Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April Secret Agent #25

GENRE:           Literary fiction

TITLE: All He Can Become

The call came at dawn when Michael sat in his boxer shorts staring at the computer in the study. He mumbled a greeting into the receiver.

“Michael?” He barely recognized her voice.

“Nan? What’s wrong?”

“Accident.” Her voice squeaked. “No one’s dead, but Ted’s hurt.”

Michael jack-knifed out of his chair.

She wheezed. “Me too, broken leg. But Ted’s worse.”

Ted, Ted, Ted. His brother’s name whorled through Michael’s brain. “How Worse?”

“I don’t know. Concussion, maybe more.” Nan began to cry.

Michael’s body took charge. Bare feet slapped the hardwood floor. In the bedroom his heart shifted into overdrive. A rapid cadence of snare drums surged from his chest to his ears. “What hospital? What’s his doctor’s name?”

“Liberty General. I don’t know what doctor. They’ve had me in x-ray.”

He rifled through a dresser drawer, pulling out socks and a tee shirt.

“What’s the phone number? Ask someone for the number.”

In the closet he gulped air and pushed hangers sideways. Nan’s voice faded as if she had moved to a faraway room. When he blew out a mouthful of air, the throbbing in his chest diffused, became a flock of crows thrashing their wings.

Then Nan rattled off some numbers.

“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” he said.

Alexis drove him to the airport in San Francisco. “I should go with you,” she said.

“Grace could deliver any day,” he said, surprised by his coherent response. Alexis was the rational one. He was the daydreamer.


  1. Doesn't seem to be much happening here. Maybe start with a conflict to draw the reader in?

  2. I think you're starting in the wrong place. Ground your setting and your MC before throwing us into a man worried about an accident. We need to care about the characters in order to care that they're hurt, and right now we don't.

  3. I agree with Lanette that some more grounding is needed.

    I also thought Michael's reaction was out of proportion to the facts at hand. He hears "accident" and starts packing immediately, while all we know is that Nan has a broken leg and his brother might have a concussion. I think he'd ask a few more questions, either about the accident or Ted's condition, to gauge how serious it is before he runs to the airport.

    Is it critical that we know about the phone call? Assuming Ted is critically injured and that the story is about how that changes Michael's life, maybe it would be better to start at Ted's bedside.

  4. There were quite a few characters introduced in 250 words, all of them people we are meant to care deeply about. I would go slower and perhaps start somewhere else as others suggested. I would read another couple of pages to see if the author can hook me.

  5. I agree that a lot of characters are thrown at us in this excerpt and I don't feel like I got to know any of them. If you're going to start a book with an accident, then show is the accident. That would grab the reader's attention.

    I also wasn't so sure about the logistics of a woman calling from x-ray to tell him about an accident. Cellphone use anyplace other than the waiting room is probably not allowed in a hospital, and it seems like in a serious accident where a mother (i think) is right in the exam room with a child, she'd probably designate a friend or family member who is not at the hospital to call everyone and let then know what had happened.

  6. There's some nice drama here, but to be honest you lost me in the first sentence because you've used "when" instead of "as." The way it is now you're depicting Michael in the act of sitting down and getting a phone call at the same time.

  7. Michael's reaction seemed too dramatic when Nan thought his brother had concussion. The 'maybe more' didn't seem like enough to evoke such a heart-stopping response. When you also add that I don't know anything about either Michael or his brother, I'm not drawn in to reading further.

  8. I don’t know who any of these people are, or their relationship to each other. Ted is his brother, but who are all the other people?

    Perhaps slow this down. Take a bit more time to show/mention relationships, maybe give us some internal dialogue. If all he’s going to do is rush to the hospital, you might as well start there, because we’re not really getting any useful information in the opening. We get that one sentence about Alexis being the rational one while he was the dreamer. I think you need a bit more of that type of thing. Fill it out more.