3rd SR Crapometer #95

Dear Miss Snark,

Hotel owner Ping Pong is a duckess on the move. She’s avoiding dealing with the pain of her father’s death, ignoring the wily charms of her ex-husband, and hiding from her mother and sister as often as possible. Unfortunately, her ex-husband has set up residence in a room of her hotel, her sister works part-time as her assistant, and her mother has just recruited her to host the 100th annual Duck Beak Bill Ball (DBBB). Her father is the only one she is successful at missing, and the one duck person she most yearns to see.

Donald Dewey is Ping’s ex-husband. A former con-man, with a chip on his shoulder towards royalty in general, he is the main suspect in recent threats regarding the DBBB. Intent on winning back his ex, he’ll do anything to clear his name, while doing his best to seduce her, and at the same time hiding a secret that if revealed, may make him lose her forever. (he's fowl!)

JUST DUCKY, complete at 80,000 words, is a mystery in a fantasy setting with a comic tone and a hint of romance. It is a first novel; however a chapter from the book was published as short story in the August 2006 issue of xxx.com

Please contact me by email, snail mail, or phone. Thank you for considering my story, and I look forward to hearing from you. (Thank you for your time and consideration works just fine. I could send you a smoke signal and you'd reply--one reason Miss Snark tries to keep from setting her hair on fire too often)


Ok, this is weird weird weird.
I love the Freddy the Pig books almost as much as I love my sleek new martini shaker so I'd read this.

Ping strutted down the street, moving to the beat of her own iPOD. Glancing up, she saw that the sky was threatening to rain. Sighing, she slapped a couple of buttons on the device. She picked up the pace, stalking the street as coolly and quickly as she could to the tune of ‘Fox on the Run’. After all, the rain may slide off her duck’s back easily enough, but her silk jacket and tails tended not to be so dismissive of precipitation.

Kicking the voluminous legs of her corduroys behind her, she reached her destination. Bundling herself and her pants into a section of a glass revolving door, she scooted inside just as the clouds let go of their tears to drench the sky and everything below. Ping untangled herself from her trousers and unplugged herself from her iPOD. She glanced around the hip, high-end hotel.

Duck-chicks and duck-dudes were either meandering or walking purposely around the lobby. Seeing that her lunch date had not arrived, she walked over and plopped into casually chic plush comfort. She hooked a leg over the chair arm and swung it lazily. She could perceive in a glance the purpose, intention, and mood of everyone within eyeshot around the room. Ping relaxed and closed her eyes most of the way. Head pillowed against the high back, she continued to survey the current population of the lobby of Hotel Higginbotham.

“Always working.”

Ping’s eyes flew open, all the way. She looked to the left and up at the tall drake that loomed over her condescendingly. Sarcasm matched sarcasm as she shot back, “You’re one to talk!”

Donald’s eyes twinkled, and he reached out to tweak her beak playfully. She slapped his hand away, and he paused, hurt. Seeming to remember their rift, he shrugged in what a less cynical person than Ping would have taken as regretfully.

“You still hijacking a room in my hotel?” she asked, with cool sarcasm.

His grin was reflexive, but it did reach his eyes. That was something Ping now hated about her ex-husband. His ability to find something to laugh about in every situation. Including the fact that she hated him and wanted him out of her life. Shrugging, he answered, “Not at the moment.”

At Ping’s risen eyebrows, he held up a hand. “Right now I have a business meeting I’m late for.” He seemed to want to reach out again, and Ping tensed. Reading her, he smiled again, and turned away.

She turned her attention from him, and scouted the lobby for trouble. Lost baggage, sunburned guests, anything at all that would allow her to take her mind off of him.

This is all tell not show. You're over explaining (she reached her destination)
You've got to take out the obvious clunkers like "the sky was threatening to rain". If you don't know why that is a clunker...Turkey City Lexicon is your friend.

Form rejection.


McKoala said...

Maybe it's not my genre, but I just didn't get this at all.

Anonymous said...

I hate when I have to read a sentence more than once because someone is trying too hard to be clever with words. It stops the flow of the story. Take out all the fluff and just tell us your story. You have a story in here somewhere.

TMack said...

Lord love a duck.

