Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #8

TITLE: Finding the Beat
GENRE: Young Adult

RIC: Radical, interesting, cool. That's me when I climb into the passenger seat of Jason's car. I tighten the safety belt across my body, cram my knees under the dash and lean back into the dark leather.

Jason opens the door slowly. He winces and rubs his forehead. He grips the steering wheel hard, and uses it to pull himself into the driver's seat. He groans with the effort, and his eyes burn like downlights from a white ceiling. "Stop... frowning, Ric." He squeezes the words out
between quick shallow breaths.

"Are you sure you're up for this? You look shocking."

Jason grins. "Look...
pretty bad...

I fold my arms across my chest. "I'm not the one with cancer."

He punches me on the shoulder, but his fist doesn't have strength and it bounces off me. "Tomorrow... I get your bone marrow."

I wait for him to draw each word out and I grin back. "Yeah, tomorrow, you start getting better. But today you look like s***. Don't reckon we should be doing this."

Jason pouts. "You promised...
one last race. You promised...
help me
through." He settles back into his seat, his pale face shiny with sweat, his eyes pleading.

He's right. I swallow my doubts. "I'm good to go." I give my brother the thumbs up.

Jason slept all day so he'd be ready for this. Beast and body primed, he turns the ignition and the engine bursts into life. We speed away, spreading smoke and sound in our wake.


  1. I like the voice in the opening, but the words your MC uses to describe himself don't really translate into the rest of the passage. They're flat adjectives - and I don't see how they are connected with the exchange that follows.

    A lot of "He did this, he did that" as Jason struggles into the car. It distracted me from actually visualizing what was going on.

    I'm not sure if a I like how light-heartedly they're treating cancer. It's a bit of a turn-off at the start of a book.

  2. I confess I was put off by cancer AND teenage racing in the first 250words. Neither idea makes me think this is going to be a happy story. I see death by car accident or death by cancer lurking, and it doesn't draw me in.
    You've got some good writing here. I like the broken rhythem of the brother's speech, and the last line is lovely. But I'm not hooked.

  3. I liked this. As Elena pointed out, the repetition in the second paragraph's sentence structure is distracting, but other than that, I wouldn't change much about this. The dialogue between the siblings rings true (although I do wonder if our MC is a boy or girl), and I wasn't put off by the combination of cancer and street racing (although I can see how someone might be). Hopefully, it'll just be a matter of finding the right agent.

    Best of luck.

  4. I have to admit this was a bit hard to follow at first. I initially though Ric was a girl climbing into her boyfriend's car. Then when we are introduced to Jason it's hard to understand what he's doing and why. Why would someone wince when they open a door?

    Dialogue is good. I might just get rid of the sentence, though, "I'm not the one with cancer." Jason mentions the bone-marrow in the next sentence.

    Subject matter is definitely original (male characters, deadly disease, etc).

    Maybe your last paragraph should be your first, putting the reader right in the car. The other backstory can follow as they speed away.

  5. I'm intrigued, but then, I'm a sucker for relationships between siblings. And this looks like an interesting one. Only I'm not sure if Ric is a girl or a guy, and I'm also not sure who's older or younger. I think that needs to be clarified off the bat.

    I don't like the cancer line either. You have the bone marrow right after, and I think that would be a more subtle way of introducing the subject than blaring it out like that.

    But I'd read on.

  6. I agree with Laura about thinking Ric was Jason's girlfriend at first because the second sentence reads that Ric is radical, interesting, cool because of climbing into Jason's car.

    Be careful not to start so many sentences with the same word. In the second paragraph, 4 of the 6 sentences begin with 'He'.

    Do think this is original and would probably keep reading.

  7. I can't add much here. Agree with all the comments.

  8. I'm not sure if it was the formatting of your email, but if your book does have new paragraphs for whenever Jason uses "..." then I would be so distracted. Keep them in the same line.

    I agree with the sentence construction, but it's more than just "he did. He did." It's also that you use the same "Sentence, CONJUNCTION Sentence." Mix up your writing to keep it interesting to us.

