Wednesday, March 30, 2016

March Secret Agent #23

GENRE: YA - Coming of Age

June, 1992
Monday – 9:18 a.m.

“He’s been looking for you,” one of the secretaries says.

I’ve just stepped into the lobby of the radio station and a blast of cold air hits me from the AC. I can’t remember her name, and how can I be expected to? She is alone behind the desk, which is odd, because there’s usually a coven of them: frosted hair and teased bangs, fishnet tops layered over lace camis, and acid washed jeans skirts left over from the 80s. They take the job hoping they’ll get promoted to DJ, but quit when they can no longer stomach the lewd comments from the actual DJs. I can’t keep the receptionists straight, but they all know who I am: Station Manager Dennis Burton’s daughter.

“Thanks,” I say, with an eye roll, which isn’t directed at her, though she probably thinks it is. I should stop and chat so she doesn’t think I’m a bitch, but she’ll probably be gone by the end of the week. And I am 18 minutes late. If I weren’t the boss’ daughter and if this weren’t the 150th summer I was “working” at the station, it would be a fire-able offense in my dad’s eyes. So I maneuver past the reception desk and head towards my dad’s office at the back of the floor. The desks that take up nearly every square inch of the main area are oddly sparsely populated for this time of day.


  1. Interesting time and place for a setting. Try not to step out of her voice-"how can I be expected to?" doesn't ring true as a thought but as an author intrusion. You drive the point home-that they come and go-in her voice in the last sentence of that paragraph anyway. "Station Manager Burton's daughter" She knows who she is, she wouldn't think this. Leave it at ...who I am. You reveal it more naturally in the next paragraph. "If I weren't the boss' daughter" can be cut and start at "If this weren't" and reveal her familial position through her lens, not through her explaining to the reader. And, since you are in her headspace, cut the "my" and call him Dad. Keep that POV close.

  2. I feel like there is a lot of telling going on. Give me more action at the beginning of the book rather than just hearing two straight paragraphs of only thoughts.

  3. Interesting beginning. I agree, there is a lot of telling. Would a teenage girl be worried about what the receptionists think of her, since she knows they usually come and go so often. Try more active verbs, and watch the adverbs, esp. in the first 250 words. Try tightening the first paragraph; I know it's setting the reader in the time/place, but I think it could be tweaked so we get to the second paragraph sooner and find out who she is. I agree with Rose as well.

  4. Interesting setting, but I agree that this beginning could be tightened up. I want to have an inkling of why her dad's looking for her in these 250 words (ie, what bigger trouble or predicament she's gotten in to, as opposed to being late again), and the long para about the secretaries slows the story down. We do get a feeling for her voice and an idea of what her daily life is like, which is good.

  5. I like the setting a lot, and I think this piece has a strong voice. I actually don't think you need to amp up the action here -- you have several hints that something is awry (only 1 secretary at the front desk, and the other desks being somewhat deserted). Just enough for the narrator to think, "Oh, that's odd," without necessarily putting the pieces together yet. These hints make me think that her father wants to see her not because she's late (again), but because something else is wrong. I'm curious to see what that might be.

  6. I love that this is set in the '90s and in the music world--two of my favorite things. If I were an agent, I'd probably request on that alone just to see what you do with this. I'd definitely love to know where the story goes after this entry. However, it was a little hard for me to connect with your MC at first. I don't learn anything about her (except that she's kind of judgy) until the end of the first paragraph. She seems to hate her life. Other than that, I know pretty much nothing about her. I get a hint of the kind of relationship she has with her dad, but even that's glossed over a bit. Is she funny? Humor goes a long way. Does she have a soft spot for something or someone? And for what it's worth, if you stay with this opening, the second full paragraph drew me in more than the first. I started caring/wanting to know more (after learning something about her) at "station manager's...daughter."

  7. This opening isn't *quite* grabbing me yet. I think you get bogged down in your second paragraph when talking about the receptionists. There are pertinent details there--that it's strange there's only one of them--but it doesn't set the scene to know that they all come on wanting to be DJs before quitting, for example.

    I'd have no reason to stop reading at this point, since your writing is solid, but there's nothing drawing me forward either. As other commenters have said, you have hints that something is amiss, and I'd rather that be the focus. If you cut some of the extraneous details in the second paragraph, that may naturally draw more attention to the sparsely populated office while allowing the beginning to move at a faster pace.

    My last comment is not so much a critique as a heads-up: At this point your MC strikes me as unlikeable. There's absolutely nothing wrong with an unlikeable (or difficult) MC, so if that's what you're aiming for then ignore me and forge ahead! But sometimes authors don't intend to have their MCs seem abrupt or rude in an opening scene, and that's an issue--first impressions are lasting.

    Thanks for the submission!