Friday, August 2, 2013

Have You Scene It? Workshop 6: Last Day

Submissions are now closed. Any comment , unless for a request from an editor or agent, will be deleted. 
Thank you for participating!!

Can you believe today is already here? I can't!

The last thing we will discuss is in our scene workshop is the decision. We've got the setting already established, gave the MC a goal he/she wants to accomplish, slipped in the motivation, snared him with some conflict and tension, labored on the emotions to add some drama, and now, it's decision time.

Whatever the decision your MC makes, it must follow through with the actions to accomplish that decision. This is the key element of tying up all the loose ends of the scene and finalizing the readers satisfaction. If done correctly, the reader will turn the page to find out what happens next.

I'm not talking about exploding bombs, car crashes, police arrests, and chasing the villain and such. The action can be as subtle as deciding to walk away from a relationship, heading off to school, writing that letter the MC has put off for so long. Just has long as the decision is followed by the action to make it happen, you should be good:)

The scene closes, and a new opens up. It may still be the same chapter, or it may be the next opening of the next chapter. Remember: SCENE DOES NOT EQUAL CHAPTER. You can have two or three scenes in one chapter.

To recap:

Start the scene with a good grounding as to where the scene is taking place.
Give the MC a goal.
Make sure the motivation to accomplish the goal is clearly evident, even if it's subtle.
Don't let your MC reach the goal so easy. Throw in some conflict, and add some tension.
Give the MC emotion.
And wrap up the scene with the reaction and decision the MC makes and don't forget the action caused by the decision.

And that, in a nut shell, is how to write a scene.

Now, it's your turn! Today, and all next week, you have the opportunity to post a scene, in the comments. Your scene will get a mini critique from a few professionals in the industry.

Who, you might ask? Let's see, there's

Kisa Whipkey, Editor of REUTS PUBLISHING
Katie Teller, Editor at Curiosity Quills
Amy Trueblood, fabulous literary intern!!

Also, if you have any questions, PLEASE ASK! These ladies have agreed to answer them, to the best of their abilities in order to help you polish up your favorite scenes for the pitch opportunity next week!!
Don't be shy, beautiful guys and dolls. That's what we're here for!!

31 comments:

  1. Action is definitely a best way to end a scene. I can't wait to implement this into the final draft.

    I'll be posting it Sunday probably :) Don't have much Internet access at the moment.

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  3. Ok, technical difficulties dealt with. (Don't ask, not the best way to end a weekend) And, now as I understand this is the place, I'll give you a hint at the novel I just finished writing. Looking for any feedback, but particularly, are you interested in what brought these two to this point and are you intrigued enough to follow their story to the end? At this point, I'm so close to the forest I can't see the trees, or maybe the other way around. (I have also included what I consider the whole scene at my own blog: http://jonathanrenck.blogspot.com/2013/08/over-coming-technical-setbacks.html. Stop over if you're interested.) Either way, here you go:

    Rain pattered softly against the front window, as Jack and Melissa settled onto Jack’s couch. They were both quiet, unusual for the extroverted redhead. She snuggled against his right side, and he put his arm around her back to hold her closer. He just caught the enticing smell of her shampoo when she lay her head against shoulder, her hair feeling silky against his neck. For a little while, they simply enjoyed each others presence. Then Melissa began to play with her hands, picking at specks of dust on her pants, real or imagined Jack couldn't tell. He simply knew it was a sign she was wrestling with saying something. She took a breath that seemed, to him, to be a bit shaky. He felt her shift away from him a bit, so he looked over at her. She was studying him, a serious expression on her face. His heart began to beat a bit faster, sensing she was working on saying something that would shake up their relationship.
    “Jack,” she began, but trailed off.
    “Yes,” he answered simply.
    “I...well, I’m not sure how to say this really,” she looked away, her fiery locks falling to
    block her face from his sight. Fear seized him, as his mind leapt to high gear, trying to figure out what he may have done to screw up.
    “Jack, I, uh...” she looked up and met his gaze. He saw fear in her soft hazel eyes, and tears looked about ready to fall. Only barely above a whisper, “I love you, Jack.”
    After that simple phrase came a torrent of words, as though those four words burst a dam that had restrained her. She tried explaining herself; tears began flowing. As her eyes and nose turned red and puffy, she was apologizing for being so forward. He turned and cradled her head in his large hands. He had to gently turn her head back so she was looking up at his face. Tears stood in the corners of his eyes, as she continued trying to justify why she had to say it.
    “Melissa,” in a voice no louder than she had used to say she loved him. She froze, as though his voice had been a slap. Fear bloomed fully in her face, as she looked at his broad, plain face. “I love you, too.”

