Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Agented Author #4

TITLE: Untitled

Karma must not apply to me. Tonight I coordinated costume changes, helped the actors with their make-up, and prepared five dishes for the cast and crew party. Yet my best friend, Sydney, who demanded that half her scenes be re-blocked to capture her good side, is the one on stage, dramatically lit, kissing Matthew for far longer than the script specifies. His hands press so tightly on her body that I bet they leave marks. I watch from the wings, counting the seconds until they pull apart. Cosmic ledger-keeping in action? Give me a break.

I run a finger up and down the frayed curtain rope, tempted to yank it and bring the show to an early close. The theaterâ's so rickety it would be seen as an accident. Of course, I won't do it. Still, I need a distraction. I try to spot familiar faces in the audience. To the front left I think I catch my mom's profile. Did she and Dad sit together? More likely they froze in horror when they discovered I got them tickets for the same night, even though I told them otherwise. I still have hopes for reunification, in a Hallmark Channel kind of way. Although Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin have a better chance of hugging it out.

Sydney and Matthew, the couple headed for a happily ever after, or at least a fun weekend, belt out a duet, which will grow into a full-cast finale. Actors push past me, taking their marks on stage. Sydney's chest swells with the high notes of the final song, which she sings with gusto since this is closing night.

During curtain call, I go outside to sit on the iron fire escape, which doubles as a rollercoaster ride if you get enough people to jump on it. I sit, shivering in the mid-April evening air. At least it isn't raining, which is a springtime miracle in Seattle. I turn my phone on--we were under threat of death to keep them off during all performances--and change my ThisIsMe status from "promising" to "open for ideas."

God, I should just leave now, let Syd find her own way home. No doubt she'd use that as an excuse to ask Matthew for a ride. I scroll through my messages. Parker and Talia, my other besties, who honor the BFF code, are having an "amazing" time at the concert, LOLing about running into a guy Syd dated last year--as if bumping into one of her exes defies any great odds. I delete the message without replying.

Footsteps approach from behind me. "What are you doing out here, Vee?"Tommy Toth sits on the step above me, smelling like pine trees. He's the mastermind who designed the sets for our show, which transformed from a war-torn Afghani village to a Tokyo dance club in five minutes flat. It's a multicultural play.


  1. Present tense is distracting to me, but I got over that. :-)

    I wonder about the MC. She seems to have a martyr complex. Her best friend doesn't seem very friend-like and the MC going to all the trouble with the production and not being recognized for it appears very Cinderella-ish.

    I do find Tommy Toth interesting and I'm curious what's going to happen next.

  2. The present tense works here. I am in.

    Also, LOVE the MC, but I want to love her a little more... I don't know how you could accomplish that, but I do want to love her more!

    This is good, I don't have much to say other than that I like the way you told it, and I'd read more!

  3. I liked this one a lot. The theater setting immediately puts me in a place I can see and hear and smell, and your voice flows so effortlessly. (I didn't even notice it was written in present tense until the first commenter mentioned it.)

    Can't help but wonder if this is the exact right place to start the book, though, since the MC isn't doing much.

  4. Hooked! I really like what I see so far. And I happen to really love the present tense. :)

    The only thing that I do not understand, which is probably just me, but I dont understand the ThisIsMe status thing. Lol I think I may have an idea, but I'm not certain enough to say for sure so you may want to add a little more clarification if possible. :)

  5. I really loved this sentence: "Although Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin have a better chance of hugging it out." And would probably keep reading for the awesomeness of that alone.

    I wonder if the MC has feelings for this Matthew her friend is making out with onstage or just hates how her best friend is a complete guy magnet. I'm leaning towards she has feelings for him, or else why would she be so upset?

    Is she allowed to leave during the curtain call? I've never worked backstage at a play (only been in the pit orchestra), but I would think they would all be required to stay back there in case they were needed.

    Overall, I liked the voice and the flow. The MC sounds very real to me.

  6. I like the Clinton and Palin sentence as well, but I did wonder if teens would think of them vs some popular actors/singers/or book characters.

