Too Much Stuff?

No, this is not a post about my yarn stash.

I’ve been working on Monday Street with Toni, and I have the fory-sixth draft of the opening scene of the opening scene sequence done, and it’s doing everything I want it to, but I think it may be doing too much. So I could use some feedback, beta readers. How confusing is this:

The chafing dish went up in a fireball next to the Defense Minister’s table at Maggie’s Ear and Restaurant right after Maggie told Cat Potter to pick Harry McNally’s pocket.

Cat dropped her tray on the mahogany bar, grabbed a pitcher of water, and ran to dump it on the chafing dish while the college boys at the next table who thought slumming it on Monday Street meant no rules hooted with underage laughter. Green flames whooshed up around the drowned silverplate, and then somebody slapped the lid over the dish, and the flames shot out from under one side, making a beeline toward the Defense Minister as if they had a mind of their own.

Cat thought, Oh crap, magic, and yelled, “Pansy!”

Two tables away, a little blonde hit the ground running and stumbled to a stop by the dessert cart.

The flames went out, leaving the DM with green ash for eyebrows.

“Yes, Cat?” Pansy said anxiously.

“I want to tell you what an excellent job you’ve been doing,” Cat said, shaking ash off her long black waitress dress. “Maggie’s Ear is so much better because you’re here.” That last part at least was true.

“Thank you, Cat,” Pansy said, beaming.

Cat looked closer and saw a fresh bruise by her eye, covered with too much powder.

Pansy pulled away, smiling nervously, and went back to the table whose order she’d been mangling.

“That was not what I expected,” the man with the chafing dish lid said as he looked at the Defense Minister, and Cat saw he was her mark, Harry McNally, known to the waitresses of the Ear as the Square Jaw.

Good. Things were finally going her way.

“I don’t think any of us expected that,” she said, taking the lid from him. Then she put her left hand on his right jacket front as she gazed up at him with only partially faked admiration. It was a good face, she’d decided when he’d first shown up at the Ear two weeks ago. Plain. Simple. Strong. Expressions would have been an improvement, but overall that was a good-looking face.

Too bad he was a vicious thug.

“You were certainly speedy with that lid,” she told him, patting his well-muscled shoulder. “A real live hero.” When he looked down at her hand, she slid his wallet out of his left side breast pocket and dropped it into the pocket of her white ruffled apron, said, “Thank you so much, let me get you a beer,” and got out of the way of Tannenbaum the bouncer who was dragging the college boys into the street with violence. Then she headed back to the bar and her boss, wondering why all the good-looking guys she knew were thieves and killers.

Oh, right. She lived on Monday Street.

I’d give you a list of all the things a first scene has to accomplish and what in particular this one has to do, but I’d rather just get your feedback to begin with. I’ve been looking at this bit for so long, it’s pretty much gibberish to me now.

What do you think?

36 thoughts on “Too Much Stuff?

  1. You’re right, it is awfully busy and I’m a little confused by what Pansy’s doing there. Other than to tell us that she’s being/been abused and is now relatively safe at the Ear. Did she leave the chafing dish by the DM’s table? Or are she and the fire a distraction so Cat can get close to Harry? I think the college guys, while accurate, are a distraction to the reader. Could she notice them at the end when Tannenbaum is bouncing them?

    Maybe I’m being thick but where is the fire? Is it *in* the chafing dish, the part where the food goes or is it coming from *under* it where the heat source is? I’m sleep deprived so it could just be me.

    Is Harry standing? I’m trying to picture where Cat is in relation to Harry in relation to the DM and why neither notices her pick his pocket. I know she’s good but when you say “breast pocket” I think inside the jacket and since they are just standing there, it seems a little odd that he wouldn’t notice. I know you’ve read up on pickpocketing with all of the Leverage stuff but as a know-nothing reader it stood out.

    I like the potential of it but it needs tightening. But you knew that.

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  2. That’s unsortably chaotic, for an opener. I think I could follow it if I knew who everyone was and where they were, but coming to it cold, I have no idea what the most important thing in the scene is, and I’m not even sure of the viewpoint character. I had to read it three times, no joke.

