Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#30 January Secret Agent

TITLE: Background Vocals

My music wove a web between the commuters and me. For the second they paused to take in my voice, we were connected. The string didn't break when they boarded a train to their destination. It unraveled gradually, snapping when the tune left their head. By then I would have moved on to New York. It was safe, without consequences. The mangled lock hanging from my guitar case stood as a reminder of where deeper connections led. I was through fighting in a place where only one person listened.

The sky above Boston's South Station was the blue of the Parsian afternoons I'd been forced to leave behind. Mon dieu, I'd forgotten how freeing playing could be. Power surged through me and into the strings. The chords drowned out Uncle Rob's threats, and the taunting of my former classmates. I didn't have to worry about now. No one would try to take my music away again.

"Kid, do you have a permit?" I misfingered a chord, and my E string let out a low moan, like it knew we were in trouble. Merde. Shit. Merde. The police officer's hands were in his pockets like he was trying to be casual, but I'd been chased off of street corners before. Cops meant business. I knelt. The concrete bit my knees through the holes in my jeans. I ignored the pain; clearing out my guitar case before he chased me off was essential.


  1. I got a little lost in the first paragraph. I'm especially confused by the part when you say "by then I would have moved on to New York." By when?

    Also I think you're missing a word in this sentence "I didn't have to worry about [that] now."

    The third paragraph is where I think the story really starts. Everything before it feels too much like backstory and I was disinterested. I could see him kneeling in his worn jeans. The images were concrete and very effective. I'd maybe throw a few lines before it to tell us that he's playing the guitar and start at where the cop asks if he has a permit.

  2. I agree that the second half was stronger than the first. In the second half I got a strong visual, but in the first half everything was a bit too vague. I also struggled with the "by then I would have moved on to New York" line.

    I did really like the concept of the music connecting the MC to the commuters, and I think it's a great contrast to going through the guitar case for whatever is illegal. But I would just focus on that part and then skip to the police showing up.

  3. I agree with the other comments...the story definitely picked up in the second half of the story. It took me awhile to digest the first paragraph, but then by the end of the third paragraph I was hooked.

    Also, I fumbled with the final sentence. I'm not sure what my issue was, but it just didn't flow right in my head. Maybe change it to " I ignored the pain; needing to clear out my guitar case before I was chased off." Something along those lines.

    All in all, I'd love to continue reading. Nice job!

  4. The first parg was a bit confusing and made me think this might be a paranormal, but the heading just said YA.

    I was also confused by the New York comment, since she's now in Boston.

    Perhaps start with the second parg? That's where the story seems to start.

    You have some typos and missing words,and the writing could flow a bit better, but it's an interesting opening and it leaves me with questions I want answers to, so I'd read on. How long would depend on what happens next.

  5. A bit quirky, but I like it. I'd definitely read on.

  6. I do like this, but as others have said, I was a bit confused by the first part. Initially I thought he was listening to music and so I pictured him with earbuds and an iPod--that I could relate to!

    Still, I liked that he was playing an intrument. I think just some tweeking in the first paragraph will make it sing!

  7. It's obvious you know music well. This part about the music and the street corner gave a great visualization. The last sentence could be restructured to read more smoothly.

  8. I am definitely confused by the first paragraph. The sentences pile on without a clear connection between them, especially with "By then..."

    I'd suggest changing "freeing playing" so that the -ings don't follow each other. Maybe "I'd forgotten how freeing music could be"?

    Note: Parsian should be Parisian.

    The writing here isn't as polished as it could be, and the jump from sentence to sentence and action to action seems a little off.

    Still, I'd keep reading for a bit. I'm interested in the setting and, from what I've read, the character.

    (Also influencing me: The opening sentence reminds me of Harlan Ellison's novel Spider Kiss which is also about a musician.)

  9. I'd read on, but I agree with the others that the line about New York cnfused me, since it wasn't mentioned again; I also wasn't quite sure what the safe/without consequences bit referred to.

    I think you have some interesting backstory and thoughts going on here, but without context, it just leaves people confused - maybe you want to save some of thse things for later, when we're settled into the narrative a little more? Right now, so early into the story, we're gripping for any bit of information to hold onto. When we skip from this to that with seemingly little connection, it leaves the reader lost.

    Typo: Parsian instead of Parisian.

  10. I'm afraid this left me feeling confused. I started feeling confused in the first paragraph and kept wondering about all my questions as I read. Mostly, I'm not clear on whether or not this is fantasy or not. The sentences, "The string didn't break...snapping when the tune left their head." Can the narrator feel these connections? Also, if the narrator is in such a rush to get away from the cop, why is he bothering to clear out the guitar case? Why not just put the guitar away with the money and get the money out later? Also, for some reason I'm assuming the narrator is a boy, but it would be nice if this is made clear. I don't think I'd read on - sorry.

  11. I'm a bit confused as well. The first paragraph didn't ground me in any time or place. I didn't realize until the second paragraph that our MC is a street performer - I assumed the commuters were hearing him or her on the radio (which was part of what confused me, since the first paragraph really doesn't make sense in that context).

    Also, I found it a little odd that the only words the MC says in French are swear words. That seemed more author manipulation than a genuine part of the MC's voice.

    On the whole, I'm not hooked, but I wish you the best of luck with this. Taste is so subjective. Lots of opinions in the sea.

  12. Hey, Secret Agent here! I like the vivid imagery of the webs here, though the few sentences about “deeper connections” and “fighting in a place where only one person listened” are very vague. They sound intense but have no meaning to the reader yet. I’d like to hear more from this busker, and you get to the action quickly. Bien!

  13. I am intrigued, but also confused. I love the idea of music creating a connection between people.

    Like others have said, I think your first paragraph is too confusing, especially I got to "By then I would have moved on to New York." I couldn't tell if this meant she was going to be going to New York soon or what? The rest of the first paragraph gives interesting bits of information, but are too vague to mean anything right now.

    Others have given great suggestions for making this better. I would read more to see where it is going and what might happen.

    Also, I had the MC pegged as a girl in my head, which others didn't. Maybe give us more about him/her.

    BTW I love the line: "No one would try to take my music away again." I think that's a good statement of what's to come and what the conflict is for your MC.