Wednesday, January 14, 2009

35 SECRET AGENT

TITLE: Secret Sisters
GENRE: Middle Grade


Every day after sunrise Momma comes home from her all-night waitress job at the Cha Cha Resort, which is down the beach just a few miles from here. Usually, the first thing she does when she walks in the door is turn on the TV. She says it keeps her company. I think it’s a bad habit. If he were here, Dad would disapprove of the trash they have on all ninety-eight channels.

Today the TV is already on when she gets here, and I’m sitting half-asleep on the sofa, waiting for her. Something scary happened to me last night, and I need to tell her about it. Momma is in her uniform, her large-pocketed apron tied around her waist. She pulls open the curtains, letting in the daylight, and tucks a Styrofoam box into the mini-fridge.

“Hey, Hallie baby,” she says, flopping down next to me. She gives me a few dollars of her tip money from her pocket, which I really appreciate because I know how poor she is. The money is for my lunch which I’ll buy later when I’m alone out on the beach.

“Thanks, Momma.” I wrap my arms around her middle and lean against her chest. Her heart patters against my ear, and her warm smoky odor rises from her skin like perfume. She rests her chin on my head for a moment then swats me playfully on the bum.

“Come on, baby,” she drawls, “let’s eat so’s I can get to bed.”

32 comments:

ldpauling said...

Even though nothing exciting is happening, I'd definetly read on. You did a great job with the characters and description. It came across very realistic. I want to know more about her.

Julie Butcher-Fedynich said...

I would rather see a story start with an action moment.

Sarah Erber said...

Good writing, but doesn't capture me enough to want to read more.

I would have to agree with Julie.

Good luck.

Angela said...

Lovely writing--I would read on just for that.

I'd like to see Hallie try to talk to her mom rather than the lunch money stuff, because I want to really feel her urgency to talk. I think if you can fix more story movement in here, this will really sing.

Another question is why Mom doesn't seem to think it's unusual for her daughter to be up so early--I wondered about that, too as she doesn't mention it.

ColoradoKate said...

Maybe instead of telling us what Momma usually does when she comes home, you could just start off with showing us her actually coming home, this particular day. You could still easily work in Hallie's comments and judgments, since it's in first person.

Just a thought, for making it a more active beginning.

That said, I am hooked and would read on, because I absolutely love the way you've already made these two characters so real and so appealing to me. And, of course, I want to know what scared Hallie.

judall said...

I wasn't hooked, perhaps because of the lack of action like others have said. I also felt there was more "telling" than "showing" in here. It felt like an info-dump to me. I would rather hear about how she feels regarding the scary thing that happened last night.

I do like the connection between the characters- that comes through clearly.

Jarucia said...

This seems like a story about an MG character rather than written for MG. I like it, has some sad overtones that elicit empathy. Not much happens here, but still strikes me as an interesting story.

Trish said...

Beautifuly written, but not much happened in the opening. I would read on though.

onetiredmama said...

I'd read on because I'm interested in this unusual situation. Most people don't leave their kids home alone all night.

But I agree some more immediate action would pull me into the story more. But these are interesting characters and you've done some nice writing and characterization.

Michael said...

I disagree with most of the others on this one. It's difficult to pack action into the first 250 words and give the reader a little understanding of the characters at the same time.

I think the characters are very well described even though there's very little physical description. We learn about them from the POV characters thoughts and the mother's actions and dialogue.

In my humble opinion, it is very well-written and moves along at just the right pace. We know the situation and we know something scary happened last night. Now we need to know what it was.

Hooked.

beth said...

You seem to start with back story instead of action or characterization. I'm afraid it did not hook me for that reason.

ElanaJ said...

I echo Michael 100%. Not everything has to start with an in-your-face event. This was beautifully written and compels me to want to find out about Hallie and her mother. Well done.

Mary Lindsey said...

Michael expressed it eloquently. Not all books have to start on the roller coaster downhill to catch my attention.

I liked the attention to detail--the mother's apron pockets--the styrofoam container in the mini-fridge.

I'm hooked and would read on.

Sarah Jensen said...

Michael, Elana, and Mary are dead on. This is a beautiful story. Very well written.
HOOKED!

Alps said...