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    1. I'm bringing in the experts! Keep a lookout for comments!

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    2. I'm close to the edge of my seat....

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    3. Hi Jonathan,

      Thanks for being brave enough to submit something for critique. ;)

      I actually went and read the entire scene as included on your blog before commenting, so this feedback will pertain to the longer version as well.

      First, the positive.You do a really good job of dispersing the descriptive information throughout the scene, giving us just what we need to know, when we need to know it. You also do a great job of showing us emotion through body language instead of telling. We know from the way Melissa's avoiding the topic, picking at her clothes instead, that it's going to be something important. Bonus points for the suspense you managed to create there, as well. You definitely had me waiting along with Jack to see what she was about to say. The twist was nicely done. I was expecting something from the bad news family.:)

      That said, there are some things you could do to improve this even more. The main one being your POV. I was never really sure if it was third person omniscient or supposed to be third person limited with Jack as the MC. I would recommend the second option as it will provide a deeper POV and resonate more with readers. Third person omniscient tends to put a lot of distance between the reader and the scene, losing some of the impact full immersion creates.

      Also, be careful of overusing their names. Most people only say someone's name in a conversation once or twice. So when character's say names more frequently, it tends to make the dialogue feel unnatural.

      Be careful of your dialogue tags as well. Good job mixing them up and not just relying on "said" but there are a few places where I wasn't sure who was speaking. Make sure each speaker has their own paragraph and that the attribution afterward makes sense.

      Lastly, I found myself questioning the motivation behind this scene. Out of context, it reads as very dramatic. Too dramatic. The character's reactions seem out of proportion to what's actually happening. But like I said, that could be due to the fact that we're missing the back-story leading up to this moment. When does this particular scene happen? If it's the beginning, it's definitely too much. If it's the end of a long, tortured love story, it can be more dramatic.

      I would still suggest toning the emotion's down a couple notches though. Believe it or not, subtlety is more powerful for conveying passion.

      You asked specifically if I would be interested in what brought this couple to this point. Mildly. I was more interested in why they seemed so dramatic in such a serene, intimate moment.

      You also asked if this scene would be enough to keep me reading. Honestly? Not really. It doesn't contain much of a hook. We don't get a sense of any outside conflict that either led to this moment, or still needs to be resolved. It feels like it's self-contained. If you can find a way to weave in a little more foreshadowing of what's to come or resolution to what came previously, it would hold attention better.

      Overall though, it is well-written and with a little polish, could be really strong. I hope you'll consider what I've said and give it a try. Keep writing! :)

      Kisa Whipkey
      Senior Editor, REUTS Publications
      www.reuts.com

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    4. Here's my comments. Others will comment as they get a chance!

      I suggest changing your second sentence to something more active. And the phrase "unusual for the redhead" is telling. Of course this is just a small scene and I don't know if you show this elsewhere. But it's always best to show by action what is normal and what isn't for your character.

