Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April Secret Agent #2

TITLE: Broken Dreamers
GENRE: Upmarket Women's Fiction

The costume shop clung to the end of the pier. The creaky old structure had once been a morgue, built over the water so the breeze would blow the stench across the bay. That was long ago, of course, before refrigeration.

The building had livelier occupants now, but for costumer Wilhelmina Grant there was still something odd about the place. She was the one who dubbed the shop Brigadoon, since it seemed to appear suddenly from the mist and encouraged a light hold on reality.

Willa leaned her shoulder against the window as she sewed, a spool and scissors next to her on the sill. On a clear day she could see Alcatraz and sometimes part of the Golden Gate Bridge, but this morning a hazy scrim had dropped, blurring the view.

The summer was half gone and still Willa waited for a sign. Not a comet or solar eclipse, just an everyday omen to point her in the right direction. The bright dreams that lured her to San Francisco years ago had dulled. A new nudge was long overdue. Maybe she had missed it. Meanwhile, her days rolled out like a bolt of beige flannel, practical, predictable and drowsy.

"Ow!" The needle jabbed deep, leaving a glistening red bead on the pad of her thumb. She wrapped a scrap of muslin around the wound to keep her blood from staining the leather.The stab was the second unexpected event of the morning. And portents, she recalled, often came in threes.


  1. I would read more. I like the way the piece begins with an outside description of place and then draws the reader inside to the main character. The opening gives us essential details of locale, season, and the "state of mind" of the woman. We see it almost as if it is a painting. And the last lines add that critical detail of suspense. Rich in language but not over-written. I did have a little difficulty with "a light hold on reality." I think I know what was intended, but I had to re-read it and even then I was a bit confused. That's a minor issue, however, given how well the rest is written.

  2. The writing feels a tad heavy, but nothing that wouldn't keep me from reading on.

    There's some nice foreshadowing going on here I think. I'm curious. Good job.

  3. Nice!! I love the writing. I love your voice. This is polished and well paced. This is very interesting and I was hooked!

    If I have to give advice on how to make it stronger... Have you considered other titles? This one doesn't grab me. There's something that rings like...non specific and vague to me.

    Your first sentence is great. I enjoy the entire first paragraph, but I'm wondering if it might be stronger with a single sentence following the first one which further qualifies the fact that the shop "clings" to the pier. A visual descriptor. Like, I don't know, "You could almost see the nails in the foundation white-knuckling it above the waves." Not a very good sentence, but you get my drift.

    The last paragraph is especially strong and devilish (in a good way) in just how much it makes me want to read more!

  4. I really liked this one as well. It's tricky to open with a character sitting and waiting, but there's enough voice here to keep me reading on.

    With all the unusual details -- the old morgue, Brigadoon, days like a bolt of beige flannel -- I expect that this author is going to give me something I haven't read before. I just hope Willa doesn't spend the whole first chapter sitting around!

  5. I would read a few more pages, at least, to see if we get drawn more into Willa's world.

    I really like a lot of the description here, and am interested in Willa's plight, though I feel like it needs more pull.

    Part of that feeling might be because I'm lost, spatially. The first thing we get is the costume shop, but since that description comes from outside it is unclear where Willa is. In another building looking at the shop? Or inside the shop, thinking about the building? It took me three reads to decide it was the latter.

  6. I think you did a good job introducing your setting. However, I'm not sure this should be your beginning. Perhaps take a look at the rest of the chapter and see if there is another, more action-packed place to start before you weave the setting into place.

  7. Love the setting description. The prose is beautiful. Can tell the mood of the story, and the voice is good.

    Yet I'm not sure I would continue to read because I don't see any action happening. How long will she be sitting in the chair waiting for signs? I don't give most books more than the first two pages to throw some action at me before I put them down.

    You mention the needle prick was a second sign of the day. What was the first sign? Maybe that is an action you could start with?

  8. I like the writing and set-up here very much. However, I'd hope that something happens to grab me very shortly, or at least the promise of something crucial to happen, because at the moment I have no idea where this is headed or what kind of story it's going to be, so I'm not quite gripped, although I'd definitely read on for a couple more pages to see where it goes. But this is very nicely written.

  9. This is beautifully written, simple and luxurious with just a touch of poetry for those with a whisp of imagination: "since it seemed to appear suddenly from the mist and encouraged a light hold on reality". For those desperate for action - give her a break, you've got the scene set, the MC introduced plus nudges, omens and portents coming in threes and all in 250 words! Sometimes we expect too much from 250 words.

  10. A bit confused. She's waiting for a sign, pricks her finger and then says it's the "SECOND unexpected event". That somewhat belies her complaint that nothing's happened and makes me wonder why you haven't shown us the first unexpected event.
    Still, you've piqued my interest. I'd read on.

  11. I like the first paragraph. You description of the costume shop (once a morgue) gives the place a kind of eerie, yet magical feeling to it (mixing death and costumes). I feel like this single description is foreshadowing something big around the corner that will involve the shop, though I'm just guessing.
    Where this story is going is a mystery to me currently. But your pleasant and descriptive writing style urges me to want to move forward and see what this big event will be for Willa to possibly save her summer.

  12. I think you're a talented writer! That's all I have to say. Thoroughly enjoyed this and would love to read more.

  13. A very gripping start. :) Your voice is clear and your similes are evocative and engaging. I would definitely read more.

  14. As I read this, I felt like I was picking up hints of something strange to come. You talk of signs and portents and Brigadoon (the young folks are all going “What’s Brigadoon.”) and poking her finger with the needle is an omen. It works to create a mood and tone.

    What did take me out of the story was the fact that her business is sitting on the end of the pier. My thoughts immediately went to constant flooding and the cost of insurance, and I wondered if this was a one woman shop and why she wasn’t using a sewing machine, but I know nothing about sewing, so take that with a grain of salt.

    And I do think we have to know what that first omen of the day was. Even if we don’t see it happen, perhaps have her mention what it was. It’ll give more weight, I think, to the second and possible third.

    I’d read more.

  15. I thought this was very good. Those first two paragraphs were amazing. They conveyed so much with so little. I loved the whole Brigadoon reference, and the light hold on reality. Very intriguing. And that whole thing about the morgue? Wow!

    I don't have enough of a sense of what this story is about, but I'm 100% on board to stick around for a few more pages at least to see if you get me there. So as far as I'm concerned, your opening did its work.

  16. The later paragraphs are well done. I suggest playing with that first paragraph, playing up the description and history of the building.

  17. I like this very much. And while I like the setting description, consider opening with the paragraph of Willa leaning against the window. For me it's more compelling.

    Follow with the two paragraphs of setting. Consider including in one of them the reason she occupies a creaky shop in such an unusual place. Is it cheap, is it the draw of the sea, the yearning for a distant shore, a rogue wind to bring the portent?

    I would gladly more of this.