Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #28

TITLE: Wayward
GENRE: YA Paranormal

I laid on the throttle and smiled at an answering purr from the engine. My baby was a patch job - all spit and spare parts, mostly junk or stolen.

The two guys on my right were South-side gearheads with shiny chrome monsters that they probably got straight off a dealer's lot. I could take them easy. The last rider had a cherry-red rice rocket, a Ninja maybe. It was hard to tell in the dark.

A girlfriend of one of the Southies walked in front of us, waving a yellow bandanna like a flag. Her arm came down and we were off with a squeal of tires and a burst of engine smoke. The Ninja took an early advantage but I gained on him. I leaned forward and the bike inched closer until we were side by side. Less than a dozen yards from the finish, I took the lead.

Without warning, I hit an invisible wall. I lost control and veered off the street. The race was over. The Ninja was being congratulated by his friends and I was on the sidewalk, my bike overturned. I wasn't even worried about the two hundred bucks I just lost. Or that any minute a Southie would come up and tell me girls shouldn't race anyway. A stench had overwhelmed my senses, strong and acrid, so hot that it seared the hair from my nostrils.

The smell of burning sulfur and ancient spice.

The scent of magic.


  1. I loved this. Your voice really grabbed me. Nice job.

  2. You demonstrate voice and character in the opening two sentences, and have an interesting hook at the bottom of the page. Well done! I would continue reading past the first 250 words.

  3. Nice work! I like the setup and that you jumped straight into the action. A girl racer is a cool MC.

  4. I loved the setting, the voice, and the fact she's a girl and she's racing motorcycles. I was instantly drawn in and would have loved to continued reading.

    I stumbled a little when she "veered off the street" because suddenly the race is over and the bike is "overturned." It doesn't say if she crashed, or skidded, or what happened. It seems like you should mention if she's lying on the ground, or if she jumped up right away and dusted off, or what exactly happened. The race ends too quick for me.

    Overall, great premise and voice. Good luck!

  5. I found this confusing. It wasn't until the third paragraph that I realized she was on a motorcycle, so I couldn't visualize the scene. At first, I thought she was in a plane because she 'laid' on the trottle. And then once I forgot about the throttle, I thought they were race cars.

    The rest of it was really well done, and I would keep reading. I'm intrigued about the paranormal part. ;)

  6. I liked this and thought it had potential. It's nice to see a girl racing motorcycles, but perhaps make that evident from the beginning. She was a boy in my mind, and then I suddenly had to switch images.

    And the race didn't come off like a race at all, you went through it so fast. Perhaps spend a few more sentences on it and make us feel like we're there. What's she thinkings as she's racing down the road? Is she feeling the heat from the bike, a cool breeze? Is she excited, nervous, positive she'll win? Same for the crash, if it was a crash? The fact that I'm not sure says you need more.

  7. I really liked the voice, the entir patch job, junk and stolen parts. I think it says something about our MC without saying, MC is adjective.

    I knew you were talking cycles--come on, guys, a Ninja is a crotch rocket. And I'm a girl!
    I loved the last two lines.
    I loved the entire southies vs MC side of town, kind of like greasers and socs, bikers and jocks, etc...

    I'd keep reading.

  8. I thought you were talking cars first, as when I race cars it's all about the throttle (tho my car is a wimp but nimble, i wish I had more from the throttle!!!). And a Ninja can be many things, not just crotch rockets. :)

    Loved it, want more! But yeah, an exact idea of what happened to her re: veering off would be great.

  9. This is great. Definitely hooked. I liked that we didn't know she was a girl right away. Maybe add a little more detail about the crash--was she hurt at all? Was the invisible wall part of the magic she's smelling? Not clear since it's the smell she seems most worried about and she isn't connecting it to the wall that made her crash.

  10. Loved the last two lines, and the premise. Love the bikes and the racing. I would like to feel the crash a bit more, though. It seems to happen kind of passively, and I want to feel the gravel under her hands and see the bike lying on its side.
    I would read on.

  11. Like this but have a few comments.

    The bike hits an invisible wall and she lays the bike down... how fast were they going... just wondering because she doesn't seem hurt or have the shakes after an accident.

    You don't need the "without warning" because if the wall was invisible how would she have warning?

    The stench sentence kind of jolted me beause it didn't flow with the rest of the paragraph. (the "had overhelmed" is passive)

    You used was/were 9 times in this short section. I'd like a bit more variety.

    Good voice.
    It needs a little work, but I'd keep reading.

  12. Nice opening. You set the scene nicely (though I also thought they were racing cars at first). I had to do a reset when you reveal the MC is a girl but that didn't bother me. The race seemed really short but maybe motorcycle races are short.

    Nice job and good luck!

  13. I was going to stop reading this until I found out that the MC is a girl, she's riding a homebuilt motorcycle (I thought they were talking about cars-I know nothing about street racing or what a Ninja is other than something that Bruce Lee fought...) and she's thrown off her bike by magic.
    You lost me at the beginning and then reeled me back in at the end.
    Good job.

  14. Hooked from the moment I found out she was a girl. Hooked ;-)

  15. The last two sentences are fantastic.

    My comments here revolve around two things - first, most of the above commenters say something about being hooked as soon as they realize the MC is a girl.

    I thought she was a boy at first - talking cars/bikes plus the detached description of action says boy. Why don't we know she's a girl earlier? Or why aren't there more hints. (And in that respect, would a girl, even one into motorcycles and racing say her "baby" - it seems like such a guy thing - but I could be way wrong).

    Second point. The crash is almost anti-climactic. It happens too fast and where is the imagery - the smell, the taste, the sound? It's there a little, but not enough. What are her thoughts, feelings, emotions? We're getting a lot of action but not a lot from her.

    I would definitely keep reading based on the last two sentences and see what happens.

  16. So, I cheated a little bit :/

    This is actually a slightly edited version of my actual first page. I assumed (I think rightfully so) that the "hookiest" part of my opening was the last two lines of this excerpt, without them it'd be impossible to see where this scene was going.

    I pared down a little bit on the lead-up for this contest because I really wanted that last bit to make it under the word count. Based on the comments here, I will definitely make sure the longer description of the crash gets put back in.

    Also, I really debated with myself about the MC's voice. She is very much a tomboy and actually gets accused later in the book of thinking like man. Her lack of traditional girliness drives a lot of the tension she has in her personal relationships, especially with her family. But I think if this book were published, based on the cover and blurb, readers would come into it knowing the MC is female. A lot of the lack of emotion in the beginning is a direct result of the walls she puts up to protect herself.

    Thank you guys so much for all of the comments, especially our very generous secret agent. I will definitely take it all into consideration while revising!