3rd SR Crapometer #92

Dear Miss Snark,

I am the author of Her Uptown Man, a 100,000-word contemporary romance that I hope provokes your interest.

Gabrielle Sullivan is the accidental investment banker. She doesn’t possess a milligram of killer instinct and she can’t smooth-talk clients without blushing. Never mind, because in this high-rolling industry, even a low flyer makes a comfortable living. But when her job is restructured out of existence and her faithless boyfriend absconds with her virginity (ebay!) and trust in men, Gaby’s ordered world disintegrates. Finances dwindling, the desperate woman resorts to deception to get hired as secretary to America’s toughest CEO, aka America’s sexiest CEO. Yet despite his deserved Casanova reputation, this jaded alpha male with a fear of gold-diggers is vulnerably lonely. When a straitlaced Gaby battles virile Morgan, animosity explodes into earthy passion. Until his scheming ex-lover uncovers Gaby’s deception. (she's really a man!)

Thank you for your time and I hope we can take this further.

Ah yes, those one word signifiers for character: virile Morgan, straitlaced Gaby. Miss Snark prefers at least two adjectives: tammed and leashed Killer Yapp; hot and hunky Mr. Clooney; drunk and disorderly Mr. Gibson. That way she knows what to think about people without wasting any time actually watching what they say or do. Saves a lot of time. Efficient and organized Miss Snark.

An ominous sign that, the door to his spacious office thrown open.
Once inside, Clare Prescott scanned futilely. “Where is she?” But no mistake, during her two-minute dash to the restroom, he’d dispensed with the remaining prospect on the shortlist.
At her plaintive bleat, the black leather chair swung round for its occupant to observe her rather than the rain pounding the floor-to-ceiling windows. One corner of his mouth lifted mockingly. “She was eager to tell me: one, I remind her of Keanu Reeves except that I’m ... even better looking, and two, she’s unmarried.” The black humor shot off his face as his palm hit the table. (was he trying to retrieve the black humor?) “I’m after a secretary, not a wife. Even if the woman is as irresistible as Amanda Chevalier thinks she is.”

The scene played out in Clare’s mind. Amanda edging gingerly into that antiquated, straight-backed chair with the curved arms--the one he reserved for his hapless interviewees--and mouthing the toxic words that made it irrelevant whether he resembled King Kong or Mr. Reeves. He to his feet in fluid motion and escorting her to the door without apology, despite her first-class credentials. After a decade with him, Clare knew he gave one chance; if you blew it, it was adieu. But he would always give you that chance.

“Shall I ask the agency for a new shortlist? A more promising one, of course,” she said even though his answer was a given.

His face contorted, and then the direction of his gaze shifted. (His poor face, shooting, now contorting. He'll be getting his own reality tv show soon: Nip and Tuck-The Apprentice Years)

“Darling, you ready to leave?”

Clare swiveled her head. (why do I hear theme music here that sounds oddly like...tubular bells?) The woman framed by the door had one languid arm leaning against the hinge; other hand, slender fingers outstretched, braced against the deep curve of her narrow waist. Her blood-red, Cupid’s bow lips fashioned a Marilyn Monroe pout and her green, sloe-shaped eyes smoldered at Clare, or rather, at the man seated behind Clare.

She remembered when that fashion magazine appeared on his desk. Its cover featured Supermodel Shirley Maxwell on a confident strut down the catwalk; the front-V of her halter neck plunged to below her naval (ahoy indeed) and a minuscule piece of dark-colored lace clung to her narrow hips. Her figure, even a woman couldn’t fault. Her face, Clare didn’t consider capable of launching any warships, only fistfights between silly men, but maybe that was the bitch in her speaking. After all, Shirley’s torrid affair with America’s sexiest CEO had been raging for a year. Clare prayed they wouldn’t stay an item much longer.

As she turned to leave, he called out, “Get another agency. Tell them to hit me with their two best candidates, and I have better like one of them.”

Shirley waited until they were alone before flattening both palms on his desk and leaning to kiss him lingeringly on the lips. Finally, she straightened to perch on the edge of the writing surface. “What was that about?”

