Write Wow!

Writing tips and techniques from the publisher of Swimming Kangaroo Books. Send your 3-page writing sample to be critiqued to dindy@swimmingkangaroo.com with the word "critique" in the subject heading. Your submission will be critiqued on the blog, but your name will not be used unless you give permission.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Tales from Another Book Signing

I wrote this for another blog after a book signing last year and thought it was relevant and good for this blog as well.

I am back in Texas after a book signing at Mystery Loves Company, a newly opened bookstore in Oxford, Maryland. And I'm back with a 40% sell rate! That's really terrific for a book-signing! Of course, there were only 5 customers in the store during the afternoon, which just goes to show you that you can prove anything via statistics!

There were two other authors who were also selling their books. One of them was a woman who seemed really happy to be there. Actually, she didn't seem happy to be there at all. The other author was a guy who arrived about 15 minutes before we were closing down the event. He was really nice and seemed pretty happy to be there- except he was LATE.

Myself being perfect, of course, I flew into Baltimore on Friday and drove out to Oxford to scope the place out. Then I headed back toward Baltimore and tried to find a place to stay that I could afford. Hotels are expensive there. Very expensive. And it was the wrong side of the weekend from payday for me. I was starting to think that the little roadside park I kept driving past looked rather inviting (except there were no bathrooms, and I draw the line at the bushes!) Finally I found a little hotel behind a fried chicken restaurant.

By the time I found the hotel I was tired, hungry, and just wanted to crash. Now there's a hotel over in Dallas on Central Expressway that the locals call the Come-On Hotel because it is known as a hooker hotel. I'm not saying that the Chicken hotel was a hooker hotel, but the guy who checked me in seemed pretty sure that I would not be happy there. He asked if I wanted to look at the room before I signed on the dotted line. Being as how I was about to drop from exhaustion I asked, "Do I have to? Does it have a bed?"

Well, he did insist that I go look at the room. I opened the door, saw it had a bed, a fridge, a microwave and a bathroom. That was two more things than I needed-- the fridge and the microwave were bonuses for me. I stumbled back into the office and told him the room was fine.

"Now I don't think the remote control works in that room," he said soberly.

Good grief, I thought. Is he going to let me have this room or not? "That's okay," I told him, "I don't watch TV."

"You don't!" he was pretty amazed at that. Then he asked if I read.

"Yes," I admitted. "I'm a reader."

"Not many of those left," he said.

I agreed and then added that I was a writer too, an actual published author there for a booksigning. He asked about my book and I told him that it's about a murdered pawnbroker who comes back as a ghost and haunts the woman who finds him till she finds out who killed him. He seemed interested so, since I had a spare copy in my suitcase, I went and signed one over to him and gave it to him. I expect to see it on EBay any day now.

So finally I was checked into the hotel room, and I won't say it was the worst place I've ever stayed in my life, but at $100 for the night, it certainly wasn't a bargain. However, it was the cheapest thing there was-- I guess the prostitutes either must cost quite a bit more in Baltimore than they do in Dallas or they all go to that roadside park I mentioned.

But it wasn't a bad room particularly, although I did keep the light on all night because I did not want to have to deal with any types of critters who might come out when the lights went off.

The next morning I checked out of the hotel and drove back into Oxford. I arrived at the bookstore 30 minutes early, spoke to Kathy, the owner, and set my bookmarks out where everyone could see them.

Almost immediately a couple walked into the store. Putting on my most chipper expression I said, "Hi! How would you like to buy a book signed by a semi-famous author!"

"Okay," the woman said.

I was stunned. "Wow!" I said, "Kathy, she said yes!" I happily signed the book over to her and started adding up my royalties. Let's see, one sale every 15 minutes, and I was going to be there for two and a half hours so I would sell 10 books. Yippee!

Unfortunately, that was also my last sale for several hours. The other author arrived, but she didn't quite have this chipper business down. She either stayed in the back and spoke to Kathy or she wandered around the store, looking at books. If someone came in, she would nod to them, but that would be about it.

The next group that came in was a group of bikers. I gave them my chipper little greeting, making sure to include my fellow author-- "Hi, how would you like to buy a book by two semi-famous authors?" Well they didn't have any money or credit cards on them. No luck there, but I did manage to press bookmarks on them, both mine and my fellow author's.

