The Fiction Doctor Cindy Davis
A Sample of My Work
This is a sample chapter from a novel. I’ve placed numbers on the page to correspond with a comments sheet (which you'll find below the chapter) included with each submission.
The warm air in the boardroom was oppressive, the humming air conditioning helpless against the sweltering humidity and heat wave temperatures raging through the city. Ginger brushed her hand across her forehead, stroking the loose strands from her long fringe behind her ear. The droplets of moisture, dampening her auburn roots and forcing out the natural curl straightened by this mornings blow dry, could be mistaken for sweat as a result of the heat, but she knew better. 1
And so, gentlemen, Stu concluded the brain storming session, 2 and ladies 3 we need to move fast on this one. It looks like hes 4 going to make a run for it.
Ginger tensed at her belated inclusion into the group, then let it go. This was her first day, after all, and having a woman on the team would probably be an adjustment for everyone. Stu, whod mentored her through the last 5 two years of training, had had to pull a lot of strings to get her this position. Most other insurance companies had 6 opened their doors to female investigators decades ago, but Simmons was still of the old school; something she hadnt been aware of when setting her sights on the most prestigious insurance company in San Diego all those 7 years ago.
The men rose from the table to straggle out in groups of twos and threes, discussing the merits of the latest information gleaned from their internal sources. Or so she presumed from the low-key voices and concentrated expressions. For all she knew, they could be discussing the latest soccer scores, in which case shed probably be able to hold her own, anyway. 8
Instead of following the others down the hallway, Ginger made her way to the elevator. Stu should be back in his office by now, and she wanted him to hear her out before assigning the case. 9 At the next floor she stepped out hesitantly, not sure how to address the issue. She knew 9A Stu would not give in to her merely on the basis of their friendship; she would have to convince him she was ready for field work.
Standing in front of the solid oak door, Ginger ran her hands quickly down the length 10 of her a-line skirt. She peered down at the brass buttons of her tailored jacket and picked a miniscule piece of lint from the black a-line skirt before tapping a knuckle on the hard oak.
Come in, Stus muffled voice came from the other side.
Taking one last deep breath, she composed herself mentally, then entered the large office, determined to leave her doubts and insecurities outside in the hallway. 11
Got a moment? she asked, walking up to stand in front of him. 12
Sure, Ginger. Stu waved a hand toward the vacant chair across from his desk. Completely bald with jiggling cheeks and a pouch 13 to match, he cast a figure more suited to an elderly uncle than that of the head of the investigation department of one of the countrys largest insurance companies.
She settled herself across from him, crossing her legs and resting her shoulders squarely against the high backed visitors chair.
I want the 14 case, she told him directly 15, before he could say anything to deter her, Ive worked the Drake case with Jim, Im ready. Youve got to give me a chance sometime, my own case
Ginger Stu cut in, 16 I dont doubt your ability. And I have got something lined up for you. Weve just received a call from L.A., 17 Edson Daniels wants to insure his wifes jewelry 18. I need someone there in the morning.
I want this one, Stu. Ive done all the paperwork and now I want a chance to wrap it up.
You will get your chance, but this could get dangerous.
and you need a man for the job, Ginger completed his sentence with contempt. 19
No! But I do need someone experienced.
The finality in his voice fired Gingers determination. And how do you propose to give me that experience? By keeping me on the back end of the investigation? Shuffling papers? She knew 20 she was pushing him, but couldnt help it. 21 Frustration cramped at the back of her knees from fighting the urge to get up and storm out.
I understand your impatience, but youll have to trust my judgment on this one.
Stu frowned his displeasure and dismissed her by turning his attention to the pile of papers in front of him. 22 She remained seated, clenching her hands into tight balls to accumulate the pent up irritability. 23 But she hadnt gotten where she was by giving in this easily. Eventually he lifted his eyes again, fixing her with a look of you still here? 24
Who are you sending? she asked, calmly. Better to revise her approach than be sent out of his office 25 empty-handed.
Im about to make that decisionas soon as you give me a chance to get some work done, he told her pointedly 26 “Were not even sure if Drake is our man.”
Ginger watched Stu thoughtfully 27 Drake was the common denominator between two unsolved cases in the last three months and this latest one. 28 He just happened to be acquainted with each victim. Pure coincidenceaccording to the respective victims.
“No, were not. And your point is?”
Nice opening chapter. You have some good conflict--the most important element in fiction. Good lead-in chapter promising further action. I see a well thought out story with a unique plot idea. Your voice has punch.
I’d like to see you tighten things up, remove superfluous wording. You do a pretty good job showing your story, but then go too far by also telling what you’ve just shown.
What I’d like to see is more intensive character development. Let the reader get a feel for both Ginger and Stu’s characters right off the bat. You should always be thinking ‘character development’. EVERY movement or word needs to reflect both the kind of person they are and the way they’re feeling at that very moment. Try asking yourself, how should this character be portrayed to best advantage? What do I want the reader to think of him/her? You’ve got some good internal thoughts going on so far.
