Wednesday, July 15, 2009

13 Secret Agent

TITLE: Reborn


My birth, which should have been easy and natural for all the preparation taken by my mother, almost caused her death.

My mother describes how fortunate she was to be at the hospital dropping off some insurance papers needed before my due date which was over three weeks away. She was casually talking to a receptionist when she had an abrupt onset of pain, a pain so severe she described it as feeling as though life was being ripped away from her. Up to this point her pregnancy was simple and predictable without any complications or variations from the expected. It was so easy she sometimes wondered what other women complained about. She had none of the morning sickness, food cravings, back pain, or swollen ankles that she read about in the many books she bought and borrowed to help plan for my arrival. So when the inexplicable pain began she was utterly unprepared for the events that did not coincide with the normal delivery she had envisioned.

She later said she held her belly protectively and looked down sure that she would see a knife plunging in and out of her by some unseen assailant. She swears she could feel and hear something inside her rip. At that moment a large red stain appeared on her khaki maternity pants. The once chatty receptionist was quick to realize the emergency and within moments my mother was whisked away. Her clothes were cut off; she was wheeled to the operating room and anesthetized.


  1. I like the voice, but as a whole, I'm not sure where this is going. Based on the title and what is happening in the scene, I figure it is relevant, but I found myself waiting for the story to begin.

    And a sidenote, a lot of what I've read about prologues is that they are rarely needed and it is advised that you really determine whether yours is before you include it. Consider what is in the prologue may simply need to be woven into the rest of the ms as backstory.

    Hope that helps.

  2. I like the voice, but I think so far this seems like a huge info dump, which is what prologues are sometimes masked as. Do you need to tell this history for the story to begin? Or can you slip it in elsewhere?

  3. Yowza! Are you setting up some teenage guilt? I can tell you- I was flinching. Of course, I've had kids. (Unfortunately, when I try to guilt my own they just roll their eyes. Little beasts!)

    So, good, vivid description. I definitely got it. And would read more.

    Now, I know I sound like a broken record if you'd read my other crits, but we constantly hear the agents talk about short attention spans, so tighten up the writing.

    You've got good stuff to say just say it "cleaner." That's a big middle block of words especially for YA.

    I noticed several times where a contraction would move the sentence along- "she'd envisioned." Actually, I think that sentence could end at "utterly unprepared."

    And the sentence before that too- period after borrowed. (We get already that she's a planner- you said that in the first sentence.)
    After "rip." Go straight to "A large red" (I'm cringing again.)

  4. I'm a little curious about whether she's about to birth something that's not human...but it's hard to stay interested when the story starts by moving backward (to his/her birth) and then moves backward even more (to his/her mother's pregnancy).

  5. Thanks for the's nice getting other viewpoints.

    I know what is said about prologues and I tried not to make it an info dump. The next 100 words show why it is important for the reader to know about the MC's birth from the beginning.....maybe I shouldn't have indicated it was a prologue!

  6. One thing I was thinking about as I read this was very good self-editing advice I saw this morning about cutting any background story at the beginning of your novel and working it into the novel itself where appropriate (or leaving it out altogether).

    The other thought I had was... is any of this necessary?

  7. Too much of the yuck factor with the bloodstains, sorry.

  8. I am a little yucked out right now... but I am wondering how this has to do with the story... like- if it ALMOST caused her death... then why discuss it? I guess I don't have enough to go on yet...

  9. Starting with a memory from the protagonist's mother isn't really working for me - especially not this long. All the info on the pregnancy and the play by play of the pains lost my interest, especially because it felt distant, being the protagonist relaying her mother's relayed memory...I have to say, it might be because I have not experienced pregnancy/childbirth, but it didn't feel visceral to me. So...I have to wonder how much the target audience would be engaged.

    Now, tightened up to only the essential details? Maybe that works, but as drafted I don't think I would keep reading...

    I saw your post about the next 100 words - IMO you need to get to them quicker.

    good luck.

  10. I'm unsure about this one. It might scare or gross out a teenager, which is your target audience.

  11. I know there's a huge debate about the prologue, but in this case I have to side with the team that says "skip it." Unless this birth scene is especially important to the plot - and honestly, I can't see how it is - then why tell us? Your character had a troubled birth, but what is the character doing now that he/she's alive? Your MC wouldn't remember the birth!

    The main problem with it is it lacks immediacy. Sure, bleeding like that is dangerous, but it does happen. I felt no sense of urgency/suspense here. Your MC obviously lived, so why should I care what the mother had to go through? (Ok...maybe that sounds heartless, it's a baby being born so I should care, right? But what I mean is I'm not invested in the MC yet, let alone his/her mother, and I've seen one too many dangerous birth scenes on TV for me to be really into them unless you add a spectacular twist. There's no twist in your first page.)

    Plus, this is all telling. The MC won't know what they felt/thought at that time, so we can't get into his/her head. I like a lot more "show" than "tell."

    Try starting with chapter 1, where the MC is actually doing something. I think that'll make this much better. And you may want to practice using commas.

  12. Part of my post got cut off...leaving it at a semi-rude remark about punctuation. Sorry. What I meant about commas is that you can use them to break up a larger block of text by introducing a much needed pause. Try "Up to this point," for example. (And it might be "Up to that point,") This may just be a personal preference of mine, though.

    And as for a comment about not naming it as a prologue in this post...that doesn't change a thing, really. I still want to know why it's important to tell us this now. What's the twist? Why can't you include this info somewhere else in the story? What's so important about the next 100 words, and why don't you reach that important part sooner? Whether this is a prologue or chapter wouldn't change my opinion of the plot. I want to know the exciting part!

  13. Not hooked just yet-- I tend to stay away from books (YA, MG, memoir, bios) that start at birth, but I see from previous comments that this is important information to have right away.

    I suspect, however, that there is probably a more interesting way to give us this information up front.

    At this point I would probably look at the synopsis to see where this is going before deciding to read on.

  14. Not hooked. I want to read about your MC, not her Mom. I'm asking myself, 'what's the point?'

    I'm guessing 'the point' comes later, but I'm not getting to see it.

  15. Interesting, but I feel a litle distanced from the character due to the way it's told (my mother describes... she later said). Have you tried telling this part from her perspective?