    Pansy is problematic here. “Hit the ground running” when she’s standing nearby taking an order is overkill; the bruise is TMI in an opening scene already stuffed with business. If what you want to hint is that Pansy makes fires go out, or whatever, maybe Pansy could shriek and run over with a pitcher of water she was just filling glasses with that puts the fire out because she’s got this ability, not because of throwing more water on Sterno or greasy chicken cacciatore or whatever.

    The college kids are here why? Doing what for anyone?

    I can’t figure out why the chafing dish is on fire, and I’m guessing that Maggie, who told Cat to pick someone’s pocket, somehow set it on fire to give Cat an opening. I know you like fast-paced, but this is goes by so fast I’m not even sure what I read.

    Also, Cat has to be smarter than dumping water on a burning chafing dish, right? Kitchen instincts are always to cover flames. Where is the ash coming from? I’d expect sooty smears.

    “Things were finally going her way” but since we just met her, we have no idea.

    The pocket picking bit, I have the impression he’s watching her do it. Maybe there’s TMI in there. Maybe tell us everything she’s doing EXCEPT taking the wallet. Then establish that she’s got the wallet when it’s called for?

    I’m having trouble reconciling the bouncer beating people up in the dining room with this being the sort of place that does tableside chafing-dish service and has a dessert cart, where a Defense Minister dines. Maybe the bouncer and the college boys are not needed at this moment?

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  3. I agree with most points from the commenter above.

    -nix the college boys until the end they don’t seem to have a point other than to allow the stating of the name of the street

    -who is this? “…somebody slapped the lid over the dish..” Is she standing next to the dish? If so why doesn’t she know? If she pours water BEFORE the lid is slapped on she should see the person with the lid and know it is her mark.

    – If you specify that the chafing dish is ON the dessert cart the three paragraphs make more sense. Its on fire. She calls for Pansy AS she is dumping water. Pansy arrives AFTER the flames go out and therefore Pansy is not needed anymore.

    -I agree about the pick pocketing. The DM is really quiet considering his facial burn. And Harry pointedly notices her touching him which makes him not noticing her sticking her hand in his jacket less than convincing.

    -It just seems that all the extraneous details (the college boys, the name of the Pub, the full names of the Protag and the extra DM) ruin the flow.

    -Following that the confusing stage directions keep the scene from formulating in the readers mind.

    -Then Pansy obliviousness. (did she not notice the green fire? Is she magical, and if not then why was Cat calling for her? Why was she running then? Why doesn’t she react to the apparent contrast of Cat yelling for her just to give her a mild compliment?)

    -Finally the slightly weird pickpocketing makes for a jumbled and confusing (rather than just fast paced) series of events.

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  4. Well, that it sounds like a fun story with a possibility of characters that I’d really like to know more about. But I just read it through twice and I’m overwhelmed by too many characters, I don’t know why Pansy matters/what that part of the scene was about, who started the fire/is it important, and were they trying to kill the Defense Minister? It would be confusing if I was already firm with the world, but as an intro it throws me off.

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  5. Hi – it’s very detailed, with complex sentence structure, lots of names and information. I had to read it a few times to work out everything that was going on. First I thought you could cut Pansy out to simplify things but then I realized that Pansy somehow squashes magic, just by her presence. I think you’re trying to do too much – it’s clever, but you somehow bury Cat in all of that detail (has head, not heart). I only started to focus on her in her interaction with Harry (finally, heart). My tuppence worth: to start I’d make sure the order of the first sentence is the order things happen in (it’s reversed at the moment which means I have to think, but a plus is that you achieve a kind of mental dissonance that reflects the scene in the restaurant, in the reader – think ‘heart’ is more important though, so I’d go for ‘M told C to pick pocket’, then C’s REACTION (it’s missing now), then her focus on her target Harry (agenda), then the fire interruption (obstacle)). Whatever, you’re still a genius.

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  6. It does feel a bit frantic. I stumble over all the proper nouns in the first paragraph (10 out of 30 words). My preference would be to learn the name of the restaurant when you explain the “Ear” part and to leave Cat’s surname for later.

    The college boys, which I think you introduced for the idea of slumming, don’t add much more than that (so far). Isn’t the Defense Minister slumming too?

    I liked the green magic, Pansy’s bit, and that Maggie told Cat to pickpocket (makes me curious why). The misdirection while pickpocketing both does and doesn’t work. I see that you’re showing it to me, but giving equal attention to both her hands from her point of view, makes me wonder why he doesn’t notice the pickpocketing. As a reader, I’m not misdirected, so why is he?

