Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March Secret Agent #1

TITLE: Leap of Faith
GENRE: Woman's Fiction

She was chest deep when she lost sight of him. The wave that took him down broke across the jetty and Leni cringed at the thought of flesh and bone colliding with the rock barrier. His head was bleeding when she reached him. His lungs were saturated and he was unconscious; dead weight. It took both her arms to hold him against her chest.

The tide was with her and the current seemed to surrender to her will. The greatest difficulty was dragging him out of the shallow water. The exertion warmed her body and escalated her temper. He was a novice. And alone. The man had no business on a surfboard.

She resuscitated him, and while he coughed up the salt water from his lungs, she surveyed his injuries. His eyes fluttered open--deep-ocean blue and unfocused. He squeezed them shut and a shiver of pain took him back into oblivion. It was impossible to look at his face and hold onto her irritation.
She took a calming breath and stacked her palms over the gash on his forehead and gasped. A flare of heat pulsated from the center of her lower back. She pulled her hands away and the sensation left her. It felt like her birthmark was the source of the heat, but that seemed impossible--for anyone else, impossible. She reached around and pressed her fingertips over the tiny star-shaped mark. Then, she leaned in and rested her other hand on his shoulder. The heat returned.


  1. Some nice writing here, but a few things stood out to me. There was a lot of passive voice used in the first two paragraphs. I might consider revising those to active so the action seems more immediate, especially with a near drowning scene like this one. My other thought is concerning the line 'she resuscitated him'. Can you show us this happening? I think you're missing a pretty big opportunity to raise tension. The scar/heat is interesting but a little confusing. It sort of sounds like a paranormal thing when I see this is women's fiction. Great work anyhow, keep it up :)

  2. Hmm, I'm a little bit torn. On the one hand, its generally said to be good advice to start in the middle of the action, which is exactly what you did here and it works well. However, I think you might be better served by backing things up just a LITTLE bit and setting the conflict up more. Even just a different starting line could have a huge impact, maybe just a line about where she was or what she was doing when he went under the water. You definitely want to start with action, but I feel you can find a better lead in line that grounds us the action a little better. I get that he was surfing, but what was she doing, what's her relation to him, any of these can ramp up the tension significantly just by being introduced in a throwaway line.

    I don't actually have a problem with paranormal elements in literay or women's fiction, I think it happens a lot without being considered a 'genre' book, though already your talk of the birthright and hint of its powers make me think the paranormal elements might be strong enough that you'd be better served by marketing it as a genre book. However, that just means you have options. Good job!

  3. I agree with Kalen. I need a little set up here. Is she a lifeguard? How does she know this guy is a novice? Does she know him? Why did she save him? (If she is a lifeguard - why didn't she have her rescue buoy with her). If she isn't a lifeguard - how did she know how to save him?

    It's great writing. I just need a little back story before the action.

  4. I agree with Ramona, in that this could be much stronger if it was told in an active voice rather than a passive one. You're telling us what she did, rather than allowing her to do it. As is, it's too matter-of-fact and lacks life and emotion.

    Also, in the first line she loses sight of him. In the third, she reaches him. When did she ever find him again?

  5. I like that you got to the point. And that I now know as a reader that he is important from the first page. Great! But I'd like to know more about her, too. And I wonder about her calm. Even seasoned rescuers have that surge of adrenaline when they are called on to act.

  6. The first sentence needs more, imo. She was chest deep when she saw him. For that second I had no idea what she was chest deep in -- and the passivity of the passage is kind of lulling instead of intriguing. Why not give it a go from a more active pov, as the premise seems to be there.

    Good luck!

  7. I like this--knowing you'll fill in the holes on page 2 or 3. My only real question is did she do mouth to mouth as part of resuscitating him? If so, why didn't her birthmark heat up then?

    It's a quibble, but otherwise I like this. Unless the whole story is passive, I don't mind the way you started at all. Good job!

  8. Interesting. The kick off is very engaging, but at first I thought this was a mother trying to rescue her child. Maybe that was intentional, but if not, perhaps reference her "life-saving training" ... *snort* that's terrible, but some way to show that she's a rescuer saving a surfer. Just a tad more set-up.

    I like where you're headed here, and 250 words is not enough here~ :o) Best,

  9. Some things that slow this down:

    1) His lungs were saturated - how would she know this?
    2) Her escalating temper makes me not like her - her annoyance is understandable under the circumstances, but it shouldn't be pretty much the first personal thing we find out about her
    3) "She resuscitated him" - this is a very flat statement for this procedure
    4) "A shiver of pain took him back into oblivion" - you're shifting from her POV into his
    5) Why would she "stack her palms" on the gash on his forehead?

    Your kick is in the last paragraph - you need to keep the writing particularly clear and succinct in the passages leading up to this so it doesn't get lost.

    (You may also want to say something like "wave that knocked him off his surfboard" in the second sentence to help set this up more clearly.)

  10. This is lovely writing, but I'm not sure about what seems to be the paranormal elements at the end. Maybe there's just not enough words for you to show me what's really going on.
    I like your voice and you have intrigued me enough to make me want to read on.

  11. I got sucked into the opening because it started with an exciting scene!

    I agree with some of the others that the opening would be stronger if you make some of the lines less passive and more active, especially when it's supposed to be an exciting scene in the water.

    I'm curious about the last paragraph where it gets out of the ordinary with her feeling the heat on her birthmark. I was pretty surprised to see it when there wasn't enough of a buildup to the fantastic element. Of course, more might have been explained in the words after 250.

    Nice job so far!

  12. Hi! Secret Agent here! Let's get this party started.

    So, this suffers from something I see often: a lot of sensory detail, which is good, in a scene where the reader is more concerned with action. If I were She, I'd be thinking OMG WATER OMG HE'LL DROWN OMG HE'LL DIE OMG HE'S HOT. I wouldn't notice his eyes because I'd be worried about him breathing. Don't break the tension in an action scene by over explaining visual/sensory detail when the more important thing is what happens next.

    Also @texcat has a good point. Wouldn't she feel the heat when she gave him mouth to mouth? Was there no mouth to mouth?

    Overall, nice set up here. Looks interesting.