Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Kimberly Meyer

It's Thursday and my red pencil is all sharpened up. Our guest/volunteer/victim today is Kimberly Meyer, YA paranormal author. I just love getting to read snippets of so many different kinds of romance and after checking out Kimberly's offering, I'll warn you that you're in for a treat. She's a terrible tease.

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:

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.

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.
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:

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.


Stacy McKitrick said...

Hi Kim!

I thought it was a great opening, too. Only thing missing - her name.

Maybe the Lead Superior could use her last name in “We will discuss the matter in private chambers Miss ____,”.

And Jesse could say her first in “I’m going with you _____.”?

Anyway, I enjoyed it and would want to read more!

Marcy W said...

You're a little ahead of yourself, Emily, as this was posted on Wednesday evening ... but I look forward to RPT so much I don't care. (Besides, I'm hoping it means you've been so deeply into your WIP that you've lost track of the days!?)
I really enjoyed Kimberly's snippet, and agree she is already a hooker extraordinaire. I'd definitely want some more worldbuilding details, but suspect they'd be coming up pretty fast. I believe the best bit of advice from Emily this week is about that one longish paragraph: it does read lots easier as several smaller ones. Run-on paragraphs can be as bad as run-on sentences ... I had grammar teachers who drilled that into me with vigor!
Kimberly, you've left me with lots of questions that I'm eager to have answered -- I'll be looking for your book! Thanks.

Glynis Peters said...

Kimberly, thank you for sharing your work with us. Anyone who lives with a St Bernard has my vote, ours passed away several years ago, but boy was she fun.

Your hooks are amazing, I am so envious of your skill. I would have liked to have known the name of your POV. I think it would have endeared me to her even more.

Possibly? There was a dead body, and I Kimberly Meyer was responsible.

What I read I enjoyed, and as Emily rightly states, a page turner you will be.

Thanks for another great Red Pencil Thursday Emily.

EmilyBryan said...

Good catch, Stacy. Since I don't normally use first person, I was wondering the best way to do that. Excellent suggestion.

EmilyBryan said...

Marcy, you nailed me. I'm rounding the last corner and heading into the home streth with my WIP. It should be done in a couple weeks. I must have mixed up the auto-post thing for RPT.

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks for stopping by, Glynis. A good suggestion for dealing with the name-the-heroine dilema.

I'm sorry you lost your big furry friend. My heart still aches for my little Susie. Dogs really find a deep niche in our hearts.

Edie Ramer said...

I enjoyed it. Great first page! Great comments too. I liked the way you fixed the paragraphs with the dashes.

Gillian Layne said...

Hurray, I'm actually here on the right day! :)

Kimberly, I happen to love the "I don't know what the big deal was anyway, they weren't human." I think it's a strong line. See, I really thought right off I had a teen here, and teens (well, my teens and there friends) tend to be pretty darned judgmental about a lot of things. Full of youthful self-righteousness. So if she's not bawling about killing something, then I'm thinking she's cool with it.

I've gotta run, but I'll be back later to see what else people say. Kimberly, I would buy this. :)

Sandy said...

Great job, Kim. I like your writing style.

Emily, if I weren't so scared of having all my flaws shown I would volunter for your RPT's. Smile. I'm a chicken.

Motivational Monday said...

Thank you all for your comments. I really appreciate your suggestions!

Hi Stacy! I do need to mention her name and will slide that in there right away.

World building is coming, Marcy, and there's a lot of it! She is no ordinary girl, and she ends up in an extraordinary place with a man who has just as many secrets as she does.

Glynis - this is our fourth Saint. They are truly the best pets ever, as long as they are not in the house slobbering all over your furniture :) And I swear I'm not responsible.

Gillian - I suppose I'll let the line rest for now and see what other people think of it.

Thanks again Emily!

Motivational Monday said...

Sandy, just do it! It was fun and Emily is great!

Glynis Peters said...

Sandy, I was so nervous. Emily will back me on that one. I will say go for it. The best thing I did for my Wip was share those 500 words here.

Anonymous said...

Awesome opening! Kim's hooking ability has inspired me to change my opening. I want to be a hooker too:)

EmilyBryan said...

Hi Edie! Sometimes all you need is a new paragraph to make things clear. Plus the more white space on the page, the happier your reader will be.

EmilyBryan said...

