Red Pencil Thursday
I don’t always know my RPT volunteers, but I was fortunate to meet Marianne Stephenson a few weeks ago when I visited MERWA in Brunswick, Maine. It’s a terrific group of writers, very supportive of each other and great fun to spend an afternoon with.
If you’re a writer and would like to take part in Red Pencil Thursday, check out the details on how to submit your first 500 words. And in the meantime, be sure to weigh on today’s first 500. Oh! And if you’re a reader, we really want to hear from YOU too!
Trent Kipson glared at his best friend over the rim of his glass and chugged the rest of his beer. “There’s no way in hell I’m making good on this freakin’ bet.”
Mia: And that’s how it’s done, boys and girls. This opening has everything it needs—tension, an immediate sense of place, the introduction of two characters and a succinct revelation of a conflict. Well done!
Marianne: Thank you!!
“The hell you say. You lost this bet just like I knew you would. Pay up, man,” Brian laughed and drank from his own mug.
Mia: A word about the vulgar tongue. Use of “hell” in the first paragraph emphasizes our hero’s vehemence. Repetition of it in the 2nd paragraph blunts its effect. I’m not opposed to swearing, but make sure it has the most impact by using it sparingly. “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” wouldn’t have had the same punch if Rhett had been swearing like a sailor through the rest of the story.
Marianne: Great point! I don’t have a lot of swearing in the book but I see how this sets the tone.
Mia: Begin as you mean to continue. ;-)
“I’m not gonna do it.” Trent signaled the bartender, who immediately filled another mug full of Guinness and slid it across the bar.
“Dude. It’s not my fault you’re—“
Mia: Good tease. I can’t wait to see what he has to do!
Marianne: He he he he
Brian was interrupted when a buxom college girl sidled in between them and put her flirt on. “Hey, aren’t you that guy? Like the Cake Boss or something?”
Trent heard a chuckle behind the blonde’s back. Now would be the perfect time to strangle his brother-in-law.
Mia: I’m not sure where the chuckle is coming from and it pulled me out of the scene for a second. If it’s Brian, say so. Remember the Prime Directive: First, be clear. When the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense.
Marianne: Yup, it’s Brian’s chuckle at his friend’s discomfort. I’ll make that more clear.
“No.” He gritted his teeth and pried his eyes from the surgically enhanced globes falling out of the girl’s low-cut shirt.
Mia: You’ve done well with guy-speak so far. Would he really think of them as ‘globes?’
Marianne: Not that the reader knows this yet, but Trent is a baker. I’ll come up with a clever confection….
“Yeah, you are. My roommates and I saw you on TV last week. You’re even cuter in person,” she drawled, running her nails down his arm.
He never thought he’d grow tiresome of the song and dance of a woman hitting on him but the past month had tried his patience.
Mia: You mean ‘tired’ instead of ‘tiresome.’
Once again Brian chuckled making Trent regret coaxing him into a Man’s Night Out. Ever since his fifteen minutes of fame last month, he’d been inundated at the bakery. Who knew that a quick write-up in a paper and a mug shot of him decorating a celebrity wedding cake would go viral? The world was a strange place. Between the magazine articles in Yankee magazine, a few other high-end magazines in the New England area, and the airtime on the local news channels, he hadn’t had much time for hanging out with the guys—or girls.
Mia: Brian’s chuckling is starting to border on creepy. Can he do something else?
Marianne: Snorting? He’s totally enjoying this.
Trent’s bakery coverage put Portland, Maine on the map.
“Whatdoyasay?” The blonde stroked his cheek with one of her long talons, bringing him back to the present.
“Um, sorry. I’ve got plans tonight.” He smiled but turned on his barstool, facing the rows of liquor bottles behind the bar, signaling his disinterest. The blonde huffed and marched off.
“I take that back. You haven’t a clue when it comes to the ladies,” Brian laughed once again.
Mia: Take what back? I scrolled up to see what he was referring to and still couldn’t figure it out. When writing dialogue, keep it snappy. Pinging back and forth makes for a quick read and sucks a reader in. Don’t make them wonder where the thread of the conversation went.
Marianne: Ah, good catch. In a previous draft there was more dialogue…so he was responding to a statement that I since cut.
“I’m glad you’re having so much fun with this, Bri. Finish your beer. The game is starting soon.”
“Wanna make another bet on how long it will take for you to get hit on at the stadium? Let’s see…the blonde was the third in…” Brian looked down at his watch, “the twenty minutes we’ve been here. I wager you don’t make it to the opening pitch before some chick recognizes you and comes on to you.”
Mia: Before we have a new bet, I really want to find out what he has to do to satisfy the last one.
Marianne: You find out later…but I can tease now if that makes the reader happy.
Mia: Let’s put it to the rest of the RPT gang. What do you think? Have you been teased enough?
“Forget it, wiseass. No more bets.”
“Ah, but you’re paying up, Kipson. I’m gonna love watching you pay up on this one,” Brian said, slapping down a few bills on the bar.
No, Trent would not allow Brian to watch him pay his dues. It was going to be embarrassing enough as it was. God help him.
Mia: Ok, it’s a good hook, but don’t let us dangle too long. This is the sort of story that needs to click along. Love the bromance you’ve got going here, but is the heroine just around the corner? Please tell me Trent meets her while doing whatever embarrassing thing he has to in order to satisfy the bet. Great start, Marianne!
Marianne: Spoiler alert—well, you learn in the next few pages. Trent has to endure six Zumba classes. The Zumba instructor is Rayne Wilde who thinks Trent is gay…well, what straight hot guy would go to Zumba, right? Thank you so much for your feedback! This was fun!!
Mia: Love it! Dancing like a stripper without a pole. I’ve done a few Zumba classes and NEVER have I seen a guy–gay or straight, hot or not!
Marianne Stephenson lives in southern Maine with her alpha-male husband (who may or may not be an inspiration for a character or two in her books) and three active children. She can be found shuttling her lovelies to a dozen different sports practices and games throughout the week. In her spare time–ha!–she write contemporary romance novels.
Now it’s YOUR turn, my dears. Please leave your comments, suggestions and encouragement for Marianne. And remember, I’m always looking for more victims. I mean, volunteers!
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