Wednesday, March 7, 2018

March Secret Agent Contest #29

TITLE: The Monster Waves
GENRE: Adult Literary Fiction (Family Saga)

WE LOST MY LITTLE BROTHER on the day before Christmas.

Bud had been playing with his toys just after breakfast, there in the living room of our small house. And then he wasn’t.

No one knew if he’d wandered away or was taken by somebody, whether he was snatched violently or ran laughing to someone who smiled and held out a Hershey bar. He was only 4, but he wasn’t a shy kid. There was no way to know the exact circumstances.


SINCE IT WAS CHRISTMAS, that day in 1940, I didn’t have to go to school. About an hour later than usual, I poked a foot out of covers, just a small gesture before fully committing to verticality. And already, something was off. The room temperature was comfortable, almost too warm. We lived in Euclid, a suburb of Cleveland hard against the shore of Lake Erie. Late in December, you could count on winter’s full conceit, icicles, snow, the kind of cold that bit lips, froze the snot in your nose, sent your pecker and balls into deep hiding. Our house, old like all the ones around it, had a basement furnace, boxy and solid as a freight engine. The heat managed to reach the main level pretty well, but the second-floor bedrooms were another story. On school mornings, when I had to be up by 6:30, it wasn’t all that rare to see my breath, steaming white like Seabiscuit’s stamping in the gate at Pimlico.


  1. Not sure why the first five words are capitalized, but otherwise the opening grabs me. The transition is confusing; is it the same Christmas, or a different one? And while I like all the details, together they are slowing down the story. I want to know who the narrator is and what's going to happen next.

  2. Strong beginning, and in literary fiction I can live with the suspense and tension and story question building slowly, especially after the opening sentence. However, you might defer the third graf ("No one knew...") until later. That way, "lost" retains its overtones of mortal passing until later, which injects some urgency to learn more. I'm hopeful that the description of Euclid will resolve soon enough into something that matters to the MC (and the reader), since the writing is clear and strong. I'd want to read more.

  3. Yeah, I really have to agree with the others. The opening is really strong here. I was just scanning all the entries, and this one really drew me in. Good job.

    That said, I think you could clean things up in the beginning without changing many words. Split some sentences perhaps, and get rid of some commas.

    The only thing I didn't like about the beginning was the line "There was no way to know the exact circumstances." It just didn't fit the wonderful voice you created with the words above. It sounded too... formal? old? A simple "We just didn't know." seems to flow better I think -- but you could probably come up with something better.

    As for the last paragraph, if someone had just read it aloud I probably would have loved it. You've really captured the voice here. But, reading it was a bit of a chore. Split it up into different paragraphs, give the reader time to breathe. And possibly split some sentences. Even if you have to split off a fragment I think it would improve things... and with that voice you have I don't think anyone would mind.

    Again, wonderful opening and great voice. Just needs to be cleaned up a bit for the reader's experience. Nice work.

  4. Very grabbing opening, to be sure, but I found myself a little confused about the transition. The story is being told in hindsight and we’ve already been introduced to a life changing moment, so I would imagine that everything felt off the following day, no? It feels as though the reader is being set up for yet another tragedy. The play-by-play of the character waking up has me worried that we’re in for a lot of telling, so I would advise to make sure that whoever it is that we’re following is up and interacting with the world soon.

  5. I thought immediately of JonBenet Ramsey. Just the situation alone is enough to raise interest. This is so long ago now; is the narrator consistent over nearly 80 years? I'd edit the last paragraph and dribble these facts into later sections.