Thursday, May 27, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Saranna DeWylde

Welcome to another Red Pencil Thursday! We have a returning RPT alumnus, Saranna DeWylde! Last time, Saranna treated us to the opening of her delightful, snarky How to lose An Angel in 10 Days. Today she takes us to a much darker, grittier world.

My comments are in red. Saranna's are in purple. Of course, Saranna is free to accept or ignore anything I say. The point is to get us all thinking about the writing process and how to tell our stories better.

One word titles are powerful and this one is certainly evocative. The problem is that this might be confused for an inspirational title.

Chapter 1- The Eternal Knight
Great. Don't we all love immortals of any kind?

Screams of terror shattered the sweet haven of darkness and thrust Krestien de Godfrey back to a time when the Maltese cross had been a banner of pride he’d worn on his chest instead of the scarred brand on his back. The cool seduction of the night became hot and unbearable, just like the noonday sun set adrift on fiery oceans of sand.

Wow, Saranna! What a different voice for you. After your How to lose an Angel in 10 Days, I expected snarky humor. This is a huge departure, but it demonstrates your scope as a writer. You're able to adjust your voice to suit the type of story. Kudos.

Thanks! I’ve written four books since September and they were all snarky. I had to have some angst or I was going to go nuts and this story has been gnawing at me for some time.

4 since September! (Bowing in awe) Incredible output and so necessary in this market. Good job!
Now for the pickiness. I'm a little confused about what's happening here. "Thrust back to a time" suggests he's time traveling. "Noonday sun set" is another string of words that stops me. I know you didn't mean it that way, but it made me pause. Unless we're on a different planet, a noon sun set isn't possible.

Remember the Prime Directive of Writing: Be Clear. Show us exactly what's going on and where we are without ambiguity. Later on, I figured out this is an urban fantasy, but in the beginning, we could be anywhere, anytime.

You are so right. I knew there was something awkward there, but I didn’t know what. There’s a lot of that in this first chapter—paragraphs where I feel something is off, but I can’t put my finger on it.

His skin prickled and Krestien burned with the memory of blisters rising on his smooth, tanned flesh. The weight of his phantom armor made his limbs heavy and that screaming rang in his ears—a benediction for the dead.

He was no hero, but a man haunted.

Oh how we love tortured heroes. Phantom armor is inventive. Equating screaming with a benediciton is anther fresh twist. You've laid enough hooks to keep me reading.

Krestien turned down the alley and saw the victim had fought valiantly. The body of one man lay stiff, his once living flesh cooled on the wet street and his blood mixed with oil slicks and standing rain water.

Rigor mortis starts around 3 hours after someone is dead. Has that body been there that long?

Uh, no. And I knew that. *laughs*

Another man was holding his thigh— a steady stream of blood dripped around the ancient blade that was buried in his flesh to the hilt. Krestien could see from the markings on the handle the blade was ceremonial in nature—Mayan to be exact. If the victim’s attacker dared to pull it out, he’d tear the muscle along with the blade.

Mayan? My interest is definitely perked.

Let's do some tightening. How about getting rid of was? Another man held his thigh is more active than using a was and -ing verb. Cut that was. A steady stream of blood dripped around the ancient blade buried in his flesh to the hilt is less cluttered. Drop to in the last sentence. It's not needed--dared pull it out reads fine, but there's a logic problem with the last bit. He'd tear the muscle makes sense, but along with the blade seems to suggest the blade would be torn.

This was another of those paragraphs where I thought it was awkward, but I didn’t know what to fix.

It was a woman who held the victim up against the crumbling wall of the abandoned warehouse. She was dressed in tactical gear, nothing of which could identify her, but it was the tattoo visible in the pale light of the moon that marked her for what she was. A chalice flanked on each side by a griffin was tattooed on her bicep.

Again, let's tighten. A women held the victim is a less cluttered way to begin that sentence. Drop the first of, it was, and that from the 2nd sentence and see how you like it. She was dressed in tactical gear, nothing which could identify her, but the tattoo visible in the pale light of the moon marked her for what she was.

“This doesn’t concern you, Templar,” the woman said without turning around.

Good way to have someone else identify your hero. We had the hint of the Maltese Cross, but this confirms his affiliation.

“Why don’t we let the lady decide, Covenite?” Krestian’s lips twisted into a wry smile. He wouldn’t hesitate to cut her down if she moved against the woman pinned to the wall. Evil didn’t differentiate by what was between her thighs, so neither would he.

Whoa! What lady? We had a man bleeding with the Mayan blade. Where did he go? This lady has popped up out of nowhere.

Will fix! She’s the victim. I guess it looks like the Mayan blade guy is the victim.

I like the term Covenite. I've never run across it before. Is that original with you? It conveys an unholy bent that makes her a good foil for your Templar.

It is. The Templars in this story arc serve the Grail and the Covenites serve the Ark of the Covenant.

The last sentence will scan better if you substitute based on for by what.

“And they say chivalry is dead.” ;-) The woman pushed a glock against her quarry’s forehead.

“What do you say, Samara? Is chivalry dead? Does this concern him?” she sneered.

Samara smiled and kneed the woman between her thighs and ducked. She pushed the glock aside, but the Covenite still got a shot off and the bullet went through Samara’s chest, just above and a breath to the left of her heart.

