Thursday, April 29, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday from Cyprus!

I've never met my guest writer for this week's Red Pencil Thursday, except through this blog. Glynis has been a frequent commenter here for some time and today, she's sharing the opening her of WIP with us. As usual for Red Pencil Thursdays, my comments are in red, Glynis's responses are italicized in purple. Yours may be added at the bottom of this post. Please feel free to share your thoughts here at this online critique group.

Ripper, My Love
You've already jerked my attention in with this title. Ripper My Love is a little like Springtime for Hitler. You don't think of either of them in connection with romance, but you've definitely piqued my interest.
Well that is a good start, but please don't get too excited Emily. It is fun playing with this story. And because JTR is an unknown, my imagination can run riot.

He stood back in the shadows and watched as the young redhead tripped, then reached out to steady herself against the wall. She didn't look as if she had been under the influence of alcohol, as many of the women in the area were. The watcher decided to stay within the blackness of the shadows, this was not the girl for him tonight.

I think you should use was instead of had been in the second sentence. Had been indicates something in the past when he's noticing her in the now. You're telling us she didn't look as if she was drunk, then you show us by having her steadying herself. Don't tell, then show. Just show. Your last sentence is actually two. Replace the comma with a period. By telling me now that this is not the girl for him you yanked away all the suspense. How about letting him consider her longer before deciding to pass?
I must remember to address both these issues. Letting him consider her a bit more, is something to ponder over. Thank you Emily.

Kitty lifted her skirts as she stepped gingerly through the dirty alley way, the gas lamp flickered and cast shadows about her. Never one for being nervous of her surroundings, Kitty felt a new sensation, a feeling of being watched or followed. No noises had made her skin crawl, just a feeling deep inside. She walked a little quicker and the clip of her heels echoed around the dimly lit, narrow lane.
You've switched POV characters from one paragraph to the next. Generally, that's a no-no. The reason to pick a character and stick with them is that this is how we begin to identify with the character. In order to build suspense, you must stay with the Ripper or cut the whole first paragraph and build on her sense of uneasiness through her POV. Replace the comma with a period and separate the first sentence into two.
I had considered using the first paragraph as a mini prologue. It is a paragraph I do not seem to be able to remove. It is a stubborn one. You are quite right, and I will put it to one side in favour of Kitty.
Now that's an interesting idea. If you decided to do a mini-prologue from JTR's POV, might I suggest you don't have him decide against choosing her for his attention until the end of the chapter when you can book-end it with a mini-epilogue from him? Just double space both places to indicate a POV switch.

Her father would skin her alive if he knew she had taken this way home. Before the new street lamps had been put in place, the city of London was in darkness and she would never have walked home this way. She mentally chided herself . (, o)Only a few weeks previous, a woman had been murdered in the area and they hadn't caught the murderer yet. Some of her neighbours with relatives near the murder scene, had been told the woman had been hacked to death, but her friend, Billy Irish said she had been cut up by a professional.

Ok, your heroine is in danger of being TSTL. If she's going to take this dangerous way, she needs a compelling reason. Otherwise we'll be disgusted with her for taking unnecessary risks. Your reader wants to walk in the heroine's shoes. Make sure we understand why she makes this risky choice. (Hint: The motivation of someone else's danger is the best reason for your heroine to do something she knows is risky.) There's a run-on sentence here that need to be broken up into two. You can see how I replaced the comma.
Oh, no. It sounds so much meaner in words than in just letters and my goal is not to be unkind. TSTL means "too stupid to live." Sorry, but the point is still valid. This reminded me a bit of the teenage slasher movies where everyone knows something bad will happen if she goes into the creepy basement, but she goes anyway. Now if there was a child in danger in the basement, we'd love her as heroic, but doing something dangerous without reason makes us doubt the heroine's intelligence. We want her to be smart. Sometimes I'm guilty of making my heroine do things to facilitate a plot point, but I always have to trash it and think of something else. It's wrong to make a character do something that makes her less a heroine just to fix a plot problem. Don't let her take a foolish risk without reason.
I see what you mean about Kitty having a reason for taking a risk. I will have a rethink, thanks.

