Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October Secret Agent #5

GENRE: Contemp. romance

Her butt had fallen asleep ten minutes ago.

“That isn’t supposed to happen with these ergonomic chairs,” Claire grumbled to the smiling face in the corner as she shifted her bum back and forth to stimulate circulation.

The chair, if the backless contraption could be called that, was her latest attempt to break through her writer’s block and stimulate the magic that used to happen at her keyboard. That magic had produced the bestselling Hetty Graham series and launched Claire as one of the hottest new authors to come out of the Pacific Northwest.

But that was before her world ended.

It had been two years and the magic hadn’t returned.

She stared at the open document on her computer screen, a series of false starts, random sentences and lots of white space. A fly buzzed past and landed on her keyboard, completely unthreatened by the motionless fingers on the keys. Claire watched, hypnotized by its incessant activity, until it lifted off to another corner of the room. Eyes trailing the fly, she spied the giant neon clock on her home office wall, a gag gift from her husband, Mark, several years earlier. She’d been sitting in this ridiculous chair, unproductive, for two hours.

“Oh, for crying out loud!”


  1. You have a nice voice and some good sentences, but nothing actually happens here. She stares at her keyboard, watches a fly, looks at the clock. It's certainly an accurate depiction of writer's block but not quite a gripping scene. You might want to consider starting somewhere else.

    A couple of little tweaks: you use the word "stimulate" twice in the first two paragraphs. It's an unusual enough word to stand out, even a few sentences apart. (Maybe if you tied them together, like, "if only she could stimulate the keyboard magic she used to feel as easily as she did her circulation" or, you know, something better than that. Otherwise, change one of those words.) Also, her first line of dialogue is "grumbled to the smiling face in the corner." Huh? What face? You never mention it again, unless you mean the face of the clock? But when you mention the clock later, it's as if she's just now noticing the time, not like she looked at the clock face a few seconds ago.

    I'd recommend you introduce another character or start in another place to make the opening more active. I'd like to be hooked by this because your writing is good.

    Good luck.

  2. i agree, the writing is solid, but we might want to know more about claire before dropping into this scene. very clear voice--probably every writer reading your entry has occasionally felt like this!

  3. I agree with the others. This probably isn't the place to start since nothing happens here. Or, perhaps state why she has writer's block if it's something big - like maybe her husand, Mark has just recently died? (I'm guessing he's dead because this is a romance, and she's going to need someone to fall in love with.) If he is dead, you might say that somewhere.

    You have the teaser line - that was before her world ended - but you don't say why it had ended. Again, might it be the death of her husband? Whatever it is, perhaps say it, that way we know what the problem is.

    And who is the face in the corner? Is it her own reflection? Again, make clear who it is.

  4. I wonder if the line about the magic being lost for two years would be stronger without the previous sentence. The reader can guess that something bad happened without it. And at this point we don't know if the MC really experienced something catastrophic or if she's a tad melodramatic.

    You write well, but this scene is fairly static for an opening. I'm not sure if there is someone else present (is the smiling face in the corner a picture, a clock face, or a live person)? Regardless, I think something needs to happen soon.

    One last nit, I'm not sure about the use of "stimulate" in regards to her magic. It implies something is there but needs help, where I assume she's got nada going on at the moment.

  5. her butt falling asleep is a turnoff for me for a romance...actually for any story, but that's just me.

  6. If "her world ended" is her husband's death, it seems she'd have some kind of emotional reaction when she looks at the clock (and could be the time you tell us about his death). Nice voice. I'd read on.

  7. Argh, I'm torn about this one. Personally, I really like openings like this, quiet openings where we get to know the narrator and the voice. But my logical side is all "BLAH BLAH INCITING INCIDENT, WE MUST SEE IT." *sigh*

    Anyway, the writing is fantastic, and I love the voice. I'm hooked, even if objectively it's not the wisest place to start.

  8. I like the opening line, which I think sets the tone nicely. But I am very confused about the face in the corner, since the rest of this page makes it sound like she's alone in the room. As soon as I read that there was a face, I was distracted as I read the rest, looking to find out who it was.

    The word "flat" in the title and the word "bum" in the second para also scream "British" to me, so I was a little surprised to read that Claire was from the Pacific Northwest. Maybe this story is heading across the pond at some point?

    I do like the voice, though. Good luck!

  9. Honestly, this sounds very professional to me. I've read a lot of romance, and this seems like something I'd read. Kudos!

  10. The inherent danger in staring your book with your main character being bored is that the reader will also be bored. I’m afraid that’s the case for me here. The only intriguing bit is that apparently there is a smiling face in the corner of her office, although it doesn’t appear to belong to a human. But “what’s smiling at her?” isn’t a compelling enough question to make me want to read more. She has a bad case of writer’s block. What else? Why should I care?