Wednesday, March 18, 2009

19 Secret Agent

GNERE: Suspense

2009 Bushfire season, Far East Victoria, Australia.

Wildlife Protection Officer, Kelly Williams realized why she had no trouble entering the property of suspected wildlife trafficker, Lance Caulfield. Ten minutes of calling out and tooting her car horn failed to attract even his guard dogs. Smiling, she considered her options.

Kelly couldn’t.

She shouldn’t.

And, at any other time, she simply wouldn’t. Only, there may never be another opportunity for an uncensored search for evidence. Caulfield probably evacuated when the fire alert went to high for the weekend, she decided. This was a lucky break. Kelly reviewed data on local suspects. Caulfield, with this overkill security and habit of taking potshots at uninvited guests, was always going to be a challenge. Her predecessor held little hope of following up on this because access to his property was non-existent.

“Police need a Search warrant and judges need proof before issuing one,” he had told Kelly.

“Caulfield discourages visitors in order to keep his operations safe from prying eyes. Proof is impossible.”

This statement had made Kelly determined to break the stalemate. To get the proof needed. She had another reason, for checking things out. The house next door felt like home and she intended to buy it, making him her nearest neighbor. Maybe Caulfield wasn’t trafficking wildlife, but sure had something to hide. No other reason for privacy extremes seemed obvious.

Despite the stillness, an uneasy, persistent feeling of being watched made her skin itch as she set off, running.


  1. I like this. It's a nice strong beginning. I already know a lot about the kind of people that Kelly and Caulfield are. I sense a romance coming here, which I love. And I immediately want to know what Caulfield is up to.

  2. I'm interested in the premise, but the writing doesn't grab me.
    I'm not a grammar expert but it seems to me that 'Wildlife Protection Officer, Kelly Williams" and 'wildlife trafficker, Lance Caulfield' and "She had another reason, for checking things out would be better comma-free.

  3. I'm not sure what to think here. It could be too soon for me b/cause of the fires...

    search warrant <- doesn't need to be capitalized.

    I am curious about what's going on with the Caulfield guy. Poacher...?

  4. I like this start. I'm already rooting for Kelly.

    The only thing that made red flags go up for me is that Kelly is practically breaking and entering, and she should know as an officer that any "proof" she finds would not hold up in court since it was obtained illegally. So her excuse to get the proof made her a tad bit unbelievable. Just change the wording a bit to show she knows this.

    Other than that, good job.

  5. Kelly's not a cop, right?

    Cuz if Kelly's a cop in any sense, she absolutely would know that anything she found without a warrant would be thrown out.

    But I assume a "Wildlife Protection Office" is a civilian, right?

    Even so, I'd think she would hesitate a bit more on breaking and entering, since in order to use the "proof" she would have to essentially go to the police and confess to B & E.

    This whole thought process distracts me from the story. If she just had a little thought about how the punishment for B & E would be worth it if the cops could finally nail Caulfield or something, I'd be able to keep in the flow of the story much easier.

  6. She's a public servant with an impulsive nature. She has 2 reasons for taking advantage of his absence 1) She needs to know if he's illegally trafficking wildlife because it impacts on her job, if he is and if he isn't she can concentrate on the other suspects. 2) She's thinking of buying the nearest property in a remote location and doesn't want to risk being next door to a drug lord or whatever. If it were me I'd look for my own peace of mind.

  7. Kelly is an interesting character. She seems impulsive, assertive. I think she knows very well that what she's doing isn't quite legal, but maybe that risk makes the opportunity more appealing.

    I found the opening paragraph to be a mouthful - I had to read it over twice to figure out what it was trying to set up. It felt a bit forced to introduce both their full names. Plus it indicates that she's already made it onto his property, but later it seems she's still outside pondering it. I think it might have been a stronger opening to start with "Kelly couldn't. She shouldn't" because immediately we know we're dealing with someone on the horns of a dilemma which is fun.

    Also at the end, there were a couple of choppy phrases. "No other reason for privacy extremes seemed obvious" could be smoothed out and a couple of misplaced commas made me pause.

    With a little polishing, this setup would make me read further.

  8. This is interesting. I think your story really starts with: "Kelly couldn't. She shouldn't." That's a nice hook.

    More emphasis on her dilemma between her ethics as a Wildlife Protection Officer and her fears as prospective homeowner would be good, too. At first read, I thought she was buying the house next to Lance's specifically so she could spy on him.

    This is an unusual, interesting premise, and I'd read more.

  9. Ooh, I like this! Clear tension and suspense, right off the bat. Good reason for Kelly to be there, and an intriguing hook. I’m in!

