Thursday, November 13, 2008

8 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

Title: (Untitled)
Genre: YA mystery

If this were a newspaper article it would begin with the most important information first, which is that Lottie Griffin, 19, began her first semester at Grayton University having no idea it would be the most thrilling year of her life so far.

On the day before classes started, Lottie trekked across campus in the sweltering mid-morning heat from her tiny studio apartment to the offices of The Sentinel, Grayton's student-run newspaper. The Sentinel's offices occupied a small, aging, two-story white frame house on the west side of campus. A couple of generations ago it had been dubbed the White House, and the name stuck. As Lottie walked along, she examined her nails. She wasn't too preoccupied with clothes, but she had a minor obsession with clean nails, and considered bi-weekly manicures and monthly pedicures as essential as brushing teeth.

She arrived at the White House to find a few staffers lounging on an assortment of plastic chairs and dilapidated wicker furniture on the sagging front porch.

I hope this wasn't a bad idea, she thought. They were staring at her—not exactly rolling out the welcome wagon.

"Are you here about the assistant news editor position?" a slim blonde finally asked. She was leaning back on two legs of an old deck chair, her feet propped on the porch railing. Her toenails were painted a peachy-pink and her eyes were giving Lottie the once-over.

"Yes, I'm Lottie Griffin." Lottie's starched button-down was practically plastered with sweat and she hoped they couldn't tell how uncomfortable she felt. The three guys sitting with the blonde girl eyed Lottie with varying degrees of interest.


  1. No... I'm sorry. The part with the nails just made her seem a bit shallow to me....

  2. It doesn't draw me into the story. It needs something more - like a confrontation or a TENSION scene.

    Just rework it a bit. Don't give up!

  3. I'm not sure. The part about this being the best time of her life and the bit that followed didn't really connect for me.

  4. The first paragraph doesn't work for me. the most important thing if it was a news article is the year being the best thrill of her life . . . too vague, maybe even too cliche.

    BUT, I do like the voice contrary to the others, and I think you have a great way of showing vs. telling. I love that because of her obsessions with nails, she's obviously going to notice the blonde's toenail color. I like your description of her being nervous instead of just telling us she's nervous. Though I'm not hooked by what I've read, I'm hooked by the style in which it is written and would continue. I'd try to rework the beginning though to draw in more of a hook. Maybe nix the first paragraph and have it start when she enters the White House (the small bit of info given before that can be weaved in later).

  5. I'm not a fan of set-ups that "announce" the character is to have the most thrilling year of her life. Let's see it unfold instead.

    This beginning seems slow and tedious to me, though I realize your intention is to paint a picture of the character. The problem is that it's so internalized, which makes it bland. There's no tension. If she slipped and fell in the mud and got her nails dirty, you could show how fastidious she is. But as it stands now, it's not interesting.

  6. Not quite hooked, sorry. The opening paragraph is omniscient POV, and there's not much in the way of hooking conflict or tension just yet.

  7. The writing has a sort of distance to it and I'm not sure why? Maybe it's the point of view? I have no sense of who this main character is.

    It reads like your style is more literary than commercial and that is okay, but if you are opening with nervousness and angst I think we need to feel it a little more. She can do her literary musings about the building looking like a White House later, after the interview is over and the pressure is off.

    You don't necessarily have to get rid of stuff as much as things can just be shifted around.

    "... As a journalist, Lottie should've known better. Been prepared. Yet here she was, running across the campus grounds dodging the flying frisbees of the Delta boys to her left and sunbathing half-naked grad students to the right. Had the Sentinel offices always been this far from her dorm? Why hadn't she taken this into consideration, left ten minutes earlier, or fifteen? Wetness trickled down her back. Great, she was sweating now. Really sweating. Not that cute "glistening" that other women seemed to be able to do, but actual sweat. The last thing she needed was pit stains on her interview dress...

  8. The problem is that this isn't a news article, and the first sentence shouldn't read like one. I'd lose the whole thing. Don't waste your first sentence; its more important than you might think.

    The writing is competent but the excerpt lacks any tension. It doesn't seem to go anywhere very quickly, and I'm not hooked enough to want to read any further.

  9. Not hooked, sorry. If you're going to lead with an omniscient sentence, I expect the entire thing to be in that POV. Which is very, very difficult to pull off. You won't see many contemporary writers use it. And I have to agree with the consensus--there's not much tension here.