Book Jacket


rank 5905
word count 11889
date submitted 01.03.2011
date updated 20.07.2012
genres: Fiction, Comedy
classification: universal

A Most Devout Coward

Carla René

Who knew being a Priest could get you into this much trouble?


When life-long Atheist and social-anxiety sufferer Jack Ryan O'Hanlan witnesses a mob hit in a Manhattan diner and is forced to enter WITSEC and become a Priest, he's certain his life can't get any worse.

Oh, isn't life a kick in the crotch.

Assigned to a Chapel in a small-town prison where locked-doors give him cramps and panic attacks, things get progressively worse. And funnier.

His claustrophobia is so severe he makes his congregants sit inside the confessional. His Bishop, who thinks he would've made a better Saviour than "that deadbeat, Christ," has made it his life's mission to make Jack miserable and find out what Jack's been hiding. And to make matters worse, Jack falls for his smoking-hot boss, a devout Catholic trapped in a loveless and arranged marriage who has asked Jack to officiate her ceremony.

Jack does a decent job at staving off his feelings, but when a prison-break and illness put Julie's job in jeopardy and Jack must man up to save it, he's faced with a decision: Share his feelings and lose her respect, or risk it all to find happiness for the first time in his life.

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Jessica L Degarmo wrote 1066 days ago

Hi Carla,
We'll, I've read the first chapter, and I have to tell you that your humor hits the mark. Jack sounds like quite a character! He's sweet and naive and slightly wacky, and I feel back that he didn't get the corre t broccoli before all hell broke loose. Here are my very humble suggestions about what might have pulled me out of the reading a little:
When Jack is at the police station, he commits his story to pen and paper and then uses the wet-naps, but something about that sentence (the to do so part) doesn't work. To do what? You had been talking about gloves right before that. You may want to change the sentence a little to specify what he is doing, like remove the germs from his normally-clean hands.
Next, regarding the part where the bodyguard/agent man calls Jack his new bitch, shouldn't it be the other way around, if the agent is responsible for the safety of Jack?
One last thing. Jack is perhaps a little odd and myopic, but at times he comes across as slightly stupid, and I'm not sure if that's what you are actually aiming for. Maybe tweak the humor in the diner and the police station a little to have him come across as absent-minded but not obtuse, you know?
All in all, I think this is absolutely adorable, and I chuckled aloud in various spots. Well done, my friend.
Jessica L. Degarmo

eurodan49 wrote 1100 days ago

Hi Carla.
The dialogue sounds real and the comments made me smile—that’s a good sign, I enjoyed the read and I’m backing it.
Good luck.

William Holt wrote 1121 days ago


I showed the opening to my creative writing class (college sophomores) as an exercise just before their spring break and told them I might pass some of their comments on to you.

All but three of the comments were positive.

"The antics of this gentleman kept me interested"
"makes a serious situation into a comical one"
"I think I would like to read on"
"I was thinking could he really be that dumb but as we continued to read, I realized that he indeed was". . . "I was able to visuallize everything that was happening."
"It is really funny."
"Very interesting and it held my attention! Actually made me want to read the book, maybe even during spring break!

These were the negative ones:

"worth a chuckle at the most" . . . "decent read, but something is missing"
"I just don't get moved by a lot of things other people do."
"I just don't think it wil be successful because humor has changed"

Personally, I find it hilarious.


Keefieboy wrote 1123 days ago
Raven Jake wrote 1126 days ago

Your piece has a positive, comedic feel. I like the straight forward telling and enjoyed some of the subtler punchlines. That said, the more explicit punchlines could be underplayed for more impact. I enjoyed this, its a fun read and it sounds like it was fun to write. Here are some structural observations:

(Jack Ryan O’Donnell was trying to enjoy his usual lunch of steamed organic broccoli and distilled hot water. But as he was about to send the broccoli back a third time, a bullet went whizzing by his right ear.)
There is no reason to separate these sentences. With the separation eliminate the passive 'was trying' and replace with 'tried' to keep the story active.

(Without registering what had just occurred, Jack noticed)
Watch your 'noticed' actions for perspective.

(third slug...9mm round )
Funny situation. Two different aesthetics here.

(Jack noticed)
Again with the perspective. Go into the details of the situation rather than have the character constantly noticing things. It gives the reader a fun and voyeuristic look, and if you're accentuating his observational skills simply have him react to any number of said details and it will be implied that he 'noticed' it.

(Little did Jack realize, these details would come in very handy in the near future.)
This doesn't serve any purpose other than to state the obvious to the reader. It does have a kind of pulp aesthetic if you want it, but it isn't accomplishing much.

(Suddenly, the events registered with Jack, and he stood at his table and screamed like a pre-pubescent cheerleader, “Oh my God, we’ve been hit!” Certainly not one of his more attractive qualities.)
This is funny, but it isn't nailed perfectly. This punchline should be downplayed with the quiet actions of Jack and the unorthodox timing of his reaction.

