Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Secret Agent #30

GENRE: MG Fantasy

Asher couldn't help smiling as he turned the water on. He could practically feel a beard pushing itself out of his chin. He squeezed the button on the top of the can and a splash of foam exploded out with a loud pffft!

He stared at the shaving cream bottle for a second before he remembered. Gotta shake it. Duh.

A few good jiggles later and his entire face was lathered up. He looked like a curly-haired Santa Claus. Without the gut.

The straight razor made a satisfying snikt as Asher freed the blade from its metal handle. He adjusted his little finger on the curvy end and dragged the razor down his cheek. A trail of freshly shaved skin appeared beneath the thick layer of shaving cream. Piece of cake. He slid the blade under the running water to knock off the bunched up foam.

Round two. Fight.

He used his free hand to wipe a white blob away from his nostril and pulled the blade down again.

A white-hot pinch of pain seared his chin and Asher sucked in a quick breath, dropping the razor in the sink. A bead of blood welled up under his lower lip. He splashed water over his face as the last bit of shaving cream burped down the drain.

He picked up the suds-covered blade and washed it off. Just holding his dad's old razor was a kick in the gut.


  1. I wouldn't read on here, because I don't think you've chosen a gripping enough scene to start the story. It doesn't have any tension in it (what's at stake for the protag?) and it's very technical. Most, if not all, of us have shaved before, so we know how it goes. Even though this is MG (so your readers probably have not shaved before), it doesn't feel out-of-the-ordinary enough to me. This story might just be starting in the wrong place. At the very least try to infuse tension and some kind of goal in this scene for the protag.

    I really like the title, though. That's another thing - the title prompted in my brain all these awesome visions of fantastical knights and what not, but there's no hint of anything magical or anything leading toward/hinting at anything magical in this scene, either, and I really wanted to see that. I hope this helps and good luck with it!

  2. I was left wondering why the kick in the gut at holding his dad's razor came after he'd finished using it, not at the start?

    I also agree with Chris above - it seems like a strange place to start the story and leaves me with no idea of where it's going or what it's about.

  3. Maybe more about the mc's feelings than the actual mechanics of shaving? Especially why a MG aged character is shaving with a straight razor (there's a hint that it's got something to do with his dad, but would like to see more.)

  4. sorry, but I have to agree with Chris V. I don't think you've found your beginning yet. I wouldn't read on here. Put a question in the reader's mind from the first sentence. The writing is good though, so just focus on finding the true beginning to this story. good luck!

  5. I didn't mind the start, although it was a surprise considering the title. I was also surprised by the fact that he was using a straight razor, after he lathers on shaving foam from a can. Even if the razor is his dad's, most kids just starting to shave would probably be scared to use it and would rather start with a safety razor. That was a little unbelievable. Straight razors are hard to use and might also come with the shaving cup and brush to create the lather. I am thinking that the foam from the can feels odd when he uses a razor.

    I agree I need more at stake, though the cut part of the scene does make me feel anxious.

  6. While I agree with the others, I think the description in the first paragraph is well done. I love the feeling the whiskers pushing through his skin (though I'm imagining this is more wishing than fact!) I think once you find your start, you're off to a good start.

  7. I don't necessarily think that a kid shaving for the first time with his (presumably dead or missing) father's razor is necessarily a bad place to start. I do think, however, that the conflict--dad's razor--should be up higher. You could start with "Just holding his dad's old razor..." and then give us the whole scene, and that way, we'd be emotionally with the MC throughout it rather than just at the end.

    Then again, this is YA fantasy. Perhaps you should start with something more, well, fantastical.

    I'm also not so hot on the onomatopoeia here. "Pfft" isn't so loud, and my brand of shaving cream isn't really that loud. Same with the "snikt," why can't we just get "click"? I know kids love wordplay in MG novels, but "snikt" seemed a bit much.

    I did like the image of the kid as a curly-haired Santa Claus.

    What's the reasoning behind "Round two. Fight."? That didn't flow for me.

    The pinch of pain probably didn't "sear" his chin, maybe think of rewording.

    Overall, while a lot of folks here say to start with some big hook/event, I am a fan of books that start with emotional hooks, too. If you can get us to care more about dad's razor and the MC's connection with him, that could give a compelling reason to turn the page.

  8. This is a well-described scene--I can see everything happen, and can even picture Asher quite clearly. Unfortunately, it's currently lacking in stakes, so it's not an opening that compels the reader to read on.

    You hint at the end of this passage that there's more at stake beyond Asher shaving for the first time. There's significance that this is his *dad's* razor. So perhaps your opening is there--it's less about his pride in shaving and becoming a man, and more about being closer with his (absent?) father. If this idea is brought up earlier, there will be more tension in an otherwise mundane activity.

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  10. I love these comments!

    They're exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks to you all, I've trimmed the fat on the first 250 and hit what I needed to hit based on what I read from everyone.

    In short, you're awesome.

    In long, you're really really really really really really awesome.