Red Pencil ThursdayI’ve got my steaming cup of coffee. My red pencil is sharp and I’m happy to report that we have a volunteer for Red Pencil Thursday. It’s Mary Anne Landers, one of my Facebook friends. (If you haven’t connected with me there yet, I’d love for you to. Here’s a link to my “official author page!”)

If you’re a writer, please consider offering up the first 500 words of your current WIP. I promise you and your work will be treated with respect. And if you’re a reader, we value your input. You know instinctively what makes for a great story so your insights are much appreciated.

The Weeping Dragon

Dragons cannot weep. So say the most learned scholars of the arcane arts. Yet I, Mary of Daltrey, have seen with my own eyes one such scaly, fire-breathing monster shed copious tears. Not once, but often. It is of this woeful creature that I would write.

Mia: The only trouble with this opening is that I didn’t write it! ;-) I love the way you plunge us into your world and give us an immediate conundrum—impossible dragon tears. You also set a definite tone with your POV character’s voice, formal yet a little whimsical. I’m ready to settle in for a great story.

In the castle of Leffingham, on the far side of the river Humber, dwelt two maidens: Lady Dorrit, daughter of the lord of the manor; and her cousin and best friend Lady Annis. Both were blessed with beauty, wit, and charm. But only one had a conscience. And only the other had common sense.

Mia: Hmm. You set me up for a dragon and gave me two maidens instead. I’m a little let down, a bit “bait and switched,” but I’ll keep reading.

Mary Anne: Okay, I’ll think of something. Like bridging the gap between the two concepts. Maybe I could mention that dragons are supposed to hold maidens captive so that knights can rescue them. This time, that was not quite the case.

On the banks of the Humber in the first blush of spring, the two maidens were picking flowers. Dorrit, her basket full of leaves around her, hair the soft gold of ripe wheat.

Mia: Ok, you’re losing me now. You’ve mentioned Humber twice without giving a hint of why it might be important. And the second sentence is not actually a sentence. It requires a verb.

Mary Anne: Oops.  Delete one “Humber”. And either my software screwed up with the second sentence or I did.  This passage is supposed to read:

Dorrit, her basket full of daffodils and primroses, sat on a rock to take a drink of water. In the clear stream she could see herself: pale oval face, eyes green as the new leaves around her, hair the soft gold of ripe wheat.

She thought, What good is my beauty? Does it lessen the pain in my heart? Or draw the only man I want?

Mia: Romance is character-driven fiction. No matter what cool things the characters might do, we won’t care if we don’t like the character. It may just be a pet peeve of mine, but someone who knows they are beautiful and ruminates about it doesn’t seem like someone I want to befriend. I take it she’s the one without common sense?

Mary Anne: You betcha! That is, she has none at the start of the story.  She’d be too dumb to live if she didn’t wise up over the course of events.  This might be a bit controversial, but I don’t mind protagonists who start off clueless.  That allows them to screw up, suffer, and learn from the experience.  This one certainly does.

If this bit doesn’t go over well, try this: 

She thought, The Rose of the North Country, they call me.  With looks like mine, I should be happy.  I can attract any man . . . except the one I want.

Mia: It occurs to me that we have a POV problem too. You’re using a narrator–Lady Mary of Daltry. How can you be in Dorrit’s head? 

Suddenly another reflection appeared beside hers. A face and form as manly as she was womanly. As handsome as she was beautiful.

Mia: You’re telling, m’dear. Show us how manly and handsome he is. Use Mary of Daltrey’s poetic voice to give us a clearer picture of him.

Mary Anne: Okay, try this: 

Suddenly another reflection appeared beside hers.  A form tall and robust, with a ruddy face framed by redder curls.  A pair of amber eyes shone brightly.  And they were looking right at her.

Mia: I’m not getting handsome from that. I’m not even getting male especially.

Dorrit gasped. Not two feet away stood William.

He said, “Pardon me for startling you, fair Dorrit.”

Mia: I understand that you’re using a purposely formal voice, but let’s put ‘he said’ after the dialogue. Or think about dropping it altogether. If it’s clear who’s speaking, you don’t need a tag.

