Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August Secret Agent #33

TITLE: The Big Life
GENRE: Mystery

A day and a half of travel was long enough for me to make friends with all the porters, mend a hole in my left stocking, and reread Uncle Owen's letter about a hundred times.

Dear Kate, he had written, surely you won't remember me.

How could he think I'd forget?

Uncle Owen had once been the magic man in my life, the unpredictable genie whose rare visits made an escape from my farmbound life seem possible. I hadn't seen him in ten years. Now that he'd invited me to visit, I hoped I'd find that magic intact.

The train pulled into Chicago's Grand Central Station. I stepped down onto the platform and did what I could to look like I belonged there. I shook out the skirt of my gray traveling suit, hoping it was long enough to hide the darn in my stocking. I patted my red hair into place. Then I took a moment to look around me.

People surrounded me on all sides: tall and short, light and dark, fat and skinny. There were more of them than I had ever seen before in one place, even in my old county parish that brought in Catholics from over fifteen miles of heavily Irish farmland in the heart of Iowa.

I had always wanted to step into a bigger world, and it seemed I finally had.

One man in the terminal caught my eye. He was tall and rail-thin, with skin the color of walnuts.


  1. I enjoyed this.

    Just my opinion, but I think you have a few unnecessary bits -

    I patted my red hair into place.

    When I pat my hair, I don't think about the color. The color is for the benefit of the reader, and it's out of place in her POV.

    People surrounded me on all sides: tall and short, light and dark, fat and skinny.

    We all know what people look like. The part about there being more than she'd ever seen is much more interesting than the inventory of tall, etc.

    Small nit-picks, though. I enjoyed this and would keep reading!

  2. needs more tension, suspense, and...mystery to hook me.

    Maybe, My uncle's letter sent shivers up my back when I reread it on the train. or something like that. you can do better with more thought.

    good luck.

  3. I agree with Mystery Writer. The letter has so much potential for tension, and instead it's almost a throwaway line. It may be that the letter has nothing to do with the mystery, but if it (or her uncle) are important, I'd say milk it.

    The voice is good, and the character we're with seems like someone I'd want to spend more time with, but at this point I'm not terribly interested. She's going on a trip to the big city, which is probably a big deal for her, but as a reader I want more meat and less stuffing, if that makes any sense.

    The last line implies more to come, and if that's where the real story begins, then I'd cut the rest and start it right there. Good luck.

  4. I'm not hooked as much as I think I could be, and overall, I agree with everyone else. This has lots of potential if you'd just bring it out.

  5. I like it. I like having the scene set without jumping into the dead body syndrome. I feel that she's uneasy- small town girl seeing the big city for the first time, wondering if her uncle has changed, wondering if her mended stockings will offend the rich city folk.A fish out of water and possibly the only fish with red hair (yes, you could rework that in- maybe noticing no one else has red hair, as real red heads are few and far in-bewteen). I'd keep reading!

  6. This piece felt old to it historical? I'm not a reader who needs everything laid out in 250 words, and liked your easy pace and gentle setting of the scene. Two suggestions: I think you ought to whack "Then I took a moment to look around me" (telling) and be careful of all "I thought", "I wanted", "I hoped", etc. as those phrases put distance between reader and character. Good job!

  7. HOOKED.

    There are a few extraneous bits here that could be pulled out, mostly one word additions that slow the pace and jumble the magic:

    Uncle Owen had once been the magic man in my life, the unpredictable genie whose rare visits made escape from my farm-bound life possible. Now that he'd invited me to visit. I hoped to find that magic intact.

    I like this, nice flow, old style but not too much. I'd keep reading.

  8. I too, got a historical feel here. Traveling by train for a day and a half rather than a car, Irish Catholic immigrants, porters, mending a stocking when most people today would just throw it out.

    It also had a warm, cozy feel to it, but it didn't hook me. It reads plain and ordinary. Nothing much happens, and even the writing is bland. This is her first time off the farm. She's in Grand Central Station in Chicago, and all she notices is short and tall, fat and skinny people. I'm sure they have those kinds of people in Iowa. Where's her amazement and sense of wonder? Her sense of awe?
    Give us some better/stronger descriptions, maybe some curiosity as to why her Uncle invited her to visit after all these years. Give us sense of mystery. It needs a bit of oomph, I think.

  9. I'm hooked. I found myself reading and wanting more.

    I think the writing could be tightened a bit here and there, but overall an interesting voice that draws me in.

  10. i think your writing is nice. i agree to drop the tall and short etc... as we all can picture people in a crowd. it's almost too generic for me to be interested in that sentence. i don't want to know about people in the crowd unless something odd sticks out about a person or two.

    i think this 250 words thing almost forces us to have some hi-fi, hollywood sfx entrance to all our stories. this seems like a quaint, historical piece, which to me should not move like an action packed movie.

    also LOVE she's from iowa, but that's for selfish reasons...

    (word verification, unoliked: when people like to play uno with you?)

  11. I think it works. You've managed to slip in a bit of character description with an itemized list of traits. I would definitely read more.

  12. This scene fell flat for me – lacking the reason for her long anticipated visit to Chicago (the Big City), or some other compelling plot point, this could do with a much stronger narrative voice.