Wednesday, February 11, 2009

1 Secret Agent

TITLE: ORACLE
GENRE: YOUNG ADULT URBAN SCIENCE FICTION


Something warm and moist stroked her fingers. Lexi rocked in and out of awareness, trying to decide what it was—and whether or not she cared. Finally she recognized the feeling. Rheanna was licking her hand.

She peeked through her eyelids to see the sunlight streaming in the window. Ugh—what time is it? Rolling over, she sat up in bed. Pushing her dark curls out of her face, she forced her eyes to focus on the clock.

Wow, it's already almost eleven. She never slept that late.

"Alright Ree, I'm up," she said, blinking her bleary blue-gray eyes at the dog. "Let's get something to eat."

She stood up, stretched, and then strolled leisurely down the hallway to the kitchen. It was Saturday. There was no need to hurry.

Ree hopped around her feet excitedly. Laughing, she rubbed the dog's head. Convincing Ree to take it easy would be another matter entirely.

Glancing at the counter, she wasn't surprised to see a note from Gwen.

Al,

We will be at the Spring Inn Condos in Flagstaff.

If any of Lincoln's computer clients call, just take a message.

My art exhibit ends on Sunday night so we should be home by 10 on

Monday morning.

If you need anything or just miss us, please call.

Be careful and have fun!

Love ya sis!

Gwen was the only one who called her Al. It made Lexi smile. Her sister had tried so hard to fill in as the mother figure since their parents' accident six years earlier.

27 comments:

Amanda said...

I had a story that started with a character waking up and lots of people said you should never start with a character waking up. I don't know if that's right or wrong, but just so you're aware. This is well written, but I'm not really hooked by this first page. There's no conflict. Nothing that I have to find out about by reading on.

Jamie said...

Congratulations on being the first!

I like the way you've quickly shown us that this is someone with strong relationships -- she loves her dog, she loves her sister. Perhaps we don't need some of the information just yet, though, like the fact that Gwen is trying to fill a void created by their parents' deaths six years earlier.

"Her sister tried so hard to fill in as the mother figure" would give readers a clue without making Lexi muse about death on a Saturday morning.

Good luck with your novel!

Trish said...

I liked the way it's written. The only thing that took me away from the story was the long description of the blinking of her bleary, blue-grey eyes. It just seemed like too many b's.

I like the way she relates to the dog and love the names.

I think it needs a little bit more of a hook at the start though.

Sheila said...

You do a good job of showing us that this is a likable character - smiling at her sister's note, laughing at her dog. That said, I agree with the previous poster that this is not really compelling me to read further. I'm curious about what happened to her parents, though.

This is just my opinion, but I was distracted by the word "rocked" in the opening, because it suggests a jarring action, which I don't associate with waking up.

Jenn Nixon said...

Hi there,

I liked this opening, but have to agree with the other posters. Only until I reached the last line was I curious about the character.

However, your writing is vivid and detailed without telling the reader. Your character is developed well, you can see her in your head.

Well done!

Marilynn Byerly said...

YA Urban SF? That's a new one on me.

I agree with what everyone has said.

The description of the dog licking her fingers is bland. I once described the sensation of a tongue on a character's back when she's being awakened as a line of ants in damp socks marching up her back. A weird description but not bland.

Also, describing her eye color is a viewpoint error. Do you ever think of the color of your eyes when you are waking up?

Charlie V said...

Nice writing. Clear. Strong. But I admit, I didn't feel real connected with anything that was happening. Seemed like a nice girl that loved her dog. But where's the hook? It wasn't until the last sentence that I felt anything for Lexi.

Scott said...

Very well written. I have to agree with the other posters as well . . . I'm not really hooked.

Lisa and Laura said...

I love the sensory language that you've used here. It definitely draws the reader in. That said, I've read in a number of places that having a character wake up in the opening of the book is cliche. So you might consider starting somewhere else just so you don't have that bias working against you.

Aside from that, very well written. Great work!

Anja said...

Never heard of urban sci fi before.