(Slowly, everyone retreated from their positions on the floor, from behind chairs, and lunch counters.)
Retreated isn't a good verb for this, as they retreated to those positions. Find a more suitable action.

(the waitress came straight to Jack.)
Came is a non-descript action here.

(Twenty minutes later, Jack was sitting in the back door of the ambulance wrapped in a blanket, a paramedic taking his vital signs.)
Not quite a line break time lapse.

(Jack walked over to the tall man with the brown tweed jacket and green tie, his gold shield displayed prominently on his lapel.)
Whose shield and lapel?

(“He had this ... on his face?”)
Don't know if this slapstick nails it. He's Leslie Nelson for something like this. Similar punchline follows.

(“It looked like Ross from the first season of Friends. Black, combed straight down and very short...Yeah, I hated that haircut, too. Now Matthew Perry--that guy, had a haircut.”)
Good follow up...though I hated the whole bunch more than words can express and they filled my heart with the blackness of deep space.

(then said,)
This can be cut for smoothness of read.

(It’s certainly not because it rivals the taste of new Coke.”)
Not so sure about this line.

(forcing the detective to wipe down the back seat of his car with a stack of wet naps)
Mostly clear thus far, but Monk is too well known to touch on many similar qualities.

La Marmonie wrote 1128 days ago

Hi Carla

I said I'd look at this a while ago. Sorry for the lateness, I was caught up in my own stuff. I've read 2 chapters. You write well, and there are no obvious flaws. It was fast moving, with humour and wit on more than one level. The more in your-face-humour could be a little more laugh-out-loud, I think ... with some tweaking. There are areas where you spell out the joke, almost repeat it, in some of the dialogue. Not sure if that is always necessary. But you might be trying to build that into the police man character.

In Chapter two I notice that you have acronyms and symbols within the dialogue. Don't know how these work. I think they should be spelt out, how it is said by the character. e.g. OMG and #

On a personal level as a reader, I much prefer your use of wit, than the jokes. But there was a lot that made me smile. As I said though, I think that with some tweaking of the jokes, they could be more effective. It must be really hard to write this stuff! I take my hat off to you really, and in dialogue.

Good luck

stephen racket wrote 1128 days ago

I read the first 2 chapters and found an amusing, pacy tale. The one-liners come thick and fast, some terrific, some less so, but on the whole, an enjoyable read. Good luck with this.

Richard Maitland wrote 1131 days ago

Carla, you asked me to take a look at A Most Devout Coward and I have now read all the upload, with great interest.

Before giving you my opinion, a couple of caveats: Firstly, we must acknowledge that there is, generally speaking, a vast gulf between the sort of quick-fire, gag-related, broad humour that appeals more to American audiences / readers, and the sort of humour (like Monty Python) that has its roots in Oxbridge universities, and appeals more to English audiences / readers. The difference between the two can be easily seen when one compares the American and (original) English versions of The Office, for instance. English humour, on the whole, is much more underplayed.

Secondly, and as discussed on a recent thread of yours, we must agree that humour is entirely subjective. I utterly loathe slapstick, for instance, and I can't stand people telling me jokes. An old British comedian, Bob Monkhouse, had a famed collection of some 20,000 'gags' (even the word makes me shudder), every one of which failed to raise a smile where I'm concerned. Whereas the Irishman Dara O'Briain, with his free-floating audience interaction, and no script, can reduce me to tears of joy. So I'm not the best person to give an opinion on American humour.

So let's talk about the story-telling aspect instead. Ch. 1: The second paragraph, alas, sent me into JayG mode. I was presented with a shot diner, sitting with his back to Jack, and slumped over what we were told was a plate of sweet potato pie. As our Philadelphian friend would say, this is Carla telling the story when we really ought to be seeing the action through Jack's eyes -- which, of course, can't penetrate the diner's body to see what's on his plate.

Creating reader empathy with Jack was made difficult by the amount of head-hopping that went on -- Jack, the waitress, the detective, the lieutenant. Head-hopping (POV change) continued through the five chapters. I know why you did it, of course. It was to maximise the potential for humour; to get a laugh from every angle. But it damaged the precious bubble that is the reader's suspension of disbelief. My advice? Stick with Jack -- it's his story.

I found Chapter 1 to be over-forced. One shouldn't write humour at the same pace as verbal humour. One can't translate three gags a minute to twenty gags a page. If a comedic novel was as stuffed full of one-liners as, say, a Jackie Mason performance, the reader would be exhausted long before the end. As would the writer, no doubt. Written humour is far, far different from performance humour. Second piece of advice: Tone it down. Less is More. Be a comedic writer, not a comedian.

By Ch.4, the writing had become less frenetic, much more natural and, as a consequence, was much funnier. The humour of Jack's *situation* began to drive the writing. I sometimes feel that writers, when striving for effect, are like learner drivers who at first try, positively, to steer the car. It's not necessary. Once the engine is running, and a gear selected, the car is going to move ahead all by itself. All the driver has to do it to correct its drift and bring it back to the required direction.

