Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August Secret Agent Contest #26

TITLE: Swimming With Tchaikovsky
GENRE: YA Mystery/Suspense

That chair shouldn't be empty.

Sally kept her eyes on her bowl. He had to be coming back. It must be a mistake. Some sort of misunderstanding.

As she chased down the last bit of kashi, the scrape of her spoon against her bowl was deafening in the silent kitchen. Her host sister Irina had stopped eating breakfast long ago and now sat cross-legged in her chair, facing the window. Without a word, Mama ladled more kashi into Sally's bowl.

“Thank you,” Sally murmured in Russian. To admit she was full would require looking up into Mama's unblinking eyes.

Yesterday evening her host father, Mikhail Gregorovich, had been sitting in that chair, drinking tea. His mug was right where he'd left it. He'd only gone out to walk the dog.

The frantic barking still echoed in Sally's head. It had been loud enough to send them tearing down the apartment stairwell -- only to arrive too late.

But now Sally had to stay focused. She'd been preparing for this competition her whole life. It was the only reason she was here. Even if their explanation of what happened yesterday was true, what could she do to help? Nothing.

Anyway, it couldn't be true. What government would kidnap an innocent man in broad daylight?

Sally stood up. “I should get going.”

Her host mother froze with another ladleful of kashi poised halfway between the stove and the table.

8 comments:

Woods said...

#26,

I liked this a lot.

TITLE: Swimming With Tchaikovsky [The title doesn’t sound exciting.]
GENRE: YA Mystery/Suspense

That chair shouldn't be empty. [Love the first line.]

Sally kept her eyes on her bowl. He had to be coming back. It must be a mistake. Some sort of misunderstanding. [Suspense. Love it.]

As she chased down the last bit of kashi, the scrape of her spoon against her bowl was deafening in the silent kitchen. Her host sister Irina had stopped eating breakfast long ago and now sat cross-legged in her chair, facing the window. [This sentence is good because it “shows” me something is wrong.] Without a word, Mama ladled more kashi into Sally's bowl.

“Thank you,” Sally murmured in Russian. To admit she was full would require looking up into Mama's unblinking eyes.

Yesterday evening her host father, Mikhail Gregorovich, had been sitting in that chair, drinking tea. His mug was right where he'd left it. He'd only gone out to walk the dog. [This has suspense and it makes me ask questions. Good.]

The frantic barking still echoed in Sally's head. It had been loud enough to send them tearing down the apartment stairwell -- only to arrive too late.

But now Sally had to stay focused. She'd been preparing for this competition her whole life. It was the only reason she was here. Even if their explanation of what happened yesterday was true, what could she do to help? Nothing.

Anyway, it couldn't be true. What government would kidnap an innocent man in broad daylight?

Sally stood up. “I should get going.” [I think there should be more thoughts on her worrying about him. I’m assuming she’s going to a swimming competition? It’s important to her, but she needs to be worried about this man as well.]

Her host mother froze with another ladleful of kashi poised halfway between the stove and the table.

Lanette said...

I remember this. I like it because you build suspense without giving anything away. You're very good at showing tension. My only concern is you have a tendency towards passive writing. Take a look at your "be" verbs and make them more active.

Nazarea said...

I really like this--I would love to read more of it. There's a lot of tension and you throw us into the setting. It feel effortless and I looove it. Great work :)

Writer Tessa said...

Nice!

Good tension and nice way of showing about another culture.

Sarah Pearson said...

I got a bit confused. You referred to her host sister and host father, but then called the woman Mama so I thought her Mother had travelled with her. Then at the end you call her host mother. If it's because you didn't want to use the term 'hot' too mny times in a short space, perhaps you could say 'without a word, Irena's Mother ladled...'

I like this one a lot.

Barbara said...

This works very well in a lot of ways. The writing's clean and clear. You've introduced the MC and the setting. You've started at the moment when things changed from the ordinary. And you've made clear what the problems are. The big one - Mkhail's disappearance, and a subplot - the competition. You've created a sense of danger and suspense. Excellent opening!

A few little things. Perhaps say Sally stared into her bowl. If you say she 'kept' her eyes on it, that means she has been staring at it all along, which means she wouldn't have seen the empty chair.

The scrape of her spoon against the bowl was deafening. Deafening seemed a bit much.

And then, as Lanette said, watch the passive writing. Rephrase the 'was' and 'had been' sentences to make them active.

Nicely done!

cultural points said...

Good tension-building.
Some nitpicks: (1) if your MC hangs around Russians, she will probably call the meal "kasha" - there's no alternative spelling in Russian; (2) Gregorovich should be Grigorievich or Grigoryevich. Minor mistakes, but, if piled up, they make cost the author his/her credibility.
Hope this helps!

Secret Agent said...

I like this. I think there's too much narrative summary, and too much of it is locked in the narrator's thoughts, but I'm pleased that the author chose to attach the summary to a scene of quiet tension. The small gestures and images are doing a lot of work here. The Kashi, the empty chair, the cross-legged sister stairing out window, the barking dog. I like that this is YA set in Russia (I'm guessing it's during the Cold War, which, let's face it, most of today's YA readers will not know a thing about and will probably find surreal...which is a good thing). And what of this competition? This little bit of story begs so many good questions. I'd like to read more.