Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January Secret Agent #48

GENRE: YA Thriller

We missed the mayhem by fifteen minutes.

The Jetta’s fuel light flashed on, so we stopped at the corner market to fuel up. While Dani wrestled with the ancient pump, forcing it to squeeze out a few gallons, I went inside for a pack of butts.

Everything was as usual. The resident witch slouched inside her cage of cigarette and candy racks and lottery machines reading a gossip magazine. She scowled when I asked for Marlboro Lights, reluctantly sliding the cardboard case across the worn Formica counter.

She held out her hand. “5.50.”

I gave her a five-dollar bill and two quarters along with a big smile, just to see her grimace in response.

Some people shouldn’t work retail, ya know?

At that point no one knew what had happened three miles up the road. The police scanner under the counter was quiet, burping out an occasional static hiss. Other customers carried six packs and deli sandwiches and tall styrofoam cups of burned coffee up to the counter, nodding at me as I took my purchase and pushed my way outside.

Ten minutes later, we came up over the rise by the Stedman Farm and saw the tableau laid out before us like a still from a horror movie.

First I noticed the police department’s tan SUV and Etch’s black Sirocco nose-kissing in a shallow turnout crowded by dense woods. A dented white pick-up sat slewed behind them, hood almost in the trees.

A man wearing an olive uniform lay face up in the dirt.


  1. I like the first line a lot. I'm just not sure about the rest of the scene. Or, to be more precise, it feels like the scene in the store serves no purpose - maybe it does, but I'm not sure I wouldn't cut it?

  2. I love your opening line! It really pulls me in and makes me want to read more.

  3. You made me curious which is always a good thing and I would definitely turn the page to keep reading to find out what happens next. I like the scene in the convenience store - it provided "flavor" though it could possibly be condensed as I'm not sure why I need to know the cost of the cigarettes or that the MC provided exact change. Then again it may be relevant. The comment about people in retail seemed a little jarring to me however, just the, "ya know" part. But otherwise I thought it felt well -paced and I'm curious to learn if the MC is a good guy or a bad guy - or even a guy. As a matter of fact, I don't really care whether the MC is a boy or a girl yet (I know this flies in the face of the usual writing advice) but in the coming sentence or two, this should be revealed. But well done overall. I would like to read more.

  4. Great imagery here in this piece. I can visualize things really well. I think you might need a transition between your first line and the store scene. Even just the addition of "The Jetta's fuel light HAD flashed on" might do it, because that helps clarify time.

    Should you spell out 5.50 as "Five fifty"?

    "Some people shouldn't work retail, ya know?" - adore this line! Great voice here.

  5. I like your voice and your fresh turns of phrases that kept me wanting to read more (pack of butts, burping out static, nose-kissing ). . . all good. In this short sample, I have tons of questions about this world, why a witch, what's the tableau, who's Etch, who is the "we" with the MC? etc. which I guess are all good things because I'll read to find out more. You can condense a bit and let the reader fill in some blanks. For example, when the MC says he/she paid for the cigarettes and gave a big smile. I would cut it there. We don't need to know his reason, we, the reader should learn this about him ourselves. Good luck!

  6. This intrigued me and I want to know what happened. I agree that the numbers should be spelled out, an easy fix. I'm not sure the "resident witch" means an actual witch and if it does, make it clearer that this world has magic. And if not, maybe change it. Your first line gripped me. I think this scene would be tighter if you used your first line: We missed the mayhem by fifteen minutes. then skipped to At that point line...try it and see because the store scene does seem like filler. If it's important later on, leave it in. Good luck!

  7. I like the first line as well.

    For the second line, I wonder if changing "fuel up" to "gas up" or "gas" or something else might help it. The sentence seemed a little stiff to me.

    Also, I agree with about the comment about people working retail. The "ya know" part is jarring and makes me wonder if I am going to be spoken to as a reader more in this book.

  8. Loved the opening line and the "..some people shouldn't work retail." I've met those same people. Hard to offer editing suggestions until we can read more. Very Interested to see what the mayhem is.

  9. I think this is great. But I was confused by the word witch (as in fantasy witch or jerk-type person?). But I would so keep reading. Good luck!

  10. I would read on! The first line is great. I like the establishing scene--it's active, yet tells why they missed the mayhem and what *usual* is like. When I read witch, I pictured her with a pointed hat, so if you're using it to avoid the B word, consider something with less of a double meaning. My nitpick is that after the MC receives his/her change and issues an opinion, we continue to observe what's going on in the store. IMO, after the punch line, he/she should exit. So maybe rearrange a bit? Overall, it's interesting. I'm in. Good luck!

  11. This is very intriguing, but confusing. Do you mean a real witch or is the narrator just calling her a witch? Also, it is a male or female narrator and how old and what is the first name? Everything I've read says the first page should provide the MC's goal, name, and conflict.

    I think you could add these easily and strengthen your story.

    All best wishes with this.

  12. Hooked! And I'm going to disagree with fictionwriter and say that I don't think the first page necessarily has to include the MC's goal, name, and conflict. The job of the first page is to get our attention (not to check off items on a must-include list), and this one certainly did. I also liked the juxtaposition of the urgent first line and the laid-back first scene. I thought it did a good job of introducing the character and propelling me forward.

    The only line I'm less certain about is "At that point no one knew what had happened three miles up the road." It pulled me out of the scene and took away from the urgency of that great first line, but no one else has mentioned it, so that might be a personal thing.

    Best of luck with FLINCH!

  13. LOVE the voice in this one. You immediately grabbed my attention and held it right up until that last line, which turned out to be an awesome cliffhanger. I would definitely want to read more after reading the first 250.

    Only a couple nit picky things the other have mentioned: Perhaps you could use a different word instead of "witch" when you talk about the "resident witch." That word was a bit jarring and it made me pause and wonder if she was an actual witch or just an expression for a "not so nice person." I decided she was probably the latter. Also, definitely spell out "5.50" as it looks a little weird when written as a number like that. All in all, I think this has great potential. Good luck!

  14. I'm interested to read more after this beginning and like the details you're including. I'm not sure about the shift at the sentence "At that point no one knew..." and wonder if it would be better for us to stay with the narrator and not step outside her perspective yet. I like the retail comment--I think most young adults (and older adults) can relate!

  15. I’m not sure that we need the convenience store scene here. It could be more dramatic to start right at the crime scene, although the line "Some people shouldn’t work retail, ya know?” was a nice bit of humor and voice shining through. A few word choices didn’t feel quite as authentically teen as they could—I’m not sure “butts” for cigarettes or “nose-kissing” for two cars crashed into each other is how a teen would describe them.