3rd SR Crapometer #99 plus 9

Dear Miss Snark,

Following is my first page submission from my manuscript, Channeling Tinkerbell. Mirage is unaware she can see a fairy because she's about to become one. She finds herself dealing with a boyfriend, jealous sisters, a boss who puts out contracts, and friends she never expected to find when she needed them.


Did you miss the part about sending a query letter? Cause this just might be the most minimal query letter I've seen in a while. Genre? Word count? Points for getting my name right, of course. And points for doing a very brief set up in the query letter instead of on the page.

Chapter 1

"Jenny, come quickly!"

"What's up, Mirage?"

"You have to see this! Hurry before it's frightened away," Mirage said.

Jenny walked across the path from where she'd been admiring some roses. "Well, uh, yeah, that's a pretty dandelion, I guess."

"Not the weed. You don't see it? It's flying in the air just above and behind the dandelion."

"I see grass, except for a bald spot that they're reseeding and a dandelion that decided to mess up their lawn anyway despite their efforts," Jenny replied. "Is it some bug you see flying?"

"Then you do see it?"

Jenny turned her head in Mirage's direction. "You better point to what I'm supposed to see. I don't see anything unusual."

"You don't see the...?"

"You're gonna have to spell it out for me. "

"Uh, never mind. I don't see it now."

"Spring didn't come soon enough for you," Jenny said. She looked at her watch and shook her head. "We've been here too long as it is. Time to get back or find another job."

Mirage nodded numbly before turning away to walk back along the path they'd followed on their lunch break. Her lightweight walking shoes made it easy for her to walk quietly along the path so that it was possible for her to hear someone walking up behind her unless more walking shoes were in the equation. (only the sentence clunks I guess, not her shoes) She glanced back once, but it wasn't there any longer. At least, not that she could see.

"So, what was it?" Jenny asked.

"Probably just a strange bug. It was hovering just past the dandelion when I asked you to look."

"You got good eyes, girl. I sure didn't see it so it must have been small."

"Uh, yeah. It was tiny," Mirage agreed

"So, what's for tonight. Going clubbin'?"

"No date for tonight. Don't want to look like I'm searching a meat locker, either. Friday's different though."

"You got a date then?"

"I'm meeting someone. Hopefully, he'll turn out to be decent."

"You haven't met him?"

"Only online," Mirage replied.

"You've got to be kidding. You've got brains. You've got talent. You've got looks. You even have what men want. You can have your choice." (girls do not talk to each other like this. Ever.)

"Meeting men in a bar tends to make them ignore two of those qualifications. Sometimes three."

"Well, yes, but it's only a date. Nothing says anything has to happen."

"Unless they get you to drink enough. My mother...."

"... always told me that I should avoid drugs and drinking because it takes away my options."

"Have I said that too often?" Mirage asked.

"Often enough that I know that line. So, where are you going?"

"Dinner and dancing at the Alliteration."

"That's a fun place. Just be careful there."

"What's wrong with it?"

"Just depends upon who you're with. If he's all right, shouldn't be a problem. Otherwise, he might slip something in your drink. Then you wake up in the morning in a strange bed," Jenny said.

"He's not going to slip anything into my drink. Can you fix my hair before I meet him?"

"How long will I have?"

"Probably a half-hour," Mirage answered.

"Right after you get off or at lunch?"

"I'd rather do it after work."

"I'll fit you into my schedule," Jenny replied. "So, what's scheduled for tonight since you don't have a date?"

"I'm not sure. Some reading, perhaps."

"Oh, you're killing me with excitement."

"I'm sure you'll have me wet with desire after I hear about your night tomorrow."

"Well, I gotta have something for my book. It can't all be about hairdressing."

"Very little in your book is about hairdressing."

"So, I write what I know."

Leaving the walking trail, the two women stopped at the street for the light to change. Moments later, they crossed only to split up seconds later as Jenny went to a salon near the center of the block and Mirage entered the lobby of the building at the corner.

"You're back early."

Mirage looked at her watch. "Uh-huh, a whopping five minutes. Hold the phone while I freshen up."

Here are some pruning shears. You've got the set up, we see the fairy, or rather she does, we don't, and then you drop us off into some lame conversation about going clubbin'. You're trying to build tension but you haven't given us a big enough lift off in the first five sentences to sustain such a long swan dive. More action up front, less girl talk. And it's time for you to hover in some bars and listen to girls talk. Totally.

I'd send this back with pretty much exactly that and be willing to read a ruthlessly manicured version.


writtenwyrdd said...

Beyond what Miss Snark says, please change the name Mirage. I don't like getting me head whapped with a stick any better than I like a name that is the equivalent of neon arrows pointing at the character, saying Look She Is Seeing Mirages It Means Something Later On.

I would be interested in this after revision, though. You had my interest before the tiresome conversation.

otto said...

Agree. The conversation really gets tedious and you're depending upon it too much in getting out of the show-don't tell rut.

Anonymous said...

This also has talking head syndrome. The dialogue ping-pongs between the two women and there's nothing to tie us to the environment. Where are they? After the dandelion, I don't think we (the readers) see anything.

