Monday, May 17, 2010

The “Let’s Talk” Blogfest – Steam Palace

The “Let’s Talk” Blogfest – Steam Palace

letstalkblogfest[1]Thanks to Roni Griffin for hosting The “Let’s Talk” Blogfest. Click to check out all the other entries. The idea is to post your most “sparkly” dialog. Well, I think I used my most sparkly dialog for the Baking Scene Blogfest, but I’ll try to find something worthy.

For those who have read bits of Steam Palace, in this scene, “Bad Girl” Viola is helping fit Sophia into a dress. Beatrice, Sophia’s aunt, has left them to their own devices. I’ve edited down the original for length.

Steam%20Palace%20Cover%20Art%202%5B6%5D[1] The humor left Viola’s face. “Give me that.” She yanked away the corset without as much as a please and tossed it away. “Turn around.” Her eyes burned black, daring Sophia to disobey.

Sophia pirouetted and returned to face the woman, arms covering her chest.

Viola placed her long-nailed hand on her chin, a vulture savoring her prey. “Inconceivable. A perfect figure. Unlike me. I’m a little too—saucy. The downside of ale, as they say.”

Viola manipulated delicate fingers that worked through the lacing of a red and black sateen corset she retrieved from a pile.

She wrapped Sophia into the corset and then used her foot as leverage against Sophia’s back and hind quarters to tie the laces. She stuffed Sophia into the blue Cobbs dress, stood back, and nodded. “You’re almost a lady now.”

Sophia stared down at her protruding bosom and bustle. “I feel like a peacock on display. I dread to consult the looking-glass. Shouldn’t my chest be covered?” She placed her hand on her bare sternum.

“You are so precious! You look most ravishing, darling.” Viola led Sophia to the glass.

Sophia sucked in a breath upon seeing her reflection. Her hand flew to her mouth. Indeed, a lady stared back. “Oh my. Yes, I do.” A smile flicked her lips. A smile which descended into sadness. “But I have no means to finance such finery. I lost the full sum of my savings upon my journey.”

Voila laid an arm on her shoulder and her face appeared next to hers, a leering grin slashing her visage. “You don’t say, you poor thing. You know, I might have just the opportunity for you. If you allow me, I shall pay for everything. The dress, the corset, and while we’re at it, how about some boots, a hat or two, gloves, undergarments, and a coat? And I know of a fine jeweler nearby.”

Sophia shook her head. Accept money from this woman? Never.

Viola examined a slick pair of black boots. “I suspect we wear the same size, too. We could be such good friends, me and you. And with my help, you could earn the money back in no time.”

“Doing what?”

A hand crept along Sophia’s face and turned her head so they stood eye-to-eye. “Well, you enjoy the company of refined gentlemen, correct? And Beatrice mentioned the other day that you were seeking a husband. Well, I know the perfect form of employment for you. I manage an exclusive gentlemen’s club, and it just so happens we have a new opening for someone with special qualities. If you possess a strong intellect and excellent conversation skills, you’d fit right in. You already exude the beauty we desire. These men pay handsomely for attentive escorts.”

Sophia couldn’t imagine a more charming snake. But…men of refinement? Conversation? All things she longed for.

“You look so beautiful—and desirable, my sweet Sophia,” she continued, turning back to the glass. “You want to be sought by men, fought over, even. You didn’t come to Hartford to be ordinary, did you?”

Sophia bristled. “Of course not. If I wished for ordinary I would have married some pig trapper in Podunk.”

Viola grinned wide, her canines flashing. “Well then. I believe we are in agreement, yes? I can provide you with a life that is far from ordinary, full of wealth and beauty and everything a beautiful woman could desire. And if in the process you secure a match—so much the better. Let’s choose a few more items, if we can find any worthy of your beauty. Leave the bargaining with the store wench to me. You are going to love the Steam Palace.”

Sophia froze. “What!? The Steam Palace? My friend elucidated me upon what transpires on that wretched floating city—gambling and harlotry.”