      The biggest thing I'm suggesting us to go through and check for passive verbs such as "seem, began, was"

      I will comment more after the others. "

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  4. Rain pattered softly against the front window, as Jack and Melissa settled onto Jack’s couch (description of couch may help set the scene a little better). They were both (Melissa?) quiet, unusual for the extroverted redhead. She snuggled against his right side, and he put his arm around her back to hold her closer. He just caught the enticing smell of her shampoo when she lay(laid) her head against his? shoulder, her hair feeling silky against his neck. For a little while, they simply enjoyed each other's presence. Then Melissa began to play with her hands, picking at specks of dust on her pants, real or imagined Jack couldn't tell. He simply knew it was a sign she was wrestling with saying something. She took a (shaky)breath that seemed, to him, to be a bit shaky. He felt her shift away from him a bit, so he looked over at her. She was studying him, a serious expression (can you show me this?) on her face. His heart began to beat a bit faster, sensing she was working on saying something that would shake up their relationship.
    “Jack,” she began, but trailed off.
    “Yes,” he answered simply.
    “I...well, I’m not sure how to say this really,” she looked away, her fiery locks falling to
    block her face from his sight. Fear seized him, as his mind leapt to high gear, trying to figure out what he may have done to screw up.
    “Jack, I, uh...” she looked up and met his gaze. He saw fear in her soft hazel eyes, and tears looked about ready to fall. Only barely above a whisper, “I love you, Jack.”
    After that simple phrase came a torrent of words, as though those four words burst a dam that had restrained her. She tried explaining herself; tears began flowing. As her eyes and nose turned red and puffy, she apologized was apologizing (passive voice) for being so forward. He turned and cradled her head in his large hands. He had to gently turn her head back so she was looking up at his face. Tears stood in the corners of his eyes, as she continued trying to justify why she had to say it.
    “Melissa,” in a voice no louder than she had used to say she loved him. She froze, as though his voice had been a slap. Fear bloomed fully in her face, as she looked at his broad, plain face. “I love you, too.”

    I like where this scene is going, but it takes too long to get there. You've got a lot of filter words that I tried to point out. Also, think about what Jack is feeling internally as he waits for Melissa to speak. We, as the reader, need to feel his hesitation, his worry, as he waits for her words. Is his heart clenching? Can he run through all the things in his head he may have done to get a negative reaction from her? If we get enough build-up and tension, then the pay off of the "I love you" at the end is much more powerful.

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  5. Thank you all so far. You've certainly given me plenty to consider and edit. Kisa, I would have to agree as I consider this out of context, and now trying to see it back in context it's overblown in Melissa's reactions. This fairly early on so, I probably really need to cut back on just how drastic her reactions are. I've been fighting the POV a lot, because it doesn't feel right to tell this from first person, and third omniscient is too abstracted for the story, but figuring out just how limited I need to keep it has been a struggle for some of the scenes. I'll definitely work on remaining clearer in my points of view. And thank you so much for giving the scene the extra time to read what I have on my blog.
    Amy, thanks for highlighting the points where I've written too passively. (A flaw I end up addressing regularly). Those ideas have given me great jumping off points when I go back to it. I think if I address the indeterminate POV I will get a better sense on how to show more of the tension in his mind and how he's reacting to the signals she's sending.

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    1. You're very welcome, Jonathan. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read your work! :)

      One thing to consider, if you don't want the POV to be focused on John all the time, is to play around with a dual POV, switching between John and Melissa. The trick would be making each of their voices distinct, so that the switch is obvious. And definitely only do it at chapter or scene breaks, otherwise it would sound like head-hopping. Just one more thing to add to your plate of considerations. ;)

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    2. I have worked in several places switching from Jack's POV to Melissa's and I've done my best to keep them very distinct switches. Talking with another author (C.L. Denault, who pointed me in the direction of this opportunity) I was a bit muddy in my first draft, so I've been very concerned with making the switches clear as I've gone back through. I'm not entirely certain that they have completely distinct voices which may be a bit problematic. There are a few scenes that have been worked on harder than this one, mostly because it was deceptively simple and they were pretty clearly more complex. But I decided to try to give a decent sample of an "average" scene as the story stands now. I figure that gives me the best idea of what to keep my eyes on when I go to my next editing pass.

