Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March Secret Agent #23

GENRE: Women's Fiction

The Monday following her fourth birthday, Molly stood on the steps of Great Aunt Sophia's cement stoop in St. Louis, her hair still jumbled from sleep, her too short jeans ending her her ankles. Her mother pressed a ten dollar bill into her hand, hastily planted a pink-lipsticked kiss on her cheek, and skedaddled down the steps in her high heeled shoes.

"Only until I can get on my feet, baby," she called to Molly.

By the time Molly reached seven years, she had figured out that "on her feet" more likely meant "on her back," a sad and precocious realization for one so young.

Despite her mother's haphazard care, Molly loved her with a wounded passion, dazzled by her glamour and her frantic energy, compared to Aunt Sophia's tightly curled perm and tightly pursed lips.

By her twenty-seventh birthday, Molly worked as a waitress at Dawn's Early Light. That February morning, Molly greeted the early breakfast custsomers, the winter air still trapped in their coats. Most of the six o'clock crowd worked at St. Louis' Barnes Hospital complex--interns, nurses, aides. They wore uniforms, some as unbecoming as Molly's starchy dress, but she felt certain their jobs were far more interesting. They dealt with crises, matters of life and death, bad news, good news. All she dealt with was the choice between ham, sausage, or bacon. Day after day.

She was definitely ready for another change. And her new plans definitely wouldn't involve Dawn's Early Light. Or Vinnie.


  1. I'm not sure how I feel about the opening flashbacks through her childhood. The first paragraph is definitely gripping, but it might be stronger if you put it in Molly's POV instead of omniscient? Sort of her reflection on growing up under the shadow of how her mother had dumped her when she was 4?

    Good luck!

  2. The opening is interesting and flowed well for a quick flashback. I liked it.

    I did get confused about short jeans going down to ankles? I don't get it. Also, at first I thought Molly's mom left her, but in paragraph 4, "haphazard care" implied (to me) that her mom was in and out of the picture rather than dumping her off at 4 and never returning. Not sure which you meant.
    Also, "customer" is misspelled in the 5th paragraph.

    Good luck!

  3. I like your title!

    At the end of your first sentence, you have "ending her her ankles."

    The third paragraph didn't quite make sense to me.

    Fifth paragraph, second sentence, customers is spelled wrong. Spell check ought to catch something like that.

    I wouldn't use "definitely" twice in your last paragraph. It lessens any impact the word might have.

    Good luck!

  4. I'm a little torn. The first three paragraphs really caught my attention and I love how maturely they're written.
    Then, there's the giant jump from 7 years old to 27. That's a huge change without any reflection on what happened to the mother that Molly loves. Is the mother in and out of the picture? It was like there was a second story being told after those first four paragraphs before the age jump, because the Mom sounds so important to this story, yet she just vanishes, and now we're concerned about Vinnie. So, in short, maybe a little closure or insight on what happened to this mom before moving on to Vinnie.
    Still, I would read this. I find the narration enjoyable. Best wishes!

  5. If her mom walked into Dawn's Early Light, the opening would make sense. As it is, this seems jumbled and unfocused--but with a lot of promise.

  6. I read this once before. I like the elimination of the backstory from the first one.

    What makes this opening work for me is Mom's comment. Jumping from 7 to 27 feels like the gap is too long. Consider adding one more example of their interaction before we move to present day. Let us hear one more empty promise from mom. Molly at four, seven, teens, twenty-seven. It would fit nicely with the comment of loving her mom, though, perhaps, she no longer counted on her promises.

    I like the contrast between high-living mom, and tightly-permed Aunt Sophie. A child could be very torn between these two types of women. A nice conflict.

    Having said that, there needs to be some transition from the two women to Molly's 27 year old self. Consider adding her thought about one or both of these women in one of the next two paragraphs. Molly is ready for a change. Consider saying whether mom and Aunt Sophie figure in that change. Then finish with the line about Vinnie. That addition will help tie in the opening, close the loop on mom and Aunt Sophie for a while, and open the loop on Vinnie.

    One last comment. The very last line says Molly's plan wouldn't involve the cafe and Vinnie. I wondered if that should say didn't? To me, wouldn't means the plans have not yet been thought out. Didn't means the plans are already made. Didn't, promises change, which I want to read about. Wouldn't, promises dithering around thinking about change, which I'm not so sure I want to read about.

  7. I liked the opening pargs. that told about her relationship with Mom, and I agree that including another in her teen years would cut down the huge jump in time.

    I also agree that if you're opening with her relationship with her mom, it needs to figure in somewhere in her decision to change things even if Mom doesn't reappear here. She might want to just take off like Mom did, or perhaps she wants something more than the kind of life Mom had, but I do think Mom has to be connected to that ending scene.

    On the other hand, if the childhood scenes are just to give us an idea of how she was raised, and that and mom aren't relevant to the plot, I'd cut all of this and start the story with her working in the diner, showing us a bit of her life now, and then making her decision to make a change.

    ANd the fact that I'm unsure of exactly what I'm getting may indicate that this isn't as focused as it could be. It could also just be me not getting it. Just something to consider.

  8. I'm not hooked, I'm afraid. I liked the opening two paragraph, but you lost me after that.

    I wasn't sure why at seven the girl would think "On her feet," meant "on her back." That WAS a sad and precocious thing for one so young, but it also didn't make sense to me. "on her feet" means making money. And maybe she chooses to make money "on her back" but if she was making money that way, why didn't she come back for the girl?

    It's just not enough. It's too cryptic, I think. Why does it bother her that her mother is a prostitute? Maybe she can say she realized that "on her feet" meant "on her back" but Mama wasn't young anymore and no matter how much time she spent on her back she never really got on her feet and came back for Molly.

    Something to flesh this thought a bit more.

    But then you move on really fast and I wonder why you have started in this place. Why not just start at 27 and then work the backstory in?

    I think this might work if you fleshed out the third a fourth paragraphs a bit--tell us she's coming and going. Don't belabor it, but just give us a bit more insight. There's a fine line. You have to give us enough to let us understand what she feels--I mean, what a heartbreaking life she's had. But you don't want to spend a lot of time in the past. We want to move forward.

    I'm not sure why Vinnie comes into play. She thinks that the health care workers have more interesting jobs than she has. And then she thinks, "I'm ready to leave my job and Vinnie."

    What makes her think of Vinnie? I'm not seeing the logical progression.

    You write well and you have an interesting and sympathetic character and you've set her up with a goal right away--great job and very good way of hooking the reader, but right now the flow of this feels off. It's moving too fast, I think.