Thursday, July 17, 2008

#112 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE: A Promise Made
GENRE: Thriller

I was 10 when I first heard rumor if it. “HOG WASH,” my father had said. “It is just Tim and Marjorie making excuses for how Claude is.” The rumor circulated through our small community for about a year. Then like that, it was over.

I never gave it another thought growing up. I never even gave it another thought through my years in nursing school. Since I started at the asylum, I have been haunted by that day every day for the past twenty-seven years.

Claude’s story always starts the same. “I was squirrel hunting on Mr. Vincent’s farm when I saw it. I was hunting along the base of Morton’s Bluff and had just shot my fourth squirrel. I was bending down to pick it up when I caught a glimpse of something shiny inside the cave at the base of the bluff. It was the devil’s staff. The staff had a blood red serpent with coal black eyes winding around the center. The eyes of the snake pierced my soul like a sharp dagger. On top of the staff was a black iridescent stone.

The stone was shiny like a mirror. I looked into the stone and saw the reflection of the sun and trees, but not my own image. I could immediately feel my heart darkening. Soon I felt as if my heart was as empty as a dry well. No feelings, no emotions, just an empty tomb inside my chest.


  1. This has a voice problem. The "story" told by a guy who hunts squirrels just doesn't sound like that guy's voice. "pierced my soul like a sharp dagger?"

  2. I think you have an interesting storyline, but your opening doesn't seem to gel. How does Claude know what the devil staff? Does the fact that she works in an asylum have anything to do with this rumor?

  3. I'm

    My problem is the narration is a little shifty or unclear... Who's Claude? The narrator? Or a sibling?

    I like the last paragraph though.

  4. It sounds like it could be interesting but I don't really like the way you keep referring to the secret (or whatever it is) as it. It really prevents interest from growing. If you fix that part though, I feel this could be interesting. I'm a little confused about the jump from nursing school to the asylum. Is she in an asylum or just working there?
    Over all, an interesting idea.

    Emily H

  5. I am confused by the voice, as well.

    I don't get the connection between the storyteller and Claude. I'm also turned off by descriptions like "coal black eyes" and "pierced my soul like a dagger." They're overused.

    I think there might be a good story behind these 250 words, but the hook doesn't grab me.

    Good luck though.

  6. I have to agree with the other comments. This whole "Claude's story" seems like backstory, and I don't think that's the best way to open a novel. I think you could probably find a way to incorporate some of this throughout action, dialog and scenes instead of telling me all about it up front.

    Good luck! :)

  7. I agree as well. How old is Claude? His voice gives me no idea. and the first line is confusing. What tense are you using? I'm reading two.
    but i do like the idea of this, and would probably go on reading to see where this goes.

  8. I agree about too much "infodump" for a first page and the voice did feel a bit odd, but I'd read more out of least another page

  9. Due to the overload of 'it', I'm sorry, this one is a no for me.

  10. No. I wasn't hooked. I didn't get enough of a feeling for the MC in the first few lines. I'm sorry but I stopped reading at the second paragraph. :(

  11. The beginning lines are a bit unclear. She hadn't thought about this guy's story all throughout her childhood and nursing school, right? Then, she works in an asylum and can't stop thinking about it. It's hard to discern the end part and who is actually thinking what. Is Carl also telling the very end of the paragraph or is the narrator?
    With lots of revisions, it could definitely work but not like it's written now.

  12. Maybe - what would happen if you
    BEGAN the story with the last paragraph? Think about it...start with that paragraph, which I think is the strongest, and take it from there ;)

  13. I'm afraid I'm not hooked. There are too many names and no action/emotion connected with any of them. Even the "campfire" story is too distant - it's a story about someone we don't know and haven't seen do anything good or bad. Sorry!

  14. I have to vote "no" as this is, but I think with some work it could be really good. The kernel of an idea is there, but the flow, voice, tense and mechanics need some polishing, IMO.

    Watch using the word "it." It's imprecise (and sneaky), and usually needs to be replaced by something more descriptive. (Charles Dickens aside, I've been beaten upon so often about "it" that now the very appearance of the word claws at my eyeballs. It's sad, really. And yes, I realize I've sprinkled "it"s all over this comment. **sigh**)

    IMO, the best phrase in the whole piece is "I have been haunted by [the rumor] every day for the past twenty-seven years." Now that's chilling. :-)

    Good luck with this!

  15. Not really. I agree that the Claude story feels like an infodump -- it would work better for me, personally, if we got to know the character better, first, so we had a reason to care about what you're telling here. Also, the Claude narrative feels repetitive to me, because the sentence beginnings, as well as the structure and length, are pretty similar throughout. But I should probably mention I don't usually read thrillers.

  16. I would read more. I think you need to do some editing, but I think the story has a lot of potential.

    I live in the country and people here hunt squirrels and other animals and they are also educated so I don't have a problem with the voice..

    Good Luck


  17. Sorry No.

    Perhaps reveal some of Claude's story up front, but leave a mystery.

    Then intro how she ignored it for many years.

    Also explain why it became suddenly relevant when she started at the asylum.

    It's a thriller. Make it absolutely clear why the reader should want to read on.


    Good Luck.

  18. Yes and no. I like the build up leading to the bit about the asylum. But the language throughout needs tightening, and the story from Claude is unbelievable. When verbally telling a story, gestures, vocal inflections, bad grammar, etc. are expected. It is how we talk, after all.

    I think, with some editing, this could really work. But as it is right now, probably I'd say no.

  19. No, I have no feel for this character's personality. I felt like you were telling more than showing.

  20. As it stands, no. I'm confused about how working at the asylum makes the protagonist think about Claude. And how does she remember Claude's tale with such clearness, when she heard it over two decades earlier? If I knew how all of these scenes connected -- the secret rumor, working at the asylum, what Claude saw -- I might be interested in reading more. I'd suggest clearing up the confusion and spending a little more time on developing a voice for the protagonist.

  21. Not hooked.

    The plot doesn't really make sense, to me. Claude (who is he?) saw a demonic staff, and the MC didn't think of it until she worked at an asylum? Strange premise; not getting the connection and it's really not my thing.

  22. Sorry, not hooked. A typo in the first sentence: not a good sign. Can be easily fixed ("o"f), but it made me wary. Yeah, I don't really like the beginning. A lot of narrative, nothing really happening.

    Best o' luck,


  23. I probably wouldn't read on. But that's mostly because the story sounds too dark for my taste. I thought the first two paragraphs especially were quite hooky.

  24. Hooked? not really.

    Many have commented already on the voice problems so I won't.

    The thing that I wanted most from this was to see the scenes where the "dialogue" actually occurred, rather than being told about it.

    The plot so far is steering in an interesting direction, but I do agree with the comments that ask how the MC knew at first glance it was the devil's staff.

    I do think this has potential. I would have read farther our of curiousity.

  25. No.

    Nothing really grabs my attention, sorry.

    Good luck,


  26. Agree with previous comments. Too much description, the two voices aren't really distinct, and the time period of 'now' is unclear.

    Some interesting ideas in there, though.

  27. Not hooked for me. Voice was a little all over the map and the action seems to be off in the distance. For a thriller, you really want to get us sucked in fast and never let go, so I'd take another run at this.

  28. I just couldn't feel the tension in finding the "devil's staff"... I suppose all the levels of storytelling (narratator talking about the past in which a person is telling a story that happened even longer ago) doesn't help as far as making me feel any immediate tension.