Wednesday, February 10, 2010

12 Secret Agent

TITLE: Underneath
GENRE: Literary Fiction

They say accidents change you. It was still too early for Addy to tell if that was true, but she did realize one thing in the hours after it happened – that the only difference between a stranger and an acquaintance is an introduction.

That realization made her think about the little boy who’d been sitting behind her on the bus, kicking her seat, when it happened.

It made her think about the teenaged girl who’d been sitting across from her, listening to music on her headphones way too loud. Addy could hear the beat, but not the words, and she found herself tapping her foot, trying to guess what song was playing.

It was that realization that made her pray none of those strangers died in the accident.

Addy looked up as a police officer came into her hospital room and introduced himself. Her head was pounding and she didn’t hear his name. He sat down next to her, his pen poised over his clipboard. “Tell me what you remember,” he said.

Addy pulled the sheets up to her neck, even though she wasn’t cold. Her father told her they were guessing the accident was weather-related. A freak April snowstorm – the kind people are in denial about so they drive as if it’s spring-like weather. Her account of what happened was just a formality. “I…I don’t remember anything,” she said.

“Nothing at all?”

Addy shook her head. The truth was, she remembered everything.


  1. Definitely, definitely hooked. Beautiful writing, great tension, sympathetic MC already. Nicely done!

  2. wow, great job. I'd like to make a few gentle wording suggestions, but recognize that if that's the main feedback you're getting, the piece is very good. As always, ignore them if they don't work for you.

    1.I'd take out "It was still too early for" and say something along the lines of 'Addy couldn't tell if that was..."

    2.remove the word "that" before "the only difference between. . ."

    3.Change "It was that realization that made her" to "That realization made her"

    4.take out "he said" after 'Tell me what you remember."

    5.change "spring-like weather" to "spring"

  3. This is great! I love the second paragraph about the little boy.

    My only nitpick is that the second sentence about a stranger and acquaintance seems out of place. If the girl was just in this accident I don't think she'd be waxing philosophical. In my opinion (which is often wrong) I'd cut that sentence entirely because the first and third sentences are so awesome.

    Love this- great hook!

  4. I'm hooked. I like Addy. The scene suggests something BIG happened and I should want to know what it was - which I do want to know. Only suggestion is to tighten the verbs - not as many "was" and go with action words. Love it, though!

  5. I'd read on! I'm a sucker for any mysterious accident. That said, I already care about Addy and I want to know what happened to her and why she won't talk about it.

  6. Hooked. You got me with that last line.

    You used the small word count to introduce a sympathetic character (she cares about her fellow passengers) and an intriguing situation. Good job!

  7. The first sentence made me think this was going to be in first person. Not a big deal, but I thought I should point it out.

    I agree about the second sentence, "that the only difference between a stranger and an acquaintance is an introduction" just doesn't feel like as big a realization as it's made out to be. It lacks the emotional punch, imho, that Addy is clearly experiencing as she thinks about the other people involved in the accident.

    Also, the line about the "freak April snowstorm" feels like too much exposition and explanation.

    That said, I like the idea and the last line would definitely keep me reading.

  8. I really like what you've set up here. And I get what you're going for with the "that the only difference between a stranger and an acquaintance is an introduction." line, but upon reading it, my reaction was "well, duh!" Oy, sorry, but that's what happened in my brain. :)

    I think the flashes of thought about the boy and the music lady convey your idea without stating it outright. If you do want to state it, I would suggest a different way. It could be just me though - nice job overall!

    PS The snowstorm stuff didn't bother me. To me, it's all a part of the flashes of disjointed thoughts that are racing through her head.

  9. Perhaps consider starting with the policeman entering the room and asking her what she remembers. If you start with the last four paragraphs, then follow those with the first four paragraphs, the 'she remembered everything' line will have more impact.

    As is, this starts with her memories, so by the time we get to that last line, it has no impact because we already know that she's lying. We already know she remembers what happened.

  10. I think it's very compelling and would read on. Thanks!

  11. I was drawn in by this. Addy's a character I can sympathize with. The mystery is gently teased out.

    I'm going to go against the grain and say that my favorite line in the whole piece was the "the only difference between a stranger and acquaintance" line. Until I read the other comments, I was even going to suggest that you cut out everyone else from that paragraph apart from that line. I'd find that a great opening line. But, it just goes to show you how subjective this all is!

    I'd read on!

  12. I liked the second line too. I especially liked the last line. I'm hooked, but when I read Barbara's suggestion of swapping the first four paragraphs with the last, I thought that might make it even better. Your call of course and given it's hooking everyone anyway, it probably doesn't matter which way you leave it.

  13. I think this was a very engaging opening, and I like the idea that the accident made her realize how much closer she felt to strangers after the accident. I'm curious about why police would want to talk to her since it seems as if she was just a passenger.

    My only quibble is with the first line, which felt just a bit forced to me. It kind of goes without saying that accidents change you, though it's imparted as if that's wisdom. I think that's a distraction from the line "the only difference between a stranger and an acquaintance is an introduction," which is a much more compelling bit of folk wisdom. I wonder if there's a different way to lead into that great line.

  14. This one really hooked me. I especially liked the way you made us care about your MC so quickly by showing us her reaction to the other passengers. Well done. I would definitely read on.

    I liked the order of your paras - as is.