Author Topic: Contemporary Fiction - Cure for Hearing  (Read 177 times)

Offline debbie.rosenberg58

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Contemporary Fiction - Cure for Hearing
« on: July 03, 2019, 08:09:40 AM »
Hi! I would love a fresh set of eyes on the first chapter of my WIP, Cure for Hearing. 

Chapter 1
Word of the vintage shop near West 3rd Street and Bleecker shop traveled in select New York circles the way cryptic messages were shared in elite sororities, in whispers, among trusted friends.

Zoey Moore became aware of this treasure by way of an inebriated patron of the shop during a chance encounter on an uptown E.  The conversation, struck up from a combination of nervous energy and her friendly nature, began with a compliment of the patron’s exquisite metallic jumpsuit, notable in part, because it was morning rush hour. By the time she exited the train at 52nd Street, maneuvering deftly through the crowds toward the office building for the desperately needed temp job, a card with the shop’s location was pressed in her hand. 

That cloudy April morning, the shop did not disappoint. The owner, she learned, swept through the aisles each night, infusing the air with torches of burning sage to cleanse the essence of human energy previously inhabiting the clothing. Now that she was inside one of the two curtained-off alcoves which served as fitting rooms, the narrowness of the space, its stuffy air, and herbal vapors emanating from the pile of garments pooled on the floor, made her hot and dizzy as she considered herself in the brass framed mirror.

The white button down, with its three-quarter sleeve and prim collar seemed demure enough to wear for the uber conservative clients her part-time boss, Christine, was pitching. The slim black pants were a little long, but beautifully tailored.  On second thought, she wasn’t sure about the top, which she pulled over her head and hung on the wall peg as a maybe. She swept aside the curtain and emerged from the alcove to search the racks again, when her phone pinged a text.
Hey, Christine’s message said. All set. Convinced Wilcox to come in and Pedro swapped
 presentation times -don’t ask! So the meeting is on for this morning. Confirm please? If I don’t hear from you in 30 minutes I need to ask someone else.
   Someone else! No, no, no.  Zoey sucked in a breath while her thumbs flew over the keyboard. Great! I’ll be there.
She rushed back into the dressing room, pulled the top over her head and yanked the pants up. They were too long and she nearly stumbled in her hurry to navigate through the narrow aisles, to the front of the store, where Liam, elbows on the counter, considered a selection of pocket knives for Zoey’s friend, the architect. An hour ago, the birthday gift, and convincing Liam to come to the surprise party with her and meet the friends, had been of paramount importance.

“I have to go, the meeting is on,” Zoey said breathlessly to Liam. She handed the price tags over to the sales clerk and shook her bag - the wallet, which along with keys and lip balm, were forever falling into the torn lining. “Do you realize what this means for me if Christine gets the Wilcox group?” A full-time stable job, her mind supplied, at last. She stuffed her clothes inside the tote while the clerk rang her up, and gathered her thick hair away from her overheated neck..

“Good news. The presentation was all you could talk about last night.” Liam lifted the brim of his baseball hat, and his heavy lidded, gorgeous eyes once-overed the outfit. “Aren’t you lucky, finding just the right thing.” He leaned down to kiss her, warm and quick.
“I’m all about the luck,” Zoey said, the taste of Liam lingering on her mouth as she dashed out of the store, uptown, for the opportunity that could change everything.
Seconds after a gut-wrenching clank settled the elevator on the eighth floor, Zoey jabbed repeatedly at the icon for the doors to open. At last, the brushed metal slid apathetically apart, immune to the anxiety of its sole occupant.

 “I will do well, I will do well,” she chanted aloud on the bolt toward the office.

Zoey rounded the corner and zig zagged the last stretch, skimming her shoulder against the wall, triggering the words of a boyfriend past, You don’t run, you careen. Like you live your life.

To work for Christine, who was in control of everything. How desperately Zoey wanted to emulate the elegance and poise, be the master of her destiny. That was the reason she turned down the full-time jobs she had been offered at the last few temps, holding out for Christine.