    Nice voice and interesting MC.

  7. There was a lot I liked about this. The setting, the main character, her situation...

    I did get confused at first. Why should she care if Sydney kisses Matthew? It wasn't immediately clear that she likes him, too.

    Things move pretty quickly. Almost rushed. I didn't have a chance to ground myself before she was outside and on her phone. I've never been backstage during a play before. Make me feel like I have.

    I noticed the present tense twice during this. Once at the beginning, and then again in the "during curtain call" paragraph. Those are the places it slipped from working to not working for me. :)

  8. You really have the teen voice and details here. I like the backstage setting.

    What stood out to me is the fact that every paragraph in this excerpt is roughly the same length. Setting off some of the punchier lines with more space would make them more powerful.

    Good luck and thanks!

  9. The voice here is quite stong and compelling. Present tense mostly works, but there's a cluster pattern of 'I+ Verb' that starts to stand out in the middle for me. (I go, I sit, I turn) This can be the downfall of PT, so I'd really watch for this as you write.

    Love the setting and description, as well as the details you weave in about the parental situation without resulting to info dumping or telling. I think my biggest issue here is I feel a bit removed from it because there needs to be more of a focus on what your MC really wants here.

    Is she jealous of Sydney for being in the lime-light and having all the attention, or does she like Matt as well and so that is the more the angle of her jealousy? Also, I'm trying to pin down how she feels about her part of this production. She makes it sound so joyless, yet people don't get involved in things like this unless they are into it. If she's resentful because she tried out for a part and didn't get it and so had to take the stage manager type job if she wanted to have anything to do with the production, then show that.

    I think not knowing her motivation for taking the production jog interferes with my suspension of disbelief. Closing night, after the production is a huge deal. Everyone is a mixture of elated and sad, and there's a sense of celebration in the air to acknowledge all the hard work and sacrifice that went into the show run. The fact that she cuts out as soon as the show is over is very odd and makes me think that if she dislikes this role so much, why did she take it? I think to make this work, you need to show us why she's involved in the play. Too, keep in mind her parents are there, and they will want to see her after to congratulate her and tell her how much they enjoyed the show.

    The missing element is not knowing why she holds this resentment toward her BFF and others who have plans/are having a good time. Again, knowing a piece of info like she loves theatre and tried out for a role but wasn't 'good enough' would help a bit. I can't sympathize with her emotions as well if I don't understand the reason behind them. I want to feel like she's trying to be out there like them, trying to be noticed/socially active or whatever, but it just doesn't work out. If you give us a bit more, then I will empathize more with her situation and how she feels left out. :)

    Don't get me wrong, I really love the writing and the voice is really strong. But you have to be careful with showing this level of resentment without explaining the source of it, or your character might seem like a 'downer' or martyr-like.

    I think you've got a great start here, just work it a bit to show the 'why' behind her viewpoint a bit more. :)

    I hope I didn't sound hard on this, because I really like it. Thanks for sharing.

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  10. I really enjoyed this. The voice was great. I loved the Clinton/Palin line, and I think this reveals to us more about the MC than others give you credit for. It shows me this isn't just another completely vapid teen; instead of the MC thinking of some pop star, she's thinking political figures.

    It seemed obvious to me that Vee either is jealous of her friend becuase Vee likes Matt, or just on a simple level that her friend gets all the guys. Either works for a teenage girl, and girls/women in general, whom I find to be very competive, even about petty things.

    I think the Toth may have more of a part in this, not sure...

    I'd keep reading for sure.

  11. Just wanted to jump in and say that I really liked this!

  12. Good writing. My only suggestion is to bring out some of this information through dialog (another bf helping her?) instead of so much narrative.

  13. love this. hands down my favorite. in such a short excerpt I was able to understand the dynamic in multiple relationships: Vee & Syd, Syd & Matthew, Vee's mom & dad.

    Also, the voice is dry and witty without too much put-on. Nice and subtle. Setting is great, too.