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Re: Write – Francesca’s Excerpt

What follows is a short excerpt from a story. The author, “Francesca,” generously donated her work to be edited before a live audience (you). At my request, she made no edits to it. She simply typed the words that came into her head and let them be once they were down. I then edited her work in the same manner that I would edit any other book.

The way Francesca opens this scene invites us in to a mystery. Who is this strange boy? Who is the dark man, friend or foe? What’s so special about this house? However, the suspense fizzles a little because of a few awkward phrases. Polishing the phrasing allows it to be more transparent. The last thing we want is for the reader to notice the writing. If he’s reading the writing, he’s not reading the story.


You’ve done an excellent job on this first draft. You’ve left me wanting to know more, which is exactly what an introduction needs to do. You can use the rewriting process to change your phrasing and make the scene even more impactful. I’ve left notes in the text about the first line, which seems to detract from the tone of the scene, and about some other odd descriptions. Fixing these will go a long way toward invigorating the suspense.

Struck-through text is a recommended deletion. Italicized text is marked for rephrasing. My direct additions to the text are in blue font, and my notes are in [bold with brackets].

Though the well-dressed anchorman on the television had predicted that it would be a dark and stormy night, there had only been a few clouds spilled lazily across the canvas of the autumn sky. [The intentional reference to the quintessential introduction is flippant. If you were writing a flippant story, I would be okay with leaving it. But because you’re trying to evoke suspense, I recommend it be removed.] The boy called Abra crouched in the low boughs of a tree, watching the quiet nighttime street in front of him. He would have preferred to a storm. It would have provided better cover.

His Abra’s hands were pressed flat against the branch’s rough bark. Abra He flexed the muscles of his fingers. A breath of wind caressed Abra’s his face and ruffled his dark, shaggy hair. Abra He wondered if this wind had a name; he could remember a time when the winds had names, and voices, and songs. The boy sighed.

The dark man would be here soon.

Abra pulled his bronzy gaze [His eyes are bronzy, not his gaze.] from the street and glanced at the townhouse closest to his tree. It was the type of building that real estate agents would call cozy. There were several windows to make up for the lack of space. The two big windows in front had flower boxes beneath them and were filled with blooming marigolds. Abra liked this house. He liked the family that lived there, a young single mother and her little girl. Abra He had wanted very much to leave his tree and play with the child, a feeling he hadn’t experienced in many, many years.

The air shifted, and Abra’s body tensed. He whipped his head around and stared into the street. There was something, maybe… His eyes seemed to slip over whatever had appeared there. [This is odd. Hard for me to get the right sense of. Try describing the shadowy something rather than his eyes.] He squinted against the darkness. Finally his vision caught up with the rest of his senses, and Abra saw the dark man standing just a few feet from the little townhouse. The man was looking directly at Abra.

The boy was so surprised that he nearly fell from his branch. People never saw him, not unless he wanted them to, and Abra hadn’t wanted that in a very long time.

The dark man turned from the townhouse and took a step toward the tree. “Who are you?”

Abra sucked in air through his teeth. The man was not normal; perhaps he was something like Abra himself, something else, something special. Something had drawn Abra to this place, to this tree, watching the dark man appear each night and disappear hours later.

“Who are you, boy?” the man said again. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m not a boy,” Abra scoffed. [Scoffed isn’t a good dialog tag. You can put it before the quote as an action tag, as in, Abra scoffed. “I’m not a boy. I’m a tree.”]“I’m a tree. Can’t you tell?” He slid backward, gripping the branch, and was hanging hung above the concrete of the sidewalk. “Or I’m a squirrel that transforms in the moonlight. Or I’m like you, a dark thing that watches little girls sleep.” Abra dropped to the ground. He crossed his small arms across his chest. “Are you some kind of pervert?”

The man watched Abra coldly. Then he smirked, which was by far more intimidating. “So you’re some magic creature or another. A tiny sorcerer? A werewolf pup? A bastard kid of Oberon’s?”

“I’m Abra,” said the boy. “And you’re an angel.”

One Response to “Re: Write – Francesca’s Excerpt”

  1. Jill says:

    Write this story, “Francesca!” It’s fantastic! I, too, want to know more.