Thursday, March 18, 2010
Red Pencil Thursday with Saranna DeWylde
Last week, I blogged about the art of critiquing and then did a slice and dice on my own sad first manuscript to show you how it's done. Amazingly, I had some takers on my offer to critique their work for my blog. The first brave soul is Saranna DeWylde. Saranna has already received "the call" and her debut title HOW TO LOSE A DEMON IN 10 DAYS will be a November 2010 release from Dorchester. .
One of the first things I tell my critique partners is: "This is a smorgasbord. Take what you like and leave the rest. All I'm offering is my opinion. Do with it as you will."
The following excerpt is from her new WIP How To Lose An Angel in 10 Days. My comments on Saranna's work are in red. Her responses are italicized and in purple.
Blurb: It's a tough row to hoe for a Cupid that doesn’t believe in Love (3rd in the 10 Days Story Arc) (Very smart. It's important to be able to encapsulate your story in a neat sound bite like this. You never know when you'll get a chance to do an "elevator pitch" at a conference and you need to be able to give an editor a quick idea about your story. She'll use it to sell your story to the marketing and sales department who will in turn use it to sell copies of your book to the distributors. However, "tough row to hoe" would work better for a hero who's a gardner. Can you think of something archery or mythology related that will serve as a metaphor here? Point of grammar. Should it be Cupid who instead of Cupid that?) Yes, yes and more yes. I have a tendency to overuse “that” when really, I don’t need it or it should be another word. A tough cherubim to diaper? A crooked arrow to shoot? Hmm.
Chapter 1- The Cherubim Chore
Falcon Cherrywood hadn’t meant to smite Cupid in the ass with a fireball. (Good opener. Sets a sassy tone. Lets me know you'll have some paranormal elements by mentioning Cupid as if he is real. And unlike me last week, you named your hero right off the bat!)
It had all been a grievous mistake. One he was certainly paying for now that he had to fly a mile in the other guy’s wings. ( ;-))The worst part wasn’t the diaper. He could get over that with the right amount of whiskey. It was the wings themselves. Tristan had gotten some badass black ones that made him look like the Angel of Death. (Is Tristan your hero from book 1 or 2? Is he Falcon's friend? Give me a little more here so I know why he's been mentioned.) In fact, he’d heard the post was open—Death that is. (Since we've got 2 guys being talked about make sure I know which one you mean when you use a pronoun.) He wondered if he could get a transfer. This flow here is a little awkward. You have a great eye! Tristan is from book 2, and he didn’t fare so well. I want this book to able to stand alone, so maybe I should cut him completely?
Falcon had been hoping for black (wings), or maybe a really dark blue. The color of the sky after the oranges and reds had faded to purple—that blue just before the pitch of night. (I think I'd cut everything after purple. Guys are more apt to be color blind or as my DH says "color ignorant." Don't overdo the specificity of hue here.) That would have been acceptable. Love was Hell after all, so he could’ve even made the bat style of wing work for him. (Good! You've slipped in how he feels about love very neatly.) This read “off” to me as well. I couldn’t place it, but it’s so obvious. ;-)
But no, not only was he forced to play the Diapered Archer; he had to do it in pink. By Merlin’s teeth, pink. (I love original swearing like this! Places us in the special world of your story.) If that wasn’t enough to make him reconsider his man card (;-)), they were glittery. Like the inside of a thirteen year old witch’s locker at Academy. He was surprised that his swaddling didn’t have a unicorn print. (I don't think he's reconsidering his man card. I wonder if he thinks someone else is trying to revoke it for him. I like the mention of Academy. You've dropped your reader into an alternate reality and made her scramble to keep up.)
Bastards. (Ah, the man card revoking scum!)
He’d thumbed through his Heaven’s Helper manual briefly, but wasn’t impressed by anything he saw. Even in Eternity, you still had to watch the employee videos about how not to pick your nose in front of the customers. It was ridiculous. The manual actually referred to them as customers. Who were they kidding? If Cupid chose to shoot them, then they could damn well take what they got. This wasn’t Burger King; they didn’t get to have it their way. (This is such fun and I'm enjoying the tight POV!) Yay! Thank you.