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  6. Hey!
    I'm sorry I haven't jumped on sooner! I'm on vacation in Australia and I'm doing a million things along with a nice case of jetlag! But I promise I will get on this soon an help out.
    Katie

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  7. Okay, so I'm supposed to put my scene here (if I understood it right). This is from my latest YA steampunk, and since it's a scene from the middle of the book, there's obviously a lot of unmentioned background leading up to this point. I'm mostly curious if this brings the tension it should and if the feelings and actions come over authentic enough. But, of course, I'm glad to hear all suggestions. (Lol! This is always so nerve-wracking!) And here it is: (hopefully, not too long.)

    Lawrence sauntered into the cabin swinging his walking stick in exaggerated arches at his side. The pale hue of air sickness was no longer visible on his face, his cheeks now radiating as bright as the gas lamps on the walls. He paused, shaking his head at the pile of brass poles and shredded silk sheets, all that was left of the once luxurious bed.
    “My dear, Josephine.” He sighed before settling in the velvet cushioned chair across from her. “I imagine I should be honored that you decided to join us, although I’m sure your father and this room might argue the point.” He chuckled to himself and glided his fingers through his grey hair.
    Josephine let out a long, slow breath. So, he had contacted her father. Of course, he had. That meant he knew about Mary too.
    “What have you done with her?” She didn’t really fear for her sister. Lawrence would have no reason to hurt her.
    He shrugged. “Not a thing, my dear. She’s in my cabin. I’ll have my men bring her here in a moment. First, however, I would like you to answer a few questions for me. I’ll start with something easy.” His gazed over at the broken bed. “The furnishings were imported from Italy. A costly endeavor, as you must know. Surely, the mattress wasn’t that uncomfortable.”
    Josephine considered lying but couldn’t find a story that was even half-way believable. “I was constructing a flying machine.”
    He laughed. “Still living in a dream world, I see.”
    She bit her lower lip. The possibility that it might function didn’t even cross his mind. If he found her so inept, then the truth didn’t pose any danger for her. “I ventured down to the cargo room in hopes of finding a few tools and some wire.”
    “And what was the purpose of this flying machine?” He didn’t try to suppress his chuckle.
    “To escape from this ship.”
    His chest shook as a smile crept at the edge of his lips. With the back of his hand, he wiped a tear from his eye—one of laughter.
    She gritted her teeth. A sharp mixture of hurt and anger jabbed at her heart like a knife thrust. He thought she was joking!
    “Then, I assume it doesn’t make any sense to inquire the reason behind your ridiculous attire. Dressing as a man. My dear Josephine, what were you thinking?” He glided his forefinger over her lapel and snorted. “To be honest, I don’t even care to know why you stole from your father and smuggled your poor sister Mary on board this ship only to try to escape from it again. I simply want to know where the crystal is.”
    A wave of relief rushed through her. Mary. The little girl was slier than a fox—heaven be praised for that. If Mary wasn’t wearing the crystal anymore, she must have hidden it. Hopefully, she did a good job of it too.
    “I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about.”
    A leering grin twisted on Lawrence’s face. One by one, he balled his fingers around his walking stick. The knuckles whitened with the coldness in his stare. “Are you certain of that?”
    "I am not afraid. I am not afraid," she repeated to herself. Terror wrenched at her stomach, the fear of approaching pain almost impossible to swallow back. But she had to be brave, if not for herself than for Mary.
    "I am not afraid." The words quivered in her mind as she met Lawrence’s glare.
    “I have no idea what you mean.”
    The cane came at her faster than she could move away.

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    1. Oh, I wanted to add that the 'I am not afraid' at the end are all in italics in the MS, but it didn't want to copy on here correctly.

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    2. Thank you for submitting your work for review! I very much enjoyed the sample you provided.

      It's quite well-done in terms of tension. There's a lot woven into this scene. It immediately sucked me in and even without the surrounding context, I felt invested in Josephine's situation. Why is she there? Who's Laurence? What's the crystal and why is it important? Why does she want to leave after going to the effort of sneaking on board? These are things that went through my head while reading. So good job; you definitely kept me engaged and I would keep reading. :)

      For the most part, the dialogue and reactions felt on point for the situation. There was only one spot where I was jarred a little bit, when Laurence says, "your poor sister Mary." You don't need her name there since you established prior to that who she was. It feels more natural without it.

