Wednesday, March 18, 2009

6 Secret Agent

Title: Bad Habit
Genre: Mystery/Suspense

St. Pius School, San Antonio, Texas

“Sister Bernadette, there’s a detective waiting to see you in the conference room. He’s come all the way from New York City” Mother Immaculata smiled encouragingly, drawing her into the corridor. “I’ll watch your class.”

Teri Slaughter’s stomach knotted up in fear. It’s over. They found me. The moment she’d dreaded had arrived.

A deep breath released some of the tension in her shoulders. As she forced her leaden feet toward the conference room, the thought flickered through her mind of running out the main door and disappearing in the busy streets.

Get hold of yourself. She expelled a long breath. Maybe he doesn’t suspect me.

Pausing with her hand on the knob, she weighed whether or not to continue her masquerade.

A muscle tightened in her jaw. Teri Slaughter wasn’t a coward. If this cop takes me back to New York, they’ll kill me. I have to pull this off.

She dusted chalk from her hands before running her fingers through her cropped hair. There was nothing to distinguish her from the others. Her plain white shirt and navy skirt were inconspicuous among the nuns.

Her heart racing, she stepped into the conference room.

The detective turned around. His large dark eyes assessed her, pierced her veneer, saw right through her.

Fighting down a sense of panic, her breath caught in her throat.

“Sister Bernadette?” He extended his hand. “I’m Detective Angel Garcia, from Manhattan Homicide Division. I’ve been looking for you.”


  1. I love the concept here: a woman with a past hiding as a nun at a convent. And the moment of potential discovery is a great tension builder. But I think you let the cat out too soon. I don't need to know her inner state, or even that she is really Teri Slaughter right away. And I really don't want you to tell me (rather than show me) that the detective is on to her from the get go. Just re-work it a little and it will go.

  2. The premise here is intriguing. You write well but some parts seem a tiny bit overwritten (pierced her veneer/forced her leaden feet) but I like the concept and overall writing. I'd turn the page.

  3. St. Pius - > Which one? :]

    Like: St. Pius X ?

    The way this is represented, I'm a little confused. I didn't immediately realize that Teri Slaughter was Sr. Bernadette.

    Maybe describe the Mother stepping into the classroom, and Teri turning to acknowledge her superior, before we hear her addressed as Sr. Bernadette.

    I assume you have the thoughts in italics. Missing punctuation in first paragraph.

    When she walked into the conference room, you could set the room up for us (like, what does a conference room at a school look like anyway?).

    I do think this needs nudging, but you have me curious. :]

  4. I really like this premise. I do think you gave too much away at the beginning, though. By the second paragraph I knew what to expect, so I started to lose interest before the detective even appeared.

    But I did love all the little details, especially the paragraph where she dusted chalk off her hands. Good writing.

  5. I liked this and would want to keep reading.

    I agree that the name change was confusing. Don't give away her real name yet...

    Also, it sounds like the cops will kill her if she goes back. Is this really what will happen, or will it maybe be the mob, or even the death penalty? Maybe say, "I can't go back to New York. They'll kill me," so it doesn't imply that she'll be killed by a crooked cop.

    Nice job!

  6. This is an interesting concept. I would like a little more information. In this case it actually moves a little too fast which is the opposite problem to what is often seen. It's a great idea though.

  7. I got it. I liked the way you used her real name to let us know who she was and then had the detective use her nun name. My first thought was he's not going to give her away and I found that intriguing...

    I'd keep reading for sure.

  8. Great premise. I agree with the other comments re: veneer, leaden feet, but the writing is interesting. I like 'her breath caught in her throat.' There are a couple in my MS where I'm describing fear and I love this simple line that I never thought of... I know exactly what that feels like (breath in the throat). Well done.

  9. This worked for me.

    One nit:

    "His large dark eyes assessed her, pierced her veneer, saw right through her."

    I'd pick one or two of these and ditch the rest. Too many descriptives makes them all lose their impact. Any one of these alone is stronger than all of them together.

  10. In this case, the premise is interesting but the excerpt fails to hook me because the writing feels a bit forced, a bit rough. Good writing alone will not hook me, but less-than-competent writing will stop me from reading in spite of an interesting premise.

    A few nits:

    There is some awkward movement between internal monologue and narrative.

    When you use "whether", you don't need the "or not" part. Whether itself is complete.

    Would she notice that she had "cropped hair" when she runs her fingers through it? When you do yours, do you think to yourself that it's long or short? Unless you've just had it cut or there is a reason to think of how long it is, you don't usually notice things like this. To be authentic, I'd leave this out.

    You've also used the present participle in the following:

    Fighting a sense of panic, her breath caught in her throat.

    First, the two are not really related, except they are in the same sentence. It makes it sound as if the two should be related but they aren't. They are separate moments and should probably be in two separate sentences.

    Potentially good premise but the writing needs work to hook me.

  11. I like the premise and it sounds like the plot will be interesting but the writing feels rough, some switching of pov in the second paragraph that really bothered me. Also, "He's come all the way from New York City" in the first paragraph doesn't sound like real dialogue. Just say "There's a detective from NYC waiting to see you." I'd keep reading because the potential for plot is there but if it didn't get tighter in a couple of pages, I'd probably stop.

  12. Liked this a lot, but also felt you gave away too much, too soon.
    (I'm finding myself trailing behind some really great critiquers!)

  13. I do like the pun on the title, but can’t help feeling this is a little “Sister Act”-ish. Also, make it clearer that Bernadette and Teri are the same person, as that part tripped me up on the first read through.

  14. Like the contrast of her actual name and Sister Bernadette of the nunnery! The writing was OK and if this got exciting, fast, I'd read on.

  15. What can I say? I love it!!! I want to read it ASAP. You don't waste a word, you introduce the MC in both guises and you let us know she's hiding out and hiding something criminal she did. But does the detective want her for that? Maybe not, I think. I have to turn the page. Super super super. I'm so impressed with your writing. Expect to see this in print soon.

    (FYI. In my boarding school, it was Mother Bernadette and Sister Immaculata. And they wore the full Sisters of Mercy habits.)

  16. Thanks for all the cmments. I seem to have garnered a mixed review. Half of you want me to keep the heroine's identity hidden and the other half like knowing that she's masquerading as a nun...Sorry, but I see no advantage to misleading the reader. I want them to know somthing that only the heroine knows...for a while.
    Yup, Dorothy. I pulled from my great Catholic educatin and the year I spent as an underpaid lay teacher in a school very similar to the one in my novel. Fabulous experinces. Hope you enjoyed my effort.

  17. I did enjoy your effort, and I was glad you gave away the identity. My problem was that this could have taken half as long and been much more effective. this one's a case of brushstrokes trumping detail. make the walk down the hall much shorter, with fewer details. Make the exposure of her double identity obvious and inevitable to her, rather than having her hope against hope.

    Nice start to the story, though, and I was interested in learning more.


  18. At first I thought "Oh no, not another "Sisters Act" but then I was hooked. I agree that the beginning could be tightened but I am hooked.