Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August Secret Agent #34

TITLE: The Sculptor
GENRE: Mystery

Halfway down the groomed Harlach Trail, Abby stopped to adjust the buckle on her ski boot. Humming Franz Liszt while she loosened the upper strap, she licked away tiny beads of perspiration that had formed on her upper lip. She was kidding herself with the buckle thing. Really, she was twenty-two years old and fighting to catch her breath, after only making it half-way down the slope. Granted it was one of the steeper descents in Flumserberg, dotted with immense pines, some icy patches, and...she'd had those shots of Jagermeister last night, too.

She halted her pathetic justifications when she caught sight of the sparkling Walensee nearly 2000 meters below. That morning, she'd left behind her grad school classmates, and even the hot, sweet-talking professor she was dating. All of them were sleeping off last night's field trip party in Zurich, but she wanted to imbibe on the fresh Swiss mountain air alone and tackle the double-diamonds that she knew only she could handle. Grateful for the serenity, she lingered over the sight of the brilliant noon sun reflecting off of the lake's blue azure.

She stood and realigned her goggles, determined to swoosh to the next pine grove about 300 meters south. Knees bent, she jammed her poles into the powder, ready to thrust herself forward.

Before she could, the metallic swat of a ski pole across the back of her thighs sent searing bolts of pain up her torso and buckled her legs.

What the hell?


  1. I sort of got confused, because she is "twenty-two and fighting to catch her breath", yet she is going to "tackle the double-diamonds that she knew only she could handle". Those don't seem to describe the same person. Perhaps the booze is dragging her down, but I don't think that alone would cause her to catch her breath.

    Also, how did she know it was a ski pole hitting her in the thighs? She can't see it - I suppose she could guess, but that seemed like too much of a leap to me.


  2. I was intrigued at the very end of this when she gets whacked with the ski pole! Since this is a mystery, I like that you show us that right away. However, I think you might want to take a closer look at your first two paragraphs. Both these paragraphs felt a little overwritten to me. You pack in a lot of information, but at the same time it doesn't paint a very clean picture. You jump from telling us her age, to showing scenery, to details about the night before. Then you mention who she's dating, and jump back to the scenery. It's a lot to take in all at once.

    I do like where you've started this story. I can clearly picture the ski slope, but I think this wold all be stronger if your first two paragraphs had a little more focus.

    I also agree with Suzanne, the comment about catching her breath seemed to contradict the double-diamond statement.

  3. I thought this was great. I laughed when I read the first chapter. I'd take the "that" out of this sentence, "double-diamonds that she". Otherwise, I thought this was great!

  4. I liked the first paragraph. I immediately gave me a picture of the MC.The second paragraph has a lot of info thrown in and some telling. I love the sentence about the sun reflecting off the lake.
    The last sentence hooked me completely.

  5. I feel like there is too much telling here and not enough actually happening. It's basically just her standing on the mountain thinking. You've given us background, but it's drops of telling. Because this is a mystery, I would read the second page to see who just hit her, but I'm not drawn in enough by this alone.

    Also, depending on what kind of ski gear she's in, she may not even feel the whack of a ski pole against her legs. I know some people that ski in jeans or thin snow pants, which you'd definitely feel, but if she's in heavy ski pants, she would only feel a nudge, not a sting.

  6. I really like the sense of place here. You've done a great job of evoking the world. I feel as though I'm standing on the mountain with her.

  7. There are a lot of details in the first two paragraphs, almost too many for me. I felt bogged down in trying to keep them straight. A good job of capturing the setting, but I think it could be pared back a bit. I'm also not a fan of 'hot' as a descriptive word, but I'm sure that's a personal thing. It seems overused, like 'awesome.'

    For me, the tension really begins when she gets hit with the ski-pole and I'd like to get to that a bit sooner.

  8. I agree to start with the ski pole and I also agree with the comment about whatever she's wearing would prevent a 'metallic swat.' I know the MC's in Zurich, and I love the cultural flavor. Perhaps cultural references in first para too forced? (Harlach, Franz Liszt, Flumserberg...)
    Makes me want to hit the slopes, myself. I'm intrigued enough to read on...

  9. The slap of the ski-pole got interesting. But how did she know that was what it was? Also, with skipants on - does it hurt that much?

    Also - is something wrong with her? Is she ill? Otherwise, how is a 22 year old out of breath but also trying to tackle a double diamond?

    Really like that you are starting us out on a mountain. I want to know what's next.....
    Maybe hold the professor she is dating part for later?

  10. I really like the physical descriptions of buckle, goggles, poles, etc.

    In the second paragraph, you might keep the immediate description of viewing the Walensee together, first and last sentences, and move the info on classmates & professor to the end of that paragraph (if you think it really important to provide now). As/after taking in the view, she can remark on being glad she left them behind.

    The immediate scene, and scenery, is so compelling, that you don't intrinsically need to move us back in time to additional details about last night. (We already know she had a lot to drink.) Also "field trip party" confuses me (having been a graduate student but seldom on field trips). If you are going to discuss her colleagues, can you give us a hint of her/their actual field of study - art perhaps (given title of The Scupltor)?

    I like the phrase "hot, sweet-talking professor" because its suggestive of romance to come (I'm always a fan). But if the heroine (or victim?) is even slightly-serious in "dating" him (which implies ongoing relationship) then wouldn't she refer to him by first-name in her thoughts, rather than by hotness & disembodied profession?

    Also I really like her conversation-with-herself tone "She was kidding herself with the buckle thing. Really," "What the hell?" I think you could have even more of this. Maybe her viewing of the ski-course could have more breathlessness about it (catching her breath as she is) in fragmented phrases describing the intruding pines, slick patches of ice, etc. mimicking her glancing over the course - images that right now you string into a long sentence. (Of course I'm a fan of sentence fragments myself.)

    I can't wait to see if she'll be victim, mystery-solver, or both!

  11. I like the setting, but you jammed way too much information into too small of a space. Just give us the mountain and the girl.

    If you pare it down, the scene setting and the small details are really good and place us on the mountain with her. Also, good job with having her attacked on the first page.

  12. I totally understand what you're trying to do with the opening--make readers connect with fun-loving Abby. You succeed to a point, but I felt the first two paragraphs were wordy and really weighted down with perhaps too much information. I would cut down on the two paragraphs and jump into the action of the "attack" or what appears to be an attack.

  13. Thank you, Authoress, for a wonderful contest. I appreciate this positive venue for sharing my work and learning so much from fellow entrants.

    I appreciate all of the entrants who offered up advice for my opening. I plan to make the necessary adjustments to sharpen the intensity and harness its flow. Your insights were honest, helpful, and positive, and I'm grateful to all of you.

    Sincere thanks to the secret agent who reviewed this scene. In addition to all of the other reviewers, I respect your thoughtful opinion, and your advice will not go unheeded.

    Now, it's on to better writing for me! I look forward to the next contest, and of course the next post by uber-Authoress :)