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Author Topic: The Wedding Scammer  (Read 3459 times)
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« on: October 12, 2017, 07:17:37 PM »

Brand new WIP. I've never posted this early n the process before. Would love feedback on the pages. Thanks!


   Charlie’s anxiety attack, in its infancy during the canapes and cocktails, amplified into a full blown, tantrum throwing toddler by the time the guests were seated.  It was so bad, she had trouble catching her breath. She tried bending at the waist to put her head between her legs, but the dress was so tight she could only lean slightly forward and bow, which made her appear serene and contemplative to everyone but her companions.
 A steady stream of dressed alike bride maids in floaty dresses the color of seafoam, all carrying small bouquets wrapped with white ribbon, arms linked with their procession partners  began to march up the aisle in measured, practiced steps, accompanied by lilting music from a discreetly placed quartet.

“Is Charlie okay?” Alexander peered past Max. “Is the dress too tight?”

“It’s not the dress,” Max said, fanning Charlie vigorously with his program.

“Sshhhh!” The bride’s cousin in the row ahead did a half turn of her head to scold them. She whispered something no doubt derisive about the disrupters into the ear of her companion.

A bridesmaid, smiling widely, left a citrusy perfume in her wake as she passed by.  “Think of the scene if she passes out,” Alex persisted. In deference to the cousin, he lowered his voice an octave, but he sang opera and his voice carried on the sweet evening breeze.
Another wedding pair passed by; this was the matron of honor, Jess’s sister with her husband. Jess and her sister were both petite. Max met Jess’s sister’s eye and smiled though he couldn’t recall her name. Suzie? Lila? She had the same thick, auburn hair and pale skin as her sister the bride. Her husband was dark hair and dark complected and made quite a striking pair.

 “She hates weddings,” Max said, working two buttons free at the back, waist level, of Charlie’s dress, which was, to his annoyance, indeed a little too tight. “You know this.”

“You dressed her like a doll,” Alexander said, “Nipping in the waist like that.”

“She never shows off that adorable little waist. Anyway, I told you, Alex. It’s not the dress. It’s the wedding. You’re trying to blame the dress because you talked her into coming.”

Alex frowned and leaned in closer. “Jess would have been crushed if Charlie didn’t come.”  During performances, he wore his hair combed back and thickly gelled, but when he wasn’t singing a shock of long, thinning bangs tended to swoop forward, which lifted every time Max fanned the program.
“I’m sitting right here.” Charlie managed to say. Even she was shocked; her voice didn’t sound like her at all. Beside the garbled noise coming from her throat, the passed tuna tartar and paper thin Bellini appetizers churned alarmingly in her esophagus. Please don’t throw up, please don’t throw up she begged her body.

“Oh, god, Alex. She’s turning green,” Max whispered.

“Max,” Charlie tried to say, and began a slow slide down the chair.  Her eyes fluttered closed, but she only descended a few inches, thanks to the stiff wire inserted into the corset of the tight dress to keep its shape, and the vise grip Max had on her elbow.  Luckily, the blackout lasted only a few seconds. By the time Charlie opened her eyes, the fiercely whispered debate between Max and Alexander about whether to shout out for help and ruin the ceremony, was moot.

 “Turn away,” Max said, fanning Charlie with the wedding program so hard, the breeze lifted the hair of the cousin in the row ahead who had shushed them. “It will all be over soon.”

“I know that line. It’s from Titanic,” Charlie blinked, somewhat revived.  “Alex, can I borrow your handkerchief?”

“Pocket square,” Max corrected. But he snatched Alex’s pocket square and blotted the sweat profusely coating Charlie’s neck.

“Breathe,” Alex advised. “It’s just a little panic attack.”

“I didn’t throw up and I only passed out for a second. Progress, right?”

“It’s the dress,” Alexander said again.

“It’s the wedding,” Max argued.

“The wedding.  Definitely. God, I hate weddings,” Charlie said as the gallery stood for  the bride, chic in a jersey sheath, to a collective sigh among the guests, gliding on her father’s arm toward the flower bedecked canopy toward her groom.

Max hadn’t left her side since the ceremony. Though Charlie assured him she was certain the worst was over, he was apparently worried she might pass out once again.  Charlie joked to Max that he was protecting the dress he made for her to wear, but she knew better.  Max squinted at her with concern and held her elbow tight against his jacket. He gripped a little harder when the bride approached.

