Wednesday, January 23, 2019

January Secret Agent #36

GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

I swore on the day she died that Mom would never disappear.

I’ve kept true to my vow.

She loved spring’s baby lime-green leaves, but hated forsythia yellow. The fact that the leaves still unfurl and the yellow’s still ugly, but she’s gone, kills me. Especially today.

Hurrying down my street, I pull off some forsythia blossoms from the bushes in a neighbor’s yard, crushing the petals. Getting home from school has already taken too long, and the trembling went into double time two blocks back.

I need to be there.

Two more houses to go. The front door key ready, gripped in my sweaty hand. My heart pounds against its cage, trying to escape.

Then, the familiar whine from Daisy, Mr. Shapiro’s cockapoo, slows my steps. The red door of my house is so close, but Daisy’s up on her arthritic back legs, her front ones scrabbling at the low fence.
My need pulls at me, but Daisy’s wheezing pulls at me, too.

I stuff my keys into my jeans pocket and toss the smashed petals.

“Just a short one this time, Daze.” I lean over, let her lick my wrist before I rub behind her right ear, down to her jaw and scratch away. If dogs could purr, Daisy would be a purrer.

Mom and Mr. Shapiro used to compare Daisy and me since we were the exact same age. Daisy ran at seven months, I couldn’t crawl. Daisy was housetrained; I was in diapers. We both hated baths.


  1. I like the opening, but I think I'd switch the order of "she" and "Mom". Nitpicky, I know! Other than that I love how they used to compare the MC to a dog?? Haha. I'm also curious to know what happened to her mother and what she means with never letting her mom disappear. Is this literal or figuratively? I would like to read more to answer these questions!

  2. OOF the beginning hits me right in the feels!!
    The only part that confused me a little was her grabbing the flower petals though? Her mom liked him, so are they comforting? Does she smell them or is it just a habit she does everyday on her way home? I'm intrigued by her "pull" and am curious to know what has caused it to be so great today. Is it a bad day at school? Anniversary of her mom's death? etc. I feel like a tiny bit more detail would really strengthen the clarity of your MC from the start.

  3. Great opening line. I'm sucked in immediately to this character who is trying desperately to keep her mother alive in her heart even though she's dead. And the bit about the flowers, how the forsythias that her mother hated are the only flowers the MC can touch, really brings out the drama. I feel her frustration at these ugly yellow flowers when she crushes them.

    And obviously I want to know where exactly she needs to be and why... My only thing, why does she have to walk her neighbor's dog? I mean, I get that she and Daisy have a relationship (this is set up nicely and cutely by the fact that they were once compared to each other) but logistically, why is it her responsibility to walk the dog, especially when she has somewhere she so badly needs to be? A small thing, but it stuck out.

    Overall, I love how I can feel what the character is feeling right off the bat.

  4. I feel like the tone gets kind of lost with the run-in with the puppy—it starts off very mournful and kind of desperate, but things kind of lose momentum, especially with Main Character reflecting on her childhood beside the dog. Awesome prose, though, and I think the sense of urgency and pain you created in the beginning is spot-on.

  5. Good tension right off the bat!

    I’d have to keep reading to see if the part with the dog fits in right here on the first page, but I love the voice and think everything is well written!

    I want to know what happened to her mom, and especially what this pull is, so good job getting the reader to ask questions they want to read ahead to find answers to!

  6. I like this. I want to know what makes her "need" to be at home and am assuming it has something to do with the "trembling", perhaps anxiety? And I want to know what happened to her mom, obviously. I really wasn't pulled out of the story by the dog. Obviously the girl allows herself to be detained by the pup even though she's going through some heavy duty feelings at the time...that's significant.
    Good job.

  7. I think it's sweet how she remembers her mom, and also sweet how she makes time for Daisy. But I feel like I'd want to know why she was in such a rush to get home, but then, seemed like it really wasn't that important after all because she stopped.

    Overall I thought I flowed well though.

  8. Such urgency in this, it's like I'm running with her too! Very nice! In the transition, try to define more of her internal thoughts/emotions by choosing Daisy over the need to be there for her mom. Also, what is meant by her mom disappearing?

  9. I really love the voice here, it feels so emotionally true and deep. I'm already curious about the character's mom and would want to read on to learn what happened. I'm also curious about why she's rushing home. I do agree with the other commentators, however - maybe add in another sentence to transition into the beat with the dog (such a cute memory, the comparisons), because I was super into the reminiscing re: her mom and then slightly confused when she stopped by the dog. I would definitely keep going though!

  10. I like the first line, and I love the comparison between the MC and the dog :)

    As other have said, I'd like to know more about her need to get home. I don't think we have to know why she's in such a rush in the first 250 words, but I would like to know what internal thought she has that allows her slow down to say hi to the dog.

  11. There are cute moments in there with the puppy! The first line is also good! It's a little risky to start with so much exposition instead of action, though, so you might want to see if you can move a bit of it later.

  12. The fact that the leaves still unfurl and the yellow’s still ugly, but she’s gone, kills me… I’m not sure I’m catching the connection here. Aside from this hiccup, I thought it was a great start! I love that she’s ripping forsythia off of neighbors’ bushes. I think I’d start the whole intro with “Hurrying down the street.” It’s enough to make me wonder why she’s in such a rush, why she’s angry enough to crush flowers.
    If she has time to stop and scratch a cockapoo, then maybe “heart trying to pound out of its cage” isn’t entirely appropriate here. But I do love the comparison between the two ending with we both hated baths. That’s super cute.

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