Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Secret Agent #34

TITLE: Before I Wake

"Did you know that the average cremated adult female becomes about 4 pounds of ashes?"

How the hell would I know that? And why would I even care? I wondered as I turned to see a lanky kid with thick-rimmed glasses slumped on the church pew. I shook my head.

"It's Anna, right?" he asked. I nodded. "Well, Anna, did you know that the average male becomes six pounds? Of ashes?" He sniffled and dragged the back of his hand against his nose. "But they aren't really ashes you know."

"No, I didn't," I said. I spun on my heel, hoping to go back out to the narthex where my grandma Mimi was talking with a couple of guys in dark suits. They kept their voices lowered and she shot me a look. I knew immediately what it meant so I stayed in the sanctuary.

"The ashes actually come from bone fragments which are the only things left after the cremation process. We grind them up and that's actually the ashes, you know, that people sprinkle."

"Fascinating," I said. I lied. Ashes and bone fragments were the furthest thing from my mind.

"Oh, but your mom isn't being cremated, huh?" he asked. He got up from the bench and walked toward where I stood leaning against the door frame. "Worm food. That's cool, too."

"Who the hell are you?" I asked though I instantly regretted saying 'hell' in a church.


  1. Love this! Perfect amount of tension to keep me reading.


    Good luck with SA!

  2. I like the title, and the excerpt here is intriguing enough that I would read on.

    Good luck.

  3. I loved this too. I want to know what happens next!

  4. I liked this one a lot, too. Intriguing title, intriguing scene, intriguing MC (and strange little funeral director assistant boy).

    I stumbled a little over the phrasing of the second paragraph. I don't think you need the "I wondered as," since this is in the first person and we're clearly inside the MC's head. If you kick that phrase, it flows a lot better.

  5. I love the dark comedy here. I think it really works well. I would put a dialogue tag on the first sentence because I've heard floating dialogue as the opening line us a no-no, just because we don't know who is talking immediately. I also like the reason for the last line, but it just reads awkward to me. Is there any way you could phrase it differently?

    Over all, I really like this. I'd definitely keep reading.

  6. Can I hit that kid?! Great job--curiosity is peaked and I the dialogue is just right.

    I would drop "I wondered," but otherwise, good stuff!

  7. I like this a lot. I'm not sure where it's going, but I'd read more based on what I've read so far. Love the dialogue and the voice. Great job...and I'm a tough critic.

  8. Definitely hooks people! I love this, but I'll do my best with the constructive criticism/suggestions to ponder:

    One negative of starting with dialogue is you don't automatically know who's talking, or whose perspective it is. I'd usually assume it's the MC who's speaking first, which we learn in the second sentence isn't the case.

    To be picky on a sentence level, this could be tightened a bit. Like, instead of "I knew immediately what it meant so I stayed in the sanctuary." you could just say "Guess I was staying in the sanctuary."
    A couple dialogue tags are implied and could be cut, and adding commas here and there would make it read more smoothly.

    Also, I can picture the boy way more clearly than Anna at this point -- though the last line says so much about her; I love it.

  9. I'd keep reading just to find out if she smacks him. Good job!

  10. I like this a lot, but I'm wondering why she's so nonchalant when he asks if her mom is being cremated. I expected a bigger reaction from her.

  11. I liked this, especially the know-it-all kid. You might add more of her reaction/thoughts about some of the things this kid is saying, especially when he calls her mom worm food. I think you really need a reaction there.

    Overall, it's quirky (the kid) with a bit of mystery (granny's stay-where-you-are glare.) I want to see where it's going.

  12. The first sentence definitely captured my interest.

    I wonder why the MC doesn't seem to be devastated that she's at her own mother's funeral?

    Be careful using "how the hell" then "who the hell" so close together. Makes me think you might use it too often throughout the rest of the manuscript.

    I am intrigued, though. I'd keep reading.

  13. The only thing I didn't like about this was when you felt the need to tell us that the MC lied. It was kind of obvious and stating it was unnecessary. Other than that, you have a great start. Good luck!

  14. I'm hooked. Love the socially inept boy and that last line made me laugh. I'd cut out the "I said" tag in the third to last para and just leave it "Fascinating," I lied.

    I'm thinking I might like to know what was on her mind before this conversation took place. And I'd definitely read on to find out.

    Good luck!

  15. OK, I have now read all of the submissions (including mine) and I wanted to send you another comment telling you that yours is my favorite. Whether you get selected or not, I would select you as a crit partner based on the page. Love it! A box of kudos to you!

  16. That first line really caught my attention, and as I read I forgot to critique and got lost in the story, which is always a good sign :-)

  17. This definitely interested me. I think the MC has a strong voice and the annoying kid is great. I agree with a post above that while it's a great punch at the bottom to reveal that her mom has died. I think she'd have a reaction earlier. Who is this asshole that's asking me stuff like this when everyone knows my mom just died?

    Also "Who the hell are you?" seems a little old to me.

    I would read on - most certainly grabbed me.

  18. I like how you dole out information in bits, just when we need them. Perfect timing and pace. I'm hooked.

  19. I like the writing and the voice, but I'm very thrown off by the fact that the MC isn't more in pain from attending her own mother's funeral. Also, the second paragraph should give SOME type of indication of who was speaking, so the reader isn't left scratching their head.

    I would keep reading, but if the MC didn't show SOME emotion, I'd stop - I need to believe the MC's emotions and right now she's not showing any.

  20. It's the SA's loss. It's still my favorite. To the author: the offer for crit. partner stands. Let me know if you're game. Mine wasn't selected either. Such is life.

  21. Thanks for the feedback, all! It is much appreciated and, as Authoress says, "a prize unto itself."

    MS Winchell if you see this, that would be excellent! :) Are you on twitter? Blog? I think the name on this post should link to my blog.... maybe?