Wednesday, January 23, 2019

January Secret Agent #12

TITLE: A Heart Life
GENRE: Adult Women's Fiction

Present Day

Outsiders call Balmoral State Penitentiary the rich man’s version of San Quentin. A prison for pussies, the guards say, as they shove us into our individual cells. No sharing cells in this place. Guess they’re afraid we might find a way to smuggle in a shank on visiting day and kill our roomie.
Wikipedia describes Balmoral State Penitentiary, otherwise referred to as BSP, as a state penitentiary in California nicknamed “the vacation spot for white-collar criminals.” Labeling BSP as a vacation spot is the most egregious offense of all. I don’t have anything to compare it to, since this is the first time I’ve ever been in prison, in jail, in any place they send people who commit a crime. Immediately after sentencing, my attorney told me Balmoral would be an easy place for me to fit in.
My first feeling, after he said that, was indignant. I don’t want to ever “fit in” in prison. I know what he means, though. So far, I haven’t been beat up by any gang members. That’s a good thing. Here at BSP, they separate the not-so-bad from the bad from the worst. I’m categorized as not-so-bad. Interesting, that.

First of all, I don’t belong here. But isn’t that what every prisoner says?

I didn’t do it.

There’s been a mistake.

You’re confusing me with someone who looks just like me.

Now, let me reiterate. I don’t belong here. I didn’t say I didn’t commit a crime.


  1. Mmmm..... trying to figure out the main character's identity - women's fiction, but is this a man? The voice also shifts a bit - on one hand, he/she seems dignified and too good for others, but there's also some slang that leads me to believe otherwise. Perhaps a very complex individual....
    Interesting premise so far - I'd love to read more!

  2. The opening sentences do a fantastic job of drawing me in! I like this MC immediately. His/her sarcastic response to being labeled “not so bad” really piques my interest. I might break the long paragraph into two separate ones, though.

  3. Interesting that the MC is a man for WF, but I've not read enough WF to comment more, and perhaps you've dual POV too. That said, the MC is very engaging I particularly enjoyed it when he says he doesn't belong here, but did a crime. Great opening.

  4. I thought this needed more. What do I know about this story after reading the first page? Someone is in prison. A character talked to me and nothing happened.

    Who is the MC? I don't know.

    What does this person want? I don't know.

    Why is he or she there? I don't know.

    What is at stake? I don't know.

    The writing is good but your character's monologue tells us nothing. Use your first page to get the above kind of info in. Show us the prison. Let us hear the clang of the cell door closing. How does this person feel being there? And at the very least, let us know who this person is.

    1. Barbara, it’s really important that the feedback for events like Secret Agent be balanced and motivating rather than overly negative and demoralizing.

      First of all, this author said a TON about the character and prison in this snippet, and she did it well. Second of all, remember that 250 words is a very small sample, not even a page. Obviously the author can’t share the depths of the MC’s soul and document every detail of the surroundings in less than a page, nor should that be the goal.

      It’s great that you took the time to read and leave an in-depth comment, but please make sure to be balanced and mindful.

  5. Interesting read so far, felt a little info dumpy to me. Would like to start seeing something happen! This reads like a speech so far. (An interesting speech though!)

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Some of the grammar is a bit off, and I’m not sure it’s intentional (as in, this is the character’s voice), because it seems odd that he/she would go to a white collar prison and speak like this.
    I’m not a fan of breaking the fourth wall with things like “Now let me reiterate.” This intro sounds very much like “Let me tell you a story…” “I’m about to get started…” and I’m not sure that’s the strongest start.
    Is our protagonist male or female? Saying “rich man’s version of San Quentin” or the vulgar “prison for p******” makes me think perhaps male, but that would be unusual to start from male POV in WF. If it’s a women’s prison, you should just tell us that and it would be grounding. You should also feel free to use a real prison that readers are familiar with.

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