Hello, MB4 friends. Following is this month's writing critique. We had some great comments from all four of the MB4 hosts, but they're tough to integrate into one cohesive and easy-to-follow segment. You'll see Kim Smith's comments integrated, but under my name.
Thanks, Tim, for submitting your fascinating writing sample, and best of luck with your future work!
- Aaron Lazar
THE TWELVE DISCIPLES
copyright 2011, Tim Thurman
Christopher Hewitt closed the paper with a sinking feeling and a shake of his head[AL1] . As[AL2] Chief of Staff for the President of the United States, he simply could not stomach the fact that the President now trailed his Democratic opponent by double digits. Hewitt had dedicated his life to the Republican Party, devoted his career to electing the President. And now that they had finally made it to the grand prize, it was to be thrown away after only four years[RA3] . This was simply unacceptable.
He sighed deeply[ms4] , the sigh[AL5] of pure dread that is felt deep in one’s soul[AL6] . He[AL7] took a piece of paper out his desk drawer and stared at it. It contained a list of twelve names and telephone numbers. He was amazed that it had come to this[AL8] .[RA9]
He pressed the intercom for his secretary. “Stephanie, I need to step out of the office for about a half hour. You can reach me on my cell.” He quickly snapped off the intercom before she could object, knowing that several appointments[ms10] —with people who thought they were important—would have to be cancelled. Feeling some of his childhood Catholic guilt, he intercomed[AL11] her again, “Stephanie, sorry, but this is a minor emergency. I know that Senator Pauls was coming to talk to me about the defense bill. Call his office real quick and see if he wants to wait for me to get back, or if he can come later this afternoon[ms12] . Like I said, I’ll only be gone about a half hour[AL13] ..”
With that, he strode to the door. As he stepped through it[ms14] , Tony Pena, his Secret Service detail, joined him.
“Where are we off to, sir? Do I need to call someone?” Tony was really asking[AL15] if they were to be leaving the White House, because Secret Service protocol required a minimum of two Secret Service agents to travel with the Chief of Staff.
Hewitt paused and looked him[ms16] straight in the eye. “Well Tony, this is a real quick[AL17] errand that requires a bit of discretion. I would appreciate it if just you and I could go. Please don’t call it in.” Truth was Hewitt loathed the security detail because of its cumbersome nature and because he grew tired of someone always being with him[AL18] . This was especially true[AL19] now that he could not make the call from the White House.
Hewitt could see him or his aid [ms20] wrestling over whether to pacify his boss or follow his training[AL21] . Tony had been by Hewitt’s side every day for nearly two years. Hewitt rushed or any other word but strode again [ms22] on, knowing[AL23] Tony would comply.
“You are putting me in a difficult position, Mr. Hewitt. You know I am not supposed to let you off the grounds without another person with me[AL24] [AL25] [ms26] .”[RA27]
[AL2]Minor comment, but these days the new protocol is to use one space, not two, between sentences.
[RA3]Is it possible this may be phrased as a question for effect, as if he is questioning all he worked for?
[ms4]Eliminate “ly” adverbs as much as possible. Try to find another way to describe the action. This sentence could read: “His sigh reflected the dread that bore deep into his soul.”
[AL6]From Kim Smith: LEAVE OFF THE SIGH OF DREAD AND FOLLOWING. THIS FIRST CLAUSE TELLS US ALL WE NEED
[AL7]Since he’s staring at it, it’s clear he is being pensive, and I think you can eliminate this adverb. ;o)
[AL8]From Kim Smith: I WOULD FIND A BETTER WAY TO SAY HE IS AMAZED. THE SINKING FEELING, THE SHAKING OF THE HEAD, ALL INTIMATE HE IS DISMAYED BUT NOT AMAZED
[AL11]From Kim Smith: SAY CALLED- INTERCOMED SOUNDS WEIRD AND I AM NOT SURE OF THE SPELLING BUT SPELLCHECK IS DINGING IT
[ms12]Between these two sentences, you might consider the secretary saying something about the Senator’s tight schedule and let Hewitt interrupt her by saying … “Like I said …”
[ms14]Consider rewriting this to avoid the redundancy. If he strode through the door, we know he has stepped through it. He could stride through only to run into Pena (or something like that).
[ms16]A pronoun here would be appropriate because we now know Hewitt is talking with Tony and since he mentions him by name in the next sentence it stops the redundancy.
[AL23]Whenever you have a “that” in your prose, try taking it out and see if it reads just a little smoother. I learned this quite a few years ago, but still have to check for “that’s” in m own writing.
[AL24]Nice job, Tim. I would also consider adding contractions to make the dialog sound a little less stilted. Keep up the good work!
[ms26]Tim, this is an interesting beginning. Since Hewitt is the protag, consider ending the chapter with a punch in Hewitt's POV.