Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February Secret Agent #30

TITLE: 12 Steps Forward
GENRE: YA Contemporary

The quickest, most direct route to a guy’s friendship is sports. Navigating the route to more ethereal places like his heart requires a completely different skill set. A skill set I’ve yet to master. According to my sister Nia, this is my greatest failure.

While I rummage the drawers of my station at my father’s barbershop, looking for a clipper guard, Nia gives me a pep talk about exactly how to use my elusive skill set on Ben— the crush of my life— today.

“…Girl, either you need to find out what he wants or move on.” She garbles into the phone as she brushes her teeth. When she spits and turns on the faucet, I take my chance to get a word in.

“What if—” I turn away from my station to go into the break room— even though I have no idea why my clipper guard would be in the break room— and Ben is standing right behind me wearing his usual khakis and a short sleeved, button down shirt. “Um, Nia, I have to go. My customer’s here.”

That’s the easiest way to get her off of the phone. She knows Dad thinks talking on a cell phone in the presence of a customer is unprofessional. Thank God for texting.

“Hey. You need something?” I ask him.

He stands there scratching the inside of his collar with his index finger for a minute before he responds.

“I was going to ask you that. Are you looking for something?”


  1. This is an intriguing opening. You do a good job of laying out the setting and providing an introduction to the protagonist. Her personality comes through clearly. There's a bit of awkwardness in the writing, especially the parts involving dialogue. For instance, "She garbles into the phone as she brushes her teeth" is a slightly jarring description; the word "garbles" reads as clumsy and out of place. You also need to make sure you're hyphenating your adjectival phrases properly (it should be "short-sleeved, button-down shirt"). Otherwise, there's a lot of promise here, and I would be interested in reading on.

  2. Hooked!

    Love the girl-in-the-barbershop idea. And describing her crush as standing and scratching (instead of discussing how gorgeous he is)-- feels very natural.

    My only nitpick - I think if the second sentence was shorter, your opening would have more impact. Like - "Navigating to his heart? Requires a completely different skill set."

  3. I love the voice and setting. Very unique.

  4. Terrific....

    Enjoyed it all... Pace, voice, dialogue, and premise. Well done!

  5. Hmm, she should try video games, math, honesty, or comic books instead of sports...

    Seriously, though, sports? I guess since I'm a big nerd I'm a little turned off to an MC who thinks guys only know sports. Not really my cup of tea.

    I do like the voices, and the way we see unique dialogue in both characters, though. I like his answer at the end--"are you looking for something?"

  6. Great voice. I like this. I even like the garbled into the phone. As far as the dude above saying he's turned off by the sports thing, this is your story. One thing I learned during the process of getting my agent is you can't please everyone. What some people didn't like about my book, my agent loved. So listen to what people have to say and take to heart about 30 percent of it. Good luck!

  7. I liked the voice, I liked the scene, but I was thwarted a tiny bit with some of the awkward phrasing mentioned above and where the em-dash asides broke into the sentences. It didn't seem quite natural.

    The only other thing that confused me was whether Ben worked there. If he worked there, why was she surprised by him (and why would she be about to have that conversation with him in the room). If he doesn't work there, it seems weird that he'd ask her if she needed something.

  8. I like the voice and the events in this, but there's one thing that's bugging me. If this is YA, then your MC is still in high school, so how does she have a station at her dad's barbershop? Where I'm from, you have to have hours of training (generally from a college or trade school) before you're allowed to charge money for a haircut. Even in a family-owned barbershop.

    I liked the rest, but that just stood out to me.

    Good luck.

  9. I think the opening line is almost there, but something bugs me about the phrase "a guy's friendship." It's not quite snappy enough, and the sentiment you want, plus the line that follows seems to demand a snappier sentence. Maybe even "friendship with a guy." I love the follow up line, how she differentiates friendship and love, which right away we get that she's good at one but not the other. I also like the unique setting of a barbershop. I'm also curious how a teen has her own stand, but as long as you have a good explanation, I would be on board. Maybe she's only allowed to do a few things, and it's for regular customers who know and trust the family, that sort of thing.

    As with the other commenters, a few sentences could use paring down. It helps to read aloud, or (worse) have someone else read it for you to see how it flows. The places where people stumble usually indicate a spot to tighten. good luck with this, i would read on.

  10. I think I agree that you shouldn't generalise that all guys like sports. Unless she only cares or thinks she'll get along with such a guy. I do agree your second paragraph being one entire sentence should be tightened and perhaps cut into two sentences.

    Otherwise I like where the story starts and scene set. Good luck.

  11. I really like the voice. Very nice opening. I would agree with Mia, though, about generalizations.