Thursday, September 30, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Allison Druery

Often when I do a Red Pencil Thursday critique, I've never met my victim . . . er, volunteer . . . face to face. That's not the case today. Allison Druery and I became acquainted last year at Bobbie Smith and Judi McCoy's Aspiring Writers' Boot Camp a few days before the Romantic Times convention started. It's an intense couple days with back-to-back workshops all day (and into the night!)and by the time the convention starts, the pros and the aspirings have formed a bond forged in new creative ideas and ways of approaching their work. It's my favorite part of the week.

But that doesn't mean I'll go easy on Allison. A critique is only valid if you are honest. That said, my opinion is only one person's opinion and Allison is free to accept or ignore anything I say. The value of a critique is in sending a writer's thoughts in new directions. So that's what I hope to do today. And I hope something here might help you with your WIP as well.

My comments are in red, Allison's responses in purple. Please add yours in the comment section below! If you're reading this, consider yourself part of the Red Pencil Thursday inner circle. We want to hear from you!

Love, Sex and Karma
I like this title. Sets of three always seem to work.

His eyes were drawn to the hot pink halter top that illuminated not only her tight curves, but seemed to improve the lighting in the crowded dull bar. Based on how nicely the top revealed her curves, and a tantalizing bit of a healthy, tanned mid-drift, Levi was sure that his were not the only set of eyes focusing on the heat that bellowed from Miss Halter.

Ok, we're in Levi's POV, so it's time for a word about guy-speak. Unless he's particularly erudite, guys think in shorter sentences with fewer clauses. They tend to use specific nouns and active verbs, and not go so heavy on adjectives and adverbs. I italicised them so you'd see how many there were. Also, this is a private pet peeve of mine, but I don't like roaming body parts. His gaze was drawn, not his eyes. The use of bellow is fresh (brought to mind a bull bellowing at the cows in heat), but it stopped me for a bit here. I think you want a temperature related word, not a sound one. LOVE that he thinks of her as Miss Halter.

I definitely wasn’t focusing on guy-speak. I’ll be sure to make some changes and to watch my male POV in the future. Bellowed is the wrong word, I think I might play around with the image of a mirage.

When I first started writing, I didn't think about staying in tight POV for the narrative. I took a more "omniscient" view, but you don't draw a reader in without letting them into your character's unique thoughts and observations. This is not a concept for a novice, however I think you're up to the challenge, my dear.

Flecks of gold streaked through her lengthy dark blonde hair, which only assisted the barely-there straps of her top as they outlined her swan-like neck. Surrounded by a group of women she stood conversing at the bar. Beside her someone must have made a joke because her laugh vibrated from her core to her lips causing her breasts to quiver within that deep v-necked shirt. Levi’s Adam’s apple paused halfway down his throat causing him to choke on his gin. The way her breasts were so securely snuggled together, he’d bet that she wore nothing beneath.

Swan-like neck is not a guy type observation, but you nailed him on the quivering breasts. I like the physical reaction with the Adam's apple. A fresh detail.

Watching her from across the room gave him a dark sense of power. Like a tiger stalking its prey. She stood, unaware that her future was about to change. That he, Levi Henson was her future. He knew that she was the one he had been searching for.

Can you give me a sense of why he thinks so? Is he smitten with her on the strength of a glance? Looking to meet her because they have a blind date? The tiger stalking is a little menacing for a hero. Ditto for dark power. It makes me wonder if Levi is not the hero of the piece.

I am making him sound like the villain. Don’t want that. Thanks for catching it.

Having first spotted her, relief washed through him. Settling into the couch he inspected her from a distance, but as his scrutiny continued he became anxious to approach her.

Now it seems as if he was looking specifically for Miss Halter. Can you show me he's anxious instead of telling me? I'd also like a reason.

Levi thought that nothing could pry his eyes away from her, but after only a few minutes of silently perusing her body he was proven wrong by a hard elbow to his ribs. As he rubbed his side Levi didn’t doubt for a second that the elbow was the strongest point on the human body.

