Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #31

GENRE: YA Thriller

"My parents will kill me if the bomb squad interrupts Christmas …again."

The bitter Boston wind tossed my words down the shop-lined street. Cole stood beside me, his back to the display, as I wiped my jacket sleeve against the frost-covered window outside Bettye's Bath Bubbles.

Behind the glass, colorful bars of soap were precariously stacked like a Jenga game. Hundreds of different scents like Blueberry Bliss and Mango Tango were piled high in a multi-colored pyramid until the very last bar, Pickled Pear, topped it off like a green-and-white speckled angel on top of a Christmas tree.

I sighed. Why couldn't my mom have requested anything other than Bettye's soaps? She knew the bomb scanner was crazy sensitive.

"Lora, I fixed the UltraSweep." Cole crossed his arms, looking bored. "After last year's incident with the bubble bath, I've made sure the scanner won't mistake ammonium sulfate for ammonium nitrate again."

"What?" I glared at him. "Are you trying to ruin Christmas?"

Cole ignored me as he eyed the crowd of shoppers hurrying through downtown Boston. At eighteen, he was only a year older than me, but Cole was … well …different. He was always perfectly presentable. From the dark suit that hugged his lean muscular frame to his carefully combed sandy hair, Cole gave off a World's-Greatest-Intern/Your-Daughter-Is-Safe-With-Me vibe.

That's because Cole Davis, with his hidden earpiece and ability to kill anyone with one swift jab to their trachea, was not normal. He was an agent. And, unfortunately, my bodyguard.


  1. I felt like that first line was sort of orphaned - could you maybe work it in a little later? Overall, while I love the ideas and the writing is solid, I feel the pace is rushed. I think if you slowed it down, this will be fantastic. It's probably because you wanted to do so much in these few words, but I feel we need to get a better handle on the MC before getting the details of her bodyguard.

  2. I loved the first line, but after that I just couldn't connect. I think you have some solid ideas, but it seems like you're sacrificing clarity to ensure you present the unusual life of your character. Don't rush it. Everything you want us to learn about your character and this story will unfold.

  3. I love the first line!
    The whole passage is very well written.

    I would really like to get a better feel for the MC. The second paragraph paints a pretty picture, but it doesn't seem very relevant. I think the space would be better spent showcasing the MC.

    I'm confused by her response to Cole. It sounds to me like Cole fixed the problem, why is she still annoyed?

    The phrase "well..different" doesn't feel natural. I think it would be better if you said something like "but Cole didn't look like a teenager".

    Overall, great writing!

  4. This is very well written but I don't feel like I have a solid hold on what is happening in the scene. The first line is interesting, but I think it's in the wrong place. Either that or you need more info following it to add context.

    Also, I know how hard it is to get world-building into the first 250 words without it feeling info-dumpish, but I think this would really benefit from a little more info. Something to explain the bomb scanning and the need for a bodyguard. Just a thought. :)

    Overall, this sounds interesting and I'd keep reading for a bit to see if some of my confusion clears up. Good luck to you! :)

  5. The writing is solid and though I'd like more about the mc over the body guard unless its his story, is keep reading. The info on the bars of soap is vivid and I can imagine it, but why do I care. Even saying that, I'm okay to keep reading. If I don't like one thing its the word precariously.

  6. I agree that the first line feels misplaced and would make more sense closer to the explanation about the soaps. I didn't understand how it fit together until I read that Cole is the bodyguard, so I'd consider revamping that a bit as suggested above. Still, I like this overall.

    There's something very Ally Carter about this for me (which is a very good thing), more so than YA Thriller. But knowing it's only the first 250 words, I'd read on to see what happens next. :)

  7. Perhaps start with the fact that she has a body guard. That's what will catch the reader's interest, I think. Everything before that doesn't really matter, but the bit about the soap and Ultrasweep will take on new meaning if the reader knows Cole's her bodyguard.

  8. I love some of your descriptions (like of the soaps) but I was a little lost in the scene and not quite sure what was happening I had more clarity when you mentioned the body guard but I am confused by the role of the mother. For eg, I wasn't sure why the bomb squad would interrupt or why the mother had chosen Betty's bubbles? I like the writing, but just am lost. I agree with the other comments about rushing it...trying to fit too much in about the characters. But you have a great writing style!

  9. I feel like you could have the elements to an interesting thriller here, but I didn't really connect with it based on this passage. Overall, I think there was a bit too much description / telling instead of showing. The first line grabbed my attention but it felt almost forced, at a disconnect to the very descriptive paragraph that follows it. You might want to think about pacing, increasing the tension by shortening some of those initial sentences. Maybe omit your first and second paragraph ("The bitter Boston wind...") and start with "Behind the glass..."

  10. The first line is certainly catchy, but like others I had a 'huh?' moment as it did not seague into the next line. Then the description of the soap bar pyramid left me flst, as if you were delinerately doing a bait and switch to catch boy readers with the promise of explosions, but then gave them cosmetics/ Christmas shopping instead.

    Lori's response to Cole fixing up the scanner did not make sense to me.

    I also have a problem with a teenaged bodyguard. But the fact that she needs a bodyguard was enough to pique my interest, and I would read on.

  11. Lovely idea and great first line, but I think you used the wrong order of events. If your wonderful opening line was followed by paragraph four and then with Cole's assurance that he fixed the scanner (up to bored), you can keep paragraph 2 and three (I loved the Jenga tower) and follow it with "After last x-mas and the rest". That way, the first line wouldn't stand there all on its own without context. And with the body-guard line you've got the reader hooked. Same events, different order, might make a big difference.

    Of course, this is your story, so feel free to disregard my suggestion. ;-)

  12. I like the unusual set-up of a girl shopping for Christmas gifts with her bodyguard. Your description of the soap runs a bit long, though, and took me out of the story. You might want to focus in on Lora and Cole and give us a little more of their dynamic – it would be nice to see some banter between them. You’re also packing a lot of info in here for your readers, so you could scale down the intro and delay the reveal about Cole. It would be helpful to know more about Lora and where she is coming from (perhaps some hints about who her family is, and why she would need protection?) before we find out who Cole is.