Thursday, July 17, 2008

#28 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

Genre: upmarket women's fiction

The Girl With No Name

October 18, 1951

Thea Greyson's eyes pulled again to the same five words: "YOUR HUSBAND LT. DAVID GREYSON." Rumbling thunder hid her sobbing as she replaced the telegram by his picture on the mantel. The wind whistled through a rattling window pane. Pulling the afghan she'd knitted him close around her, she pretended she could smell his pipe tobacco. A fluttery tapping sounded between the thunderclaps. "I expect it's too late for sympathy callers," she told David's picture as she rose from the armchair, wiping her face.

Strands of her hair blew loose as she peeked outside. Her mouth flew wide open along with the door as she reached towards the small figure on the porch.

"Good Heavens, child! You're soaked to the bone." Thea shuttled the girl indoors. "What's a little girl like you doing out on a night like this? Does your mama know where you're at?"

The girl shook her head, dripping rainwater on the floor.

Thea smiled and slipped the afghan around the child's shoulders. "Don't you worry. I'll help you find your mama. Just tell me your name."

The girl opened her mouth and her blue lips twitched. Her hands balled into fists as she shook her head again and wobbled where she stood. Glaze swept over her eyes. Before Thea could ask if the girl was all right, the child's head bowed forward and she slumped to the floor.


  1. Yes. the first paragraph didn't hook me, I thought 'okay, not my thing, but I'll see where it's going' Really got drawn in by the language of the rest of the piece. A child in trouble always gets my attention.

  2. Yes, the child in trouble was great but it seemed like too much was going on in this first 250 words. I think you could start with the child at the door and work the dead husband in later.

  3. Confession time, I didn't make it past the LT's name and her sobbing. I'm a military wife. I've done deployment. I've done funerals for dead soldiers and it is one of the few subjects I will not read ever.

    I'm not sure where the rest of this goes or how well it is written I just know that it is a very touchy subject for some people, me included. There is also a quick niche market though, some military spouses love this stuff so whether the story is about the widow or the children (military brats :o)) you have an instant fan base.

  4. The title made me think of Clint Eastwood. lol. I wouldn't read on. Sorry, but starnge children turning up on doorsteps in the rain is just a little bit black and white movies for my taste.

  5. No, sorry. Not my genre, and I don't really find the hook engaging. Although the random kid showing up is mildly interesting, it's not enough to pull me in.

    Good luck,


  6. I love it. And since I've read it, it's not military drama. that just needs to go to the charater's state of mind.
    But great Heather!

  7. Yes!

    A kid on the doorstep collapses and we don't know who she is or whether she'll wake or not. Of course I'd read on!


  8. From a commercial standpoint, this time frame is a tough sell, so that would give me pause right off. The writing is proficient but it's not quite taking flight for me. I think the first para could be trimmed (I'd lose the thunder/sobbing sentence, the pipe sentence is much more evocative). Shouldn't she be more concerned about the late hour and the unattended, unrecognized kid? I think you could also trim the description of the girl passing out to one or two really tight, effective sentences to help this kick.

  9. He he. I know who you are, dear!!!

    Unfair advantage of knowing, but I think your opening was stronger when told from Beatrice's POV (the strange girl for anyone who hasn't read this).

    But YES, I would read on, and have read on, and it's a story of many twists, turns, and creative, unique characters.


  10. No, not hooked. Not a genre I read, but that aside, I have no reason to care about the loss of Thea's husband this soon in the book. The switch to a fainting girl outside her door feels contrived. Unless there's a reason to connect the death of Thea's husband to the appearance of the little girl, I'd start with the girl and leave the mourning for later.

  11. Maybe.

    I wanted to be hooked, but I got confused. Maybe it is because I didn't get to know the MC a little more first.


  12. Maybe. I'd give this one another page before I decided, depending on the blurb.

    The writing's proficient, but not engaging. It could be trimmed back a bit, but the main thing is just that it doesn't seem to have heart, or spark, or whatever you want to call it. Why should I care about this story?