His fingers rubbed rhythmically against his temples. “Her successor. The last candidate thought this place was a marriage mart.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Some women have no shame. Surely they have to look only at Clare to get the message.”

She colored as his eyebrow arched. However, all he said was, “The right person is proving elusive to find, but there’s nothing I can do about that tonight. Shall we?”

At six three, he was slightly taller than Shirley was. But unlike her, he was broad shouldered with a muscular, yet deceptively lean build. Surprisingly girlish eyelashes framed a pair of alert gray-blue eyes; their veiled expression signaled his intolerance of intrusion, except intrusion with his rare permission.

There are readers who love this kind of sloe eyed, narrow waisted, naval academic excercise in adjectivity. I am not one of them.

Shirley the Supermodal gets a form rejection.


Kristen King said...

"tubular bells"? Miss Snark, I love you.

Only eight more to go. Take a deep breath and say my verification word with me: oynmm. It's relaxing.

Writerious said...

::blink blink::

Uh -- Gabrielle is the MC, but we start with Clare's viewpoint, then without warning switch to Shirley's.

Where's Gabrielle?

Sexy CEO: lean but muscular, long eyelashes -- wait, have I seen this guy before?. Hmm. let me think. Yeah. In a few dozen other romance novels, all of which could have been titled, "That Arrogant Man."

Anonymous said...

I have no idea what was happening here. I had to read that first paragraph three times and still didn't get it.

December Quinn said...


Why is investment banker Gaby trying to get a job as an executive assistant? Even to "America's sexiest CEO", it's still probably not as well-paying or anywhere near as challenging. And if it's well-paid enough to attract investment bankers, it should be well-paid enough to attract older women, who've been assistants all their lives, but are uninterested in this guy's bod.

One of my daughters is named Morgan.

The scene with the CEO swinging around in his chair to face her...I expected to see George Hamilton/Mike Meyers/JD from Scrubs/Ryan O'Neill/any number of other people who've been introduced in this horrible, cliche fashion.

And yeah, especially in romance, you need to get the two MCs interacting immediately. So I'd lose the opening, which doesn't tell us anything about anyone anyway that can't be seen when the real story starts, and get right to the meat.

Hope that's helpful!

writtenwyrdd said...

Obviously Clare is going to marry hunky boss and bitchy supermodel girlfriend will be hoist by her own low-slung halter, er petard.

I've read this. Usually hated it because it is so freaking implausible. And I read a lot of romances for brain candy.

I would beg of you Author, please inject some real character into the characters. Make them break out of the cookie cutter molds.

On the other hand, if you tone down the stale descriptions you probably can follow the formula and get a sale.

Anonymous said...

"He to his feet in fluid motion..."

Missing 'got'. (Or possibly 'slithered'.)

Anonymous said...

"Once inside, Clare Prescott scanned futilely."

Like a line of bad poetry?

Allison Wharley said...

I'm with writerious. At 100 000 words you may be aiming this at mainstream romance, where the expectations are a little more forgiving - but even in mainstream it would be uncommon to open with two points of view that are neither of the lead characters.

In a convoluted way, this is 'show don't tell'. You need to find a way to show the hero's character, so that you don't need Clare and the supermodel to tell us.

Get in his head.

He's the one you have to make readers fall in love with. Kissing a wench he apparently chose from a magazine cover is not very heroic... unless you can give us what he's feeling and why.

Good luck with it.

TMack said...

Whenever someone opens the hood of a car to explain something my eyes glaze over and it's like my ears are stuffed with cotton balls...la la la...

Dear submitter - Your narrative voice had the same effect on me, except my eyes glazed over and my ears were stuffed with adjectives.

Writers should be encouraged, so I don't mean anything other than that in this response. Nonetheless, if I were you, I would strip this piece to its bare bones and start again. The story is so wordy it's in a fog. I'm wondering what you're trying to hide or compensate for or if there's any real substance to the story or plot. It's hard to tell because I just can’t get cut through it.

Why don’t you write this in your own voice? You obviously love words, so I’ll bet your voice, the one you speak with every day, is just grand.

Anonymous said...

Waaaay too many adjectives for my taste. By the time I finished a few of those sentences I practically screaming, "I get it, already!" -JTC

lottery ticket said...

