Wednesday, November 4, 2009

48 Secret Agent

GENRE: Offbeat Suspense

At the moment of his death, Andy Hansen had never felt more alive.

The captain of the Carolina University wrestling squad was enjoying his senior year immensely. With only one loss so far, he was destined for All-America honors at the spring conference championships. This alone would have been enough to sustain his natural high, but adding three turquoise pills and a petite, auburn-haired freshman named Denise Graham into the mix made for one pumped-up wrestler.

Knowing he stood a very good chance of being shirtless that night, Andy wasn’t taking any chances. If he threw himself into an intense chest workout at the gym, his pecs would be suitably swollen, making an ever-so-inviting pillow for Denise’s fragrant head.

As he closed his apartment door, his hand brushed against a thick, blue piece of paper swinging from the knob. Stupid ad, he thought, and wadded it up.

When it crinkled in his fist, he smoothed the ad out again and discovered a small cellophane packet glued to the back. Three capsules rattled around inside. The headline proclaimed “Increase Your Strength! Maximize Your Reps! Enhance Your Performance the All-Natural Way!” RepMax, the attached product, claimed to be organic--free from ephedrine, synephrine and steroids, any of which could get him kicked off the team in a heartbeat. Andy was intrigued; if God made it, what harm could it do?

He shrugged. He was twenty-one, in the best shape of his life, a bonafide wrestling star with a hot new girlfriend in the wings. In a word: indestructible. He pinched out the pills and tossed them back with a swig of water. Might be just bee pollen, but what the hell. He stuffed the free sample coupon into his pocket.


  1. Can't decide if I'm hooked or not. Reason being, we learn in the very first sentence that Andy has died. The second paragraph is an immediate flashback and we are with Andy in the supposed present, yet we already know that he has died and it doesn't take much to realize that the packet of pills he has stuffed in his pocket caused his demise. So while I like the story, I can't say I'm hooked because there seems to be very little mystery. Sorry.

  2. I agree with Ant. The first line kills the suspense. The next couple paragraphs are backstory of a character who isn't long for the world. Might be better to have it start with Andy getting back to his room to change for a date, finding the turquoise pills (might want to change the color to make them more ominous), and then, the girlfriend finds him dead. The last paragraph tells me he's arrogant and thrilled to death about it, which doesn't make me care much if he lives or dies. Better to have a likable character with lots to lose who dies than a jerk we're not interested in.

  3. Sorry, but I hate wrestling, so that's a turnoff.

    Also, a lot of telling going on, so I'd pass on this.

  4. I would read a bit more to figure out what this is about. My guess is it's not about Andy Hansen, but about those pills and maybe where they came from? Maybe Andy is even a throwaway character and the first victim of whatever is going on?

    I think you could tighten a bit by taking out the phrase "but adding three turquoise pills" and let the pills appear for the first time in the fifth paragraph. This way, not every bit of Andy's fate is explained right up front. I like your descriptions, though. I have a good sense of Andy's character and the type of person he is.

  5. I like it. I'm not sure how stupid you'd have to be to take pills someone leaves on your doorstep, but maybe he really is. It's not a bad start, but it all depends on the writing. And the dialog. I'm assuming that's to come. He's a pretty shallow guy, so he'd better have some redeeming qualities for us to care why/how he died. Is Offbeat Suspense a genre?

  6. I'd read a couple more pages to see if he's got a chance of learning/developing or if there's a stronger MC waiting to take center focus.

    I also agree with Gigi's comment regarding when the pills are introduced. It would help the flow a bit.

  7. I agree with the top two commenters that your first line kills off any tension, which made the rest of it not very inviting. I know what's going to happen to Andy, and I started skimming so I could get through the backstory and get to the point of this story. Maybe leave out the first line so we're wondering what's going to happen to Andy when he takes the pills.

  8. Not hooked, sorry. I've seen lots of opening lines detailing someone who died looking back at their life, and most of them come off as author-voice instead of character voice. Ditto that other than Andy taking the pills, not much is happening here other than backstory and Telling/Infodumping.

  9. I'm torn. I like it, but the set up is strange. I'd read a few more pages to see where you were going.

  10. Is Andy not the protagonist? Isn't he going to be dying soon? Who is really going to be carrying this story? I'm sorry to say I'm not hooked yet

  11. I cannot imagine a college athlete being stupid enough to take pills a stranger hangs on his doorknob.

    And how did the "three turquose pills" make for a pumped-up wrestler, in the 2nd graf, when he hadn't taken them yet?

    The ever-so-inviting pillow for Denise's fragrant head also stopped me. In a sense this is Andy's voice, and guys just don't think in this sort of terminology.

  12. Not only do you tell us the kid's going to die, you also tell us about the pills.

    Then you tell us about the pills and how indestructible he feels when we already know he ends up destroyed.

    No suspense here. I'd be willing to bet you have an interesting concept in the offing, but this opening needs a little more thought.

    Good luck!

  13. Hooked.
    I liked the clever phrases and the voice of this character. I couldn’t tell if he is the protag or not at this point, but I don’t care; I want to know more.

    I want to know if the guy is an idiot or will see the light.

    Yes, most definitely hooked.

    One small criticism; the second paragraph needs tightened. I found my way out of the maze but it might stop others. I liked it and it told the story. But maybe it needs a spring cleaning, fewer story-telling words.

    Good Job!

  14. Almost hooked, but not quite. While I liked the tone and the causal, conversational voice, I had a hard time with the structure/set up. The first line made me think I'd learn about his death right away, but by the end of the first page he's still alive. I just don't know if it's a good place to start. I think it needs a bit more work. Good luck!

  15. Just wanted to add to my previous comment ... my first thought when I read this was it's a Carl Hiassen-type piece ... quirky characters, maybe not so likable (often vain and prone to do stupid things like the wrestler) -- but entertaining nonetheless. Another read and the "offbeat suspense" genre listed makes me think this is the case. Maybe I'm wrong, but if that's where you're going with the story, I would definitely read more. (I loved "Lucky You" and think Hiassen is a really fun writer).

  16. I'm somewhat intrigued, but this feels all out of order to me. I'm okay with the first line, but then mentioning the turquoise pills before he finds the turquoise pills is confusing. I'd cut the last sentence of the second paragraph.