    At the end, Tannenbaum the bouncer (another name!) throws out the college boys for laughing? On Monday Street?

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  7. Busy and chaotic, yes, but busy and chaotic openings make me want to read more so I can organize it in my own head. It made me smile and it made me want to know more about these people. The only thing that threw me was the word “ear.” The name of the restaurant kind of slipped past me in the first line.

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  8. I’ll agree with others that it’s a little crowded with information. For what it’s worth, here’s the information I most liked getting: the opening look at the fire combined with Maggie telling Cat to pick a pocket (I like the questions that raises for me: what’s the relationship between Cat and Maggie, is Cat willing, is she being forced?); I like learning there’s magic in this world and that it will cause trouble (more mystery!), and I like the questions Pansy raises — both that her mere presence seems to stop the magic and that she is being abused.

    I like that I get the description of Harry before I get Cat’s commentary about him being a thug. That is to say, I like Cat’s voice and her perspective and I want to spend more time with her. I’m less interested in the name of the restaurant and the college boys — though I get that the bit about them “slumming it” gives me useful information about the location.

    I’m not sure about point of view. I think I’m in Cat’s pov but the initial description of Pansy as “a little blonde” sounds like someone who doesn’t know her — whereas knowing it’s a fresh bruise definitely indicates knowledge.

    My bottom line: there’s just a little too much info here for me but (what I’m seeing as) the central bits create fun in the scene itself and enough suspense keep me reading. Plus, the tone and chaos hook me because I expect to have some real fun reading on.

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  9. It reads like the narrator didn’t take a breath. With that much action and information commas and full stops seem superfluous.

    Are the college boys necessary to advance plot? Or just there to show that the area is tough and not completely unknown to everyone else? Or are they there to introduce the bouncer?

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  10. The number of names is daunting. I think what you need is there, but trimming out a few bits will create a scene that’s easier to follow.

    You have “The chafing dish went up in a fireball next to the Defense Minister’s table at Maggie’s Ear and Restaurant right after Maggie told Cat Potter to pick Harry McNally’s pocket.” Which leaves me all kinds of confused about who’s there and where we’re starting and what’s the important bit- the pick-pocketing, the fire, the DM, or Cat and Maggie? My brain completely skipped Maggie’s name after seeing Maggie’s Ear, so I was especially confused.

    After cutting names, that’s “The chafing dish went up in a fireball right after Maggie told Cat to pick Harry’s pocket.” So then my questions become- why is Maggie telling Cat to pick pockets? Is Harry already in the room? Who or what started the fire?
    (And maybe it was the DM that was important, and I’ve cut that incorrectly….)

    I’d like you to back up a paragraph or two and cover the conversation about picking Harry’s pocket. (Hopefully grounding us in Maggie and Cat’s relationship before all hell breaks loose.) Because if he’s a thug, that should mean there’s some danger to Cat for taking Harry’s things. Also, if they’ve done this before or do it too often, there’s a risk of customers getting angry at their things disappearing when they go to the Ear.

    I think the college boys are distracting, in a scene already full of people doing things, we don’t need to know there are people who slum here for amusement, and a bouncer. It can wait until after the fire is out and the pocket has been picked.

    “Green flames whooshed up around the drowned silverplate, and then somebody slapped the lid over the dish, and the flames shot out from under one side, making a beeline toward the Defense Minister as if they had a mind of their own.” Personally, I’d like to see that split into two sentences at the second “and”, but I love short sentences. My story based question is: Are the flames resisting being contained, magically guided, or is the person holding the lid physically directing them at the Defense Minister?

    “That was not what I expected,” from Harry can have two different meanings. If he’s holding the lid and trying to stop the fire by cutting off the oxygen to the flame, then the fire fighting to escape is not what he expected. If he’s using the lid to direct the flames, then Pansy’s ability to douse magic is not what he expected.

    I also think you can cut the “known to the waitresses of the Ear as the Square Jaw.” clause and still get the idea across in the paragraph where Cat’s got her hands on Harry.