Writing comedy's a two-way process. The relationship between writer and reader is stronger. Why? Because if the writer's done her job properly and has correctly engaged the reader's empathy, the reader *is* the MC, and so all the action comes through the reader's personal filter. When you stopped trying so hard to hit us over the head with comedy -- *your* idea of comedy -- you allowed the reader to apply *his* idea of what was funny to the situation.

Once you'd got into your writing stride instead of your joker's stride (the prison scene), the dialogue came across as natural and well-crafted. The writing generally was sharp and sassy enough to be enjoyed by those who like that sort of humour. I imagine American readers, used to wise-cracking comedians, will lap it up. I also imagine it will be greatly enjoyed by other readers with a less idiosyncratic sense of humour than myself. You're five chapters in to what I'm sure is a very funny story, Carla, but -- there's no way of avoiding the dreaded words -- I'm afraid the humour didn't quite do it for me.

I'm sorry it's not better news (to coin a phrase.....)

Groaner wrote 1133 days ago

Funny idea. I see what you're doing. My only comment is that I feel it's a little wordy. Just my opinion. What do you think of the following?

He was about to send the broccoli back a third time when the bullet went whizzing by his right ear.


Directly across from him at the farthest table a burly-looking man slumped over his sweet potato pie, and a second leaned back against the wall with his chest contents now being used as a garnish for the pie. (except 'pie' is in there twice)

Got some POV hops between Jack and the shooter that kinda hit me. Not really fond of his screaming part, or rather the way it went. Other than that, it's a funny scene (chapter one).

Keep in mind that I'm reading here with 'crit' in mind rather just for enjoyment. I see things differently because of that.

jllove wrote 1135 days ago

I am going to six star this because I enjoyed the humour in the oddest moments. I think at moments it seems contrived and catches a glitch in the flow but for the most part very smooth.

Becca wrote 1138 days ago

Your response was longer than my critique! LOL

rosemariemeleady wrote 1139 days ago

On my WL., will get to read it soon.

Jilli wrote 1139 days ago

The story draws the reader in but it's the unexpected humour that i am really enjoying. There's blood and guts one minute then there's a funny bit and it's really working. I love it! and could easily read it all.

lizjrnm wrote 1139 days ago

Absolutely hilarious! A book Id buy so im backing it!

The Cheech Room

Becca wrote 1140 days ago

I think you've made a good use of omniscient narrator with this, which adds to the comedy aspect. Punctuation needs work, but I'll leave that be since this is a draft. You have moments of overwriting. The best thing to remember is if you want to convey something to the reader, 1+1=1/2. Try not to show AND tell. Then again, I'm often told I'm not beating the reader over the head enough with things lol. The premise is clever and this is a good start to the journey.

Someone said this is like Sister Act. (Great comedy, you may want to rent it!) and yes, you may want to look into the similarities, though I wouldn't have thought of it if it hadn't been mentioned. There are some differences, but this could (based on the premise) be the same general plot as sister act but with a some exchanges on gender and prior profession. HOWEVER--sister act is ANCIENT, so I don't think you need to worry about it :)

Critique wise, I'd say look into dialogue as it felt a bit unnatural. I'm sure you can brush up on a few dialogue articles online .That said, dialogue does seem to be one of the least important aspects of fiction.

The story does fall into the humor vibe for sure, but I have to admit I'm a hard laugh and don't consider things as humor quite as easily as other might, so unfortunately I'm in no place to comment on how this is working out genre wise.

Characters could also use a tiny bit more depth in the opening chapter so the reader can connect more, however if you do go that route careful not to overdue it because you currently have a great piece written in an immediate-scene style and wouldn't want to bog that down. Word choice and a carefully selected line here and there might go a long way in developing character. You want your author voice always present, of course, but you don't want it to sound like your character voice is the same in every novel either.

Good luck with this. Again, off to a great start!

chuckylivesinme wrote 1140 days ago

Carla.. Ive read all of this now and I have to say its def nothing like Sister Act. Only similarity is the start, ie witness to a mob hit and becomes something to do with the church. There is far more here than that.

I love the fact this guy is a bit of an OCD lunatic, that aids his fall into the ridiculous and you describe his downfall well. How he hasnt realised he's in mortal danger within minutes of being at the end of a gun barrel just shows his naivety.

Its a nice touch to swing backwards and forwards between the bad guys and the good guys, and to give the bad guys flaws, pricless. A lesser writer would just have made them mob killers, and kept them stereo typed.

The movie and film references are funny. Susan Boyle did make me chuckle, since shes from my neck of the woods, and there is nothing wrong with the friends ref or Britney, come to that. Each is worthy in its place.

This is funny, but its not out and out belly laughs, its sarcasm, its tounge in cheek, its ironic and non sensical in places. Its well worth a read. The dialogue is good, it flows at a good pace, doesnt get bogged down in too much description.

Well worth a read and this will be on my shelf just as soon as I have a space .

zenup wrote 1142 days ago

Funny! IMO the film/actor references will date this, which is a pity. Also, the plot reminds me of Sister Act, but hey. It's pacy, with a great title. Backed.