February 28, 2012

critique request: unengaged

I am almost done with the first draft of my current novel in progress. That means in a matter of days — or weeks if the ending proves difficult to write — I will begin the next phase: revisions.

Here is where you can help. In writing this story, I most struggled with the beginning. I previously posted the first 500 words, and I took the feedback I received to heart. This is a completely new opener, and I would love to know what you think. Pretty please. With sugar on top.

Before you read it, here is a little background on this story: In Unengaged, a young woman must save her family's wedding planning business from bankruptcy, even if it means taking on her ex as a client. With that, here you go:
A pregnant bride, missing florist, and dueling mothers by no means helped Elliot Lynch coordinate her first solo event.

Never mind the fudged figures in the company’s financial records. Those could wait until she met with her father and sister. The wedding crumbling around her would not. The Hamilton wedding was already a mess.

She wished her sister or father was there to help. It was her first day back as a wedding planner for Engagements, her family’s event planning business.

Her sister, who was scheduled to attend event planning conventions and bridal shows the next four weeks, at list minute booked one for this weekend. Her father decided to travel to Boston to visit his mother in her nursing home, today. Both were good reasons to be MIA, but Elliot wished they would have been there today of all days.

The wedding might not be as huge and splashy as it could have, given the family’s prominence, but it was still a big deal. It would have been nice to have a more low key event as her first solo wedding.

Elliot took a calming breath. Inhale through the nose. Exhale through the nose. It had little effect. Her heart was still racing, and her nerves threatened to take over. If this was an indication of how every event would go for the next month, she might need a prescription for anti-anxiety pills.

“Marissa.” Elliot grabbed her friend’s arm to stop her from following the bride’s mother. “We need the bouquets an hour ago. Call the florist and give the phone to me.”

“But—” Marissa looked longingly at the mothers of the bride and groom, who looked about ready to fight each other.

“I’ll take care of them,” Elliot said. “Get the florist on the phone, and then go help the bride. She doesn’t feel well.”

Her firm expression and tone got through to Marissa. Her friend seemed to realize the full situation and nodded her agreement. Being a witness to the fight brewing between the two society women might be exciting, but seeing Elliot snap would be horrible.

Elliot was usually carefully in control of her emotions, but when she lost them the fallout was indescribably bad. Marissa was one of few people to ever see it, and she knew well enough not to be around when it happened.

Leaving Marissa to call the florist, Elliot marched over to the moms.

Fortunately they were oblivious to the chaos surrounding the day. Instead, they were angry fighting about shoes.

Longtime friends and society competitors, they were delighted when their children decided to marry. They planned the day together with their children for more than a year, and were determined to make the small garden wedding the talk of the summer.

Though the women had coordinated outfits, they apparently did not discuss their shoe selection. When they arrived wearing the same pair of expensive designer heels, each was incensed. How dare the other try to upstage them on their child’s day?

Elliot knew their type. Her family was considered to be among them, even if their recent circumstances might suggest otherwise. She knew the women were a little vain and that flattery was the best way to get through to them.

She also knew that both women loved their children. They would be mortified later if they made a scene now.

“Ladies,” she said. Her voice oozed politeness and class. “Have I told you how beautiful you look, today? The photographer and I were actually just talking about how amazing it was to have not one, but two gorgeous mothers in this wedding.”

Her words stopped the women. Knowing she had a small margin, Elliot worked quickly.

“Oh my goodness, look at your shoes,” she said. “Well you two thought of everything. What a great idea.”

“Great idea?” the bride’s mother asked cautiously.

“Yes, it’s a great idea — matching shoes for the mothers of the bride and groom. People are always obsessed about matching shoes for the bridesmaids, but you two took it to another level,” Elliot said. “I can tell you that in all my years around weddings, I have never seen two women manage the details like you.

“I bet everyone who sees those shoes, which are fabulous by the way, will want to have their moms match shoes at their weddings.”

“Do you think?” the groom’s mother asked.

“Oh absolutely,” Elliot said. “I bet that next summer it will be all the rage.”

Both women grinned. The thought of being industry trendsetters was apparently a new and welcome thought for them. She was relieved her contrived compliment went over so well.

“Ladies, could I ask you to come over here so I can have the photographer take a picture?” Elliot asked. “I confess I’m dying to have a picture of the two of you. I want to be able to show people that you were the first.”

She doubted it would become a leading wedding trend, but maybe it would. At least she had diverted one crisis. The women nodded, and Elliot motioned the photographer over. She gave a quick direction, and turned to Marissa, who had the florist on the line.

“Where are you?” she asked, her teeth clenched together. “You were supposed to be here with the bouquets two hours ago.”

“I wanted to check the reception site again,” the florist said. “It all looks good there. The arrangements are going to blow people away.”

“That’s great,” she said. “But I have a photographer here who wants to take pictures of the bride and her bridesmaids, and they don’t have bouquets.”

“That’s not a problem,” the florist said, “they can just take their photos after the wedding.”

“They can, and they will, but that doesn’t change the fact that your contract said you would have the photos here and in their hands two hours ago. The wedding is in less than an hour. If you are not here in five minutes, I will advise the bride and groom to contest the contract for a refund.

“I’ll also encourage my future clients to use a different vendor.”

After a silent moment, the florist agreed to be there in five minutes and apologized profusely.

“Wow,” Marissa said. “I forgot how scary wedding planner Elliot can be.”

“I hate having to that.” She was almost out of breath. “Confrontation is awful. Threatening people is even worse. I feel like I’m channeling my sister every time I do it.”

Marissa laughed, knowing first-hand how much Elliot disliked comparisons to her older sister Libby.

“How about I go meet the florist, and you help the bride,” Marissa said.

Nodding, Elliot asked, “What’s up with the bride?”

“She seems to be done throwing up, but she won’t stop crying,” Marissa said. Her excitement was obvious. “No surprise there given the bun in her oven.”

Elliot sighed. Her friend obviously figured out the secret. The bride’s morning sickness gave it away, but she wished Marissa did not look as thrilled as she did.

“Can you please keep that quiet until they’re ready to go public with it? They have more than enough going on right now without having to worry about their wedding planners blabbing that news to everyone in Massachusetts.”

More contrite than before, Marissa nodded.

“Poor girl,” she said. “It must be awful to be this sick on your wedding day. She’s not going to have any fun.”

Her friend’s sympathy soothed Elliot’s anxiety and temper.

“We’ll make sure she.” Elliot nodded. “I brought a couple bottles of non-alcoholic champagne for her to drink. The caterer also made a few last minute changes to the menu to remove anything that makes the bride nauseous to smell.”

“Before he went missing, I asked the florist to remove anything overly fragrant from the bride’s bouquet,” Marissa said. “The last thing we need is for the bride to throw up all over the minister’s shoes.”

Elliot smiled at Marissa. Her friend might be a gossiper and high strung, but she came through when it mattered most. She prayed they would both make it through the day.
So... what do you think? I welcome any suggestions. I want to make this novel better, and your feedback will help. Feel free to post them here on the comments, or if you would like to make them more private, send me an email. I truly appreciate your help.

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