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Vicki Briner

Sorry. I’m trying this again. The copy/paste didn’t seem to work quite right.


This excerpt is from Tessa Dare’s Do You Want to Start a Scandal?

What I like about this opening (and the story as a whole) is Charlotte. She’s daring, impulsive, witty and funny. She’s also earnest, which I find endearing. Looking at the opening on it’s own, I immediately like her spunk, and for some reason I care that this man like her also. I think what makes my brain crave more is the fact that he’s clearly amused by her (as am I as the reader) and I want the banter between the two to continue. So I guess the WHAT is the interaction between the two characters, and the fact that emotionally I’m rooting for Charlotte.

The gentleman in black turned down the corridor, and Charlotte Highwood followed.

Stealthily, of course. It wouldn’t do to let anyone see.

Her ears caught the subtle click of a door latch–down the passage, to the left. The door to Sir Vernon Parkhurst’s library, if her recollection served.

She hesitated in the alcove, engaging herself in silent debate.

In the grand scheme of English society, Charlotte was a wholly unimportant young woman. To intrude on the solitude of a marquess—one to whom she hadn’t even been introduced—would be the worst sort of impertinence. But impertinence was preferable to the alternative: another year of scandal and misery.

Distant music spilled form the ballroom. The first few strains of a quadrille. If she meant to act, it must be now. Before she could talk herself out of it, Charlotte tiptoed down the corridor to put her hand on the door latch.

Desperate mothers called for desperate measures.

When she opened the door, the marquess looked up at once. He was alone, standing behind the library desk.

And he was perfect.

By perfect, she didn’t mean handsome—although he was handsome. High cheekbones, a squared jaw, and a nose so straight God must have drawn it with a rule. But everything else about him declared perfection, as well. His posture, his mien, his dark sweep of hair. The air of assured command that hovered about him, filling the room.

Despite her nerves, she felt a prickle of curiosity. No man could be perfect. Everyone had flaws. If the imperfections weren’t apparent on the surface, they must be hidden deep inside.

Mysteries always intrigued her.

“Don’t be alarmed,” she said, closing the door behind her. “I’ve come to save you.”

“Save me.” His low, rich voice glided over her like fine-grain leather. “From . . . ?”

“Oh, all kinds of things. Inconvenience and mortification, chiefly. But broken bones aren’t out of the realm of possibility.”

He pushed a desk drawer closed. “Have we been introduced?”

“No, my lord.” She belatedly remembered to curtsy. “That is, I know who you are. Everyone knows who you are. You’re Piers Brandon, the Marquess of Granville.”

“When last I checked, yes.”

“And I’m Charlotte Highwood, of the Highwoods you’ve no reason to know. Unless you read the Prattler, which you probably don’t.”

Lord, I hope you don’t.

Of the Fourteen, I identified:
-A need or motive: She is on a mission to “save” this man from her mother.
-Question: Why has embarked on this mission?
-Character’s thoughts: She is working up her nerve to approach a man she shouldn’t approach.

Question for you: In this lesson, you said you thought Hague’s ideas were better suited for overall structure. I’m curious, though, how much importance you put on the three key ways to create empathy, i.e. create sympathy, put them in danger, make them likable and kind.



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