Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April Secret Agent #35

TITLE: Winning the War at Home
GENRE: Commercial Women's

Angie Porter hadn't had a good night's sleep since Iraq invaded Kuwait twelve days earlier. She lay awake each night with the fear that her business partner would be sent to the Gulf, counting her way through a rosary of worries. Ten "how will I run the bookstore without Peter?" followed by twenty "what if something happens to him?" When she finally drifted off in the deep night, she dreamed that Peter came into the store to tell her he had been called to active duty. Other nights, she searched for him on a nightmare battlefield of torn limbs, exposed guts, rotting flesh. Both dreams were equally terrifying.

Lack of sleep had caught up with her this morning. She sat behind the cash register of Night Owl's and stared with bleary eyes at the back of the sign lettered on the front window: "Books, coffee, conversation, 24 hours a day." Normally she loved the morning shift. She enjoyed the early birds, insomniacs, students and occasional maniacs who wandered into the store at seven. This morning she just wanted everyone to leave her alone.

Angie forced herself to concentrate. Get a grip, Porter. The current events table won't change itself.


  1. Seems like a good premise, and I'd want to read more. However, the transition between the first and second paragraph kind of threw me. I was picturing her in bed and then suddenly she was at the store. Maybe you could say "the next morning" rather than "this morning".

  2. I would read more, but you're starting with a past moment. There's no need. Jump in with the exhaustion. The difference. Normally she's happy morning girl, today she's not. The nightmares were there again. The loss of business, the loss of Peter, threatening and looming in her sleep. Combine the backstory with action. But I like her voice and her circumstance is comepelling.

  3. I like it. Sounds like an interesting read. It did take me a little bit to get into it though and I agree that working on the transition would help. I would keep reading. :)

  4. I agree with Emily. Paragraph one is the wrong place to start. Although I'm not hooked, I'd read another couple pages to see where this is going.

  5. I would swap the first two paragraphs around so you open with the present.

    Just a thought but wouldn't Angie worry about something happening to Peter before worrying about how to run the business without him? This way round makes her sound a bit selfish - although perhaps she's supposed to :)

    Not hooked yet but I would read a bit more to see where it goes.

  6. I like the idea of switching the first two paragraphs around and starting with the here and now. It seemed to me that she must be interested in Peter as more than a business partner to be so worried about him, so then I would put her concerns about his safety first, before her concerns about running the store without him.

    I'd keep reading a ways, but I'd want to get out of her head and into some action or dialogue pretty quickly.

  7. This is a tough one for me because I know the story (I've seen the query letter) and I know some of what's coming (and I know I want to read it) ... so it's hard to judge this. And this is only 199 words, so it's less than a typical "first page."

    It's possible that a reader (not yet knowing Angie) might be offput by her equating running a bookstore alone as terrifying as searching a body-strewn battlefield for Peter. And yes, starting with the second paragraph might be a good switch ... let us know and see Angie first.

    My main problem here is that I want to get to the main plotline that I know is coming - but other readers don't!

  8. Jumping off of Sara Henry's comment - if this isn't the main plot line, why start here? You're showing us a woman wondering what will happen to her book store if her partner goes off to war, which really isn't very compelling. Why not start closer to the main plot which is probably bigger and hookier than this?

  9. Worrying about the war turned me off, but I liked the imagery of the limb-strewn battlefield of bad dreams. Angie seemed a bit too self-centred for me to find any sympathy for her. That said, the writing and imagery is lovely. "...counting her way through a rosary of worries" is especially beautiful. Sara Henry tells us that there is a lot of great story to come. Perhaps, as Barbara suggests, you should start a little closer to that. Good luck with this and thanks for sharing.

  10. hmmm, I struggle with this. I suspect that something interesting might be coming up: what is the connection between the military and this bookstore? How does Angie Porter fit in? I'm drawn to stories that make interesting connections between people, places and events, and I get the sense this might be one of them.

    But, I think this first page, particularly the first paragraph, does not say enough about Angie. She's an insomniac and she's afraid Peter will be called to active duty. Okay? so, what's this bookstore? how did she come to work with peter? who is else is there? what is she doing?

    I might shorten or entirely cut the first paragraph and then focus more on the current action. It would bolster the movement of this and give you the opportunity to get readers more invested in Angie.

  11. Thank you for your useful comments. It sounds like I have some re-write yet to do. By the way, in the next paragraph Peter walks into the store, tells Angie he's been called to active duty and asks her to take care of his three sons until his wife can get home from Africa.