Wednesday, March 18, 2009

5 Secret Agent

TITLE: Sandstone
GENRE: Suspense

Cemetery Avenue begins at a large stone archway and runs perpendicular to the main connector between Saratoga Springs and Schuylerville. The first fifty yards lined with tall pine trees before the road disappears after climbing over a small hill. Wrought iron gates attached to the archway fold inward during the day, leaving a path just wide enough to allow two opposing cars to pass each other. A small sign posted on the right gate displays the visiting rules. The bold words at the bottom of the sign simply state: CLOSED AT DUSK.

Past the small hill stands the cemetery office, adorned with curved arches, tall thin windows and a Saratoga porch. The original homestead of a farmer and bootlegger murdered and buried on this land after an argument with a neighbor over property rights.

The avenue rolls beyond the old office and splits into individual loops. Each named after towns surrounding Saratoga Springs: Corinth, Glens Falls, Schuylerville, and Ballston Spa. A hawk’s view of the property reveals the symmetrical labyrinth of circular pathways. Hence the name: Cloverleaf Gardens. Embedded in the center of the cloverleaf is a small chapel and crematorium.

Jonathan Harrison, a confirmed bachelor and recluse, bought the property in 1994 during the depressed real estate market and used the rear section of the office as his home. Tall and thin with dark brown hair and a tepid smile; he greeted his clients with a sweaty, boney hand that they only shook once.

23 comments:

puzzlehouse said...

Really nice writing, but it doesn't feel like the opening for a suspense novel. If I were in a bookstore and had picked this up, I'd flip to somewhere in the middle to see if really was suspense.

Tess said...

I loved it once you got to Jonathan and his creepy handshake. I don't mind a little set up of the scene..that's important, but this seemed too detailed and I wanted to see some character involvement a bit sooner. A little tweaking could pull me right into this.

Megs said...

Good setup here. Yes, hooked.

I'd probably want to leap into the story by the third paragraph at least, but I liked the details here.

Rick said...

I agree with previous commenters: I find it hard to get interested in scenery. I prefer to dive right into the character, then look around at the scenery.

DCS said...

This is a well written scene setter, but it doesn't raise issues of tension for me beyond the fact that there is a cemetary involved. I don't need spooks flying about, but more like the final paragraph describing "the boney hand they only shook once." Get that part more toward the beginning and work up the reader's curiosity about this strange man. Later on you can fill in the geographical details.

PCB said...

I like your writing a lot, but agree with the other commentators that the beginning is a little too scenery oriented. Why should I care about a cemetery? Well, I definitely care once there's a boney hand that that you only shake once! That's the best bit. Perhaps you could use it sooner?

Scott said...

Good writing, but I'm not hooked. Forget the scenery and jump right into the 'scene'. The rest of the stuff can come later.

I wouldn't keep reading based on what I've read so far. I need 'something' more to capture my attention.

AJ Chase said...

This piece is very nicely atmospheric and I absolutely get a certain feeling from it. But at the moment I'm feeling relatively divorced from the story. The long rolling description is very Steven Kingish and is a certain kind of engaging but I kind of kept waiting for something to happen. Or even to see a definite, non-omniscient POV. Jonathan immediately fascinates me and if you moved him up a couple of paragraphs you'd have me.

vicki said...

Ditto most of the others. The thing which hooked me was the final para. The first bit read like the kind of instructions people give you to find their house, type thing. I'd start the story with final para - maybe weave in essential mood-setters only. I'm interested in reading on

sonja said...

I like your writing. I'd do a modification of paragraph 2 followed by paragraph 4, then 1&3 a little later. I like the farmer image-- is it one or two people? Maybe farmer turned bootlegger if it's only one. My only other comment is that it sounds like a home, but you say 'used the rear section of the office as a home.' I had to reread; I'd rather he used the front of his home as an office. Well done.

Writeaholic said...

