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Author Topic: SuPR - YA Urban Fantasy - VERY Rough First Draft  (Read 623 times)
JBeachum
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« on: April 28, 2018, 10:29:23 PM »

Chapter One

This is my chance, Quinn thought as she waited impatiently for the elevator bell to ding. The chance of a lifetime. And I’m not taking no from them for an answer.

The ‘them’ in her head floated in front of her vision as she stared at the trembling elevator door, three disembodied faces. The Partners. Johanson. Steinberger. Wimbush. Titans of Johanson, Steinberger, and Wimbush, LLC, New York City’s premier public relations agency. Legends in the PR world. Kings of the city. And - in a few minutes - the masters of her fate.

The three men in their impeccably-tailored three-piece suits would either recognize her brilliance and love her idea, thus securing a future for herself and her dear father - or they’d rip her apart for her audacity and put her back in her place, back with the other copywriters’ assistants in their little cubicles, happily fetching coffee and taking dictation.

She narrowed her eyes. Like hell they would.

As the elevator rose, she clutched her faux leather portfolio in one hand and checked her reflection in the polished metal of the closed doors in front of her. She had worn her best dress, a professional - yet charming - close-fitting navy blue outfit with strong shoulders, a high, tightly-cinched waist, and knee-length A-line skirt, all with the faint hints of white pinstripes running up and down. A dangling white pearl necklace hung over a bright yellow neckerchief that, somehow, didn’t bleach her out.

She puckered her red lips and smacked them a couple of times, then adjusted her black hair. Her eyes went from the top of her head to her pointed chin. Not bad. Okay, sure, her nose was a bit too big for her face, according to those Neanderthals on the 12th floor. And yes, sometimes when she ate - or talked - it looked like a squirrel storing nuts because she never got rid of her baby fat in her cheeks. And, yeah, her figure wasn’t the most appealing, even in a nice dress.

But looks don’t matter. Not in this business. Ideas - they’re all that matter at the end of the day. And she was an ideas machine.

They’ll see that, she said as the elevator continued to rise. They’ll have to.

What would Ernie think when he found out about her inevitable promotion? “Oh, the first female department director in the city!” he’d exclaim before showering her with praise. “You’ve worked so hard for it - you deserve it!” She could see the smile on his wizened old face.

Then she frowned, her face sour. In actuality, he’d probably huff, mutter something about women not knowing their place, and keep on pecking away at his typewriter like the relic he was. Ernie’s idea of praise was to not sound like a crotchety old man when she brought him coffee in the morning. She hated bringing him coffee. She could type much faster than him, not to mention her writing being far better - more imaginative, more sophisticated, more...ugh.

Everything.

And yet, he was the copywriter, and she was just his assistant.

“Not after today,” she said to herself. “Not. After. Today.”

Then the elevator rang and shuddered to a stop, and a butterfly colony emerged in her stomach.

Quinn stepped out and took a left and walked down the hallway, her heels clicking on the polished marble tile floor. She passed through what people called the “C-List” division, where the agency’s least-important superheroes were represented - superheroes like Burning Llama, Sergeant Sloth, and the Captivating Chanticleer (whose superpower was the ability to defeat bad guys through song). Clouds of cigarette and pipe smoke littered the space.

She didn’t work on many of the projects that went toward promoting the C-List. Ernie, despite the fact that he went to school with Moses, was too valuable to the agency to be wasted on the lowest level. The supers on the C-List didn’t get a lot of work done for them, anyway - a press release here or there, maybe a cover photo on the inside pages of the Living section in the Daily Trumpet.

Her sights were set much higher than the C-List.

Soon, Quinn turned right and moved down a larger hallway through a section of office space that had nicer accommodations. She could smell the same acrid tobacco stench and see similar clouds of smoke hovering over the cubicles as her heels clicked on the tile, but at least the tobacco was closer to top-shelf stuff, because the PR reps and copywriters in this division - the “B-List” - had slightly bigger paychecks than their peasant brethren.

She walked by an open office to her left and saw Lenny McElmore, the account manager for The Skeptical Seven, a superhero group of scientists who used the scientific method - and a healthy dose of radioactivity - to battle the baddies. He was waving his hands, his face animated, as he pitched a concept to Doctor Deduction, the team leader, sitting in a chair with an interested look on his face, touching his goatee with softly-glowing fingers.

She liked Lenny. He was nice and always shared his sandwiches. But her idea that she was going to propose would be too big for the Seven - or the rest of the B-List.

No - it was for the top. And that’s where she was next: in the A-List division, where the cream of the crop, the best account managers and publicists sat in their fine leather chairs and polished wood desks with nameplates, working on the biggest accounts not just in the city, but in the superhero world.

