Wednesday, September 9, 2009

50 Secret Agent

TITLE: When Life Begins
GENRE: Science Fiction

Jillian Shore’s awareness reeled between the present and the past. She spread her arms wide, but stopped herself from twirling; instead she closed her eyes, and felt herself, much younger, fingers splayed, spinning in the wind, waiting for the rain to pelt her upturned face, before running inside. There was nothing unusual about the house she visited once a year, except that in some way it still belonged to her.

“Jillian,” her mother’s voice called. It was impossible, of course. Her mother had been dead for years now.

She realized that someone was waiting for her. She looked up at the house, and saw the door wide open.

“I didn’t think you were going to make it,” Carol said. “Usually you come first thing in the morning.” Carol’s hair was a golden mess; the man’s button down shirt she wore was covered in paint. Rain boots, all colours and sizes, a discarded grocery bag, and a ratty red leash, littered the small entranceway.

There was no practical reason Jillian had picked this date to visit her childhood home. It marked no momentous occasion, nor was it the anniversary of her mother’s death. It was an arbitrary day Jillian chose one morning, years ago, to drive by when she was admiring the falls colours that made New England so famous. Her sister thought she was morbid, she couldn’t understand her fascination with the past. She didn’t comprehend that this was Jillian’s way of keeping her memories.


  1. This starts out with a very long sentence/ramble. The hook never set, I just passed it by.

    Second, is this YA? It has the feel of YA.

    Telling us "There was no practical reason", "no momentous occasion", "It was an arbitrary day", "she was morbid", and "She didn't comprehend" hurts. Where is the urgency?

    This is a do-over. Sorry.

  2. I like the idea of this and am halfway hooked.

    Only problem were certain lines there that were 'telly' (at least they came across like that to me). Like in the last paragraph. I think this would be hookier if instead of that last paragraph, you stayed in present day and moved on with the story.

  3. I very much liked this until the mini-flashback at the end. There is no real need for it and it takes the forward motion out of the story. So semi-hooked but I'd read more.

  4. Your descriptions are nice, but you might want to put entryway before you describe what's there. As it is, it connects with her sister's? description. It sounds like an interesting story. Some editing (it never ends, I know), and I think this will shine.

  5. I kind of like it, and then at the same time, it didn't have enough to keep my interest.

  6. I liked the paragraph describing Carol and the entranceway.

    The first paragraph didn't sit well with me. Would a grown woman really be doing that? (Maybe your character would! I just don't know her that well yet.)

  7. The line where you said, "Jillian," her mother's voice......but that she's been dead years now. That intrigued me.

    But then I got a little lost.

  8. Hi,

    I'm hooked, but have a couple concerns.
    Since she's a New England woman, with no hint of coming from another country I'll assume she's American. If so you will have to stay in an American's change colour to color. also next to it you write falls...should be fall (no biggie) and I'd drop the last her.

    My second idea is although I feel the hook thru the reference to her dead mother's voice, I'm confused why no action has been taken for all these years or nothing has happened (you say just her memories)...if so..then where's the hook?

    Anyway, I have a feeling if I read on a little more...all would become of luck...

  9. Could be hooked. I liked the premise (especially combined with the title and genre), but the first paragraph confused me. You say, "She spread her arms wide, but stopped herself from twirling," which doesn't make sense. You spread your arms wide TO stop yourself from twirling, not in spite of it. And I didn't get that her present self is now inhabiting her past self's body on the first read.

    A little bit of tightening, and this could really work.

    P.S. In the last paragraph, "the falls colours" should be "the fall's colours," since the colours belong to the fall. And you might want to go with the Yankee spelling, since this takes place in New England.

  10. I'm not a SF reader so it could just be me, but this confused me. I didn't know what was going on and wondered why the MC here was a woman and not a kid for YA/MG? It this a time-travel story like 'Time Traveler's Wife'?

  11. I was a bit lost, not sure what was going on at all. I didn't even realize the last bit was a flashback until someone said it. Was it a flashback?

    I think it has some potential, but I'm just totally lost as to what's going on. That could be me though!

