Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #7

TITLE: The Chat Room
GENRE: YA Suspense

Five years ago nobody thought I'd live to see my seventeenth birthday. But here I am, eating large doses of chocolate cake, and unless you know where to look, you can't even see my scars.

Even more of a miracle, I've convinced my over protective policeman dad to let me have a party. I had extra leverage this year. It's my parents' twentieth wedding anniversary today, so Mom demanded a celebration of her own and talked Dad into taking her out for dinner.

I shove the last chocolate crumbs into my mouth, and place my empty plate next to the silver tray with the knife that Mom used to cut the giant cake slabs
My sister, Lia's plate is empty too. "I'll load them into the dishwasher." She leans across to take my plate and accidentally bumps the knife so it clatters off the silver tray, straight onto my bare foot with the drying nail polish.

"S***!" Blood is seeping out.

Lia's eyes widen. "I'm so sorry. I'm such a klutz."

Dad bends to look. "It doesn't seem that deep."

Mom comes back with disinfectant and a pressure bandage.

Lia crouches next to me. "Oh Mindy, I've ruined your birthday."

I put my arm around her. "No, you haven't. You'll hardly even see the bandage once I put my shoes on."

"But it must hurt."

"Don't worry. I've had worse."

Everyone goes quiet. I guess like me, they're remembering back to the accident, to the time I almost lost my life.


  1. The opening line is great -- it really gets my attention!

    I also like the hints at her dad being pathologically overprotective (her mom only gets to go out to dinner on their 20th anniversary?), setting up conflict. And of course I'm intrigued to know about the accident (if that's all it was).

    The bit about the knife dropping on her foot threw me off a bit -- with the emphasis on it, for a moment I thought she must be a hemopheliac or something like that, where even a small cut could be a big problem, or if this had supernatural elements and she had some kind of curse, and that was why her dad was so overprotective. Now I'm wondering if it's just a setup for a flashback, in which case you might want to skip it?

    If a flashback comes right after this, you might want to consider moving it a little later -- it seems a bit early for a flashback.

    Good job setting up an unusual situation (the highly over-restrictive dad) right from the start to get our curiosity!

  2. Loved the first paragraph. You gave us backstory in one sentence. Nice and neat.

    I was a little confused with timing in this scene. The mention of mom talking dad into a night out made me think they were already gone and your MC was at her party, but then she's in the kitchen and they're still there.

    The dialogue section fell flat for me, I think because it lacked any internalization of your MC. Does she cringe when she let's a curse word slip in front of her parents and little sister? Does she feel bad that her sister feels guilty? I think sprinkling in her thoughts throughout that exchange would liven that up a bit.

    So far I don't know anything about your MC other than it's her birthday, she was in an accident years ago, and who her family is. I would love to have gotten a stronger sense of her personality. I think that's easily fixed if you go back and sprinkle some of her thoughts and personality through this.

    Loved the "I've had worse" comment. Obviously the accident affected not just her but her entire family. Nice start with this!

  3. I have questions. The kind that would make me keep reading. I feel like something terrible is going to happen. I wonder about this accident. The MC doesn't seem very happy, so I'm thinking she's kind of suicidal. Could just be me, but it might help if we could get a better sense of who she is. Right now she seems miserable.

  4. I second what Amanda said. I was confused about what was going on, First I thought it was a party with everyone. Then I thought it was a party with friends but no family. Then it seemed to be a party for just family.

    That said, I liked the opening, it tells us everything we need to know in two sentences and sets up the rest of the story.

  5. The opening line is strong. I think the follow up could expand on that, with what people though would happen to her by now, just a peek at her ailment/issue. Then the "But here I am," to me, would have more impact.

    The line "I shove the last..." is a bit wordy. Do we need to know that much about the knife? I see it falls on her toe but there's a lot of set up for it.

    Lia's dialogue fell flat for me. I'm imagining a real household, with siblings and a little bit of chaos, and I don't hear that line coming out after a girl knocks a knife into her sister. This is a real opportunity to have fun with your characters and show their personalities! If she is very droll and unemotive, I would point that out through her body movements or your MC's narration.

    I just read the quickest way to amp up a scene is to work on the dialogue. I think dynamic, interesting dialogue could really liven this up. Good luck!

  6. The first paragraph is really strong. In that short bit, I'm already interested in your MC.
    The second paragraph is confusing because the tense changes. It seems as if all of these things already happened, not something she is going to look forward to.
    The dialogue falls flat for me. it doesn't feel believable and I think you can fix this by adding some of Mindy's internal voice. Good luck!

  7. I found this jarring in places. I like the opening with the scars, but then I thought she was at her party. And it sounded like mom and dad were out at their dinner. then all of a sudden, mom and dad are there and her party isn't happening yet.

    I think the switches in tense make it seem like things are happening out of order. Maybe try to check tense and keep it the same.

    It also seemed a bit dramatic that everyone would think of when she almost died just because she has a cut on her foot.

  8. The opening paragraph really had me hooked. Good job! The part im suprised at is that she was allowed to have a party when her overprotective father is out of the house. Seems a little odd to me, but i might just be reading it wrong. Also, if it is a party, where are the rest of the people?

    Finally, one thing that would really speed up the action of the story is if you cut down on the dialogue tags. They ruined the suspense of the action for me, but otherwise, this is a really good start! I'm definitely curious as to what happens next.

  9. I was all in for this until I read the last sentence and then, and maybe it's just me, but I felt like this whole book was going to be a flashback of how she almost died that one time?

    Maybe not? Anyway, good luck with your project. I really wanted to know what the hidden scars were/are.

  10. I enjoyed this, and the subtlety of the clues you've given us is impressive. I may be interpreting them wrong but they are there.

    My take on this after reading the first parg was that five years ago something happened to her. In parg 2, you mention the overprotective dad, and I started thinking that perhaps the scars you can't see are emotional. And when you mentioned the knife on the tray, I immediately thought she had tried to commit suicide. I felt certain of it when her sister dropped the knife on the floor. Whether it was attempted suicide or not, it seems the knife had something to do with whatever happened to her. You've got me guessing and questioning, so I would definitely read on.

    Like others, I assumed the parents would not be there for the party. To me, it read as though they would be out to dinner while the party was going on. Perhaps cut that bit.

    The dialogue didn't work for me. It fell flat when compared to the opening pargs.

    And in the last sentence, you might rephrase it so it says -
    I guess like me, they're remembering five years ago, back to the time I --- say what it actually was, instead of using the vague 'almost lost my life.'

    If you keep it vague, we wonder what happened, but that's it. If you tell us what really happened, that immediately piques interest, and raises a lot more questions. For instance, if it was attempted suicide, we want to know how she did it, why she did it, what led up to it. It's a legitimate hook, rather than a ruse to keep the reader reading.

  11. I’m distracted by some small things in this opening: she’s convinced her father to let her have a party; is this the party? Why would her father worry about her having cake with her family? Are her parents leaving for their own celebration after they eat cake with her? If the cut on her foot isn’t that significant why does her sister think she’s ruined things?