I think I'd cut the As he rubbed sentence so we can get to the dialogue quicker.


Zack, his newest business partner, had a glare to match his abusive elbow. With his eyes he motioned to the two women in front of them, “Angela asked you a question.” His lips turned upwards as he faced the women. Obviously getting laid was more important to Zack than Levi’s ribs.

Love the glare to match his abusive elbow! But the next sentence is a little awkward. Instead of With his eyes he motioned, how about his gaze flicked? You need a period after them and start Zack's dialogue as a new sentence.

I felt that something was wrong with that line. I like ‘His gaze flicked’ so much better.

If something feels off to you, it's a sure bet it will hit a reader the same way.

Levi turned his attention to the two equally stunning women before him, one dark haired and exotic; the other with a mane of red hair and freckles that Levi would guess covered far more of her body than just her nose. Now, if only he could remember which one was Angela.

He'd definitely wonder how far the freckles wander! Good detail.

He deliberately looked from one to the other before making an excuse for his ignorance, “Pardon me, the music is loud. What was your question?”

The red haired woman leaned forward displaying her cleavage for his wandering gaze, “I was wondering how long your um,” her eyes met his before dipping to his crotch, “boat is.”

Levi chuckled, “My,” he paused to continue the innuendo, “yacht is larger than any that you’ve ever seen.”

Hope he can back up that claim. She strikes me as the type to get out a tape measure!
She does seem like that type of woman.

The women looked at each other with greedy eyes, making Levi want to laugh at them. He was sure that with their cheaply applied make up and their

They were stunning and exotic a moment ago and now they have cheap make up. There's a disconnect in the description that might be confusing.

You’re right. That didn’t sit well with me either. I’ll be sure to change it when I introduce them.

You've got some really good elements going here, sharp characterization and fresh details. I'm sure Levi is going to hook up with Miss Halter eventually. I'd really like to have a few more hints about why he was looking for her.

Not wanting to give away too much of the plot, I left out why he feels this way. Does this create suspense or annoyance for the reader? Should I be dropping some more concrete hints?

Yes. Don't give us everything, but we need some hooks, tantalyzing little bits of info, that will tease us into reading more to find out what's up. Last spring I did a 4 part post titled "My Husband Married a Hooker" where I go into more detail about what writing hooks are and how and where to set them. Here's the link to the first one:

Thank you so much for having me on Red Pencil Thursday. You have given me a great deal to work and play with. I’m grateful to know what I can improve within this piece, and my writing in general. Thank you!

My pleasure, Allison. I love that you regard writing as something to play with, because it certainly is. Best of luck!

Allison's Bio:
Allison Druery is an aspiring Canadian author, currently working towards a BA at the University of Toronto, studying English Literature and history. She is avidly working on multiple manuscripts, in a range of genres. When she isn’t studying, or writing she is actively trying to promote awareness and funds for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease). Connect with Allison at

Now it's your turn. What advice do you have for Allison?


Barbara Britton said...

Hi Allison,
I liked your characters and descriptions. I, too, am writing as a guy in my new ms. I have two teenage boys at home for research. The book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, was recommended to me to help with the male characterization. Also, the movie-He's Just Not Into You. It's difficult not to slip into female-mode, eh?

EmilyBryan said...

Good suggestion, Barbara. Another thing to keep in mind is that men tend to be less atuned to shades of color since they have fewer color receptors in their eyes than women. The fact that they have more for black and white makes them generally better at night vision--good for the hunter.

Remember the little scene in Legally Blonde when she figures out the pool guy was gay because he recognized her designer shoes. Her bone-headed, but straight, former boyfriend just called them black shoes. You have to think about what a guy perceives, and what his background is, when in his POV.

Allison Druery said...

I’m definitely going to pay closer attention to my male POV, and diving deeper into Levi’s character. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus has always been something I’ve wanted to look at. I’ll have to add it to my list (however most pleasure reading now has to wait until the school year is out!). Thank you for the great ideas and tips.