Wednesday, October 14, 2009

7 Secret Agent

GENRE: Mystery

The blonde to my left—she’d introduced herself as “Heidi,” but no one here was using her real name—handed me the patch. The Rune of Life: it was supposed to be a tree: Three thick black sticks, against a red background. It resembled a legless, headless stick figure with its arms raised—something my two year old might draw. I passed it to the woman to my right.

As the patch made its way from one woman to the next, I shifted in the folding chair and looked around. The Aryan Motherhood members looked not unlike any other group of rural, mostly stay-at-home, moms. Everyone was white, of course; and there were lots of sensible haircuts and appliquéd tops.

Our group leader, “Mary,” cleared her throat. She was a slight, plain-looking woman with long brown hair and a serious face.

“Has everyone had a chance to examine the rune?”

A sea of heads bobbed and a murmur of “yeses” rose from the group.

“Okay, then, it’s time for a vote. The Chapter moves to adopt the Rune of Life as its symbol. All in favor, say ‘aye.’”

She was met by chorus of “ayes.”


Silence. No surprise there. In the month that I’d been attending these meetings, I’d yet to hear anyone oppose anything. In the beginning, no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t imagine any of these wholesome, earnest women dressed in white sheets, burning crosses. They did strike me as sheep, though, the way they seemed to mindlessly accept whatever they were told. It probably wouldn’t be too hard to incite them to violence.


  1. Aryan Motherhood? Clever.

    I'm assuming the MC is infiltrating the group. If not, you'd lose me pretty quickly.

    Nitpick--I thought the KKK wore the white sheets and the Aryan nation folks were the Neo-Nazi looking people who never hide their identities.

    I'd read on.

  2. Hooked. Solely, the Aryan Motherhood idea. How original.

    I would definitely read on to see what the MC is doing there.

  3. Like this one so far.
    Aryan Motherhood is a good concept. I'm wondering if our MC was sent to infiltrate the AM, if she accidentally became a member (maybe it was posted on the community board as a bridge club?), etc...
    Would keep reading on.

  4. Aryan Motherhood? Intrigued... I'd read more.

  5. I immediately got a sense that this was not a normal group when you said everyone was white.

    I wonder if you want to go with the sheep image. If they're easily led, then couldn't someone with an opposing view get them to change their minds easily? Perhaps it might be better to have them a bit more gung-ho?

    Just a thought, since I have no idea where you plan to take this.

    I'd read more.

  6. Very good opening. Like the above, I'm curious what your mc is doing with this group and why. Great voice. I'd read on for sure. Good luck!

  7. I really like this. I'd definitely read on.

    My only sticking point is the genre. The tone doesn't feel much like mystery to me, but that wouldn't bother me much if it keeps being interesting. :)

  8. Sentences in first paragraph seem too long and convoluted. Where are we? Need to set the stage to hook me. Doesn't feel like a mystery, either IMO.

  9. I'd read on here. The concept is interesting as long as this isn't a book praising hate groups. The rune of life seems an odd choice for a symbol, but maybe you'll explain it later. If they are all so passive, what are they doing there? You have created mystery.

  10. Intriguing so far. My only complaint is that I don't get a strong sense of the narrator on this first page. But I'm interested and would read further.

  11. I agree with the rest of the comments: I'm hooked and very curious to learn more about this Aryan Motherhood group. I would like to feel a little bit more connected to the MC - perhaps say "Since she had infiltrated the group" or something like that - just to reassure us that she isn't really one of these people!

  12. This may be way too obscure, but there was a movie in the late '80s with Debra Winger called "Betrayed." She's an FBI agent who infiltrates an Aryan Nation group. That was the first thing I thought of when I read Aryan Motherhood. Like I said, I might have been the only person on the planet who saw it.

    Your story has a good premise and is well written.

  13. First off, thank you all for the helpful critiques, so far! This is my first month participating and it's been so helpful to get the feedback. I'm hooked on the blog, now.

    On to the obsessive portion of the event. In re-reading my first paragraph, I noticed that I introduced an error when I cleaned up my punctuation after my cut & paste job.

    In the first graph

    "The Rune of Life: it was supposed to be a tree: Three thick black sticks, against a red background."

    is supposed to be

    "The Rune of Life. It was supposed to be a tree: three thick black sticks, against a red background."

    It probably doesn't matter to anyone but me, but I feel better now that I've pointed it out.

  14. I like how we get the idea from the very first paragraph that the narrator is skeptical. She's here in this group but doesn't want to be. Immediately we're intrigued, wondering, why is she here if she's so cynical? A good start.

    However, the first paragraph also has some awkwardness. "The Rune of Life" has two sets of colons. I suspect the second one is a typo and should be a period.

    Second paragraph, "Aryan Motherhood" really jumps out and catches the attention! A great twist. Suddenly this feels very eerie, because there's such a dark vibe surrounding those words.

    You don't need quotes around names, Heidi in first pargraph, Mary in third.

    I like your descriptions of the women in the second and third paragraphs. I know these women! So plain, so serious.

    The last paragraph of this excerpt becomes problematic, as others have mentioned. Sheep? Mindless? How could a group of women fueled by hatred, going against the popular society, going to meetings in secret... be mindless? They'd have to be exactly the oppposite, wouldn't they?

    The only explanation would be if these women were actually all in the Motherhood against their will. Maybe their husbands are the Brotherhood and they've forced the women to form this group, and the women, being married to overpowering and possibly violent men, submissively went along with it. Now that would be an interesting story.

    At the end of this excerpt, I'm intrigued by some story possibilites. I like the fact that the narrator has infiltrated this group. I want to know what's going to happen. I'd read on.


  15. I'm somewhat hooked. It's an interesting premise and well-written, but I have no sense of this MC other than she's a woman with a small child attending a meeting of a subdued hate group filled with ordinary white women. Is she undercover -- a reporter looking for an expose, maybe a victim looking for revenge? A bored housewife looking for a place to belong or a cult leader looking for followers? I think her reason for being there is the hook, not the choosing of a stick figure mascot. Everything is so passive, there's no passion -- I'd give it another page to see where it's going.

  16. Very interested to see where this story is going. I want to know why the MC is there since she's obviously not like the rest of the sheep.

    Curious about the choice of genre as well. I would definitely read on!