Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Secret Agent #16

TITLE: Inner Demons
GENRE: Paranormal Romance

Sometimes the simplest things end up being the hardest things.

Like saying no. Like not turning left across Main Street into the liquor store parking lot. With both hands gripped to the steering wheel, I kept my eyes straight ahead. Cold beer on sale tempted me, the neon signs flashing red and blue hypnotic lights against the lengthening shadows. Aisles and aisles of vodka, scotch, gin, rum, and wine waited on the shelves, whispering muted promises of oblivion, everything I needed to replace the bottles dumped down the drain.

You can do this. Don’t turn left.

Slowly, agonizingly slowly, my car crawled through traffic until the neon signs blinked in my rear view mirror.

Don’t turn the car around.

I drove up Prospect Street, up the snaky hill, releasing my breath as I parked the car in the laneway and turned off the engine. A little victory for me, but there was no one to share it with. I really wouldn’t want anyone to know how hard each battle was, anyways.

I banged through the door, expecting resistance from the sticky frame, but the weather had been dry for a change and the door yielded effortlessly. The old farmhouse enveloped me with its scents of old dust and firewood, the powdery fragrance of Aunt Helen’s perfume lingering as if she’d just walked by, making me miss her all over again. After dumping out the day’s worth of textbooks and notes on top of the mini-freezer, I hung up my backpack.


  1. I liked all of this except this line "Slowly, agonizingly slowly, my car crawled through traffic until the neon signs blinked in my rear view mirror."

    It felt a little awkward. I get what you were going for but I think you could tweak it. I think the first 3 adverbs in a row are what's killing it. Otherwise I'm hooked and would read more. Like the inner struggle clearly played up.

  2. This is very tight yet descriptive and atmospheric. I agree, that particular sentence could use a tweak but otherwise, good job.

  3. I really want to now the age of this person. Young student/alcoholic or Older student/alcoholic? Either way I enjoyed the battle. Hell, I wanted to stop by that particular liquor store.

  4. You really made the reader *feel* the narrator's inner struggle here, and I got a good idea of the setting (small town, Canadian perhaps - re: laneway?), and I'm already rooting for the MC (Yay! He did it! He resisted!)

  5. Good start. It has a kind of Seanan McGuire feel to it. I can't wait to see where the paranormal part comes into play.

  6. I think the first sentence is awesome. It drew me in right away.

    "With both hands gripped to the steering wheel..." I felt like this should have been gripped on the...but that could be just me.

    I love the phrasing you use. "whispering muted promises of oblivion" "until the neon signs blinked in my rear view mirror." "up the snaky hill," "expecting resistance from the sticky frame," You have a great way with description.

    I can feel the battle, you've set up the conflict well, and since this is paranormal, I'm expecting more to come.

    I'd like to read more.

  7. Great description and deep POV. I like the sensory description of not only sight, but smell. I'm engaged by the MC's struggle.

    As tight as it already is, it could be tighter for even greater impact. A couple of the sentences could be split to help with phrasing and pacing.

    I'm interested to see where this goes and hope a paranormal element is introduced within the first few pages.

  8. Opening hook feels a bit stilted with two things in there.

    However, after that, I really enjoyed the fighting against going to grab liquor. For some reason, upon reflection, it reminds me of Constantine. One thing I do find interesting is why the character would choose that route if it's going to be so hard to fight going in.

    Not a fan of dropping Aunt Helen in there, but I'd read more just based off the alcohol conflict alone.

  9. Intriguing.

    You're using "hard" when you should be using "difficult." And I'd insert a paragraph break before the drop into the MC's head ... "With both hands ..." Also, I'd start that sentence with "I kept my eyes straight ahead, gripping the wheel with both hands." That way the reader is with your MC right away, instead of her/his hands.

    And I agree with the crit that didn't like the "slowly, agonizingly slowly." It's not necessary. You can leave it at "My car crawled ..."

    But this is an interesting opening and provides an immediate insight into a critical part of the MC's character. I'd definitely read on!

  10. I really like how backstory is shown here without an infodump. You've made the scene active while relating it to overcoming an addiction, hinting at a troubled past. Really well done.

    Just a few nitpicks to strengthen: I think you can lose the last "things" in the first line.

    The following line, it works to just say "like not turning left..." rather than leading with "like saying no." You're not doing a list, and that extra first example doesn't show us what the next line does so well.

    I agree that showing the car crawling through traffic is probably enough and you can skip the "slowly, agonizingly slowly."

    The textbooks and backpack line through me a little since this recovering alcoholic voice seemed suited for someone older than college; maybe a quick descriptor in there for reference would help; age or why this person is a student or something.

  11. I think this pretty much works as is, but you could make it even stronger if you wanted to. I'd suggest cutting the first three sentences, which are all telling, and start with the fourth sentence. Then show as much as you can of what follows. Instead of saying cold beer tempts him, show how seeing that sign affected him, how it tempted him. Is he tasting the beer in his mind? Is he remembering how good it tastes, or thinking how dangerous it could be to stop and buy. SHow us how hard it is for him to pass by the liquor store, to not stop and go in.

    If you tell us what's happening, it's like sitting across the table from you as you tell us about a robbery you witnessed, if you show it, it's like being at the robbery ourselves. Both versions work, but the showing takes the reader one step closer.

  12. I wish this didn’t begin with a rhetorical statement. The descriptions of the struggles against the pull of alcoholism are really evocative, but the beginning sentence – coupled with the title, which I would suggest changing to something less on-the-nose – make it a bit clichéd.