Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February Secret Agent #27

TITLE: The Mourning Cloak
GENRE: Women's Fiction

Mommy, make him stop.”

Hanna jerked awake at the sound of the panicked whisper in her ear. She turned her head toward the voice and as usual, there was no one at her bedside. Her eyes flicked to her giant digital clock with its blue over-sized numbers. Just like every night for the last two months, it glowed 11:11 p.m. This was really starting to piss her off. She gleaned nothing from these experiences and blew it off to mounting stress.

It was only two months since she pulled her father off life support. That was one of the hardest things she ever had to do and she couldn’t seem to scrape the sounds and images of his death from her mind. He was all she had left.

She swung her legs off the bed, clicked on the lamp, and rubbed the sleep from her eyes with her palms. She stared askance at the red suitcase sitting in the corner with mixed feelings of trepidation and resolve. As exhausted as she was, she figured she might as well get going. It was a long drive to Destiny, WV.
As she pulled on her jeans she realized she had no one to call even if she wanted to cry for help. Her recent sorrow and guilty past had settled into her bones. She deserved to suffer for the things she’d done. The shame of it was a coiling serpent around her heart and she was past the point of amelioration.


  1. While I think this waking-up scene is one of the more interesting ones I've read, it's still probably not the best way to open your manuscript. So many agents harp on the blandness of waking-up scenes that using one kind of makes it look like you either don't care about their opinions or haven't done your research.

    As for the page itself, the last sentence of the second paragraph yanked me out of the narrative a little. It didn't sound like something the MC would actually think about herself but something someone else would say about her. Also, it seemed like the third paragraph should be in past perfect tense (i.e., "It had only been two months since she'd pulled her father off life support...").

    Good luck with this. By the time I got to the end of the first page, I thought that maybe the real story started on that long drive to West Virginia. Does something interesting happen on that drive? If so, you might think about starting the story there. Then we can find out about her strange dreams in chapter two or something.

  2. I'm intrigued. I'd read on. However, I do have a few issues to metion.

    First, she's woken up every night for the past 2 months to a voice at 11:11 exactly? That's beyond crazy. That would do much more than just piss me off. 60 occurances is a lot. Maybe trim it down?

    Second, it seems like she's hearing a child's voice. But then you mention she can't scrape the sounds and images of her father's death out of her mind. It seems like a contradiction. Maybe a bit of clarification? Does the fact that it's a child's voice make sense to her?

    I agree with the first comment. Maybe start it on her drive and weave in the rest.

    Good luck!

  3. I liked some of your word choice, ex. "scraped sounds and images from her mind" and "sorrow..settled into her bones," but the last par. verges on telling more than showing.
    And as much as I like serpent images, you might want to save this metaphor so that it's not so close to the "bones" metaphor.
    Also, your voice seemed a bit inconsistent: gleaned, trepidation, and resolve vs. piss and blew off.
    I'm guessing the opening sentence refers to a past scene of child abuse and that the narrator feels conflicted over her father's death. That's a powerful conflict that could make a conpelling plot.
    Good luck!

  4. I agree with the others on everything, so the only thing I would like to add is the name Destiny WV seems awful cliche.

    There are strange city names out there, but this one seems almost gimicky, like a city with the name of Hell in for a horror book or Love for a romance.

    Other than that, I would read on a few more pages.

  5. I love the first line and paragraph.

    I don't understand why she doesn't have anyone to count on though. I would guess at least hubby/lover because of the child-like whisper in her ear.

  6. That first line caught at my heart and made me want to know, but also not want to know because I feared the worst, make him stop what?

    All of it worked great until the bit about her father- then, I had to reread it to be sure it said her dad.

    I was left wondering what about the child? I would think she would wonder that too- what's with this childish whisper? But instead we hear that its pissing her off. I don't know, that just didn't seem natural for me.

  7. Okay I'm not going to repeat what Krista and sbjames said. I just want to say I agree and add I would like to hear more about the childish whisper. Actually, I was expecting more in the next few lines. . .

    Thanks for sharing your work and good luck!

  8. I feel like all the necessary ingredients for a good read are here, but they feel like they are out of order. Conventional wisdom says 'wake up scenes' border on cliche. Maybe let the echo of the whisper and the clock throb in her brain as she tugs on her jeans and laments that there's no one to call. I really like the image of the last sentence.

  9. This wouldn’t be for me based on these 250 words. You might consider having the book start on the drive to WV. Or when she is already at her destination.

    The genre says Women’s Fiction but the set up and title sounded more mystery/thriller.