Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October Secret Agent #1

TITLE: Bitter Bar Girl
GENRE: Adult Commercial Fiction

In the beginning when I started this job, I was bubbly and filled with promise, like a spanking new glass of champagne. After all, I was just a naive New Jersey girl with no real street cred.

But flash forward two years to present day and the effervescence has faded. People who bang on the bar, whistle, and snap fingers but don't have their orders ready while a crowd three deep forms en masse to stampede--the complainers, the whiny babies, the ones who grab at me or want the cheapest thing and then tip in change--have turned me sour and every night, as I scrub a layer of sticky booze off my skin, I wonder if I made the right choice when I came to LA.

Look up hole-in-the-wall in the dictionary and you'll find a picture of our bar. Sloppy black paint job on the walls and a faint aroma of B.O. The table tops are always sticky no matter how many times I wipe them but people seem to love the place in spite of its armpit atmosphere.

To distance myself I've developed an alter ego with a thick skin and a string of snappy one-liners. I call her Bitter Bar Girl. She is my first line of protection when alone behind the bar.

In her defense, I must point out that the guy she's about to slam completely deserves it for being a beer snob when the taps clearly demonstrate we only serve swill.


  1. I'm really torn here. On the one hand, I absolutely LOVE the voice. On the other hand, I keep getting tripped up by your wordage. "Spanking new," the repetitive N of "naive New Jersey," etc. Something about the way the words flow sometimes doesn't quite work. Try reading out loud more. Another tip is to read a poetry book. I know, weird tip, but it really helps. Read about the way feet flow together, and try assembling sentences that have a better flow of hard and soft sounds.

    Other than that, I like it. I like this girl already, which is a very good thing. My only other comment is a minor one, that the "look up in the dictionary" thing is more than a bit done.

    Enjoyed it overall. Good job!

  2. Sorry, a clarification. I meant read a book on how to write poetry. Not a book of poetry. Accept, read a book of poetry too. Just because poetry is awesome. ;-)

  3. "But flash forward two years to present day and the effervescence has faded. People who bang on the bar, whistle, and snap fingers but don't have their orders ready while a crowd three deep forms en masse to stampede--the complainers, the whiny babies, the ones who grab at me or want the cheapest thing and then tip in change--have turned me sour and every night, as I scrub a layer of sticky booze off my skin, I wonder if I made the right choice when I came to LA."

    Wow, that is one REALLY long sentence. Can you break it up at all. It's kind of hard to swallow.

    I will admit that I am interested to see where this story goes, however I feel that we are lacking the action needed in the first few paragraphs. I'd love to here it start with her slamming the bar snob!

  4. This really needs to start with some action. There is too much telling and not enough showing. I'd suggest you start with the ending and then throw in the explanation of why she is so bitter.

  5. I really like the voice, too.

    "But flash forward two years to present day and the effervescence has faded..."

    Must of this paragraph is an info dump, to me. These are supposed to be her thoughts...and I wouldn't think that way. It sounds very stilted, and I feel like it is just there to tell the reader that she has worked at this job for two years etc., not because it is what she is actually thinking. It pulls me out of her head.

    IMHO, you can get rid of that if you SHOW these things by her actions, instead of telling me.

  6. I think the voice is good, but the narrative seems to contradict itself -- if the bar is as bad as she makes it out to be, then how did it take two years to get for her to get to this point? And the snooty customers she seems to be referring to probably wouldn't frequent a dive like this place appears to be, but then she says customers love the place -- I am confused.

    also, could use some tightening -- "In the beginning" is redundant, as is "to the present day".

  7. I already like this girl. She sounds a lot like me...without the bartender job and beer sticky arms. But her name "Bitter Bar Girl" really fits my attitude with drunk guys, so I relate and being able to relate with your readers means they will read on.

  8. I like the voice and I am curious about this main character. I think your story would have a stronger start at "Look up hole-in-the-wall in the dictionary etc..." I'm put immediately in a place and I know the girl talking. The beginning seems like back-story that could be revealed throughout the story rather than told all at once.

