Wednesday, August 27, 2008

#2 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE: The Edge of Memory

GENRE: Commercial Fiction

October 21, 1951

Thea Greyson pulled the afghan she'd knitted him close and pretended she could smell his pipe tobacco. A fluttery tapping sounded between the thunderclaps. "Now who could be calling at this hour?" she asked David's picture as she rose from the armchair.

She peeked outside and then threw the door wide. "Good Heavens, child! You're soaked to the bone." Thea shuttled the girl indoors. "What's a little girl like you doing out in this storm?"

The girl shivered, slopping rainwater across the floor. "Mama said… but I felt so…" Her hands balled into fists and she clamped her lips together.

Thea brushed ropes of soggy hair aside as she looked the child over. Don't see anything broke or bleeding. "You're not from this town or I'd know your sweet face. You lost, honey?"

Hazel eyes searched Thea's for a moment before a single nod.

Thea smiled. "Don't you worry. I'll help you find your mama."

The child sighed as the afghan slipped around her shoulders. "Thanks, Missus."

"What's your name, sweets?"

The girl's blue lips twitched and her chest quivered in quick shallow breaths. With a violent shake of her head, she backed away unsteadily. Glaze swept over her eyes. Before Thea could ask what was wrong, the girl's head bowed forward and she slumped to the floor.


  1. I remember this one from the last SA contest. I'm sorry but I'm still not hooked.

    I also remember the majority of crits saying you should start with Thea opening the door to find the little girl but you've kept "his" afghan and "his" pipe tobacco in the first line. It's totally out of context with this first page as it doesn't relate to anything. We don't know who "he" is and he's never mentioned again.

    I still like the mystery of the child, though.

  2. I liked the intro with her imagining the smell of his pipe tobacco, but then the the whole thing with the little girl knocking at the door seemed to come out of nowhere. I agree with the previous commenter that it might be better to start with the girl at the door and skip the first part.

  3. The title for this novel is The Edge of Memory.

    "The Girl With No Name" is just the chapter title.

    And thanks for your thoughts, Karen. The "him" and "his" refer to David in the third sentence, who appears again on pages 2 and 3.

  4. Not quite hooked. And mainly because that first paragraph is so different from the lines that follow.

    For me, her question "Now who could be calling at this hour?" seemed contrived. I would begin with opening the door instead.

  5. Not hooked, sorry. I think I'd be more direct in this and have her open the door to let the child collapse in her arms. It just feels a little slow to me.I guess from the date given than the story quckly shoots forward so its almost like a prologue here. I always wonder if they are really needed.

  6. I actually didn't mind it starting with her wrapped in the afghan. It let me know a little something about Thea and she does get to the door within the first couple sentences. Works fine for me and I'm hooked enough with the mystery of the girl to want to keep reading.

    Good job :)

  7. The opening paragraph (although teetering on the edge of dissonance with the "she'd knitted him", I might pull that) does a very fine job of setting the scene. We know she is a widow, we can assume her age, and four of the five senses are invoked- (pulled the afgan, smell his pipe tobacco, thunderclaps, asked his picture) and that is an admirable ability in any narrative execution. The intrigue starts on page one which can oftentimes come across as forced, so be careful of trying to push the scene. Very good effort here.

  8. I recall seeing this before somewhere else on the net, but not that recently. That's what kind of makes me leery of on-line contests and critiques. It seems agents might also see stuff they've seen before, stuff that's been critiqued, but still has problems.

    In this entry, I get the sense that the writer is struggling to get this story out, and it is not going to flow without a lot effort. For me as a reader, that's not an enjoyable feeling and I am not hooked for that reason, although it could well be a compelling story. Problem is, I wouldn't get far enough to find it!

  9. I do like the part with the little girl, but the very first bit didn't draw me in. Sorry. I also think when you first introduce the girl, it would be nice to be closer in the MC's POV an really round that part out.

    Good luck with it!

  10. I'm a bit on the fence with this one. On the one hand, it didn't drag me in . But I did like the way Thea came across. She seems like a character I would want to read about.

    As a specific comment, I thought the description of her eyes glazing over a bit odd.

  11. I think you're going too fast here (which could be a problem with these 250-word contests and trying to cram everything in). Anyway, here's what I mean:

    Some old lady sees an unfamiliar girl on the steps and doesn't think it's strange and then also offers to help her find her mother in like 2 seconds? No more probing dialogue or curiosity than that?

    I think we need to be inside her head a little more (CLOSER to the lady, in her head, not standing in the back of the room watching her...if you know what I mean?).

    When the knock comes, perhaps she looks up and down the street and wonders why the girl is knocking on the door, or lets the girl in and starts running over a bunch of questions in her head? Stuff like that would help.

    Not to belabor my point, but it all feels too fast. Slow it down, contest be damned! This is the first page of a novel, you can be slow and leisurely if you want. There doesn't have to be intense action smacking the reader around in sentence one to hook us.

  12. It was a little slow starting off and the language a bit awkward for me, although I can't place my finger on exactly why...

    I was a little more hooked toward the end when the writing seemed a bit more natural.

    I guess I just feel the beginning seems a little forced. Not quite hooked, but a bit of a nibble.

  13. Yes- I'd turn the page at least. I like the MC enough and I'm curious enough that I'd keep going. I'd clarify that she's talking to her dead husband? son? father? before you go any further.

  14. Yeah... I remember this from the last contest. I said yes then too, I think. :)

  15. Unfair for me to say, because I know what happens next. ;)

    I don't know if you've cut it out for good, or just for the sake of this contest, but I think it would help set the scene a bit more for your readers with details of the setting, references to the time period, and an internal reaction to Thea finding the girl on her doorstep.

  16. I've read novels that didn't draw me in on the first page, this one did. I have the same advantage as Lori, I know what happens next. :) But I have to say, it all ties together so nicely. I don't need all the information in the first 250 words. I think it flows and I love the new opening.
    I do like sprizouse's comments about letting us into Thea's mind a little more. Having her look around, or such. Thoughts...
    Anyway. Good Job!

  17. I've seen this before too, so I know where the story is going. Somehow, I thought it started in the girl's present and this was a flashback that set up the girl's history. (I'm getting old, however, and I'm easily confused.)

    In any case, I liked the first sentence, but I thought "she had knitted him" could go. (It's almost overkill.) Even without that phrase, I think readers get the picture that Thea is a widow who misses her late husband. For some reason, the smell of pipe tobacco was one of those sharp emotional tugs for me.

    There seems to be quite a sudden jump into the scene with the child, and I agree with one of the other posters that the experience for me as a reader was much like leaping off a cliff. It seemed forced and rushed.

    On the whole, though, I like your dialogue and your writer's voice. :-)

  18. Slightly not hooked.

    I feel the girl was thrust into the story to quickly. Not enough time to care.

    I also remember this from the last AHY. I wonder if there is somewhere else you could start the story that might do a better job of establishing the MC and building a connection.

  19. Hooked. I like the voice. I like the imagery of the afghan and the picture of (I'm guessing) her husband. I was a little disconcerted by how quickly she took in the girl without even wondering at the possibility of danger. Although I suppose the attitudes were a bit different in the 50's. Either way, I'd keep reading.