Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Secret Agent #47

TITLE: The Meaning of Orchids
GENRE: Women's Fiction

I was born healthy–technically. The doctor told my mother he had never seen such a well-developed baby girl. Ten fingers. Ten toes. And, as we later discovered, something else. My mother wanted a girl; my father, a boy. They both got their wish.

These thoughts bang around my mind as I step out of the shower and peek at my naked body in the partially fogged mirror, my 36 DD breasts and hairless vagina—the body parts that suggest I’m a woman. But as I run a towel in tight circular motions across the surgical scar on my stomach, I feel less like my adapted gender.

I slip on a sleeveless black dress, apply a stroke of mascara, and dab on a lick of lip gloss. With every move toward preparation, I second-guess my decision to attend tonight’s event. It’s not any place I want to be–not in the mood I’m in. Feelings of dejection, confusion, and loneliness are unwelcome guests to a party.

Not that I’m not grateful for a night of superficial happiness. To the colleagues and clients who’ll be at the party, I’m normal–an average woman who can grow pubic hair, menstruate, birth babies, and pass gender tests. In some ways, I’m better than normal: I move with a ballerina’s grace and my statuesque body is the perfect accessory to any kind of clothing. I stand eye to eye with most men while my breasts compete with those of Playboy centerfolds-only mine are real enough, and close enough, for men to touch.


  1. I am really intrigued by this. I love the character's voice, insecurities, and situation. I would pick this story up in an instant.

    Only one thing confused me - in the first paragraph it sounds like she was born female, but later it sounds like that was a realization she made later on.

    If she was born with both parts, that doesn't quite show in the narrative.

    But I suspect that gets cleared up soon, and this is just the first 250 words. I really like this opener and your writing - fantastic stuff ^_^

  2. Compelling premise, although i actually don't quite like her voice. Seems too arrogant, who really compares their breasts to Playboy in a likeable way?

  3. I loved the snappy first paragraph. Adored it!

    Not as thrilled about the continuation, I think mainly because it’s a bit of cliché to have characters describe themselves while looking in the mirror.

    By the end of the 250, I am curious about her attitude toward the party, but not at all sure what emotions are in play. I wish I knew more about them -- even though it may well be your intention (as the author) to keep the reader guessing a while longer.
    I thought the character’s self-description amounted to a lot of ‘telling’, too. Surely, you could ‘show’ her at the party, eye-to-eye with a man, as he ogles her breasts . . . etc.

  4. Talk about a wee slap in the face! This bit was a sure eye-opener and I really love the premise. The voice is really great too, though like others I was sort of confused by the baby girl reference and then both gender reference. This chick seems sort of sarcastically arrogant to me, which is great. I want to know about why she looks at herself this way. Awesome!

  5. First, great premise. This is a character who seems to feel an impostor in her own body and while many of us might feel this, your character has a physical reason to feel this way! I also like what she looks like.

    However, as some pointed out, there is a lot of 'telling' going on here and I think if you're creative enough to think up this character, you are certainly able to write around sentences like : 'I feel less like my adapted gender.' (how? why?) and 'Feelings of dejection, confusion, and loneliness are unwelcome guests to a party.' It would be better to let us feel those things. Also, the question arises why she's going if she feels so sad.

    But yes, it's only the first 250 words. Good job and good luck!

  6. I like your entry and your protagonist. She's interesting. I knew she was born transgender - both parents got their wish. Ten knew they removed the male genitalia by the scar.

    The voice is great. You ahavea character who was born transgender and seems perfect in a male's eyes but she is hiding a secret. She's imperfect - her body is female but can't do all the things a females body should. She's not comfortable in her own skin. That's what I took away from the beginning.

    I'd read more! Good luck and thanks for sharing!

  7. I'm hooked. I think this is a very interesting idea for a novel and that telling it in the first person works well.

    The second sentence rather threw me- it seemed contrived- it could be taken out.

    "I move with a ballerina's grace' is a cliche.

  8. Is she a hermaphrodite? That's my guess. The opening reminds me of someone I know which leads me to my guess.

    I like it a lot, very compelling voice. I'd keep reading.


  9. Since she was born with female features and later had to have surgery to keep these features, I'm guessing when she hit puberty, she woke up one day with a "little surprise" courtesy of a burst of testosterone, and "her" XY chromosomes.

    There is too much "telling" in the piece, it reads too much like an infodump. If she feels less like her adapted gender, it would be great to hear why. Similarly with the list of emotions reeled-off in para 3 - how does dejection et al feel to her?

    However I would read on because the subject matter intrigues me.

  10. I think an intersex character is a really interesting choice. But I agree that there's a lot of telling here.

  11. This sounds like a really interesting concept, and something I'd love to read more of, though I agree it's a little strange for a character to compare her body with that of a Playboy centerfold (unless she's supposed to be vain and self-centered). I don't see much "telling" going on, but then again, I'm used to reading older books, where establishing information was usually directly stated early on.

  12. Personally, I was a little weirded out by most of the first 250 words being about her genitalia. Fine if she's transgender or whatever, but I found the physical descriptions a bit much for the first page. I probably would not read on.

  13. This page has me confused as to whether she's a hermaphrodite or trans-gender. I might read a few more pages to figure it out, but overall I'm not interested enough to read the entire book. I'm guessing the breasts are fake because DD's are unlikely (impossible?) with hermaphrodites, but some things threw me off like "real enough". What does that mean? They're either real or they're not. The fact that she can birth babies also confused me.

  14. I like the voice here. There's a darkness to it, a little reminiscent of THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS (Diffenbaugh). Right off the bat, I know that the MC is conflicted, and that her body and mind are at odds. The only thing that makes me hesitate is the "I'm describing myself while looking in a mirror." I see that far too often.

    I'd keep reading if I came across this in my slush.

  15. Author here. I want to thank everyone for their comments. I truly appreciate all of your encouraging feedback. Thank you Authoress for hosting these contests and Secret Agent for participating.

    Mary--your comments were spot on. Well done!

    To clarify a few points, the MC is NOT a hermaphrodite. She's intersexed. There's a difference. For those interested in learning more, I strongly encourage you to google "Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome"...the MC's condition.

    Second, the MC's voice wasn't designed to come across as arrogant (sorry!) but to show that what she looks like is at odds with how she feels. I'll work on maybe toning it down a bit.