Wednesday, March 10, 2010

24 Secret Agent

TITLE: Indigo in the Know
GENRE: Middle-Grade Fantasy

Indigo heard the radio humming down the hall, as she got dressed, picking a plain t-shirt. It was too warm to wear long-sleeves, which she preferred to shield her skin from unnecessary contact. She sported a pair of faded jeans and plain white sneakers. Indigo was sure she’d blend right in.

Moseying down the hallway that separated the two bedrooms and bathroom from the living room and kitchen, she could hear the sizzle of bacon and sounds of jazz pouring out of the radio. It was as if the bacon and jazz were meant to play together. When she reached the kitchen, Indigo opened the fridge door and got some juice and butter for the toast, sat at the table and poured orange juice for two. Setting down the plate filled with bacon, eggs, and toast, Mama kissed Indigo on the head with a loud smooch. Indigo flinched from the flash of knowing her mother’s greatest fears for a moment, but recovered quickly. With repetition, the force faded and Indigo learned to live with it, like an annoying fly. Indigo longed to touch people without the static of her secret curse, as she had long thought of it.

“Morning, Baby,” crooned her mother. “Thanks for the breakfast, Mama,” Indigo obediently said, knowing her mother demanded respect more than anything. “I may not get respect at work or out there, but I sure as hell demand it in this house,” Indigo was reprimanded if she got out of line.


  1. I like your premise but I think you need to slow down your pace here. You start by saying she's getting dressed but then she has shoes on by the third sentence. The "smooch" (which is the most important part of this opening) is also too fast. What fears does she see? Why does she have to recover from them? If this is your hook, you shouldn't rush it. You want your reader to feel like they are in Indigo's shoes.

  2. This is the 2nd ms about a kid who gets people's thoughts and/or feelings through touch in this contest, and I'm reading in order from 1 (meaning there could be more I haven't seen yet). And in both (as in Alyson Noel's Evermore) the MC is trying to avoid touch. What else is special about Indigo? Why does she need to blend in?

    I felt there were too many details in this beginning. Focus on Indigo. If the plot involves her relationship with her mother, then focus on that, too. The descriptive details don't mean anything to me yet.

    What makes one ms stand out from the slush is voice, so make sure Indigo's voice is special. I don't get that here.

  3. I love the first paragraph, but then I got bogged down after that.

    The second paragraph was heavy with information and felt a bit rambling. It needs to be two, maybe even three paragraphs-- the first one beginning with "When she reached the kitchen."

    This premise is interesting but I can already see the difficulty. I felt a slight POV shift with, "Setting down the plate Mama kissed Indigo" Suddenly felt like I was in Mama's POV so when we WERE in Mama's head for a moment it lessened the impact. I'd tighten a bit. The last paragraph is missing the typical paragraph indents for dialogue and then Indigo is confusingly being reprimanded, but it's represented in quotes so I'm not sure if she's saying it, being "touched" or remembering.

    Once you fix these problems I'll be better able to determine the plot and if I'll read further.

  4. This needs tightening and a better variety of sentence structure. The sentence about setting the plate down does read like it is Mama's pov and unless that was intentional, it needs fixing. I don't understand the quote at the end and I'm not sure I'd read on. Good luck!

  5. Love the name of the character...and the concept behind the story. Also "bacon/jazz" combo,


    I find the last paragraph confusing...isn't Indigo saying thanks for breakfast, respectful?

  6. I am absolutely LOVING THIS!! First sentence jumped out and GRABBED me! I like the character, her name, the flow of your writing, "Moseying down the hall" and your simple use of slang....WOW!

    I feel the tension building, and I want to read MORE! ㋡

  7. I thought this was okay, but there wasn't anything that stod out as special, or that grabbed me, and I wonder if you're starting in the best place. At some point, something is going to go wrong and that may be where you want to start the story (or not, since I don't know what you have coming up) but you may want to consider it.

    Also, you don't have to say, 'she heard' 'she saw' 'she felt.' Since it's her POV, we assume the hearing, seeing and feeling is on her part.

  8. Hi

    First, I like the details - I like that I can see what Indigo (lovely name!) chooses to wear, what she smells, what she sees. I like the underlying tension between mother and daughter. I like the intriguing hints of "knowing her mother's greatest fears" and how "the force faded".

    If I am to nitpick, it would be on the repeated use of Indigo.


    Take care

  9. I liked the first paragraph. The only issue I saw was the use of her name. I don;t feel you need it at the end. "She was sure she'd blend right in" would have worked without repeating her name again.

