HH Com 543

Kate Underwood Fisher has a guardian angel.

All the Underwoods in her mother's line have them, which is good. Otherwise, the truck that almost ran her down this morning in the parking lot of Cable News Flashes in Dallas would've taken her out. She sprained her ankle, and Whit Bradley reached down to pick her up.

Kate co-produces "Pundit's Policies," a political talk and call-in cable show. Whit Bradley works for USA Homeland Security. He's at CNF because signals are somehow being sent to a terrorist group via the "Pundit's Corner" opinion segments. He must crack the code fast; if his cover is blown, the opportunity will be lost, and the group will start using other signals. But what are the signals?

Whit suspects Kate is the group's tool, as she edits all Pundit's Corner text. His cover story: he's a consultant doing efficiency analysis. But everyone jumps to the conclusion that he's there to justify downsizing them. Kate discovers the truth when she stumbles on the secret to the code, and she becomes Whit's ally.

Then the villain catches on. A klieg light nearly falls on their heads during a taping; a crew member is found dead; text is inexplicably changed right before airtime. Kate starts getting calls on her old (inactive) cellphone from her guardian angel, telling her that the villain will soon eliminate them and make his major move. Can they stay alive and get the help they need to unmask him and stop the terrorist group?

So, why doesn't the guardian angel just make the bad guy drop dead of a coronary at Shoneys?
When you use a trope like guardian angel, you have to be consistent. It's clear Angel can help her physically--you told us about the truck. Why wouldn't he do it now?

The problem is you've got too much going on here. Terroism, romance and angels is one too many things.


Anonymous said...

I love the premise of a talking head show being used to pass messages to terrorists. I would definitely read this--but only if Kate is up to the task of taking on spies and terrorists without angels handing her crib notes.

Sounds too much like a crutch that would relieve Kate (and the author) of the tedious detail work. Because red herrings and dead ends and misplaced trust and double crosses are half the fun in these kinds of reads, having an angel there to point out errors kinda spoils it.

If the angel is too integral to extract neatly, maybe you could make it constrained by very specific probationary rules or something. The angel can only save her from physical harm, and no more than once every six weeks, I dunno. Figure it out, because I think this could be really good.

Shalanna Collins said...

That's the way I have it working--the angel *does* save them from the klieg light (*or so Kate believes*--it is never SAID for sure), but it's not in a guardian angel's charter to kill off the guy who's sending signals to the political group--the charter is to protect her from physically getting offed until it's the proper time for her to go, and that's really how it's understood in our culture, I think (and in the end, it's up to the reader to decide whether there was ever an angel at all; it's ambiguous, and Whit thinks every instance was just "chance," because that's Whit for you, the skeptic--it was Whit calling on the "dead" cell phone, using an electronic device he planted, because he wanted her to back away.) It isn't an avenging angel who follows her around protecting her as if she's Jeanne d'Arc, and I didn't mean for people to take it that way. I didn't have room for all of this to get explained in the 250 words, but it's in the full synopsis. So the guardian angel is more of something that Kate is convinced she has . . . making her bolder, in a way. However, there are obvious constraints on what it can and can't do. The angel doesn't hand her crib notes or swoop in all the time (did I imply that? Because if I did, I need to correct that. I only mentioned the call because it's a plot point, and the truck save because it's the meeting point for Whit and Kate.) The angel is not used very often and is NOT a crutch, though I can see why you'd warn against it. It's more of a family tradition that she believes in, though Whit doesn't (he thinks her family is endearingly eccentric), and they save themselves. This story is like the movies on Turner Classic Movies, and shouldn't be taken too seriously. I suppose that if you're in the audience for this kind of book, you'd self-select.

Thanks for the feedback!

Heatheness said...

A character named Whit Bradley? WHIT BRADLEY. What's his middle name, Ford?

Plus an angel?

Adam Sorkin is rolling over in his crack-crumb filled bed.

Donna Moss said...

Aaron Sorkin

dana p said...

Miss Snark said:
The problem is you've got too much going on here. Terroism, romance and angels is one too many things.

Drop the angel.

That's what I was going to say before I read your commentary, Author. Now that I know how you've woven the angel element into the story, I *still* say, drop the angel -- but only from the hook. It's plenty interesting without it, & since the angel *could be* all in Kate's imagination, it sure doesn't seem crucial to bring it up in the (conceptually overcrowded) hook.

Heatheness said...

AARON Sorkin, yes. Thank you Ms. Moss. As always, your attention to detail is appreciated.

Writer on Board said...

A funny, touching, and entertaining beach book about terrorism, romance, and angels: Humans by Donald Westlake.

Shalanna Collins said...

Oh, I love Westlake! I'll go find that one. He's a Grandmaster for good reason. I don't think I have ever read that one. My favorite of his is TRUST ME ON THIS. Funny!

Um . . . duh, I'm missing something in the Aaron Sorkin remark. I made the character's name Whitney Dean Bradley because I thought that sounded crusty, and I wanted to NOT name him "Spence" (even though he keeps being a curmudgeonly Spencer Tracy from "Woman of the Year" in my mind's eye). Is there a Sorkin show with such a character? Oops. That's why it's good to get out here and get comments from others who know the pop culture better than I do. Or maybe you meant he sounds TOO Old West Crusty. I usually stick my guys with yuppie-wimp handles like Alan, Justin, Lance, and the like, so I thought a bit of John Wayne might be in order. It keeps him from sayin' Alan Alda-type stuff. *grin* A "Whit" *NEVER* says, "I'm a sensitive guy!" But he grabs your packages as they're slipping and he might call you a lady, ma'am. . . .
After all, we're Texans.
Dana P--thank you! That's what I'd about decided to do: just not mention the angel in the pitch. Or pitch it differently somehow so that readers didn't get the wrong idea. It's one of those ambiguous things, not like in "The Bishop's Wife" where everyone sees the angel or even like "Topper" where one fellow sees the angels, because no one ever actually SEES an angel. It's just a family tradition in Kate's eccentric family. The way Whit (okay, Spence) finds out about that is by going home to Thanksgiving with her (she invites him so he won't spend the day alone in a hotel room, and the romance deepens--AND one of her nephews gives them a clue to the way the code/messages are passed.) The book also opens with a mention of the guardian angel, because she dodges the truck and sprains her ankle in paragraph 1. No one's gonna say this one doesn't start with action.

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Anyone who wants to chat further about this or about writing should click on my name and c'mon over to the weblog. The disk is always spinning.

Heatheness said...

Shalanna, there was a politically-left TV show (West Wing), in which one of the main characters was a clever, cool, sorta hot operative in the White House. The actor who played this part's name is Bradley Whitford. The actor who played his boss was John Spencer.

So could someone in your house have been watching it while you slept, and it infiltrated your subconscious?...

Anyway, my apologies for assuming you did it on purpose. It was really uncanny though.

whitemouse said...

Terrorism, romance and angels is one too many things.

Ummm...what romance? I don't see an indication of one in that hook.