Wednesday, August 27, 2008

#25 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE: The Love Lab
GENRE: commercial fiction

I knew we weren't supposed to make judgments on physical appearances, but I couldn't help it with this couple. For starters, Jessica looked like a perfect 80's cliché, complete with jelly shoes, stirrup pants and side pony-tail; while Hugh sported an argyle sweater-vest that could have come straight from a 1950's yearbook. It was a like watching some new reality series: Clash of the Decades.

I forced myself to concentrate on the woman's face, making note of Jessica's wheedling tone.

"But why can't we get married?" she was saying for the umpteenth time.

Hugh pouted. "You know how my mother feels. She'll never speak to me again if I marry you. And I can't live with that."

"But I don't see why we can't elope and never let her know the difference."

Hugo's mouth twitched almost imperceptibly. But I knew what it meant as soon as I saw it. "Sweetie, it's more complicated than that."

I leaned closer. It could be any second now. Hugh tapped his foot while waiting for Jessica's reply. She pursed her lips as if about to speak and -

Jackpot! Hugh rolled his eyes dramatically upward as Jessica started to rant about how she would only wait for so long before she went into action. I briefly wondered what kind of action she meant, what was she going to hold some sort of spinsterhood protest? But really it didn't matter because the eye-roll said it all. This couple was doomed.

"Doomed. Doomed. Doomed!" I sang out.


  1. I'm sort of part-hooked. I like bits of this - the 'Clash of the Decades' part - the Doomed, doomed, doomed at the end. You paint a picture of two fairly awful people but I don't feel compelled to read on. I'm guessing that the narrator is learning how to judge relationships but I don't have a real feel for what's happening or any great interest. Sorry.

  2. I like this. It has a sense of humor that appeals to me. The main thing that bothers me is that I don't get a feel for the POV person. I'd read on, but if the POV character wouldn't become more than a spectator pretty quick, I'd be dissapointed.

  3. The "Clash of the Decades" as anonymous called it makes me think of that Alicia Silverstone/Brendan Fraser movie that I can't remember the name of.

    I like the humor conveyed, but I'm thrown off by the POV. I'd read on. But like luc2 said, I'd be disappointed if the POV doesn't become more than a spectator...soon.

  4. To me it read as if the narrator were invisible somehow (a spirit?) making it possible for it to eavesdrop on a personal conversation. He/she seemed almost gleeful that the relationship was doomed. I'd read a little further to see who the main character was.

  5. Not hooked. As an opening, this left me completely flat, although it might be worked in later on in the story. Dropping a reader into the middle of scene is all well and good, but I wanted more context in this case. WHY was the narrator watching these people, and why did he or she feel compelled to jump up and shout "Doomed!" at them? More important still, why did the narrator think I would care?

    In addition, I found the dialogue between the couple trite.

    Sorry. :-(

  6. No, not hooked. To be totally honest, I find the couple cliche and boring.
    And I get the impression that they are just a prop-that we will never see them again after this therapy session, or whatever it is. I don't like spending too much time on "characters" that turn out to simply be a setpiece.

  7. I think this could hook me, but you're doing too much for the reader. Let the tone of the situation take the reader along, don't beat your readers over the head with adjectives. Sometimes they don't fit that well (pouting when your mother says you can't marry your girlfriend is the reaction of a 12-year-old).

    Other things: 2nd paragraph... who is the woman and who is Jessica? You've got two subjects in one sentence when you only need one.

    Careful with the adjectives and adverbs throughout (twitched almost imperceptibly should just be twitched... rolled his eyes dramatically upward should just be rolled his eyes etc.)

    Also, you've got a Hugo in there instead of a Hugh at one point.

    Small fixes could make a big difference.

  8. "For starters" kills me. It's verbally correct and I expect to hear my kids talk like that, but I don't want to read an entire book that sounds that way.

    Reading through the rest I'm not in love with any of the characters. Sorry- not hooked.

  9. Sorry, not hooked.

    Like others I wanted to know the narrator's relationship to Jessica and Hugh, and his/her stake in what happens. Why does the narrator care what happens? And why should the reader?

    I don't think the first page needs to give us everything, but it should at least hint at the narrator's investment.

    I also found the interactions a bit cliched: for example rolling the eyes and pouting. It seems Jessica is more likely the melodramatic character, in which case Hugh's reactions should be subtler.

    Just my opinion. Hope this helps.

    Good luck.

  10. I like the voice you have here. And it looks like something I would at least read the rest of the first chapter to see who the MC is. I'm imagining an alien who's standing off to the side studying humans....

    Wait this isn't scifi/fantasy. Maybe a bored Starbucks barista or waitress speculating about the lives of her customers. :)

    One thing though - your descriptions and wording in spots... you might have some unnecessary words here and there, and also be careful about the mental images that some descriptions give the reader.

    "Jessica looked like a perfect 80's cliche..." <- 'perfect' is an example of an extra word you can scrub away. :)

    And descriptions like this:

    Hugh pouted. <- Immediately brings to mind Zoolander's (Ben Stiller movie) exaggerated facial expressions. Guys don't pout. At all.

    what was she going to hold some sort of spinsterhood protest <- This made me blink confusedly for a second until I got it. Right. Maybe just be a little more direct?

    Overall though - I would read on to see where you are going with this, and I do like the snarky voice of the MC.

  11. Although the very last line is a bit confusing, I really liked the MC voice in this. Parts felt a bit too vague, but I'd definitely read on.

  12. I'm not hooked yet, but I would read on to see if I get a better sense of who the MC is and why they are observing these people. I don't like the couple, so this is one reason I might not read too much further, but if I liked the MC, then I would read on.

  13. Due to this selection and the title, I am leaning towards the idea that the protagonist is watching a reality show, maybe? Then I would assume that she is going to end up on it perhaps? Which is still always hilarious to me. I am a little confused as to why they are dressed in such clearly defined decades that are so not the decade we’re set in. I would read on, but mostly to see what we’re dealing with here.

  14. I'd keep reading, if only to find out what's happening. I think you pose a fun story question: Who is this, and why is she trying to determine the relationship-future of this random couple?

    Good writing too. The only bump I experienced was when you said the guy pouted. That felt like head hopping to me.

  15. Not sure if I'm hooked. I do like the humorous tone, but I'm not crazy about being on the sidelines of something I really don't understand yet. I think it would hook me more if I had a clue why this character is watching and/or why she cares about these two actors, or whatever they are.

    Anyway, you certainly have a nice writing style, so I'd probably read a little further just because it's easy to.

  16. Hmm. Not hooked.

    I really like the soudns like a quirky Cupid is watching. But overall it feels really vague..I'm not sure what time this is and why the couple is dressed as they are, or where we are. I guess I'd read past the first 250 just to get a better feel. The humor was good, though.