Thursday, August 19, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Celeste

I'm still in the hospital, but the DH is letting me use his computer to set this post to go. Please welcome Celeste to Red Pencil Thursday and take up the slack for me by leaving your helpful comments. Thanks!

The Helper
Hmm.... a title is supposed to give me an indication about what type of story this is going to be. I think I need a little more . . . help. If this is an edgy, action-packed tale, The Helper seems a little light for it. Anyone have a suggestion for Celeste?
It’s a working title and one of MANY I’ve played around with. It doesn’t fit and I’m hoping something will come to me once the MS is done.
Don't worry. The right title will come when you need it.

Emma wanted to know why in the f*** her brother was not answering his phone. She listened to his voice mail for the millionth time and watched her speedometer climb past the eighty mile per hour mark.
I bleeped your expletive because this is a PG-13 blog, but I really like your opening. You've dropkicked us into a serious situation and given us a heroine we can identify with immediately. Everyone has a relative they worry about. You've socked us with a great universal right up front and we're immediately disposed to like Emma because she cares about someone else, a very heroic attitude.
Thanks! The point of the expletive was to grab the reader right away. I love this opening, but will consider using “hell” instead if absolutely necessary.

What is the target audience for this story? The reason I ask is because I think you might be shooting yourself in the foot with the f*** in the first sentence. We're in Emma's head, but that's the only time she uses profanity in this excerpt. I don't think you need it here. Later, when we're fully in her corner, maybe. The point of profanity is shock value. I'd save it for a time when it's warranted. Like when she learns why Andy isn't answering his phone. Or if you decide it's important to use it here, consider putting it in dialogue, not narrative.
Oh don’t you worry, there’s profanity when she gets in the apartment too.

That might work better for me. I'll be more firmly in her corner by then.

It was going to be bad this time. Andy hadn’t answered his phone for two days. He might be a total screw up but he always managed to call her back. Not this time though and she was rushing over to his apartment to rescue him. Again.
I'd cut It was going to be bad this time. The subsequent sentences show us that without the need to tell. Put a period after though and let it stand on its own. It'll give the fact that things are different more weight. I like the way you set apart Again. You've told us a great deal about Emma and Andy's relationship with one little word.
I like the Again also. I don’t do any editing until I’m through the complete first draft because it stalls my forward progress, so I’ll definitely be tightening thing up.
My Goodness! This is your first draft? Excuse me a moment while I wrap my head around that fact. If this is the first thing that drips from your fingers, you have a career ahead of you, my dear.

The exit sign she was looking for appeared and she buzzed off the highway. She shifted in her seat and realized she had forgotten to take off her belt. When she stopped for the light she unbuckled and plopped it into the passenger seat. Her gun was loaded and the cold metal gave her a little comfort. She might be off duty, but she still had her baby with her wherever she went.
If Emma is an off duty cop, why would she take off her gun? Don't police officers often carry anyway?
She’s not a cop, she is an Urban Park Ranger.
Excellent twist!

Including running off to take care of her brother who might, or might not be, lying dead in his own bathroom, the victim of a careless overdose.

Andy was many things. Slacker, loser and drug user were some of the highlights. He was also slovenly, lazy and forgetful. But he was her brother and Emma cared more about him than she did almost everything else in the world -- except maybe her goldfish, William.

William and her gun were the only two things she had ever been able to rely on. But she already knew which one was going to abandon her first. Goldfish didn’t have the same life expectancy as steel.
Emma is quite the quirky gal. I've never known anyone who named their goldfish William. Or became so attached to it. But that's good. We want our characters to live large, to be unique. You've chosen some interesting details to show us who Emma is.
I included William to give Emma a unique and relatable humanity in hopes it would excuse some of her more icy characteristics.
And yet, by choosing a fish for her pet, you've shown us she's not willing to make long-term commitments. Well done.

She placed her hand on her weapon, soothed just by its presence. If her brother wasn’t answering her calls because he was on a bender, she could use the gun to put him out of her misery.
I'd cut just. It's a word that almost always isn't needed. Ditto for that, almost and always.

She could use the gun to put him out of her misery is a little cold, considering we've already decided we like Emma for her compassion for the slacker Andy. How about she'd be tempted to use the gun . . .
I like “tempted” instead even though, at times, I’m tempted to kill Andy myself!

