Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Secret Agent #ALT-1

TITLE: On the Surface
GENRE: Paranormal Romance

The sound of a fish slamming into her window woke Faye Coats from the dank, dreamless sleep she’d come to expect while living in the middle of the ocean. She cracked one eye open to illuminate her whole studio apartment: a tiny, efficient kitchen, the dresser at the foot of her bed, and the two chairs that made up her living room. Depressing, really. She stared at the star shaped reflection of light in the black void of ocean outside, then she flipped off the light and the room plunged into total darkness.

She hated fish, she decided as she stared toward her ceiling.

No. Hate was too strong a word. She liked eating fish. It was the romanticizing of fish that she hated: fish crackers, fish movies, cartoon illustrations on childhood card games, and fish in the doctor’s waiting room that she watched every time she had a fever growing up. Faye had spent her entire life thinking fish exotic and beautiful, when in reality, they were stupid animals who kept her from a good night’s rest because they couldn’t tell the difference between a floor lamp and sunshine.

Faye rubbed her temples and decided that she wasn’t going to go back to sleep. She rolled out of bed and pulled the covers up while she told herself she was glad that her boyfriend, Mick, hadn’t stayed the night. But at least he never romanticized fish.

Nasty buggers, he called them, fanning himself with his tail. As if he weren’t half fish himself.


  1. I like how much you capture the inner dialogue of the character -- helps anchor us to her character in a very natural way.

    That said, it's still a 'waking up' opening and thus didn't feel to me like the right place to start the story. By the time I got to the last line it all felt more like just a set up for the reveal that Mick is half-fish. Which *was* a very fluid way to handle that exposition, but maybe without quite so much wind-up?

    Also, really minor and nitpicky of me, but I was thrown by the POV when you added ", her boyfriend," because "she told herself " meant we were in her head, and I feel like she would just say 'Mick' to herself without qualifying it, i.e. if we were reading her thought as dialogue she wouldn't say "Mick, my boyfriend," to herself, right? She knows who he is.

    But I found this interesting enough that I would keep reading!

  2. There is too much going on the the first sentence, a rambling entry into Faye's world. You spend a lot of time telling me about how Faye feels, rather than getting me in touch with her emotions. There is a whole "laundry list" of her apartment details, but it does convey her emotiuonal state so that feels like it is working. The writing style is smooth and flowing, without anything that jarrs me from the interesting world you create.
    It is the last line that charms me, that makes me want to read on. It conveys a powerful image that puts me in the scene. It's both funny and ironic.

  3. This sounds like such an intriguing idea, I wonder how she got in this place. And I love a snarky voice, so I think this character is going to be great.

    However, this opening is way too explainey. We don't need to know the exact layout of her bedroom. And you lose a lot of "oh! what does that mean!" potential by laying flat out in the very first sentence that she's living in the middle of the ocean. That's a detail that can be eased in while we're hooked already because we want to know how it is that fish are slamming into her window. Honestly, you could cut out every word between "dreamless sleep" and "she hated fish."

    Also, I think I know what you're going for here:

    She rolled out of bed and pulled the covers up while she told herself she was glad that her boyfriend, Mick, hadn’t stayed the night. But at least he never romanticized fish.

    As in, you're trying to convey she isn't REALLY glad he didn't stay, but it's confusing. The "but" starting the second sentence sounds contradictory as it is.

    Good luck with this!

  4. I was a little confused. I know you're trying to show that she lives underwater rather than tell it, but it took me a bit to get it.

    Of course, it's possible I'm a little slow this morning.

    All in all, I'd say I want to read more to see where this is going.

  5. I haven't had my coffee so...a studio apartment in the middle of the ocean, a boyfriend that's half fish, did light come from her eyes? If so, how could she flip the light off?
    It's a lot to take in but I do want to see where this is going.

  6. I like the first line about a fish hitting the window. But I agree that we don't need it stated that she's living in the middle of an ocean. We'll find that out soon enough.
    I like your voice. She sounds like a snarky character.
    I think the description could be pared down, I only scanned it, and that's bad, but I really liked your last line. I'd read on.

  7. I think you can cut down on some of the explanation. It weighs it down. But I do love the first line and I love how you transition into her boyfriend being a mermaid. I also like how she's ALREADY with this guy rather than meeting him in the story, like has been done so many times. It gives it a more humorous, "yeah my boyfriend is a mermaid, what of it?" feel. I would keep reading.

  8. I liked this excerpt a lot. I found the sentence ending with "...a fever growing up" a little awkward, but otherwise I was completely intrigued. This isn't even a genre I would normally read, so great job!

  9. An intriguing premise which makes me curious to find out how this whole situation developed.

    But I spent most of the time trying to figure out how THAT happened. "That" being: how she knew it was a fish if she was sleeping, how she illuminated her apartment by opening one eye, where and what the star-shaped reflection is, why she rolled out of bed and then pulled the covers up. (After rereading, I got the last one--she was making the bed, not getting under the covers.

