And I mean that in the nicest possible way.
My comments are in red, Kimberly's responses in purple. I hope you'll add your suggestions and encouragements at the end of this post.
“It wasn’t like I meant to kill him,” I protested to the Superiors sitting side by side before me. “He just… flung himself at my knife.”
Boy, if homocide detectives had a nickel for every time they heard that one. Actually, I like this opening. I can almost hear her whine "I get blamed for everything I do."
Thanks! I’m very proud of that line!
I could explain the situation until I was blue in the face and it wouldn’t matter. There was a dead body, and I was responsible.
You've set a tone here. Our heroine is an uber-snark who can't even take death seriously. Yes, I know she takes responsibility, but after the first paragraph, you get the feeling there's more here than you're telling us (which is good). We don't want a heroine who's a sociopath, so there must be something we don't know about the dead body and how it got dead. Good tease.
A steady hum from the ventilation system of the underground building and the rustle of my clothes as I shifted my weight were the only sounds in the room as I awaited my punishment. It was the second time in less than a month a Seeker had basically committed suicide by my hands.
Nice sensory details. You've set a dark industrial type environment for us with great economy of words. Also I want everyone to notice that our heroine is nervous, even though Kimberly resists telling us so (love the ways she shifts her weight, very subtle yet effective). I'm relieved you've let us off the hook a little by telling us the heroine is not homocidal. She just happened to be present and presumably doing her job when the deaths occurred. And yet, Kimberly's left the details dangling. Another good tease.
I didn’t know what the big deal was anyway. They weren’t human.
This seems a little callous from a character I was starting to like. I don't like to see any life form suffer. My compassion isn't limited to homo sapiens. Are the Seekers evil? If so, Seeker is kind of an enlightened sounding name for them. Can you give us a clue why she dislikes them so? Did they harm someone she loved?
They are evil, and they are responsible for the death of her mother and the loss of her leg. I didn’t feel this was the right place for me to go into those details. In my last edit, I changed the last line of that paragraph to read “They weren’t human, no matter how much they resembled us.” But it still sounds pretty harsh. I think I’ll just eliminate this line.
“We will discuss the matter in private chambers,” the Lead Superior stated. As one, all seven Superiors stood. Their faces told me nothing as they silently filed out of their seats and through the heavy metal door.
Ok, I let you have 'protested' in the first line, but I'm going to call you on 'stated.' Honestly, cross my heart, I promise you that editors really, really, really prefer to have just 'said' for a dialogue tag.
I’m laughing, because I just said the same thing yesterday at my critique group meeting. The reason I used stated was because I wanted to show how rigid and proper the ancient Superiors were. But I’m sure the scroll line below works just as well, so I’ll change it.
I took a seat and clasped my hands in my lap in an attempt to keep them from shaking. No matter how indifferent I pretended to be, the truth was I was scared. I could be kicked out of the program because of those stupid, soulless beings.
Take a look at the first sentence. You showed us she's scared. Now check the second sentence. You told us she's scared. Pick one. Readers will accept showing or telling, but not both.
I’d rather show, not tell, of course. How about this – I took a seat and clasped my hands in my lap in an attempt to keep them from shaking. I could be kicked out of the program because of those stupid, soulless human look-alikes. Then I would never get my revenge for my mother’s death.
This way, I cover your question from two paragraphs above and still give a vague description of the Seekers without making my character sound so cold.
A fake cough and then a grunt, and yet another fake cough sounded behind me. I turned to the source, my partner and best friend, and gave him a look of utter exasperation.
I thought she was alone up once the Superiors left. If she has an audience for this quasi-trial, I think we need a hint at it up front.
Good point! Of course he was there, in my mind at least, all along. I will make mention of Jesse sooner. Maybe she’ll cringe or jump when Jesse’s shoe squeaks on the floor as the Superiors are filing out of their seats.
Jesse mouthed two words to me – tell them – and I shook my head – one quick movement no one else would really see. That’d be a negative. Telling them my suspicions would give them even further reason to kick me out – for insanity. His lips moved again – the truth. I turned around, clearly telling him to piss off. I did it just in time, too, because the door to the Superior’s chamber opened.
There are too many dashes in this paragraph. Makes it hard to read. How about this:
Instead of italicizing Jesse's words in the manuscript, you should underline them to indicate to the typesetter that the text needs to be set in italics. Many publishing houses use underlines for italics because it's hard to see italics in Courier New 12 pt. Notice I broke up the passage into several shorter paragraphs. I think it makes it easier to follow the flow between the two of them.
Jesse mouthed two words to me. Tell them.
I shook my head, one quick movement no one else would really see. That’d be a negative. Telling them my suspicions would give them even further reason to kick me out. For insanity.
His lips moved again. The truth.
I turned around, clearly telling him to piss off. I did it just in time, too, because the door to the Superior’s chamber opened.
Thanks for the help. I’ve been struggling with this paragraph but didn’t know how to fix it, so I just skipped over it. I will change all of my italicized words to underlined.
Once they were arranged in their seats, the head of the Superiors stood again and opened a scroll.
Seriously? A scroll? These people needed to get with the times.
Yay, the snark is back.
She’s an angry teen. It comes natural.
I stood rigid as the gray haired man spoke directly to me.
Never, in a million years, would I have guessed their decision. It didn’t make sense. Not a lick of sense. But it was definitely the cruelest thing they could have done.
Oh, you little hooker, you. I hate it but I love it. An author has to be a little bit cruel in order to string her reader along. By not telling us her sentence, you've set some deep hooks to keep us reading.
Never thought I would be proud to be called a hooker, but I am flattered. Thank you.
My DH never thought he'd be proud to say he married one!
The room cleared and there I stood like a statue, completely in shock. A click in the duct work matched the beat of the throb in my amputated leg.
You've given us a wounded warrior. I like it. Your heroine is instantly more likeable. We're solidly in her corner now against the big meanies who are doing . . . whatever it is they've done to her. We don't know because you're such a big tease, but we're dying to find out.
Jesse’s arm wrapped around my shoulder. Slowly I turned to him. This changed everything for him, too.
“I’m going with you.”
He stands by his partner. We like him. A lot.
“No,” I told him firmly. “Absolutely not.”
“I’ll never leave your side.”
I would do the same in this situation, if the roles were reversed, but I had to let Jesse go.
Without a goodbye, or thanks for being the best partner and friend a person could ever have, I shoved past him to the rickety elevator that led to a tiny, century old building in a forgotten part of town and headed to the only place I had ever known as home. Soon, it would be a place I would never see again.
Yet another good hook. Kimberly, this is the best example of embedded hooks we've ever had in an excerpt on Red Pencil Thursday. Keep this up and they'll start saying things about your writing. Things like "page-turner."
Thank you so much for this opportunity, Emily. I’ve been following your blog since I met you this spring at RT during the pre-con workshop where you inspired me to be a hooker. RPT has been a great help to me and I’ve recommended it to every author I know.
Thanks for recommending my blog to your friends, Kimberly. I appreciate that very much. Wear your Hooker Badge with pride! You've earned it.
Kimberly Meyer's bio: When she's not writing, Kim can be found playing with tractors on the family farm. She lives in northwest Ohio with her husband, her two children, and her monstrous Saint Bernard.
My website: kimberlymeyeronline.com
Now it's your turn. Please leave your comments or suggestions for Kimberly. This is also a good place for me to let you all know that Kim was the last volunteer in my queue. If you'd like to be a RPT victim/volunteer, please contact me through my website for the details.