Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May Secret Agent #12

TITLE: Unmasked
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

The lights of a town shone in the distance. Clouds covered the horizon, masking the twilight. Happy to descend the steep road on the hill, Delilah checked the rear-view mirror and glimpsed her mother double-checking all the beads on the opera dress with a book light. Seven-forty-seven, less than fifteen minutes until the concert began. Delilah dominated the growing trend of rock opera music in Virginia, which contained an intoxicating mixture of ancient and modern. She refused to arrive late. The gas petal sunk lower.

Her father did not budge.

She sped up a little more.

"Delilah, slow down." Her father used his stubby fingers to rub the sleep from his eyes. "Gods, my chest hurts."

"I'm fine Dad. We're out in the middle of B.F.E. All trees. No cars."

"Trees can kill if you smash into them. Listen to your father and slow down."

Delilah grumbled. "Come on. Dad don't you trust me?"

A thick cloud blotted out the sliver of moonlight. Her father expelled a gasp, clutched his left arm, and held a frozen look of horror.

"Honey? What's wrong?" Her mother unbuckled her seat belt and leaned over the back of his seat.

"Dad? Oh my Gods - Daddy!"

The car jerked.

Sheets of music flew all over the car as it rolled down the hill. Airbags exploded all throughout the car. A loud crunch came from Delilah's nose. Glass cracked everywhere and cut into their skin. The opera dress her mother finished disappeared out of a broken window.


  1. The tension in this would drive me to read on and figure out what happened to her father. I'm suspecting he had a heart attack, but until I read on I can't figure that out. Good job with the writing, not overdone or over the top.

  2. This one really pulled me in. I was a little confused--when they were in a hurry and the dad wasn't moving--because I thought Delilah was driving. Which I guess she was, but it threw me for a moment. Otherwise, great tension!

  3. Perhaps cut the first two sentences and start with Delilah checking the rear view mirror. You could also cut pargs 2 and 3 for better pacing.

    The - Don't you trust me - line doesn't work, because it doesn't have anything to do with trust. It's a skill issue. Perhaps she could say something along the line of - Don't you think I'm a good driver, or I know what I'm doing.

    And just say airbags exploded. We know they're in the car. Delilah's nose could crunch against something (dashboard?)

    You have action and tension, and you've introduced the situation nicely. Just tighten it up a bit.

  4. I really like the premise here. I would cut out most of the first paragraph though. Stick with description and dialogue, give us the needed details through these alone. Also, give a few more paragraphs of build-up before the crash. It seems to rushed. We have barely seen the car before the chaos. We don't even see the mother until there is already a problem.

    Also, re-work the start of the crash. Slow it down. Have Delilah try to turn the wheel back, but too late. Give us some of her emotions as well. She should be scared, feel pain, shuet her eyes, hold up her arms to protect herself, etc. Good start, but it needs a bit of fleshing out.

  5. It's a strong opening, but could be stronger. Up the tension by taking more time over the actual crash. When you're crashing, things feel like they're happening in slow motion, details fly through your consciousness.

    I also think the whole rock opera thing is not needed here. Where they are going isn't important to the moment, so leave it out. Focus on the driving and the crash.

    I'd read on.

  6. The tension is good, and I'd probably read on a bit to see what happened. I was confused at a couple points. I wasn't sure if Delilah was going to see rock opera or if she was performing (and if she's performing, why is it okay for her to show up at the last minute?).

    The second paragraph (the single sentence) didn't work for me. It sounded like she was trying to get a rise out of her dad. I wasn't sure.

    I also had to look up BFE, but that could just be me being old ;-)

  7. Excellent start. It definitely has the intrigue with the father and the unfolding chaos towards the end. I'd definitely continue on.

    I do agree with some of the opinions above about the first paragraph. There are things noted that are probably important later on, but are confusing right at the beginning. Maybe some rewording, and even rearranging of some sentences would do the trick and smooth it out.

    Well done!

  8. There's some confusing stuff here and distracting typos. How does someone dominate a trend in music? Why say that her father did not budge - why should he? Pedal, not petal. You don't place the parents - is the father in the front passenger seat, the mother in the back seat? Her father can't "hold" a look of horror until it happens. Why would her nose crunch - would the airbag break it? Cracked glass wouldn't cut into their skin, and doesn't most car glass crumble? And if she and her father are belted in, only her mother would be thrown about to impact glass. Why would the car jerking cause it to roll down a hill?

  9. I liked much of this. I liked the main idea, and I didn't feel the brief backstory was too much--I liked knowing up front where she's going and why. It matters because the crash may ruin her career so the stakes are higher if the reader knows this. Although I didn't mind the "telling" in that part, I did mind it with the use of 'happy'. Also, the lack of tone bothered me. There's a bit too much generic setting. I have concerns about things like: petal/pedal, lack of a comma after 'She grumbled', one cannot expell a gasp, and 'frozen look of horror' may be a bit cliched. Overall, I liked it.

  10. (Author)

    Thank you all for the comments! I hired an editor to evalutate my MS, I can't believe I missed the petal/pedal! I've read it over and over and - well you get the point. LOL

    This is part of a 3 page prologue, which the editor suggested. I liked her idea.

    Thanks for the comments! :)

  11. (Author Again)

    I have to disagree with Laura. I didn't put a comma after "Delilah grumbled" because if I did then Delilah would be grumbling and talking at the same time. Her grumble and her dialogue are two separate actions. HOWEVER if I am wrong, I would like to know so I don't repeat this mistake!

    I also have to disagree that one cannot expell a gasp. I work at a nursing home and have seen quite a few people expell all the air in their lungs and make a "gasping" noise. Perhaps a better word than gasp could be use, but like I said I have seen this happen.

    "Frozen look of horror" you're right, it's a little cliche.

    All the Best! :)

  12. To make it clear that Delilah was grumbling before talking, then add a "she said" tag at the of the quote. But it's hard to imagine someone grumbling and then speaking at this moment - most people would do one or the other.

    Just because you have seen someone "expel a gasp" doesn't mean that it reads well, especially in an action scene.

  13. The scene should be tense. They're late, the father has a heart attack and then an accident on top of it. Somehow, though, it doesn't create a feeling of urgency. The problem might be the writing is a bit choppy. The bits of normal stuff inserted between the tense parts leaches away some of the tension IMO.

  14. I'm an idiot, (or old!) I assumed B.F.E was a place until I read Adam's comment and then looked it up myself.

    I had Delilah as someone in her 20's with a career on the stage until I realised it was YA. Is she younger?

  15. I'm 15 and have an 18 year old brother and I've never heard someone use B.F.E. Like Sarah I thought it was a place and had to look it up.

  16. What I liked: Tense opening, the questions raised, the image of music sheets falling all over the car as it rolled down the hill.

    What needed work: I had a difficult time picturing the scene. I’m assuming Delilah is driving, Dad’s in the passenger seat, and Mom is in the back, but it was tough to know for sure. It was also unclear whether Delilah was a performer in the rock opera or simply going to go see it.

    And, although this goes against the common wisdom sometimes given to writers, I’d actually like for the accident to happen more slowly. This is YA, after all, and we can take more time to get to know the characters before sending them off a cliff.

    Would I keep reading based on these sample pages? Probably.