Red Pencil Thursday

Red Pencil Thursday

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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.

Mia: Better.

“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.

Visit me on Facebook!

Improper Gentlemen

Click image to order!

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.

30 thoughts on “Red Pencil Thursday

  1. Mia Marlowe says:

    Thanks everyone for your input on R.A.’s excerpt. My random winner is Karri Lynn Halley! Please contact me with your mailing info and I’ll send your IMPROPER GENTLEMEN right away.

  2. Mia Marlowe says:

    Sometimes a one word title really packs a punch. Thanks for the suggestion, Heather.

  3. Heather F says:

    “Paid To Awaken A Prince”? Or just “Awaken”. The story plot sounds really interesting and I’m sure what ever you choose will be exactly as conveying as you want it to be!

  4. Barbara Britton says:

    Hi Ruth,

    I liked your story and the interaction between the characters. Dialogue moves us right into the scene.
    I do think, however, we need to know the familial relationship sooner. Sophie can show us more of her true self around guys who are not love interests and you can bring out how she feels about them–are they friend or foe. We don’t have any sense if she hangs out with these guys a lot or a little. Show us her relationship with Thane and Garren and whether this plot for a million is a commonplace scheme, desperate attempt for money, blackmail?
    Teenagers are all about relationships and emotion. Ramp that up and your gold here will glitter.
    Nice job.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Agreed. The relationships need to be clear from the start.

  5. Na says:

    I always like seeing other people’s work in progress. Thank you for sharing yours R.A. I like that your story is a new spin on a classic fairy tale. It is fresh and yet familiar. I have to admit the title “Mamma’s Sleeping Beauty” is a confusing title for me. It is obvious and yet I don’t have a strong idea of what it is about or that it is YA. Here are some ideas that came to my mind and hopefully they can help trigger something:

    Beauty’s Kiss
    Kiss Me Beauty
    Awakened with a Kiss

    Wishing you success :)

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      A work in progress is a fascinating entity. The thing to remember is that every draft is still just a draft and totally malleable until the manuscript finally goes to print.

  6. Clair Carter says:

    Thanks for sharing the start of your fairytale reworking R.A. I think a role reversal YA version is a really fun idea. I fancy the title SLEEPING BOOTY ;-) (for his cuteness and the prize money) but I don’t know whether that might be inappropriate for teen fiction… Good luck with it!

    1. R. A. Gates says:

      Oh, Clair, that’s hilarious. But you’re right. I think it’s a bit much for YA.

    2. Mia Marlowe says:

      Sleeping Booty is brilliant when you consider the prize (booty) promised for the one who wakes him. Of course, YA readers won’t connect booty with that immediately unless they’re Pirates of the Caribbean fans!

  7. ClaudiaGC says:

    I love the opportunity you’re giving unpublished authors with your Red Pencil Thursday!
    I like it when fairy tales get adapted and this one really whet my appetite. I have to second the suggestion about the name. If I stumble constantly about the name of the hero it throws me out of the story.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      My volunteers aren’t always unpublished. I’ve had Golden Heart finalist (aspiring authors so close to publication they can smell the ink on the contract) and even one New York Times lister! The point is writing is both an art and a craft. Craft can be learned and that’s what we try to hone here on Thursdays.

  8. JM Lange says:


    Great job sharing on Red Pencil Day!

    I just have a thought or two. One is As a reader I like to know when and where the story takes place right away. I like to get in sync with the characters story. I don’t want to have to try to figure out ok where are they France, America, ect.

    Now I don’t read YA so maybe it’s fine to leave it out. I like how you use five senses in your writing,very descriptive.

    I was a little confused at to many characters being introduced in 500 words. Maybe tighten that up just a bit if it works in your story.

    GMC is the golden rule I finally have drilled in my brain! Goal, Motivation, Comflict every scene. Some
    writers say every page, I am not that talented yet! Lol!!

    Good job! Keep up the good ideas!!

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      I think I should put GMC on a sticky note and slap it on my computer.

    2. R. A. Gates says:

      Thanks JM. I agree, I need to introduce all 3 characters better. As I continue editing, GMC is my mantra. Gotta love it.

  9. Carrie says:

    This story sounds really great! But, yeah, new title is a good idea. I king of like Wake up, Sebastien. But I might be alone on that one….

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      That has the virtue of introducing R.A.’s hero’s name.

      1. R. A. Gates says:

        that would be true if Sebastian was the hero. I’ve put more than a couple twists in this fairy tale while trying to keep the basic elements of the familial tale.

  10. Serena Bell says:

    I really like Karri Lyn’s suggestion of Sleeping Hunk. I spent some time this morning trying to think of something along the same lines (Sleeping Hero? Sleeping Handsome? Sleeping Dude? Sleeping Prince?) but I like Sleeping Hunk better than anything I came up with.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Sometimes it’s good to try a twist on an old saying. How about:


      1. R. A. Gates says:

        Ooooh Mia, I like that!

  11. Karri Lyn Halley says:

    I like the idea of turning this fairytale around and making the prince the sleeping “beauty.” I do think a little more information on why Sophie is at the boys’ house would be good earlier. The witch and magic part was a surprise in your explanation, but if I knew that from the book blurb it would probably be in my mind as I read the story so it wouldn’t be so jarring. I like Serena’s suggestion of Awakening the Prince. What about Sleeping Hunk? I wanted a better word than hunk, but haven’t thought of one yet!

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      I always say begin as you mean to continue. If not in the first 500 words, sometime within the first 5 pages, we need to see evidence of Sophie’s special abilities.

    2. R. A. Gates says:

      Hey Karri, I like Sleeping Hunk, but I don’t think kids say that nowadays. I think Sleeping Hottie is more contemporary. I love all the suggestions. Keep ’em coming.

  12. Serena Bell says:

    Cool concept, Ruth, and I like the voice!

    I love brainstorming titles. So in the interest of sparking ideas:

    Kiss the Boy
    Wake Up, Sebastian
    Sweet Dreams
    Dreaming of Sebastian
    Dreaming of a Kiss
    Dreaming of You
    Wake Him with a Kiss
    Awakening the Prince
    The Wake-Up Kiss
    Wake Up, Sleepyhead
    Prince of Slumber
    Prince of Dreams

    I’ll stop now. :-)

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Serena–Congratulations for showing us how to brainstorm. Whatever comes to mind, write it down. This works for figuring out what happens next in a story as well. Just be forewarned that chances are the right thing will be 20th or so on your list of possibilities. ;-)

    2. R. A. Gates says:

      Thanks Serena. Those are all wonderful suggestions. I especially like Awakening the Prince.

  13. eli yanti says:

    after reading this little story, i became curious to know the sequel, whether finally sophie will kiss the prince or not?

    and i want to attempting to give the title for this book is a sleeping prince’s kiss or kiss prince sebastian, sophie ^^

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Thanks for your suggestions, Eli!

    2. R. A. Gates says:

      Thank you, Eli. I’m glad I peaked your curiosity.

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