Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Secret Agent #1

TITLE: Homebody
GENRE: Mystery

I should have taken a vacation. Hell, I needed one. Too bad I had to barrel in and get involved.

"Quit that racket!" I followed Roxie, my howling yellow Labrador, into the gray and maroon two-story Victorian, the nicest house on the block—probably for many square blocks, in fact. Being in the heart of the ghetto of Kansas City, it didn't take much to make my rental property the nicest in the area.

Where was Tyrone? My property manager was nowhere to be seen. I'd waited for him 20 minutes past our 1:30 appointment. Key in hand, I swept through the door to begin the inspection myself.

I glanced through the dim foyer, trying to locate the light switch. Despite the beautiful, spring-like March afternoon outside, the sunshine failed to permeate the dusty windows. Still, things seemed relatively in order. I wondered what I'd find throughout the rest of my inspection.

I glanced towards the stairs. Maybe I'd find Tyrone there. I hadn't seen his Camry on the street outside, but it couldn't hurt to check. Plus, I needed to retrieve my unleashed dog.

"Roxie, come here!" I stepped beyond the foyer, and a metallic stench filled my nostrils. "What is that?"

Roxie's barking led me to the rear of the house.

In the middle of the otherwise orderly dining room, a man lay in a pool of blood.

A scream ripped from my throat and the room twirled. Deep breath, Amanda.


  1. Hooked! I've been to KC many times, and while the old houses are enchanting, being in some of those neighborhoods is downright scary! I would consider taking out the 'I wondered what else I would find...' line because it feels forced. Also found the juxtaposition between 'ripped' and 'twirled' to be jarring. Great opening!

  2. The premise is good and it peaked my interest. The problem I found was too much description. It's a fine line but I think your story would shine if you cute back on describing every little thing. Some of the sentences were a bit clunky.

    Example: Being in the heart of the ghetto of Kansas City, it didn't take much to make my rental property the nicest in the area.

    My house is the nicest one in this Kansas City ghetto - which isn't saying much.

    I think make it precise and if it's not something that moves the story ahead skip describing it and get to the point.

    Thank you for sharing and good luck. There's definite potential here!

  3. The premise is a fine one but I agree with comments above, the language gets a little clunky and I found myself starting to skim...

    Some plot tightening and you're on your way!

  4. You're definitely on to something here but I agree with the previous commenter about too much description. I like a good mystery but not when its bogged down with unnecessary details. Make sure all details move the story forward.

  5. I like this! I agree with previous commenters to cut down on the verbiage a bit. I'd like to feel a little more suspense leading up to the discovery of the body. Nothing as obvious as "I wondered what I'd find throughout the rest of my inspection" but more like, a strange smell, a funny feeling, the dog barking madly from the back of the house.

    Good luck!

  6. I also found the use of too many adjectives distracting and it interrupted the flow. This is particularly true in the sentence that includes "howling yellow" Labrador - "gray and maroon two story" Victorian. I think most people would picture a Victorian as multiple stories so that might be superfluous. Unless the color of the Lab is important then maybe just that its howling is enough.

    Then you repeat in too close proximity "nicest house on the block" and "nicest in the area" so you would want to look at that choice.

    But, there is a good scene setting accomplished with the promise of a mystery to be uncovered. So, focus more on building that by tightening and editing some of the language.

  7. The title is intriguing and I like the voice.

    The first 3 paragraphs were great except 'Kansas City Ghetto ' could replace 'ghetto of Kansas city' and one of the 'nicest' could be replaced

    'sunshine failed to permeate the dusty windows' is a cliche. I think you could take paragraph 4 out entirely- it holds up the action.

  8. I agree that a once-over to tighten the prose would be a good idea, but I really like your voice. And woo-hoo, KC! As a KC native my interest is piqued, but I'd also be reading this with a keen eye for accuracy and detail. Give us context - which neighborhood is this, which street? Any local would immediately know what to expect if you placed this on Troost, or by Benton Blvd. It gives it a little more grit and reality.

  9. Interesting start, but I agree with others that the amount of description slows it down - especially noticeable in the second and fourth paragraphs. We know something big has happened from the third sentence - I think it might help to get us to the dead body and then backfill any description that you need.

  10. I love the voice. It's very fitting. I don't mind description - it's at the heart of a lot of great writers. But I feel the first sentence isn't unique to this story. I like first sentences that really draw you in to that particular story.

  11. If you tightened this up, I'd be hooked. I enjoy your story, but tripped on too many adjectives and too much description.

    I'd like to know more and would prefer you show me rather than tell me. (Did I write that right?) It's a fine line, and I think you're close!

  12. I like where this ends, but it takes a very long time to get there. This opening is quite heavy on description, but economy of language is so important in a mystery.

    I bet you could get the same effects: the nice rental in the dilapidated neighborhood, the stress the MC is under, etc., in half the amount of words. Still, if this were in my slush I'd probably read on.

  13. I love mysteries and love KC - my home town - so I'm sold. The voice is great and I would read it. We all need a touch of tightening up -- that's where the editors help us out. The premise has me interested to read more.

  14. The idea of the scene seems interesting, but I got a little lost in some of the irrelevancies. I think you should tighten that up and get to the real conflict sooner.

    I had a little trouble figuring out early on whether the narrator is renting the house and is meeting the property manager to do the inspection or the narrator owns the house and is doing an inspection after the tenants moved out. Everything seems to be "in order" (twice, btw)... is the house furnished, is it empty?

    But the winding talk about the house being nice and in order, inspecting the foyer, thinking about going upstairs, thinking about looking for the dog, and then finally going into the dining room just meanders a little too much through the scene.

    I had a little trouble figuring out what the opening lines had to do with the rest of the narrative. If she owns the property, then I wouldn't think of doing and expection as "barreling in." If it's unusual for her to be doing an inspection, then a reason up front might make more sense.

  15. Thank you, everyone! I'm the author of this story, and I have to say that the description thing was something that was added only recently after some of my beta readers made the suggestion based on some things that happen AFTER this point in the chapter. :)

    250 words isn't a lot of room, but I'm hopeful the first full chapter would be more than enough to deepen my MC and show you why the descriptions I'm sharing are part of her makeup.

    Thanks again! Looking forward to the results tomorrow.