Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Secret Agent #9

TITLE:   A Temporary Convenience
GENRE:   Mystery

What about:

"People want to believe things that aren't true. I've always felt I should tell them when they're wrong. Often they don't appreciate my benevolent motivation. One might think the academic world would be different. If so, one would be quite wrong. Having two degrees useful for life as a professor and little else–and having well burned those particular bridges–I became an office temp."

No, that would be a disastrous answer for my interview. This was my first shot at a permanent position since receiving my doctorate two years ago. I needed a better answer. Miss Brooks, the owner of Capitol Temporary Services, had explained that I shouldn't mention those degrees, lest potential employers think me too overqualified or snooty to do their grunt work. She was right, of course. As my lawyer dad had drilled into me, don't volunteer damning information.

Naturally, I hated the name for my firm. There was no capitol in Columbia, Maryland. Capital would be a more accurate name and had the beneficial connotation of a useful resource. Further, the word would provide an emotional draw by sharing the name of the hockey team popular in the area we served, the Baltimore/DC corridor. I'd explained all this to Miss Brooks, but she'd told me to mind my own business. This was my business, technically, but I'd dropped the subject.

Maybe I should stop obsessing over potential interview questions. Arriving far too early, I was still outside the imposing gates to the Campbell estate.


  1. For some reason, this reminds me of the beginning of THE GREAT GATSBY in which Nick Carraway is trying to convince the reader that he's an honest, unbiased narrator. Just, a modern, more cynical version of that, I guess. I like how it gives us a feel for the main character already.

  2. I like how she rants about the incorrect use of the word "capitol." Reinforces the fact that she has two degrees! I'm definitely left wanting to know what happens next.

  3. When I read the first quotation, I thought it was clunky dialogue, and I would be hesitant to make that the first significant paragraph--by the time the reader sees that this would be a disastrous answer, you may have lost them.

    Also the last sentence could very easily be changed from passive to "...I waited outside..."

    I enjoyed the inner dialogue--it revealed a tremendous amount about your character, but a lot is left out. Is this a woman or a man? I am assuming a woman, but can't be sure. I'd read more to find out.

  4. Whoa. Slow down there, tiger! You're throwing a LOT of information at me and I have no background to base it on yet. This feels more like a middle than a beginning. Your writing style is very intelligent as, without a doubt, so is the writer but might I suggest expanding this out a little? Add some descriptions of what she's wearing and why, something quirky about the town or office (capitol is a good start), what she's currently doing, etc. Pull me int the story so we can go on an adventure together.
    If I were editing this, I'd go with an opening more like:
    As my lawyer father (because 'drilled' seems a severe term and 'father' reflects this better) drilled into me, "(main character's name) don't go volunteering too much damn information!"
    That's the difference between my father and I, I've always felt I should tell them when they're wrong. For me, that's problem with this world, people don't want to believe things that aren't true.
    Good luck! I look forward to your cerebral offerings ;)

  5. I hate to admit it, but I'm hooked.

    Give me more.

    Take my money damnit!

  6. Now that I'm not sleep deprived and all that good stuff.

    I really like this, I enjoy the snark from the main character, particularly with the Capitol Temporary Services.

    However, the answer in the opening and the second paragraph have some things that make me stumble (using lest, "beneficial connotation for a useful resource"). In the second paragraph, there's two uses of answer in two lines.

    Still, I'd read more.

  7. I would second Zolosolo's suggestion, if I may – start with: "As my father drilled into me...information!" Then maybe mention the boss agreeing. I think the excerpt as a whole could be expanded with a couple phrases to place us in the character – technically we don't even know if this is a man or woman, though the voice feels feminine to me.

    I do feel like the character is relatable to a certain type of person (who also likes to correct others' misconceptions, for instance), but you could easily make this intriguing to a wider audience.

  8. I'd suggest starting where you stopped, because nothing happens before that, and nothing she talked about seemed relevant in any way. Knocking on a door wasn't enough to hook me.

  9. There is a kind of charming energy  (and a bit of snark, which I like) to these opening paragraphs, but I feel like I know more about this character’s temp agency and her degrees than I do about her motivations, beyond wanting a permanent position. This causes see opening paragraphs to have a big of a slow feel.