Around the corner, a man stood in front of the locked office suite, nicely dressed in a suit and holding a bouquet of purple tulips, a leather briefcase hanging by a strap from his shoulder. No, no, no, that can’t be Mr. Wilcox already, Zoey thought and skidded to a halt.

“You wouldn’t be Mr. Wilcox?” Breathing hard, Zoey shook her tote for the jangle of the keys -please don’t be him, please don’t be him.

“If you’re mistaking me for Wilcox, I must be doing something wrong,” the man said. “You must be Zoey. I’m George.”

Hands shaking, she barely registered the name of Christine’s boyfriend, and in the next instant, she extracted the jangle of metal, slipping through her sweaty hand and clanked on the shiny, polished floor. George bent down to fetch them at exactly the same time Zoey did. Their heads smacked so hard together, she tasted concrete in her mouth. She landed on her ass, open-mouthed with shock.

“Oh, hey!” He reached down and helped her up. “Are you okay? Sorry about that.”

 “That was all me.” He held out the keys and she grabbed them, ignoring the pain stabbing at her forehead, the thudding in her coccyx, sifting to find the office key Christine had given her three months ago, regretting all the extra keys she meant to, but never did, discard.

The lock clicked open, and she backtracked to turn off the alarm, nearly colliding with George.  It had already been deactivated, which meant either the accountant was in his office, or – worst case scenario - Christine had already arrived. 

Zoey raced past the closed door of the accountant on the way to the kitchen, and breathed out  - he was at his desk, buried in piles of papers and folders. Both the offices of the Pedro, the wedding planner, and the mystery businessman who occupied the space across from Christine were dark.
The light was on in the kitchen, and the regular coffee pot was full. On the long, shiny white countertop was a French press.
Don’t forget to use my French press instead of the regular coffee maker, Christine texted after Zoey confirmed.  You’ll find beans in the cabinet. I’m sure there’s no need to remind you how important this meeting is for both of us.

In the cabinet above the French press was a paper bag and a neatly printed, tented note taped to it on Christine’s monogrammed notepaper: Not for communal use.

 The coffee maker in the apartment she shared with Ana was rudimentary; you poured water in one end and coffee came out the other. This thing had a glass cylinder, a metal plunger and no plug anywhere. Worse, these were whole beans, not grounds you spooned into a filter.

“Um, I think you should put some ice on that,” George said, gesturing to her forehead. “You’re getting a lump.”

“I don’t have time,. I’m fine.” But a droplet of blood plopped on her hand from the lip she had bitten in the fall. “Oh, my god.”

“Here.” He wrapped ice from the freezer in a paper towel and pressed it in her hand. “Seriously, take a second.”

“I can’t.” Zoey sucked on the lip and tasted the blood. “Really, it’ll stop in a minute.”

“Well, you’re looking at the French Press like it’s a nuclear device,” George said. He opened cabinets, one after the other, and extracted a clear glass vase.

“I thought there was another week at to learn the French press and then she said Mr. Wilcox was only going to be here for the day and I didn’t think the meeting was even going to happen,” Zoey said with a single breath. She tapped her finger to the injured lip. Sure enough the blood had stopped.
“Hey, no worries.” He pointed to the bag of coffee. “You have to grind the beans first.”

She dumped a bunch of coffee beans into the grinder, and looked to him to make sure this step was right. “Oh, hey. You have a mark, here, too.” Zoey touched the tender lump on her forehead to demonstrate, and flinched. 

He pressed the paper towel ice packet to his forehead and gestured to the measuring cup. “Christine uses three-quarter cup of whole beans exactly with the French press.”

“I’m so lucky you turned up.” Zoey started over with the coffee beans, and her wrist twanged. “I’m sorry if I was rude and didn’t say hi at the front door.”

“Don’t worry about it. I feel bad you got hurt.”

“Seriously, that was all me. I was running kind of late and everything has to be perfect. If you haven’t noticed, Christine is strict about details.”
“Yes, I noticed.”

Zoey shook her head, and the pain was immediate. Reminder to self, don’t shake head. “Honestly, I never figured Christine would land the presentation in the first place. I can’t believe Pedro agreed to swap times. I helped him with his presentation for these two amazing grooms.” She stopped measuring and looked up with alarm. “Please don’t tell her I helped Pedro. I don’t know why I said that. My friend, Ana says I share too much.” 

