Wednesday, March 18, 2009

36 Secret Agent

TITLE: Colour To Die For
GENRE: Funny Mystery/Crime

I’m no stranger to murder. Dead bodies, long hours and skipped meals are the cornerstones of a Private Investigator’s calling. Right now, I’m off-duty and in the mood to murder a donut. Ample is the way you would describe my body shape, particularly the thighs. Ampleness and me – we’re an item. Funny, you can mow down a meadow of celery and the scales won’t even murmur. But run your finger lightly over a sugar-frosted donut, put said finger to tongue and they scream, ‘Two pounds up – hope you’re proud of yourself, Fatty.’

The palm reader coughs. I switch from the perverseness of weighing machines to my date with destiny.

‘Question time, my dear.’ A tight smile interrupts the dark lines of his round face. He’s wearing a red vest over a navy blue shirt; the vest’s hand-knitted pattern stretched to the limit across his potbelly. Of a certain age, probably sixty, his brown eyes look blue.

‘Tell me what you see,’ I say. ‘I’m not interested in how many times I’ll get married, or if I’ll win lotto.’

Like hell. Truth to tell, the blogs I write lately are about the lifestyle of a lonely only. Previews of upcoming partnerships, anything past a one-nighter is worth a look. Although, if Cedric Parakrama is the goods, who needs questions?

Peering intently at my right palm, he says, ‘There’s certainly a second marriage here.’

‘When?’ I scream.

‘It’s a way off yet.’

‘A target date would be good. And, if you can manage it, a mug shot of my intended. Large mole on left buttock, that sort of thing.’


  1. This isn't quite working for me. You've got great voice here, but this page is sort of all over the place.

    The "I'm no stranger to murder" line feels tacked on at the beginning, as it isn't related to your protag's train of thought. She's busy getting her palm read, thinking about donuts, worrying about her weight, etc., so what would be making her think about murder, or about her work as a PI in the opening sentences?

    If you want her mind to be wandering during the palm reading (I actually think it might work better if she focused on the palm reading or if her mind-wanderings were related to the sort of things a person might expect to hear at a palm reading), I think you need to at least limit it to one out-of-context thought.

    Otherwise, so many switches in focus will just confuse the reader.

    As I said, though, your voice is great and that's the single most important thing. Everything else can be fixed.

  2. I loved the first three sentences. The voice is awesome. Then after that it wanders a bit. I love the part about the weight, but I'm not sure it fits with the murder stuff.

    And she says she doesn't care how many times she'll marry (or about the lotto), but then she's "scream"ing when the said second marriage will happen. Not sure about that. Those two things seem to contradict each other.

    Oh, and I l-o-v-e present tense. Good job with that!

  3. I'm hooked. Funny (haha variety) voice and some foreshadowing to whet my appetite. Read on, it says to me.

  4. Voice is great.

    I liked the first sentence.

    Then . . . all over the place, with a little too much 'telling'.

    Also, is the main character male or female? You've given the reader the psychic's name, and yet not the main character.

    Lastly - why did the other commenters assume the character was female without any true indication? Just wondering. : )

  5. I originally read it as "a meadow of celebrities" and it gave the opening paragraph an entirely different tone.

    I have to disagree with H.L. Dyer -- I think I get where you are going with the wandering mind. From murder, to murdering some doughnuts, to weight, etc. Your protag is bored and meandering. I think it works.

    I have no idea who Cedric Parakrama is, but I assume we'll get there eventually. I think the verbiage is a little overdone, but that might just be me.

  6. I love the voice, too. It starts off noirish, then switches topics without switching voices. I also like how the protagonist's thoughts wander around and the palm reader has to bring him/her back to the present. (I assumed the narrator was female, too. I'm not sure why. Maybe that the ample thighs imply a curvaceous form?)

    I would just change one minor thing: "Ampleness and me – we’re an item."

    You could change it to "Ample and me - we're an item." I know it's not grammatically correct, but I think "ampleness" messes up your pacing.

    This sounds fun, and I like the protagonist. I'd definitely read on!

  7. I like the voice and the humor. And for that reason alone, I'd keep reading. But I think it could be cleaned up a little.

    The first paragraph felt like an info dump in the first person masked with humor. And then it totally threw me off when she jumped to being at a fortune teller. That part should be established right up front before she starts telling the reader about herself. I had already pictured her in her office and alone.

    Maybe she can tell the palm reader this info about herself. That might be funny: she's so lonely that she goes to the palm reader just so she can talk to someone.

    Anytime the reader can figure things out for themselves will only increase the humor. So if the reader can figure out that she's lonely and overweight, it might be funnier.

    I'd just be careful not to over write her humor. Sometimes less is more. Over all, I liked it.

  8. I liked the voice. Not a fan of present tense, but that's just my opinion. I know a lot of people love it. Have to agree that it jumps around too much which jarred me out of the scene. Also didn't understand "his brown eyes look blue".
    But the voice is great!

