Thursday, July 15, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Kristine Cayne

Please welcome Kristine Cayne to the Red Pencil Thursday online critique group. As with any group, we're only as strong as the members around the table, so please be sure to leave your comments for Kristine.

As usual, my comments are in red. Kristine's are purple.

Very nice. One word titles are quite strong.

Where was the best place to shoot Nic “The Lover” Lamoureux? The king-size bed or the beige club chair?
Now, that's an eye-popping opener. He must have really ticked her off. I've never seen Nic spelled that way. Am I just out of the loop?
Thank you! Nic is short for Nicolas (without the “h”). Nic is French Canadian and this spelling is more regionally appropriate than Nick.

Lauren James scanned the hotel room through the lens of her Nikon D700. Eager to get started, she adjusted the intensity of the lights and the angle of the umbrellas around the bed. With her foot, she moved the chair an inch to the left then nudged it an inch to the right.
Ha! Deftly done. I thought I was in the mind of a pre-meditating murderer for a minute. I like it when an author fools me and then lets me in on the joke. Our goal is always to surprise and delight our readers. You're off to a great start.
Thank you.

She glanced at her watch for the tenth time in as many minutes confirming what she already knew. He was late. Everything she needed to get the cleanest shot possible was already in place except her target.
Yay! You've followed the writer's path by showing, not telling. You've let us know Lauren is a detail oriented professional by showing her meticulous preparation.
Thank you.

Just then, the door opened, revealing a perfectly matched, elegant couple. Her heart rate accelerated sharply as Nic entered the room. She didn’t recognize the pretty redhead who sauntered in beside him.
I'd cut Just then. It's unnecessary and as I'm always telling my critique partner (and myself!) "Less really is more." I sometimes do a search for all the just, that, even, still and other "filler" type words so I can weed them out of my literary garden.
Good point. I’ll scrub my manuscript for fillers like these.

As she stood rooted to the spot, gaping at the most beautiful man she had ever seen, he crossed the room to stop directly in front of her and smiled. “Hello, chérie. I’m Nic Lamoureux.”
I wonder if famous people actually introduce themselves or if they assume others know them.
I was trying to show that Nic is not your typical arrogant star. That being said, I’ll take another look at this to see if I can bring out that point in a different, perhaps more realistic way.

Oh, God. His voice still held a hint of the sexy Québécois accent she remembered so well. She’d always thought it a shame that he kept it hidden in his movies and public appearances. With considerable effort and concentration, she fought to close her mouth and struggled against the need to slowly peruse his amazing body. After surreptitiously wiping her sweat of her palm off on her hip, she met his gaze and held out her hand.
Oh, God is Lauren's direct thought so it should be underlined to indicate it will be italicized. Other than the bit about his accent (which is great, BTW. I'm drawn to a man's voice first) Kristine has chosen to show us how cool Nic is by giving us Lauren's visceral reaction to him. This is a good technique to demonstrate another character's importance and it allows the reader to fill in the missing details of Nic's "beauty" to conform with their particular preferences. Good job. One little nitpick: I'd change wiping her sweat of her palm off to wiping off her sweaty palm.
You’re absolutely right. It sounds better the second way and gets rid of one preposition.

“Hi Nic,” she said. “I’m Lauren James.”

“Enchanté.” Nic raised her fingers to his lips and lightly kissed her knuckles. She watched mesmerized as the expression in his eyes turned inquisitive. “You seem very familiar. Have we met?”
While this conversation is realistic, it's not interesting. Fictional dialogue has to work harder than this. Every exchange needs a purpose and every speaker has their own agenda. What do each of them expect from the encounter? What do you want the reader to glean from this? If they do know each other, where is Lauren's disappointment that he doesn't remember her as well as she does him?
This encounter is supposed to show two things: Nic The Lover is a flirt and there is something about Lauren that rings a bell but he doesn’t know what. Since this isn’t coming across, I’ll need to rework the passage. As for Lauren’s disappointment, you make a good point. I need to include that here.

Before she Lauren could reply, the redhead joined them. Lauren had always envied women like her. Even though she was perhaps ten years older, the tall, slim woman with her flawless skin, gorgeous hair and perfectly tailored clothes could, no doubt, turn the heads of men still in their twenties. "I’m Vivian Carmichael, Nic’s agent. Where is Raphael?”
Envy isn't an attractive quality. While we need our protagonists to have flaws, you've already given Lauren some jitters. I'd rather not see her afflicted with the green-eyed monster.
Interesting viewpoint. Since we envy what we admire, I’ll change it to “Lauren had always admired women like her.”