Mary Anne: Okay, will do.  I try not to use tags unless they’re necessary anyhow.

She rose and tried to compose herself, as befits a lady. But she exclaimed in anger, “You nearly made me faint! What’s the meaning of this?”

Mia: This reaction strikes me as odd. She seemed to want to see him, to conjure him somehow, even. Why is she so disproportionately angry?

Mary Anne: Okay, substitute this for the second and third sentences:

 But she could not conceal her surprise.  “William!  What are you doing here?”

Mia: Better.

“I had to see you. Alone.”

Mia: Wait a minute. I thought the two maidens were picking flowers on the banks of the Humber. Until William appeared, I wondered why Dorrit was thinking at her reflection instead of talking to her cousin and best friend, or better yet, our POV character Mary of Daltrey.

Mary Anne: Thanks for pointing this out.  In the fourth paragraph, I’ll note that Dorrit wandered off by herself.  Or Annis did.  Keep reading; Annis will show up.

Dorrit studied his ruddy face framed by auburn hair. “Why?”

“I will speak plainly, for a knight such as I knows nothing of refinement.” He paused. “I love you, Dorrit.”

She was too stunned to speak. William went on: “I know I presume too much, loving above my station. But how can a lonely man see you and not fall in love?”

Mia: This seems incredibly sudden and isn’t ringing true for me. I think it’s because this seems like the first conversation these two have ever had. I know the whole courtly love bit—how a knight would adore a lady from afar, but even in that case, he’d compose sonnets to her and beg for tokens of affection. Is there a way to give some sense that he’s been paying court to her before this astounding declaration?

Mary Anne: Okay, will do. I’ll indicate early on that they already know each other and that he’s been courting her.  I’ll make it more explicit that he’s the one she wants. And delete the bit about how she studies his ruddy face framed by auburn hair.  In the revised version, the reader will already know what he looks like.

“But what of Annis? I thought you love her. I know she loves you!”

“I did, at first. With all my heart.” He grasped her hand. “Then I met you. And realized Annis loves only herself. I kept paying court to your cousin, but only to see you.”

Dorrit wanted to reproach William for his deception. But even more, she wanted him to keep talking. To say what she had longed to hear.

Mia: At first I thought Dorrit was the one without common sense, but I see now that she’s the one without a conscience. If she cares at all for Annis (her best friend, you said), she has to be more conflicted than this. And William is coming off pretty fickle. Not a heroic trait. Remember we need to like the characters. You can make them do some bad things, but give them some angst about it, some underlying motivation that drives them besides “I love you, and I want what I want so everyone else can go suck eggs.”

Mary Anne: Indeed, Dorrit does feel terribly guilty about this.  It’ll come out later.  But right now all she can focus on is William and his declaration of love. She has longed for this moment, and feared it would never happen.  Now it has.

Also, William has good reason for leaving Annis.  Her selfishness and dishonesty drove him away.  He would’ve left her even if he hadn’t fallen in love with Dorrit.  There will be more on his motives and Annis’ lack of character later in the story. But I figured that in the opening scene, the most I should do is to allude to these factors briefly. Maybe I should’ve elaborated.

William said, “Forgive me. If I’ve offended you—”

“No! This is a surprise, but . . . a pleasant one.”


“William, you’ve been honest to me. I must do likewise.”

He tensed. “You’ll send me away.”

“No. I love you. I dared not tell you, until now.”

William beamed, then clasped her. They kissed deeply, ardently, as neither had been kissed before.

Mia: I’m not happy for them. I’m too upset that both of them are dismissing Annis without a second thought. But if all Annis feels is anger when she learns about this, she’ll soon lose me too. People are complicated. Relationships make it even more so. I need more layers of things going on here. If they kiss, it needs to be a guilty kiss, one fraught with the sense of being something stolen.

Mary Anne: Yes, Annis gets angry.  But she also gets even! With Dorrit, that is.  Though Annis is mad at William too, overriding this is her love for him.  And her determination to win him back at any cost.  But that’s another part of the story.

If you want me to make this first-kiss scene more than what I’ve already written, I can add this, though it would push the excerpt over the 500-word mark:

Dorrit thought, Oh my love!  How I’ve longed for this moment.  I feared it would never happen.  Now my prayers have been answered!

