#33 Crapometer

Chick Lit

Jo recently graduated from UW-Oshkosh and works for an IT solutions business. Jo is talented at database management, but consistently asked to assist in minor tasks. Her latest assignment is to a team lead by a co-worker with seniority but less ability.

Her lunch breaks are spent at the gym, working out some of the frustrations from the first half of her workday. Usually she keeps to herself, preferring to run while listening to music, but today the conversation at the next elliptical runner interests her. The lady next to her has a crisis at work related to a database. When the lady hangs up the phone, Jo asks if it is an update or a solution call. Since it is an update with no solution in sight, Jo offers a possible solution, hedging that since she has not seen the database she cannot be absolute. Liz believes that it is better than what her team is getting and asks if Jo would consult on the case. After taking over Liz's office for the afternoon, Jo solves the problem.

You’re getting bogged down in events here. We only need to see that Jo now has an alternative to the job she doesn’t like much.

Liz invites Jo to lunch as a personal thank you. During their conversation, Jo reveals to Liz that she hates her job and what she thinks of the company she works for, using the current project she finished as an example of the ineptness. Liz brings up the topic of consulting. Jo hasn't ever thought about the possibility.

Things go from bad to worse that afternoon at Jo's office. The project that she came in early to finish was exactly what the client was looking for. Not only did it come in under bid, the interface was easier than the original. Rather than giving credit where it was due, her manager gave credit to the co-worker that lead the team. It was Jo that made the changes that saved the time and made a better solution.

(A) Jo fumes on her way back to her cubicle and immediately calls Liz's office to schedule a meeting to discuss the "opportunity" presented.

(B) Jo believes in working hard and partying harder. She goes after everything in life with a vengeance, taking no time to think about the effects of her actions. She minimizes personal ties, but maximizes the ties she has to her business connections. If it hadn't been for a chance meeting between Liz and herself, (chance meeting with Liz) Jo would not be where she is today. Liz's resources and connections are endless. She is forever recommending Jo's services for project start-ups or when an approaching deadline might not be meet. Jo loves the money she makes and the hours she keeps, both of which support her spending and partying habits.

Clearly some time passes between Paragraph A and B but the way it’s written here, I first thought we were still on Day One.

Liz's cousin is getting married and Jo has agreed to go to the bachelorette party, to make sure that the bride to be has a great time. Jo is sure that she did, but doesn't remember much of what happened after the third round of shots. Or was it the fourth? She spends the next day trying to remember what happened and why she has a ticket for drunk and disorderly behavior. Her other best friend, Emily, uses Jo's hangover and general ill-feeling to lecture on the importance of settling down and growing up. Emily is working on behalf of her mother and Jo's mother. Laura and Margaret lived next door to each other as they raised their daughters. The relationship between them crisscrosses the lines of family and friendship.

Oh Emily just sounds like the absolute worst stick in the mud EVER. If I had friends lecturing me about settling down and growing up, I’d bonk them over the head with a frying pan. That kind of lecture is reserved solely for people of Grandmother Snark’s generation and OLDER.

Jo views the ticket as an inconvenience and not to be taken seriously. As she waits for her name to be called, she wonders how big of a fine the judge will impose on her. The judge takes exception to Jo's attitude and sentences her to community service and a monetary punishment. Jo risks being found in contempt of court before she gets her mouth under control.

You have three tenses going here. One is usually enough per paragraph.

After she relates her tale of woe to her two best friends, she receives advice that she neither expects nor wants. Both Emily and Liz think that it is time that she settles down. They both argue that Jo is approaching 30 (you said she recently graduated from college...was she on the ten year program?) and can't expect to live like a college student forever. Jo dismisses both of them as worrywarts. A nagging voice in the back of her mind picks up the refrain and speaks up at the most inconvenient times.

Jo refuses to use any of her business contacts to find a place she can volunteer her time. She turns instead to her mother's circle of friends, but only after having to confess. (Cause of course, finding something on your own and NOT telling your mom doesn’t work??) She is told to contact a friend's son, who is the owner of a teen center. Jo's reluctance prevents her from contacting him immediately. Only after being reprimanded by her probation officer does she make the effort.

