Wednesday, March 10, 2010

38 Secret Agent

GENRE: Commercial fiction

Chandra stood waiting for the concert, trying to ignore all the red flags. First, every alt-weekly in Los Angeles wanted to have the band’s children, a sure sign they were over-hyped. Second, the crowd was full of drunken kids from Greek Row shouting and texting each other—the Pabst drinkers of music, she thought. Third, the lead singer shambled on stage like he was doped on cough syrup, or something out of a bong. Still, there was hope. Maybe they were introverts who could only express their genius through music. Maybe their music would transport her to a better place, preferably one that didn’t smell like the crowd (too much melon body spray, and not enough deodorant). After all, this was why she scouted bands, to find the few rough-cut gems. But as the band’s first notes thundered through the club, her hope succumbed to an assault of power chords, a noise so punishing her phone went off like a car alarm in her pants.

She retreated from the amps and realized her phone was ringing, not sending distress signals. The call was from her boss, Preston, which was puzzling since he hardly ever called to ask about a band. Especially in the first thirty seconds.

Chandra ignored his call and concentrated on the band’s opening song. The bassist and guitarist wailed some unintelligible background vocals, and then the lead singer approached the mike. He had no vocal range, and every time he sang a dramatic bit he grunted like he was passing a kidney stone.


  1. Snarky! Love it. The first paragraph would be made stronger if the red flags were listed separately instead of in one long paragraph.

    Love the descriptions--Pabst drinkers of music. Melon body spray. Phone sending distress signals and the grunting like passing a kidney stone.

    Great voice! I'd read on.

  2. I agree with Claire, I would only add that the line, "First, every alt-weekly in Los Angeles wanted to have the band’s children, a sure sign they were over-hyped." made me stumble the first time I read it.

    Great voice and unique descriptions. :)

  3. I agree with above and really liked the voice. I'm sympathetic to the M.C. and would definitely read on!

    Way hooked!

  4. I am too uncool or too tired to understand the term alt-weekly, so I was a bit confused at first. But I like it and got a real sense of the crowd. I'd keep reading. Good job!

  5. Love the opening line, love the title, and love the last line "...he grunted like he was passing a kidney stone."

    That said, I found this very hard to read. I kept hoping that the MC would be introduced somehow so I could picture her at the concert, which would have helped me see that she is not one of them, but a professional. I think the problem with this scene is that it's rushed. I'm not sure how much further I'd read if the coming pages were so labor intensive for me, as the reader. I want to 'feel' the scene. Be brought into it, not told what it is and then moved on so quickly I have to reset my mind's eye for the next quick bout.

  6. The premise is great and the characters interesting. I just found the opening paragraph to be heavy with insider music-speak that I wasn't privvy to, so I felt left out. Perhaps breaking the paragraph up would help but I think it's more likely you need to spoon feed us the lingo. The second sentence throws me completely. Yet it's very strong in places.

    I actually remember this from a while back and Chandra was waking up and knocked over a lamp or something, and she was assigned to review the band. I liked that version also, but I think you've made a better choice here by cutting to the chase. I'm just desperate to be in on Chandra's world and right now I'm a stone's throw away. Yet I'd still read on and have confidence in the writing.

  7. I didn't like the line 'waiting for the concert'. It was too blunt and I didn't get a sense of where the concert was for a while. I was picturing an outdoor arena but later on we're told it's at a club. Perhaps something like 'Chandra stood in the smoky club, waiting for the band to start playing.' Better than that of course, but it would give the reader a clear idea of where she was. I like the voice though, and the idea of the jaded music scout, so I would read on.

  8. The first sentence threw me. I couldn't figure out where she was at first. She was waiting and trying to ignore red flags...but the alt-weekly was where she was waiting doesn't fit.

    'Especially in the first 30 seconds'--seemed odd. Does it mean something that he'd call in the first 30 seconds? How would he know the band started 30 seconds before?

    I did like your descriptions and sentence structure. Would like to be brought into it more by seeing her doing something related to her job --in action-- rather than just watching and thinking.

  9. Agree with Lia, strong loveable voice with loads of attitude, very appealing.

    I read to get inside another world, so overall it feels right. I also agree: second line was clunky, and I felt a tad left out by so much insider language right at the beginning. First graph is long, perhaps break after "bong." Language is a bit dense with what I call 'ten dollar words' - thundered, succumbed, punishing - a bit much for one sentence.

    I got she was a pro by the way she critiqued everything, but didn't understand how the phone sound could be sending distress signals.

  10. There just isn't a hook here. It's very long and windy... lots of babble here... nothing intrigues me. As a submission I suspect the whole book is like this and I find I'm not connecting. Perhaps if I were editing this I'd be starting somewhere nearer or on the last para.

  11. No hook in sight. It reads as a scene from somewhere in the middle of the book.

    First paragraph is too long and cumbersome. Reading it feels lectured to me. White spaces on the page are visually more inviting.

    You end the first paragraph with the phone ringing in er pants. You begin the following paragraph with the protag realizing her phone is ringing. Watch out for repetition.

    For this reader, the tension begins with that phone call, and with her ignoring it.

    I don't know what the story is about and why I should care.

    As I always say: Dredge up the meat of the story and dump it in your query best way you can.

  12. I liked the opening paragraph, even though I didn't get the rocker slang, but what I did get was a sense of the scene. I felt the crowd and the chaos. I could even hear the loudness of it all.

    On the other hand, I don't know what it's about. It has to be more than a music scout looking for a new band. I'd read a bit more hoping to find out, but I'm not a very patient reader. You'd have to throw me a bone soon.

  13. I have no idea what is going on here. Why is she not having a good time? What are all of the red flags indicating? Bad music? Then why is she there? This is very overwritten. I would cut all of it and skip to the part where the story actually starts because this feels like unnecessary exposition and it doesn't draw me in at all.