Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January Secret Agent #31

TITLE: Deadwood Gamble
GENRE: NA Romantic Adventure

Alice wondered if the perfect sorority girls at the next table would shut up if she dumped her drink on the table. Ugh, of all the days to forget her ear buds. If they gushed any more about their perfect sorority spring break plans, she was going to scream. Sighing, she stirred her iced mocha with a straw. That was stupid. She was irritated with herself, not with them. It wasn’t like she’d ever do anything like that anyway.

She read Vance’s email again, looking for any clues between the lines. He said he needed her help with a book. That sounded fishy. She jabbed at a piece of ice. How awkward would it be if he asked her out? She checked the time. He wouldn’t be late, she knew. For all his faults, he was punctual. Actually that was unfair. It wasn’t really his faults it was just, well, his Vanceness.

“Hey Alice, what’s up?” She looked up to see Andy Chen standing next to her table.

“Not much. How are you doing?” She closed the book she had been trying to read. Andy switched his backpack to his other shoulder.

“Just trying to get everything done. You got plans for break?” He adjusted his Chicago Bulls cap.

“No.” Alice shook her head. “I’ll probably just go home for a few days. How about you?”

“I’m going skiing with some guys out in Colorado.” He waved at someone across the room. Alice’s irritation grew. This was her third spring break as a college student.


  1. Well done with your dialogue. I think you nailed it, and it sounds really natural.

    I do have a bit of a problem with this opening, though. Showing Alice being irritated by everything and everyone doesn't exactly endear her to your reader. She comes across as passive-aggressive. Maybe there's another way you could start that would show an admirable quality, or some strength to help us identify with her more.

  2. I might start with Andy at her table and delete the para about the sorority girls. The point is she doesn't have plans, right? And Vance is going to offer her some?

  3. Andy comes across a little fidgety to me ("he switches his bag", "he adjusts his cap", he waves at people). This may very well be his character, but you can use "he said"/"she said" as well.

    To me, the actions are taking away from the dialogue.

  4. I agree that the dialogue is strong and naturalistic. I like the specific details (Chicago Bulls cap, iced mocha) that add character to the scene.

    I also agree that opening with her irritation, then backing off it immediately is confusing. Is she fundamentally a snarky person? That would be okay if she's witty and her qualities and/or the cause of her pain are presented quite early, too. Or is she normally a nice person, just having temporary uncharitable thoughts because of her own disappointments? In that case, there are other ways to present her disappointment that keep her more sympathetic. Further in the book, once we know her better, there'd be no problem with her having snarky thoughts, then realizing her irritation was misplaced. The real problem, to my mind, is that it's happening in the opening paragraph when we're working hard to figure out who she is and buy into spending the book with her.

    I am a fan of using action to replace he said/she said in most cases, but can see what REJourneys means. Tone of voice might be substituted for some of the action to tell us even more about what's happening, unless you intend to convey Andy's nervousness, in which case it works brilliantly as is.

    Wishing you all the best with your story!

  5. I'm curious enough that I'd read more. I like that the presence of the sorority girls and talk about spring break sets this up as a student hot spot without *telling* exactly where this takes place. On the other hand, her judgmental petulance and he fact that she habitually shuts out the rest of the world with ear buds isn't endearing. Andy's fidgeting says to me that he's got a crush--but it may be too much. Maybe she notices? That would help vary the sentence structure. Overall, a spring break Deadwood Gamble sounds fun! Good luck!

  6. I really like the first three lines. But I was also taken aback by her mentally backing off. Maybe just dropping from "sighing" to "anyway" would do it, since I think most of us have thoughts we wouldn't actually act out on.

    I also like the paragraph about Vance. I think coming right after her annoyed thoughts about the girls, it would show nicely how on edge she is about Vance.

    When Andy comes, she closes a book, but she was actually reading an email from Vance right? So maybe she puts away her phone instead?

    The line "Alice’s irritation grew." threw me a bit because I wasn't sure what she was irritated at. Vance, Andy, the girls?

    Great dialogue! And Romantic Adventure sounds fun! Good luck!

  7. My first thought in the opening paragraph was, "Why doesn't she move?" I mean, no one's forcing her to be there, right? It seems like she could text Vance and let him know she's in a different spot if he's coming to meet her.

    I felt like she had a crush on Vance, and I really liked "Vanceness." I thought that was cute.

    But when we meet Andy first, I immediately thought that he would be the love interest. I'm hoping that maybe he asks her to do something for break, not his Vanceness. :)

  8. You’re voice comes through from the start, which is important. Starting with sorority girls doesn’t make your NA sound particularly unique, and highlighting how your NA is different than the other NA contemporary romances already out there is going to be very important (since it’s a crowded space right now.) There might be a stronger place to start your story that highlights this than studying and checking emails.