Wednesday, September 9, 2009

46 Secret Agent

TITLE: Boulton's Quest
GENRE: Young Adult Fiction

Not long ago Chris would stand on his night table, press his nose to this window, and watch deer filter through the forest and nibble the grass in his yard. Now he stared into the living room window of a house. The window was set into green spackle, overlooked a single Ash tree in a small back yard, and was flanked by a three car garage emptying onto an asphalt road.

He scanned the tiled roofs lining the valley floor and gazed at the sun. It slid behind the mountain tops, propelling an ominous shadow up the treed slopes.

Towering cumulous clouds pulled yellows, pinks, and greens from the sun’s rays and splashed them across the sky. His shoulders sagged. He swayed. The mosaic patterns crept through his eyes, flooded his arms, chest, and legs, and slowed his heartbeat to a whisper. For once, he felt content.

The sun dropped, plunging the valley into darkness.

“Typical,” he said.

Crickets started their ritual with the precision of a marching band. Thousands of chirps blended into a single noise, inescapable and intense.

He slid into bed, pulled a pillow over his head, and held it to his ears. He heaved, drawing a wisp of stale air through the goose feathers, and grimaced. The racket would keep him awake and staring into blackness for hours. Maybe he’d be up when his parents, Claire and Geoff Boulton, got home from work. Either way, it didn’t matter. They wouldn’t drop in and the house would be empty in the morning.


  1. You're descriptions are lovely and I was able to see your world clearly. However, I didn't really feel a pull to read on. I feel like I need to know a bit more about your character instead of his surroundings.

  2. You have a very evokitive way of describing images- very nice. But it felt a bit slow- I need to be pulled into the story in that first paragraph, why is a he doing what he's doing? Why is it typlical? I didn't get a feeling for what exactly was going on. But keep your lovely descriptive style- just bring something about the character in to make the reader want to jump into your world.

  3. I was pretty meh about it. I didn't want to read on. But I did love the line about the sun setting--"Typical." Funny.

  4. For me, I need a little something more to be compelled to read on. The only hint of a story question here is the absent parents.

    You describe a small back yard, and then say the valley plunged into darkness - what valley? I had a hard time getting my bearings here.

    Good luck.

  5. I feel like this needs more focus. If you're not going to tell us up front what the difference is between long ago when Chris watched the deer, you could leave that out. I'm not sure the description of the house adds anything here either.

    The really interesting part of this is the personality revealed when he says "typical," and then his unhappiness with his parents' absence. Could you bring his personality into this even more? Really focus on how deeply he feels the sight of the sunset and then on the Eeyore-like gloominess when it sets (although he surely must have figured it would)?

  6. I also got a little lost in the description, not knowing how/why it all mattered. Mainly I got confused by the fact that he was looking into a living room window, then surveying a valley, then climbing into bed.

    The writing is nice; it has a pleasant rhythm to it.

  7. how about "forested" instead of "treed"?

    I was with you until main character was suddenly looking down on a valley. In my mind he was looking at the wall of a house, and then suddenly he's looking at a valley. Make this transition make sense, for instance, I rearranged my internal pictures to have him up on the second floor, but my initial image was him on the ground floor with the new house basically the only thing in view.

    I'm definitely curious why he's gonna leave during the night! (at least that's the way I understood it) I'd be curious to read more only because of that last line.

  8. I had a difficult time picturing where he was. I thought he was outside looking in.

    I had no idea what you meant by "the window was set into green spackle"

    There was evocative imagery, but no hook. No unanswered question(s) for me.

  9. Way, way, too many extraneous details (green spackle, ash tree, three-car garage, asphalt road, tiled roofs, treed slopes, towering clouds, mosaic patterns) before the author gets to the punch line of ... the house would be empty in the morning.

    But once I'd gotten to that sentence, I'd turn the page to see what happens next. So despite myself, I'm hooked.

  10. I also was a bit lost in the description but mostly I was confused by the first paragraph. How old was he that he needed to climb onto a nightstand to see out the window? And then it sounds as though he's outside looking into the living room of another house. I don't understand why or what's happening? The descriptions are beautiful, just maybe a bit too many of them.

  11. Good use of verbs. Strong writing but this isn’t an effective opening. Description is like cayenne pepper; use judiciously and never sprinkle too much in one place as you have in this opening. Lose it and get to some sort of conflict and don’t circle around it.
    “Maybe he’d be up when his parents, Claire and Geoff Boulto.” Lose the names. Your character wouldn’t think of his parents using their full names.

    I’d re-think this entire passage.

  12. Hmmm... I don't need a fast or full action type beginning to hook me, but my problem here is this is a little purple for me, and nothing seems to happen.

  13. My comments are in line with everybody else's. This is too wordy for me, too much description.

    I also can't get a fix on the character. He seems disturbed, and it appears the story will tell us why. When he watches the sun go down, I didn't understand his "typical" remark.

    With all these openings, though, we are just getting the smallest sliver of the stories. We're not being given a look at story and character development.

  14. Nothing is really happening here. It's doubtful I would turn the page.

  15. Not hooked. Maybe I'm just too tired, but most of this passed in a blur of confusion for me. Is he staring into a living room window, at a valley, or at a sunset? And how is he then sliding into bed?

    My suggestions: Pick a single focal point for Chris, cut back on the descriptions, and definitely, definitely get rid of his parents' names. Also, I'm pretty sure ash in this case isn't a proper noun.

  16. Not hooked. I couldn't follow the logic. You said he was looking in the living room window, yet he doesn't see the living room, he sees a valley, so I'm guessing you meant he was looking through the living room window, from inside to outside, and then he slides into bed - except he's in the living room. Wouldn't his bed be in the bedroom?

    And very few people refer to their parents by name, and even those who do, don't generally include their surnames. It seems that was for the readers' benefit.

    The description was nice, and if you clean up the logic issues, should work fine. I liked the crickets being compated to a marching band.

    And while there wasn't a lot happening, you do have a great ending here to drag us into what comes next.

    Clean up the confusion in the middle paragraphs and this could work.

  17. Agree with Anon's comment that no one would ever call their parents by their full names (especially not in the middle of a thought).

    I am not hooked by this, mostly becuase it is just one big description of scenery. Nothing happens to grab my attention and make me want to read more.

  18. I love the first paragraph. While the following ones are just as nice, I think the story needs to pick up speed. Tell us why the house is going to be empty in the morning.

  19. Hi,
    Although your descriptions are strong, and I see where you are going with your character, today's agents are likely to pass because of the I want to know up front, short attention span and short time to hook readers... to which editors pay heed.

    A couple pickies:
    You can drop the was from was set...making the sentence stronger.
    Naming parents, should be saved for conversations, since your in the boy's head and he knows who they are...opr if he's trying to distance himself with an indulant remark to himself about these people, i didn't know for sure from the writing.
    When he gazed at the sun and then you mentioned it slid behind. I worried about how long this took. If you want to show him watching the sun because its starting to slide...maybe say..."gazed at the sun sliding behind...

    best of luck.

  20. This is over written--and by that I mean, using just too many words in description, or too tortured sentence structure. I would not keep reading.

  21. There was nothing to hook me, no reason for me to want to read about Chris. Plus, it sounded odd how he thought his parents' full names.