Being human, I was confused by descriptions like "her silk jacket and tails tended not to be so dismissive of precipitation."

Was the Duckess(?) wearing a tuxedo with tails, i.e. cross dressing for the impending DBBB, and if she was, you also described her "kicking the voluminous legs of her corduroys behind her," which threw me for a loop, fashion-wise.

Or, option B: Was Duckella perhaps commenting on her own anatomy? I don't know why her tail...er, tails (...she has more than one?) would be bothered by the rain.

Also, do ducks wear shoes because you just can't have a ball without great shoes.

I love ducks, but this is qu...wacky.

Anonymous said...

A I the only one who was confused? Duck-people? Somebody walking somewhere? At this point, I'm tempted to skim and I'm going "Whuh?"

Corn Dog said...

I didn't know Freddy the Pig was still around or anyone, other than myself, remembered Freddy. Tell me the books are truly wonderful, Miss Snark. I checked the series out of my grammar school library 40 years ago and read them all. I thought the books were fabulous but I was a kid. I thought a lot of things. I thought the old librarian was going to die any second and undoubtedly while I was trying to check out a Freddy book.

Simon Haynes said...

Yeah, and the librarian was probably in her late thirties.
Scary indeed.

Anonymous said...

Anyone remember Howard the Duck?

Well Wikipedia does:
"Howard's adventures are generally parodies of science fiction and fantasy, written in a tongue-in-cheek style and combined with a degree of metafictional awareness of the limitations of the medium, often very experimental for a non-underground comic."

I hope JUST DUCKY is a kid's book because I don't know if the world wants metaphysical fantasies with experiential overtones.

Writerious said...

While the term "duck" describes a whole group of species of short-legged, web-footed, flat-billed waterfowl, when it comes to gender terms, "duck" refers to the females and "drake" refers to the males (hence Darkwing Duck's alter ego, Drake Mallard). "Duckess" doesn't really work for me, nor does "duck-chick" (which is redundant), nor "duck-dude," (which is like saying "guy-girl").

Using "beak" and "bill" in the same description is also redundant. They're equivalent terms.

Frainstorm said...

Okay, I'm not exactly disagreeing with Miss Snark here, but I'd keep reading on this one. Something is pulling me in, I think from the query.

It's quacky, no doubt about it, but something in the back of my mind says you've got a good story here. Forgive me for not being more specific because I think I'm a little confused, but in a good way. Please, just don't give up, give it another rewrite and remain persistent.

Sam said...

Is Ping a duck? I read The Story of Ping - and he was a lovely young duck who didn't want to get spanked. I don't have problems picturing a duck with an Ipod, but I have difficulty imagining him wearing trousers and kicking the legs behind him. Why wouldn't they be on his legs?

Crystal said...

First--*gives Miss Snark a big hug* I hope that when I ever get this thing finished, that the manuscript makes its way to you and that you like it enough to represent it because I would love to have you as my agent.

Thank you frainstorm. By the time I got to your comment, I was feeling extremely exposed and embarrassed. I can’t even tell you how important it was to have you see something in my story that would have made it worth reading on.

writerious—The Duck Beak Bill Ball is an annual party that celebrates the passing of a law in which the showing of beaks in public would no longer be considered vulgar. So beak/bill is not redundant, just silly.

sam—I haven’t had the pleasure of reading about the other Ping. I’m glad to know there is another one out there. I don’t mind naming my characters after other famous ducks, hence Donald Dewey.

As for the rest of you, I really appreciate the honest feedback. I want the story to be entertaining, not confusing. Obviously, I've got some work to do.

Jo Bourne said...

This one needs a ruthless and intelligent crit group.

*Kicking the voluminous legs of her corduroys behind her,*

Drop the participial phrase. And what does this MEAN?

*she reached her destination.*

not 'destination. Be specific. The lobby. The hotel. 345 Park Street. The Riggs-Charleton.

not 'reached'. If you can, be specific. Walked up to. Knocked on the door of. Stepped up the curb to.

*Bundling herself and her pants into *

Get rid of ALL the leading participial phrases. This is the fourth one and we're only in paragraph two. Root them out and stomp on them.

* a section of a glass revolving door,*

Revolving door have glass in them. Not the best adjective to describe it.

