Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Secret Agent #42

TITLE: Heartworms
GENRE: mystery

During a recent televised talent show, there was a little girl with the voice of a budding Christina Aguilera. She was terminally ill, and as she sang her precious heart out, the entire audience was in tears. It was just infinitely sad. It really was.

She was an angel, but I couldn’t help wondering why her parents had bought braces for her teeth?

I mean, come on? I couldn’t have been the only one wondering why someone would spend a small fortune on orthodontia for a kid on her way out. I have to say, I saw it as being kind of cruel, like trying to fool her into believing she was going to be around to enjoy perfect teeth.

Clearly, that’s a cruel observation, but cruel observation’s my stock in trade and one of the aspects of my character that helps me do my job, because the fact my mind can readily go to dark places often gives me a leg up on cruel characters.

I’m a private eye, which I prefer rather than being called a private dick, because I like to think my being a dick is pretty much in my past.

Apparently, a couple weeks ago, someone fired some bullets at me that finally found their mark, and spending all that time in flight, they stored up a world of f***-me hurt, because that was pretty much my response when the first one hit me. As I recall, it was something like, ‘ f*** me, that hurts.’


  1. Ha, I'm not normally the biggest fan of first person POV, but this is a character I'd like to spend some time with.

    I did find the final paragraph a bit convoluted. I was confused by 'Apparently' (wouldn't he know it?) and had to read the whole thing twice to understand it since it was so rambling.

    Would definitely keep reading.

  2. The writing style is smooth but there is a whole lot of "telling" going on rather than "showing", keeping me distanced from the scene. The opening might work better if you actually placed the story in the hospital room with the private eye watching and reacting to the girl on TV, so I can feel the pain of the injuries rather than finding out about them from a muffled distance. There isn't enough conflict to tell me what the story is actually about.

  3. The first paragraphs and the last paragraph feel like two different stories. Each section was enjoyable, but they don't flow with each other. I like the gritty character, though.

  4. The last paragraph was a "what?" moment. I don't get the connection with what was written before it.

  5. "During a recent televised talent show, there WAS a little girl with the voice of a budding Christina Aguilera. She WAS terminally ill, and as she sang her precious heart out, the entire audience WAS in tears. It WAS just infinitely sad. It really WAS."
    You use the word 'was' a lot in that opening paragraph, and really through the opening. It kind of bogs down the writing because 'was' is a weak verb. You have some good humor in here... I think you just need to tighten up the writing.

  6. The humor is hilarious, agreed, but it was a little distancing. I couldn't really connect to the character; it felt a bit like a personals ad that was trying to sound cool and edgy, but I spent a lot of time just feeling confused.

  7. I like the voice and character, and it's obvious you have serious writing skills, but I get the impression that the opening paragraphs have nothing to do with the story. Start with the story, and your skills, voice, and character will make for a very good book.

  8. I love the narrator and would read more. However, I think that the first four paragraphs would be stronger with editing. The point is being overexplained. It would be stronger if we just have a talent show with terminally ill children, a little girl with a big voice, the comment about not needing braces, and a line or two about cruelty having its uses or whatever.

  9. You have a very strong voice. One I would continue reading just to experience, but I did feel there was a disconnect with the first paragraph and the shooting that was jarring-- Not enough to shake me from the story, but enough to wish you had tightened it up a bit more. For example your last lines could be condensed into "Apparently,...a world of f***-me hurt, because that's exactly what flew out of my mouth when the first one hit me, 'F*** me, that hurts.'" This eliminates "was" twice.

    Love the humor. Good luck.

  10. I find this guy's voice a bit . . . forced. I like the observation and the callousness of a kid on her way out, but there's no feel for the character or why they're watching it.

    Even then, you say a "recent" event, rather than starting the book with him sitting in his office or wherever commenting on this to his secretary or whatever. Place it in a scene rather than telling us that this happened at some point.

    Also, using apparently trips me up and makes me think "Did this happen or not?" The "As I recall," is fine, but the apparently means that there's some doubt that he got shot.

    Unfortunately, I wouldn't read anymore at this point. Clean up the voice and eliminate some of the repetition (cruel three times in fourth paragraph, even then cruel observations twice in five words). Then I'd love to try it again.

  11. I like this guy! I don't deem him COMPLETELY insensitive, callous, heartless, and a whole list of synonyms to go with it, but he definitely has a bit of a dark heart. Nevertheless, the reader can see that he isn't all that bad because he speaks of getting the kid's hopes up and talks about how he left is jerk life in the past.

    But I want him to show me something about himself not just tell me! There is too much space spent on the little girl. Space that could easily be used for the guy.

    Moreover, I want to get a sense of the plot. I would keep reading simply because I want to know what happens to him, but I need more. I can't just read the book because the character is cool.

  12. It feels like the girl with braces isn't part of the story. It's just an observation this guy makes.

    At the end, it seems he isn't sure if he was shot or not (apparently) and the second half doesn't seem to have any connection to the first half.

    In the end, I have no sense of where the story is going, or even that there may be a mystery to be solved. Nothing happens. A character talked about himself.

  13. The first line that grabbed me was the most declarative: "I'm a private eye...." I'd start the story there with irony and humor and an immediate introduction to the MC.

  14. The voice in these opening pages is quite snarky, and though the snark may be the point of this noir-ish opening, it’s hard to get on board with a character who mocks a terminally ill child right off the bat- though that may just be personal preference. It picks up once the narrator start stelling their own story, however.