Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #23

GENRE: Historical Women's Fiction

Evelyn Carmichael liked to dig her fingers deep into the penny candy bins at D’Antonio’s Sweet Shoppe. To feel the crinkle of the wrappers in her hands, the sweets filling her palms. The candy store was no bigger than the tailor shop or the Town Clerk’s office, but it was filled with every kind of sweet treat imaginable. Evelyn normally chose the candies with the liquid centers—the strawberry kind was her favorite—but every so often she bought anise or horehound and tried to trick her siblings into eating it. Evelyn was knuckle-deep in a mound of root beer barrels when she spotted Peter Mayes behind the register, pulling the crank handle with a satisfying ching! that clanged throughout the small store.

It was just Evelyn’s luck that she'd run into Peter on an afternoon when she’d forgotten to swipe a coat of red lipstick over her too-thin lips. Peter was a year older—a high schooler!—and a few weeks earlier he had leaned in to kiss her after they ducked behind the football concession stand. The smell of popcorn was thick in the humid air, and she felt sticky with sweat, as if she had been brushed with butter like the popped kernels. His mouth was damp and warm, like he’d just licked his lips. He tried to slide his hand up the front of her blouse. Evelyn stiffened and swatted his hand away. “No!” she’d said, too loud, and old Mr. Sweeney had stuck his head around the corner to see what the commotion was.


  1. Great intro. I can totally see, and hear, the setting. I want to read more.

  2. Great sensory details in the first paragraph. We learn the first conflict (Peter). We get Evelyn's age and sense of family.
    But, I think the second paragraph is too much of chunked backstory. Is is enough to know that they kissed behind the stand or do we need the details that take us out of the candy store where we just started?

  3. Agree with above. Nice imagery to open, then grinds in para 2. Keep up the action and rework the backstory in after more is revealed. Good luck.

  4. I agree, the visual and setting details are great. I'm a little torn with what era this is; the red lipstick sort of threw me, I was thinking older era, but that felt more modern, especially if she isn't even in high school yet.

    What may help with readability is to break up these two paragraphs into smaller ones, especially since this is all narrative with no action or dialogue to break it up.

    A number of the was + verb combos could probably be rephrased for a less passive narrative. (though if the rephrasing feels too labored, but all means use was, just watch for repeating the same sentence structures). Maybe some of the flashback (meeting Peter is a flashback, right?) could be saved for later to keep the story staring in the present.

  5. I like how this is flowing. The description is wonderful.

    I just had a couple of questions.
    I wonder if your description of the candy store in comparison to the other places could be tighter. Could you describe how the candy makes the store feel huge etc?
    My other question is, would an 8th grader where red lipstick? that struck me as odd, but perhaps that is your character.

    Hope this helps.

  6. The genre says "historical." It would have been nice to have some indication of the time. Okay, I do have an idea, but something more concrete about the setting would add something to the scene (time-weather-name of place). Yes, the descriptions are nice and researched, but readers tend to read books with less descriptions nowadays. Just something to keep in mind. Getting a hint at a conflict would be nice too.

  7. I loved the writing in the first paragraph and though you did a fairly good job at setting the time. I tripped when reading this because I thought it should have a contraction:
    as if she had been brushed with butter
    as if she'd been brushed with butter

    Very rich language. Instead of the entire backstory in the second paragraph, what about learning the way the MC FEELS when she sees the boy or just a quick mention of his hand touching her breast and her face flushing red so we become curious about the situation.

  8. Very nice start, but I wouldn't go into a flashback before we even know who the character is now. That whole second paragraph can be cut down to a sentence. Also, I was surprised by the lipstick, as she seemed much younger (although I guess you're never too old to love candy). This sounds promising.

  9. The beginning is beautifully written and I have a great sense of the setting, but if this is historical I have no idea what era I'm in.

    I agree with one of the previous commenters about the second paragraph. I would rather read how she feels about Peter's hand touching her because I think it'll bring some more immediate tension to the first 250.

    Good luck!