Wednesday, August 27, 2008

#19 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

Title: To Call Home
Genre: Commercial Fiction

She made so many marks and scribbles with her red pen that Steven wondered if he’d have a recognizable poem left after she was done. He looked around at the other three workshop participants in their group; no one scribbled as much as Charlotte. Even as others offered their feedback, she continued making notes. He was on the edge of his seat when it came her turn to speak, dying to know what about his poem warranted so much red ink.

“I think it’s a little confused,” she said, without looking up.

He frowned. “What parts don’t you understand?”

Her chin snapped up and her eyes met his; she didn’t blink. He got the distinct feeling he’d insulted her somehow. He smiled to show good will, but he didn’t see the flicker of attraction in her eyes that he saw in most women when he smiled at them. He was sure she felt it. But she hid it well.

I’m not confused. Your poem is.”

He looked down at four stanzas of what he considered near-perfect poetry.

“Some of it’s a lot of ornate description. Especially the first few lines of the third stanza. But the entire first stanza is really concise. Like you chose each word for a reason. The style isn’t consistent. And you need to watch your line breaks. They tend to coincide with punctuation marks, which is easy, but not very inventive.”

How strange it was, to be stung by harsh words from such pretty lips.


  1. I don't like Steven, and if he's your MC, I feel no desire to read more about him because he seems pompous and self-centered. I understand that's probably what you're going for, but the problem is, your reader has detect something redeeming about your MC.

    I'm not feelin' the love, man.


  2. LOL, he has a high opinion of himself. Good showing. My main problem is that this seems to be a about a writer, and I think slushpiles are filled with stories about writers. I'd read on a bit, to see how Steven pans out.

  3. I liked your dialog, but not your MC too much. I can't say I'm hooked because, so far, the story doesn't interest me. I think the reason is that you haven't piqued my curiosity at all. A good hook is one that keeps you wanting to know what happens next.

  4. No- especially is Steven is your MC. There is nothing in his attitude worth reading. And reading about a struggling author at a workshop? Just not working for me.

  5. Sorry, this one missed me. Just not enough going on with either character introduced in the scene to make me keep reading.

  6. She made so many marks and scribbles with her red pen that Steven wondered if he’d have a recognizable poem left after she was done.

    Amused... this reminds me a bit of brainstorming with my writing buddy.

    Yes, I think so. Admittedly, I'm not really crazy about guys who write poetry, but this reads great and I can definitely sympathize with the guy... er... except the pretty lips thing at the end. :P

    Yes, from me.

  7. No for me, only because I have no idea what the overall plot of the novel is going to me. Tension (even sexual tension) between two characters might be sufficient enough for a Romance novel, but not commercial fiction, IMHO. There's really nothing in here "hooking" me to read on. Sorry.

  8. I'd read on, I want to see Steven put in his place. I love the sentence about him thinking he had submitted 'near perfect' poetry. I think we can all relate to submitting something that we feel is near perfect, and getting it slashed to peices. :)

  9. Sorry no.

    I think this is well written, but I echo an earlier comment that there's nothing intriguing here: on a character or plot level.

    I think you need to up the stakes a little.

    Steven's not so bad. He's realistically flawed, but you need to make him more interesting on this first page, or set up greater tension/conflict with Charlotte.

    The para that starts “Some of it’s a lot of ornate description...." is too much detail IMO. The reader doesn't need to know this, nor do they care about the actual details of the critique. We care about the impact/implications it has, so suggest you cut this back.

    Hope my suggestions are helpful.

    Good luck.

  10. Hooked. You got me.

    The MC is a pompous jerk, who can't take rejection, and I want to read more about how he tangles with this Charlotte (presumably he'll be put in his place at some point.)

    I got a good pulse on Steven, but felt Charlotte didn't come through enough. All I know is that she's pretty, and I'm not quite sure how Steven discerned that she was attracted to him and hiding it...(self-delusion?)

  11. Lots of mixed reactions! I'm the author of this one. Steven is the lesser of the two MC's, and Charlotte is the other MC. Funny that most people don't like Steven here, because in previous versions of my first page (in Charlotte's POV - the story is told through a dual perspective), my readers disliked Charlotte, and couldn't understand how/why Steven is immediately attracted to her. So I tried introducing her through his POV instead.

    I guess I'll keep working to get it just right. 250 words is so hard to work with! :-)