Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #24

TITLE: Perfect Enemies
GENRE: YA Mystery

Attending Hollywood Arts Academy was like living a movie version of high school. We had an elegant mission-style building (the set), gorgeous sons and daughters of movie stars and industry honchos (co-stars), and the potent buzz of seeking a showbiz career (the story). As a new senior, I’m the outsider, the star of a fish-out-of-water tale. But a happy fish.

Friday afternoon, I slid into a seat in Screenwriting 101 just as Mr. Morton said, “Today we’re going to work on ‘save the cat’ scenes.” His raised eyebrow let me know he noticed my late entrance.

I gave him an “I’m sorry” face in response. I loved this class and Mr. Morton, a former screenwriter who was also my advisor.

“Can anyone tell me what a save the cat scene is?” he asked. “Ivy?”

“Um. I’m not sure.” Crap. I knew I should have clicked that link he’d sent in an email last night. I reached into my bag for a notebook and pen, hoping today’s discussion would help me outline my cold case documentary on 1930s film star Alma Arden.

That project could launch me as a filmmaker. Right now it was kicking my butt. Despite what people think, writing a script is not easy. There are visuals, sound, and production to consider, so it’s not simply a matter of typing the perfect words on properly margined paper. Pathetically, my output so far was, “FADE IN.” Worse, a full synopsis was due in two weeks, a situation pushing me to the edge of panic.


  1. I like the premise. But that first paragraph loses me a little. I'd build with the here and now scenario rather than introduce with back story.

  2. I liked the tone and think the premise of Ivy investigating a cold case of a 1930s film star is wonderful. I have one picky point -- the opening paragraph gives us the voice and setting, but Ivy's description of herself as 'a happy fish' doesn't seem to mesh with the closing line about the looming project 'pushing me to the edge of panic.' Perhaps a minor tweak like 'But a happy fish -- usually.' ?

    To continue the fish metaphor, you've got me hooked and I want to know what happens next.

  3. I'm not sure I'm hooked -- the stakes don't seem to be high enough. What's the worst thing that can happen - the MC doesn't finish her assignment? And it seems a bit naive that the MC thinks her project (which right now seems to have one line -- "FADE IN") could launch her as a filmmaker.

  4. I liked the middle but the first and last paragraphs didn't work for me. In the first paragraph it seems like the only important information is that the MC is a new senior and an outsider. I think you could work this in with more finesse elsewhere. The last paragraph felt like a bit of an info-dump. I think your premise is fun and interesting.

  5. It seems there's a bunch of exposition here and I agree that I like the interaction part and I like the FADE IN reference. But I'm not feeling the school as much as I'm being informed about it. I think if the narrator were to dig in a bit deeper or we saw the narrator come in and be happy but feel out-of-water this would be helpful for me identifying with them a bit more.

    I like the overall premise so far and that it's going to be a mystery.

  6. I agree about that opening parg. You're telling us what you think we need to know before the story starts. You could cut it all and show her as an outsider. You could show her being happy. Although it does seem odd that she'd be happy there if she felt like an outsider.

    You could also cut the "Despite what people think' bit, since it amounts to the same thing. The rest of it, where you stick to story, works, I think, but I'd like more of a hint of where it's going. Fitting in? Completing that project? Being recognized as a filmmaker? Something else?

  7. One thing I'd love to know is how the mc got into the school - not cuz she's related to movie stars, right? Did she get a scholarship? Is she accepted? Well, that's where my brain went. Otherwise I was intrigued and would read on.
    Good luck.

  8. A Hollywood academy seems like a fun backdrop for a mystery, but I'm afraid I'm not really connecting with the voice here.

    I'm not sure the opening paragraph is working. Firstly, it's a big general statement. A provocative moment or detail is more likely to pull in a reader. I also wasn't sure in what way the Academy was like a movie version of high school, based on the description. If anything, it seems quite unlike a "movie version" of high school -which I'd imagine would be a generic, small-town jocks vs geeks kind of place, rather than the swanky, sophisticated L.A. academy described. (Also, a small point, but I'm not sure people generally think writing a script is easy- maybe rework that line?)