The woman leaned forward. “I’m Vivian Carmichael, Nic’s agent. Where is Raphael?”
It's amazing to me how often this happens in my own work. I do some revisions, move some things around, and forget to delete the material in its original place. Reading aloud helps me catch those repeats.
Thank you for catching this.
That said, I'm not sure Ms. Carmichael would deign to introduce herself to someone she really didn't want there. I think Lauren should realize who she is based on her boss's instructions about the gig.
Good point. I’ll rework this part.
“Raphael has a nasty case of the flu. We were supposed to work the photo shoot together but since he can’t be here, he asked me to handle it on my own.” Lauren turned to Nic. “I hope that’s okay with you?”

Are there any un-nasty cases of flu? Some people are very private about their health. Raphael may not appreciate her sharing the details of his illness. Then too, if Lauren's been with him, Nic and his agent might think she's been exposed and is carrying the coughing-up-a-lung, feverish, aching, snot-producing virus I think of when you say "nasty case of the flu." A simple "He's home sick" would suffice.
LOL. Not quite the impression I was going for. I’ll change this.

“Of course it’s —”

“Not okay!” interrupted Vivian, pointing a perfectly manicured finger at her. “Raphael told me about you. I agreed to this arrangement as long as he was here to direct and supervise. I can not allow Nic to go through with this.”

The job of a writer is to choose which details to include. The perfectly manicured finger really speaks to Vivian's character in an economy of words!

Thank you.

Nic smiled at Vivian and smoothed a strand of red hair around her ear. “Vivian, what’s the big deal? We agreed to a photo shoot after the Bad Days premiere. So, let’s just do it. What can it hurt?”

That's a very intimate gesture. We allow very few people to touch our heads. Are Nic and Vivian sleeping together?

Their relationship is not sexual (at least not on Nic’s part) but it is intimate. Vivian is Nic’s only real friend in L.A. and they are very close. Also, when Nic is being “Nic The Lover,” he manages (most) women, including Vivian, through flirting. But, I do see your point and I’ll think about it some more.

Vivian glared at Lauren. “I won’t have your reputation ruined by some two-bit department store photographer.”

Nic frowned. “What are you talking about?”

This question makes your hero seem not quite bright. Obviously, someone in the public eye has to be careful how their image is presented and would demand the best. I'd rather have him say something to try to calm his agent down or say she's being a little harsh. Especially if he and Lauren have a history of some kind together, as I suspect they do.

Good point. I’ll think about how to make him sound brighter even though he has no clue as to the particulars of this particular photo shoot. Vivian manages all these engagements leaving Nic to concentrate on the acting part of his career.

She grasped him by the forearm while making a dismissive gesture toward Lauren. “Darling, this woman isn’t a professional photographer. She simply won a contest and you’re the prize.”

Now the agent seems not quite bright. Lauren isn't there with her cellphone to snap this photo. She's got a heavy-duty Nikon and has set up all the professional lighting equipment and staged the room for a shoot. Lauren is projecting a professional demeanor, despite her inner fangirl. If there's something else afoot here, now is the time to have Vivian give an explanation without making Nic ask her for one. Or if there's a special circumstance surrounding Lauren getting to do this, it should be introduced earlier, maybe as she's setting up for the shoot.
Lauren did win a photography contest for which the prize was to assist Raphael in a photo shoot. This is explained in the next paragraph which unfortunately isn’t in this excerpt. Vivian knows this but hasn’t told Nic since she didn’t think it was a big deal as long as Raphael was there. Now that he’s not, she’s trying to back out of the deal. The tone of her words is supposed to show that she’s very protective, even possessive of Nic to the point that she can be a b*tch about it.

He turned to Lauren, one beautiful black eyebrow raised. “I’m the prize? Exactly what kind of contest was this?”

You used beautiful for Nic once before. Maybe perfect would do here.
Good point.

Thanks for letting me take a look at this, Kristine. There are some good elements to build on here, but I'm going to give you a little tough love. I'm concerned because I just re-read the email from you that indicated that Obsession is a romantic suspense and I wouldn't have known that from this excerpt at all. There's no sense of danger. No hint that someone is being stalked or targeted because you quickly made the bit about "shooting Nic" in the beginning into a joke. You might need to rethink the opening. Pull a Lisa Gardner, Lisa Jackson, or Karen Rose novel from the shelves and see how they start. There's no doubt something evil is afoot from the get-go.
I’m glad that you brought this up since it has forced me to make a decision on something I’d been toying around with for a while. Since Lauren isn’t aware of the danger to Nic, I’ve been thinking about adding a first scene either in Nic’s POV or in the stalker’s POV.

