A sleek, silver Lamborghini traveling Virginia Interstate 85-S streaked past the other vehicles as though they were stalled.

“One hundred-ten,” Virginia State Trooper Smythe clocked the speeding coupe.

Posted speed limit was seventy miles an hour.

The veteran trooper adjusted his silver-lensed sunglasses, gripped the handlebars of his Harley-Davidson, heeled the kick-stand, and, lights flashing, roared into the left-hand lane of the interstate.

The driver’s face reflected in the Lamborghini’s side-view mirror was youthful, startled, and scared shitless.

Trooper Smythe’s forehead crinkled. Vehicle’s stolen. Or kid’s joyriding.

Brake lights glowed red, right blinker flashed, and the Lamborghini rolled to a stop by the side of the highway.

Trooper Smythe parked behind the expensive coupe. New York plates. The woman passenger’s head bobbed and her hands flapped as she spoke to the driver.

Trooper Smythe radioed dispatch on the portable scanner before he strode to the Lamborghini.

“Oh, that’s easily explained, Officer. You see, this car belongs to Willem Talcott, Sr. My grandfather.” The woman crossed her shapely legs. “You do recognize the name, don’t you, Officer?” Her voice, soft and lilting, had a definite northern inflection. “Retired state senator, you know.”

Trooper Smythe tilted his head. New England accent?  Boston, probably. “May I see some identification, Mam?” he said.

“I’m Willem Talcott’s granddaughter.” She waved a hand, wafting a scent of fragrance.

Yes, Mam. Your driver’s license, please.”

“Grandfather’s retired. Living in Florida, and we’re–my brother, Patrick, and I–are driving his new car to—-“

“For Christ sakes, Angie, find your damn license.” Patrick glared at his sister.

Angie handed Patrick her license. “Who does this cop think he is, anyway?” she asked.

“Zip it, Sis.” Patrick whispered. “Here you are, Officer.”

Trooper Smythe examined the license then peered at the woman. His eyes, hidden behind the silver-lenses of his sunglasses, appraised her. Not so young as she appeared. But stacked. And out of his league, definitely.

“You’re Angelia Marsha Talcott?” he asked.

“It’s not a flattering picture of me, is it, Officer?” Angie brushed a blond stand from her cheek.

Trooper Smythe returned the license. He took off his sunglasses, leaned in at the window, and smiled. Might as well play along. See where it leads. “Agree, Mam. Doesn’t do you justice.”

“You think not, Officer?” Angie’s face lit up and she tugged at the hem of her short skirt. The Louis Vuitton handbag fell from her lap. A thick wad of cash fell out.

Patrick pursed his lips. “Not again, Sis,” he said under his breath.

Trooper Smythe put on his sunglasses and looked at the young driver. “Your license, please.”

“Here it is, Officer.”

Trooper Smythe perused the license. He sucked a tooth. “It’s expired, Patrick.”

“Imbecile!” Angie said and punched Patrick’s arm. “You said Daddy’s lawyer straightened everything out. With Judge Strangler.”

“Cut that out,” Patrick said. He grabbed Angie’s wrist. “I, I thought it was taken care of.”

“Let go of me, you idiot.”

“Mam, please.” Trooper Smythe said.

“Afternoon, Officer. How’s it going?” the young driver asked and grinned, but his dark eyes shifted waryly.

“Afternoon. Driver’s license and registration, please,” Trooper Smythe said.

Window rolled half-way, warm, friendly smile, no trace of belligerence, both hands visible on the steering wheel. Trooper Smythe’s lips twitched. Kid knew the drill: followed every procedure recommended when pulled over by law enforcement.

“Here they are, Sir.” The driver passed the requested cards through the half-opened window. His hand trembled.

The Trooper inhaled. No hint of alcoholic, or musky, herbal smell of pot.

