Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March Secret Agent #48

GENRE: YA Paranormal

Our attic door is always padlocked, but on this late Friday afternoon, the stairs descend into the hallway like a lolling tongue from a dark mouth. Before I can climb the steps, a filled white trash bag, and then another, lands at my feet. I jump back in surprise. "Oh!"

Mom hurries down the attic stairs, a plume of dust following her. "Crystal, what are you doing here? I thought you were going to the library."

Crud, my chance to finally get a glimpse inside the attic is thwarted by Mom, the attic ninja.

I huff and cross my arms. "I wanted to see—"

"Can you take these bags to the kitchen for me?" Mom forces a smile and hands me the bags. With a jerk, she turns her back to me, lifts the ladder steps, and locks the attic door.

Maybe she’s hiding my birthday present up there. I turn sixteen on Monday. But that doesn't explain why she's never let me in the attic.

Downstairs, I drop the bags near back door. Although bulky, the bags are surprisingly light. Wonder what's inside them.

Leaning against the counter, I teeter the half-filled swinging-basket. A not quite ripe, fresh-smelling apple rolls out. As I place it on top of the other fruit, Mom enters the kitchen.

She brushes strands of dyed strawberry blonde hair behind her shoulder with her small fingers, and dust drifts onto her golf shirt. "I'm sorry for snapping. You just surprised me."

"What were you doing?"


  1. I like the voice here. The dialogue is realistic and you've immediately set up conflict.

    But I'm afraid the conflict feels a little bit forced to me. I want to know more about the context for Crystal's wanting to get into the attic. How long has she been wondering what's up there? Has she tried to break in before? Do her parents ever talk about it? Starting with the attic door being open doesn't give me enough time to be impressed that the attic has always been locked, so it feels a little artificial when Crystal tells me that she's always wanted to get into the attic but can't.

    But I am curious to find out what's up there!

  2. I liked this. I'd read more because I am curious about the whole attic thing. Why isn't she allowed up there? What are they hiding?

    But I'm a little troubled with the logistics of keeping a kid out of a place for so long. A 15-almost 16-year-old would most likely have found an opportunity to sneak into the attic already...especially if they've lived in the same house her whole life. I understand if it was always locked that she wouldn't be able to but then why would she think she could get in there that afternoon? Since it was open, obviously someone with the key was up there. And why would she tell her mom she was going to the library if she was hoping to snoop because the door would've been locked anyway, right? I dunno. I'm probably reading too much into it but that is what seemed kind of unbelievable to me. That and I didn't feel the mom came across snippy, just surprised, and I'm not sure she'd apologize for snapping. I think she'd probably restate her original question and find out why her daughter was home when she wasn't supposed to be. I know, as a mom, that's what I would do. I'd probably be irritated if she wasn't supposed to be home and that's why I wasn't being as attic-ninja (love) sneaky as I normally would be. And I'd also want to avoid discussing why I was in the attic either. What better way than to get the kid on the defensive?

  3. After reading the exceprt, I'm left with - a girl wonders what's in her attic. It's not enough to pull me in. WHy does she want to know? What makes her curious? ANd why doesn't she just ask her Mom?

    Also, this is marked as paranormal. Perhaps try to work in a creepier tone in the opening which will give the reader a stronger desire to see what's up there, so it's more than a girl curious about what's in the attic.

  4. I've read a previous draft and I think it got a lot better since then. I buy the locked attic and I don't think going into backstory about all the times she tried to get in is a good idea. Maybe a quick mention of how long it has been locked is enough. I'm still wondering why the girl didn't open the trash bags she carried down.

  5. I was thrown by the first sentence. It seems inherently contradictory to say our attic door is always padlocked, but right now it's open. Some simple rewording, along the lines of, "I've never seen our attic door open before, so I can't believe it when I come upstairs on Friday afternoon and see the steps descending into the hallway like a lolling tongue." (That's not great, but maybe gives a clearer sense of what a big deal this is.)

    For me, the intrigue about what's up there was cut off when Mom blocked Crystal from looking. Since Crystal has clearly been curious for a long time, maybe you could give us an idea of what she imagines her mom is hiding, before Mom starts throwing the trash bags down.

    The line about the birthday present felt forced. There is probably a better way to get Crystal's age across.

    I had trouble picturing the swinging fruit basket and wondered if that detail was really necessary at this moment in the story. It seemed like that might fit better as an action beat later in the conversation.

    Bottom line, despite the mysterious attic, there wasn't really enough tension in this opening to make me want to read on.

  6. I loved this, though I agree with the points other commentators made. The line of the "lolling tongue from a dark mouth" was what got me smiling. Your writing has great potential.
    Maybe to up the tension/paranormal feel, you could mention hearing bumps from the attic, or that you've imagined what might be up there over the years--something to make it more of a mystery.
    Also, this is picky, but I just don't like the word crud.