Wednesday, August 27, 2008

#23 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Belles
GENRE: Literary Fiction w/ Commercial Edge

Ashley -- Chapter 1
Ashley didn't know how long she'd been awake; how long she'd been listening to the voices below; wasn't sure if she was still dreaming or awake. The voices grew louder and louder, each holding equal pitches of frustration. Shrill, high and desperate; Momma. Deep, low and unforgiving; Daddy.
Tears rolled down Ashley's cheeks as fear spilled into her from the surrounding darkness and her parents struggled through another all-out fight. She remembered their fights. Lots of their fights. She remembered hating them and fearing them and fearing the emotions she didn't understand – the sadness and anger on both sides too deep for her to grasp. She knew to cry then – like she was crying now – but only because she wanted the fights to stop.
A crack of light crept across the room as Morgan pushed open the door and stepped into the bedroom. "Be quiet Ash." she said. "You want them to hear?"
Ashley thought she'd been restrained to that point, but now that Morgan was in her room she decided to really let go. Her wailing intensified as Morgan hurried over to the bed.
"Hush," Morgan said, "it's not about you." She brushed Ashley's hair away from her face. "You have to be quiet."
Ashley looked into Morgan's eyes and knew Morgan was there for good things, but Morgan wasn't enough. She wanted Momma. Only Momma was enough, so Ashley cried so loud she couldn't breathe and had to gulp down air between shrieks.


  1. Please, please, please don''t start a story with someone awaking. That almost kept me from reading on.
    I'd suggest to ditch that opening and jump straight into the description of the voices. I liked that bit.
    Also, don't start with backstory so early. Later tell me about her past. Now, take me along with the current action.
    Sorry, i wouldn't read on. (Just one guy's personal opinion.)

  2. Yes, please listen to luc!!
    No waking up. Get to the action.

  3. The story takes place in a 24-hour period from midnight to midnight and is told from the POV of a two-year-old girl. But I suppose I can just take out the very first sentence and have her sitting on the bed crying if it damages the opening.

  4. Maybe.... I think you still need to get some editing done. Short sentences. And sometimes you need to let sentences have their own line for impact.

    I skimmed the first sentence, saw her wake up, and moved on. Starting with her in the darkness would work.

  5. I'm having a tough time sympathizing with the MC(s)... it just seems to be a lot of 'remembering' (and annoying semicolons) to start off with.

    I'm not so against starting off a book with the MC(s) thinking... but maybe this would pull me in if you plopped us in the room with Ashley, listening to what her parents were saying. You could even drop a couple lines in there and the noises. Maybe have her get up and run to her sister's room, and let us see her sister through her eyes?

  6. Sorry no.

    I think what you're trying to achieve is hard.

    For example you need to earlier set the POV character's age. I expected them to be much older given the use of phrasing like "pitches of frustration". A child would not speak like that.

    I also think that you need to focus on the child's here and now more. Perhaps the fighting triggers the child's fear of the dark -- an extension of her fear of being alone and abandoned by momma.

    Also "all-out fight" is another non-child thing to say. If you're writing from the child's POV then it's ALL showing and no telling IMO, since a child of that age is dealing with actions and words, without necessarily understanding them. The understanding is the reader's older perception layered onto that (i.e. the child is an unreliable narrator in that sense - the reader knows more than they do).

    Unreliable narrator. Child POV. literay fiction -- all very hard IMO, but I wish you the best of luck with this.

  7. Sorry, but no. The MC's voice doesn't seem authentic, and the plot itself (i.e., the arguing parents) is overdone and cliche.

  8. Sorry, not hooked. With the MC so young, I would not expect her to remember past fights. I agree with what was said before too, that the phrasing is to old for a two year old pov. I also agree with not waking up at first.

  9. This one is a miss for me, as I can’t quite pinpoint the protagonist’s age and the stakes are just not high enough to prompt me to read on. Opening with trauma is difficult, because if the narrative just isn’t there, you lose the momentum and spend the rest of the chapter- or unfortunately sometimes the rest of the novel- trying to get it back.

  10. Whoa, wait, I just read through the other comments and realized that the protagonist is supposed to be two years old…this is not a good idea. A two-year-old POV places huge restrictions on the narrative, and this current narrative is not the voice of a two-year-old. Consider six or seven or even eight as children of that age are more capable of complex thought and can process events with greater articulation.

  11. This one is a miss for me for the reasons mentioned. That it started with awake/dream state bugged me so much I almost didn't read on.

    I think there's too much... context... for a two year old. That's an age that's very much in the moment. Even if the child had been damaged by past fights and knew that fighting was "bad," she likely couldn't reflect upon it the way you have it here. It would be raw, immediate, primal.

  12. Believe me, I'm a talented enough writer to pull off the POV of a two-year-old and use big words doing it. It is, after all, not told in the first person. Thanks for the input from everyone though!

  13. Not hooked.

    I wanted to empathize, but felt the piece was too dense, and her emotions not presented clearly. They were sort of jumbled and repetetive.

    I'm not sure what the story is about, ultimately, but I think you should look for another place you can start. Somewhere that presents more direction and focus for the story, and a clearer understanding of what the conflict is.

  14. It doesn't work at this point, but it could. Why is this fight different from any other? Does Ashley know something is different? It needs some work but is possible.