#SonOfAPitch Team Leia: THE MARRIAGE ACT

Title: THE MARRIAGE ACT

Category and Genre: Adult, Women’s Fiction
Word Count: 90,000
the marriage act
Query:

When Maggie summons her twin Josie for lunch in the middle of a work day, Josie knows there’s a favor looming.  When Maggie asks asexual Josie to be her surrogate, Josie is tempted to brush aside the clump of hair that’s hidden her eyes since high school to see if she’s serious.  But when Maggie insists that Josie get pregnant the old-fashioned way, by sleeping with her husband, Josie’s heard enough.  She packs up her salad and heads for the door.  

That’s when Maggie says if Josie doesn’t do it, she’ll use a former classmate who just ducked embezzlement charges and wants to have sex with her husband.  What choice does Josie have?  She’s spent her life protecting Maggie, saving her soul at the expense of her own.  She’s never said no to Maggie.  After all, they’re practically one person.

But there’s a lot about Maggie that Josie doesn’t know — the reason for her infertility, that she’s having an affair . . . her compulsion to claim for herself everyone who has ever wanted Josie.  Flirty and adorable, Maggie doesn’t expect the shift in her husband’s affection.  It never occurred to her that he could fall for sexless Josie.  Or Josie for him.

Told from the perspectives of Maggie, Josie and their husbands (one of whom is unreliable), it turns out Maggie’s not the only one with something to hide.  In the aftermath of the “act,” their marriages seemingly over and the twins at odds, the couples wait to learn whether Josie is pregnant.  At long last, Maggie and Josie must come to terms with the incestuous relationship that turned them toward and away from each other, and molded their identities. 

 
First 250 Words:

Josie’s cell phone rang again, the ringtone it came programmed with emanating from the battered vinyl purse slung over the back of her desk chair.  It had been ringing repeatedly for an hour which meant it was Maggie.  When her twin wanted to talk, she meant now.  Maggie didn’t know what it meant to work.  That you can’t stop an experiment mid-culture to yack about whether Maggie should try bangs or to congratulate her on losing two pounds.

Eighteen.  Josie counted the rings subconsciously.  She was math-y that way.  Numbers spoke to her better than people.

“Would you pick up the damn phone, Josie?  It’s driving me nuts,” Jack Randall called from the next office.  It wasn’t like Jack, who co-directed the forensic lab with her, couldn’t be annoying.  He spent plenty of time on YouTube and Hulu while he set up cultures and rubber-stamped requisitions.  If he was doing something rote, it never occurred to him that Josie might be trying to concentrate, even if she pointedly closed her door.  But Josie never spoke up, never told him off, didn’t today.  She wasn’t that way. 

The office walls were paper thin.  They weren’t even proper walls, just dividers that gave lab directors the illusion they’d risen above the mere benches.  As a result, Josie knew way too much about Jack, his rocky marriage, his druggie kid, his gambling, his girlfriend.  She didn’t want him, or anyone, to know about her.

 

9 thoughts on “#SonOfAPitch Team Leia: THE MARRIAGE ACT”

  1. All my comments are my opinions. Please take what works and ignore the rest.
    Query:
    When Maggie summons her twin Josie for lunch in the middle of a work day, Josie knows there’s a favor looming. When Maggie asks asexual Josie to be her surrogate, Josie is tempted to brush aside the clump of hair that’s hidden her eyes since high school to see if she’s serious. But when Maggie insists that Josie get pregnant the old-fashioned way, by sleeping with her husband, Josie’s heard enough. She packs up her salad and heads for the door.
    (Dude. Whoa. MAGGIE, WHAT? As much as I love the brush aside the hair to see if she’s joking line…I don’t think you need it.)

