Friday, December 2, 2011

#8 Literary Fiction: Pomegranate Seeds

TITLE: Pomegranate Seeds
GENRE: Literary Fiction

After returning to the house where she watched her older sister drown twenty years ago, Stephanie encounters Rob, her sister's old boyfriend. Steph, who's twenty-six but hasn't dated much, doesn't want to sleep with him but doesn’t tell him to stop. Pregnant, single and unsure whom to blame, she has to choose: if she decides not to keep the baby, she'll never have to think about Rob or what he did to her again, but she'll also destroy the first chance she's had to be part of a family since her sister's death.

There are two things which I remember very clearly from the house on the beach where we lived until I was six years old. The first is the sound of the ocean crashing against the rocks in our backyard. The second is the day my sister Sarah drowned.

We lived there until right before my sixth birthday, when my parents announced we were moving to Spain. I was allowed to bring one stuffed animal and a small backpack of toys. Unable to decide what to take with me, I sorted through my closet again and again.

Sarah, sixteen, was convinced that my parents were trying to ruin her life. “Why can’t you wait another three years?” she shouted at my mother. “I’ll be in college, and then it won’t matter!” My mother shook her head and refused to talk about it.

Sarah spent most of her time with her boyfriend, Rob. When she was home, the afternoons were punctuated by slamming doors and muffled sobs coming from her bedroom.

That afternoon, the afternoon she drowned, was clear and sunny and almost hot. The breeze blowing in from the ocean was as cold as always, but the sun was so bright, and the air so warm, that you could be forgiven for thinking it was still summer. Rob had come to tell her goodbye, and the two of them went down to the beach. I followed, aware that if they saw me they’d tell me to leave. Rob didn’t seem to mind, but Sarah hadn’t wanted anything to do with me lately.


  1. Very nice! Sounds like an interesting read. I get a little lost in the logline based on timeframes (the jump to being pregnant - by Rob?). Because so much emphasis is put on opening lines, I'd delete "which."

  2. I agree with the first comment with respect to that "which" in the first line. Can be easily dropped - the sentence has the same impact and meaning without it.

    There seemed, at least to me, a lot going on in the logline - maybe a bit too much? Hook us with it, but you dont have to tell us all the important plot bits, just a teaser of sorts.

    The premise of the story I found interesting. I also think you do yourself a bit of a disservice giving us this information as a retell -- I think you might have a better impact if you opened with the scene of her drowning and then moving into how this affected your MCs life.

    Just some thoughts.

    Best of luck with the auction!

  3. The premise you have is very literary, but in execution I'm unsure you are hitting the mark. It seems to me the major difference between genre and literary works (and yes, there are a minefield of differences, so I'm not trying to spark a debate) is that genre fiction is about something happening, whereas literary fiction is often about introspection, about dealing with something that has happened. Thus, your premise is spot on because a lot of this is about your MC dealing with the fact that she hasn't felt like part of a family since her sister drowned, and she must come to terms with that. However, you are setting this up as a tell, as an instance of something happening (that something being that Stephanie's life is about to be uprooted and her six-year-old circumstances will change), whereas I think this would be stronger if you started at a point where your grown-up MC actually had to do the hard emotional thing of dealing. (On a side note, yes I realize things still happen in literary fiction, it's just that the events usually help with the introspective growth.)

    For example, what if we started at the point where Stephanie first sees the house as an adult, when she goes back for the visit. The vision of that house alone would certainly provoke an emotional response, and would give you a vehicle for showing us the scene (via memory) of her sister drowning. Skip the toys, the moving, etc. because I doubt those truly figure in Stephanie's emotional journey as much as the death does. Just show us the catalyst that makes her deal, and then show us what she has to deal with, absent any distractions. If that makes any sense.

  4. I agree with the other critiques. Even though literary, the book must hook the reader immediately. I might start with MC finding out she's pregnant, then sitting on the beach where she can remember the day her sister died. Or as one reviewer said, having the flashback when she sees her house for the first time as an adult.

    The logline provides too much info. I suspect you want us to get that while she didn't want to sleep with Rob, it wasn't rape. A more generic logline would fix that. You could say something like a "confrontation with her sister's old boyfriend will dictate whether she flees the memories of the past or stays to build a future with her family." (But you can say it better than that!)

    Good luck. I like the premise a lot and would want to read more!

  5. The logline didn't do much for me. It was confusing and perhaps a little too detailed.

    In the opening, I think starting in a different place might bring more engagement and emotional connection to the reader. Maybe start with the drowning scene and how Steph saw it and experienced it, then move into the present day as she drags herself away from the beach and her memories and re-enters the ouse for the first time.

    Or something....

  6. I agree that the logline seems to give away a little too much, making it cluttered with details. I do like the premise, and the writing style flows nicely.

    Like others have said, there's something about the opening that's not quite as engaging as it could be. I like the idea of starting with her walking up to the house or something, having the memory trigger. It's not that different from how you've started here, but would give readers a little grounding. The Steph that's looking back here could be ten, twenty, or eighty--no way to tell from the straight launch into memory.

    Also another vote for dropping the "which" in the first line. First, because it should technically be a "that" in this case, I believe. And second, because neither is needed. :)

    Like I said, interesting premise, a clearly complex emotional journey for the MC to go on. Good luck!

  7. The logline feels cluttered to me, too, and it's a bit long. It's trying to explain too much backstory around the crux of the plot, instead of letting us envision the crux of the plot. The essence of it is whether or not she keeps the baby of her late sister's boyfriend, and the pros and cons. I don't think that giving up the baby means never having to think about what he did to her again, though. Just like she's never stopped thinking of her sister, trauma doesn't work that way. So the plot weakens there a little for me.

    The introspective tone of the opening sets the stage nicely, but the narrative feels like it skips about and has uneven pacing: some moments are drawn out and clear, and they're interrupted by lines that bridge a lot of time, and then they draw out again.

    Instead of doing this sort of brief 'catch the reader up' summary, it would be more emotionally engaging and grounding to open with going back to the house as an adult and feathering in those details and snatches of memory. I'd keep that first paragraph just like it is, but then go forward and 'feel' it instead of going backwards and explaining it.

  8. I remember this one from my site. I wish you all the very best of luck! : )

  9. The logline can be streamlined. You don't need to say in a logline that the MC didn't really want to have sex with someone--that's too much detail. The MC comes across as depressed and ambivalent in the logline. You want readers to want to spend time with her, remember. So consider tweaking.

    The opening to the book reads well. You're building up to the inciting event of the book, the sister's death. There's a mood of gathering tension in this sunny house. I too would like it if the emotions of the MC were more in play than the sister's.

    To attract an agent as literary fiction, consider a writerly touch or two in the opening 300-500 words. The prose is pretty straightforward. Also this confuses me: "I followed, aware that if they saw me they’d tell me to leave. Rob didn’t seem to mind, but Sarah hadn’t wanted anything to do with me lately." If they didn't see her than what did Rob not seem to mind?

  10. I love the title of your book.

    Like some of the others, I think the log line is too cluttered. Also, deciding not to keep the baby doesn't mean she won't think about Rob or their encounter again. It just means she doesn't have the constant reminder.

    I think you've got a solid premise and a workable setting. I liked the idea of having her sit on the beach for her introspection.

    This has a lot of potential. Best of luck in the auction.

  11. Author here. Thanks for all the feedback, especially with the logline. I've been struggling to get the right amount of detail, and there were some very helpful suggestions. As to the rest of it, my thoughts are on my blog. Suffice it to say that this has been quite the learning experience.