Wednesday, March 18, 2009

30 Secret Agent

TITLE: Ghosts of Ivy House
GENRE: Suspense

Eighteen Years Ago

The man under the porch was bleeding. He was bleeding so much he
didn’t even notice Timothy at first. But Timothy could see him, the
shape of him, from the little slats of light filtering through the
cracks in the boards above.

Timothy was hiding. “Are you hiding too?” he asked the bleeding man.

The man jerked in surprise. He pulled his gun up but he didn’t shoot.
The gun was red. Not from the blood, just... red. Then he put it down
and breathed out. “Get out of here, kid,” he hissed.

Timothy squeezed tighter into his corner. “I’m going to be a doctor
when I grow up,” he said. “Maybe I can fix you.”

The man groaned. A shiver ran through his body.

“Are you cold? You need a blanket.” Timothy slid his back along the
wall of the house, toward the little hole behind the bush he had used
to get under the porch. The man didn’t say anything, so Timothy
crawled out.

There were lots of men running around the house with guns. One grabbed
Timothy and carried him to the living room and told him to stay. But
he left and nobody was watching, so Timothy went upstairs and got a
blanket from his room. Then he went into the kitchen and asked the
cook for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The cook made him a
sandwich, but his hands were shaking so it was messy.


  1. Interesting start to this piece. I an intrigued by what is happening and why Timothy's house is being invaded. The last paragraph needs a bit of tweeking ('lots of men running around the house with guns') and I couldn't figure out why a cook in the kitchen would make him a sandwich if the house was under attack. I might read on.
    Good luck!

  2. I'm hooked - Timothy was real for me.

    Watch POV - "He was bleeding so much he didn't notice Timothy at first" is man's POV, but the rest is Timothy's.

  3. I agree with puzzlehouse about POV, and I think the final paragraph could use some tightening, but overall this was fantastic. I love the opening lines and how we have to wait to find out more about the frightening situation because we're seeing it through a child's eyes. I SO want to read more of this :)

  4. First sentence caught my attention.

    POV shift - definitely confusing.

    Hooked? Uh, maybe . . . I'd read more, but maybe only a few pages.

  5. I'd knock out the redundant "Timothy was hiding" sentence, as the question asked next states it just as well.

    Yep, POV.

    Beyond that, it's a solid start.

  6. The others have pointed out the same things I noticed. You can correct the POV problem quite easily with:

    "The man under the porch was bleeding. He didn’t seem to notice Timothy. But Timothy could see him,"

    I'm assuming the men running around the house are cops on a manhunt for the guy under the porch.

    I agree with Rick that the second paragraph reads much stronger without "Timothy was hiding."

    You could also cut "in surprise" from the third paragraph.

    FYI... some people will strongly object to saying someone "hissed" something that doesn't have hissable sounds in it ("S" sounds)

    But your opening scene definitely works. I would read on.

  7. This is a very interesting beginning, but you lose momentum in the last paragraph. It becomes much less immediate, which is a shame. Your child's voice is dead-on, though.

    I would read more, to find out what was going on with the man under the porch and (I assume), the policemen in the house. Interesting start!

  8. Timothy was hiding. <0 You don't need this line. You can just let your dialogue do the work.

    Is the gun a toy gun or something? I'm having a hard time imagining a red gun otherwise... :[

    I was a little confused about Timothy. At first I thought that he was really hiding - which intrigued me. But now by the last paragraph, it sounds like he was just playing. Which is less hooky for me. What might help is if you took a deeper in the kiddos head maybe with one or two extra lines here that told us what he was thinking at least. Then again... His hands shaking is a clue.

    Yes, I'd read on. ;]

  9. I agree that the last paragraph doesn't feel tight enough. It seemed to lose momentum and tension. The voice even seems to change.

    However, I am most definitly hooked! You've done a great job with description and character.

  10. So all these men are running around the house with guns and the cook makes the boy a sandwich? This just didn't compute for me (even with the shaking hands).

    Sorry to say that would be enough to make me stop reading.

  11. I'm a little confused about how calm Timothy is, unless he's three or so, in which case I'm willing to give the author some creative leeway. Any older, however, and he should know to be terrified and not snackish.

  12. I'm hooked!

    Interesting start and it leaves me wondering what all is going on. Are the men outside looking for the man under the porch. Why is the cook scared? What's happened.

    Timothy is believeable, too. I didn't notice anything wrong, per se, with the last para. But perhaps is moves too quickly, too easily?

  13. I like this a lot. I agree that the POV in the first para needs a fix.

    No major issue with the sandwich here. A cook may well make a sandwich to keep a little boy quiet in a situation like this. Whatever keeps a child out of the way.

