Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Secret Agent #46

TITLE: Who Pours Out Vengeance
GENRE: Adult Magical Realism

This is a story about revenge. Gather around, dear reader, as I open with the inciting incident: a murder.

Saphrina Loresmeth, blissfully unaware of her impending demise, pulled her car over to take a phone call. Though the country road was deserted, she always turned on her flashers and her protective charms. With a flick of a button, a shimmering blue shield formed around the car. Since someone had mixed salt into the thaumaturgical tank, it wouldn’t block so much as a leaf falling off the scraggly trees. I told her so, but she couldn’t hear me.

“Lilvia?” A bone-deep exhaustion filled Saphrina’s question. She’d cried so many times over the last few days she had no tears left, only fear that the last person returning her calls would abandon her. “Should I…not come over?”

“Nonsense,” Lilvia Cathor said fiercely. “If Pollin breathes a word of objection to your presence in our guest bedroom, he can sleep there himself.”

Saphrina said, “I don’t want to cause you any marital disharmony.”

Lilvia said, “You know how much I owe you. During my son’s illness… Now it’s my turn to repay you.”

“Then what’s happened?” The muzzy heat coming off her vinyl car seats made Saphrina’s head pound. Her greasy hair clung to her forehead, as she hadn’t showered since being thrown out of her home. Now yet another problem? The sunrise cast over the grass lining the road gave it a sickly yellow color which matched her desire to throw up.

7 comments:

  1. I really want to like the opening lines. However, the locution "dear reader" turns me off bigtime. Direct address to the reader is fine, but no modern-day tale-teller would use that phrase. And clearly - the car, the phone, vinyl seats - this tale is set in some version of the present day or recent past, not the mid-1800s. "Because this is a story about revenge, I'll start with the inciting incident: a murder." Much cleaner, sets up the idea we're listening to a tale-telling narrator, and doesn't get in the way of where you need to hook us: "unaware of her impending demise."

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  2. There are a lot of things I like about this opening: the third sentence is an excellent hook and made me want to read on. I suggest starting with that sentence, not the direct address of the opening paragraph. I also like the description of "the muzzy heat coming off of the vinyl seats." Very different. Finally I like the yellow haze on the grass that echoes the MC's desire to vomit. I would tighten that sentence by saying "The sunrise gave the grass lining the road a sickly yellow color which..." Finally, you've got a character who is obviously in trouble - a great way to create interest from the
    beginning of your story!
    I agree with Brent's suggestion to avoid the direct address - it also put me off. The thaumaturgical tank threw me- I'm not sure what that is, so that confusion also distracted me from the story. Could you use a less foreign/ complicated term? Good start! Good luck with this piece!

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  3. I think your story needs to start later. The third paragraph gives us tension, we definitely wonder why she's been crying. The last paragraph is wonderfully descriptive and her stress hangs in the words.

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  4. The opening line caught my attention for sure, but it also sounds a little like a smarmy time-share salesperson (no offense to the non-smarmy ones). It's almost like he's telling me I should care...but it's not until Saphrina's bone-deep exhaustion and her anxiety that the one person she can turn to might no longer be there for her that I begin to get invested in the story.
    I love the dialogue and the whatever-y tank; I figure as this is magical realism, there will be things I'm unfamiliar with but can imagine their use.
    I love the last paragraph- it gives us a good sense of just how desperate and down on her luck she is and makes me curious as to why.

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  5. I think I'd like it better if it started with the second paragraph and cut the dear reader paragraph. I liked the set-up of the conflict and the backstory. The only thing that wasn't clear to me was POV. In one of the paragraphs the narrator says, "I told her so, but she didn't hear me." Then there's no other reference to the story teller as a character in the story. I'd like a better sense of who's telling the story.

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  6. I love risks with narration, but ultimately, I felt not knowing who the narrator was and taking this story telling approach made me feel distanced from the story. I also would have loved to have felt some foreboding for Saphrina’s situation—rather than being told outright about her impending demise. To me, knowing so much upfront actually hurt the overall tension. I’m intrigued by the world but just not fully gaining my footing in the story!

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  7. The problem with your opening is that stories never start with an inciting incident (that usually comes at around 10-15% mark) so this doesn't make sense to the people who actually know what this device means.

    And I agree that I don't know who this narrator is which doesn't get me invested in the story.

    Holly

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