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that was a level of embarrassment she wasnt prepared to deal with today. [this made me wonder why]

Time:2019-01-28 18:26Shoes websites Click:

scene This Real University Life

Critique By Maria D'Marco

Real Life Diagnostics is a weekly column that studies a snippet of a work in progress for specific issues. Readers are encouraged to send in work with questions, and we diagnose it on the site. It’s part critique, part example, and designed to help the submitter as well as anyone else having a similar problem.

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Submissions currently in the queue: Three


Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through February 16.

This week’s questions:

1. Is it showing vs telling?

2. Can you feel any tension or conflict? 


Market/Genre: Romantic Comedy

On to the diagnosis…

Original text:

How should she answer? Saying yes wasn’t an option, that was a level of embarrassment she wasn’t prepared to deal with today. Yet, how else could she believably explain the pile of intimate items at his feet? “Um, well, they belong to a friend.”

He looked up and pinned her with a hard stare. “A friend?”

Crap, he didn’t believe her. “Sure, yeah, she’s out of the country for the year. I’m just holding them for her.”

“Really? What else are you keeping for her?” His muscular arms crossed over his chest as he leaned all his body weight onto his right foot. If he was looking to intimidate her, it was working, even from where he stood three steps below.

“What?”

“Well, if your friend is gone for a whole year, I doubt the only thing she needed stored was a box of sex toys.”

“Right. Um…” Three billion men in the world that thrived on ignoring the women around them, and she had to go and reveal her most embarrassing secret to one who actually paid attention. Where were her friends? She was going to kill them for leaving her alone like this.

“You know, at first impression you don’t look like a woman that makes a habit out of lying.” He looked her over from head to toe and a shiver ran through her at the intimacy of it.

“There’s a look?”

“Of course there is, and you don’t have it, despite lying to me three times already." His voice dipped deeper, and the air around them charged with energy. Did she imagine it, or did he feel it too?

My Thoughts in Purple:

[Your lead-in advises the male character asks a question before this next line. It does make a difference what that question might be…]

How should she answer? Saying yes wasn’t an option, that was a level of embarrassment she wasn’t prepared to deal with today. [this made me wonder why] Yet, how else could she believably explain the pile of intimate items at his feet? [lots of ‘talk’ here, which takes time, while she’s doing…what? Good spot to show what her physical reaction is – what he sees her do.]

“Um, well, they [this seems odd – why not: it all belongs…] belong to a friend.”

He looked up and pinned her with a hard stare. [nice, instantly saw her freeze in place] “A friend?”

Crap, he didn’t believe her. [this sounds like internal thought, but… “Sure, yeah, she’s out of the country for the year. I’m just holding them [again, this seems odd – perhaps: some stuff] for her.”

“Really? What else are you keeping [op here for a slight tease with “holding”] for her?” His muscular arms crossed over his chest [he crossed his muscular arms*] as he leaned all his body weight onto his right foot. [no need for ‘all’ or ‘body’ here] If he was looking to intimidate her, it was working, even from where he stood three steps below. [Would like some info on the setting here, at least where these steps are located]

“What?”

“Well, if your friend is gone for a whole year, I doubt a box of sex toys is the only thing she needed stored was a box of sex toys.”

“Right. Um…” Three billion men in the world that thrived on ignoring the women around them, and she had to go and reveal her most embarrassing secret to one who actually paid attention. [I get the intent here, but it isn’t working – plus all 3 billion ignoring men would notice a box of sex toys spilled at their feet, so the point is a bit skewed**] Where were her friends? She was going to kill them for leaving her alone like this. [if she doesn’t know where her friends are, how does she know they’ve left her alone?]

“You know, at first impression [this weakens this line and the dialogue connection] you don’t look [could emphasize (italics) to underscore her dialogue] like a woman that makes a habit out of lying.” He looked her over from head to toe and a shiver ran through her at the intimacy of it. [what made it seem intimate? I wondered if she was repulsed or attracted.]

“There’s a look?”

