Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March Secret Agent #46

TITLE: Maiden's Veil
GENRE: Contemporary women's fiction

Racing through arroyos and barreling down slopes, the wind caught the Barlow family by surprise. The mother and eldest daughter ran from picnic table to fire pit to camper, stashing the lawn chairs inside, battening down the awning that flapped like gunshot, chasing paper plates and cups and napkins that flushed like startled quail. The two boys and their father stood apart, tying handkerchiefs bandit-style across noses and mouths, determined to carry out their annual hunt for potsherds and arrowheads left by the Chemehuevi people who, centuries ago, grappled with the same forceful gusts. No one took notice of Jessamine. The age gap between the twelve-year-old and her older siblings was enough that the three now dismissed their youngest sister, or if not, teased her ruthlessly, calling her 'changeling' for the genetic anomaly, one blue eye and one brown eye, that had emerged after many latent years from their mother's side of the family.

Undeterred by the blowing sand, Jess escaped into the Joshua Tree desert, deer-running along the dusty creek beds, darting around boulders and creosote bushes and the contorted branches of manzanita. The gusts set aloft her long reddish-brown hair, whipped her thin gym shorts and T-shirt against her limbs, brought the resinous scent of the chaparral to her tongue, diffused the escalating heat.

Approaching a tall rise, Jess climbed, brushing past translucent ghost flowers and silvery sage, scrabbling over talus and sliding on scree.


  1. This is interesting, but as we zero in, we seem to be zeroing in on a preteenager, who presumably is not the main character. I was expecting the MC to be the mother, frankly, but we don't know anything about her at the end of this. What I suspect is about to happen is that the daughter is going to get lost. But if the mother is the POV (we really don't have a POV yet, unless it is Jessie), we need to know that right away.

    The scene setting is terrific, BTW.

  2. The description of the coming storm is vivid and ominous. I'd work on the opening sentence, because we're usually warned against opening with a subordinate clause. Starting with "the wind" would be stronger.

    I'm not a big fan of an omniscient POV, so I'm not the one to comment on this, but I agree with Kathleen above: it's better to let us know who the MC is right off the bat.

    But I love the setting (love Joshua Tree!) and tone.

  3. So much potential! I think the setting definitely grabbed me. A lot of telling in the opener, though. Would have liked to have the main character stand out, right off. Maybe have HER perception of the wind start the story.

  4. I like the descriptions here very much, mostly starting in the second 'graph, where it felt like we were zeroing in. If Jess isn't the MC, I'd say that's probably not good, but I'm thinking she is...?

    Also, you might add an "s" after gunshot. (Or else an "a" before it.)

    This is one of those cases were 250 words isn't quite enough. Very good~ :o) <3

  5. Wow, very vivid imagery. I agree with Critter Cat - after reading it through, I would have preferred the opener to be more from Jess' perspective. The fact that she's sort of the "black sheep" makes her very relatable, and I want to stick with her. Great start overall, though!!

  6. I really enjoyed the set up and description. I would really b
    Have liked a main pov character's bead to be inside. You did such a good job with the setting I really want to feel it through your protagonist. Good luck.

  7. Beautiful writing and imagery!
    I have to agree with previous comments in that I don't know who the MC is, or what is being set up.
    Centering the beginning so much in the 12-year-old's perspective (and she's the only one who is named) suggests that she is the MC--which is confusing, as this is supposed to be contemporary women's fiction.

  8. Gorgeous narrative. Is this a prologue? Something tells me Jess will be grown in the next chapter. I'm intrigued enough to keep reading and that's what it's all about.

  9. The writing is beautiful. And I don't want to keep reading. I don't know what is happening or who is important, so I'm lost in a beautiful world that I smile at and appreciate for its beauty, but walk through and out the other side. There's so much promise here, but, to me, too much detail was packed in. More streamlined story would have hooked me for sure, tho b/c the writing is so pretty :)

  10. I'm thinking Jess will be the MC, and if so, she's arriving too late. Perhaps show the wind and what her family is doing through her eyes, rather than the narrator's.

    The genre says contemporary women's fiction, and yet I've this feeling that Jess will go back in time to the Chemehuevi people. It probably won't happen because of the genre, but that's the impression I get.

    It seems you defnitely know the setting you're writing about. The description is specific and exact as opposed to generic. All the detail works for the scenery, but it may be overkill when describing the characters. Perhaps tone it down a bit there.

    What's missing is that there's no hint of where this is going, what we will be reading about. What is your MC's problem? It can be the big overall problem or just the issue at hand, but there needs to be something to make the reader turn the page, and right now, that's missing. Getting it in on the first page will make a difference.

  11. The imagery here is very vivid and the author sets the scene well. I agree with the comments about the genre and MC here, so I hope it's addressed in the narrative very soon. But there isn't an indication of a problem, minus Jess being ignored by her family. I'd need more upfront to invest more time here.