“I can keep a secret.” He set the timer on the microwave for the water. “To tell you the truth I’m relieved it will all be over today. Christine has been impos….anxious about this deal. She said you did a great job with the video.”

 “Thanks for saying that about the video,” she said, studying the how-to-make-coffee illustrations on the back of the French Press box. “The whole time I was working on it she kept saying it’s ‘the bones of the presentation.’”

 “She said the same thing to me. Repeatedly. Sometimes she added, ‘for my very conservative clients.’”
“It was a little tricky but it came out great.”

What made the video tricky was the significant shortage of footage from Christine’s events, which Zoey managed to make less noticeable by dragging out transitions and slo-mo’ing.  Then came Christine’s shocking instructions to make up the shortfall using stock photos of stuffy corporate events.
 “Make sure the stock photos are royalty-free,” Christine had said. “We need to be professional and impressive but we aren’t going to break any copyright laws.” Then she added, “If we land this client, I can take you on full-time.”

The pronouncement Zoey had been dying to hear. She let the other temp jobs fall away over the last six months and kept herself available for Christine. Her bank account, skimpy to begin with, became alarmingly scant, leading to finagling and delays, not to mention all the lying to her mother that she had enough money for bills and food in their daily I Haven’t Been Murdered Since I Moved To New York phone call.

Now it was all paying off. Not just a job, like the “marketing assistant” position where she made copies most of the day and answered the phone, or “production coordinator” which mostly entailed arranging for flights and dinner reservations for the boss. This was different. This was a career, and she would get to learn from Christine, who was not that much older than she was, and already so accomplished.

By the time the microwave beeped, Zoey had the press figured out. George poured the water, she pushed the plunger down and the coffee began to brew.

 “Wow the coffee smells great,” George said.

 “You think?” Zoey inhaled, as the rich coffee grounds steeped in the water.

“Christine was adamant about serving the right coffee and that was pretty much all I could think about since I got the text.”

 “Let’s try it.” George found delicate white ceramic cups with matching saucers, while Zoey took a container of cream out of the refrigerator and another of half and half. She held up both. George pointed to the cream.

“Me, too. I can’t stand that other stuff.” Zoey’s shoulders relaxed. She touched the tip of her tongue gently to her lip. A little swollen on the inside, but better. “I sound like a stewardess. Would you like sugar in your French pressed coffee, sir?” The picture on Christine’s desk didn’t do George justice, she thought. He was broad shouldered and had kind eyes, a rich, warm brown. Christine said what his job was, but now she couldn’t remember. Something to do with buildings, maybe.

George leaned against the counter and crossed his arms. “Sure. Lots of sugar. It’s my worst vice.  Don’t tell anyone.”

“Me, too.” Zoey dumped sugar in the cups, then added the coffee and cream.

“I have a tip for you. If you pour the cream in first, you don’t have to stir it and worry about filling it too much.”

“I love that tip.” She closed her eyes and inhaled the coffee vapor. “Did they teach it in architect school?”

“Mechanical engineer,” George said. “I work in acoustics.”

“Wow, my best friend is studying to be an audiologist. She’s in this amazing graduate program.”  Zoey sipped, aware she was trying to impress George by association – look how smart her friend was. The brew was hot. She blew on it and sipped, the full roast of the coffee beans unfurling on her tongue. “Oh my God. How did I go my whole life without tasting French pressed coffee before?”

George sipped, too. He nodded. “Is there anything better than a good cup of coffee?”

“I’m so happy you showed up,” Zoey said. “I would’ve messed it up for sure.”

His neck went a little red at that. “You would have figured it out. Christine said you’re smart.”

“Really, she said that?” She noticed the flush. He was very good looking in a high school football kind of way. Why, Zoey wondered, didn’t Christine talk about him more? She couldn’t stop talking about Liam to her friends, none of whom had met him yet.

George shook his head. “If you haven’t noticed she’s tough. She fired her last assistant after two weeks.”

