Wednesday, July 15, 2009

16 Secret Agent

TITLE: The Knock-Offs
GENRE: Literary/Commercial Fiction

When the phone started ringing, it triggered a series of little Pavlovian mishaps. First, Chandra West’s hand emerged from the covers. Then it headed toward the night stand, where it toppled the lamp and bulldozed a bunch of junk to the floor. At the sound of the avalanche she raised her head, which felt as heavy and sluggish as a bowling ball, and fished for the phone.

“Chandra, it’s Preston.”

Preston was her boss at OmniGlobe Entertainment. She thought he was a genius, an opinion she would quickly abandon if he kept calling so early. “Dude, it’s barely even light out.”

“You’re on a flight from LAX to New York in two hours.”

“The act I scouted last night didn’t even go on until eleven.” The band’s biblical-pretentious name was Blood of Job, and their lead singer sounded like he was passing a kidney stone. They turned their amps up to eleven and imitated belt sanders, leaving Chandra with a rock-anthem headache. But she liked how people were calling them “Blo-Job.”

“You’re doing publicity for a new project,” he said. “OmniGlobe wants to launch the biggest band in the world. They’ll play children’s music.”

“I scout rock bands, Preston. If this is some kind of a joke—”

“No joke.”

“I thought you said multinationals moved like mastodons.”

“They move a lot faster when they get a whiff of money.”

“I smell like a night club. I need a shower, a cup of coffee…”

“You need to get going.”


  1. Out of the twenty posted so far, this is the only one I'd keep reading. I like the voice and the unforced dialogue. The first paragraph seems a tiny bit jumbled, but the rest of it is spot-on.

  2. I like it! The dialogue lifts off the page and has nice moments of humor. Also, compared to other entries, the point of view feels the most assured in this excerpt. Good work!

  3. I really like this. I think it's funny and would read more. Much of it feels effortless. I can already imagine the many directions it could go. The "multinationals move like mastodons" line is great and gives me a sense of this world and what your character will be dealing with.

    One suggestion--make the Pavlovian mishaps even more of a series. Right now it's just a lamp and a bunch of junk. It could be funnier if she spills a glass of water on important papers of if the lamp breaks. Maybe I'm reading into this but it could be a metaphor or foreshadowing--destroying a bit of the old life and onto the new...

  4. Chandra West - the name sounded very familiar, so I googled, and she's an actress. Not hugely popular, but enough so that her name is familiar. You might want to consider changing the name. Only a suggestion.

    I do like the voice. Great job.


  5. This is pretty good. You start out in solid omni POV...far more solid than I can write...but I'm not sure if you move into third. I don't know that that's a problem, though. At least, not in an excerpt this short, as long as you don't bounce back and forth later on.

    My only issue was to wonder who was saying, "Chandra, it's Preston." I assumed that the "she" who woke up would speak first, because the person who answers the phone always does, even if it's just a mumble. I think you need to add that mumble in there.

    Oetherwise, your dialog further down is great. We never get confused as to who's speaking, even though there's not a single tag to clutter it up. The only thing is that, with no tags, it reads like a rapid-fire conversation, which doesn't fit the fact that I thought she was in just-woke-up-slow-thinking mode. I think that Preston's dialog should come rapid-fire after hers, but that hers should come after a thought or a mumbled protest here or there.

    But it's good!

  6. Another waking up one (usual warning), but I was humored at the hand poking out. And overall liked the first paragraph which is indeed hooky. :]

    This is great. Definitely would read on.

  7. From 250 words it seems like chick lit or romance to me, not literary fiction - but I would continue for a few pages to see if there was literary appeal.

    I cringed when she called her "genius boss" -- dude -- but maybe it fits with the protag's personality and that would be evident with more reading.

    Good luck!

  8. I'm hooked. Liked the voice and writing (especially "an opinion she would quickly abandon..."). Had a slight cringe at the "waking up" opening, but it was handled very well. I'd definitely read more.

  9. This has a sharp voice and a strong POV from the get go, and I like the set up so far. But I also tripped over the character name as someone from real life, and it definitely didn't feel literary to me.

