Wednesday, September 23, 2015

September Secret Agent #28

Title: The Fairer Sex
Genre: Speculative Fiction


Jonas waited on his bunk, hands clasped behind his neck, counting ceiling tiles. There were sixty-four. He knew because he counted them whenever he waited for something to happen. He waited a lot.

A sharp knock at the door. He jumped to answer it, compound-issued sneakers squeaking on the linoleum. Dennis, dressed in his customary purple coveralls, stood grinning on the other side. Sometimes Jonas was grateful he was an evaluator, if only for the green threads.

"So, is it a go?" he asked, moving aside to let Dennis in.

"I may have heard through the grapevine we're on for tomorrow."

"Finally." Jonas shifted his weight on the balls of his feet--a fighter's impulse. "It's been too long."

"Orville is giving a tour to some female tomorrow, we're hoping he'll be thoroughly distracted. We're using the soundproof room on the third floor of the administration building."

It sounded perfect, adrenaline pounded through his system. Tomorrow, for the first time in months, he'd be washing blood from his knuckles.

Chapter 1

Samantha was accustomed to being early. In school she'd always been in her seat before the bell rang, and she had regularly shown up for soccer practice while the field was still being mowed. Even for her delivery, a scheduled c-section due to a breeched baby, she had shown up three hours early in full labor. No c-section necessary.

Punctual as usual that morning, she unbuckled her daughter one-handedly while balancing a briefcase between her knee and chin.


  1. I like the descriptions of Jonas and Dennis, and the dialogue felt very natural, but I'm wondering why you chose to begin with a prologue. I was intrigued by the Jonas character, and the sudden change to Samantha was a bit jarring. I suppose Samantha is the "some female" who will be given a tour by Orville, who is in danger of a bloody beating from Jonas and Dennis. I'd like to know more about Samantha other than her habitual punctuality. Who is the story's main character, Jonas or Samantha? I would probably continue to read, but only if it was made clear very quickly why these people are apparently crossing paths.

  2. I agree with Susan, the prologue is disconcerting because you introduce two MCs who don't seem to have a connection at this point. Prologues are tricky things so be sure it isn't a place to dump background information and if you find there's a lot of important information to offer from a prologue, consider the story may be starting in the wrong place. Also, speculative fiction isn't a genre. Its a collective term for all genres--fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, etc. Which genre defines your story?

  3. I like it because it is written well. I agree that the prologue is not needed and to add that to the start of Chapter one. I too am confused of who is the main character. I'm thinking Samantha but right now I'm not sure, which makes it hard for me to connect to someone. Your description is great.

  4. The prologue for the most part worked for me. We enter the story and move along with Jonas. We're not sure exactly what's going on, but it sounds like someone's in for a pounding. The compound-issued sneakers did puzzle me for a moment. I think you mean he lives in some sort of compound, a prison or cult or something like that and the sneakers are standard issue. Consider how to say this in a clearer way that hints what kind of facility he is in.

    Samantha's opening didn't work as well. Instead of entering the story with her, we read a paragraph of background info. about her. Ask yourself if this info is needed so early in the story. If so, move it down a few paragraphs after we get into her story. I was also puzzled by the briefcase balanced between chin and knee. I'm sorry but that image didn't work for me. I can't picture how that would work with her standing or sitting. Samantha's section reads rather flat, with little tension. Consider starting her story somewhere else.

  5. Here you have two very different openers in the first 250. In the first the reader is thrown into the action and left scrambling to catch up, coming to realize there is going to be a fight tomorrow. In the second a leisurely narrative introduces the character.

    From what I’ve seen from the comments here, the first method, being action prone, is preferred by most. To me, of the two characters, Jonas and Samantha, I know nothing of Jonas except he wants to fight, he is an evaluator, and he lives in some sort of institution. Of Samantha I know she is punctual, she played soccer, she is a new mother, and she carries a brief case.

    Because of her introductory paragraph I feel I know her better and am more inclined to root for her. I am only throwing this out there to suggest that opening with narrative is not such a huge no-no imo.

    When I go to Amazon and look inside to see the first 250 of many popular books I find narrative openings to be quite common. One thing to keep in mind, though, is the narrative is often humorous or literary, and it often introduces an element of mystery early. Look at the first 250 of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, for instance, and see how the secret is introduced in the third paragraph.

    I just wanted to throw that out there, and as you have both openings exemplified very well in a short space, this was the perfect forum.

    Thanks, and best wishes with your story

  6. Like most people here, I don't think the prologue is needed. You introduced some interesting aspects in the prologue, but agents hate prologue and I think Samantha's voice is strong enough to draw in your audience. Despite what some people say, mystery and action aren't always needed in the first paragraph to hook your reader. In fact, many books on my shelf start with a more relaxed scene and use voice to draw in the reader. Assuming you can work some of this mystery into the end of the chapter, and Samantha's voice stays strong and consistent, I think you'd hook most people.

  7. For me, the prologue didn’t work and feels much more like a first chapter (if expanded more) as opposed to a prologue. This feels like backstory and is a quick introduction to a couple of characters — then we jump to Samantha’s POV and I almost thought this was a romance instead of Speculative Fiction!

    And when we get to Samantha’s opening, we find more backstory to introduce her. These are things to filter in throughout the opening rather than tell us up front. With the prologue and first chapter being so disjointed, I’m not sure who I’m supposed to root for!

  8. The prologue, I think, is not a prologue, but a scene. A prologue is usually an event that happens long before the story starts that is essential to understanding the future story. And whether you call it a prologue or not, I think it doesn’t work here. We’re getting a short intro to Jonas, but not enough to feel or empathize with him. Then we jump to Samantha, and the same thing happens there. In the end, what do I know? Jonas is a boxer looking for a fight and Samantha is a punctual woman with a baby. There’s nothing intriguing, mysterious, or compelling about either of those things.

    But, if you use the opening to focus on one of them, you have more room to include something compelling, intriguing, or mysterious, and the reader gets to learn more about them, and the more we know, the more we can empathize and care.