Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Secret Agent #ALT-2

TITLE: COUNTING CHANGE
GENRE: MG

Two hundred and forty five days ago, after my father left, I started counting all the changes in my life. The list is long.

Sixty days since Mama quit smoking. Two days till my first day of middle school. Fifty-eight days till my little sister Katie, turns six, and thirteen years till she can move out. One and eighty days since I cut my hair so short, anyone who doesn't know me, thinks I'm a boy.

Now Mama wants me to visit my father. And that's just not going to happen. I don't think she can make me.

Sixty-eight days after the accident, Mama found the first cross, planted upright in the very spot on our parking strip where Jack Donner slammed on the gas pedal instead of the brake. It's been sixty-nine days since Mama took the rough wood cross out of the ground and threw it in the woodpile to burn. Today, two hundred and sixty nine days later, there's a new cross on our lawn. It's the ninth one.

Mama takes a paint chip, Pink Boa, and sets it down beside our red kitchen cupboard. "I want that cross off the lawn."

"It's not on the lawn, Mama." I slide the red kitchen curtain back and catch sight of the new cross someone jammed into the same spot. This one is painted white. "It's on the parking strip."

24 comments:

laurasibson said...

This is very intriguing but I almost want to see it start with the scene with the paint chip. All the days feel like a lot of info at once. At the same time, I love the voice and want to know what's going on.

Twinkle said...

I'm hooked; I want to know what happened.

The voice is strong. Writing needs some tightening to make this even crisper.

Tiny thing: When you write numbers, there is no "and." So it's "Two hundred forty-five", not "Two hundred and forty five."

Sara J. Henry said...

Love it. Would definitely keep reading.

(And I think in first person, you can get away with saying "and" in the middle of a number, because that's how the narrator talks.)

middle grade ninja said...

I would keep going, but I agree with the first comment. A lot of info up front before we get to it.

folksinmt said...

I would keep reading, but I'm not completely in love with it. The number stuff was confusing. (maybe since it wasn't in chronological order?) I like the line about thirteen years till she can move out!

If she calls her mom "Mama," would she really call her dad "Father?" That didn't seem to fit.

melodycolleen said...

I like the voice in this, although starting out with all the numbering - out of sequence - kind of slowed me down. But I can see why you did it this way.

I was a little surprised to discover the narrator was a girl, I didn't even see her short hair and I pictured her as male. Ha - joke's on me.

I would definitely keep reading this one. It's well written and I like the style.

Good luck.

K. M. Walton said...

Like a few of the other comments, I too, found the numbering a bit confusing - as in I actually went back and re-read a few times for clarity.

I wonder if you'd consider your opening line to be, "Sixty eight days after the accident, Mama found..." And go from there.

Miss Aspirant said...

I think there is promise here but I felt that all the numbers were a bit cumbersome rather than a good way to express things. I lost track after the first couple. Fewer references to time would be better - maybe consider only the most important dates. I would probably read on for a while.

Kelly Hashway said...

I like it but the numbers in the beginning were a little overwhelming.

TamiJean said...

Why is there a cross on the lawn? I tried to read it twice to find some kind of context clues to tell me what's going on, but I'm still lost.

I LIKE the numbers, but I think there's too many of them. If they are used to show that the narrating character is the sort of person who obsessively counts things, I especially like them. If the main character is NOT that sort of person, they're far too cumbersome for me. Even if they're to show characterization, it feels like an info-dump right up at the top, and one that doesn't really clarify much. Streamline and focus, and I think it could be a powerful tool.

Not hooked, but I want to be. =]

Bron said...

I really liked starting with the numbers, and thought they gave a good insight into the character. It's always been my understanding that dropping the 'and' from numbers is an American thing, so having them in there isn't necessarily incorrect. It's just something an American publisher may want you to change, but you can worry about that when you have a contract.

I was hooked by the crosses and want to know more, so I would read on. Good job.

Sarah Erber said...

I liked this. I think it also sounds like YA. But I'm hooked nonetheless.

Good luck with SA!

Lauren said...

There's so much to like about this. From the mood and tone you've set, I imagine it'll be a darkly quirky story, which is exactly the kind I like. ;) I didn't mind the numbers at all -- you set it up in the first line, and it gives the reader an indication that the narrator really does care deeply about her father leaving, even though she's probably not going to let on to this out loud. I'd read on for sure, mainly to spend more time with this wonderful character you've created! And yeah, I want to know what's up with the crosses, too. Good stuff.

Christina Farley said...

Great writing and I really liked the voice in this. The numbers are a nice touch to the character's personality.

catehart said...

I was left wondering what Jack Donner slamming on the gas instead of the brake had to do with the crosses, and her father leaving. I think there's an interesting enough premise in there. It just didn't capture me enough to want to read more to be honest.

Merc said...

I really like the voice and the details, though I did think there was a bit TOO much of the 'counting' and listing for the very beginning. I'd trim a few things out, get to the paint chip scene quicker, then work in more of the 'counting' bits as the scene progresses.

I'd certainly read on a bit to see where this goes. :)

Too Cute to be Very Interesting said...

I'm one of the ones who really likes the numbers. My favorite is "thirteen years till she can move out." (re: Katie) That's super showing.

I think this has a great voice. Hooked.

Kristin Celms said...

Love this entry. The voice is strong, there is a big sense of foreboding that makes me want to continue, and I love the narrator. Also good use of details, like the paint chip.

Kate Fall said...

I didn't understand the connection between her father leaving and Jack Donner. Or why the accident doesn't make the cut of important things in the second paragraph. I almost felt like you started a new story in the third paragraph. It's a very interesting new story, though.

Jane said...

I like the counting, but I would consider moving it to a later point, and starting off with the mom wanting the cross off her lawn.

Anonymous said...

I do agree that the numbers are interesting and confusing at the same time - tightening it up could help. Very telling things: line about her sister, line about her hair.

I'm assuming that the crosses indicate that someone died in an accident (Jack Donner?) so I'm hooked enough to read on.

Good job!

Barbara said...

I wasn't interested until 68 days after the accident, mama found the first cross. That made me sit up.

Before that, I was trying to figure out what all these numbers/events had in common, or what the connection was. I couldn't find any. And the comment about visiting Dad didn't seem to have anything to do with anything. It all came across as the writer filling me in on her life.

I'd cut it all and start with 68 days after the accident. That's your story. That's your hook. And it's a strong hook. All that other info you can easily work in as you go along.

Secret Agent said...

I feel like the voice is a little old for someone who isn't even in middle school yet. For instance, "...Mama found the first cross, planted upright in the very spot on our parking strip where Jack Donner slammed on the gas pedal instead of the brake."

"slammed on the gas pedal" and "parking strip" and "planted upright" are way too old for a fifth grader's (or even sixth grader's) natural voice.

Good writing. Interesting plot so far, but the voice would make me stop reading since it's too old for the age you're describing.

Ruth Donnelly said...

I know I'm late in commenting and the contest is over, but I had to say I really like this. The character's voice hooked me and I would read on to find out about the crosses and Jack Donner and why she doesn't want to see her father. At first I wasn't sure about the list of numbers, but you had me at "thirteen years until she can move out". Maybe her voice could be a little less mature in places, but she comes across realistically as a bright, somewhat troubled kid.