Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August Secret Agent Contest #30

GENRE: Suspenseful Women's Fiction

I eased my black Jetta, freshly washed and Quik-waxed, into a parking space half a block from the diner. I'd skip feeding the meter. My mission would take two minutes.

Who'd be writing tickets before six o'clock? Too early for parking enforcement officers. Or Green Tree cops. Any patrolman starting his shift would be planted at the counter of the town's oldest diner, the Dinner Belle, the same place I was headed.

I pushed through the front door, my high heels sinking into doughy linoleum as I strode toward the counter. No one met my glance, but I sensed people staring. A uniformed cop, pretending to read the sports section of the "Green Tree Standard," surveyed me from the corner of his eye. He rose from his stool, paid his bill, and grabbed a toothpick off the counter.

"Ma'am," he said, inserting it into his mouth, giving me a once-over.

I grinned a tight-lipped smirk as he plodded past me into the pre-dawn gloom to start his day.

A waitress with platinum-blond hair shellacked into a crisp helmet had rung him up. The venerable Dottie, mired in the same bygone era as the diner. Selectively friendly, she used your first name if she liked you.

"What'll it be, dearie?" she asked.

She'd just earned herself the Colonel's B-I-G hello. I beamed and said, "Nice to see you, too, Dottie," like we hadn't seen each other in ten years.

Dottie's eyes shot open, a deeper furrow creasing her cavernous forehead.


  1. I like the mystery you've set up between our mystery woman and Dottie. You instantly wonder what the history is there and that Dottie isn't happy to see her.

    I love the line, "Selectively friendly, she used your first name if she liked you." That one statement tells us alot about Dottie.

    I was a little overwhelmed by all the small details like Quik-waxed, tight-lipped smirk, pre-dawn gloom.

    I also found myself wanting to know the mystery woman a little bit more. To know what she was thinking or feeling.

    Great job, sounds interesting.

  2. It's a fine line for me between appreciating the extremely typical small-town feel you've got going here and not enjoying it because it's all so cliched. Dottie with the shellacked blonde helmet?

    The first line isn't doing any particular favors - it's all about dropping names and not enticing me to read on.

    As it is, I'm not sure I like the narrator, and I must for a first person, even if that person is not a good guy/gal.

    Good luck!

  3. i didn't understand "the Colonel's B-I-G hello" line. but the visuals are clear, and i'm wondering what this chick is up to.

  4. Draws me in, even if a little cliched in description.

    A crisp little piece of writing!

  5. I think some details could be chopped, like the meter reader and Tree cops.

    I am curious about what will transpire that will take 2 minutes. I'd read on.

  6. I don't understand the Colonel's B-I-G Hello either...because the narrator is female (high heels).

    I'd eliminate some of the car details and the cop in the diner UNLESS the cop leered at her or gave us some sense of what the protag looks like (hottie?)

    Love the shellacked helmut visual and the selectively friendly line!

    Wondering if her heels were from Payless or were Manolo Blahniks. That would tell us in two words if she's got money. Just my two cents.

    I would like to know the score between protag and Dottie, so I'd read on!

  7. I thought you could cut the first 2 pargs and start with the third, although part of me says she's going to have a ticket when she returns to the car. The question is, if she will have a ticket, is it importan to the plot? If not, I'd cut it.

    No one met her glance - which means she's looking them in the face and no one's looking back - yet she sensed them staring. How could they be staring if they're not even looking at her?

    A grin and a smirk are two different things, so perhaps just say she smirked.

    A waitress with platinum blond hair - she knows it's Dottie. Perhaps just name her right away.

    Overall, there wasn't enough here for me to read on. I'm not feeling the suspense. I don't have a sense of who the MC is, or what the problem is. Maybe hint at why she's there? (although, I also get the feeling that will be coming right up.) It's just very ordinary as is.

  8. The only thing that rang weirdly with me was the last sentence's description of the forehead.

    "Cavernous" would to me indicate a big, gaping hole. I'm sure that's not what you meant. :)

  9. Thanks for taking the time to comment, everyone. Very helpful, all around.

  10. I’d skip most of the second paragraph, it makes it clear the MC is going to get a ticket. Moving ‘Who’d be writing tickets before six o’clock?’ to the first paragraph, then the cop leaving the diner would suffice as foreshadowing. Along the same lines, is there a reason for the level of detail on the car? Also, I have no idea what a ‘Colonel’s B-I-G hello’ is. You’ve got detailed descriptions of Dottie, the car, the diner, and a description of the hello would be helpful here. I liked the description of walking into the diner, it felt real and I could picture it. Your description of Dottie was great, she fits right into the setting and I loved the ‘selectively friendly’ line. That the MC’s errand would only take two minutes makes me think if the segment was a little longer I’d be hooked, but at the moment I’m not quite there.

  11. The narrator has a responsibility to tell readers what to pay attention to (as it pertains to the story); but this "I" narrator seems to be paying attention to everything under the sun, which essentially means we're reading without a navigator to help us through. That's exhausting and off-putting and eventually wears out a reader's patience. I'm still not sure what the stakes are for the narrator. (Is it the potential parking ticket? Is it being liked by Dottie? Is it to complete the "mission" referred to at the start?) These aren't the sorts of questions a reader should be struggling with.