Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August Secret Agent #40

TITLE: Neither Here nor There
GENRE: Commercial Fiction

I checked the mailbox with a sense of dread. There was always a chance that among the stacks of junk mail, bills and unwanted invitations there would be one with a stamp that read: Royal Mail. I hated those letters. They meant only one thing.


The metal box contained the following; a couple of bills, junk mail, an invitation to a second cousin's wedding and a letter with the dreaded red stamp on it.

Might as well get it over with.

I ripped the white envelope open. No, I destroyed the thing trying to get it open. Never figured out how open one in a clean way. Inside I found a stack of official looking documents, some airline tickets, and last a single page letter with following:

McIntyre & Co.

Woodstock, Oxfordshire, UK

To Mr. Mendoza

We regret to inform you of your father passing...

What the f***!

One day I will make a list of all the things I hate, broken down in the following order; things that I loved and now hate, things I never really liked in the first place, and things that I despise. Flying falls into the first category. I loved to fly, but after that fateful date in September, well not so much. It doesn't help that I am an aviation aficionado and know enough about aircraft to know everything that can go wrong with them.


  1. I'm on the fence with this. I liked the opening paragraph, but you lost me somewhere around the letter. The letter itself doesn't seem quite formal enough, and the paragraph about flying seems out of place. It might work better if the character fishes out the letter first, and then sifts through the other articles in the envelope, including the airline tickets.

  2. You've got some great lines here, but I think the narrative is moving too fast, especially when the character opens the letter, reads the first line, curses, and then suddenly drops us into a whole different paragraph about a completely different topic.

    I was left feeling confused. But I loved the first paragraph.

  3. The last para confused me too. The letter stated his father just died, and his reaction was to simply swear. Then he thought about flying.

    You have a nice voice. I would read a little more to see where this is headed.

  4. Part of it is that the first part is a very short chapter, and without the second chapter title it can be a bit confusing. But yeah, I need a better transition to what happens next.

  5. I really liked the opening and was hooked, but then you lost me. The paragraph after "Dad" was redundant. You already said junk mail and invitations in the first paragraph. I'd cut this back or condense.

    Then, I was a bit put off by the expletive at her father's passing. It may be appropriate but I don't know this character yet and I want to like her.

    The last paragraph lost me. I couldn't tell if it was still part of the letter. If it's not than perhaps separate it somehow to indicate the passage of time. Not just that, but suddenly the great writing turns a bit awkward, and I lose the voice. Not sure about the semi colon usage. The list falls a little flat. I take it she (he?) is flying home for the dad's funeral but the transition is so jarring.

  6. Strong beginning with an interesting lead into how the MC feels about Dad.

    Listing things seems to come up frequently and very close together. This makes me wonder if the rest of the chapter, or story, will have the MC itemizing to me throughout.

    Sorry, but the last paragraph listing out things hated lost me and I wasn't hooked.

  7. I agree with the others.
    It sounds compelling to begin with, but then his reaction to his fathers passing pulled me out of the story. It seemed jarring compared to the somber voice that started.
    And then the last paragraph just didn't flow well from that.

  8. The opening hook was great. It got me. And I have nothing against profanity in writing; I think it can be honest and real. But here, it seemed like it was part of the letter...almost. I don't mind the last paragraph as long as it very soon connects to the above opening.

  9. I like the first paragraph but it almost seems like the last paragraph would work better as the lead-in. Then a transition of how the mailbox is something else he hates and why. I would read more, though.

  10. I totally agree with K.Smith. The last paragraph should be your opening. It has a very clear voice and tone and places you immediately into the MC's mind.
    Then you can go into the letter. I didn't have a problem with that part. But the cursing . . . I will admit that I curse like a sailor, but it didn't feel genuine. Granted, I do not know your MC just yet, but I didn't buy it.

  11. not hooked. too much going on here without showing/telling me anything.

    You can slow it down a bit with more detail. WHY doesn't he want a letter from Dad? WHERE are we, the reader? in the UK? on the moon? WHO is the main character? WHAT does he look like, what does he do? THEN go into getting the letter. Set us up first. Get us invested in this guy. Then drop the bomb...

  12. I liked the opening but felt the piece deteriorated for two reasons: one, the cliche of a letter informing the MC his father died; two, the last paragraph that has the feel of Camus' The Stranger.

    If the letter was written as though MC already knew his father was dead, but in fact he never got the phone call, he could have a dramatic reaction that would be interesting.

  13. I thought the opening was redundant. First you tell us he hates getting mail from his father, then he gets the mail and a letter from his father. Perhaps just have him get the mail and find the letter?

    I felt the same about the 4th parg. He opens the letter. No. He destroys it. If that's what he did, then just show him doing that. Why say he did something he didn't do?

    The last parg seemed totally out of place, although I'm thinking it relates to him having to fly to his father's funeral. It could work better as the opening parg as someone mentioned.

    I thought the bit about him being an aviation aficionado was a bit "as you know, Bob."

  14. Not ready for primetime.

    Going back to the drawing board.

    Thank you all for the great input.

  15. seems like too much info dumping at the start. need more showing not telling.
    i don't get a good feeling what this story is going to be about at first.

  16. You had me up until the last paragraph. It doesn't seem to fit at all with the rest of the opening. Why the sudden change in thought process? You lost me.

  17. This one left me rather indifferent. There's nothing particular wrong with the main character, but all the same, there's nothing that stands out about him or wins me over. WTF seemed an odd reaction to reading about your father's death - I'd expect a more nuanced reaction. And from there he focuses on his dislike of flying, which seems to miss the point a bit. I'm not hooked.