Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July Secret Agent #ALT-1

TITLE: The Education of Eve
GENRE: New Adult Historical

Eve came downstairs, having been dressed since dawn. The smell of coffee and bacon emanated from the small kitchen, which was cast in a warm glow from the early morning sunlight. Her mother stood by the cast iron stove in her faded calico work dress, the family cats Biscuit and Gravy hovering close by for any scraps that might present themselves.

“You look like you could use this.” Her mother poured her a cup of coffee. She offered a reassuring smile. “The beginnings are always the hardest. It’ll get better.”

Eve took a sip of the hot liquid. She noticed the folded newspaper by her father’s chair as she sat. “Where’s Daddy?”

“He wanted to harvest the east field today, so he got an early start.”

Steam rose from Eve’s mug as she clasped it with both hands. She didn’t know why she was surprised he had not stayed to see her off. He hardly spoke to her these days, but Eve had still hoped he would say goodbye. She stared at the Mason jar filled with late blooming wildflowers on the table. It was hard enough to endure his disapproval over what he thought were her plans; she shuddered to imagine his reaction if he knew her true intentions.

A loud yawn came from the hallway as her younger sister shuffled into the kitchen in her frilly silk dressing gown. Her chestnut bangs were still coiled in rags, which she would later remove to frame her face in dainty curls.


  1. I'd personally like to see a stronger opening sentence. The story really doesn't pick up with any conflict until we get the paragraph about reactions. It might be worth it to start there--or start with "the beginnings are always the hardest," since that also sets up some tension.

  2. Generally not bad at all. The language could use some tightening. There are two uses of the word 'cast' right after the other, even though the mean different things. It doesn't sound right. 'late-blooming', 'cast-iron'. The last sentence in particular feels very passive. I do want to read more to see what her intentions are. I think the injunction to show not tell sometimes cripples the author when it might be useful to know a character's attitudes and thoughts. A little more of that here might make this a more dynamic start. But still, I'd keep reading.

  3. I'd suggest tightening this up - maybe start with the second paragraph (with some rewording) to draw the reader in? Doing so would also introduce the reader to the conflict earlier.

  4. I agree with some of the earlier comments, but wanted to say that you have some lovely imagery here (love the mason jar filled with late-blooming wildflowers and I can picture the younger sister perfectly) and you've got me curious to see the difference between what Eve's new beginning is supposed to be and what it turns out to be :)

  5. I agree with the above, the line "the beginnings are always the hardest" would make a fantastic opening sentence, and isn't it so true! :)

    And watch your use of language. The "having been" in the first line threw me and the echo of "cast" in the first paragraph.

  6. The imagery is lovely, but I agree your opening needs more tension to draw the reader in. You mentioned Eve's father thinking he knew her plans. Maybe tease the reader a bit with what her plans really are, or if you don't want to give them away directly, how morally corrupt she feels for lying to her father.

  7. Nice imagery, but the formal tone and language almost seem a little too much. ("emanated" seems too formal, almost like you're trying too hard.
    Keep writing!

  8. I love the imagery and the descriptions. Beautiful writing. But I'd suggest a bit more on the conflict to keep our interest, maybe a hint of what her true intentions are.
    Best of luck

  9. Wonderful details:faded calico, wildflowers in mason jar. The description of sister is perfect. Some of the language seemed stiff, phrases like, having been dressed since dawn, and that might present themselves. I agree with others that Beginnings are always the hardest would be a great first line. I'm am intrigued and would keep reading.

  10. I perked up when it got to her mother speaking as well. It was ok before then, the pace and tone is sort of like cold syrup. It's nice and flows evenly, but maybe a bit too slow for my taste. Get me to the waffles! I'd read on, though:) Good job!

  11. I perked up when it got to her mother speaking as well. It was ok before then, the pace and tone is sort of like cold syrup. It's nice and flows evenly, but maybe a bit too slow for my taste. Get me to the waffles! I'd read on, though:) Good job!

  12. Cut your first four paragraphs and start with the fifth - just change "he" to "her father" - and you may have something. The writing in the early grafs is too careful and too formal to really grab the reader ... you lost me at "having been dressed" in the first sentence, and really lost me with "emanated from" and then that warm glow and early morning sunlight in the next sentence. Not how to start a book ...

    And do be careful where you are sticking things in to SHOW the historical nature of the book, like detailing how the sister will remove the rags to make curls (but in her bangs? would she have bangs long enough to make curls in?). This stuff has to occur naturally in the text; otherwise it sounds like the author stepping in for inform us.

    Cut loose a little! I'm betting there's a good story here. But this wouldn't make me want to turn the page as it is now ...

  13. The writing is fine, but this feels like more of a "middle" scene rather than an opener. One of Donald Maass' writing craft books talks about ditching any scene in a kitchen (rather extreme) or with characters fixing or drinking tea since these settings typically serve as info dumps or places where characters recuperate after intense action or wind up to do something else. It's akin to beginning a story with someone waking up and starting the day. I'm sure you have a wonderful story, but I don't think this opening section does the job to reel us in.

    I would consider what your story is about and show the character in a setting that illustrates that; it doesn't have to be an action scene per se, but something to solidify who she is, what she wants, and maybe a hint of what stands in her way. A lot to accomplish in a short space, but you can lead into it.

    I have some guesses on the era, but I think there are ways you can probably show this more clearly; again maybe the household setting is hindering the story at this point. I would read on a few more pages since I like historical.

    One last thing -- I hate to harp on the New Adult category so much because I'm not against it, but I've never seen New Adult Historical; it reads off to me. I envision New Adult as more a contemporary theme; especially given your time frame, the word teenager, let alone New Adult, didn't exist. I would just say Historical and possible another known term like Romance or Thriller or something else that shows the type of story. Best of luck. I love my historicals so I'm rooting for you!

  14. This could be stronger all around. I have a feeling I'd like the plot but the writing seems a bit apathetic. It's not pulling me in. What would her father's reaction be? What did her mother mean, "the beginnings are always the hardest"? What beginnings? Lots of stuff going on and not a lot of intensity.