Kathy Strobos Romantic Comedy/women’s fiction with romance as a central element
I just have to make it through this brunch with my crush. And convince him that I’m over him. That there’s absolutely no risk I will say “I love you” to him again.
I adjust my 1920’s cloche hat and push through the subway turnstile. At least Rory agreed to join me at this brunch with Jamie and his new girlfriend, so I’m not the rejected third wheel. I jog up the stairs out of the subway station to be greeted by the smell of honey-roasted nuts from the Nuts 4 Nuts vendor cart at the corner. I walk down Sixth Avenue towards the restaurant, passing by a juice shop which smells of coconut and lime, a phone store, a clothing store with back-to-school sale signs, some boarded-up stores, and Michael’s. I should have left earlier, so I could’ve popped into Michael’s. Not that I need any more crafting supplies, but it seems a waste to be in the neighborhood and not check out their sale selection.
First person present tense. Ambitious! I personally love it–Ann Aguirre does it fabulously in her Sirantha Jax series. But many readers flinch from it. FYI. (It wouldn’t stop me from using or nor would I suggest a writer not use it. Just be aware of its downsides, as with any first person POV.)
I will agree with Ellen (it was Ellen, right?) that you have to many “I” sentence starts. Of course, this is first person. We use “I.” The issue isn’t “I” but the lack of variation in sentence structure. When you use the same sentence structure/pattern (first or third) it clunks. I went to the store… I turned left … I picked up the map… is as clunky as He went to the store, He turned left, He picked up the map.
It was also unclear who the “crush” is. Rory or Jamie? I figured Jamie but–as mentioned to other students–you don’t want readers doing frowny-face on the first few pages. Clarity. Clarity. Clarity.
Back to structure. The opening salvo is fine… I just have to make it through this brunch… etc. It’s repetitive but it’s also a hook. I like it. After that, however…
On the fly rewrite:
The [locale] subway is oddly crowded this time of day, every seat full, every hang strap taken. I hook my arm around a scratched and dented metal pole. It’s only two stops to [place] and this lets me be first through the groaning doors as the car shudders to a stop. By the time I’m within shouting distance of the turnstile, I’ve been bumped, nudged and jostled at least a dozen times by busy New Yorkers–aren’t we all busy? The last brush-by without even a “‘Scuze me!” skews my hat, my favorite 1920s-style cloche. I adjust it then push through the turnstile’s metal bars. Even before I reach the last of the stairs to the street, the smell of honey-roasted nuts from…
That was, as I said, on the fly, but can you see LESS “I” in repetition and more sentence structure variation? That’s what you need to do in rewrites.
First person present tense is much more like our actual thoughts and though patterns. We don’t think /I would like some coffee right now/ we think (or hear in our minds) /Coffee/. Using your set-up, it’s less: I see the subway is crowded. I adjust my hat. And more… People running here and there, and if that guy behind me bumps me one more time with his briefcase, I’m going to turn around and clock him… (or whatever). It’s less /I see a red door up ahead/ and more /There’s the red door, straight ahead/.
One more block. I pass by a cute guy with a backwards baseball cap carrying a basketball. He smiles and whistles. I look behind me to check out who caught his attention. There’s nobody. I flush. I knew my hat was the right call. Hats have a certain magical power that we New Yorkers have completely forgotten, bestowing a sense of glamour upon the wearer. My average looks and height are not such that people are usually whistling at me on the street. At 5’4”, with my brown curly hair and blue eyes, I am the epitome of “cute” or even worse, “pixie-like.” This hat changes that to “sophisticated” with my curls peeking out.
I know what you’re getting at here but it’s not coming across as I think you want it to. She’s not coming across likeable, but flighty and a tad vain. And I know she’s not because she’s emotionally busted-up over Jamie.
It’s not that I thought I was changing lanes and moving to the speeding girlfriend lane. I just wondered. Trust Zelda for straight talk.
Hah! Love that “lane” thing.
“I’m using it in the book I’m writing now. Why? Are you looking for a fake girlfriend?” I ask. <– You don’t need /I ask/. It’s clear it’s just the two of them talking.
//He frowns. “It is. I totally jumped. I wasn’t expecting the older wife of my client to be . . .” He shakes his head. “It’s fucking awkward. So, I’m thinking I need a girlfriend to protect me.”// and //Rory just gives me his look of annoyance, which is one eyebrow cocked, head tilt and a slight shake of his head. “You of all people should understand. You never date. And there’s too much pressure now that we’re older. //
… are both stilted and not authentic to the age group/setting. The “older wife…” as in, the client has more than one and one is older? I’m guessing you mean that Rory is in his twenties and the client and his wife… aren’t. So…
“… I wasn’t expecting my client’s wife–Jeez, she’s got to be fifty!–to be…”
Is that what you meant?
//“You of all people should understand. You never date. And there’s too much pressure now that we’re older. // <– The last sentence rings too professorial, unless he’s saying it in a cutting tone. I just can’t see a guy in his early twenties referring to himself as “older” unless he’s being sarcastic. (I mean, my hubs and I are mid-60s, and he still gives me scrunch-face when I make some comment about something we should or shouldn’t do now because “we’re older.”)
What I think you’ve going for here with this friends-to-lovers and fake-lover set-up is (my favorite) something of a Hepburn-Tracy style of mixed messages-give and take dialogue. I think you can easily do that by getting a more authentic (relaxed, casual) voice for your MCs. The premise is tons of fun and I like her off-beat style. Have a glass of wine (or three). Rewrite. It’s a worthy story.
//Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//