    Your passion for this shines through, and it’s got so much energy it’s about to spin to pieces. I want a bit more of a toe-hold on the world and the characters before we’re off to the races. Even with my confusion about the start, I love Cat’s Monday Street beat at the end of the section. It makes me want to turn the page and learn more.

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  11. I’m too tired to be useful – but it took me two goes to follow the opening sentence, and like everyone, I think it’s too condensed. I’d love you to relax and let the story unwind more slowly.

    I tend to do something similar, over-editing and packing information into too small an extent. Sometimes I can’t follow my own text if it’s been a while since I wrote it. (In my case it’s partly laziness – can’t be bothered to spell everything out – and partly feeling it’s not good enough unless I’m packing the maximum cleverness into the smallest space.)

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  12. I haven’t read the other comments because I didn’t want them to influence my reading of the scene, so I apologize if I’m saying the same things as others have.

    I find the first sentence throws me – I’m introduced to 4 characters and I don’t know who to pay attention to most. I assume it’s Maggie because she directs the action by telling Cat to pick someone’s pocket and she owns the place but we don’t hear about her at all after that sentence.

    I also see what looks like a typo – “Maggie’s Ear” – and because I haven’t been told about the setting my brain trips on it and goes back to see if that’s what it really says.

    I really like Cat’s assessment of Harrys face, particularly the line, “Expressions would have been an improvement”. The interaction between them has me thinking at this stage that we’ll be seeing more of them together. Neither of them are sterling characters – Cat’s a pick pocket and Harry is a thug, although we see no evidence of that in the scene – but there are some hints I’ll like them. Cat’s fondness for Pansy and her ability to react in a crisis are good traits and help make her likeable, but she’s a pickpocket. Cat describes Harry as a thug, but he was the first one to do something about the fire, so he’s got that going for him, but if it weren’t for his reaction to the problem and Cat’s focus on his appearance I wouldn’t have anything to give me buy in for him. And I’m really not sure I’m supposed to have that buy in. I do think their interaction is the point to the scene.

    I get the clearest picture of Pansy – she’s inept and knows it, she’s being abused by someone but Cat remains patient with her and tells her Maggie’s Ear is a better place for having there but I don’t know why that is as nothing else I’ve learned about her would tell me that. I know less about anyone else in the scene.

    The college boys are introduced as Cat goes to dowse the flames and because of the “no rules” line I wonder if they have something to do with the fire. Cat tells us there’s magic involved and she introduces Pansy so now I have another possibility for where the magic is coming from. I’m confused because I don’t learn anything else about magic at this point, other than it’s something Cat expects. Do other people?

    I’m not sure what to make of the Defense Minister. Is he a shady character? Maggie’s Ear doesn’t sound like the sort of place you’d expect a Minister to turn up in unless he was shady. Is he significant in this scene because of his position? Would there be any difference in people’s reaction to the flaming chafing dish if he were a stevedore? Since I don’t know anything about him, other than on the face of it he seems to be in the wrong place, I’m not sure what to make of him. I would think, if nothing else, that if someone’s pocket were going to be picked, it’d be his.

    While I like the mental image of someone called Tannenbaum removing someone “with violence” it doesn’t help me understand the place or people in it better. I’d feel more in agreement with the “It’s Monday Street” line if I knew the setting better.

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  13. I love how Cat talks to Pansy–that made me like her right away. I liked the detail about the bruise–that was the first and maybe only moment I felt myself reach into the story and think, Go on. I like the element of magic–that definitely got me interested.

    I had to reread the opening para a number of times to get a full understanding of what was going on–way too many names. It didn’t form a distinct image in my head, just chaos. It took three paras for me to know whose POV I was in. So, once I got it, I saw that her goal was to pick a pocket, but I never had the sense she was large and in charge in the scene. She seemed muted–lost in a flurry of activity around her–which made me not overly interested in her goal. Nothing really blocked it or motivated it (other than Maggie telling her to do it), and she wound up scoring the wallet, so nothing really happened–other than she achieved the goal. But nothing was at stake, so I wasn’t left rooting for anyone or wondering what was going to happen next. Except Pansy. I kind of want to run after her and see what she’s going to do.