  10. Some tweeks could tighten this but I like it overall and would read on. good luck!

  11. I'm coloured by the recent fires in Victoria. I'd just say that a fire alert going to high would be unlikely to chase somebody as experienced in his local area as he seems to be. If there were a fire burning nearby, that might be a different matter, but, even so, the advice up until this year has either been to evacuate or have a fire plan to enable you to stay and try and save your property and from what you say of him, a character like him would be more likely to stay. It's amazing the range of people who do stay and try to save their homes. Whether or not that would be a good idea would be a different matter.

    I'm going way off topic here, sorry.

  12. The overall premise could be interesting, but I agree with the comments above. "Kelly couldn't." would be a much stronger beginning.

    Your sentence beginning "Wildlife Protection Officer..." could also use some tightening. It felt like a mouthful when I read through it and the use of "wildlife" twice in one sentence felt awkward to me. Maybe you could break it into two sentences? I'm not sure.

    I do like the last line about being watched. That would definitely have me turning the page, but one thing confused me: when did she get out of the car?

    Hope that helps. Good luck!

  13. Hey Windy,
    It's a huge property - She's already knocked at the door then tooted the horn to bring him back to the house from further afield.
    Oddly, it did start "Kelly couldn't" but crit group consensus was that I had to situate the reader by explaining her job and suspicions up front. I just did that for this contest.

    McKoala - been thru bush fires Gippsland's 2003, 2007 & 2009. In fact wrote a lot in lockdown mode for fires & 2007 floods. So Lance is a special agent who pretends to live here as a reclusive artist all year. Kelly is being watched by him. He's not sure if she's an art groupie or if his other cover is blown. Road closures put them into lockdown for the night.

  14. I was very confused with the "Kelly coudn't. She shouldn't" because at first I thought there were more than one person. I probably would read on but the writing needs to be tightened. As others pointed out it would be better to start with the couldn't/shouldn't and then thread in the job information. It would probably make things easier to understand.

  15. There is room for polishing, but I would probably read on just to see what Kelly does next. There is an element of suspense and that's hard to create on the first page, so good job!

  16. Very choppy writing and iffy grammar. I think the "couldn't...shouldn't" was overwritten and doesn't really add anything. I'm having a hard time buying it.


  17. Wow, Vicki that's a lot of fires. Sorry to hear that and hope you didn't lose anyone or anything.

    Still, aybe she could at least be slightly surprised that someone like him would leave (foreshadowing that he hasn't)?

  18. Thanks for your take secret agent -the "couldn't...shouldn't" was there to 'show' character rather than just 'tell' (hesistates to disrespect privacy) etc. A friend sent me a link and it was already Tuesday 17th here. This finalled (RWA (Aust)contest) but was disqualified on a formatting error. I did a quick rewrite of page 1 in my lunchhour and posted 250 words quickly.
    Still I'm glad I did as all the feedback has been great.

  19. No proof, but she's going to search his property, knowing he doesn't like poachers? Plus, she wants to buy neighboring property and will have to be friends with him, more of less? I'm having trouble accepting her authority to go against her boss' orders and spy on a supposedly innocent man.

    Not saying he's not guilty as sin, only that you need to say things differently in the beginning to give her more credibility in readers eyes.

    Otherwise, I'd love to read a story with the woods as setting and wildlife problems. They need to be exposed. Good luck with this.

  20. I too like the setting and think it has interesting plot possibilities, but I have the following comments:
    1. First sentence is awkward.
    2. Work the idea of couldn't and shouldn't in another way.
    3. Next paragraph - this could be condensed.
    4. The next two quotes could be eliminated - I think the reader gets the idea in the last sentence of the preceeding paragraph.

    Still, the plot intrigues me and I like the mc.

  21. Thanks Dorothy,
    This has been a great experience for me, So many people have read so much more into this than I ever do when reading a page myself, I'm scratching my head a bit...

    Anyway, for your particular comments - She is the boss, so not sure where you saw disobedience etc. I mentioned her predecessor briefing her on the difficulty of following up on the "official"
    suspect -Caulfield. Not seeing where you read 'innocent neighbor within that.
    Not sure how to fix your interpretations, I'll have a think about emphasing it. Thanks again

  22. Thanks Susanne,
    I agree. I've had a few different versions of this opening. Some of my test readers can settle enough to just read it, while most are aspiring authors who hammer home a range of do's and don'ts/essential tips because they cant switch off the wanna-be writer.
    I'm struggling with finding the middle path, knowing I can't please everyone all the time.
    I think in reality, the first page is less than a minute read and you can't set up a 400p story there without leaving something for the rest of the book.