I'm hooked though I'm more into urban fantasy so I don't know how far I'd go with it. You can cut the eye color for now, it distracts from the bleary part.

Otherwise, really nice writing.

slhastings said...

I have to agree with the other posters about starting with the character waking up.

I'm wondering if you are starting your novel in the right place??? And what makes the note important?

sraasch said...

You have a good style and voice, and I immediately like Lexi, but nothing is happening. And you should try to shy away from opening a novel with a character waking up, mainly because nothing actually happens if a character is waking up. It's just them...waking up. Now, if she was bursting out of a nightmare about her parents' accident, it'd be hooking.

Mariel Ren said...

Congrats on being first!

There's nothing unlikeable about your opening; however, I have to agree with the other readers that nothing really "reels" the reader in until the last sentence. I like sraasch's idea of possibly starting with a nightmare--or maybe a pleasant dream in which she's having fun with her family.

Another possible road is to open with Lexi discovering the letter on the counter. Waking up is overused.

Apart from that, your writing is clear and smooth, and I like it. ;D Best of luck!

Janet said...

I like you MC - and anyone who likes dogs is going to be a character I'll cheer for from the first page.

But there is no action. The other commentors have posted some suggestions. Maybe go a couple of pages in - when the action or story question is raised - and start there.

Good voice.

Feywriter said...

I don't like the rocking in and out of awareness.
Why is she concerned that she slept late, when there is no need to hurry?
The note is a good way to include info about her sister.
I like her relationship with the dog.

I think you could shorten the opening, get to the letter and inciting incident a little sooner. We don't need mention of her eye color, for one.

A lot of promise here, and a character I'd be willing to read more about.

Sarah Jensen said...

This is well written, I'd read on, but not hooked just yet. But I'm okay with not being hooked completely on the first page.

Emily said...

I really liked the way this is written- I like your "voice". Just two suggestions though. Al's thought, "Wow, it's already almost eleven," seems a little bit wordy to me. It might flow more smoothly if it was something like "Wow, it's practically eleven." Or even just, "Wow, it's almost eleven." I don't think you need the already in there.
Also,you might want to consider starting the story at a a different point- every agent blog I've ever read has always said not to start with your main character waking up. Just a suggestion :)
Good Job!

Tara Maya said...

I suspect starting your story here doesn't do it justice. I have no idea whatsoever what the major plot will be, and little sense of setting or character, other than a fairly average, if nice, person. I like sf and f, and I'm tolerant of slow beginnings if they show something I care about, like a cool idea or an interesting setting, but waking up in a regular house with a dog, even for orphans, doesn't cut it.

Even if you can't start smack in the middle of action, at least throw us an omen or something. :)

Merc said...

Sorry, but when you start with someone waking up, doing mundane boring 'morning routine' stuff and then we get the line about her parents that makes me suspect there will be a paragraph or more of backstory, I close the book and move on.

This kind of opening is very over-done (every SA contest or in-house crit contest we have at this blog, there are at least a few of these types of openings; I see it way too much when critting as well), and unfortunately I see nothing here that makes it stand out or works as a hook.

Where does the actual conflict and story start? Begin there; start when things change and go wrong.

I rather liked your genre description, though. :D

Good luck!

~Merc

Merc said...

Gah, sorry, I posted my comment before finishing... (I should know not to fill in the word verification before finishing my post. :P)

I was going to add I too think Lexi sounds like a nice girl and I like seeing how she treats her dog and likes her sister (yay for good sibling relationships!). It was cleanly written, too, and easy to read.

If you can start where things get interesting so there's more conflict and hook, you'll be off to a good start.

Miss Swan said...

I agree with most of the previous posters. Beginning with the MC waking up is cliché, yes, but I think it works here. It doesn't feel forced, and it reads fairly smoothly. There were a couple things that I'd like to point out, though.

Pushing her dark curls out of her face, she forced her eyes to focus on the clock.
--You started the previous sentence with an 'ing' verb, so to make this cleaner, I suggest maybe 'She pushed her dark curls out of her face and forced herself to focus on the clock.'

