Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #33

GENRE: YA Thriller

The sun snuck above the horizon like it knew I hated it and threw orange light through the window and across our bathroom mirror. For that second, the light blinded me. I shifted until I could see again, adding the finishing touches of eye shadow to my left eye.

But my mind wasn't on the makeup; I struggled to remember the fifth equation I'd need for my physics test that day. It had something to do with intertia or potential energy or something. I could picture part of it, but not all.

Dropping my eye shadow, I reached for the space between sinks and grabbed at my sister's makeup. My fingers latched onto mascara, which would work just as well as lipstick.

"Are you borrowing my mascara?" Jenna snapped her compact closed and glared at me out of the corner of her eye. She checked herself in the mirror, fluffed her blonde hair, and reached back into her half-empty makeup bag. Her phone shrieked.

I looked away, back to my side of the mirror, unscrewing the mascara cap as I bit my lip.

"We need to go, like now." Jenna waved her phone in my face. "April says something's going on."

Because whatever April wanted was so important. I fought the urge to smack the phone out of Jenna's hand. "You wanna give me a few seconds?"

"You wanna wear makeup?" She matched my sarcasm.

"I am wearing makeup."

"Not enough. Like anyone can tell you've got that pale pink eye shadow on."


  1. I like the tension between the sisters, and I love the line about the sun. Good dialogue too. My only concern is that there's not really anything important happening in this scene. I'd like to see more action.

  2. I don't feel like I know the characters except as bickering siblings.
    The voice of the piece comes across as appropriate for YA.
    Not sure if this is the right place for the story to start.

  3. I like the voice of the MC, but I thought the opening paragraph was tired (sun, squinting, etc.) even though there was nice wordsmithing. How about some action related to the major or minor plot line? Good luck on your MS.

  4. The title is great and sounds fitting for a thriller. While I get that you don't want the threat or the killer on page 1, this first page doesn't have a suspense or thriller feel to me. Even a teeny, tiny hint of foreshadowing with mood and tone can set up your genre right away.

    I see where you are going with the first line, though streamlining will make it pop. A few times the physical movements felt intrusive; the dropping of the eye shadow and then the reach and then the grab and then the fingers latch. Those two lines could be reduced to: I grabbed my sister's mascara. We don't need to know all the other parts, even if they happened; we can fill in that visual based on the action you show.

    I would suggest to hint at your theme, and bring forward anything pertinent about the relationship btwn MC and sister and show that here. Again, not a killer or whatever on page 1, but what is it about this day that is different than any other, worthy enough to begin a story?

  5. Maybe I wouldn't have noticed this otherwise, but I just happened to read all the entries for the last 3 secret agent contests over the course of a few days, and there were many, many entries that began with a mention of the sun. In fact, I think this is the fourth entry in THIS contest (reading from #50 backward) to do so. I don't know if that's problematic or not, but it makes me want to avoid it in my own writing.

    Two sisters bickering while getting ready to go out doesn't feel very original. However, I have that feeling about a lot of YA that has become enormously popular, so maybe that doesn't matter either.

    This line confused me: "Like anyone can tell you've got that pale pink eye shadow on." If she can see it on her sister, SHE can tell, right? Or does the narrator have it in her hand?

    I also have a sense that this relationship between the sisters is not the central conflict of the story, so it makes me wonder if you've started in the right spot.

    All that said, there's evidence of skill here.

  6. Love a YA thriller. And the tension begins immediately, that's great. I did want you to actually start this with the sentence, "For that second the light blinded me." Then go on to the sun's orange light ....

    I was also confused when she reached for mascara and thought it would work as well as lipstick. Was she going to put lipstick on her lips? Because the reader never sees her complete this task, I'm not sure if that's what you wanted me to believe or not. It really says something if the protagonist uses mascara as lipstick....

    I didn't understand what that last sentence meant, but, I must admit I was still incorporating the mascara and so I wasn't sure what you were going for.

  7. Two unpleasant, bickering sisters putting on makeup at the mirror. This is not very inviting. Nothing's happening. There's too much exposition about reaching, grabbing, clutching, whatever. I really want something to HAPPEN. Either interest me in the setting, the characters, the plot. I have a feeling that this story hasn't quite started yet. This might be a bunch of throat clearing before the story starts.

  8. There is a conflict going on between the sisters, but you forget to mention what it is, which makes the opening hanging there. The MCs do not grab me because they seem to hate each other without any reason. Give me a good reason for them to yell at each other. In brief you need a clear purpose for this scene and at least one of the characters to be nicer. I do love your title and I'm very intrigued.

  9. I liked the opening lines, but they don't feel like they fit with what follows. For one thing, these don't sound like girls that would be up with the sun. I'm also looking for some indication of what the book is about -- something to spark my interest.

  10. I like the writing here. The only trouble is that I haven't yet been able to care about the characters, learn about the plot or problem, or much of anything yet. It feels like I switched to a soap in the middle of a scene. Could you find another place for this scene or drop hints at the problem somewhere in the first page?

  11. I was wondering if she was going to write a physics equation on the mirror to try and remember it. It was because she said it would work just as well as lipstick and she was trying to remember something in physics. That would be a fun twist for me--or did I just introduce a totally wrong slant to the scene?