Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March Secret Agent #44

TITLE: Pushing Up Daisies
GENRE: Contemporary Women's Fiction

Serene: clear and calm, unruffled, placid, tranquil, unperturbed.

The words from the Oxford Dictionary ran through my mind as I tried to remember ever feeling this at peace.

At last, I knew what to do.

I could end the torment and I would be free.

I downed the last of the tablets having liberated them from the individual plastic and foil prison of their blister pack.

Lining them up across the marble of the kitchen bench end to end, tracking a small deep copper colour vein, marvelling at the brilliance of nature.

I abhorred straight lines.

Straight lines depicted order - something long missing from my life.

Supping vodka from the bottle with an insane desire to ensure all the pills were washed well into my stomach.

Fear of the tablets burning through my gullet haunted me, so I made a point of washing down medication properly. Habits were hard things to break, especially bad ones.

I knew.

I had plenty.

Downing the last of those pills - the ones the doctor gives you when you are a little stressed. You can't sleep at night.

Worries of the world getting to you.

Mind refuses to stop racing.

Stress getting the better of you.

My husband struggled with these symptoms, so the doctor, in his wisdom gave him pills.

Wonderful, colourful little pills, to take his worries away. I happened to be my husband's biggest worry.

Those pills would do their job - but not quite how the dear doctor planned.


  1. Imho, some sentence tightening needs to take place. Example, ‘…end the torment and be free…’ cutting out ‘I would’. Maybe cut some of the dictionary words down to the first three? My eye jumped over the rest of them.

    Sometimes it is better to use simple nouns and verbs at the beginning. Don’t try to describe every scene down to the last detail. Give me something to focus on (the pills, shape or color) and then do not belabor the MC’s feelings. Less is more.

  2. For me there's too much set up -- but I love the image of the pills lined up, where they came from and where they're going and what they're going to do. It makes me wonder what's next for the character. Good job.

  3. The image of the pills lined up is powerful and the character's distress comes through vividly. That said, I found the succession of one-sentence paragraphs choppy and distracting. I assume the technique is intended to convey the narrator's state of mind, but it didn't work for me.

  4. I like this and I'm curious to know what happens.

    You might want to think about cutting the first two paragraphs. The use of the words and mention of a dictionary made me think the main character was an orderly and by the book kind of person. This in my mind conflicted with her dislike of straight lines. Perhaps this is just me, but I wanted to mention it.

  5. I love the cut up one sentence paragraphs. So, that's a matter of preference. I always love it when authors aren't afraid to go outside of the norm.

    I would agree that you don't need quite as much setup, maybe pick one thing to take out, keep us guessing, I'm assuming here that you're not going to off her and then jump into someone else's head.... :)

  6. Another suggestion - maybe start with the line where she takes out all the pills. - She seems pretty set up for having said AT LAST I knew what to do.

    Just a thought. Also, I wouldn't bother writing anything here if I didn't like what you have so far! I'd totally read on. You did a nice job getting us inside her head.

  7. I'm not sure if starting a story with a suicide attempt is such a good idea, but I'm not a judge of this since this is not my genre. but I liked the voice and the "matter of fact" feel of the MC. Good luck with it.

  8. I think this is lovely and poetic, but you've set up a problem in that people might not want to spend a lot of time with this narrator. (You have to admit she doesn't exactly sound like a barrel of laughs.) I think if you quickly segue into something that is not self-pitying (or you quickly show us the reasons her life has gone awry) it could be a great opening. The writing is spare and beautiful.

  9. The writing is very good, but I don't keep reading (personally) when I don't want to be in the life of the narrator (I assume this is the narrator). I don't need to laugh, but I don't want to go on this journey. Great imagery. If the story isn't going where this excerpt takes us, maybe consider starting in a slightly different place?

  10. At first, all the one line pargs. and sentence fragments bothered me. By the time I was halfway through, I started to like them. I thought they said something about your MC's state of mind.

    I was confused for a bit because she downed the tablets, then lined them up. Perhaps instead of 'them' say 'the packages' so that's clear?

    I would have liked a bit more of where she was, and if her hubby was still alive. (For some reason, I imagined she had killed him). Anyway, you've got me curious, so I'd read on to see where it goes.

  11. I would not start a story with a dictionary definition. This is a cliche opening, one I've seen many, many times. It's not effective in creating a world; it only distracts. And I was further distracted by the single sentence paragraphs and the choppiness, enough to leave me not invested in the very serious thing going on in the scene. I would present this more traditionally so to let the actions speak for themselves. This was enough to make me not excited about reading on.

  12. Thank you everyone for your constructive and insightful comments, you have given me plenty to think about.

  13. I thought the scene was strong and it held my interest, and that the things the SA didn’t like are VERY easy to fix. Smooth it out. I would however point out, I’d probably never read a book that started with a heroine committing suicide because I have not bonded EMOTIONALLY with her. Thinking of committing suicide would allow me to give her some leeway but actually doing it before I knew why wouldn’t grab me. I have no empathy for her because I don’t know her. It’s a subject many won’t like without understanding the WHY. If you started the story SHOWING me why she is so unhappy then I might understand her motives. My personal view only.

    Nice writing,– emotive, vivid and VERY real.