“Filthy lies! Listen, Miss Podunk. Tell you what.” Viola leaned close. “I like you. I really do. You’re a strong, independent woman. You’re no simple country girl. Someone has taught you culture, a love of the finer things. All I ask is one night. If you don’t love it, then walk away, and keep everything I buy you. One night. One night can’t corrupt you, can it? Look at how pretty you are. With my makeup artistry, you will become irresistible. Think of all the fine things you could afford. Dresses. Shoes. Fine dining. Servants. Your own residence. Just by engaging in pleasant conversation with the cream of New Britannian society. Don’t you deserve the better things in life?”

Yes. She did deserve fine things after seven years of hard labor with nothing to show for it. She had sacrificed everything to get here, her job, her mechohorse, perhaps even her final moments with her mother. This strange woman with her silver tongue spoke true—what harm could one night do to her soul? Viola was right—Sophia was strong, she was independent, and she was not one to turn down such an opportunity.

“I shall require a matching parasol or two, a fine riding cloak, a wristwatch, new brass goggles, and I want Lady Beatrice’s larder fully stocked. Is that acceptable?”

Viola snickered. “Whatever you want, my dear, whatever you want. Shall we?”

For more Steam Palace, check out the first few chapters now up Authonomy.


  1. Wow! I really feel Viola's icky trickiness. But Sophia has a bit of devilry in her too I think. I can't decide if I'm worried for her or not.

    Quite a bit of persuading going on. Nice flow too.

  2. @Charity: "icky trickiness" :) You should be worried for her. She's not a worldly as she believes.

    BTW everyone, I just realized that I do not have a single dialog tag in the entire piece. I don't know if that's good or bad but I thought I'd mention it and see what people think.

  3. Oh wait, I found one. "...," she continued.
    So I have 1 dialog tag but only 2 paragraphs that are only dialog.

  4. Andrew, your dialogue is spot-on. I had no trouble in telling who was talking. That's because you're a good writer.

    Now, after that compliment, do you have, ah, any pictures of Sophia trying on those clothes?

    And I think you're right. No one is as worldly as they believe. The world always has one sucker punch that we don't expect. Roland

  5. Good entry. The characters are interesting and their speech shows it.

    What does she need two parasols for? I saw that and now I can't get that off my mind. Isn't one enough? Would carrying more than one be kind of a nuisance? Am I over thinking this? (Yes)

    Well done.

  6. @Roland: I can only point you to the model I used from my cover art:

    @Dawn: I think she was thinking of two different colored parasols, but yes, it was a completely gratuitous thought on her part. This is women shopping after all...good thing they aren't looking at shoes!

  7. I like the almost conplete absence of dialogue tags :~) It's refreshing and not in the least confusing.

    Viola used her foot as leverage? Um, ow! She's the kind of character that makes me want to go and wash her off me cause she's so tricksy. Just the way her hand creeps and she leers *shivers* Oooh she soo tricksy.

    Very well done :~)

  8. Nicely done. Yep, Viola makes me feel dirty. And it's clear Sophia isn't as worldly as she believes, but who is? No dialogue tags needed here. The writing is crisp and clean, the voices of the two women clearly distinguishable from one another. Superbly done.

  9. Roland, you dirty old man you :)


    What a silver tongued demon that Viola is. Just loved how coy she is; how she seems to know exactly what words will sway Sophia.

    The voice is very clear in this, and I always knew who was talking. Viola's flattery makes her very distinctive; and Sophia seems so naive.

    Yet, she goes with the vixen . .

    Very well done.


  10. Nope. No dialogue tag worries for you. It's perfect. *snickers* Sophia is so walking into a trap, am I right? Like a soul-sucking, you-haven't-got-a-hope-in-the-world trap...right?

  11. Uh oh, I see a bargain with the devil...and what a oily smooth-tongued devil she is, well done!!!

    I also like the way you use words to make her sound like a predator... "Viola grinned wide, her canines flashing." and the way Viola is sizing her up, right now just for figure and shoes, but it almost seems to transcend that...

  12. Andrew, Never missed the dialogue tags, didn't even notice. A smooth and actionable scene using motions to denote the speaker.

    Notice the difference in inflections between the two women. Subtle and effective, denoting one of class and education and youth, even naivety. Good touch.

    - Eric

  13. Oh, these two continue to sizzle!

    No need for tags here. The dialogue is excellent - now unbury it and the scene will flow beautifully!

