Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #18

TITLE: The Gammy Gat Letters
GENRE: Upmarket Adult Fiction


December 1st

Khost, Afghanistan

Twenty year old, Jake Gatlin, put his pen down and re-read his letter.

Dear Mama, Pop, Lisa, Beth and Mary,

Am writing on the go, so this one will be short. December is going to be nasty over here. We thought the dust storms had been bad. But all that red dust that builds up turns into a muddy mess because of all the rain. It’s cold, too, and going to be worse than Oxford in December. They say it might even snow. Something they call thundersnow. It means, during a snowstorm, it can thunder and lightning. Can you believe it?

We’ve been involved in quite a few convoys searching for bad guys these past few weeks, but don’t fret. (I know you, Mama!) Khost has been pretty dull, lately, and the road to Gardez has been pretty quiet too. Pretty soon, the weather will really clog up the road. But don’t worry about me. We’ve always got each other’s backs over here.

Christmas won’t be the same without being there at home. I miss you and wish I could be there with you. But we have a job to do. Love to the girls. Will try to write more later. Merry Christmas!

Love ya,


P.S. Don’t worry about me! I’ll be home before you know it.

Chagrined at what he knew was a meager effort, he vowed to write a longer one later…one that would make his mother proud.


  1. I am firmly in the camp that argues prologues, 99% of the time don't work.

    This one doesn't for me. There is nothing wrong with your writing. At all. But what's wrong with the story is I don't care about your MC. Sorry, just because he's at war, doesn't immediately make me care. I'm fact, it might make it harder to care. We don't know if he's going to survive and if this is really mom's story, or girlfriend Beth's story.

    See the problem?

    I need to care about your MC and your story in the present tense of your story.

    But I'm a self proclaimed prologue hater. Grain of salt.

  2. Okay. I really think you shouldn't add in the "Twenty year old, Jake Gatlin, put his pen down and re-read his letter." and if you feel you must... at least erase the comma after year old. But don't do it.

    Also I would add the location. If he's deployed, there's no way he's revealing his location. If he's not a deployed soldier, ignore that part :)

    Is his mother not proud of the letter, or of what he's doing?

  3. My personal opinion is that I don't like letters in books. However, based upon your title this may be perfectly appropriate.

    The first sentence didn't work for me starting out with his age. Perhaps you could add something to draw it out and make it flow better? In fact, the first time I read the excerpt my eyes skipped over the first sentence altogether. Something about its length and the following formatting made me jump right over it.

    Critiquing like this makes it sound like I only saw bad things, which is not true. In reality, my first time through left me intrigued and wanting to know more about what's going on.

  4. I don't mind letters (or emails) in novels, but the last paragraph/sentence pretty well describes this one. Why not start off with a sensational letter? This one tells us nothing about the character or his problem, except for the weather.

  5. I agree that the letter might not be the strongest opening here. We get that he's been sheltered and that Afghanistan is strange to him, but we expect that anyway.

    I was having a hard time putting my finger on a time period for this. It sounds like a WWII time frame from some of the vocabulary, like Pop and don't fret, but Afghanistan makes me think it's contemporary. Just curious about when it's set.

  6. I am a little confused as to why a soldier in contemporary Afghanistan is writing handwritten letters like it's WWII, particularly ones that don't say anything interesting. Open your story whenever this guy actually had something to say.

    Also punctuation. By my count, you have for extraneous commas and one missing Oxford comma.

  7. Only use a prologue if your story can't possibly stand without it. I can't imagine that your story can't stand without this letter. The letter isn't revealing much of anything that 2 sentences later on in the text couldn't clear up.