Wow, it's already almost eleven
--I think it would flow better if you took out either 'already' or 'almost'.

"Alright Ree, I'm up," she said, blinking her bleary blue-gray eyes at the dog.
--At first I thought the dog's eyes were blue-gray, but reading it again, I realized the problem. People don't note their eye color unless they're looking in a mirror. I'd just take out everything after 'she said' and leave it at that.

Laughing, she rubbed the dog's head. Convincing Ree to take it easy would be another matter entirely.

Glancing at the counter, she wasn't surprised to see a note from Gwen.

--Three 'ing' verb beginnings in a row. Mix it up a bit. =)

Her sister had tried so hard to fill in as the mother figure since their parents' accident six years earlier.
--I don't think she should be thinking about this. Just 'Her sister tried so hard to fill in as the mother figure.' is good. It's actually more suspenseful, because now we want to know why Gwen feels she needs to do this.

All in all, I'm not really hooked, but I'd probably give this a few more pages to prove itself before putting it down. =) Good job!

Georgina said...

This has two common elements that would make me put it down immediately, I'm afraid.

1 :: Waking up is an over-done trope, so if you use it, you need to write something really special to engage the reader. A girl being woken by her dog is pretty blah. Surely there's a more interesting part of Lexi's day that you could begin with? Start with the alien in the cereal cupboard or whatever is going to herald this as SF.

2 :: The note feels like an infodump on the part of the author. There are smoother ways to work in that her sister is loving, an artist, and away from home.

The writing here is reasonable, but it's being let down by the choices the author has made. It feels as though this may be your first novel? We all do things like this when we're starting out -- I remember having a character look in a mirror to oh-so-conveniently describe herself. Write more, practice more, and you'll get better. :) The groundwork is definitely there.

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Just so folks know, I'm actually going to post my comment before going through and reading what all the other commenters have already said.

I want to be able to share my first impression right out of the gate.

Now Authoress asked me to approach every submission with the question, "am I hooked?"

In other words, would I read on.

The answer is no for this one. Sorry. Waking up from sleep in an opening scene is just too hard to pull off well. Also, some classic newer writer mistakes with a lot of telling.
"her sister had tried so hard to fill in as the mother figure..."

Secret Agent

Megs said...

Two things, which you probably got in the other comments -

Don't start with somebody waking up in the morning. It's done =a lot= and it doesn't set your story apart from a zillion others that might be in a slush pile.

The other thing is the eye color description and 'dark curls' pushed me out of reading-mode for a second. There is a time and place to drop =subtle= hints as to what your MC looks like, but not here.

This is why - when I wake up in the morning, my eyes and hair might as well be colorless for all I care.

And there might have been a third thing - instead of describing the MC, you could have used that description space to describe the dog.

And - this actually would be better if you started with the letter. Skip all the waking up stuff. :p

Lori said...

Not quite hooked, sorry. The voice is good, but over half of this is the MC waking up—a cliché and kinda boring literary tool, especially in a first chapter. Also, the line blinking her bleary blue-gray eyes doesn’t work for me because people don’t normally think about the color of their eyes when not looking in a mirror. Lastly, you need to introduce your plot right away, or at least tease us with some action or tension. Nothing’s happening in this section save the MC waking up and finding a Just Gone Out note.

Melinda said...

I agree with most of the other comments.

"dark curls" and "blue-gray eyes" are POV slips.

The letter feels like an info-dump - doesn't she already know where her sister has gone?

The "waking up" opening is a cliche, and although the interaction with the dog is nice, it doesn't compel me to read on.

I'd suggest finding a spot where something more interesting happens to start your novel, and then gradually work in any details about her sister's trip and the dog and what happened to her parents as they are relevant to the story.

Blodwyn said...

Not quite on this one - the problem with the character waking up, the telling about what happened. It sounds like you've got a good relationship premise set up but I'd lose the waking opening and do something more active.