Thursday, May 24, 2012

First Page Critique: Shopping Can Be Deadly (& Fun)

by Jordan Dane

I am still chuckling over this delightful submission. It felt like a cross between Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum (a guy version) and a lite tongue-in-cheek rendition of Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole. (Elvis has some pretty funny schtick.) See you on the flip side for my critique and I would love to hear what you think too, TKZers.

SHOPPING CAN BE DEADLY
Detective Rule #13: Treat every case like it’s your first case, especially if it is.

I checked my watch and then the wet windshield.  A twenty-eight-year-old vivacious woman crossed the street.  She was my client, Mrs. Ellen Donefield.   Eleven o'clock and she was right on time.  Her ash blonde hair was covered by a red scarf, her highly pilates-ized body was covered with St. Somebody's fashions and her back was covered by me, Guy Graff, a twenty-seven year old private investigator on his first case.
Yesterday, in my office she told me that for the past two weeks she had been followed while shopping in Beverly Hills and hired me to find out who it was.  She didn’t feel threatened but she wanted him stopped.    

The expensive streets in Beverly Hills were filled with bustle and haste on this Valentine’s Day buying posh presents and keeping out of the rain.  I got out of my ’94 Tercel and glanced around the soaked street.  I wasn't the only one watching my client.  A dark haired man, with a deep tan and dressed in a brown plaid suit fit Mrs. Donefield’s description.   And yes, he was definitely watching that body too.  I felt professional, finding my man right away.

Mr. Plaid looked directly at me, checked his watch, then turned his gaze back to Juicy Couture the boutique Mrs. Donefield had just entered.  I knew this guy had no idea of who I was but to look inconspicuous, I also looked at my watch and tapped my foot as if waiting for my girlfriend.  Little did he know Janice broke up with me two months ago.  She didn’t believe my new business venture would generate a large income.  So far, she was right. 

Mrs. Donefield emerged from the store after a few minutes of shopping.  I watched her out of the corner of my eye.  Too busy waiting for my pretend girlfriend, I didn't notice that the Mr. Plaid was gone. 

Detective Rule #3:  You can lose a sock when doing laundry but don’t lose the guy stalking your client.

Critique
Okay, by the end of this book, I can see the author doing an anthology on all the “Guy” rules, the “World according to Graff.” All anyone would need is a Craig’s list ad and they’d be in the PI business. This has a classic PI feel to it, but it’s updated with the appealing wit of the author. I definitely want to read more of this story.

The first line pulled me out a little. “I checked my watch and then the wet windshield.” The wet windshield might be a way for the author to comment on the weather, but it struck me as odd that anyone watching a vivacious woman (and client) would notice the drops of rain on the windshield, especially on their first case.

In the first paragraph, the words “on his first case” are redundant after the very funny Rule #13. I’m sure this clever author can think of many ways to get this across another way, like “a twenty-seven year old private investigator with a newly minted license with the ink still wet and a week old ad on Craig’s list.”

“…her highly pilates-ized body was covered with St. Somebody's fashions and her back was covered by me, Guy Graff…” This is a very funny way to introduce the first person POV character, without the reader waiting too long to know who the voice is. (I love the character name too.)

This sentence should be broken apart or revised since the subject—streets—cannot buy posh gifts. “The expensive streets in Beverly Hills were filled with bustle and haste on this Valentine’s Day buying posh presents and keeping out of the rain.” The streets can be filled with bustle and haste (I like that description), but a secondary subject needs to be added to make this grammatically correct. Also, the word “expensive” when describing the word “streets” is a miss for me too. The “shops” are expensive, unless streets in Beverly Hills are made of gold, which they might be.

“’94 Tercel” – Priceless! Nuff said.

“Little did he know Janice broke up with me two months ago.  She didn’t believe my new business venture would generate a large income.  So far, she was right.” This little aside by Guy is so funny. The author jabs in a touch of back story, but does it with humor that also reflects on Guy. He thinks he’s being clever with his toe tapping “technique.” I love this.

The way this submission ended is priceless too. “Too busy waiting for my pretend girlfriend, I didn't notice that the Mr. Plaid was gone.  Detective Rule #3:  You can lose a sock when doing laundry but don’t lose the guy stalking your client.” I love how the author spells out Rule #3 by starting with losing a sock in the laundry. This not only makes the character very relatable, but it endears him to the reader as well.

Summary - First person POV works so well in this story. It’s classic PI, but the humor of this character shines through and the reader will want to stay in his head, especially if the funny rule making descriptions continue. It’s like Guy is making stuff up as he goes and these rules will come more from his mistakes than his successes. Each thought feels as if it comes straight out of Guy’s head and that not only reflects on what’s happening, but each line also shows his self-deprecating humor, his opinion of his surroundings, and his nature.