      I also went into this thinking it was from Laurence's POV. But it's actually from Josephine's. I'm attributing that disconnect to the fact that I don't have the set-up that would have established that. Readers have a tendency to identify with whichever character we meet first. So this may or may not be a point for concern. Reading that beginning section again after realizing the POV, it doesn't read as incorrect. There's nothing in it that actually reads from his perspective, but you may want to look closely at those first couple of lines when it's in context to make sure.

      You mention this is towards the middle of the book. That's interesting to me, as it doesn't feel that way. It is obvious that there's back-story we're not seeing, but the way you are divulging information makes it feel like it would happen early on, in the beginning. Mary's presence on the ship, her relationship to the MC, the crystal, it all reads like foreshadowing and world building, similar to when you start a book in the middle of action and then explain later.

      Without seeing the rest of the manuscript, it's a bit difficult to give concrete advice on this, but I suggest carefully reviewing the way you're feeding the reader information and seeing if you're treating information they already know as if it's new. Does that make sense?

      If we already know who Mary is and that she's on board, we wouldn't need to be retold that. Just the fact that Laurence is aware of it.

      But again, some of my impressions may be colored by the fact this is presented on it's own, without the rest of the story.

      Overall, though, I really liked it. And since it's YA, maybe you'd consider submitting it REUTS Publications when you're done? I'd love to read the rest. :)

      Kisa Whipkey
      Senior Editor, REUTS Publications
      www.reuts.com

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    3. Sorry it took me a week to post! I couldn't pick a scene, and school got crazy--finals week :)

      -_-_-_-_-

      Trevor's never been to a bar before. Actually, I was now convinced he's never been anywhere in his life besides military facilities-- with the exception of the two shows at CoinStage for my band.

      The gritty atmosphere had him constantly looking over his shoulder at all the brutes, and as of now he's only drank a quarter of his beer. I didn't mind the dimmed lights, loud music, and smoky air. That's basically what every bar and club in Boston was like, especially CoinStage. If the bass wasn't throbbing in your chest, the music wasn't loud enough.

      I finished my third beer and placed the glass bottle on the bar, pointing to Trevor's drink. "You know that'll get warm if you don't drink it, right?"

      "Hm?" he mumbled.

      "If you don't like it, I'll drink it and order you another."

      Still no real response came. I snapped my fingers in front of his face.

      He shook his head a little in surprise. "I'll drink it."

      "Yeah," I said, "when you're thirty."

      He grabbed hold of the glass and pressed it to his lips. He slowly put it down, a look of utter disgust reaching across his face that made swallowing beer look like a nasty chore.

      I exhaled loudly, tongue stuck to my cheek as I looked away. I never should have brought him. If his inability to finish a beer wasn't embarrassing enough, his incessant staring at other bar-goers was sure to land us in a fight his ego couldn't handle.


      This is from my current WIP, a sequel to my NA Fantasy.

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    4. Hi Jessica,

      Thank you for posting your work for review!

      Overall, I like your writing style. It's smooth and infused with a lot of the main character's personality. They (I'm not sure of the gender since it's first person) have a sarcastic streak and that's always a win in my book. You also do a fantastic job of telling us a lot in a few words, showing us the character's perspective through his actions. Nicely done.

      My only real comment is about the tenses. The first paragraph and a half are present tense, while the rest is past. It's slightly awkward and should be reworked or removed.

      I don't have the surrounding context, but based on this little sample, I don't think you actually need those first lines about Trevor. They're a bit more telling than showing, albeit through the filter of your MC's thoughts. You go on to show us everything those lines tell us about Trevor's uncomfortableness later in the scene. So for me, your scene really starts with, "I didn't mind the dimmed lights, loud music, and smoky air."

      I was a little disappointed that we didn't see any of the Fantasy elements, but only because I'm a huge Fantasy fan. I would have expected this to be Contemporary, or maybe even Sci-fi. I'm guessing it's an Urban Fantasy?