A nervous giggle tittered out of her mouth. At least she could rely on Andy for a laugh even when she wanted to strangle him.
Emma doesn't strike me as the giggling or tittering sort. How about a snort instead?
She’s the type of person who only giggles in private

Her tires let out a screech as she made the turn into her brother’s driveway. The dump he was living in looked anything but inviting and the neighborhood was what most people referred to as “the ghetto”. She grabbed her belt and strapped it back on just in case, even though it wasn’t the real ghetto. It was more like the place where disillusioned suburban youths came to piss off their mommies and daddies by doing copious amounts of drugs. Most of the once beautiful Victorians had been divided up into low rent apartments but a couple on the street looked as though the owners had just given up. She figured the squatters and junkies loved the convenience of having a roof over their heads, even it was a leaky one.
Let's tighten the prose a bit. Instead of Her tires let out a screech, how about Her tires screeched? If you call a place a dump, we know it' s not inviting. Delete that bit. You can tighten that sentence to read: The dump he was living in was in the neighborhood most people referred to as “the ghetto”. Please bear in mind my tightening examples are merely suggestions. Please use your own discretion in how you shorten sentences.

This paragraph needs editing for sure because I’m not satisfied with the way it reads. Thanks for the tip.
It seems odd that Emma would remove her gunbelt and then strap it on again. On or off, pick one.

Can you give me a few vivid examples of the owners "giving up" on their property instead of telling me they did?
Sometimes I get flack for being too sparse in my descriptions and I think you call tell I was stretching a bit in this section.

She locked up her car and headed around the back of the house to the stairs leading up to Andy’s place. It was the middle of the day but it felt like full dark. She kept glancing back
What made it feel like full dark? Give us the detail that makes Emma feel that way and we'll feel it too.
I tend to forget the emotional aspects of description and I really agree there needs to be a feeling here from Emma.

And unfortunately, I had to cut this excerpt mid-sentence to meet the 500 word rule. Heavy sigh. I really want to know what Emma finds in Andy's apartment. Thanks for letting me take a look at your opening, Celeste. You've got a compelling heroine in a situation people will relate to. That's a winning combination.

Thank you again, Emily, for the opportunity to share my work. I’m looking forward to seeing what others have to say about it.

Celeste is a tattoo artist by day and a dedicated writer by night. She loves dark writing, uncomfortable shoes, and any type of chocolate. She lives in central Ohio with a house full of animals and one of them is her husband.


Anonymous said...

Awesome job Celeste! I certainly want to read more!

Celeste said...

Emily-- hope you're back home and back to normal very soon!
Abbie-- thanks!
I'm not sure what happened, but none of my replies to Emily's comments are on here. I'll keep an eye on it today and try to answer any questions that come up.

Motivational Monday said...

I do think the change from "she could use the gun..." to "she was tempted to..." would make Emma seem really frustrated with her brother without making her overdramatic.

Sometimes the "f bomb" is just appropriate, and I think it clues readers into how tired Emma really is of her brother's behavior.

Good job Celeste! You've got a great start!

Jane L said...

Hi Celeste! Welcome to Emily's red pencil day. It is great to see some of our students from Judi's Rt course here!

Your doing, awesome! Just need to tighten up your sentences a little like Emily suggested. Read outload and see if you can dump any extra words that slow the pace down. I love the first part of this story. Very interested in reading the rest! Let me think about titles, they are my favorite!

Just an FYI, my neighbor and good friend is a police officer, she never brings her gun home. Her husband on the other hand is never without his even off duty. Talking with them, it is personal choice for an officer.

celeste said...

Emma is an urban park ranger and not a police officer. That bit of info comes in the paragraph right after the 500 word cut off :(

Marcy W said...

Hi Celeste -- Thanks for sharing. You've got a great start: Emma is a character I immediately want to know a lot more about (I like it that she's a park ranger instead of a cop, a nice difference), and you do a good job of "showing" more than "telling", as Emily often advises. The title does seem a little 'meek' (though with only 500 words, it is hard to tell), but I can visualize cover art that would make that word seem anything from 'caring but reluctant' to 'don't need help from anyone and especially that person' to 'downright sinister' -- so it might be just right! Be sure to let us know if you decide to change it, because this is a story I don't want to miss!
Emily: sending angels with cheer and healing :-) .

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks for commenting, Abbie.

EmilyBryan said...

Celeste--I really expected to be home from the hospital on Wednesday, with plenty of time to add your comments. Unfortunately, it took longer than expected for everything to fall into place so I could go home (Dorothy was soooo right. There's no place like it!)

So now, it's Friday afternoon, but I'll add your comments now. Better late than never. Thank you again for being such a good sport about the delay.

EmilyBryan said...

Kimberly--The F-bomb really depends on your tartget audience. A couple 20-somethings were giving a workshop once and said if they didn't use that language, the people it was written for wouldn't buy it. So it pays to know your audience's expectations.

EmilyBryan said...

Jane L--Talking to a couple police officers about the gun question. Why didn't I think of that? Excellent!

EmilyBryan said...

Thank you Marcy. I always appreciate your comments. I know what you mean by "The Helper" being ominous. I remember reading a books called "The Fixer" and the protagonist (couldn't call him a hero) was awful, but he got things done. Just had no moral compass about how.

Thanks for the angels!

celeste said...

I'm so glad to know you're back home!
I loved this experience and want to say, for the miillionth time, thank you :)