One of the things I most enjoy about being a writer is the opportunity to give and receive critique. I firmly believe that our work begins to live and breathe when someone else views it and offers feedback. When I’m privileged enough to give critique to another author, I like to read through their piece in its entirety and contemplate before making my notes, then I’ll go back through and add comments and suggestions for edits.
I had two wonderful critique partners assigned to me for this project: JM Jinks and Thuy Nguyen. I enjoyed reading their amazing stories and offering my two cents, and I was thrilled with the feedback they gave me, as it pretty much confirmed what I felt the story was lacking — more Adeline! Jenna wanted to know how she was killing her marks, and Thuy wanted to know if she had any moments of remorse or if she was truly as cold as she appears to be at the end. I wanted to leave some things open-ended — as in, I’ll let you wonder about the nature of her other victims — but Serge definitely didn’t deserve his fate. I think there’s a thread of regret there, whether she wants to admit it or not.
Here’s a screenshot of my tracked changes between Drafts 2 and 3:
I didn’t want to revert to a lot of telling, so I attempted to show Adeline’s mood through her actions and her internalized thoughts, while throwing in some light backstory. Characterization is an area I’m always refining, as well-written characters are the biggest draw for me as a reader. Let me know what you think! Here’s draft #3:
June 15th, 1923
A killer walked the streets of Marseille, but all Adeline cared about was having a smoke.
She lit a cigarette and took a long draw, resting her elbows on the window frame. Air channeled down the Rue du Panier, pushing strands of Adeline’s cropped brown hair into her kohl-smudged eyes. Below, in the lifting darkness, women laughed as they strung laundry, their banter easy against the slap of wet fabric.
Down the hill, La Major rang the Angelus. How long had it been since she’d been to Mass? Three years, or was it four?
Adeline arched her back and pushed her narrow hips from side to side, looking over her shoulder at her lover. Serge lay prone on the mattress, his arms stretched over the pillows. They’d met the night before in a café off La Canebière. He was shy at first, glancing in her direction once or twice before growing bold enough to meet her eyes. She’d beckoned him to her table with a smile. “Would you like a Pernod?”
He’d talked about his family — his older sister in Cannes and his little nieces. She’d turned the conversation and grazed his arm with her fingertips, complimenting his fine-boned hands. It was enough.
An hour later, they were walking hand-in-hand along the waterfront, past the moored trawlers bobbing in the old port. The waning moon cut the darkness like a scythe, allowing the stars their beauty. Adeline pulled Serge to her and kissed him, tasting anise on his tongue. “Take me to your bed,” she whispered.
His garret was claustrophobic, strewn about with clothes. The only spot of neatness was his desk, which held a typewriter and a hopeful sheaf of paper. His rumpled bed smelled of sweat, but his enthusiasm for her was disarming. Unlike the others, he was innocent. She’d almost regretted what followed, but regret wasn’t in her nature. Regret implied mistakes.
Adeline stubbed out her cigarette and turned back to the bed. She leaned over Serge, pushing his blond curls back from his forehead. Gray eyes stared back at her, unblinking. She kissed his purpling cheek, her breath hitching as she pulled a pearl-handled scalpel from her garter. Between Serge’s brows, she carved a crescent to match the moon they’d walked beneath. Blood welled, thick and darkly scarlet, but did not run.
“La Lune de Sang” — that’s what they were calling her in the papers — for the mark she gave her victims. She’d poisoned a lover for each phase of the moon, and Serge was the seventh. The police were looking for a man. No one suspected a delicate sylph of a woman in her late thirties.
Adeline washed her hands and tidied her hair in the glass, sweeping crimson rouge across her mouth. She cast a lingering gaze toward Serge and gently closed the door.
She’d gotten halfway down the block when a scream came from the open garret window. A girlfriend? The landlady? Adeline smiled. Neither her heart nor her pace quickened. She’d take one more night of pleasure before allowing the men of Marseilles rest beneath a moonless sky. Perhaps she’d let her next lover live. Perhaps.
Next, we’re shipping our drafts to our highly qualified professional editors for their edits before we craft our fourth, and final, draft. I’m super excited to have the fantastic Jeni Chappelle editing my manuscript!
If you’d like to follow along with our process, you can follow all the participating writers on Twitter using the #WriterInMotion hashtag, or by keeping up with Jeni’s blog!