Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #49

TITLE: The Summer That Saved Me
GENRE: YA Historical

Leaving everything behind that I know and love is the most difficult thing I've ever had to do. It had better be worth it.

I lean forward, elbows pressing into the splintered railing that surrounds the wood plank deck. It creaks and groans as I push on it, like a ghost moaning into the inky black night. The only light comes from the moonlight dancing on the surface of the lake, graceful like a ballerina.

Yawning, I stretch my arms over my head, twisting from side to side, my muscles screaming with every movement. Wincing, I shift my weight until I find a comfortable position.

My favorite Pink Floyd t-shirt is soaked through with sweat from moving the last of my things. I lift it and examine the bruises that dot the right side of my body like someone splattered me with purple paint.

I've never been the type to run away. But this time I had to. If I didn't leave, he might have killed me.

Footsteps clickety clack on the wooden deck. I jump and flip around, searching for the source.

“Will you be ok over here tonight?” My grandmother joins me at the railing.

“Yeah,” I turn back toward the lake and peel a patch of paint off the grey weathered railing, exposing the raw wood underneath. "I think so."

An owl hoots in the distance, the sound bouncing into the trees and darkness. It's going to take me a while to get used to the nighttime noises up here.


  1. I like the situation. Seems like a good place to start--change, conflict, a fresh start. The description feels a bit slow to me--specifically, the similes slow it down. I think the simple groan of the deck and the dancing of the moonlight would be cleaner.

    Love the Pink Floyd t-shirt.

  2. I'm not sure I'm hooked enough to read on. The first few lines are nice, but feel a bit disconnected from the rest. I'm also not a huge fan of the similes - they feel a bit overwritten. And one nit-picky thing about the third paragraph -- having "Yawning, I stretch... then "Wincing, I shift..." felt a bit redundant. The paragraph about running away, however, was intriguing.

  3. The opening line sounds more like a set up than an invitation. I want to be drawn in and this doesn't feel unique enough to me to do that. Although I like the "It had better be worth it" line.

    I also feel like the writing could be tightened. The second paragraph has back-to-back similes. The second could be changed: "The moonlight is a ballerina dancing gracefully across the lake's surface." But I honestly don't think you need both descriptions. Also, if she's moving in, shouldn't there be lights on in the house and on the porch? Also, why would she be staying somewhere alone if she's a teen who just left an abusive relationship? Also, the image of bruises looking like paint doesn't really connect with me. I guess it depends on the injuries, but splatter paint leaves distinct marks and bruises tend to fade and blend at the edges.

    With some work, I think this page could be cleaned up and made much more inviting for a reader.

  4. I love the title and I love the first lines. The historical tag threw me a little because I didn't pick up on any historical setting or language other than the Pink Floyd shirt, though that's a band that kind of transcends time like The Beatles and The Grateful Dead.

    The next few lines that follow read a bit heavy and slow without offering much context. I almost think you can move up This line to right after the beginning: "I've never been the type to run away. But this time I had to. If I didn't leave, he might have killed me."

    Then you could work in a few setting details when grandma walks over. We don't really need all the body movement stuff. The yawning is a great example of showing, but do you need to show that? Does the reader need to know that detail right now? Those first lines indicate big change, but yawning on grandma's porch feels a bit anti-climatic.

  5. I'm curious to see how a Pink Floyd T-shirt is considered "historical".

    Maybe she time-traveled to the future, thus the T-shirt?

    Or maybe I'm just old and get snarky when anything from my life is labeled "historical". :)

  6. I think you have a vivid and evocative style. The only thing I can suggest is ramping up the MC's tension a bit. She (I assume) has been abused and is thinking of running away. That to me requires more angst and upset.

  7. I want to know more about the relationship she left, but I didn't need much of the rest of the setting description. Nice turn of words, but I think we could start somewhere closer to some action and use those beautiful descriptions there.

  8. I usually like descriptive openings, but I felt like I needed a little more tension and motivation. It sounds like the MC is leaving an abusive relationship, so I'd expect more fear or angst about leaving. Is she afraid the abuser will come after her or find her? I wanted to know where she was going, also, and why her grandma is with her. Are they running away together? Is leaving a secret? It doesn't feel secretive.

