Thursday, November 13, 2008

20 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Strangely Charming
GENRE: YA paranormal

It was supposed to be some sort of aptitude test—the kind that would help with career tracking. But this test was nothing like the placement test I took last year in eighth grade where checking off that you like to work with your hands got you recommended for a satisfying career in basket-weaving. Instead, this test asked things like: ‘You’ve discovered a way to read people’s minds, what do you do?’ Or: ‘If you could change the course of any historical event, what would it be and why?’

I made a complete mess of that last question, writing how I didn’t want to change history since then I might not get born. After the test I heard a few other kids agreeing that the answer must have been to kill off Hitler.

Later on that month we had to go see our guidance counselors about our scores. I could just picture Mr. Cuthbert telling me how selfish I was to think only of myself, and not about getting rid of a terrible nemesis like Hitler or Stalin.

Mr. Cuthbert had a red, pointy nose that always looked like it needed a Kleenex, and bulging, fishy eyes. But today his washed out eyes had an intense, hawk-like stare.

“Well, Sadie, we have some very exciting news for you.”

“Oh really?” Basket-weaving here I come, I thought.

He popped open the folder in front of me, pointing at a number: 157. “This is your social I.Q. score. The average score is 100, a score of 157 ranks you as above genius-level.”


  1. I'm hooked. Funny and a twist on the career aptitude test. I'd definitely read on.

  2. I love where this idea could go, and my kids would love the snappy protagonist you're portraying. My only suggestion is in the first paragraph. That one small section read a bit awkward to me. What it says is good, but how it is said had me re-reading for clarity.

  3. Interesting. I'd have to read more to know for sure if I'd keep reading.

  4. I'm hooked!

    The only thing that I might worry about is Mr. Cuthbert's descriptions. I like them, but I've heard agents don't like a list of descriptions.

    But good writing makes up for these things! Good Job!

  5. This reads really smoothly and I like that the test turns out to be social IQ. Only nit-pick I have is with the term 'basket-weaving' since it's a cliche. With writing this good, I'm sure you could dream up something fresher. All in all, good job. I'd keep reading.

  6. Basket-weaving, LOL. I always hated those tests in school. You captured the reactions spot-on. I like the description of Cuthbert and how he's obviously more than he seems. I'm guessing that she's about to get sent to a School for the Gifted, which, honestly, will lose my interest. But that's just me, and this is a very good hook.

  7. I like the idea of this a lot. Right off the bat I am engaged in the possibility of where this could go.

  8. Yes, definitely hooked.

    Love the humor<:

  9. I like the voice and am curious about where this is going.

    One suggestion - I'd cut 'washed out' from this section. It doesn't seem necessary since you've already described his eyes in the previous line:

    Mr. Cuthbert had a red, pointy nose that always looked like it needed a Kleenex, and bulging, fishy eyes. But today his washed out eyes had an intense, hawk-like stare.

  10. I want to read more. I like the witty protagonist's voice. I'm curious to see how it becomes paranormal.

    The title sounds more appropriate for a romance novel, but I'm assuming you have a logical reason for chosing this one.

  11. I really liked the character voice, and the joke about basket weaving had me chuckling. I'd definitely read on, but I would also suggest maybe heightening the tension throughout to strengthen the hook.

  12. The descriptions are good, the character's voice is good, and the suggestion of conflict is interesting.

    My problem was with the mechanics--the tense throws me off. Where, in time, is this narrator?

    I mean, she has three layers of time here. The ninth-grade test and the previous test in the eighth grade and and then later in the ninth-grade month when she gets the test results, and these times all happen in her past.

    So the story is going to start for us the day she gets her test results and the other two things are a flashback to the day of the ninth-grade test and then a flashback, within a flashback, to the day of the eighth-grade test.

    So I think she should say, "It was SUPPOSED TO HAVE BEEN some sort of aptitude test... But this test was nothing like the test I'D TAKEN THE YEAR BEFORE in the eighth grade...Instead this test HAD asked things like...I'D made a complete mess...after the test I'D heard...A couple of weeks later WE'D had to go...On my way to his office, I'd pictured Mr. Cuthbert telling me...But THAT day his washed out eyes.

    The problem is you are basically starting this work in flash back. If you tell the story in straight past tense, you might find it easier.

    But these are tiny problems and the rest of the book is probably going to continue in straight past tense from the day she's in the man's office getting her test results, so I think it's an easy fix.

  13. You have a very strong voice, and a great writing style. I would suggest that you resolve the conflicts in time setting. It's a little confusing.