She walked down the corridor and she could see the offices of the PR reps she knew of but had never really met, the stars of Johanson, Steinberger, and Wimbush, LLC. On her right was the office of Don Dapper, the publicist for the Atomic Angel, a flying superhero whose punch was rumored to pack a wallop equal to the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

On her left, as she walked, was the office for Jimmy Stilts. She could see him through the window, talking on the phone, swiveling in his chair, his fleshy jowls going a mile a minute. His biggest client was Mister E, a magician-turned-crime fighter who once tricked a supervillain by making the Empire State Building disappear. She had witnessed that one, and it was fantastic.

Then, as she reached the end of the corridor, she saw The Office. She stopped, and looked up at the silver nameplate on the oak door: Nathaniel “Nat” Natterly, the Nat Natterly, only the top agent in the entire agency and already a junior partner at just 30 years old. Rumor around the office was that Nat was next in line to become a senior partner once Steinberger - who had a bad ticker - stepped down.

They’d even put his name on the letterhead one day, so the rumor went.

It was because he was the best - and he was the best because he represented the best. Captain Alpha. The crown jewel of the agency, and only the biggest name in the superhero world. Captain Alpha, with one punch, leveled the Abominable Grow-Man. He lifted a sinking ocean liner out of the water and flew it to safety. In the war, he fought the German villain Siegfried Schutz to a standstill in the skies over Berlin and helped the Americans punch through in the Battle of the Bulge, bullets and grenades bouncing off of him left and right.

His feats were as a legendary as his hair. Every superhero wanted to be him and every villain wanted to beat him.

That was the power of the A-List: only the best were allowed.

And that’s where she wanted to be.

At the end of the corridor, Quinn took a right and walked down the hall until she came to a set of polished wooden double doors facing her. The words “CONFERENCE ROOM” were in big gold letters at the top, and seeing them made her stomach fall.

Because she knew what was behind them.

She knew that’s where the meeting would be - the meeting that would decide her fate.

Quinn glanced at her watch. She was fifteen minutes early, but in this business, when you’re fifteen minutes early, you’re five minutes late. Sure enough, she looked up to see a group of women - steno girls from the pool - open those foreboding doors and enter the conference room. She decided she’d pretend to be one of them, since she wasn’t exactly ‘invited’ to the meeting.

In fact, she wasn’t supposed to be there. She was infiltrating the meeting like a spy behind the German lines - in a situation that, to her, was just as dangerous. Instead of machine guns, her bosses had the power of words, words that would come out like hissing bullets if she messed up.

Too late to turn back now, she thought as she gripped her portfolio in both hands. Destiny is calling.

With that thought, Quinn walked forward, chin up, and melded with the stream of steno girls as they all entered the conference room.

The first thing she noticed was the conference room table. It was massive. Quinn guessed it was at least 20 feet, maybe longer (she didn’t have an eye for distance). The chandelier’s light cast from above made the polished surface gleam. She was sure she could’ve seen her reflection in it had she been sitting in one of those stuffed leather chairs lining the side. But only the big players sat in those.

Maybe one day, she thought. And soon.

For the moment she was exiled with the steno girls along the back walls. She took her seat in an uncomfortable wooden chair that certainly wasn’t stuffed leather and watched the steno pool take out their notepads and pens while chatting and giggling between themselves. She caught part of their conversation; apparently one of the girls had a new beau and she was dishing about his manly attributes to hushed snickering.

Quinn fought the almost-overwhelming urge to roll her eyes.

But she did take out a notepad. Just to blend in.

She smoothed out her dress to give her hands something to do and glanced up at the ornate clock above the double doors across from her. It was about time. She allowed her mind to wander, as images of her impending success passed by as in a parade.

She saw her new office with her own silver nameplate - the title didn’t matter, as long as it conveyed authority to run with her ideas. She saw Ernie glowering at her in jealousy. She saw a brand-new 1948 Rolls-Royce at the curb with her own neatly-dressed chauffeur.

Then she blinked, and saw her father in a new apartment - not the worn, cramped, dingy place they had now but a real place, a new spacious apartment - no, a penthouse - in the middle of Manhattan. The kind of place where her father could take the elevator instead of walking up 10 flights of stairs on crutches and a poorly-fitting artificial leg courtesy of Uncle Sam.

His life would be better. No more worry. No more depression. They’d have a new life together, one not full of scrounged pennies and charity.

Quinn smiled - then remembered where she was and dropped the smile. She replaced it with a set jaw.

This will work, she thought. It has to.

It was then that the doors opened - and a flood of suits came in.

They strode in like they owned the place, because, well, they did. Gerald Wimbush was first, short, round, red in the cheeks. Alfie Steinberger was next, in a pale gray suit that probably cost more than half of NYC, with slicked back salt-and-pepper hair and a lean face. Then was Johnny “Jet” Johanson, the managing partner - tall, tanned, a thin black mustache adorning a face that seemed to always bear a smug smirk.

