Wednesday, March 30, 2016

March Secret Agent #40

TITLE: The Confessional
GENRE: Adult - Romantic Suspense

The room had an odd glow and felt unusually warm.

Michael Webb glanced at the wooden booth that encased him, wedged as it was in the walls of the nave. An elderly woman across from him with a blue-gray beehive and delightfully pointed glasses she could have worn since the fifties leaned forward on a hardwood chair.

The elderly woman's brow furrowed. Her neck craned outward like a curious Blue Heron as she peered at the man a foot away.

"Are you sure you're feeling all right, Father?"

Michael shifted uneasily, feeling strangely detached. Hair mostly gray, he wore classic black clerics with a purple embroidered stole draped over his neck, the ends of it lying on his lap. Beside him, a wooden crucifix lay on a table, along with a burning candle, a smattering of stones, fresh flowers in a vase, a list of penitential prayers and a half-emptied box of tissues.

"Father?" the woman prodded with a touch of concern.

His broad shoulders drooped and his mouth turned downward. His bewildered eyes fixed on the floor.

The woman smiled up at him. "You look like you've never seen a woman in a wet t-shirt before."

"W—what?!" Michael gaped, but the woman was gone. As were the walls of the church.

A twenty-something Michael stood in thick jungle foliage. Heavy rain began pummeling him, drenching his shirt, boots and jeans. Slack-jawed, he stared up at the sky. 

In front of Michael, under a canopy, men and women lay on cots.


  1. Um, I'm confused. I assume he's dreaming here. It's awkward to start with the MC (I assume he is) dreaming and hard to pull off. First because you want to ground the reader in the scene and there is no real scene here since it's all in his head. Second we don't know anything about the MC except what you're showing us here so we don't have any way to know what's normal for him. That said, I'm not hooked. I think you'd do better to put the MC on the page first before you shove us into his head. Maybe give a hint as to what the conflict is.

    Hope this helps. Good luck.

  2. Two things: Am I correct in assuming that the elderly woman is the one in a wet t-shirt? Hahaha. Just making sure that's the visual you wanted.
    Also, your adverbs stand out to me because I've been slashing them from my own MS. I think this page would be stronger without most of them.
    Starting with a dream/vision can be disappointing because we get attached to the first story/setting, then are booted out into a second setting right away. Maybe keep the vision but shift it later?
    I'm curious about this priest and his story, though, so that is successful for sure.

  3. I liked the writing style and the descriptive scene, but was too confused by the end to want to read on. My advice - start with the MC in real time. Also, careful with overuse of adverbs. Best of luck.

  4. I agree with above posters. Starting with a dream is not the best way to go. Also, I feel that there was a little too much description: her hair, her glasses, her neck, etc...then what color his hair is, what all is on the table. I got impatient as the reader and wanted to start in on the action. Maybe add in more description in later, but to start, get us going on the action and preferably in real time. It sounds like an interesting premise. Keep it up!

  5. Thanks for sharing! I was intrigued by a main character who is clergy, but then the scene shifted and I realized it was a dream. The transition is more abrupt and a bit confusing; like others said, it would be better to ditch the dream (cliche) and go for a more straightforward start. Also, I wasn't getting the church image until I read further. The intro line didn't give enough sense of setting. A few things to consider are why do you need to start with a dream where he is clergy at a church? If there is a core concept you were going for, can you work that in a different way? The part where he described his own clothing threw me a bit too, only because I wasn't sure if your MC was the man in the clergy box. After reading this over 3 times, I get what's happening. I think pushing for a more straightforward start is the best option here. Good luck!

  6. You've got some nice description, but it seems too much for the beginning of a story. As a reader, your beginning makes me curious, I wanted to see some action, to get at least the beginning of a feeling for the stakes and what the character wants or feels. Having the main character detached and dreamy at the outset doesn't immediately pull me in.

  7. The first line could be stronger if it were more specific ("the church" or "the nave of the church" instead of "the room"). Also, if Michael is actually a priest (not just in a dream), it would be good to use his title when introducing his full name. I was confused about the wet T-shirt thing, too, whether it's the old woman or some other person. And then everything shifts, and I'm not sure if the church was a memory or a dream or what.

    The best advice I have is that when you're dealing with any sort of surreal situation, specifics are your friend. Maybe you could take a little more time to situate the MC in the church setting before taking it away. For example, is it a tiny church or a big cathedral? Is there a congregation there or is it empty? Is the MC supposed to be leading Mass? And then, mixing some strange details in with this concrete description could help the setting feel "off" so that the reader is ready to go along with you when you make the jump to the jungle (a woman in the corner of his vision he can't quite see, the room being the wrong temperature, the light through the church windows being overly bright even though it's overcast outside, that sort of thing). Good luck!

  8. I think your biggest issue here is there overwriting. As many other commenters have said, you need to watch your adverbs and adjectives. Especially try not to cram a bunch of descriptions into one sentence--it distracts the readers from the action, and the structure of the sentence is ultimately lost.

    I also thought that this was on the abstract side for an opening. If I'm correct and this is a dream, then I would strongly suggest revising to begin with an awake protagonist. Dreams are such a common device for the beginning of manuscripts, and a lot of agents and editors dislike it.

    Thank you for submitting!

  9. I've heard dreams aren't the best way to start a novel these days. Otherwise, I am a little intrigued as to what the Father is doing out in the jungle and hope that you've used the rest of the chapter to set intention and raise the stakes. You could tighten your writing a little (be careful to avoid repetition, ex elderly woman) and if you gave us just a tad of inner monologue you could up the tension by letting us into the MC's head. You got this!