Her wide eyes widened even more. It was a gesture of agreement about the “tough,” reluctant to voice even a small criticism about Christine. Even if it was true.

“I really need this morning to go perfect.” Zoey put the cup down, closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. She conjured a positive image of the meeting going smoothly, without a blip, but instead, she heard Christine’s reminder, Wear a dress or a skirt. Something super conservative.

“Oh no.” Her hand flew to her mouth and her stomach clenched back into a knot. “I was supposed to wear a dress.” The admonitions about Mr. Wilcox and his group came flooding back. How conservative and religious they were, and that Zoey should be particularly careful about what events she selected for the video. No celebrity parties where the women wore short, tight clothes, the men had long hair and bare chests. No kissing, no drinking, no one touching anyone.

A spring of tears began and George unfolded his arms. “Hey, there’s nothing you can do about it now.” He handed her a napkin. “Maybe no one will notice.”

“I was in such a huge hurry I forgot.” The vintage pants were too long and the top she thought was fine stopped exactly at her waist, so if she so much as reached for something skin would show.

“Wearing the wrong clothes isn’t the end of the world,” George said. “Drink the coffee, and make sure you’re on your game for the client.”

Zoey dabbed at her eyes. “Thanks. That’s a logical thing to say.” But now she was worried about the impression she would make. Not only was Mr. Wilcox and his organization religious, Christine had said, they were powerful, and here in New York to meet with political leaders. Now she was sweaty, wearing the wrong clothes, had a lump on her head, a split lip.

“It’s all going to work out fine.” He cleared his throat and looked at her uncertainly.

“I need this to go perfect.” Zoey dabbed at her lip and winced. “Exactly like in my positive image.” At George’s raised eyebrow, she said, “A positive image. Like, you picture everything the way you want it to be.”

“Hey, don’t worry too much,” George said. “Put your game face on.”

Zoey shook her head, the throb immediately registering. “I’m not good at doing that. My mom always says if you want to know what’s going on in my mind look at my face.”

“I’ll show you a game face if you teach me a positive image,” George said. “You know what would be even better? A game face while executing a positive image.”

“Deal.” Zoey reached out for a handshake. “I bet that’s the first time ‘executing’ and ‘positive imaging’ were used in the same sentence, though.” George’s hand was rough and dry in hers.

They laughed together and in the next moment there was a clack of heels on the wood floor. Christine appeared in the doorway of the kitchen.

“Nice to see you two having a good time.” Her eyes metronomed from Zoey to George and back. “What happened to you two? You have matching lumps.”

“Good morning, Christine.” Zoey couldn’t help it, maybe it was nerves, or the way George was looking at her like he was thinking the same thing, she starting giggling and couldn’t stop.

“Uh, we had an accident. But hey, the coffee came out great.” He kissed her, briefly on the cheek. “You look gorgeous.”

Christine’s silvery hair was styled in an inverted bob, shorter in the back, the longer layers in the front, sharp and sleek as miniature sickles, framed her face. She was dressed in a crisp white blouse, tucked into a high waisted, straight black skirt that reached below her knees. A single loop of lustrous pearls circled her neck. An elegant gold watch glinted in the kitchen light. Her displeasure at Zoey’s wardrobe choice was clearly reflected in the slow, sweeping glance at her midsection, down at the too-long black pants, puddling at her ankles. Zoey’s speeding train of giggling screeched to an abrupt halt at that look.

“Zoey? Do you realize your shirt is on inside out?” asked Christine.

“Huh?” She looked down, and her mouth gaped open. Sure enough, the line of buttons that should have been there were on the inside, next to her skin, a tag with the size and laundry instruction affixed to the bottom. The room narrowed like the air leaking out of a balloon, along with the vision of herself pulling the discarded top hurriedly back on in the curtained alcove-fitting room.

“We’re not going to become the premier event planners in New York City with inside out shirts, are we?” Christine said, hand on her hip. The only break in her cool exterior was her chest rising and falling a little too fast.

 “I’ll go fix it,” Zoey squeaked and began to back out of the room.

