Friday, June 10, 2005

Brave Soul Steps Up For Edit

Yup, we got ourselves a taker. Today you’ll read the action scene sent in by a courageous BG.
First, some other news. Yesterday I had a very fun radio interview with two entertaining guys—Ken and Steve from The Neon Fish show on KKHT 100.7FM in Houston, Texas. We taped three 8-minute segments for the show. It will air tomorrow, Sat. June 11, at 4:00 p.m. Central time. Texans, I s’pose you can tune in on the ol’ radio. The rest of you will be able to hear it live on After the fact, you can go to that Web site, click on The Neon Fish guys at the top, then click on the blue button for interview archives. Or so I’ve been told. Ken and Steve talked to me about my writing, my teaching, and God’s healing. These guys impressed me with their homework. I mean, they knew about me. They hadn’t exactly read every one of my books, but they had clearly spent time on my Web site and this blog. Plus they even knew other stuff, such as I “do skits” and “like to play practical jokes on other authors.”

All right, BGs, who out there’s been tellin' stories on me?

If they’d mentioned my frog face at my signing last week, I’d a really been freaked.

Okay. On to the scene for edit. I have pulled this excerpt right from the middle of the scene sent to me. Set-up: Abusive ex boyfriend shows up unannounced, bringing less than favorable intentions.

In an instant, he spun her whole body around, and her shoulder pummeled into Spirit. The horse panicked and jumped away, ripping the reins out of her hand.

Vince’s fist landed on her cheekbone, and she was vaguely aware of the horse bolting out the door before she felt the pain and stumbled.


Vince was upon her. He grabbed a fistful of her jacket and yanked her to her feet. “It’s time you learned something, Darling.” He stuck his face in hers, his stale cigar breath assaulting her. “I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

She closed her eyes, gasping. If she resisted, he’d make it worse. She managed a feeble, “Vince, please, don’t.”

“You pitiful excuse for a woman.” He hit her again, a swift bash on her left temple. The blow made the room turn black around the edges. But she didn’t lose consciousness.

Vince let her crumple to the floor.

“Worthless piece of trash,” he said.

She tried to look up at him. “If you just leave me alone . . . I . . . I promise I’ll never tell a soul what you did. Just let me go. Why won’t you let me go?”

He picked her up by the jacket again and shoved her against a stall door. She groaned as pain shot through her back. He’d pushed her against the metal latch.

“Oh, it’s too late, Christy. I’ve given you more than enough chances.”

“Please. . .”

He backhanded her across the face. She fell to her knees, clutching her nose as warm blood dripped into her fingers.

“I don’t know what I ever saw in you. You’re certainly nothing to look at.”

She glanced up at the caricature of his once handsome face. How could she ever have loved this man?

Vince pulled a wad of rope out of his jacket pocket. “Not even worth the air you breath.”

That’s when she realized the awful truth. He wasn’t just doing this to frighten her. He intended to kill her, and every ounce of survival instinct she had kicked in. She searched for a weapon. Bale of straw. Horse comb. Bottle of saddle soap. Shovel. She locked onto that. It leaned against the wall by the door. Could she crawl fast enough?

“Get up,” Vince ordered.

Christy started to rise in a slow, defeated way, but the second she got her feet underneath herself, she lunged for the door, and the shovel. Grasping it with both hands, she willed her eyes to focus on Vince, and hurled it at his head.

The shovel met it’s mark with a revolting thud. Vince’s hands flew to his face, and he moaned as he sagged to the floor. She froze, shocked she’d actually wounded him. What was she doing? She had to get of here! Move!

Christy ran. Into the yard, past the pickups. The house! Get to the house! Lock the door. Maybe she could figure out how to use one of those guns before Vince could break in.

And then she saw the most beautiful creature in the entire world, Spirit, a snowy apparition standing in the middle of the yard, waiting for her. For a split second she hesitated. Should she race for the house or try to mount the gelding when she could barely see straight?
Vince decided for her. He appeared in the barn doorway still holding his head, his eyes ablaze. She wouldn’t make the house.

Adrenaline propelled her to Spirit, and she frantically gathered the reins, struggling to get her foot in the stirrup.

Glance behind. Vince was running toward her.

Clutching Spirit’s mane, she summoned all her strength, pulled herself up, and made it!

This author has done many things well. Fortunately we don’t have to go back to the basics. POV stays in the head of Christy. The scene isn’t slowed with too much thought. We can follow the action clearly. This certainly isn’t a poorly written scene. But how can we make it better?

Let me ask you--does the scene zing? Did you feel the action along with Christy?

On Monday (because you’ve put me in the habit of cliffhanging you), we’ll look at some suggested edits. Until then—think about these issues:

1. Speaker attributes (“he said,” etc.)
2. Rhythm of sentences (particularly length)
3. Verb choice
4. Action/reaction sequence
5. Tightness of writing
6. Depth of character response/emotion

How would you change some of these aspects in the scene?

Read Part 2-10

Read Part 11-19


C.J. Darlington said...

Alright now. Don't you BGs shy from speaking your thoughts. I've got my Neosporin and bandages right beside me. Slash away!

Anonymous said...

You are a brave one - C.J. - clap, clap. Good story blip, I was afraid for Christy, felt for her, thought Vince was a creep. (Fortunately, Spirit is totally unlike the horses I've owned - they'd leave me high and dry, even step on me on their way past!).
What I saw was extra words. They slow down the emotional wave that the reader needs to surf. Anything that slows down the action in an action scene needs to be streamlined. 2 cents from someone who knows - oh - not much at all.

