Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August Secret Agent #41

TITLE: Fortune Foretold
GENRE: Commercial Fiction

The fortune-teller studied the dark leaves at the bottom of the teacup as Eva squirmed in her creaky chair.

"Okay, I see that you had a baby."

Eva stiffened, her face paled.

Her best friend Pam looked at her in surprise. "You had a baby?"

"No." She wrung her hands as they lay in her lap.

"I'm sorry." Alma's voice dropped. "You had an abortion, didn't you?"

Eva sat speechless. Pam looked dumbstruck. She stared at Eva, eyes wide with disbelief.

"I know you were very young," Alma finished. "Okay, to your future." She turned the cup around.

"You will have more children," she told her. "Two boys. You work with children though, do you not?"

"Yes. Yes I do."

Alma was not much older than Eva and Pam. Her long blonde hair was pulled back in a pony tail and she wore a plain white blouse and jeans. Her fingernails and lips were painted a frosty pink. She didn't look like a fortune-teller. Eva had been expecting an older woman wearing a flowing caftan, strings of pearls, dangling earrings, a ring on every finger, sporting a bandana on her head and a gold tooth.

Eva's skepticism had compelled Pam to sit in on the reading when they arrived twenty minutes earlier.

At that time Alma had ushered the two women through a set of curtained French doors into what appeared to be the original dining room.


  1. The writing is clear and it places the reader into the scene. I don’t feel enough of a hook to keep reading but the brevity of the submission might be the problem.

    Passive voice phrase ‘…and lips were painted…’ could be changed to ‘…her fingernails and lips were a frosty shade of pink…’

    Possibly, you could cut the phrase ‘Pam looked dumbstruck’ as redundant. The next line describes her reaction very well.

    The line ‘Eva’s skepticism…’ kicked me out of the story though. Maybe the back-story element of this information could be included later in conversation between Eva and Pam.

    Good luck.

  2. It was working for me until you cut to the flashback in past perfect tense. "Eva's skepticism had compelled Pam..." Actually, although a little awkward, this is ok.

    Where it gets to be too much is: "At that time Alma had ushered..."

    I don't know how long it goes on, but is it necessary at all?

    Why do we start in the middle of the scene and then flashback twenty minutes earlier? I think the scene could either start with skeptic visiting fortune teller, or just include the info in the simple past.

  3. I do agree with the first two comments and wonder about going back in time when the opening is so much more compelling. My other thought was that the fortune teller description could be shorter. We all know what a stereotypical mystic looks like, so keeping "Eva had been expecting an older woman wearing a flowing caftan and too much dangly jewelry" would do the job.

    Good luck! I am curious as to why Eva is there.

  4. I found myself wanting more information. When Eva sits speechless, what's she feeling? Guilt? Embarrassment? Anger at Alma for letting Pam know?

    I also wanted a little more to root me in the scene, maybe some physical details.

    It's a really interesting situation you're setting up here. Good luck with it!

  5. Almost there for me, but not quite. It's definitely a compelling submission. I think I'd weave the descriptions into the dialogue, not state them like a laundry list. I begin to lose interest at the block of text that follows.

    Just a suggestion, but something like this might work better:
    "I see you had a baby," said Alma. Her long blond hair, pulled back in a pony tail, was not the flowing caftan that Eva expected.

    That way the descriptions work to build character instead of feeling rote. Great start though.

  6. The opening lines definitely caught my attention. The sentences where Alma moves onto the future felt a bit hurried in that particular spot in the writing - perhaps there could be something about a reaction between those two comments? I agree with the previous comments on the idea that it might be wise to continue with the scene rather than going back in time to the arrival of Eva and Pam. Best of luck and thanks for sharing!

  7. An interesting way to reveal a secret right off the bat, so kudos to you.
    However the short sentences and lack of exposition leave me feeling a little out of the loop. Dialogue is a great device but here it feels like you're relying too much on the dialogue instead of the action surrounding it or the emotions behind it.
    The fortune teller (Alma, as I understand now, but it took a couple of reads to figure out who Alma is) has just revealed a HUGE secret. You say that Eva siffened and paled but that doesn't really show how completely destroyed she is by this revelation. And if the revelation doesn't destroy her, then why would it be in the opening of the novel?

  8. I'm hooked, but you might want to clarify that the fortune teller has the name Alma before you go on. I thought there were 4 people in the room until I read on a few more paragraphs. Never confuse the reader.

    "I'm sorry." the fortune teller's voice dropped. "You..."

    when you go to describe her, that would be a better time to tell us her name so you can use her name from here on out

    The fortune teller Alma was not much older than Eva and her friend Pam. Her long blonde hair...

    I think when introducing this many characters in the first paragraphs of a novel it can get confusing if you don't make them very clear who each one is. A lot is happening here. The reader is getting introduced to the main character, her problems and why she's in the story. Add two more people, their descriptions, and a place, and you have to make sure you keep everything nice and straight and clear for the reader.

    HOOKED. Nice original start

  9. it was jarring when the name Alma first came into the story. it took me a few to realize that she is the fortune teller.

    i like the hook of the unknown baby or abortion, but then it kind of falls falt to me.

    i am not sure who the MC of this is supposed to be... alma or eva?

  10. This realy should have hooked me. I love the idea that this fortune teller knows that the girl had a baby, and it was an abortion. But I want an emotional payoff from that. I want horror, or denial, or for her to get up and try to leave. This is serious stuff! But your MC acts like the fortune teller just knew she was having trouble with her boyfriend, or something. This is not the time to be looking at clothes!

  11. This would work so much better if the description was worked into the action, rather than as a block of text. The lack of response on Eva's part to the dropping of her big secret makes it hard for me to get into the story. There's no emotion here. I also thought it was a very abrupt change from telling Eva about her past to jumping to the future. Also, like the others, I didn't like or understand the flashback to 20 minutes earlier.

  12. I don't know where this is going, but I'm hooked. I love that you open with dialog, then give us the description later. I think this is a smartly put together scene, though it'd be nice to get a stronger sense that Eva is really regretting her decision to have Pam sit in with her (and have her be privy to what was obviously a secret).