George glanced at his watch. “Hey, I should let you two get back to work.” He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a paper bag with the local pharmacy logo. 
how I forgot to refill my prescription,” Christine said. “Thanks for picking it up. If everything goes as planned today, I’ll have a full-time assistant to remind me, right?” She flashed a brilliant smile at Zoey.

“Oh, for sure.” Zoey, who knew what was in the vial since she had fetched Christine’s Adderall before, thrilled at the comment, full-time assistant. She raced out of the kitchen, face flaming, and locked herself into the bathroom to turn the shirt.

While she waited for Christine outside her office, the semblance of calm she felt around George evaporated and her nerves ramped up again. If Christine had the Adderall in her system, Zoey thought, she would have given her the materials first to set up the conference room before seeing George out. As it was, time was tight. I did a great job editing the video, she thought, trying to slow down her breathing to lay the groundwork for a positive image. The client will be super impressed and everything will go great. The day will be a big success.

It wasn’t working. Maybe she was all off axis because nothing about the day so far was going as planned - clunking heads with Christine’s boyfriend, the embarrassing inside out shirt. She tried a physical warm up instead to relieve the anxiety and channel her energy in a positive direction. Zoey bounced lightly from foot to foot, shaking out her arms, warming up like she was competing in a swim race, and stopped immediately when she saw Christine.

   “Zoey.” Christine said her name with a shake of her head and a half-smile as though she found Zoey amusing and irritating at the same time.
Inside, the office, Christine flipped the blinds open and light flooded the room. The powered-up computer hummed. She gestured to the brochures. “Take those and hurry. They’ll be here soon.”

Zoey rushed the pile of brochures to the conference room. She wiped the table and spaced the chairs perfectly. Maybe I should double check the video, she thought as the front door buzzed, but there was no time now. She ran her tongue over the throbbing bump on her lip.  Christine said they were all set, she reassured herself, nerves firing. 

She hurried to answer the front door before it rang again.

Mr. Wilcox was a bland looking man, accompanied by one younger and one older, in equally forgettable dark suits with starched, pastel shirts. Zoey showed them into the conference room ahead of Ch
ristine, a prearranged strategy not to appear too anxious. The conference room doors slid open smoothly.

   “Welcome, Mr. Wilcox,” gushed Christine, shaking hands all around.

“Good morning, Miss Cole.” Mr. Wilcox. He was still standing, as were the other men. No one had touched the brochures set at each seat. 
Christine arched her eyebrows at Zoey, the coffee cue. They were so formal, this group. Zoey thought on the way to the kitchen. She was so focused on having a stable job at last, she hadn’t given a thought to what it would be like working with people like these. She would have to be careful not to say the wrong thing. No careening off the walls, cautious steps. 

Zoey returned to the conference room with the carafe and cups, and set them down on the sidebar. “May I offer you coffee?” A quick side glance at Christine to gage if she sounded professional enough, but Christine was leaning in to one of the pastel men, speaking quietly.

“Don’t touch the stuff.” Mr. Wilcox covered his coffee cup as though he were a recovering alcoholic and Zoey was about to pour him a shot.

   “No problem. Would you like a bottled water, instead? We have some in the kitchen.”

   Mr. Wilcox shook his head. “Water in bottles? Never understood the waste of plastic and money. What’s wrong with good old tap water?”

   “I’m glad to hear the Family Council for Furthering American Values is cognitive of conservation.” Christine nodded her head, her silvery hair shining in the recessed light of the conference room.

   How smooth Christine was, Zoey thought on the way back to the kitchen, polished and charming. She filled a water pitcher, and noticed the tulips. Christine’s boyfriend was so nice and thoughtful. She hadn’t pictured Christine with someone so rugged. Stop thinking about George, she ordered her brain. Concentrate!

She gathered the water pitcher and a few glasses. Before she picked up the tray, Zoey took a bottle of water for herself and stashed it into her pants pocket. She balanced the tray, holding it carefully, eyes on the water pitcher the whole way down the hall. No careening. Careful steps, watch the too long pants. Opening the sliders one-handed was another challenge, but she managed.

