Red Pencil Thursday with Helene Wallis
It requires courage to take your bath in public and I want to thank Helene for letting the rest of us go to school on her efforts. My comments are in red. Helene’s responses are in blue. A critique group needs input from all its members. Please add yours in the comment section at the end of this post!
The Spy and the Reluctant Bride
A title should set the mood and hook the reader into opening the book. The style of this title is a little “old school,” reminiscent of The Wolf and the Dove, or The Flame and the Flower. Take a look at the titles in the romance department in your local bookstore. Jot down some of the ones that pique your interest. It may spark a fresh idea for you and maybe our commenters will have a title suggestion for you too.
Thank you Mia for your input. The titles were to be a Brides series but then Stephanie Laurens came out with a bride series: The Untamed Bride, The Brazen Bride, The Elusive Bride and the Reckless Bride. The time period was just after mine. So my Abandoned Bride, Reluctant Bride, Vengeful Bride, etc. became The Twisted Killer Spy and Bride series. In fact, I am wondering if I should entitle the book The Twisted Killer Spy and the Reluctant Bride?
You mentioned in an email that you were considering a single word title like RELUCTANT. I like single word titles. They make a strong statement and work well if you hope to draw in male readers.
Bryon Dalton, Viscount Winship, reluctantly span disentangled himself from his newest love interest. He wanted one more session of lovemaking but he had that demned meeting of The Kings Men to go to and it was getting late.
Newest love interest/em sounds too modern for a historical. Also, the term emlovemaking/em as a euphemism for sex is fairly modern too (circa 1950!) You don’t name a date here, but it sounds Regency-ish. Lovemaking would have meant “to pay close attention to,” in other words, courtship, which is not what you’re describing here.
Yes, they are in the early Regency era.
Perfumed sheets and a willing warm body were most compelling. He certainly found himself at attention but there was nothing for it. He had to leave.
Found himself at attention made me smile. :-) There’s something to be said for not naming body parts before we’ve had a chance to like the characters enough to care about the state of their parts.
He leaned over to give a kiss, reluctantly, sadly. He wanted to partake..no, what was he thinking of? He had to leave. He shook his mind clear of those thoughts. He had to go to the meeting. He could see her on the morrow.
You’re missing her in the first sentence, but I’d really rather see the girl’s name here if she’s going to be an important character.
No one knows her name. Not even Madame. She is the woman in the blue room. Trust me, they will be looking for her. All of them, including the Spy.
Notice that I turned a number of -ly words purple. Try to limit the number of adverbs you use. Descriptive verbs and specific nouns will make your prose cleaner.
How about if he shakes his head instead of his mind?;-)
He and his friends had discovered a new place to help vent their frustrations and angst. Among themselves they called it The French Whorehouse because the Madame and all of the girls spoke with a very bad French accent.
Most guys wouldn’t think they were venting frustration and angst with a whore.
All that is except one. He had found a very real French woman in the house who was pretending to not be French.
OK, now you’ve hooked me. Good job. Is this the woman he’s been bedding? I’d really like to know her name and I think you’ve missed a chance to introduce her to us by not having any dialogue between Bryon and this young woman. By redoing the opening with dialogue between the two of them, you’ll avoid the trap of having Bryon ruminate in silence about things. You’ll be showing instead of telling.
It was a little amusing and at the same time a little sad.
I don’t understand this observation.
It was not difficult to understand how an émigré’ could end up in difficult circumstances. He did not want to know how she ended up here but he was interested in who her companions outside of the house were, if she had any. One of her other lovers was a French spy. Of that he was fairly sure. Unfortunately it was impossible to have the house watched. So many men came and went, including his fellow spies. The Madame certainly would not tell him who came to see her, not without him spilling his own secret connections.
Now you’re ratcheting up my interest. He’s a spy who spends his time in a brothel. Why? Did he have a connection to someone there before he met this girl or is it just a happy accident that he’s sharing a ladybird with a French spy?