“I’m better now, Max. You look beautiful,” Charlie said to Jess. “I mean, you always look great, but today. Wow. Something else.”
It was true. Jess was a beautiful woman. It was also true her beauty was enhanced,  by the sheen of her skin, the way her hair was swept up in artful swirls, with sparkly gems studded throughout, revealing a long and graceful neck, normally camouflaged since she wore it long and loose.  An art deco-ish necklace was embedded with blue and yellow stones, a perfect complement to the flowers she still held in her hand.

“I’m so glad you came,” Jess said. “There’s someone I’m dying for you to meet.”

“You promised you wouldn’t,” Charlie said. “I told you, now is not exactly a great time for me.”

“Set something up for when you come back from your big vacation? Come on, Charlie.  Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith,” Jess said.

 “Are you talking about the tall brunette in the tan jacket talking to Jason?” Max indicated who he was talking about with the direction of his chin.

“Stop,” Charlie said. “Seriously? The guy with the man bun?”

“Do me a favor and give him a chance,” Jess said. “I’m the bride. You can’t turn me down on my wedding day.”

When Charlie looked again, Man Bun was heading her way. “That only works if I’m Marlon Brando and we’re in The Godfather family.” 

“Be nice,” Max said. “You never know. And look, he’s wearing great shoes.”

 “Hey,” Man Bun said, flashing a smile at Charlie while he lifted Jess’s hand and kissed it. “What a great party.”

“Thanks to Charlie,” Jess said. “The wedding wouldn’t have happened without her.”

“You would still have gotten married,” Charlie said. “With about thirty years worth of debt you don’t need.”

“You’re a wedding planner with super powers?”  He frowned when Charlie, in mid sip choked and coughed.

“She’s okay,” Max said, patting Charlie on the back. “Breathe, Charlie. To answer your question, no and yes. Charlie is most definitely not a wedding planner. She

has as little to do with weddings as humanly possible….”

“That’s different,” said Man Bun. “Every woman I know has wedding on the brain, know what I mean?”

Max glanced sideways to gage Charlie’s reaction.  “She does have super powers. Charlie is the best freaking forensic accountant in New York.”

“I’m Ethan. Wow. A woman who’s not interested in weddings and saving money? Nice.”

“Ethan is Mr. Novack’s son, Charlie. Mr. Novack, Jason’s boss,” Jess said quickly.

“Yes, I save people money, Ethan,” Charle said.  “But that’s an oversimplification.”

“Can I get you another drink from the bar, Charlie?” Ethan smiled again. “I’d love to hear more.”

“Sure, Charlie could use another drink,” Max said, nudging Charlie with his elbow.

Two drinks later, Charlie tried to stifle a yawn. The “I’d love to hear more” apparently had more to do with all things Ethan: Ethan’s car, Ethan’s apartment,

Ethan’s last vacation. She only perked up when he started discussing his stock portfolio. When she asked pointed, direct questions regarding asset allocation and
long term risk, Ethan lost interest.

“Hey, look. We can get into all that. If you’re as good as Jess and Jason say you are, you could do me a huge favor.”

“Favor? I only do favors for friends.”

“We can be friends,” Ethan said. “Can I take you to dinner?”

“Thanks for the offer,” Charlie said, “but I don’t think so.”


“I’m going on a vacation in a few weeks. A long vacation. Super busy wrapping things up before I go.”

Almost at once, the air around Ethan changed. He leaned back. “So I never get a taste of those superpowers you supposedly have?”
“Don’t think so.”

“Have so many men lining up for you, do you?”

“Excuse me?”

 “Like, tomorrow you’ll be calling Jess asking what my last name is so you can stalk me on social media, right?”

“Your last name is Novack. Jess said it already. And no, I don’t think so.” Charlie peered over, across the rooftop to Max, who nodded encouragingly.  He said
something to the woman he was standing next to, raised the glass he had in his hand. Over Ethan’s shoulder, she could see Alex walking over.

“Chicks like you, I get it. Edgy haircut. Playing like you’re not interested.”

 “Actually, Ethan,” Charlie said. “I wear my hair short on this side so it doesn’t get in my face when I’m working. And I wear it longer on this side to cover up this….” She pushed the hank of dark hair away from the puckered scar that soared above her eyebrow.  Charlie felt a deep and satisfying pluck when Ethan’s expression faltered at the scar. The same feeling a cutter might get when the bite of a blade released a bead of blood; a self-inflicted, satisfying ping of pain.