Billy never said any more than that, just 'cut up by a professional'. Kitty often wondered what sort of person would be considered professional in Billy's eyes; maybe he meant a doctor. One of the surgeon types who cut off her mother's leg when the ulcers ate deeper into her flesh. If the woman had been hacked to death it would probably have been by a gang member from the riverside.
I'm seeing a pattern of run-on sentences so I turned them orange. This way you can take a look and decide how you'd like to break them up. One of the reasons I read my work aloud is so I can can catch overly long or awkward sentences. Anything I stumble over or have to take a breath to finish needs to be revised.
I want to leave you breathless Emily, but not this way. Thanks, I will set aside an edit session to rid myself of this bad habit. The run on sentences need addressing. I am going to have a reading out loud session with my beta reader soon. This will be the area I will focus on.

'Cut up by a professional', the words made Kitty shudder, it was a horrible thought that the murdered woman's life ended in a neat and tidy killing. Carried out just to satisfy another's need or fantasy. Maybe she had fallen behind with the rent and the landlord arranged her demise.

Kitty allowed her mind to continue along the morbid path of murder, her blood ran cold at the thought and she regretted walking through the short cut. The next time she returned from visiting her friends she would walk down Whitechapel Road. It was probably much safer, as there were more people walking along the street. She could hear the noise from the crowds turning out of the public houses and theatres in the distance, Kitty wished she was amongst them at that present time.
I'd cut the green sentence because it's telling and your next sentence shows the same thing.
How many times have I read this and not realised the repeat? Thanks and I will remove it. I think it reads much better without it.
It's a common error. I catch myself at it all the time. We do it because we're too close to the work and don't see it without a little time and distance.

She shivered from the chill of the night air, and as she did so, she lost her footing, she reached out to the wall to steady herself. If anyone had seen me then, she giggled inwardly, they would think I'd been helping myself to the ale at Mrs Ringer's.
I italicized her thoughts. To indicate it on a manuscript, you should underline what needs to be italicized. Actually, I think this is your first paragraph right here. It's what the Ripper sees at the beginning, so if you've decided to go with Kitty's POV, this is the same starting point. Plus your heroine comes across as charming in this self-deprecating moment.
Yes, I had forgotten to correct this thought section. I will ensure I do it when I rewrite. With regards to the first paragraph, I am going to do just as you suggest. It opens up the first chapter, and gets across what I am aiming for.

As she walked on she was relieved to see the end
And Glynis had to end on an incomplete sentence since I'm a stickler on my 500 word rule.
I'm afraid your work is suffering from the same problem my excerpt had--no one for your protagonist to interact with. Starting with lots of internal dialogue is not going to grab an editor.

But suspense might. If Kitty went this way because she's supposed to meet Billy, we could see her fretting and glancing over her shoulder. She could sag with relief when she hears the tune he always whistles coming her way in the dark. Then we could be privy to the realtime conversation about all the background info on previous deaths. Or you could stick with the Ripper's POV and have him shadow the two of them, gloating about overhearing the details of his crimes. And all the time we'd wonder if he was going to decide to kill them both.

Should I start it with Kitty or leave it with She? She shivered or Kitty shivered. I am wanting to change it to Kitty, the reader will know her name from the onset.
Definitely start with Kitty. You don't want to be like me and name the horse and the dog, but not the protagonist! LOL!
Glynis has sent me a new first paragraph to share with you, based on the critique:

Kitty shivered from the chill of the night air, and as she did so, she lost her footing. She reached out to the wall to steady herself. If anyone had seen me then, she giggled inwardly, they would think I had helped myself to the ale at Ma Parker's.

Yes! I like this better. And you can still work in the suspense through her POV. I hope you'll be giving her someone to walk and talk with as well.

Thanks for letting me take a look at your work, Glynis. Hope your public scrubbing didn't hurt too badly. I used my softest loofah, honest!

Glynis Smy was born in the UK, in the coastal town of Harwich. During her nursing career she wrote two poetry books, short stories and has been published in various magazines in the UK and Southern Cyprus, her new home since 2005.

