Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January Secret Agent #19

TITLE: A Fool's Errand
GENRE: YA/Fantasy

The shadow of night had not yet crept away when five year old Dara Douglas woke.

“Mommy,” she called. The glow of the tiny carousel lamp was not enough to penetrate the dark corners of her room and she hugged Mr. Gruffy closer to her.

When no one came she pulled back the covers and climbed out of bed. Her thin cotton nightie with the image of Josie and the Pussy Cats had become cracked and peeled, the result of one too many washings and offered little warmth against the chill of early April in New England. Little feet met cold floor causing her to shiver. She slid into her mules, a funny name for pink fuzzy slippers, and headed into the hall relishing the scuffing sound they made on the hardwood floor. Passing the bathroom she stopped just outside her parents’ room. Mr. Gruffy hung from one small hand, the other gripped the knob. The door was partway open and she stepped inside the room.

“Where’s Mommy?” Dara asked rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

Her big brother Dash sat alone on their parents’ bed.

“She had to go out for a while.”



“When’s she coming back?”

Dash looked away for a moment then pressed his hands to his forehead.

Just like Daddy does when he gets a headache or when Mommy asks if he remembered to pay Mr. Martinelli the rent. Or like when the angry man came to the house last week.

“Well?” she shrugged.


  1. I'm guessing this is a prologue? Since it's YA but starts with the POV of a girl who is five? I like the description of her brother's behavior. It shows immediately that something is really wrong.

    It would be a good idea to check on grammar - I think you need some commas and hyphens. About the sentence "her thin cotton nightie...cracked and peeled" - I think you mean the printed image is cracked, right? But it reads to me like it is the nightie itself. Good luck with this!

    1. Thank you for the feedback. I have to admit, I struggled with that particular sentence. I was thinking of those old nightgowns that got all "pillie" with the plastic images of cartoon characters. Not exactly iron transfers. IDK what you call them. Lol.

  2. I think it would be nice to establish who Mr. Gruffy is. I believe it's a stuffed animal or something, but my mind questioned for a moment if it was a person, or a blanket, or something else.

    The part in italics (the punch line that we know something is really not ok with Mommy), reads clunky to me. I think it's because of the first sentence. The first half mentions her dad when he has a headache, but then refers to him again when her mom asks something of him. I don't know if the second part is necessary, or the first part.

    Of course, as I write this, I think that the second half of that statement might lead to the "angry man". Maybe break up each point so it's three sentences?


  3. This has an eerie feel to it in the beginning. The night crawling back, away from the little girl is effective. And then, her finding her brother in her parent’s bed heightens the tension.

    Is this a prologue? The voice is childlike and the focus on Mr. Gruffy would make this seem like a story for a younger reader.

    If I could offer one suggestion: Can you break this sentence up somehow?

    “Her thin cotton nightie with the image of Josie and the Pussy Cats had become cracked and peeled, the result of one too many washings and offered little warmth against the chill of early April in New England.”

    I hope this helps! All the best.

  4. I agree that this sounds like a prologue and that the nightie sentence needs to be changed up. If it's not a prologue then I'd somehow indicate if this is a flashback because it seems to be one. I do like the feel of it and your descriptions are visual. Good luck!

  5. Thank you all so much for the great feedback. It is truly helpful. This a prologue.

  6. Intriguing start! I like Dara's point of view and the way she connects her brother's headache with her parents' behavior, so we get some backstory more organically. I agree about the long nightie sentence. I agree, too, that you might hint at Mr. Gruffy's identity--(she held him by his long bunny ears, etc.). I don't know if you need the reference to "mules" either, or if you can stick with "fuzzy pink slippers." I like the imagery and the way you're setting us up for bad news.

  7. This feels like a prologue, and because of that I’m not sure if this is back-story we need or not. It’s also not as grabbing as it could be, since the pacing feels a bit slow, particularly in the second paragraph. The part in italics showing us what Dara is thinking seemed a bit disjointed. For YA, I’m not sure that opening from the POV of five-year-old Dara is something we need. Dara (if she is the MC) could perhaps later on think back to the fear/chill she felt when her brother told her that her parents were gone, if this prologue event greatly impacted her life.

  8. A really good start, since it made me want to read on. The imagery of Dara in this big dark house is very well portrayed and the tension you introduce when she reaches her parent's bedroom makes me want to continue reading. I particularly like the fact that you use other senses than Dara's sight (her slippers scuffing on the hardwood floor, for instance).
    I agree that the sentence that begins with "Her thin cotton..." feels too long.
    Good luck :)