Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Secret Agent Contest #18

TITLE: Sketches from the Ash

I locked my car door. "I'm not going in," I said.

"Sorry, sweetie. Let's go." Mom spoke through a mouthful of bobby pins as she wound her curly dark hair into its knot and pulled a navy blue cloche hat over her forehead.

"Please? Dad said it was authentic."

Mom smiled as she checked her reflection in the rear view mirror. She started taming the curls around her face into ringlets. "Authentic doesn't always mean terrible, Eva."

"It does with Dad. And what's with the hat?"

"Isn't it cute?"

"No. It's weird. It looks too British. From World War II or something."

"Perfect! I picked it up in London on the house-hunting trip."

"Do you really have to wear it to my new school?" My mom was fussy about her looks, but she couldn't settle for jeans and sweaters like normal moms. It was hard enough moving to a new country every couple of years without my mom looking like she was playing dress up.

"I'll let you borrow it tomorrow," Mom said, closing her car door.

"Are you sure this is it?" I hollered through my shut window. I wasn't anxious to go inside with that hat. "It doesn't look like a school!"

"Yes. Come on now, honey. The grounds are lovely, aren't they!"

Mom was crazy. The place looked more like a poor retirement home than an expensive private school.


  1. Nice characterization of the mother. I'm somewhat hooked and would continue to read.

  2. This little glimpse of mother and daughter are enough to tell me that I would like reading further interaction. I'm not sure what Eva is like yet, or what her issues are, but I'm interested enough to read on.

  3. Since one page really isn't enough to get a feel for if this is my kind of story or not, I would keep reading. The dialogue and flow are good, so I am not turned off. But I do hope there is some action soon. It's a nice start and I am intrigued by the title.

  4. Sorry, I'm really not hooked. I'm mostly just confused. I don't really know anything about the main character, but I do feel like I know quite a bit about her mother. Since I know nothing about her, I'm not convinced that I want to follow her through an entire book.

  5. I wonder about the build-up of Mom. I'm guessing most of the story will take place at the school, without Mom. It might work better to give us more of the school and less of Mom. What did Dad mean by authentic? What does she take authentic to mean? What does she think of the school and her future there at this moment, and why doesn't she want to be there. That kind of stuff would interest me more than Mom's hat.

  6. Sorta hooked. I do wonder why all the emphasis seems to be on the mother, though. Unless their relationship is uber-important, you might try shifting the attention back to the MC.

  7. I'd keep reading.

    "Cloche hat" threw me a little, and don't know how many teen readers would have any idea what it is.

  8. Not hooked. Like others, I felt there was too much focus on the mother and I didn't think that was particularly organic. I mean, this kid's known her mother all her life, why is she deciding to notice all these things about her in such great detail now? I don't know, it just felt too forced to me.

    Plus. I thought the situation was a little cliche. Encouraging parent who is supportive and calls her kid "honey" a lot helps kid along to a new school. The new school situation and the parent situation are both very commonly done, so I felt a little uninterested.

    That said, this was well written and flowed well. There was some interesting dialogue and hints of good characterisation to come :)

  9. I like the quirky dialogue, it shows the relationship with mother and daughter, and the thought of her starting a new school and what will happen there, makes me want to keep reading.

  10. Thanks for posting your work on such a public forum. That takes guts.

    I liked the dialogue between them very much: the 'authentic doesn't mean terrible,'phrase, and the whole rigmarole around the hat. I would however have left off the line about mom being fussy about her looks: you've already shown us that. (I like the comment about mom playing dress-up, though. That seemed truly teenagerish: "SO embarrassed by my mother and her weird clothes?")

    I would read on to find out what this retirement-home looking school really was.

  11. I really like the flow of dialog here between over eager mom and reluctant daughter. I love the british details that set the scene. For me, the writing is compelling and there is enough conflict with MC's reluctance to go to this weird looking new school to keep me going. I really like the mom and hope that since you have taken the time to create that effect, we will see her as a figure of some importance in the main conflict.

  12. I have to be honest, I see the "I dont' want to get out of the car to go to my new school" opening a lot. A LOT. Almost as much as "I fumbled to shut off my blaring alarm", "I stumbled downstairs looking for cereal" and "I splashed water on my face and looked at myself critically in the mirror." Plus, the mom says "let's go" almost in the beginning, but she is not ready and in fact takes the rest of the page to put her hat on. What gives?

    I think the writing is fine and I believe that you can do better. This is a false start. Open when the story starts.

  13. I have a very similar opening to my YA and am so glad this one's posted. I like the characterization here and learn a lot from the dialogue, but agree that it might be a bit cliche. (For the record, mine is the "I don't wanna' move to a new town" genre)