  9. Slipped off the hook, but wish to be skewered, again.
    I too loved your 1st 3 sentences. Ah, we’re separated by a common language, so I’m not sure if it’s style, or my lack of education, but here goes. Anywhere you put “you” drop it entirely or replace it with I and see if it doesn’t sound better (stick to 1st person). The audience knows you’re addressing them. Perhaps brown eyes-blue is a clichĂ©. “I scream” can be taken to be literal by your reader. In a cozy situation, an inner scream might accompany a calm, I’ll-not-rip-your-head-off voice.
    Best of luck, and yes the writing is funny, very.

  10. *smirks at revisted cop obsessed with donuts stereotype*

    And Cedric could be Irish (even though I suspect that doesn't apply as this likely is a british writer, going by the single quotes). All the more stereotype. :P

    He does sound a bit crass and obnoxious, but nice work. Fast moving and amusing. :]

  11. Everything I was thinking has already been said. But I wanted to hope on the loving your voice bandwagon. Really nice. I'd follow that voice through a book for sure.

  12. I love the voice--think the humor angle will pay off for you. Not sure if the narrator is male or female, and the male palm reader threw me a little, not that everything has to be a stereotype. I would tend to agree that you need to bring more focus to this section. Not sure I get the sentence "if Cedric Parakrama is the goods." Is there a way you can hint at the conflict even in the first 250 words? Or is it something that will be introduced via this palm reader visit? There could be a "mental" conflict that the palm reader visit exacerbates/confirms. Just so we get more "action," even if it's only alluded to. Nice voice, though--want to stress that.

  13. I love the first line, but the story appears to get after that.. With the donuts and then the fortune teller.

  14. It felt a little too all over the place for me.

    As others have said, the voice is good, and I can see the humor, but right now I really need to know what the story is about or have some idea.

    Too much random information, IMO. Not hooked.

  15. Starting at the top here...

    One more time: great voice!

    For me, the detail of the ampleness could be saved for later. It's not an urgent matter at this stage.

    Unless the palm reader is a suspect, and if he is I'd like to know, I'm not tremendously hooked, but I think the strength of the voice would lure me onwards.

  16. Your character sketch is great, but might make your protagonist a little too predictable? She seems like a stand-up comic who has a day job to me. There is no hint of mystery or suspense in this intro at this point, no big-bang opener either. Having said that, I haven't read any funny crime genres, so I may be way off...

  17. Ditto that the voice is excellent, but there's not a strong enough hook here, IMHO. You spend half of this section describing our UNNAMED protagonist, then the other half describing the tarot reader. There's no tension, nor plot to draw us in and grip us with action/suspense. Sorry, but it's a no for me.

  18. The first commenter summed up everything for me as well, but did want to come over and say most awesome voice!!

  19. At first, I was very confused when I read this. I liked the first few sentences and assumed that the PI was sitting somewhere where he/she would get a donut soon. Then you mentioned the palm reader and I thought it was some kind of electronic device (like a hand held or a mobile phone). So it left me really confused when the PI said something about marriage. I had to reread the scene three times before I understood it and I think it's due to a lack of description. I have no sense at all about where the PI is and why.

    I like your voice though.

  20. The voice hooked me, but I got completely bewildered in the next few paragraphs. It began when I assumed 'palm reader' was some kind of new-fangled Blackberry thing, and I thought 'coughed' was the noise it was making. Then there was suddenly another person...what did 'question time' mean?

    Basically, I had trouble connecting the first five paragraphs into a coherent narrative. I kept going back over them until I gained enough new information to figure it out.

    Any chance of giving a sense of place? Where are they? What's the surrounding atmosphere?

    Sorry for posting anonymously - my browser balks at javascript and the page won't let me enter name/URL without it.

  21. I did think the voice had potential--light and breezy. You relied on cliches too much, however--between the "eat all the veggies and don't lose weight but look at a donut and gain 2 pounds" and the Miss Lonelyhearts "I need a husband" stuff, I felt I was seeing a type rather than the person underneath. Dig deeper into the character and use the voice to describe something more original.

    I couldn't tell too much about the plot, either, since it was going in so many different directions.


  22. I think you have a great start at voice. The dialog is a lot of fun. But the rest of it kind of reminds me of that Virginia Woolf stream of consciousness writing... and not in a good way.

    The thought process of the main character lacks transition, which makes it confusing.

  23. I like your voice and the humor--funny how hard it is to do funny that everyone gets, isn't it? I did wonder if the MC could have brushed against the why (s)he is wherever (s)he is while her/his mind is wandering....

    I'd guess it's a she simply because weight seems to be an issue.

    I'd read on. My only stumble, actually, was the statement that PIs are always dealing with dead bodies. Not so much, really. Skip traces and divorce is the norm, I think. Might be something to work on to make the character more unique. I apologize if these remarks are just confusing. You write well.

  24. Hard not to read all the other comments and not add something new, but loved the voice and that's winning "half the battle" hooking a reader. I like the humor and would read more.

  25. Hi, New to blogs etc but just want to thank everyone for the time they took to read my opener for 'Colour To Die For' - a lot of really helpful interesting stuff. Good luck to all us struggling writers.

  26. Some funny lines in this. I like the author's sense of humor and think it will go a long way to making her successful.

    The fat part in the beginning might be a little overdone, IMO.

    My biggest problem with this sub was the line about the palm reader coughing. I caught me offguard because I was so into her being fat. Had to read on to know what was happening. All it needs is a little transitory phrase.

  27. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.