  9. The important info in this piece, I think, is that she is from NJ and is now in LA. What's missing is why. Why did she move? And why does she still work in this bar if it's such a lousy job/place?

    What this tells me is that I'm going to get a story about a bartender being snarky, which isn't much of a draw. (That may not be what the story is about, but that's what I get from the opening.)

    What it should say, or hint at, are the underlying problems. Bitter Bar Girl is a character, not the story. I would suggest starting with her in the bar being bitter and snarky (which I seem to remember you doing in a previous version)and work in your underlying problem - the reason for the story. (which I don't think you included in that other version.)

  10. Love the voice and can't wait to hear the snappy one liners. The second paragraph is one long sentence and starts with the conjunction "but" and you're not joining anything. Break that into a few sentences and it will work better.

    I think starting this with a Bitter Bar Girl snappy one-liner might set this up better.

    Great voice and I'd read more based on it alone.

    Good luck!

  11. The voice is snappy, the description sharp. I think I've been in this bar before.

    Two nits: There's a repetition in "in the beginning" and "when I started this job". Cut the former, keep the latter and you're golden. Although I like the idea of starting with your third paragraph. Vividness to grab you right away

    Also, as others have said about the second paragraph, whoa! That's a long sentence. I'm really thinking you could even do without that whole paragraph (as long as you move the tidbit that she's now in LA elsewhere).

    But thus far I like it and would read on!

  12. I particularly love your last line "...when the taps clearly demonstrates we only serve swill." Made me smile. But I did find the tense-change in that paragraph jarring. "The guy she's about to slam..." especially when she's referring to herself in the third person there--though I know it's her alter ego she means. It took me a second to figure it out, though.

    The second paragraph, on the other hand, didn't bother me. I do think you could shorten "crowd three deep forms en masse to stampede" that's a bit of overkill. Any one of those descriptions implies the others and would make the long sentence easier to read. :)

    The rest of that second paragraph I really like, though. I might even make it longer by saying "when I came to LA to...whatever she came to LA to do, especially if she is still trying to do it.

    You did a great job creating atmosphere here and the voice is great. I'm hooked. :)

  13. I really liked the last line also. I'd read on to see what happens between Bitter Bar Girl and Beer Snob.

    Like others, I think you could edit out a paragraph or some lines, move it to later so we get to that dialog between the Bar Girl and this guy or whatever action is going to happen. And yes, there's some repetitions: "sticky" and "sticky" etc.

    But overall, I'm seeing the atmosphere and the MC has a strong voice. Best wishes with this!

  14. I like this character, but I'm not sure this was the best way to dive into her story. I'd like to see her sling her snappy one-liner at someone right off the bat, then maybe you can go into her inner dialogue.

    I also got caught up on that one long sentence in the second paragraph.

    I think this could be a really great character though!

  15. I'd like to see this start with Bitter Bar Girl delivering a right-cross (or one-liner) to beer snob. Then in bits and pieces of interior monologue and conversations with friends, the police etc. her story of why she got herself fired (or whatever) will come out.

    The other comments have very concrete improvements for you, especially RBSHoo that I hope you address to make your already good story better.

    A right-crosss, would get my attention, especially if she ends up marrying the guy.

  16. Ditto Holly and Melissa. Honestly, I would have stopped reading at the champagne simile, because it's just too done. If you started with looking up hole-in-the-wall and gt in some action, you'd hook me much faster.

    Dr. Krog

  17. Skip the first two paragraphs and you have an excellent start to a story. The next line should be the snarky slam to the beer snob, who I'm guessing is going to be a love interest. I would definitely read on to find out. Good luck!

  18. So I'm going to go ahead and agree with Princess L and say I think skipping the 1st 2 paragraphs entirely would be a better start to this story.

    I really like the voice here. I think that that beginning just feels a little boring and info dump-y and the champagne comparison feels pretty awful.

    I think Bitter Bar Girl sounds like she has a great story to tell and I'm interested to hear the story of her flip side too--the vulnerable side--but I think this is a great place to start.

    I think with these minor changes this shows a lot of potential and would definitely hook me.