HH Com 570

Dora Chambers arrives in a Chicago captivated by the energy and optimism of the 1893 World’s Fair. The city glistens with possibilities and no one dwells on the past—which suits the young bride perfectly. There’s plenty she hopes to forget about her humble beginnings in New Orleans.

Her new husband, an ambitious banker, uses his connections to land Dora a place on the Fair’s Board of Lady Managers, an auxiliary made up of Chicago’s most influential society women—and the women who will either validate or ruin her newly attained upper class status.
Anxious to please, Dora is assigned to monitor the Midway’s Egyptian belly dancers, whose controversial performances are scandalizing the Fair. To prove herself to the Lady Managers, Dora must rein in the dancers, even as she grows increasingly sympathetic to their plight. She is fascinated by the dance, but it’s the level of friendship and acceptance she finds among the exotic Egyptians that wins her reluctant allegiance.

Dora also finds she cannot escape her past. A jealous rival among the Lady Managers unearths a dark secret in New Orleans and uses it to threaten Dora’s reputation. Facing an uncertain future, Dora draws upon what she has learned from the Egyptians, defies convention and social expectations, and reinvents herself as a belly dancer.

This is an interesting idea but its too unfocused to get out of the slush pile.
Start over. Hone your descriptions. "scandalous Egyptian belly dancers" works a lot better than " Egyptian belly dancers, whose controversial performances are scandalizing the Fair". Readers can pick up lots of info from context. You don't have to spell everything out.


Anonymous said...

I like this idea, too, and would hope the writing is tighter than the hook implies. It's something different.

However, society Chicago of the period was also tied to the local vice. Many a Chi-town society snob owed success to the prostitution houses that were all over the city. It'd be funny if all the ladies on that board were similarly tarnished in regard to the source of their income. Heee!

Nancy Beck said...

Ooo, I like this, and it sounds familiar. Was this on EE's blog, or maybe Elektra's Crapometer? I liked it there, too.

I'd agree with Miss Snark, though, that some of the sentences are a bit unwieldy. I think if you tighten that, along with using Miss Snark's XYZ formula, you'll have a winner.

Good luck with it!


Anonymous said...

This is an interesting idea, you just need to describe it better.

Is the big scary secret that the MC is actually biracial and passing for white? If so, come out and say it instead of making it a gigantic hint.

A Paperback Writer said...

I was really interested until the last paragraph. Keep working at it. There's hope.

McKoala said...

We've seen pages from this somewhere, or a query or something, and from memory it came across more scandalous than the query. Wasn't there another man? One of the dancers? Maybe you could cut down a little on the preamble about the fair etc. and get to the juicy stuff.

The Gambino Crime Family said...

You might be thinking of The Devil in the White City, a non-fiction book by Erik Larson. It came out a few years ago and told the story of a serial killer at the same World's Fair.

Anonymous said...

I read an earlier version of this (@ EE's?). You've done a great job with it, author -- this version is much better.

I agree with jamiehall -- you need to name the secret. It will give the hook much more oomph by revealing what the stakes are for Dora.

There's a sentence I found jarring: Dora also finds she cannot escape her past. It's such a timid, flabby, limp-wristed sentence -- when what you want is to convey a major turn of the plot, a moment of drama, a fateful turn of events for Dora.

Good luck! This is really coming along nicely.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the comments... I did run a query letter through EE, so that would be where some of you might have seen this before. It's still very much a work in progress :-)