Thursday, April 15

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, April 15, 2010 20 comments
Welcome to day two of my Eleventy-one awards program, celebrating my 111 followers and their wonderful writing. Day by day, you'll have a chance to see different approaches to persuasive dialogue in action. As your ever-analytical host, I provide a short commentary after each winning entry that includes take-home tips to try in your own work.

Without further ado, my second runner-up winner is...

Tricia O'Brien!

Tricia won an eight-page critique. You can read Tricia's winning story excerpt from
"Princess Charming" HERE.

(My publishing copyright arrangement with winners was a one-time short term use. All rights reverted to the respective authors after one week.)


Tricia's use of detail and description is important for cluing you in that this isn't a contemporary setting, but a fairy-tale-esque one. But she doesn't belabor the point. There are just enough "telling details" for the reader to sense the wealth, pomp and especially the MCs discomfort. The contrast of Charming's colloquial inner voice with the formality of the situation shows us she's being forced into a defensive position.

Looking for a way to make your antagonist more formidable? Have him force a meeting somewhere he is comfortable and in control and your protagonist is disadvantaged and out of her comfort zone.

The way father and daughter attempt to chip away at one another is clever indeed. King Ormond presses again and again by calling upon lofty themes of destiny and duty and calling. Charming refuses to play the game on his terms. She acts at her "maximum capacity" (as James Frey calls it in How to Write a D**n Good Novel) and uses every skill in her arsenal to defend herself. Charming's feistiness is what makes this piece sing. Nothing irritates me more as a reader than the helpless wimp who capitulates without putting up any resistance. Even Jesus wrestled with God in Gethsemane about facing the cross. Give your characters a spine, please!

Charming openly defies the king, first by questioning the validity of his interpretation. Seeing that her mother is sympathetic (and a potential ally), she highlights the personal risk she'd face on this quest. In doing so, she's shifted the ground under the king. He can stick with his line of argument, but he risks losing the queen's goodwill.

When you find your characters' arguments becoming a little too predictable or boring, consider following Tricia's lead. Add a third party witness who isn't actively taking sides and see how it can add complexity and alter the techniques your characters use to try to get their way.

The more the king tries to boss and bully, notice how Charming emphasizes her own unfitness. Her hope is to gain advantage in her cause by showing herself weak. This kind of move might seem counter-intuitive, but it's effecting and real. It tells you a lot about what kind of girl she is--quick-witted and self-deprecating and likely to approach problems creatively.

Once her father stops bullying and instead appeals to her uniqueness, he reclaims the superior position of sympathy. She must take on the quest because no one else can--and people are counting on her. To continue to defy at this point will no longer earn Charming any sympathy from the queen or the courtiers. Her options for escape are cut off. She capitulates.

What do you appreciate about Tricia's winning entry? Which of her techniques do you want to try in your own work?


  1. I love this entry! I love how the roles are reversed and it's not a Prince Charming trying to find the magical castle, it's a Princess Charming. I'd buy this book if it came out. :)

  2. Congratulations Tricia. Beautiful story. I can't wait to read about her adventures!

  3. This is wonderful. There's humor here and nice detail. I love the role reversal.

  4. I love this entry and your comments on it. The details are great!

  5. Your analyses, good lady, are always detailed and thorough. This is why I enjoy being in a critique group with you.

    Nicely done, Patricia! Way to reverse the standard fairy tale with humor and wit.

  6. Laurel, thank you so much for this contest. I am stunned by your detailed comments on the piece. You make me feel clever, indeed! I am humbled and honored by what you said. And, thank you, everyone else, too!

  7. I agree. The father-daughter interplay with sympathetic mother is very effective.

  8. Congrats Tricia! And yes, the role reversal rocked! :)

  9. oh, I love Tricia and her blog

    beautiful work over there (and here, too!)

  10. What a fun celebration this is:) Thanks for sharing this. Congrats to Tricia!

  11. I love Charming's voice and the gender reversal you've established. Well done, Tricia.

  12. Laurel, what a great break-down. I'm learning so much and enjoying it at the same time. :). And Tricia, nice story! Fun reversal.

  13. I like the end of this scene where she sees that her destiny and strength are for the good of the people. She sees the need to go, despite her fears and insecurities, and answer the call of her path.

  14. This is just a fun story. The voice is strong and the characters seem like people I'd like to follow for a couple hundred pages. And Laurel, your critique was excellent too.

  15. I appreciated the tongue-in-cheek humor and the concept of scene playing a part in persuasion. How's that for alliteration?

  16. Aubrie: fun idea, isn't it?

    Anne: Yeah! Tricia had shelved this piece. Can you believe it?

    Bish: The humor is great. I should have mentioned that in my analysis. Doh!

    Stina: Thanks. Hope it's helpful.

    Simon: Thanks. I kinda like playing professor. :-)

    Shannon: Me, too.

  17. Tricia: You've created a wonderfully feisty, witty, likable character. Well done!

    Donna: Indeed. Power plays to win sympathy are effective.

    Talli: Indeed it did.

    Karen: Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it.

    EP: Me, too. She did a great job.

  18. Janet: Thanks. Learning is always most effective when it's fun!

    Mary: Indeed, she proves herself noble in the end, yet it's the humanness of her fears and attempts to evade danger that make us empathize and like her.

    Lola: Thanks for cheering her on.

    Natalie: Thanks. Maybe we'll all convince Tricia to unshelve this piece.

    Victoria: I so agree. And the poet in me always likes a little alliteration (see??). :-)