Wednesday, February 11, 2009

3 Secret Agent

TITLE: FUGITIVE FAMILY
GENRE: COMMERCIAL LITERARY


It took Tuesday two days to notice her father had moved out. Their paths didn't cross much at home so his absence revealed itself in subtle ways. The framed picture of her family at the beach, the one with Tuesday's legs covered in sand and shaped into a mermaid's tale, vanished from its usual perch atop the end table in the living room. Her dad's chipped Pasadena City College coffee cup disappeared from the drying rack by the sink. The front hallway became a leather junkyard of discarded purses and shoes. When her mother started smoking indoors, something her father expressly forbid, Tuesday finally thought to ask, "Where's Dad?"

"Sit down, honey," her mom said, motioning with her cigarette to the seat across from her at the kitchen table. Her ash fell to pieces on the stained tablecloth. Tuesday sat in the wooden chair, which creaked under her weight, and looked out the window at the colorless morning sky. A hummingbird floated up to the empty feeder hanging under the porch awning and then disappeared.

Tuesday waited for her mom to talk but she was too busy examining the raw edges of her fake nails. Another clump of cigarette ash dropped, this time on her mom's skirt, causing her to jump up and brush herself off. She reached into a cabinet, pulled down a purple glazed ceramic bowl and placed it between them on the table. Her mom tapped her cigarette into it and said, "Your father left us."

28 comments:

Sheila said...

This hooked me. You lay out details that show us a lot about this family and the mother's agitated state. I could feel for Tuesday (great name!) as she sat watching her mom stress out. You ease us into this situation very well, with strong writing.

Good job!

Scott said...

Very good descriptions. I definitely had a sense of the 'little' - photo, coffee cup - things as well as the mother's (thanks Sheila) agitated state. I definitely want to read more.

Trish said...

I really loved this one. It definitely hooked me. I love the description of he pretentious mother and I loved the name Tuesday.

I like how she realises her father's gone. Quite original and well written.

Jamie said...

I'm hooked too, mainly on the strength of the first paragraph -- the "subtle ways" she noticed her father was gone, not realizing at first that his absence itself was notable.

GillianG said...

I loved the subtle ways she noticed he was gone, and the details you put into describing what's happening around her, but I thought towards the end there was a bit *too* much detail and I was getting impatient to get to the point. I would read more, but I did wonder if the rest of the story contained this much detail and if I'd get bogged down. But then again, I'm more of an "action" girl myself :)

Lisa and Laura said...

Extremely well written. I love the details about the mother that give us little clues about what type of mom she is and I love the subtle signs that her dad was missing. Clearly this isn't a good family situation and I'd want to continue to find out exactly what's going on.

Berserxes/Toivomaki said...

I'm intrigued by the opening paragraph. First, by the fact of Tuesday not noticing Dad is gone for two days, then by the subtle hints. Good detail.

I like the "pauses" of mentioning other details later on in this piece, but as someone else commented, perhaps it's overdone a tad. Paint a *brief* picture of Mom -- not a detailed portrait at this point -- then get to the story. I definitely want to know what happens next, particulary what Tuesday's reaction will be.

Daria Drake said...

I loved this opening, especially the first line. You write very vividly, and the tiny details that show how the POV character sees her father are very compelling.

My only comment is that, while the rest of the passage is very vivid, "Their paths didn't cross much at home..." seemed jarring -- is there another way you could say this that would be more in Tuesday's voice?

slhastings said...

I, too, liked the first line. I also love the hummingbirds in Southern Cali. Nice capture!

Anja said...

I like the title. I also enjoyed how you showed how she knew her father was missing in subtle ways. I must admit I had to reread it, though, because I got lost in all the details, but that was just me.

Good job!

ash-krafton said...

I really enjoyed this, because I found myself almost rooting for the dad more so than the mom. Those little clues spoke volumes for the character I imagine he is.

C.N. Curtin said...

Hooked! You made me like the dad! That's a pretty big deal because usually, if a father abandons a family - you hate the father. This isn't the case here. Loved the writing - especially the parts about the picture and the chipped coffee cup.

I also loved your visual about the hummingbird - really painted a powerful picture about the state of the family's home.

I want to know why it took Tuesday two days to notice that her dad moved out. Since you made me like her dad so much, I'm kind of mad at Tuesday for not noticing. I don't know if you meant to make me dislike your MC ...

Jenn Johansson said...

Yeah, I thought the same thing as the others. I hope we are supposed to root for the dad, LOL or there could be some problems.

Although, I have to say... if the dad is the good guy in this situation, why wouldn't she notice sooner that he was gone?

Anyway, obviously left me with questions, so I'd read on. :)

Janet said...

