Wednesday, April 15, 2009

36 Secret Agent

TITLE: Apple of Discord

Face down in the pool, Victoria’s body was completely still. Short tendrils of hair spread out from her head like Medusa’s snakes. Her limbs had given in to the currents, no longer in control of her muscles. Not breathing in. Not breathing out. Under the water there was only silence. Dead man’s float.

Is this what it’s like to be dead? It’s so peaceful. But it’s boring.

A whistle sounded, filtering through the water. Victoria and the rest of her swim team quietly raised their heads to the surface.

“Breathe!” yelled Coach. They breathed. “Again!” Twenty sleek heads submerged again. This was coach’s version of breathing practice. He said he wanted everyone to develop their lungs for endurance.

Still once again, Victoria enjoyed the warmth and silence of the water until her mind wandered back to the night before.

“We lived in the same town all this time, and we never got together. She used to be my best friend. I just can’t believe she’s gone,” Mom had said on the way to the funeral.

Victoria could feel the panic rising again in her blood. She couldn’t breathe to calm herself, so she started counting. One… two… threeMom approached the coffin bawling—just like in the movies where the weeping widow clutches a hankie to cover her distorted mouth and dripping nose, except Mom’s wasn’t a hankie, it was wadded up toilet paper. Were they real tears? Well, they were real, but were they tears of sadness or regret? Thirteen… fourteen… fifteen…


  1. Ooh, this is good. Initially I thought Victoria was dead. I really like this. Definitely hooked.

  2. I liked the first paragraph. I really don't get a 'sense' of Victoria yet. I know it's really early (1st 250 words and all that jazz). I did get the 'sense' that she thinks her Mom is a 'drama queen'. I'd read some more, but I'm not totally hooked at this point. The writing is very good.

  3. I was convinced that she was dead in the first paragraph. Should the "dead man's float" been an indicator that she wasn't? Is this a swimming term? So I was jarred when I realized that she was alive.

    Everything else, I liked a lot. I liked the overlapping of the swim exercise with the funeral and the mother's tears question.

  4. Very nice writing. I'd like a title that would give me a better clue about what's coming, but the writing is good enough that I'd trust the author to tell a good story.

  5. I'm on the fence whether I am hooked or not. I liked the breathing practice and all that. I just wasn't sucked in by the funeral flashback and I'm not sure why. Personal preference? (I liked the wadded up TP.)

    If there was a bit more, I would keep reading to figure out whether it was for me or not.

    Good details.

  6. You hooked me. Definitely. It's an interesting way to set up a little of the back story, but don't take too long. I crave more intrigue and action.

  7. I completely agree with Jean. Loved the first few paragraphs, not so much the bit about the mom and the funeral. Why was Victoria feeling panic thinking about the funeral? The writing is so good, however, that I'd keep reading a few more pages to see if things start to make more sense.

  8. The writing is nice and I liked the beginning. However, I wasn't quite hooked into the part about the mom. It seemed odd for her to be thinking about it during swim practice and a bit jarring to me (but i'm just one person so others may disagree). I'm on the fence, but if I was looking at this in the store I'd read on a few more paragraphs to see if it enticed me.

    Good luck!

  9. Interesting beginning. Very gentle use of flashback (floating-- dead-- funeral). Why is she panicked by the memory?

    Some great description here-- twenty sleek heads especially caught my eye (ear ;-)). I like it.

  10. I really liked the voice in this. I was a bit confused the first time I read it as to whether she was dead or just floating, but on second reading, it is really strong. I'd read on.

  11. I like the breathing practice narrative but I thought her flashbacks to her mother seemed rushed into the scene, I think I would have liked this better if I had been more grounded in the scene before she started reflecting back.

    Good descriptions on the breathing practice.

    Best of luck - AK

  12. *random note* Between this contest and my critting group, seems like there is a lot of focus on drowning. Weird.

    I am definitely hooked. Solid voice.

  13. I like the first paragraph, it grabbed me right away thinking she was dead. But then the swim team explanation was better, I think.

    Definitely has me asking some questions, who's funeral, what happened, etc.

    I'd keep reading. Nice job.

  14. Guess I'm going to be the odd man out, but I didn't really care for the beginning. It feels like a fake hook, making us think Victoria is dead. Rather than using real tension or action, you kinda trick the reader--something I've never been fond of as a reader.

    I also think that last paragraph got a little heavy-handed on the internal angst, esp. that second to last sentence.

    Sorry, but not quite hooked.

  15. This was a good read. I'd keep reading. I like how you used the dead man's float to draw us into the story.

    One thing that tripped me up: "no longer in control of her muscles. Not breathing in. Not breathing out." It sounds like her muscles are not breathing in and out. I don't think that's what you mean, right?

    I also thought the last sentences were a bit awkward. "Were they real tears? Well, they were real..." How does Victoria know this?

    Nice opening, though, and good luck!

  16. I think this is a clever start. I'd read on.

  17. I wasn't hooked, but there was something really nice happening here, with the floating and thinking. Nice voice, too. If I got a little better sense of the MC I might read on.

    The flashback in the last paragraph didn't really work for me, and some of the word choices didn't feel organic - like her wondering if they were tears of sadness or regret...

    but if you were in my crit group I'd say keep working at it and ditch the flashback for later or for dialog or an observed scene.

  18. This was interesting. I didn't like so much the stuff about the mom, but I liked the beginning. I also wonder why we don't see the action of the funeral. I feel like that would be interesting. But i liked the voice!

  19. I had a few problems with this, but it's probably just me.

    Was confused about the arms not being in control of the muscles. Just felt weird to me.

    Then when coach tells them to breathe, and then he says again, I'm thinking he wants them to breathe again. But then they go under instead. Again, just me.

    But then when she's thinking of Mom's comments, I got confused. Maybe it's just the order, but I read that they had never got together, but they were best friends. How does one do that? I think you meant that they had been friends in an earlier time, but I didn't quite get it.

    Not hooked at this point.

  20. While I got caught up on the likeliness of there being currents in a pool, this did keep me reading --- for a bit. The interjections of Victoria's memories of her mom's speech and actions put me off.

    Nice writing, but I'm not convinced by the format yet.

  21. I'm curious, but not completely hooked.

    **Her limbs had given in to the currents, no longer in control of her muscles.**--This sentence is awkward. I think you need to rework it somehow. Maybe it should be 'gave in'?

    And the mother's dialogue seems forced, just an opportunity for you to get this info in. Is there another way you could do this? I think it might be better if you just cut this and let us wonder for a bit whose funeral she's thinking about.

  22. Some POV issues. If we're in Victoria's POV, would she know her hair looks like Medusa's snakes?

    Not sure I want to read about the funeral unless it's relevant. And it sounds like it's only relevant to Mom, not Vicky.

    Writing is good, though.

  23. I liked this. I think the writing is very good and I would read on. I would like the second part of the flashback to have been shorter though - I don't know why, I just think it would fit better. I'd cut the weeping widow in the movie thing, and just talk about her mother.

  24. Sorry
    I was completely confused by where this was going. Is this a POV issue?

    Is she dead or isn't she, and why is the funeral important if it isn't her own?

  25. I like the style and I think it reads well. I'm wondering what the connection is between the mc, her mother, and the dead woman she hasn't seen in so long. I'd read a little more but it would have to get somewhere soon.

  26. I like that you make the reader think that the MC is dying in the first paragraph, and then it turns out that it's swimming practice. That made me want to read more. However, as I got further I became less convinced. It would be more compelling if the MC was tapping into her own feelings, rather than her mother's reaction. I would probably read the first chapter, but I'm not sure I'm hooked.