3rd SR Crapometer #23


Funny, neurotic, absurd--all describe my heroine, Monica Baker, a 33-year-old single professional with more baggage than a Boeing 747.

Fears? Monica has plenty--strangers, elevators, hot tubs. As a result she’s cautious, overly cautious. But life can get so damn boring when you’re always worried about something…anything. Just once, she’d like to say the hell with it and brave a Port-a-Potty, take a hot air balloon ride or talk tomatoes with a guy in produce.

But change is tough, so what’s the hold up? Ex-boyfriend Sammy is a Fruit Loop-eating drummer with a talent for making women hum. Teddy, her father, camps on his Laz-Y-Boy and buys tulip bulbs and steak knives from The Home Shopping Network. Duffy, her mother, can’t be bothered as she gambles, downs gin and amasses a collection of gnomes to rival Tolkien.

In the end, forced by a depressive episode to confront her failures in life, Monica discovers the strength to create a new self--confident and fearless.

Me? I’m a published poet and former reporter for Nation Publications. I hold a B.A. from the University of Iowa.

I would be happy to submit Caution Ahead, my completed 75,000-word manuscript, upon request. A stamped envelope is enclosed for your reply.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

four words: is there a plot?

Page 1

I hate that I’m cautious. It holds me back. I don’t take chances. Wouldn’t you rather err on the side of caution?--my aunt loves to say. Well, I guess, but life can get so damn boring when you’re always worried about something--anything. I’ve got to get over it. That’s my plan, my resolution, my mission.
And in an effort to crawl out of my safe hole, I’ve decided to do things differently. Ideas: take a hot-air balloon ride, talk tomatoes with a stranger in the produce section, use a Port-a-Potty at a sleazy carnival, buy a whiskey sour for a gentleman in a bar.
I walk to the window. In the dimming light, I see cars parked in the lot, but no red GTO. I slip my fingertips under the rubber band around my wrist. Where is he? My fingers squeeze the band.
It’s Saturday, late afternoon, and I’m waiting for Sammy. We have a date, and he’s late again. Not surprising at all. I hear garbled tones over my intercom. Finally. I move to the foyer, buzz him in and open the door. He sings in the best nasally, Sonny Bono voice he can muster--a classic about how he’s got me and I’ve got him.
He rounds the last turn of the staircase and stands before me, all six feet, two inches of him. Wheat colored hair curls around his shoulders. Low slung Levi’s settle on his narrow hips and round sunglasses perch at the end of his nose, rock star chic. He grabs me like a bear and stuffs his paw in my back pocket.
“Ready, babe?” He whispers in my ear. I’m momentarily stunned, a wide-eyed doe in a meadow. I haven’t been pawed in three days.
“You’re late, as usual.” I pull away. A spicy scent surrounds my face, something musty and alcohol tinged. Definitely not pleasant. “What’s that smell?”
“English Leather. You like?” He steps forward, tilts his head and gazes at me with his robin-egg blue eyes. Must admit, he’s mesmerizing at times.
“Sammy, the ‘70s are over.” I close the door behind him.
Like I said, I need a new life.

It's really hard to make neurotic people interesting. And most neurotic people think they are the normal ones: "Grandma, not everyone shops for vegetables in latex gloves!" "They should!"


Anonymous said...

There's a lot of charm in the query letter, but a little less in the excerpt itself, although Sammy does come across as sexy in that infuriating "I am a flake" way that bad choices in boyfriend often do.

I would say the writing is definitely there, but - as Miss Snark said - the story might be a bit lacking. Monica's life just seems so small... I'm really not sure I want to read about her. Perhaps put the focus on Sammy initially? He's certainly not a small character. In fact, he's big enough that I wonder how he wound up in Monica's life.

Good luck, Author. I did like the writing; you've clearly got a lot of talent!

Anonymous said...

The TV show MONK does neurotic OCD. You should watch it.

Chumplet said...

Jesus, that's my family! How did they know???!!

I don't wear surgical gloves, though, except the disposable kind when I'm picking up doggie poop.

Miss Snark, take a break. As I skim from #1 to 23, you're getting snarkier and snarkier. I guess that's a good thing, considering the circumstances.

I'm beginning to thank God I dodged the bullet, but at the same time wishing, oh, wishing that I could be one of these lucky Snarklings....

Bernita said...

The writing is competent but I wish she would introduce her mild and petty foibles a little later.

JJ said...

Character development sounds promising, and yes, the writing is good, but I echo Miss Snark - there's no plot. There has to be something at stake. It doesn't have to be world salvation, but it probably does have to be more than "will she get brave or not?" Not enough apparent conflict otherwise.

whoever said...

I think the proper name is La-Z-Boy, by the way.

Virginia Miss said...

I love the author's voice in the query - very snappy writing, great character snapshots. But there's no hook, no conflict, no story. And the writing in the excerpt lacked the same verve.

Michele Lee said...

Excellent writing, I love the query it definitely sparkles, but I too hit the end and wondered "So it's a sort of memoir?" The excerpt confirmed that it is way too inside the character's head for my taste. To me it makes it feel somewhat egotitical (not saying the writer is, I'm saying the character is). If I were you I'd try rewriting a bit in third person, not as a permanent thing, but to see how it changes and where the internal dialog seems excessive and where the plot seems to fail. A novel cannot be written on internal conflict alone.

BuffySquirrel said...

Seems to me that if the protagonist already knows what's holding her back, half the book is over already.

Discovering that your decisions are not rational but are based on neuroses and phobias is a vital stage in overcoming the same. Why leave that out of the novel? Seeing the protagonist rationalise highly irrational behaviour would amuse me far more than her knowing what's wrong but spending almost the whole book doing nothing about it. YMMV.

Cudd said...

For the record, I'm fairly certain Tolkien never wrote about gnomes.

Tolkien's "little people" were halflings, or hobbits, and they are also very different from standard gnome descriptions and mentalities.

It's not a major thing, but as someone who's read The Lord of the Rings a few times, your allusion to Tolkien's works threw me off.

Schaz said...

I just want to know about the rubber band...

Anonymous said...

A fem version of Adrian Monk, just not as far down the disorder ladder, a badly considered romantic relationship, and yet another disfunctional family.

Sounds like my life and hard times. What joy.

(Therapy and chocolate fixed all that.)

There's a market for it, but I'm not in that demographic.

I've got a copy of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" here somewhere. I need a fix.


Anonymous said...

How many squash would fit into one latex glove? Or does each veggie have its own?

Carter said...

Now I'm a pretty tolerant person, and certainly not a prude, but putting latex on unconsenting vegetables is just plain wrong. In some state, it's probably illegal.

Jo Bourne said...

I'm going to second Michelle Lee here -- it might be interesting to see this in simple past tense, third person.