Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #5


Death. It’s been a theme in my life. At this point, though, I don’t realize it’s going to be a continuous one. Standing in a well-lit hallway at a DoDDS (Department of Defense Dependents) school, waiting for class to begin, it’s the furthest thing from my mind. I’m just waiting.

Fellow students hustle by. A trail of sweat lingers in the air behind a group of guys who obviously didn't feel the need for hygiene after gym class. Soon there’s just the usual slackers bringing up the rear and my crowd searching is coming to an end.

“Dude, Christian, she’s not going to show and Mr. Punitive Damages is going to pound you if you’re late again.”
“She’ll come.” I don’t even know this guy. He doesn’t know what’s at stake here. Why does he care if I wait? Okay, so he’s the best friend I have. Even though you can’t really get too close to people at DoDDS or any DDESS school as a military brat. As soon as you do, they leave. Or you leave. It kinda bites.

She doesn’t ever show, btw. I clutch my copy of DRUIDS AND PHILOSOPHERS, bend the soft binding in irritation, slam my locker door shut and head for class. The only thing that gets me through school these days is to sneak a peek at its pages. I’m not normally a history buff, but there’s something about learning how Druids conducted mortal sacrifices that makes my life seem less suckier.


  1. Great YA voice! I love the mention of Druids and Philosophers. Well-written, too. The second paragraph does a great job of describing the atmosphere of the moment.

    Tiny nit pick: Doesn't the S in DoDDS mean school, so it should read DoDDS (Department of Defense Dependents School)?

    "Dude, Christian" kinda stopped me. Why would he say both?

    Instead of "I don’t even know this guy" you might say "I don’t really know this guy." Because he does know him. Or maybe even: This guy doesn't really know me.

    And consider deleting "Why does he care if I wait?" just to tighten that paragraph.

    Nice job!

  2. I am intrigued by the school and tying the story back to death. There were a few things I found confusing though.

    I didn't realize this was a guy. I guess I automatically put myself into the character until informed otherwise, but nothing in here indicates gender.

    "At this point, though, I don’t realize it’s going to be a continuous one." I found it strange to be in the present tense but already know what is coming. Usually stories are told in the past tense if there is foreshadow.

    The whole "Dude, Christian" thing threw me off too. Firstly because I thought this was a girl and couldn't figure out who Christian was and why this guy would be calling a girl a dude.

    "I don't even know this guy" and "he's the best friend I have" confused me. Is this the same person he's talking about. Didn't make sense to me.

    Who is she? Why does he want her to appear? If this other guy knows who he is looking for, he must know him somewhat. There are no names, so I am not yet attached to the non-friend friend or the girl. Perhaps giving us a little more info will help clarify things.
    The story is well written and has a good voice. Good luck!

  3. I thought this was good. I'd like to read more and enjoyed the introduction of Death right off the bat, the strange school, no one having close friends. Good luck.
    Only thought was maybe trail of sweat lingering in the air isn't the most accurate description for this scene.

  4. Interesting opener that definitely sets the mood well. A few thoughts:

    The opening couple lines threw me a bit. In the third sentence, it seems like he's reflecting on the past yet he's describing everything in the present tense, so confused me a bit.

    In the first mention of DoDDS, I'd just list the name without the parentheses. It feels telly in the parentheses and we'll understand that DoDDS is referring to that later, since you mention it soon thereafter.

    I don't know if sweat can really linger in the air? Perhaps focus more on the grotesque body odor?

    "Dude, Christian" also threw me. A friend would say just one or the other, and probably "Dude." "I don't even know this guy" also threw me, since after that we learn they're friends.

    I feel like you segue from waiting for what I take is a romantic interest to the book a little too quickly. I would've liked to be more grounded in who this person is he's waiting for. It seems to be the main point of tension in this intro so far, so I'd personally like to know a bit more about her first and why he's waiting for her.

    Other than that, I think you've done a good job of laying the groundwork of the school and the MC's outlook on his life.

  5. Christian’s book on Druids and Philosophers, and what it could lead to, is what I found interesting. Up until that point, I was mostly confused.

    It’s told in present tense and right away, Christian talks as if he already knows the outcome (At this point, though, I don’t realize . . . .) If it’s present tense, how could he realize anything about something that hasn’t yet happened? Perhaps cut that. And then he says he doesn't even know his best friend. The changing schools doesn’t do it for me, in explaining why he doesn't know his best friend. He’s not just a friend (in which case I might believe it) but Christian calls him a ‘best’ friend, and that makes me think he should know him.

    And last, he’s talking directly to me. If your character is writing a memoir, or writing in a diary of journal, or all these events have already taken place and now he’s telling me about them in past tense, then he can talk to me. But if he’s telling the story as it happens, then he can’t talk to me. The character exists inside his story and the reader doesn’t.

