Wednesday, March 30, 2016

March Secret Agent #10

GENRE: YA - Adventure

Ari Chen awoke to a high-pitched yelp and the smell of burning pancakes. She felt the softness of the pillow, the drawstrings of sleep behind her eyes. But the fifteen-year-old girl eased her eyes open and rolled them to the side to see her alarm clock: Monday, April 13, 2043 - 06:59 AM PST. She let her eyes sink halfway back into sleep before a well-practiced sigh rolled off her lips.

The alarm roared. She reached across her nightstand and slapped it, sending it tumbling into a pile of clothes where it landed with a dull thud.

She rubbed her almond-brown eyes and smudged the cheap black eyeliner that she had left on the night before. When she saw it on her hands, her eyes widened. Crap, she thought, I fell asleep again. With a guilty expression, she reached behind her pillow and found her history textbook. Well, I guess I’ll have to read this later, she thought as she tossed it onto her nightstand.

She looked back at the clock. I could just go back to sleep. I don’t actually need to go to school. Right?

The fire alarm in the kitchen went off, and that was it. There would be no sleeping now. She half-wailed and threw the sheet off of her body. Fighting night owl nature, she swung her feet to the ground beside her twin bed. The hardwood was cold and jarring against her bare feet, and it sent a slight ripple up her lean frame.


  1. Sorry, but I'm not hooked. Starting with the MC waking up makes me feel like this isn't starting in the right place. It's too common and that she's waking up needs to have a purpose. I don't know what the conflict is here and there's no tension to keep me reading. I'd say that you need to start closer to the inciting incident.

    Hope this helps. Good luck.

  2. When I wake up in my makeup
    It's too early for that dress
    Wilted and faded somewhere in Hollywood
    I'm glad I came here with your pound of flesh

    Sorry couldn't resist.

    The imagery of her waking up in makeup was awesome, really good. It lets us know falling asleep the night before wasn't in the plans and I get a good mental image of the MC.

    I did feel like the opening, as a whole, was overwritten. some examples:

    high-pitched yelp is redundant. Is there a low pitched yelp?

    felt the softness of the pillow. I don't like using felt here or describing a pillow as soft, redundant again. ( I guess you could have a hard pillow but its all unnecessary and doesn't move your story.)

    Monday, April 13, 2043 - 06:59 AM PST--way too much.

    She rubbed her almond-brown eyes--You want us to know she's of Asian descent, and that may be important, but this is overdone. Her name implies she's Asian in your first sentence.

    Overall some good imagery, but too many unnecessary words. Openings should be as tight as possible.

  3. Though you are a strong writer, I have heard starting with a character waking up is cliche. Also, would she really be thinking about her eyeliner being cheap? I agree with above poster-there are some things that need tightening. Skip forward to the action and I think you'll have a stronger opening! Good luck!

  4. I really liked the first line (though I agree you can probably cut high-pitched.) Unfortunately the rest of the extract was a bit too drawn out. I don't feel drawn into a character not wanting to get out of bed. You could have the first line and the last paragraph, skip the rest and move the story on.

    Be careful that the detail you include add to the story, rather than slowing it down. And try to keep to a deep POV. No one thinks of themselves as a fifteen-year-old girl in their head. You're telling the reader that, but it feels out of place.

    I like the title, and I'd like to get to riddles and mysteries much faster.

  5. I'm afraid I must agree with previous commenters that this opening is overwritten. You don't need to describe everything, though certain details--that Ari woke up with smudged eyeliner because she fell asleep studying, for example--are useful because they say something about your character. I also love the line "the drawstrings of sleep behind her eyes." Beautiful, and an expression I've never heard before!

    I also think that opening your book with the protagonist waking up is overdone. I don't know if I'd call it a cliche, but it's certainly nothing new, and it doesn't provide a lot of room for innovation in your opening paragraphs. In an adventure it's common to depict regular life for a chapter or two before diving in to the meat of the story, but I still want to see something unique in those opening scenes to show that the adventure itself will be creative and different.

    Thank you for the entry!

  6. Agreed with SA here. It may be a personal pet peeve of mine, but opening with a character waking up drives me ba-noo-noos. I submit--and this may be too much for you, but--open this at "The fire alarm in the kitchen went off, and that was it." YMMV