Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August Secret Agent #19

GENRE: Mystery

Normally I am one who takes responsibility for my actions. When I screw up, I know
I don't have to look any further than in the bathroom mirror to find the guilty party. But this detour in my life was entirely different. I didn't get a choice, not a single one. Nope, this time my hands were clean. Well, then who dunnit, you ask? Personally, I blame Mercury.

See, I was cruising along in life just fine. Not perfect, but fine. Good career, company car, nice condo, free lipstick, and a comfortable but not exciting long-term relationship. Then I saw it, that damn horoscope in the magazine: "Aries: Mercury is in retrograde, changes are inevitable. Watch where you step."

I thought it meant I'd finally get my promotion and buy that cute pair of boots with my fantastic raise. But Mercury had other plans. Instead of being promoted, I got laid off. Instead of buying boots, I lost my condo. And instead of my boyfriend being there to help me when I was down, I discovered he was playing doctor with a student nurse.

What a month. And Mercury wasn't done with me yet.

So here I was. I stood next to my car and looked around. There were all these big green things surrounding the parking lot, what were they called? Oh yeah, trees. Didn't have a lot of them at my condominium in the wilds of Seattle Suburbia. We had lots of cement, though.


  1. Somewhat hooked.

    I totally 'get' the Mercury retrograde screwing with you. I liked the character's voice.

    But the last paragraph lost me. The reader is suddenly plunked down without anything to ground him to the new location.

  2. Agree with the previous comment. Interested, but for the confusion of the last paragraph.

  3. I wasn't fond of that last paragraph either, but I enjoyed the rest of it. Great voice.

  4. I liked the voice on this one. Like the others, however, there is a sudden disconnect between the first part and that last paragraph.

    Part of this may have to do with the amount of backstory in the beginning. If you can smooth out that transition from what happened, to what's happening now, I think this will flow a little better. Won't take much, maybe a simple "Which brings me to this morning." Or something like that. Something to tell the reader that we've moved from yesterday to right now.

  5. Okay, I'm liking the voice here, but I thought the multiple references to Mercury bogged it down a bit. Also, I felt that if you were to cut the last paragraph, it would be a lot stronger.

  6. I wasn't hooked. There's no problem, other than that life happened. There's no catalyst that changes this person's life. There's no need for the MC to act.

    Perhaps you're getting to those things, but they're not here in these 250 words so I have no reason to read on. This opening could lead me anywhere, and it doesn't leave me with any unanswered questions.

    Why has her life changed for the worse? Hey man, Mercury's in retrograde. There's nothing to do but wait for the month to end.

    If this is a mystery, give us a hint of what that mystery is in this opening.

  7. Being a PNWer, I have to say, i consider seattle suburbs very tree-riffic! :) So that sentence really put me off, like you don't have your locations right. Certainly more tree-friendly than other suburbs I've lived in - Phoenix, Detroit, LA, Chicago, etc. I mean, it's Seattle! Land of mountains and trees etc.

    But that could just be a personal thing and most other people wouldn't even notice it.

  8. Seattle *downtown* condo wouldn't have trees.

  9. I wasn't interested in this until the last paragraph. The voice there is fun and snarky, and it seems like the main character is getting ready to actually do something (as opposed to the previous paragraphs, where she gives us a recap of her life so far). There’s usually a much better way to begin your novel than with this kind of introspection and backstory, and the details you’re revealing (loss of job, loss of condo, loss of boyfriend, loss of potential new boots), can be revealed to the reader in much more interesting ways.

  10. Thank you all for your comments! It's been an eye-opener.

    It's funny- I originally started it at the last paragraph, where we only get part of it due to the word count, but people didn't like it that well. My writing group loved the new intro, which hooked them right away, but they got to see the first 500 words, which makes a difference (as we all know). They loved the energy and the voice of the MC, which is what got them hooked. But our pro doesn't, so guess I'll be rethinking that!

    As for you Seattlites, I have to laugh, because my Seattle sister acted the same way, as if I said something sacrilegious about your city. I grew up in the Seattle area and I still live in the PNW; I know trees. I am comparing the MC's city life to where she is forced to move to- a marina on the river in the country. Think forest. Waaaay more trees than even the nicest Seattle suburb. Like comparing Seattle rush hour to rush hour on a San Juan Island (300,000 cars vs. 3!)But if you suggest a cement-laden city in the area, I will change it; it's only a minor thing.

    J.P. Patches rules!!!

    Thank you all!