Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Secret Agent #33

TITLE: JAR OF HEARTS
GENRE: YA Contemporary

I live for Saturday nights.

            Saturday nights are designated for parties, letting loose, and pretending like my life isn’t a torturous combination of college applications and complicated relationships. They are the nights which afford me the opportunity to forget the last couple years ever happened.

            But on this Saturday night, I’m staring at a room full of middle aged men and women dressed in clothes that probably cost the same amount of money I’m trying to save for the Mustang I’ve had my eye on since I was thirteen years old. I’m standing next to my dad in a stupid bow tie and a fake smile because he considers a charity function for sick kids some bonding time between us that he clearly misses out on. I love the guy, but I’d rather be anywhere else. I’d even subject myself to Maddie’s incessant questions about the state of our relationship if it meant I didn’t have to be here instead of at my best friend’s house.

            I pray for a quick and painless death, which I guess is totally inappropriate at a function like this, when I see her.

            In a ballroom filled with nothing but black, she stands out like a single red rose petal. A drop of blood on velvet. Wine spilled on a granite countertop.

            As she crosses the shiny wood dance floor, the train of her dress ripples behind her in a wave of shiny red. I can’t see her face, but I don’t need to. 

9 comments:

  1. This is interesting. I can tell right away I'm in the head of an unhappy teen. And he sounds like someone with an interesting story to tell. I find the last bit confusing though. I can't tell if he's horrified by the girl in red or intrigued. It's probably the order of words in that sentence "I pray for a quick and painless death..." At first I thought it was because he's so bored and uncomfortable, but when I read it again, I thought it might be the girl. If it's something that is quickly cleared up (we do only have one page, after all), it's okay not to know how he feels about her, but I am confused.

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  2. We have character, his mood, and the scene on the first page, which is good. I can't tell where the story is headed, but that's okay for now. The scene is interesting, and you did a good job at putting your readers in the character's head. The main thing I have a problem with is you have some awkward sentences like, "I’m standing next to my dad in a stupid bow tie and a fake smile because he considers a charity function for sick kids some bonding time between us that he clearly misses out on."

    It helps to read your manuscript out loud to see if your writing has the flow and rhythm you want it to have.

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  3. I really like the first few paragraphs, it has strong voice, but I feel like you cold add a sentence or two before he sees her to make the transition a bit more smoother. I personally think that mentioning him looking around the crowd and them seeing her would work better.

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  4. Pargs 1-2. You might consider cutting them and start with her at the charity event. While the two pargs do tell us a little about the MC, they’re written in a way that make her seem a bit whiny. And technically, she shouldn’t be chatting with the reader. She should be acting within the framework of her world, not popping into mine.

    Parg 3 – This is where the story starts. But again, the MC is complaining. I’m not empathizing with her, and I’m not liking her much. A logic issue with the mustang -- I’m assuming your MC is 16-17. Would that mustang have been up for sale for 3-4 years? . . .my dad in a stupid bow tie . . . As written, she is wearing a stupid bow tie. Perhaps say ‘my dad, who wears a stupid bow tie. And if he likes being there with his daughter, why would he wear a fake smile? Wouldn’t it be genuine? And ‘if it meant I didn’t have to be here instead of at my best friend’s house.’ Perhaps either end the sentence after ‘here,’ or turn the end around. . . . if it meant I could be at my best friend’s house instead of here.

    Parg 4. Name ‘her’ and her situation. ‘who is the girl in the red dress’ isn’t enough to pull me in. Your MC obviously knows who this girl is (I can’t see her face, but I don’t need to.) so why not let us know right away, that way, I’m wondering about Suzy Smith who is (insert situation here) which is a much stronger pull than ‘who is the girl in the red dress.’

    Parg 5. Excellent parg, beautifully written! You might say black granite (or its specific name, if it has one) since granite is most often grayish. Or you could go with a slate countertop.

    Parg 6. You have a shiny floor and shiny red. You may want to change one of the shiny’s.

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  5. The "voice" of this grabbed me out of all the excerpts thus far. But the writing itself needs tightening. Agree with comments above that it's often unclear what subject or person is being referred to. Some of this can be fixed with just minor restructuring. This would also strengthen some of the language in more passive sentences such as "As she crossed the shiny floor. . . " For example:

    I see her, and the fake smile I’ve worn all evening drops from my face.

    In a ballroom filled with nothing but black, she stands out like a single red rose petal. A drop of blood on velvet. Wine spilled on a granite counter top.

    She stalks across the shiny wood dance floor. The train of her dress ripples behind her, a wave of glimmering red. I can’t see her face, but I don’t need to.

    I pray for a quick and painless death – which I guess is totally inappropriate at a function like this.

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  6. I agree with Jill that this voice grabbed me and the writing needs tightening. I agree with Jill's other changes. I also had trouble understanding the "bow tie" sentence. I thought the MC had the bow tie on not Dad.

    Keep going with this. The voice is realistic of a teen and voice is very important. Good foreshadowing in the beginning and I am wondering about "the last couple of years". I thought at first the MC was a "sick kid", but now I realize that he isn't.

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  7. There's some good stuff here, but I felt like it got a bit bogged down and long, unruly sentences. The worst offender is the one about the clothes and the Mustang, which definitely felt like it needed simplifying. The one about the dad and the bowtie was also a bit clunky and confusing - I wasn't entirely sure which of the two of them was wearing the bow tie and the fake smile.

    I liked the opening about loving Saturdays though, and I love the line about inappropriately praying for a quick and painless death - very funny, very teen. I'd move the "when I see her" into the next paragraph and let the dark humour of that line stand alone rather than being diluted.

    I didn't really like the description of the woman in red. Too many different descriptors and too melodramatic for my taste, but that may be subjective.

    Finally, I didn't feel I got quite enough info about the main character. Though I'm assuming male, I'm not 100% clear on their gender (especially as I wasn't sure who was wearing the bowtie), and though college applications give a clue, I'm not totally certain of their age either. It might be nice to get a name - could their father say something to them? There's absolutely no dialogue, so that might be helpful anyway to break up the internal monologue.

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  8. Great opening line!

    However, I find that you slip into cliche in the first paragraph. I wanted your MC to tell me why he loves Saturday nights specifically - because he goes out roller-disco dancing every Saturday night? Because it's the only night he doesn't have curfew? Instead we get generic "parties, college applications and complicated relationships" - I'd rather you tell us about one party, one specific application which is troubling him and what school it's for - or one specific complicated relationship.

    In the next paragraph you do get specific - and it's much better. You might want to consider re-wording to: "I usually live for Saturday nights." - and then skip to the second paragraph. "But on this Saturday night..."

    I love your metaphors: "single red rose petal. A drop of blood on velvet. Wine spilled on a granite counter top." While the images are a bit cliche they work and I clearly can see what the MC sees.

    I'd read on!

    Thanks for entering!

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