But wait.  Is William really mine?  After loving Annis so long, so deeply, can he just let go of her?  Can she let go of him?

Yes, I have what I wanted.  But at what cost?  I love both William and Annis.  This will hurt her like nothing else can.

Oh, what have I done?  How can I build my happiness on someone else’s sorrow?

Had they not been so lost in each other, they might have noticed the leaves of a nearby hazel bush had parted. Just enough for a face to peer through. A fair one, with sapphire-blue eyes, staring at the joyous couple.

The eyes of Annis.

Mia: Well, you know who’s side I’m on now. Can you give me a reason why William’s affections have transferred to Dorrit from Annis? Is Annis a crazy witch? What’s the projected length of this story? The relationship between Dorrit and William is moving at lightning speed. I’m a little worried about pacing.

I think your story has some good bones, but we need more flesh on them.

Mary Anne: Annis isn’t crazy, just narcissistic.  Don’t worry, I won’t use that word in this story. And though she resorts to witchcraft later on, she has a professional show her how.

Yes, I can have William go into more detail about why he’s fallen out of love with Annis.  I do so anyhow later on.  But I see your point.  I should do it from the get-go.  And make it specific, not vague. I can allude to just what she’s done that has turned his love for her into loathing.

I can move this scene along more slowly, and will have to in order to add the material you suggested.  As for the projected length, it will be a novelette or novella, not a full-length novel.  Wait a sec, maybe it could be a novel. That would require still more tinkering with the opening scene, of course.

Usually I prefer a brisk pace in the stories I read, especially if they’re adventures or contain a hearty helping of adventure.  So this story should move along at a nice clip.  But I don’t want to outrun the reader.

One final note:  Lest anyone object that “Daltrey” isn’t the name of a town—well, I found that out after I sent in the excerpt.  It’s the Anglicized form of the Norman French “d’Haute Rive”, from Haute Rive (High Banks) in Normandy.  I realized I’d have to find another medieval-sounding North Country place name for Mary, the narrator (and a major character, though not at the opening of the story). So now she’s Mary of Ormsby. Ain’t Google wonderful!

Thanks a lot for the feedback, Mia.  That includes the negative comments.  If I’m screwing up, I want to learn about it now, not after I submit the story to an editor.  And I’m grateful to you for not just pointing out what’s wrong, but also offering suggestions on how to fix it.

And for everyone else:  You’re welcome to add your reactions.  Don’t be shy; if you don’t like something, just say so.  If I can dish it out, I’d better be able to take it!

Find Mary Anne at

About Mary Anne: I live in a small town in Arkansas. I love to read and write. I have three furry children—oops, I mean cats: Spartacus, Archimedes, and Farrah. I’ve been trying to think of something interesting or unusual about me; but the truth is, there isn’t anything.

Thanks for taking a ride in the RPT hotseat, Mary Anne. Now it’s YOUR turn. What suggestions, comments or encouragement do you have for her today?

Red Pencil ThursdayIt’s time for another online critique group. My volunteer is Alexa Kyler, an army wife! I so admire and appreciate the people who serve in our military and the families who support their brave choice. Alexa has made a brave choice today too. She’s sharing that all important first 500 words of her WIP and letting us all go to school on it.

Each week I’m preaching to myself as I give my suggestions. Writing is an ocean of things to learn and I pick up new things all the time. I look forward to your comments as much as my volunteers do, so please be sure to share your thoughts!


 It had taken eight long years of no sleep and lots of caffeine but he was finally done, a year early too.  Michael Frederic “Cale” de George Junior was now in possession of a Doctorate Degree in History from Princeton University.  He thought Dr. Michael Frederic de George, Jr., PhD, sounded pretty awesome – No – Dr. Cale George.  That sounded better.

Mia: Numbers tend to yank me out of a story, so I googled yours. According to the American Historical Association, it takes an average of 8 years to earn a doctorate in history. Therefore, Cale didn’t finish a year early. But beyond that, this opening doesn’t grab me by the emotion hook. What can you have Cale doing that will pull me in? Also, would he drop the ‘de’ before his last name even to make his name ‘awesomer’?

