Wednesday, May 13, 2009

3 Secret Agent

TITLE: Tinkers
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Dad jumped up from the table as we entered, his face puffy and his
eyes were lined with red streaks that made him look as if his body was
bleeding from the inside out.

Mom was dead, he said.

Emma sat beside me. Neither of us had spoken or moved from our chairs
for hours. I squeezed my toes as hard as I could again; a trick Mom
had taught me to hide my nervousness or embarrassment. Everyone could
see you cry, but no one knew if you curled your toes.

My toes started to tingle as I scanned the group of grownups at the
back of the room. They were Dad’s family, cousins, older people we
saw sometimes at holidays, and a lot of people I didn’t recognize.
Most of them wore black. One of the grownups looked at me and
frowned. I looked at my black tennis shoes and unclenched my toes.
The heat spread and stung. I tucked my knees up on the chair and
wrapped my arms around them, resting my head.

I didn’t much like the smell of this place. Too many flowers and
cleaning chemicals. Emma told me there were bodies in the basement,
other dead people. Mom wasn’t a body anymore, she was ashes.

Dad kept saying funny things to our relatives. “She would have wanted
that.” “It’s what’s best for now.” “I don’t know what I’m going to

Dad said that Mom wanted to be ashes. It was tradition.


  1. Emotionally powerful but it didn't hook me. It felt too busy, like you were trying to do too much in such a short space.

    The general tone didn't "feel" urban fantasy, but that doesn't need to be as important as I'm making it here.

    The imagery's great, it just didn't grab me.

  2. At the line: Mom was dead, he said, I thought your Hn had just walked into the kitchen and was hearing this for the first time.

    If dad is 'jumping up' from the table and he looked like his body was 'bleeding from the inside out' (love that btw) I think he emotions when he delivers the 'dead' line would be much more than just a 'he said.'

    Drop the first two and start with the Emma sat beside me paragraph. Tweak it a bit and I think it would work much better.

    Good luck :-)

  3. First, ditch the second paragraph. It made me think the girls had just walked in to the house to find out their mother was dead, so the funeral threw me completely. Start at the funeral if that is where the action of your story starts.

    It is emotionally powerful, but certain things are bugging me. Emma talks to the MC, but we don't get a conversation, we are told there was a conversation. I want interaction.

    I'd probably read further, but I with UF I need the feel that something is going to HAPPEN, and at least from this snippet, I don't get that.

  4. The first couple of paragraphs seemed disjointed, time-wise, from the third one where the narrator had been sitting *for hours*. I would drop the first two.

    I liked the fourth paragraph in how it translates, through her actions, how she reacts to her mother's death.

  5. The transition from "Mom's dead" to the funeral confused me. I think you might be missing some quotes on that line, too.

    I also don't understand that things like "She would have wanted that" are funny things to say. I think it would help if I knew how old the MC is.

    I stumbled through the paragraphs and didn't get hooked.

  6. This confused me. In your first two sentences your MC seems to just be discovering her mother is dead, but then suddenly she's at the funeral. You need something here to show the transition, or maybe you should just drop the beginning and start at the funeral.

    I like the detail of the curling toes and her other reactions at the funeral; they make your character seem real and sympathetic.

    I'd put the two mentions of ashes together to make it less repetitious:

    Mom wasn’t a body anymore, she was ashes. Dad said that was what Mom wanted. It was tradition.

    I don't really like the paragraph that starts "Dad kept saying funny things". The things he says aren't that unusual, so this didn't work for me. And if she heard what her Dad said, she must have heard what the relatives said as well, so she'd have some idea of what he was really talking about.

  7. (Without reading other comments...)

    I wasn't really hooked, and I couldn't figure out why until I realized that I didn't know anything about your narrator - at least not enough for me to be invested in his/her emotional pain. Starting with the mother's death might be the right move, but since the child doesn't react, I'm not really sure I should care.

    Also, the narration seemed jumpy. I had two reread the excerpt to realize that you skipped time between "Mom was dead, he said." and "Emma sat beside me." At least, I think you skipped time. There just wasn't enough transition for me to follow along, and that coupled with my ignorance of the narrator left me confused instead of hooked.