The teen center is nothing like her limited expectations conjured. It is a coffee house and study center of the sort Jo frequented in college. The proprietor wants to have an alternative place for the kids to hang out, get help with homework and find a replacement for the general guidance that the teens miss out on at home. (this doesn't describe a place any teen I know would hang out--it describes what grown ups thinks teens should be doing) Alex is torn between the necessary fund and awareness raising and doing what he actually loves, spending his time with the kids. His prejudice against Jo is evident in their first meeting. The picture he has of her is colored by others. (I'm with Alex, I don’t like her much either at this point).

Jo immediately decides that the center is an easy place to serve her time. When no kids are around, she figures the time can be used to work on client accounts. Alex has other plans for her. In a random act of desperation, Alex opens up to her and admits that the place isn't too far from going under. Jo has become attached to the place and one girl, Brooke. She finally begins to see that more exists in life that working and partying. With help from her friends, both old and new, Jo learns how to transition from being a carefree twenty-something to loving-life thirty-something.

Jo isn’t very likable which is an absolutely non-negotiable requirement.

Chick lit usually requires some sort of romantic element too, and that’s missing.

And those friends? Yikes! They sound more like evil sisters than friends.

Can you think of a single "teen center" that actually works? All the teens I know are either working, hanging out with their friends at the mall or the local pizza parlor, or home studying. No teen I know would be caught dead in something designated "teen". They want to be grown up. They like to hang out in Starbucks.

And “transitioning from a carefree 20something to a work and family oriented 30 something” doesn’t have quite the ring of fun in it that I look for in chick lit.

This synopsis makes the book sound like a morality tale, not chick lit. It may not BE that, but you’d never know from this.


Motherhood for the Weak said...

The set up is so long I've lost interest in the story. Too detailed, too techy, and too much like my crappy day job, not what I personally look for in fiction. For me, this synopsis doesn't start in the right place or highlight the right things. The conflict, as I understand it, is Jo is a party girl and hates her job. She needs to stop partying (cue funky scene that shows this) and ditch her toxic work environment (cue the big bad boss scene)--this is what the synopsis should emphasize.

And as someone who has lots of thirty-something friends desperate to get married, the premise of scolding/pressuring a woman into settling down and getting married (I assume Alex is the love interest) is NOT going to go over well.


Stacie Penney said...

I've posted my thoughts at my own spotif anyone is interested.

I'm an almost thirty with lots of friends desperate to get married too. The point at the end of the novel/day is that it's okay to not. Obviously I missed it in the synopsis.

Bernita said...

Is a "monetary punishment" a simple fine?

Anonymous said...

Hi, stay_c. I'm not 100% sure that the "Snowflake" method of writing you cite: (http://www.rsingermanson.com) is that great an idea...

But following your link to Mr. Ingermanson's website did make me want to ask a question. Is your story intended to be "Christian chick-lit" (whatever that would be) rather than chick-lit? If so, you ought to have mentioned it right at the top of the synopsis.

If this is supposed to be Christian fiction, then some of the (to me) annoying aspects of your story--the whole teen center issue, the moralizing tone of the synopsis, and the pompous know-it-all characters like Emily--suddenly become part of the package rather than mistakes.

You do yourself a disservice if you tell your readers to expect the wrong genre. "Chick-lit" implies a sassy, smart, fun read, and we scan your synopsis looking for those qualities, but find something quite different.

You'll get better feedback if you state what it is you are really writing rather than trying to sneak it through on a stealth basis.

Anonymous said...

I haven't looked at stay_c's site, but there is a definite and growing Christian chick-lit genre, such as the Sisterchicks series, though the Christian publishing industry has its own agents and gatekeepers.

(I've also been taught the "Snowflake" method of plotting at a writing workshop with no religious ties, so I don't think it's only used by Christian writers, and I know it has been used by well-published authors, though I haven't tried it myself.)

Stacie Penney said...

First Anon---
The method is simply an outlining/plotting technique. If you really queried the site, you'd see that genre borders don't apply.

What genre would you be expecting, given the synopsis? Obviously I need some help with it.