Winners of the Dirty Fighting Contest – Part 2

We’re back for Part 2 of the Dirty Fighting contest where Naked Editor, Tiffany Lawson Inman will be dissecting the three winning entries to add more action and punch to their fantastic scenes.


Part 1 of this post was an announcement of the three winners with my summary of the Dirty Fighting technique they used. 🙂 Click here to refresh yourself on all 23 techniques.

Thank you to everyone who entered. You humbled me with your talent. Here’s Tiffany…let’s roll out the red carpet for her in grand More Cowbell style!

The Top 3 Dirty Fights!


Gloria Richard – 153 words (click here to see Gloria’s entry without Tiffany’s edits)

Molly’s stiff posture, mumbled self-talk, and fist-to-splayed-hand reps screamed dread.

–I can almost see this. The fist-to-splayed-hand reps, interesting! But the whole picture doesn’t come into focus because of the rhythm of the line is flat after the hyphenated chunk.  Add another action and proper punctuation and you’ve got it!

Greed trumped dread.

–Love this line! However, POV is confusing here, later it is clear that we are in Jakes POV, but this line is a speed bump for me.    

–Also, what is the motivation dread here – the corpse or the stealing part?

She pulled the ring from the corpse.

–Need a reaction here from Jake or another ….something to happen, before he crosses the room. This chick just pulled a ring off a corpse and so far the room remains quiet.  I think we need to hear dialogue now.

Jake crossed the room and stopped, blocking her path to the door.

— Pacing needs to pop here. Either with emotion, or a burst of action from one character or the other.  I don’t see why he is blocking the door, when she hasn’t made a move beyond a dread-filled jewelry snatch.  Show us cause and effect.

Molly turned. “What are you doing here?”

–What makes her turn? Seems like she already knows he’s in the room.

“Witnessing a felony?”

–LOL, yup, I really did laugh out loud! Nice!

 “Oh, that’s rich—a virtuous stalker. A trespassing, lying, Oreo-snitching, lecherous stalker.”

–GREAT line.  Great speed.

“Give me the ring.”

“What ring?”

Jake lifted her by her waist, turned, and plunked her butt on a pool table.

–Choreography check! He was in the doorway.  Now he’s close enough to touch her. Hmmmm…I think we need to see a little more here.

— you say “a pool table”  are there others in the room?  Or is this THE pool table. Where is the corpse in relation to the table?

–The  dialogue says he wants the ring.  So I think he should at least pretend to go for the ring 🙂  Then you can get fancy with some pool table moves.

He moved between her legs—keeping his home plate clear of her knee’s strike zone.

–I like the moves but they are a response without a stimulus.  We need to see her at least try to struggle and hit his precious parts, before he protects them. Yes?

 Molly glared, glanced down.

–I want to see or hear a more intimate reaction.  A sexy and strong protest. Make it specific. 

–We’ve all seen a glare and a glance before. Glare, glance and gaze are three of the many words on my FIND list.  I open all manuscripts and start my edit with a find search of these over-used words.  I know you  have heard it before – write fresh! Work it!

When her gaze returned to his face, her lips parted. He felt her foot caress his leg, inching upward.

–EEK ! I found a filter word!  “felt”   This takes us out of the moment and reminds us we aren’t the POV character. But we NEED TO BE!  No problem. Easy fix: take out the filter word and put the focus on what is happening, as it is happening.

–“Her foot caressed his leg, inching upward.”

–Wait! We need an emotional/visceral reaction from him before anything else happens.

She tilted her head up, exposing the soft curve below her ear.

–Yes yes yes!! Now push the visceral to the next level as his feelings of arousal increase.

–Is there another body part we can mention here that could also expose a soft curve?

He closed his eyes, groaned. It was hard not to. Everything was hard.


Jake opened his eyes and witnessed her pop the ring into her mouth and swallow.

–What makes him open his eyes?

–I LOVE ending on swallow.  Nice backload.


Laura Drake – 149 Words (click here to see Laura’s entry without Tiffany’s edits)

“You didn’t cut the grass. Again.” She looked down her nose as if I were something brown. And odorific.

 –Starting with a smelly bang-zinger. This is great! 

“Jesus, Jess, why don’t you come out with what’s really bugging you?”

–Good use of dialogue here. Very conversational.

 If eye-rolling and hair flipping were an Olympic sport, Jess’d be golden.

–I love the Olympic sport line, but you just told us Jess what looking down her nose, not rolling her eyes.  It might be too much at once.  But it’s a gem of a line, so save it for another spot!

“I wouldn’t expect a guy who hasn’t worked in a year to understand how a hard it is, on your feet, doing hair all day.”

“Oh yeah, my writing doesn’t count. I’m trying to make a difference in the world, Jess. I hardly think listening to the housewives of Orange County bitch –”

 –These are great snarky lines.  A few problems though. 

 –The length. Not much variety so far.

 –If every line is a zinger, the tension is lost.  It seems more like a game of one-liners. 

