Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September Secret Agent #50

TITLE: Christmas Joy
GENRE: Adult Fiction

Mom, there’s a strange man in the driveway!” The frightened young girl screams to her mother from the living room. Panic sets in as Joy Dutton pulls her children Skylar, 9, and Boone, 7, from their perch on the living room couch.

“Sit here until I come back inside.” Instinctively she pushes them to the floor. “Stay out of the windows.” Joy bolts out the side door without reaching first for a coat as protection against the bitter December cold. She nearly slips on the frozen slush, remnants of a recent snow storm that she hadn’t had time to clear yet. The brisk wind slaps her in the face as she races up to the burly intruder in her driveway that has backed his big black pick-up truck right up to the bumper of her two year old SUV. The glare from the noon high sun blinds her temporarily as it reflects from the shiny polished chrome that embellishes his eerie vehicle.

The stranger sees her approaching and hastens his task of attaching a tow cable to her rear bumper. “Please, Sir, I really need my car. I’m looking for work and I have two kids.” She glances over her shoulder to see both of her children’s scared faces in the living room window peering out at the spectacle in the driveway.

“I’m sorry, Ma’am, I’m just following orders…"


  1. Of course we don't know any back story here, but I felt there was a disconnect in both the reaction of the girl and the mom to a vehicle that should have obviously looked like a tow truck.

    The sentence that starts "The brisk wind . . ." is long and wordy. I also didn't quite connect to the "eerie" description.

    Watch your use of prepositional phrases, often things can be reworded to make a shorter, more powerful sentence.

    You do a good job dewscribing the chill of the winter day.

  2. The writing could use some tightening. You could skip some of the descriptive stuff ("shiny polished chrome," eg) in the interest of moving the story along.

    I agree with the first comment with respect to the "intruder." It's a bit manipulative, since the guy never comes in the house.

    I like the premise of a struggling Mom. Maybe you can wait to name the kids to keep the rhythm of the narrative.

  3. I feel very far away from the story, possibly because the distant omniscient POV used to tell the story.

    Good detail of the setting -- I could see and feel it quite well.

  4. Nice opening sentence, but you don't need sentence #2. We already know it's a frightened girl screaming at her mother.

  5. Yes, too many descriptions for such an intense scene. It's already exciting so don't detract with too many modifiers. Best of luck!

  6. I felt sort of disoriented here--why would the appearance of a tow truck cause so much terror? I also felt like you could orient your reader a little more in the story, like you had started in the wrong place. It's good to start with a bang, but with a lack of context it feels too abrupt.

  7. I think you've got a great story and the workings of great, hook the reader sort of scene, but I agree with whoever said the distant POV is what's keeping us out of the tension.

    I'd keep the first sentence and then go into Panic set in as Joy pulled her kids off the back of the living room couch and pushed them to the floor. (nobody names and ages their kids in their thoughts- we can learn all that later- keep up the tension) "Stay out of sight," Joy says before bolting out the front door. etc. etc.

  8. At first I was confused as to why, if the children were panicking, would the mother tell them to stay out of the window but go outside herself. The way the little girl was freaking out I thought there was someone creeping about and the police should have been called. But when I found out it was a tow truck driver, I wondered why exactly the children were pushed to the floor, like they were supposed to hide or something, because she uses the kids as a way to plead for him to not tow her.
    So I'm left feeling a little confused over Joy's way of thinking.

  9. Less pretty description - more story. Trim the fat and get to the heart of the issue. Is the story about the weather or the mom protecting her kids from watching their car get towed away?

    Rework it and make your sentences move the story somewhere. Good luck and thank you for sharing.

  10. I agree with others that this needs some tightening. It's supposed to be a tense scene, and all the descriptors and explanation are draining the tension because they're pulling focus away from the action.
    eg. In the second paragraph, I would cut the part about Joy not reaching for her coat. You mention the frozen slush and brisk wind soon after, so readers will get the picture that it's cold. I would also end the fifth sentence of that paragraph at 'frozen slush'. The fact it was from a recent snow storm and she hasn't had time to clear it away doesn't really need to be explained. I'd also shorten the last two sentences of the paragraph, cutting some of the vehicle description, as this slows the action.

    On the plus side, you use good verbs and have started with action, so you're definitely on the right track.