Monday, May 16, 2016

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #35

TITLE: Switcher
GENRE: Adult - Urban Fantasy

After professional body switcher Cade stops a murder on his latest job, he must take back his own body from a killer he suspects is his supposedly dead uncle without breaking the heart of the sister who loves them both.

I had been back in my body for twenty-four hours when my next client called, and there was a mosquito bite between my shoulder blades. If people were going to take my body camping while I did team-building exercises at a corporate retreat in theirs, I needed to add a bug-spray requirement to my standard contract.

When the phone rang, I was balanced on one of the bus’s oversized tires, using the handle of a squeegee to scratch my back. The Caller ID said "Private Name Private Number." I got that a lot.

“Cade Hightower,” I said.

Harlan Ambrose’s voice on the line was deep and quick. “Cade, buddy, what’re you doing?”

I pulled the squeegee out of my shirt. “Washing the windows on the bus.”

“Hey, do me a favor and go inside.”

I looked around. “Sir, I’m in a high school parking lot on a Sunday. I might as well be on the moon.”

“No, I mean it. Inside. Got a job for you.”

I held the phone away from my mouth so he wouldn’t hear me grumbling, pushed the door open, and climbed the three steps into the school bus I had converted into my home. When I was settled in the swivel recliner anchored to the floor, I put the phone back to my ear.

“I’m inside, sir. What’s this job?” My foot rattled against the floor. Mr. Ambrose was a good client, but talking to him on the phone gave me hives.


  1. The logline is too confusing. Maybe you could make it simpler.
    Yes I'm hooked because the opening line, is well, intriguing.

  2. Great story premise. Sounds like a cool plot!
    The first line is a bit awkward (read aloud to hear it). Perhaps write something like: I’d been back in my own body for twenty-four hours when my next client called. The mosquito bite between my shoulders had me scratching like a wild cat.
    Eliminating passive voice will help keep the reader actively engaged. For example: I balanced on the tire of the old school bus, using the handle of a squeegee to attack the itch. I tossed the squeegee on the hood and grabbed my cell from the pocket of my overalls. The Caller ID read, 'Private Name Private Number.' I got that a lot.
    By the time we hit this line: I pulled the squeegee out of my shirt. “Washing the windows on the bus.”, the squeegee was already out so he wouldn't have pulled it from his shirt again.
    Most of the paragraphs begin with "I". Trying mixing it up a bit. For example: Looking at the emptiness around me, I chuckled into the phone, “Sir, I’m in a high school parking lot on a Sunday. I might as well be on the moon.”
    Love this line: My foot rattled against the floor. I could totally picture Cade doing this (love Cade’s name by the way).
    Can you add to this line to give an understanding of why Cade is agitated with Ambrose? Perhaps something like: Mr. Ambrose was a good client, but his habit of drawing on suspense has always trampled the giddy in my step.
    Intriguing start with a neat plot. I already like the MC a lot and the quick clip of the writing. :)

  3. Love the concept.

    Good start, but not hooky enough for me. It seems a little light-hearted compared to the logline.

    Sorry, but I stopped reading and started scanning. Is the bug bite important? And scratching his back on top of a tire? Seems weird to be washing windows with no water source. In the end I was so busy trying to picture the setting and understand it that the concept was overshadowed.

  4. The concept of a body-switcher is intriguing and your first 250 is quite interesting. However, the logline is quite convoluted and confusing. We as a reader do not know what a body-switcher is or what the rules are, therefore do not know what taking a body (back) means - death, paralysis etc. And the stakes of breaking sister's heart seems a tad low on first sight. I mean wouldn't she care more about getting her brother's body back? She may not, but since a logline is not enough space to introduce her, you may have to rethink the stakes (only for the logline - the story is presumably awesome)

  5. A bit confusing at the start, but I would read some more pages to see if it started to gel. May be trying to get too much information into the first page with the standing on the bus tire and scratching with the squeegee bit.