Customers were few and far between. A couple of ladies came in who were friends of the owner's but they weren't interested in buying boooks by two pretty darned famous authors. And a young man came in but he definitely didn't want to buy new books. I managed to press our bookmarks on him before he headed back to the used book section, but while my back was turned, I noticed that he put the bookmarks back before he left the store. Geez! I couldn't even give free bookmarks away!

About 15 minutes before we were due to finish up, the third author arrived. He stayed in the back to talk to Kathy, and the other female author started to gather her things up, preparatory to going. The door opened and a young man entered the store. I was the only one out front so I said my chipper little spiel. "Hi! How would you like to buy some books by some semi-famous authors?"

The guy stopped. "Wow!" he exclaimed. "Are you serious!"

"Of course," I said, and I indicated the table where our books were piled. He reached over and picked up one of the books by my fellow author. "Crud!" I thought inwardly. (Although, remembering A Christmas Story, I didn't really say "Crud!") I turned and hollered at my fellow author, "Hey, you've got a customer."

She came out and didn't quite seem to know what to do but she finally signed the book and muttered a "Thanks" to me. I was wondering if I could manage a commission from her but finally decided to let it pass-- after all, we were all good friends there, right?

My fellow author gathered up her things and left, and I started pulling my stuff together. The customer continued to browse the stacks, and the male author stayed in the back talking to Kathy. As I had everything in my hands preparatory to leaving, I turned to the customer. "This is your last chance," I said. "If you want another book signed by a semi-famous author, you need to get it now because I'm on my way out."

He froze in his spot and then said, "What? Are you kidding? You mean there's more than one of you?"

Oh yes, I replied. I pointed out my books and the third author's books. The customer was ecstatic. "This is terrific!" he cried. "This is so cool!" I happily signed a book over to him, as did our third author. The customer was really thrilled-- he was planning to give the books as gifts that evening to a lady who runs a summer camp.

Now at the risk of sounding as though I am bragging, I need to point out to anybody reading this that if it weren't for me, neither of my two fellow authors would have sold any copies of their books. They weren't smiling, greeting customers, and they weren't SELLING THEIR BOOKS. They were waiting for the buyers to come to them, and not making any atempt to go after the buyers.

I'm not a particularly sociable person. I'm normally pretty shy, and hate parties and other social occasions. In fact, I border on being a recluse. Nevertheless, I found it was pretty painless to ask people if they wanted to buy a book by a semi-famous author. Sure, three of them said "No," but two of them said "Yes." One of them said "Yes" THREE times! So I had an 80% sell rate if you count the books by the other authors that I managed to sell!

There's a moral to this-- and it's one that authors hear time and time again. It's not enough to go to a store and sit behind a stack of books. Don't sit down. Get up and move around. Greet the customers. As them for the sale. Smile. Smile. Smile! And if there are other authors there as well, it's okay to push their books too. They may be in the position to do the same for you that day!


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Advice from one of the Kanga-Writes about Book Signings

Swimming Kangaroo Books maintains a yahoo group for its authors (the Kanga-Writes) so they can provide support, encouragement and pass on promotional tips to each other. Janis Susan May, author of the forthcoming Welcome Home and the Land of Heart's Delight recently posted the following to the group and gave me her kind permission to re-use it here.

From Susan:

Okay, my fellow kanga-writes, I'm going to brag a bit, because I've never had anything like this happen.

Last Saturday I did a signing at a big-box bookstore about 2 hours from home for DARK MUSIC, a romantic murder mystery in trade paper by Vintage Romance Publishing.

Okay, it was a nice signing. They ordered 20 books, I sold 13 in just a few minutes over 2 hours - one even before I got my coat off. I had a good time, so when the
manager came up as I was packing my stuff and she had a very peculiar look on her face I didn't expect anything out of the ordinary. She looked at me and said, "I've never had this happen before. Since you've been here two customers have asked to speak to the manager about you."

Oh, law! My stomach tied up in a knot and dropped with a thunk down into my big toe as I wondered what on earth had I done.

The manager went on, "They both wanted to tell me how much they enjoyed you being here and how nice you were. One of them even used the word 'wonderful.' I've been in the book business for years and I've never heard of this happening before."

My stomach uncurled and, with my heart, leapt into my throat. I was speechless. The manager insisted I sign the remaining seven books for stock and, as I was signing, she was putting the 'autographed copy' stickers on the covers herself. She also told me I was under orders to call her as soon as I had another book available so we could set up another signing.

