Wednesday, June 10, 2009

12 Are You Hooked? (yes, 12)


Winded and sweaty from her long trek from the peon parking lot, Lena flew into Building Three, the home of Tony Brewer’s production company, Pilfered Projects Productions. The reception area was starkly modern. Black and glass and chrome with all the warmth and charm of a bus station urinal. She grimaced, as she always did, when she spotted the posters of Tony’s many successful TV reality shows lining the walls: American Icon, Prancing with the Stars, The Incredible Marathon and Endurer: Topeka. If you’re going to rip off other shows, couldn’t the titles at least be original?

In her usual uncoordinated style, Lena skidded across the shiny, slippery marble floor toward the reception desk, her long arms and legs flailing in all directions.

Bitsy, the reluctant receptionist, was at her desk watching Lena’s acrobatics through disapproving and decidedly uncharitable eyes. Bitsy was overweight, wildly gothic with dyed black hair and a smorgasbord of body piercings and tattoos. In spite of her unusual, often scary appearance, one might think beneath all those trappings there was a girl with a heart of gold. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Bitsy was as unpleasant and scary as she looked.

“You’re late,” she snarled, returning to her tabloid.

Finally, Lena came to a full upright stop in front of Bitsy’s desk. While trying to lasso her flyaway red hair back into a scrunchy, she said as she gasped for breath, “Practicing the Barber Cello Concerto...hard...Never have it ready in time for recital...”


  1. Too much description in general. Try to pull back some.

    I see your need for the descriptions regarding people, but is there a way to spoon feed them to the reader over time...say regardng Bitsy?

    The point I'm getting at is you're front loading with description and allowing it to take away from the story. Perhaps you can reveal intricate parts of Bitsy each time we see her(assuming we do)? If we don't then don't concentrate so much on her.

    Here's asample of trimming up description, in general.

    Winded and sweaty from her long trek from the parking lot, Lena flew into the lobby - Pilfered Projects Productions,Tony Brewer's production company. The reception area carried all the warmth and glamour of a bus station terminal. (urinal just doesn't do it for me, being a guy and all and not ever seeing one made of black glass). Glancing up, she grimaced. The walls were lined with posters: American Icon, Prancing with the Stars, The Incredible Marathon and Endurer: Topeka. Christ, Tony! If you’re going to rip off other shows, couldn’t the titles at least be original?

    It would be good to know the genre as it really helps hone in the tone for the audience.

    Hope this helps

  2. I'm not really hooked by this. When I read the first paragraph, since I didn't know anything about Lena, I thought she actually FLEW in, with wings and all, especially since you kept up with the bird imagery like she was trying to stop herself from crash landing. If it was meant to show that she was in a rush, it should be a little more clear. Why she was in a hurry in the first place would help. Like if she was scared of Bitsy biting her head off if she was late a fifth or sixth time. Bitsy simply saying that she's late doesn't really cut it.

    But the main reason I'm not hooked is because I don't see any tension in the opening or anything at stake. It doesn't have to be a hollywood action scene, but there has to be a reason why I'm reading about these characters and I don't see that here. I don't know much about Lena as a character to invest why I'd care if she was late for work or not. There's not enough detail about her that would make her connect with me as a reader.

    Also, the dialogue from Lena is confusing. I know it's written to show that she's out of breath, but you already mentioned that before the dialogue. You don't have to illustrate it in the actual dialogue, because I don't really understand what she's talking about. Or how the first sentence about the barber cello is related to never having it ready on time, aside from it being the same topic. The train of thought doesn't make sense to me.

    I liked the description about Bitsy though, for what it's worth. You just need to start with where the tension in your story is. That might be the next 250 words after this. Or it might be ten pages deep into your manuscript. But start with tension.

  3. Not hooked, sorry.

    I agree with the above postings, too much description.

    I wasn't sure what was going on, I didn't really know where we were "going." Basically I see a girl hurrying across a parking lot into a building. Is she late for work? Is she going to miss an appointment?

