Wednesday, September 12, 2012

CAGI Entry #91

Genre: Women’s fiction
Word Count: 97,000


No matter how exciting Laura Sanders’s life may appear - working as a TV producer, living in a luxury condo in Los Angeles and travelling the world - to her it’s nothing but a sham. Laura is a virgin at age 28, and not by choice. She’s resigned to a dull, lonely life in the company of a few friends and her disinterested cat. Then she sees Mamma Mia! The film hits Laura like a stampede of ABBA fans, with Meryl Streep seeming to dance off the screen to show Laura all the joy and passion her own life lacks. 

Laura creates a fantasy starring herself as the intern set photographer for Mamma Mia. It gives her a chance to enjoy the fun of Hollywood and access to Meryl’s wisdom and friendship. Back in reality things aren’t bad either. Laura gets a promotion that brings her into Natalie’s and Vera’s orbit. Whereas Laura knows every Danish director of the dogma movement, Natalie and Vera know every variety of vibrator on the market. With imaginary-Meryl by her side, Laura has the confidence to move into their ranks without fear of being caught out as the loser she thinks she is. Laura learns to accept herself. She embarks on a journey to discover her own sexuality and reawakens to the possibility that love awaits her after all.

But Laura also finds her bright daydreams have a dark side. Fantasies are more intoxicating than reality, and Laura is starting to get lost in hers. If she doesn't start taking what she has learned from her imaginary life and using it to connect with real people, Laura is in danger of losing touch with reality permanently.  

I’ve worked as a TV producer for the last thirteen years. I’m currently living in Germany as a freelance journalist, screenwriter and photographer. 

First 250:

I’m Laura M. Sanders.
I’m twenty-eight.
I’m a TV producer in Los Angeles.
I've travelled the world.
I have a cat named Sartre.
I drive a Horizon Blue Mini Convertible.
I own 108 pair of shoes. 
I’m a virgin.

The worst part about my pathetic, sex- and relationshipless life is the constant pretending. Pretending to be normal. Fact is everybody knows the drama of relationships, the passion, the pain. Not knowing makes you an utter and complete freak. At least that's how I feel. Until some years ago I used to be honest and tell friends at some point that I was still a virgin and never had a boyfriend. Someday I’ll tell a stranger that I killed a person. Simply to see if that confession arouses a similar mortified look.

After the look there’s always the pity. And after the pity the good advice.

Good Advice Number One: Be dumb. Men don’t like smart women.

Good Advice Number Two: Be hard to get. Men still think like hunters.

Good Advice Number Three: Be a listener. Men need attention. 

After the look, the pity and the good advice, there’s the worst part: the awkward silence. After all, everything everybody ever seems to talk about are relationships. Who they met, who texted, called or wrote, or who didn’t, and what either implies. Who broke up with whom, who got engaged, who is pregnant, who had an affair, who is good in bed, who is hot  … and of course you need stories to contribute. So I make up stories.


  1. I liked the 250 much better than the query. Reading about someone's fantasy life just seems sort of boring for me and I just don't buy that her fantasy life would be that exciting to keep her into it. Also, I have no idea who "Natalie and Vera" are and throwing their names in sort of threw me off.

    I did like the way you started the 250. The sentence that started with "Fact is" read a little rough, but I loved the "someday I'll say I killed someone" line :-)

    Good luck!

  2. I didn't understand the "Laura is a virgin at age 28, and not by choice." I don't know one woman who's a virgin who hasn't made that choice herself. Just because someone lives a dull life doesn't mean they can't get [bleeep] if they really want to. Even if a woman is coyote ugly.

    Finally, regarding your opening 250, I'd cut the list. Personally, I prefer narrative openings as opposed to lists and dialogue. There is a lot of repetitiveness too.

    I have to disagree with your Good Advice Number One... Men actually DO like intelligent women.

    Good luck with story!

  3. I'm with Aldine on this one - I disagree with that sentiment. I really don't think men like dumb women over smart women.

    I have mixed feelings on your opening few lines. On the face of it, I do like the structure - it's quirky. But to be honest the sum of it didn't give me a good sense of character, other than to leave me wondering why she's a virgin. If all of them tied together to form a picture I think it might have worked better for me - e.g. a combination to show me a character with low self-esteem, or a high pace no-time-for-love career, or some such. Right now it just seems a little like a disjointed series of tells which, in my opinion, would be better delivered elsewhere.

    Your query I quite liked. I like the idea of making up stories. Love the idea of this woman living such a fantasy, if a rather obscure one. So I think in terms of premise you've got something quite compelling. Nice work!

  4. While I know "men don't like smart women" is so untrue, many women do believe that... unfortunately. So it can be the advise of many "uninformed" women... I'm a little wary of the opening list myself. Not that I disliked it... but all of that will probably come out in the narrative. The killing a person line was awesome, by the way - love it!

    The query could probably use just a little work... When you first mention Natalie and Vera, follow up with who they are/what they do... or leave out the names altogether and just introduce them as "two women who..." and consider telling us how the promotion brings her into their orbit. Something like that will bring it together better, I think. Show us how her fantasy world is more exciting than her reality... or why she thinks it is... Hm, I hope that makes sense and helps some.

    You've got a really interesting premise here. Good job and good luck!

  5. This is another entry where I think your opening is much stronger than your query. The format is quirky and a little daring - opening with "My name is/I'm ___" tends to be a no-no, but I like it here.

    The voice and the advice are funny and well-written, but I want to see that voice brought into your query.

    Right now, the query reads a bit flat to me, and the premise is putting me off quite a bit. It reads like Mamma Mia! fan fiction - so I'd suggest lightening up on that angle and playing up the imaginary friend aspect of this. Less 'All Abba All The Time' and a little bit more 'I Never Promised You A Rose Garden', both to bring some gravitas to the material, as well as to emphasize your conflict. (Because her virginity is not a conflict. Her tenuous relationship with reality? Yeah, I'd read that.)