9.02.2006

3rd SR Crapometer #16

Dear Miss Snark:

I have written an 80,000 word commercial fiction novel based on my experience in the Hollywood rock music scene in the early ‘90s, entitled “Bottumz Up”.

Aspiring rock star Dee Jones leaves his home at 19 and moves to Hollywood, against the wishes of his parents. Once there he realizes he is but one of hundreds attempting the same impossible feat. Amidst conflict with his best friend, Dee joins a promising rock band, who soon performs at famous clubs like The Whisky and The Roxy. However, with success just around the corner, the band is rocked with internal strife.

While I have found nothing quite like “Bottumz Up”, it is similar to Anne Thomas Soffee’s “Nerd Girl Rocks Paradise City” and the movie “Rock Star”.

I have spent six years working on the manuscript, (leave this out) and I would be happy to send it to you. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Just cause things happen to you or your hero, doesn't mean you have a plot.
You don't as far as I can tell.
Are you writing this to make sense of your experience?
Valuable tool, writing...but what I need is something I can sell.

Prologue – March, 1988

The music blared through the PA speakers, assualting his ears like a sonic wave. On the shadowy stage, twenty feet in front of where he stood, five musicians jammed a raucous tune. Dee knew the leather-clad, long-haired musicians from magazines and the tapes he owned. He timidly joined the impenetrable crowd of seasoned concert-goers, men and women alike, as they cheered on their heroes. The thick audience prevented him from getting any closer, but it wasn’t from lack of trying. Instead, he contented himself by standing along the periphery. At least his vantage point gave him a moderate view of the backstage proceedings.

Half a dozen groupies, in short skirts and fishnet stockings, stood off to the side of the stage. Periodically a musician wandered their way and flashed a knowing grin. The lucky young lady puckered her lips expectantly as her competition looked on enviously.

Ponytailed men, in shorts or jeans, flittered about during the performance, dispensing cups of water or otherwise catering to the musicians’ needs. Roadies, Dee assumed.

Dee’s companion nudged him and said something, but Dee couldn’t make it out over the music. He leaned his ear towards him. “Awesome show, dude.” He said. Dee nodded and cheered loudly, pumping his fist into the air. A loud roar erupted as a black lace bra flew on stage. The singer stooped to pick it up and casually wrapped it around his neck.

The concert didn’t end until after midnight. The crowd gradually left the smoky, stuffy club to the crisp spring air outside. Dee and his companion followed the others out, keeping an eye out for his Dad’s pickup. Three girls caught his eye, two he recognized from their high school. The other was a bit older, probably one of their sisters. Dee nudged his companion as his stomach tightened. “Let’s go say hi,” Dee’s friend said. Before Dee could refuse, he was dragged along by the other young man.

The older girl saw them approach, and quickly turned around, towards her parked car. The younger girls waved hello but were right on her tail. Dee and his friend were left standing alone on the sidewalk as they drove off. “So much for that,” Dee’s friend mumbled in disappointment.

Minutes later his Dad showed up, and they climbed into the pickup. “Thanks for getting us,” Dee said as politely as he could. It was weird talking while his ears were ringing so loudly from the concert. He hoped he wasn’t shouting.

His Dad, weary from a long day of work, simply grunted in response. Dee glanced at the ring on his Dad’s finger, his 1974 Oregon State University class ring. The only ring he wore on either hand.

Dee peered out the window at the city lights behind him, dreaming of the day he would be on stage. No matter what, he vowed silently, I have to do that.

“Damn rock music,” he heard his dad mutter as he swerved to avoid a speeding driver next to him. “No son of mine is going to waste his life away doing that. The comment stung Dee like a razor. He knew his parents weren’t fond of his passion for music, but never heard such a blunt
admission.

“What if I could make a good living doing it?” Dee said meekly, keeping his stare out the window.

His father chuckled in disdain. “More than likely you’ll end up pumping gas.” Dee’s cheeks burned, and he felt two feet tall.


