Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#8 January Secret Agent

TITLE: Haven
GENRE: YA Suspense/Romance

It was the look on my Father's face, ironically, that strengthened my wavering resolve. That he was furious was obvious. I had become accustomed lately to seeing that expression, but it had never before been directed at me. I should have reacted in fear and intimidation, and probably would have if I hadn't seen a glimpse of relief in his eyes as well. Despite his ranting to the contrary, he wanted us to go. That tiny glimpse gave me courage at the same time that it broke my heart. Why would he want us to
go? Hurt but determined, I took a protective step in front of my crying mother. Behind her I could see my brothers. Juan Carlos' fury echoed Dad's. Anger in his narrowed eyes, fists clenched at his sides. And Thomas, my best friend, my brother--how could I leave him--looked confused and horrified. He moved to place himself between Dad and me, turning his head to look at each of us as he tried to assess what to do.

"Family is everything!" my father shouted, "Especially now! You would abandon us when we need you the most?" His voice caught slightly at the end, a small almost unnoticeable sound that told me that behind his anger, his heart was breaking as well.

"Johnny," my mother said, struggling to speak through her tears and using the nickname that before now had always made him smile, "We're not abandoning you. Please come with us."


  1. I found the start a little slow - I might switch the first and second paragraphs. The MC's internal monologue tells us a lot about how the character feels, but not very much about what's going on - if we're going to get a lot of explanation from her, some context for this fight (though I suspect it follows this excerpt in your novel) would be nice.

  2. I agree about switching the first and second paragraphs. At the moment it feels too vague at the beginning, but if we have more of a sense of what is going on, that paragraph will be more powerful.

  3. I'd suggest keeping that first sentence (It was the look on my Father's face, ironically, that strengthened my wavering resolve.' and THEN introducing the dialog and switching up the paragraphs. Dilute that long, huge paragraph in the beginning by spreading out his thoughts more and sprinkling them in between dialog.

    Great start, I definitely want to know where he's going and why!

  4. Yes, I agree. I found the first paragraph far too long to sustain the mystery of it all. Maybe I'm a goldfish, but I need to know what's going on faster than this. Where's everybody going? From where? Why can't Father go too?

  5. I'm really interested in what's going on here. Why they're leaving, and why her father is angry with her.

    I think the first paragraph could be divided into three. It's way too long, especially for a first paragraph.

    I was confused when you mentioned Thomas. Is he just a close friend or is he actually her brother. If he's really her brother you should put the brother description first, then elaborate and say he's also her best friend.

    I'd read more to find out what's going on, and why it seems that only the women have to leave.

  6. I really like that you start out with a family conflict but I would have loved to have more context. What was the confrontation about and why is the father being left behind? If you start out with the father yelling and then start explaining things, it would flow better.

  7. Great family conflict, but I totally agree about the beginning paragraph needing to go... or at least be moved down below. The dialog is intriguing, let us get dragged along by it.

  8. Too much showing here. It's not a great opening, to step into a confusing scene with all these people and have no idea who they are, how old they are, and why we should care about them. (And I'd leave out the two references to breaking hearts.)

    I've seen a version of this before on this blog, and I seem to remember it had similar problems then. I'm thinking it's not the strongest place to start your novel.

  9. I'm confused because the mc says the dad wants them to leave but Dad says, "you would leave..." and I'm not sure who he's talking to, the mc or the mother. Also, when the mc steps in front of the mother how can he/she see the brothers' faces? I'm interested in the conflict and want to read more.

  10. This didn't hook me, but I have to say the telling worked out for me because I understand it is a stylistic issue. From the way it is worded and described, I can sense the tension. I like reading a simply, yet nicely, written paragraph, so reading the first paragraph wasn't slow at all to me; it was rather enjoyable.

    Other than that, the tension felt contrived, espcially the dialogue. The reason I wouldn't read on is mainly because I'm not interested in this kind of stuff. So, even though (and this is a huge generalization because I only get to read 250 words of this!) I feel as if I've heard this type of scenario before, I like your writing style.

    Good luck!

  11. As it stands, I would suggest cutting the first paragraph and starting with the father. So much in that first paragraph is vague because you haven't told us what's at stake yet, so the statements about resolve and fear don't carry any weight.

    The last two paragraphs are still vague -- you haven't told us what's going on yet -- but that's okay because we have action to focus on.

    I'm not hooked. The long opening plus some awkward sentences ("His voice caught..." and "struggling to speak..." make me feel like the writing overall needs more work.

    Still, the scene you have here is dynamic. With some more clarity and description (ex. Where are they? I can't visualize a place.) this could be really gripping.

  12. I don't know where I am. I don't know what time period I'm in, and at the end, I don't know what's going on.

    I'd suggest cutting the whole first parg. not moving it. The MC is explaining her feelings and her father's and her brothers'. I can get all that myself in the dialogue and action you started in the second parg.

    And don't keep why they're leaving or where they're going a mystery. It doesn't make me want to read on to find out. It makes me frustrated and makes me want to put this down. Why and where they're going is your hook. Get that in on the first page.

  13. Thank you, everyone, for your great input! I am changing the order and breaking up that first paragraph. And Barbara Bride of Frankenstein I understand your frustration but it would not be there if you could read more than 250 words or were holding the manuscript in your hands. And the MC is a boy, which would become clear in the next paragraph.:)

  14. Hey, Secret Agent here! I’m disoriented with this beginning. We spend more time learning about the expression on a man’s face than the reasons behind it. I feel like you could aim for more clarity. This is an emotional scene, but some of the dialogue is also a bit melodramatic. You’ve created an emotional moment on the page, so let it stand on its own…you don’t have to overwrite!

  15. I found this confusing to read. I think the length of the first paragraph was partly to blame - maybe break it up. I think we need to be grounded in the scene a little more in order to understand what's happening. There seems to be a lot of wavering - he wants them to go, he doesn't want them to go. Also, the mix of showing and telling is off. You're showing the scene without giving enough background info, which is confusing. At the same time, you're telling us how the narrator feels when that should be shown. For example "hurt but determined" isn't really taking us in the MC's head.