When I came (floated?) home I wrote a report on the signing to the VRP authors' loop - standard procedure for me. Immediately several authors were asking how did I manage that, what did I do at a signing, so I thought and wrote down what I thought about signings.

Now there is a point to all this. At the Kanga-Write Convergence Dindy asked that I write a little something for this loop about publicity (since I was in advertising/PR for many years) and the desirability of having a publicist. I'm going to do that, probably over next weekend. For now I'm posting a copy of what I wrote for the VRP loop, since so many over there seemed to enjoy the information and maybe there is a newbie or two here who might find it helpful.

The VRP post (VRP names deleted):

As for your request, D****, you've made me think, and think hard. My first response was "Oh, I was just being myself" which doesn't help anything. I really had to sit and think about what I do.

J**** (the manager) said as I was unpacking my stuff - and talking to people as I did so - that she was glad I was so cheerful and outgoing. She said some (if not most) authors just sit there like a bump on a log. Of course, it helped that I had sold a book
before I got my coat off. I cannot understand people doing a signing and not talking, not with so many people to talk to. Of course, I love to talk - my father used to say, wind me up and I talk! (Ask T**** - she's seen me in action.)

I have a few props - since there is a snowman on the cover of DARK MUSIC, I have a glass snowman about 8 inches high that sits in a bowl of hard candies. If nothing else, the candies attract the children, and I always say they may have one if their mother/father says they may - that has to bring the parent to the table and into striking range. During the Valentine season I used a white lace tablecloth and sprinkled it with red silk rose petals. Christmas, a silk holly garland. Anything within reason to attract the customer's eye!

I guess the most important thing to do is be approachable and friendly. Have fun!Enjoy yourself and by your demeanor invite others to enjoy with you. You are so happy to be there and to be sharing your wonderful book with them. As an old acting coach of mine used to say, there are only three important things in doing a performance (and you'd better believe doing a signing is a performance) - energy, energy, energy! No, you don't go bouncing off the walls or doing push-ups in front of your table - I mean an interior energy, a radiance that attracts people.

Smile! And don't stop. Yes, your cheek muscles will petrify, but who cares? And it has to be a genuine smile - not a frozen rictus that will scare small children.

Establish eye contact. There are some people who will not stop for you if you were on fire and handing out hundred dollar bills. Forget them. There are some who will talk to you no matter what. Most have to be lured in. I say something semi-silly, like "Have you met an author today?" or "Would you like to hear about the best book in the store?" Some will say no and keep going. To them I always smile and genuinely wish them a nice day.

Once the customer has stopped, give them the spiel about your book - I use about three or four long sentences, maybe a half a minute of talk. Be enthusiastic - if you aren't about your own book, who will be? Also, practice until your spiel is letter-perfect. You don't want to stutter and stammer and sound as if you haven't read your own book.

Listen to the customer. Really listen and really be interested. At every signing I hear about spouses, children, grandchildren, trips, plumbing problems, surgeries... you name it. And I care. Now don't go too far; you're not their psychotherapist or their doctor, but a minute or two of genuine interest has often sparked a sale.

There are those (mercifully few) who are writers themselves and want to talk about the business or (even worse) wanna-be writers who delight in telling you that you're doing everything wrong OR how they're the best writer in the world but there is a conspiracy to keep them out of the business. Be kind; talk a minute; brush them off with as much delicacy and grace as you would an importunate duchess at a cocktail party. Every one of them I've had has left happily (and some even bought books) except for one, a real nutter on whom I had to call store security. Not at this signing; that was a long time ago.

Never forget that you are there to sell the books on the table... but you are also selling yourself, your future books (I have a brochure with all my books, bio, website contact info, etc and I stick one in every book sold) and the store itself. Can't tell you how many people I've pointed toward the bathroom or the cooking section or whatever; remember, you do want to be invited back! Point - be sure to be kind and friendly with the store help. I usually take one of my personalized mugs as a gift for whomever my contact person is there and I always have an extra or two with me in case someone goes above and beyond. People love to feel they are special.

Laughter and happiness go a long way. Most people seem so sad. In a way a signing is sort of like hostessing a very important party where you don't know the guests but the responsibility for its success is all on you.

