Wednesday, April 15, 2009

26 Secret Agent

Check Mate

Multi-cultural Romance

Bishop Eustace Prep Library, Sophomore Year

He lugged the chessboard, pieces, clock, and his short pimply self to slaughter again.

“Thank you Rebekah for the lesson. You played great.” Playing the New Jersey Junior Champ felt more like a lesson than a game.

“Shhh.” The librarian lingered over them like the grim reaper.

“You don’t have enough fight in you, James, nor enough knowledge.” He leaned across the table for a handshake.

“See you.” She rose and swiveled, showing off a cheeky Lacrosse outfit, which barely covered her cute bottom. She tapped rubber cleats across linoleum squares and glancing back flashed a metallic Cheshire cat smile.

“Good bye, Rebekah.” He trembled, just above a whisper.


The princess never gets a shhh. Why am I so lucky?

He wasn’t the evil student who stuck chewing gum under this maple table or sprinkled salt in the librarian’s coffee.

His secret desire to win one game and her heart never came true, perhaps because he said and did nothing. Instead, they eventually graduated and then lost each other into life’s black hole. She became a warrior of more than sixty-four squares. He tried to bring peace to a crazy world, teach a little Physics at NYU, and master the game of chess.

Present Day, May 4, Baghdad, 1202 hours

Today might be her last on Earth. She wondered why. Intuition or premonitions about enemy placements supplemented her . . .


  1. Interesting opening scene and I like multi-cultural stories with foreign settings. Strickly romance though in your genre? I'm not sure it fit the contest description. I'd guess you meant a multi-cultural women's fic right?

    Your pronoun usage may be throwing me off a bit. For example: "“You don’t have enough fight in you, James, nor enough knowledge.” He leaned..." This description is for James, dialog for Rebekka right? If so separate. I had decided two men were playing each other.

    "His (James')secret desire to win one game and (Rebekka's) heart never came true, perhaps because he said and did nothing. ...etc" I absolutely adored this entire paragraph, but was it her heart's desire? Her heart's wish? Not sure that just her 'heart' can come true or not.

  2. Sorry, not hooked. Confused, though.

  3. I liked pieces of this, but it didn't flow for me. It felt disjointed. The first sentence has him lugging his stuff TO slaughter, but then the second sentence he is thanking Rebekah for a game that has already taken place.

    I was also lost a bit as to who was talking. The fifth paragraph seemed to be Rebekah, but then you say "He" leaned across the table.

    Finally the paragraph that starts "His secret desire..." seemed very abrupt. By the end we realize that you've jumped to the present, but there is no transition. It is almost like it needed a "That was then, this is now." kind of transition at the beginning of the paragraph.

  4. I was also confused with the first part of it and who was speaking. I didn't understand the slaughter part, so maybe you could expand on that more.

    I think it would be stronger to start the story at:

    "He wasn't the evil student..." but replace 'he' with his actual name.

    Then weave in the other info from the dialog after.

    I really like those last two paragraphs of the Sophmore year.

    Keep at it, this sounds like it is going somewhere interesting.

  5. I wasn't hooked, not yet. I was confused at the beginning about who was speaking and whose viewpoint I was following. Some dialogue tags would help with that.

  6. I can only reiterate on the confusing comments. I think the "He" is probably the librarian, but it was still confusing and I had to read through it twice to even think I may have it figured out.

    I kind of got the feel that the first part is a prologue, but some idea of a date might make the last part less jarring.

    Not sure if I'm hooked. Sorry.

  7. Thanks for the great comments on tags and flow. I removed a line that originally followed the first sentence because it was a little redundant and I wanted to get down to 250 words. The sentence was: His way too pretty executioner dispatched him in thirteen moves, but he didn't mind.

    p.s. Romance comes under the catch-all "womens fiction" and the multi-cultural refers to Rebekah, who is part black, white, Filipina, and Apache, for those interested.

  8. Same here. Almost got it... then didn't.

    The last paragraph of the prologue was haunting--I could hear it as a movie voice-over or as spoken by a narrator character on stage.

    So while I'm confused, I actually would read on in the hope that your voice from that one paragraph would continue. Like I said: haunting.

  9. Bah. Sorry. Didn't type my name: That "Anonymous" just above is me, Alice.

  10. I enjoyed this and it isn't my normal genre. The "he leaned" mentioned above also threw me off, but I'm assuming that's just a typo.

    I like the last paragraph of the prologue but "She became a warrior of more than sixty-four squares" confused me. I like the more than sixty-four squares part, but I couldn't picture what that actually meant- warrior of what? I'm assuming military but didn't the first time I read it.

    Also, I like the "short, pimply self" but would perhaps change it to slaughter house. Just a thought.

    I read your comment about the sentence. I actually think it adds to just how good she is, thirteen moves seems rather daunting.

    Overall, I'd keep reading. You did a good job of piquing my interest with the beginning of the present day items.

    Good luck!

  11. Yes, the tags definitely confused me. Upon re-reading I did like the voice, but the confusion was such that I might give up.

