Wednesday, April 15, 2009

34 Secret Agent

TITLE: There’s No Place Like Home
GENRE: Women’s Fiction

“It’s funny, Beth, a year ago I expected to be dressing you in a wedding gown for another man.” Her mother’s breath warmed her back as the woman threaded another pearl button through its tight hole, stealing more of Beth’s diminishing breathing room.

“Mom,” warned Beth’s sister, Cynthia.

“Well, it’s true.”

“You promised.”

Beth kept her back to the warring women and took a deep, restricted breath, the scent of her nearby bouquet battling her mother’s perfume.

“Cut it out.” Her mother gave Beth’s back a light tap. “I can’t do up these impossible buttons when you horse around.”

Beth took halted, unfulfilling breaths. The church’s tiny upstairs dressing room seemed to lack oxygen.

Her mom squeezed the last button through its hole and spun Beth around, beaming, hand to her chest. “You look beautiful.”

Cynthia loped over in a fluttering silk robe. “Your Nash sure can sure pick a gown.”

A chestnut tendril tumbled across Cynthia’s forehead and Beth brushed it back in place. Her sister’s hair was perfect in a sexy, tousled way making Beth think of movie stars and champagne, and left her thinking she shouldn’t have bullied her own curly hair into a slick chignon. Beth lengthened her spine and dragged in a long, uneasy breath.

“Cynthia,” commanded their mother, “put on your dress.”

“If you need me—for anything—” Cynthia shot their mom a warning look, “I’ll be down the hall.” She wagged a finger at her mom. “Don’t mess with her head!”


  1. Weddings are always a good set up for women's fiction. It tells us something without telling us that's a good start. I'd be careful beginning with dialogue because we don't know the characters yet.

    I like the realistic interaction of mom and sisters, and I'd read on hoping it was a layered family story.

  2. I like the setting, but felt a bit confused on the "Cut it out" sentence. Is it Beth's mom saying that? If so, I didn't get the horsing around action.

    Great lines: ...Beth thinking of movies stars and champagne and ...the scent of her nearby bouquet battling her mother's perfume. I'd just try to tighten the scene up a bit. The story does sound interesting, and I would read on.

  3. I have to agree with Amy about starting with dialogue only because you have three people in this scene and it was very confusing as to who is who and who's pov we're in.

    That said, I think you did enough to get the reader thinking. So, yeah, I'd probably read more.

  4. I also enjoy the wedding setup. The description of Beth's breath being "deep" and "restricted" seemed contradictory to me; if she's constrained by her dress, could she get a deep breath? You've set up a lot of interesting dynamics between the three women in a very short space, and I would read on. Nice work.

  5. I like the scene, and I'd keep reading, but too much about breathing. In 250 words you mentioned her diminishing, deep, restricted, halted, unfulfiling, long and uneasy breaths. Sounds like too many adjectives, huh? If you're trying to get across that she's uncomfortable or unsure about her upcoming marriage, find another way to do it.

  6. I like this too, but I also noticed how many times you used "breaths" to convey her nerves.

    Nice small details--pearl button, etc.

  7. Unlike some of the other critters here, I actually like books to start out in dialogue. Dialogue in itself is a hook because now you are listening in on a conversation and are brought into the story immediately.

    That and the rest of the writing would make me want to read more.

  8. I'd definitley read more. I was intrigued by the set up in the dialogue, though like someone else said, a little distracted by the breathing. But, overall, a good start!

  9. I would read more. I like the hint of conflict with the 2 men, the family dynamic and your details. I didn't mind dialogue to start at all. Good job.

  10. Dialogue beginning was fine for me, as well. Something about the writing needs to be tightened, but
    I can't put my finger on it. I think it was the descrition of the pearl buttons. The 'her' references were unclear to me. I am curious, though, why the man picked her gown (I'm assuming Nash is her husband-to-be).

  11. I kinda raised my eyebrow at the mom's statement at the beginning. It doesn't strike me as a normal thing to say. Or maybe it's the way she said it.

    The other random thing that occurred to me - the wedding handlers usually keep the wedding bouquets somewhere fresh until right before the bridal party lines up for the procession. They wouldn't just be plopped in the dressing room, right?

    The 'loped over' seemed odd, because of the snugness of the room. Wouldn't it be too crowded?

    Anyway - I do like this and am hooked<:

  12. Some rough spots, but interesting set up and the family dynamic between the three of them felt very real and organic. I'd read a few more pages to see if it hooked me in.