    I think this has a lot of potential though. Good luck!

  8. Unfortunately, the first line contains a grammatical error: "his face puffy and his eyes were lined". Despite the fact that your writing is generally clean, this doesn't make a very good impression right out of the gate.

    I was confused by the third paragraph until I realized that we had jumped forward in time to the funeral. At first I was wondering why the MC was sitting down next to Emma if she had just walked into the kitchen. This is very disjointed as there is no transition there to help the reader along. I'm not sure I think the first two paragraphs are necessary. While I like the "bleeding from the inside out" imagery, I'm afraid there's no reason at all to start where you did. If the MC is supposed to be remembering the moment she found out that her mother died, you need to be a lot clearer that it's simply a memory. Maybe try relating her feelings at the funeral to the feelings she had when she found out about her mother.

    As it is, this reads to me more like middle grade fiction, and not YA. The character seems very young. Is she supposed to be? For me, the "Dad kept saying funny things" line really makes her seem like a small child. As nothing he's saying is particularly funny (or even unusual), the fact that she is so unfamiliar with social interaction of this nature suggests that she's under ten years old, at least. Don't get me wrong... a young MC is not a bad thing, but YA is generally targeted to a slightly older crowd.

    Good luck with this. :)

  9. This is an interesting one. An almost-hook.

    For almost your entire 250 words, you didn't hook me at all. But deep within the last sentence, you buried the actual hook about Mom wanting to be ashes. That makes me want to read more of the novel, but your major problem is that everything before that makes me want to stop reading.

    I think the scene needs to be rearranged for greater emotional impact, and that your hook has to come much sooner. Start right off at the funeral, and your reader will be more grounded. You had some interesting character details, like the toe curling, which I think made your narrator come to life more vividly. I would also pay more attention to the technical details of the writing: attempt to vary sentence structure, how deep of a penetration is used for the POV, etc. It will make it more interesting for the reader.

  10. Most people who've commented on this said something about how it was 'emotionally powerful' but I just didn't get that from it. This doesn't sound like a kid who's mum has just died, and I can't get this beginning to work with a title of "Tinkers" with a tag of YA urban fantasy. It's just all over the place.

    Not hooked.

  11. Hooked.

    I enjoyed the comments about curling her toes and the sentence about their being bodies in the basement. The last sentence is a nice hook.

    I would say at this point, I don't see how this is Urban Fantasy, but I'd keep reading because I like your MC.

  12. Some good stuff here. I needed to be more grounded in the beginning. Wasn't sure where we were. I'd do some serious cutting and get to the heart of your story because I think it does have the emotional impact that others have mentioned. It might just be buried. Pardon the pun. Good luck!

  13. I liked it, but agree about Dad jumping up from the table. Also the line about Dad saying funny things. Maybe Dad sounded like a robot repeating...

    Needs some work but a good story.

    I see her as being very upset. The way you describe her toes. She crunched them so much they burn.

    thanks for posting.

  14. I'm sympathetic, but confused and therefore, unhooked. You had me at Mom was dead as it sounded like the death had just happened. But we're at the funeral parlor.

    That said, I liked the curled toes as it grounded me and happens to be something I do. :)

  15. This was pretty good. I think it would have helped me to have a stronger hint as to the age of the narrator to better gauge the veracity of his emotional response.

  16. *Posted without reading other comments*

    This confused me. First, they're entering a room. Then we're told that they've been sitting in their chairs for hours. Are the first two paragraphs a flashback? If so, it needs to be clear, and I think it's too short for a flashback anyway.

    I would cut them and start at 'Emma sat beside me'. Your readers will figure out pretty quickly that the Mum is dead.

    The other thing I thought was that the voice sounded a little young for YA.

    Apart from those issues, I liked it. I thought the voice was good, and I was hooked.

  17. A little confused by the scene. The writing needs some tightening to eliminate some of the description, (especially the toe squeezing) and get to why Mom's ashes was a tradition. It definitely has potential.