Thursday, August 7, 2014

Are You Hooked? #11

TITLE: The Roaring Silence
GENRE: Historical Fantasy

Rarely does a life begin at a funeral, but for Harrison Miller, that was precisely the case—not that he knew it yet. Chunks of earth sifted through his fingers and onto his grandfather’s casket before he threw the handful down into the pit. He blinked away a tear and returned to his fiancée, Suzie. He didn’t look at her, but, knowing what he needed as she always seemed to, she took his hand; her thumb worked circles into his knuckles, just as it would whenever he came from the feed store, stressed about the day’s work or meager pay. “It won’t be much to live on,” he’d tell her, but she’d simply take his hand and put it to her cheek as she insisted, “It’ll be enough.”

Harrison had been quiet during the interment, but he had noticed Suzie’s looks, the downturned corners of her mouth, the gentle rubs and pats as she stayed by his side, arm in arm throughout the minister’s standard farewell for every great patriarch of the community.

After the service, Harrison and Suzie walked the mile of dirt road from the church to his home.

“You okay?”

Harrison took a deep breath before he simply said, “Yeah.”

Seeing she was about to ask something else, he gently put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her in to kiss her hair. She always smiled at that, and, as predicted, abandoned her question, curled under his arm, and contentedly leaned against him as they walked, her head against his shoulder.


  1. I liked the idea of the first line - foreshadowing what would happen - but then it seems to be from a nameless narrator (since Harrison doesn't know it yet) and nothing about the rest of the entry indicates this scene is a turning point. Nothing really happens. I also like the sensitivity in the last paragraph. All the other paragraphs made me wonder who's story this is and who the narrator is - or if it's omniscient. The characters feel very distant.

  2. I like the first line and it definitely grabbed.

    That said this could almost be a micro fiction story. I know 250 words is somewhat arbitrary, but the sample ends with things somewhat resolved. There isn’t a question or need that we feel in the main character.

    It’s a historical, but nothing in the opening really paints a picture of the time period. This could be almost any time in a sufficiently rural part of the country.

    Which leaves me wondering if we have really begun the story in the right place? I don’t have enough information to suggest an alternative starting place, but it may be something you want to consider.

  3. I agree with Lexa that the characters feel distant. Though there's nothing blatantly wrong with this, neither is there anything distinctive about the characters or the situation.

    Starting a story at a funeral is, alas, one of those clichés that most agents and editors would tell you to avoid. And, curiously, one could say this scene is rather 'mushy' and sentimental, yet there's not enough depth to the emotions to make the reader feel it and become engaged.

    My guess is that you may have started the story in the wrong place, which is why it feels as if nothing has happened yet. I would think hard about what the inciting incident really is; though the opening sentence says Harrison's life begins at the funeral, the funeral itself is uneventful, and the characters leave it unchanged.

  4. I'm agreeing with the comments above me. I'm not hooked.

    A historical fantasy should immediately put the reader into a certain place and time. This opening doesn't do that for me. It could be a funeral during the 1930's or it could be during the 1950's or even a very rural setting in the 1980's.

    If you decide that this is your opening, help me see distinguishing details of the time period. What makes this funeral fit your chosen timeline and not another one? If nothing else, what Suzie is wearing will tell.

  5. I enjoyed this overall. Here are my thoughts:

    I instinctively wanted to change the phrase “not that he knew it yet” to “though he didn’t know it yet”. Just feels more natural to me.

    I instantly like both the Harrison and Suzie when Suzie comforts him after a crummy day and says “It’ll be enough” regarding his meager wages. I’m rooting for both of them already.

    Say that Suzie worked her thumb in circles, don’t say that her thumb does. It doesn’t act independently of its body :)

    Remove “Suzie’s looks.” You go on to describe them, anyway, which is stronger than telling the reader.

    Say that they “started” to walk “toward” home, because I was jarred when Suzie says “You okay?” I thought they were already home and was expecting a setting description of their house to ground me in the scene.

    I do agree with other comments. The MC has no goal or anything that's pulling him along, so it's tough to fully dig into the scene. I also agree with adding more indications of the time period. For a historical you'd want to establish that as soon as possible, I'd think.

    Anyway, solid writing, and I hope this helps. Good luck.

  6. It started out intimately at the funeral, then wandered off. It would be best to delete the paragraphs that begin with "Harrison had been quiet" and "After the service." Then after Suzie says, "You okay?" you could have Harrison come to himself and then take the deep breath.

  7. I liked this. I thought it was a nice, cozy scene. I agree with Mark that it sort of wandered around a bit, but I'd keep reading.

  8. I like the tone of it and where it's going, but there are a lot of long sentences in there. The plethora of commas caught my attention too. Commas are funny, the rules are vague in some cases, and if there are too many, you can eliminate them where there would normally be one to avoid confusion.

    Also, the second paragraph is all one long sentence and could benefit from more active verbs. (I suggest getting rid of 'had' if it's not needed.)

  9. I wasn't quite sure when this story was taking place. As others said, the narration was distant. Other than the fact that the funeral is for Harrison's grandfather, I don't know what is important about it.

  10. The first line implies Harrison's life is going to begin at this funeral, but he leaves the funeral and nothing has changed. By the end of the 250 words, still nothing has changed, so the promise of that first sentence isn't fulfilled.

    After the funeral, he and Suzie walk to HIS home. I got the impression they lived together. Is it his home or theirs?

    Unfortunately, there wasn't anything here to draw me in. Nothing happens.

    As others have said, perhaps this isn't the place to start. I think the omniscient POV also plays a part. It sets us at a distance from your characters.

    Perhaps put this in Harrison's POV, if he is your main character, or perhaps Suzie's, if she is who the story will focus on, and allow the story to happen, as opposed to telling us what happened. Let Harrison act and speak and feel and do. That, in itself, will liven this up a bit.

    I would also suggest you start the story not only on the day that is different, but at the moment things become different (of pretty close to it.) And try to give us a feel not only of where they are, but when they are.