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  14. I love the opening sentence. Don’t change it. The only thing I really stumbled over was the very long clause about the college boys slumming. Commas or em dashes? I see what the other commenters are saying about the detail of the pick make one wonder why the mark didn’t also notice, but again, really the only thing I stumbled over was the college boys. Dense-pack of information for a starter, will you continue at this frenetic pace throughout? The mayhem of the scene set things up for me to think “of course they did” when the bouncer disposed of the college boys. Pansy’s importance was clear, tho the why was not, which just sets me up to enjoy finding out how the backstory unravels going forward. I like a book/movie that opens in a confusing-to-me setting, I enjoy seeing how the author/auteur will bring things together and whether I get it before my friends.

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  15. Also, “someone put the lid on the chafing dish” was excellent. Not what she was focused on in the crisis, then with Pansy on the (whatever it is) job, she could look to see who it was and bonus: right where she needed him.

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  16. I found the first two paragraphs really confusing, even after rereading a number of times, but I liked a lot of what followed.

    If forget–did you tell us why the restaurant is called an Ear? Because that really threw me.

    Still, I’m intrigued!

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  17. Really, seriously, I had no problem with any of it. Maybe I’ve read one too many Crusie’s (’cause I was right there grinning) and I’m used to the large cast of characters and the long sentences. I love a story that opens with me already asking questions. Love the opening line.

    If I was going to be nit-picky it would be with this sentence: Pansy pulled away, smiling nervously, and went back to the table whose order she’d been mangling. I’d reword so that it isn’t the table making the order but the people at the table. Also, the college boys sentence you could eliminate “at the next table” and that would make that sentence stronger. If you think the magic aspect needs more clarity: Cat thought, Oh crap, magic, and yelled, “Pansy!” you could add, we need magic, and yelled…but I kind of like it as is.

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  18. I don’t really have any problems with it. Yes, it is chaotic, but in a good way, not a confusing way. I feel like a lot of interesting things got introduced in those short paragraphs, and I want to know more about them.

    What I got out of the scene (in no particular order):

    -Cat is the go-to waitress/problem solver/heroine
    -She’s been assigned to pick a pocket by her boss
    -Magic is an issue and Pansy seems to have an effect on it
    -Something’s up with Pansy, other than her magic quenching and poor waitressing skills
    -Monday Street is a den of iniquity
    -Harry McNally is a bad guy (?), but good-looking

    Hope that helps. Oh, and, yes, “Defense Minister,” “Potter,” and “Harry” all in the 1st sentence is an unfortunate juxtaposition–but, on the other hand, Monday Street (so far) sort of reminds me of Diagon Alley, so….all good here.

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  19. Yeah, I got issues. Here was my thought process on my first read:

    -Is the fire deliberate, or accidental?
    -Is the DM a target, or in the wrong place? How big is the threat here?
    -Maggie did what? Never mind, can’t deal now, fire.
    -Did the college kids set it as a prank?
    -Again with DM questions
    – Why is Pansy important?
    -Wait, she isn’t?
    -No, wait, Pansy springs into action like a first responder, only to have Cat pat her on the head with a lame compliment, and she’s ok with this? She just slouches back to her job, and wait, she’s incompetent?
    -Why wouldn’t she know why Cat called her?
    That threw me out of the story completely. All the stuff before Pansy – well, I trust you, I’ll figure out what I need to know. Everything after that – well, I gave it a shot, because you’re you, but – no. I had two people actively fighting a fire, and a third doing her level best to get to an emergency that was mostly resolved by the time she arrived. I did not get that Pansy doused the magic or the fire. And Cat doesn’t say thanks anyway, I got it handled – she lies to her. So now I have an abused woman working hard at a job she doesn’t do well, and Cat just yanked her chain and made her life that much more difficult. And all that happens before the actual criminal act. Cat’s looking like a liar and a cheat right now, and I am much more interested in Pansy’s story.
    If Pansy is in fact a magic douser, is there some reason she would be unaware of it? If Pansy is in fact unimportant, then, well, she’s a blue Volkswagen who needs to be a car, because I’m paying way too much attention to her.

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  20. I really enjoyed this. I love the world, and the characters, and I want to know more about them all, but I was confused on the first read, and the second.

