Thursday, August 7, 2014

Are You Hooked? #7

TITLE: Silent Witnesses
GENRE: Literary


The alarm blasted twice before I found it in the dark, and it was still pretty dark. Sunlight was mostly blocked by the fancy new curtains Cass had bought without even asking my opinion. Like always.

I rubbed my eyes and looked at the alarm clock. It flashed a bright red 7:15. I had more than an hour before I had to head out. I stretched one arm out to the right, meeting a tangle of blankets and sheets.

Downstairs already. I wondered if she was laying out my Sunday project yet, either adding to the list or fixating on one of my dozen or so unfinished projects. “Probably.” I laughed at myself for even considering that word; there was no chance the answer wasn’t definitely.

Going downstairs wasn’t a good idea. If I walked in on her planning, I’d lose any shot at my basketball game with John. Checking my email was a much better bet. I purposefully left the bed unmade, knowing I could hop back in if I heard Cass’s steps.

The computer beeped and whirred to life. Smartest thing I’d ever done was suggest bringing it into the bedroom three years earlier when we’d converted the office into a nursery. I’d spent more than my share of weekend mornings hiding out from my honey-do list without Cass being any wiser.

Not that the computer actually needed to remain there though. Only dust spent any time in that room, dust and stacks of brand-name baby clothes.


  1. This opening is a little too normal/quiet. While I get a sense of the character here, I don't know what the story is about or what's important to him. I think you could start in a much stronger place with some other activity that hints at what's at stake in the story instead of starting with him waking up. If the email is important and what changes everything start with that or if the story doesn't start until he's downstairs, start there. Cut the boring stuff anyone can do and get to what makes this character interesting. Get to the heart of the story quicker, make the reader care immediately. That's what will keep them reading. :) Good luck!

  2. Yeah, beware of the waking up. Some agents stop reading at that point. I do like the sense that you've created a couple who keep secrets from each other. This is not a healthy relationship, and you've gotten that across. Maybe punch up that aspect. I liked the juxtaposition of normality with the feeling that something is wrong between the narrato and Cass.

  3. You have way too many things going on. There's nothing for the readers to grasp on to. Make one thing the central point in your opening page, and focus on that. That one thing needs to lead us to the story problem, whether it's something that has changed for the MC or leads to a change or problem for the MC. Right now, there's no way to tell where this story is heading because it's buried.

  4. I don't know what the story is about or what the character wants. It comes across as stream of consciousness, not a story headed somewhere.

  5. I’d caution about using the situation of getting out of bed and turning off the alarm clock. It is a very common way to open a book.

    “Not that the computer actually needed to remain there though. Only dust spent any time in that room, dust and stacks of brand-name baby clothes.”

    I love, love, love the way you hint at the tragedy of infertility or miscarriage here. Artfully done.

    I’d consider moving the opening up to your MC (Emilo?) firing up the computer and listening for Cass. You can work in almost all the same details about their relationship, which I thought was well done, without going for the standard get out of bed opening.

  6. It's generally recommended not to start with a dream or waking up, but I liked this opening. It gave us some nice insight into the state of Emilio's marriage and his relationship(or non-relationship) with his wife.

    I'm guessing something happened with a baby since he mentions a 3 year old nursery but never mentioned a child, so I think it's clear that's the problem. They became distant and the marriage kind of fell apart after whatever happened with the baby.

    A few issues--

    He can't find the alarm clock in the dark, and it was pretty dark, and then you immediately follow that with sunshine. How dark can that room be in daylight, even with heavy curtains? And even if it was black, the numbers on the clock light up, and I'm assuming the clock was in its usual place, so why would there be any difficulty finding it?

    I didn't get the last parg. I thought you were saying there was no reason the computer had to stay in the bedroom, where only the dust hung out, and I was thinking Well, Emilio's hanging out there, too. Then I read Ted's comment and saw you meant the nursery, which makes more sense. Perhaps instead of saying 'remain there' say 'remain in the nursery.'

    I'd read more.

  7. There's a lot of conflict brewing here already. I won't repeat the others' comments about starting with a wake-up, but other than that, I like that the situation is already not good, and apparently has been for a while. That's a sort of a hook for you.

    My biggest problem here is that the MC is not terribly appealing right now. He doesn't have to be, mind you, but he should be more THERE. He's passive aggressive and in many ways his relationship with his wife is more reminiscent of a son/mother relationship. Now that's a great premise, but the MC needs to be more self aware, especially for a literary book. There should be just a little more inwardness, more of his own opinions rather than his reactions to Cass. I just really want to know how he FEELS about being ordered about like this rather than knowing how he plans to avoid it.

    Good luck with this.

  8. Loved the last line.

    Now, if you can make the start a little less mundane, but still give me a sense of their relationship, I'd read on. I would suggest not starting out with a dark room - that's really dark, when it's light outside. The visual, tied in with the alarm clock you mention twice, didn't work for me.