1 - DELETE warm because the word oppressive already gives the impression of heat, warmth, and mugginess. Also, I attended a conference where the moderator joked about all the books that begin with a description of the weather. So, with that in mind, Im going to suggest switching the first and second paragraphs with each other. Also, I suggest deleting the sentence about the oppressive air because it, and the next sentence, let the reader know the weather without actually telling its hot. Maybe put the bit about the air conditioning being useless till a little further in the story. Another thing, can you give us a better idea of her personality by the way she brushed her hair away? Was she worried and absently poked at it? Was she angry and thrust it back? Was she feeling sexy and teased it behind her ear?
2 - Character development suggestion: Stus blue (or whatever) eyes browsed the length of the boardroom table, resting a scant second longer on Gingers face (or skipping it altogether, but either way bring the reader into the picture). Are there lots of men there? How is Stu acting? You dont need a lot of words to tell us. Sometimes just one or two thrown in make all the difference.
3 - When he said this, did he acknowledge her in any way? Or did he pointedly ignore her? Later we find out theyre friends, but that wouldnt necessarily make him treat her as one of the guys. The acknowledgement or lack of it will develop both his personality and foreshadow a bit about their relationship.
4 - Maybe you could put in someones name here. Give the problem an identity. Even if the reader doesnt know who it is yet. A name is something to grasp onto.
5 - Delete THE LAST because its understood.
6 - Delete HAD because its passive. Use action verbs whenever possible. Maybe use simply opened
7 - How many? A definite number lends credibility.
8 - The previous sentence said they were probably discussing the merits of the info then she speculated about something else. Can you make this clearer? Not only will it bring the plot into better focus, itll give the reader some insight into Gingers character.
9 - What case? Does it have a name? A category? Or is it the next case? The most important one of the year? Why is everyone going to want it? Entice the reader.
9A - Delete ‘she knew’ since it’s all from her perspective. The whole thing is stuff she knows. Just say, ‘Stu would not give in…’
10 - Why did she do this? Can you make it clearer? One word or so, to bring a picture to the readers mind. Was it wrinkled? Was it an unconscious gesture? Why did she do it briskly? Was she nervous? If so, what about saying something like, the solid oak door represented just one more barrier during her short stay at Wellingtons. The next was the request she was about to make of Stu.
11 - Delete determined to leave her doubts and insecurities outside in the hallway. When people take a composing breath, its most often to suck up courage. When Ginger does this, the reader knows shes got a problem. If you say more, its telling. A big no-no.
12 - Can you give us a better idea of her personality by the way she moves or enters the room? Is she shy, worried, frightened? Dont TELL us, SHOW us by the way she moves. For example: if shes nervous, what about saying something like her steps were mincing and slow, but somehow she covered the six feet to the desk in record time. OR she edged toward his desk, wiping her palms on her skirt. Question: is the air conditioning as useless here as it was in the boardroom? Heres a good place to mention it.
13 – Do you mean paunch?
14 - Give the name?
15 - Whenever possible, let the dialogue do the work for the LY words. When she sets herself squarely in the chair, youve given the impression shes being deliberate and thoughtful. Also, her words I want the case show her directness so I think you can delete this word.
16 - Delete Stu cut in. When possible, try not to use he said she said he cut in. Try something like Stu raised his hand to stop her.
17 - Knowing she wouldnt want to go, hed probably make this trivial chore sound important.
18 - Tell us what sort of jewelry--being in the insurance business, theyd be detailed about things like that. Tell also its value.
19 - Delete Ginger completed this sentence with contempt. The dialogue is already contemptuous. Make the dialogue do more than pass words back and forth between characters. Make it show emotion. Develop character.
20 – Since this is in her point of view, you dont need to say she knew. Just say She was pushing him, but… ON THE OTHER HAND
21 - Delete this sentence. Its telling and youve already shown her pushing him with her movements and dialogue.
22 - Delete frowned with displeasure. Just say Stu turned his attention to the pile of papers before him. Ginger and the reader will know shes being dismissed.
23 - Delete to accumulate the pent up irritability. When she clenches her hands, we know whats happening.
24 - Reads a little awkward. What about when several seconds had passed and Ginger hadnt shown any sign of leaving, Stu lifted his eyes, fixing her with a questioning gaze.
25 - Sent away instead of be sent out of his office. Its shorter and more to the point.
26 - Try to avoid adjectives and adverbs. In this case, you can delete pointedly because this dialogue is already to the point.
27 - Good place for a little character development on both their parts. What about Ginger leaned back in the chair, once again giving the impression of serenity. She blinked her dark eyes and waited, hoping to put him on the spot, a place she knew he wasnt comfortable.
28 - Is this a third case, or the second?
Last Updated: 22 November 2017
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