    That’s when Maggie says if Josie doesn’t do it, she’ll use a former classmate who just ducked embezzlement charges and wants to have sex with her husband. What choice does Josie have? She’s spent her life protecting Maggie, saving her soul at the expense of her own. She’s never said no to Maggie. After all, they’re practically one person.
    (I’d cut the “What choice does Josie have?” and “She’s never said no to Maggie.” AND GEEZ MAGGIE!)

    But there’s a lot about Maggie that Josie doesn’t know — the reason for her infertility, that she’s having an affair . . . her compulsion to claim for herself everyone who has ever wanted Josie. Flirty and adorable, Maggie doesn’t expect the shift in her husband’s affection. It never occurred to her that he could fall for sexless Josie. Or Josie for him.
    (Oh snap)

    Told from the perspectives of Maggie, Josie and their husbands (one of whom is unreliable), it turns out Maggie’s not the only one with something to hide. In the aftermath of the “act,” their marriages seemingly over and the twins at odds, the couples wait to learn whether Josie is pregnant. At long last, Maggie and Josie must come to terms with the incestuous relationship that turned them toward and away from each other, and molded their identities.
    (I’d cut the first line of this para…Then the stakes…the moment of decision that changes everything, this coming to terms you mention. If they do this than what? If they don’t do this then what in their lives is at risk? Cut “At long last” The query is long, but easy to cut down. Very powerful. I really like this. The premise…whoa, full of drama. I’ll just pick up the pieces of my mind…)

    First 250 Words:
    Josie’s cell phone rang again, the ringtone it came programmed with emanating from the battered vinyl purse slung over the back of her desk chair. It had been ringing repeatedly for an hour which meant it was Maggie. When her twin wanted to talk, she meant now. Maggie didn’t know what it meant to work. That you can’t stop an experiment mid-culture to yack about whether Maggie should try bangs or to congratulate her on losing two pounds.
    (I do get a feeling for the girls already! And where is Josie? What is she doing? Seeing? Smelling? Hearing?)

    Eighteen. Josie counted the rings subconsciously. She was math-y that way. Numbers spoke to her better than people.
    (Numbers are awesome. Love this detail.)

    “Would you pick up the damn phone, Josie? It’s driving me nuts,” Jack Randall called from the next office. It wasn’t like Jack, who co-directed the forensic lab with her, couldn’t be annoying. He spent plenty of time on YouTube and Hulu while he set up cultures and rubber-stamped requisitions. If he was doing something rote, it never occurred to him that Josie might be trying to concentrate, even if she pointedly closed her door. But Josie never spoke up, never told him off, didn’t today. She wasn’t that way.
    (This bit about Jack pulled me from the story. I don’t know if we need to know all this. You can easily have her show us this passive side of herself by noticing how he hasn’t turned off YouTube and then smile and nod and get her phone.)

    The office walls were paper thin. They weren’t even proper walls, just dividers that gave lab directors the illusion they’d risen above the mere benches. As a result, Josie knew way too much about Jack, his rocky marriage, his druggie kid, his gambling, his girlfriend. She didn’t want him, or anyone, to know about her.
    (Again, what does this have to do with the story? I want to know more about Josie and Maggie, not Jack. I want to be set in Josie’s life…where she is, what she’s doing. What Maggie means to her, though she annoys her.)

  2. Hi Kathy

    Thanks so much for your comments. I particularly agree with your comments about my first 250 and Jack taking you out of the story. I’ll get on that.

  3. Thanks so much for participating in Son of a Pitch! I have some comments and suggestions below for you.

    YOUR QUERY

    This sounds really interesting!

    Try to reword to get rid of some of the “when” statements and unnecessary information to keep the query fresh and clean. I would also suggest getting rid of the first sentence, as it doesn’t really add anything.

    You might try something like:

    When Maggie asked her asexual twin sister, Josie, to be her surrogate, Josie’s tempted to brush aside the clump of hair that’s hidden her eyes since high school to see if she’s serious. She is. And Maggie’s insisent that Josie get pregnant the old-fashioned way: by sleeping with her husband.

