Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September Secret Agent #11

TITLE: Phoenix
GENRE: Commercial Fiction

Amanda Martin didn’t believe in casual Fridays. She didn’t believe in anything casual. Why waste time with casual dating when, despite a cold and unfulfilling relationship, she and Josh made the perfect couple? Why bother with the empty calories of casual dining when the hottest restaurants in Chicago whisked her into a window-front table? Business casual was not an option when she could be summoned to meet with media or investors at a moment’s notice. She certainly didn’t appreciate the casual tone the banking industry took with the tellers all sporting chinos and matching golf shirts. The lackadaisical dress affected the workers’ efficiency, causing her to stand alongside those with less in their checking account than she spent on her favorite pair of heels.

With frustration radiating from every pore, she endured the long line for a teller. The lonely ATM lured her, but knowing a teller handled the hefty cash deposit won over the cold anonymity of the machine. Amanda shifted in her place, sighing as she unbuttoned her ivory coat.

“Ma’am, would you like some coffee while you wait?” a just-out-of-college branch manager approached her. Once upon a time, branch managers wore three-piece suits, but this kid was dressed identical to the tellers.

“Coffee? Am I really going to stand here long enough to drink a cup of coffee?”

“I’m sorry about that. The tellers are working as quickly as they can. Could you use the ATM to complete your transaction?”


  1. I'm interested to see where this goes, especially since I already don't like Amanda. The first paragraph describes her very well, giving the reader a descriptive look into her train of thought, without outright saying that she dislikes anything less than fabulous.

    If you don't soon, maybe add some physical descriptions of Amanda. Maybe she flicks her hair off her shoulder, or rolls her steel blue eyes. Something for the reader to use to conjure up an image of her.

  2. I love the first line, but the numerous extensions of "casual" are a bit forced.

    Pay attention to cliches (eg. "frustration emanating from every pore.")

    You repeat her peeve about dress code; once is probably enough.

    I really don't like this chick, which is a great hook. I also really like the way you inform the reader ("she could be summoned to meet with media or investors,eg.")

  3. Love the opening lines! Great example of show vs. tell. I get a good idea of what the MC is like from your description. If you're looking to cut, I would drop one of the casual references. You did such a good job with the opening, you don't need much more to reinforce it. Good luck!

  4. I thought you did a great job of letting us know the type of person Amanda is. What she likes and expects from the world clearly shows us who she is.

    On the other hand, there is no clue as to where it is going. What is the story about? Why is she in this line? Is her hefty deposit going into her own bank account, or someone else's? Is she carrying a check or cash? WHere did this hefty deposit come from? Did she earn it, find it, embezzle it?

    Instead of all the talk about casual this and that, perhaps give us some hints as to where the story is going. As is, all I have is a snooty frustrated woman in a long bank line. Give me something to make me turn the page.

  5. Characterization's great. But no idea where the story's going. We get the idea she's waiting long and she can't/ won't use the ATM, so the manager repeating that seems redundant.

  6. I agree with earth. I wouldn't read more. All I know so far is here is a rich snobby character, which is fine as long as you give me some reason to identify with her and care about what's going to happen. I have no reason to identify with her. At the beginning I got the sense that she was not agreeing with her own arguement against "casual" and that she was about to have a change of heart, but the second half I lost this sense.

  7. I'm not sure. My feeling was less positive than the comments I read before, but it's really too short to make a call, and there is something that intrigues me. Why is it so important to see the teller? Maybe that is one of the most important lines. At least for me, it would be my hook.

  8. Things I want to know:

    1) What does Amanda do that she could be summoned by media or investors at a moment's notice? It seems like her job is an important part of her, and without it, I feel like I don't have as complete a picture of her as I could (and I feel like that picture needs to be crystal clear from the get go).

    2) How can a "cold and unfulfilling relationship" be perfect? I'm not saying it can't -- it seems that Amanda is saying that "socially" they are the perfect couple -- but I'd like to know specifically what she means. The disconnect otherwise is a little jarring to me.

    I think the writing here is really good, but I probably wouldn't read on. There's nothing in Amanda's character or the story to draw me on (emphasis on me: obviously, for other people Amanda's character is a draw).

  9. I like that I dislike Amanda so much.

    I have to agree with everyone who said there's no hint of story here, yet. Find it; bring it forward.

    Well written, but two things tripped me up:

    --> "The lackadaisical dress affected the worker's efficiency, causing her..."

    I didn't get that she was in line until the next sentence, so I couldn't figure out the cause and effect relationship there.

    --> "The lonely ATM lured... won over the cold anonymity of the machine."

    Does she have either option? Or is she being forced to use the teller because there's no other way to deposit what she has? Currently, it sort of sounds like she could do either, but the teller handling her money gives her a warm fuzzy, which is weird because she clearly disdains everyone in this place.

    But yeah, so far, the only question I'm asking is "Will she drink a cup of coffee?" and that's not enough, despite nice writing, to get me interested.

  10. I love the opening line. You push it too far however and there's not a good segue from her not liking casual Friday to not liking casual dating. And then you squeeze in the detail about her boyfriend and then move on from that immediately. It messes up your flow and creates expectations that you then don't meet.

    The bigger problem here is that you don't want to start your book with a character who is waiting or stagnant--either emotionally or physically. So starting with her waiting on line is a problem.

    I don't think I would read further, unfortunately, although I do think you are a strong writer and this is in many ways promising.

  11. Hi all, some great thoughts and comments here. I really appreciate it. And, while Amanda starts as a pretty abrasive character, she softens significantly throughout the story.

    And, thank you Secret Agent, for the feedback and compliment on my writing.