Wednesday, March 10, 2010

35 Secret Agent

TITLE: Two Chocolates Short of Crazy
GENRE: Women's Fiction

Shock after shock bled the color right out of me. By the end of August, even my dreams turned black and white.

But that June, returning home two days before graduation, I had no idea.

I pushed open our apartment door. “Claire? You home?” I dropped my hiking boots to the floor and sloughed off my grimy backpack.

My voice echoed, and that’s when I noticed Claire’s couch was missing. And her floral area rug. A dust-ball stirred in the corner where her potted palm had been.

I remember thinking, We've been robbed.

“Claire?” I walked into the kitchen and saw a note on the counter.

Shock #1.

Malia—Claire’s sick, and we’re flying home. Her things are in storage. Give us a call when you get back—Sinead McKenna.

What the hell?

I glanced at my watch. 8:30 p.m.—almost midnight in Boston, too late to call. I showered, threw on some shorts and my favorite Proud to be PINOY T-shirt, and headed to Daniel’s. He’d know what was going on.

I laced up my running shoes and jogged through campus, past the Santa Marita church and the dorms. Hills of dry grass and California poppies framed one side of the USM campus; small shops and cafés, the other. I turned onto the oak-lined street and slowed in front of a Craftsman-style house, where Daniel lived.

The last time I'd seen him, we were cramming for our liberation theology exam at my apartment.


  1. This had some good elements, but for the most part, I was lost. The first sentence was confusing, but then I loved the second one, so I kept reading. I think part of what lost me was the timeline...we start in August, but then jump back to June, but the scene in the apartment feels like it just happened. Where does the novel actually start...June or August? If it's August, you need to say "I had pushed open the door....My voice had echoed..." etc, so that we know that the scene she is describing happened long ago. If the novel starts in June, then you need to ax that first paragraph. Good luck.

  2. I liked it, but was a little confused. How long was she hiking. It sounds like she'd been hiking for weeks. And maybe she was, but a little clarification would help.

    It's kind of hard to tell when the story starts, in June or August.

    It's a good hook though, I'm curious why they put all the things in storage and what is actually wrong with Claire, so I'd keep reading.

  3. Good title. REALLY good title.

    But I admit I was puzzled by a few things. First, the timing of the hike. Gone a few hours? A few days? You could make that clearer.

    Second, some of the details don't fit. If she's really concerned with what happened to her roommate, I doubt she'd care very much that she put on her favorite t-shirt, unless she's shallow.

    Also, it's after 8:30, which means it's dark or close to it. Thus, why all the details about dry grass and poppies? You want every detail to enhance the effect you're trying to give the reader, but craftsman-style homes and the like seem to work against your purposes.

  4. Timeline is confusing, but I like the opening and love the title. John brought up some good points, but you've got a nice style. Good luck!

  5. the title is fantastic!!! love it! I'm no good with figuring out time-lines, I need to be told when something is happening. If I have to do any math while reading, I close the book. Be more clear when this is happening. Leave the back-story for later if it's necessary.

    That said, I was hooked all the way to "what the hell?" and then I got way confused. Too rushed, I have no idea who the MC is, why she was hiking, if she was hiking for days, why she'd even bother with a shower, and the details that come after "what the hell" don't fit with the pace that you've already established from the beginning.

    But I am I'd keep reading. Good luck!

  6. Agree--great title. I'm torn and mostly hooked, but I don't see the need for either the MC or the reader to be in the dark. The writing is good enough and you are capable enough so I'd cut to the chase sooner. That second one sentence paragraph is what really threw me--had no idea OF WHAT? This early on it's important not to waste words on ambiguity. Still, I'd read on.

  7. Skimming through the entries, your title caught my eye.

    I liked the opening but felt confused and a little grumpy when you took us to August then back to June.

    I kept reading and I think you've got a great story but this opening needs some work.

    And this may be personal but you started losing me on the "Hills of dry grass" sentence. Too much description too soon. I saw you running past the church and the dorms. (I liked the neat mention of the church's Spanish name- I saw a California mission style there right away)- but my mind startd wandering in the midst of grass, poppies, campus again, shops.

  8. Love, love the title. Would get me to pull the book off the shelf.

    Like the voice and the movement of this story--she's doing something! Yeah!

    The glitches are easily fixed. With polish I'd read on.

  9. I'm another fan of your title!

    I think you could use some tightening and more clarity. I love the image of the first 2 lines, but moving right into a flashback was unsettling.

  10. Your title is intriguing enough and it tells me that this should be a light-hearted book of things that happen and that I might enjoy. I would keep on reading based on the fact that the title would make me feel compelled to. 250 words isn't enough to make me want to comment on whether I understood anything or not, but nothing jarred me. I'd keep reading before I'd make any decision.

  11. I agree. I did gravitate toward the title.

    You have a compelling idea here, but the story was bogged down by too many ancillary details. Consider beginning with the protag walking into the house and finding out that Clair is not there.

    In addition, I had a difficult time zeroing in on the hook. It seemed to me as if I walked into the middle of the story and missed the important stuff somewhere along the way.

    The question is: What is the story about?

  12. I agree with Henya. Start the story when she walks in the door and tell it as it happens, that way, we're experiencing things with your MC, rather than having her tell us what 'had' happened.

    Also, spend less time on details that don't matter. Description, like dialogue and plot, has to advance the story in some way. If it doesn't, you don't need it. Just tell us the story. As Henya said -- what is it about?

  13. This was mostly good and I would keep reading based on the voice alone, but I also felt that these first couple hundred words were too busy, too much happened and it was hard to follow...just a little. But like I said, great voice.