Jeri Smith-Ready dishes out twisted vampires, twisty rock’n’roll, and a twist on romance in her urban fantasy, WICKED GAME. You don’t have to be twisted to get hooked on the first of her DJ vampire trilogy billed as “Late night radio you can sink your teeth into.’
Jeri’s fanged her way through my editing courses, and it shows. Let’s analyze how she created on-the-page power.
EXAMPLE: He takes my hand and draws it to his lips, closing his eyes, he kisses the gap between the first knuckles of my middle and ring fingers. Something wakes and stirs inside me.
ANALYSIS: Jeri spotlighted the nonverbal, a guy kissing a girl’s hand, by zooming in on the exact between-knuckle-spot. That line carried its weight with SPECIFICITY.
She amplified the emotion by using the kiss as a STIMULUS and showing the VISCERAL RESPONSE. The response is vague, because the POV character cannot be specific. She feels something waking and stirring inside her. It works, because that lack of specificity, that feeling we can’t label, is credible. Authentic. Universal. We’ve all felt those internal emotional stirrings.
Hmm. In the same paragraph, I applauded Jeri for powering one sentence with SPECIFICITY, and powering another sentence by being VAGUE.
Consider what she could have written: He lifted my hand to his lips and kissed my fingers. I got a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Trite. Predictable Undeveloped image. No power.
Jeri’s original is fresh and well-crafted. It could stir feelings in the reader too.
EXAMPLE: Jolene’s sedative-fogged expression drifts from indignation to bewilderment.
ANALYSIS: ‘Drifts’ carries the sedative-fogged image. Simply telling the emotions the POV character infers (indignation, bewilderment), works well here.
EXAMPLE: Three paragraphs . . .
He continues to mumble, his grip on my neck, pulsing. I can feel the anger building in him with every step, every incoherent word. His movements get jerkier, his pace faster, as he hauls me with him until I have to run to keep my head attached to my body.
He stops suddenly and looks at me. No, not at me—inside me. His black gaze starts at my temple and slides down my neck to my heart, the way Regina’s fingernail traced Lori’s blood vessel. My veins seem to constrict under his cold glare, as if they know they’re under assault.
I am prey.
ANALYSIS: If you were reading the book, this excerpt may not have captured your attention. You’d just keep reading and reading and reading.
Dig deep. You’ll notice subtleties that add power. Cadence. Read the full passage out loud – then read each sentence out loud.
Jeri avoided a cliché. She wrote: . . . he hauls me with him until I have to run to keep my head attached to my body. NOT: . . . he hauls me with him until I have to run to keep up.
Writing it fresh provided the reader with a strong image. An image laced with violence. She increased the power by skipping the cliché and seeding the reader’s unconscious -- using words hinting at an intent-to-harm-or-kill.
NOTE: I backloaded the last two sentences with VIOLENCE and KILL. :-)))
In the second paragraph, Jeri zooms the camera again, adding details, sweeping his black gaze, sharing two creepy similes, writing a fresh visceral response (my veins seem to constrict, PINK, in my EDITS System), and backloading with ‘assault.’
The words, ‘me’ or ‘my’ are used eleven times in 102 words. Easy to calculate, that’s over 10% of the word count . Was it obvious? Did the read seem heavy on ‘me’ and ‘my?”
For me, it emphasized the POV character is vulnerable. In danger. My neck. My body. My neck (again). My heart. My veins. The POV character is terrified. But Jeri didn’t TELL the reader that feeling. She used her talent to show the fear.
Ah – CREATIVE PARAGRAPHING. The last paragraph is three words: I am prey.
BOOM! Read the three paragraph excerpt again.
Did you hear the BOOM after ‘prey?”
I am prey. (beat) BOOM!
The white space above and below I AM PREY empowers the message. Locks it in your mind.
Jeri Smith-Ready raises the vampire-writing stakes in WICKED GAME. It’s a bloody good rock’n’rollin read.