    I wasn’t sure what the scene was about. It was Cat’s scene, but I don’t know what she wanted or what she was trying to do. At first, I thought she wanted to pick Harry’s pocket, but none of the scene was about that, until she actually did the deed at the end, almost as an afterthought. The other stuff happened to her. She threw water over the chafing dish (ineffective), Harry appeared from nowhere and dealt with the immediate threat (nothing to do with Cat),. She called for Pansy, Pansy appeared and the threat disappeared. Then Cat reassured Pansy (not obviously related to the threat) and picked Harry’s pocket as he was standing in front of her.

    It seems crazy to say nothing happened when there was so much action, but that’s how I felt.

    On first read, I didn’t realise that the ‘little blonde’ was Pansy. I thought she was another part of the action, like the college kids. I wondered if she was responsible for the magic and was fleeing the scene. Maybe if you’d called her ‘the Ear’s newest waitress’ or something more obviously Cat’s view of her, I’d have joined the dots.

    First time around I didn’t get the point of Pansy. Later, I realised that Pansy is the one who stopped the magic, but I didn’t pick that up the first time, and so the rest of her interaction with Cat felt like a digression or infodump.

    By the end of the scene I had a good sense of Pansy, and a fair idea of Harry. The person I had the least idea about was Cat, because she didn’t drive the action or interact strongly with anyone.

    I already like Harry, though.

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    1. Thinking more about Cat – she had two interactions, she reassures Pansy (falsely, maybe for kind reasons) and flatters and then robs Harry (because her boss told her to). So the only thing I know about her for sure is that she’s a cheat and a liar. Maybe that’s why I don’t know where I stand with her, or even if I’m on her side. (Well, I do, and I am, but only because she’s one of your girls).

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  21. Well I trust you to work it all out for me in the end. I like the opening. I like the chaos and “it’s Monday Street”. That’s all the explanation I needed.

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  22. I cannot wait to read this story!

    I had to read the first sentence several times before it made sense to me. Once I got past that, I loved the rest of the scene.

    I got that Cat was the go-to person, competent, resourceful, and not entirely law-abiding. I liked her.
    I wondered why Pansy squashed magic, why she didn’t know it, and why Cat seemed to think it was important that she didn’t know.
    I was under the impression that the college boys started the fire.
    Where was the chafing dish? On the next table? On the dessert cart? Was Harry at that table or did he come over to try to smother the fire?
    I wondered why the Defense Minister didn’t react to almost being crisped.
    I liked Harry.
    And I’m not sure there is any way to describe Cat picking Harry’s pocket without the reader wondering why Harry didn’t notice.

    I can’t imagine how you can reconcile all these different opinions. Did I mention I can’t wait to read this story?

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  23. “The chafing dish went up in a fireball next to the Defense Minister’s table at Maggie’s Ear and Restaurant right after Maggie told Cat Potter to pick Harry McNally’s pocket.”

    Right away the opening sentence feels a little busy/hard to parse. Too many names thrown at me, too many actions. There are four characters to keep track of, a business name and stage business. Sorry if that’s too prose critical; I’m really more commenting on the “whoa too much info right away” aspect of it.

    I feel like the Defense Minister gets lost. What’s his reaction to having his eyebrows singed?

    I like the interaction between Cat and Harry; that is good stuff.

    The bit where Cat calls Patsy over feels random. Why is she calling her over? what was Cat hoping Patsy would do? Seems like Patsy doesn’t do anything, doesn’t comment on the fire. It feels a little like Patsy just comes over so the author can introduce us to Patsy and her mysterious bruise.

    I think my big note is it’s a little like Cat is moving in space, reacting while everyone else is there to be observed/commented on by Cat. The DM doesn’t react to the fire, Patsy comes over then doesn’t say or do anything except grin, Harry just watches Cat without saying anything or making an expression. The other characters feel like props that Cat is maneuvering around, not people with goals and motivations of their own.

    Also the logistics of this bit: “When he looked down at her hand, she slid his wallet out of his left side breast pocket and dropped it into the pocket of her white ruffled apron,”
    confused me. At first I thought he was looking at the hand she was picking his pocket with. Then I realized he’s looking at the hand on his shoulder, but then wouldn’t he be able to see the pick-pocketing hand in his peripheral vision?

    I do like Cat so far. I feel like I get a sense of her personality and voice in this.

