Red Pencil Thursday
Please welcome Beth Ann Reid, another intrepid member of CTRWA who’s joining us today for Red Pencil Thursday. I had a ball with these writers in Connecticut a few weeks ago. What a fun group! And now I know they’re a generous bunch too. I have several the RPT queue so we’re good for volunteers for a little while. However, if you have 500 words of your WIP ready, I invite you to look into being a RPT volunteer. It’s mostly painless and you allow others to learn from you, both what to do and what not to do.
My comments are in red. Beth’s responses are in blue. Please let us know what you think at the end of the post!
“Ms. Stanwood, I read on the internet that the Flower Duet is about lesbians. Is that true?”
Mia: You had me at “the Flower Duet!” I adore opera and this ethereal piece is a treasure. This certainly sounds like something a teenager would ask about it as well. I’m hooked.
Beth: Yay! It took me several hundred tries (I’m not kidding) to write something I hoped would hook readers. I love opera too!
For the love of God. Really?
Elise Stanwood closed her eyes. She honestly thought because music was her whole life, she’d be able to teach it. So far, that proved to be totally untrue.
Britney, an alto in the Wellington High School Women’s Choral Ensemble, was never afraid to stir up things. With her spiky punk hair and her dramatic makeup she was the quintessential attention hog. Her latest attempt was certain to generate an unfavorable reaction from other students.
Mia: Wellington High School Women’s Choral Ensemble is quite a mouthful. I’m not sure you need it all here. Spiky and punk are sort of synonymous. I’d pick one or the other. I’m not sure her comment would generate unfavorable reactions. When I was in school, the goal seemed to be how best to sidetrack the teacher’s lesson plans. Looks like Britney’s doing well in that department. Also, how about letting us know Britney’s an alto sooner, maybe when she asks about the duet?
Beth: It is a mouthful. Originally I had it written as ‘her women’s chorus’ so I think I’ll change it back. I’ll choose spiky or punk and will write in Britney being an alto in the first paragraph. It makes more sense that way.
Jamie, a first soprano, threw her hand up.
And there it was.
“Is that true Ms. Stanwood?” Jamie’s face went ashen, as if she’d just seen a ghost.
Elise knew if Jamie had seen a ghost, it would’ve been that of composer Leo Delibes passed out cold after hearing the chorus massacre his beautiful aria.
Mia: Not aria. That’s a solo number. They were singing a duet.
Beth: Duly noted.
Thanks to Britney’s interruption, the whole room had erupted into chatter and quickly reached a crescendo.
Elise glanced over at Sam, her piano accompanist, and nodded. She never knew exactly how he did it; he just stuck his fingers in his mouth and an ear piercing whistle came out.
Mia: Condense piano accompanist to pianist. Is Sam going to be our hero? If so, I’d like more about him here.
Beth: Actually Sam isn’t the hero. The hero comes in toward the middle of this chapter. He will eventually take Sam’s place. Do you think I should just refer to Sam as the pianist and leave him nameless?
Mia: Yes, if he’s going to be replaced soon, he doesn’t need a name. Sorry, Sam.
She winced against the shrill sound.
All twenty-two members of the chorus stopped talking mid-sentence to stare at her and finally a blissful silence came over the room.
Mia: We have several sentences that have two clauses connected with and. I’d separate these and remove finally. Like this:
All twenty-two members of the chorus stopped talking mid-sentence. Blissful silence came over the room.
“It’s never been established that, er, lesbianism was Mr. Delibes intention when he wrote Lakmé and since he’s been dead for well over a hundred years we’ll never know. Let’s move on.”
Ugh. This rehearsal was a bust. Her patience had gone the way of Elvis and left the building. Usually her job as choral director was, well, tolerable. Today it had been as much fun as having your wisdom teeth pulled.
Mia: Underline Ugh. It’s her direct thought. Also, you need to say having her wisdom teeth pulled in the last sentence instead of your. By using your, you make the sentence almost an author intrusion. Your Elvis reference made me smile.
Beth: Yes! I’ll change your to her. I don’t even realize I’m doing that either, until someone points it out. Thanks.
Elise was frustrated that she couldn’t make a connection with her students. It was something she’d struggled with since school began in September. And now her stomach clenched in disappointment when she realized it was already April so it may never happen.
Mia: You start this paragraph by telling me Elise was frustrated, then you show it in her clenched stomach. You can show or you can tell, but readers don’t like it when you do both.
Beth: I knew when I read and re-read this it sounded off, but couldn’t put my finger on it. That will make the writing tighter.
Before Britney’s question, the chorus had just sung the Flower Duet from Lakmé four times in a row. Each time it got worse instead of better. Off-key, not fast enough in some spots, too fast in others. If they couldn’t make this piece sound somewhat presentable, she would have no other choice but to forgo it for the Heritage Music Festival competition.
Mia: I used to be a choir director. Repeating the whole thing when there are problems is counterproductive. Elise would have taken it in sections, working over difficult parts. She might encounter problems when moving from one section to the next once she ran the number from the top, but just repeating the piece means they are reinforcing errors. Perhaps she has some individuals who are sabotaging the piece, not blending or messing up entrances.
Beth: I’ll definitely rewrite that. So you used to be a chorus director, huh? How would you feel about answering some questions … strictly for research purposes? ;-)
Mia: Drop me an email, though if I’m behind on my WIP, my response may be slow. ;-(
“But Ms. Stanwood, didn’t you say that Lakmé and her maid are bathing in the river and a guy is watching them?”
Dear God. She could only imagine where Britney was going with this.
“Yes, I said that. And the guy, as you so eloquently put it, is Gerald, a British soldier. He is watching the two women sing because he’s falling in love with Lakmé.”
“I read that Delibes wrote the Flower Duet specifically with the soldier watching the two women to, you know, turn on the men in the audience.”
Mia: Love your musical heroine, Beth. I’d read on to see what other devilry Britney has in mind!
Beth: Thanks for the great feedback Mia! And I’m serious about those questions.
Beth Ann Reid writes contemporary romance set in the current music scene and has been known to frequent outdoor music festivals and concerts strictly for, cough, research, cough, purposes. Beth Ann has hopes of crowd surfing one day, even though her three daughters ages 13, 23 & 25 (all taller than her 4’11” frame) insist that she keep her feet on the ground, in the back of the crowd and away from the mosh pit.
Now it’s your turn to weigh in on Beth’s opener. Our Red Pencil Thursday critique is only as strong as all the eyes around our virtual kitchen table. Please add your comments below!
On a different note, I want to thank all of you who’ve downloaded A Duke for All Seasons! Your support has made it hit the Top 100 in Regency Romance on Kindle. This story started with you, my readers, and now its success is yours too! So thank you for telling your reading friends about my 99 cent e-novella, for “liking” it, and for giving it a great rating!
You’re the best!