    The snark you have in the last line of the first paragraph was refreshing, I expected the rest of the "voice" to be similar, but it didn't seem to continue beyond that first paragraph.

    I do like the way you show Bitsy, I can see just what she looks like in my head. But I am guessing she is not your protag.

    And the last line has me completely confused.

    Perhaps it would have been helpful if we knew what the genre is, but hope that helps.

    Good luck!

  4. This one is just too... wordy... for me. And there really isn't anything to interest me.

  5. Not hooked, sorry.

    I felt the story stopped too often--and for too long--to describe things. Some of the description is a bit repetitive, too, with show + tell (e.g., either tell us Bitsy is "wildly gothic" or -- for preference -- lose that phrase and keep the details whereby you show us her appearance; but you definitely don't need both).

    I also have no real sense of where the story might be going (the cello concerto seemed to me to come completely out of nowhere: if such practising is work-related, how does it relate to Lena's job (whatever that is) at PPP? and if it's not, I'm not sure from the text why she's sharing this info with the obviously hostile Bitsy.

    Finally, the rather tongue-in-cheek and snarky tone -- which I liked (it's kind of Ben-Elton-esque) -- didn't seem to me to work with the actual events of the narrative. But that could just be me.

  6. This seems to say a lot without really saying a lot. I can't tell if I want to read on or not, because I don't see where this is headed. I think you should change the word flew in the first sentence, to raced or a word like that. A lot of detail which can be good, but in moderation. I love the second paragraph. But I want to care about Lena, I just don't have a reason to right now.

  7. I agree with all the above comments. The description of Lena's walk across the lobby had me picturing Jack Sparrow. She is portrayed as a ditz, so I don't really put too much stock into her opinion of Tony Brewer. I either need to like her or dislike her from the start.

  8. Not hooked. I just can't tell much of anything about the rest of the book from your 250.
    I agree with the above posts that suggested trimming some of the description. It might help you get to your tension faster.

  9. Just a tad bit too descriptive. I'm more interested in Lena, not so much Bitsy...unless she's a mc. And as I'm reading the show's names, I'm thinking "this is corny"...and then I read the next sentence. You wouldn't want to do anything to make an agent stop reading in the first paragraph. Maybe you could save that for later? But I would keep reading for a few more pages to see if this grabbed me. Good luck!

  10. Not hooked yet. There's a sense of cliche' about this story that isn't letting me "buy it"--case in point:

    "wildly gothic with dyed black hair and a smorgasbord of body piercings and tattoos. In spite of her unusual, often scary appearance, one might think beneath all those trappings there was a girl with a heart of gold. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Bitsy was as unpleasant and scary as she looked."

    Basically, she might be interesting but she's not--she's as cliche' as she looks.

    There's not a whole lot here I want to know more about---probably because I can't get past all of the description. You need to be ruthless in your self-edit. Good luck!

  11. I agree with the others about trimming the description. I think her crossing the lobby is a bit dramatic. I'm picturing her walking like a drunk baby giraffe.

    I guess the main problem is there isn't a hook. She's late, she's running across a lobby and saying something about practicing. I liked the titles of the reality TV rip-offs, but it doesn't really hook me. Is there a better place to begin your story? The details about the TV shows and Bitsy can come once people are more invested in the story.

  12. Thank you for your astute comments. I eliminated my original opening scene because it was Lena practicing the cello before she realized time had gotten away from her and she was now late for work.

    I feared that original opening was too static. Instead I opted to open with the almost frantic activity of her running from the parking lot, into the building, skidding across the floor...

    But I just might reinstate a version of my original scene, so nobody will be confused about the MC and what the heck the cello has to do with anything.

    Being a newbie here, I didn't realize I needed to include the title and the genre. Perhaps if I had included that important information, the reader would have a clearer idea of what I was trying to do.

    GENRE: Humor/Satire

    Thanks again for your comments. I'm mulling and pondering the new, old opening paragraph.