Friday, November 29, 2013

(11) Contemporary Women's: THE LAST RESORT

GENRE: Contemporary Women's

Hints of blackmail, a love child, and her missing life savings lure a down-and-out young widow to Costa Rica in search of her late husband's secrets—and a second chance at happiness.

One year, three months, and two days ago, my husband wrapped his BMW around a tree trunk, forcing me into the role of underage widow and single mom. Though at times I still missed him so much my heart wrenched inside-out, most days I yearned for him to drive back into my life so I could kill him myself. This morning, as I ripped the final foreclosure notice from our hand-carved mahogany front door, I dreamed of slipping cyanide into his single malt scotch.

Sweat trickled down my face as I plotted how I'd wedge the remaining towers of boxes inside the three-car garage into the storage trailer clogging the driveway. Had we moved two years ago, the yard would have been filled with a team of movers and a couple of eighteen wheelers. Now, except for the small stash of plastic bins and suitcases lingering in the cool foyer, the remnants of our life could fit into a single twelve-foot portable aluminum box.

Squeezing my eyes shut, I pictured Mom, feather duster in hand, belting out “I Am Woman” in her version of '70s housewife karaoke. Yes, I could do this. Since I sing like a goat, I hummed while I hoisted an oversized stack of boxes from the ground and sidestepped towards the trailer. I could do anything. I was strong. I was invincible. I was—caught on a weed rising between the pavers. Before I could spit out a swear, I toppled face first to the ground.


  1. First off, your logline is great! It's so succinct and yet carries a wallop. Great job there!

    Now, I straight out have to say I don't read women's fic, so take my crit with a grain of salt, but I'm not sure you need that first paragraph. It's a lot of telling and I wonder if the story might be served better by starting with the MC pulling down the foreclosure notice.

    Otherwise, though, nice work.

    Good luck!

  2. From the logline I see there's going to be quite a story ahead, but the first 250 words don't cut it for me. It feels too forced. Her attitude, her situation. I understand where she's coming from, but I think it's rushed. I don't get a sense of the actual MC other than her situation until the 3rd paragraph. At that point I feel like I'm getting to know her and want to read on. I'd rework the first two or get rid of them all together. Jumping out with "my life sucks!" right off the bat doesn't paint a picture for me and it doesn't hook me either.

  3. I really feel the MC's voice is believable and authentic here and I feel the first paragraph setup is snappy and has a nice touch of dark humor. Possibly a few of the idioms are a bit overwrought, such as "wrenched inside-out"; and understatement might work a bit better than overstatement, as in "some days" for "most days" (making her seem less harsh, more sympathetic, and maybe more believable).

    The backstory implied in the possibility of moving two years prior (before he died) is deftly done, and the Helen Reddy song is another humorous touch. But I don't know how someone can be tripped by a weed--that doesn't ring true. A stray toy? A box maybe? Easily fixed.

    Lastly, how as a widow has she supported herself, or does she feel her husband was responsible for her financial future? If she has some inner strength, and self sufficiency, I'd like to see that in her. Although I feel it in her tone and would definitely read on, I have a small reservation that she feels entitled to a lot without making much effort, as she simply blaming her victimhood on husband's dying. From the logline, it's clear she has reason to be angry, but I don't see any reference to those betrayals in these paragraphs. I assume she has knowledge of that at this point, and realize this is only the first 250 words, so maybe it will come quickly. However, if she doesn't yet know she's been betrayed, then toning down her anger a touch might work better here.

    Congratulations on creating a natural voice, and fun-reading. Really great writing. I would definitely read on.

  4. Wrenched inside out was a phrase that should be tinkered with but, overall, this is an impressive and amusing opening. It does grab the reader.The author has a distinctive and, in spite of everything, likeable voice. Very high marks for this author.

  5. I had to blink at "hand-carved mahogany front door", what an odd time to notice such a detail! Also towers of boxes made it sound like they have lots of stuff and then 12-ft portable box made it sound like very little stuff. Also not crazy about the "I was - caught on a weed" part.
    Just pointing out the things that stopped me when reading. Writing wise, I see nothing wrong with this.