Chris said...


I like the excerpt. I thought it was interesting that she was slammed against the door. The door is always good for metaphors. It is like she is so close to escape, but she is physically coersed into dealing with her problem.

I am just a big fan of metaphors. LOL

D. Gudger said...

Hey CJ, I promise I'll be careful with my coffee (I do have a hot mug with me right now ;) - If you wanna know, ask CJ :)

Christy's POV really works for me. I'm hooked into her head and pleading with her. I like how you build the tension with the transition from her thoughts of "why's he trying to hurt me" to "He's trying to KILL me!"

Good combination of action - reaction (those pesky MRUs ala Ingermanson)

I need to go back to look again. It's hard to think back when the text isn't visible from this page . . . hang on. Let me also look @ the list . . .

D. Gudger said...

I love it! Here's a few things to make it tighter - I hope you'd do this for me sometime :)

Toy with shorter sentences at the very beginning during the first violent encoutner in the sequence. Overall create a sense of speed up, slow down, speed up . . .

Consider pulling out some of her internal dialogue to keep the reader in the moment. Example:
try, She closed her eyes, "Vince please don't."

Look for places in which you are telling - i.e. "she didn't loose conciousness" - that fact makes itself clear in a few more beats. Leave us wondering.

Don't need to attribute the "trash" comment since we know that's his voice

Have her FEEL the metal latch pressing into her back

When she looks at his face, what is handsome? Quickly describe one feature that she used to find attractive, but no longer.

Question: Why is she shocked she wounded him? He tried to kill her? I do see her freezing, then realizing she needs to run (shock)

Finally, would Vince be able to run after being wonked in the head with a shovel? I see him staggering, lurching for her, a few stumbles here and there

Great job!!! For some reason it's easier to analyze someone else's writing. I wish I could see mine like this, but I know it too well . .
Thanks CJ and Brandilyn! This is a good learning exercise. Please let me know if I'm off base so I can learn :)

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

C. J., I think you have a nice scene here. I did feel the tension (kinda found myself holding my breath a bit). As others pointed out, there were a few places where that was interrupted, and it's in those spots where I think you can move this from good to great.

Rather than repeating what others have said, I'll see if I understand what Brandilyn meant by "depth of character response/emotion." The first place I think her response needs to be stronger is when Vince first hit her:

{{Vince’s fist landed on her cheekbone, and she was vaguely aware of the horse bolting out the door before she felt the pain and stumbled.

Sometimes pain is delayed, but it seemed odd to me that the only reaction readers are given is to the horse bolting. I think for readers to enter into what she's experiencing, her reaction to the pain, and I would expect, the accompanying fear, needs to have a place.

Hope that's on target. It will be good to see what Brandilyn has to say.

Thanks so much for being willing to put this out for us.


Dineen A. Miller said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dineen A. Miller said...

Okay, Brandilyn's Frog Face can viewed in all it's glory! This woman cracks me up!

Lynette Sowell said...

Hi all--and CJ--wow you're brave. But what a solid scene! :) I'll just say what I tell my daughter, "Less is more." Watch the -ings and compound sentences in action scenes. I was once crowned the "Duchess of -Ing" in a crit group years ago, and I've always noticed -ing creeping up to slow me down.
Back to the WHIP, oops, I mean WIP. :) Happy weekend, all!

OH, about my best friend that I got hooked on Hidden Faces? She's lending the books to her unsaved (but seeking) neighbor across the street who reads Patricia Cornwall (sp?). :D

Lynette Eason said...

Hi all, Um...Brandilyn, just a thought. Some habits (such as leaving your BGs cliffhanging) are OKAY to break. Just in case you were wondering...okay, where to start. I think I shoulda printed the thing out, but going by memory (hey, I'm the adventuresome sort), I have to say I liked the scene...felt the tension...and wanted Christy the heck out of Vince's reach. My first thought was, "Too bad the shovel's not a pitchfork."

So, anyway, I'd leave out the "he said, Vince ordered, and she managed a feeble..." to name a few. I noticed a couple of "was's" that I would change to make the scene more active than passive. Honestly though, I thought the scene well written. So, I guess I'll look forward to seeing what you advanced writers see that I don't. Ha.

Anonymous said...

Didn't get to read this 'til today and everyone's made such good suggestions, no point in my weighing in, so I'll wait for Monday for Brandilyn's take.

Proud of you, C.J.! Don't think those bandages'll be necessary. ;o)

Domino said...

Huge thanks to Brandilyn and BRAVE CJ for this great opportunity for me to learn. This is what critique groups are all about: taking something good and making it great. I wish I could see my own writing as if it were someone else's so I could "tighten the fightin'".
Good job, CJ.

Domino said...

Here it is Saturday in the Greater Houston area and I have just enjoyed hearing Brandilyn's excited voice telling in the radio interview about God's power shows up in her books and in her life. Great interview!

C.J. Darlington said...

You guys are great! Thanks for the words of praise and also critiques. Looking forward to Monday.

C.J. Darlington said...

Dineen - bet Brandilyn LOVES you for posting that picture. Pretty good, Brandilyn. Pretty good. :-)

Val said...

Woah! That picture was "special"...! :-)

C.J., kudos to you foor stepping up to the plate. I'm coming to the critique table kind of late, so I think I'm just going to wait until tomorrow and see what the "official" take is. I'm interested in your story though which is a very good thing considering how little of it I had the opportunity to read.

Brandilyn--I wanted to know what kind of pre-writing or outlining you do (if any) before you start writing a novel.