Your words paint a great picture of the family dynamics/situation that's not over the top or in your face. Like the other commentors, I would like if you cut the extra details about mom and get to the "Your father left us."

Great voice. Good luck.

disorderly said...

I'm also hooked by your use of the "little" here, and I like the subtle, wry humor I think I see. ("...Tuesday finally thought to ask, 'Where's Dad?'")

A couple of nits:

1) In the first paragraph, I think you mean mermaid's TAIL, not "tale" (unless Tuesday's sand-covered legs somehow were telling a story ;-) )

2) Also in the first graf, I believe "forbid" is present tense. Did you mean "forbade" or something else?

3) The hummingbird is a great image, but I was a little jarred by it "floating" up to the feeder. I'm always startled by hummingbirds' rather abrupt appearances.

4) In the final graf, should there be a hyphen between "purple" and "glazed"?

I'd read on! :-)

Sabrina said...

This was good. I just found it hard to believe that their paths crossed so little at home that it took missing photos, etc. to mark his going. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but I think you might want to lead into it a little differently. However, I'm in the minority here, so don't mind me!
I'd actually leave out "their paths ... home so". It's a "given" when you leap right to the telltale signs: "Her first clue wast he missing photo ..." etc. after "moved out". You show the "subtle ways" so, in my opinion, you don't need to tell us they are "subtle ways". You do need to explain why she wouldn't notice, but I think you have to reveal this as you go, a little more slowly.
Just an opinion, of course.
Also, watch out for wordiness in other places "causing her" for instance. This sentence might read better as "... on her mom's skirt. She jumped up and ..." etc.

Feywriter said...

I'm not usually one to like literary fiction, so maybe you really did manage the commercial literary combo. I'm hooked. Just a few grammar fixes needed (like disorderly mentioned). I love the little details.

Tara Maya said...

Pretty awesome. What a family! A girl named Tuesday, a dad who can be gone before his daughter notices or his wife mentions it? Crazy. (But in a way good for a book. *g*) I love the build-up of details which reveal the father's absence.

The matter-of-fact way the mom tells her is so vivid and believable. I already feel like I know these people.

Georgina said...

This is interesting. I'd read on, even though it's not generally the kind of story that appeals to me, because I'd like to see where you're going with it. The hook is definitely there.

One thing to note is that the prose feels a little unpolished. The second sentence needs a comma, as does the first sentence of the third paragraph. Tale/tail. As the photo and the cup aren't disappearing in real time, I believe you want to use "had disappeared" instead, and the hallway "had become" a leather junkyard (great image!).

Is "commercial literary" really a genre? Shouldn't it be one or the other?

Cheers.

Merc said...

I'm not what you'd call a reader of this genre (normally) but I will say this hooked me for the specific details and interesting set up (that the girl doesn't notice her dad's missing for two days--it says a lot and I'm sure has deeper impact that she's admitting to). I'd probably give it a few more pages.

Good luck,

~Merc

Anonymous said...

I loved the opening paragraph. Powerful. It hooked me.

The next two paragraphs lose that momentum in a big way. Why set up for a scene that's only going to explain what the character already knows?

You've painted yourself in a corner as a writer to make that conversation as interesting as the first paragraph. Probably not going to happen. Chose a different jumping off point once Tuesday realizes he is gone.

Secret Agent

Serenissima said...

I thought the writing was quite good, but that the end was somewhat anticlimatic given how you opened. I'd still read on given how well-written it was.

Megs said...

Tuesday - I actually thought you were talking about a 'day' instead of a 'girl'. This might be one of those openings where you want to sneak in a last name.

It took Tuesday Addams a couple days to notice her dad had moved out. (new paragraph for the next sentence)

Other than that - I really like this. You do a great job to show her mom 'dealing'.

The Screaming Guppy said...

You've got a nice hook, and very good eye for subtle details. I like your writing, though I'm not sure if this book is something I would read - solely based on personal taste though!

Regardless, your writing is excellent. Good luck.

Lori said...

Hooked. Tuesday’s voice is real and intriguing, and I like how you set the mood for this through the background details that she notices. I’d absolutely read on.

Blodwyn said...

I was hooked and enjoyed reading this. You've gotten us to know a lot about their family situation without browbeating us with it. I would consider perhaps cutting one example from the first paragraph to make it flow faster.

Sarah Jensen said...

Hooked.
Great first paragraph!
Great descriptions.

Anonymous said...

I have to say I loved the word play with "Tuesday two days". yes I did a double take but I don't think that is a bad thing- it made me smile! We write AND read because we love words and the fun we can have with them. Agree with secret agent on the rest.