Personally, I'd go for a "tamed and leashed George Clooney."

Janet Black said...

futilely, mockingly, gingerly, rhythmically, slightly, ceceptively, surprisingly. Ugh.

Mentioning an actor as your description of your protagonist does NOT work. Also, at six-three, he is only 'slightly' taller than Shirley? She is six-two? And that line should be: At six three, he was slightly taller than Shirley. (No 'was' after.)

This needs a lot of work, but if you keep at it, maybe after another year's worth of reivising it will be something more presentable.

Stacy said...

Too. Many. Adjectives. Brain freeze!

Seriously, though, if you are going to write a formula romance, stick to what works. If Clare isn't the main female, get her out of there. You have accidentally set up the love triangle on which the entire 190 page story will be built.

Anonymous said...

How, Miss Snark, can you read another word after "absconds with her virginity"? You are too nice. You are too tender. You are too giving of your time.

Bernita said...

Yeah, where's Gabby?

Anonymous said...

Did he pack that virginity in a carryon or his laptop case?

My eyes glazed on the first wtf, did I read that right? line, but I forced them over the rest just to enjoy Miss Snark's observations.

Stock characters, same tired old lines, and golly-I-bet-they-get-together at the end with a huffing, puffing sex scene or something like that.



Your stuff reads like you loaded two hundred of these cookie cut literary Big Macs into a software program that plucked out lines from each, then spewed them onto your screen, and, alas, mine.

It is called "genre incest."

You will NEVER get better as a writer unless you start reading something else to expand your creativity gene pool.

I can usually tell which romance writers have educated themselves outside of the genre, and which don't--they simply produce BETTER writing.

You want to get published? Then for the next 12 months you are NOT allowed to read ANYTHING from the romance aisle.

You will go to the library, pick out anything dusty with a hard cover and suck that into your brain instead.

I do mean READ. When I tell someone to read Romeo and Juliet they better not rent a DVD of West Side Story.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't he hire a male secretary?

--E said...

Oh, dear.

I would never discourage someone from trying to become an author; I have seen illiterates go on to be great writers.

The bad news: Even if there's a good plot hiding somewhere in this book, the prose is amateurish. A short list of the amateur traits:

1. Too many adjectives and adverbs.

2. Cliches. ("her plaintive bleat"; "fluid motion"; "framed by the door")

3. Many clunky sentences. ("The black humor shot off his face as his palm hit the table.")

The good news: You can learn to write better. I recommend finding a good critique group and working on each of these issues one at a time (preferably in the order I've listed them; if you solve the first two, the third will likely evaporate on its own).

annoyed said...

I couldn't get beyond the query. It's full of cliches.

It's also impossible. You can't be an accidental investment banker, much less in business, if you blush when you talk to clients. You're making the heroine sound stupid and not sympathetic.

Never mind that a non-fiction book came out about a week ago entitled THE ACCIDENTAL INVESTMENT BANKER--written by a banker.

You're writing about a world in which you have no experience or, it seems, knowledge. Stick with what you know.

Jeb said...

'abconded with her virginity' knocked me out of this one last night, too.

Which was a mercy as my adjective-filter was clogged and needed servicing before I could tackle the rest of it.

I still don't have a clear idea of the connection between the query and the opening, except that they're both generic romance.

Jeb said...

... and I hate, really HATE any writing containing that slithery point of view winding its way from character to character in the middle of a scene. Pick one and stick to their head.

Anonymous said...

I got a sense of the city from the rain on the windows. Nice touch.

Unfortunately, the CEO and the model reminded me of "the Donald" and I just couldn't get into it.

There's vividness and energy here but perhaps needs some work.

What if they talked this all over in a different setting? Or during Gabby's interview?

Good luck with it.

marie-anne said...

Category at 100,000 words is still category. This reads like a not so good category Harlequin Presents. Mainstream romances aren't just longer, they're better. Everything else has already been said.

Anonymous said...

OMG, I'm with Kristen! Mike Oldfield rocks and I spewed cold coffee all over the monitor.

Thanks for a much needed giggle, Miss Snark.