Highlight’s magazine has been around since I could remember. My seven-year-old self loved the day it arrived in our weather-beaten mailbox. The back cover was my expertise. The words—What’s wrong with this picture—in bold colors at the top of a chaotic picture pulled my interest. The challenge began. I would then search to spot a boy walking an elephant. Then I’d spy a small child holding a waffle cone with a baseball on top instead of a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Remember that? Ah, memories. Anyways, I thought I would do that for today’s blog post. Fix my Fiction.
The other day I was searching files on my laptop and stumbled on some old scenes from my early writing days. Because I have no pride, or sense :), I am going to show it to you. Prepare yourself; it is awful. But the game couldn’t commence if it wasn’t ridiculous, right? So friend, I ask you—What’s wrong with this writing? Can you spot it?
After the excerpt I will tell you the answers and then show a revised version.
Fix My Fiction
Kelley Springs, Illinois
October 23, 1848
“Will?” Mable Everett’s eyes were veiled in darkness.
“Right here.” Her husband, Dr. William Everett, gently took her hand. With his other arm around her back, he propelled her through the house. “Trust me, Mable, I got you.”
“I can’t believe I let you blindfold me!”
“I promise I won’t let you fall.”
“Or run into anything.” His wife felt the need to add. “I am entirely at your mercy, you know.”
“Precisely; I’m every man’s envy.” His emerald eyes were bright with amusement. He stood back and watched a faint blush appear on his wife’s pretty face. The desire to kiss his bride of only two months was strong, but now wasn’t the time. He did, however, allow his eyes to linger on her shapely frame cloaked in a lavender day dress. He prefers her in that color; it makes her complexion glow. The image of her honey-colored locks trapped under a dark blue handkerchief, brought his attention back to the purpose of this fun diversion.
“Are we in the parlor, yet?”
“Can you remove the blindfold, now?”
“I suppose.” He smiled as he untied the cloth that blocked his bride’s vision. “Well, what do you think?” He stepped aside and watched his wife open her eyes to see the newly wallpapered parlor.
“Oh, Will. It’s beautiful!” Her face radiated as she looked around with delight. The walls were decorated with a simple design of dark green leaves that was contrasted by a light green background. “It looks far better than I envisioned.” She turned and flashed a smile to her husband, “I like when that happens.”
“Me, too.” The tall gentleman pulled her to his side and kissed the top of her head.
Mable smiled as her mind checked off yet another project complete. Why she imagined that remodeling an old house would be a breeze, she’d never know. It was proving to be a lot of work and a little more costly than she was comfortable with. They were pinching pennies, but making it happen. She had a lot of help from her neighbors across the street, which coincidently happened to be Will’s parents, Peter and Ruth Everett.
Boy-oh-boy, that was a dandy wasn’t it? Did you catch the errors? Here are the answers, but not in any particular order.
- Point of View. The scene starts with Will’s point of view and ends with Mable’s. This is a fiction No No. It’s called head-jumping. It confuses the reader, and that’s a bad thing.
- Lot’s of information dumping. Does the reader need to know who lives across the street? Or that the renovations were costly? Only put in what’s necessary.
- No tie ins. Yes, the date above said October, 1848, but the excerpt itself gave no relevance to the era. Or the season. This scene could have taken place in Pittsburgh, PA in the summer of 1983 and none would be wiser.
- It was just plain boooooring! No emotion. No reader draw-in. The dialogue was average at best.
Now here’s a revision.
Kelley Springs, Illinois
October 23, 1848
“Will, don’t leave me.” Mable pressed a finger to the cloth that blinded her vision.
“No cheating.” His laughter floated in her ear. Calloused fingers wrapped around her right elbow. “Trust me.” Mable forced a smile, but inwardly she cringed. If only he knew.
The steady breeze carried autumn on its airy wings, teasing her senses with the fragrance of leaves and…well…ether. There was no ridding that potent smell from her. It was a permanent fixture in a doctor’s home.
A large hand swallowed the span of her lower back. “Walk, darling, I have you.”
“Promise you won’t let me fall.” She couldn’t take a spill. Lord, help me. “I shouldn’t have allowed this.”
“Relax. It’ll be over in a minute.” His gentle timbre only stung her soul with guilt. He may have blindfolded her, but she was the one who left him in the dark. “Take a step. There you go. One more.”
“I am entirely at your mercy, you know.”
“Precisely. I’m every man’s envy.” He squeezed her waist, an affectionate gesture she didn’t deserve. He guided her several more steps, the floorboards squeaking beneath her boots.
Tell him, Mable. “Are we in the parlor, yet?” Coward.
“Can I remove the blindfold, now?”
Without hesitation, she pulled it from her face. She collapsed her shoulders and released the breath that stilled in her chest.
“What do you think, dear Mrs. Everett?” He stepped aside and made a grand gesture toward the massive new addition to the room.
“Its…It’s beautiful.” The grandfather clock she saw at Tuesday’s auction. Its dark mahogany complemented the gold tones of the pendulum. It ticked a steady beat; a vast contrast to the violent pounding of her heart.
“I know what you’re thinking.”
“You think it’s too extravagant. That we can’t afford it.” He rocked on his heels and smiled, showcasing the handsome dimples that could lure a female three counties away. “With having a few patients a week and the extra you’d be putting in over at Sarah’s, we’d recover nicely. Not a worry.”
His eyes flickered. “I thought we agreed to this. That you’d help Sarah serve tables until we had children. Look, darling,” He reached for her hand but Mable tucked it behind her back. “I know working at the hotel isn’t the prestige you’re accustomed to, but we have no choice. My practice will pick up. I promise. Then we can start a family.”
“It’s already started.” She rested a hand on her abdomen.
His chiseled jaw went slack. Her heart sank into her gut. Would she ever stop being a disappointment?
“Sarah told me I couldn’t work there if I was with child. Your mother agreed.”
He raked a hand through his wavy hair and regarded her with a look she’d never seen before. “So, I’m the last to know?”
Okay, so hopefully I spruced it up a little, tying in the setting to the story and giving the reader something of interest. This is what I have been doing in my current work in progress. Well, trying to accomplish anyway. So on to the drawing. I combined both my facebook and blog comments and used the scientific approach of pulling a name out of a hat. Congratulations, Amanda! You’re the winner! I will contact you to get your email address.
Thanks for reading, friend 🙂