I have integrated my rough-drafted conversation into my narrative flow on novel restart 3.0. Here was layer 1 of my revisions/cycling edits (where you go in and edit the last scene you wrote before you start writing again, as opposed to saving all editing for after the final draft – I am a cycler, which may be why my final editing session changes so relatively little if I got the story right). Below is where the scene stands now after I went in and drafted in my narrative writing. I decided I didn’t like their banter broken into verse, so I took that out. I need to make one or two more passes through this scene, but I will likely doit on the novel-wide edit. Primarily I need to add in more physical description of the world around them (as opposed to merely character blocking and expressions), and I need to dig out the sexual tension if more physical description doesn’t do that.
This should offer you a better sense of how I write. I have to build my writing out from being nothing but a narrative inside a character’s head to something that creates a followable story.
[bracketed comments] = editorial aside explaining what I did if it’s not a textual change that can be noted by changing the color of the words involved
black = original words
blue = compositional mode additions
red = editorial change
To recap the scenario: a masquerade. Their Lord and Lady Winter costumes match; hers, intentionally, because she wanted to match a man from her past and thinks the hero is he. He’s not. He takes her for a courtesan he’s supposed to meet there. She’s not.
Up close, she was beautiful. Her eyes were startlingly blue, almost like faceted sapphires, and framed by dark lashes so long and so curled they brushed the top of her mask’s eye holes. The skin around the silver papier-mâché was fine-grained and glowing.
The bosom which had caught Lysander’s attention across the room looked magnificent at touching distance. He simultaneously wanted to yank down the fabric covering her and leave that perfect frame in place while he lost himself inside her.
He had no idea where John—or Tristan—had found such a creature or what she must have cost, but Lysander was unequivocally, profoundly grateful for her presence, and for the smirk that remained on her lips throughout his perusal.
He should speak. The two of them could not simply stand there in the midst of the ballroom staring at one another, and he had been the one to approach her.
Unconsciously, Lysander smiled his most charming smile before voicing any words. Then he recalled his mask. He left the expression in place anyway as he greeted her with a shallow bow.
“Blow, blow, thou winter wind,”
he said, reaching for the one bit of poetry he knew that might suit her attire. he murmured as he stood, offering the one poetic reference he could bring to mind that might refer to her costume. “Thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude.”
“Do you not think yourself unkind to speak to me of your ingratitude?”
Her question took him aback. Had she been inconvenienced to come tonight? Had he been hard to find? [paragraph break]
While he parsed the meaning of her words, their cadence struck him. She’d replied in the same meter his
verse quotation employed, with a slight pause to emphasize her phrasing—she meant to speak in verse. It was a parlor game he knew well from his sister. She always won. He wondered how he’d fare against a lady of the night. Dismally, most like, if she were an actress.
Lysander framed an iambic reply anyway. After all, she might be a dancer.
“Then should I simply note that you’re well met, my lady fair?”
The smirk deepened. “Well met, indeed, my lord.”
He held her gaze. “Am I your lord?”
“Tonight it doth appear you are.”
A chorus of angels could not have sounded sweeter. Lysander took half a step closer—an inch more, and he would have his shoes under the hem of her gown—and tipped his head down to keep their eye contact. She was not breaking it, and he could not bring himself to. He inhaled and smelled roses and some winter spice. Her body was a warm glow against his chest, discrete from the heat of the crowd.
“Then how shall I best please my love?”
“A kiss to shame all lovers here; but first a dance to cast all dancers in despair at their incompetence.”
Damn all, she must be an actress.
“A feather to your cap, my dear,” Lysander saluted, “for I cannot compete with prose so fine.”
She shook her head, mirthful. The movement drew his eyes to a strand of paste diamonds winking in her hair like snowflakes under the candles. “A sorry piece of prose, good sir, for by my count we doth converse in verse.”
“My lady has a clever mind, to match her dex’trous tongue.”
“And know you this because you dream about my tongue?” Her tone was as bold as her words. Every look she gave him from beneath those dusky lashes promised everything he wanted.
Lysander leaned in and lowered his voice. “For cert, my love: the fairest of its kind have I encounteréd.”
“A pretty piece of flattery, if true.” Bold to coy in ten syllables. Definitely a demoiselle of the stage.
He spread his arms. “Can you doubt me?”
“I have done nothing else since took you leave to speak.”
“But why? I’ faith, my lady, I have only ever
spoke spake my heart’s confession.— pax! I concede. oh, damn all! Pax; I concede.Damn it! Pax, my lady; I concede. You have mastered me.”
She laughed in victory. “’Twas ever thus, if I recall.”
She must win as often as Miranda. Lysander harrumphed. “No one likes a braggart.”
“In a woman, you mean. Men may, of course, talk all night of their exploits without receiving censure.” Her words, Lysander noted idly, flowed despite her no doubt assumed—or, at least, adopted—accent, with no hesitation over her vocabulary. In speech she was more than passable for a lady. But that much was to be expected; no abbess would allow one of her girls to masquerade amongst the ton if she could not play the part.
“Mayhap,” he replied, glancing around them at the couples beginning to form up. A new set must be about to start. “I, however, prefer to spend tonight in exploits, not in talk.”
Ever a Always the man of action.”
Lysander shrugged, once more meeting her eyes. “Better a
man mere master of action than a king of unmet dreams.”
“Am I just a footnote to your action, then? And here I thought myself a dream.”
The words, the tone, the smile—all were drenched in a wistfulness that made Lysander’s chest ache. He grabbed her hand and pulled it against his racing heart. “My lady, you would be a dream to any man, and me especially. Yet, this is proof” (he squeezed her hand) “you are no mere vision, so action you must be—aye, but the pinnacle and the point, and not a sorry postscript.”
For a moment her eyes looked haunted; for an instant the light shimmered wider across her irises. Then she dropped her gaze to their linked hands.
“Your talk of postscript makes me sad. Let us dance, if we aim to.”
And she was right: there were the opening strings of a quadrille.
[right now that is the scene in entirety, where it begins and where it ends. I might add a bit to it – not sure yet. That’s for another night’s work!]