Friday, November 29, 2013

(4) Adult Literary Fiction: BREEDING GROUNDS

TITLE: Breeding Grounds
GENRE: Adult Literary Fiction

When a young woman is found dead in a rock pile, talk is her fisherman husband did it. But if he wanted to get away with murder, he could have cut her up for chum. In this small New England town where ethics are a luxury and the desire to escape is as strong as the urge to make do, Breeding Grounds carries you down to the depths, where even the foulest deeds make sense.

Dora McGill

Eight o’clock in the goddamn morning, blueblood cold outside and someone was downstairs banging on the barroom door. I’d been working the Walleye for going on ten years, and my ears were my own personal Emergency Broadcast System. Still had drool on my cheek, but I opened my window anyway and had a look. It was the Little Sergeant of all people. He’d been around long enough to know the Walleye wasn’t open till noon on Sundays. The church ladies would throw a fit. And, after waiting on piles of stinky old fishermen till closing time, so would I.

He stopped banging, looked up at me and said, “Police, Open Up! Police!”

“No kidding,” I said, slamming the window shut. Like my week wasn’t shitty enough already. I grabbed my robe, lit a cigarette, and opened up the window again.

“What seems to be the trouble, Officer Alvarez?”

He really didn’t like it when I called him “Officer” but he hated being called the “Little Sergeant” worse, and when I saw his face, I was glad as hell I didn’t call him that. You know, I always figured I could find one redeeming quality in anybody. The only thing I ever really liked about the Little Sergeant was that for all the ribbing he took, he seemed like a man in his own mind. But down there, with the street empty behind him, the Sunday morning quiet and that gray New England cold, he was just the opposite.


  1. I really liked this and I would definitely keep reading. I like lit fic that has a mystery to it.

    I did wonder, though, what the purpose was with opening with "Dora McGill". I didn't follow that at all and have no idea how it fit in with the rest of the excerpt

    Good luck!

  2. THIS I love. Perfect prose. Love all the description, dialoge both internal and between the characters. Great description. I am totally invested in the MC from the start and I want to find out what's going on. BEST. ENTRY.

    Good luck! I'd keep reading to the end, and not many books can keep my attention, even by author's I know personally. I usually skip over all the 'bla bla bla'... No bla bla bla here. No extraneous words.

    Great job! Finally, an entry worthy of kicking me out of the game. Good luck!

  3. "Blueblood cold outside" - LOVE this. Great line.

    I don't have much to add. The tone is great, the MC's voice is great, and there's a mystery right off the bat. I'm hooked for sure.

    The only issue I can see is that I occasionally have a little bit of trouble understanding the image you're trying to create; the language at times feels imprecise, or vague. For example, in the last sentence: "he seemed like a man in his own mind. But down there, with the street empty behind him, the Sunday morning quiet and that gray New England cold, he was just the opposite." I think the problem is that I don't quite know what "a man in his own mind" means. Does the MC think he's sane? Decisive? Opinionated? Stubborn? And why does the gray, quiet, cold morning make him seem the opposite?

    If you answer these questions later on in this first chapter, then no real problem. In any case, it's certainly more than enough to keep me reading, and the logline is crisp, clean, and totally intriguing.

  4. Wowzers. From the get-go here I feel I'm in good hands (i.e. this is a writer who knows how to tell a story.) I presume the character in whose head we're in is Dora (though there's nothing quite yet to anchor us in the character's gender), and what I get is that she's as tough as old boots.

    (One nit: you need a comma after Little Sergeant in the first para.)

    Great phrasing, great rhythm, great voice. I sure as hell want to know why the Little Sergeant is knocking at Dora's door in the 'blueblood cold,' and I'm certain some of those agents will want to know too. Good luck!

  5. Yeah, this one has a great voice to it. The logline promises a very captivating and twisted tale, and the entry goes directly to work on fulfilling that promise. Nicely done.

    [I assume the opening line was supposed to have quotation marks around it? As in the Sergeant is calling her name? That's how I read it anyway]

    Best of luck with it!

  6. I like the atmosphere in this one! (I stumbled at "blueblood cold" for a moment because blueblood makes me think immediately of aristocracy but I do get it.)

  7. Nicely done! I felt like I was reading a novel, not critiquing one.

    My only suggestions are to perhaps make it evident she's a woman. I'm assuming she's Dora Gill, but I don't know that as fact. Perhaps the Little Sargeant could say, "Police, Dora. Open up." And the fact that he knows her by name would also show how small the town is.

    And then I'd suggest you cut the sentence starting with "You know" because it takes us out of the story. It's a character aside to the audience.

    I did wonder about the genre. From the log line, I'd guess this was a murder mystery. I'm not seeing anything that makes it literary.

  8. Great voice. In general, this sort of story isn't my thing, but I'd keep reading because you've captured a feeling and a situation really well. I don't have any real critique to go here because I'm unfamiliar with the genre, but I'd look at your two sentences at the end of paragraph one. Consider sticking them back together because the verb in the second is a reference to the first. It tripped me up (but I trip easily).

    Good work, and good luck!

  9. Great atmosphere, pacing, dialogue. But the best part about this entry is the voice. It shows exceptional command of the story and a thought-out knowledge of who this person is.

    The only problem is...I don't know who this person is. Man? Woman?

    Also I think the writing level is high but I question if literary fiction is the right category. Isn't this a literary mystery?

    I would definitely want to read more.

    Nancy Bilyeau

  10. The logline seems a bit vague—is this meant to feature an ensemble cast? Or is there a focus on specific characters? I’m not sure that the reasoning behind why the fisherman husband would be innocent is the strongest hook—instead, perhaps focus on how others have motive. While the line “In this small New England town where ethics are a luxury and the desire to escape is as strong as the urge to make do, Breeding Grounds carries you down to the depths, where even the foulest deeds make sense.” is evocative, it doesn’t really give a promise for what this story is going to focus on.

    With the opening, I found myself wanting more information on who is this character? She’s the start of the book—your first introduction for readers. Why choose her? What is her role? If she’s the main character, her role ought to be defined in the logline. You have a fantastic voice—although I think there are areas of narrative voice that could be expanded upon to truly bring out her ‘voice’ and her initial characterization. You have a really fantastic use of imagery—and the final line had me wanting to read more.

    Good luck!


    The full goes to Michelle Wolfson!