We’ve been trying to incorporate the suggestions made for our work in the workshop. For me, the task has been to show more tension. Make the reader feel like something important is about to happen. Mainly, I needed to give Gen a little more spunk early on. On top of that, Donald Maass highly recommends getting rid of kitchen scenes and bath scenes as they slow down the tension.
Ah, guess what I have in my opening chapter? Not one, but both of the no-noes.
So, I had to try and incorporate the missing items and up the stakes enough to keep the settings. In this scene, her mother is fixing breakfast and has just mentioned she’s fixing oatmeal because it is good for them and settles the stomach.
Gentyl flopped against the wall and fiddled with an herb bouquet, idly picking at the dried flowers as she watched her mother hover over the cooking fire. She didn’t mention they had oatmeal every morning. “Why would our stomachs need settling?”
Her mother smiled when she walked by with the warmed bread. “We’re going into town today.”
“Going into town doesn’t usually upset our stomachs. Why would it today?”
“We have important business,” her mother said as if that explained everything.
She looked across the room at her father, who had that helpless and resigned look on his face he always got when her mother had set her mind on something. “We’re farmers. What kind of important business could we have?”
“Just business,” her mother said with a finality that meant this conversation was ended.
Gentyl walked around their small cottage, touching things, smelling various herbs, gazing at her mother’s small harp. She pulled her lute off the wall and sat down in the corner. Her fingers plucked out an old M’eiryn marching song, without thought.
“There were lines of marching men
Brave and true, and handsome then
As they carried banners bright
So few of them lived through the night
“Died there on the bloody–“
“Do you have to sing that horrible thing, Gentyl?”
The last chord vibrated under her hand. “What would you like me to sing, Mother? A fair love ballad?”
“Something besides that gruesome song.”
She strummed idly, trying to think of an appropriate song.
“Molly dearest, love of mine, just say yes
Kiss me quick and lift your dress–“
Her father choked on the bread he had pilfered from the platter.
“Gentyl Diarmand! Where did you hear that?”
She raised an eyebrow at her mother, who was now an unusual shade of red. This, apparently, wasn’t the love song she had in mind. “I heard some men singing.”
Her mother whirled around to face the table where her father sat. “The only men who have been singing around here were Aegis’ men last month. See what these soldiers are teaching your daughter?”
The bench scraped against the plank floor as he stood up. He thumped her on the head, when he stopped in front of her and leaned down to her level. “Do you have to antagonize your mother?” he whispered.
“She started it.”