Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #48


I’ll never forget the first time I died.

My best friend, Ana, and I left the Valentine's Day party as a dense fog rolled in off the Virginia coast.

“Carri, look out!”

A large buck, followed by a small doe, darted into the road, and froze, hypnotized by my headlights. I cut the wheel and hit a patch of black ice. My foot slammed the brake, but the car figure skated across the pavement.

A metallic screech pierced the night as the guardrail etched a complaint into the passenger side door, threatening to break, and send us over the edge of Devil’s Peak. Below, the icy black water of the Atlantic eagerly waited to swallow us whole.

Ana jerked the wheel, shooting the car up the adjacent embankment, and into the woods. Tree branches clawed at the doors. The car stopped with a shattering crunch as it plowed into a large tree. My seatbelt locked my body in place, but my head jerked to the side, leaving behind a bloody spider web of cracked glass. My vision blurry from the blow, I shook my head, and tried to get my bearings.

“Ana, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

Crack. Snap. A large pine, its needles encased in ice, swayed in a phantom wind. A broken branch scratched the windshield as if the tree sought retribution for the damage I caused.

“Get out, now!” I fumbled with my seatbelt, but the clasp wouldn’t budge.


  1. Fantastic opening line! There are some really lovely phrases in this ("tree branches clawed," "bloody spider web").

    I think there are two ways this could go that could make it a stronger opening:

    Way 1: Get us to the death faster
    I wonder if there's a bit too much going on in this draft, particularly if we're just trying to get to the example of the death (which I'm assuming is the pine tree falling on the car). Do we need to know they've just been to a Valentine's Day party? Does the buck need to be followed by a doe? (Even that little phrase slows the action.) Does the narrator need to almost drive over a cliff? Because you said it was a "phantom wind," I'm assuming that something magic-y is involved with the pine tree that's about to fall. But if the pine tree's just been hit and is going to fall because of that, could she have just crashed into something (a low tree?) with projectiles that could crush her?

    Way 2: Let us be more in the scene
    I think that some of the crash sequence could still be streamlined. But you might consider letting us have more time in the car with the character's chatting. This would help develop the scene and characters a bit more before we're thrown into the action, which might make for a smoother start.

    Hope that helps! Good luck!

  2. My first thought was also "is the doe necessary?" It definitely slowed down what otherwise feels like a fast-paced scene. I absolutely love all the descriptions of the entire crash and can visualize the whole thing in slow motion very clearly. The problem is that all that lusciousness is not getting back to your main point and hook - the first time she died. You can't drag that out for too long. Since this car crash is intriguing in and of itself, I wonder if you started with the car crash as if it were the present and then use that powerful opening line if it would help the pace more. Just an idea. Play around with it and see if you can find the perfect pacing for this intriguing story.

  3. I sort-of agree with the two commenters above me... but not quite. I do think there are a handful of "too much" words - "My best friend" (info we don't need quite yet - and you're telling rather than showing the relationship), the small doe, the overstated name "Devil's Peak." I don't know, though, if it's too long. It reads well, good voice, and enough tension to make me want to read farther and find out why you can't move and why you're dying repeatedly.

  4. I loved the atmosphere you created. It flowed nicely. The intensity level was where it needed to be. And, I liked your voice.

    I would read more.

  5. First line is awesome!

    I agree with scrapping the "followed by a small doe". I would also remove "froze" (replace with verb to flow: became?) because "hypnotized..." insinuates this.

    You're descriptions put me in the car experiencing the wreck. I like that you included "Devil's Peak" because it gives me a sense of eeriness! Maybe just drop "whole" on the last sentence of that paragraph.

    Maybe shorten paragraph six (possibly combine with paragraph five)to get to how she died the first time quicker. But like previous statements, I like the "bloody spider web".

    I would absolutely keep reading because I'm intrigued by the first line. Why has she died before? How many times has she died? How has it changed her? I want to know!

  6. Love the first line. I agree with other comments, that you could tighten it up a bit to get to the actual dying part, but overall it reads well and I like the voice. I'd keep reading.

  7. This is really cool. I loved the hook of the opening, and the pace of the scene felt about right to me. I can see why other commenters felt it slowed in the middle, but I think I felt as if time was slowing down from the MC's perspective, so it didn't pull me out of the flow of the story. I think you could tighten it up a little though, just with some minor tweaks here and there, but I really want to find out how she died and how she dies more than once!! Really liked this!

  8. Well, you got me with that first line! I definitely want to keep reading to find out what that's all about. Great description of the crash scene. The others have some good points about tightening, but it still had a good pace for me. Good luck!

  9. Great title and opening line. However the 'wreck' scene seems to slow the reading down as it's a flashback. I recommend talking about her waking up after dying. Then weaving in pieces of the flash back a little at a time through the course of the novel.

  10. I liked this. I would cut a few of the words that other commenters have mentioned but nothing else. This is a really intriguing start and I would definitely read on.

  11. My thought is, if you're going to start with the accident and the MC's death, why not simply show it in real time?

    The opening line does pull you in, but it doesn't satisfy because by the end of the excerpt, we still don't know how the MC died. We can guess, but we don't know. I was disappointed because I expected to have an answer by the end.

    If you told it in real time, it wouldn't matter that you don't come to a conclusion at the end of the first page because you haven't promised anything, and instead of being disappointed, I'm still willing to read on. In fact, I need to read on to see what happens.

  12. Nice opening line. As the other comments mention, there’s some room to tighten this up a bit, but overall I think it reads really well. That brief moment of relief before the pine tree really heightens the tension and makes you want to keep reading.