    And yes, what makes this a historical novel? Pink Floyd makes it seem very contemporary to me.

  9. Also wondering about the "historical" label. Agree that there needs to be more angst and less reflecting on the pretty scenery. Don't feel any anxiety, and that should be paramount if she's running away from an abusive relationship. In fact, I think that paragraph--"I've never been the type to run away"--would make a killer opening.

  10. I agree. More angst and for sure, fear. If she's afraid of being killed, wouldn't she have someone with her, a weapon, even a big dog?
    I agree with the others about the time frame. Maybe put the year up top in the center after chapter 1?

  11. I think the problem with the Led Zeppelin t-shirt is that they're still relevant, so it doesn't denote a historical era as well as something else might. If this is the 60's or early seventies, she could wear that t-shirt with some bell bottom pants.

    I thought parg 5 would make a much better opening parg. than parg 1. It's more relevant. But perhaps replace 'he' with a name.

    THe description is nice, but all it is is description with no relevance to the plot, so you might cut it, or reword it so that it becomes relevant by perhaps comparing or contrasting the dark night sky or lake with her bruises, the reflection of the moon with maybe a reflection back on her life.

    I'd suggest cutting the first parg and the yawning parg totally, and add something about how she feels about all this.

    I'd read more.

  12. I agree with most of the other comments. I love similies but they have to well chosen - and fresh. It sounds like you're more interested in painting a scene than in the mc. Maybe get inside her head a bit? To contrast the scene with what she's feeling? Paragraph 5 is a better intro. And yes, I didn't look up the difference between 'historic' and 'antique' but if the story is set in the '60 or '70's its not quite historic - yet.

  13. Okay, an interesting set up with some interesting tensions: our narrator has run away from someone- a dangerous someone from the sound of it. But I'm not sure I'd be eager to read on, and here's why:

    To me, this opening feels overwritten. Watch out for burdening the narrative with too much description or too many similes. That the wooden deck "groans" gives us enough mood, without "like a ghost moaning into the inky black night," which is too much. Similarly, the moonlight "dancing" is a nice image, evocative enough on its own, without "like a graceful ballerina" to back it up.

    Finally, the fact our narrator jumps when approached from behind tells us she's afraid of something, and grandmother asking "Will you be okay over here tonight?" suggests she's run away. As such, I'm not sure we even need the "I've never been the type to run away" line.

    There's a wonderful, evocative and subtle passage already written here- the trick now is to cut away the extra material you don't need.

  14. I'm sort of on the fence about this one. It's got some nice imagery, but there isn't a whole lot of action. Opening with reflecting on pending action is a little cliche. My suggestion would be to nix some of the imagery and add some action to speed the pace.

  15. This could be an intense scene, but there's not enough happening or enough emotion to grab my interest. I agree that paragraph 5 could be the opener. But if it's to be emotional, I don't think she can actually have brought a lot of stuff to unpack. Consider having her show up on Grandmas' doorstep with a few things grabbed hastily. She could briefly flash back to her panicked escape earlier in the day.

    That railing gets too much attention: splintered railing, joins me at the railing, grey weathered railing

    2nd paragraph could be tightened: I lean on the splintered deck railing and it creaks and groans, like a ghost moaning into the inky night.

    3rd paragraph: sentence structure too similar.

    Tighten: purple bruises that dot my right side, like paint smudges.

    Start with this: I've never been the type to run away from my problems, but if I hadn't, he might have killed me.

    What kind of shoes is grandma wearing at night that clickety clack on a deck? And how big is the deck for them to make a sound for very long? Maybe another sound? The screen or sliding door.

    "searching for the source" I'd rather see a physical reaction: startled at the sound/heart leaped into throat/etc.

    Grandma's tag should come before she speaks, so we know who it is right away.

    Delete "over": Will you be ok here tonight?

    Maybe she could startle at the owl's hoot, too, to show how jumpy she is. Then the last line has even more meaning.