      Nice work, overall. I really enjoyed this brief look at your WIP. Keep it up! :)

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    5. Thanks for you advice, Kisa! I see what you mean about dropping information. I only had Lawrence mention it because he just found out, but you're right. It's over kill - the readers aren't stupid.
      I'll definitely keep REUTS in mind, when this is polished and ready to go. :)

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  8. Hi! I tried to put my scene in, but the comments box wouldn't accept it. Might be the hard returns. So I put the scene on a separate page in my blog:

    http://theinfjcafe.blogspot.com/p/scene.html

    Will this work? I can try taking out the hard returns, although it will impact readability. Let me know!

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    1. It does need to be on the blog here. We understand if the readability is wonky!

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    2. Actually, I tried cutting the scene off about a little over mid-way, and it seems to fit. Yay! So this is part of it :-)

      To set this up, the scene takes place in 1831 in Ensley, GA. The MC has stepped away from the ball with her father. He leaves to get her a drink, and she remains alone and unchaperoned on the veranda.

      ************
      “Anna.” A low whisper drifted across the garden.

      I smiled. Had Carson found his way out of the house and into the garden, hoping for the chance of a private moment with me?

      “Anna, come join me.” The whisper was louder, more urgent.

      Stepping off the veranda, I lifted my skirt clear of the damp grass and followed the voice into the maze of hedgerows. “Carson?”

      Another flash of white. His ruffled cravat, perhaps? Rushing to the end of the row, I turned the corner, breathless with anticipation. No one was there.

      “Anna.”

      I shivered. Carson hadn’t spoken after all. Someone else was in here with me. Alarmed, I turned to flee, but a pale, slender figure suddenly stepped into my path. My hand flew to my mouth to stifle a scream. It was Josephine.

      “Hello, Anna.”

      I couldn’t speak. Her eyes were black as night, and her skin gleamed with the cold pallor of death. She couldn’t be real. This was her ghost, come to haunt the daughter of Caroline Madison.

      She took a step forward, and I backed away to keep distance between us.

      “You look ravishing, my dear.” The words slithered from her lips in a scornful hiss. “The debutante on her big night.”

      “S-stay away from me,” I stammered, hugging my arms to my chest.

      “Oh, you’re not afraid of me, are you?” Her laugh, low and cutting, sliced through me like a blade. She spread her arms wide. “We’ve known each other for ages. Come, child, warm me with your embrace.”

      I backed away once more. When she reached for me, I finally came to my senses. I turned on my heel and dashed down the walkway as fast as I could. But a frigid blur passed beside me, and suddenly Josephine was blocking my path again.

      “Not so fast.” Her hand flew out and grabbed my arm, fingernails sinking into my soft flesh. “We have unfinished business.”

      If she could touch me, she was no ghost. I found my voice.

      “Please, Mrs. Brandt, let go of me.”

      Her face registered pain, shock, and then anger. “You are mistaken, child.” Her black eyes, ringed with purple bruises, narrowed to slits. “I’m no longer Josephine Brandt.”
      ***********

      The action continues, but this did seem like a decent stopping point for the comments box. This is a draft prologue scene from a YA/NA paranormal I plan to finish (some day). Not in its final form, of course, but I'm hoping the scene isn't too raw or mechanical for helpful feedback! Thanks! :-)

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    3. Hi!

      I actually read this last night, but for some reason, I wasn't able to comment via my iPad. So my apologies for the delay.

      You already know I'm a huge fan of your work, and I was exceedingly happy to see you post something. As usual, it's excellent. Fantastic use of suspense! You had me riveted the entire time, wondering who or what Josephine was. I'm guessing vampire?

      There are a few things you could work on to improve it, but it's not as rough as you think it is. In fact, everything I'm about to say is minor, detail-oriented stuff. ;)

      The first thing that gave me pause was the fact that your MC thinks the whisper is coming from Carson, when it's actually Josephine. Why wouldn't she recognize the voice as female?

      Then, you say "another flash of white" in the fourth paragraph. Where was the first one? Maybe it's there and just not part of this sample?