Whoever wrote this, thanks for the laugh and I wish you well! Great stuff. What did you think, TKZ?




16 comments:

  1. I want to read more.

    Great job with the Crit, Jordan.

    The story is fresh, crisp, and relatable. I can't wait to read the list of the rules at the end of this story.

    Good job, unknown author, and good luck!

    Paula

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  2. This is clever writing with a strong voice. I agree with Jordan and Paula--I want to read on.

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  3. This is a good example of a strong character voice that not only describes the action but also reflects who this character is in a very relatable way. I absolutely loved this piece. With a few changes, it is a strong opener for what appears to be an entertaining read I'd love to enjoy. Great job and thanks for your comments, Paula & Joe.

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  4. I enjoyed it. This more or less felt like I was reading an episode of Veronica Mars, instead of watching one. But I didn't buy that the author knew the BH locale. What street is Mrs. Donefield shopping on? Rodeo, Beverly, Wilshire? It makes a difference, especially if Guy is in a '94 Tercel. Because on Rodeo, that thing could garner him a classic BHPD slow drive by checkout. Beverly and Wilshire, it's less of an issue. And why doesn't Guy make a self-deprecating comment about his ride? I mean, come on now, a car that old in the richest zip code in Southern California, Lambo's and Bentley's zipping by, and Guy's got nothin'? Seriously? Maybe the joke is on the next page, but there just has to be one, just has to.

    Other than those two things, which are really not that big a deal, this was great. Well done.

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  5. that was a great read! it always seems to be raining in noir! loved the snideness. i agree w/crits, i tend to skip the extended descriptions, but the funny side remarks are unique and made me laugh =)

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  6. Great comments, Fletch & Tara. Thanks for the additional feedback.

    Fletch--Great point about the Tercel & the deets on the Street detail. When I was in BH, I saw several stars hustling from one shop to the next, avoiding eye contact so not to be noticed. The cagey behavior could play into this too.

    The main thing is that we are all responding to this author's humor.

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  7. Fletch--Veronica Mars. Definitely.

    Tara-- Noir loves its bad weather, for sure. Wouldn't you love to be a meteorologist in Noir town? :)

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  8. Yes, he is a funny guy and I like him, too. I'm interested to know how he got into this business, seeing that this is his first case - - some misfortune, no doubt. Even more interesting will be the fine messes to come. Right away, we know things will only get worse as this guy goes waaay over his head.

    Oh, and JD, them expensive BH streets are most definitively paved with gold. I know. I split it. Can't help it:)

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  9. Breezy, easy and comic - excellent reveal of your engaging character accomplished seamlessly.
    Very engaging!

    Jordan's review pointed out a couple of things that pulled me out a twinge(i.e. expensive streets sentence). The use of "vivacious" clanked a bit for me. Vivacious means "lively,high spirited". I felt the initial lines reflected more of a visual focus. I would anticipate one need do more than look at her to know she was vivacious.
    Small points on a very winning submission. IMO you should hop into the Tercel and drive this story onward to publication.

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  10. Okay. The '94 Tercel IS the entire joke. What more can you really say there? It's like Colombo's old wreck of a car and the raincoat. You see it, you gotta laugh.

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  11. Hey Jim. I knew you'd get a kick out of this.

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  12. Het TJC-- Thanks for playing. Good points.

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  13. Thank you Jordan Dane and everyone who critiqued my first page of SHOPPING CAN BE DEADLY.

    I owe a lot of these positive critiques to THE KILL ZONE. I submitted the beginning of this novel last year and, (I'm embarrassed to say,) starting with Guy Graff getting out of bed. The big suggestion then was, "place your hero in the middle of action," which is what I've done. Most of the questions that were posed by the critique group are answered in the next couple of paragraphs, it's hard to fit everything on the first page.
    I've completed the novel and with this input I'll polish the rest of it.
    Thank you again,
    - Stephen Buehler

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  14. BTW Jordan,
    I love the PI icon you inserted in the blog. It's great!

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  15. Omg, Stephen. I feel like a proud momma. Great job. Keep us in the loop on how things go.

    And that icon is perfect, isnt it? I can also see Guy rules as promo tweets. Love your humor. Thanks for the chuckle.

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  16. Loved this~

    One quick suggestion for Stephen: Keep a list of Guy's detective rules. You don't want your fans doing the same only to realize there are three rule thirteens. (Then again, that could work to your advantage with this character.)

    Cheers!

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