“Of course there is, and you don’t have it, despite lying to me three times already." His voice dipped deeper, and the air around them charged with energy.*** [better to show a reaction here to what she feels (like goosebumps)] Did she imagine it, or did he feel it too? [she could wonder if he noticed her reaction]

*To use ‘arms crossing over’, add ‘With’ at the beginning. Otherwise, we move our bodies and appendages.

**Removing this interruption creates a snappier pace and pushes the questions forward, which adds tension.

***You can have the character ‘feel’ like the air is charged with energy and wonder if it feels that way to him. Right now, it reads as though the air has made the decision to become charged, not that either character or their possible interaction has created the charge.


The questions:

1. Is it showing vs telling?


Mostly…but there are also many opportunities to show emotions and reactions that could be taken advantage of, which would enrich the scene and inform the reader about this encounter.

With gestures, expressions, and body language, we could see how both characters felt, as well as learn more about their personalities, how well they knew each other, and if this was the first time the two characters had met. It is inferred that she was aware of him, and didn’t want to be left alone with him. But why?

(Here's more on using subtext to convey emotions)

Beyond the steps, the scene is floating in white space. No descriptions are available to help us with the weather, the type of structure, the location of the steps, the time of day. Additionally, neither character’s name is used throughout the scene, forcing it further into an abstract situation.

You can ground the scene by showing that the box is dropped because her flip-flop flew off her foot. The box can sail down the steps and land at his feet and burst open. The idea of a ‘private box’ and ‘intimate items’ made me think immediately of lingerie, not sex toys – which is fine, as I was then humorously surprised at the reveal.

The dilemma, as I saw it,wasn’t only what should she say at the moment, but how she was going to get the toys back in the box. Does she shoo him away? Does he wryly or with extreme gallantry offer to, or actually put them in the box? How titillating do you want the scene to be?

At each exchange, you can reveal a small thing about each character – what they’re wearing, their physical state (sweaty, dirty from moving, how their hair looks), their movements and expressions. Body language can be incorporated to emphasize dialogue and show what the characters are feeling or thinking without words. And by the end of the scene, the reader has had a fulfilling experience and is left with a solid idea of what was shared by the characters, and what the scene means to the story.

(Here's more on painting a story world versus dramatizing it)

2. Can you feel any tension or conflict?

This scene felt awkward, mostly. Any tension or conflict seems to be only at a flirtatious level. Even the potential for sexual tension is not strongly presented, making it tough to accept that either character has been harboring (and/or holding back) any smoldering intentions toward the other.

The circumstances produce embarrassment, the decision to lie to avoid that embarrassment, and a man whose mildly confrontational stance/attitude seems to be flirtatious, not aggressive. He is challenging her and she doesn’t seem flustered by that. Though, I wasn’t sure if she was attracted to him or simply enduring the intensity of the moment.

(Here's more on adding conflict through subtext)

There isn’t enough information in the scene to determine if this is a confrontation that was ‘doomed’ to happen eventually, or if it just occurred, without any anticipation or threat attached. I did wonder if she had been avoiding him, but that’s only speculation.

I’ll mention as an aside here that the question Michael asks can add a lot to the scene. Most, many guys who had a box full of sex toys fall at their feet and open, spilling toys everywhere, would jump back from the box and the contents. Some guys might laugh. Some might say, Oops! or Whoa! or Look out! as a reaction to the event. The body language would probably go open to closed. Arms out to try to catch the box. Arms closed when the contents are exposed.Then, slightly defiant stance, open to the humor in the situation.

(Here's more on using body language to convey feelings) 

Also, we don’t know if Michael was carrying something when this happened, which could also make a difference in how the scene plays out.

Thanks to our brave volunteer for submitting this for me to play with. I hope they–and others–find it helpful. I don’t do a full critique on these, (just as it pertains to the questions) and I encourage you to comment and make suggestions of your own. Just remember that these pieces are works in progress (many by new writers), not polished drafts, so be nice and offer constructive feedback.

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