Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October Secret Agent #12

GENRE: YA Contemporary/Light

Last year my sociology teacher read an article about a girl’s expectations for prom to our class. The perfect dress had to be paired with the perfect weight. Then came the perfect date, which obviously culminated in the perfect night.

“Great expectations or tragically unrealistic?” our teacher had asked us.

Tragic, duh. Way too many perfects for one measly night. Of course, at the time I didn’t have any of the items on the list. But now?

The perfect dress? Mine was a sleeveless, white empire waist dress with long, flowing material and turquoise beading at the right shoulder. Though it was simple, I felt like an angel in it.

The perfect weight? Um no, that was never going to happen with my athletic build and bones that refused to be tiny or delicate. But my mom had always said it wasn’t about being skinny, it was about being healthy. My mom rocked.

The perfect date? Oh yes. Trey Rawson, whom I had crushed on since eighth grade because of his shaggy auburn hair and yummy, deep blue eyes. Five months ago I somehow snagged him as my boyfriend.

So maybe now that I was a senior, I had great expectations for my own prom night. At least I did until I woke up this morning with the Worst. Headache. Ever. It was like I’d agreed to host a fencing tournament in my brain. Slash. Slash. Slash. I almost couldn’t blink.

Would I have to cross “perfect night” off my list?


  1. I really like this set up. It is tidy and well written.

    My only uncertainty and this could just be due to the limitations of this format is, it sounds like there's some thing unusual related to the MCs headache. (Otherwise pop and Asprin and get moving on that perfect night!) so I'm not clear on how it fits as Contemporary. Also, what's Light? Fantasy? Paranormal? Magical Realism? Get straight on that and I'd certainly read more!

  2. I'll echo everything Deirdre said. The writing is good, and I was right there with your character until the headache. If it's straight contemporary, it doesn't make sense for her to think her whole night's blown over a headache.

  3. You use many rhetorical questions in interiority. I realize that some of them are in response to the question posed by the teacher, but you also end the excerpt with one. Agents and editors tend to frown on this. See agent Jennifer Laughran's recent blog post and her link to Mary Kole's blog post on the same topic.

  4. Writing-wise there isn't anything wrong with this, but story-wise, it does little for you. What happened here? A girl woke up with a headache on prom night.

    You've already explained the date, the boyfriend, the dress, the weight, so we already know what's going to be ruined. Why read on? The only reason is to see her suffer through her headache. Not compelling, and there is probably more to this story than that.

    I'd suggest you consider an entirely new opening that starts with the story rather than an explanation 'for' the story. Perhaps start with Trey picking her up, or as she arrives at the prom. Perhaps work in a hint at what the real problem is (I don't think she's going to nurse that headache for an entire novel.) Whatever your story is, get into it right away.

  5. We like that the main character has flaws, and mentions them right away so teens will relate to her and connect. We’re not sure what “light” refers to in your genre description. We don’t think the prom aspect alone is enough conflict, so we’re hoping this is simply the conflict mentioned so far with some high stakes coming. This writing is nice and solid, too.

  6. I'm not sure this opening works--I get the sentiment and the device of looking back and having the character fill in their idea of a perfect (or not) prom, but it feels like a lot of explaining to just get to a few lines about what the character thinks about prom. I think this can be accomplished in a more straightforward way then telling a story about some girl last year. Hope that makes sense. It might be more engaging to show from the start what the MC thinks on her own. Maybe she has a list she carries around or something. And I didn't quite connect if today is prom and she had a headache and would have to ditch it, or going by the title, which sounds a little paranormalish, maybe there is more to the headache?

    I think if you focus less on the unknown girl's idea of prom and more on your MC, then these questions will solve themselves. You can more easily get to the current tension, hint toward the story conflict, etc.

  7. unique voice and I want to find out more about this character and if she is OK.

  8. This was a great start, but I think you can condense this first 250, and bring the headache front and center because I am assuming that is your hook. What about this headache is crazy/painful/different?

    You write well, and you have a great voice. I wish you luck with everything!