Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #12

GENRE: YA Contemporary

Three months ago I watched a stranger die, so I know what death looks like. In fact, I remember what it sounds like, what it feels like, too. That's how I know that the disheveled guy sprawled across the back aisle of Greenbrook’s Gas Mart is, most certainly, not dead.

There's no blood on his clothes, just a film of dirty paint spackle on his jeans and a yellowing stain on the back of his crinkled white T-shirt. He reeks of stale beer and sweat. Nothing like the smell of singed rubber or sunbaked asphalt that tends to rise up in my nightmares of the accident.

“Dude, you okay?” I nudge the side of his shoulder with my foot. One of his hands stutters in response, fat-knuckled and callused. It triggers the memory of a certain twelve-year-old’s tiny fingers twitching in the fading afternoon light, and I have to look away.

I thought the hardest thing about tonight was going to be sneaking past my older sister, Cecelia, as she studied in the kitchen for her latest nursing exam. Little did I know it would be a random drunk guy passed out at a mini-mart that would get my nerves twitching with guilt. I don’t have time to mess with “adults” who can’t handle their booze when I’ve got places to be.

I step over him and slide his right leg out of the way so I can open the freezer door. Instantly, I’m greeted with the grounding crispness of artificially cooled air.


  1. Great opening paragraph--I was instantly hooked (and loved the voice). Your descriptions are strong and I loved that you give us backstory in a way that's relevant to what's happening now--I know an accident happened and that your MC feels guilty, but that doesn't overwhelm the current action. Great job weaving that in.

    What's the MC's gender? I didn't get a feel either way and I think that would have helped because the way I picture someone thinking things and stepping over a drunk guy varies whether it's guy or girl. I assume that's coming but it might be a good idea to introduce that somewhere sooner. Just a thought.

    Great job here!

  2. I like the way this opens. We get a brief glimpse into the MC’s past, but it’s enough that we understand what happened has barring on him/her now. Just a few tightening things here and there and this is great.

    First paragraph, last sentence, you can nix the first that. “That’s how I know THE disheveled guy…”

    The last sentence in the second paragraph, which I get it’s connection to the first paragraph, it seems out of place here. Rubber and asphalt wouldn’t smell like beer and sweat in any case, so there’s no real comparison to make—scent wise—where the phrase “nothing like” is applicable. It threw me a little.

    You don’t have to indicate the side of his shoulder, just say his shoulder and it’ll suffice. The sentence “Little did I…” could be cut here and there to tighten. “Little did I know a drunk guy passed out at the mini-mark would be what gets my nerves twitching with guilt.”

    The last line of that paragraph, I think the emphasis would be stronger if you put “I’ve got places to be” on a separate line.

    “I don’t have time…….their booze.

    I’ve got places to be.”

    Good stuff. Good luck!

  3. Yes! I would definitely keep reading this.

    I like the voice and the smattering of details about the narrator life and background. A few sentences could use some tightening up, but honestly, that's not enough to stop me reading.

    Is it okay if I put this on my TBR list right now?

  4. Really nice voice here. This is totally personal preference, but I think your first line could cut in half to Three months ago I watched a stranger die. That has impact, where the rest of the sentences deflates. Depending on the tone you set, I think you should go deeper on how she knows what death looks and feels like. You could replace that line with something like: When you see someone die, you [sensory detail] and [more sensory detail]. Have your character tell us those things in her voice--again with keeping to the tone you want to set for your book.

    I like the detail about sneaking past the older sister and all that you show and set up. It's a really nice way to show an active scene with something happening, and context. The freezer description is great too.

  5. I liked this. I have a clear sense of the mc, some darkness about his/her past, and a clear sense of the setting. The only part to trip me up was when you said the mc knows what it feels like to die. Did this mc have a near-death event in the accident? I would like to have maybe just one hint (just a few words) to indicate that. otherwise, i'm thinking zombie story, and I don't think that's what you're going for.

    As it is, very well done and I would read more.

  6. The first two parg's read like your MC is explaining the situation to me, and technically, I don't exist in your character's world. He or she doesn't know there's a reader out there and shouldn't be talking to us. Perhaps rewrite these parg's so that we see the MC arriving on the scene and seeing and reacting to the drunk, perhaps having a quick flashback to the accident, and then coming to the conclusion that the guy is passed out rather than dead.

    I had imagined that the MC was a girl, but when he/she said "Dude," I then assumed the MC was a boy. In the end, I don't know who the MC is, and I probably should know that.

    Also in parg 3, you might rephrase the 2nd sentence to - One of his hands, fat-knuckled and calloused, stutters in response. And then - It triggers the memory of ----- Instead of the vague telling, create a specific image. Tell us what 12 year old he/she is talking about. Even show us a bit of the incident that's being referenced.

    Parg 4, you're again explaining to the reader. Instead, write what she would think if she was there in that situation, and write it the way she would think it to herself, not explain it to another person. We want to be in her shoes as the story happens. As is, it reads like the events have already happened and she's sitting across a table from us and telling us about it. Put us there. The same for the last parg.

    I step over him and slide his right leg out of the way so I can open the freezer door. Instantly, I’m greeted with the grounding crispness of artificially cooled air.

    The above is telling us what happened. Below is showing. The events are actually happening.

    I step over him, slide his right leg out of the way, and open the freezer door. Crisp, artificially cooled air rushes out at me.

  7. I was distracted by a couple things here: why is the smell of singed rubber and asphalt inside? (I thought she as outside until we get to the end). How does she know what death feels like, without being dead herself? This initially suggested to me that this was paranormal. I understand that this character is pushing her feelings down in this scene, because she doesn’t want to think about this other death, but she did feel a bit callous to me, which made it somewhat harder for me to start caring about her. If there a way to tweak this, so that she’s more likable?