    Josie has no interest in this arrangement, but Maggie isn’t giving her a choice. Josie has spent her life protecting Maggie, saving her soul at the expense of her own. They’re pratically one person.

    But there’s a lot about Maggie that Josie doesn’t know — the reason for her infertility, that she’s having an affair . . . her compulsion to claim for herself everyone who has ever wanted Josie. Flirty and adorable, Maggie doesn’t expect the shift in her husband’s affection.

    It never occurred to her that he could fall for sexless Josie. Or Josie for him.

    As it turns out, however, Maggie isn’t the only one with something to hide. At long last, Maggie and Josie must come to terms with the incestuous relationship that turned them toward and away from each other, and molded their identities.

    Told from the perspectives of Maggie, Josie, and their husbands, THE MARRIAGE ACT deals with the aftermath of the “act”. With their marriages seemingly over and the twins at odds, the couples wait to learn whether Josie is pregnant.

    YOUR FIRST 250:

    Josie’s cell phone rang again, the ringtone it came programmed with emanating from the battered vinyl purse slung over the back of her desk chair. It had been ringing repeatedly for an hour which meant it was Maggie. When her twin wanted to talk, she meant now. Maggie didn’t know what it meant to work. That you can’t stop an experiment mid-culture to yack about whether Maggie should try bangs or to congratulate her on losing two pounds.

    [Try to eliminate some of the uses of “it”. I would also show the phone ringing through action rather than just telling us it’s ringing. What does the ringtone sound like? Is it a loud screech? An annoying jingle? Bells chiming?]

    “Would you pick up the damn phone, Josie? It’s driving me nuts,” Jack Randall called from the next office. It wasn’t like Jack, who co-directed the forensic lab with her, couldn’t be annoying. He spent plenty of time on YouTube and Hulu while he set up cultures and rubber-stamped requisitions. If he was doing something rote, it never occurred to him that Josie might be trying to concentrate, even if she pointedly closed her door. But Josie never spoke up, never told him off, didn’t today. She wasn’t that way.

    [This is a little clunky. I would revise to combine the first two sentences. I would also go with “But Josie never spoke up, never told him off, and didn’t today, either.” for flow.]

    The office walls were paper thin. They weren’t even proper walls, just dividers that gave lab directors the illusion they’d risen above the mere benches. As a result, Josie knew way too much about Jack, his rocky marriage, his druggie kid, his gambling, his girlfriend. She didn’t want him, or anyone, to know about her.

    [I love this. My only suggestion here would be to set that last sentence apart in its own paragraph to make it more powerful. One line paragraphs are great for adding emphasis and oomph when necessary!]

    I really liked this. Best of luck to you!

    1. Hi Ayden

      Really appreciate your comments. I agree about the clunkiness in that first paragraph. Working on synching everyone’s comments. Thanks!

      Paula

  4. Query: Whoa! That’s quite a stack of drama. An asexual character, sleeping with someone else’s husband upon request, twins, surrogacy, infertility, infidelity, and incest. The user-giver dynamic that you lay out between the sisters is interesting and complicated, so I’d give the story a chance. So, good on the ideas/concept part of the query.

    There’s some awkwardness in the paragraphs themselves, though. My bumps:
    -the clump of hair line. It’s funny, but it makes the sentence really long and convoluted. And it’s odd to think someone is tempted to brush back their own hair. Can you show her surprise some other way?
    -I’m going to be a hard sell on first believing that the sister would propose “sleep with my husband” as a path to motherhood and then that Josie would cave so quickly just because her sister says she’ll use someone else. Seems a quick jump to “what choice does Josie have?” So I wonder if I need more on internal motivations and less on external details.
    -An idea for rewording: When Maggie summons her twin Josie for lunch in the middle of a work day, Josie knows there’s a favor looming. She even knows she’ll probably say yes. After all, she’s always protected her twin, even from herself. But there are favors and then there are favors. Josie certainly never expected . . .
    -there’s a transition bump between “ever wanted Josie” and “Flirty and adorable.” Felt like a hard left turn.
    -I was surprised to learn in the final paragraph that Josie has a husband, too.
    -Generally, I wouldn’t include details like point of view choice in a query, but keep the focus on the story alone. So, I’d keep the stuff about the aftermath in the final paragraph, but cut the “told from the perspectives” part.

