Thursday, November 13, 2008

43 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: IN THE LIVING YEARS
GENRE: YA - Literary Fiction


The road runs before us like a black ribbon—curving, inviting, silky smooth—leading to a present I’m not sure I want to open. Rain drums against the roof and the windshield wipers swish back and forth. My mother taps her finger against the steering wheel as she drives, not in time to any music, but with a nervous, frenetic beat of which she is totally unconscious. Each sound joins together in some weird symphony that I will remember for the rest of my life—it’s one of those moments you know, even as it is happening, you will never forget.

My stomach dances.
I’m not sure if it’s from excitement or anxiety or if it’s simply trying to digest the fast food salad-in-a-cup I stuffed down my throat as we drove through Ohio.

That was hours ago. We’d been in the car long enough for lunch to be our second meal eaten in motion. We had breakfast while it was still dark somewhere in western New York state, and lunch came when we were in Ohio. “Can’t we stop and eat in a real restaurant?” I asked.

“No,” she answered, the lines along her eyes more noticeable than they’d been yesterday. “I don’t want to take the time. We’ll just stop at a McDonald’s,” she added.

“McDonald’s!” I protested. “There’s nothing I can eat at a McDonalds!”

“There’s nothing unkosher about a salad. Besides, God would forgive you under the circumstances,” she said.

19 comments:

Sarah Erber said...

The opening paragraph is really confusing, and I don't really get a feel for what the story is about from this first page.

Sorry, but it doesn't grasp my attention like it should.

But never give up! Keep studying and revising! Every writer has to learn!

Amie Stuart said...

Feels like there's a word missing from the first sentence.
That said, the writing is evocative and while I"m not *hooked* I'd definitely keep reading.

Lo said...

I agree with Sarah; the first paragraph needs work, but everything that follows is good. Dialogue seems natural and you give just enough info to compel us to read on.

AC said...

I didn't quite understand the first sentence either--a word is missing?

I actually think you could start with the paragraph "We'd been in the car long enough for lunch to be our second meal..." and cut out everything that came before it, or maybe move it somewhere else. Solid writing, though.

ChristaCarol said...

I agree with ac, while the first paragraph is nice, it's sort of confusing and I'm left waiting for something to happen. It almost eludes to there being a car wreck soon, and then suddenly it goes to them talking in the car, so I'm left hanging wondering what I just read and what it meant. Start with them in the car, move the first para somewhere else or cut it all together. Other than that though, good writing :)

Melinda said...

This sentence had me intriqued:
Each sound joins together in some weird symphony that I will remember for the rest of my life—it’s one of those moments you know, even as it is happening, you will never forget.

The next few sentences are nicely written, but then you lost me with the flashback to the McDonald's conversation. I'm not a big fan of flashbacks so close to the beginning of a story, and this dialogue just seems to be repeating what you already told us above.

Sponge said...

Hmmm.... I want to say...maybe.

I like your descriptions here, it sets the mood and I can imagine the protagonist following this up with an explanation/information about where they are going, etc.

My problem is there isn't actually a hook. The MC wants to stop at a real restaurant, is told they are going to McD's instead....

Serenissima said...

You create a good atmosphere of tension, but I agree with the other commenters about the first paragraph. It's too much telling right up front.

I like the bit about kosher MacDonald's salads!

A small thing to look out for is using other words for 'said' such as 'protested' and 'added'. A lot of writers consider that a weakness, i.e. the dialog and the actions should be showing this. Doesn't mean you need to follow the herd. Just be aware of what the conventions are.

Secret Agent said...

This is grammatically awkward at best.

A black silky what?

Additionally, the writer is using the wrong tense in the last few sentences.
IE, should be "I had asked", not "I asked".

One of the first things to get down perfect before you query is grammar and syntax.

This still needs a lot of work.

Best,

Secret Agent

Windsong said...

Sorry, not really my thing. :) I really wasn't able to sink into the story.

slhastings said...

So. This starts with mysterious description...and we end up at McDonald's? And what's the present she's not sure she wants to open? The salad? I wanted something to happen – like an accident.

I'm sorry. I'm just confused. But kudos for putting this out there. It's tough.

Nat said...

I was pretty lost through the first few paragraphs but the last sentence was interesting. Why is the daughter concerned about eating something kosher when the mother isn't? It seems like it would normally be the other way around. I might read on a bit, but I would be more interested if there was more story and less description.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is a tough crowd. I really liked it. How refreshing to read a YA that isn't steeped in a stupid prom or getting a guy to notice you in the first paragraph.

Clean up the opening, as others have suggested.

The hook, for me, was the sentence... "Each sound joins together in some weird symphony that I will remember for ..." Just because a writer doesn't spell out the "I want a new car" as a hook in the first sentence doesn't mean the book doesn't have a hook...

sally apokedak said...

I think the formatting problems worked against you here. The writing, I think, is nice. I didn't think there was a word missing in the first line.

But the singles spaces in some paragraphs and double in others and the indents in some paragraphs and none in others, sets you up for us to not like this.

Which is really interesting. This is like a peak into what agents and editors have to deal with.

There were several great lines in this short piece, I thought. A repetition about Ohio you should take out.

I would read on to see what these two were running from.

sraasch said...

The first paragraph is so close! I felt what you were trying to get across and I wanted so badly for it to work, but it just ended up being confusing. I definitely feel the tension though. I'd keep going to find out what they're running too/from.

MerryDay said...

I really wanted to be hooked with this one. Your vision and passion for the story are evident in every word, but they just don't come together on the page. Added simplicity of prose could go a long way to reeling the reader in and making everything clearer.

Good luck with everything!

Ella said...

My mother taps her finger against the steering wheel as she drives, not in time to any music, but with a nervous, frenetic beat of which she is totally unconscious.

Isn't this a POV problem? How would she know the mother's not aware.

A bit confusing.

Secret Agent said...

Ah! Okay, I see that a word was missing and has now been replaced in the opening sequence.

It's still not hooking me at all. This sentence: "My mother taps her finger against the steering wheel as she drives, not in time to any music, but with a nervous, frenetic beat of which she is totally unconscious." feels forced and awkward to me. I'd try to rephrase that who bit.

Lori said...

There’s potential here, but for now I’m going to have to say I’m not hook. A mother and child (name and gender frustratingly kept from the reader) are on a road trip and they’re in a hurry. But there’s no sense of foreboding or tension to really drive us into caring about these character. Also, the first line doesn’t make any sense to me (maybe missing a word or two?):
The road runs before us like black silky leading a present I'm not sure I want to open.