Wednesday, March 18, 2009

8 Secret Agent

TITLE: The River Man
GENRE: Romantic Suspense

Her first day on the project and Ana Middleton was beginning to question her choice of post-doc.

The reason for her abrupt change of heart leaned against the wall in the corner office, his hands behind his back. Dressed in a worn leather trench coat, dirty blond hair beneath his collar, he looked more like an enforcer in the Russian Mafia than a criminalist.

She flipped through his personnel file. The name was blacked out and Doe, John scrawled in its place. A resume with large sections of redacted text listed his past jobs: Army Ranger, Proactive Engagement Team Leader for TransSecurity Corp under contract to – that was blacked out as well.

“John Doe?” She examined the man once more. A sidearm peeked out from beneath his jacket. “Who is this guy? A spook?”

Dr. Bertelli cracked a smile. “You worry about that computer model of yours and I’ll worry about the competence of the hired help. Rumor has it he worked for the NCS,” he said, wagging his eyebrows.

"The NCS?"

"National Clandestine Service. Those guys have no identities. You know, to provide plausible deniability when the government wants bad things to happen, or some other BS.”

“You hired him as a criminalist?”

“He’s a confidential advisor. Who better to find an assassin than another assassin?”

“And you expect me to work with him?” She swallowed. “I think I should be more afraid of him than the perp.”

“Baptism of fire, Ana.” Bertelli gestured to the office. “Baptism of fire.”


  1. There is a little info dumping here... not much, but you don't want it to be too obvious you are using the dialogue to get information to the reader. ;)

    That said - I do like the premise. :]

  2. How fun! I'm not sure I'll buy into the NCS stuff further along, but I'd read on to find out. That said, I did have to read it twice to figure out that Ana was staring at one man while talking to another.

  3. I'd read more, definitely. The NCS stuff didn't bother me but I was a little confused for a minute about there being two men in the room. When I first read it, I thought Dr. Bertelli was the guy in the trench coat.

  4. I was really confused about there being two men, as well. But I'm in love with your piece. This is right up my alley, and if you need a beta reader, I'd jump all over the chance. I'm definitely hooked!

  5. I like this a lot. Very engaging. I was a little confused about the two men as well but all it would take to address it is just a little tweaking. I have a soft spot for assassins by the way. I'd be all over this one if I found it in the store.

  6. One nit: this statement seemed odd...

    "I think I should be more afraid of him than the perp."

    Is she saying that she should be, but strangely doesn't feel afraid of him (like maybe she's attracted to him or something)?

    Otherwise, it would be more natural to say "I'm more afraid of him than the perp." or "I think I'm more afraid of him than the perp."

    I like the idea of her working with an assassin. A bit Silence-of-the-Lambsy. ;)

  7. Nice opening, only thing I'd suggest is you highlight reaction to the assassin at a personal level if he's the romantic interest. All we have is dirty blond hair and an old coat. Also her job needs clarifying - not sure what her post doctorate thesis is on - usually an extention of the doctorate. Also not sure if there's such a thing as studies in finding assassins? Lost me a bit in the wondering, but well written and I'd keep reading.

  8. I'm not sure about this. I'll skip what others have written, but you should take a close look at their advice.

    I'd like to add that the plot has been done to death.( killer to catch a killer, criminal catch a criminal, assassin to catch an assassin.)

    "Those guys have no identities. You know, to provide plausible deniability when the government wants bad things to happen, or some other BS"

    I've seen and read this a hundred times.

    This too: “You worry about that computer model of yours and I’ll worry about the competence of the hired help. Rumor has it he worked for the NCS,” he said, wagging his eyebrows."

    It translates to you worry about you and worry about me, but I'm going to tell you stuff I just told you wasn't any of your business.

    I've seen these three characters before as well as this "Baptism by Fire." I know you wrote of, but changing one word doesn't make a cliche' less cliche.

    "perp," is cop slang, "spook" is Cia slang, while postdoc is another kind of slang. The last is believable for a character working on their post doc, the other too don't belong to a graduate and Doctor.

    I'd probably read on, because I usually give a book five to ten pages, but you'd better show me something new.

  9. Thanks anonymous (were'nt we supposed to use a screename?) - I appreciate your thoughtful crit.

    A couple of comments: from what I've read, there are only three or seven plots so I guess we have to recycle them. It's unavoidable. It's the specifics of how they're developed and peopled and the writer's voice that mades them different. Like other aspiring writers, I'm hoping I have a voice and perspective on this overused plot that makes it interesting enough to read on. I personally like those particular plots and so I want to read them and write them.

    As to cliches, I agree to avoid them -- in narrative. However, speakers use cliches all the time. It's communication shorthand.

    As to the terms "post-doc", "spook" and "perp", if you do your PhD in forensic science or forensic psychology, or criminology, I guess you might use these terms. There are PhDs working for the FBI and CIA, and some of them teach and have post-docs. :D

    But thanks for your perspective. You highlight the problem those of us who like this kind of genre and want to write it have to deal with.

  10. ABSOLUTELY loved this! The voice is fresh and engaging, the descriptions Spartan but powerful, and the tension sizzles! I’d definitely read on! My only “fix” comment would be to introduce Ana’s name earlier on, since this is in 3rd person.

  11. Nice tone, although 'National Clandestine Service' stopped me in my tracks. Not quite sure why.

  12. I liked this but I think it's odd to be talking about the second guy (it took two readings to realize there were two guys in the room; it might be good to make that clearer) as if he weren't in the room. What's he doing while they're talking about him? Glaring, indifferent? I wanted to know. I'd keep reading.

  13. Thanks so much for the very helpful comments! You see, this is why it is so helpful to have other eyes read over your work. :D

    I agree that I have to clarify that Ana and Bertelli are outside the office looking in through a window right away so the reader is not confused.

    As to National Clandestine Service, there really is such a thing. :D It's relatively new, created in 2005. It doesn't really roll off the tongue like CIA or FBI.

  14. Thanks for clarifying the physical layout. I actually didn't have a problem. Thought they were all in the same room and I could see all three in my little wierd head. I liked it and would read on, but my only nit to pick: Baptism BY fire. That's the correct cliche'.

  15. You're a little cautious here about letting us know too much, but I think I got a pretty good picture of the set up and the characters. Not much about the MC except for her job, but with this kind of story, I can wait a while.

    I found it to read smoothly and it put me into the office of the syp type business she's in. More later.

    Yes, I'm hooked for the first chapter at least.

  16. Author here again -- I googled "baptism of fire" and it is indeed an acceptable "cliche" :D as is "baptism by fire".

    Baptism of Fire

  17. I almost certainly would suggest that you use "by" fire rather than "of" since it's by a long shot more often used, and the "of" sounds wrong, even if it's considered "acceptable."

    Because people in real life usee cliches doesn't mean that you need to as well, in order to achieve a sense of realism. People also use like, y'know, um and er, and I'd blow my brains out if an author used those tics as often as real people do. The trick is to have a realistic voice without falling into old tropes.

    you seem to spend a lot of time justifying unoriginality--only a few plots, only certain way that people talk. Yet there are a lot of writers who actually succeed in overcoming those obstacles, rather than using them as excuses as to why your writing feels stale.

    I'd read on for a little while, but I'd need to see a hell of a plot line in order to be taken in.