Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January Secret Agent #42

TITLE: Time Irrelevant

My eighteenth birthday was approaching and I anticipated it with equal parts fear and excitement. In just four days I would finally be free. Most people my age see this milestone as a gateway to adulthood, freedom from the constraints of living under their parent’s roof and rules, and in some cases the opportunity to purchase a pack of Marlboros legally. None of these appealed to me. I had no parent’s rules to follow, no bad habits worthy of spending money on, and I considered myself an adult for as long as I could remember.

I am a product of the foster care system. I have been living with the DeLaneys for about three years. They’re not a bad couple, but they aren’t great either. They certainly aren’t parents. Sam is an electrician and the highlight of his life is coming home, reclining in his chair, and popping open a can of Budweiser. Carla doesn’t work. Carla doesn’t really do much of anything except watch Food Network, which is ironic since she never cooks.

There are some foster parents who foster because they love children. The DeLaneys foster because the state gives them money every month to “take care” of us. I am the oldest of four foster kids currently residing here, so naturally I do all the cooking for the younger ones, and help with homework. “Abigail, can you fix the little ones dinner? My back is killing me, and Sam is tired from working all day.”


  1. For me, the best line is this sample is: "Carla doesn’t really do much of anything except watch Food Network, which is ironic since she never cooks." Perhaps start with that. The rest feels very routine. I might be wrong, but this sounds all too familiar in the foster care world. Why is your story unique? Show us it's different. Good luck!

  2. I like the title, and as Lisa mentioned, I really like that line, as well. It would be a great opening sentence!

    You've mixed tenses here. Is the story past or present?

    I have to agree again with Lisa--how is your story unique? What genre of YA is it? Also, where the protagonist is turning 18, it may be better suited for the NA crowd. Obviously I can't be sure based only on this except, but something to consider based on where your story is going.

    There are a lot of details here that may be better moved elsewhere in your story. Why is it important we know what Sam does and her foster care history straightaway? This seems like backstory that could be weaved in later, leaving the first page to get to know Abigail and start to form a connection and story direction.

    Good luck! :)

  3. I agree with Lisa. I feel like whenever foster parents show up in fiction, they're almost always evil and just in it for the money. I would love to see a YA story about foster parents who really care about their kids a lot. I think it's the same way there's so many orphans in children's lit -- it's easier to give the MC freedom when there's no one who's actually watching out for him/her.

    I like the line, "I considered myself an adult for as long as I could remember." I think that provides a nice contrast to how everyone else the MC's age thinks of turning eighteen as the start of adulthood.

    Best of luck!

  4. I really like the idea of a YA dealing with the foster care system and would probably cut the first paragraph, since those details will become obvious as the story progresses. Like others, my favorite sentence is the Food Network line. It feels like your character's desire may be inconsistent over the course of the 250 words--she can't wait to get out of there, yet she mentions taking care of the younger ones as if she's maternal toward them. The last quote from Carla is unnecessary--we've already figured out your MC is taking care of them, instead of/in spite of the DeLaneys. Good Luck!

  5. I think if you get some action and dialogue in this opening part, some of the issues mentioned above would disappear. I agree, though, that something unique has to be happening to make this story stand out.

    Good luck!

  6. I like the idea of a story about a child about to age-out of foster care. That's an incredibly difficult transition and there's a lot to work with. The Carla, Food Network line is very good and I agree it's a punchy start. I want to know more about her, less about what her foster situation is like. What does she feel about her birthday? What is she going to do when she's free to go?

  7. The idea of someone growing out of the foster care system sounds compelling. Unlike most kids, my guess is you are very suddenly completely on your own, and I'm sure that will make for an interesting story.

    I also liked the Food Network line a lot. I'd like to see more action in this first page. For example, maybe your MC is cooking for the other kids. Then you could sprinkle in the backstory and foster parent descriptions during that action or dialogue.

    Beyond that, I wondered about your genre. Contemporary? I'd also agree with K.T. that it might be a better fit as NA if your MC is heading out on her own. Good luck!

  8. The humour in this line: "Carla doesn’t work. Carla doesn’t really do much of anything except watch Food Network, which is ironic since she never cooks." was great. Still chuckling. I'd be keen to see how your main character works out the challenges that are promised in the opening.

  9. This isn’t quite as strong an opening 250 as it could be, since it’s quite info-dumpy and could grab your readers more. We don’t need to know this all right away, as it could be woven in later on in a less factual way. Some of the lines don’t come off as quite authentic, like “Most people my age see this milestone as a gateway to adulthood.” That sounds like your adult author voice shining through more than the character’s voice. It seems like the Delaneys and Abigail are an interesting family with the potential to make us laugh too, like Carla and her Food Network obsession.