Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #18

GENRE: YA Fantasy

No one was very happy when Clarissa Euler was born. That should have been her first clue: it would all be downhill from here. But she was too busy crying and hollering to pay any sort of attention.

She didn’t notice the midwives exchange an exasperated look that said, “Great – another spoiled green-band in the world.” She didn’t know that her mother had given birth to six children already, or that she’d buried just as many. She didn’t hear her father’s first words at the sight of her (“Oh, for God’s sake!”) or see him fling a wine glass across the room.

In his defense, Henry Euler had been hoping for a son for a very long time. Fifteen years he’d been waiting now. Fifteen years of false alarms and miscarriages and sickly male babies who’d shriveled away before their first birthdays. Fifteen years, and what did he have to show for it?

“A girl,” confirmed one of the midwives, presenting Clarissa with a brave attempt at a smile. “And a healthy one, by the look of it – would you listen to the lungs on her?”

The woman’s smile faded at the sight of Henry’s face. No need to tell him it was healthy. He had seen quite enough unhealthy babies to recognize a healthy one. Look at it, with its even, pink skin, its fists tightly clenched, its pudgy legs already kicking. This was a baby that would survive its childhood. But what use was a healthy baby girl?


  1. I like this...up until the third paragraph. It sort of pulls me out of the moment. Too much back story too soon maybe? But I would continue read on because the story line is intriguing.

  2. I loved the opening line and would keep reading. I'm not sure you need the 'Fifteen years of false alarms' sentence or the subsequent one -- since the last paragraph sums things up so elegantly.

  3. Interesting beginning, but the POV is awkward.

  4. I really like this. I want to know why having a girl would be so bad- is this like in history when a male heir was needed or something of that sort? I also really like the sentences about what the baby didn't notice.

    In my opinion you don't need the father's first words. Leave the part in parenthesis out and let the reader decide what he says- your other sentences make it clear that he isn't pleased.

    I'd read on to see why her life went downhill and what happens to her.

  5. Okay, first off... love the voice and the unique POV. I don't know why, but it really grabbed my attention. I'd definitely read on.

    I was left wondering what a "green-band" was... but that was the only bump I noticed in my read through. Well done!

  6. I like this and want to keep reading. You've created the atmosphere.

    However, as other commenters have said, I think you could drop the father's actual quote and the entire third paragraph. I think the final sentence sums up the father's view quite nicely!

    And what's a green-band? Or will that get revealed later?

  7. Honestly, I hated the first line. When I got to the second sentence, my thought was she's a baby. How on earth would she have a clue. And then I read the 3rd sentence about her screaming and crying and I smiled, and it was all uphill from there. I enjoyed this.

    I would keep the 'Oh, for God's sake' in parentheses, and I'd keep the third parg, too. The only thing I'd suggest changing is 'The woman' in the last parg. I kept going back and forth on whether it was a midwife or the birth mother. Perhaps say who it is, rather than saying 'the woman.'

    I'd read more!

  8. The writing is good here, and the conflict is certainly set up, but the wandering POV was confusing to me. By the second paragraph, I figured out the "her" in the first paragraph was the baby (who logically can't have a POV), but it could have been the mother.

    If it's the baby's POV and it didn't notice or hear anything, how would it know what happened or was said.

    Then we go into the father's POV.

    I think if you're going for omniscient, you have to change the first paragraph. The first line is fine. Then say something like "Her life would be all downhill from there."

    Then in the second paragraph, if you say something like: "Being a newborn with a healthy set of lungs, she was too busy crying and hollering to notice..." and go on from there, the rest of the story reads fine.

    I figure "green-band" has something to do with the fantasy part of the story, so it didn't bother me.

  9. Your writing is lovely and I enjoyed the humorous tone of this excerpt.

    That being said, this opening was a bit difficult for me because it doesn't start with the MC's voice -- the MC (Clarissa, I assume) is an infant, and the voice seems to switch between omniscient and third person (Clarissa's mother in the last paragraph). The narrative is quite distant, making it difficult to establish an immediate emotional connection to the character or story. It's also very much told, rather than shown, and a bit of an infodump.

    This sort of opening might work better in the adult category, but for YA, it's important to connect with your reader right away -- and providing backstory on your MC's birth and her parents' disappointment at having a girl is not something the average teenager is going to be able to connect with.

    I suggest starting at the place where the MC's story really starts -- at the place where something happens to change the status quo in her life and she must make decisions which drive the plot forward.

    Best of luck!

  10. I really like the writing here. The voice is sharp and lively, and has a lovely rhythm. I love how "what did he have to show for it?" is answered with "A girl" in the next 'graph. Nicely done!

    I'd like to read more, but I'd be eager to see the text shift in time, so we get to Clarissa in her adolescence as soon as possible. There's a little wiggle-room in y.a., but we still don't want to spend too much time focusing on Clarissa's parents or her infancy— we want to experience the story through her eyes as a teenager.