Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Secret Agent #34

TITLE: Girl on the Outside
GENRE: Women's Fiction

The 1920s Hollywood-style Spanish Colonial sits abandoned, waiting for me to pick up its final inhabitant. The moving trucks are gone, Pepsi cans and discarded cardboard litter the yellowing lawn. I crack open the heavy wood door and am met with remnants of unhooked electronics, dangling wires like an octopus on the losing end of a shark attack. Scuffs on the exposed walls make me want to retrieve a paintbrush and touch up the paint.

“Claire?” I call into the silence. The house seems so much larger unfurnished. “Claire? Are you in here?”

There are so many memories that have abandoned this deserted house. I grew up with dreams of a perfect life, but dreams are what you have when you’re young and don’t know better. Dreams are what you have before life kicks your a**.

I always thought I would have my life set by now: a husband, two kids, and a dog. That’s what they teach you when you’re wearing your princess suit. And maybe that’s all my mom knew to teach me. My mom was married right out of college. Had her two kids and lived the life of one of those Real Housewives from Bravo TV. But then Dad died and she didn’t manage her finances. At least for me I’ve always had a back-up plan. For my mom there never was any other plan.

Now I'm left with the chore of fixing our screwed up past.


  1. Hooked...barely. You start with a piece about an empty house then descend into backstory. I got a little lost but I would keep reading to see if things clear up. I almost want to tell you to use the fourth paragraph as your opener. It's much stronger.

  2. The description is first rate in the first paragraph. It really conjures up an image of a house now devoid of its occupants and furnishings etc. Very effective. Life kicking your ass seemed to be too harsh and vulgar for the narrator as she has spoken to this point (I mean her style). Another problem was the calling of "Claire?" In the final paragraph, you talk so much of the mother that I am left wondering is "Claire" the mother and she calls her byu her given name? If not, who is Claire it is a bit jumbled there. Also a bit of an info dump in the last paragraph. So many life conclusions come at once that would seem to be beter served by drawing them out more. A final nit-pick, I see many Spanish Colonials all over Los Angeles, many in Hollywood etc, but I am not sure what a "Hollywood-style" Spanish Colonial is. So that seemed awkward. But, my criticisms are with the content and the pacing not with the writing itself - which I think is very skilled.

  3. I agree with Terah Shelton that the energy in this piece begins with the fourth paragraph. This is where I first heard the character's voice shining through. The opening sentences paint a good picture, but they're too long and wordy. I recommend varying the sentence length more, and reading aloud to see where you need to smooth out the language. With a few edits, this opening could sparkle.

  4. I see what other commenters mean about finding your voice in the 4th paragraph, but I also got bogged down in backstory in that paragraph. I enjoyed the description at the beginning, and wondering who Claire is and why she's leaving the abandoned house. Try to find a way to let your protagonist's personality come out without such a section of info dump on the first page.

    Good luck!

  5. I don't think the story starts in paragraph 4 -- that feels like a lot of backstory. It broke the momentum for me.

    Because the 3rd paragraph links the deserted house and her dream of a perfect life, I assume the house is the one she grew up in. If so, I'd let the readers know that, even if it's just a hint.

    Here's a suggestion for 4th and 5th paragraph:
    That perfect life would've included a husband, two kids, and a dog by now -- or at least that's what mothers teach you when you’re wearing your princess suit. Mom couldn't have taught me any different. Had her two kids and lived the life of one of those Real Housewives from Bravo TV until she screwed things up.

    I would've had a backup plan but she didn't. Now, I'm left cleaning up the remnants of a screwed up past like the trash on this lawn.

  6. It started out well, but then you bogged us down with back story. Let all of that unfold as the novel does rather than force feed it to us.

  7. Form rejection. This lacks balance of description vs. introducing the MC vs. backstory, and the stakes of "fixing our screwed up past" aren't high enough.