Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Secret Agent Contest #ALT-2

GENRE: YA paranormal romance

The purple crystal on the table only made my palms sting at first. I made fists and tucked them under my arms, swearing not to touch it.

"Looking for something particulah, dawlin?"

Ripping my gaze from its reflective surface, I smiled at the little white-haired man operating the booth. Ever tried smiling when it feels like youre clamping hot coals in your hands? Harder than it looks. Ignoring the flaring pain, I faked my best dazed-tourist stare and glanced around the crowded open-air French Market instead. No. I just moved here.

The old man looked me over. Even wearing polyester trousers, barely a drop of sweat beaded on his wrinkled brown forehead. "You a Yankee, gal?"

"Is it that obvious?" The sheen that covered my body as soon as I stepped out the door this morning had grown to a dripping sludge, and I freed my fiery fists. My fingers strayed toward the stone. I snatched them back empty-handed. "My mom's from here, though."

The man gave a low, raspy laugh. "Oh? So you only half-Yankee."

"Only half-Yankee, huh?" Well, that didn't make this sweltering inferno home, with its crowds of sticky tourists and tacky stores selling cheap plastic crap. I was melting in my jeans,
too stubborn to put shorts on today when Mom told me how hot it would get. I hadn't uttered more than a monosyllable at a time since we got into town last night.


  1. I think I've read a version of this in an earlier contest ...

    Me, I think I'd like to be grounded in the story before I hear about the purple crystal - I'd like to see that the MC is a kid who has just moved to the south. (Your paragraph 7 pulls me in, because it tells me a lot about the MC.)

    And (this could be just me) dialect throws me off, especially so early in a piece: "Looking for something particulah, dawlin?"

    But yes, I would keep reading!

  2. The purple crystals caught my attention. I wanted to know more about them, but at first they made me think the story was in olden times. Also, I couldn't tell if she was holding the purple crystal or not. I know you said "on the table," but with palms stinging and "clamping hot coals in your hands" made me wonder if she didn't have a crystal in her hand---that it was physically burning her.

    I wasn't sure where this was. "Yankee" made me think this was outside the U.S. until I saw Sara's comment. (I'm from back west, so I don't hear as much about Yankees vs. Southerners). And I didn't catch that "dawlin" was "darlin" till my 3rd glance.

    I like your stubborn character with the jeans in heat. Made me laugh. I think your description is good, and the writing is clean. I'd read on.

  3. I really like this! The only this is that I also thought the setting was much more medieval at first. Then I thought it was Revolutionary War thanks to the Yankee comment (I'm such an American...) so it threw me for a slight loop when I realized it was present-day.

    That said, it didn't bug me enough to make me stop reading.

  4. Having been a transplanted Yankee, I got that part right away. Except I've never heard of a half-Yankee and I lived in Louisiana for over 14 years.

    I think the description of the crystal and what it does to her, how it draws her in, if she touches it, holds it, etc. could be beefed up - a lot. That seems to be what's important here and what's getting the smallest number of words.

    Some good description of the humidity and what it's like to be in the deep south.

  5. Thanks for sharing your work in such a public forum. That takes guts.

    My comments are just a quick impression, as if I were browsing in a bookstore.

    Likes: Title.
    Set-up: purple crystal makes palms sting. I want to know what this thing is. Like the way she is continually tempted to touch it.
    Setting: "open-air french market.; I like exotic locales.

    Wonders about: Tiny bit of overwriting? Sweat as "dripping sludge"; "freed my fiery fists."
    Not a fan of dialect.

    I would read on.

  6. We must be in Mobile, or New Orleans, or Niceville Florida. I HATE when it gets that hot here! You describe the misery of the heat well--I don't think dripping sludge is an over-statement at all. You do have a lot of adjectives, maybe shave some here and there, make each one work extra hard to say what you need it to. I would read on, because I am curious about the crystals and why she is burning to touch them. As far as the dawlin, we are obviously in the south (the deep south) and that is evident right off. Good job.

  7. I'm not that hooked, but I am curious about that stone.

    I'm not fond of odd spellings to denote an accent. I don't know how else to do it, but for me, it doesn't work. I have to focus hard and almost sound out the words when you write them differently. (There's a comic strip that does this, and I'm annoyed to have to say the words out loud to figure them out.)

    This seems to be a typical teen with a touch of fantasy.

  8. I think this has potential--sorta hooked.

    I was confused about the crystal--was it still on the table or was she stealing it?

    I live in OK, so I totally get the dripping sludge, especially while wearing jeans!

    I'd read on--after all 250 words isn't even a page of material in TNR.

  9. Title reminds me of that Japanese comic book.

  10. Not hooked. The opening line felt awkward, and even though I'm wondering why this crystal is having such an effect on her, the writing feels unpolished.

    I do like the use of dialect, which immediately pulled me into the Southern setting (I'm thinking Nawlins?). However, there were enough parts that I had to reread because of awkward sentence structuring:

    Harder than it looks. Ignoring the flaring pain, I faked my best dazed-tourist stare and glanced around the crowded open-air French Market instead. No. I just moved here.

    If she just moved there, why did she have to fake her best tourist gaze. She's a newbie, everything should still be new to her.

    Sorry, not hooked.

  11. Not hooked. The start was good, I thought, but like awesome Sauce, the unpolished writing drew me out of this.

    Since it is paranormal, and you start with the crsytals, perhaps work on setting an eerie tone, and give us more about the crystal. You can get across how hot and icky it is in much fewer words. The crystal, and why her hands are burning, are what's important here, not that she just moved.

  12. I would rather have him flirt with her, or joke around with her, but "You a Yankee, gal" sounds like an insult. I can't imagine a boothkeeper asking that. (Or, in fact, "looking for somethin paticulah dahlin?" since obviously, whatever wares he has in his booth are RIGHT THERE, it isn't like she's in a big shop. Maybe "You like what you see?" or something.)

    There's a lot happening here and I am not sure what is important. Are her hands burning and she swears not to touch it because it is like her Kryptonite? Or because she WANTS to touch it? Or because she wants to STEAL it? What is the deal?

    Still, I am always interested in stories set in New Orleans. I'd keep reading, at least for a little while. :)

  13. I enjoyed the strong atmosphere in this and the contrast between the teen and the old guy. I agree with Sara--the line of dialog, "Looking for something particulah, dawlin?" was a bit too much too strong too early.