“Everything’s in order, I’m certain, Officer,” The female passenger unbuckled her seatbelt, shifted in the seat, and stared at the Trooper. Her eyes were a startling shade of blue. “And we are in somewhat of a hurry.”

“Yes, Mam.” Trooper Smythe shuffled the documents in his hand. “Mmm, license and vehicle registration don’t match.”

Angie unclenched her fist. “I am sorry. I lost control. My brother has never grown up. Needs a job, poor baby.” She patted Patrick’s hand. “Any opening in law enforcement, Officer?”

“None I know of, Mam.”

“No?” Angie shrugged. “Just as well. My brother’s too good to walk a beat.”

Patrick put his forehead on the top of the steering wheel.

Trooper Smythe’s jaw tightened. “Pardon me, Mam, but with your brother’s record…and this latest ticket, Patrick wouldn’t qualify for meter patrol,” the officer aid and flipped open his notepad.

“What?” Angie’s mouth gaped open. “You’re issuing a ticket?”

“Clocked at one-hundred ten. Expired license. Don’t think there’s much chance of avoiding a citation, Mam.”

“Are you sure?” Angie hiked up her skirt. “May I, ah, offer a personal enticement–”

“My God, Angie.”

Trooper Smythe cleared his throat. “No, Mam,” he said, “you can’t.”

Angie snatched the cash that had fallen from her handbag and waved the wad in the air. “Well, would you find this more attractive?”

Patrick raised his head. “Enough, Angela.”

“Listen, stupid, you’ll lose your driving privileges for three years.”

Patrick’s face turned red. “Give it up, Angie,” he said.”I was speeding. I deserve the ticket.”

Trooper Smythe tapped his pen against the notebook. Kid’s manning up.

“Officer, don’t pay attention to Angie. If anyone needs to grow up, it’s her. But my sister’s been coddled and —”

“And you haven’t, dear brother?” Angie shoved the cash into her handbag.

“Yes, so have I.” Patrick looked at the Trooper. “But I don’t want to end up like her. Write the ticket.”

Patrick’s eyes widened as he read the citation.

“Son, just put it away and contact your lawyer. It’s no one else’s business. You know?” Trooper Smythe inclined his head towards Angie.

Patrick nodded.

“Better switch drivers,” Trooper Smythe said, and walked to his motorcycle. He watched Angela ease the Lamborghini into traffic.

Nine miles over the speed limit would add three points to Patrick’s license. Trooper Smythe started his Harley. Patrick will retain his driving privileges. By the skin of his teeth; but now the kid has a chance.

Instructor Response

A sleek, silver Lamborghini traveling Virginia Interstate 85-S streaked past the other vehicles as though they were stalled.

“One hundred-ten,” Virginia State Trooper Smythe clocked the speeding coupe. [Good.]

Posted speed limit was seventy miles an hour.

The veteran trooper adjusted his silver-lensed sunglasses, gripped the handlebars of his Harley-Davidson, heeled the kick-stand, and, lights flashing, roared into the left-hand lane of the interstate.

The driver’s face reflected in the Lamborghini’s side-view mirror was youthful, startled, and scared shitless. [Yes! (You might want to use active rather than passive; let reflect be the verb and don’t use “was.”]  

Trooper Smythe’s forehead crinkled. Vehicle’s stolen. Or kid’s joyriding. [This is internalization into trooper’s thoughts, a shift from narrator’s perspective in red. Is this the best way to present the info here? It’s fairly obvious for the situation and may not be needed in this place. If you left it out you keep the reader in the story progress when things are happening.]

Brake lights glowed red, right blinker flashed, and the Lamborghini rolled to a stop by the side of the highway. [Is this the trooper’s perspective? Or the narrator? Not too important but it is a shift that could be distracting. You could clarify by simple attribution.]

