Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Secret Agent #24

Title: Big Bright Thing
Genre: Women's Fiction

The children were crying again. I shoved the pizza bagels in the toaster and rushed to the living room, afraid of what I’d find-a limb tangled in a chair leg, a head bleeding from an impact with the corner of a table.

But Judith and Pomona were just tugging on either side of a tablet, crying over who got to choose which app to play.

I took the tablet away. The crying intensified.

“When we fight, we lose screen privileges,” I said.

“That’s not fair!” said Pomona. “I was playing with it, and she took it from me!”

As wrong as it was to punish Pomona for something her sister allegedly did, I couldn’t reward her for having a tug-of-war with a two-year-old. “She’s only two,” I said. “She doesn’t know better.”

“She knows better! She’s smiling!”

I turned around to see Judith’s face switch from an amused smile to raging tears. “Judith, I see you’re upset, but you can’t take things from your sister.” Her crying increased in volume, drowned out only by the fire alarm that started blaring in the kitchen.

I pushed past the girls and ran to the kitchen expecting to find a wall combusting from some sort of internal electrical fire, but it was only the toaster oven, emitting black smoke from where the cheese had melted off the bagels and hit the heating coils.

I pulled out the bagels. They had a grey tinge on top.


  1. A couple of things hit me right away. Did she put the bagels in a toaster or a toaster oven? Seems like a toaster would just be foolish. Also, I think you want an em dash after "what I'd find" not a hyphen, or at least a hyphen with spaces before and after. Is the fire alarm sounding or the smoke alarm? Small things, but things that might put a reader off. I know they pulled me out of the story.

  2. I'm looking for something to pull me into a story right away. While there is a lot of description in here, I'm looking for more action, a promise of the story that is to come. I pretended I was perusing books at a book store. If I glanced at those first 250 words, would I have have purchased the book? In truth, I'm not sure I would have. My guess is just past this passage, something bigger happens. That's where you want to start your book.

  3. Though you set up the mc as a mother with two children, I'm not sure this is the best place to start your story. And why would the mother say "When we fight..." since obviously the mc wasn't involved in the disagreement over the tablet. I have no idea from the title or first page where this story is going or what the title means.

  4. Ah, I remember it well -- when my kids were that age! But, unless the entire story is about mothering kids, it's a bit much about children to start with. Assuming it's a mother, not father. Or big sister/brother. I'd like a bit more about the protagonist, rather than the kids. Also, as a mother of two who fought a lot, I didn't think it was fair to take the tablet away from the older kid when obviously, it was the younger one at fault, and s/he knew it. Maybe instead of pizza bagels getting interrupted, you could have him/her working on re-building a car/writing the great American novel/finding a cure for cancer or whatever is going to be important to the book. But, I would like to know what the Big, Bright Thing is.

  5. Perhaps too much imagination, it slows us down. For instance, "afraid of what I’d find-a limb tangled in a chair leg, a head bleeding from an impact with the corner of a table." How about "a broken limb, a bleeding head." Also here
    "...ran to the kitchen expecting to find a wall combusting from some sort of internal electrical fire..." I don't believe it, maybe just speculate, "not sure what to expect. The littlest things set it off."

  6. The scene is oh-so-relatable, but it isn’t memorable yet. Mundane moments can be effective hooks if they establish a strong sense of the MC’s distinctive voice and perspective, but this scene doesn’t reveal anything about her beyond her reactions to the problems directly in front of her.

    I’m firmly grounded in her day, but I don’t know why this moment is significant to the story yet. I need a glimpse of a larger conflict/tension (beyond the smoke alarm!) to help propel me forward.

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