 –A bigger issue:  I don’t know their relationship. I can’t get a sense of it.  I’m going with brother-sister for now. 

Her eyes narrowed to slits of glittering hatred. “Get. Out.”

–I’ve seen eyes narrow into slits before.  Go further, go frrresher!

She pointed a carmine talon at the door. “Go play starving artist somewhere else.”

I hit the door and kept going. “You’ll be sorry when I’m famous.”

 –Perfect banter and action. Wouldn’t change a thing!

 But not as sorry when she saw the candlelit dinner on the dining room table.

 –?? This was a speed bump for me.  It made me question relationship. Was the scene supposed to be two characters pushing  buttons in a playful /hatred way?  Something doesn’t fit.   If it was better spelled out earlier – this would be a fantastic line!  And a fantastic zinger ending to the scene!


Lena Corazon (aka Jamila Jamison) – 151 Words (click here to see Lena’s entry without Tiffany’s edits)

“The killer’s been sending you warnings?” Adam’s face was thunderous. “Tempest, when were you planning to tell me?”

–Nice start!

–We’ve seen thunderous in a face and in a voice before.  Now we need to take it a step further.  Show us what happens in this thunderous face.  A twitch above his eye? Spit flying? We need specifics.

–Nix her name, unless there is someone else in the scene. Also to note – it was a speed bump for me to see the word thunderous next to Tempest.  Made Tempest seem more like the word and not the name,  and I had to read it again.

–Think about what information is being shared here.  What is more important and raises stakes? When she was going to tell him, or IF she was going to tell him. 

–“Were you planning to tell me?”  – straight to the point.

Her shoulders tensed. “It’s none of your business.”


“The hell it is. Here I am, risking my badge to catch the man who’s after you, and you’re withholding vital information. Are you crazy?”

–Nix “Here” it slows pace, and is too cutesy for the conversation at hand.

–Think about what info has been shared before this scene and what info the reader and the character already knows.  I’m guessing from the previous lines, that she already knows this guy is after her.  So we don’t need that info here.  No need to reshare.

–“The hell it is. I am risking my badge to catch this guy and you’re withholding vital info. Are you crazy?”

–Say it out loud.  Can you hear how streamline it is?  Awesome!

“Listen, I never asked for your help. You marched in here, full of talk about honor and justice and your bullshit conscience. This isn’t your fight.

–Good start! We need to see her alter  body language before, “This isn’t your fight.” I know we can hear the change in her tone from the dialogue alone, but I don’t want a reader to miss it.

“Women are being killed on my watch!”

–LOVE the shortened line here!  Let’s make it shorter.  Nix the cliché and you are left with a line already backloaded with the word killed. 

–Another way to think about why we are changing this line – what more important info here?  The fact that women are being killed on his watch? Or the fact that women are being killed at all?  I think it’s the latter, yes?

“And I’m the one who’s in danger, not you. I’ve been in this hellhole for three years. Don’t try to tell me what’s at stake.”

–Perfect. Wouldn’t change a thing!

“I swore to protect you —”

–The reader needs to see/hear a change in him here.  Either in body language or vocal change.  Why? Because he’s not just talking about saving other women now. It’s the first time in this conversation we see him care for her. Hooray! …Even if it is a round-about way of saying it 😉 

–There are a few different directions we could go with the body language or vocal change here. And it depends on what the relationship is between them at this point and where the turning points are in the manuscript.  Is this a small turning point?   Does he puff up his chest more?  Or, do we get to see the first taste of vulnerability in his character?

“You’re nothing but a damned cop. You’ll never understand what we go through.” Her voice dripped with contempt. “You’re part of the problem.”

–You are so close!  Think about the cadence here. “You’re” “You’ll” and then back to “You’re”   I think we need to make a change on the last line.  It has the most power. 

–“You are part of the problem.”   Can you hear the difference?

–Not a big fan of using “with.” It takes me out of the moment and reminds me that I’m reading. The door closed with a thud.  Cringe…  Find a more active way to share this contempt.  Show the contempt.  How? Visceral visceral visceral!  If she feels it – we feel it.  Yes?

He recoiled, stung. “You said you trusted me.”

–Show us the recoil.  One of my favorite tools to use – right here! Perfect spot to add in description/setting within the action – show us details while using the emotions that are already there in the dialogue! 

–Using the action in the scene to show description.  Yeay! Is this the first time he takes his eyes away from hers? What does he look at instead? Does he shuffle his shoes on the broken pavement?  Does he lean back against the bar stool and hold the bar for support?

“Not anymore, Adam. We’re finished.”

–Woohoo – backloading on finished.  Well done. 

–Now let’s talk about the placement of his name in these two lines.  If this was a non-emotional conversation, I’d say nix it.  Not this time.  To show what is really ending here – the name could mean something different depending on where it is.    

–“Not anymore. Adam, we’re finished.”    This is a HUGE difference. Yes?

