Wednesday, March 18, 2009

20 Secret Agent

TITLE: The Saving Race
GENRE: Mystery

He wasn’t certain how it had happened. The car he was driving was an
ordinary unmarked Ford in the basic white, yet somehow it had
transformed into a time machine. He was reliving 1979.

When Nick had left the FBI Resident Agency in Coeur D’Alene,
everything had seemed commonplace. But somewhere along Idaho’s Highway
95, he had crossed through a time continuum. The three stops he had
made when he reached Sprague—the town that registered only as a
minuscule dot on the Idaho state map—had reaffirmed the probability of
time travel.

The first stop was at his motel, or rather at the motel, as it was the
only one within a thirty-mile proximity. Made of rough, cracked logs,
the building was stained dark brown and contrasted with white trim.
Nick knew what the room looked like before he ever stepped foot across
the threshold; he pictured gold shaggy carpet, a gold marbled sink,
and hideous floral bedspreads. He was nearly right in his appraisal,
only that the carpet was shaggy brown instead of gold. He should have
known: brown hides the dirt better than gold.

Next, he stopped at a convenience store to grab a power bar and an
energy drink: the lunch of champions. Or rather, the lunch of a
frenzied FBI field agent. While this building itself wasn’t as dated
as the motel, it was the two cashiers that reminded Nick of his
departure from the modern world.


  1. I read this a couple of times. I didn't feel grounded as I read this, but it could be me.

    One thing I wondered if there was a brief way to convey what time period he started in before being taken back into time to help ground the reader.

    Also he seems pretty calm about the whole thing - making guesses as to the hotel decor, doing mundane tasks (getting food) - but if I just got teleported back in time I'd be like "Holy moly!!!" and it would take me a little bit to believe what i'm seeing. I'm wondering if this has happened to him before since he didn't seemed phased. Maybe that was what the line 'He was reliving 1979.' meant. I was curious as to his age because I wondered how old he was in 1979 the first time.

    He's described as a 'frenzied FBI field agent' but he doesn't seem to be in a hurry about anything which puzzled me more.

    I'm wondering if i've completely misunderstood/missed the point so my comments may not be much help to you. The idea of a time traveling agent is interesting. Good luck!

  2. The first paragraph, I liked. Then you lost me.

    What exactly happened down the highway? Why did a motel room and convenience store reaffirm his thoughts? Did they have power bars in 1979?

    I also agree- He doesn't seem to amazed or worried or anything about time travel. What exactly triggered this suspicion that he is not in his present time to begin with?

    The time travel plot seems intriguing.
    I also hope I didn't miss the point.
    Good luck!

  3. *Time travel... isn't that scifi? :]

    I can't tell if this is really a time travel thing, or if he's just reminiscing.

    Honestly not sure what's going on here. :[

  4. From the author of The Saving Race...

    It is confusing, especially when you only read the first 250 words. Page two of this novel reveals that Nick didn't travel through time, but instead traveled to a town that is stuck in the 70's. Small towns in Idaho haven't changed much in the last thirty years, causing a big-city FBI agent to feel like he's traveled through time.

    Once my beta readers get to page two, they say "a-ha, clever." But the problem is...will the average reader (and more importantly, an agent!) want to continue reading to page two? What do you think...are you too confused to keep reading?

    Thanks for the help!

  5. I wasn't sure if he actually did time travel or if he just found himself in a town that had not changed since 1979.

    Since this is a mystery and not sci-fi, I'm betting on the latter. If that is the case, then say so right up front.

    I was confused enough that I didn't want to read on.

  6. I'm just plain confused... Did he really travel back in time or is he being sarcastic in his thoughts that everything is so outdated?

    Did they have power bars in 1979? Also, I agree that you shouldn't call him frenzied if he doeesn't act frenzied at all.

    I would probably keep reading though. My story is about a CIA agent named Nick. ;)

    Good writing, just confusing in the details.

  7. I get what you're going for with the time machine metaphor, but I think it's overused (I'm assuming he's not actually traveling through time, only feeling that way cuz he's out in the sticks.)

    I don't have any sense of what this story is about or what the conflict is. He's an FBI agent, and he's out in the middle of nowhere. He spends a lot of time taking in the decor, and whatnot, which makes the "frenzied" description seem out of place.

    I suspect your story starts a little later than here.

  8. The 'time machine' caught my attention and made me at least want to read a bit further. The title also intrigued me enough that, if I saw the book in Borders, I'd pick it up and read the inside cover. I'm also in the habit of reading the first page of a book to make a decision (if not more pages). If these 250 words were the first page . . . I'd probably put it back on the shelf and move on to something else.

    The writing is good, but my attention hasn't been captured enough.

    Also - in regards to a comment regarding SciFi; my initial thought was 'Life on Mars' which is SciFi/Police Procedural, so I could get the 'suspense' genre out of this.


  9. I got that the time travel was metaphorical and sarcastic. If Nick really had traveled back in time without warning, I don't think calmly acknowledging it would be his first reaction. (Unless it happens all the time.)

    I agree with the other comments that said Nick doesn't seem frenzied at all. The pace is quite leisurely. I'd like more conflict at the beginning. For one thing: what's he doing at the groovy '70s motel? :)

  10. When I was in college in 1979, I never heard of power bars or energy drinks, unless you called them subs and beer. Shaggy carpets and floral bedspreads died in the sixties. More research is needed here. Good Luck.

  11. I think you should start with page two. This one leaves me more confused than hooked. What you need to point out right away is why an FBI field agent has to travel to such a backward town. He can compare it to time-travel later on. The way it is now this doesn't hook me. I wouldn't read more.

  12. I think you've got some material for a good setup here, but it needs more focus and conflict. Just being back in 1979 isn't enough without knowing why--or better yet, why it's bad. I'm not sure from the opening paragraph that he really IS back in 1979. You say he's "reliving" 1979, so is it deja vu, in his mind, a flashback? If it's real, you need to let us know in more concrete terms. Also, as opening sentences go, yours doesn't grab like it could/should. Go for something more visceral or conflict-oriented. Good luck!

  13. Good character voice and world building, but I wouldn’t say I was hooked. Hint at the reasons Nick is here to give us a question we’ll want answered by the end of the story—the Hook. Give us a bit of tension and suspense.

  14. There is a lot to like here and I'd turn the page to see what happens next. I must say that I,too, was confused at the begining and took the time metaphore literally. Good work and good luck!

  15. Sorry, another one confused as to whether or not this was a real time shift. There's some nice writing, here, but I think you may be piling on the detail and might want to move on a little faster.

  16. Also confused, especially by the mixing of time details like power bars and shag carpet. Might need some re-thinking for the opening to add more clarity and connect the reader to the character. We're told he's a frenzied FBI agent, I'd rather "see" that.

  17. The total lack of emotion makes this feel flat. It's all telling about happenings, like a report, as opposed to a novel. I don't see Nick at all. He is a complete nonentity. Doesn't he have any reaction to being zapped to 1979? Also, energy drinks weren't available in 1979...just coffee and uppers.

  18. I realized (the second time I read the paragraph) that it was not really a time machine. But that's working too hard. Easily fixed, though. My real problem is that I think it would need to have a pretty amazing story to work, given the flat tone. I'd probably read a bit more, but my radar is already up that this might not be ready, have that real sparkle, to differentiate it from the other 150 thrillers sitting on my desk (literally--huge piles).


  19. Thank you Secret Agent! I'm off to buy a Bedazzler so I can add some sparkle. I appreciate the feedback.