Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Secret Agent #40

TITLE: The Shadow Life
GENRE: Mystery-Romance

Lying is the bull**** I’ve built my life on. I’ve lied to everyone including myself. I’m learning that deceit has no respect of person, not even for my child – the only person I’ve ever been honest with. I want to be honest with her but in this situation, telling the truth to a seven year old only complicates things. They ask questions, they whine and then cry; the latter of which I’m not at all excited to experience. I’m on a tight time schedule, no room for anything extra.

I stand outside the doorway to her bedroom, hearing the clatter of glass hitting glass. When she isn’t busying herself with my makeup, I know I can find her playing with the set of perfume bottles I’d given her. Although they no longer hold the liquid fragrances, the scent lingers and that amazes her the most.

That’s how I find her, spinning in lazy circles in the middle of her room, spraying air from a bottle onto her small neck. Her hair’s pulled into a high ponytail, nails shine with red polish that matches the red Converse on her feet. Her small, chocolate heart-shaped face holds smudges of my rosy blush. I cringe when my eyes fall on the wide scraping of skin over her right eyebrow. It’s a fresh wound earned from a fall off her bike. My little girl, the most feminine tomboy I’m sure I’ll ever meet.

I stand there for a while, watching her dance around, wanting to relish these last moments.


  1. Something about the first paragraph was turning me off, but I read on and the rest feels like something I'd want to read. I wish I had something more concrete to tell you, but right now, it's just a feeling I have. Maybe another critiquer can pinpoint it. (or maybe it's just me.)

  2. I feel sorry for the child. The last sentence has me wondering what's about to happen and I know it's not going to be good.

  3. I feel like you could start with the second paragraph. The first one is kind of abstract, not very hook-y, if you will. The rest works much better, painting a scene that I'd want to see more of. Especially to find out why she's thinking of these as last moments. Good luck!

  4. Interesting, because the first lines make the character somewhat unlikeable--who likes a person who lies all the time? But then you learn that she (mostly) is honest with her daughter, and you see how much she cares for the daughter. Nice job.

  5. The first paragraph is all tell. Then in the second paragraph, you start a beautifully written story. Start with the second paragraph and let everything unfold from there. If this were in a bookstore, I would definitely continue reading.

  6. I agree with starting out with the second paragraph. The lying discussion, pared down a bit, could go at the end of this passage.

    Also, who gives a 7-year-old glass bottles? A bit jarring to me, but then my kids were prone to breaking things and injuring themselves LOL

    Nitpicks aside, I still am hooked. I want to know what the situation is and what happens next.

  7. I feel like the writing read a little weak. I like the concept of this opening but I think you could remove some words and tighten it up. I'm interested in the daughter character. Not sure about the mother yet but I'd read on.
    Good luck!

  8. I too, would start with the second paragraph and try and put the first paragraph toward the end. That way we've got some empathy for the character (who clearly loves her daughter) before we learn she's a habitual liar. (Even if she doesn't usually lie to the daughter.)

    Very clean writing though. And certainly enough of a hook to make me turn the page.

  9. I like the first line, but the rest of that paragraph seemed more like observations once readers were more familiar with the character. Trimming that whole intro to two or three succinct lines could capture the lying and the lying to child theme, then moving on to the child.

    I was a little tripped up on the "chocolate heart-shaped face" wondering if she is African-American or if it's just a heart-shaped candy face. I think the two descriptors don't quite work together for that reason; if she is African-American, maybe a more straightforward skin description.

  10. I too though the first line was strong, but the remainder of the paragraph only stalled the beginning of the story. As others noted, consider starting with the second paragraph.

    At this point, I'm more interested in the child. You do a great job of describing her dichotomy. I too stumbled though over the chocolate heart face....

    The last line is full of tension and leaves me definitely wanting to read on and find out what happens.

  11. I do not like the opening. It feels overly complicated while telling us nothing about the character.

    However, I absolutely love the introduction of her little girl. The description is perfect, gives me a great sense of the girl and the scrap over her right eye (though that sentence could be tightened).

    I would definitely read more just to find out more about the little girl, hoping her personality bleeds through in the dialogue.

  12. The first two lines are good because it is the MC's voice. The next line needs tightening. Start the 3rd line w/ deceit. Cut the rest of the paragraph because it is telling, but show it later in her voice.

    The 2nd paragraph first sentence is good because it shows action and uses the sense of sound. Cut the rest of the paragraph for now and go right to the 1st sentence of 3rd paragraph. In this 1st sentence after "from a" add "perfume bottle that I had given her" then continue w/ "onto her small neck. Next sentence add color of hair. Next sentence is a good description, but what about making it a simile? "nails shine with red polish as bright as the red Converse on her feet." Next line don't use small again. I agree w/ others that chocolate is awkward. You also should start w/ her name again because you have a lot of hers. Someone said to use "candy-heart shaped face". I agree w/ that and candy implies small. Continue w/ the rest of your lines.

    Then, the 4th paragraph I would work in MC's voice again w/ some of the rest of the 1st paragraph that I cut. How 'bout? I want to be honest w/ (Name), but how can I be when she's only seven years old? This is complicated. (name will ask questions. She may whine and cry, which I'm not excited to experience. No,I'm on a tight schedule, no room for dramatics.

    Hope you can understand this critique and it helps.

  13. I wonder if you keep what you have, but simply rewrite it so she is experiencing it at the moment. Don't tell us her daughter is in the room, have her open a door and peer in. Don't tell us what the daughter is doing, show the daughter spritzing imaginary perfume on herself.

    I thought the last sentence worked well, as it hints that something is about to change.

  14. I like this little girl. She's well drawn. The mom scares me. What I take from this is that she's about to murder her daughter. I would read on to find out, but if she does, I couldn't finish.


  15. I think the second paragraph is stronger than the first – it’s evocative and interesting, and very strongly conveys a sense of tension and impending danger or change.. To that end I’d suggest cutting the first paragraph, or revising it to be less focused on the rhetorical statement at the beginning.