Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August Secret Agent #1

TITLE: Replacement
GENRE: YA Light Sci-Fi/Fantasy

It doesn't feel like my lucky day.

I run my hands along my blouse to smooth out my nerves along with the wrinkles. We'd made it without being stopped. That made us lucky, I tell myself. My heart jumps as though it needs convincing.

Being caught here had consequences--big ones. Most people wouldn't risk the trip for something as simple as from-the-box pancakes. But I'm not like most people, especially most people here.

I scrunch down lower in my seat to hide from the bright fluorescent lights that illuminate the restaurant like a football stadium. The lights bounce off the checkerboard floors and red vinyl seats so convincingly that I almost believe I am in a 50's diner rather than a cave carved into the foothills outside of San Francisco.

Aiden slouches down in the bright red booth seat across from me and taps his fingers on the sterile metal table. I hadn't asked him to come. He'd insisted. Now he follows everyone in restaurant as though he is Clark Kent, ready to come to my rescue when needed. I don't need rescuing.

One more deep breath and I can relax enough to read the menu. Happiness tonic. Love shots. Anti-anxiety smoothie. Enticing, but even now I don't want my food messing with my brain. Nothing to interfere with the taste of home. The pancakes I came for are hidden at the bottom of the menu.


  1. This is intriguing. I'm interested to see what's going on with this world, what the consequences are for being wherever she is. And the mind-altering smoothie thing is neat, so I get a sense that this is set somewhere in the future. We don't really get a sense of what this place is yet, but I'd definitely keep reading to find out.

    The one thing that tripped me up is when you mention Aiden "following" people like Clark Kent - he's in the booth, right? So is he following them with his eyes? I think clearing that up would give us a better picture of the scene, just based on Aiden's reaction to his surroundings. I get the sense he's uneasy there, and feels the need to protect the MC, but I think clearing this up would add a lot and make it feel more concrete.

  2. You create a strong sense of atmosphere here, lots of intrigue and tension. I did feel like you tell too much at the very beginning and then you really get into it. Maybe you should start right off with the action and pull us straight in - "I scrunch down... etc. Pulled me in completely!

  3. I found this piece confusing and had to read it a few times. As the other commenter said, I didn't get how Aiden was like Clark Kent, if he was following with his eyes. Also the word 'the' is missing from in front of restaurant.

    At first I thought the POV character was hiding, but then realized he/she is sinking down in their seat.

    You describe them as 'being caught here had consequences' but then in the rest of the piece it seems they aren't caught yet. Maybe 'would have consequences' would work better.

    It seems likes there is a great story behind why there would be huge consequences for going to a restaurant. That intrigued me. I was also curious as to why the restaurant is in a cave.

    Good luck!

  4. I think this one is interesting. The MC seems quirky (risking big consequences for pancakes), and I thought the writing flowed pretty well.

    Like Christine, I was a little thrown by Aiden both being in the booth and following people. Also, the way that sentence is worded, I'm trying to figure out how exactly it is that Clark Kent follows people. Lol. Now, I can't get this picture of Clark Kent sneaking around behind people out of my head. What I'm assuming you meant was that he's ready to come to her rescue like Clark Kent.

    Two things I'd like to mention for your consideration:

    1) It might be nice to have an indication of time. You could probably adjust this sentence to get one in: "The lights bounce off the checkerboard floors and red vinyl seats so convincingly that I almost believe I am in a '50s diner [a century ago] rather than a cave carved into the foothills outside of San Francisco." Note the apostrophe in front to repace the 19, but not before the s (though you might want to check me on that one).

    2) (Dittoing Michelle) There were some tense issues at the beginning that confused me as to whether she was lucky or had been caught: "Being caught here had consequences--big ones." The "had" made me think she had been caught in the past and is recalling the consequences. If that's not the case, you could change it to "Being caught here has consequences--" Because of the confusion, I might side with Keeley in suggesting you cut the internal monologue and get straight to the scene.

    Good job. Good luck!

  5. This feels a little scattered to me. The first line about it being her lucky day didn't seem like it connected to anything else. At first I thought she was outside the cave, getting ready to sneak in, but then she was in the booth. And you say "we," but it felt like she was alone until you mentioned Aiden in the 5th paragraph.

    There's some great stuff here. I love the idea of all the foods having mind-altering properties, but I think the elements need to be re-arranged so the who and where are firmly established. It will make everything else flow better.

  6. With excerpts this short, I don't like harping on not enough context, but I think the fantasy aspect of the world could be hinted at more clearly. What the world is, who these people are (aliens?). Saying "being caught here," I want to know where is here. It's sort of a diner, but then it's in a cave. Is this real? A fantasy realm, or another planet? Not every questions needs to be answered in the first 250 words, but I think a few concrete details will help given this is the intro to the story.

    Consequences are mentioned, and naming those, and why it matters will really help. Even if you just give a hint of it, it will pull the reader in more than generalities at this point. We don't yet know the consequences or what they relate to.

    The second line I get the idea, but I think the sentence could be played around with a bit, maybe to mention the wrinkles in the shirt first, then the nerves. A few other lines have extra words that could be omitted for a more succinct sentence.

    It sounds like an interesting world is in here, best wishes with your story.

  7. I love this. I mean, seriously, you had me at 'from-the-box pancakes.'

    Agree that, "Now he follows everyone in (the?) restaurant as though he is Clark Kent..." was slightly confusing, but I was so fascinated by what was going on that I didn't trip over the sentence the first time.

    Good luck! May your MC get his/her pancakes!

  8. I didn't think the opening worked. Was she expecting her day to be lucky? And why? ANd then the luck aspect is dropped.

    I wondered what the risk was in going there? And what's so special about those pancakes that she'd take the risk? What makes her different from others?

    I guess, for me, there's not enough here. Perhaps get in whatever the risk is. WHat's at stake if she gets caught? That is probably your hook, and it will automatically up the tension.

  9. I enjoyed this sample. I can feel the protagonist's anxiety but am wondering about her obsession with pancakes! I generally like a little more physical desciption of the setting in the first paragraphs of a novel so that I can orientate myself as a reader. Perhaps think how you can insert some dialogue so that you can break up the narrative. Good luck.