Writing in the vineyards with no stress, has given her time and confidence to work her first novel, Ripper My Love. Check out her blog! It's a good one!


Glynis Peters said...

Well I cannot run and hide now.

The only point I find hard is having her talk with someone. I am aiming for a spooked feeling in an area she never usually feels it. She is meant to be alone until the end of the alley.

I have addressed the issues you mentioned (I hope. I will post chapter one on my blog tomorrow. (The new version). I wonder if the rest of it will show she realises, she might be TSTL.

Thanks Emily, I look forward to reading the comments today.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You're a brave woman, Glynis!
And I shall remember TSTL.

EmilyBryan said...

Glynis--I didn't get the sense that this was the way she usually went.

If she could be meeting someone in this spooky place, you could have that "raised-hair-on-the-nape" experience. Meeting someone gives her a valid reason for being there and then once she meets the other person, someone to talk with that avoids the long internal dialogue she's having with herself.

Or what if she's late and she takes this way because she's afraid the other person won't wait or something and it's vitally important that she meet them? I'd just like a reason for her actions so I can step happily into her shoes for some sping-tingling!

You have got the right idea! Writing is mostly rewriting. I'll pop over to your blog tomorrow and see what you've done!

EmilyBryan said...

Alex--I only hope you won't associate me with TSTL.

It's a concept I always have to juggle. We want our heroes and heroines to be brave, but we also want them smart.

EmilyBryan said...

Glynis--My critique is just one person's opinion. Only you can tell your story. My Red Pencil Thursdays are a smorgasbord. Take what you like and leave the rest.

I think you could make the scene work with her alone if you do very deep POV. If we hear her direct thoughts often(like you've done in your new beginning), we'd be privy to her feelings and fears. But you might want to consider limiting the amount of backstory info you put in. Too much and it will remove us from the immediate scary situation.

Gillian Layne said...

Hi, Glynis! I think your title is amazing. It would definitely make me pick up a book and read the back copy, even if the thought of Jack the Ripper gives me the shivers. :)

Beginning your story with Kitty in a dark ally would keep me reading. I'm a coward and often avoid scary books, but I couldn't stop reading a chapter that started with such a suspenseful set up. And if I made it through the first few pages in the bookstore and it wasn't gory--I'd probably buy it. So it's a great choice of starting places.

Have fun with your re-writes! I'll definitely check out your blog.

Glynis Peters said...

Alex, Emily is a gracious lady and made me feel worth the effort.

Yes I will remember those initials, they make me work harder! :)

Glynis Peters said...

Emily, sorry I should have said, it mentions it further along the story.

I will be thrilled if you read it, thank you.

My rewrite has now given me something new to consider. Is chapt 1 now going to be 1 & 2...*debating*. So many things to think of, but enjoying the process.

Glynis Peters said...

Hello Gillian. Thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment.

I do hope the rewrite won't scare you away!

I like my title and hope that one day an agent will.*smile*

librarypat said...

I am still surprised how little changes can make such a big difference. It is especially noticeable when you switch things completely around like you did here. Same words and story, just a different order.

Good luck, Glynis. I'll be watching for you book.

Glynis Peters said...

LibraryPat, thank you.
Emily certainly helped me rethink. I posted the new version on my blog.

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks again for letting me take a whack at your Ripper, Glynis. I think you have the makings of good story here!

Glynis Peters said...

Coming from you that is a wonderful compliment, Emily. Thank You.

Thanks for the comment on the revised version on my blog. It has changed again, as you might have guessed. I think I have climbed off of the bottom rung, and am on the next one up. :)

EmilyBryan said...

Glynis--You've discovered the secret. Writing is really re-writing. The trick is getting the bones of the story down. Then you can dress it up and make it sing.

Nora Roberts says she can fix a bad page, but she can't fix a blank one. Words to live by.

Glynis Peters said...

I love that quote! Printed and sitting on my desk. I am making my WIP warble at the moment, and it feels great.
I hope it sings sometime in the future. :)