Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #49


Damon heard a rustling behind him; the crunching of paper, shuffling of boxes, and high-pitched cursing. Shaking his head, he took a sharp breath and called, "Ms. Peterson? Do you need help organizing the postcards? I already unpacked the most recent order."

No response.

He pulled himself from his seat at the counter, and trudged to the backroom, his messy auburn hair falling in front of his eyes. "Ms. Peterson, you don't have to work on Thursdays. Remember Melanie told us she was cutting our hours," Damon said as he pushed up the door.

"Oh!" He jumped backward, placing his hands above his head. "I'm sorry..."

He peered at the girl in front of him. She was splayed on her back, tangled in an ornate cinnamon-colored gown that reminded Damon of something his little sister would have worn around Halloween.

"Are you going to just stare or are you going to help me?" The girl snapped, attempting to stand up but tripping over her bell skirt. Damon's ears stood up at the sound of her voice. She had a distinct accent, making her voice ring with a musky aroma.

Leaning against the wall, he crossed his arms. "Your dress seems to be eating you." He grinned. "Are you here for study abroad? You do realize you don't have to dress in honor of your country's cultural heritage," he paused, studying her round face, "even though it does add some flavor."


  1. I liked some parts of this. I could hear the noises and picture what you described, which is good.

    I felt the Ms. Peterson, you don't have to work... Remember... line was a little As You Know Bob.

    I'm confused about what's going on here.

  2. You are vivid, but not clear.
    "Placing his hands above his head" - why "placing"? it implies putting his hands in a specific position.
    "Damon's ears stood up" is this SF? is he a species that can actually make his ears stand up?
    I'm also confused by the term "ring with a musky aroma" which just didn't make sense.
    Teh dialogue also seems very formal, especially for someone young.
    Are you, by any chance, a non-native English speaker? teh formal language and odd idiom makes me think you are.

  3. My immediate thought is that she's a time traveler or from another dimension. That might be because I read too much sf/f.

    What confuses me is first Damon asks Ms. Peterson if she needs help with the postcards then tells her she shouldn't be working. Did he know she was there, or not? If I was supposed to be at work alone and heard shuffling in the back room, I might grab a bat before investigating.

  4. I like the scene you've set. I get the confusion, he think Mrs. P is there.

    I question, like the others, some of your word choices... ears stood up.

    I'd read on.

  5. I like the scene you've set, and I'm getting a sense of a romantic setup, maybe, which I like. I was a little lost on the splayed on her back thing. I'm not sure why. Maybe I would assume that between the time he heard the rustling sound and getting to the back of the room, she'd not be splayed on her back anymore. Does that make sense?
    But I'd surely read on!

  6. I think this still needs a bit of work. He hears rustling, but then you mention crunching, shuffling and cursing-not rustling. His ears stood up - why and how? Her voice ringing is a sound and you compare it to an aroma - a smell. And for some reason, Damon sounded female to me. I didn't get a sense of him being male at all.

    You might also want to take another look at the set-up. Where and when are they?

    Maybe go through it again and try to be more specific with your word choices. It will help make things clearer.

  7. Much as I enjoyed parts of this (a strange girl showing up, striving for dignity, then tripping on her own Halloween dress) I found myself saying Whut?. When Damon raised his hands I thought he was being robbed. I had no idea how old the girl was (to me, girl implies anything under twenty). I don't know how a musky aroma would sound. Damon's last line seems strange.

  8. My first impression is the girl is a time traveller.

    I'm intrigued, but I'd have to read further to be completely hooked.

    You have some interesting descriptions that paint a vivid picture. You lost me on the "musky aroma." I think I know what you mean, but a voice can't ring with a smell and I got so caught up on wrapping my head around what you were trying to say that I lost the thread of the story.

    I'd keep reading, though.

  9. I hate to tell you this, but you've done nothing to hook the reader. I wouldn't continue reading it.

    You have some great description, though a voice sounding with a smell doesn't work. Your imagery falls flat when you do that. You can't see with you nose. You can't smell with your ears.

    I feel too distant to the mc. Don't tell us he heard something. Show us. You want to avoid words like: decided, thought, knew, noticed, saw, smelled, heard, felt, understood as much as possible. It pulls the reader away from the moment. You can't always avoid it, but try to in the first page. (I used to make this mistake until someone hit me over the head with it. Once the ringing stop, I figured out what she meant).

    And finally, you have way too many -ing verbs in your first paragraph. It's weakening your writing.

    Don't get me wrong, there's some really good stuff here. It just needs a bit more polishing. And tension.

  10. The line about the ears gave me pause, as well her voice being an aroma. How does that work?

  11. The ear thing was an issue, but not the only one for me. In general, your word choice seems strange. How does a voice ring with an aroma? Also, the dialogue feels a bit stilted to me, especially the cultural heritage part.

    More generally, though, the approach just seemed a bit cliched, given my assumption (and those of the other commenters here) is correct, and this is some magical creature/time-traveler/etc. that is appearing in their otherwise-normal world.

    I do the same thing in my novel (see the link below), but it's not just "some unknown person wants to talk." More happens. That's the key. Throw something else in here to make it more original.

    Just my 2 cents.


  12. First par has far too many 'ing' words. Try reading it aloud.
    I was confused - at first I thoguht he'd interrupted Mr Peterson with a girl. Had to read it twice to understand. Not quite gripping enough.

  13. I’m confused here. I have no idea where Damon is, presumably a store where he works, but I also don’t understand why he first asks “Mrs. Peterson” if he could help her with her work before reminding her that she isn’t supposed to be working today. I’m not following the logic.

    These lines also didn’t make sense to me: “Damon's ears stood up at the sound of her voice. She had a distinct accent, making her voice ring with a musky aroma.” Do his ears actually stand up? Is that physically possible? And, how does her voice ring with a smell? I’m unsure if realistic world rules apply to this novel.

    I’m curious to find out where the girl in the weird dress came from, but I need more from the character to keep reading.