Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Are You Hooked? #11

TITLE: Cordelia
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Our red Ford Festiva was nicknamed The Clown Car by my late father, and I have a love-hate relationship with this crummy compact. It holds lots of memories but is older than me and falling apart. This morning, we’re running late, and Mom sets her jumbo insulated tumbler of frappuccino on top of it while my ten-year-old brother, Declan, gets in the backseat. She needs both hands to shove her purse and workbag in beside him.

I take the passenger seat, and with an uncontrollable grin, say, “Mom, don’t forget about my driver’s test after school.”

She smiles and turns the key in the ignition. “Of course I won’t forget, and guess what—”


Panicked, I look around for a fire, and a strangling sound escapes me as cold, bony fingers of dread squeeze around my neck.

“Are you okay, Cordelia?” Mom asks, rubbing my shoulder in concern. “It was just the car backfiring.”

Declan says, “Yeah, that was loud.” Laughing, he adds, “Usually it sounds more like the car’s farting.”

Taking a deep breath, I loosen my death grip on the door handle and laugh too, feeling silly for my overreaction.

“The mechanic’s going to take a look at it this week,” Mom says. She begins to back out of the driveway but immediately slams on the brakes and gasps, “Oh no!”

The slushy, chocolaty, caramel contents of her tumbler—that she couldn’t find the lid for—start oozing down the windshield in front of us.


  1. I like how you take a common everyday event and make it interesting. It's easy to picture this scene in my mind.

    One suggestion on the 5th paragraph. If you removed the last part from "..as cold, bony fingers.." I think it would be stronger. I like the imagery of the bony fingers, but it seems a bit overpowering to me here.

    It makes me curious why Cordelia is so on edge. Good job.

  2. This didn't quite work for me. I would recommend making the leading sentence shorter and more impactful. Also, some of the thoughts/ sentences seemed a bit disjointed, like maybe they didn't quite fit together.

    You can also tighten up dialogue by adding the tag after the quotation instead of before and even omit some of the tags where it's obvious who's speaking. That said, I think you've definitely got a good start here--it just needs some tweaking!

  3. It’s a good start, but can be juiced up with something that shows personal stakes for your MC.

    I love the first sentence and it draws me in immediately. It does double duty, articulating her relationship with car and dad. Maybe tighten it.
    A few things to consider: the second para confuses because there’s no reason why she’s grinning. * I’d make it crystal clear why she’s nervous. * I’d like to see expectations built for what will happen later. * The MC should be the one driving the plot, not just reacting to it. Show us her desires.
    I’m not quite sold yet, but keep at it–some good things here. Thanks for sharing

  4. I'm not hooked by this. It's not a bad start, and there are some good elements - definitely ended at a good place where something's happened but we don't know what, and the narrator focuses on what she 'does' see - the sloshed frappuchino. There were a lot of dialogue tags that I didn't think were really necessary.

  5. The everyday events were well played out and interesting. I could totally see it.
    I wasn't sure why the mc grinned about the driver's test. It seemed that the mc was a typical annoyed teen about the mishaps of family, so the "uncontrollable grin" seemed off. Maybe something like "he couldn't hide the grin that somehow came out"...or something like that.
    I'm intrigued why he is on edge about the loud "boom" sound. Seems to maybe be a secret of something that happened that the family doesn't know about?

  6. I'd read on to find out why Cordelia equates a "boom" with fire. Obviously something in her past is responsible for her reaction and I want to know what.

    However, this scene overall seems a little trite to me. I've seen it played out in a couple of TV shows over the past few years.

    I have a picky little problem with the 3rd sentence: it ends with a reference to Declan, but the next sentence opens with "She". And while the meaning can be inferred, I'd suggest turning the sentence around:

    This morning, we’re running late, so as my ten-year-old brother, Declan, gets in the backseat, Mom sets her jumbo insulated tumbler of frappuccino on top (or the roof) of the car. She...

    Finally, I didn't have a problem with Cordelia's grin -- I remember the same one on my face the day I went to get my license.

    You've intrigued me enough to keep me reading.

  7. I thought this was okay, but I also think that's the problem. It's written well, the dialogue works, the character's are fine, but nothing stands out, and I have no idea what the story will be about.

    Perhaps this isn't the place to start. What is the inciting incident, the thing that sets this story in motion? Start just before that moment. Try to get it on the first page, or end the page with it just about to happen.

    Also, try to get some conflict on the page. It doesn't have to be huge. If mom forgot about the test and made other plans, that's conflict. If the backfire puts the car out of commission, that's conflict. As is, it's a family starting their day and, just my opinion, I think you need more. You need a hook.

  8. I didn't feel hooked. Not sure why...I think the writing is good, but I just didn't get a feel for the character. Of course, it could just be the present tense which I don't care for that is throwing me off.

  9. This is fun. I'm hooked. Great voice. If you tighten your sentences and go light on the details in this opening, you have a strong page.