Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Secret Agent #4

TITLE: Somebody That I Used to Know
GENRE: YA Contemporary

King Henry VIII won’t shut up.

He’s been talking at me for the past five minutes, even though it should be clear from the platters of food I’m holding that I’m on my way to a table. My arms are starting to ache from trying to keep the heavy silver trays balanced - each one is weighted down with a rapidly cooling turkey leg, tiny potatoes and butter-glazed carrots, long green stems still attached. All of which our customers are invited to enjoy with their fingers instead of silverware, because knives and forks weren’t used in the fifteenth century. At least not in King Henry’s court.

Tudor Tymes management insists we hold true to the little details, even though it means we go through, like, five thousand paper napkins a night. Somehow the fact that paper napkins didn’t actually exist in the Middle Ages was overlooked.

“Anne. Everyone always blames me for what happened to Anne,” King Henry – aka Alan Rickles, retired weatherman/local dinner theatre actor – says, shaking his head sorrowfully. “That’s all anyone remembers me for.”

Of course that’s what we remember him for. Henry had two of his wives beheaded. Not something people easily forget, even five hundred years later.

“What about all the good I did for England?” Alan strokes his thick brown beard. I’m convinced it’s the reason he got the gig in the first place. That and the thirty extra pounds he gained for the role.


  1. I've been pining for the rest of this ever since that "other" contest! The setting rocks and is just primed to have a starring cast of hilarious characters. Great voice. I just bet King HAnk would be a royal gouty pain in the butt!
    Best of luck to you!

  2. I like the humor. My only complaint is it is YA but in the first 250 I don't get a YA vibe.

  3. Enjoyable, well written, funny. I'd agree I don't have a YA vibe - or a sense of who the MC is or what her/his problems are going to be... but I'm not sure I mind!
    I'd keep reading.

  4. OMG, I love this voice. Hysterical. Really really great opening. I love her already. I'm cracking up laughing. The weatherman gaining 30 pounds, the waitress standing there with a platter unseen. (I think I've been there, at least I feel like I have). I love the aching arms. Can't say one word of "you ought to think about this" in this 250 words. I love it!

  5. Great first line! And your main character's personality shines through. Love the setting, the humor, and the man playing Henry. I would definitely keep reading! Strong start.

  6. I thought this was great.

    Just one little nitpick to point out: Henry VIII was king in the 1500s, which would make it the 16th Century (not the 15th).

    Other than that, I really liked it, could really envision the setting.

    Good luck.

  7. Perhaps the set up goes on a bit too long? The opening doesn't give us any hint as to what this is about, and nothing really happens. Perhaps start somewhere else?

  8. Ah, yes. I recall seeing this before too. I'd cut the word "sorrowfully" because how does one shake their head sorrowfully? We need more, what are the stakes? The conflict? Who is the main character and what is her goal?

  9. I LOVE this premise. Love it! If you haven't read Leila Sales' Past Perfect, I highly recommend it (it would be a good comparative title). It's about a teen who works at a Revolutionary War re-enactment site as a summer job, and the teens have a prank war with the Civil War re-enacters.

    As the other commenters pointed out about not getting a YA vibe, I think this could be easily remedied with a line about this being her (assuming this is a her) after school job, or summer job before senior year, etc. You could work it into the paragraph explaining Tudor Tymes (great name). That way it brings the focus a bit to your character and who she is, not just about what's happening to her. You could add in something within her reflection about what everyone knows of Henry, that she wrote a paper on him in last year's junior AP History class, something like that. You could also have Henry/Alan address your character by name to establish gender/name etc.

    I wish you so much good luck with this!

  10. This is great. I'm totally sold. I didn't feel the "YA vibe" was lacking (especially because the excerpt is so short! You barely have room to get started) but I would second all of Steph's ideas above if you're concerned. I would absolutely read more, so GOOD LUCK.

  11. Sometimes a strong voice is enough. For me, that's the case here. Even though we don't know the main character's name, or what the story's going to be about, this was so much fun that I would absolutely keep reading to see where it goes. There was absolutely nothing cliche about this opening. The setting is fresh and the characters are vivid. I would trust this writer to give me an enjoyable ride.

  12. The first sentence completely sets the tone for this. Loved it! I can easily picture this entire scene in my head - excellent writing. I also think, despite the other coments, that it has the YA vibe with the first sentence... teens use the phrase "shut up" a LOT!

  13. A fun read, and my favorite part was the detail about paper napkins!

    It might be interesting to hear some of Henry's dialogue before we get the scene set.

    Also, I'm not sure if it's the copy and paste formatting, but make sure you're using the longer em dashes.

    "Shut up," "talking at me," and "like," definitely give YA voice.

    Do we need "starting to ache"? Can we just have "ache"?

    I love the premise and the voice, and would probably read on because of that. Still, I'm wondering if there's something at stake other than the worry that she'll drop the tray. Why is this moment important?

  14. I love this. I have nothing to add except it's a great opening and definitely makes me want to read more!

    Good luck!

  15. I like this. You pulled me in right away with the first line. (Of course, I was expecting it to be a fantasy before I checked the genre, with good old Henry being a ghost, but that's my own bias.)

    You've setup conflict right away, introduced the character, and established your voice. Good 250!

  16. This is a cute opening and the voice is engaging.

    I think you can scale back on the food description and spend those words more wisely on other elements in the scene. It's not readily apparent the story opens in a RP restaurant, so maybe pointing out the tray is steel and not silver, her costume is polyester, and she smells bubble gum would help establish the environment.

    It appears the character playing King Henry is drunk. Maybe she smells beer on his breath? Is he acting suspicious? There's no tension anywhere on this page.

    Though the premise is cute and the voice works, I'm not hooked enough to keep reading because I'm confused about why the story starts here and it totally lacks conflict.

  17. The voice here is great! Very wry, to the point. My one hangup is that it doesn't feel like YA to me. This feels like an adult--a younger one, perhaps, but she seems very professional, if jaded.

    If this *is* YA, a simply toss-away line like "after-school job" or the like may help gloss this over.