    250 words: Nice job working in a fair amount of information quickly without making this into a data dump. Her irritation with her sister and colleague gave you opportunities to detail her work and relationships. I’m sorry I didn’t get to hear her answer the phone. But the good news is that I would read more to see what she says.

    Thanks for participating in our query contest. I hope you find the feedback useful! -SB

  5. Query- When I first read your query, I stumbled over two things. One – there were a lot of words 😉 I thought it could be more focused. And Two – wow, that premise. So many forms of conflict- LOVE it! So I tinkered a bit and my musings may help – or not. Great stuff. Best of Luck.

    Query:
    When Maggie asks her asexual twin Josie to be her surrogate, Josie questions the request. But when Maggie insists the pregnancy occur the old-fashioned way, by sleeping with her husband, Josie’s not interest.
    Maggie threatens to use a former classmate who just ducked embezzlement charges and wants to have sex with her husband. Josie has spent her life protecting Maggie, saving her soul at the expense of her own. She’s never said no to Maggie.

    But there’s a lot about Maggie that Josie doesn’t know — the reason for her infertility, that she’s having an affair . . . her compulsion to claim for herself everyone who has ever wanted Josie. Flirty and adorable, Maggie doesn’t expect the shift in her husband’s affection. It never occurred to her that he could fall for sexless Josie. Or Josie for him.

    (As their lives and marriages bear the weight of actions, they wait for news of the pregnancy attempt’s success. But the twins have been hiding almost as much as they’ve been sharing. )Maggie and Josie must come to terms with the incestuous relationship that turned them toward and away from each other, and molded their identities.

    First 250 Words:
    Josie’s cell phone rang again. The pre-programmed generic ringtone emanated from the battered vinyl purse slung over the back of her desk chair. (Love the vinyl purse detail – nice!) It had been ringing repeatedly for an hour, which meant it was Maggie. When her twin wanted to talk, she meant now. And Maggie didn’t know what it meant to work. That you can’t stop an experiment mid-culture to yack about whether Maggie should try bangs or to congratulate her on losing two pounds. (character development ☺)
    Eighteen. Josie counted the rings subconsciously. (She was math-y that way. – needed? Next sentence says same thing) Numbers spoke to her better than people.
    “Would you pick up the damn phone, Josie? It’s driving me nuts,” Jack Randall called from the next office. It wasn’t like Jack, who co-directed the forensic lab with her, couldn’t be annoying. (What is the “it” in the sentence? His outburst or that noise was being generated in her cubicle? Tinker to clarify?) He spent plenty of time on YouTube and Hulu while he set up cultures and rubber-stamped requisitions. If he was doing something rote, it never occurred to him that Josie might be trying to concentrate, even if she pointedly closed her door. But Josie never spoke up, never told him off, didn’t today. She wasn’t that way.
    The paper thin office walls weren’t even proper walls, just dividers that gave lab directors the illusion they’d risen above the mere benches. As a result, Josie knew way too much about Jack, his rocky marriage, his druggie kid, his gambling, and his girlfriend. She didn’t want him, or anyone, to know about her.

    You jump right in to start developing the characters of both Maggie and Josie and I think you do a great job. I like her internal thoughts and feel they are balanced with the office(lab) scene. Great work and great start.

    All thoughts/suggestions/opinions are humbly offered. Thanks for sharing your words.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Elsie. It’s good to hear essentially the same thing a few times – helps you get over your natural resistance! Working on changes.