    Hope this was helpful…

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  24. The first sentence has more information than I can grasp in one read. I think it’s all the names – Defense Minister, Maggie’s Ear and Restaurant, Harry McNally. It’s just too much to take in all at once. I also agree that the college guys are a distraction at the beginning, but I like Tannenbaum bouncing them at the end; if they only get mentioned there, that’s fine.

    Pansy confuses me. I can’t figure out if she caused the fire, or she put it out, or both. It’s clear Cat believes she has some connection to magic, but that’s about it. I’m worried about her because someone hit her, and I want Cat to do something about it, or at least think about doing something about it. A little more concern for Pansy would be welcome.

    As far as Cat’s behavior here, the pick-pocketing doesn’t bother me. It’s stated explicitly that her boss told her to do it (that’s a good enough reason for the moment) and that Harry is a thug, so I’m not feeling too sorry for him, even if he did put a lid on the chafing dish. Theft is not a deal-breaker when it comes to protagonists for me. In fact I really like reading/watching stories about thieves.

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  25. I like this. I like almost all the information presented here but it just doesn’t sound like Jennifer Crusie yet.

    What it reminds me of is a 1910ish romp I read last week that starts with the end, so to speak.

    “So many unkind things have been said of the affair at Morris Valley that I think it best to publish a straightforward account of everything. The ill nature of the cartoon, for instance, which showed Tish in a pair of khaki trousers on her back under a racing car was quite uncalled for.” http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc2.ark:/13960/t3nv9bd02;view=2up;seq=14

    In Tish’s case, the narrator is talking about things from the point of the end of the story. Everything has been revealed, and these teasers make me want to read to the end of the story.

    But in Cat’s case, she’s talking from the point where she drops the tray on the bar. There’s a sudden switch from past (with past tense) to present (but it uses past tense because of writing conventions).

    If she were speaking from the point of fireball, a lot of those details would be lost.

    Also, I may be overstepping my critique bounds, but I think there should be cherries jubilee in the chafing dish. (-: Naturally, only you know for sure. I have a fondness for exploding desserts, though.

    I’d like to see Pansy do something magick-y — a mind block ala Sheldon Cooper or a few gestures, or a muttered spell. That would help connect the “little blonde” paragraph to “the flames went out.” Also, if you identify the little blonde as a waitress, then you can cut out much of the faint praise in the 7th paragraph.

    7th paragraph had too much info — Maggie’s Ear had been mentioned in para 1. Do we need to know Pansy is a terrible waitress right now? I love how before Pansy is praised, she’s anxious, but after, she beams. When you drop the shoe about the bruise, things fall into place very nicely about Pansy.

    I love the way you lay the red herring about Harry. I think even people who haven’t read the blurb on the back of the book will realize that He’s The One.

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  26. I skipped the first sentence after the second try. “Hit the ground running AND stumbled to a stop…” – This tripped me up slightly. Should it have been “but” in place of “and”? The college boys also confused me. Still, I loved the action and the characters, especially Cat and the last line. That part was totally a Crusie.

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  27. I really liked the Pansy stuff — it showed that she was important somehow, that she’s got something to do with magic, but it isn’t entirely clear what. Not sure about the “hit the ground running” part, though.

    The first sentence is tough all at once. Lots of proper nouns and no context in which to put them. By the end, I felt like I knew what was going on but that first sentence caused me some stumbling. Also, it wasn’t until I read the comments that I made the explicit connection, but I do think the names’ similarities to those in Harry Potter sent up a flash.

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  28. Thank you all for this, and of course you’re right. I’ll get back with another post on this showing why I wrote it this way and how I’ll fix it (the why is just to show you how it became like this, not to justify it, there is no justification and it will be fixed). Much later. There will be another post much later.

    Thank you!

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    1. Of course it’s years later now, but don’t know where else to post this. Last night, I was in the middle of reading Part 1 of the discovery draft of Monday Street when it disappeared. The link to Part 2 went nowhere, then I couldn’t even get back to Part 1. I tried searching: no results. And then Cold Hearts appeared, which I’m pretty sure was not there before. Is it magic? Is there any way to get Monday Street back?

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      1. Yes, it’s magic.
        Sorry, that just appealed to me. The WiPs are up for a week only. They’re really only up there because I’ve been talking about these stories for five years and I figured if you all had to listen to me bitch about them, the least I could do is show you what I had. But they were never meant to be up there permanently.

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