Gillian--Valid point about the difference in the YA reader and say, me. Since teens are her target audience, perhaps Kimberly should go with her first inclination.

EmilyBryan said...

Sandy--Don't worry about having flaws show. That's why I started this whole thing by trotting out my sad little first manuscript. Sheesh! What a mess. But the point is, we can learn from other's mistakes and we can learn from what they do right.

Thanks for encouraging Sandy to take the plunge, Kimberly and Glynis. My aim is never to embarrass, always to help you make your work better.

Ok, Sandy. Now it's up to you. ;-)

EmilyBryan said...

Anonymous--Being a hooker is a great goal for any writer. Glad you've seen a way to improve your work.

Maurine said...

I, too, enjoyed the snippet of your story, Kimberly. Since I'm not really very big on description, I wasn't bothered by the lack of world-building at the very beginning. I read mostly mysteries, so I've been spoiled with big-on-action beginnings, lol. I think your beginning is perfect.
I agree with Stacy on the name and like her suggestion of how you could slip it in there. I like your revisions, too.
I have a question for Emily, though, having to do with show and tell. At the point in the wip where Kimberly described the heroine sitting with her hands clasped to keep them from shaking, then told us that she was scared, you said that showed the reader then told her the same thing. Further down in the excerpt where it goes:
"I shook my head, one quick movement no one else would really see. That'd be a negative."
To my "green" eyes these two examples look like the same kind of show/tell dilemma. Could you tell us how they are different and how we can know?
I really appreciate your RPTs and have learned a lot from them. Thanks for your clearifying answer.

EmilyBryan said...

Maurine--Very sharp-eyed of you. Yes. That's another example of showing, then telling. I almost suggested she cut "That'd be a negative."

However, the way she words it felt like an internal dialogue moment, which means it's not quite the same. It's more a case of the character being emphatic with herself. Perhaps it would remove all doubt if Kimberly underlined that phrase if she intended it as her heroine's direct thought.

Does that make sense?

Barb H said...

Hi Kim,
I love your hooks. And the embedded ones really build the tension. As Emily said, I'll be turning the page to find out what happens next.

Emily has a good point about breaking up longer paragraphs into shorter ones. I need to remember that, too.

Really nice job with this beginning. I wish you the best of luck.

Thanks for the post.

Barbara Bettis

Motivational Monday said...

I think when I'm in the head of my character, I try to bring out her personality. When she says "that'd be a negative," she's being sarcastic. Like, duh, Jesse... So maybe it would be internal dialogue. But when you are in first POV, how do you know when to condsider it internal or her just telling her side of the story?

The movement of her head shows what she is doing and how she responds to Jesse. The negative thought tells what she is thinking.

Thanks for pointing it out Maureen. Food for thought! And thanks for the compliment Barb H.

Annonymous - we all have a little "hooker" in us. You'll do just fine:)

EmilyBryan said...

Kimberly--Whether to set something apart as a direct thought is up to the author's discretion. Since I don't write first person, I'm probably not the best one to advise you on that. All I know is, because of how it was worded, it didn't feel redundant to me.

Maurine said...

I tried to post last night but wasn't able to. Maybe because I popped over through a "notification of post" e-mail?
Anyway, thanks for your answer, Emily. Kimberly, I have the same problem with first person--to me anything not said in dialogue is the POV character's direct thought. But after I reread the excerpt leaving out the first "tell" statement, the second show-tell sequence stood out more, like you as the author was emphasizing her negative feelings about what Jesse was saying. So now I'm wondering if we as writers eliminate our show-tell sequences and leave in only the ones where we want to emphasize the emotion portrayed, if that would do the trick. Does that make sense?

Motivational Monday said...

I understand what you're saying, Maurine. I'm going to check out a few books written in first POV and compare when I get back from RWA. And maybe I'll have the chance to talk to some authors/editors about it. If I find out anything concrete, I will pop back on here and let you all know!

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks for dropping by, Barb! I love it when an RPT alumnus makes it a point to leave a comment.

Be sure to let us know how your latest submission goes. The consensus when your excerpt posted was that you're ready!

EmilyBryan said...

Kimberly, once you've chatted with some experienced 1st person authors at Nationals, how about coming back and doing a whole guest post about what you learn?

Motivational Monday said...

I can do that, Emily. We'll see what type of information I can gather!