Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August Secret Agent #32

GENRE: Adult fantasy

After the war, the neighbors would whisper, “We saw how it started, you know- we were there when she was born.” The child’s mother- lovely woman, really- had loved entertaining. But then came the child, and after that, the wasting illness. When the illness left, it took the mother with it, leaving the child- a girl named Ava- the motherless daughter of a red-faced, small-eyed man.

That man never should have had a child. The neighbors all knew it. When they stopped by to say how sorry they were about the mother’s death, he wouldn’t answer the door, nor would he return their phone calls. Most unforgivably, he left the casseroles on the steps until the wild cats ate them. No one was surprised when Ava was sent to live with her mother’s parents.

For a while, the neighbors forgot about her. But one summer evening, six years after the toddler left, a rusty Toyota sputtered to a halt near the house.

Ava, now an eight-year-old child, had been sent back to her father. Her grandparents had died now, too. The girl wasn’t crying, wasn’t screaming. She simply held on to her seatbelt and refused to get out of the car. She clutched a picture frame.

The neighbors saw leaves swirling in summer dust devils around the car. They saw the father jerk the single suitcase out of the back seat.


  1. Omg, I seriously just fell in love with your novel. Or at least, I will when it's published. ;-)
    -You're an awesome writer and I like your style. Although I liked the first few paragraphs I wanted to know a little more about the war, I think you should some how bring that back. It's intriguing.

    The voice is very much there and the premise has me hooked. I'm interested in Ava, her father, and the picture frame she's clutching. Man...way to hook me in. Good luck!

  2. I like how this starts. But it feels a little like an outline to me, maybe just pounding out the idea. It's a great idea and I think it works well, but I'd see if you could maybe cut the first paragraph and start with the second. You can work elements of the first in if they're super important.

    But over all, I like this beginning.

  3. This reads like a prologue -- and a really good one. I really like the voice, but we are looking at the story from the outside. It works well to set the stage. I would read on to see if the connection with the characters shows up in the next page or so.

  4. The voice in this is fabulous, and I love the visual details. I feel like I can see this house and man and child. (And if I'm not mistaken, I've seen this the revisions you've made.)

  5. I agree. This sounds like an introduction of prologue, and it acts well as a story hook with various images melding into a single picture. I want to know more. Well done.

  6. I definitely want to read more and would read on. I hope Ava's going to be okay! Good luck!

  7. The voice here is very nice. You manage to set up a great deal of tension using very simple, elegant sentences. I also like that this seems to be much more omniscient narrator than most fiction today. It's a difficult point of view to handle, and I think this it's done well here.

  8. I liked this, but there is room for a little tightening.
    o When I read the word war, I immediately thought of WWII. Since we know it's fantasy, consider naming the war, e.g.clone war, witch war, whatever, which would also help set the frame.
    o Also not fond of "lovely woman" and "loved entertaining" in same sentence. Consider changing one of the loves.
    o Consider shortening "eight-year-old child" down to eight years old. Unless she could be something other than a child and you need to clarify.
    o This does feel like I'm watching a silent movie. Wondering if the entire story is told from such a distance. If so, it might be hard to stick with it.

  9. I think correct tense for the first line would be "After the war, the neighbors whispered..." to complement the rest of this and subsequent opening paragraphs.

    I love the line about casseroles on the steps & wild cats!

    You probably don't have to identify the summer evening as six years later, and Ava now eight. One or the other will ground readers in current-time. (Eight-year-old Ava had been sent back...)

    Question - How do the neighbors know her grandparents died? perhaps "Rumor had it that..."

    I also really like sentence about
    "The neighbors saw leaves swirling in summer dust devils..."
    The next sentence could just jump right in to what they saw next:
    The father jerked a single suitcase out of the back seat. (since you're continuing in neighbors' POV)

  10. Typically, I don't like distant 3rd POV, but you nailed it with your voice and simple sentences that said so much more. I hope eventually, you transition into a close third, but even if you don't I would read on to see where this goes.

  11. Wow, there's a lot to like here. I'm hooked. I really like the tone of the opening with its omniscient, whispered, gossipy feel. However, the first paragraph does need a tweak. There seems to be some repetition in word choice: "lovely woman" "loved entertaining" "took the mother" "motherless daughter". Just be careful. The rest of the sample was terrific. I loved the line about the casseroles left to the cats. Overall, though, I'm wondering how this ties into an adult fantasy and agree that this could be a prologue. Great job.

  12. This is different and really interesting. I can see why the secret agent liked it. Congrats!

  13. This is different and really interesting. I can see why the secret agent liked it. Congrats!