Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October Secret Agent #13

TITLE: The Long Way Home
GENRE: Commercial Fiction

"How does one save a life though the mail?" Walter muttered to himself, "UPS, FedEx or just standard parcel post?" But he knew he couldn't trust the contents to any delivery service. There was only one person on this earth he'd trust with what was here.

He put the last of the leather-bound volumes in the box and placed the lid on top. He should have made something special. He had plenty of wood in his shop. He could have made a box of oak. Something strong to protect this story after he couldn't do it anymore.

But it was too late. There wasn't time. For him or for his daughter. If he weren't such a coward, he'd give her the box himself, while he could explain what she didn't understand. But he never considered himself an overly brave man. She would have her history, but she'd have to wait until he was a part of it as well. It wouldn't be long.

He took a deep breath and picked up the box. He limped out the wooden screen door to the cab of his pickup truck. After placing the non-descript file box on the passenger's seat, he made his way around the truck. He leaned against the door for a moment and tried to catch his breath. His heart raced in his chest.

When his strength returned enough to continue, he opened the door to the truck and cranked the ignition. He put the old truck in gear, but didn't take his foot from the break. He looked first at the box, then the house, then at the old willow tree by the pond. He closed his eyes and he could almost feel her sitting next to him, her tiny frame hardly larger than the box that shared the cab with him now.

He opened his eyes and put the car in gear. "I don't know what you were thinking when you picked me," he muttered toward the heavens.


  1. I'm intrigued!

    A couple of little things though:

    "If he weren't such a coward, he'd give her the box himself, while he could explain what she didn't understand"

    The tense is a little off at the end. I would say "then he could explain what she didn't understand."

    Also, "break" in the second-to-last paragraph should be "brake."

    I would want to read more though!

  2. I like this, but...

    first sentence is a bit stiff, maybe, "How am I gonna save her life through the mail?" or something like that. You can come up with something better. It's your story.

    Would he feel her or picture her sitting next to him? Or smell her? Use more senses here to show the depth of his feeling.

    Also, hearts only beat in chests, so don't think you need the chest part, just heart pounding.

  3. You have an intriguing start. It almost sounds like the opening to a thriller, so something to consider if this is not what you're going for. A dying man, a box of secrets that he must get to his daughter. I'd read on.

  4. Hooked!
    Enough tension and question here to keep me going: what's his illness, what kinda life story is in the books, why does he have to mail all this stuff anyway. Also, I already feel sympathetic for the unseen daughter.
    Hooks all through it. Great job!

  5. There was a lot here that raised questions in my mind - the kind that keep me reading. I'm intrigued.

    I did question why he wouldn't save his daughter by phone or email, or a personal visit, though. You use his lack of bravery as an excuse and I sort of buy it, but there's this part of me that says, "But it's his daughter and her life is on the line. He'd make himself call or visit her." Is it something you have to worry about? I don't know.

    And there was one confusing bit for me.

    Something strong to protect this story after he couldn't do it anymore.

    I'm not sure what you're implying in the above. After he couldn't do what? Write more of the story? That kind of implies it's his story, but he says 'this' story. And 'after he couldn't do it anymore.' implies he is still going to do it (whatever it is) until he can't do it anymore. But how can he do it if he's sending the books to his daughter (if it does, in fact, mean writing the story.) Maybe we need to know what 'it' is? This just wasn't clear to me.

    The two pargs. about getting in the truck could be tightened a lot, and you have him putting the truck in gear twice - in the second last parg, and then the last one.

    But, yeah. I'd read more.

  6. I would continue to read. Flows well. Wondering about why he could not speak to his daughter directly. Maybe that will come to light later, but an inkling would be nice.

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  8. This is an interesting story.

    I have a couple of pickies:
    though should be through (first line).

    The truck became a car on the next to last line.

    Consider this sentence: 'He couldn't write down the family history (replace the word 'it') any more.' This could stand alone as your first sentence to your novel, and therefore be removed from the end of the first paragraph. This would make for a stronger start IMO and address the clarity issue Barbara talked about.

    Consider changing 'her history' to read 'her family history.' and 'a part of it as well' could be 'a part of the past as well.'

    Most times when you see 'it' you could replace 'it' with a more descriptive word(s) (i.e. the past).

    Here again squeezing into 250 words can sometimes damage an otheriwse sterling piece.

    October 13, 2010 11:06 PM

  9. He muttered to the heavens. He muttered to himself.

    Then he did a lot of other things that are told in too much narrative.

  10. So i think this is nicely done. If someone gave me this book to read, I would think it's fine and keep reading without comment.

    But as an agent looking for material, I would probably not request more pages or say I'm hooked based on this one page. I understand that some stories just have a slower start. And I think that's ok. But then I think the writing has to be really special to make up for it.

    What I would recommend is loolking at some books that have slow starts and studying the prose there. Not to copy, but to get a sense of how they show don't tell. How they paint a scene and set up the story.

    I think this has potential and the writing is good, but I think it could be even better,