Wednesday, March 7, 2018

March Secret Agent Contest #10

TITLE: Forget It!
GENRE: Adult Mystery/Crime

When Althea turned her back and pulled up her shirt, Mary choked off a scream.

I forced myself to not look away. The keloid scars stood bold and angry, red worms tunneling through Althea’s chestnut skin.

Red worms driven by a serrated hunting knife, forming a hakenkreuz. A swastika. A symbol of hatred, inscribed in the small of Althea Dorrell’s back. A taunt the size of a salad plate, carved – hacked, really – into her flesh.

“You can put your shirt down.” Wendy’s voice, calm, soft but commanding. A doctor counseling her patient, except that Althea wasn’t her patient, but an old friend of Mary, and thus, more recently, of Wendy.

“There’s… more.”

Her face still turned toward the paneled wall of the trailer, Althea struggled to lift her shirt further. I couldn’t decide if the limitation lay in her arms, or in her willingness – her ability – to share her pain with us.

Or in Althea feeling like the subject of an interrogation. On the tired couch, alone. Mary and Wendy in wooden chairs around the small dining table, facing her. Me in a third chair, pulled away from the table, so I could see Althea, study her, with nothing between us but the ghosts of the bastards who’d attacked her, nearly killed her two years ago.

Mary whispered, “Let me help.”

Althea looked over her shoulder. Staring at her old friend. She swung around, fixed her eyes on Wendy, then focused on the stranger in the room.



  1. Hi:
    You've set up a dramatic, high-stakes situation that will hook the reader. I just had a bit of trouble figuring who was whom and where everybody was in relationship to each other. Some of the language made it difficult to clearly visualize the scene. Do you need four women there, or can it just be three to help clarity?
    Who is the stranger she is facing? That line confused me.

  2. The writing is lovely though admittedly I don't understand some of the words. One thing is certain, I have no idea who the main character is. I've read in many forums/articles/blog posts... do not introduce too many people right away. I open my story with multiple people too but it is quickly established who the MC is. Unfortunately, I can't tell with the part we've been given. I think the second paragraph could be condensed also. We understand that her wounds are bad.Use these first few sentences to grab the reader with more info on who the MC is and not just what happened before the story starts. I'm a little confused too about where they are. Initially, I thought maybe a doctor's office, then you state they are sitting in chairs around a dining table. Is this a support group? I'd like to know more about what the MC feels here and why we should root for her. Unfortunately, I don't think (at least not for me) her wounds are enough of a reason yet.

    How about cutting the first sentence altogether. Start with the second paragraph but condense it. Start with a description of the wounds... then other's reaction to it. Something like that. Just suggestions, I hope they help. Best of luck!

  3. You've hooked me with the drama, to be sure, but, like Dianne, I'm confused about who is whom, and what the relationships are, and that pulls my attention away from the drama. Once I figure out who's who, I'll probably have to go back and re-read this to put it in proper context.

    So . . . I think you need to set the stage more clearly, letting us know who's who. Something like, "When Althea turned her back and lifted her shirt, even her life-long friends, Mary and Wendy, gasped." Put the characters in context right away.

  4. You've caught my attention and I am interested. I love the closing line about the only stranger -- me. The description of her back needs some work (in my opinion). I did not know what a keloid scar was. I looked it up which then gave me a visual.hakenkreuz is another unfamiliar word I had to look up. Use swastika first. If the other word gives a clue to the story, then use it. Red worms, unfortunately, although a good description, because they are nearly the first and I don't know what the "reality" of this story is, was literal. That's what I visualized and I don't think that was your intention. The scene is great, it's gripping but there needs to be accurate visuals.

  5. The stakes are high from the get-go here and the tone is sharp and eerie, which I love. Great writing. There were too many people in the room for me, though. I found myself tripping over who was who. Why not let the pop character take the lead here? We will get more from the moment if we see if through their eyes and feel their reaction and we can always meet the others (if necessary and relevant to the story) later.

  6. I think that some of the confusion the reader feels could be allayed with an opening that set the scene, a wide shot that them moves into detail. Hope that helps, and good luck!