Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February Secret Agent #26

GENRE: Contemporary Romantic Suspense

"You want me to call the police? Have you lost your mind?" David Shelton couldn't believe the woman spoke those words through his phone. His sweaty palm gripped the phone to his ear and his pulse pounded in his ears as his heart thudded against his chest. "Well, how bad is it?"

David never expected this turn of problems an hour ago, sitting in his office absentmindedly looking over paperwork. Time moved at a snail's pace as he glanced at the clock on the adjacent wall. He had paced his office, anxious for the call he expected all night, burying the horrible feeling in his gut. He occupied his foreboding time by perusing the items on his cluttered desk. Nothing held a particular meaning. A cherry-wood penholder, a wire-folder organizer, and calculator- all simple items for his job, except a cubed-glass paperweight. He picked it up, tilted it around in his hands as it captured the light and the reflections twinkled across the empty wall. He smiled. His wife gave him the trinket last year when he started this job. But his smile quickly faded, the gift now a painful reminder of the way things used to be.

"Sophie, you asked me to clear area tonight, which I've done, so your team could pick up the loot. You need to tighten the leash on your pit bulls, because this is not what I signed on for!"


  1. You have some formatting issues - I'd start a new paragraph with "David Shelton" - otherwise at first it seems that David's the one speaking. And I have no idea who says "Well, how bad is it?" (Start a new paragraph each time the speaker changes.)

    Strip out some adjectives - his time isn't foreboding, and even if it were, an adjective isn't needed here. You may not want to have his heart pounding and his pulse pounding - probably just one is fine. "Trinket" is an odd word to use for a presumably heavy cubed paperweight - just say "this" or "the paperweight."

    I'm also confused regarding time flow. Did he pace his office all night after this phone call, or before? And then he has the paperweight in his hands - presumably he has now finished his phone call? But you end with a quote, presumably from him, but we have no idea he is still on the phone. And that last paragraph is close to an info dump - plopping a whole lot of unknown plot ... a team, some loot, an unknown cleared area (article missing there), and some threatening "pit bulls." This doesn't engage the reader - it confuses the reader.

    With suspense, pacing and flow are crucial, and any little blip will pull the reader off the course you want them on, and I think here you've not engaged the reader as you'd need to.

  2. With a romantic suspense you want a lot of “right now, right here” action. You don’t need to have it right up front but you don’t want to start off with a right now paragraph and then have the next one be about something that has already happened, like your second paragraph talking about the items on his desk.

    My first question about that paragraph is, are these items important? Are you telling us about them because later in the novel his “cherry wood penholder” comes into play? Or possibly he beats some villain over the head with his “wire folder organizer”? If not I would cut it all.

    You’ve got a good opening action. Stick with that, talk about what David expects later.

  3. In the first paragraph, you mention ears twice in one sentence, as well as heart and pulse. Don't go over board describing how his body is responding. Less is more. We got he's nervous with the sweaty hands part. Don't beat us over the head with it.

    This is a romantic suspense novel but there's no suspense beyond the first paragraph. The second paragraph drags. Get us into the moment and hook us. Your second paragraph is an info dumb. Move it. Get us back into the action then you'll have a beginning that will hook your readers.

    Good luck!

  4. I agree with the others that this is a bit heavy on descriptives - a bit overwritten. I don't mind some overwritten sentences, I'm a fan of words, but even for me this was a bit much. Too much on his reaction not what was going on so I was engaged enough to continue reading.

  5. You hooked me in the first paragraph, but then you gave me a bit too much information in the second. I am intrigued about the relationship with his wife - well done.

    I'm confused about this sentence: "Sophie, you asked me to clear area tonight, which I've done, so your team could pick up the loot." Maybe I'm missing something.

    I would continue reading, because I want to see what happens next.

    Good luck.

  6. I got bogged down in several places while reading this.

    You don't need "David Shelton couldn't believe the woman spoke those words through his phone" because the same thing is connoted by what he says.

    The second paragraph has a ton of superfluous information. A lot of the adjectives: "absentmindedly," "adjacent," and "foreboding" (which isn't used correctly) aren't necessary. Neither is the list of items on his desk that don't matter. If they aren't special you could something like: "He picked up the paperweight, the only item on the desk that meant anything to him."

    Your dialogue is strong and capture David's sentiments perfectly. Once you get the rest of your work to match the strength of the dialogue, I think you'll have a great opening.

  7. I agree with the other comments that there is just too much in some places. The first paragraph is interesting and captured me but then any excitement dwindled with the second paragraph in all the information that didn't seem to relate to the first. Maybe if you pulled out the real gems and important lines like the bit about the wife.

    I think this could be a really great opening. You might want to trim it down and keep the tension high for the reader.

  8. Everyone has already commented on the main issues. Great opening, too slow middle (and unnecessary,) and confusing end. If you get rid of the 2nd parg, you have more room to make clearer what is actually going on. STick with it. It takes time.

  9. I just read all above. Hey, they stole my comments. So I'll use my intuition. I assume something happened to his wife (she died perhaps) or maybe there's a cracvked picture of her on his desk.

    The expression 'clear area' isn't U.S. english we'd say clear some time. No big deal, but it made me pause.

    I write romantic suspense/intrigue and I like this kind of opening, where he's sitting alone on the thirteenth floor of the Acme building. It might serve you well to play with black and whites rather then colors at night. It feels noir, which is a good thing.

    I rambled here, but those people above me, the nerve.

    I'd read on.


    "You want me to call the police? Have you lost your mind?"
    David Shelton couldn't believe that (Sophie) would say this. He squeezed the life out of the phone, until he thought he'd have a heart attack.

    He composed himself, "Well, how bad is it?"

  10. Couple of tiny things pulled me up short in the first few lines:

    clear area? do you mean clear the area
    "phone" repeated in very close proximity
    sweaty palm, pounding pulse, thudding heart - three cliches strung together. Not good.
    This turn of problems? Sounds wrong Turn of events, surely?

    Apart from those little flubs, I like it.

  11. I thought this read sort of flat. A bit too wordy without really getting me into the issue at hand. What I did get was that the premise could be quite intriguing but I think you need to work on bringing those point out as soon as possible.