Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #13


Coins plinked one after the other into a worn fedora passing through the crowd. The masses lining the old farm road paid to see a show, and if that meant watching me fall to my death, so much the better.

Children sat atop their father's shoulders, the late afternoon sun melting the creamy treats in their hands. Red-cheeked women adjusted their hats, and fanned themselves wildly, praying for any kind of breeze. For most people the chaos would be a distraction, but the crowd, and their lively shouts, only spurred me on.

Nathan and I snuck through the masses. Our roadster sat just twenty feet away.

"You ready, Grace?"

Stepping over weeds and discarded handbills touting, "The Greatest Flying Circus west of the Mississippi," I winked and pointed in the direction of the car. "Race you."

Leather goggles bounced around my neck as I ran. I pulled them over my eyes, securing the back against my dark knot of hair. Without a roof, the wind would tangle it in seconds.

Whispers in the crowd murmured the same thing: I was insane.

They were wrong.

I simply refused to be like other girls who mindlessly milled around downtown Lincoln. Half of them without jobs or goals for the future. President Coolidge promised change, but Nebraska was still the same since he took office. There was proof of it everywhere. Along the streets, grief covered the scarred faces of young men who lost limbs and friends in the Great War.


  1. Yay - a historical!

    I love the subtle touches that establish the era - the fedora, the old farm road, the handbills.

    I'm intrigued by the show too - what it will be and how she will risk Grace's life.

    The last paragraph, however, felt too heavy-handed. Don't tell us her motivations - let us discover them as we get to know her.

    Also, a few historical details felt off to me. In the 1920's (right?) it wouldn't have been at all strange for girls not to have jobs. And if Coolidge is president, we're at least 5 years past the end of WWI - are the veterans still young and perpetually grieving? Even at such an exciting event?

    If you can believably show us how, in the context of this time period, Grace became such a daredevil, I think this could be loads of fun. Good luck!

  2. You do a great job using little clues to set the time and place of your story (fedora, dusty roads, roadster, Great War). There's tension in this scene, wondering if she's going to get hurt, and you clue us in about the MC's larger goals, which is good. Plus, I like historical, so I would definitely keep reading. :)

    I thought it was a little telly when she says, "I refused to be like the other girls." Because it can be a tad cliche (I mean, most historical fiction had to be about people who aren't like everyone else), I'd rather be shown that--maybe have some of the local girls there giving her dirty looks and she can just shrug it off and say, "I can't afford to care what they think if I don't want to be stuck here like them," or something like that.

    I was a little confused because a couple of things made me think she was going up on a plane instead of racing in a car--you mentioned her falling, the flying circus, and the flight goggles. None of those is bad by themselves, but put together, without a specific mention of car races right at the start, threw me off a bit.

  3. The opening lines are great and set the stage, with a nice hook at the end.

    I would have liked to see that hook continue with focus on the MC and their trick/stunt rather than panning the crowd again. I'm still not sure if the MC is part of the circus, joining it, or doing a daredevil act on a whim. This is more about organization. Give us something to latch on to, one little line that solidifies what she's doing there, and then you can add those details about the crowd.

    I would expand on a few things, like what kind of creamy treats? (it says the creamy treats like we should know what these are.) The showing detail and descriptions are lovely. I just want to know more of what's going on.

  4. I found this opening a bit confusing. At first, it feels like we are at the circus and the mc is about to do a high wire act where everyone wants him/her to fall. Then we are about to race to a car. That felt jarring.

    I don't feel very grounded in this scene. I feel like I know more about the town coming to see the circus than who the mc is.

  5. This is lovely and interesting and fun! Great beginning.

    A few suggestions for polishing:

    Don't need the comma after "hats" in par. 2, or the commas after "crowd" or "shouts."

    Par. 6: Maybe add Without a roof "over my head" or "on the car" or something. Otherwise it kind of sounds like your hair should have a roof...

    Last par: I think it should be "young men who HAD lost limbs"

    Really great stuff. Love your writing and the voice. Congrats and good luck!

  6. This is a good opener, and i like the historical hints dropped throughout the piece. I don't get how she's about to "fall to her death" if she's driving, but that will be explained later i guess.

    However, (and I have no degree in Historical studies so take this with a grain of salt) I thought the Great War was a foreign term while Americans used World War. Just something to look up.

    Otherwise, great start!

  7. I love the setting in this piece and the way you have introduced the reader to your character's world in such subtle and seamless way - part of the story.

    But I felt like I wanted to know more about your character and wondered if I might have had a stronger sense of them if you had introduced them first before the clinking of the coins.

    I might have also got a stronger sense of your character if you had them interacting with the setting - for example, if they had pushed past the father with the child on his shoulders and got some sort of a response.

    I like the way your character is determined to not be like other girls - I'm sure this will make her appealing to teen readers.

  8. Nice touches with setting the place and time here. I wonder about the creamy treats, because that implies they're all eating the same thing, which would mean there was a vendor there, and I wonder if that would have been likely in rural Nebraska at that time.

    I'm thinking this is an air show, early airplanes doing loops and nosedives, flying around with wing walkers on them, that type of thing, and that they're running to the car, which will then be driven under a moving plane while they climb a rope ladder from the car to the plane.

    I'm guessing your average teen reader won't have a clue as to what's happening here and will imagine a circus a la Barnum and Bailey. You do give us a clue with the goggles, but perhaps show us an airplane in the field, or something, and give us a hint at what she's about to do. I think keeping it a mystery for so long may be more frustrating than intriguing, whereas stating what she's about to do would create some suspense, because now we're thinking like the crowd, wondering if she's insane, and if she might fall and kill herself.

  9. I enjoyed this, but was thrown off by the last paragraph which pulled me away from Grace (which is where I want to be) and into background about the time and place. I’d stay in scene, so we stay connected to the action and character.