair, the wood creaking in protest.
Mia: I’ve usually seen Sebastian spelled like this. Is there a reason you’re using a non-typical spelling? The details we choose to include are part of what we refer to as a writer’s voice. The creaking chair is a unique detail and gives you a very fresh voice. It’s tempting to rely too much on just visual. Since you gave us an auditory clue here, you’ve engaged more of our imaginations.
Ruth: I used the french spelling to make the prince stand out more, but I’ve had a few people mention that it stood out too much. I’ll probably change it so the reader isn’t thrown out of the story each time they see it.
I thought he asked me over to his house to discuss our newly discovered family connection, not push the limits of decency. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The very idea was… was… just gross. On top of that, he had the nerve to roll his eyes at me. Me! I’m not the one who just lost their mind.
Mia: Since you’re in first person, I’m assuming this is a YA story. That said, “limits of decency” doesn’t sound like something a younger protagonist would think.
Ruth: You’re right. Good catch. My more mature side (yes, I do have one) must have snuck in there. How about… not disgust the hell out of me.
“You should do it, Sophie. It might be the only chance you get to kiss a guy,” Garren, Thane’s step brother and bane of my existence, said with a stupid grin on his face. He was lounging on the lower bunk of their shared quarters, obviously enjoying my discomfort.
Mia: You’re introducing another character sort of out of the blue. It caught me a little off guard. Could you place Garren in the scene before he chimes in?
Ruth: Yes I can. Maybe he can pick up the trophy Sophie dropped and put it back while addressing her. Better yet. I’ll mention him when she talks about why she thought she came over in the first place.
I didn’t react, hoping he’d get bored and leave. “But he’s been dead for five hundred years. That’s disgusting, immoral, and I’m pretty sure illegal.” Was I the only one who thought this was wrong?
Mia: Pronouns are sometimes confusing. In the first sentence you use he to mean Garren. Then in the second, he means Prince Sebastian. I think you should use one of their names instead.
Ruth: I’ll use Garren’s name in the first sentence.
“Technically, he was cursed, not killed,” Thane said.
“I fail to see the difference.” I walked to the window to open it a crack and almost knocked over a glass filled with a brown sludge sitting on the sill. The stench in their room was making me woozy. Do all teenage boys wallow in such filth?
Mia: Ok, I give. What’s the brown sludge? Stench is a little generic. What does the room specifically smell like? Sweaty feet? Old pizza? Two weeks of unwashed laundry? If she is so repulsed why is she there? Did she lose a bet or something?
Ruth: You’re right, of course. I need better description of the stench, like sour milk and gym socks. Or a fish hatchery dumpster, or garlic sweat. I’ll keep thinking. And the brown sludge? No one can remember.
Garren smirked. “Yeah, just think of it as a long nap.”
I took a deep breath of fresh air and ignored Garren as best I could before focusing back to Thane. “Why do you want me to kiss a dead, excuse me, sleeping prince?” Not that it mattered since I wouldn’t be doing it anyway. I was just curious.
Mia: I’m still trying to figure out why Sophie is there. If it’s because she’s romantically interested in Thane, we need to see a little emotional angst over the fact that he’s daring her to kiss someone else–even if the guy is comatose.
Ruth: Initially, she isn’t friends with either boy, just classmates, so when she’s invited over to discuss ‘something’ she goes out of curiosity and because she wants to get to know Thane better since he’s her cousin and only family she has left. And because even though he’s a jerk, Garren intrigues her, challenges her. She feels a sick satisfaction when she fights with him, a masochistic streak, I think.
“Why not?” Thane said, earning my very best glare.
I did get some satisfaction seeing his face pale before he continued.
Mia: I have a personal vendetta against the word “get” unless you’re using it in the archaic sense of siring offspring. My one and only writing prof in college drilled the distaste for it into me. Is there a way to redo this sentence so you don’t use this non-word?
Ruth: How about I received some satisfaction…
Mia: Well, in this case, maybe get is the right word. Received sounds too old for Sophie.
“Because I believe it will break the spell.”
“And you want to break the spell because…”
Thane’s eyes grew wide before he grabbed a folded up Salmagundi Gazette and shoved it in my hands. “Don’t tell me you couldn’t use a million dollars.”
I didn’t appreciate his tone and snapped the paper open to see what he was talking about. I skimmed the page in front of me and found an ad in the corner. Some guy was offering a million dollar reward to whoever awakens Prince Sabastien.
Mia: Ok, now we know why the boys want her to do it. How does Sophie feel? Other than her disgust over their housekeeping, I’m not seeing much in the way of emotion from her. Remember emotion is the strongest hook a writer can set. If your character cares deeply about something, we’ll care too.
Ruth: Good point. She’s nervous being in enemy territory (she grew up thinking anyone who used magic was bad, before she found out that she herself was a witch). But she’s also determined to learn more about herself. She’s also not one to back down from a challenge, so when she’s invited over to her their house, she has to go or look the coward. I could show her struggling to control her fidgeting.
Mia: And I’m still wondering why she’s there in the first place. Can you give me a very short explanation of their “family connection” or some other rationale for her visit to Thane?
Ruth: I can mention sooner he’s her cousin and only family she has left.
Mia: We also need a hint of her abilities as a witch, or at least her desire to keep her secret. A character with a secret is fascinating.
When doing a retelling of a fairy tale, it’s imperative that you give it a fresh twist. Making your “sleeping beauty” the guy is a good example of this. Well done!
Ruth: Thanks. Wait until you see what I did to Cinderella.
Thank you so much. I appreciate that you took the time to critique my work. Your suggestions are very helpful and will definitely find their way into the finished product. You’re a gem, Mia!
R. A. Gates’ Bio: I’m a stay at home mom of 3 kids and I’ve written 3 Vampire Academy fanfiction stories. That was so much fun, I decided to venture into writing an original story. First draft finished of book number one, I’m currently writing book number 2.
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Ok, now it’s YOUR turn, my dear blog touristas! Please leave a comment or suggestion for R.A. so I can enter you in the drawing for a signed copy of Improper Gentlemen. Remember, she’s looking for a title, so that’s something you could help her brainstorm.