Wednesday, September 5, 2012

September Secret Agent #18

GENRE: YA paranormal

My body jerks up before thumping back down against the hard, vinyl seat with an audible thwack, forcing my eyes open. It feels like every vertebra on my spine has been compressed into my tailbone.

Another bump.

This time I hold my core muscles tight so the impact doesn’t hurt as much. It helps a little.

I try to remember getting on the bus, but I can’t. I look down at my hands, thinking that the answers will be written on them, like I’m cheating on a test. But I’m not at school. I’m on a bus.

I’m not alone, I can see the backs of heads way up front, but I don’t recognize any of them. Not that you can really recognize people by the top few inches of the backs of their heads.

The bus lurches to the left on a sharp curve sliding me toward the window. I search for any familiar landmarks, but all I see are foggy, hilly, vineyards.

Was there a field trip to a vineyard today? I can’t remember. My brain is as foggy as the hillsides. I know I should be in school though. But I’m not. I’m on a freaking bus.

On the next curve, I have to hold the seat in front of me so I don’t fall into the aisle. I’m rewarded with a puff of cigarette smoke being thrust into my lungs. The smell is so strong I can taste it. Like what I imagine it would taste like to lick an ashtray.


  1. I kind of like this. The repetition of the bus part borders on being too repetitive and just right. And I like how we're in the main character's head, experiencing this trauma and confusion right along with them. I'd definitely like to read more.

  2. What a great simile about licking an ashtray at the end. Vivid (and very yucky). ;)
    Interesting action here. I'd keep going.

  3. This has me intrigued. My only suggestion would be to remove at least one of the references to being on the bus because it gets redundant.
    Good luck!

  4. This is a provocative opening, but I thought you filtered too much of the MC's experience. Which lessened the immediacy of the opening for me.

    The I thought/looked/felt etc. And the Like a xx's could be incorporated more smoothly because there are so many similes here. My opinion, of course. Best of luck!

  5. I agree with everything that's been said. The repetition of "bus" got old quickly. I do love the title though. That would make me give it a few more paragraphs to see if it would get better.

  6. Ok, I really want to know why the MC is on a bus and where he/she is going. So, works for me. Good luck!

  7. Love this! I'd definitely keep reading! My only constructive criticism is that we get a very good idea of where she is from the title /genre and descriptions, but we know very little about the narrator. The reader is right in the bus with her, but we don't know who she is, even if she's male or female, for example.

  8. Extremely good scene! I was able to picture it, down to the last detail.

    I love the title too. My only complaint is that I don't know where it's going. *sigh*, it's weird when I can't read the query to get a sense of the premise.

  9. The title was the most intriguing thing about this excerpt. Not that I didn't like the excerpt, but what really hooked me was the title. I think I would have been more intrigued but the excerpt if it didn't open with an error: vertebra are the bones that make UP the spine - they are not ON the spine. Also, the vertebra cannot be compressed into your tailbone as the tailbone is also made of vertebrae (last 3-5 fused segments).

    Some parts of this were unnecessarily wordy. For example:

    "This time I hold my core muscles tight...."

    could instead be:

    "This time I tighten my core muscles..."

    That would also make it less passive.

    That said, I can totally relate to this jarring ride - I remember how difficult it was ride in a bus on a bumpy rode. However, when I was relating I was envisioning the MC as a young male (8-10 years old) because that's the age I was when I used to find it difficult to stay seated on the bus. If the MC is older than that, I think it's unlikely he/she would have such a hard time unless the bus is on a crappy rode going really fast (a point that you could make to clear up the confusion and add a lot of tension). I'm not sure why I envisioned your MC as male.

    I like the comment about recognizing people by the backs of their heads. It showed me the MC's voice.

    I also like the line about looking at his hands to find the answer like he's cheating on a test.

    I'm sure this is a really cool read in teh following pages but if I was looking at this in a bookstore, I would pass just based on the errors of the first paragraph.

  10. I also found the repetition of the bus word jarring and it gets in the way of the flow. It sounds like an interesting situation she finds herself in. Sadly, there is no query or logline. That would really help evaluate - not only your excerpt - but everyone's. I know of no one who picks up a random book in the books tore adn starts reading...most people read the back cover so there is some situatinig. I think the contest could benefit from including at least a logline because as it is this is just too rando, (the first 250 with no set-up) to really get anything useful.

  11. It's an interesting opening. I like the sense of confusion. The title helps me figure out what's going on, but I don't mind the hint. I might, however, delete "I" from the title--I think that might work a little bit better.