Okay, so I have submission here from my friend Shampoo Hornseby. He was kind enough to do an edit with me, so we’ll be posting live.
Shampoo: What does my name have to do with anything?
Me: Well, it is interesting. I’d be more likely to pick up a book by a Shampoo Hornesby.
Shampoo: My mother gave me that name.
Me: So it’s not a pen-name.
Shampoo: Of course not!
Me: Okay. Well, let’s get to the edit. Shampoo says that he’s probably the world’s expert on trolls.
Shampoo: I am the world’s expert. That’s not a good way to start, dearie. You’re supposed to be sure of everything that you write – and I am an expert.
Me: Okay, then. Good point. So you’re the expert on trolls –
Shampoo: Yes, all kinds of trolls. I know the most about Bulgarian trolls,
Shampoo: It’s all in the book. My autobiography.
Me: Right. So let’s go through your first page. Here it is:
My plane was at 9:30 in the morning and I was late. But I sped through the windy roads to get to the airport and arrived five seconds before the flight left.
Me: That’s not a very strong hook, Shampoo.
Shampoo: But I was late!
Me: Yeah, but is it important that you were late to flight?
Shampoo: It was important to me at the time!
Me: Yeah, but is it important to the rest of the story if you were late? I mean, does it effect what happens later?
Shampoo: I was making a pickle and pumpernickel sandwich, I’ll have you know, and I have to get the mustard perfectly spread before I even think about leaving my cave every morning.
Me: You live in a cave?
Shampoo: Yes, with my mother. She was helping me with the sandwich.
Me: Okay, so how about you lead your story with this:
My mother insisted that the mustard on my pickle and pumpernickel sandwich be evenly spread before I left our cave. I arrived at the airport five minutes before my flight.
Shampoo: That’s all fine, but you’ve left out the windy roads bit.
Me: You don’t need it.
Shampoo: But ‘windy’ was a well-chosen adjective!
Me: Yeah, but who cares if the roads were windy? Do you need it in there? I could see it being important if they were so windy that you drove off the side of the road by accident. That would be exciting.
Shampoo: Don’t be silly, girl.
Me: What else do we have?
The stewardess who let me on my plane was tall with long blonde hair that ran down to her hips and she had beautiful green eyes. I sat down in my seat and it was very small.
Me: So, let me guess, you end up flirting with the stewardess and you two run off together?
Shampoo: Don’t be lurid!
Me: Then why did you go into such detail about her?
Me: Do we see her again in the story?
Shampoo: She gave me a lovely bag of peanuts.
Me: How are the peanuts lovely?
Shampoo: They were lovely.
Me: Oh, never mind. If you mention the peanuts, I’m cutting the sentence.
Shampoo: Well, I never…
Me: Let’s keep going. You don’t need to go into detail about the stewardess. And saying the seat was small is pretty much a given. Who hasn’t complained about airplane seats being small?
Shampoo: Well, it was small!
Me: Yeah, but you can show your writer-ly gifts here. Use some description that shows how inventive you are. Give me another description of the seats. What else did you think about other than ‘small’?
Shampoo: Well, I remember thinking that a Rajmussian Tiger Troll would have a hard time sitting in them with its large behind. The sores on its rear wouldn’t help it either.
Me: Now that’s funny, and it further proves your expertise in the troll field. Okay, what’s next?
The plane landed at the airport and I got off. I hailed a taxi and went to the place of my interview.
Me: I’m going to stop you here. Do you need to write about the plane ride at all?
Shampoo: Well, I did fly on the plane.
Me: Yeah, but this interview sounds more interesting to me. Why not start with the interview?
Shampoo: Yes, but I did fly on the plane.
Me: Well, let’s cut it for now and start the book at this interview. What’s next?
I was going to interview a troll name Melf in his cave. Melf was angry looking. He had long green hair and a body full of warts. He stood sixty feet above me. His toenails were red and very long. He spoke only in grunts, but I still understood every word he said. He smelled awful, but I spoke to him anyway. Being the last of his breed, I needed to interview him about his breed for my book, or else he might be dead soon.
Me: Okay, a lot to work with here. You don’t need to say you were going to interview a troll named Melf, since we’re about to see you interview a troll named Melf. You can cut that sentence.
Shampoo: You’re harsh.
Me: Angry looking is pretty vague, Shampoo. What if Melf throws a rock at you when you enter his cave? That would show me that he’s an angry troll.
Shampoo: He didn’t throw a rock at me, he threw his feces.
Me: Okay..that’s disgusting, but it’s a better way to show what Melf is like, rather than saying ‘angry’. Let’s see what else we have…you’ve written a lot of description. You can cut the bit about Melf’s grunts. When you ask him a question, he’ll answer with a grunt; this will show the reader how he speaks.
Shampoo: Ah ha.
Me: And notice how you use the word ‘breed’ twice in the same sentence. That should be avoided, even within the same page if you can manage it.
Shampoo: How can I manage that, dearie? This sounds complicated.
Me: Well, how about this:
Melf the troll (Me: Can you be more specific about what kind of troll he is? Shampoo: He’s an Atlantic Garden Troll, what of it?)
Melf the Atlantic Garden Troll hurled his feces at me.
“I’m here for your interview, Melf.” I stepped aside just in time.
I looked up sixty feet to see his global face.
Translated, he said: What do you want?
“I am sorry about your mother,” I grunted back. She left him the last remaining troll of his kind.
“Urgh, urgh.” He beat his fists against the ceiling of his cave. A slab of rock fell on his red toenails – his scream vibrated through my body. I smelled rotting tripe from his exposed armpits.
Shampoo: I see what you did there.
Me: See how you can lose obvious statements such as, “He spoke only in grunts, but I still understood every word he said.”? That’s already inferred when you’re able to translate his grunts.
Shampoo: And my description?
Me: Add it in slowly. See how I combined his red toenails with the slab of rock falling down? There, you’re showing his angry temperament and the color of his toenails. Instead of saying ‘he smelled awful’, be specific with ‘rotting tripe’.
Me: Well, I think that’s enough for now. Say goodbye, Shampoo.
Shampoo: Goodbye, all. I’ll need to mourn my lost sentences now. I’m going to steal your scissors, Inoperative Squirrel.