  14. It's always fun to see the naive think they're being clever. Reminds me of Ariel falling for Ursula's "poor unfortunate soul" shtick in The Little Mermaid. Hard to resist the bad when they sound so good.

  15. @Mia: Very tricksy...and I wrote a scene with her yesterday that's even creeping me out.

    @Charmaine: Thanks! Me like raunch.

    @VR: Sophia talks the talk, but can she walk the (street)walk? no.

    @Donna: Sophia has courage, I'll give her that.

    @Tina: Oohh yes, and I just rewrote the "trap" yesterday and it's far more icky than this...

    @Tesse: Exactly. Viola is waving the bait...

    @Eric: I like using motions, because just dialog makes it no more than a telephone conversation.

    @Tara: You have a good point too...the dialog should flow, but in this case it's not really a conversation as much as a negotiation so it does get broken up.

    @Valerie: Yes, great analogy. But what good are heroes if they don't have weaknesses to exploit?...and Viola knows just what buttons to push.

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

  16. Nicely done. I get a great sense of character from both of them. I had no trouble knowing who was talking. It flows nicely.

  17. Very well done sir! Very well done indeed. Viola is so wicked and Sophia such a virgin! I'm sorry she lost her mechohorse though. That's so sad.

  18. I think this works really well as far as character recognition goes, but I'm not sure about the tonal shift-- When Viola says: "Listen, Miss Podunk. Tell you what." the contrast to Sophia's language from that point on is sooooo different. Viola speaks VERY modernly, in that paragraph, where in the earlier parts she at least has some kind of victorian air. Am I making sense?

    Otherwise, I think it comes together quite well, from a mechanic/technical perspective!

  19. @Angie: Thanks!

    @Peidmont: Well, she is a virgin, but that's besides the point. Now that I think about it, it's partly that she's not used to dealing with strong women herself, so she's a bit defenseless. Yeah, the mechohorse thing is a bummer, it was her dad's. :(

    @Amalia: I don't want Viola's voice as elevated as Sophias but I could tone it a little differently and keep the same spirit.

  20. I loved the dialog in this scene because it allowed me to see these two characters, both as they appear on the surface and behind the eyes of Sophia. There is a lot going on with that girl, and I sense Viola believes she's corruptible. So many questions left unanswered...I'd read on!

    You have a wonderful and engaging style, and your sentences flow seamlessly from one to the next. Well done!

  21. I think that "one night" is going to be more trouble than it's worth :-)

  22. Sorry, Andrew. I've tried to post three times today...I don't know what's up. If you get this, then I really liked your excerpt.

    Loved Viola's predator-like description. Great post...

  23. Great dialogue, it flows very well and carried me along. Thanks for the comments on my blog.

  24. It has taken me so long to travel through the Let's Talk links to your post, I feel like Sophia--a bit worn out but now dazzled by what I've found here. This is most excellent. The two women have distinct voices and the scene moves to a wickedly delicious hook. I love the way you use descriptions for Viola like canines flashing. Sophia is about to get bit. I want to read on and on.

  25. @Nicole: I'm definitely trying establish character here. Thanks.

    @Deniz: IS a lot trouble...but in a lot of ways it was worth it. I would never lead my characters into something they don't grow from...

    @Raquel: Yay! You finally defeated the Internetz! Thanks for coming.

    @Myne: Thanks! No problem.

    @Tricia: This is one exhausting blogfest and I think I've only hit 25-30 entries. Thanks for the comment!

  26. Am I the only one who actually liked Viola? I think she was deliciously described through her actions and words. She was coy, but not false--refreshing actually.

    I feel for Sophia and what she will face, though I can't wait to read about it. You have built the perfect tension here between two very distinct characters.

    well done~ cat

  27. Viola was great! "a vulture savoring her prey" - brilliant!

  28. Hmmm, this situation reminds me of an article I read about modern Japanese geisha and, in particular, foreign recruits. It's considered an "upper class" thing, and most clients (and the women who serve them) are wealthy and refined, yet it's unclear how far the job overlaps with prostitution.

  29. @Cat: I think a lot of people liked her. She isn't all bad but she will challenge Sophia every step of the way.

    @Genie: Send me a link! What Viola does isn't straight's much higher class. ;)

  30. @Writers: Thanks! Sophia isn't so naive as to not notice Viola's hungry demeanor.


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