“Having fun yet, kids?” Alex put his arm around Charlie’s shoulder. “Feeling better?”

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« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2017, 01:28:50 PM »


I think I can see what this story is about, but it becomes lost in the moments that pull back to the wider wedding party. From what I can see, this story is about Charlie and the beginning of this scene is really about Charlie, Max, and Alexander. Keep it on them. Like in a movie, start with a broader establishing narrative and then focus in one just the three of them. There's a few too many side characters that I quickly became tangled by. It also takes away from the cattiness/back-and-forth between Max and Alexander.

If I may, I don't know if doing this is considered impolite or something on this site, but I reworked the very first part, at the ceremony, in a way that makes it more clear for me and puts all of the focus on Charlie, leading to the reader wondering what Charlie has against weddings.

Sorry if this is wrong of me, but I'm just trying to help. I only worked on this for a short time, but then I had the advantage of you already doing the hard part, which was coming up with the story. Anyway, please take it with the kindness it's intended. I'm wondering what's next with this woman.


Charlie’s anxiety attack, in its infancy during the canapes and cocktails, grew up [note: it's a baby/child] into a tantrum-throwing toddler by the time the guests were seated for the ceremony. She had trouble catching her breath, so she tried bending at the waist to put her head between her knees, but her dress was so tight that she could only tilt forward slightly, giving the appearance of quiet contemplation to anyone who might be gazing in her direction. Fortunately, everyone was too busy focusing on the glorious wedding procession as it moved down the center aisle.

“Is she okay?” Alexander asked. “Is that dress too tight?”

“It’s not the dress.”

Max fanned Charlie vigorously with his program.

A young woman in the [row/pew] before them turned and shushed them sharply. When she turned away again, Max and Alexander made faces at her. Alex thought to say something but one of the passing bridesmaids left a citrusy, throat-tightening cloud in her wake.

“God, I hope she doesn't pass out,” Alex croaked once he regained his own ability to speak.

“You know how much she hates weddings,” Max said, trying to work a button free in the back, finding that Charlie’s dress was, in fact, a little too tight. He moved himself so that Alex could not see that he was having trouble.

“You dressed her like a stupid doll, is what you did, nipping in the waist like that.”

“It’s not the dress, it’s this wedding. Don't blame the dress just because you talked her into coming.”

“Jess would've had a [fit/cow/seizure] if Charlie didn’t come.”

“I’m sitting right here,” Charlie managed to say between moments of thoughtful consideration of vomiting.

Please don’t throw up! Please don’t throw up! she begged.

Oh, God! She’s turning green,” Max whispered with alarm.

Charlie tried to say something more but she began a slowly slide down into the chair. It was only Max's vice grip of her elbow and the stiff wires of the corset that kept her from slipping down onto the floor. She might have blacked out, she wasn't sure, but when the world returned and her eyes opened again, Max and Alexander were debating if they should shout out for help. Max was still fanning vigorously with the program and looked back to her as she tried to sit up.

 “Turn away," he said. “It will all be over soon.”

I know that line. That's from Titanic.

Charlie blinked, somewhat revived.

 “Alex, can I borrow your handkerchief?” she asked, groping across Max’s lap.

“Pocket square,” Max corrected, snatching it from Alex and blotting the sweat coating Charlie’s neck.

“Breathe,” Alex advised. “It’s just a little panic attack.” He then told Max “It’s the dress.”

 “It’s not the dress. It's the wedding.” Max returned.

“You could [kill/crush/strangle] a [something] with that dress.”

“It's the wedding,” Charlie told them, finally clear-headed enough to sit upright again. “Definitely the wedding.”

She raised up, blinked her eyes clear, and looked around them with loathing.

“God, I hate weddings.”

---- (minor break here)

(start with broader image of wedding/reception and then focus in again on main subject, which is Charlie, I'm guessing)
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« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2017, 03:40:17 PM »


Thank you very much for your comment, it helps a lot. I will revise so that the first scene concentrates on the three of them before the wedding party begins to march.

The story is Charlie's: she has a terrible anxiety about weddings (the reader finds out why), and must pretend to be her sister, a wedding planner, who is driven catatonic by a bridezilla.