Alexa: I was reading up on History Doctorates and my research found 5 years for doctorate after the BA. That was awhile ago though so I would of course check that before publishing. The last name “de” drop was just for convenience but I can see how that would be too confusing.

His friends had teased him mercilessly for choosing history as his doctorate but it was his passion.  He loved learning about the past and the secrets it held.  He loved old dusty books and dark stuffy bookstores full of forgotten treasures.   He loved showing people these secrets, telling the stories of times past.

Mia: Bingo! But you’re telling, m’dear. Show him in his element surrounded by those books. Let him be searching for something specific. Could he reach the desired book at the same time as another bibliophile and have a tussle over it? Might be a good way for him to meet the heroine—or the villain, if they’re after the same thing. A story needs tension and nowhere does it need more than in the opening. So far you’ve been giving us backstory, show us Cale in action NOW!

Alexa: These first couple pages should probably be in another chapter, in bits and pieces.

Of course, no one knew the real reason for his obsession.  No one knew that he knew his family’s secret.  And he wasn’t going to tell anyone, not even his siblings.

Mia: Now we have a legitimate hook, but you’ve buried it. Lead with the family secret. Not that you should give the details to us at this point, but let us know that it’s Cale’s driving force.

Alexa: I have a prologue written out. A memory sequence from when Cale was a child where he overhears an argument his parents have. I think it would help with the hook.

Cale walked up to his childhood home in Aspen Hill and smiled.  He loved his childhood home.  It wasn’t too big but it had been big enough for 8 kids.  They thought they were going to surprise him with a party to celebrate his doctorate.  But his sister Stacie couldn’t keep a secret from anyone.  Of his seven siblings, Stacie was the one to always spill the beans when pressured, even when not.

Stacie was a social butterfly.  She loved being the center of attention.  She was sweet, happy and cared about everyone and everything.  She was tall and petite with bright blue eyes, brown hair with natural red highlights and always had a smile.  She was studying to be a kindergarten teacher.

Her twin, Katie, on the other hand, probably had more secrets than every government agency combined, which was probably a good thing since she was looking at enlisting in the military as a military intelligence officer after college and then the CIA.  She looked identical to Stacie but they were complete opposites.  Katie was shy, quiet and hated being noticed.  She observed, saw everything and didn’t miss much.

Mia: These paragraphs are character sketches. They belong in your writer’s bible (a list of characters & important details you need to keep track of), not in the main narrative. This is valuable information, but it’s for you. You need to know these things about your characters at this time. Only give your readers as much as they absolutely need to move forward. Take a peek at the opening of Plaid to the Bone. I don’t explain who the people are. I simply drop readers into the middle of the action and they learn what’s going on as the characters move forward.

Alexa: I am a detail person and love too much info when I read but I can see how that shouldn’t dumped in the first chapter.

Mia: That attention to detail will serve you well, Alexa. It’s a matter of learning when to ladle out the info and when to withhold it.

Cale paused, took a deep breath and opened the door.

“SURPRISE!” At least 50 people yelled as he walked into his parent’s home.

“What?!  A surprise party for me?  I had no idea!”  He exclaimed with as much fake surprise as he could muster.

“Oh, stop!  You knew we would do this,” Amy de George laughed.  “Everyone knows Stacie shouldn’t have been told!”

Mia: Again, we have the problem of no tension. Now if he had gone there expecting the surprise party and mysteriously no one was there, you’d have a hook.

Alexa: The tension comes in the next part, with his heroine. I should probably start with that scene and then move to him at work where his passion for history comes out.

Mia: Figuring out where to start the story is so important. I think your scene with the heroine sounds like a great beginning.

He hugged his mom as she laughed.  His mom was tall for a woman, had lightly graying blonde hair and soft brown eyes.  She was a little plump but she had eight children.  She was very active and was hardly ever seen sitting down.

Mia: Reminds me of my mother-in-law. She was always doing something. I had to fuss to get her to sit down long enough to eat with the rest of us. However, you’re telling again. Show Amy frenetically doing and we’ll have a truer picture of her in our minds.