      And then, this was the only other line that pulled me from the story: "This was her ghost, come to haunt the daughter of Caroline Madison." There's something rocky about this. I think it's because it's outside the character's POV and maybe just a tad too telling. It feels like you're trying to give us important information about Josephine's relationship to the MC though, so if that's the case, I would recommend moving that tidbit to be after Josephine's first introduction. Just a simple word or two, like "it was Josephine, my mother's best friend" would do the trick.

      Other than that, I loved it. I really do hope that you'll finish it, and that you'll send it my way when it's done. For now, I'll just have to wander over to your blog to read what little else you've made available. ;)

      Kisa Whipkey
      Senior Editor, REUTS Publications
      www.reuts.com

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  9. I just wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for participating. I've really enjoyed working with each of you and appreciate that you gave me the opportunity to read your work.

    I believe most of these scenes are from WIP's, but when they are finished, I hope you'll keep REUTS Publications in mind. We'd love to see more from each of you! Although it does have to fall within YA/NA, we're open to all genres.

    Just send your query to submissions (at) reuts (dot) com and address it to me. I look forward to seeing all of your names show up in my inbox in the near future. ;)

    Thanks!

    Kisa Whipkey
    Senior Editor, REUTS Publications
    www.reuts.com

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  11. Sorry, I have been crazy busy these past few days and am now just getting to this.

    Here are my comments for T. Drecker - I had to condense to only include specific lines for comment as the HTML header said I had too many characters.



    “My dear, Josephine.” He sighed before settling in(to) the velvet cushioned chair across from her. “I imagine I should be honored that you decided to join us, although I’m sure your father and this room might argue the point.” He chuckled to himself and glided his fingers through his grey hair.
    Josephine let out a long, slow breath. So, he had contacted her father. Of course, he had. That meant he knew about Mary too.

    “What have you done with her?” She didn’t really fear for her sister. Lawrence would have no reason to hurt her.
    He shrugged. “Not a thing, my dear. She’s in my cabin. I’ll have my men bring her here in a moment. First, however, I would like you to answer a few questions for me. I’ll start with something easy.” His (He?) gazed over at the broken bed. “The furnishings were imported from Italy. A costly endeavor, as you must know. Surely, the mattress wasn’t that uncomfortable.” (This dialogue is hard to follow. You have him leading in with wanting to ask a question, but you lose the tension when he comments on the bed).


    “And what was the purpose of this flying machine?” He didn’t try to suppress his chuckle.

    “To escape from this ship?”

    His chest shook as a smile crept at the edge of his lips. With the back of his hand, he wiped a tear from his eye—one of laughter. (This seems odd and again brings down the tension.)

    She gritted her teeth. A sharp mixture of hurt and anger jabbed at her heart like a knife thrust. He thought she was joking(I don't think the exclamation works here - unless she is screaming in her head)


    A wave of relief rushed through her. Mary. The little girl was slier than a fox (cliche)—heaven be praised for that. If Mary wasn’t wearing the crystal anymore, she must have hidden it. Hopefully, she did a good job of it too.

    "I am not afraid. I am not afraid," she repeated to herself. (unless she is saying this out loud it should only be italicized. Quotes indicate it is being said.) Terror wrenched at her stomach (This is telling. What did her stomach feel like?), the fear of approaching pain almost impossible to swallow back. But she had to be brave, if not for herself than for Mary.


    I get a really good sense of scene with this excerpt. There is great description and set-up, but I think your concern was whether there was enough tension.

    I don't think there is because I don't get enough sense of foreboding from Josephine. It would help to have a more visceral sense of what his presence does to her. Does the smell of him make her sick? Does her blood pulse in her ears as he threatens her sister? Sight, sound, taste - these are all ways to bring us into the scene and make us feel her terror.

    One other thing, the dialogue is too long in places. Making the exchanges more clipped will help add to the tension.

    Overall, I think this scene is headed in the right direction, and with just a few tweaks, I think you can ramp up the tension much more.

    Best of Luck!

    Amy Trueblood

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