Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #28

TITLE: Stagger Inn
GENRE: Women's Fiction

At Dawn's Early Light, Molly greeted the early morning customers, the wintry air still trapped in their coats. Dawn's was just a little restaurant squeezed into the first floor of a tall St. Louis office building. It was a hopelessly hokey place, its walls plastered with signs like Come In and Get Fed Up, and Customers who find Our Waitresses Rude Ought to See the Manager. Fake diner interior, everything tinged by the smell of fried eggs and hashed brown potatoes.

This was Molly's twenty-ninth job in the eleven years since she'd quit high school. And she was itchy again. Five months ago she'd worked at St. Louis's prestigious Chase Park Plaza serving elegant banquets, but she felt invisible there, dressed in black, instructed to be inconspicious. She walked off the job one night, before the dessert course, before she suffocated to death. She handed her apron to the maitre d'. "My name is Molly Russell," she said, "and I used to work here." She exited through the luxurious lobby instead of the mandated kitchen door, laughing. Despite her determination to settle down, her twitchy feet were always taking her someplace else.

Molly didn't actually witness Vinnie's unwelcome entrance into the restaurant that morning. She was taking an order from two nurses when he spun her around and forced her into a dance, loudly singing a snatch of Alice Cooper's lyrics, "I can't do right when all I want to do is wrong."

Customers stared, forks in midair.


  1. Intriguing beginning. I would change the second early in the first sentence. With the name of the diner having Early in it, the second early seems awkward.

  2. The first paragraph (other than the first sentence) bothers me. It doesn't have the gravitas that the other paragraphs do, or the access to our MC. I love where this ends up, really really do, but the first paragraph doesn't grab my attention.

  3. There is a lot to like in this posting, though I'm not crazy about the stab at backstory in para 2. I like the line about her 29th job, but don't need to have them rehashed. For me, it slowed the story after an interesting start. Good luck.

  4. I really like this, especially the first paragraph. Great descriptions. I can see the diner so clearly. I want to read more.

    The paragraph about her other jobs might be a bit long but it tells us about who she is so it didn't bother me.

    I love the last sentence.

  5. Nice intro into the character's life. I love the way we learn her name - when she quits her previous job. The diner name was super confusing for me the way the first two sentences were phrased - had to re-read many times to be sure I was reading the name of the diner and not a person.

  6. The second paragraph sort of breaks up the action of the opening scene. I like the "My name is Molly Russell, and I used to work here" line. Its funny and gives you a good idea of the kind of person Molly is. But the paragraph placement feels off. If its needed, it should probably go somewhere else.

    Reading this, I feel sort of lost, though. Like I've been put down in the middle of a scene, rather than at the beginning of a book. I would reconsider your first chapter, and try something with a bit more of a hook.

    Also, it sounds like Vinnie's entrance is supposed to be really awkward, but wouldn't customers to a "hokey" diner think something like that was funny rather than weird? I can see a guy breaking into song and dancing around a diner with a girl be something that brings a smile to my face, rather than something of the frozen-fork-in-mid-air variety.

    I do like the imagery of this hokey little restaurant, but I don't like how its explained. It seems to tell too much rather than show. Instead of saying its "hokey," I'd rather read more about what makes it hokey. You have a good start with the signs, but what else? Paint a picture for me!

    Good luck!

  7. This is good writing, but I think you need to ease backstory in rather than dump it into the second paragraph of your manuscript. Some nice writing in that paragraph, but that's not enough of a reason not to cut it out. Also, try to clean things up on the sentence level. This is a nice start.

  8. I agree with the double "early" in the first paragraph that a few others have mentioned.

    I wonder if you might start with Vinnie interrupting Molly and dancing--I like this image and it would grab my attention more than a description of a diner that seems pretty standard. You could work the backstory in as she thinks about how she'll have to quit now that Vinnie has made a scene with her, or something like that.

    Hope this helps!