Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February Secret Agent #36

TITLE: Then I Can Name the Cat
GENRE: Women's Fiction

Holly and Ella Grace snuck away from the party and wandered down the beach. Ella was clutching a bottle of champagne and a blanket with their school logo on it. Holly was holding two plastic champagne flutes by their necks. When they had walked far enough to reduce the sounds of revelry to pleasant background music they spread out the blanket.

With a deft twist Ella opened the screw top bottle of champagne and filled the glasses Holly held. The girls raised their glasses toward the rolling waves.

“To your future as a rock star,” Holly said. “When you get your first Grammy you totally have to thank me.”

“Of course dahhhhling,” Ella said. “I promise not to forget the little people.”

“Hey, I’m taller than you by a foot,” Holly protested, “Although I always wanted to be referred to as little instead of statuesque.”

“I always wanted to be statuesque,” Ella said wistfully. “It sounds so elegant.”

“An elegant way of saying freakishly tall,” Holly replied. This was a running joke between the two girls who had been best friends since junior high.

“Well let me propose a toast to Holly my non-statuesque friend. When I’m receiving Grammys she’ll be accepting Tonys and Emmys,” Ella said.

“What no Oscar?” Holly asked with mock offense.

“Oscars are so overrated,” Ella replied. “I mean seriously, the Emmys are the award of the people.”

“Which of course makes the Tonys the award of the theatre people,” Holly said.


  1. My main thought while reading this was that they sound like they're in high school or perhaps college--probably college because of the champagne, but in any case they seemed young for women's fiction. I am assuming this is a flashback that starts the book. I'm not convinced this is the best feels a bit forced, a vehicle to introduce two main characters and their interests/aspirations. I don't really see any conflict inherent in this scene.

  2. I do agree this may not be the best opening just because I am not so sure what is going on and it does not necessarily grab my attention, but I did thoroughly enjoy the playful banter between friends. It did feel like a college girl conversation, as their lives seem to be on the verge of beginning. The chatter is funny, witty and it makes me want to like them.

  3. This piece inntroduces two characters, good friends, both young. The dialog is believable. But I agree that it is not strong as an opening. I think it would be stenghthened if you could include some tension that would point the reader to what lies ahead. I guess I would like to have a sense of an underlying conflict ---for example, are the girls too young to be drinking, have they broken any rules by going off on their own, is one of the girls jealous of the other? Or is this just a brief flashback of a time when things were lovely....but now things are not lovely? I think if you add the larger context, you will give the dialog more weight. Hope this helps.

  4. I agree with the other comments: characters seem very young, the excerpt is dialogue-heavy but doesn't have a strong hook.

    Setting the scene might break up so much dialogue.

    Also, you could tighten up the writing by elminating "was".

    Ella was clutching (Ella clutched) Holly was holding (Holly held)

    Good luck.

  5. I agree that the writing could be stronger without the 'was' and 'hads'. There is a chapter about using dynamic vs passive in Self Editing Your Way Into Publication. I would also consider eliminating the 'running joke' line. It's unnecessary and breaks into the flow.

  6. I agree with the other comments. While I was reading the opening line, I had the impression they were high school age. It would also be nice if the scene was set a little more. For instance, maybe include more about the party.

  7. I don't have a problem with the story opening with young ladies, as long as this is a prologue of sorts. Gives me a feel of what they dreamed of as youth, which will set the tone when we find out what really happened as they aged.

    I do think you could tighten the dialogue some.

    I would suggest dramatically cutting your dialogue tags, but that's just my personal peeve. I think you can use actions to identify who's speaking. For example: Ella lifted her glass. "To the next rock star...."

  8. I'm assuming the party was to celebrate some kind of music-related success since that's what they're toasting... but I'd like a little more about what was happening.

    The banter was sweet, but I found it went on a little too long and came off as slightly maudlin. For example, exchanging opinions on their heights seems unnecessary (especially if they've been friends forever). I think you could just dump everything between "...instead of statuesque" and "Well, let me propose a toast..."

    Maybe editing some will get to the tension faster? If there's no tension coming up, I'd find a different place to start.

  9. I agree with others that this seems young for women's fiction. I never knew whose POV I was in. I think your scene would be stronger if you anchored us with one of your characters, and gave us her internal dialogue. What is she feeling? This could help hint at whatever the conflict will be. As is, I don't see any conflict, and I probably would not read on.