Wednesday, August 19, 2009

40 Secret Agent

GENRE: Mystery/Suspense

KK McKnaught stepped out onto her third floor French Quarter balcony, her long thick ponytail slipping over her shoulder as she stood on her toes and leaned over the wrought iron railing, craning her neck down St. Peter Street toward the Mississippi River. She was standing here against her better judgment. She’d suffered through many clandestine meetings in her career as an investigative reporter, but this was a first -- she was waiting for a dead man to show up.

The obituary in the paper this morning clearly stated that Senator Richard Langley had died yesterday from an unexpected respiratory illness. She had distractedly answered a call on her cell phone while she was reading it. A man whispered into the phone, a voice so low and so barely audible that she had to press the phone hard against her ear to hear what he was saying. Meet me at the entrance to St. Louis Cathedral at eight tonight, I have something important to tell you, he had said, then he hung up without waiting for a reply.

KK’s jaw dropped when she saw the name staring back at her from her caller id -- R. Langley. She knew the number by heart. It was his number. KK picked at her lower lip nervously, the smoke from her cigarette stinging her eyes, making her blink rapidly.


  1. The first sentence needs to be shortened. It goes on and on and on. It's probably just me, but I have trouble relating to a person with initials as a name.

    I think the story has potential, but it just doesn't flow nicely the way it's written.

  2. I think your hook is the last line in your first paragraph. Can you move that up to make it a first line?

    You could tighten up the writing a bit to make it move along more quickly. It's a tense situation - make us feel it.

    Just a side note, I hope your mc isn't smoking. That would turn me right off.

  3. Agree with Jemi about the hook, and more importantly, your narrative is a tad confusing. Why is she stepping out onto her balcony against her better judgment? Rotten wood? ;) Is it eight yet? Day or night would help set the scene.

    And if she's waiting for a dead man to show up, and is supposed to meet him at the cathedral, why is she on her balcony, anyway? Can't see the cathedral from St. Peter's, just the levee and Jax Brewery. (Orleans Ave. looks toward the rear of the cathedral, though, not the entrance, if that was your intention.)

    I wish I could say I want to read on, but I feel like there's too much confusion here. The last paragraph seems needlessly repetitive.

    On the plus side, I have no problem with the smoking.

  4. I think I've read this before - or if not - the name KK McKnaught rings of KKK to me like something else did in another contest.

    You have the word "her" five times in the first sentence, and I found that distanced me from the character and the action.

    Something that intersted me? "She was standing there against her better judgment." That makes me think -- ooh, why? So if you started with KK leaned over the wrought iron railing against her better judgment (or something like that) - I'd be curious why she was doing it -- and why she would do something she didn't think she should do.

    Remembering she saw the obit is not as strong as if she saw the obit right there and then.

    I would read on, but I would do so distracted by the telling and some of the extra words.

    Good luck!

  5. Hoooked, but perhaps it might read better by taking out some of the adverbs: nervously, clearly, etc.

  6. I agree, there is some choppiness and a little too much use of adverbs. I'd fine-tune it. I like your premise! I'd read more. My MC is a smoker too, and the hero's surname is McNaught LOL!

  7. Anytime a dead man shows up for an interview - I'm hooked. And I liked your writing style.

  8. hooked, more please...
    for reference:

    # Romance, including paranormal and historical
    # Urban fantasy
    # Historical fiction (general)
    # High-concept women's fiction
    # Literary fiction

  9. I also saw the name and thought KKK.

    I'm a reporter, and if I got a call from a dead man's phone I wouldn't think 'Oh, I'm being invited to a clandestine meeting wth a dead man', I'd think 'Oh, someone's got hold of the dead man's phone.' I'd also discuss with my news editor and if I thought there as anything dodgy about it make sure there was some backup. Why has she 'suffered through' other clandestine meetings? They either got her stories - in which case great - or were a waste of time.

    Also - as someone else says - why is she on the balcony when he wants to meet her somewhere else? And can you pick at your lip while smoking, sounds a bit messy.

    So low and so barely audible needs tightening up - mean the same thing

    I think you mean he died unexpectedly from a respiratoryillness, not he died from an unexpected respiratory illness.

    Why did her jaw drop when she saw his name if she knew his numbe by heart?

  10. I think the last line of the first paragraph should be your first line.

    The flow wasn't smooth. Words such as distractedly are hard to absorb, while '..her lower lip nervously' adds emphasis where none is needed. Those kind of actions are typical habits of someone stressed/nervous/concentrating maybe.

    I liked the tone and voice. I liked the setting. You have many strong elements, such as the first two sentences, and of course the hook at the end of the first paragraph.

    Good luck

  11. I don't handle mysteries, so my comments will be brief. Your first paragraph is pretty strong, though I don't think you need to tell us right away she's an investigative reporter. That can come out later. Keep us in her perspective (most people don't go around thinking about job titles).

    The language in the second paragraph feels stiff and I think that's in part because you're struggling between close third p.o.v. and omniscient narration--I'd stick with close third. You also have some overwriting and repetition going on. For example, in place of "She knew the number by heart. It was his number," why not simply "She recognized his number"?

  12. I think you could tighten the opening.

    What if you start with the hook: She's waiting for a dead man. Let the rest of it be shown later.

  13. I, too, had trouble with the opening paragraph, at least until the real hook, "she was waiting for a dead man to show up." That pulled me back in. Also, I felt like I would rather be shown than told about the telephone call. I think I'd keep reading for a bit.