Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October Secret Agent #21

TITLE: Of Sharks and Men
GENRE: Contemporary Romance

The dawn of a new day had come to the south-eastern hemisphere, a brilliant morning promising new chances, new hope, new life. Birds chirped their lullabies happily. Bees buzzed on by with busy intent. And the glorious sun, sustainer of all life, brightly ignited the sky above.
As one man was acutely aware, life and time ticked on.

And in his experience, life and time ticked on promising nothing but cruel and unusual heartache.

The exhausted man, operating on pure adrenaline, trudged and tromped through the silvery sands of Blouberg Beach. Despite the sultry summers of South Africa, he sported long denim pants and leather sneakers, which only served to hinder his trek through the thick white grit. Already he started to perspire and wiped the mustache of sweat beading upon his upper lip. As he moved with purposeful strides, he reached behind him to feel the comforting heft of the gun tucked at the small of his back.

The beach was desolate. Peaceful. No swimmers, no surfers. No tourists or vacationers. But morning had only just broken. The man had rushed straight to the scene of the carnage after spending an unbearable night holed up in a Cape Town hospital.

Consoling his wife.

"He's alive. We have that much to be thankful for," he'd told her.

Consoling his son.

"You'll come out of this stronger. It'll be okay," he'd whispered at Julian's bedside while the young man lie unconscious at Tygerberg Hospital,


  1. I enjoyed your ability to string words together. Your sentences were lyrical, a pleasure to read.

    But the tone of the first paragraph was so different from the rest that I wondered if something had been omitted.

    I'd recommend starting at this point: "In his experience..."

    From this point on, your story intrigues me. You set it up wonderfully. I want to keep reading.

    Very nice.

  2. The writing is lovely, but I think I'd like to see it "tick on" with a little more tension. Is there a way to use that ticking to organize this opening? Once we got to the wife & the son in the hospital, I'm interested; the rest of it I end up skimming b/c the para's are longer and lyrical instead of compelling me forward.

  3. This sin't ready yet. Drop the first 2 paragraphs, they just slow your story down.
    Good writing. I do wonder about starting a Romance with a married man. He can't very well be any of the main characters.

  4. This is very heavy on description and I have no connection with the characters.

    Start with the accident or with the man talking to his wife and son. The fact that you call him "the man" does nothing to connect the reader to his plight.

    It's obvious that you can write, so a few tweaks will bring this along nicely.

    Best of luck

  5. This is beautifully written, but it wouldn't fit a proper beginning for a romance and unless you swing up front your hero/herone you won't get an agent IMO.

    If the man is the hero, then again, if his wife dies, that isn't normally an upbeat start for a romance. If it's a love story about the man and his wife, well that's not a romance. It's a love story set in South Africa, with intrigue. You might enjoy James Lee Burke's Robicheaux character. Your guy has that feel.

  6. I agree about the opening. It doesn't suit the rest of the submission. Perhaps start with "The exhausted man' and perhaps name him, unless he's going to die right away and/or who he is will be a mystery.

    Other than that, I thought it worked very well. We've got a man, a mystery, and some terrible event. I'd read more.

  7. Agreed with the others. The lyrical opening setting the scene doesn't fit the following mentions of guns and carnage, nor does it fit the romance genre. It sounds as though you have some good tension, but you might want to take another look at how your opening is representing your target genre/audience.

  8. Thanks for the candid comments.

    Not sure we are supposed to comment ourselves, but the man at the beginning is NOT the hero. This scene foreshadows a scene where the hero and heroine actually meet in South Africa.

    The point about swinging the heroine up front may be valid, though I've read contemporary romances have different rules as far as that goes. I believe category romance is strict with this, as Locksley mentioned.

    Thanks again.

  9. I agree with the other commenters -- your writing has a nice lyricality to it, but this might be stronger if you start at the paragraph about the man walking on the beach. I'm not sure what happened to this guy, but it seems like it was pretty bad, and that combination of mystery and foreboding seems pretty good. It's the sort of thing that'd make me want to read on. A nitpick: You use "purposeful strides" and "trudged and tromped" to describe the man walking down the beach. These seem inconsistent to me.

  10. I've been struggling with a couple of manuscripts that I thought were contemporary romance only to discover they were women's fiction. You might want to check out to see their guidelines. Starting a romance with someone who isn't the MC can be tricky.

    Best of luck

  11. So like others have stated, I think that starting a romance with a character who is not one of the MCs is probably a mistake. Is there a writer/book out there that could get away with it? Very possibly, but I'm not connecting with this here.

    That said, your writing is very nice and I think simply starting in a different spot would serve you well.

    Perhaps keep in mind not to get too descriptive and keep focused on moving the plot along too, although certainly some descrption adds to what we all love about books.

  12. Thanks to everyone and the SA.

    Based on the SA's advice,I have already changed the first chapter to focus on introducing the heroine.

    I hope that makes some difference as I continue to query.

    Thanks again.