Reply To: Student: Ellen Gilman Homework Thread

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Linnea Sinclair

Fur- Get Me, Fur Get Me Not Genre: cozy mystery. (My first attempt at one)

Hi Ellen, and YAY! on trying your hand at cozy mysteries. You say you read them. I think, once you get the basics down, you’re going to enjoy writing them.

Overall on your selection, as you probably suspect, you have a lot of punctuation and formatting errors. This leads to some confusion as to who might be speaking and/or if the words are part of dialogue or something else. At some point, dear, you really need to get that part down pat. It’s as important as crafting your characters and your pooch-characters. You’re making progress overall, so take it in stride.

“Yikes, you look terrible.” Don’t tell me your dad told you that you weren’t chosen to be the lead lawyer on the Braxton Pharamaceutical case?”

“No, he did pick me, but I turned him down.”Daisy calmly answered her best friend.

“You did what?” Edward squawked as he stopped in mid-stride in the doorway to Daisy’s office.

I like this as an opening as crafted (minus the spelling and punctuation errors).  The MC, Daisy, drops the bombshell right away: she’s not going to take the plum legal assignment. Now, cozy readers will know right away that this is a set-up for her to end up SOMEWHERE that there’s a mystery she will have to solve. So they’re on board here.

What we do have is the talking heads in a white room syndrome. It’s not clear at first read if Edward is her best friend, or if she’s talking to someone else and Edward, passing by her doorway, overhears. We need clarity there so that the READER–who is NOT concentrating as hard as you are when writing, nor focusing as I am when critting, but is reading and yelling at her kids and tossing toys to her dog–won’t have to stop reading and go back to figure out who is who.

You could have something like:

“Yikes, you look terrible.” Edward’s deep Southern drawl broke the studious silence of Daisy’s small windowless office. “Don’t tell me…”


“Yikes, you look terrible.” Edward’s nasal New York accent sounded through the open double doors of Daisy’s plush Nashville office. “Don’t tell me…”

Whatever and wherever she is… she IS, and we need to see something as SHE would see it. She hears him first, which is fun and I like that.

“No, he did pick me, but I turned him down.”Daisy calmly answered her best friend.

You’re missing a chance here to use deep third. Surely, this is a question she’s–if not been dreading–at least, not overjoyed to answer. Her emotions are conflicted.  After she answers–and I like she does so calmly (maybe, she forced a calm tone into her voice?)–we need to get inside her head and heart SO THE READER CAN TOO and understand the push-me-pull-you war raging inside.

“No, he did pick me. I turned him down.” Daisy forced a calmness she didn’t feel into her voice. Yes, Edward was her best friend but she wasn’t ready–yet–to share all the mixed up emotions she wasn’t even sure she understood right now. Plus, someone else might be in the hallway. And gossip zoomed around on jet-powered rollerblades in the law firm of Barker, Tailwags and Fetch.

“You did what?” Edward squawked as he stopped in mid-stride in the doorway to Daisy’s office.

Then let her explain about what happened with her mother and why she has to help her mother out.

And I echo other comments from your sister students here: does she even KNOW anything about flowers? Edward could voice this, logically.

The other issue I see is that you’re setting it up that Daisy has to go home to help with ONE event. So, that means she doesn’t have to turn down her father’s offered position. This is, what, a three-day commitment? They have cellphone service and faxes and such, don’t they?

I like that Sondra is waiting, drooling, in the wings to take Daisy’s job. That’s one plus that perhaps even a three-day or one week absence might create. But for her to really throw in the legal towel and abandon her law career to go home to mom means it must be something that can’t be solved in three days or a week.

And she has to know something about flowers, or it’s not logical and is contrived, and we don’t want that.


Edward grinned as he walked towards Daisy and slumped into the chair across from her, “Why darling are you proposing that we live together?”

New Chapter:

Stunned into silence, Daisy blinked, opened her mouth to reply, but nothing came out. Where had that request come from?

….Has no reason to be a new chapter. It’s not a chapter break or even a scene break. It’s a continuous action from the sentence before. So this is all Chapter One. Don’t fret that. It works fine as the first draft of Chapter One.

If you want to up the ante and the tension in a rewrite of this first chapter, I’d have Daisy give Edward the info on her mother as you have in this but then add that her mother hinted at something else being very wrong. It has to be something more than her mother “feeling stuck.” It has to be something like, at the very end of her conversation with her mother, her mother won’t go into details YET but admits, carefully that: 1. Her shop was broken into yet, oddly, nothing taken. That she knows of.  OR 2. Someone slashed her car tires.  OR 3. Daisy just admits that she can HEAR something wrong in her mother’s voice. There’s something her mother’s not saying (slashed car tires?). This would help her convince Edward to come along as “hired muscle.”

It can be lightly discounted as “probably just bored kids” but THE READER will know it’s not. They’ll know something’s rotten in Houndsville.

But I would leave that to the very end of CH 1, possibly even have her end her convo with Edward saying she’ll go by herself as it’s only for a few days, and then that night her mother calls again and her voice is shaking and she PLEADS with Daisy to come to her QUICKLY… and then Daisy has to call Edward at midnight and tell him to pack his bags, she’s picking him up in an hour…

Or whatever.

AND… she calls the pound (so, okay, it can’t be midnight, but…) and she gets/adopts Soldier as a guard dog for her mother. And they all go to Houndsville to solve a mystery and confront a murderer…

//Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//


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