Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January Secret Agent #8

GENRE: YA horror

Mr. Mickford (well, technically, Father Mickford-I mean, we were at a Catholic school and everything was Father this and Father that), glanced down at the book on his desk. My dog-eared, frayed copy of Jane Eyre, the one I’d marked up with an aggressive combination of yellow highlighter and ball point pen. He hadn’t opened the book to see the damage, which was good-how many detentions could I take? I watched as the light shafting through the stained glass windows turned his balding head into a veritable Easter-egg of green and rose and yellow, and waited for the fall.

“Mrs. Cole says you were very dismissive of the book.”

I shrugged. “ Didn’t like it.”

“Okay, well…there’s nothing saying you have to like everything you read. But she said…”

I knew what she’d said. But it felt like good form to ask. “What?”

He cleared his throat. “That the book was…um…masturbatory wish fulfillment for ugly girls.”

The words fell between us. I propped my chin on my hand, as if considering. “Yeah, well…”

“So you did say it?”

Of course I had. It was far too creative to have come out of the mouths of any of the other kids in the class…which was exactly the attitude, my mother liked to tell me, that got me into trouble time and time again. You think you’re smarter than anyone else.

And as for what was going on right now, there was no point in not confessing. “Yeah. I did.”



  1. I laughed out loud at the "masturbatory" line -- nice!

    There's something about your first line that's holding me up. Consider streamlining.

  2. This is quite nice. Good job!

  3. I laughed at this one. I wish I could read some more.

  4. I liked it and would read more, but I have to say it doesn't read like horror. Still, you got me!

  5. Good job, creating the personality of the MC--I've got an image in my head of how she looks and how she's sitting there before Father Mickford.

    Really, the only thing I think might be added is in Father Mickford's line about what the teacher had said. It seems to me he'd want to, with his words, completely disassociate what the MC said from what one of his nuns would say (since it's so rebellious and "sinful":

    "He cleared his throat. 'She said that you called the book…um…masturbatory wish fulfillment for ugly girls.'"

    Maybe even add an emphasis on the "she SAID" part, making it more accusatory and losing the "um" that makes him seems questioning and weaker; he is the big man at the school, and surely he's angry. As the conversation goes on, he may falter in that superiority with the MC's coolness, but I question it happening so soon (unless he's deals with her a lot).

    That said, I'd definitely read more!

  6. Love this as well, but must admit that I got held up with the first two sentences. The second sentence doesn't read as a complete sentence to me.

    Other than that, love the voice!

  7. You had me laughing out loud and that rarely happens.

    My only concern is this is horror, and your opening scene brings up comedy...maybe consider introducing us to something scary right away, instead?

  8. Agree with some of the others. Nothing scary here.

    Maybe add something spooky to start with?

  9. For some reason, this didn't seem to flow well for me. Especially the first paragraph.

    The protagonist seems like an interesting character to follow, but at this point, I'm not hooked. Although I did enjoy her remark.

    It also doesn't feel like a horror. The beginning should set the tone of the novel. Maybe you do a little later in the first chapter, but it's something to keep in mind.

  10. I love the voice here. I don't think you necessarily need to start with something scary (in fact, I think it's often the contrast between the banal and the horror that makes the horror more intense), but I do agree that there should be something in the first 250 words that keys us into the genre--word choice, a subtle sense that something is off balance. I wonder if you could play up the Jane Eyre reference? It's not a horror novel, but gothic novels were the closest thing most 19th century readers had to today's horror novels--there might be ways to play off of the unbalanced nature of the story (insanity, secrets, etc.) to give readers a subtle clue that things aren't quite what they seem here.

  11. I like the wordy-ness of the first line, but maybe not as a first line. As a second line, it could work. Meg Cabot uses that style and it expresses a quirky character well. It's all about timing where you use that. Intrigued by your story, hoping the gothic Jane Eyre qualities emerge later as a tie in to her comment about the book.

  12. I also found the humor of the opening to be a bit out of place for horror. It could definitely come later but I always think I like to have a mood-setter or creepiness catcher right up front if that's the ride I am going to go on. Having said that, I think the setting of a (in my mind) old, gothic-type Catholic school has a lot of possibilities. I re-read the excerpt three times and do not understand if it is a male or female narrator. Others seem to have all referenced the narrator as "she" but I do not understand how they make that leap. To me it could just as easily be a boy as a girl. I would like to know up front who I am listening to. Perhaps the priest could refer to him/her by name when he begins his question.

  13. I went to Catholic schools, and no one would have ever referred to a priest as "Mr. So-and-so." Father Tom, Father Ron, Father Jim, sure. But not Mr. Smithe.

    Is the priest supposed to be the principal? Very, very few religious still work in Catholic schools. Almost all staff members are lay people (i.e. no nuns, no priests). I taught in Catholic schools for ten years, and--trust me--I'm no nun. :) Now if your story takes place 50 years ago, that's different!

    On the plus side, I think you have a great voice, and your wit adds to the humor.

  14. I liked this. I don't see the horror yet, but I'm intrigued.

    I'm glad no one has said anything against the the masturbatory line - because that's gold. That sold me on the whole piece.

    The first line needs a bit of work - I think you're trying to mash in too much at once.

    Liked this one a lot.

  15. Plenty of personality, and I like the notion that, instead of our protagonist just dismissing the book without really thinking about it, she's marked it up all over the place with highlighter and pen, and really pondered over why she didn't like it (something you could push even further, I think). Makes her more likeable, or at least tempers her self-congratulatory attitude...I'm not totally hooked, because the commentary about Jane Eyre feels familiar to me, but there's a spark here!