* she scooted inside *

scooted in a revolving door? I have to take bitty little annoying steps. Picture the action. Be there, doing it. Where are the hands; how do the feet move? Is this a scoot?

* just as the clouds let go of their tears to drench the sky and everything below.*

No no no no no no. Not even in jest. Just no.

*Ping untangled herself from her trousers*

Lord, how did she get through the revolving door if she was tangled in her trousers? How did she scoot?

* and unplugged herself from her iPOD.*

Do you mean she took the buttons from her ears?

*She glanced around the hip, high-end hotel.*

If she were outside she could glance around the hotel, maybe going from corner to corner to get a good look.
Or she could wander from floor to floor, seeing the kitchen, the roof garden, the pool. That would also be glancing around the hotel.

What you mean here is she's glancing around the lobby.

There's a lot of little awkward stuff like this that needs to be critted away so the writer can concentrate on telling the story.

Crystal said...

Jo, wow. Thank you for all your specifics. Since getting Miss Snark's and the Snarkling's comments, I've revamped my first page. I cut all the stuff you suggested.

The page that I submitted was what I originally wrote in February, when I started the story. It was basically how I introduced myself to this character. That's why it's so awkward. I really am not as bad a writer as my first draft made me seem...heh.

I didn't submit it as-is because I'm an arrogant creep. I just figured that it was as good as I remembered. I could die laughing at that statement now.

Plus, I'm the sort that if I had started messing with it, it never would have been ready to be looked at. It was all I could do to toss a query together before the deadline.

I wouldn't have submitted at all, but I really wanted to know if a story about duck people would have been automatically rejected. It turns out that people didn't mind the premise, they just don't like the writing. Which is wonderful and crappy at the same time. But I'm about 13,000+ words in at this point, and even my mother hadn't read the first page yet.

But thank you, again. I really appreciate the thoughtful criticism.

Jo Bourne said...

Hi Crystal --
>>I really wanted to know if a story about duck people would have been automatically rejected. It turns out that people didn't mind the premise, <<<

Well of course they don't mind the premise.
Many of us have an odd duck or two, hanging on the family tree.

No problem at all with little awkwardness. This is, as you say, an early draft. You'll catch them the second or third time through.

Anonymous said...

Late comment, but I was surfing, and how can you not be curious about a duck hotel?

To me, this felt a little shaky in its grasp on what was and wasn’t physically possible for your protagonists. Ping slaps Donald’s hand away, for example: ducks don’t have hands, and if he reached out with his wing, then a) it wouldn’t be like a hand reaching out, as there are no nerves in the feathers that would actually touch her, so he’d be more likely to do something else to begin with and b) she could only slap his wing away with her wing, so it wouldn’t be a slap, it would involve feather meeting and bending against feather, with a rush of air propelled from her wing into his face. Ping swings her leg over the arm of a chair: that sounds possible for a long human leg, but very difficult for a short avian one. Donald shrugs: is that an easy movement for a duck to make? Guests are referred to as sunburned: how do they get burned through their feathers?

There’s no reason why you shouldn’t write about talking ducks if you can make it work, but it's a bold move, and you'll have to work harder to justify it. As you'll need to get past people's initial concern about the quirky choice of subject, little awkwardnesses like these will make it seem like, in your head, the characters are basically human beings in body as well as in spirit, which raises the issue of why you chose to make them ducks. You could have a lot of fun with the physical differences if you think about them carefully, but in this draft, I'd regretfully say that they're a problem more than an asset. If the ducks aren’t convincing AS ducks, this will have the feel of a regular chick-fic where the author has taken the word 'chick' too literally (sorry, I only spotted the pun halfway through the sentence).

Final point: there needs to be a proper fictional payoff to your duck conceit. Could the story be told about human beings, or do incidents in it depend on their being ducks? I don't mean things like the Duck Beak Bill, which could have human equivalents - do they fly, lay eggs, swim, do duck-specific activities? If everything in the plot would be equally possible to do with human characters, readers may feel doubtful about whether the ducks were necessary. The fact that they're talking animals needs to be important to the structure as well as the setting if it's going to be worthwhile.

Good luck with it!