by Camryn Rhys
Alexandra popped a steaming potsticker into her mouth and bit down. The crisp bottom skin gave way and thick, salty pork stuffing spilled (“thick, salty pork stuffing spilled” is a whole lotta modifiers and alliteration) salty pork spilled onto her tongue. She waited for the spicy heat of the sriracha to start burning up the back of her throat, but it didn’t come. Chewing, chewing, chewing, and no heat. Without a thought, she plucked the skillet from the heat and dumped the rest of the plump, white puffs into the trash. with a sliding sizzle (More alliteration brought to you by the letter S, which is too much for the same paragraph)
She snapped (snapped is bitchy) turned around, coming face to face with the new prep cook, Marcus, who waited on her response. His brown eyes round (I believe most eyes are round instead of square ), he stared back in unblinking silence. Lexi (Hold up: is this a new character, or the same one? Let’s pick a first name for the heroine and stick with it) slammed the skillet onto a cold burner and sucked in what she hoped was a menacing breath.
“How much hot sauce did you use? Precisely.”
Marcus stammered,. He picked up the wrinkled, hand-scribbled (Do people scribble with toes or put notecards in their laser printer?) notecard, and skimmed it. (Three commas in that little sentence is maybe three commas too many. Two short sentence with no commas is better.) “I followed the recipe.”
“You eyeballed it.” She drew closer to him, suddenly aware of how much she towered over his willowy frame. (Wait, is this a little kid, a student? I did not sign up to read LOLITA meets HELL’S KITCHEN) A quick twinge (Of what, chest pain?) almost made her back off, but Fiona’s words rang in her ears: hHow can you teach these kids if you don’t come down on them? How like Fiona (Who is Fiona?) to encourage beating someone into submission. Channel your inner Domme, honey. Easier said than done.
Notes from the Red Pen of Doom
There’s a deep connection between food and sensuality, so even a giant Swede like me can understand where Camryn is going with the whole foodie-romance thing. While Camryn the Rhys is a great writer and a good friend, I will resist the urge to go easy on her. She’s the female version of Batman — she can take it.
It’s well done. Nice mix of action, description and dialogue. Emotions also come through clearly.
Camryn can clearly write.
I like the idea of food and romance. Great. And the setup of this heroine — Alexandra or Lexi, whichever name you want to go with — is fine for a romance.
Little things threw me off, especially the kid thing. Do I want to picture a towering teacher being all mean to a scared little student? No. Lexi doesn’t seem sympathetic.
We need to see her save the cat, as Blake Snyder says, before we see her be this snappy and unpleasant.
But forget the little things. Let’s think about the big things for a bit.
Page one is the beginning. How is this character going to change on the page that says THE END?
My wild guess is that she’ll still be tough, if not dominant. That she won’t change that core part of her personality.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe she flips, and becomes kind in the kitchen and elsewhere after realizing that she put thousands of high school students and ex-lovers in therapy. Maybe she becomes a nun in Tibet after reading a biography of Mother Theresa.
I do know this: whatever genre the story may be, the best stories make characters take long, interesting journeys. Not as tourists snapping photos. As people.
For any romance, the ending is up, right? Two lovers get together.
So for a big journey, the hero or heroine should be alone and unloved on page 1.
And if we’re doing a foodie-romance, the end has the hero or heroine eating delicious food with a yummy love affair cooking on the front burner. Let’s think of the biggest possible journey: if the end is her being in control, in love and in touch with all her senses, then Page 1 should start with her being alone, afraid and out of touch with her senses.
So: I’d like to see this Lexi change and learn and grow. Is this a flat character that goes on a series of romps, or is there a real journey? Page one is where that journey starts.
What if the person on Page 1 lost their sense of smell and taste in an accident, and had to rediscover cooking and kissing and all of that? Hmm. That would be a big journey, wouldn’t it?
The Verdict: Good writer, good writing. I worry about the head fake toward LOLITA meets HELL’S KITCHEN, and I want to see Alexandra/Lexi/Fiona or whoever actually change and grow from Page 1 to THE END.
15 thoughts on “The Red Pen of Doom whips SWITCH by Camryn Rhys”
Also, I’m going to take my dirty old lady chef Domme and the not-hero, square-eyed, kid of a prep cook Marcus and go home if more effing people don’t come by here and flog me. I’m going over to Twitter and beg for a spanking… brb.
::putting dukes up:: Bring it on, RPoD…
HOW IN THE HELL DID I MISS THE LITERARY KNIFE FIGHT??
And also… hey now, take it easy on my dirty old woman of a Domme chef… and seriously, I am stealing the “Lolita meets Hell’s Kitchen” thing. Because that is AEWRESOME, and I can’t effing spell, because I’m drunk.
But I’m also, literally, in Hell’s Kitchen right now. And it is not as hot as I expected it to be.
Also, the red pen of doom was fu-un. I think I may need to go again…
You should go again.
I’d bring out the Red Pen of Doom on your stuff. YOU ARE NOT WIMPY.
Indeed I am not. Plus, we’ve already established how much I enjoy public flogging…
The RPoD did good work here. You fined it down and put the emphasis where it needed to be. I’ll say that I don’t need as drastic an arc as your suggesting here for character, especially in a romance where you have the built in arc of the relationship. I think in romance the character can have a smaller growth arc if there are really big relationship or external issues.
To wit, how much character growth is going on in thrillers? You’ll get some, the character learns something, grows in some way, but it’s relatively small compared to the huge plot hurdles to be overcome.
I think it also depends on how long the piece is. The shorter the piece, the less complicated the arc should be. If you try to do big character, plot and relationship arc in, say 40k, it’s going to be too much. There’s no way you can get all that in there and do a good job with any of it. It’s one of the reasons the friends-to-lovers trope works so well in short romance fiction – you’re starting partially down the relationship curve, so you can have more play with plot and character.
Yeah, I could see a smaller arc in LOLITA meets HELL’S KITCHEN. She could move from dominating junior high kids to snapping at hot high school freshmen. (I am kidding here, and picking a fight with Camrym, who likes literary knife fights anyway.)
Thrillers — You are entirely right. Which is why I wrote that post making fun of thrillers, which are my favorite. The characters start out flatter than cardboard, then get smooshed even flatter by giant bulldozers. It is typically boring and predictable, no matter how many explosions and car chases you throw in there.