Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February Secret Agent #39

TITLE: Untitled
GENRE: Literary Fiction

The screen blinked. A line of static throbbed across the middle of the television. Beneath the static was the same old footage, the same White Bronco, legendary by then, hurtling down the interstate. Dr. Phil narrated the abbreviated story of O.J. Simpson, the outcome of which, by the year 2007, was a foregone conclusion. His dull refresher was unnecessary, but he gave it anyway, gratified at how it sounded coming from his own mouth, and turned to the guest sitting next to him on the stage, the mustachioed Fred Goldman, who was looking grayer, looking hackneyed, still looking sad. He was as just as much of a cliché as the careening truck.

The fuzz bisected the screen obfuscating everything below Goldman’s worn eyes. It wouldn’t be long before the white noise overtook the image. Puck looked around him. Four people were sleeping in their seats, two were waiting for the restaurant to open. An older man read the discarded living section from yesterday’s newspaper. Only one person was watching the television — him. He stood up and hit the side of it. Dr. Phil snapped back from the whiteout holding up Simpson's book, his head shaking, almost certainly describing the infamous Night of the Murder of Nicole and Ron. It was three in the morning and the Greyhound sign was the only light at that hour in that part of town. Fred Goldman sighed on the screen above Puck's head and the few passengers waiting for their buses lowered their eyes and drifted off to sleep.


  1. To start, I like Puck's name, though it instantly reminds me of the rude, crude Real World character of the same name. Though I'm probably only showing my age.

    I would re-arrange the passage. For me, it took too long to set the scene. Maybe start with Puck and go on from there? There's also a lot of description, and I'm not really left with wanting to read more. All I know of Puck (who I assume is your MC) is that he's in a bus station, watching Dr. Phil (which, in my opinion, is awful enough in real life - I don't want to read about him too).

    Also, I'd watch for repetition. For example, in the 2nd to last sentence in the first paragraph, you use 'looked' twice. And that sentence is really long. You might break it up.

    Good luck!

  2. The opening is a bit slow and drawn out. By the end we know nothing of the MC other than he's watching TV in the early morning at bus station and its bad programming. The references to the Simpson murder set the story back, so I'm confused to when exactly the story takes place. Regardless, you spend half of your given 250 words describing the tv program, robbing us of a chance to connect with Puck and develop a wonder for why he's a bus station at 3am. Opening with Puck and working in the tv show in small bits would work better, and free up page time for us to get to know Puck and care. Watch for long sentences. Good luck!

  3. Wow, this excerpt really took me back. I'm intrigued by the apparent connection between Puck and the events. Good concrete imagery, too.
    Make clear in par. one that Dr. Phil is discussing the release of O.J.'s book. Otherwise, the purpose of the interview is confusing.
    Also immediately clarify that the negative tone is Puck's (and this will make us wonder why he feels thus). As is, the tone in par. 1 is "general." While I didn't mind the slams against Dr. Phil, the tone seemed just mean when directed toward Fred Goldman. And how can one "look" hackneyed"?
    Good luck!

  4. I think you need to ground the reader with where Puck is first. Not knowing where the scene was happening was distracting. Once I got to the Greyhound part, I had to go back and read it again with new eyes.

    Also, unless the O.J. bit is part of the overall story, I would place less focus on what Puck was watching on TV and more about Puck and why he's at a bus station.

  5. I couldn't quite connect since I became thoroughly tired of the whole OJ thing and this focused more on that, than Puck.

    One other thing - the Bronco didn't hurtle down the road. Crawled might be a better word - probably a record breaking low-speed chase!

    This isn't my genre, so not quite enough to hook me into reading more. If it was my genre, I'd only be reading further if the back cover teaser was good.

    Otherwise, some good imagery and definitely not dull writing.

  6. I like the second paragraph better much better than the first. Honestly, I was so sick of the whole OJ chase, trial etc, that I still don't want to here it described in great detail- hasn't been long enough for me to forget. And I'm also slightly confused of the time. But I did get a strong sense of the scene-the cynical Puck, the ratty TV, that bored out of one's mind twilight zone feel of being the only one awake in the middle of the night and stuck during travel. I also liked the imager of only Goldman's eyes showing (makes me think of the eyes on the billboard in Great Gatsby)

    I don't know how important all this detail is to the rest of the story, but could you maybe start with-

    The screen blinked. A line of static throbbed across the middle of the televison obfuscating everything below Fred Goldman's eyes.

  7. Definitely a little hard for me to connect with Puck, given the time you spend on the TV. One nitpick: I would change the opening line of para 2 in this way: "The fuzz bisecting the screen obfuscated everything...." I think it just reads a bit better that way. Nice job of capturing the lonely feel of the 3 AM bus station.

  8. Until I read the last section, I had the impression that the setting was a retirement home. I guess its because the overall feeling in the piece was boredom and despair. Was that your intent?

    I guess it's a cultural thing (I'm not from the US), but as I had never heard of Fred Goldman, I initially thought he was the MC. Nevertheless, after the confusion, I ws asking myself why Puck was at a bus station at that horrible hour of the morning, and would read on to find out.

  9. I didn’t really connect with the voice here and had a hard time determining what the setting was until the end. Sorry, this one wouldn't be for me.