Oh, D****, how I have rambled! I hope this is coherent - and I refuse to re-read for fear I'll delete the whole thing and never re-write. If you have any questions I'll be
happy to try and answer.

Maybe the most important thing is for you to find what works for you. This works for me.

Thank you Susan for allowing me to post this!


Critique of I Dare You and an exercise

(My comments will be in Purple. Words and punctuation that need to be deleted are in Red. Words and punctuation I added are in Purple. At the end I will have general comments about the passage.)

Tara crouched low, stepping quickly to the shadows of the abandoned asylum. Jazz followed close on her heels.

“This is stupid,” Jazz said. “Back home, you never cared about being popular. What’s different now? ”

“In Capac, I had friends. Here, I stand in the middle of the cafeteria; holding my lunch tray, hoping someone friendly will invite me to join her. It’s pathetic!” Tara swiped a tear from her cheek. “I’m doing this dare with or without you. Besides, there’s nothing to be afraid of, this place’s has been closed for years.” A twig snapped and they both jumped. A black squirrel scampered across the lawn.

Jazz’s eyes roamed from the barred windows of the first and second floors to a white clapboard sign with faded black lettering. “Pontiac State Hospital, Est. 1878.” She shot a quick glance over her shoulder. “We can’t even see the road from back here. Why do you want to be friends with Stacey anyway? She treats friends like dogs.” There is a discontinuity in this paragraph as Jazz switches from talking about the isolation of the hospital to being friends with Stacey without skipping a beat. It is jarring. There needs to be some kind of transition between the two.

“Jazz just go home, I don’t need your help, but tell Dad you didn’t feel good, and I’m still staying with Stacey.” This paragraph feels like bumper cars. Tara tells Jazz to go home, she doesn't need her help, then tells her to tell Dad she doesn't feel good, then tells Jazz that she is staying with Stacey. Bump. Bump. Bump. Three different directions with nothing to pull them together. The comment about Stacey needs to be moved toward the beginning of the paragraph to transition from the preceding paragraph. I'm not sure where the "tell Dad you didn't feel good" comment comes from- unless there's something somewhere else to connect it to I'd take it out.

Jazz shrugged. “I can’t let you do something this dumb alone. What if something happened to you?”

“Okay, but remember you’re coming 'cause you want to, not because I asked you. Let’s go,; Stacey said there’s an unlocked cellar door on the north side.” Tara rummaged through her backpack, pulling out a small flashlight.

Picking their way through some withered vines, they stumbled over the wooden doors. Tara grasped the rusted ring handle and tugged,; the door barely budged. “Grab me around the waist then pull as hard as you can.” Tara braced her strong legs. “Now, on the count of three-- pull. One, two… Three!”

The hinges squeaked as the heavy door found its momentum, sending the girls tumbling to the ground. Tara brushed herself off, and then turned to help Jazz up. She swept the light’s beam over the crumbling cement steps. “I’ll go first, but stick close to me,. Who knows what’s waiting in there?”

Jazz squirmed from one foot to the other watching as Tara took a step. “Wait-- what if there’s an alarm or something?”

“Ha! Jazz, give me a break, there’s no alarm.” Tara pressed the flashlight’s beam against her chin, casting her face in a spooky orange-yellow glow. “Hey, remember the haunted house in Capac? This is better cause it’s big, empty, and it’s real.”

Jazz clenched her fists then stomped her foot. “Oh, you’re so funny,. Just stop it!”

Tara giggled as she scrambled down the steps, Jazz followed dragging her feet. They entered the dark musty cellar; it was crowded with big metal contraptions covered in thick layers of cobwebs.

Jazz struggled to breathe in the thick air. “What are those?”

Tara guided the light around the room, stopping briefly to examine the various pieces of equipment. She shrugged. “Maybe they’re ancient torture machines. Hey, don’t get sick,. Use your inhaler.”

Jazz rolled her eyes. “Yeah, whatever.” She wiped her face and finger combed the cobwebs from her short brown hair. “I hate cobwebs; they feel like tiny spider legs crawling.”

Tara found a large stairwell along the back wall and raced up the first flight, then pulled the doorknob;. It was locked. “Well, maybe the second floor is open.” She hiked the next flight two steps at a time, twisted the knob and found it locked too. What knob?