They went to their thrones at the head of the table and sat down, and then the lessers of the agency took their seats - still important, but not quite royalty.

A hush fell over the room, before Mr. Johanson spoke.

“Gentlemen...once again, it is a super day at Johanson, Steinberger, and Wimbush.”

Applause. The men sitting around the table clapped and smiled at each other, even though Quinn knew there was a lot of tension among the group. From what she heard, half of the firm’s leaders hated each other at any given time. They were all sharks, and the grins and pats on the back didn’t mean they wouldn’t be after each other - and each others’ clients - the next chance they got.

When I’m at that table, I’ll be different, Quinn thought.

“Let’s get started,” said Mr. Johanson. At that, his personal secretary - a snobbish, blonde-haired former beauty queen named Penelope - stood and distributed file folders to each person seated at the table as she gave a 1,000-watt smile to every man as she did. They all returned the smile.

As they got into the business of the meeting, Quinn couldn’t help but fidget. She had never been to one of these conferences, so she didn’t know what to expect. She had to wait for the right moment to spring her idea on the group - but when?

And how would they react when she hijacked their meeting?

They’ll applaud your chutzpah, she told herself. They’ll admire your moxie. She wasn’t sure she believed it, but she was too far gone to do anything other than what she was planning to do.

They went through deals, and pitches, and the latest fight sessions (a fight session was when a superhero battled a villain in public). The reps droned on and on trying to one-up each other with the exploits of their clients. The three partners nodded, smiled, gave them an “Atta boy!”, puffed on cigars, and held court.

All the while, Quinn bit her tongue to avoid jumping up. She had to be patient. Wait for the right time.

Suddenly, after what seemed to be an endless procession of talking from the table, everyone went silent. Mr. Johanson took a puff from his cigar and tapped the ashes into a glass tray before leaning back in his chair.

“Alright, gentlemen, good work. Before we adjourn, is there anything else anyone has for the group?”

Quinn sat up straight, her heart beating rapidly. This was it. This was her time.

She summoned the courage by thinking of her father and stood, clutching the portfolio like her life depended on its contents (and maybe it did). She raised her hand and cleared her throat.

“I have something to add,” she said, her voice (hopefully) strong and confident.

Every head at the table, including those of the Big Three, swiveled at once in her direction. She saw eyebrows raised and brows furrowed. The steno girls stopped writing. Silence flooded the room.

She felt every single bit of attention focused squarely on her, like guns from a Soviet firing squad.

“...And you are?” Mr. Johanson said, an eyebrow raised, the hint of a smirk under his neatly-clipped mustache.

Quinn raised her chin. “Quinn McQueen, sir.” She took a deep breath, and exhaled. “And I have an idea that will blow your socks off.”
“Really, now?” he said, and he smiled, and at that the other men at the table started smiling and smirking and laughing silently to each other. “Well, sweetheart, what do you have for us?”

She ignored the ‘sweetheart’ and moved briskly to the front, unclasping her portfolio. She removed a bundle of paper and started handing out one to each person around the table, starting with the senior partners and moving down the line.

As she went, she talked.

“Gentlemen, the world is changing. More and more superheros are entering the business, as we just discussed. Competition is growing. It’s becoming more and more difficult to promote our heros over their peers - and I don’t have to tell you how that hurts our bottom line.”

She finished handing out the last of the papers, the documents she had prepared outlining her plan - complete with facts, figures, projections, and reach estimates. She took up position near the opposite end of the table from the Big Three and paused to let her words sink in.

Her eyes slid confidently from face to face. Some were staring back at her, quizzical expressions on their faces. Some were touching the paper as if it were an alien thing. The Big Three were waiting with what she hoped was patience.

She inhaled and forged on.

“Our agency needs something to help our heroes stand out. The days, though, where business as usual works are over. Things need to be shaken up. We need to take advantage of the newest tools available to us - the new technology that can ramp up our ability to reach new audiences and influence them - to get new eyeballs on our clients.”

Another pause. She felt them hanging on her every word.

“Which leads me to the thing that will take this agency and its heroes over the top and firmly into first place for the foreseeable future,” she said as she held up the piece of paper for all to see. They all looked.

“Television.”

Everyone had a blank look on their face. Silence descended. Johanson narrowed his eyes. Steinberger froze with his cigar halfway to his mouth. The men around the table started looking at each other wordlessly.

Quinn held her breath.

Then…

All eyes turned to the Big Three. Wimbush’s face looked blank. Steinberger was puffing on his cigar. And Johanson…

Johanson was looking right at her, the smirk larger than it was before. His eyes were calculating yet mirthful.

Then he shook his head and smiled. And Quinn’s heart fell to the floor.

