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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Three-Hundred Thursday #4

Another FANTASTIC volunteer up on the chopping block (pun intended ... but you won't get it until the last few lines of the narrative ... sorry.)

Red is sort of intimidating, isn't it? So today, just changes are in red and my comments are in blue. SO much friendlier. Right? :D

The square was crowded, throngs of people Throngs of people crowded the square, (Right off this is a telling sentence instead of a describing, action oriented sentence) pushing closer to the platform, straining to get a glimpse of this (I'm a stickler for tense. This isn't wrong by any means, but it throws me a little, pulling me out of the story) week's goods. The surrounding buildings had been meticulously restored to look like authentic 19th century architecture – red brick, long, segmented windows with plantation shutters, old porch steps, (I have to tell you, the serial comma is actually a style choice. I always suggest using it because the only place it isn't common to use it is in newspapers and magazines, where they're trying to save space. Whatever you choose, to use the serial comma or not, just be consistent throughout the manuscript) and wrought iron leading up to doorways. (One of the things we've talked about in previous Three Hundred Thursday posts is grounding your reader in a scene. I'm confused at this opening. "This week's goods" makes me want to think old-timey market, but "authentic 19th century" makes me think modern. Confusing.)
Regardless of the modern wares inside, the storefronts had bore (I have a dislike for the word "had." It's a telling word to me, and I try to substitute more descriptive words in its place when I can) old-fashioned names like General Store, Wiggins Apothecary, and The Nod and Wink Tavern. Gas lamps dotted the square, flickering with faux electric flames (I'm not sure how to take this. Are the electric flames faux (or fake) -- and if they are, how does one fake electric flames? I think probably what is meant is that the flames are imitation gas flames but are actually electric?). Parked on the street side of the square were horse and buggy carriages Horse and buggy carriages parked on the street side of the square (Always avoid passive wording whenever possible, so long as it doesn't change the tone or meaning of the sentence.), drivers dressed in hat and tails vying to get the attention of the spectators. Again, two paragraphs in, now I know we're in a modern time period, but still not grounded in the setting. Be wary.
They (Confusing pronoun use. Does this "they" refer to the spectators (last plural noun mentioned) or the drivers?) could have saved their efforts. The people were much more interested in what was going on in front of them. Many in the crowd had dressed up in costume, what they thought were period pieces. (In the first sentence, the reader is told that the crowd is more interested in something  --possibly important? -- going on in front of them, but instead of being told, the narration moves into a description about what the crowd is wearing.) Men wore blue jeans, white t-shirts, and suspenders, women wore long skirts. They looked more like the hillbillies still shacked up in the Appalachians or hippy chicks from the last century (Though technically correct having hippies referred to in the "last century" really threw me. It made me think "futuristic setting?"). A teenager had wore a leather vest, a cowboy hat, and a sheriff's badge. One older gentleman got it (Got what right? Be specific.) right, with a full outfit of tailcoat, trousers, collar and derby hat.
The producers loved it. (This is the first concrete information the reader gets about what is going on, but still throws me into confusion. If this is a movie, why are there modern goods in the store? Why are the people not dressed correctly?) They felt it enhanced the ambiance. They had practically cackled with glee when they realized the auction block they'd found was a surviving relic from the early American slave trade. Originally, the block had been ("Telling" phrase. Is there a more descriptive way to say this?) on a street corner. It had taken a lot of expense (Sort of an awkward way to phrase this.) to create the town square around it, but the effect had been worth it. Happy clients meant a big return on investment.

The scene is so easy to picture -- an old-timey street crowded with people, some dressed right, some dressed wrong, all clamoring for ... something.

It feels too vague. A lot of clues are thrown out, but there's no real grounding in what's going on. What are the people looking at? Why are they all gathered? What is this place? Etc.

Keep the fabulous descriptions, but give the reader more of an idea of what's going on so they don't become frustrated and put the book down without giving it a chance.

Help out and comment below. Please remember to keep your comments respectful and consider the author and his/her willingness to participate. (Way to got, Victim #4!)
Are you interested? Use the Contact Me page to send your first three-hundred words or your query letter for critique. Be brave!

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About Me!

I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.


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