Jazz followed more cautiously, calling out, “What are we going to do now;? The third floor won’t be open either.” She reached the second floor landing. “I guess we should just stay the night here. It’s probably the safest place anyway. ” The third floor won't be open? I'd rephrase that to make it more clear that they won't be able to get into the third floor because the door is locked. Otherwise the reader is scratching his/her head, trying to figure out what the writer means.

A shrill screech echoed against the barren walls. Tara and Jazz answered with their own piercing screams, clinging to each other.

A beady-eyed black bat swooped over their heads. Then it dived down one flight of stairs, made a sharp turn, and took another swoop at their heads. Its claws tangled in Tara’s long blonde hair. Tara screamed louder, swinging her arms wildly above her head. The bat swooped away. Tara clung to Jazz. “Forget what I said earlier, I’m glad you’re here.” I'm assuming it came back up the stairs before swooping at their heads again. What does Jazz do while the bat is playing with Tara's hair?

They crept up the last flight together. Tara yanked the door, and it flew open crashing against the wall. She stumbled back, stepping on Jazz’s toes. What made them decide to continue going up the stairs? I thought they were staying on the landing of the second floor because the third floor wouldn't be open and the second floor was the best place to stay the night.

“Ouch, hey watch it!”

Dust particles floated in the flashlight’s soft beam. Sneezing, Tara covered her mouth then stepped forward, snatching Jazz’s hand from behind. They tiptoed to the end of a long corridor. An empty booth on the left had been a nurse’s station. “Looks like even the nurses were afraid, I bet they spent their days safely tucked behind this Plexiglas.” The booth was a mess; papers were scattered everywhere. Snatching Jazz's hand from behind what? And how do they know the empty booth was a nurse's station? If the booth was empty, then how can it have papers scattered everywhere?

“Hey, bring that light over here, let’s see what these say.” Jazz examined the papers. “Weird, they all say the same thing.”

Tara snatched the sheet from her little sister; her hands shook as she read. “This is my home. Kenny is a good boy!”

“Geesh, you don’t have to get grabby. I would’ve read it to you. Why’d he write that over and over?”

“Creepy.” Tara folded the paper then stuffed it in her backpack. Well, here’s the proof that Stacey wanted. Tara trembled, glancing around the booth; even empty this place gives me the willies. I sure hope Stacey’s worth it. Is Tara thinking the last lines about Stacey or is she actually saying them? That's not clear.

Jazz opened a door that led to a back room filled with glass cabinets. Most were empty, but one held a few brown glass bottles in it. She opened a jar, took a small sniff, and her eyes watered. “Phew! I hope they didn’t make anyone drink this stuff,; it smells like burnt rubber mixed with Dad’s smelly sweat socks.”

Tara spotted a ring of skeleton keys hanging from a hook on the wall. She jingled them at Jazz. “Now we can check out the other floors. Grab that broom over there just in case that bat wants another taste of us.”

Jazz stood guard with the broom while Tara tried the keys. The third key tumbled the lock. The second floor was similar to the third, except for one door, made of thick steel painted black with a small square window. Where are they and how did they get there from the nurse's station on the third floor?

Tara peeked through the window then opened the door. A thick padding hung on the walls. On the floor was a torn twin size mattress with large brown stains. In the corner sat a black plastic bucket. “I think this is an isolation room. They’d stick you in here if you tried to kill yourself or hurt someone.”

“Do you think they had to use that bucket to…well you know?”

“Yeah, probably. This place is so sad, and just think, Kenny called this his home.” Tara turned from the ugly room. She wandered away, thinking, "This place makes my stomach hurt. I wished I’d never taken this dare. Everything about Pontiac stinks, our new home, the neighborhood and especially the new school. Every time I open my mouth, something stupid tumbles out." Careening again. The place is sad; Kenny calls it his home; her stomach hurts; she wishes she'd never taken the dare. Pontiac stinks; she says something stupid. Too much stream of consciousness with no connection between the thoughts.

Further, down the hall, she stopped at another opened door. It was a patient’s room. The twilight’s soft beams reflected on a black metal-framed twin bed.

General comments:
This passage gives me the impression of a car careening wildly from one side of the road to another, because that is what this passage seems to do. There is little flow or continuity running through it. The dialogue jumps from one topic to another and way too much happens way too fast.

First, however, before hitting the content I'd hit the grammar because there are many grammatical errors in terms of punctuation. Like it or not, no matter how good the story is, if there are a lot of grammatical errors it won't make it through the acquisitions process.

