Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #10

TITLE: Ham Radio Hero
GENRE: YA Science Fiction

After pulling my pink sweater around my shoulders, I opened the document in my inbox titled, Directives for the imminent attack by The Winds. I read what I already knew in the executive summary: The terrorists’ attacks had started in California. The Middle-Eastern faction now controlled areas in over half of the United States of America. In the appendix, a map pinpointed the westerly towns with destroyed bases and nearby damaged towns. The summary spelled out what we’d already guessed and feared: Our base had been prioritized as the next probable target. As I read, I mentally rehearsed Wright Pattterson’s lock-down procedures. The last pages showed a chart with the frequency of the attacks, and a final summary concluded no pattern had been established. In other words, we didn’t know exactly when to expect an encounter with the enemy.

Some coworkers called home to talk to a loved one, perhaps for the last time. Many of the women wandered off to the restroom with tissues in hand. I needed to move, and when the youngest project manager in my area headed toward the water cooler, I followed. The janitors kept our water cooler corner sparkling clean. While inhaling the scent of floor wax, I recalled everyone in the office called the project manager’s name, Tellie, short for Telisha, and behind her back they called her Tellie-communications.

Tellie leaned against the wall and stretched her neck from one side to the other.


  1. You've a interest concept here. I'm getting a cool alt history of dystopian vibe.

    I can't help feeling that you could pick a more interest place to start. We're basically opening with the MC reading email, giving the reader what amounts to back story. I'd try picking a different spot to start where something more is happening. Then work in the back story. I hope this helps. Good luck!

  2. I agree with Eric, I like the concept. And I also like the backstory you've revealed, but perhaps there is a more interactive/interesting way to introduce it besides having the MC just read it.

    I don't personally mind reading backstory first, but I don't really get a sense of the MC as a person here.

    the first two sentences really pulled me in though. I was interested in "Directives for the imminent attack by The Winds."

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  4. I agree you should probably start somewhere else. The purpose of that first parg is solely to clue the reader in, because the MC already knows what's in the memo. There's no logical reason for her to read it, and then explain to herself what it means.

    The second parg. also has issues. Do we need to know the janitor keeps the area around the water cooler clean? Do we need to know it smells like floor wax? It seems the place is going to be attacked soon. Wouldn't the MC have bigger things on her mind?

    Perhaps start this somewhere closer to something happening, and then write about the things that matter at that moment. If you show us what's happening, the reader will get it.

    I'm also wondering about the MC's age. She doesn't seem like a teen to me, and if she is, I wonder why the government would hire her for such a position.

  5. I also think a different starting point would be more compelling. This shows us someone reading something she already knows, which feels like it's all for the reader's benefit to explain the plot. My best advice is to read other opening pages from books in your genre to see how they've done it. Good luck, it sounds like there is a great story in there.

  6. From the writer, Tami Absi: Thanks, all. This book bounces between the mom and the teenage daughter as narrators. I keep switching chapters 1 (Mom at present) and 2 (Daughter at present). I'll try switching them again!

    (Yes, there is a clunky sentence, and of course I caught it as soon as I posted, of course.)

  7. @Tami - Ah! Well that explains it. I'd suggest starting with the teen's pov if this is for teens, and the adult's pov if meant for adults.

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  9. I find it interesting what people.think about when stressed. The mc considers the nickname.of one of her coworkers. Its very true
    I can. Also see reading over an email yet again, perhaps in disbelief that its actually happening. And I agree that since you're targeting teens that maybe it would be a better place to start with the teens pov. Give them.someone upfront to relate to.

  10. I like this although it doesn't feel teen to me. -- Oops, I just read through the other comments, so this is the mom. That makes sense. In that case, start with the daughter and move this in as a second scene. Also, don't make her KNOW what's in the mail, but let her FEAR/SUSPECT it. And when the confirmation comes, she can feel much more desperate. Good luck with it.

  11. There are some intriguing elements here, but the voice doesn’t read like YA, and neither do the actions of the main character. Small details – like the pulling of the sweater around the shoulders –seem distinctly like adult behaviors.

    It also doesn’t quite make sense that a teenager would be involved in such high-level operations, or be able to comment on workplace things like the water cooler and the project manager.

    The shift between the first and second paragraph is slightly jarring – we go from a character’s internal monologue to an office setting, but the reader isn’t aware you’re in an office from the start, nor is she/he invested in these other characters yet. It’s difficult to jump into a doomsday scenario right away.

    Quick note – as I’m posting this comment, I see a note that the query is from the mom’s point of view. I would definitely recommend shifting to the teen’s point of view first, and bringing in the mom later!