Ok, the victim isn't so helpless. I think we've discovered our heroine!

I don't often recommend an adverb, but when someone smiles when there's nothing to smile about, I'd like to know more. Did she smile disarmingly? Grimly? Let us know.

Just is one of those words editors love to hate. It's usually unnecessary. Cut whenever possible.

Krestien grabbed the Covenite from behind and slammed her against the wall. The woman fought well without her modern weapon. She used her knees, her elbows, her teeth and her nails. Krestien was immune to her battle charms, her blows like nothing but that of a child. When he had the woman at his mercy, he positioned his hands to snap her neck. It was (change to would be since he hasn't done it yet) quick and merciful, more so (Cut so. Another just type word) than any Covenite deserved.

“Just” and “that” are my Kryptonite.

“Please don’t hurt her,” the dark haired Samara cried before fainting as the (Cut the) blood spurted from between her fingers.

Oh, yeah, she's the heroine. Gotta love that forgiving attitude. Reminiscent of Christ forgiving His tormentors from the cross. Hence your title?

Thanks for letting me take a look at this new WIP. You've got lots of inventive elements and have created a world where conflict already lives. I see great promise here.

Thanks for having me again (I am a glutton for punishment!) and for all of your great advice.

About the Author:

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 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.

Now it's your turn! What suggestions or encouragements do you have for Saranna?


Maria said...

I don't really have any suggestions for Saranna as the corrections that Emily has provided seem good to me. The story seems very interesting and I would certainly ilke to read more.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Maria! That's very encouraging. :)

Emily is brilliant, isn't she?

EmilyBryan said...

Stop! I'm blushing!

I have to share that I just now typed "The End" on TOUCH OF A THIEF, my debut Mia Marlowe title for Kensington.

Now I have to red pencil 397 pages of my own stuff!

Jane L said...

Saranna, Very good job! I usually only read historicals, but you did a great job of keeping me interested in wanted to continue reading on. I think that says alot for a writer to have the ability to pull someone from one genre into theirs! Hope to read the finished story some day!

EmilyBryan said...

Jane--I agree and it's totally cool that this voice is so very different from her humorous paranormals. If Saranna were a singer, I'd say she had a wide range!

Nynke said...

Em, congrats on your 'the end'!

Saranna, I definitely want to see where this story is going! It's interesting... and I really wonder how people who serve the Ark of the Covenant have ended up as bad guys! Maybe they're not really bad guys, if Samara doesn't want Glock lady hurt... And what will happen to Samara, now that she's wounded? you've really managed to place a great hook at the end of your 500 words!

I haven't got a lot to add to Emily's comments, except that I figured the dead body was the victim, not Mayan-blade-guy. And I can see why Samara would smile, slightly viciously perhaps, before kneeing her attacker :). But thinking about it, how much does it hurt us ladies to get kneed in the groin? I don't think it's ever happened to me; am I naive in assuming it wouldn't really hurt very much?

MiaMarlowe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EmilyBryan said...

Nynke--I remember slipping once when I was riding a boy's bike. A knee to the groin would hurt females too, but its not debilitating as it is for males.

Unknown said...

YAY, Emily for The End. Isn't that a magnificent feeling? I'm so excited for you.

Unknown said...

@Jane L- High praise, indeed. Now, *I'm* blushing. Thank you.

That used to be all I read too, but the paranormals hooked me. If I could find a paranormal historical, wow. Those always go on the Keeper Shelf.

Unknown said...


It's uncomfortable. I had an inmate do it once and wow... I was not a happy camper. It's a surprise move to pull on a girl, so unexpected.

The Covenites don't know they're bad, but that's all I'm going to say. I don't want to give away Samara's secrets. *g*

It makes my day to know you want to know what happens to Samara.

Unknown said...


Thanks again for having me back and as always, your advice helped me to produce a better product.

I've gone back today and made changes and tightened not only what you pointed out, but other places that had the same problems.

I'm still learning to trust my own voice and my inner editor. It's sad that I've been a freelance editor for ten years, but it's still like pulling rhinoceros teeth to razor my own work.

Thanks to everyone else who commented for their feedback and encouraging words.

EmilyBryan said...

Saranna--Sometimes, we're too close to our work to see the warts. When my stuff comes back after several months for revisions, I barely recognize it because enough time has elapsed for the problems to leap out a tme.

FYI, my TOUCH OF A THIEF is a historical paranormal, but it may not be enough paranormal to qualify for some readers. No vamps or were-creatures. My heroine has a psychometric gift (she receives visions when she touches gemstones) and there's a malevolent red diamond that's almost sentient (sort of like Tolkein's Ring)

librarypat said...

I was a bit slow on the uptake here. Probably because I'm falling asleep at the computer.
Eternal Knight didn't tip me off that we were dealing with paranormal. My mindset was Templar Knight in England after the Crusades. I was OK, but wondering how a South American ceremonial knife got into the mix. A Glock in the chest? I think I need to start over and readjust my mindset.
None of that would be a problem if I had the book in hand. I would know I am reading a paranormal not an historical. Sounds interesting.

EmilyBryan said...

Pat--You comment is why "Be Clear" is my writing Prime Directive. Every reader brings their own frame of reference to a story. As writers, we need to make sure we hit the right hotbuttons so our readers are on board with our fictive dream from word one.