I like the writing - and I agree: roller coaster opening unnecessary for me. I'd much rather see strong characters in a book and this one promises just that. And your story promises good dialogue too. I love reading good dialogue! I'm curious to find out why her dad isn't there and more about this pretty depressing-sounding life she's leading with this mom who smells like smoke. Hooked.

inkspatters said...

It's an unusual beginning, but I'm hooked. There isn't much action, but the characters were very good. Oh, and it helped that the writing was great too :)

Secret Agent said...

I sat up in my seat reading this, because this is someone who can write. The 'warm, smoky odor . . . like perfume' is a very nice line. And there is a voice emerging that is already conjuring up these characters for me - their poverty, their accent, their life around the beach. The crux of this is the 'something scary happened'. I think you need to start more strongly than this, so we get to understand what that scary thing was, a little more quickly.

John Zeleznik said...

I agree with many above me...you tease us with that something scary line, but that's it....you need to establish what that scary thing is. And I agree, we need to get dropped into the middle of action!

Amber J said...

Wow, this just had me breathing the story in. Maybe it was the uber relaxing music playing in the background of the house right now but something about this story made me fall into it. And that something was definitely the writing and great voice. I'm hooked with a captial "H".

As with the others, I'm anxious to know what this scary thing is and as long as you are going to tell us about it in the next few paragraphs or lines of dialogue, I'm willing to stick with you through thick and thin. Awesome work!

Angela said...

Great voice! Excellent characterization! I like how the MC is grateful for her mom's hard work and how the girl is so scared about a previous incident that she's been waiting for her mom to come home all night. Also, good use of fresh & subtle details that build the momentum.

Barb said...

Hooked! This was beautiful. You created a voice, a mood, setting, background and even a bit of history, all in 250 words. And the writing was great! This definitely has flavor!

Anette J Kres said...

Doesn’t hook me…
Because the first paragraph feels like an info dump, the scary thing was never mentioned, and it seemed kind of slow. Perhaps starting the book at the scary thing would be more interesting…? As it is, I wouldn’t keep going…

Kat Harris said...

I love it. I really like the voice, and it makes it interesting enough for me to continue.

J.N. Future Author said...

I agree with everyone that said they liked it!

If a story starts out really strong, with some sort of explosion of action - I usually except there to be a good 6 chapters of pointless blah. during these chapters writers are desperately trying to give you an overdose of the characters background.

this beginning tells me the author has obviously already thought the characters through. Its not explosive, but it also gives you the slightest hint of curiosity. In the end meaning more action and less boring.

not to mention she has already set the stage in that little time! you know that something creepy is going to go on. you know that her mom works "all-night" - leading you to believe that what ever it is that is scary obviously happens in the secret of the night. also, Hallie is obviously fearless, ("alone out on the beach.") so what ever scared her had to be something truly shocking.

in all, I would defiantly read this, not only does it have the look and feel of potential, the characters seem lovable right from the start.

Anonymous said...

It put me in a place I didn't want to be. So I guess it did it's job. I can't say I would read it. It depressed me. Made me think she was a crappy mom, which is exactly what you wanted to do I think. My concern is how many kids like being depressed, mine don't.

C.N. Curtin said...

I thought the writing was really vivid. Love the voice and the picture you paint. Only thing I'd fix is giving us a peek - a hint - as to what that scary thing that happened is. Great job! I'm hooked.

sally apokedak said...

Not hooked but I'd read on and hope to get hooked because I think the voice is wonderful.

Where's the dad and what happened that was scary? I want you to tell me something pretty quickly, but the voice and writing are just great.

Lori said...

There's all this set up, but you never get to the actual scary thing happening--everything is set up and backstory. Get to the conflict/mystery as soon as possible to hook your readers' attention.

Bethlene said...

I would read on to find out about her dream. I was surprised she didn't bring it up nor did the mom ask why she's up already. And where's dad? Good descriptions and scene setting, even though nothing much happened yet.

danceluvr said...

There's something about how this is written that made me not like it. Maybe the present tense? The simple sentence structures?

I probably wouldn't read further as I'm not involved with the MC at this point.

mjb said...

Excellent portrayal of a relationship between mom and daughter, but nothing happens enough to pull me on to read more.

ColoradoKate said...

And the comments here just go to show: tastes sure do differ! Your entry was one of my absolute favorites, tied for first in my mind with the one the secret agent did chose for first place. I love your word choice, and the voice and mood, and I hope I'll get a chance to read it some day.