–I know we put a 150 word limit on these entries, so there might not have been space for an emotional reaction from either of them here, but there needs to be one.  If you don’t want to waste your visceral here, you don’t have to. Save it for an even higher tension scene. Instead, show what they are feeling in what they do after the last line. Who walks away first?  Are there any look-backs?  Is there a physical touch here? A pat on the shoulder, a half wave? 

–So much emotion can be shown in how your characters deal with something as simple as walking.  Use this moment.

Thanks, Tiffany!! Here’s a drink for you after all that hard work. 🙂

More about Tiffany Lawson Inman – NakedEditor:
Tiffany is none other than Margie Lawson’s daughter! I’m here to tell you she’s got just as much energy revving her jets as our beloved Margie. Maybe even a tiny bit more. For the naked truth about our esteemed contest judge, click here.

Last but not least, don’t forget that between now and September, anyone who comments or subscribes to More Cowbell gets their name in the hat for one of my two Life List Club Milestone prizes (that would be an interview here or a guest post on their site). Plus, if you’re a subscriber, posts like this come right to your happy little inbox.

Do you have questions for our esteemed guest? Tiffany will be popping in over the next few days to answer them!


About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm ( Write on!
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19 Responses to Winners of the Dirty Fighting Contest – Part 2

  1. Laura Drake says:

    Oh Tiffany, I wish you had time for all the entries here – I learned so much from them!
    I feel like i have the tools (being a Margie Grad) but this shows me nuances of how to use them – and it makes it pop even more!

    I so appreciate you doing this – and Jenny, for thinking up the contest in the beginning – thanks so much!


  2. K.B. Owen says:

    Hi, Tiffany! Loved reading your analyses. You’ve given me a lot to consider in my own writing (if I can remember it all, lol). One thing I’m not quite understanding is “backloading.” I “think” I know what you mean, but I’m not sure. Can you explain it?

    Thanks so much, and thank YOU, Jenny, for connecting us with such an awesome editor!



    • Jenny Hansen says:

      You are welcome, Kathy! Since I know that Tiffany is tied up today and I don’t want you to wait, I’m copying the answer to this same question from her Mom’s post a few months back:

      Kathy –
      Backloading is putting the POWER WORD(s) at the end of the sentence.

      Here’s an example from my Jeanne Stein’s (my critique sister!) 6th book, CHOSEN.

      “Too bad there isn’t an Olympic event for lying.”

      The power word is LYING.

      Jeanne could have written:

      “He lies so much, too bad there isn’t an Olympic Event for it.”

      Aack! That sentence ends with the always-vague, no-power word, IT. The power word in that sentence, lies, is not emphasized.

      When you put the power word at the end of a sentence, it gives the sentence more power.

      Beware: FLOW always trumps backloading. 🙂


  3. Wow, seeing this breakdown is great! Thanks, Jenny for having Tiffany! Thanks, Tiffany for taking the time to do this!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I found it hugely helpful myself, Tiff. It is great to hear what goes through an editors head when they’re reading. Things that I NEVER would have thought of suddenly become clear.


  4. hawleywood40 says:

    What great critiques! I liked reading the story snippets too – they had me curious about the writers and the stories themselves! Especially the second one, because I LOVE reading (and writing) snarky conversation. I learned a lot from both the writer and Tiffany’s analyis on that one, so thanks to all of you!


  5. Lana says:

    Unbelievably helpful. So glad I read this today. Keep it coming!


  6. Marcia says:

    I loved this whole experience, Jenny! I’m amazed at what a few tweaks from an editor can do to make it read so much better. When I first read these, I picked out one sentence that didn’t sound right to me, but didn’t know what else could be done. I was glad to see what Tiffany recommended. Her suggestion makes so much sense. Well done, Jenny & Tiffany!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’ve really enjoyed it too, Marcia. It’s amazing to me to see Tuesday’s entries in their entirety and then see them dissected from Tiffany’s Editor-POV today. She’s awesome!


  7. Lena Corazon says:

    Brilliant! Tiffany, I’m super grateful for such great feedback on my piece, and I love seeing the edits that you’ve made to the other two entries as well. All these new recommendations and suggestions kick things up like crazy, and add such a punch! I’m taking copious notes. 😀


  8. amyshojai says:

    Woot! Made notes and will do a “search” on the WIP. Terrific ladies! and loved the detailed crit, thanks bunches!


  9. Thanks for the GREAT critique and advice, Tiffany. Best thing about finaling here? I get more Tiffany Ta-DAAs during your on-line course over at Lawson’s Writing Academy.

    Confession? I sacrificed action other places in order to get an actor’s take on the splayed hand, self-talk, etc. You caught many opportunities for improvement I missed. I’m in Atlanta for THE MAGGIES and staying over for six days. If I’m AWOL the first week, will a note from Sherry Isaac explaining we were occupied shop–er–writing suffice?

    Thank you for sharing your talent. Thanks, Jenny, for another rockin’ challenge.


  10. Congratulations to the winners! 🙂


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