Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April Secret Agent #6

TITLE: Black Butterfly
GENRE: YA Thriller

When my cab pulls up in front of the café, I’m 20 minutes early to meet Zhang, who will be here soon. Punctuality is in his nature, but my training insists I be in control of the situation at all times. I picked this location, and I’ll pick the spot where we sit.

I step out of the cab and New York City hits me like a right hook to the kidney. I soak it all in for the last time. The wail of sirens a few blocks off underscored by the constant whir of traffic, the pungent whiff of garbage offset by sweetness of honey-roasted nuts. It feels like home, though I only pretend to live here. It’s more of a home than my mother’s shitty trailer park ever was—or my sterile room at headquarters, which isn’t really mine but Agency property. I suppose I’m their property, too, though they use the word “asset.”

A woman and her two young children practically fall out of the café. Warm, yeasty air pours out, along with the bitter scent of stale coffee. A glance through the glass windows confirms I’ve arrived before Zhang.

“Do you know the best way to get to Radio City from here?”

It takes me a moment to realize the question is for me. The woman’s eyebrows plead with me. The two boys cling to her hands, fidgeting like they can’t wait to get out of there.


  1. Terrific world building—we’re right there in NYC. Your second paragraph is so strong you may want to lead with that and hone in on the cafe next. You might want to get rid of “who will be here soon”. You’ve told us Zhang is punctual, so it’s redundant and slows the reader down. “Like a right hook to the kidneys” is great. Keep up that voice and I’ll want to follow the narrator wherever he/she goes.

  2. Like JMK said, terrific world building, and I agree with leading with the second paragraph. You might also consider rewording to: 'My cab pulls in front of the cafe, twenty minutes early for my meeting with Zhang.' The use of 'when' tends to slow things down.

    Some tightening could strengthen the narrator's already clear 'me against the world, no room for fools or frivolity' attitude. I'd bet the MC, like the two boys, can't wait to get out of there, too.

  3. I love this. The world building is great. Makes me feel as if I was in NY. I would change the 20 to twenty (nitpicking) Sorry I can't give you more advice but that's because it's just great.

  4. Really nice world building and use of the setting as character! We already know something about your main character, and there's good tension (my training insists I be early, my last time in NYC, etc). A couple spots here and there to tighten: I think you could eliminate "who will be here soon" and the word "pungent" (I like whiff on its own). I get the sense that the main character is going to help the woman and her sons, which is a great mini-"save the cat" moment (making her seem kind/relatable to the reader). I got the sense that the character is female? Either way, maybe throw in a detail or two so we can get a visual on them right away. I also love the line "I suppose I'm their property too, though they use the words 'asset.'"

    Excellent and engaging start!

  5. Great visual expression! I love the phrase "New York hits me like a right hook to the kidney"!

    I think that first paragraph could be reworked a little to make it even better. Maybe start off the story with something like "My cab pulls up in front of the cafe. Of course, Zhang's still 20 minutes away (since we know she's 20 minutes early, there's no need to say Zhang will be there soon. It's implied, so save those words!). Even though punctuality is in his nature, my training insists I be in control of the situation at all times. I picked this location, and I’ll pick the spot where we sit.” I feel like it'd give it more oomph that way and help bring the voice out more.

    I also love the fact that she's an agent and we get exposed to some of her thoughts about the agency.

    Thanks for entering!

  6. Wonderful detail about the city, with all the sounds and smells. It puts you right there in the middle of it. Great job!

    Just one thing, by saying 'I am twenty minutes early,' you don't need to say '...Zhang, who will be here soon.' You can eliminate that part of the sentence.

    And one other note, I don't know if your mc is male or female. Maybe if you could add something, possibly when the woman comes out with her two kids, have her say,'Excuse me, sir," or Excuse me, miss,"

    That's it. I think you have a really strong beginning and I would read further.

  7. A nice opening page that tells us a lot about your mc, with hints at what's to come. Perhaps start with parg 2. The start of it would make a great opening sentence. And let us know if the mc is male or female. Otherwise, nice start.

  8. Your setting / description is fantastic. I feel immersed in your world from the start. While paragraph 2 is great, it did strike me as odd that she chooses that moment to ruminate about her mother, working for the agency, being called an "asset", etc. Seems a bit too much for our benefit. Otherwise, I think it is great.