    I would have guessed women's fiction or romance. And I would guess her age to be under 25 from the "Dude" - so if she is meant to be older, get that in somehow.

    Not my usual genre, but a strong start.

    good luck.

  10. I love the dialogue! The first paragraph was a bit tricky to me, though. It doesn't feel the same as the dialogue (snappy and quick).

    Definitely hooked by the dialogue and the prospect of the next big kids band. LOL

  11. Nice job. I'd read on as well. When I read the first paragraph, I was starting to think about a few other posts from other entries about waking up and first day of school beginnings, but this works. I agree that it could use a few more incidents since you say "series of mishaps" because I don't think raising her hand is a mishap, so there really was one one; not a series. Heavy and sluggish as a bowling ball sound cliche too.

    I have another opinion of "dude" than the others. I worked in radio and records and still have dear friends in the industry-- the entertainment industry says "dude"- whether an intern or an old veteran-- just being hip, I guess. So, it's real to me. In that case, a genius can be a dude, too. I know you aren't talking scientist genius, but more casual, like "Preston is a marketing genius."

    I agree about Chandra saying something first- even if it's nothing- but she tried- which could be a way to paint the picture of the night before- raspy voice so the hello didn't come out.

    I think "the act I scouted..." sounds unnatural. I think, "the guys" would be fine since this is a casual convo and not a boardroom meeting where act would probably be used.

    Loved Blo-Job. Clever and fits my style of humor for sure.

    I liked the dialogue. I like the rhythm of the having the word "need" in the last two lines.

    The only thing I wondered, which may come out later and that's fine, is why the flight was booked so late- at first I thought there was an emergency but now that I know it's for a publicity thing, I wanted to know if it was a meeting, a concert or why it was so urgent.

    One small other thing is would Preston naturally "OmniGlobe wants to launch...?" I think, "We want to..." or "Omni wants to..." My company name is Solid Cactus but as employees, we usually say "Cactus" when we talk to each other about work. Since you say it once before, I think the second time you could abbreviate it. On the flipside, if he's one of those slick marketing/sales dudes, I can see him saying it. But, something to think about.

    That's all I have. Great writing.

  12. Came back after reading all the others. This one's still the gem. <3 Best of luck with it!!

  13. Definitely hooked. I kept reading this one without any effort. Definitely one of the most natural pieces so far.

    I've heard agents get a little sick of books with waking up or dream intros, but this one didn't feel stale to me. I will say, I'm not crazy about the "Dude," but other than that, nice job.

    Good luck!

  14. Great writing, but the first paragraph, as far as visualization goes, could use more work, imho. The set up works totally as the page unfolds. The dialog is crisp and real.

  15. One of the great things this contest demonstrates is how much personal taste affects reading choices (as if we didn't know). I think this is really well written, great dialogue - but I wouldn't read on. Just not interested in the subject matter. Luckily, I am in a minority of one so feel free to disregard my HO completely. Good luck!

  16. I liked this. Unforced dialog, funny, - it sounds believable...

    I'm HOOKED!

  17. Hooked. You've got a great voice (all I needed to read was "their lead singer sounded like he was passing a kidney stone" and I was sold), and the dialogue seemed natural but witty.

    Your genre classification does seem a bit vacuous, but that's easily fixed (just call it contemporary and anything goes, right?). Personally, I shudder a bit when I see someone calling their work literary - that seems more like a description you earn than one you adopt.

  18. I'd read on.

    Since you gave so many details about her answering the phone, I think it would be good for her to at least grunt a "Hul-lo" or give a an irritated "What!"

    Good work.

  19. I'm hooked. I agree with Beth, she should have answered the phone. I was confused for a second when Preston spoke first.

  20. I wouldn't classify this as literary fiction, so it isn't right for me, but I think the author is doing some things right--in particular he/she has a good ear for dialogue.

  21. I'd keep reading. Great dialogue. Characters come off real. I'd lose the explanation of who her boss was and let that come out naturally through coversation, but that's a small nit.

    The only thing I'm iffy about is the band doing children's music. So far, this comes off as hip and modern and cool, and throwing children's music into the mix seems off, but then, I don't know what you're going to do with it.