Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#40 January Secret Agent

GENRE: YA Paranormal Romance

Ugh! The last thing I ever meant to do was wake up late on Field Trip Day. As I walked down the narrow walkway of the already disgusting smelling school bus I knew there was only one seat left. And everyone else on the bus already knew it too.

Cindy gave me that pathetic look she gives everyone who ends up sitting next to Jordan. I even heard Matt and his crew whispering and chuckling about my dire situation, but then that's what jocks were for.

Could this aisle grow any longer? I thought as I sauntered down the runway preparing for a landing next to Jordan. Of course the bus driver didn't have any patience for a late kid. Chubby Checkers, as we lovingly referred to the bus driver, was already in motion before I had a chance to sit. I jolted back and forth as the bus wheels started rolling.

"It's either here or on the floor," Jordan said, patting the seat next to him, half grin on his face.

"If I were you I'd take the floor." I don't know who said it but as soon as it was out everyone chimed in chanting, "Floor, floor, floor." I have to admit, I was considering it.

Everyone knew my beef with Jordan. It dated way back to elementary. You know how the teacher would sit four desks together facing each other? Well, that's how it was in third grade and Jordan's desk sat in front of mine.


  1. This is YA? It seems more middle grade, with the field trip and chanting and all. Also, the first sentence... I know it's da protag's voice, but its a bit annoying, actually.

    The whole first paragraph has no real effect: there's no serious or interesting conflict.

    Just saying.

  2. Looooove it. I wasn't sure if this was YA or MG, too. Simply putting "high school" in front of the word "bus" could clear this up. (Or if this a YA that begins in MG,
    you can put something like "Judson Elementary School" before "bus." I would take the "Ugh" out of the opener, but besides that, I wouldn't change a thing. I liked it a lot and I'm interested to know what the deal is with Jordan?

  3. This made me curious about Jordan, not your MC. To be honest, your MC sounds like kind of an immature jerk (then again, she's in high school, and maybe that's what you're going for!) I really wanted to know why Jordan is shunned. Is he unattractive? Overweight? The victim of a rumor? I feel like we need more description of him.

    The "ugh!" and other comments make me feel like it's more middle grade, too, though I could picture this happening on a high school bus.

    Great job with imagery. It took me back to the feel/movement/sounds of a school bus.

  4. It does sound a lot like MG instead of YA, but then again, highschooler's can have the tendency to sound as immature as a Middle schooler. :), I like it, and I'm already wanting to know more about this Jordan kid! The situation is realistic too, I'm a Sophomore in high school, and while this has never happened to me, my friends will tell me horror stories about having to sit next to a jerk who makes fun of them (Though, Jordan doesn't sound like a jerk) Great job!

  5. I think you're gonna want to get to the paranormal stuff a bit faster - this is reading like a middle-grade, ew, I have to sit next to the guy I don't like on the schoolbus book.

    And, please please please, don't start your book with Ugh!

  6. I like this, I want to know where it's going. The writing is interesting, it's nice to read.
    I don't think you need the 'ugh' at the start, you could go straight in to waking up late.
    I'd love to read just the next paragraph or two, I want to know what's wrong with sitting next to Jordan. Nice!

  7. I liked this. I liked that the story is happening now, and I liked the voice.

    On the flipside, it does seem MG, and to make it more YA, I think you'd have to introduce something more than not wanting to sit next to someone on a bus.

    I'm also more interested in Jordan than your MC, so perhaps you might get into her head a bit more or actually say why she's been holding a grudge since third grade.

    And at the end, it seems she doesn't want to sit next to Jordan because she has a beef with him, yet at the beginning, nobody wants to sit next to him, so there has to be a reason other than whatever her problem with him is. There's something about Jordan nobody likes, and that may need to be mentioned.

    I'd give it another page or two.

  8. I agree with everyone about those two things - take out the 'Ugh!' and that the writing sounds more MG than YA. I also have no idea if the MC is a boy or a girl. And I don't think kids today would have any idea who Chubby Checker is (and i'm not sure there's any need to mention him at all - just say the bus started up).

    Basically you've wasted your whole first page just showing someone walking down a bus - get to the reason for the MC hating Jordan much quicker - you could pretty much skip paras 2 and 3.

  9. I know all about that "waking up late" business, and I can tell you that you don't walk to where you're going and you don't saunter down the aisle of the bus. Your opening seems awfully calm for your situation.

    When you're late (especially if you've got witnesses :), you rush, flustered, forgetting everything, breathing hard and face flush. You're already sweating, disgusted and humiliated.

    Maybe if you could let your opening show the frantic nature of your MCs morning, the "having to sit next to your arch enemy" will mean a little more.

  10. I really like this opener, and here's the why:

    1) Right away you have put a question in the readers mind: Who is this Jordan kid, and why does everyone want to stay away from him?

    2) No back story. You start right in the action and have enough detail to let me know what's going on, and who the main players are without going overboard. i.e. Cindy's look, Matt and his crew's whispering antics.
    I do feel there may be a flashback coming on here, which I would normally scream about in the first chapter, but I still want to keep reading so I am going to let it go.

    and 3) and probably the biggest thing for me, the writing is descriptive yet simple enough that I could easily fall into the fictive dream which is what reading is all about.

    I agree with the other commenters, get rid of the Ugh, but I don't see the MG. I think this could pass for YA. Young YA perhaps, depending on the other content. 12 and up.

    Good work!

  11. I think your writing is great. It flows well and was easy to read. I agree, though, that this seems solidly MG. "Field Trip Day" in particular reminded me of elementary or middle school.

    The narrator's attitude confused me a bit. She's obviously dreading sitting next to Jordan, but she has a very lighthearted tone. Some of her word choices didn't seem to fit the situation, such as 'sauntered down the runway'. Sauntering reminds me of a casual, cocky style of walking, and it seems like the narrator would be more stressed at this moment. I'm intrigued to find out why she hates Jordan and would read on, but the last paragraph seems to foreshadow an info dump.

  12. Forcing the MC to sit with a rival (whose fault we don't know) can be considered putting him/her in hot water. If that's the case, it's important to show the actual problem early on. Seems like Jordan is shunned not only by the MC but by the bus load, yet when the explanation began, at the last paragraph, it seemed to only explain the MC's beef with Jordan, not how this kid became a social pariah.

    Small detail: it needs to be disgusting-smelling, with a hyphen. Or if those are two separate adjectives, then there needs to be a comma in between.

    *gets down from the hyphen soapbox*

  13. I agree with the MG tone (the Ugh! seems to help that bias) but I don't think it has to do with -- as suggested above -- the situation of having to sit next to Jordan so much as the sentence-by-sentence writing. The entire feel here is one of relatively low stakes and good humor.

    Nitpick: It should be "that's what jocks are for", not "were for". The narrator is making a statement about jocks in general, throughout all time, rather than those specific jocks in the past.

    I think the writing here is strong and the voice is captured well, but I don't know what's at stake. As others have said, we don't even know why Jordan is shunned, and without that knowledge it's hard to empathize with the MC being forced to sit with him. I really want a sense of what the conflict is, but as it is I'm not sure why I should care about the MC. I agree that Jordan, so far, cuts a much more interesting figure.

    I would not read on.

  14. Hey, Secret Agent here! Hmm. The voice here struck me as MG and, I have to say, male. I was shocked to see that this was supposed to be YA. Maybe because of the school bus setting? I don’t know if the minute details of this school bus seating disaster are interesting enough to hook a teen reader (or me). Isn’t there another way to really pit the protagonist against Jordan in a unique setting, not a school cliché?