Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August Secret Agent #3


I should have heard a deadly whisper or felt a chill on the back of my neck when I drove down Placida Road that clear Florida morning. Maybe the beauty of Lemon Bay, spread out like a shimmering oasis, blotted out all thoughts about the case I'd come to investigate. Such things happen when the water gleams under a slab of blue sky and a whiff of pungent sea air feels like heaven. For every air-conditioned, stucco palace with tile roof, swimming pool and two-acre plot I passed, dozens of trailer parks and cracker box houses sprouted like yard mushrooms after the summer rains. East of here, miles of saw palmetto and slash pine fill the open spaces where nobody lives. Only the ant hills grow, sandy soil burns your feet, and the shade scalds you. The scrub jays fly onto your hand in search of a peanut or berry to retard their march toward extinction.

Flamingo Mist stretched out on the edge of this sweltering wasteland like a sleeping beauty. From a distance, this typical Florida subdivision appears thrown down in perfectly-manicured lawns, garnished with golf courses and creeks born of retention ditches. Flamingo Boulevard loomed ahead, clean and well-maintained. The drive down it provided me with signs of too much wealth and too little charity.

I stopped at the Elk's Lodge for information. When the leather-faced man behind the desk finished giving me his lecture on why I should join, I asked him the way to Howard Bellinger's home.


  1. This is really, really beautiful description. It's also way too much. There's nothing in the first 250 words to get the reader to care. My advice would be to cut the first two paragraphs into two sentences, maybe three. If the location is important enough to merit this much description, you can sneak it in later.
    But I repeat - this is fantastically written description.

  2. Incredibly descriptive writing. I can totally see and feel the location.

    The enormity of the opening paragraph, though, is a bit off-putting. Perhaps consider scaling it down, punctuating the opening pages with some more brief sentences, and adding more action.

    I really like the last paragraph. Descriptive, but to the point.

  3. I really like the beginning. I'd break it into two paragraphs though, so it doesn't seem so overwhelming. I'm okay with the long description because it's so good, right down to the yard mushrooms after the rain.

    I'd keep reading for sure- we're being set up for something good!

  4. There's no follow up to the first sentence. She should have felt a chill - - why? There's an immediate opening there for you to tell us why she's here, give us a clue about what happened or is about to happen but you don't take advantage of it. Tell us that, then go into the description.

    As I read the description, I kept thinking how good it was, but it was getting kind of long, and I thought - yeah, but it's so well-written. I was willing to put up with it. But by the second paragraph, I'd had enough, even if it was well done. As Bethany said, sneak some of it in later. Half of that first paragraph would have been great for me.

    Perhaps show us the last paragraph instead of telling us what happened. Some dialogue would have been nice after so much narrative.

  5. Really nice description that sets up a strong sense of atmosphere. Since you are opening this way, I assume the story is centered around a conflict between the haves and the have-nots. What’s missing is a sense of how your narrator feels about all this. Does he or she come from money? From poverty? Despise the perfectly manicured subdivisions or aspire to live in one? If you give us this description slanted by your narrator’s opinion, you’ll make it work double duty for you – both set the scene and develop your protagonist.

  6. Excellent atmosphere, I love the specific details: scrub jays / saw palmetto etc. It does read a little cold, but perhaps the reason for this will be clearer as we get to know the MC -- if he/she is essentially journalistic/cool, then it works for me.

  7. You obviously have a talent for describing setting (something I lack, so I'm jealous!) but I do think there's too much in one slab here. Can you sprinkle your beautiful observations throughout the first few chapters instead?

    I also have no clue yet as to whether the MC is a woman or a man...and I would kinda like to know :)

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  9. I agree with the others- your descriptions are wonderfully well-written but too much of a good thing makes it lose its impact. I'd cut the three sentences starting at East of here...

    Stick with right here, right now. If those lines are really important add them in a bit later after you get us into the character's situation.

  10. the descriptions are excellent, but nothing there to emotionally tie me to the story yet.
    i may still give some more a go due to the great, concrete descriptions.

  11. As lovely as the description is, that is what is mainly written here. I have no idea what the story is about and have no interest to read on.

  12. Thanks everybody, especially Secret Agent, for all your comments.

    I've already started to revise my novel, putting in more of Zoe's reactions to what she sees as she heads for a meeting with her new client.

    Thanks so much, everybody!

  13. Thanks Secret Agent and all the writers who took time to critique my work.

    I've already begun to revise, adding more of Zoe's reactions to what she sees.

    Thanks so much!