Wednesday, January 14, 2009

50 SECRET AGENT

Title: Perdy's Secret
Genre: MG Historical Fiction


My fingernails dug into my palms as my eyelids tried to shut out every twitch and pain of the past twenty-four hours.

I had spent last night and today locked in the stocks in the town square, meant to be a spectacle, a reminder to the community of what happens to traitors. But I was NO traitor.

I repeatedly relived my helplessness. Anger seethed inside, boiling like a kettle on Mam’s hearth. The thought of the jurors converging on me in the courtroom was etched in my memory.

“You will not escape unscathed, young lady,” snarled Constable Duffield. “Washington’s words spared your life, nothing more. Make sure she does not forget what happens to those who even think of betrayal.”

Two jurymen held me while others cut my hair. I struggled vehemently, twisting beneath their grip, screaming for them to stop. My efforts only insured my hair was shorn in uneven tufts close to my head. I must have looked hideous.

Once released, the length of my rejection would be determined by the how long it took my hair to grow back. They couldn’t go against the word of General Washington, but they could make certain I’d be shunned by the entire city.

Darkness crept into Philadelphia. I could not stop shivering. I thought it was nerves.
Why did they accuse me?

I struggled to stay awake. It would be easy to fall asleep and hope the cold would take me. But, I couldn’t die now. Abby needed me.

30 comments:

jerzegirl said...

I really liked this, I am intriqued and wonder what she did.

judall said...

I enjoyed this. It leaves me wanting more.

The only geedback I would give is regarding the "I must have looked hideous."

It seems like she is in deep trouble. Looking hideous would be the last thing on my mind in that scenario, especially when you explain that cutting the hair makes her a social pariah, not just unattractive.

Sissy said...

This looks like a very interesting story. I don't have a lot to criticize, but a few things did stand out.

I would find a different way to express "the thought of the jurors converging on me in the courtroom was etched in my memory." I just have a problem with the word "thought" in this instance. Possibly "the scene", or "the memory". Just suggestions.

Then when Constable Duffield was speaking, I became a bit confused. I think he is first addressing Perdy, but then changes his focus to the jurymen. I think this could use a bit of clarifying, but maybe I'm the only one confused by it.

Final thought - toward the end she is shivering, and she thinks it's nerves. I don't see the significance of pointing that out, unless that isn't what it is. I guess I need to read on.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. My kind of book.

Sarah Jensen said...

Once released, the length of my rejection would be determined by the how long it took my hair to grow back.

Here's my nit-pick. Take out "the" in...determined by "the" how long...

Other than that, HOOKED.
Good job!

ldpauling said...

I would definetly read more. Hooked.

But the second paragraph I'd rather experience the stocks with her than be told she had spent time in the stocks. A great opportunity to hook your reader early on.

I want to know what she didn't do. And want to experience the shunning with her. I love underdog stories of injustice!

Mora said...

It feels a little overwritten to me, and doesn't seem like it has a very MG voice. Might it be more of a YA historical? I could definitely see it holding a teen's attention more than a pre-teen's.

I also question why you need to start with the MC in stocks and then go immediately into a flashback of why she's there. Why not just start with the scene you're flashing back to?

ink wench said...

Anything set in historical Philadelphia is going to interest me! And I'm intrigued by the situation and would read on.

That said, I'm a little confused about the age of your MC. The voice sounds more like YA. I also wonder whether she'd be thinking about her hair after that ordeal. If she just spent 24 hours in the stocks, I'd expect her to be in A LOT more pain and discomfort than she's coming across with, and frightened of being shunned, which could have serious consequences.

Good luck!

Secret Agent said...

I'm sorry, dear Writer, but I'm not feeling the love on this one. Very overwritten - starting with the first sentence. Sometimes you can try TOO hard to create your desired effect, and this is a case in point. If this were a real submission, I'm afraid I'd stop here. Oh, I also think that thematically it would be a very tough sell. I'm not saying historical is totally off-limits, but it's got to be wonderful.

Megs said...

My fingernails dug into my palms as my eyelids tried to shut out every twitch and pain of the past twenty-four hours.

________________________

Here it looks like her body parts are disembodied. ;-)

How about just say 0

I dug my fingernails into my palms and squeezed my eyes shut, and tried to block out every twitch and pain of the last twenty-four hours.

This is still a longish sentence, but at least her fingernails and eyelids don't have minds of their own.

Other than that... I would be hooked, because I love historical novels, but I don't quite get a 'colonial America' feel reading this.

