Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March Secret Agent #8

 TITLE: Double-faced

My last day of summer vacation and here I was, roasting in this dratted car with its busted air conditioning, while Mom ran errands. Tomorrow would be worse. I sighed. If Mom hadn't lost her job we'd still be in Detroit, and I wouldn't be starting tenth grade in a new school. Many of my friends had stayed on, their parents still looking, still hoping.

The pavement shimmered in the heat as I stepped out of the car, squinting against the blazing Arizona sun. I wiped my sweaty palms on my shorts and turned.

An elderly brown-skinned woman hurried across the pedestrian crossing, her gaze fixed on me. Even across that distance her dark eyes seemed to bore into me. She reached the curb, and gathering her long blue embroidered skirt with one hand and holding on to her orange fringed scarf with the other, she sped towards me. I tried to step out of her way, but my feet seemed glued to the pavement. I could only stare as she lifted a gnarled hand to my shoulder, saying in a soft, lilting voice, "I knew you'd come. I'd been waiting."

Waiting? I felt my eyes widen. What the heck! Was she crazy?

Callused fingers tightened around my bare upper arm. "You have to help us, before he destroys us." Her wide, terror-stricken eyes started out of her face.


  1. The beginning started off a little slow, in my opinion, but once you got to the weird lady I became very interested. One major niggle though: seems odd that the woman 'sped' towards her only to touch her shoulder and ask for her help in a 'soft, lilting voice'. I'm confused about where you're going with this. In any case, good job and thanks for sharing :)

  2. Oh interesting. The sentence with the old woman gathering her skirt in one hand, etc, reads a little awkwardly. Look at rearranging that, its your first major action of the piece and you kind of blunt its force with your phrasing.

    In fact, I would consider moving up the old woman to start with her. Its natural to want to lead with the back story about moving and starting in a new school, but its nothing that can't be introduced further in the chapter - hook us with the action instead. This crazy old woman is running up to her the second she steps out of the car - what's going on? That's a lot more active and unique than a MC venting about having to move.

  3. I don't think you need to describe so much what the old lady is wearing--I found it distracted from the best part--the fact that she has been waiting for the MC. I agree with the others--it would be nice to start with her right from the get go. The back story can be dropped more casually into conversation later. Intrigued!

  4. I think I disagree about starting with the old woman. Your "normal world" is short and sweet, giving us a good anchor without spending pages on it--good job.

    The sentence about her eyes stared out of her face...needs a little fixing. Maybe just dropping the first "Her." It kinda broke the rhythm for me. Otherwise, I'd read on!

  5. When it comes to writing, I've always been told, "show, don't tell." In these paragraphs, don't just tell the reader it was hot. Show us that it was hot. You do a good job when you talk about the protagonist's sweaty palms, but I think you could fix it up even more.

    I would also like to know the gender of the protagonist.

  6. I really like the start of this... I'd finesse the introduction of the old woman a little more. But it's a good start! Best~ :o) <3

  7. I'm with those who suggest you start with the old woman. The opening is back story, explaining things to the reader. When you explain to the reader, the story stops and nothing happens. If you open with the MC getting out of a hot icky car and being confronted by the woman, you have immediate action, as well as suspense. The reader is right in the middle of things.

    You might also liven it up a bit by looking at word choices. She sped toward me is rather generic and uninteresting. What does it really mean? Be more specific. Did she run toward him? Was she walking quickly? Soft, lilting voice doesn't hint at urgency or a need for help. Again, be more specific. It'll take the story from average to interesting.

  8. Good set up. I agree with other commenters that the old woman's clothing doesn't need to be described in so much detail. Let the reader fill in the blanks on this kind of stuff. Isn't that half the fun of reading?

    As I said, good set up. I'd read to find out more. But is this Paranormal or Dystopian? Straight YA?

  9. It's not paranormal. More straight YA, mystery and romance in equal measure. Thanks.

  10. I agree with some of the others that it would be more exciting to start off with the action--the old woman coming towards the main character. That would definitely surprise me and hook me faster than the current first paragraph which isn't as eye-catching.

    Man, I would be creeped out with an old woman grabs my arm and say some crazy things!