Wednesday, August 27, 2008

#24 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE: The Invitation
GENRE: Historical Romance

Carrie did not get cold feet that night; her feet had felt like wooden blocks throughout the entire day. Now, as she lowered the knotted sheets over the windowsill, she prayed those same wooden blocks could be depended on to get her safely to the ground. And then the twelve mile walk to...but there was no sense in thinking about that just yet. She had to get down first.

She looked over the edge of the sill. Far below, her mother's carefully tended rose bushes stood like sentinels in the moonlight. From the bed behind her, Carrie could hear her younger sister's even breathing, and for a moment she wished for nothing else but for Ellen to stir. Wake up, Ellen! Ask me what on earth I'm doing! For God's sake, stop me!

But there was no other sound save the crickets chirping loudly in the crisp nighttime air. Carrie shoved one leg over the window ledge and then the other, and then turned over on her stomach. She took one last look at the room and its sweetly sleeping occupant. Oh, Ellen! I'm sorry I won't be here to go berry picking with you tomorrow, like I promised.

Her bare toes found the first knot, and Carrie forced her hands to grasp the makeshift ladder. For a terrifying moment she flailed, the sheets twisting, and then she slithered down another length, and another, until she found herself dangling close enough to clutch


  1. The first sentence is nice. The knotted sheets is a bit of a cliche. And is it necessary? Can't she just go through the door? I like the sentinel rose bushes as well.

    I would continue to read because I like your writing, but I'd be looking for something to hook me soon.

  2. I wondered why she was going out the window also. Maybe if an explanation was given as to why she couldn't sneak out the door?

    I am mildly interested, not sure if hooked, but I would read more to find out.

    Good job!

    :) Terri

  3. Not hooked - I don't really care why she is trying to get away. There seems no sense of danger if she stays which for me would be more compulsive. It appears she's eloping but who knows. Nice details in here though - hints of a real love for her sister and regret that she has to leave. I feel mean saying I'm not hooked because although I like historical romance - I only like the funny ones. So if she'd got caught up and hung upside down or even ended in the roses it would have appealed more to me.

  4. I would keep going at least a little farther. This is going somewhere, but it feels like it needs one more good edit, there are some teeny, tiny little clunks here and there.

  5. I'm not completely hooked, mainly because you don't really have a hook until the end of this entry.

    I love historical romance, but you need to grab us with emotions here.

  6. No. You have good imagery and an interesting tone but I'm not willing to invest time in a character that is being willfully stupid.

    If she doesn't want to climb down the rope ladder why on Earth is she climbing out the window. Shouldn't she look down and go, "nope!" and go back to bed? Unless there's someone with a gun in the room I think the character is being stupid rather than getting the sense of urgency you were probably aiming for.

  7. Hi and thanks, everyone!

    I'm the writer. I think I see the problem some of you had with this. The reason she can't just leave through the door is because her brother is downstairs, sleeping by the door. (He knows she wants to run away.) That's easy to fix, but I think I'm also missing the mark on another level.

    Would romance fans like it better if the hero is waiting for her, readily visible in the first 250 pages? Is that what I'm missing?

    Your input is so valuable! Thanks, everyone!

  8. 250 words is really NOT enough time to tell a lot of the finer details.

    Sometimes when reading these, I have to chant "250 words, 250 words" over and over in my head, so I don't wrongly acuse a writer of not enough info!

    Sure, you want to "hook" the agent/editor/reader quickly, but I don't ever recall reading one page and throwing the book down in disgust...that usually takes at least the first chapter.

    I think some comments should be taken with a grain of salt, while others are VERY helpful...for all we know, you may have cut a large portion (about the brother sleeping by the door), to fit more of what YOU liked about the story in for the contest.

    I say this with authority, because I did that very thing!

    Keep in mind there are things you can add to make a story better, but also when you take things out, it can cause confusion and false conclusions by your readers.

    Hope this helped!


  9. Yep. I like this. I'd read on.

    I do expect the opening to follow up with a subtle explanation of who Carrie is and where she is going.

  10. This is not my thing, but I liked the writing. I think the first and second paras are strong. You reveal a lot about the heroine in few words, so well done!

    I think you could cut "But there was no other sound save the .... etc ... and then turned over on her stomach." Because you've established the setting well already, and you need to get on a bit with the action, and "Her bare toes found the first knot" implies that she's climbed out of the window, so IMO the actual climbing is wasted words. I also think that you can include the crickets on the second page.

    The last para needs a bit of oomph. Does she fall and is caught by the hero? Does she hear her brother opening the door?

    Anyway, just some suggestions.

    Hope some of my commnets are helpful.

    Good luck.

  11. It's a No for me. The sense of urgency just isn't strong enough, IMHO. And the MC's voice just doesn't feel "real" to me. Sorry.

  12. Yes, Elizabeth, show the hero in the first 250 words.

    Perhaps in the first sentence.

    He is waiting for me. I must climb down from that window. I hope I won't fall.

    Emphasis her fear and what is awaiting her.

  13. Not hooked quite yet, but I would read a second page to see if I can get hooked. I think it would help if I knew why she needed to run away. Is she being forced to marry someone she doesn't love? Is her true love banished so she must run away with him? Let me know this soon and I would be more likely to be hooked.

  14. Yup, I would read on as this is a unique opening and it is so hard to find historical that open with a fresh idea. Be careful that your heroine does not come off as goofy or too lighthearted, it seems as if she is running away from a wedding, yes? What she is doing in the time period is a very high stakes event. Her family and will be totally ruined, people she cares about will be verbally assassinated by neighbors, friends, and extended family, so there needs to be a very strong reason why she is doing so. The good news is that you don’t have to establish that reason for a while if you want to suspend the tension. I would read on, if only to make sure the research was done and the narrative held up its end of the bargain.

  15. What is she trying to get away from? Or running to?
    I'm intrigued, not hooked. I'd keep reading, but I'd like a little more story with the actions. Which is hard to do in a few words. I'd read on and hope I'd be hooked soon.
    But I like your voice.
    Overall, good job.

  16. Maybe. This is a scene that really screams for closeness to the character, but I didn't feel close.

    What time period is this? If it's set long ago, then I want more cues to that than berry picking. If it's modern-day, then I want an activity with her sister other than berry picking.

    The roses threw me off. "Well tended" -- would she really think that when she saw them? If so, why? That could be a good detail if you contrast it -- show that she feels horrible regret about leaving the mom who tends roses and children well.

  17. Not hooked.

    I felt there was a profound lack of emotion coming from this runaway.

    I loved the details about her sister, the rosebushes, etc., and I thought more perspective like this was needed, so I can empathize more.

    Also, I didn't feel much of the genre coming through aside from using the knotted-sheets ladder.

  18. I like it, the beginning gives an air of mystery: where is she going and why? As luc2 asked, why couldn't she use the door? I would definitely keep reading.

  19. I would read on to find out more about why she's running away. Having the hero waiting for her might not be a bad idea. Or maybe just her thinking about the hero waiting wherever he is.

    My only criticism (and I know, there's only 250 words!) is that I have no idea how "historical" this is. If I hadn't read the genre up front, I would've assumed a contemporary time period up until she mentioned berry picking. But even tha doesn't give me any clue as to the time period.

  20. I'm not a fan of historical fiction, but I would turn the page and read the next.

    I actually liked the knotted sheet. I thought it was a great visual anchor and to me it makes it more interesting that she's climbing out the window instead of creeping out the door.