    Also, I don't read much paranormal, adult or otherwise, so take with a grain of (sea) salt, but this sounded YA-ish to me.

  10. Without belaboring the cliché opening of waking up, I would like to give you props for attempting to build your world right away. So much of new writing I'm reading lately is skipping over the world and diving right into the character without giving proper attention to either. You need to weave it all together, kind of like knitting with several threads of different colored yarn.

    Where's the tension in this? Readers want to anticipate the coming conflict, even if there are only subtle hints. Maybe one of the fish that bumps into the window has something odd and unnatural about it that concerns her. That's foreshadowing and it would be more compelling than than the relaxed and quiet opening you have now.

    The concept is great though. It sounds like it will be an interesting story.

  11. This is a great premise -- awesome last line.

    I know the "rule" about not opening with the mc waking up, but I think it works in this case. I strongly agree with Karen Duvall's comment about adding foreshadowing to create tension.

    Some descriptions made me stumble, "studio apartment," and "kitchen." As an avid scuba diver/boating enthusiast, that terminology is off. Perhaps "living quarters," and "tiny galley," etc. so that the descriptions line up better with a boat.

    I enjoyed seeing the world through her eyes/mind and like your world building. I think you can leave out the fish in the doctor's waiting room, unless fevers play a part in your story, otherwise, I like the descriptions. I would read more. : )

  12. I really like the voice here. It was an easy read in a good way. Though waking up scenes don't do your work any favors. I would start with a more engaging premise and work in her fish observations another way, something more active than simply waking up since it's a cliche.

  13. There is a good sense of voice here, but I found myself more intrigued by the setting than her inner dialogue. The sparse description of the efficiency gave nothing for me to play with until she plunged the room into darkness.

    I'd love some atmosphere to establish, the sounds of the water (if there is any). It makes me think of the first Bioshock (watch a trailer to get a feel for Rapture), but I found that lacking in this.

    But as I said, love the voice and the bit of snark in there.

  14. No matter what you change, please keep that last line - it really made me want to keep reading. What a great example of show don't tell. Great job over all!

  15. I definitely agree with Shiela. The last line made me want to continue reading even though there was too much explanation in the first few paragraphs and I found myself wanting to skip over some of it.

    I also get a sense of her personality here and I like it! I love that her annoyance with fish isn't an annoying thing to learn about her. I can't quite pin it, but her voice is so sarcastic, witty, and refreshing that I can't help but chuckle at some of her lines.

  16. I think this is off to an interesting start. Some things are disturbing - like she eats fish, hates fish but her BF is half fish - passive aggressive? Also, he seems to keep her locked away in an ocean hideout to be available to him when he wants. I guess the creepy factor turns me off unless it is meant to be there as a kind of humor that will be developed later. I dislike snark and sarcasm unless it is very mild because it gets old to read. For that reason, I also thought this was more of a YA "woe is me and look how snarky I am" beginning. I thought a lot of entries this month were reclassified at the last minute as adult but they are really YA.

  17. The description confused me. At first, I wondered how she knew it was a fish slapping at the window. As we read on, it makes sense, because this is something that happens all the time.

    Then I wondered how opening an eye would light the room. As we read on, it seems a floor lamp is lighting the room, so that didn't make sense to me.

    The studio apartment made me think she was living in some kind of complex on the ocean, but the star-shaped reflection made me think she was underwater. While I think she's underwater, I'm not entirely sure.

    Perhaps make it clearer exactly where she is--underwater housing, under a dome, is she the only one there, or are there others. Maybe give us a stronger sense of place.

    There's no action or tension, but on the other hand, you did keep me wondering about things, and the last line made me want to read more. It could be stronger, but overall, I think it works.

    She wasn't going to go back to sleep - could be - she wasn't going back to sleep. Cut the 'to go.'

  18. Love the title, and the closing line was a fun hook.

    In between, some of the word choices made me stumble. Coupling dank and dreamless didn't work for me, nor did cracking an eye open to illuminate.

    More action and less thinking would raise my interest level.

  19. An apartment under the sea is an original setting for a paranormal romance. I'm puzzled by the logistics of this setting- They're underwater, and the fish are outside, but her boyfriend is half fish? How was he inside her apartment? In the first paragraph, she opens her eyes and the room is illuminated, but later she flips off the light - it's unclear where the light is coming from at first.

    For me this opening isn't as strong as it could be, with such an original setting, because we don't know a lot about why Faye is in the ocean (which she seems to dislike).

    That said, there are some great lines here - especially the line "stupid animals who kept her from a good night's sleep because they couldn't tell the difference between a floor lamp and sunshine" which made me smile.

  20. It sounds like a really interesting setting and smooth writing.

    On the other hand, there wasn't really anything to draw me into the story yet on an emotional level.