“Television,” he said, grinning. Knowing smiles broke out on the faces of those sitting around the table, including the other partners, who eyed Quinn with twinkles in their eyes. “Very forward-thinking of you, Ms…”

“McQueen,” she said icily, feeling the waves of condescension coming off of his voice.


“Ms. McQueen.” He tapped the paper with his finger. “And what you put together was...well, it was a good effort. Especially for such a bright young lady as yourself.”

Quinn seethed.

“Tell me, dear, what is it that you do here?”

“I’m...I’m a copywriter’s assistant.”

“Ah,” he said. “Well, Ms. McQueen, while television may be exciting, I think our agency knows best about what works and what doesn’t.”

She glanced around the table, saw their faces, saw their mocking smiles and quiet laughter, and she knew what it meant. They were being too short-sighted - but not because her idea was bad. It wasn’t.

Because…

“But thank you, sweetheart,” Johanson said. Then with one finger he pushed the piece of paper on the table  three inches away from him.

“It’s a good idea,” she muttered, eyes burning. Johanson just waved his hand.

“I’m sure it is, dear,” he said with finality, as he stood.

Everyone else stood. And she realized the meeting - her chance - was over.

She stood there, like a statue, frozen in place, as the men and steno girls filed out of the room, their eyes flicking over to her as they passed. She could feel their judgment fall on her as heat crept into her cheeks, as her fingertips went numb, and she stared at the ground until they were all gone, and until she was left in the massive room, all by herself.

Alone.

Quinn saw her father’s face in front of her. All the hope of the past few weeks was gone, replaced by a future of staying right where she was - a lowly copywriter’s assistant, just a girl in an agency full of grown men who wouldn’t give her the time of day when it came to her ideas.

Her eyes stung, but she told herself she wasn’t going to cry.

I’ll think of something, she told herself. I always do. Things will get better. They have to.

For a second, she felt optimistic. Then she looked over and saw the trash can. At some point after the meeting, when everyone was leaving, Penelope must’ve come around the room and gathered up all the papers she had worked so hard to prepare - and thrown them in the trash.

It was all she could to do not cry as she left the room and started the long walk back to her desk.











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Repped by Marisa Corvisiero of the Corvisiero Literary Agency
Vortigern
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WWW
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2018, 11:15:02 AM »

I do get what what you're trying to do here by introducing your characters and 'creating your world' but this is just too many potential character names to mention in the first chapter. I'm not sure I caught them all but there's 21 here. Though, granted, I think Moses was simply a reference for age, its still another name.

Quinn, Ernie, Burning Llama, Sergeant Sloth, Captivating Chanticleer, Moses, Lenny McElmore, The Skeptical Seven, Doctor Deduction, Don Dapper, Atomic Angel, Jimmy Stilts, Mister E, Nathaniel “Nat” Natterly,  Captain Alpha, Abominable Grow-Man, Siegfried Schutz, Lennie (possible misspell of earlier Lenny?), Gerald Wimbush, Alfie Steinberger, Johnny “Jet” Johanson ....

I'm usually pretty good at following stories and excerpts with lots of information and characters but even for me this was a bit much. You might want to re-think mentioning quite so many at once and so soon in your story. Maybe just stick with A-List, B-List, C-List to reference groupings of them with a description of their level/type of skills.

Are all of these characters important to the beginning? Are all of them pivotal and needing to be mentioned?

My understanding is that when you introduced more than a handful of characters in a first chapter it can be really hard for a reader to follow cause their brain gets bogged down with so many names.

It's not normally my sort of thing to read. But otherwise, I didn't mind it. You did a good job trying to describe who the different people were, but...  At least for me, it was just too many
« Last Edit: May 11, 2018, 11:25:43 AM by Vortigern » Logged

Inspiring Imagination Between Two Worlds
JBeachum
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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2018, 10:51:58 AM »

Yeah, I totally get that. In my first drafts I tend to word vomit because it's easier for me to cut down than to add when revising. I'll make sure to cut down on the number of names used and figure out a more condensed way to build the world without making it as confusing or too much.
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Repped by Marisa Corvisiero of the Corvisiero Literary Agency
Brianna
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« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2018, 01:28:56 PM »

I liked your piece a lot and I really felt for Quinn at the end. I agree with the others though, you definitely need to reduce the number of superhero names. I would drastically reduce the section between when she steps out of the elevator and when she arrives at the conference room, this part felt slow to me and I was impatient to get to the part where she faced the partners.
Hope this helps.
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JBeachum
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« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2018, 10:01:20 PM »

Thanks for the feedback, Brianna and Vortigern. My CP said the exact same thing. I have dramatically slashed the name-dropping in that middle section and it flows a lot more smoothly now.
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Repped by Marisa Corvisiero of the Corvisiero Literary Agency
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