Wednesday, January 22, 2014

First Two (Adult Fiction) #6

TITLE: Reply All
GENRE: Upmarket Women's Fiction

Luke’s disembodied voice shot through Vivi’s headset like a hammer. “Take it again from the second bridge, Vivi. It’s a ballad, darlin’, and I ain’t cryin’.”

For the fifth time, Luke counted down—three, two, one—and they were off from the beginning of the second bridge. Vivi held the third under Lacey Morris’s high C. With the steel slide, she bent the note on the dobro, made it quaver like a country singer's vibrato, and then took off on her solo. But Luke wasn’t satisfied. Four more times they tried it until Vivi saw Luke throw his hands up in the air.

“That’s enough. It’ll have to do unless you want to come in and lay down a …."

Lacey cut him off. “This is acoustic, Luke. You know I hate that overproduced shit.”

“Okay, okay. Then that'll have to do,” Luke said.

The musicians shifted; their arms sagged toward the floor. They took deep breaths, rolled their shoulders and began putting up their instruments. No one spoke. Lacey stalked out, trying to slam the door behind her, but it was soundproofed and braced, and politely refused to make a sound.

Vivi laid her dobro in its case. No one looked at her, which she appreciated. She was hot, and her skin felt like an itchy, fat balloon. Her hands shook.

She took a long time packing up, hoping everyone would be gone, but when she walked out of the studio, Lacey was waiting on the sidewalk, her bleached hair in her eyes, hoodie pulled tight around her skinny chest. Lacey was burning it up in Nashville at the moment, and everything about her was scary--her smoky, growly voice that could sail to crystalline heights, her fierce blue eyes, her honky-tonk swagger.

“You know what’s wrong with you?”

Vivi tried to meet Lacey's eyes, succeeded. “What?”

Something other than fury was there, so Vivi held still and let Lacey unleash.

“You are technically brilliant, maybe the best dobro player in Nashville, except for—"

“Jerry Douglas.”

“Yeah, Jerry f****** Douglas, Vivi. You’ll always just be the one I get when we can’t get Jerry, until you make me feel something when you play.”

Lacey spun around and charged up the sidewalk toward Broadway, her boots banging on the concrete.

Vivi watched her go, vibrating with self-loathing and near panic.

“Don’t let her get to you.”

Vivi spun around. Herbie looked down on her from the porch of the yellow house that housed Polyphonic. Banjo case resting on its narrow end, he leaned against a column. Vivi shook her head, unable to speak.

“She’s like that. You haven’t played with her much. Takes some getting used to.”

“Damned right.”

“Yep, she may be the next big thing, but she’s a bitch. Also really good.”

“I’m pathetic.”

“Oh, all right then. Douglas will always be the big dog, and you’ll be the puppy. Go wallow in it, Viv-ee-ann.”


  1. I want to like this, as in really love it because I love the music scene and any novel that focuses on artists. But what's holding me back is that I had to read it twice to figure out who's who and who said what. After the second read, everything made sense, but the fact that it took two reads suggests that you have some clarity issues. Since you have so many names in the first two pages, it would be better for you to slow things down and give some short descriptions (in a showing way, of course) so that the readers get a better idea of your characters.

    Good luck with this because I really do want to read it.

  2. One other thing: if you're looking for a CP, I have an upmarket women's fic set in an underground art community.

  3. I liked this. The only thing that kind of threw me is when Lacey responds to Luke. I was expecting him to be addressing Vivi again, so I was like "What? Who?" But once you hit the dialogue it's does a really nice job of setting up the external and internal conflict of your MC.

  4. I liked this a lot, though I think perhaps you're doing yourself a disservice by labeling it "upmarket" fiction. What's upmarket? Do you mean literary fiction? If so, you might want to massage this open some, as it reads like women's fiction, not literary (which is not at all to say it's not well-written, it is!). The one line I definitely felt needed work was the one that Lacey delivers about making her feel something. That stuck out as heavy-handed. I think it would be enough to just have her going off on the producer (not Vivi), bitching about why couldn't they get Jerry, as she deserves the best, not some second best also-ran...

  5. Good beginning. Strong music vibe. In the moment. Conflict.
    But I would prefer more attributions for the dialogue. I, too, had to read it twice. Help us out. And I didn't get the sentence about Lacey..scary.etc. And vibrating with self-loathing and near panic borders on melodramatic.

  6. I really like the start of this with the studio setting and the music details. The details immediately engage and are specific enough to reveal a few things about the characters.

    The second paragraph, it might help to start with Vivi since I think she is the main POV character (or is it Lacey? I'm a little confused). I want to see Vivi's reaction to what she just heard Luke say via the headset. Maybe, "Vivi waited for Luke to count down, then..."

    I think a dialogue attribute is needed after "That's enough." You could show Luke gesturing or something to paint more of a picture. Maybe he's pacing in the booth. Also, I would use an em dash -- instead of ... if she cut him off since the ellipsis implies he is trailing off. Is Lacey the main character? I think keeping the focus on either Vivi or Lacey, whoever is the main character, will help cut down on any confusion. Introducing too many named characters on a first page might not be the best choice.

    For the section about musicians, maybe pick one instead of "they" so you can show more detail. The bassist's (or whoever) arms sagged... The [type of musician] rolled her shoulders and packed up her [name instrument]. This is more visual and meaningful than lumping them together.

    I am not sure what a dobro is, so maybe you can sneak in a description of it, for example show the dobro hitting the edge of the case and making a sound--does it have strings? Something to paint a visual and not send your readers immediately to Wikipedia.

    I am a little disconnected to the Jerry Douglas stuff. Maybe expand on that a little if it's important, otherwise I'd take the name out and leave it to "second best in Nashville" since we are still trying to keep these character names straight. Herbie shows up and I'm getting lost!

    I think the main POV character should be focused on so it's clear whose head we are in while the other characters come and in and out of the scene. Other than that, there is a lot of tension driving this forward, which is great!

  7. I, too lost track of who's who along the way. In a book, I'd def go back a time or three to sort that out. Easily fixable, as others point out. The good stuff is I think almost everyone loves getting the inside story of a profession/occupation/lifestyle they know nothing about, so it's a great opening in my opinion. Loved the door that "politely refused to make a sound." "itchy fat balloon"--makes me picture her heavy/fat. Is she? Love the "everything about her was scary"...would have never thought of scary, but it's perfect! Cut after "Vivi watched her go" We get what she's feeling.
    Your dialog is clear and natural.
    I want to read more.

  8. My main suggestion is to expand this: "Four more times they tried it until Vivi saw Luke throw his hands up in the air." It feels a little rushed, and pulls me out of the narrative. I also get the sense that she's kind of depressed, but I have to really intuit that; I'd like to be a little deeper in her POV so I really root for her.