Wednesday, January 13, 2010

42 Secret Agent

TITLE: Counting Change

Two hundred and eighty-eight days after my father left I found my journal. In it all I had written down were numbers. Sixty days since Mama quit smoking. Three days till Thanksgiving. Twenty-five days till Christmas break. Thirteen years till my little sister Katie was old enough to move out. But I couldn’t write about the hole in my heart. Instead I scribbled a large black blob the size of my hand on the center of the first page.


Mama lays a paint chip beside the kitchen cupboard. “Stoney, I want that bedroom of yours clean before school starts on Wednesday. Let’s start fresh and new.”

Mama’s idea of “fresh and new” is to paint everything in sight like she could obliterate the last year with a fresh coat of Sands of Time White. Lately she’s been re-doing the kitchen from Normal Blue to Manic Red.

The paint chip in her hand, Pink Boa, clashes with the red, and makes my eyes ache.
I’ve carried the journal around for two days thinking about what I might write in it. But I’m afraid that whatever I write will make it true. So I draw.

Mama scrapes burnt toast with hard butter and sets it down in front of my sister. Katie waves her hand over the plate trying to make the smell go away, but it spreads like the weeds in my father’s flowerbed, reaching every corner of the kitchen.


  1. I really like the last sentence. Nice voice here. I like the "I'm afraid that whatever I write will make it true" line. Not much of a hint at what the problem is, except for the dad being gone a long time. Overall, I'd keep reading.

  2. I really like the voice in this, and the use of present tense. I'd keep reading.

    The one thing that you might want to change is the abrupt shift between the first and second paragraphs. I think it might be stronger if this could read as part of the scene that follows. Maybe she walks into the kitchen holding the journal after finding it for the first time, rather than this being two days later. I'd also consider cutting/changing 'hole in my heart'. Maybe it's just me, but every time I read this phrase it reminds me of New Moon, since this is the way Bella repeatedly describes how she feels.

  3. Haven't read New Moon, so I don't have that reference. ;-)

    Great voice. I love the idea that Mom glosses over everything with paint.

    The switch between the paragraphs threw me. And confused me a bit. If all she writes are numbers, then how can what she writes come true?

    I found my journal. Two hundred and eighty-eight days after my father left.

    Then go into the paint chip part and weave in the bits from the journal there. Like after 'from Normal Blue to Manic Red.'

    Sixty days since Mama quit smoking

    If it's in italics, it might come across like she's reading it as she's in the kitchen and talking to Mom. Not sure. Just a suggestion.

    Good luck. I'd read on.

  4. I really like the voice in this. I immediately got a feel for the mc and her situation (as well as her mother and absent father). I'd definitely keep reading!

  5. Nice voice in the second portion, very nice use of details with Mom's painting. I didn't much care for the opening paragraph. It says that only numbers were written in the journal, but there seem to be words and some type of drawings in there too.

  6. I like the voice but I didn't like the prologue. The sudden change into the story threw me, and I felt you told too much. There's no mystery. Father left. MC sad. End of story. Isn't there a way to weave it into the first chapter? There's more suspense to the opening without it. The line "Mama's idea of 'fresh and new' is to paint everything in sight like she could obliterate the last year with a fresh coat of Sands of Time White." That had me intrigued and wanting to read more. You've already told me too much with the prologue. I like books where I have to read to find out why the mother wants to obliterate the last year.

    Otherwise, the rest was great!

  7. The prologue didn't bother me as much as it did with others, but it could be that your voice and delicious use of Mom's painting and your MC's POV grabbed me and dragged me right in. Great stuff!

  8. I liked the painting over the bad as if it will all magically disappear.
    I would change up the 1st part. I didn't understand how it was only numbers but there were words. I wasn't sure how what she wrote came true if all she wrote was numbers. So I presumed she wrote mundane blurbs because if she wrote anything about her thoughts or feelings then they may come true. If that is not what is being implied, I'd need clarification.

    Because of the voice and the painting analogy, I would read some more.

  9. Not hooked. Nothing much is happening here, and the voice actually feels a little too young to be YA to me.

    (Interestingly, that opening paragraph was my favorite part of this, but there was one shift in tense that threw me: "Thirteen years till my little sister Katie was old enough to move out" should be "Thirteen years till my little sister Katie will be old enough to move out," since it hasn't happened yet.)

  10. I like this. It feels like a slow opening but I like the character's voice.

  11. You have a very strong sense of this girl and her Mom from this short passage...nice work! I would definitely keep reading. A small thing, the first paragraph and then the abrupt change to Mom with paint chips was a little jarring. It didn't pull me out of the story, but I did find myself wondering why that first paragraph is important and if I'll need to remember it later.

  12. I really like this. I know so much about the character just from this little snippet -- her mindset, her voice, her family, her world. I'd definitely read on.

  13. I think the journal's interesting, but I don't like it right up the top in the form of a prologue. If that information is important to the story, I think you could weave it in at certain points where knowing those numbers/things would have a really great impact.

    Nice voice, too. Also, I think this is just me, but when the mother called the kid, "Stoney," I thought she was stoned for a moment and the mom was being very nonchalant about it. But then I realised it was just a name and it was all okay :)

  14. I liked this. You have a good voice, but I agree about the journal being up the top. That paragraph didn't hook me, but the rest of it did. Maybe add the journal in the second or third paragraph.

  15. This is great. It's perfect as is, and I love it. I read this blog in a reader, and I was skimming through reading the first sentence and then closing them.

    Not one other entry got me interested enough to actually click through, but this is amazing.

  16. I really loved the way this was set out--and I liked the idea of the journal with numbers in it--it tells me about character, but I loved the bits that followed.