Trooper Smythe parked behind the expensive coupe. [This is really picky but at your level of writing it can be a help to improvement. “Expensive” is an opinion, a judgement, and here it represents an author one-word intrusion. These judgements are often carelessly used by writers and it is a perspective shift that diminishes the quality of storytelling and reader engagement. If you use the narrator, say “$240,000 coupe.” Or don’t use an ajeective.]  New York plates. [Exposition in the middle of story movement. It stops flow. Technically, this might be staging, that is setting. Awkward. See if you can’t work info in elsewhere.] The woman passenger’s head bobbed and her hands flapped she flapped her hands as she spoke to the driver. [Read this sentence allowed, both the original and then with the changes. See how the rhythm can be changed for easier reading.]

Trooper Smythe radioed dispatch on the portable scanner before he [This adds little to the story and leads to verbosity from too many words.] and strode to the Lamborghini.

“Oh, that’s easily explained, Officer. You see, this car belongs to Willem Talcott, Sr. My grandfather.” [What and why is she explaining here? I missed it.] The woman crossed her shapely [authorial opinion again. If you want the reader to know about how the legs look, you can describe them. Certainly a description of her legs might work well here.] legs.  “You do recognize the name, don’t you, Officer?” Her voice, soft and lilting, had a definite northern inflection. “Retired state senator, you know.”

[The above paragraph is perfect for the exercise. I really like how you’ve used dialogue for characterization. It’s a gift you have and keep it–that is speaking in dialogue with the voice of the character in ways that increase the reader knowledge and interest. Great! As an aside, let me rewrite the two lines of dialogue (and delete one) with these thoughts in mind for brevity. Is it right for the situation? And although the characterization is excellent, is it too long for the story at this point? What if you tried:

“Willem Talcott owns this car, officer,”

“Retired state senator!”

This is an attempt to get crucial information succinctly expressed.]

 

Trooper Smythe tilted his head. New England accent?  Boston, probably. “May I see some identification, Mam?” he said.

“I’m Willem Talcott’s granddaughter.” She waved a hand, wafting a scent of fragrance.

            “Yes, Mam. Your driver’s license, please.”

            “Grandfather’s retired.[We know this.] He lives in Florida, and we’re–my brother, Patrick, and I–are driving his new car to—-"

“For Christ sakes, Angie, find your damn license.” Patrick glared at his sister.

            Angie handed Patrick her license. “Who does this cop think he is, anyway?” she asked.

“Zip it, Sis.” Patrick whispered. “Here you are, Officer.” [This is all excellent. Provides good characterization.]

Trooper Smythe examined the license then peered at the woman. His eyes, hidden behind the silver-lenses of his sunglasses, appraised her. [No. For accuracy, he should appraise her with his eyes, not his eyes appraised her – “eyes” don’t appraise. :-)] Not so young as she appeared. But stacked. And out of his league, definitely.

“You’re Angelia Marsha Talcott?” he asked.

“It’s not a flattering picture of me, is it, Officer?” Angie brushed a blond stand from her cheek. [Excellent. Well done.]

Trooper Smythe returned the license. He took off his sunglasses, leaned in at the window, and smiled. Might as well play along. See where it leads. “Agree, Mam. Doesn’t do you justice.”

“You think not, Officer?” Angie’s face lit up and she tugged at the hem of her short skirt. The      Louis Vuitton handbag fell from her lap. A thick wad of cash fell out.

Patrick pursed his lips. “Not again, Sis,” he said under his breath.

Trooper Smythe put on his sunglasses and looked at the young driver. “Your license, please.”

“Here it is, Officer.”

Trooper Smythe perused the license. He sucked a tooth. “It’s expired, Patrick.”

“Imbecile!” Angie said and punched Patrick’s arm. “You said Daddy’s lawyer straightened everything out. With Judge Strangler.”

“Cut that out,” Patrick said. He grabbed Angie’s wrist. “I, I thought it was taken care of.”

"Let go of me, you idiot.”

“Mam, please.” Trooper Smythe said.

“Afternoon, Officer. How’s it going?” the young driver asked and grinned, but his dark eyes shifted warily.  

