Thursday, June 18, 2009

Evangeline line edit

Evangeline:

Gregory Taggart felt rather like the witch uninvited to Sleeping Beauty’s christening as he and the pair of plainclothes police detectives accompanying him surveyed the ballroom of the DeWitt mansion. Clusters of dancers attired in no doubt expensive costumes wove in and out of the quadrille figures he had never forgotten. Elderly chaperones rested their feet in the gilt-edged chairs placed against the walls, though they kept a close watch on their charges through delicate lorgnettes. Gentlemen in tails and ties, forgoing the ostentatious of the occasion, wandered about the buffet tables.
At a discreet signal, he motioned for the police to follow him. He had spotted his quarry. His nose twitched under the cloying scent of human bodies and the gas-lit chandeliers hung with bunches of pink roses. Uncaring of whom he cut in on, he and his men moved swiftly across the dance floor. His appearance aroused no more than mildly curious looks, though he was astute enough to notice the gleam of interest in the eyes of the ladies as their eyes slid down, down, downward, across his legs attired in period correct tights. He looked no more out of place than the ass attired in gleaming gold armor who moved stiffly into the dance figures with the lovely woman in his arms.


This looks like the opening of a book (full name of protagonist), so again-- I'm not evaluating this as an opening, but just as a very long paragraph. If it is your opening, it's probably too long. Don't want the first paragraph to take up the whole first page. (Duh-- later... I should have realized there ARE two paragraphs-- it's all smushed together by blogger.)

Gregory Taggart felt rather like the witch uninvited to Sleeping Beauty’s christening as he and the pair of plainclothes police detectives accompanying him surveyed the ballroom of the DeWitt mansion.

How effete is he? I'm asking because I can't imagine even Frasier (well, maybe Niles) thinking of himself in terms of Sleeping Beauty (even as a witch). If he's not a super-effete guy, think of a little bit more macho an analogy. ("As unwelcome as a fart in church" is TOO macho, though I bet many men would think that way. :) Like the ex at a wedding? What's the sort of "unwelcome" simile men would use?

"Rather" is also a bit effete. Now there are plenty of elegant men out there, and probably only in the US are they considered "effete", or, as my mother would put it (don't ask me why), "Episcopalian." But if he is NOT elegant and/or effete (and especially if he's not Episcopalian (G)), watch your word choice. This is the first glimpse we get of him, and you know what they say about first impressions.
s he and the pair of plainclothes police detectives accompanying him

This is the sort of thing I tend to trim. As he and his pair of plainclothes detectives-- We don't need "police"-- yes, they could be private, but probably not, and that'll come clear soon enough. And anyway, "plainclothes" means "out of uniform," and private eyes don't wear uniforms at any point. The "accompanying him" is the sort of phrase I itch to reduce to an adjective because it draws attention from the important parts of the sentence. So I used "his" (well, pronoun), but if that's not enough, "his accompanying" will work too.

Also, "DeWitt ballroom" is a bit more concise. That's probably not important unless you're trying to trim words, but if you don't lose anything, trimming is good. What can be lost? Important information (it might be important that the ballroom is in a mansion and not a hotel, say) and rhythm. That's why it's a good idea always to try both ways and then READ ALOUD.

Clusters of dancers attired in no doubt expensive costumes wove in and out of the quadrille figures he had never forgotten.

Here we're getting more of a glimpse of him-- this is apparently a world he knows (he knows how to dance a quadrille). But the "no doubt expensive" sounds like... someone who think of things as expensive, that is, not a rich person. If he's rich, he'll think of their clothes as something other than expensive ("If you notice the cost, you can't afford it"). Again, notice the weak phrasing, more of a problem here because it's at the end of a sentence (the power position)--of the quadrille figures he had never forgotten. "He still remembered" would be stronger.


Elderly chaperones rested their feet in the gilt-edged chairs placed against the walls, though they kept a close watch on their charges through delicate lorgnettes. Gentlemen in tails and ties, forgoing the ostentatious of the occasion, wandered about the buffet tables.

