Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Secret Agent #14

TITLE: Raptor Snatch
GENRE: Women's fiction

The window smells like sweet vomit with a hint of pine scented ammonia. I was queasy before I boarded the plane, my stomach full of overcooked bacon and undercooked eggs. My attempts to drown them in coffee as bitter as my ex solved nothing. The window's stench is like aromatherapy gone horribly, horribly wrong. I swallow hard and breathe shallowly.

Blending with the puke scented aroma of the window on my right, is the smell of the man sitting on my left. Stale sweat, stale cigarette smoke, stale coffee breath, I wonder if his life is as stale as he smells. Even his suit looks defeated, the fabric worn thin on his elbows and knees, the material becoming shiny where the rest of him is dull.

I'm keeping my face in the sweet spot. Facing directly forward, the smell of the man and the window cancel each other out and my nostrils are safe. I am in the eye of the smell. From the eye of the smell I can see a chip in the plane's windshield. The longer I look at it the more reassured I feel; our plane has already taken a kick to the face by the elements and survived. It can pull through again. I hope. Oh God we're going to crash! Just my luck to fly through a flock of geese, crash and die just when I'm trying to live again. Maybe it's just bird shit? Best not to think about it.


  1. Not sure if I like the character enough to keep reading. All the smells def made me feel gross but almost too gross to want to plod on...I would but you'd have to hook me fast

  2. Not hooked..sorry. Too much about smells and puke to read on. Those descriptions do not move the story forward. I would tightened these three paragraphs...keeping only what's necessary.

  3. I agree, too much description of gross smells makes it hard to read. Also, I think I might like it better in past tense. Present tense seems more YA, fast paced action, than women's fiction.

    Good luck!

  4. That first line stopped me. Sorry! Too much smelly stuff!

  5. I think this does perhaps too good a job of describing the scene, which unfortunately turns me off. There are a few grammar/punctuation issues (first and second sentences of the 2nd paragraph, second sentence of 3rd paragraph).

    Since she is narrating this entire scene, it'd be nice to have a hint of what's going on more generally. We know she's "trying to live again", but maybe you could add something to her internal narrative that says more?

  6. I agree with everyone else on the smelly stuff. Provably a little too much vomit at the beginning of a story aimed toward the fairer sex.

    I did really like the last two lines of the second paragraph. They sound good enough to make someone's private list of quotes.

  7. Not hooked yet. The descriptions are over-written for my taste.

    "Even his suit looks defeated." That's an awesome line, but then you go on to give us detail.

    I also like the comment about her sitting in the "eye of the smell," but there is way too much description of every smell.

    Also, the "OMG we're gonna crash" kinda came out of nowhere. You might want that to be it's own paragraph. I had to reread the sentences around it to try to make sense of it.

    I think by tightening this up it could be something really fun.

    Good luck!

  8. I agree with the others. It was tough for me to get to the end of the 250 words, way too much vomit and unappealing images/scents.

    I'm not hooked now. I want to more about the story, but I can't handle the imagery.

    I should point out that I close my eyes when movies or TV shows get gross, so may not be your audience. Wish you well.

  9. I, for one, love it. Anyone reading a book called Raptor Snatch (LOVE that too btw) should have a strong stomach. I enjoy the voice and the snark and would certainly read on.

  10. I'm not loving so much "ick" in the first few paragraphs. It's too concentrated and off-putting for my tastes.

    I'd also reconsider the title. "Snatch" is also slang for women's genitals (which might be what you're going for but will be a really tough sell to women's fiction editors and readers.)

    You do have some lovely turns of phrases, however, like "I wonder if his life is as stale as he smells." Try not to over-describe, and keep at it!

  11. Form rejection. I feel queasy just reading it, and while I appreciate that you were able to evoke such a response, I don't think I could make it through another page. I don't understand where the "we're going to crash!" sentiment came from, and I am not enamored of the MC as a person.

  12. I also thought the descriptions of smells and other gross things were too over the top and gratuitous, though you did paint a vivid picture of them. I love present tense and don't feel all books NEED to be past tense, but I've never warmed to first person present tense.

    I'm a bit old-fashioned when it comes to writing and taste in books, so I don't mind if a plot isn't immediately established, but even I wasn't hooked enough by the writing to want to read on to discover what the plot trajectory is.

    I also immediately read the title as something dirty and definitely not women's fiction, though the title does match the first few paragraphs well.

  13. I'd love to see some of you climb out of your cribs and read someone like Pynchon.

    Anyways, there are some good ideas here. And don't listen to any of this "write less details" nonsense. The narrative structure, itself, was quite good. In fact, you've done too good of a job of making people feel your character's discomfort.