For now, however, let's take a look at transitions because a skillful use of transitions would help this passage immensely. Transitions are words and phrases that signal connections among ideas. They are bridges that help the reader follow your train of thought, offering cues as to what is going to happen next. See how the use of transitions can help keep the reader from feeling out of control in this passage. In the below paragraphs, i am inserting transitions using green font.

Jazz’s eyes roamed from the barred windows of the first and second floors to a white clapboard sign with faded black lettering. “Pontiac State Hospital, Est. 1878.” She shot a quick glance over her shoulder. “We can’t even see the road from back here." She paused and bit her lip. "Why do you want to be friends with Stacey anyway? She treats friends like dogs."

Now don't you go picking on Stacey! She's the only friend I've got in this place." Tara turned her back with a flounce of her hair. "Jazz just go home, I don’t need your help."


Tara guided the light around the room, stopping briefly to examine the various pieces of equipment. She shrugged. “Maybe they’re ancient torture machines." She noticed Jazz's breathing problem. "Hey, don’t get sick. Use your inhaler.”


“Creepy.” Tara folded the paper then stuffed it in her backpack. She glanced at Jazz. "Well, here’s the proof that Stacey wanted." Tara trembled, glancing around the booth. "Even empty this place gives me the willies. I sure hope Stacey’s worth it."


Use transitions to rewrite the next paragraph to improve the flow. Send your suggestions to dindy@swimmingkangaroo.com Put the phrase "Transition Exercise" in the subject line.

“Yeah, probably. This place is so sad, and just think, Kenny called this his home.” Tara turned from the ugly room. She wandered away thinking, "This place makes my stomach hurt. I wish I’d never taken this dare. Everything about Pontiac stinks, our new home, the neighborhood and especially the new school. Every time I open my mouth, something stupid tumbles out."

Monday, March 05, 2007

A Quick Show Don't Tell Demo

If you do not belong to any writing listservs, go onto Yahoo Groups and join some. Not only will you meet other writers but you will learn lots of terrific things from people who are going through the same things you are.

Just this weekend I came across a nifty little example of Show Don't Tell on Beth Wylde's Yahoo group.

This is an exchange off of Beth Wylde's Yahoo group and is an excellent example of Show Don't Tell:

One writer presented a passage.

Heat. Sweltering, sizzling, sultry. The kind that drenches the flesh in one solid slap. The kind that coats the body like a thick muggy blanket. The kind that can only be found in Texas in the summertime. “You have no idea how happy I am to be back.” The automatic doors to the airport swished open and closed behind Amy as she paused to luxuriate in the stagnant hot air. Thin wisps of air conditioning coaxed her to come back into the cool reprieve, but yawning out in front of her was the three digit humidity that most people considered nature’s saturating assault. Not Amy. Nature’s transgressions were ice, freezing rain, bitter winds, drifts of snow, all of which she loathed, all of which she had finally left behind. This time for good. Taking a long deep breath of torrid air she exhaled nosily and somewhat hedonistically. A few passer-bys glanced over, annoyed that she was partially blocking the doorway, an oversized suitcase by her side. Even so, their expressions didn't change much. Business meetings had to be attended, timetables had to be kept, and important schedules had to be adhered to. Not for Amy. The only schedule she was going to be a slave to was one called luxury, liberation and lust. And not necessarily in that order.
Arlene Cardoza posted a response illustrating why this was an example of Telling rather than Showing:

All of this was 'telling'. You 'told' what the weather was like, you 'told' what she thought of it and how she felt about it, you 'told' what other people did and thought and you 'told' what she planned to do. None of this was showing.

Showing would be:

Two steps out of the air-conditioned airport terminal Amy stopped. Dropping the handle to her oversized luggage she lifted both hands up, pulled her thick blond hair off her neck and faced the sun. "Oh yeah," she sighed deeply.

"Humid enough for you?" a heavy-set man frowned at her as he mopped his face with a white kerchief and made his way around her into the building.

"Never too humid," Amy grinned as she stepped off the curb, pulling her luggage toward the rental car parking lot.

The difference between the two passages? Notice all the action verbs in the second passage, and how the second passage incorporates another person. The reader feels more in the scene with the second passage than with the first-- with the first passage the words serve as a blockade for the reader and in the second passage the words invite the reader into the scene.

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