Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #49

TITLE: A Governess or a Bride
GENRE: Romance

The aroma of crispy bacon wafts past her nose. Immediately a severe pain encompasses every inch of her skull. She places her hands on both sides of her head in an effort to alleviate the agony. She feels something sticky on her left temple. Slowly she opens her eyes while bringing her left hand in front of her. She sees the magenta colored blood. Groaning and confused, she sits up and takes in her surroundings. A steady stream of smoke flows just beside her, evidence of a fire. She notices she is sitting in a chaise surrounded by torn open bags and scattered clothing. No horses are attached. She realizes not only does she have no idea where she is; she doesn't know who she is.

Panic sets in. What am I going to do? Clenched palms drip pools of sweat. The urge to yell vanquishes with the reality that she is alone. There is no one to hear her cries. Tears stream down her face culminating in a burst of sobs. She covers her face with her hands, allowing herself a moment of self-pity.

With haste she rummages through her belongings. Clothing is strewn about as if someone else has searched before her. No reticule is found nor any papers that could shed light on her identity. Gathering all her clothing she puts them back in their cases. While she does so she notices a crumpled piece of paper. Unfolding it she reads the headline with interest.

'Governess wanted.'


  1. This scene gets the job done, but the writing's a little dense and I have a couple questions.

    What's up with the bacon? Other then making me hungry, what does it accomplish? If her carriage crashed next to a hotel or mountebank camp, I'd expect her to have realized it by now.

    Why does she have magenta blood; is this a fantasy-romance? When I read that line, I wondered what kind of monster/creature she was, since human blood isn't magenta in this world.

    Here's an example of what I mean by densely-worded:

    Immediately a severe pain encompasses every inch of her skull. --> Her head pounds. (Or equivalent expression.)

    She places her hands on both sides of her head in an effort to alleviate the agony. --> She presses her hands to her head. (We intuitively understand why she does it.)

    She feels something sticky on her left temple. -->Her left temple is sticky. (You can cut "she feels" because we know we're seeing the world through her POV. "Feels" would be considered a filter word in this instance.)

    Ok, that's enough for now. I like where your story is headed: intrigue. :)

  2. This is an intriguing opening, for sure. The first paragraph was extremely confusing, though. The juxtaposition of the smell of bacon and then pain was extremely confusing, especially because she appears to be outside in a carriage. Starting with your character crying and in pain right away is really tough. And now I'm wondering if she really is smelling bacon burning...ew.

    Basically, it's very disorienting and even though the character is disoriented, it's not the best reader experience. I would suggest toning down the descriptions of her being in pain and lessening the chaos to get us to the third paragraph and the "governess wanted" line, you'll get tons of interest on this. Good luck!

  3. Adding my voice to agree:

    1) Bacon? I'm a vegetarian and I'm like, mom, bacon! But then I'm like why is there bacon in the scene.

    2) Yep. Magenta blood? I need a stronger hint sooner if this is a fantasy world where blood is magenta or this seems like an error.

    3) Yes, the prose is way too dense. I want to fall into this world but the thickness of the prose is keeping me at bay. Trimming will help.

  4. I liked the urgency that you're able to make us feel right in these first paragraphs. Not knowing who you are is disconcerting, and not knowing where you are is even more so. I will be honest that I did not think this was the opening to a romance: the blood (magenta? more like dark red or brick red?) the pain in her skull all made me think she'd been attacked and abducted. I was thinking Roofie/Date rape, but when the note said governess I had to start questioning what time period we were in. The "no horses are attached" is a mystery phrase for me.

    Also the opening action is a bit too dense and wordy: She places her hands on both sides of her head in an effort to.... How about just She touches her temples and feels a stickiness. Blood.

    I had to really slow down my reading to follow what some of my writing partners call "stage directions" - that is, the pointing and gesutres etc. Those don't have to be so minute and detailed. I think I would rather use the words to see the broad strokes of the world we're inhabiting and the danger she finds herself in.

    I hope this helps.

  5. I echo the above comments, especially AJ's about how to make this less dense. I'm feeling very detached from the character because of this and some of the telling going on here.

    Your line, "She realizes not only does she have no idea where she is; she doesn't know who she is" is ironic, because that's how I still feel at the end of this. I get a sense of a pre-industrial setting, but I'm not sure. The only thing I think I know about the MC is lower class economic status if she's interested in the governess ad.

    Some nitpicks:
    1. "The aroma of crispy bacon wafts past her nose." Does crispy bacon have a different smell than bacon only moderately cooked?

    2. A chaise is a specific style of lounge. You write there are no horses attached. I'm thinking, why would there be?

    3. "The urge to yell vanquishes with the reality that she is alone." Did you mean vanishes?

    If you tighten this up you will probably have another 50-75 words to spare and have time to reveal much more in the first 250.

  6. This feels over-written to me. Too many adjectives; too melodramatic. You should consider toning the whole thing down. That being said, I do want to know what happens next!

  7. I agree with the previous comments about wordiness - perhaps taking one or two images to show that she was in an accident and doesn't remember her name. I too wondered about the bacon and the magenta blood. Still, I wonder what will become of her - is she the governess sought, or what.

  8. I thought the idea here was intriguing, although I felt a little adrift in the opening.

    You open with the scent of bacon, but never reveal where it's coming from. And some people take bacon VERY seriously.

    There's some evidence of a fire, but I wasn't sure if that meant small, contained campfire or conflagration devouring a house.

    I was a little uncertain whether she was inside or outdoors. I think a lot of modern minds supply the word "lounge" when they read "chaise," although you obviously meant the carriage.

    Magenta blood--I read across genres, so magenta blood says alien or magical creature to me.

    I think I wanted a little bit more setting, and a little bit more of her. Perhaps an inventory of herself to assess for further injury or to make sure she's properly covered. You can tell us a lot about your character by what she checks first: does she search for her expensive hat? Want to fix up her hair? Search for a mirror? Decide to look for the horses? Does she rummage through the clothes and fling them about, or does she fold them and repack them neatly?

    Those two words, "Governess wanted," truly piqued my interest and made me want to read more.

  9. I have to disagree a bit--I think the wordiness and denser prose helps orient us to the time period. Love the ending of this snippet.

    I did find the reference to bacon not quite fitting with the other time period markers.

  10. I found this heavy going. You start nearly every second sentence with 'She' which got very repetitive, and I still don't know who 'she' is.

    I also ditto the bacon comments above as it doesn't seem to have any bearing on what is happening.

  11. Like many of the other commenters here, I thought the bacon had about as much relevance as "Crazy Dave's" missing bacon in PVZ. If the bacon is vital to the story, keep it but add more so it makes sense to us. Some of the wordiness didn't bother me because I thought it set up the time period but the POV was had for me to read. I know it's agonizing to consider rewriting POV, but what would happen if you rewrote the first chapter this way then had that tested by readers?

  12. The bacon did make me wonder as well. Sometimes after a head injury, people can sense different smells or was that your way of showing location. There was a little bit of telling. You describe evidence of the fire then state there is evidence of a fire. Trust your reader to realize that and pare it down and you will be good!


  13. Certainly intriguing, particularly at the end of this section! I think you want to depict her confusion, and you do this well in some areas, but some of the clues add to the reader's confusion, rather than to the character's. I agree - perhaps focus on the "where and who am I?" and less on hints like the bacon. I would keep reading - good work!