I arrived back home from Idaho last night after a GREAT weekend in Coeur d’Alene. I was teaching a writing workshop with the Idaho Writer’s League and we had a wonderful time. A couple of my loyal blog readers came all the way from Canada, bringing another Canadian with them. Check out the picture on Val Comer’s blog. I am the one in green. The others are Viv, Val, and Bonne. (Bonne rhymes with Ron.)
While I was out of town, my loyal blog readers were busy commenting here on my last post, which critiqued Cate’s first paragraph of her novel. The main point I made was that Cate was smothering her start in backstory. Cate took the opportunity to revise her paragraph. In fact, she did it twice. Here are her two revisions:
Cate’s revision #1:
They brought him to me in chains, stood him in front of my cell. His lips were torn and bloody, face bruised, shirt crusted red. His eyes chilled when he saw me.
“David.” He shook his head. “No.” Looked to the guards. “I’ll tell you anything, let him go!”
Cate’s revision #2:
They dragged me through the door. Luc was there, shackled to a chair, face dancing with red rifle sights.
A woman stepped forward, Asen eyes locking onto me.
“You are Brenin Kynaston,” she said, and held up a pistol, pointed it to my forehead.
Randy sez: Both of these are great improvements over the original. I would say they are about equal in terms of potential, but I haven’t seen the whole story, so it’s impossible to say which is a better lead to the story. I think each can be tweaked to be a bit stronger.
#1 starts with a reference to a “him” who is unknown. I would say to specify his name from the outset. As Ginny pointed out, “chilled” is not the best verb here. The second paragraph has three separate quoted snippets of dialogue. I think this is one too many, so would recommend combining into two blocks. Also, Luc sounds quite eager here when I would expect him to sound defeated. Here is my (quickie) shot at revising this paragraph:
They brought Luc to me in chains, stood him in front of my cell. His lips were torn and bloody, face bruised, shirt crusted red.
Luc’s eyes glazed when he saw me. “David.” His voice cracked. He shook his head and twisted his neck with agonizing slowness to look at the guards. “I’ll . . . talk. Just . . . let him go.”
As for #2, I like the first paragraph but I think it would be slightly stronger to backload the sentence with the clause about being dragged in. It personalizes the violence to the POV character.
Several of my loyal blog readers have already noted that “Asen eyes” are confusing. Also, the statement “You are Brenin Kastonen” seems to me to be designed to feed the reader information (although it seems to be misinformation, since his name is David). I’m not quite sure what’s the purpose of this misinformation, so I’ll make a guess that is likely wrong–Luc has lied about David’s name. So I’ll propose some slight revisions here:
Luc sat shackled to a chair, his face dancing with red rifle sights, when they dragged me through the door.
A woman stepped forward, cold eyes locking onto me. “You are Brenin Kynaston, yes or no?” She pointed a pistol at my forehead. And smiled.
Whenever you edit, there is a chance that you are doing nothing but “disimproving” it. What do you think, Cate? Have I made it better or worse? You are the one who knows your story better than any of us, so only you can say which of these options actually makes sense for your story.
Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at Ginny’s revision of her first paragraph, but I’ll be happy to let everybody take a shot first at revising it. Here is her latest version of the paragraph I critiqued last week:
Zinovy looked at his watch and groaned. Five more hours. (italics) I cannot stand the wait. I must leave this place. (italics) Not that returning to earth would solve anything. He was going back to nothing. No family, no friends, and if Special Security Services had anything to say about it, no future either. But anything was better than his exile on this dinosaur of a space station.
Go to it, loyal blog readers! Let’s hear what you think.