Wednesday, July 15, 2009

22 Secret Agent

GENRE: Adult literary fiction

All I ever wanted was to be ordinary, to blend in with the scenery. I got off to a bad start from the get-go with this headline:


Thirteen-pounds one-ounce was just the beginning of a long battle with the spotlight aimed in my direction.

Many newsworthy events happened in '64. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received The Nobel Peace Prize. The Beatles arrived in the United States. And my mom became the first woman to bend the hospital bed rails at a ninety-degree angle—and likely started the c-section trend.

Daddy's philosophy: "If less is more, then more is better." He was, therefore, ecstatic at my substantial dimensions. "That Patty's one fine specimen of a baby," he told Mama with the enthusiasm of a farmer witnessing the birth of his prized pig.

Mama told me how the nurses gathered around in awe that I behaved in ways considered too advanced for a newborn. I never cried, but looked at each one of them in wonder, smiling. Strangers praised and revered me for my uniqueness. I call that my popular period. A shame I have no recollection of it.


I leaned toward nervous, fretful people the way a sunflower follows the sun. I felt comfortable around people who were stitched from the same neurotic cloth as I. For this reason, Grandma Oma and I were inseparable from the day I first learned I could scratch myself until I bled.


  1. I love this opening. The writing is funny tense and original and that headline made me desperate to know what happens to this character. I think it's great that you haven't specified whether the narrator is male or female - the mind boggles. The bending of the bed rails made me wince and chuckle in equal measures, while the father's reaction gives such a good indication of who he is. The only thing I'm not sure about is the rapid switch of scene from birth to Grandma Oma: it made me wonder if this was going to be a series of very short vignettes, which is tiring for the reader. But I would definitely read on. Thank you!

  2. Great start. Makes me want to read on to know what will happen to this kid. Like the humor. I'm glad you reminded us of the events in 1964--gives me a great sense of time. I think it might be good to let us know the time period after the asterisks. Is it flash forward to the future? Also, others may comment on this, but should the baby weigh even more? My niece was 11 pounds at birth so I'm wondering if it would be more shocking if the baby were, say, 14 or 15 pounds. This is, after all, fiction and not a memoir, so anything goes. Think: Sissy Hankshaw's thumbs in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues!

  3. I'm hooked by your opening - great introduction to the character and it really sets the tone. The story feels very fragmented by the closing paragraph here -- it feels to early on to be relying on a break of this nature. Can you find a better transition? I would like to know how old the MC is now and if they grew up to be just as large. I need more a sense of what the conflict is.

    Great start though, I would read on to see where this is going.

  4. *squints at headline* Something in the wording doesn't seem right. On one hand, I didn't immediately think it meant the biggest child. I thought it was one of those statewide statistic things that gets added up every four years or whatever.

    *pushes that aside*

    I like this - though I'd probably glance at the back of the book to see what this is about.

  5. Great opening, really grabs me. And I love the last paragraph.

  6. Would remove get go... seems like a cliq...

    I also did not the headline...

    Good story...

    Good luck.

  7. This is familiar to me for some reason...not sure if I've read it before.

    I like the voice and would continue.

  8. I'm hooked. Liked the writing and the voice -- especially "I call that my popular period." I'd read more (but I'd want to quickly know the age of Patty now and where the story is going).

  9. I love the wry voice of this opening. There are a number of nice succinct descriptions that give a real sense of the character and time. Your intro to the new section regarding Grandma Oma is intriguing—sets up more of the character and builds anticipation for this evidently pivotal relationship.

  10. This started off awkward for me, but quickly picked up steam. I love the narrative voice, and the humor is deft and sharp. I'd definitely read on.

    That said, I'd rework the beginning - I'd start with the paragraph starting "Many newsworthy events..." Then move the birth headline to after "The Beatles..." Then the line about mom bending the rails will flow naturally from the headline...

    But that's just a suggestion to tighten it up. Great start. Good luck.

  11. I like how much information you've got in such a short time: several characters, a time period, and a glance into the character's "spotlight". I want to know what happened to make this person so neurotic. I'd keep reading.

  12. I love the first sentence and headline. Great way to start off! I love that you give a bit of insight into Mama and Daddy without a lot of backstory. You leave me curiously hooked wondering what Grandma Oma is like and why she would scratch herself until she bleeds.

    Great voice, I would definitely keep reading.

  13. Would absolutely read more, this cracked me up. Great beginning, great weaving of backstory and facts without being dry or over informative.
    The only line I felt was redundant was "I felt comfortable around people who were stitched from the same neurotic cloth as I." You said this much more vividly in the sentence before.
    I enjoyed this a lot.

  14. Just a little nit picky thing, Newborns don't smile. They might occasionally smile in their sleep, but they don't smile until around two months if I remember correctly.

    BUT maybe this is what you meant to do!

    Interest, hopefully it'll hook the secret agent!

  15. I THINK I'm hooked. This feels choppy to me. I would be just as interested in the story if you cut everything between the first sentence and the last paragraph and went on from there. The gals parents opinion of her birth could be worked in later if it's important to the story.

    I think you have a very interesting character with a good story to share, just tighten it up and connect the dots.

    One little tiny thing that stopped me was the name Grandma Oma. I think Oma means grandma. Perhaps you chose this name on purpose and I'd understand it later. It took me out of the story for a few second just FYI.

  16. I'm hooked. I like the voice here and the humor feels well done.

    I do think you could tinker with the headline a bit to make it more clear.

  17. Hooked. I loved it! Especially the dad's comment. I thought, "he's describing her as if she were a farm animal," and then you said the same thing, so it certainly comes across.

    Something happened at the break though. I'm not sure what. I liked it, but it had a bit of a different feel. Maybe it's just that I only got a short glimpse. I don't know. But you pulled me in.

  18. I felt comfortable around people who were stitched from the same neurotic cloth as I.

    Try this: People stitched from the same neurotic cloth alway comforted me.

  19. Your voice comes through loud and clear.