Note: This excerpt is from the MIDDLE of the novel, but the gist is easily attained by context.
Out of the Water
"What are you dreaming of?" He asked in a low voice.
"Colours," she whispered. “All the women had such pretty dresses today. I can’t remember the last time I –"
His arms came about her, his lips rested on the nape of her neck. "You’re beautiful in your own colours, Peri," he murmured. "But we’ll find a dress for you at the next port, if you like."
She looked down at her hands, clasped together on her lap. As she watched, her fingers separated, her right hand moved to the side, and landed above his knee.
His fingers pushed aside her collar and kisses moved along her bare shoulder.
"What are you doing?" She asked, again in a whisper.
"You’ve cast a spell on me, Peri. The dragon has turned into a man."
His breath had quickened; hers as well. She shifted, ever so slightly, so that his lips approached hers, grazing along her cheek.
Footsteps pounded on the deck above their heads; loud cries echoed from bow to stern. The others had returned.
He pulled away from her and she rose, shakily, to her feet. Her wreath had fallen over one ear. She slipped it off and met his gaze. He had one hand outstretched still, as though he would tug her back to him, keep her in his cave. Yet he said, "fly away, Peri, fly away. The dragon won’t try to keep you."
She held herself steady until she was back in her own cabin, then collapsed on the berth, shaking, clutching her wreath.
"I wanted to stay," she said aloud into her pillow.
An Ambiguous Sentence
1. Peri's hand sounds like it moves on its own accord: As she watched, her fingers separated, her right hand moved to the side, and landed above his knee. While it's as though she's surprised her hand is moving, against her better judgment, it sounds a little too detached--at first I even thought there was a possible typo and she was watching the man's hand moving.
2. Having her fingers "separated" almost sounds like they dissolved/split.
3. "To the side" is a little vague, and I'm not sure it adds much to the info of the sentence since it doesn't indicate it's moving toward the man. Could just be me.
Dialogue and Other Punctuation
1. The first word of a dialogue TAG is never capitalized. The line is considered all one continuous sentence, even when there's a question or exclamation mark.
This line: "What are you dreaming of?" He asked in a low voice.
Should read: "What are you dreaming of?" he asked in a low voice.
This line: "What are you doing?" She asked, again in a whisper.
Should read: "What are you doing?" she asked, again in a whisper.
2. The first word in a line of dialogue is always capitalized.
This line: Yet he said, "fly away, Peri, fly away."
Should read: Yet he said, "Fly away, Peri, fly away."
3. Be careful not to overdo semi-colons in novels. Though acceptable for use in novels, semi-colons are more commonly seen in nonfiction writing. The two instances here are quite close together; one source suggests no more than one semi-colon per page. Consider making one of these instances into two separate sentences. I'd choose the second.
His breath had quickened; hers as well.
Footsteps pounded on the deck above their heads; loud cries echoed from bow to stern.
Change to: Footsteps pounded on the deck above their heads. Loud cries echoed from bow to stern.
Wording and Little Things
1. Be careful not to use too many descriptors for the word "said." Some variety is nice, but a simple "said" is only used twice in this passage. Too many variations can be distracting. In this excerpt, there are: asked, whispered, and murmured.
2. The words shaky and shaking are too similar and used close together. Perhaps one could be changed to a synonym such as unsteadily or trembling.
3. I'm having a hard time visualizing Peri's dress. This dress has a collar that he pushes aside, but it somehow leaves her shoulder bare? It may not be an issue, however, since her dress may be described in a previous scene.
Summary: Kudos & General Thoughts
Ah, the almost-kiss. This seems to work well in a romance novel (or other genres for that matter), despite making the readers gnash their teeth because it was so close! It creates tension and interest, which help to drive the story forward. I love the name Peri, which Deniz says is the man's nickname for the main character's real name (Rosa). The story as well as the dialogue seems to flow well, and the characters, setting, and the general romance are interesting.
Can you add any other helpful comments to the above critique?
Have you ever written an almost-kiss into any of your novels or writings?
Do you find the intricacies of dialogue punctuation confusing? (when to cap, whether/when to use commas, periods, or dashes, etc.)