Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Secret Agent #45

TITLE: The Brothers and Sisters of Interesting People
GENRE: Literary Fiction

Abby knew it was a bad idea. But despite that, or maybe because of it, she sat down with Jan de Graaf and let him talk at her. Jan came to the café perhaps once a week, but more often he invited her to do interesting things, explore parts of Amsterdam she’d never visited, and most importantly he always paid. She assumed that he was probably working up to sleeping with her; she’d constructed a narrative in her head already, an indie film with hints of intrigue. She wasn’t averse to it – he was certainly attractive, and interesting to be with, and that alone justified a night together – but there was something about him that gave her pause, something unsettling enough that she might have refused an invitation up to his room. She could have talked herself into a casual thing with little effort, but he seemed to be building a relationship first, and that was what Abby emphatically did not want. Anyone who went around impersonating his twin brother was not emotionally stable enough for a fulfilling relationship.

It was when he introduced her to his friends before trying anything that Abby decided with some relief that they wouldn’t end up dating. They went to a bar with a dance floor, a narrow space connected to a single square room full of hammering music. Abby sat with Jan and drank two vodka tonics before any of his friends arrived.


  1. Hooked...barely. I love the title and the last sentence of your first paragraph. However, without that sentence I don't know how much more I would read. Great start!

  2. There's too much telling here, and the first line is a little too vague to hook me. I don't know what "it" is, and I think you could have a much stronger first line by combining some of the ideas you have in this section. I like that Jan is trying to create a relationship with Abby and Abby would only want something casual, but I don't see any of it. It's all exposition when, in the first page of a story, I want to see these things through the characters' actions. The title is awesome, though.

  3. I agree with AllieS, I'd like to be interested but am not yet. Would maybe keep reading, but probably not. Compel the reader.

  4. I think this excerpt would have been stronger if you eliminated the first two sentences, which hint at conflict/mystery but, lacking any framework for who these people are, I end up mainly confused, like I’m doing long division and have to hold remainders in my head.
    Instead, you could simply set the scene – where is Abby? walking to the café? waiting for Jan?
    Abby’s musings about Jan, though, are lovely and speak to both of their characters – and you end the paragraph with the zinger (impersonating his twin) that hooks me!

    (As an aside, I ALWAYS write my comments before reading what others have said. Very interesting this time around that many of us have noticed the same things.)

  5. The title is fantastic and hooked me... but I was turned off by the length of the first paragraph. I think there are parts you can eliminate--like maybe the first couple of sentences.

    I want to know why the guy is impersonating his twin brother!

  6. I like it. I like the musings. By comparison to other submissions to this contest this might be a bit slow to start, but it's a different genre. My biggest issue is that you don't ground the characters quite enough. For example 'attractive enough' is not really enough. This is a great place for a brief and opinionated description (full but nondescript hair, unexciting nose, whatever).

    The sentence 'Anyone who went around impersonating his twin brother was not emotionally stable enough for a fulfilling relationship.' is intriguing but it really just jumps out of nowhere and then hangs there. If you're going to say that, then you need to keep talking about what that means at least for a bit.

    I know that there is a pressure to squeeze everything into these 250 words, but I would say slow down even more and give tiny descriptions of the setting too. What's the weather?(and of course, the weather should match the theme/mood). Show off your wordsmithing. You definitely have it in you.

    Good start though. Good luck!

  7. I, too, like the title. But the characters confused me. Why is he imitating his brother and how does she know he is? I really didn't get a sense of either person in this snippet.

  8. I was completely confused by the twin brother line and agree that if you bring that up in a first paragraph you really need to say more about it. I think the writing could be tightened a bit by eliminating things like "perhaps" and "or maybe because if it", "but despite that", "more importantly" etc. Just editing those would give it more of a flow. I think you painted a good picture of a man and a woman in the early stages of ...something. I'm not sure if the fact that she goes with him because he always pays is meant to paint her in a bad light because it begs the question why is she using this guy.

  9. I'd read on.
    However, I would suggest putting a break somewhere in the first para.

    I'd like to know why he unsettled her. If your genre wasn't lit fic, I would have suspected he was a psychopath who befriended young women new to town and sliced them up.

  10. There was too much telling and rambling in the first paragraph. I think you should start with the second and incorporate the important information as the story unfolds in a less expository way.

  11. Though it's a great title, this is a form rejection for me. The opening sounds like the summary of an interesting book, rather than something that sets the scene for the interesting book to come.