    Your description is good in the second paragraph, but again, I feel you use her name too often.

    The third paragraph confused me. Her mother says good morning and then Indigo thanks her for the breakfast. First, her thanking her mother for the breakfast should be on the next line. It's two different people talking. The other thing that threw me was the last bit. Is someone saying the bit about respect? Is Indigo thinking it? It feels out of place.

    These are easy fixes. Sounds like you have an interesting idea here. A little clean up and it'll be great! :)

  10. Felt rushed. Too much info.

    Felt breakfast was a device to introduce us to her avoidance of touch. Would prefer a situation relevant to discovering that fact.

    Second paragraph too long.

    Last paragraph confusing.

  11. I think the writing needs a little more polish. I felt the first comma was unnecessary, and the first sentence in the second paragraph was too long. I'd just say she moseyed down the hallway towards the kitchen, and leave out any details about the bedrooms and bathroom etc. The first page is valuable real estate and I don't think the exact layout of the house is important enough to be included right up front.

    I agree that there's too much emphasis on breakfast and not enough on the touch of her mother. This is your hook, but it gets lost in details of food and the respect her mother demands. I'd focus on what Indigo experiences when she touches her mother and how she feels. This is an interesting concept (I'm reading through the entries backwards so I haven't seen the other one about touch) and I think with some work you could have a very good story.

  12. Where's the hook?
    The last para here... Odd way to work the dialogue. Could work but this is very slow.
    A slush pile would be containing a lot more excitement and most publishing houses don't have huge lists so you have lots of competition. I guess if this was American Idol, you'd be crying outside because you didn't make it to Hollywood. Not because you are bad mind you, but just that there are a lot of ones that had more promise.
    Start with positive action. Drag us into the story as fast as you can. You only get one small chance at the start of a story and this must really be like a good worm you paid a fortune for in order to catch the fish.

  13. @Zara - It's rare indeed that people's writing sounds perfect to other people. These are for the most part unpublished writers. Some are still learning their chops, and others are exposing their writing to people for the first time.

    So: BE KIND.

    Writing is hard enough without the completely unnecessary and unhelpful comments you have in your second paragraph.

  14. This is very dry, the voice is almost non-existent. While the premise might be great, I'm not getting into it at all because I'm not connecting with Indigo. Not to mention, the dialog grammar rules aren't applied in that final paragraph?

    I wouldn't read on at this point.

  15. I love the story idea, and I love the name Indigo, but maybe show the story more instead of telling.

    I hope you don’t mind me playing with it to give an example. I know you can do it much better than me though and this is just a suggestion. (Show what she feels and smells. Also show what she’s thinking.)

    Indigo hummed with the song from the radio as she dressed in a plain t-shirt. Wiping the sweat from her brow, she wished she could wear a long-sleeved top to shield her skin from any unnecessary contact, but it was way too warm. She wriggled into a pair of faded jeans, pulled on her white sneakers and glanced in the mirror. Good. Now she’d blend in just fine.

    As she headed out the door for breakfast, the delicious aroma of bacon drifted down the hallway, making her stomach rumble. “Morning, Mama,” she said as she reached the kitchen. Smiling, she grabbed a bottle of juice and butter from the fridge and sat at the table, but as soon as her mama kissed her on the head, Indigo pulled away. She flinched as a flash of static shot down her neck to her arm and she suddenly knew her mother’s greatest fears once again. It had happened so often now, but the force was fading. She sighed and resigned herself to live with it. This was her favorite meal, but she wasn’t hungry now and just picked at it. Oh, how she longed to touch people without getting a stupid shock every time. She hated the unknown, secret curse.

    “Morning, Baby,” crooned her mother.

    “Thanks for the yummy breakfast, Mama,” Indigo obediently said, knowing her mother demanded respect more than anything.

    Good luck with it. You’ll get it perfect with some editing, it’s a great story idea and I already like Indigo and feel for her.

  16. Thank you for the helpful comments, everyone.

    Trish, thank you for taking the time for rewriting. I knew there was something wrong with this beginning. When I reworked it, I tried to do too much and lost a hook.

    I like some of your ideas here. I've been thinking about having the mother comment on the clothing to make it part of the story and increase the tension between them. If I do that, I can start in the kitchen. My manuscript exchange partner suggested starting some place else entirely, but the kitchen and the mother are the heart of the story, even though beginning with Indigo collapsing from contact would be more exciting.

    I'm thinking...