Wednesday, March 7, 2018

March Secret Agent Contest #35

TITLE: For the Love of a Child
GENRE: Adult Suspense

My fingers tapped against the neck of the whiskey bottle that had saved my life. I wanted to pull it out and toss down a little more liquid courage, but I knew I’d only be putting off the inevitable. The door in front of me wasn’t going anywhere.

If I knocked, I honestly believed he’d kill me. Not figuratively. Not the cute ‘he’s going to kill me’ I hear other women use when they go shopping. He would literally end my life.

A cartoon image of a tombstone floated in front of my eyes.

Betty Miller. Died September 20th, 1998. Knocked on the wrong door.

My fingers traced the swirls in the wood grain. Much like the grey siding of the apartment complex around it, this particular rust-colored piece of wood didn’t appear to be anything special. But if I went through with this, knocked on this specific door, my life would change forever.

I stood there for a minute or two, staring at the door while my body swayed back and forth as if the wooden deck belonged to a ship in a storm. The bottle had somehow found its way back into my hand. I brought it to my lips, and part of me welcomed the warmth and euphoria the amber liquid ushered in on its way down my throat. The other part of me wanted to throw up.


  1. Chills! But first paragraph is distracting/confusing. What about removing it, and working in the whiskey bottle after that fantastic line in italics? Also, suggest removing "I honestly believed". Now, what's behind that door??

  2. The first graf throws me because even after reading this entry twice I cannot tell whether it precedes the other grafs in time, or is a flashback. It's a nice dilemma you've set up, however. Good suspense. Watch out, however, for weak images and prhasing. "The bottle somehow," "tapped _against_" (word not needed), "honestly believed" (you're in her POV, and she either believes or doesn't), "change forever." This is a terrific setup, but I would urge another round of close editing to bring it to the level where readers cannot turn away.

  3. This is a really intriguing opening. There’s one small thing that threw me off: the image of the cartoon tombstone. I’d advise cutting that as it takes away from the intensity of the moment, otherwise really cool hook.

    1. I guess I was trying a bit too hard to show her jumble of emotions -- terrified at what she's about to do yet giddy at the prospect of finally doing it, mixed in with being a little buzzed/drunk and going almost a full day without sleep -- with the "cartoon" part. I agree it works better without it.

      Thank you!

  4. I believe the hook is gripping. But unless Betty is a big fan of cartoon or it's a career-pertinent to her to pop up first thing in her mind even in serious situation, this part is a mood-breaker.

  5. I agree..the set up is good..but she fiddles with things too much with her fingers..the whisky then the door. And the cartoon tombstone seems flippant. Your protagonist does seem to have her own voice and engaging character, which bodes well for the rest of the novel.

  6. I agree with the things others have said. I think you can drop "cartoon". You probably don't need this line either: Not figuratively.

    The writing flows well, but I didn't understand the bit about how the bottle of whiskey saved her life.