  12. Nice, solid writing but begs for a bit of sharpening. I’d begin with the last paragraph and then launch into the sister’s comments and perhaps the voice of the dead mother.
    “She realized that someone was waiting for her.” “Someone was waiting for her” is stronger. “She looked up at the house, and saw the door wide open”
    “The front opened wide” is stronger.

  13. Doesn't have a real sf feel to it, so that would throw me at first. If I didn't know it was sf I'd keep reading.

    Keep working on it!

  14. In the opening, she's getting lost in this reverie of when she was a child, but comes out of it long enough to tell us about the house. You might cut that.

    Hearing her mother's voice, even though she's dead, offers up a bit of eeriness/mystery.

    Why does she realize someone was waiting her for her? Something must have caught her attention?

    I was told once never to say what things are not. It doesn't add anything to your story. I don't think it helps here.

    In the end, nothing has really happened. I don't know where it's going. For those reasons, I'm not hooked.

  15. Although this doesn't read like science fiction in the 250 words we see, it moved well, and the writing was strong. I was a bit put off at the transition between the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs because she was inside Jillian's head, and then she wasn't, without showing us the transistion.

  16. I'm with Sarah on this. I like it alright, but I'm not interested enough to keep reading. There's no problem or sense of urgency to make me turn the page.

  17. I like Jillian's awareness that she isn't imagining her mother's voice, but is actually hearing her sister call her. And the description of Carol and the entranceway is very nice.

    I think the last paragraph is the one that isn't hooking me. If it's necessary, maybe it can be moved further along in the story.

  18. Like some of the other readers, I like Jillian's awareness that it's not her mother's voice. I also liked the description of Carol but felt it didn't quite transition into the description of the entryway, so for a minute I thought you were still describing Carol.

    Because this is scence fiction, I'd like to know how it is science fiction a bit more clearly, early in the story. Maybe it's coming soon and I just haven't gotten to that part yet.

    Sorry, I wasn't hooked by what was here.

  19. I liked this, although am a litle confused, still not sure whether Jillian has the ability to sift through time both ways or whether it's just in her head. This could, and should, be clarified right up front, then I'd read on

  20. I like this enough to want to help you clarify your beginning. I'm a sucker for SF. I'm going to assume it's soft SF from the introduction.
    You're opening is good, I know that you're trying to show the protag envisioning a moment in her youth but I think you need to clarify it better. As it reads it's difficult to envision. But I liked it enough to read it 3 or 4 times. Make it easier on your reader and define it in more concrete terms.

    I like the mother's voice sentence.

    You use the word colours twice inadvertently, once for boot and once to describe fall. So I'd remove one and replace it with something different.

    Instead of small entrancway which is generic, I'd find a word for it. Mud room, foyer, etc.

    I have to agree with what was said about the phrases no practical reason, no momentous occasion, arbitrary day etc. The extra words don't move the story along. These phrases bog down the flow.

    Regarding her sister. She thinks that the MC is morbid? Why? This I couldn't understand fully from what I read. Also you state that the sister couldn't comprehend, I'm not sure that's the right word. Maybe understand is a better choice?
    Over all I'm intrigued. I wonder what kind of SF this will be. I like the POV voice. I believe that's what keeps me reading. Good Job.

  21. At first I thought this was a Time Traveller's Wife piece, and the MC was literally travelling back in time to visit this house. Is she? The next few paragraphs made me think that no, she was driving there every year. I don't know enough about the MC to care about her past, so this didn't hook me.

    I noticed the colour/color thing too. I think which version you use matters less about the nationality of your MC and more about the market you plan to publish in first. If you're UK/Aus/NZ and planning to publish in those markets, you could probably leave it as colour. If you want to get this published in North America first, I'd change to color. That's my guess anyway.

  22. I'm not hooked. I can't put my finger on it exactly, because the writing is nice. You have a few typos, 'when she was admiring the falls colours' (Fall's... and I'm questioning the phrasing too).

    I hope there is a reason for your emphasising the random, 'nothing unusual' and arbitrary nature of the house, because as a casual reader, all those elements add up to: This is nothing special, why should I continue?

    Nevertheless, good luck! I like the concept!

  23. I would not keep reading. The writing just isn't strong enough.