Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Secret Agent #1

Title: The Beneficiary Genre: Women's Fiction Rena Harding slapped the invoice stamped “Past Due” on the table and peered out the window to the sign someone had staked into the mud flats. The next item on her list would be to march down and yank it out. She’d do that as soon as she figured out how to deal with the electric bill.

It was June. Plenty of kerosene in the shed. She and Will could fire up the old hurricane lamps. She’d use the electric stove as little as possible. Instead, make it fun. Cook using driftwood on an outdoor fire. Cold-water washes in the set-tub, sheets flapping on the line. They’d be okay here on the island. They knew how to toss a hook—Will had been fishing since he learned to walk. Besides, a few jabs in the mud with a clam fork or a trip to a populated rock and they’d have all the shellfish they’d need. Sautéed mussels. Mussel stew. Clam chowder, cakes, stuffed. She’d mix it up. Flavor things with onion, dill, a potato or two. A few extra shifts at the diner and they’d make it—through the summer, anyway.

Lord, the sign out there annoyed her. It was one thing during election season. But now? Why would anyone bother to put one out here? Rena tossed the bill aside. Letting the screen door slam behind her, she weaved through the reeds, skirting the patch of eel-grass flowing down to the harbor. There, she discovered real trouble.


  1. Your voice is excellent. I’m already getting a sense of your protagonist’s personality. She’s clearly very resourceful and I’m intrigued about her situation. I’m also a sucker for seaside settings, so I’m enjoying the sense of place as well.

  2. I agree! I'm loving the pace and was genuinely sad when it stopped. There was such a build-up to the sign, and it was really well done, that I honestly just want to know what the trouble is! Well done!

  3. I was a bit confused by the first sentence as I immediately thought that she had stamped it as Past Due since she'd slapped it on the table, which to me indicated she was done with it. Maybe that assumption doesn't make sense, but I think maybe a little internal thought might help here eg, Another bill she couldn't afford. Or have her push the past-due invoice away from her to symbolise that she wants to forget about it? I'd also mention earlier that it's an election sign. I'd been assuming it was a "For Sale" sign or something and was disturbed by "yanking", but more understandable once I know it's an election sign.

    I enjoyed her plans to make things work and to go back to nature; the underlying uncertainty about how they'd cope long-term tied in well.

  4. I love that second paragraph. You establish so much, from the setting to how the MC's mind works, in a way that feels seamless and natural. Bravo!

    I do like the suggestion of adding a snippet of internal thought (a la "another bill we can't afford"), and if I were to be super nitpicky, I'd streamline your second and third sentence into one line.

    I was going to include "putting election signs on other people's yards without permission?" as a nitpick, but I have a hunch that may be the real trouble you promise... Nicely done.

  5. I love the way the way we get a sense of Rena’s fiery personality right off the bat here: the voice feels effortless and I instinctively like her. I get the sense we linger a beat too long on her strategies for dealing with the electric bill. The sign seems to be the real issue – and I want to know what’s on it! (In that sense the middle paragraph does an excellent job of building tension).