Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May Secret Agent #7

TITLE: Tainted
GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Nothing was right. Mum rubbed at her neck and glanced up at the wall clock. She did it all during dinner. Lines creased my dad’s forehead ever since we sat to eat. He never frowned.

“So,” I said, “what will it be tonight?”

“Is it a Saturday?” Mum asked. Her lip twitched.

“Yes,” I replied and stared down at my empty plate, avoiding my reflection in the glass dining table. On the first Saturday of every month, all three of us sat in the lounge, watched a movie, and ate popcorn together. Mum exchanged a quick glance with my dad and I frowned a little. Even the lingering scents of saffron and garlic, though my favourite, emphasised how wrong everything was. They normally cooked a barbeque.

“I think we forgot to pick up a movie from the video store,” Dad said. “Sorry Aisling.” I suppressed my sigh and feigned a smile. Never had they forgotten before, not in the six years since the tradition started.

I dropped my knife and fork together on my plate with a loud clatter. Mum’s leaf green eyes darted in my direction and she exhaled heavily. She never startled that easily before. Even Dad shot me a quick glance.

“Can we play a board game instead?” I asked. Again, both of them exchanged looks. Their eyes looked haunted. My stomach contracted into a tight ball.

Mum gave a short nod. “Sure honey. Why don’t you go grab one and we’ll clear the table.”


  1. I was thrown by the "She did it all during dinner" sentence. She did what? Rubbing her neck and glancing at the wall clock? I think the sentence is unnecessary, especially with the build-up that follows.
    I think you did a good job of setting a tense scene. I'm curious as to the problem...

  2. I agree that "She did it all during dinner" is confusing and unnecessary. I also wondered about the mom asking if it was Saturday. If she forgot it was Saturday wouldn't she just say, "What will what be?" or something? Also, "They normally cooked A barbeque" sounds off. Maybe, "Saturday was barbeque night."

    I liked the way you showed the MC's character by the way she didn't confront them.

    It makes me want to read on to find out what's wrong. : )

  3. It seems to me like something is horribly, horribly wrong, and that your main character doesn't really know what it is yet. I like that tension. I'd love to read more to find out what's bothering her mom and dad so much!

  4. I get a lot of tension from this piece. Something's wrong, the parents are distracted to point of forgetting traditions, and they're obviously trying not to worry Aisling. All that makes me curious about what's happened and what's going to happen.

    I think it could stand some editing. There are a few awkward places: "She did it all during dinner" might be better as, "She had been doing it all through dinner," for example. And "Lineds HAD creased my dad's rorehead..."

    There are just sporadic places where either the intent, rhythm, or syntax seems slightly off. I'm going to offer a few line edits, here:

    strikeout "though my favourite." The aside interrupts the realization that everything is wrong. Is it important that we know she likes garlic and saffron?

    "They normally cooked a barbecue" sounds odd (Since this doesn't seem to be US-centric, though, maybe it's just my American ears, in which case, ignore me.) I'd suggest "Normally, they barbecued."

    "I think we forgot..." Wouldn't he know? Just asy "We forgot..."

    While I do like the buildup of the tension, here, I also feel like this passage relies too heavily on looks and sighs and frowns, etc. to impart a sense of that tension. Try to find ways to describe that aren't necessarily stock gestures.

    I would also like some idea of what Aisling's about as a teen, outside of her relationship with her parents. She's still sort of murky here. For example, most teens don't love family movie night, so why does she look forward to it?

  5. You're doing a great job of building tension here, I would definately keep reading to find out why the parents are so twitchy and what's going on.
    I love the name Aisling, reminds me of Aslan - the lion from the Lion the Witch & the Wardrobe :)

  6. I'd read on! I'm curious to see what has her parents all worried. I agree with a lot of what Heather said. Although you do a great job of setting up the tension, you sometimes use more than is necessary. (For example, I'd pick either "suppressed my sigh" or "feigned a smile." They both pretty much say the same thing. Other than that, I like the relationship she has with her parents... and how happy it feels....and how it's about to be ripped apart. (At least that's what I feel like might happen. Great job!)

  7. I think this is overdone, personally. All this build up. From the first sentence, we know something is different and off, but you continue to tell us all the other instances of how off her parents are. The name threw me too. Not too sure how to pronounce it. I think this needs work as it feels forced to me.

    I get what you are doing with the tone and feel to this. But, it doesn't work for me. Sadly.

  8. I love the build-up, but you'd better give more clues about what could possibly be wrong soon after where this cuts off. I wouldn't let this sort of tension go on any longer without some serious revelations, even if you don't "reveal all" all at once.

    That said, the build-up really is very effective. I'd say it's a go!

  9. I have to agree with everyone else. Nice tension and build-up. I'd probably keep reading to see what was going on.

  10. I like the feeling of foreboding that you build up here. My only concern is that some of the details that reflect "here's how things normally are" vs. "here's how I know something's wrong" are mixed together so much that I don't immediately know which is which. I wonder if it would work to describe a normal evening in one paragraph and then list the ways tonight is different. A slight rearranging of material you already have. But I'd keep reading.

  11. I wanted to know why her parents were acting so weirded out. It would have made a great ending to these 250 words.

    I also wondered why she was sitting there holding her knife and fork when her plate was empty. And I'm guessing that since she avoided her reflection in the plate, there's something about herself she doesn't want to see and maybe that's why her parents are being weird.

    I'd keep reading, but I think if you got whatever it is in those first 250 words, the hook would be even bigger.

  12. I don't feel like I get to know Aisling. I don't really know what she's thinking or feeling. I got a little bored or watching her parents sigh and frown. I understand you're trying to build tension here, but I don't feel like there's enough wrong. Sighs and frowns could mean divorce or job loss. Nothing in the distracted nature of the parents really points to something really, horribly interesting.

    I'm also not sure why she cares? Why doesn't she just bolt? Parents are distracted during family night? Perfect now she can go listen to music/surf the web/ hang out with her friends. She doesn't choose to do any of these, so I'm curious about why. But I don't get to see why. Tell us why. Why does she hang out with her parents? Why does she suggest a board game instead of slipping away to do teenager things?

  13. Oh no. My heart is already sad for the MC. I am assuming there's a divorce on the horizon. I should probably read more so i can know for sure. ;-)

    Very, very good writing. You set the somber mood, and awkwardness of the moment perfectly.

  14. I'm not drawn in. You do have conflict and a sense of forboding, but I have no idea how the mc feels about it. Is she pissed her parents are neglecting her (selfish)? Or is she worried about their apparent stress (selfless)?

    From the genre and opening, I'm assuming her parents are about to tell her she has magic of some sort and her life will be turned upside down. I could be way off (if I am, then you are upsetting my expectations--a very good thing). And I am assuming a lot from very little, but the character isn't making me care about what's going on.

  15. Thanks everyone for their feedback. It is invaluable. I understand that Aisling's feelings are somewhat absent.

    In regards to what happens next I am glad to say I will be upsetting your expectations SA. =D

    However, I have done a change to my 250, and if anyone cares to take a look you can find them here: (As I think I got all the comments I will I hope this is ok)