Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April Secret Agent #20

GENRE: YA Contemporary Magical Realism

My heaven is a dive bar, and I’m the only patron. I’m not lonely. Robert, my bartender, is good company and provides me with an endless supply of vodka tonics.

I decorated the inside of my bar top to bottom with rainbows, smiling faces, and stick figure sisters holding hands. I drew them from memory. They’re exact replicas of my little sister’s drawings. But lately I’ve noticed something’s wrong with the paper.

“You okay, Mary?” Robert asks. “You don’t look good.”

I point at a drawing. “I wish I could crawl inside a picture. Be back then. Be a sister again.”

To keep tears back I focus my eyes between the amber bourbon bottles. When I stare in that exact spot, the mirror reflects gold onto Anjuli’s rainbow painting and makes the sun glow. It reminds me of the way sunshine smelled on her skin. Wait—now there’s a hole in the picture where the sun used to be. It looks like a cigarette burn.

That can’t be good.

“You have the entire universe at your disposal and this is what you do with it?” Robert asks.

“The only flaw with this heaven is I can’t turn off my brain.” I tap my temple and take a sip. “Today I can’t stop wondering what made an otter ever eat an urchin? And why do I keep going over my locker combination?”

“Ninety-nine, eighty-seven, sixteen.” Robert spins an invisible dial right, left, right.


  1. Wow great opening! The first line grabs the reader and I feel like I might see where Mary's character journey is heading to. If I can offer any criticism, it might be suggesting just more of an explanation about the cigarette burn.

  2. This scene is powerful--I almost feel drunk! The only thing I might consider is grounding it in a little bit of reality/sobriety... Only so the reader gets a little more sense of what's to come. Great start!

  3. So curious that a YA narrator's heaven is a dive bar! Interesting set up that definitely has me wondering how the MC got there and how she's going to get inside that picture to be a sister again.

    Nice start!

  4. Love the opening line. The devotion Mary has to her sister is clear from the off thanks to the imagery you've used. Motivation's been nicely established, as well as a sense of sadness. I'd say a bit more description on what Robert looks like and what this place smells, sounds and feels like will help :)

  5. Great writing and it was definitely intriguing. My only problem was that I wasn't sure if the MC were just imagining what her heaven would be like or if this was reality (from the first line). The more I read, the more I figured it was reality, but maybe a line about her death would help solidify this for the reader. But nice job!

  6. Love the description of Anjuli's picture and how it makes her feel. I wonder if you should make it clear that Mary is dead. "Heaven is a dive bar" could also mean that she thinks that a dive bar is the best place--thus Heaven. But maybe since the title is Dear Dead Drunk Girl, that is already implied. Not much to critique here. This sounds amazing.

  7. This is really interesting, I especially like the opening line and the concept of heaven.
    One bit I felt you could expand on was the line: "Wait—now there’s a hole in the picture where the sun used to be. It looks like a cigarette burn."
    This seemed like a good opportunity to get some of how Mary is feeling into the opening. The pictures seem important to her, so I'd like to know how she feels seeing a cigarette burn appearing in one.
    I loeve the voice though, and the barman already seems interesting (with the locker combo and everything).
    Good luck!

  8. I couldn’t really understand what was going on. Based on the fact that Mary’s in a bar and drinking vodka tonics makes her seem older than she is. Is she using a fake ID? Is she eighteen? Looks older than she is? Why is no one noticing this teenager isn’t where she should be? Does this bar belong to her to be decorating it? Does her family own it? I get that she drew pictures that are replicas of her deceased little sister but nothing else really told me what was going on.

    This didn’t sound young adult to me; the tone sounded adult. I’d work on either bringing the voice down more to that of a teenager’s or changing the story and making her older.

    Thanks for entering!