  12. I liked this line "He lugged the chessboard, pieces, clock, and his short pimply self to slaughter again." And I totally got it. It said a lot about the character.

    You have the librarian down. I know many like that. (However, we are usually partial to the pimply chess playing types and not so much into the princesses.) The hovering like the grim reaper--well, yeah, we do that from time to time. :)

    I think you need to skip the 'His secret desire' paragraph because it closes off the story and ends the hook which you've introduced. He's crushing. He's losing. And he's going to...what? We don't know. And then you tell us. Wah! Don't spoil it for the reader.

    You've got a good voice, keep writing!


  13. There may be an interesting premise here, but I was confused, and the dialog felt stilted. So, I think it still needs revision to bring in more character development and smooth it out into a more organic scene. Also, if it's going to bounce back and forth in time, be clear on the difference. The last part is clearly "present day," but how long ago was "sophomore year?"

    If you were in my crit group I would suggest revision to clarify the beginning and to make the dialog run more smoothly and organically. keep working on it. :}

  14. Somethings I liked: the viuals of "chewing gum under this maple table" and "salt in the librarian's coffee."

    On the flip side, it felt disconnected to me. There wasn't always clarity around who was speaking. And the jumping around felt a bit disconnected.

    Sorry, not hooked.

  15. Hmmm.... not my thing. But I do think this for the most part is pretty good.

    I was a little confused about the connection between that first part (guy protagonist destined to be chess geek physics teacher) and the present day part (the princess is the protagonist). Do you switch back and forth through the novel?

    *cracks up*

    verification word: bastsahs

    Guess what I thought I saw at a glance. Was shocked. :P

  16. Sorry, but not hooked. The first scene has lots of people talking, but no transition or solid information on who is where in this scene, or really what's going on. I was more confused than anything.

  17. Umm, I'm sorry but I'm really confused by this. I was confused in the first part about who was talking (you need more tags)and the last paragraph in the first section was just a jumbled info dump. Who is this main character? He's short and spotted and loses to this girl who plays lacrosse? And there's a librarian? Who's shushing? Why do you even need this very short first part? It doesn't show us much about the characters or their world.

    Anyway, sorry, hope this helps and good luck!

  18. I just loved that first line! But, I have to admit you lost me with her comment: “You don’t have enough fight in you, James, nor enough knowledge.” - it sounded more like dodgy fantasy than a teenage girl in a library. However, the nerd and cool chick connection is neat, and you've got tha first line!

  19. The concept has promise, but I was confused, too. Perhaps this scene is too lean? I need to know a little bit more about who we're dealing with and where we are (in time, location, etc.) I'd rather be shown the place and ages than told it in a header. Also, the last paragraph covers a lot of ground that seems important. Is this all backstory that could really be woven into the novel if you started at the "present day" section?

  20. Not hooked, and I have to wonder why this is part of your manuscript? If you story starts in "Present Day Baghdad", I think you can find a much better way of giving character details than trying to shove them in a prologue.

    I'd keep this as notes to yourself for the characters, and start the story somewhere else.

  21. Oh my, this seems all over the place. You're trying to tell the whole story in a few paragraphs. And starting with a short pimply character is a bit of a turn-off.

  22. This completely confused me, sorry. I couldn't really follow what was going on or who the characters were.

    One of the problems was an unclear POV at the beginning. Using a name instead of 'He' would help. And your first sentence implies he is about to start a chess game, but the rest seems to indicate they are just finishing it. It also wasn't clear to me who was speaking each line.

    And your character's thoughts/emotions weren't consistent to me either. "Princess" sounds like an insult, not something you would say about someone you love.

    And then that last paragraph of the prologue feels really rushed. I'd much rather this info come out as backstory later than just be dumped here all at once.

  23. I liked the first line. But then further down when it says, "He leaned across..." I assumed that the 'he' was the person who had just been talking. On re-reading, I realised that Rebekah was talking and James was leaning across the table for a handshake. I think you need some dialogue tags.

    The rest is very rushed, and the last paragraph before we get to Baghdad is a massive infodump. I'd cut the rest of this scene after he whispers goodbye to Rebekah. We can find out that he's a physics lecturer, etc., throughout the rest of the story.

    It sounds like it's heading somewhere interesting though.

  24. Chalk another one up in the not-hooked-but-confused category. Are there three students and the librarian in the opening scene? Two students and the librarian? I say scrap the librarian and make it much more obvious who's saying and doing what (and how many whos there are). Or you can just take the Secret Agent's advice:)

  25. I found the mc interesting but there are two and I didn't like this particular jump (I do like two mcs, though). I'm curioius as to how the NJ Junior Chess Champ ends up as a soldier-type. Seems a bit far-fetched. Also, the dialogue was awkward - I can't picture a teenage, even a really smart one, saying what Rebekah did. I think this has prois interesting but needs to be reworked.

  26. This is far to confusing to be enjoyable. I had a hard time keeping up with the characters and what each one was doing. It just doesn't flow. Not hooked.