  13. Not quite hooked yet. I think a closer POV for Beth might be the trick. Right now, to me, it feels a bit removed from the character, nor do I feel there's a strong, unique voice developed just yet.

    I did love the movie stars and champagne line as a description for her sister's hair.

    Thanks for sharing!

  14. I liked the sense of smell you incorporated with the flowers battling the perfume. That was nice for me. I would read more of this. The line that hooked me the most: "Your Nash sure can pick a gown." Now that's interesting. Why didn't Beth pick her own gown? Who's Nash? Why is he picking the gown? I liked that and that would propel me to read more. Good job.

  15. I think you have some nice descriptions here.

    What really hooked me was this > Cynthia loped over in a fluttering silk robe. “Your Nash sure can sure pick a gown.”

    Because I find it so peculiar that Nash picked out the dress. I don't know any woman that would let a guy pick her dress out, so I'm curious.

    I do admit, starting with so much dialogue and so many characters at the beginning was confusing, I had to read this a couple of times to figure out who was talking. I think, for your manuscript, I'd start with a bit of set up to ground the reader.

    Yes - hooked, want to know why Nash picked the dress.

    Best of luck - AK

  16. Good. I like this. Too much info on her breathing, though. I think you only need to mention once that it's restricted.

    Also, there's a typo: "Your Nash sure can sure..."

    I'd keep reading, though. It reminds me a little of Runaway Bride. :)

  17. Agreed, there's too much breathing, and loped also took me out of the story a little, but I like the wedding setting and I like the voice, I'd read on :)

  18. I'm hooked. Loved the dialogue and the fact that sis is interceding between MC and mom - want to know why. Also want to know why Nash picked out her dress. And who the other guy is.

    So lots of unanswered questions, but they are questions I care about already.

    Good job overall.

  19. Liked the opening dialogue, almost felt like I was listening in. Only wished for less description and a firm fix on who's story this is.
    Keep polishing this.

  20. There was nothing in the first page to draw me in, although the writing was fine. A bit of conflict between the mother and daughters wasn't enough to make me wonder what happens next.

  21. I'm not sure. I felt it was a bit overwritten. Like the words got in the way of the story.

    I like that Nash picked out the wedding dress.

  22. Why is she getting dressed at a church? Don't most people get dressed for their wedding at home then go to the church? This question distracted me.
    Also I was wondering if she was pregnant. The dress seems a bit small.

  23. The writing is fine, but not compelling for me. Just given this, would I read on? No.

    But to be fair -- and this goes for all of your guys -- that's partly why I usually ask for me, and why ALL agents want to see a query, too -- so we get a sense of where you want story to go, not just how it starts.

    That being said, the emphasis on breathing and appearances doesn't do it for me.

  24. Hey I'm a guy and you put me right in the upstairs room with the girls...nice description. Even though i'm aware this scene has been done 1000s of times in various similar ways in cinima and novels (and life) I guess I'm a glutton for this kind of story...I'm hooked.

  25. I agree that there's a bit too much about the breathing. The mother's first words intrigued me, but I had to reread the sentence that followed. I do want to find out why she's marrying Nash and not the other man.

  26. The comments on the breathing instantly dragged me out of the story. Deep yet restricted seems contradictory. Surely halted (meaning stopped) should be halting(meaning hesitant)

    Some nit picks for consideration.
    'Horsing around' also seemed a line a mother would use with young children - not ladies in a bridal party. Nor did loping seem an appropriate description of gait for a girl who is described as movie star sexy.

    I didn't get a sense of the MC's feelings. Perhaps there was an overeliance on the descriptions of her breathing

  27. I think this is an interesting opening, but I'm distracted by the writing: too many "breaths," how do you take a "deep, restricted breath?" and the dialogue doesn't sound natural to me, starting with the first sentence - "a wedding gown for another man." The people I know don't talk that way, but maybe it's just me. Also, how is beth horsing around? She seems to be standing there with her back to the other two. Beth seems to be stressed at the wedding - is it because of the mother? Yet the mother seems to be the one who thinks she should have married a different man. Too many things don't make sense to me. With editing, the story could be good, but as is, sorry, not hooked.

  28. My number one suggestion would be to use a thesaurus. By the end I was tired of the word breath and all of its variations. Try not to use the same word twice in one sentence (the word think, for example, in the paragraph about hair), it's redundant and muddies up the voice. While I can't tell where the plot is headed, I can only hope that it will shockingly original. Wedding stories too often seem to lean towards cliche.