Christine had already begun her speech. “Christine Cole events will ensure your important event will be perfectly executed. We coordinate all phases, from selecting the best venue, through to publicity.”

   The pitcher slid a fraction. Don’t drop it, don’t drop it, Zoey thought. Whew. It didn’t spill, not a bit. She placed the tray carefully on the sidebar, then set a glass in front of each of the men. With her back turned, she unscrewed the plastic top of the water bottle she brought for herself and winced at the sound it made, but they were all listening to Christine and no one seemed to notice her. The clients thumbed through the brochure in front of them.

   Mr. Wilcox steepled his fingers. “You know, Miss Cole, we only agreed to meet with you because of our connection with your family back home. We have a generous budget, but New York is so expensive.”

   “Yes, that’s true.” Christine nodded. “But be assured, with my connections and negotiating power your event will exceed all expectations. Allow me to demonstrate. Zoey? You may begin.”

   Zoey dimmed the lights and clicked on the first file in the queue. The gentle sound of a flute filled the conference room. Wait, thought Zoey, as she stood behind Mr. Wilcox, that’s not….

   Sunlight filtered through a rooftop pergola, and panned to two extraordinarily handsome, tuxedo clad men, who gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes, the smiling officiant with a hand on each groom’s shoulder.
“Our grooms experience the best weddings New York has to offer,” the voice over said.

Zoey choked, and spit out her water onto the sandy, thinning hair of Mr. Wilcox.
“Jesus Christ!”
« Last Edit: July 06, 2019, 04:00:56 PM by debbie.rosenberg58 »

Online RJP

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Re: Contemporary Fiction - Cure for Hearing
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2019, 05:36:41 PM »
This is pretty good.

You go heavy on the adverbs at the start of your scenes but then the writing gets better once you settle in. For instance:

 maneuvering deftly through the crowds toward the office building for the desperately needed temp job,

We all use adverbs but there's times that your writing is too purple for my tastes. And you do the same thing at the start of your next scene:

Seconds after a gut-wrenching clank settled the elevator on the eighth floor, Zoey jabbed repeatedly at the icon for the doors to open. At last, the brushed metal slid apathetically apart, immune to the anxiety of its sole occupant.

I mean, there's only a couple of adverbs in there but they're bad ones. Those two sentences come off like you're trying to impress. Then, once you get settled it's way better.

I like your dialogue tags and it's almost as if you never run out of things to say between the talking. Overall, I'd say you've done a great job here!

Offline Munley

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Re: Contemporary Fiction - Cure for Hearing
« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2019, 09:14:29 PM »
Debbie, would you be willing to put a blank line between paragraphs and between a change of speaker in the dialogue, pretty much the way you'd see it in a book?

I'd like to read this, but the nearly solid block of text is too hard for my ancient eyes to follow.

Offline debbie.rosenberg58

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Re: Contemporary Fiction - Cure for Hearing
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2019, 04:02:35 PM »
Hi, Munley. I agree the block text is an assault on the eyes. I've added spaces, so hopefully it's easier now.....
Looking forward to, and and greatly appreciate  comments

Offline debbie.rosenberg58

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Re: Contemporary Fiction - Cure for Hearing
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2019, 04:04:19 PM »
Thank you, RJP, for your input.

I am adverb heavy and will be aware in the rewrite. Thank you so much for taking the time to critique.

Offline Munley

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Re: Contemporary Fiction - Cure for Hearing
« Reply #5 on: Yesterday at 12:19:37 AM »
 First, the positives:
Your writing style is really good. Lots of variety in sentence patterns and lengths, You don't take 10 words to say what could be said in 3 or 4. You make good use of contrast in how Zoey and George react to the same event of the head bump.

This link on opening chapters -- which includes a link on "inciting incident"  -- points out a lot of things I was going to suggest you use as a guide to whether the first chapter does its job.

The main thing missing is a core setup for the rest of the novel. I get no sense of what is at stake up ahead for Zoey beyond Chapter 1. It's pretty plain that klutzy Zoey did not succeed in what was initially at stake -- pleasing these conservative Christian clients, who are presented in a way that forces the reader to rely solely on stereotypical notions of that type.

