Red Pencil Thursday
Every genre has a different set of reader expectations. Today’s volunteer, Kat Duncan, is offering the opening of her mainstream WIP. My suggestions are in red and Kat’s responses are in blue. Since my published experience is exclusively with romance, I’ll be counting on your comments to help Kat out.
“Live from the Rogue Rash studio in Washington DC it’s our own pile-it-deep pundit, the rascal of the right, Ty, ‘Dr. Rogue’ Wilcox!”
I don’t think you need a comma after Ty. This is a good example of how choosing the right words means you don’t need a dialogue tag describing how something was said. I can hear the announcer’s cadence in this opening. Well done.
I’m all for dumping extra commas. I’m glad the cadence of the announcer comes through. That’s important to set the scene.
Amid sparks and smoke, the back doors of the auditorium exploded open. In rolled Ty on an over-chopped Harley. Brassy spiked hair, jet-black goatee, his bulked-up torso straining through wrestler’s tights. He gunned the throttle in a ripple of roars like a warrior trying to psych-out enemies.
Popping the clutch, he burned a wheelie down the center aisle. Flames shot from the tailpipes. The concussion flattened the grinning, cheering fans against their seats. A ramp vaulted the bike up onto the stage. Its tires scored another set of permanent black streaks into the flooring as he side-slid to a stop and killed the engine.
Wow, can this guy make an entrance or what? Excellent specific details and you used all the senses in your description. However, pyrotechnics aside, emotion is the best hook you can sink into your reader. There’s a lot of sound and fury in this opening, but I’m wondering what it signifies.
Yup, emotion is lacking here, but we’re still omniscient as to POV, so the psychological distance goes with the territory. What the reader is getting here is just a “slice of life” introduction to the story world. Can anyone think of a way to add emotion here?
I can. You’re actually not in omniscient POV here or at least you shouldn’t be. Akira is watching this but you haven’t introduced her yet. Get your POV character into the mix sooner and you can provide some emotional context to this opening. And while you’re at it, give her a buddy to talk to.
He arched his deeply-knotted arms over his head and pulsed his muscles, his arms and chest doing a hoola as the frenzied crowd screamed. A searing guitar riff from the Rogue Rash Band tore through the studio.
“Yeah!” he bellowed.
“Yeah!” the audience chorused.
“Talk about the Second Amendment right to bare arms! Yeah! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!”
Akira Clayton rolled her eyes and pushed the mute button on her TV remote.
I’m with her on the eye rolling bit. I need a reason to care about Tyler before I put up with these kind juvenile antics. Maybe I just don’t watch enough professional wrestling. Is he our hero? Or is there someone else coming?
He’s the protagonist along with the Akira character. You’ve got the juvenile antics right, that’s a great way to describe what he’s doing and he’s doing it on purpose.
“Tyler Benjamin Wilcox,” she murmured. “Look out world…”
She called his middle name. Is this a subtle signal that she knows him? If so, it’s a nice touch.
You nailed it! They’ve known each other for a long time. They have similar goals, but very opposite approaches.
After coaching the president through twelve hours of hand wringing in the Oval Office, watching this pointless show was the last thing Akira wanted to do. But with the country falling apart at the seams, the president was desperate for every bit of political spin she could wring out of the daily news. Unfortunately, this was how America was getting its news. She sighed and took a sip of warm green tea.
Did not see this coming. That’s a real pivot from Wrestle-Mania to the Oval Office. Our goal as writers is to surprise and delight. You surprised me.
Great! I’m glad you were entertained. That was my goal.
On the silent TV, Ty moved to the host’s desk. Instead of the usual late-night talk show metro scene, behind him a snow-boarder did a flip. Exactly 4.7 seconds later, a surfer tunneled down a tube of water, then an air-borne four-wheeler flashed across the backdrop.
A picky point. We’re in her POV. How would she know 4.7 seconds passed?
She doesn’t hopefully know exactly how long 4.7 seconds is, but since this is a mainstream novel, we can slip into omniscient without troubling over it. The 4.7 seconds was meant to indicate how contrived the show was. Any other suggestions on how to do this?
Ok. This is why it’s important to be aware of reader expectations. Since I don’t write mainstream, I’m not sure what the parameters for POV are. However if you want your readers to identify with Akira you need to stick with her longer than three paragraphs. Don’t pull back into omniscient till we’re firmly in her camp. The 4.7 second detail isn’t that important. Reader identification is.
This was America, as Ty saw it.
Akira shook her head. “Grow up already, Ty.” She toggled the sound back on.
Ty held up both hands to quiet the screaming studio audience. They yelled even louder. He half stood and glared, his fists knuckle-down on the desktop, threatening to pummel anyone who disobeyed. Instant silence. He snorted satisfaction.
The knuckle-down posture reminds me of a silver-back gorilla, which I’m guessing is what you’re going for. Maybe I’m just having an off day, but so far, I’m not really liking this guy. I do however, feel a real affinity for your heroine. It’s ok for me not to be wild about your hero at first. Just bear in mind that you’ll have some rehabilitation to do for him later.
Oh yeah, he’s a real Teddy Bear in a Gorilla suit. It’s all for show and both of the protagonists know it. During the course of the novel, they both undergo some rehab.
Akira had to watch this absurd debacle every night. And every night deny that this yahoo was the same man who’d been her PhD classmate at Columbia. Not that they’d ever agreed on anything. They’d always been opposites. She, a poor black girl who’d clawed her way up out of the slums of Philadelphia on federal scholarships. He, an aristocratic prodigal son who’d never worked a day in his life.
They’d fought countless battles over politics. As had their families for over two hundred years, all the way back to the very formation of The Constitution itself. The only reason she watched him now was because she had to. At least that’s what she told herself.
I don’t think you need to capitalize The Constitution.
Constitution definitely needs caps. I’ve capped the The to add emphasis because the premise is about The Constitution.
The last two paragraphs are bordering on an info dump, but you did it quickly so that’s in your favor. Please tell me you jump quickly into the action and give Akira a flesh-and-blood person to interact with very soon. Watching someone watch TV makes for a flat scene.
Good point! Akira’s character development is slow. I’ll be taking a closer look at that on revisions.
Thanks for letting me take a look at your work, Kat. Your prose is fresh and sharp. You make good use of descriptive verbs and specific nouns. I’d like to see where this goes. ;-)
Thanks! I’ve enjoyed being part of Red Pencil Thursdays and have found it interesting and enlightening. I look forward to the comments from your visitors.
Bio: Kat Duncan obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry and German from Regis College in Weston, MA. She is a Fulbright Scholar who spent a year in West Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. After a successful career as a computer geek, she decided she needed something different to do. She homeschooled her brilliant daughters, then snagged a Master’s Degree in Special Education from Gordon College in Wenham, MA and now tutors students from elementary through college and beyond in all subjects as well as in study skills. An active member of the New England Chapter of RWA, and RWA-PRO, she has written a series of popular newsletter articles on grammar and style and teaches online classes in writing. Kat writes romantic suspense for The Wild Rose Press and is an Indie publisher of romantic suspense, historical romance and non-fiction shorts on writing.
Now it’s your turn. How can Kat make this opener stronger?