Jun 12, 2010

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall - Or NOT

A couple days ago I wrote about an agent who had issues with the fact that my main character's parents were conveniently gone. Thanks to all those who left great comments and advice. I'm still not sure what I will do, but now I have some wonderful ideas to pull from.

Now I'd like to talk about another problem the agent thought I had--beginning the chapter/book with Kira (MC) looking in a mirror. The agent's exact words were:

"This made me cringe. VERY cliché to open with looking in the mirror."

Okay, I totally get that, because some writers, especially when the book is in first person, will use a mirror so the character can describe themselves. A big NO NO, right? But I didn't do that. Here's the first few paragraphs of my book:

“You’ve come a long way, Mouse,” Kira said to her reflection in the bathroom mirror. It was sarcasm, of course. It had been six months to the day since her mom left town with her flavor-of-the-month boyfriend, leaving Kira with an empty apartment, no job and nowhere to turn.

Kira used to think Mouse was a loving term of endearment—until she’d overheard her mom talking to her boyfriend about her runt-of-a-daughter who was always underfoot. She’d wanted to prove her mom wrong by being strong and independent, but instead she’d become exactly what she swore she’d never be. From her mousy red hair to her worn-out sneakers, she was her mother’s daughter.

She leaned in, almost touching her face to the mirror, and wrinkled her nose in her best impression of the little rodent. Then she promised she’d try to get out more—the same promise she’d been making her reflection for months.

Kira flipped off the bathroom light and wandered into the living room. She sat at her desk in the most comfortable chair in room—the only chair, actually.

Kira was merely "reflecting" on her life and how she hadn't changed, even though she really wanted to. It was a moment of clarity for her, because her world will soon be turned upside down and will never be the same. She'll have to make a decision to either stay stagnant and live a life of seclusion or break away from that life and take chances--to LIVE her life.

So, I'm curious what you think. Is this cliche? I actually have an easy way to fix it, so it's not a HUGE deal, but I would like to know what you think and if you read this, if you'd CRINGE.


  1. if it is a cliche, then you did a nice job breaking the mold!

  2. I didn't cringe, but I'm also not an agent who reads hundreds of ms. Maybe the mirror thing is a common occurrence not matter how you write it. I don't know about that.

    My editor would make you change all those contractions though. Too many are a turn off she says. I had to change most of mine because I contract a lot.

    What have other agents said? One other thing. "Mousy" is usually a brown color. That caught my eye immediately and didn't ring true to me. Red, no matter what hue, would not be described as mousy in my opinion.

    Other than that, a good opening. Maybe have her looking out a window. I don't know. Everyone is different. Don't get too upset by one person's opinion. Just keep looking unless that agent is interested.

  3. I have no idea what is cliche or not about a mirror scene.

    I am bad with openers myself...

    Maybe the agent wanted you to start with the action instead of the reflection and clarity. To let the reader start in the moment of chaos with the moment of reflection and clarity coming after the change.

    But I feel that the scene establishes Kira as a thoughtful girl. Someone who relies on herself, as evidence from the fact that she is giving herself the pep talk and not a friend.

    I always say though that you can't please everyone. So if this scene isn't working for this agent that doesn't necessarily mean the story isn't right for someone else.

    Everyone tells a story differently.

  4. I agree with the agent. I read it twice. The second time I mentally edited out the mirror parts and the passage felt more powerful to me that way.

    Give Kira a different setting for her thoughts and I believe they would have more impact.

    Melissa is right. 'Mousy' is referring to brown every time I've ever seen it. Kind of a field mouse color, maybe? ;)

    As is, the mirror thing does turn me off a bit since I've seen it a lot. Even though you're using it as a tool other than just to describe Kira's looks, it's still a mirror--and because they're overused, it has become cliche.

    With a few changes, the opening could really grab my attention. You have a nice writing style.

  5. I'll confess: I thought "uh oh..." when the opening scene was Kira talking to herself in the mirror.

    "Uh oh," because, if you are going to use a device that is considered cliche, there needs to be a twist that takes it out of the ordinary.

    Considering the agent's comments (the ones that were provided, anyway), that was her problem with it--that it opened with the character looking in the mirror (whether or not a description was included).