Wednesday, March 11, 2015

March Secret Agent #26

TITLE: The Light Behind the Clouds
GENRE: Women's Fiction w/ Magic Realism

For centuries, the women in Abigail's family tucked their children in at night whispering the instructions of life: plant a tree, repair the home, nurture the gift.

As soon as she was old enough to carry a bucket, Abigail was charged with caring for the tree planted the spring after her birth. Though that wasn't part of the saying, every time the family planted a tree, it was a walnut, grown from the seed of the mother's tree. Walnut trees were finicky - they required proper placement, careful watering, and patience. When both Abigail and the tree were ten years old, the tree started producing, but her elation was short lived. Over the next few years, Abigail made multiple trips to the furthest point of the backyard, gathering buckets of nuts. On many of these occasions, she was joined by her mother and her grandmother as they cared for their own trees also in the yard. Abigail wondered aloud why the tree had to be planted in their backyard. And why they couldn't plant something like a maple or a spruce - something that didn't require so much work every single year.

"There are some things worth nurturing," Mother said, "worth the time and effort. Love is one." She smiled and added, "Raising a gracious daughter is another. You will learn this someday. And in the meantime..."

In the meantime, Abigail placed bucket after bucket on the back step. Her home was the house that generations built. Or at least, maintained.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Wonderful concept! My only problem is, that when I read the first and second paragraph, it felt like I was reading a query letter, like the story was being summarized for me instead of actually taking me into it. Honestly, (and this is completely my personal opinion) starting with the mother's line of dialog would be a great hook to build from, I think.
    Anyways, good luck! :)

  3. I would start with the second paragraph, an action rather than a saying (which can come later). Intriguing world. Not much yet a hint of dilemma. Elation was short lived gives way to everything seems ordinary. You open many sentences with clauses rather than allowing your voice to be direct.

  4. This moves a little slowly. The story has potential, but you might want to get to some conflict sooner. You give a hint of conflict--that Abigail is unhappy about having to carry buckets of walnuts; perhaps you could liven things up by dramatizing her displeasure, for example through angry dialogue with the mother. Good luck!

  5. I liked the lyrical quality of the opening line. Think you could tighten the second paragraph...feel as if you are setting the scene for me as a reader, but I don't need as much there. Love the mother's lines in par 3. Wondering as you end why the home was maintained by generations? Would each generation have made changes and added on wings to the home? Or was that forbidden in the culture? Just curious.
    Agree with others that you might make more of the inner conflict felt by the MC at this point to intrigue the reader. However, I like the literary quality of your language and would keep reading for the pleasure of your voice.

  6. I very much liked the beginning and the focus on the tree and task of caring for it. It's a Karate Kid 'wax on wax off' thing right? An enduring life lesson being taught in this very relatable way makes me think that the author will have the same attention to detail with the story to come. And, I am a fan of magical realism.

    One suggestion:

    When both Abigail and the tree were ten years old, the tree started producing, but her elation was short lived

    You need to correct the grammar in this sentence because as it is written the agreement is not present because it sounds like the tree's elation was short-lived (instead of Abigail)
    the "her" I mean,

    I would like to read on.


  7. I'm definitely intrigued by this setup and I think this has a lot of potential! I would consider rethinking, on a technical level, the way that you explain things in the second paragraph. I find the nurturing of the tree fascinating, as well as Abigail's feelings about it and, honestly, I think you should linger there longer. I say this, in part, because there are a handful of truncated thoughts and leaps that happen there. Your writing is strong and you have my attention so I'd rather you go over each thought in loving detail than rush through it.

    For example, in "though that wasn't part of the saying...," it's unclear what you're referring to. Is "that" the fact that Abigail has to carry the water? I'm not sure. When Abigail and the tree were ten the tree started producing. Producing what? Presumably its own walnuts. You can spend more time there. And this is also a metaphor for puberty so what does that mean for Abigail, personally? She wants to get older, but that comes with added responsibilities. So, at first, she's thrilled, but her excitement is, as you say, short-lived. I'm inferring a lot of this because you kind of rush past it. You can describe, in detail, the calluses on her hands from carrying the buckets, etc. See what I'm saying?

    Your premise is so compelling and I think, if you go through it with some fine brushwork, you could really have something here. I wouldn't say this to every writer, but, for you, I think the key word is linger.