“It’s so true!”  Stacie laughed good-naturedly.  He hugged Stacie, then Katie; they were never far from each other even at twenty-three.

“My son is a Doctor!”  Mike de George Sr. shouted as he dragged Cale into a hug.  His dad was just above average in height but was robust with a big chest and wide shoulders.

Mia: The point of Red Pencil Thursday is to give writers a chance to think about their work in new directions. In your case, Alexa, I’d like to talk a bit about the difference between showing and telling. There’s a time for each in a story, but in the beginning especially it’s important to show your protagonist in an active situation. Readers like to be included in the storytelling process and by presenting your character in action—doing something, in dialogue with another, facing a problem—you give readers a chance to draw their own conclusions about the hero/heroine. Think about the sort of situation that would, in the words of Tolkien’s Faramir, allow your hero to “show his quality.”

So in showing, your character is interacting with his world and those around him. Telling involves “author intrusion.” It means you’re slipping in a capsule of information the reader needs in order to understand what’s at stake.

I like Mike & his family. If we could feel his concern about how the secret threatens his loved ones up front, you’ll pull us right in.

Alexa: I am glad you like my characters so far. Good characters are just as important as a good storyline.  I know I have a lot of work to do on this story.  Thank you for reviewing my first ever story.

Mia: You’re so right. Romance is character-driven fiction. Keep up the good work. My first ever story richly deserves its place with the dust bunnies under my bed. I call it my “training wheels” manuscript because I had so much to learn about the writer’s craft.


Alexa’s bio: I grew up in Alaska but not how you would think. I am a city girl.  I don’t have a love of being outdoors but loves living in the picturesque Alaska. I married my high school sweetheart a year after I graduated. My husband joined the Army and we started our family right away. We have 4 amazing sons and live the Army life. Now that they are getting older, I am starting to indulge in my childhood dream of writing a novel.

Now it’s YOUR turn. Please leave your comments, encouragement & suggestions for Alexa!


Red Pencil ThursdayWelcome to another RPT! It’s been a while, but as you know, unless I have an intrepid volunteer, our online critique group is dead in the water. Fortunately, Theresa Newbury has stepped forward to offer the first 500 words of her WIP.

I need to offer a bit of a warning here. Normally, I try to keep the blog–in fact, my whole site!–at a PG13 rating. However, Theresa’s opener is pretty erotic. If you’re under 18, I have to ask you to click away now. Thanks. Trust me, my dears, there’s plenty of time later.

If you’d like to volunteer to take the Red Pencil Thursday hotseat, check out the details here.

Chastity Tames Lord Lust

This isn’t right! Where`s the tattooist? Where`s the stinging prick of his needles? Where`s the cold artist bench that is supposed to be pressed along my back? Why am I now on my stomach? And WHY am I using a hot, hard male for a body pillow?

Mia: First, let me share that I’m clueless when it comes to erotica. While it’s true I do write sizzling love scenes and my work has been labeled “erotic,” I’m always mystified by the designation because I write one man/one woman scenes. No one was more surprised than me when Touch of a Rogue was named Erotic Historical of 2012 by The Romance Reviewer. My goal for the love scenes in that book are the same for every other scene—advance the story or deepen the characters. Otherwise, I cut it.

That said, I don’t know the reader expectations for the erotica sub-genre and few things are more important.  So let me confine myself to observations about the writing itself. I like beginning in your heroine’s head, but there are a few too many questions stacked up. Try breaking it up like this:

This isn`t right! Where`s the tattooist? Chastity expected the stinging prick of needles and a cold artist’s bench pressed along her back. Instead she woke on her stomach. And WHY am I using a hard male for a body pillow?

This eliminates 3 question marks and introduces the heroine’s name.

Theresa: What genre to place my story has been my own big debate. It does have a strong erotic-like opening, but it quickly back peddles (next 250 words, which editing may bring much closer to the 500 range) into my more desired genre of fantasy/paranormal romance. Over all idea is modern virgin meets playboy demon, solve difference dilemmas and live HEA.  I am leaning towards his realm/world being along the historical type setting, which I so love in my own readings. I see major portion of the book covering the conflict of emotions, lifestyles and building of bonds (finding hidden factors behind his playboy image) over any jumping into bed. Chastity will continue to seriously fight the sexual lure due to virginity and her own disgust of playboys/cheaters/bums.

