Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #37

TITLE: Fractured Spirit
GENRE: YA Romantic

From my hiding place, at the back of the church, I watched as people dressed in their Sunday best, filtered in. Soon the only seats left were those reserved for immediate family. There were so many flowers that someone had cleared a path to the altar.

Two hundred people speaking in hushed tones filled the air with a steady hum. When it suddenly got quiet, I looked to my left and found Father Andrew standing only a few feet away. It was time. I got in line next to my mom. She took my hand and squeezed. I tried to smile but it came out like a grimace. With my free hand, I brushed at my new dress for imaginary lint so no one could see my hands tremble. On cue we walked down the center aisle, me with my head slightly bent so as not to make eye contact with anyone.

At the front of the church, we slid into the pew and waited. Despite, my best efforts I could not avoid looking at the rectangular box that held what was left of my dad. Over the next hour, I tried to take comfort from the many kind words and prayers but it was no use.

My mom, sat to my left. Her eyes glued to the coffin while her hands destroyed one tissue after another. I looked to my right and pretended not to see the tears in my cousin, Justin’s eyes. Next to him, his sister, Jenna, cried openly.


  1. I noticed too many commas in your opening line. Be careful to have your ms read by someone who can correct those mistakes.

    I thought the opening her seemed backwards. At first, I couldn't tell what kind of ceremony this was. A wedding? A funeral? Easter?

    I think you could start the story where she says she looks at the box that had what remains of her dad. That would be very compelling. Then do all the description of the church. just my opinion.

  2. Funeral openings are hard (I know; I've tried them myself!) -- I think you're going to have to do a bit more to put your character and conflict really on display here. I'm not getting much about the main character other than that he or she isn't feeling comforted by the funeral. But I don't think that's a terribly atypical response. Is there another character trait you could inject here, or a larger thematic question from the rest of the story that you could begin to hint at? I'm trying to grab on to something to pull me in as a reader, and I'm not finding much so far. It's a well-written excerpt, and I like details such as the mom destroying one tissue after another, but I think to really hook an agent or other reader, you're going to have to do some more digging.

    Good luck!!

  3. I agree with the two comments above. I think it's well-written, with a few unnecessary words here and there. (i.e. the sentence "me with my head slightly bent..." I would simply say " aisle, I bent/tilted my head so as not to make eye contact with anyone."

    I also like the sentence about her mother tearing the tissues. It gives a little insight to her stress. More of that would help your reader understand why your main character felt the way she does.

  4. Just agreeing with the first comment, there are too many unneeded commas in the opening sentence. That said, I didn't get that they were at a funeral from the opening paragraph. When I found out, I was surprised. It didn't have that funeral feel at first. But once I knew what was going on, I thought the rest of the paragraphs were well done. I really loved the line about "the rectangular box that held what was left of my dad." It sounds like some crazy accident! But then the genre is YA Romantic. I think I get what you're going for, but funeral openings are hard because we just met this girl so it's hard to care about everything she cares about.

    You mention a lot of people in this first page, and I thought you handled that well.

  5. I feel really bad for the main character. Her detachment from the proceedings sound natural and also very telling of her grief. At the same time, it's a tough opening to pull off because it isn't doing her character or voice justice.

    Some of the details are very strong--the hum of voices, her mother tearing the tissues.

    Good luck!

  6. The first aspect that struck me was the overuse of commas in the opening line. It'd read much better for me if you just punctuated it differently. For instance:

    "From my hiding place at the back of the church, I watched as people filtered in."

    You could also mention it was her father's funeral right at the opening line. It'd have pulled me in instantly. Otherwise, you've done a fine job capturing the moment -- particularly with the mother shredding the tissues.

  7. I didn't mind not knowing straight away what she was doing in the church. It built up a bit of tension and intrigue for me, wondering what she was doing there.

    I liked the way you built up the scene and the fact that there were a lot of people there so that tells you a bit about her father.

    I felt like you showed me the hesitancy your character would feel and the feeling of being overwhelmed by the occasion.

    I know you were probably restricted by only being able to submit 250 words, but I would have liked to see the kind words and who said them and her response - this would have shown me more of your character. It could also be an opportunity to foreshadow more about relationships and what the reader might be able to expect in the pages ahead.

    I loved the image of the mother shredding tissues.

    I would read more.

  8. I think this excerpt does a great job of putting us in place. I loved the "steady hum" of voices.

    I would like just a little more sense of the protagonist's character here (other than her obvious grief).

    Also, the commas were a little distracting to me. You don't need one after "hiding place" or "Sunday best" (par. 1), or after "Despite" (par. 3), or "My mom" (par. 4). When I teach comma rules to my students, sometimes I find it helpful to emphasize that you don't want to separate a subject and verb with a comma ("My mom sat").

  9. Being a minister's wife who set one of my novels in a church, I am caught by the opening. I would, however, break up that first line a bit. Something like, "From my hiding place at the back of the church, I watched people filter in." Because they're at church, I already picture them dressed up.

    No comma after despite in the 3rd paragraph. Or after My mom in the 4th paragraph. Then, either a comma after "my left" or have the next sentence begin, "Her eyes were glued…"

    I gather we're at her dad's funeral. The emotion is there. It just needs some tightening.

  10. I’m touched by this opening; obviously, this is a painful moment for this character and her family. I wonder though, if this is the best place to begin your story – I don’t know the character yet, don’t even know if it a boy or a girl (though I think it’s a girl), so I’m not connected to anyone here yet. I think this scene could be even more powerful if it comes later and we can feel more strongly for these characters. I was alos distracted by the commas etc, as other posters have commented.