Monday, May 16, 2016

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #31

TITLE: Life in the Gray
GENRE: Adult - Women's Fiction

Charged with the death of her daughter, Alex tests the limits of love and forgiveness to save her marriage, and her life.

I couldn’t let her live the rest of her life in a cold, white ceramic pot.

It sat on the fireplace hearth. Seeing it always made my breath pause and my heart spasm.

Connotations of death; a reminder I should have been sitting beside her. It was hard to believe the contents once made up a giggling, spunky four-year-old girl. If I listened hard enough, I could still hear her feet pattering over the hardwood as she ran from room to room. I could hear her dad, too, laughing as he gave her pony rides down the hall in the evenings. The way he’d appraise her renderings of rainbows, even when they ended up on the walls. Some marriages crumble under the strain of raising children, but it made Braxton and I stronger, like we weren’t complete as two, we needed to be three. That was never clearer than in the months after she was gone.

Tell death do we part. We always assumed that death would be ours. Not hers.

Gathering a breath, I reached for the urn. It was heavier than I expected. Heavier than I remembered her being in my arms.

Was I forgetting? Already?

I clutched it to my chest as a wave of grief and guilt washed over me, threatening to knock it from my shaking hands.

No more regret. For her, I had to go through with this.

I opened the bag hanging over my shoulders and wedged the urn between the rolled sweaters on the bottom, careful not to let it tip over. Then I turned and left the house.


  1. This really left me wanting to read more. The images were very visual and touching. I'm just wondering what happens next. Her daughter is dead, but what happened to the girl, and what is she going to do with the urn?

  2. This is a strong first page with an emotional impact. Already I want to root for Alex and her husband. This is just a picky detail and would depend on the style guide, but I think the semi-colon should be an em dash.

  3. The logline tugged on my heart. The death of a child must be the most devastating thing for any human to go through. I immediately am rooting for Alex.

    The first line made me picture a tiny genie living in a pot. Perhaps tweak this line to: I couldn’t let a cold, white ceramic pot be her final place.

    In the first line of paragraph 3, I’m not immediately clear on what the ‘contents’ are, but figured they are the ashes in the pot. Maybe change to: Connotations of death—a reminder I should have been sitting beside her. It was hard to believe the gray dust once made up a giggling, spunky four-year-old girl.

    Using the word ‘gray’ in that line is a play back to your title.

    “Till” death do we part.

    Hanging over my “shoulders” or “shoulder” (singular)?

    Probably don’t need to give the reader and step-by-step of the character’s movement: i.e. Then I turned and left the house.

    Rather than telling what Alex did, show us what Alex did. For example: Picking up my car keys, I hugged the bag to my side and headed for the car.

    The death of a child is a very tough subject. I would stop reading here because of the sheer pain and sadness I know I’d feel if I continued. Alex’s recount of her little girl running through the house is heartbreaking. Not sure how many other readers would stop as well. Maybe begin the story at the place Alex is on her way to in this opening scene. If she’s headed for the police station, possibly begin the story there, urn in bag, and work in the death of her daughter and Alex's claim of innocence. Gets us right into the action and not the heartbreak. The heartbreak will come throughout the story.

  4. I agree with Dani C. on the "Til" death and showing the character leaving- door closing behind her, etc. I'm hooked though!

  5. This does have me wanting to read more. It is always hard to tell from so little words if this story actually starts in the right place, but I have a feeling it doesn't. This all feels a little like remembering things that have happened, instead of actual action. I have always been told (and certainly prefer reading) story that starts with action. We will figure out a lot of her sadness and loss through her actions. I almost want the story to start where she takes the urn and leaves the house. Because that was the first point at which I actually wanted to know more. Before that I wasn't as hooked.
    I do so love the idea for the book. This is a tough and perhaps dark subject, but I am all for books that deal with these realities. So good on you. Keep going! Don't forget to give the reader lots to hope for when you are dealing with dark subject matter. Starting with action will help move your readers through the story and be less likely to think it's too sad to keep reading. Just my thoughts. Hope some of it helps!

  6. This is SO well done. I want to keep reading because it's written so well. Being up front, this genre is not my favorite kind -- I tend to struggle to my own depression and traumas anyway, so I don't tend to read stuff like this often and I'm not sure I could handle reading the entire book because the topic is so heavy, however, I just wanted to comment on how well and tastefully you executed these first 250, and the log line. You are a very skilled storyteller and it shows in how authentic your character's feelings come off. Grief is something really hard to get right. For your target reader type I don't see why they wouldn't be totally hooked.

    Feel proud of yourself!

  7. I agree with the others. This is a delicate and emotional subject and I think you convey all of that very well without overdoing any aspect of it.

    I did however feel a little disconnected by 'Connations of death'. This seems a little too detached from the rest of the voice, especially as the urn already has the connotation of death.
    The rest of the sentence flows much better without it, I think.

    I'm hooked, by the emotion, by the relationships and the need to know why she was charged for the death of her daughter.

  8. Huge grammatical error, and I'm surprised no one else caught it. "it made Braxton and I stronger," should be "made Braxton and me stronger." The way you check for these points, take out the other subject. Would you ever say "made I stronger?" Then don't do it here. I'm not a big fan of depressing subjects, and the death of a child has me running away, but you have a number of directions you can go, so that's a plus for you. Could turn into a mystery, a romance, a women-together piece, etc. You have me wondering what comes next, which is what you want.