    The men running around with guns, though, that might be freakier for him. That might need a little thought.

  14. I'm not sure if Timothy is very young or somehow developmentally delayed. He's not reacting normally to people running around his house with guns. Why are his hands shaking when he's asking for a sandwich? If he's scared, I think the average child would react more noticeably. Perhaps, though, he's unable to react normally. If that's the case, let the reader know.

  15. I really liked this! Good clear tension, right from the start. Also, I thought you did a great job with the voice of this piece--it really cam across as how a small child would perceive the world. I'd definitely read on!

  16. I liked this too. I think you can take out some things to make it tighter. Take the first two sentences for example. "The man under the porch was bleeding. Bleeding so much he didn't notice when Timothy crawled into the dark with him." Or something like that. I also think this will solve your POV problem a few others have mentioned. You don't need the additional "He was" IMO.

    I'd cut "Timothy was hiding." His dialogue does the job.

    Then in this sentence: "There were lots of men running around the house with guns." I think you can make it more active by rewording it a bit. Like, "Men with guns scurried around the house." or something like that. It just reads too flat for something so powerful.

    I'd definitely read more to find out what's going on. Good job!

  17. I love the twist that Timothy's not hiding because he's scared. And you succeed in creating tension for the reader while the POV character remains shielded from it by his innocence.

    I'm totally intrigued. Really wonderful.

  18. Great, want more, send now (sorry, I'm no agent)

  19. Looks like other people have found the issues that I noticed already.

    Other than that, I think it's a great start. I felt the suspense and fear right up front and really liked the contrast between the gruffness of the man and the innocence of Timothy. This is the paragraph that really sets that up so brilliantly:

    The man jerked in surprise. He pulled his gun up but he didn’t shoot. The gun was red. Not from the blood, just... red. Then he put it down and breathed out. “Get out of here, kid,” he hissed.

    (but the breathed out and he hissed is another redundancy)

    That one section tells us so much about the character of your man in so few words... great, great job on that.

  20. Others have mentioned the details I'd want you to fix, too, but great voice, lots of tension pulling me in and pulling me along.

    Hooked. Would read on. Good job!

  21. Hooked. Would definitely read more.

  22. I'm in agreement with other comments here. The last paragraph confused me, because the mood changed dramatically when he had the cook make him a sandwich. Re-write the last paragraph and I would definitely read on. Good luck.

  23. To me this read like a prologue - the first line - eighteen years earlier, kinda killed the suspense for me and made this excerpt seem like back story rather than current action if you know what I mean...

  24. I was drawn in, though I also don't think you need the "Timothy was hiding" part. I think it would be a good idea to describe the men running around the house, if for no other reason than to give the reader an idea of whether these were cops or gangsters or soldiers or...

    I also thought you could give just a little on his state of mind when he asked for the sandwich. And how did the cook react--why would anyone be out in the open when all of this is going on?

    Those are nitpicks. I thought it was very interesting.


  25. This prologue tells me the boy is going to be a doctor and the bleeding fugitive and he are going to be who this story is about. That so? It could be interesting. I'd have to know more.

    I thought you introduced us to the boy very well. I like him because he's a caring person, though young.

    I'd read some more if the writing were tightened. Does it matter that your closing line tells us the cook's hands were shaking, so the sandwich was messy? It tells me the boy has rich parents, but takes away from the boy's involvement. Maybe let the boy make the messy sandwich.

  26. I thought your dialogue was very good, true voices for both characters. The last paragraph lost me, however. Also, I'm a little confused over who this kid is, including age. How is he out and about without supervision with men with guns around? I might not notice my son leaving the house in shorts when it's snowing, but I'd notice that he was missing if men were running around the house with guns. If this were explained quickly I'd keep reading - I really liked the beginning!

  27. I just wanted to thank everyone for their comments on my entry! This was really helpful and you guys not only spotted things I couldn't see myself, but also gave me a really good idea of what readers are thinking going into this. To respond to a couple of things:

    1) Yes, this book is about Timothy and the man under the porch. The narrative alternates between the past and the present, when Timothy is an adult. (And yes, he becomes a doctor!)

    2) That last paragraph reads weird mainly because it's not a whole paragraph... there are a couple more sentences that pull it together, but alas, 250 words... :)

    3) Timothy is about six. He's not freaked out by any of what is happening because for him, the men with guns are normal. They're his father's henchmen. What the reader doesn't know yet is that the man under the porch is the "good" guy. Timothy's father is a criminal.

    Thanks again everyone! I'm totally making the changes with the POV issues as well as cutting a couple of those things people noted were extraneous. Thanks!