Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Secret Agent #35

TITLE: Jessamine Rose, Monster Hunter
GENRE: Steampunk Romance

Jessamine Rose blinked and covered her mouth with her brown lace glovettes, leaning ever so slightly on her open stone front door. “I beg your pardon, but could you repeat that?” Her voice held firm, but inside, she was quaking.

“I’m afraid that last night, on patrol, your brother was found dead.”

Jessamine closed her eyes, not wishing to see the heavyset Inspector Wilkins Pontisbury. His pity threatened her composure. First her father, now Philip…

A few breathes and she opened her eyes, head somewhat clearer. “How did he…pass on?”

The inspector fiddled with the brass buttons on his uniform. He removed his helmet and nodded toward the door. “May I come in?”

Jessamine opened the door and stepped aside, her long brown skirt swirling around her matching ankle boots. Once the inspector entered, she shut the door. “How did he die?” The word felt strange on her tongue: heavy, wrong.

“I’m afraid we don’t know, Miss Donahue.”

Her brown eyes narrowed. “He has never been sick a day in his twenty-two years!” Something was far from right here.

“Allow me to assure you we will discover how exactly he died.” The inspector bowed his head before returning his helmet to his head. “I’m sorry I had such unsettling news to share.” He inched toward the door.

“When will you release the body?” She had to stay strong, be firm. Once he left, she could break down. But not yet. Not in front of him. The inspector. How she hated him.


  1. I enjoyed this opening, although I think you could dispense with the inspector wanting to come in. He wasn't there long enough to ask.

  2. I felt sorry that her father and brother had died but I couldn't come to care about Jessamine. Perhaps a few more paragraphs would have helped me along.

  3. I'm afraid I didn't connect with the character either. Possibly it's the cliched opening of the policeman showing up and someone's dead.

    You're giving us her emotional reaction which could be very compelling...if we had any idea who she is and why we should care about her. I think you're opening in the wrong place. As it is, she just feels like every other person I've ever heard of/seen/read about who just lost someone. There's nothing to intrigue me or make me want to know her better or what happens next.

  4. I like this opening, it's not confusing, there's conflict, character, and emotion, subtle bits of setting, and it all starts moving forward at a brisk pace.

  5. I liked the flow of your writing, but this reads more like a mystery than a romance. Maybe start in a different place?

  6. Ooh, I liked this. I particularly liked "glovettes" because it's such a specific detail. Though I've also seen openings similar to this, I thought it was paced well, something is happening where the stage is set (characters and setting introduced in a way that didn't feel forced). To Leah's comment, maybe what's missing here is a few snippets of internal dialogue for context? A hint of reflection on the circumstances as she takes it in? I'm not 100% this is starting in the wrong place, but I suppose see what the collection of comments says and go with your gut.

  7. I think you do a good job setting your scene, but I have to confess, I want to initially care a bit more for Jessamine so that this distressing news matters.

    I agree with the comment that there is no reason for the inspector to want to come inside, unless there is more to the request, as he's inching for the door almost immediately.

    Ditch the "Something was far from right here." Your readers infer this from the dialog.

    As the inspector has not been anything other than courteous, her hatred of him is unsympathetic. Can you give him a mannerism, or hint at this before her reveal so that the reader understands her stance? Does he want inside her home to satisfy some prurient curiosity?

    Still, there is enough in 250 words that make me want to continue reading! Good luck.

  8. Brown lace glovettes feels cluttered. Without that, the first sentence grabs me, showing off more of her personality than what she's wearing.

    I must admit, I expected something far lighter. There's a lot of ideas being thrown around her, none particularly sticking. It feels like you were feeling out the character more than the situation and throwing stuff in there (the brown swirling skirt, something far from right, she hated him). Specificially, the how she hated him doesn't come into play at all until that is mentioned. If she had held him off at the beginning, maybe, but there doesn't seem to be any relationship between the two of them.

    I absolutely love the title of your manuscript and, with that, I definitely expected a more confident character, more of a swashbuckling sort of feel to it. I'm only mentioning this because it definitely colored how I started this story.

    Would read a bit more just to see if the little disparate bits wove together a bit more and became a more cohesive whole.

  9. This all seems very forced and I don't get any sense of whether she is happy or sad that her brother is dead. It is all very matter-of-fact.

    The dialogue is also very forced. Who, when being told their brother is dead, would politely say "I beg your pardon, but could you repeat that?" Certainly not me, or anyone I know.

    I really don't think a description of what she is wearing adds anything to the scene, it just makes her even more unattached to the story.

    I'm sorry, but I wouldn't read on as I wouldn't want to spend an entire book with someone who appears to be so emotionless.

  10. Your opening sentence could be clearer; blinking and covering her mouth doesn't say much about what happened or what she's feeling. For example, my first impression after reading the first line was that she was covering up a yawn. Now I assume she's covering her mouth so the inspector won't see her gaping or her lips trembling or something. This is just my opinion, but I think it's important for the first line to stand alone, or at least be really impactful. So many readers crack books open at random and scan the first line. Perhaps something like "Jessamine Rose clapped a hand over her gaping mouth."

    Yes, there IS a disconnect with Jessamine because she's hiding her feelings until the inspector leaves, but this didn't bother me. In fact, it made me want to read on so I could see her reaction when he left. I don't mind waiting a couple hundred more words to find out what kind of person Jessamine is. Besides, we already have a good adjective that applies to her: stoic.

    I also found the dialogue a little contrived. Of course, that may be because the relationship between Jessamine and the inspector is strained.

    This isn't a genre I read, but your opening is enticing enough that I'd probably read further.

  11. parg 1 - perhaps show her fear, her inner quaking. As written, her gloves are leaning etc. Put the leaning phrase after Jessamine Rose. I wondered what glovettes are (as opposed to gloves) and why she was wearing them inside her home.

    Parg 3 - perhaps have her react to her brother's death rather than reacting to the guy bringing her the news. How she reacts will tell us something about her relationship with her brother, as well as her character.

    Parg 4 - breathes should be breaths. And we should see her lightheaded or confused or something before her head is 'clearer,' otherwise the question - clearer than what - arises.

    Parg 6 - she doesn't need to open the door because it's already open. 'Word' should be 'words' because she spoke several, not one.

    Parg 9 The word 'head' is used twice in the same sentence. Maybe reword. I'm also wondering why he needed to go inside. He didn't tell her anything new. She already knew her brother was dead. It seems he went inside for no reason.

    Parg 10 - We learn she hates the inspector. Instead of telling us here, show it when he first comes to her door and carry it through the entire page. Show it in her attitude, in the way she speaks to him, acts toward him, etc.

  12. I agree, the fact that the inspector asks to come in, then immediately concludes his conversation and starts to leave seemed off. And the hatred of the inspector seemed to come out of nowhere. Does she hate him just because he's brought bad news or is this a longstanding thing?

    For me there was too much brown and description of Jessamine's clothing (when it's not relevant to the story at this moment).

    Personally, being fond of steampunk I would probably read a little more to see where the story went.

  13. Beginning with a policeman delivering bad news is a difficult place to start a story, because we don't know the protagonist yet, and the scene creates a sense of telling the reader how to feel rather than showing. This feels like an odd place to start – we don’t know Jessamine yet, or know why her brother’s death is hitting her so hard.