Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July Secret Agent #23

TITLE: The Paper Crane
GENRE: Women's Fiction

The trip to work was one hell of a ride. Not only did the cabbie claim he used to be a stunt driver for Jackie Chan, he insisted on demonstrating his demented expertise. He made a hairpin swerve right before the light turned red, slammed the brakes until the tires squealed, and snaked his way through dense traffic on the Cross Harbour Highway. Clutching my seat, I mulled over the eulogy my sister would give at my funeral when we jolted to a halt. My heart pounded, hair ruined. I scrambled out of the cab.

"This is not Hollywood!" I paid the fare, adding a lousy tip for keeping me alive.

A whiff of stinky tofu--sold by a vendor across the street--made my stomach rumble, but no time to stop for a snack. I strode past the sliding glass door into Wah Hing Building and found a maintenance sign blocking the elevators. They've got to be kidding! Z Entertainment Talent Agency, my office, stood on the tenth floor.

I eyed the security officer slouched at his desk. "The elevator's not working again?"

"Don't know." He yawned, mouth wide open to reveal a nasty abyss. "Ask Jimmy."

A gust of garlic-laden breath raided my nostrils. I grimaced. "Where's Jimmy?"

"Don't know." He sniggered and flattened his enormous belly against the security station, resuming his daily reading of Master Wong's Sure Win Horse Racing Manual.

I checked my watch. Ten minutes to my appointment with the diva queen. Locating Jimmy, the maintenance guy, would be futile.


  1. Hooked. I liked the beginning, the only problem I had was that I really liked the visual of "garlic-laden breath raided my nostrils," but wish you could have used something like that instead of just saying "stinky tofu." Otherwise I liked it.

  2. I could really visualize the setting and I'm intrigued to see where this is going, but I had a few minor quibbles. I wondered why she would want the tofu if it was stinky. Also, I liked the description of the security guard, but my first impression was that he was too far away to smell his breath.

    I would like to know more about the MC and would read on to learn more.

  3. I love your voice and I can feel it's going to be a good read. A couple of suggestions: "snaked his way through dense traffic" evokes an image for me that is slow-moving, which doesn't quite fit with the next comment re eulogy and jolting to a halt. "They've got to be kidding" - wrong tense? ("They had to be kidding!")

    Generally, though - hooked!

  4. Author here.
    @Angie: Let me clarify that 'stinky tofu' is a dish.
    @ Maggie: I've got to be kidding was meant as a direct thought (in italics) but somehow, the italics didn't show here.

    Thank you for the comments, peeps! Appreciate it.

  5. Consider showing that first paragraph while it's happening. It would open the story and set the mood and tone in a big way.

    The rest, while hectic and not the best of circumstances, is pretty ordinary, and her problem is that she may be late. Not a biggie. Perhaps take it a bit further. What are the consequences if she's late? Will she lose a promotion, get fired? If we're going to root for her, we need a reason. So far, there's nothing at stake, and there should be.

  6. I was hooked from the beginning and would like to know how this ends.

    Just a little suggestion:

    "A whiff of stinky tofu--sold by a vendor across the street--made my stomach rumble, but no time to stop for THAT NOTORIOUS snack."

    So that even readers not familiar with the local delicacy 'Stinky Tofu' will get an idea why it made your heroine's stomach rumble?

  7. Loved the voice. You had me hooked at 'the cabie claimed he used to be a stunt driver for Jackie Chan.'

    I'd love to know what happened next.

    Good luck!

  8. I like Ellen's suggestion because the only thing that stood out to me was the stinky tofu. I also didn't know what it was.

    Great job of setting up the story.

  9. You have me hooked. I loved your voice and tone in this piece. I can totally see this scene in my head and would love to read more!!! Best of luck.

  10. This is interesting. I like that the sense of place and sensory details are so different. But it's also packed full of so many details, and not all of them are as gracefully executed as they could be. Maybe a less-is-more take on this would work better. I would definitely look at more of it.

  11. This has an interesting voice and I can see a conflict already. I like how you built up drama. From the first sentence I got the feeling she's on her way to work, but in the last paragraph it's apparent she has an appointment, which I interpreted as a job interview. I'm probably wrong, but to avoid any misunderstanding maybe you could swap diva queen with diva boss etc. You did a nice job though.

  12. I'm loving it!!!

    Your style, prose, pace is fantastic. Flawless.

    First paragraph: for readers who may not know Jackie Chan, you need to explain what/who he is with one/two words before his name: Not only did the cabbie claim he used to be a stunt driver for stunt performer Jackie Chan...
    doesn't take up too much space, and clarifies for those who might not know him... (I know, I know, who doesn't know Jackie Chan?!?! ;)

    Also, clarify where the heck 'Cross Harbour Highway' is : ...and snaked his way through dense traffic on Chicago's Cross Harbour Highway
    again, doesn't take up any room and sets the location of the scene.

    Consider combining sentences to quicken the pace: My heart pounding, hair ruined, I scrambled out of the cab.

    I'm hooked!

  13. This is great!

    The only comment I have is more to do with what happens next, in that, as a reader I'm hooked at this point, so I want to know soon enough why it is that she's rushing. I don't want to find out that she's just rushing like every other person does every day because they have a hellish boss. I want her to be rushing because of something good. But it's going to be good, isn't it? :)