Clarice Snarkling said...

Some parts of the query had me scratching my head:

Mirage is unaware she can see a fairy because she's about to become one.

a boss who puts out contracts, and friends she never expected to find when she needed them.

I can sort of guess as to what these sentences mean, but the wording is very awkward. Add a few more sentences to your query to make your point clearer.

I saw where you were going with the conversation, but it had the aura of first-draftiness to it. Get in and out of it quicker than you have. Be merciless with slashing anything that doesn't contribute directly to the plot.

Janet Black said...

I have a couple of suggestions based on complaints: 1. How about some brief description instead of a l-o-n-g running dialogue. This is more like a screenplay (minus direction). 2. How about some stronger verbs. Walking, talking, looking, etc. are very ordinary and weak. How about tiptoed, stalked, hurried? How about whispered? How about 'checked' her watch? Yanno, words that take a few seconds thought.

Anonymous said...

"You've got to be kidding. You've got brains. You've got talent. You've got looks. You even have what men want. You can have your choice." (girls do not talk to each other like this. Ever.)

I just told my good friend yesterday (who is much older than me) that she it tall, skinny, tan, and one hot mama. That she could be on Desperate Housewives. I told her this because she was depressed that she was in her forties. So, yep, women do talk to each other like that. And no, I am not gay; I told her this to lift her spirits. And it worked.

BuffySquirrel said...

Mirage is unaware she can see a fairy because she's about to become one.

That sentence is somewhat ambiguous.

Anonymous said...

YES we GET it! The characters are named Jenny and Mirage and as they are the ONLY two people in the scene you don't need to remind us. Enough dialogue and action attribution, please! Pick one of 'em for a viewpoint and stick with it.

Try reading this scene at a shout, over-acting the whole time. You'll get tired of it pretty quick.

Rewrite, but cut it to use only one eighth of what's there.

Then come back in ten years.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Thank you for the critique.

Yes, it's a first draft.

No, I couldn't think of a better name for the main character at the time. Still can't.

Yes, it needs work. Worse than that, I earlier submitted this to PA under the pen name of Richard Cranium and they accepted it. Just goes to show they really didn't read it critically.

No, I didn't sign their contract.

Again, thanks. I really didn't expect to be selected.

tmack said...

Dear Submitter

Wow. Okay, two things. First, I appreciate your post in the responses, and I like your regular-ole-you voice much better than your character dialogue.

Your title "Channeling Tinkerbell" piques my interest. I liked the plot overview in your too-scant query, but I can't get into the opening dialogue.

Second, I can tell you for certain that galpals do bolster each others egos, chat, gossip, snark and bitch about insecurities, guys, bar stars and clubbing, etc., ad nauseum, but it sounds nothing like that.

Women have much more bite in their bark. And, clever women, which are the only ones I care to eavesdrop on via the written page, can have a very sharp bite and multi intentions for a single comment.

Aside from the blasé dialogue, I actually find this whole opening scene confusing. I can't really follow it. I tried more than once. I'm wondering constantly why does 'x' follow 'y'? There is explicit logic missing.

That, coupled with certain lines like "you'll have me wet with desire", sends me south, making this a non-starter for me. With that particular comment, I think your character means to sound facetious but ends up sounding very male and/or slightly homoerotic.

I'm still curious about this story, but I have no idea why. Bring on the magic!

Dave Kuzminski said...

Well, tmack, it goes to showing character. Basically, I was trying to let the reader get to know the two women without giving a narrative or exaggerating their dynamics to where it might feel fake. Obviously, I failed even though the two are based upon real people, one white and one black.

Yeah, I know the one woman didn't admit what she saw, but how many people would admit seeing a fairy to someone who can't and who's standing beside her looking at the same time?

Anyway, I'll work on it some though I probably won't change that opening. Why? Because the real action is yet to come when Mirage sees two fairies in the ladies' room in the next scene and they're pointing out hidden cameras to her. From that point, almost but not quite everything starts going wrong for our gal.

However, the guidelines were one page with a word limit so I did what I had to in order to remain within that limit. I deliberately kept the query short because it was my understanding, right or wrong, that those words also counted in the overall limit.

TMack said...

Dave K

I've been thinking for a few days about posting a further comment to you about the opening dialogue.

In a nutshell, here's what I've been thinking.

Imagine you are an actor or director studying & interpreting these characters in a script. As you read their dialogue, you would ask yourself some form of the following three questions in order to create dramatic tension and forward movement.

1. Who is she? (character)
2. What does she want? (in this scene and down the line, if it matters)
3. How does she go about getting it? (means, method)

Perhaps thay are at cross purposes...? Therein lies the dramatic tension between them.

In a play, the answers to those questions are cued primarily by the written dialogue and to a lesser degree by the stage directions (action).

If you were to jot down answers to these three questions for Mirage and Jenny and re-write your opening dialogue from that frame of reference (using something closer to your own voice), I'm wondering how it would sound and read. I'm betting this approach would breathe new life into it.