    I'd read on because the level of talent here is apparent.

  14. It is not the queasiness provoked by the description that turns me off it is the narrator's personality which shines through that does me in. She sounds like a haughty, pretentious judgmental person and that is not the MC I want to listen to. The only thing that could save it (for me) is if in the next 250 she then turned her perception on to herself and mused "and I wonder what people see when they look at me" etc and then was as merciless with herself as she is with others. That could work. But as is, I would put it down.

  15. Hey everyone, this was my entry, and I've rewritten it a bit to see if this is less offensive. I just want feedback, so if you've already commented and are reading this, please let me know if you like this, or if not.

    I didn't "win" but I just want to improve:)

    My attempts to drown a disappointing breakfast in coffee as bitter as my ex solved nothing. The rumbling of the small plane's engines are nice on the back, but unsettle my stomach. The man sitting next to me is hogging the armrest to the point that I have to twist awkwardly to avoid his elbow. He's already jabbed me three times. He's leaning way too close, and his hot breath moves my hair with his every exhalation. He's openly ogling every inch of my body. His intense scrutiny makes me feel uncomfortable – and that's something considering how much time I spend on stage.
    The combined smells of the window on my right, and the man sitting on my left are like aromatherapy gone horribly, horribly wrong. Stale sweat, stale cigarette smoke, stale coffee breath, I wonder if his life is as stale as he smells. Even his suit looks defeated, the fabric worn thin on his elbows and knees, the material becoming shiny where the rest of him is dull.
    I'm keeping my face in the sweet spot. If I face straight ahead and lean slightly forward, the smell of the man and the window cancel each other out and my nostrils are safe. I am in the eye of the smell.
    Stale Man shifts in his aisle seat and I get the sense that he is going to try to strike up a conversation. Sometimes I hate being right.

  16. The first paragraph made me want to puke. Not because the writing was bad but because it was too good. The problem with that is I'm not sure I'd want to read something that gave me such a visceral reaction so early into the novel.

  17. Hi Feaky! I've read both versions and this is what came to mind for me -

    The writing and descriptions are good in both. I don't think you ability is the issue. I think you are finding interesting ways to convey the situation but that's not what you need. The reader doesn't need to know about the smells, colors, etc. unless it is crucial to the plot? I get a sense of what everyone else is but I don't know anything about the MC - other than knowing he hates all these smells and is on a plane. Now I know that's not what this story is about. What's it about? Why is the character on a plane? What's his/her motivation? We are at the beginning of some journey but have no idea what the journey is and who's taking us there. Think of a movie and think of the order of it. The ARC of the story.

    You can do it! The talent is there but you need to commandeer the ship and put it in the right direction.

    Are you in a critique group?

  18. I have an extraordinarily strong stomach for description, so I wasn't turned off by the sensory overload. What killed it for me was that it felt like you were sacrificing the story to showcase your ability with witty description.

    Taken individually, I liked the amount of voice presented, I liked the immeidate grounding in location, I liked the writing. But I'm missing a combination of all those things with pacing, story questions, and tension.

    I don't recoil from reading about a vomitty window or a stale guy, but both descpriptions went on about four lines too long (and I don't care how much coffee she drank or what she had for breakfast). Try to find a way to express that information in about two lines and then give me more of the actual story. I have no idea who this person is, I don't know why she's on a plane, I don't know where she's going or what's waiting for her. Is the plane the place to start this story? Where's the tension, what am I concerned about?

    I didn't like the rewrite. It feels like you're hastily trying to accommodate the critiques, but you're actually faking it because you're still trying to arrange the narrative around your darlings. There are a lot of individual, snarky turns of phrase that I love (by themselves) in this opening, but some of them are going to have to be murdered or saved for later. My advice is to start over on the opening, only putting back in the phrases that feel natural.

    I'm not sure I like this MC, at all. While the phrasing is irreverant and humorous, the MC is completely focused on everything negative around her. In the first version, her entire world is about how bad everything smells, how sick she feels, and how stale the man next to her is. In the revision, she's still focused on the smell and now, also she's a victim of leering. Neither of these perspectives strikes me as someone who is "trying to live again." Yes, stinky on both sides--thankfully, however, there's a sweet spot where they cancel out. Give some positive things for her focus on. I don't want to read about someone I feel is going to be negative about everything in her life. Also, why is she so negative? Is that her character growth arc: becoming more positive as the story goes on? Or did something happen to put her in this mood?

  19. This isn't a comment to the author, but the anon who posted snarky comments to the other postings. C'mon, as Authoress has written in the past, follow the rules. Be nice. Give feedback. Everyone doesn't read or write the same thing, isn't that great?

  20. Yes, agreed. No need to put down the preferences of others.