    You have an interesting premise - I want you to make me care about it ;)

  13. Yes. I wasn't hooked until the girl came in, though. And it's a nice change to have a non-POV character pass out ;)

  14. I like the concept, so I'd definitely keep reading, but I think the writing could use a little tightening and smoothing out... it felt a tad drafty.

  15. Mildly Hooked.

    The first para wasn't very engaging, but I'd read on to find out the little girl's story.

    It also didn't offer much by way of the MC's personality. We know she's a grieving military wife, but that's it. I also didn't get a sense of what her world is like. It seemed overall, very...ordinary.

  16. Yes.

    The writing is clean and I'm worried about the kiddo. :(

  17. Sorry, no. I felt like I was reading two separate stories. I'd like for you to settle on one issue - probably the child - and your MC's got the child taken care of, bring up the husband.

  18. I don't know if I'm "hooked," but I'd keep reading. The telegram tells us that this is set in a time period several decades ago. That's reinforced by the afghan she knitted him (a hobby that used to be much more popular) the fact that he smoked a pipe, that she used the phrase "sympathy callers" and many other deft little clues. Perhaps most notable among these is the date at the top, which I failed to notice until after I'd read the whole thing.

    If we're going to be living in a different era for a while, I'm happy when an author mimics the style of that time to help set the tone.

    This has a kind of Charlotte Armstrong feeling, which is not a bad thing at all. Perfect for the time. If it tried to recreate the tone of the time using a chirpy, chick lit style, then I'd squirm.

    The pace, language and descriptions all work just fine for me in that context. In that time period, readers did not insist on three murders and a vampire in the first paragraph.

    I'd fill my sherry glass, put my feet up, and see how it felt after three or four pages before I decided. It could be very cool, if the author continues to capture the flavor of the time but also engages my modern curiosity.

  19. The first paragraph sounds like it belongs in a different story. It's so far removed from what happens after. Leade with "Good Heavens, child!" and go from there. No descriptive openings, please! It's a variation of It's a dark and stormy night. As for the time period, I personally would love to find more fiction set mid century. It was the height of the baby boom, and us boomers are intrigued by that era. I think this recent time in our history is destined for popularity, so don't give up on it! WW1 and WW2 stories are finally turning up on the bookshelves, so BB Fic should soon follow (soon being a relative term).

  20. Hooked? Not at first, but then it got interesting.

    Once the woman saw the child and spoke it was fine, up until then I was wavering.

  21. No one will probably read this comment but me, but I am grateful to everyone for their thoughts. This was a fresh revision, rewritten from Thea's POV, so it needed a bit of work.

    The story is actually set thirty years after this opening scene.

    Based on your feedback, I've made changes that have definitely made this new beginning better. So thank you. :)

    If anyone's interested, the new first page:

    October 18, 1951

    Thea Greyson pulled the afghan she’d knitted him close and pretended she could smell his pipe tobacco. A fluttery tapping sounded between the thunderclaps. “Now who could be calling at this hour?” she asked David’s picture as she rose from the armchair.

    After peeking outside, she threw the door wide. “Good Heavens, child! You’re soaked to the bone.” Thea shuttled the girl indoors. “What’s a little thing like you doing out in this storm?”

    The girl shivered, dripping rainwater on the floor. “Mama said… but I felt so…” Her hands balled into fists and she clamped her lips together.

    Thea brushed ropes of soggy hair aside as she looked the child over. Don’t see anything broke or bleeding. “You’re not from this town or I’d know your sweet face. You lost, honey?”

    Hazel eyes searched Thea’s for a moment before a single nod.

    Thea smiled. “Don’t you worry. I’ll help you find your mama.”

    The child sighed as the afghan slipped around her shoulders. “Thanks, Missus.”

    “What’s your name, sweets?”

    The girl’s blue lips twitched and her chest quivered in quick shallow breaths. With a violent shake of her head, she backed away unsteadily. Glaze swept over her eyes. Before Thea could ask what was wrong, the girl’s head bowed forward and she slumped to the floor.

  22. Well, H.L., FWIW, I've just read it. :)

    And you've tightened it nicely.

    There are more contests on the horizon! And revised first pages (truly revised, like you've just done) will be invited for submission again.

    So keep writing! :)