Because the judges were divided, a third judge was asked to look at the manuscript.
The first two judges were divided on the opening.
The first said: “This feels so rushed that I feel like it’s a synopsis of a longer novel. The first section, we’re introduced to P.K., she threatens Sheridan, yells at a reporter, beats the crap out of his son, and finds out Sheridan’s been murdered. This is five or six chapter’s worth, but it feels jammed into too tight a section. Give me more detail, setting, everything.”
The second said: Immediately hooked with sensory and character details. Action begins immediately.
The third said: This is an interesting setup, lots going on. It does seem a little rushed but is, overall, effective. It’s not clear why both P.K. and Randolph are here, especially in light of the receptionist’s immediate assumption that she’s a trucker. I think we need a little more information so we can understand why they are both in the same place at the same time. It seems intentional, but what does this have to do with her being a trucker? Watch POV. For example, when PK pulls her hair back in the opening scene, there are a few sentences about her flawless complexion and haunted appearance. We’ve been in PK’s head until now, and this takes the reader out of the story, since she can’t see herself (and even if she could, it’s unlikely she would think of herself that way).
Judge 1: There’s no time to get to know P.K., so I have no idea whether I should believe that she’s innocent or guilty. The reader needs to get to know your protagonist, have ideas about how she would react.
Judge 2: Excellent job of presenting the characters: ” “His dark, penetrating eyes never failed to disconcert her. He had the air of a big, important man. He was quick, perceptive, and he was waiting for her to acknowledge him.” “His tick eyebrows were clipped and when he brushed a large hand across his face, she noticed his manicured nails.” “Her hair was a frizzed bob, giving her a wind-blown look, and her faded red blouse was belted loosely at the waist of her khaki pants. She wore too much make-up, too much jewelry and reeked of self-confidence.”
Judge 1: Where is this set? Why is it there? I get a sense of the hotel, but not the region, and as truck drivers, geography would be paramount for these characters.
Judge 2: The sights and smells of New Orleans come to life. “P.K. Everett wrinkled her nose as the fishy smell assaulted her nostrils.” Great sentence. “The convoluted mixture of colognes and aftershaves mingled with the smell of crawfish.” The picture painted of his ransacked apartment was vivid.
Judge 3: There hasn’t been much opportunity to experience the setting, other than the hotel. A few more strategically place, specific sensory details would help create a stronger sense of place. Also (not a criticism, just an observation), I associate New Orleans with good food, whereas a “fishy” smell connotes anything but. Was that intentional?
Judge 1: There was no difference between the way P.K. spoke and the way Lori spoke. Characters can best show their individuality through their dialogue, so take advantage of that and show their distinct personality.
Judge 3: The dialogue was generally good. Could have been a bit crisper in places.
Judge 1: Give us more background early on about P.K. and why she’s so angry. Her conflicts with others are coming across as petty and childish, primarily because we don’t have any backing.
Judge 1: There’s definitely a passion in your writing about the topic. I believe you genuinely are enthusiastic about the characters, and that shines through. You have a streamlined writing style very similar to Elmore Leonard, and it’s excellent. Work on pacing and plot, and your style will carry you far.