Wednesday, September 23, 2015

September Secret Agent #47

Title: Love Has No Age
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Meg could feel the tension in her shoulders as she rolled her neck from side to side. A night with little sleep, and worry for her mother-in-law, was making her drive home in the early morning, a challenging one. The music blared loudly as she tried singing along. At least Mary was out of danger and was responding to treatment. The heart attack had been minor, with minimal damage.

She was a worrier, especially about her son. Since starting high school he had become increasingly belligerent. He acted out more now and his grades were slipping. She hoped he had arrived home on time. He had been going out with some new friends and she did not like him driving with people she had not met.

Meg’s thoughts were interrupted by the siren sounding behind her. Oh no, she moaned, as she looked at the patrol car behind her and its flashing lights in the rear view mirror. She hadn’t been paying attention to her speed and now she was being pulled over. She checked her speedometer and knew she had been speeding. She had never gotten a ticket, always obeying the rules of the road. She was thankful it would only be a ticket and she'd not been in an accident.

Meg signaled and quickly pulled over to the side of the road. She watched the cruiser park behind her through the side mirror, but the officer made no move to get out of the cruiser.


  1. Hello!

    Your writing is really sound, but I don't think I'd read on with this. It feels like it's starting in the wrong place. Each paragraph just gives more and more backstory, piling details upon details. Meg seems like she's probably a nuanced and really well-realised character, but I feel a little like I'm reading from a character sheet.

    Also, I'm not sure why 'Oh no' isn't formatted like dialogue. That was a bit jarring to read.

    All that said, I still feel like this is just a case of starting too soon or trying to layer too much into opening, because being pulled over by the police car is interesting and I assume is going to lead to some interesting conflict/tension and the start of the story. I'd much rather start with being pulled over and have all those details you've put up front gradually drip fed through.

    Well done and good luck!

  2. I agree with the above critique. Start with the cop pulling her over. Also it would help to use deeper POV--ridding the words felt and knew etc. She checked her speedometer. Speeding. A ticket? She never broke the laws.
    Watch the backstory too. You can bring that out later a few lines at a time. We want to get to know the character and feel her dilemma right away.

  3. I completely agree with the first two critiques. Start with the cop pulling her over because up till that point there is no action, nothing happening. Don't waste your opening on the main character thinking. You can hook the reader with something unusual happening during the stop, a dilemma arises. After you've set up the main character, her goal and the conflict you can weave in the backstory and sprinkle in bits and pieces about Meg. I would show Meg worrying about the heart attack and other things rather than telling it. I love romance and I'm hoping the police officer-the stop is the beginning of something romantic and full of conflict. Terri Tiffany nailed it, using deeper POV would enable you to let us inside Meg's head.

  4. Looks like I’m devil’s advocate here. Getting stopped by the police car is exciting, but to me it’s important to know a little something about the person getting stopped first. Her thoughts while driving do this well and I know she’s a mother and daughter in law and a worrier, so when she is stopped I’m more invested in her reactions and the outcome.

    That said, there is room to tighten up the first two paragraphs. Rather than Meg could feel the tension, make it Meg felt the tension or maybe even Meg rolled her neck to relive the tension. Maybe some of that deeper POV mentioned as well. Thank goodness her mother-in-law would be okay.

  5. Hi! I'll admit off the bat that contemporary romance isn't my genre, so take this for what it's worth. I felt there was too much backstory in the first two paragraphs. It felt like an info dump. I'd suggest focusing on just one trial, either the heart attack or her son's plight, and let the other be worked in slowly later on. Having too much happen too fast without knowing anything about the main character is kind of overwhelming.

    The third paragraph was also problematic for me. I like the tension the police car brings, but that tension gets lost with the inner dialogue--plus all the talk about her speeding is redundant. I think you could scrub it and still get to where you want to go with less words, more tension. Something like this:

    A flash of lights and a siren interrupted her thoughts. "Oh no," she moaned as a patrol car pulled up behind her. She hadn’t been paying attention to her speed. She had never gotten a ticket before. Why now?

    Best of luck!

  6. I really loved the way you got inside your character's head.

    Although I thought there was a little much backstory. I found myself drawn into the story and wondering what would happen next.

  7. My initial impressions is that this is a character with a lot on her plate--and someone who feels a deep sense of responsibility for each of these situations. But I felt we got a bit too much of these worries right away. Fretting about her mother-in-law's health on the drive back from the hospital feels realistic and logical. The sudden jump to fretting about the teen son was jarring, however, and felt more like a literary device at work. What do readers NEED to know right away to connect with the character and her situation? That is the only information we need on the first page. With so many details here, I felt distanced from Meg, and I want to live the scenes with her!

  8. Openings are damn hard and I sympathize with your dilemma. You're received some really helpful feedback here from the commenters and I don't have much to add.

    Opening with backstory, introspection and telling in an expository fashion is not the best way to hook a reader. However, you can weave in the action with her thoughts an feelings (I wholeheartedly agree with losing words like "felt" and "feeling" whenever possible). Deep POV is a writer's best friend.

    For example, if you start the story with the police siren blaring behind her (make it clear it's the police), have her viscerally respond to it in a way that relates to her recent visit to the hospital. And her never having received (don't use "gotten") a ticket in her life can relate to how she always follows the rules and wishes her son had inherited that trait, etc. Just don't digress. Thinking in asides that relate to the scene are great when done sparingly. Just keep it tight and make associations between thoughts and events clear for the reader.

    Good luck!

  9. This is one that I don’t think starts in the right place. You’ve got a lot of backstory to Meg, but it’s reading more like a character sketch than anything. Which, really, it’s not a bd thing to have so much info on your characters! But this is info for you to create a well-nuanced character and the details get filtered through to the reader in bits and pieces rather than getting a whole info dump all at once before we really know who she is.

    Given that it’s a contemp rom, I’m thinking the officer who pulls her over will be the love interest? It’s just not pulling me in quite yet.

  10. Perhaps consider rewriting this page. Have all the same things happen, but allow Meg to do them, rather than you explaining everything Meg did. This is all told, so everything is a watered down, flatter version of what it could be.

    In your first sentence you tell us Meg is feeling tension in her shoulders so she rolls her neck to ease that tension. Instead, let Meg do it. Meg rolled her head from side to side, easing the tension in her shoulders. You could even allow her to feel the tension first.

    You tell us she’s a worrier. Don’t. Just allow her to have worrying thoughts. Don’t tell us –
    Since starting high school he had become increasingly belligerent. He acted out more now and his grades were slipping. She hoped he had arrived home on time. He had been going out with some new friends and she did not like him driving with people she had not met.

    People don’t think in proper expositional sentences. They don’t have to explain to themselves what they’re thinking about. Instead, put yourself in that car. You’re driving home and thinking about your son. How would you think those same above thoughts?

    What’s going on with Mike? His grades are slipping. He’s belligerent. I hope he got home all right.

    You can bump this opening up several notches just by showing and making it active.