There's no energy and excitement here.
No sense of the crowd, no taste, or smell. I'm going to require you pay for adjectives piecemeal instead of by the pound so we can have some restraint here.

This is pass at page one.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I stopped reading after the third adverb.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'd love to read a book about the rock scene in LA during the nineties, if only because I remember yearning to be a part of it when I was a teen (mm...but back in the eighties :-) ).

The writing is decent, but only that, and the tension doesn't arrive until Dee is in the truck talking to his dad. That's when your story starts; the bit in the club could be chopped entirely. I did find the blunt statement by Dee's father a bit too over-the-top, however. Try for more subtle tension than that?

Think about what the tensions in the story are, and focus on them more closely. That will be the thing that draws the reader into the story. Also, try for more visceral descriptions of what is going on; the club scene seemed a bit flat to me. Good luck with it!

Anonymous said...

"commercial fiction novel."

Dear dog, the pain, the pain. Here, Miss Snark, I have some Prozac to go with that gin.

And Dee's dad--IF this is set in present day--was likely raised on rock music himself and not likely to damn it. At this point he'd be delighted if his son and heir DID end up pumping gas. It's a job.

And DOES anyone pump gas anymore?

No sense of the character's youth is reflected in the language used. The rock scene has changed a lot since, oh, ten minutes ago.

Terry said...

I'm having mixed feelings about being one number away from the crapometer, but I have to defend pumping gas here. Last trip through Oregon, it was still the law that only employees of the service stations could pump gas. No self service allowed.

However, since probably the other 49 states have self-service, maybe 'flipping burgers' would avoid the problem.
I'm not going to comment on the writing.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I can think of two stations in my area where they still pump your gas for you. I'm in Alaska.

A. M. said...

I'd love to read a novel on the topic also!

The Prologue was lifeless, though. I was half-expecting something like an inciting incident. The excitement of Dee at his first concert or the concert where he figures "that's what I want to do. That's what I HAVE to do".

The excitement he shares with his Dad in the truck - and where he gets, for the first time, a very negative reaction that's like a really huge blow.

As it's written, the father addresses the issue before it's brought up by his son. This I found odd. Perhaps your point is that it's been discussed in the past. Shame, that. I want to be there when important stuff happens for the first time. With that tension set up then, prologue could end and the story starts at another interesting point where important stuff happens.

Guess that would be something like the novel I'd love to read :)

Anonymous said...

I thought this one had possibilities. I would read it if he worked on the story more (we all know about groupies, give us something more there--maybe one was carrying the singer's baby). This first page is better than the other crap I've read on here so far.

Shannon said...

As for pumping gas, New Jersey only has full-service gas stations as well.

In terms of the concert scene, what kind of music was it? They look like metalheads from your description, but how does the music sound to him? Yes, there's a huge crowd - but how are they reacting to the music? Are they headbanging? Is there a mosh pit? I know that one of the most distinctive details I remember after a concert is the nasty feeling that you are covered in sweat, much of it not your own. What do you remember most from your own experience? Rather than loading up on adjectives, include details like that to paint a much more vivid picture.

Anonymous said...

What is it that inspires your main character to want to join the rock scene? Is it a love for the music itself? Because if so, there needs to be more observation about the music. Someone musically inclined would have opinions.

Is it a desire to have the things that go along with being famous? Money? Groupies? Since these were the things you mentioned in this scene, I'm guessing these are what your main character wants. If that's the case, then maybe show a little more emotion (envy maybe?) in his observations of those parts of the concert. Also, if your main character is desiring material things, is there something lacking in his life (like is he poor) that leads to this desire, or is he just a fundamentally materialistic person?

I think you have a really good idea going here and you just need to tighten things up and maybe flesh out your story some. Maybe you've even answered all my questions already by the second page. Hope this helps!

Ben W in PDX said...

Thanks for your helpful comments. : )

Anonymous said...

i hesitate to ask (Actually i don't) if this person really has had any experience in any kind of music scene. and what kind of roadie flits about?