  6. My first attempt at commenting vanished into the ether, so let me try again. I like your main character. Her husband may have let her down, but she seems ready to do what needs to be done. Some people function better under stress and I have the feeling your heroine is one of them. You communicate her humor as well as her frustration. I think a crack in the pavers might make more sense, but as someone who can trip over nothing, I can see a weed tangling up someone's heel. Nicely done

  7. There are some great moments here, and I think the opening is almost there, with a few tweaks to strengthen it. I'm definitely intrigued and pulled in by the voice.

    The first line I could go either way. It's blunt, maybe too blunt, but at least the reader knows what's up. I think this could be played around with a bit to tell the same information, with the same intense visual, but maybe with a little more voice. That next line really punches, and I like the use of "ripped" the final foreclosure notice. I would drop the detail on the door since it isn't necessary and saps the momentum. The scotch detail is great.

    I also like how the second paragraph shows what could have been, had they moved, which paints a visual while also sneaking in some backstory.

    My only suggestion here is that maybe adding another character in scene will help drive this. Can her mother be there helping her? I just worry it might be too much of a character pondering things for pages when it might come off more naturally through dialogue with another character.

    Good luck!

  8. I thought the writing itself was good, and the logline promises a great story, but this opening just didn't work for me.

    To me, the humor didn't seem to spring naturally from her situation. It seemed forced, like you were trying too hard. And there's no story here. Nothing happens in these 250 words. She doesn't even pick up a box. To me, it just seems you've given up content for funny.

  9. Good clear logline for the story and we are kicking off with a MC in distress, which is good.

    Love this line: This morning, as I ripped the final foreclosure notice from our hand-carved mahogany front door, I dreamed of slipping cyanide into his single malt scotch.

    Consider having her imagine one fewer scenarios in the opening. There are too many examples of her picturing someone or something before the MC gets into action herself.

    But a strong start.

    Nancy Bilyeau

  10. I really like the opening line and the entry as a whole. I get a good sense of this character's voice. She's obviously hit upon hard times, but she's a fighter, which makes her interesting to follow.

    Note: I will say "underage" took me out because it immediately brought to mind someone who really is underage (i.e. a minor).

    The logline stills feels a bit vague. It's tight, but other than the missing life savings I'm not seeing anything yet that stands out from other similar stories.

    At this poitn I'd keep reading based on the narrative voice alone and hope to see more unique plot elements show themselves as things progress.

    Best of luck with it!

  11. I loved the first paragraph, it told me right away of her current situation, while also giving me a glimpse of her previous life.

    Yes, you could probably combine the next two paragraphs to give us a little less detail and get us right into how in the world she's going to fix her situation.

    I love your style of writing, and it looks like you have a lot of good possible plot twists in (based on your logline). Great job!

  12. Great logline! I would start your chapter with:

    "As I ripped the final foreclosure notice from our hand-carved mahogany front door, I dreamed of slipping cyanide into his single malt scotch." But he was already dead. Wrapped his BMW around...

    I like how she pictures her mom. Nice visual there. And I love that just after she convinces herself that she's strong and invincible, she trips on a weed. A weed! Brilliant.

  13. From these first words, I see a smart, sassy story shaping up. The writer does a remarkable job walking that thin line between MC edginess and likability. We see her angst here most clearly, but we also know enough to believe it's well-founded--and that creates suspense. As a reader, I want to know why--and how and where and with whom. I'm already asking questions that only further reading will answer.

  14. You have an immediately engaging voice. And I LOVE the final paragraph!! However, the opening for this read a bit rushed and summarized. I’d suggest slowing down—to really dive deeper into who your character is at the start of the book. What is motivating her. What the introductory stakes are. Go deeper into the emotions we’re told that the past events have evoked. I think you can pace this out a bit more… Right now it reads a bit jarring as we go from angry, to her reminiscing about grief, to anger, to details about the move. It’s a lot to take in at once. I’d recommend focusing more on the immediate action—her move. Her anger. Then let the rest of the information be expanded upon with each new mention, so as not to give away too much too soon. This can give readers a flavor of the stakes as well as the voice. With that said, the voice/style definitely makes me want to read more. Good luck!