Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Secret Agent Contest #41

TITLE: Shaking the Bones
GENRE: Contemporary YA

Maryann's normal life ended on an October weekend, but it wasn't until December that she couldn't ignore her pee any longer. It smelled--well, it just smelled weird. She tried not to notice, but every time she went to the bathroom, it was there. The smell. She leaned over her swollen, sore breasts and with a delicate wrinkling of her nose, sniffed. There. There it is, she thought, trying to figure out what could make pee smell so different?

Asparagus? She hadn't eaten any. Garlic? Nada. Pregnancy?


According to the Easy Pregnancy Detector 1-2-3 Step directions, it was a matter of taking the cap off the tip of the plastic stick, soaking the end and waiting three minutes for the results. What Maryann failed to see on the directions, was how to do this without peeing all over herself.

She positioned the stick, and held her breath as she (ahem) went. By the time Maryann set the stick on the sink and rinsed her hands off, the results were clear. The blazing pink + = one pregnant teenager. Her mouth hung open as she stared at the stick. Where were the three minutes? It'd only been thirty seconds, max.


  1. Not quite hooked. I think all the pee details kinda grossed me out a bit. And then as soon as you mentioned sore breasts I knew exactly what the problem was, which made the rest of the build up feel drawn out. It seemed a little odd to me that two months of this, and missed periods wouldn't clue her in before that moment.

    It also seemed weird to me that after all that pee detail in the beginning she would say (ahem) when talking about actual peeing. I would like to get more of a sense of Maryann in this opening rather than just what her situation is. I think you could start at the moment the stick says pregnant, and cut everything before.

  2. Sorry, not hooked. Too much pee talk--I agree with above, it grossed me out. I don't remember my pee ever smelling weird from being pregnant (and I have five kids, so I have plenty of pregnancy experience!) I think I would pick a different way to tell how she discovers she's pregnant. Good luck.

  3. I agree, the pee in the beginning didn't really give me a good hold on her character. I'd almost start this with the "crap" line and go from there. Good luck! :)


  4. The pee was too much for me, too.

    "Crap" gave the best sense of character for me too.

    I was really surprised when it was a teenager. I know I shouldn't have been with the YA above, but it just sounded older to me.

  5. Ditto the other comments. (Swollen, sore breasts sort of, er, stand out, and are a dead give-away.)

    But, heck, I'm not a young adult.

  6. Not hooked. Starting with how your main character's "normal life ended" is a little cliche. Plus, it lends to the author giving backstory. That's how this read to me. The pee part, well ... it's a bit much for me. Plus, is it normal for a teen to know that pregnancy makes her pee smell funny?

    One minute she's sitting on the toilet peeing, and the next she's thinking she's pregnant, and then she's taking the test. Where did she get the test? How much time has passed? It all feels a little too jumpy to me.

    Best of luck.

  7. If this young woman isn't challenged in some way, the fourth paragraph makes no sense. If she is challenged, the second para makes no sense. I, too, don't want to start a book with the fragrance or mention of bodily fluids, yet I'm guessing the story itself has merit. Don't give up no matter how hard the competition.

  8. The voice in the third person narration felt a little too old to me, and stilted at times. It might work better in first, so then we could really get a sense of character. But I'm afraid that might be my own personal preferences playing into my comments.

    Other things: She would have noticed before, teenagers are not silly (unles she's like, really really sheltered or something).

    I agree with the others, the pee thing was a bit much.

  9. The pee thing is obviously putting some people off. That might be something to consider - I don't think you should change your story lightly but if a significant portion of people will read the first paragraph and get put off, it might be worth a change. If you do keep it, I'd cut the 'swollen, sore breasts' part, because that makes it too obvious.

    I also wasn't sure about having the word 'crap' so soon after all the pee talk :-)

    There's nothing hugely hooky here but I'd read on a bit because I like the voice.

  10. I wasn't put off by the pee. But I do believe this could be trimmed, a bit. Tightened, the voice would be stronger and I already love Maryann's voice.

    Even as is, I'd keep reading.

  11. Not hooked. The logic doesn't quite work. Her normal life ends in October. Why? She didn't know she was pregnent in October. Her pee didn't become an issue until December.

    Then she's guessing why her pee smells. Maybe she's pregnant. Instantly, she has a pregnancy test in her hands. Where did it come from?

    Also, she would have missed her period for two months, but pregnancy never enters her mind. She doesn't know enough to pee in a cup and dip the stick in.

    She doesn't come across as too bright, and I just wasn't interested in reading about her.

  12. Ew.

    Had this been a submission, I would have stopped at "delicate wrinkling of her nose."