The chapter ends with a sort of punchline event that settles the question.

It was hard for me to care much whether Zoey succeeded because Zoey's motivation for wanting to work for Christine wasn't all that convincing in the first place:
 To work for Christine, who was in control of everything. How desperately Zoey wanted to emulate the elegance and poise, be the master of her destiny. That was the reason she turned down the full-time jobs she had been offered at the last few temps, holding out for Christine.

The trip-up for me was that having a job where you have to continually set aside any personal values and kiss up to all potential clients, even ones whose values you may disdain, doesn't sound like a job that allows for being en route to fulfilling any personally meaningful destiny. Seems like Zoey would be much better off if she failed to please either Christine or these clients, and landed a job where, at the very least, she could be true to herself.

Maybe I'm just not the right audience for this topic.

Offline debbie.rosenberg58

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Re: Contemporary Fiction - Cure for Hearing
« Reply #6 on: Yesterday at 07:26:10 AM »
Munley, I appreciate your critique very much - feedback like yours is the reason we post, right?

The job/career path is a big part of Zoey's character arc: "The trip-up for me was that having a job where you have to continually set aside any personal values and kiss up to all potential clients, even ones whose values you may disdain, doesn't sound like a job that allows for being en route to fulfilling any personally meaningful destiny. Seems like Zoey would be much better off if she failed to please either Christine or these clients, and landed a job where, at the very least, she could be true to herself."

I do see where stereotypes rear their awful head, and will seriously consider revising.  The failed presentation and Zoey's firing was supposed to be the inciting incident, but clearly did not do its job. Great food for thought - and more revision.

While the story is primarily Zoey's, the narrative alternates POV with three other characters. If you don't feel strongly about Zoey in the first chapter, I need to do a lot more work on her character.

Thank you so much. Your input is very valuable.

Offline Munley

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Re: Contemporary Fiction - Cure for Hearing
« Reply #7 on: Yesterday at 09:39:41 AM »
Glad this was helpful.

One of the things often suggested for the first chapter is to regard it as tentative -- not to try to get it just right before the whole book is written. Only then can you fully evaluate how well that first chapter leads into what happens ahead.

Since this is a work in progress, and you seem to be a pretty creative thinker, chances are that the arc you imagine for starters will get modified along the way, especially as Zoey's complexities and nuances of character become more developed and clear, demanding a place along her journey forward.

You probably have some of those in your mind and chapter drafts already. I can speak only of characteristics I saw on the page so far. A character who is well-meaning but almost hopelessly klutzy, who hero worships Christine (who I don't find very admirable, while other readers might). Zoey's klutziness often spoils her chances of succeeding at anything she tries, especially at pleasing other people. This isn't a no-no in a character, but it would help to show something of some strength she has that could mitigate (even if not until some later time) whatever calamities she is set up for by that klutziness -- even just a hint of some self-redeeming strong point about her.

Regarding making the reader want to know what's up ahead (a good thing to do), there was one loose end at the finale of the first chapter for me, which was whether she is going to get into a relationship with George, who stays on her mind after he leaves.

At the same time, I also feared any relationship with him could turn out to be a man coming along to rescue a damsel in distress. I like George's character, his sensitivity in trying not to embarrass Zoey as she messes up one thing after another, his ability to hold his own in the face of Christine's taxing ways as she fusses to get everything just so for her potential clients.

It is not inevitable that he would play rescuer to Zoey. If you do have her become romantically involved with George (not saying you should) things can play out any number of ways, assuming that Zoey, like him, has some of her own strong traits to rely on -- even though she may not yet see herself as somebody who doesn't need to be rescued and doesn't need a "perfect" Christine to copy.

Your story has a lot going for it. Try to trust that you can let Chapter 1 be "imperfect" for the time being, until you see how things ultimately turn out. Keep going!

Offline debbie.rosenberg58

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Re: Contemporary Fiction - Cure for Hearing
« Reply #8 on: Yesterday at 12:01:08 PM »
Munley, endless thanks for your generosity.  You have given me a lot to think about.