  6. The last paragraph caught my attention, but up until then I was mostly confused. I think a stonger opening would be to start with the second line in the last paragraph.

  7. I agree with Marilyn; I'm confused. The opening sentences don't really make sense to me - death can't really be a theme, grammatically speaking, and then the tense in the third sentence is odd.

    I'm not sure you need to specify that the hallway is well-lit. And I agree with other commenters that "Dude, Christian" is awkward. Then he says "I don't even know this guy", quickly followed by "Okay, so he's the best friend I have". Confusing.

    I really didn't like the use of 'btw' in an ms, but others may disagree with me on that one.

  8. Your protagonist has a great voice, but I agree with the previous posters who said they were confused. It feels a little info-dumpy with the acronyms and how the protagonist's mind seems to jump around a lot.

    The other thing I wanted to note was that, even though the genre listed is SCI/FAN, there isn't anything in this beginning to indicate that it's anything but contemporary. That was my impression, anyway.

    This is a good start and it has a lot of potential, but you may want to tweak it a bit. Clear up some of the confusion and give it a sense of the supernatural/paranormal/sci-fi or whatever that sets in into that genre.

    Good luck!

  9. The voice seemed fun and intriguing but the explanation and internal thought was too heavy for the start of a story for me. I was confused when Christian was mentioned and wondered if you could use that dialogue to clear up who he is waiting for and how he interacts with pseudo friends. Some of the wording was catchy and the book mentioned was a good hook. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I already like the MC and his dry sense of humour really comes through in the opening.

    "Trail of sweat…" also doesn't work for me as an image, but I love the rest of the sentence.

    "I don’t even know this guy. He doesn’t know what’s at stake here. Why does he care if I wait? Okay, so he’s the best friend I have. Even though you can’t really get too close to people at DoDDS or any DDESS school as a military brat. As soon as you do, they leave. Or you leave. It kinda bites." - This strikes me as a bit too much 'telling'. I wonder if we need all of this in the third paragraph.

    Love the reference to Druids and Philosophers! It makes me wonder what's coming next.

  11. I like the slightly sarcastic, authentic voice and the imagery you've created in this scene. In particular, I loved "a trail of sweat lingers in the air". This line brought me right back to high school and breathed life into the scenery. Nice work!

    I do think you need to work on the tension in this scene however. Nothing happens in this opening, but it seems that you tried to resolve this by building tension with the promise of some sort of death in the near future. Personally, I'm not a fan of being told what's going to happen before it happens (she will eventually realize that death is a continuous theme in her life, but not right now -- and right now, she's not thinking about it at all, actually) -- imo, it's an obvious device that kills the tension and disrupts the narrative flow because it has me wanting to skip ahead to where the story actually starts. So, the first paragraph made it difficult for me to connect to the story right off the bat. Also, since fourth sentence in the first paragraph negates the first three (an idea is presented, but the reader is then told it's not on the MC's mind), I found it difficult to feel grounded in the present or to care about the present since I knew it was just a lead into the "death scene" -- I hope that makes sense.

    Anyways, you obviously can write, and you've got the most difficult part -- voice -- down, so with a little revision (I suggest starting with the death scene) I'm sure this opening will really pop!

    Best of luck with your story :)

  12. Nice voice here and an interesting world.

    I agree with another comment to spell out the abbreviation first, then put the abbrev. after it, or just use the abbrev later when it's necessary and readers can connect it. (Same with business writing, you spell out any abbreviations first.)

    The line about death has a lot of potential. I think this can be maximized by one more line or two that expands on death as a theme. You can have fun with it by using a alliteration or repeating phrases or focusing on key words.

    >Death. It’s been a theme in my life. A theme that ... [in your own words show something that relates to the theme of your book in your character's voice].

    The line about not realizing doesn't quite work here since it implies the story is being told from the future looking back, and this is told in present tense. Someone else brought this up. Usually just taking out any "and then the craziest thing happened" type lines is a good move.

    Perhaps starting your scene with something a little more active than standing around and watching students might be more engaging, and will give opportunities to show the stuff being explained. What is the first choice the character makes--even if it's really small? That can often be a good starting point.

  13. I like the voice here, and if I was 90% won-over at first, the last line took me over the edge. I like this kid, and I"d be interested to read on (though I'm typically wary of deeply-sarcastic and morose narrators).

    I'll reiterate some of the above comments. The present tense "don't realize" in the first 'graph is a bit confusing, as is the "I don't even know this guy." I recognize "friendship" means something different at DoDDS, but I'm not getting a clear picture of their actual relationship. Are they friends or not? I agree that you can leave DoDDS an undefined acronym to begin with, and that "Dude, Christian" reads a bit funny- maybe go with one or the other?