Wednesday, May 13, 2009

1 Secret Agent

TITLE: Stealing Ellum
GENRE: YA Science Fiction

Elena hooked her fingers through the chain-link fence and scanned the Nokia Theater’s backstage parking lot, her stomach twisting into knots. The rest of the small crowd was getting on her nerves, making her more anxious than she needed to be. They were hanging around for the chance to catch a glimpse of the headlining band, maybe even get an autograph or two, but not Elena. She needed to talk to Dan Cannon, the facility’s booking manager.

His silver Jetta was parked under a flickering streetlight so she knew he hadn’t taken off yet. That was good. Maybe. She kept going back and forth on whether she should be there or not. The truth was, she wasn’t sure if this brilliant plan of hers really was so brilliant. She didn’t know if Cannon would take her pitch seriously. A rock band fronted by a sixteen year old foster-kid? Yeah, she knew the odds. The chance of her and the guys getting a gig outside high school parties and the few clubs that admitted minors were…well, you could say they were slim.

A heavy arm draped over her shoulder. Jimmy. Again. He reeked of weed and cheap cologne, and if he hadn’t been a friend of a friend, she would’ve told him to get lost the first time he’d tried to make a move on her. Still, enough was enough. Ever so sweetly, she smiled up at him, grabbed the little finger of the hand he’d placed on her shoulder, and twisted.


  1. I think you are setting up Elena well. My biggest issues with this are that I read "Science Fiction" and based on what I'm getting from these first paragraphs, I don't get that vibe at all. It probably comes in later, but I thought I'd mention it.

    Finally, the paragraphs individually. The middle of the first paragraph is very passive and more telling than showing. The second paragraph gives us the set-up, but it is more telling, perhaps giving the info through dialogue instead? Third paragraph I liked a lot. That's the place you give us info on her character and it is more showing.

    If I were reading as an agent, if I made it to paragraph 3, I'd give it a bit more of a read.

  2. It didn't grab me, though I think there is promise in this hook. The writings good but there is something missing in it to get me interested.

    I like the idea of the concert, it suggests that our main character is "normal", but give us a band name. It will entice us a little more to want to read about it, especially if the band name is cool. And that might be an entrance into the SF genre for us!

    Would a concert promoter really only drive a Jetta? Make it a Beamer or something like that to give us a larger sense of the character.

    I loved the bit about Jimmy. It worked for me!

  3. I'm normally not a YA SciFi reader so I'm coming at this from a possible "new reader" position. And as such, I wouldn't have continued.

    The writing is good, :) though there are a few instances where you could drop the additional telling and show it later.

    The third paragraph is the best and with a slight tweak, could be your opening paragraph. In a conversation with Jimmy, she could comment on why she's there, how annoying the crowd is...but don't fill the convo with all the info from the first two paragraphs either. Then the dialog gets boring.

    Two things that tripped me up; Your booking manager (as mentioned above) would drive a Beemer or Mercedes. Not a Jetta.
    The "well, you could say they were slim." pulled me out of Elena's POV, jarring me. Better you change to something like, :well, she knew they were slim."

    Small tweak, but keeps the sentence in her POV.

    Good luck! :-D

  4. I'm not a SF reader either but based on the beginning I didn't get hooked. I know 250 words is sooo short. I agree with some of the telling advice from the other crits. The sentence about the chances being slim jarred me, too. I would have left it at ". . . slim." Beginnings are hard but a few small tweaks and it will be great.

  5. I'm kind of interested in where the story is going, but I think this opening could be stronger. There is a bit too much backstory/telling for my taste.

    Consider cutting this part and let us wonder for a while why she wants to talk to Cannon. When you answer all the reader's questions up front, there's less incentive to keep reading:
    **She didn’t know if Cannon would take her pitch seriously. A rock band fronted by a sixteen year old foster-kid? Yeah, she knew the odds. The chance of her and the guys getting a gig outside high school parties and the few clubs that admitted minors were…well, you could say they were slim.**

    The last paragraph with Jimmy is your strongest one, so the sooner you can get to that by tightening up the first two, the better.

  6. I think dropping some subtle hint to the science fiction angle would help a lot. Honestly, I think the science fiction genre would keep me reading just to see what that was, because right now it's all a little too typical.

    Girl fronts rock band and is looking for fame is kind of a cliche on some levels.

    but I agree with others that the third paragraph was awesome. It gives fantastic insight in just a few words. well done!

  7. (Without looking at the other comments...)

    I really like the character Elena seems to be from this opening. She would keep me reading. I do think that the first two paragraphs seems a little too "set up"-y, as in I could discover that her goal was to get this booking manager to book her(?) band through a conversation with Cannon, or even Jimmy.

    I do like her annoyance at the fangirls she's surrounded by, and I think you could use that a little more to set up the mystery of why she's there (if not for a chance to steal a sweatband of one of the band members).

    Good luck!

  8. Unfortunately, this isn't hooking me.

    I read that this was YA science fiction, but I'm not seeing any sort of science fiction element in here at all. The writing is competent, but it's overly heavy on backstory.

    I can tell a few things about the setting, like that they're in LA, since Elena is at the Nokia Theater. But that said, I'm having a hard time believing that security at the Nokia would let a teenager get that close to the backstage area, even a parking lot--let alone a small crowd.

  9. It's not an immediate attention getter, but if I picked it up, I might read it once or twice.

    Not quite hooked.

  10. Mildly hooked. I like the concept of a rock band with a foster kid. But the writing was a bit confusing.

  11. The writings good, though a bit too much teeling. was confused about the SF genre-though I don't really read Sf, so not sure how soon it is required to introduce that element.
    But your characters are strong and I think there's potential here. Keep at it, and good luck!

  12. Not hooked yet. I'd likely pick it up as it's YA S.F., but you'd lose me fast as I see no indication of the S.F. and you've got some passive language: was getting, were hanging, etc. On the other hand, I like how she dealt with Jimmy and I think there's promise. It just needs more polish.

  13. Not bad. Maybe starting off with a shorter, clearer sentence would engage a reader more quickly. I don't know why some feel the need to see the science fiction element show up in the first 250 words are barely enough to set the basics in a novel.
    I would read on, particularly if the clarity were improved up front.

  14. Your last line was the best part for me.

    The rest of it was too much back story and not enough action.

  15. The writing is good and the scene setting is adequate. It seems like she is alone in the backstage parking lot, which didn't make sense to me. I see the goal, but am unsure of what the conflict is. I would have to read on a little further to see where this going. Somewhat hooked.

  16. I'm not really hooked. The writing is good, but there's nothing that draws me in. There's nothing that turns me off though. I think if I knew a basic outline of the story (eg. if this was a book and I could read the back cover) I would be willing to keep reading if I knew it was going somewhere interesting.