Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February Secret Agent #8

GENRE: YA Contemporary

She can’t stay here.

The words echoed through my head as I sat, eyes closed, pretending the rays of sunshine landing hot on my face were from the big bay window in our living room that overlooked the gnarly oak in the front yard.

She can’t stay here.

Three days later and I could still hear Mom’s exact tone, the pitch of her voice, the emphasis on “can’t” as she whispered the words in above-whisper volume, no idea I was within earshot.

She can’t stay here.

For the hundredth time I felt my heart beat faster as my mind raced to think of who “she” might be besides the “she” that I desperately didn’t want her to be.

The scratchy upholstery of the bus seat against the backs of my knees drew me back to the present. I opened my eyes and blinked quickly at the bright sun as an announcement came over the speaker system:

“We have arrived in Mobile, Alabama. The local time is seven p.m. This is the final stop for this line. Thank you for riding Greyhound.”

I rolled my head from one side to the other, stretching my stiff neck. This is real.

The chatty woman who had plopped herself into the seat next to me now stood in the aisle, her skinny arms pulling a large bag from the overhead bin. It nearly fell on top of her, but she stepped aside as it toppled to the floor. She made eye contact with me as she looked up, giggling.


  1. Intriguing. You have the readers asking questions that need to be answered. Is the 'she' the mom was talking about the MC? If so, I think this would have more of an emotional impact if you stated that on the first page. If not, the way you have it makes it more mysterious.

  2. I like your repetition of "She can't stay here." Great way to intrigue readers. I figured out after the second one that "she" was the protagonist. I also liked the mom's "above-whisper volume". Nice.

    I found my attention drifting in your last paragraph, but perhaps that's because it's all description of the lady in the aisle. Maybe insert your protag's voice too, like what she thought about the woman.

  3. Nice opener. I agree with above, the MC's thoughts on the old woman would really strengthen the narrative.

  4. I assumed the "she" was the MC pretty quickly because in that first paragraph, you tell us she's not where she's supposed to be (at home in front of the bay window).

    But then I got a little confused. I was assuming she's on the road because "she can't stay here," but then after the third "she can't stay here," you say, "For the hundredth time I felt my heart beat faster as my mind raced to think of who “she” might be besides the “she” that I desperately didn’t want her to be."

    Is that a thought she's having in the present narrative? If she's been put on this bus... then, I'm assuming she's already got her answer figured out, unless this is just staunch denial.

    The voice is good, though. I like the mysterious element.

  5. The first line is compelling, although the next line is wordy. "the rays of sunshine" is rather cliche for an opening; little tweaks to streamline the language and simplify what you want to say with fewer words will keep the momentum going. You have that repetition which shows impact, but the additional paragraphs between them lose the edge. I think shorter sentences, and more sparse, clean prose will strengthen this.

    When I say sparse, clean prose I think of authors like Sara Zarr (Once Was Lost, Sweethearts). she makes it look easy, but I would suggest checking out her books if you haven't already, since they have similar themes.

  6. Very nice opening. You've caught my interest, and I would definitely be interested to see where the story goes.