This is a first draft; as I said, I've never posted this early in the process before but I'm glad I did. Thanks again.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2017, 03:44:51 PM by drose » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2017, 09:41:29 PM »

Welcome to the group and thank you for posting.

This may all seem a bit harsh, but please know that I only offer this to be helpful.

I was very confused.  There are so many names in the first few paragraphs with not enough about any of the people for the reader to make a connection or lasting impression.  Here is an example -

Another wedding pair passed by; this was the matron of honor, Jess’s sister with her husband. Jess and her sister were both petite. Max met Jess’s sister’s eye and smiled though he couldn’t recall her name. Suzie? Lila?

The story has barely begun and I am already asking myself, "Who the hell is Jess?" I stopped reading and went back to see if I missed someone - no. 

She had the same thick, auburn hair and pale skin as her sister the bride. Her husband was dark hair and dark complected and made quite a striking pair.

Oh, so Jess is the bride.  You need to say that earlier, you don't want the reader to have to stop reading for any reason.  It gets confusing when you ask the reader to connect someone to a character we don't know yet. You can simply say the bride's sister and then use her name in the next scene when we actually meet her.

I don't mean to be negative, but this is the first few pages of your book and really the only thing we learn from the first scene is a bunch of names and that one of the guest is anxious and her dress is too tight.

Even though Ethan might be a jerk, there is nothing so great about Charlie - she judges people by their looks, she's getting into a tit-for-tat disagreement with this guy, why doesn't she do the mature thing - say, "Excuse me," get up and walk away?

You seem to have a nice writing style so I feel confident in saying, You can do better.  Ask yourself, "What do I want the reader to know about Charlie by the end of the chapter?"

Is it that she's a forensic accounting (interesting), but you didn't need 5 pages of wedding to tell the reader that.
Is it about her relationship with the bride or one of the guest? Then you need to emphasis that.
Is it meeting Ethan who will become a major playing in the story?

The real feel I get for these pages is that it should be backstory for something interesting later - like Charlie and Ethan are in some predicament later and she recollects the day they met at Jess' wedding and he was such a jerk and she swore she would never see him again.

And if that is the case, that Ethan and Charlie are going to become 'something', maybe you could start the story there. 

I read your response to billiek - she's not pretending to be a wedding planner at this wedding, but that sounds interesting.  Is that relevant to Jess' wedding somehow?


"You look at these scattered houses, and you are impressed by their beauty. I look at them, and the only thought which comes to me is a feeling of isolation and the impunity with which crime may be committed there." - Sherlock Homes, The Copper Beeches - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
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« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2017, 07:38:32 AM »

MichellegG: Thank you very much for your input. I hear you about too many names (and characters) in the opening sequence and will fix.  The story is Charlie's. The wedding scene is meant to demonstrate the beginning of her character arc. She gets panic/anxiety attacks around anything wedding - the reader finds out why later on. Her sister, involved in the same traumatic incident has gone in the opposite direction and is a wedding planner. The sister becomes incapacitated and Charlie, hater of all things wedding, steps in as wedding planner to save her sister's business.

Here's what is most problematic at this point for me: Charlie leaves New York and takes over her sister's life. There is a whole family to introduce, including the crazy bridezilla. I know how confusing bringing in too many characters too fast can be.  I wrote a scene with Charlie, the bride, her mother and sisters before bringing in the rest of the family and the wedding party as a solution, but I'm still working on this.

I'm thinking about both plot and character arc. I'm a pantser - I've tried more structured plotting but it doesn't work for me.  The plot has a definite direction, but I usually see where it takes me and by draft number three it usually makes sense.

Any ideas on smoothing the road to introducing multiple characters would be welcome.

Charlie's character arc is this: A no nonsense number crunching accountant, she begins cynically critical of weddings (metaphor for connection, romance, family). She and the wedding family affect each other profoundly; all are changed by the experience by the end.
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« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2017, 11:12:14 PM »

Just wanted to put my two cents in, I actually love the man bun part. I think it's funny and I like the interaction with those two characters.
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« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2017, 01:06:38 PM »

I know you mentioned this was a rough draft but I can still get a sense of the fun and humor in to story. I also love your title. I think a movie producer would steal it.

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« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2017, 01:44:18 PM »

Thanks so much KjK and newtothis22 for the encouragement. Critiques are essential but it's so nice to hear positive feedback.
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