      Paula

  6. Query:
    When Maggie summons her twin Josie for lunch in the middle of a work day, Josie knows there’s a favor looming. When Maggie [she] asks asexual Josie to be her surrogate, Josie is tempted to brush aside the clump of hair that’s hidden her eyes since high school to see if she’s serious. But when Maggie insists [her twin (and you don’t need “that”)] that Josie get pregnant the old-fashioned way [this seems weird, because “the old-fashioned way” isn’t sleeping with your sister’s husband  You might emphasize this by saying “a twisted version of the old-fashioned way”], by sleeping with her [Maggie’s] husband, Josie’s heard enough. She packs up her salad [I’d change this to “gets a to-go box for her salad”, because I think it’s a better image. Otherwise I get confused thinking she’s putting her salad in a suitcase or something] and heads for the door. [This is really good, and I love seeing your humor. You use the names too much, though. I’d replace some with pronouns etc.]
    That’s when [I’d just say “Maggie stops her and says if she doesn’t agree to be a surrogate, she’ll use…”] Maggie says if Josie doesn’t do it, she’ll use a former classmate who just ducked embezzlement charges and wants to have sex with her husband. What choice does Josie have? She’s spent her life protecting Maggie, saving her soul at the expense of her own. She’s never said no to Maggie. After all, they’re practically one person.
    But there’s a lot about Maggie that Josie doesn’t know — the reason for her infertility, that she’s having an affair . . .[I’d do a comma instead of an ellipsis] her compulsion to claim for herself everyone who has ever wanted Josie. Flirty and adorable,[I’d say “Flirty, adorable Maggie”] Maggie doesn’t expect the shift in her husband’s affection. It never occurred to her that he could fall for sexless Josie. Or Josie for him.
    Told from the perspectives of Maggie, Josie and their husbands (one of whom is unreliable), it turns out Maggie’s not the only one with something to hide. In the aftermath of the “act,” their marriages seemingly over and the twins at odds, the couples wait to learn whether Josie is pregnant. At long last, [I would cut the whole paragraph before this point. You don’t need it. You’ve hooked us already, and the pages will show the points of view and the unreliability] Maggie and Josie must come to terms with the incestuous relationship that turned them toward and away from each other, and molded their identities.
    [this is an awesome concept, by the way]

    First 250 Words:
    Josie’s cell phone rang again, the ringtone it came programmed with emanating from the battered vinyl purse slung over the back of her desk chair. [This is convoluted, especially for a first sentence. I’d say something like, “The preprogrammed ringtone of Jose’s cell emanated from the battered vinyl purse slung over her desk chair.”] It had been ringing repeatedly for an hour [comma] which meant it was Maggie. When her twin wanted to talk, she meant now. Maggie didn’t know what it meant to work. That you can’t stop an experiment mid-culture to yack about whether Maggie should try bangs or to congratulate her on losing two pounds.
    Eighteen. Josie counted the rings subconsciously. She was math-y that way. Numbers spoke to her better than people.
    “Would you pick up the damn phone, Josie? It’s driving me nuts,” Jack Randall called from the next office. It wasn’t like Jack, who co-directed the forensic lab with her, couldn’t be annoying. He spent plenty of time on YouTube and Hulu while he set up cultures and rubber-stamped requisitions. If he was doing something rote, it never occurred to him that Josie might be trying to concentrate, even if she pointedly closed her door. But Josie never spoke up, never told him off, [and that didn’t change today] didn’t today. She wasn’t that way.
    The office walls were paper thin. They weren’t even proper walls, just dividers that gave lab directors the illusion they’d risen above the mere benches. As a result, Josie knew way too much about Jack, his rocky marriage, his druggie kid, his gambling, his girlfriend. She didn’t want him, or anyone, to know about her.
    [this is super cool, and I want to know all this backstory eventually, but you might see what you can cut out here, and work in later in the book. Right now, I just want her to answer her cell phone and find out what Maggie wants.
    Good entry!]

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