Yes, I like your rephrasing! The question marks also struck me as overwhelming.

Mia: Whoa! If this is not erotica, you have started your story in the wrong place. The first 500 words sets the tone for the whole book and lets readers know what sort of story they are in for. You must begin as you mean to continue. And it it absolutely essential that you know where your book should be shelved in the bookstores. If they can’t shelve it, they can’t sell it. While there are a number of cross-overs, you need to decide what sort of story you’re writing and stick to it.

“Well, hello there, Little one.” A purring male rumble interrupted the confused voice in Chastity`s head. “Welcome to the party.”

Mia: Capitalize “One.”

Theresa: Got it.

“Party?” The words slipped out, as she lifted her vision from the smattering of fine hairs curling on a glistening, copper background. NICE BODY. Chastity’s brow furrowed as she ignored the inner voice and met the golden, half-hooded gaze of the male she was draped over.

“It is starting to feel like a party.” This time the rumble was followed by a soft chuckle that Chastity felt vibrate down her front since they were in such intimate proximity.

Mia: You can’t lift your vision. You can only lift your gaze or your eyes. If NICE BODY is Chastity’s internal dialogue it needs to be italicized.  Watch your use of modifiers. Remember what Carina Press editor, Angela James says: “Not every noun deserves an adjective.” ‘Golden, half-hooded’ feels a little excessive for gaze.

Also, you don’t need to tell us Chastity felt something. We’re in her POV. We’ll follow her. Try this:

This time the rumble was followed by a soft chuckle that vibrated down Chastity’s front.

Theresa: Very nice tips. This being my very first attempt at transporting my personal entertainment (fantasies/voices) into book format made the RPT/dive into your public bath a Godsend. It gives me strong points to watch for as I continue, thus hopefully cutting out many edits that I would have otherwise faced or been rejected for.

Yes, the capitalized NICE BODY should have been italicized. It was a “DOH!” moment that I too caught at a later time.

Mia: First, let me commend you for sitting down and going for your dream. So many people tell me they want to write a book. What they really want is to have written a book. They aren’t willing to put in the work to learn the craft of storytelling. So kudos to you, m’dear. And please remember, not every manuscript is meant to sell. I still have a sad little western which richly deserves the obscurity it enjoys with the dust bunnies under my bed. But I’m glad I wrote it. It was my “training wheels” manuscript and I learned a lot from it.

“Party…” Chastity muttered. Yes, she was sounding dim-witted, but her brain was having trouble processing the information that it was receiving.

Mia: I kind of want her to panic a bit here. Obviously, she wasn’t expecting to find herself in this situation. The strongest hook a writer can set is an emotional one. What is Chastity feeling? Give me a reason to care about what’s happening to her.

Theresa: Yes, I see that I could work on this more.

“No fair! I was going there!” A high-pitched, feminine whine broke into their odd conversation. Glancing to her right, Chastity flinched at the sight of a naked, white breast bobbing only inches away from her surprised eyes. The owner of the unknown boob was shifting and twisting forward so that the she could lower her parted lips to cover the mouth of the man who had welcomed Chastity.

Mia: Whenever you can, eliminate “helping” verbs. Change “was shifting and twisting” to “shifted and twisted.” It’s stronger.

Theresa: Okay, ing’s to ed’s where possible.

The distracted intent on that females face told Chastity this was not where the screech had come from. Chastity allowed her eyes to drift away from the red-head that now had a severe lip lock on the unknown male.

Mia: Not sure what ‘distracted intent’ means. Remember the Writer’s Prime Directive: First, be clear.

“Allowed her eyes to drift away” is too wordy. Things are happening quickly. Your prose needs to move too. Just “Chastity looked away…” will do.

Theresa: Lustful intent? Maybe? Working on that, lol.

Too wordy and keeping sentences and prose in timing with what is happening in the story are tips that I discovered in studying your previous RPT’s after I had sent my 500 words to you.  I am finding those previous blogs very helpful!

