Monday, January 21, 2013

Bouncer Post #41

Genre: Humorous Fiction
Word Count: 50,239


Johnnie Walker is out of rehab, decent shampoo, and options. Now, armed with only her best friend's support and curative '80s music, she's fighting to mend her reputation in the television industry and stay sober while navigating Los Angeles with her hapless business partners. Nagging doubts, contemptuous Hollywood executives, and a debilitating obsession are fraught with emotional peril that could derail her resurrection.

Made for TV offers a glimpse into the comical, chaotic lives of three wannabe TV writers who dream up ridiculous (and occasionally brilliant) new shows. The story follows recovering alcoholic Johnnie and her colleagues, Sanjay and Kyle, as they struggle to build Made for TV, a fledgling idea firm in West Hollywood. Jerome, the team's ominous office assistant, and Johnnie's friend Meg, an associate at a TV production company, aid their efforts. When the trio is finished cultivating their bigger-than-life ideas, they venture out to pitch the screen "gems" to a less-than-enthusiastic entertainment world that's peppered with cynicism and celebrities. Their endeavors are often complicated by awkward encounters with powerful industry players and well-known actors.

Made for TV also delves into the muddled psyche of prickly Johnnie. What fuels her angst? How did she end up in L.A.? And why does she seem emotionally trapped in the 1980s, listening exclusively to music from that era and compulsively watching the 1989 film Say Anything? The answers reveal a tale of lost love that might be reclaimed—if the stars in Hollywood align.

Similar Carl Hiaasen's Strip Tease, the farcical Made for TV is a fun read with strong mainstream appeal. The story would be of interest to television aficionados, celebrity-watchers, '80s music fans, and an entire generation of women who fell in love with John Cusack as Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything.

First 250:

Johnnie glanced in the rearview mirror and sighed as her battered convertible idled in the parking lot. Large, red zits were claiming real estate on her face that wasn't already occupied by fine lines, and her hair was staging a mutiny against the lousy, generic shampoo that smelled like strawberries and cream. She pushed her indignant, brown mane into a large clip and added Make a dermatology appointment with Dr. Zaks and Order a case of obscenely expensive shampoo to her mental list of things to do if she ever had money again.

After applying a few quick dabs of weapons-grade concealer, she silently acknowledged that, at this cash-strapped point in her life, nothing more could be done to salvage her appearance; it was yet another by-product of her idiotic choices, another piper paid. She shoved a pair of sunglasses onto her face, raised her chin to summon whatever determination she could, and set off toward the freeway.

Another sun-kissed morning on the 10. Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Cities in Dust" blared from the car radio as Johnnie navigated the congested California interstate. The song, played at full volume, penetrated her crusty outer layers and connected with a stronger, more vibrant version of herself—the Johnnie she was before—that still dwelled beneath. It lifted Johnnie out of her emotional smog and gave her the motivation she needed to tackle the day's numerous challenges: Made for TV, Sanjay, Kyle, Cat Circus, Dixon-Cooper, sobriety. She'd brought it all on herself.


  1. Humor's always tricky. so bear with me.

    The opening line of your query hooked me immediately, although at first the name Johnnie Walker made me think of J.A. Konrath. You can decide if that's a good thing or not. ;)

    The middle felt a little too much; I'd stick to the three main characters and avoid introducing the assistant and friend.

    I'd cut the last paragraph of the query. The possibility for hilarity to ensue is there; you don't need to oversell it. Your query already tells an agent/editor what type of story it is and who the story would appeal to.

    In your first 250 words, I wanted to know more about Johnnie instead of her appearance.

    There are a ton of details described--her convertible, her zits, her hair, her to-do list--but it's not until the third paragraph where we see a glimpse of what Johnnie is all about. That's when Johnnie becomes captivating for me.

    My two cents. Good luck!

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this and provide comments, Bonnie! I knew the query was too long, but I wanted to throw it out there and see what kind of feedback I got. I think your suggestions for trimming are right on the money.

  2. I love the first line of your query, it sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the first paragraph. I feel the rest of your query could benefit from specific events. For example, instead of saying, "Their endeavors are often complicated by awkward encounters with powerful industry players and well-known actors." You could try, "Johnnie's recovery is threatened when she spills her wheat grass smoothie over power producer, Mr. MegaMoney's, $5000 Italian suit during her pitch meeting."

    I think your concept is interesting and something I would read.

    1. Ah, that's an excellent idea, aereichert! Thanks so much!

  3. Now I am no one to even start talking about Humor novels...heck, I just write MG / YA so the humor in my writing is nowhere near what yours probably is. BUT, I do enjoy reading humor so let me take a crack at it.

    Agreeing with the above - the opening line to the query gave me a nice wide smirk. The entire first paragraph of the query, I think, sets the tone perfectly for the novel. It's hard for me to really "critique" the rest of the query, since I'm out of my element. I do feel like you can give more actual events like aerei said above and I do love her example. This will prevent the query from sounding too vague.

    As for your first 250, I love the voice and pacing and can definitely see myself wanting to read this just so I can find out just sort of scenarios she gets herself into. But I do want to see more of her character rather than descriptions in the first 250 words.I really want to relate right off the bat, especially in this type of novel where it is entirely MC persona driven.

    All in all - I still want to read it!

    Good luck!

    1. What do you mean you "just write MG/YA"?? Writing well, for any level, is HARD. Period. I don't think it matters what genre you choose. If you like reading humor and can appreciate different types of humor, then I think you're qualified to provide a critique. The first 250 words of this novel are something of a slow build, but things pick up soon after - I swear! - and it's actually a pretty fast-paced story. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, Copernicus. I really appreciate it.

    2. AGREED!!! Props to all of us writers, seriously. What have we gotten ourselves into!

  4. I’m afraid I’m not bouncing your entry in, but I do have some feedback and thoughts for you that I hope you'll find helpful.

    • The query is telling us what the story is about; it should show us instead.
    • Cool concept, but I don’t come away from this query with a decent idea of what the stakes or consequences are here. To be honest, I think the query needs a major overhaul (with the exception of the last paragraph - you've got great comp titles there and it does a great job capturing the mood).

    First Page:
    • Good writing, we get a great feel for the character.
    • Also you have some delightful choice phrasing (“weapons-grade concealer” was a particular favorite!)
    • This may be personal taste, but for me this was lacking conflict in the first page. There's lots of voice to be sure (and kudos to you for that - it's hard to do!), but watching people get ready for work is not usually the sort of thing that would pull me onward. It's entertaining enough that I'd definitely keep reading for a few more pages, but I'd need to get a sense of what the MC wants and what stands in her way fast.

    Anyway, I hope you find something useful in my thoughts - keep writing, keep revising, and thanks for entering the contest! :D

  5. Thanks, Bouncer Starfruit! I really appreciate the time you took to provide a thoughtful critique of my work. This is all extremely valuable info. And thanks again to all of the authors who stopped by to comment. Your kind words and suggestions were all a great help to me. Best of luck to everyone moving on to the next round!