Amber J said...

Hooked. I really like how the setting of this story comes into play in small details like her hair without being overbearing and I have to know what she was falsly accused for. The writing flowed smoothly and before I knew it, the word count was up. Really nice work!

AC said...

What if you cut everything at the beginning and started with "Two jurymen held me while others cut my hair..." that's when I really started caring about the character. Then work in the other info we need to know (about her being in the stocks) later. That might get you out of some of the overwriting that happens at the beginning.
I would definitely read on, though. I like this!

Barb said...

Not hooked. What happened in your 250 word opening was that a girl laid in the stocks and remembered.

Perhaps start with the event that changed her life -- the moment she got caught doing whatever it was she'd done, or the moment the authorities came for her -- but start with her doing something, rather than remembering.

Angela said...

I'm on the fence. I like how you show what happens to her, but without knowing what she did or didn't do, the stakes are lessened for me. I felt like I should have a better idea by the end of the 250 words.

This is an interesting premise--I'd have to see where it goes.

Jarucia said...

All right, I liked this. What could a teen girl possibly due to get accused of treason but then be spared by General Washington? Very cool idea. Writing's a bit stiff for the target audience, but the story could be interesting to them.

Sarah Jensen said...

I think AC has a good point. Start at the court room scene and go from there. I still like it. :)

florkincaid said...

I love historical fiction. Very interesting beginning, but I could feel a little more transported inside the heroine's head. I'd read more, though, for sure.

beth said...

Hooked--but I would like more description--both internal and external--of the time in the prison and the actual feelings it incurs.

Julie Butcher-Fedynich said...

This was confusing:

“Washington’s words spared your life, nothing more. Make sure she does not forget what happens to those who even think of betrayal

Otherwise, I woul read on just to find out about Abby, although I would like it better if I thought Abby would die without her, or have something dire happen to her.

I would give it a couple of more pages.

Trish said...

I'm hooked. I want to know why she's there and what she did. I also want to know who Abby is.

I thought that the second sentence was rather long, but that's probably because I'm used to writing books for beginner readers.

I would read on.

mermensing said...

I'm not hooked.

I think my problem is that there's too much information. I feel like I'm being bombarded.

Maybe start with what you see--a girl in stocks. Maybe someone goes by and spits at her. Maybe she's so tiny she could pull her hands out of the stocks if she tried, but she's afraid to. Maybe she feels safer in the stocks than in her home, alone. Where the mob could come for her. Again.

I think if you start focused on a smaller part of the scene and draw back gradually to show us the bigger picture, you can lure us in.

Anette J Kres said...

Doesn’t hook me…
Because it felt like too much info dump. The hair shearing was great. If you left everything else off and focused on that scene, I’d probably like it more. I like the idea, George Washington and all, but it isn’t written in a way that hooks me.

Anonymous said...

I think this is an interesting premise, but it's overwritten. And it's doing more "telling" instead of "showing."

Lori said...

There's more action in the backstory than in the present--which to me is a clear sign that that's where the story should have started. In the present, nothing is happening to the character save thinking about the past, which tells the reader that the tension and conflict is over and we've missed it (thus, were cheated). Too many books/stories start with the MC musing about the current state of things, and frankly it's boring, doesn't move the plot along, and is a cliche device.

Crimogenic said...

I like the narrator's voice, and it seems like it's shaping up to be an interesting story.

Suzette Saxton said...

I would like to read a book based in this era. Keeping it accurate historically would make it sing. So keep writing! I want to see it on the shelves.

John Zeleznik said...

It didn't completely hook me, but I'm interested and think I would give this a few more pages. I'm curious of her crime and want to find out what's going on with her.

Bethlene said...

Whoa, is that the first president George Washington? I might be interested to see a different kind of story about him. Lots of good descriptions put me in the scene. The last sentence was a surprise.

dragonlady said...

I like the premise of your story and the voice is fairly good.

However, I am concerned with a number of misspellings in this excerpt.

I agree that this seems more YA than MG - and that you have far too much backstory and not enough sensory detail. I like where you broke off the text - and it introduces the reason why this girl has to redeem herself. Perhaps you need to introduce this earlier???

mjb said...

I'm totally hooked! Good job. I want to read more and more.

danceluvr said...

I didn't like the flashback to how the MC got in the stocks so early in the story. Maybe you need to start at the hearing?

I'd read a bit further, but I'm not in love with this.