            “Afternoon. Driver’s license and registration, please,” Trooper Smythe said.

Window rolled half-way, warm, friendly smile, no trace of belligerence, both hands visible on the steering wheel. Trooper Smythe’s lips twitched. Kid knew the drill: followed every procedure recommended when pulled over by law enforcement.

“Here they are, Sir.” The driver passed the requested cards through the half-opened window.  His hand trembled.

The Trooper inhaled. No hint of alcoholic, or musky, herbal smell of pot.

“Everything’s in order, I’m certain, Officer,” The female passenger unbuckled her seatbelt, shifted in the seat, and stared at the Trooper. Her eyes were a startling shade of blue. “And we are in somewhat of a hurry.”

“Yes, Mam.” Trooper Smythe shuffled the documents in his hand. “Mmm, license and vehicle registration don’t match.” [Yes! Good. Story is moving well. Pace is good. And your dialogue is perfect and contributing to story and characterization.]

Angie unclenched her fist. “I am sorry. I lost control. My brother has never grown up. Needs a job, poor baby.” She patted Patrick’s hand. “Any opening in law enforcement, Officer?”

    “None I know of, Mam.”

    “No?” Angie shrugged. “Just as well. My brother’s too good to walk a beat.” :-)

Patrick put his forehead on the top of the steering wheel. [Like this! :–)]

Trooper Smythe’s jaw tightened. “Pardon me, Mam, but with your brother’s record…and this latest ticket, Patrick wouldn’t qualify for meter patrol,” the officer aid and flipped open his notepad.

“What?” Angie’s mouth gaped open. “You’re issuing a ticket?”

“Clocked at one-hundred ten. Expired license. Don’t think there’s much chance of avoiding a citation, Mam.”

“Are you sure?” Angie hiked up her skirt. “May I, ah, offer a personal enticement–”

“My God, Angie.”

Trooper Smythe cleared his throat.  “No, Mam,” he said, “you can’t.”

Angie snatched the cash that had fallen from her handbag and waved the wad in the air. “Well, would you find this more attractive?”

Patrick raised his head. “Enough, Angela.”

“Listen, stupid, you’ll lose your driving privileges for three years.”

 Patrick’s face turned red. “Give it up, Angie,” he said."I was speeding. I deserve the ticket.”

Trooper Smythe tapped his pen against the notebook. Kid’s manning up.

“Officer, don’t pay attention to Angie. If anyone needs to grow up, it’s her. But my sister’s been coddled and—-"

“And you haven’t, dear brother?” Angie shoved the cash into her handbag.

“Yes, so have I.” Patrick looked at the Trooper. “But I don’t want to end up like her. Write the ticket.”

Patrick’s eyes widened as he read the citation.

“Son, just put it away and contact your lawyer. It’s no one else’s business. You know?” Trooper Smythe inclined his head towards Angie. [This is nicely done!]

Patrick nodded.

“Better switch drivers,” Trooper Smythe said, and walked to his motorcycle. He watched Angela ease the Lamborghini into traffic.

Nine miles over the speed limit would add three points to Patrick’s license. Trooper Smythe started his Harley. Patrick will retain his driving privileges. By the skin of his teeth; but now the kid has a chance.

 

[Very well done. You’ve achieved what the instructions requested, and done it with ease. I’ve made a few of comments as opportunities to point out crafty sort of things. There are no mistakes. WHC]

  1. Dear Dr. Coles,
    Thank you again for another thoughtful critique. Before beginning a writing assignment, I will repeat aloud ten times, “Avoid adjectives. Avoid adjectives. Avoid authorial voice.”

    Each lesson brings fresh insights and understandings. Every task assigned is unique and helps one focus on a specific writing detail. The first time I read a new assignment, I rebel, thinking I can not possibly accomplish what is required..so I stew and mull it over for a few days until the neurons fire.

    Best,
    Cathryn

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