  6. Hi!

    1. The logline needs a lot of work.
    2. I loved the actual entry.

    Explanations on both below:

    I think you are trying to pack way too much into the log line. There's a lot of "he/"his being repeated, which is confusing on top of the body switcher concept that I was just getting used to before you jumped into the rest of the log line. Which, it's an awesome concept. Just need to make sure we don't feel confused while adjusting to it. The wording of "take back his own body from a killer" is really confusing -- I'm not sure if this means the killer is holding his real body hostage, or if the killer switched into CADE's body? Or neither?

    That's what I mean by confusing. I reworked it below a little as an example, taking liberties to clarify the confusing parts to demonstrate what I think needs to be clearer.

    "When a professional body switcher pisses off the wrong guy by stopping a planned murder, the killer takes his permanent body, and he must fight to get it back."

    I don't think the other parts are necessary and they only confuse the logline. They might be an awesome plot point, but I don't think the logline needs them. The concept alone carries it.

    First 250:
    "I had been back in my body for twenty-four hours when my next client called, and there was a mosquito bite between my shoulder blades. If people were going to take my body camping while I did team-building exercises at a corporate retreat in theirs, I needed to add a bug-spray requirement to my standard contract."

    This humor was fantastic. And the way you weave it in with the character's personality and story world really worked for me; it instantly made me trust you and your character for the whole rest of the 250. I would highly recommend not deleting the first two sentences, ever, no matter what anyone tells you. They contain plot, voice, world-building, humor, and everything you need to hook your genre's target reader. If someone doesn't get those lines, it's just probably not their kind of story, and I would warn you to take comments from people who aren't your target readers with several grains of salt. Personally I found your style reminiscent of Jim Butcher's Dresden books, so I thoroughly enjoyed your first 250.

    My overall suggestion is to rework the logline to it's bare bones, and go forward with confidence. Your character has an really enjoyable voice.

  7. I agree that the logline needs some work. Perhaps condensing the 'supposedly dead uncle' and 'sister who loves them both' into 'complex family' might help a bit.

    I really like the voice, and find this piece intriguing.

    I must admit that the mosquito bite threw me a bit. If he's switching bodies, why would his own body have a bite from his client's body?

    I love the whole concept of the body-switcher preventing murders and then needing to save himself, and would read further.

  8. The logline threw me too. After dissecting it, the idea made better sense, but the gist could be way more clear. Judging by your sample, you definitely have the writing chops to break it down into a more concise mini-blurb. Maybe the solution would be a couple/few shorter declarative statements than one long one? Then you can, in a sense, segregate each distinct idea and give it the sentence's full focus before building the next idea upon it. Complex and unique premises don't comfortably lend themselves to bite-sized marketing copy, but trying to shoehorn your story into one can really help to crystalize the key elements of the story.

    On the 250, I have to agree with mad-hat-writer. I love the voice and immediate character personality immersion of the open sentences. They could be tightened slightly or broken up to be a skosh less wordy and lend the tone a jazzier beat, but the sense of Cade a reader gets from them is fantastic.

    When you follow that up with "I got that a lot," you build a lot of good faith and confidence. In one sentence, you establish tone and that what Cade does may not be illegal but is a fringe sort of profession. It's a skillful stroke of world/character building without a single piece of info-dumpage. I LOVE the stuffing out of that line.

    The closest thing to a critique I'd have to the sample is that the extended sequence with the squeegee could lose some emphasis without taking away effective character voice. Getting into the meat of the story sooner and engaging with juicy intrigue can't be a bad thing.

    Mad-hat-writer nailed the tone and feel well. Cade's voice has a Harry Dresden quality to it without feeling too close to his tone. I find HD a little trying, but think I'd enjoy spending a book's worth of time (or more) with Cade.

    Thanks for sharing your work. You might not have me totally one-click-buy hooked yet, but I suspect a longer sample would do the trick. I hope to read the book soon.

  9. There is so much to like here! I agree with other commenters that the log line is cumbersome. But the premise and fun and the voice is good - sort of - the issue is that it seems like this is going to be very serious, then we hear the casual voice and it sort of took me by surprise. I do like the voice, however.

    Too much about the squeegee, perhaps. I think if you read this outloud, you will see the places where it bogs down or gets awkward - but having said all that - I WOULD READ ON!!

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