Wednesday, March 11, 2015

March Secret Agent #1

GENRE: Women's Fiction (upmarket)

I should have kissed my husband good-bye that morning. Or at least leaned over and embraced him, pressed my cheek against his.

But he had been irritable since he had woken up. As we were leaving the house, he had spied a balled piece of paper beside our daughter’s knapsack.

 “Want to bet this is Chloe’s homework?” he said. He unfurled the page. It was an algebra test. Chloe’s mark: 7/41.

 “Let’s wake her up,” he said.

I grabbed his coat sleeve. “Honey, it’s seven o’clock in the morning. She’s asleep.”

“Maybe she should be up studying math.” 

 “Let’s talk about this later,” I said, “when we’re not in a rush to get to work. Didn’t you want to prep for your meeting with the deputy chief?”

He grumbled a reply but picked up his briefcase and we headed out to the car.

“You were tossing and turning last night,” I said to him as we drove. “Are you still sick?”

He shrugged. “Just a headache I can’t shake.”

We were quiet for the rest of the drive. He stopped at the Old City Hall court where I worked.

 I turned to him: “How about soup for dinner? That’s good for the flu.”

“Sure.”  He gave me a wan smile.

I waved as he drove away, but he didn’t look through the rear view mirror. I turned and hurried up the shovelled steps of the court house, the scent of Bob’s cologne momentarily clinging to my scarf.


  1. I really like your first two sentences- we know something bad is going to happen. I also like your last paragraph. I'm not sold on the lines about Chloe and her math grade. They just seem a tad irrelevant, and also bring up questions about her- like why don't the parents get her up before they leave so they're sure she won't miss school? Consider concentrating more on the exchange between the husband and wife, especially about his headache, sickness, and overall grouchiness- along with her feelings about his behavior.

  2. So right off the bat this is pretty intriguing to me because I'm wondering what the heck happens to her husband. I like the last sentence, too. Sensory details are always great to pull the reader into the setting and I find that scent details tend to be the most powerful. So you start and end really strong. I think the middle could be elevated a bit if their conflict revolves around the relationship's fundamental flaw--the fight that they keep on having. It could even be a continuation of a fight that went unresolved the night before. It would give the reader a much stronger sense of both of their personalities AND of their relationship with one another. As it is, the husband goes from a bit inexplicably aggressive to sick and wan over the course of a few paragraphs. Where's the anger coming from?

  3. This is very intriguing! But my first thought is that the dialogue didn't really grab me. It didn't seem all that natural. I also thought that when the husband opened the note from the daughter, it was going to contain some big revelation. But as it stands, it seems irrelevant. So I would suggest just sticking to the interaction between the husband and wife and with a few tweaks I think the level of intrigue could be upped even more! I would also suggest even one line that would give us some kind of hint as to where this is going. I'm guessing that the husband disappears? If that's what happens then obviously job well done ;-)

  4. I'm going to echo everyone who came before me and say that you do have a great start. But after the first paragraph, you lost me. It's too mechanical, only action-dialogue-action, without a glimpse at your MC's feelings regarding the situation. I think that is your main problem - the detachment, not the dialogue in itself.

    I'd say, add in some details, like how the MC feels about her daughter's low grade, how she's concerned for her husband, things like that will not only give you a bigger buildup to what happens that takes the husband away, but draw people in and attach them to your character.

  5. Thanks to everyone for your comments. They are pretty consistent, which means I should pay attention to the mucky middle, and keep the stronger start and end. The problematic relationship between Chloe and Bob is a recurrent issue throughout the book, so I need to be able to show this in this well as the MC's feelings about Chloe and her husband. I'm sharpening my revision pencil as we speak!
    Thank you!

  6. I rather liked the whole set-up so I guess my reaction is different than most readers who have already commented. What I liked about it was you have established a lingering and long-standing tension in a marriage that does not need to be hammered home - yet. The fact that their daily routine plays out with that hanging over them reads so true to life that I can see everything on simmer already without having to hit me over the head with it on the first page. So, I think your handling of mood and subtle emotions is very skillful and there is enough hinted at in this family situation that I would love to read more. Had it been over-emphasized and too clear cut (i.e. through the MC's thoughts) then I might have found it less appealing. I would rather see it simmer - like the soup she is suggesting for dinner.