There was another problem. (Yay! We wouldn't have a story without them!)
He couldn’t shoot a bow and arrow to save his life. Or anyone else’s. (Yay! He's thinking about saving someone else. I knew he was a hero!) He’d been hoping to find the answer in that sodding manual, but no. There was nothing actually helpful in the thing. Cupid taking archery lessons; another side of ridiculous with an entrée of are-you-freakin'-kidding-me? (I changed your F-bomb to freakin' because this is a PG-13 blog. But while we're on the subject, let's talk about profanity. You're in your hero's head in a good tight POV. These are his words and they suit his character. However, be aware that the largest segment of the US romance market lives in the Bible belt. You may lose readership by going for the gold in the F-word department. When in doubt, be true to your character, but this is something to consider carefully. If I'm in a psycho serial killer's head, yes, by all means, drop the F bomb. Is it absolutely necessary for a comedy about Cupid? That's what you need to decide. Sometimes profanity is used to prop up the comedy. Sid Caesar, a brillliant old school comedian, complained that modern comics sometimes take the easy route by going for the shock giggle with profanity. Frankly, your writing is hysterical enough without it.) Good advice! You know my problem with “that”? Yeah, I have the same one with the F-bomb.
Falcon couldn’t do much about the wings, but he was definitely changing his outfit. (I expected him not accept those wings without a fight since they are obviously what irks him most. Remember Jack Daniels will get him over the diaper.) The diaper thing just didn’t do it for him, or for the thousands of women who were going give it up to be shot with an arrow from his quiver. He might see what he could do about using bullets instead of arrows. Then he could ask them in all seriousness if they wanted to see his love gun. (What naughty fun!)
Yes, these were the thoughts that occupied (the new) Cupid’s mind as he stood in all of his diapered glory (;-)) at the Pantheon of Gods waiting for an audience.
Boy, there's so much to like here! What a fun, snarky voice you have, my dear. However since you volunteered for this public bath, I feel honor bound to dunk you a little.
I’ve got my nose plug on, dunk away.
Your hero is suffering from the same problem mine was last week. No one to interact with. Have you considered having his friend Tristan waiting outside the Pantheon with him for moral support? I'd love to see what you could do with this scene using dialogue pinging back and forth. Readers like dialogue. It leaves more whitespace on the page and makes the story seem more approachable than reams of narrative.
It’s so funny that you should mention that, I’ve been accused of having too much dialogue and banter. You’re so right though, the story should start right in with the action. I like the Tristan idea. It would be a good way to keep him in the story without a boring info dump and add more interaction.
You've hooked me with lots of questions about this Falcon character. One of the best was that he thinks Love is Hell. The other stuff, his embarrassment over the wings and diaper, is funny, but the 'Love is Hell' touches on his emotions. And emotion is what pulls in your reader and keeps them turning pages. I'd like to see a little more of that interspersed with your sparkling wit.
*likes the sparkles*
You're incredibly talented, Saranna, and you've been a really good sport! Please say you'll come back and guest blog for me when HOW TO LOSE A DEMON IN 10 DAYS comes out in November.
Of course, I’d love to guest blog. ;-)
Thank you so much, Emily. Not just for having me, but for the great critique. (And you know, the talented. I will take that over cheesecake.) This wasn’t painful at all. In fact, I’m feeling energized about my WIP and ready to get back to it with all of these fantastic suggestions. I’m looking forward to seeing what else the readers have to say as well.
Saranna DeWylde is a full time Amazon Goddess and former corrections officer who decided she’d seen enough shanks and skanks. Originally a horror writer, having written her first story at her 8th birthday party in colored pencil after watching The Exorcist, she further decided that her dark quill was meant for Happily Ever After instead of the things that grab your feet if they hang off the end of the bed. Her debut novel, How To Lose A Demon in 10 Days will be available from Dorchester Publishing November 2010. For more info, please visit http://www.sarannadewylde.com/.
Now it's your turn. Do you have suggestions for Saranna? Did I get it all wrong? What did you like best about Falcon Cherrywood?