I hate to say it, but these are the sorts of sentences I always skim. Ho-hum, description. Oddly static. Lots of words. And here actually is an opportunity to tell us something-- specifically, does he know any of these people? Since he speaks of the DeWitt mansion, and knowing the quadrille, we're sort of primed to wonder if these are HIS people. And if not, is this a familiar scene to him or not? You can describe the scene in this sort of remote way, or through his eyes-- what works better for your purposes? Has he any emotion connected to this experience?

Picky, picky....
forgoing the ostentatious of the occasion

Is there something missing there?
Elderly chaperones rested their feet in the gilt-edged chairs placed against the walls
I'm trying to visualize this? I'm assuming they are sitting on other chairs?
At a discreet signal, he motioned for the police to follow him.
Just another little cut-- don't need "him" there-- "to follow" suffices. Also "at a discreet signal" means that someone is signalling him. WITH a discreet signal means he's doing the signalling. If you mean the former, that's correct! I just wanted to point that out.

His appearance aroused no more than mildly curious looks, though he was astute enough to notice the gleam of interest in the eyes of the ladies as their eyes slid down, down, downward, across his legs attired in period correct tights.

Okay, here's a stranger (presumably) with bodyguards attached, and he's getting only mild interest? And "tights"? When is this taking place? When do men wear tights? Breeches, pantaloons, maybe? You can tell I spent way too long reading costume books. But that was how I evolved my "tight-pants" theory of historical romance, that the most popular periods are those (Regency, medieval, Wild West) when men's pants were the tightest. (Kilts? You ask about kilts? Well, NO pants works too. :)

Period-correct needs a hyphen-- compound adjective before the noun.
That indicates to me that he's a time traveller? That he's not from this time period? Am I guessing wrong? I tend to make all sorts of conclusions, swiftly discarded when new info comes along. :)

He had spotted his quarry.
Who, where? Maybe not who, but where is probably important to establishing credibility here-- "this is a real ballroom, with real people, and she's over there by the Christmas tree, see."
He had spotted his quarry. His nose twitched under the cloying scent of human bodies and the gas-lit chandeliers hung with bunches of pink roses. Uncaring of whom he cut in on, he and his men moved swiftly across the dance floor.
I think this middle section is out of order. He's spotted his quarry, so why is he smelling? That line goes first, back when you're describing the scene. Now he's got a goal, he's not going to think about smelling stuff. Too much in this paragraph! Go with TWO paragraphs. First, he enters and there's the ballroom description.
Then new paragraph, he spots his quarry. Think paragraph unity here-- what is the paragraph about? If it's about two things, no problem, just go with two paragraphs. (Not too short... but these will be just the right length. :)

"Cut in on" -- that usually means stealing a woman from her current dance partner? But he's not there yet to cut in. Don't send the wrong sequence signals.

He looked no more out of place than the ass attired in gleaming gold armor who moved stiffly into the dance figures with the lovely woman in his arms.

Is this a masquerade ball? I'm all confuzzled here. Plainclothes detectives sounds 20th C. Quadrille sounds 19th C. Armor? 13th C.? And can you really dance, stiffly or otherwise, in armor, or hold a lady in your arms? Obviously I'm not in the SCA or I'd know. Armor always looks so hot, and not in a good way.

Go with two paragraphs here-- you have a whole lot going on, and it could get confusing-- you can tell I got confused-- in one paragraph.

Alicia

5 comments:

Murphy said...

You say:
(the power position)--of the quadrille figures he had never forgotten. "He still remembered" would be stronger.

You are good.
Murphy.

Jaymi said...

Thanks for saying you would skim that big, long, wordy paragraph. I am a skimmer when it comes things that arent part of the meat of the story. It is good to know that even an editor would do it from time to time.

Edittorrent said...

We skim when we're reading submissions, but we edit when we've contracted the story. :) Can't skim then!
Alicia

rachel.capps said...

I love this sentence, "His nose twitched under the cloying scent of human bodies".

Perhaps instead of "cut in on" it could be "cut across"?

Babs said...

There is an issue with length here for me. I had a problem with the phrase: witch at Sleeping Beauty's christening. I like it but I wouldn't use it to describe a man's perspective. It may be relevant to the story?