Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August Secret Agent #17


Choosing what to have for breakfast won’t change my life, but I’ve never been good at making decisions. I drum my fingers on the kitchen counter, staring at the fridge covered in family photos. Waffles or cereal? My stomach growls. Waffles. With strawberries. You only live once. I open the freezer as Drew honks outside. Damn. I don’t have time. Granola bar then.

I shut the freezer and my head swims for a moment, blurring the last photo of Grandma in her garden to a blob of blue and green. I blink and shake it off, then grab the box of NatureOne bars from the cluttered pantry.

The toaster oven dings. What in the… I go to check. Two toasted waffles sit on the metal rack.

Mom and Dad are both gone before seven on Tuesdays, and Elliot’s still upstairs. Did I put those in when I first came down? I must be losing my mind. Or I’m still half asleep. Whatever, they look delicious. Drew can wait. I text him that I’ll be a minute and grab a plate.

I slather the waffles with butter and slice up strawberries. I’m just lifting my fork when my ten-year-old brother walks into the room. His sun-bleached hair sticks up in the back and he’s wearing his standard outfit of baggy soccer shorts and a random player’s jersey.

“Mmm, waffles. Are there more?” Elliot asks.

I shift my eyes. “In the freezer.”

He glances at the microwave clock, then groans and reaches for the cereal.


  1. I really like the voice in this. That said, the most interesting bit in this excerpt is the thing with the waffles. You didn't list a genre, so I'm assuming this is contemporary, and it wasn't magic or anything like that. So if she's just going crazy like she suggests, is there another way to illustrate that? Typically, the whole starting a story with the morning routine thing is not the best place to open, as it's not terribly interesting. I suspect the actual story probably starts a few pages from now, so maybe re-look at this, see if it's really necessary, and start it somewhere down the timeline?

  2. The writing is decent, this seems like a contemporary story that explores family issues, which I'm a fan of. The is issue for me is... this is boring. It's not the writing, it's the setting and getting breakfast and waffles and then granola and then cereal. I think your story is best served starting somehere else. Maybe even a few paragraphs down the "but this is why today is different" shows up, and that's where the focus can be.

  3. I like that you opened with a scene and with immediate insight into the character. I liked the voice and I'm intrigued by the dizzy spell and the absent-minded waffle cooking. I'm not a huge fan of starting-the-day openings (I lie; all my WIPs start that way), but I'm guessing this starts here because you wanted to get the waffle thing in. Is there a way to bring a conflict forward so that the MC is both accidentally cooking waffles (or something else) while still doing interesting things around it?

  4. I am intrigued by the waffles and would probably read a little farther just to see what's up,but I'm just not that interested in her normal morning routine. In fact, if I had picked this up in a book store instead of reading it for critiquing purposes, I'm not sure I would have gotten to the waffle hook. It was just too slow.

    I'm guessing if you look through your first 20 pages you'll find a better opening with conflict or action somewhere in there.

    Oh, and yes. I started my first novel with an after school snack scene. Fabulous writing, but it bored the pants off the three people who read it -- even me when I went back and looked at it again. My real beginning was on page 3.

  5. I like the voice here and I really want to like this opening, but there's nothing much to grab me. The fact that she forgot the waffles is a flag of something to come, but it's not intriguing enough to hook new readers. There may be a better way to illustrate whatever is going on with her or maybe the story could start a little later and she could think back to the waffles she forgot as added confirmation to her new found crazy.

    Good luck!

  6. You have two incidents here - getting dizzy at the freezer, and the unexplained appearance of waffles. Both incidents should be alerting readers that something strange is happening here, but they don't because you gloss over both incidents.

    Let the MC have a reaction to getting dizzy. WHat does she think causes it? The same with the waffles. She rules out the possibility of anyone in the house making them, and then says oh, well, and eats them. If nobody in the house made them, then where did they come from? Shouldn't she at least wonder? If she doesn't make a big deal out of these things, then the reader won't either. This opening could work if presented differently. Maybe try a rewrite or two where these incidents are given a bit more play.

  7. If I were you I'd avoid starting the novel with a mundane routine such as having breakfast unless there's going to be a stunning piece of dialogue or something entirely unexpected happens. You reader needs to be hooked immediately so don't waste that opportunity on waffles :) Best of luck!