Whew! I was sweating bullets over bringing that up. Sometimes writers just want affirmation. I'm so glad you're serious enough about the craft to be willing to take a hard look at making substantial changes. Your idea to have a scene in a different POV character is a good solution.

Genre fiction needs to be more of one thing than anything else. If it's a comedy, make me spew my drink out my nose. If it's sensual, make me fan myself. If it's historical, don't mess up on the details. If it's suspense, I want tingles running up my spine. From page one. Those are the reader expectations and writers ignore them at our peril.

I'm sure your manuscript becomes more suspenseful, but if you're promising a RS, you need to begin as you mean to continue. Right now this reads as straight contemporary romance.

Kristine is a software developer by day and a romance writer by night. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two boys. Kristine started writing, feeling that through words she could create her own stories and entertain herself in a way that nobody else could. Kristine is busy polishing her current work in progress and eager to begin working on her second full length novel.
My website: (Aspiring writers should take a look at Kristine's website. It's well-organized, professional and presents her as a serious writer. Just what you want as you build your platform.)
My blog:


Unknown said...

I love the opening line! Good hook.

"Oh, God. His voice still held a hint of the sexy Québécois accent she remembered so well. She’d always thought it a shame that he kept it hidden in his movies and public appearances."

This part here, if she's always thought it a shame, does that mean she knows him from a time before? If not, where did she hear it if he keeps it hidden?

Oh, I see you hint at it later, but I think it needs more explanation in the here and now, if you can do that and not give away too much of your plot.

Also, it doesn't come across the Nic and Vivien aren't doing the horizontal mambo. If she was really is friend, if he really saw her as a safe person, an equal, I don't think he'd feel the need to manage her with flirtation and manipulation like he does other women. There would be something in his behavior to set her apart.

Also, it doesn't come across that she's only looking out for his interests, she seems catty.

Again, your hook is awesome. I'd love to see where else you go with this. *g*

There's a stalker, huh? Is it Vivien? You can tell me. LOL. I could totally see that though.

Anyway, thanks for sharing. I know it can make you feel a little bit naked having strangers poke at your baby.

Best of luck, Kristine.

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks for leaving such a detailed and thoughtful comment, Saranna!

Glynis Peters said...

Thanks for sharing Krisine. I love the opening, the feeling that a sniper is about to set to work. Clever writing.

I felt it was a family affair for me; my daughter is Nicola and we call her Nic, my daughter in law is Vivienne and my cousin is Lauren, so your names grabbed my attention. :)

Here goes, this is the bit Emily knows I cringe at, but I have a couple of cents to throw into the pot. :)

How wide is the door? Would they come in side by side?
Nic sounds a ladies man, manners and charm. Would he not hold the door open for a lady? Even his agent.

She sounds feisty enough to do the introducing of him and not the other way around. The cut of her cloth and confidence indicates a forthright woman.

It would mean a few seconds longer before Lauren sees this gorgeous hunk saunter into the room. She could then wonder the relationship between the two. Maybe after intro he would kiss her hand, then move beside the agent and slide his arm around her in a familiar way?
That would bring on the envy.

Anyway, thanks again so much for sharing and happy scribbling.

Emily, thank you for another great Red Pencil Thursday.

Glynis Peters said...

Huge apologies Kristine. I put my specs on and saw I had left the T out of your name. :{

EmilyBryan said...

Glynis, you know I love for you to leave comments, silly girl.

I hadn't even thought about the logistics of the width of the door. Good catch. When we move our characters through space, we need to consider every angle.

Kristine Cayne said...

Thank you ladies for your wonderful and constructive comments. I can't tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to not only read the except but to think about it and provide feedback.

And thank you Emily for your Red Pencil Thurday :-)

Kristine Cayne said...

Looks like I have a typo of my own in that last comment LOL.

except => excerpt

EmilyBryan said...

Typos are the bane of my life. I stop seeing them after a while and the only thing that makes them reappear is time. I have to set a manuscriipt aside for at least a week before I can start seeing the errors again.

Guess I need the distance.

Glad this was helpful to you Kristine.