Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March Secret Agent #20

GENRE: Mystery

He waited.

It was still and tranquil under the trees. The only sound was a quiet drip, a remnant of the drizzle that had just passed through. There was little light. The road passed by not far away, but there were no streetlights and the clouds blocked what little the moon and stars would have provided.

The houses were larger out here, and farther apart. Funny... growing up in Brooklyn, he had always pictured Long Island as filled with sand, stunted pine trees and scrub, redolent of salt and sea. He looked about. He was surrounded by oak and maple and birch, engulfed with the smells of rotting leaves and rich loam. He had always known that there were forests and fields and farms, but he was still surprised to see them.

Traffic had been unusually light and he'd arrived earlier than expected. His car was tucked out of sight behind a screen of trees and bushes. He had even draped mottled brown and green towels over windows and lights that faced the road to eliminate reflections, just in case an infrequent vehicle happened by.

He was more nervous than he thought he'd be. He had anticipated some adrenalin, enough so that he had made sure to go to the bathroom before leaving, but he knew he was ready. He had taken more than two years in planning and preparation and spent more than he had expected, but everything on his list had been checked off and all that remained was to begin.


  1. This was really well written. Lovely descriptions. I'm wondering if this character is the abductor, however. If so, I'm not getting any creep factor. And perhaps that is the point? That he is an ordinary guy (in his own eyes). It's so hard with 250 words! I would have perhaps skipped over so much description and gotten to the abduction (only because it seems he's right there. Ready.)

  2. Good tension building. Good descriptions. The bathroom comment did kick me plumb out of the story though.

    IMHO, some phrases appeared clunky to me. Examples: ‘infrequent vehicle’, ‘tranquil’, ‘that had just passed through’.

    I’ve read it is best to use simple verbs and nouns at the beginning to help pull the reader in. Don’t try to say too much, describe every detail. The phrase, ‘…the only sound was the slow drip of light rain…’ would suffice. It conveys a dreary day, moist and gray.

  3. Lots of great stuff here and some vivid imagery, but a few things gave me pause. The heavy use of passive voice is one. Most of this could easily be switched over to active voice and I think the scene would be so much the better for it. Another pick is the line 'the road passed by not far away'. It doesn't really make sense to me. Cars on that road? Yes, but the road likely didn't move :P

  4. While this paints a beautiful image and really sets the scene, it's very passive. If you've used the word 'was' 3 times in the first paragraph, alarm bells should be ringing.

    I don't believe you have to leap right into the action in the first 500 words, but a little more movement from the character would do a lot to make the section more active as well as to place him firmly into the setting you've so beautifully evoked.

  5. My first thought was that there is no hook. We don't know if this guy is the abductor or not. He could be a cop or detective staking out an area, hoping the abductor might show up. If we didn't have the blurb on the back of the book, he could be almost anyone.

    If you were to add one more line however . . . .

    SOmething like - Emily would be his - if he's the abductor, or - There would be no more abductions on his watch. - if he's a detective. You get the point. That extra line could make all the difference.

  6. I thought this painted a clear picture of the setting and the man's thoughts. I liked it. My only beef is that if he's the abductor, I'm kind of creeped out by how normal he is . . . but I'm sure you're doing that on purpose. I'd love to see how this turns out.

  7. I think the first three paragraphs can be boiled down to 3-4 sentences to describe the setting, leaving tons of room to get to the tension, hook, and plot. What the MC thought about Long Island as a boy is probably not important, but that he draped the car in camouflage is a GREAT and important detail. Get to the good stuff like that as soon as you can. The reader will fill in the other (non-vital) sensory details. Don't micromanage your scene.