Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August Secret Agent #13

TITLE: Straight and Narrow
GENRE: Thriller

Robert Benning answered the door nearly the moment she knocked. This was fate, unadulterated, and she hated it. She said, "Rebecca's alive," as soon as she saw him. She took in his eyes and the soft wrinkles around them; she had missed so much. Benning dropped his glass of wine at the words, the goblet sending shards across the entryway, to which he was oblivious. Any inkling of inebriation evaporated. Track marks showed on his exposed forearms.

"Is she okay?"

"Yes, sir, she's fine." She shifted on his porch steps, knuckles white against her windbreaker.

"Where is she now?" Robert was enthralled by this angel of mercy who'd saved him. He pictured his daughter now as a gorgeous woman, her strawberry blond curls still putting her speckled blue eyes on a pedestal.

"Hell." It certainly wasn't heaven.

Before he could answer, she plunged a blade into him, and felt herself drowning in the raw fear in his eyes, the impotable waters of his life gurgling loud in her ears. Tears exploded across the topography of her face as she watched the fear spill over into his irises, spiked blood slipping through the spaces his fingers left unguarded as the grip he'd had on his chest was lost.

"Daddy, I'm sorry."

Her father's blood was now on her hands, and it was eternal.


  1. Okay, I'm interested in why the narrator stabs her father and why Rebecca's in hell, but you've got so many adjectives in here, it's a little hard to follow. E.g., I don't know what an "inkling" of inebriation is, or how it could evaporate. If you simplify things, this could be fascinating.

  2. Interested but not quite hooked. Your POV skips around and confuses the reader. And you can say so much more with fewer words.

    Two examples. Condense the first paragraph down to:

    “Robert Benning answered the door the moment she knocked and she said, "Rebecca's alive.” He dropped his glass of wine at the words, the goblet sending shards across the entryway.

    Or something similar.

    Cut the entire sentence after ‘Where is she now’. That clears up the POV problem and helps the flow.

    Good luck.

  3. I'm not hooked just yet. You've got a great twist in these opening 250 words, however, I felt really distanced from the narrator's point of view.

    I wanted to feel what she was feeling as she stands there, knowing she's about to kill her father, but instead the passage just seems so passive, like I'm looking at a series of images but not involved in any of them. I think if you dig deeper into your narrator's head here, you could make this much more powerful.

  4. I'm confused. The scentence where he drops the wind glass is convuluted. What does "an inkling of inebraition" mean? That he's just a little gone, or that she can barely see it. I don't associate wine goblets with track marks - makes me think this guy has had a more interesting life than we see here. What are the "Impotabe waters of his life"? And, if he's her dad, why does she call him by his last name?
    Sorry, totally not hooked.

  5. I found the revelation at the end to be interesting, but the rest of this is too confusing for it to hook me.

    The last two lines and many others throughout led me to believe that this woman is Rebecca. But then this line, "'Hell.' It certainly wasn't heaven," contradicts that assumption. Then I thought that maybe she's Rebecca's sister, but how come Robert doesn't recognize his own daughter? Also, if Rebecca is in hell, how is she alive? You only listed thriller as the genre, so I presume there aren't any elements of fantasy in this story.

    If this woman is Rebecca, say so in the beginning “…the moment Rebecca knocked,” and stick with her POV. Then have her say to Robert, "Your daughter's alive," so you don't spoil the surprise at the end. And scrap the line about her being in hell.

    If she's Rebecca's sister, it would really help ground the reader if you gave her a name, and be sure to mention why Robert doesn't seem to recognize her (I presume he hasn't seen her in many years).

    This opening has a lot of promise. It just needs to be cleaned up, that's all.

  6. Not to bludgeon a dead horse with a stick, but I agree with everyone else. Killing your father is kind of a big deal, and with the changes in POV we lose some of the intensity. As a reader, I want to feel the emotion and tension in the killer's soul as she plunges that knife into the man's chest. Why she's killing him isn't important; how she feels in the moment is.

    It's a great way to start a book, it just needs to be cleaned up. Good luck.

  7. Everyone has already said what I would have. I wasn't hooked at all because the writing really needs to come up a notch or two, then I reached the ending and was wowed. The premise works I think. Perhaps work on the writing.

  8. I don't understand the second sentence where it is placed.

    You don't need "as soon as she saw him" in the third sentence.

    I'd say "inside his forearms" because I picture track marks on the inside of the elbow and I think of forearms as the part of the arms used in martial arts.

    With her calling him sir, I was taken aback that he's her father as revealed in the last line.

    Her knuckles are against her windbreaker? That's hard to envision. Is she holding the jacket together with a hand? If so, then say that to give us a consistent visual.

    In the middle para, it isn't clear that angel of mercy is Robert's daughter as well as the woman standing at his doorway. Wait, maybe he has another daughter with strawberry hair who he has to picture even though this daughter is standing in front of him? See, I'm confused.

    Hell, is in fact, not the correct answer to his question if Rebecca is both alive and fine as she stated earlier.

    Wait, who is Rebecca?

    "Tears exploded across the topography of her face" seems an improbable description since tears don't leave the body with enough force to explode. And "impotable water of his life" seems the very definition of purple prose.

    I think this could use some more fine tuning.

    Good luck and keep going!

  9. I too was confused by the POV switches. I did really like the hook, though... you hooked me with the "Rebecca's alive," and then again when she kills her father. I also really liked the description of the father.

    A small note: I thought "Rebecca's alive," she said when Robert opened the door... would make a much better opening. I was kinda confused by the first sentence.

  10. You’ve chosen a compelling place to begin this story: an estranged daughter returns home to kill her father. But despite that it fell flat for me. You put a lot of distance between Rebecca and the reader, and in doing so rob this scene of a lot of emotional punch. I was also tripped up by some of your word choices: “inkling of inebriation,” “impotable waters,” and “the topography of her face,” seemed awfully clunky. The last line, coupled with the angel of mercy comment, gives this scene a religious tone that I’m not sure is intentional.

  11. cut the as soon as she saw him.

    i dind't quite like the... speckled blue eyes on a pedstal. is it her hair that is putting her eyes on the pedestal, or is robert still putting his daughter on a pedestal?

    drop the ... it certainly wasn't heaven, as that is just restating it was hell.

    what is impotable waters? now i've heard of non-potable water, which means you can't drink it.

    i do like the twist.
    tighten up and come back.