For someone was seeing her and talking to her.
Someone who had a great deal of information on what was going on in France. Perhaps someone who also knew she was French and was being careless or boastful. Men like that were very dangerous. Perhaps someone in his cups who was careless with his speech? Perhaps someone she knew in France or was a connection of hers? Like a relative? And how and why was he giving her this information? The most likely explanation? Pillow talk, no doubt. Who ever he was he most likely did not know she talked in her sleep. Not rambling words but complete lucid conversations. He worried that someday her other lover would come to know this and do away with her. He grimaced when he thought of the methods of torture he was acquainted with. Not a happy thought.
We have a lot of information being dumped here. I wonder if you might start out with her talking in her sleep and having Bryon realize she was both a source of information and in danger because of it. Again, I’d rather have you show me than tell me.
Perhaps she would be lucky and he, whoever he was, would not guess.
You set me up to worry about her and then yanked the suspense away by saying “Oh, well, maybe she’ll be lucky.” I’d rather she stay in jeopardy for now. It’s a better hook.
He even considered telling her what she was doing, but the information she was supplying was too important.
Because I want your hero to be honorable, there needs to be a really compelling reason for him to continue to use this woman. Is she talking in her sleep about an assassination attempt on the queen? A military invasion? What is more important than the value of not letting a woman he at least likes remain in danger?
Too bad he could not have her ask questions of her Frog.
Tall, handsome and intelligent, and most importantly very generous with the ready, he was everything she could want in a lover. She hoped he
And here we have to end because we’ve reached 500 words. This last paragraph is in the unnamed young woman’s head. We’ve changed POV without a change of scene, which is a no-no for unpublished authors. I know Nora does it, but she’s Nora. If you must change POV within the scene, pull back with a paragraph that isn’t specifically in anyone’s POV–a more omniscent view–then come in with your new POV character.
Would she think of him as a lover? If she was his exclusive mistress, yes, but since she sees more than one man, I think you need a different word here. And since she does have other “regulars” this is a problem if she is your heroine. It’s a romance reader expectation that the heroine will not be promiscuous after she meets the hero (and vice versa). This is something you need to give some serious thought.
She is not the heroine of the story but a vehicle. She may end up at the end of the last book as a heroine of sorts but not before because when he goes back to rescue her (at the end of the first chapter) she has already fled. In thinking it over she has decided she fears the other man more than Madame.
Maybe I started in the wrong place and that this should have been a flashback. I could try that and see if it works better. I need to introduce her at some point, as she has a pivotal role in the last book and he is the last man to see her. So I will begin again and see what happens.
It’s not uncommon for an author to begin in the wrong place. I remember writing 12-15 pages on one story only to discover I was merely “clearing my throat” and getting acquainted with my characters. The story starts at a pivotal moment, a moment when everything changes for your main character. Hit the ground running and don’t look back. And think long and hard before doing anything as a flashback in the first chapter. A flashback removes the reader from the immediate action. Save it for later, when your reader is invested enough in the characters to wander down memory lane with them.
Thanks for letting me take a look at your work!
Helene’s Bio: I am a single mother, twice divorced, who raised six children basically alone and now have eight grandchildren to brag about. When I retired after twenty years in nursing (as a psychiatric, forensic and home care nurse) I decided to reinvent myself as Regency suspense/romance novelist. I did win first prize in the Connecticut Authors and Publishers contest a few years ago for a personal essay on the Hartford Circus fire “A Day at the Circus(Fire).” My only writing experience, besides in charts was as a photographer and regional features editor for a weekly newspaper many years ago.
Thanks for being our volunteer today, Helene. Now it’s your turn. Do you have suggestions for her? Beginnings are a delicate time. Have you ever read a published novel that didn’t seem to start in the right place? /embr /pemHold the presses! Helene just sent me a revised opening that shows some definite improvement. One of the goals of Red Pencil Thursday is helping writers think in new directions. Click here if you’d like to check out Helene’s newest version yourself.