Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mystery Robin edits

This is for a YA suspense. These four lines come after Oliver, the POV character hears the song Lili Marlene sung to the girl he’s with.

I felt overwhelmed -- emotionally, experientially. I didn’t know what to do next, so I just looked at her face. It was the perfect song for her, I realized. She did have a sweet, haunting sort of face -- a face for shadows, for standing under lamp posts and casting spells with her eyes, spells that could follow a man across an ocean, or across a dream.


I felt overwhelmed -- emotionally, experientially.
I know what "experiential" means, but don't know what it means here. I like the alliteration, though, and that might be enough. I'm easy to seduce. :) However, consider whether your diction is right for YA. I don't think we should ever condescend to younger readers-- CS Lewis didn't, and neither did JK Rowling-- but just make sure that you're not selling out clarity for euphony. I of course have no problem with that-- I can't imagine a better bargain-- but just keep that in mind. :)
I didn’t know what to do next, so I just looked at her face.
Okay. I kind of think you're wasting an opportunity here to say something, but it's an okay placekeeper. I'd like to challenge you to make that more meaningful or more beautiful, but it's a bit nothingish.

It was the perfect song for her, I realized.
What is "it"? I'd rather have even "This" as it implies more urgency.
Also, I'm far out of the YA market, and I barely remember the song Lili Marlene, since it hasn't been all that big since, oh, WWI. So, again, consider your audience and how much you need to explain to them. I wouldn't know what this means in relation to the song or her, for that matter.
She did have a sweet, haunting sort of face -- a face for shadows, for standing under lamp posts and casting spells with her eyes, spells that could follow a man across an ocean, or across a dream.
Can you connect this with the song? Maybe "a Lili Marlene sort of face"? I also keep hearing:
"She had a sweet"-- "did have" makes it sound like he's contradicting something someone else has said. "Yes, listen. She did have...."
The word "sweet" doesn't really connect with the face for shadows, etc.
a face for shadows, for standing under lamp

And very nice, but faces don't stand. They shine or glow or hide, maybe, but they don't stand.

spells that could follow a man across an ocean, or across a dream.

I like it-- but would a "man" be in a YA novel?

So mostly my question would be-- are you writing for your audience? Now if I were a YA editor, I'd know if the voice was right. I do like the voice. So let's just say, assuming the YA angle is right, I would just challenge you to hone this. It's good, but it could be better.
I didn’t know what to do next, so I just looked at her face.
I just have to say, you can make this beautiful. I hear an echo of one of my fave poems, from After the Storm by Derek Wolcott:
I try to forget what happiness was,
and when that don't work, I study the stars.

7 comments:

Leona said...

I agree that the sweet takes away from the deeper emotional appeal of the 'lady of shadows'. Sweet, to me, has less depth of character then the rest of the passage implies.

PS Thanks for the flashback in time. I'm celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary on the 3oth of this month.

The moment that I fell deeply, unequivocably in love with my husband came when I stood under a lampost, in the rain, and he stood not far away in his black duster.

Hmmmm ... may have found the love story I've been looking for with my new WIP, right in my own backyard, so to speak

Glynis said...

Sweet is not a word I would have used here, I agree with Leona.
I also think 'man' should be replaced with boy, it adds to the innocence of what he is seeing and feeling. The arousal of emotions from a 'haunting' song and a shadowed, angelic face.

Murphy said...

Hi Mystery Robin!

I'm with Alicia on this one. All the parts are there but they may need to be rearranged a little. Also, I think that with some of the phrasing you whet the reader's appetite for more. And when Alicia says: 'wasting an opportunity to say something', I really get that because you have brought the reader to the point of expecting 'the more' with the use of the word ‘overwhelmed’, but you counter that in the next sentence with: ‘I just looked’. If you were overwhelmed I don’t think you would ‘just’ do something - if you DID do something in that state of being, you'd be doing it with a purpose, right? I do like changing the ‘It’ to the more specific ‘This’. And how about sweetly haunting face? (because I’m not a big fan of the phrase ‘sort of’ face):-)

My take:

I didn’t know what to do next, so I took a moment to examine (study?) her features, and realized that this was the perfect song for her. She had a sweetly haunting face, one meant for flickering shadows illuminated by the glow of ...

Well, you can do much better but you get the idea, right? This way I think it gives you a connection - a progression from his thoughts about the song to his thoughts about her face (which I love by the way - and that’s why I wanted to comment on this one!:D) Good luck with this. And like Alicia, I think this is good, but with a little polish it has the potential to be great!
Murphy

Jami G. said...

Hi Mystery Robin,

I think Murphy has some great ideas to add to Alicia's comments. My one suggestion would be to make the "I didn't know what to do next" clause more powerful or clear. In other words, I wasn't sure what you were trying to get across with that clause. The character just talked about feeling overwhelmed in the previous sentence, so maybe something playing into that even more: "My brain couldn't come up with an appropriate reaction, so I..."

Hope this helps!
Jami G.

Edittorrent said...

Jami, that "I didn't know" does come off like placekeeping, marking time, instead of real information about how he feels or what he does. Good catch.
Alicia

Mystery Robin said...

Thank you so much for all of the comments and the editing, Alicia. I'm both inspired and sucking a little air realizing how much detail work it will take to get to the next level. But, that's what it's all about, right? ;)

Also, I've gone back and forth on whether or not this is YA. I've heard both that the voice is right on, and that it's written for an older audience, so I'm trying to just tell the story, then figure out where to put it when I'm done.

Again, thank you all so much!

Edittorrent said...

MR, probably the subject matter is most important, and the age of the characters.
A