There is nice writing in this, nice description and imagery, but this didn't work as a hook for me. It seems like a lot of nothing and for a suspense novel, I think it is good to start with something that hints of a mystery or something suspenseful. Yes it is a cemetary, but that alone is not suspenseful. This feels like it could be fit in elsewhere. To hook me as a reader, I need a character or an event -- something that makes me feel that I must read on to find out what happens or to read more of the MC.

Despite the great writing -- and I do appreciate great writing, I wouldn't read on unless I had a great blurb on the back that hinted of a real interesting event or problem to be solved.

H. L. Dyer said...

These are lovely descriptions, but the opening is not the place for them, IMO.

If I was already in a character's head and experiencing this place through their eyes, colored by their reactions, these descriptions would have much greater impact. As they stand now, I feel more like I'm reading a lovely description in a travel guide.

Get me to the creepy dude faster. He's where your story is.

You can work in all your lovely descriptions later. ;)

chris eldin said...

I liked the last paragraph a lot, but felt myself drifting with the beginning paragraphs. Too slow for a thriller.... but LOVED the last one!!

texcat said...

I have to say I had trouble getting past the second sentence, which is missing the verb to make it more than a long-winded phrase. In fact, I was so confused by the mechanics of your descriptions, I hardly cared by the time we got to Jonathan.

So. Not hooked, but I think you could edit those first 'graphs pretty easily...and then I might be :)

RK said...

I loved the first para.

How can you resist "Cemetery Avenue"? And the sign is a great way to end.

But after that I was ready to meet a person, preferably the protagonist.

Good luck and don't give up on the story!

Lori said...

Though the world building is lovely, there’s no clear POV character until the last line (and it’s not even fully clear there). Who is telling this story? Why should we care about it? What question will the POV character give us readers that we’ll want answered by the end of the story? Those kind of things need to be addressed in novel openings to create a hook, IMHO.

Susanne said...

I like the writing style but agree with others - get that last paragraph in there sooner. The descriptions (perhaps cut down a bit) can come later, good though they are. I'd keep reading.

McKoala said...

This is a little too impersonal a beginning for me, despite the nice touches in the writing. However...you got me at the end. Jonathan is definitely interesting. I'd read on to find out more about him.

Alps said...

I know it's stylistically acceptable to have incomplete sentences, but usually I think they're used for emphasis. You have a couple in this short section and they threw me off. After you establish yourself as an amazing author, of course feel free to break the rules as much as you like! :)

Here are the two I caught:
The first fifty yards lined with tall pine trees before the road disappears after climbing over a small hill.
The original homestead of a farmer and bootlegger murdered and buried on this land after an argument with a neighbor over property rights.


With that said, I do think you have a talent for description. :)

One more question, though, do you need all this backstory here at the beginning? Couldn't you weave it into the story and use the first page to get to know the protagonist a little better? (Assuming this Jonathan guy is the protagonist...) Just an idea.

dragonfly said...

Great descriptions. I would have been less than enthusiastic over such a long and detailed description of setting but the Cemetary Road hooked me...but I would want it to be a bit more concise so I could get to the delicious last paragraph. It really smacked me in the face. Good job.

Dorothy said...

I like this. And I don't mind the telling part a bit. It's interesting and you do manage to introduce the MC before the end of the page. And I must say, he's a
creepy thing.

Depending on how things go after this, I'd definitely read on. You've set the scene for a good suspense tale.

Two things bothered me in the writing. You have an incomplete sentence in second paragraph, last line. And in the last paragraph where you're describing the structure, you switch to describing the man, but at first I thought you were still on the structure. I'd just rearrange/revise those sentences a little. What you say is all good.

This is good. Congratulations. Good luck getting it published.

Secret Agent said...

Very strong writing, almost entirely extraneous descriptions.

I'd begin the book with "Jonathan Harrison greeted his clients with a sweaty, boney hand that they only shook once." Then tell who he is, what he bought, and sprinkle in these very strong details as the story progresses.

SA

Cat said...

I always find it hard to read a book that starts with liong descriptions no matter how well they were done. I'd take the 3 first paragraphs and put them in some time later.