    I totally read over the bone marrow the first time I saw it, and only noticed it when reading someone's comment about cancer. I was all: Huh? Cancer? I think it's because my eyes glazed over by all the difficult dialogue.

    Also, someone who says "You look shocking" and "Don't reckon" doesn't really jive to me.

    But I do like the last couple lines. You could maybe start with that?

  9. I really loved this one! I would definitely buy a book like this too, so would many kids. But I can’t help playing with it. :)

    I’m not sure about the first paragraph. Maybe add some body language to Ric as he gets in the car, then the reader will know how he really feels. You described him as radical, interesting and cool, but didn’t say why. Maybe give the reason. Is it a flight-or-fight feeling? Does he feel excited about the race and fearful about the medical procedure? Or is he not at all nervous about either? Maybe show us his thoughts as he leans back into the dark leather. At first I thought Ric was getting into the driver’s seat. Maybe mention that it was the passenger seat.

    In the second paragraph, you show Jayson is sick, but maybe show more. At first, I thought they’d been in a car accident because he winced and rubbed his forehead. Although Ric says he looks shocking, maybe you could describe it. Did he look deathly white or like a zombie? Maybe add humor here to show the kids age. How was his hair? Neat, uncombed or styled? Is he good looking? If he is, you could throw that in too.

    When Jayson grins and say Ric looks pretty bad, add a funny description. Why does he look bad? I wasn’t sure. You could add the cancer word to Rick’s thoughts instead of him just blurting it out. Not sure he’d say that to his brother. Maybe something like this:

    I peered in the dash mirror and brushed my hand through my wavy hair. What’s he on about? I’m gorgeous. He’s the one with cancer. I grinned at him and went into a wrap song.

    ♫“ Bro - maybe you’ll get some good looks tomorrow when I give you my blood and my bone marrow.” ♫

    With a weak smile, my brother punches me on the shoulder, but his fist doesn’t have the strength and it bounced off me. “Well, I hope I don’t end up with a fat head like yours." He wheezes and struggles to breath.

    The rest is all fantastic and I love the story. Good luck.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. I deleted the double post, sorry. I don't know why it came up twice. I'm having disconnection troubles with the website. Maybe it's because it's so busy here. LOL.

  12. The first sentence pulls me right in, but it doesn’t fit with the tone of the rest of the excerpt. The narrator seems worried and uncertain.

    I really don’t know what eyes burning “like downlights from a white ceiling” means, and trying to visualize this distracts me from the action.

    I like the labored way in which Jason’s dialogue is structured, and the interaction between him and Ric. While I'm not sure about combining cancer and car-racing at the beginning of this story, I’m willing to go along for the ride, because the narrator seems to share my concerns. I would read further.

  13. Thanks Secret Agent and everyone for your really valuable comments and for taking the time to read my work.

    I'll certainly take your suggestions into account when I'm doing my next edit.


  14. I'm tentatively hooked. This seems like it's ripe for tragedy and that's not really my thing. I love how you've captured the gasping quality to Jason's voice. The first paragraph is perfect.

  15. I thought the beginning read kind of clunky and when I got to the mention of cancer, I assumed it would be a maudlin story about beating cancer, or surviving with cancer, but once you mentioned racing it made me sit up and pay attention because now there are just so many possibilities, so many ways this story could go. I'd stick around to find out which one you've chosen to explore.

  16. There is an odd tension between cancer and car racing, and I like that tension. That intrigues me enough to go on.

    That said, I felt like the first line was fantastic--but it didn't match the rest of the paragraph. In a way, I might cut that sentence because I think part of the reader's confusion is because that sentence does not match the rest of the scene.

    Good luck!

  17. the main problem here is that there is no way he would be out of the hospital right before a bone marrow transplant. To receive and hopefully not reject bone marrow, they just about completely kill your immune system. He would be in the hospital in isolation completely weak. Exposure to outside germs would kill him faster than cancer. Maybe make it several weeks before the transplant, right before he enters the hospital to prep for the procedure? And do a little more research on the process? BM transplants are awful, many patients die from the complications. They are a last ditch effort.

  18. Awesome opening. Hooked me right off. Like the idea of promises between brothers, and facing illness head on. Great work.