Mia: I’m so glad Red Pencil Thursday has helped you. In case there are any other writers who’d like to take a peek at past RPTs, here’s a link:

Oh, my! Nice package! The sometimes slutty voice in her head spoke again. The discovery was made when a hand covered Chastity’s left buttocks and gave it a shove, thus grinding her pelvis into the aroused male parts directly below.

Mia: There are a lot of body parts in this scene and we haven’t had a chance to care about the characters they belong to yet. If this is part of erotica reader expectations, ignore this comment, but I want to know whose hand is on my heroine’s bum. And so does she!

Was Chastity drugged? If so, I think we should hear her “slutty voice” wondering about that earlier. BTW, “slutty voice” is kinda cute and something we can all relate to if we’re honest.

Theresa: The female characters are more or less part of the scenery/setting to indicate my heroe’s nature… which leads me to the thought that maybe the whiny voice needs to say, ““No fair! I was going there! Asmone, make her move!” To introduce heroe’s name in first 500 words. One female (possible others) will show back up as an antagonist, but not important enough (imo) at this scene for further information to be necessary.

No, Chastity isn’t drugged, just befuddled and slow to react due to confusion. I need to clarify that in edit.

“What the …?” Chastity shot upwards and forward. She stopped when she was straddling the man’s waist instead of parts she truly didn’t want to be in contact with. Eliminating the unwanted, overly personal contact, Chastity took a look to her left to find the unexplained hand and complaint.

Mia: This feels like too little too late. If, as her name implies, she is a virgin, I think she’d be struggling with her situation sooner. I get that you want to show she’s conflicted. Part of her is enjoying this and part of her is rebelling against it. Let’s see more of that.

Theresa: Amplify emotions/tie in as I go. (Makes another note)

I see that finding the proper balance between being too wordy, “white space”, being clear and descriptive is going to be a fine line to walk. (heavy sigh)

Mia: And yet if it was easy, anyone could do it. Practice, practice, practice…   

Chastity’s eyes widened at the discovery of another naked person. This one was a voluptuous, young woman of African blood. This newly discovered female couldn’t be the owner of the whiny voice or the hand that had now moved up to Chastity’s waist and was still trying to push her out of the way. This was derived from seeing that dark beauty had one arm behind the occupied male’s head, her tongue shoved into his ear and her other hand was currently grasping and fondling her own cocoa colored breast. Glimpsing the males own hand between dark thighs, had Chastity blushing and quickly looking away.

Mia: Your language is a bit clinical in places. “This was derived” leaped out at me as unnecessary. Start that sentence with “That dark beauty…”

We’ve got lots of nameless people and plenty of “insert tab A into slot B” sensual activity. But I’m looking for meaning, for connections. What is going on here? Has Chastity decided to explore this sybaritic world? Is she there against her will? Is there another character in this scene who will be important to the story? The answers to those questions are the meat of your story. Remember it’s always about the relationships, even in erotica.

Theresa: I think I have clarified some of these questions with my previous responses to your comments. As for the “Meat of the story”, that is where I am going. I am trying to put enough tantalizing bait on my hook to make the reader ask questions, want to find out who, what, and why? I want them to want more, read more! Have I missed my mark and only confused the reader?

Mia: My concern is that if you start like this and don’t deliver erotica, you will have bait and switched your readers. If this is a fantasy/paranormal, you need to set that tone from the get-go. I suggest you read Sherrilyn Kenyon to study how she balances those elements in her stories.

Theresa’s bio:

Theresa NewburyI am a single mom in south Georgia, who has only survived the forty-six years of insanity we call real life, by being an avid reader. Many nights falling asleep with a book in my hand or my own fairy tale playing through my brain in the dark of my room. Currently raising my three teens, biting and clawing my way through life on minimum wage salary and, of course, balancing it all with the wonderful escape found in a marvelous book.

Find Theresa at:

Thanks for volunteering, Theresa. You’ve helped other writers today. The point of RPT is always to think in new directions about our work and I hope you’ve been given a few new ideas.

Now it’s YOUR turn to offer your insights. What suggestions, comments, encouragements do you have for Theresa?