Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Secret Agent #16

GENRE: YA Contemporary

The tree looming in front of them was all Tripp remembered before everything went black. When he came to, his body smeared with wet dirt and mangled leaves, he stumbled to his feet.

Metal twisted into pretzel shapes layered with shards of glass was all that remained of his car.

Fumbling in his pocket, he found his phone and clicked on the flashlight app. A thin sliver of light revealed a towering oak had crumpled the Audi. He moved closer, his heart pounding, hoping Jeremy had been thrown safely from the car like he had. The ground was littered with glass and dented beer cans. The fruity scent of the spilt beer smearing the glass and enveloping the night air made him want to retch.

He dreaded what he might find beyond the cracked glass of the side window as the beam of his phone flashlight scanned what was left of the inside. Nothing there but broken glass and mangled leather. No Jeremy.

His phone charge wouldn’t last much longer. He moved the dim light over the leaf-covered ground surrounding the car. No sign of his best friend. When the battery bar showed red, he punched 911, his hand shaking so hard he had trouble holding the phone.

“What’s your emergency?” A disembodied voice in a dark nightmare.

“I’ve been in—”

 His voice drowned in the scream of the siren. He fell to his knees, his head in his hands.   

 Later, when the questions started, he couldn’t answer.


  1. This is a fairly strong beginning, though it could use some tightening. Starting out with something as dramatic as a car crash is exciting but also risky, because you want your readers to be invested in Tripp's situation even though we don't know much about him yet. What works for me is his panic about not finding Jeremy. I want to know how his friend could have disappeared.

    All few suggestions regarding word choice:

    You have two paragraphs in a row with the construction "all Tripp remembered" and "all that remained" -- it feels a bit repetitive.

    The descriptions of the mangled car and the remains of the beer are evocative, but also unwieldy. Try reading them out loud and see if you can find more natural phrasings.

    In general, there's a tendency toward very long sentences. Some of them could be better off broken into smaller chunks.

    Good luck!

  2. You definitely start with a bang here! I think you could open with a stronger line than Tripp remembering what he saw before the accident. Maybe start either with snatches of what he experiences as he comes to, or with the 911 call. Does Tripp check himself over for injuries, given that he's been thrown from a car? Also, I expected more urgency in looking for Jeremy. If there's indeed no trace of him, that definitely gets my attention, but I'd expect Tripp to be more frantic about looking for his friend. You use some good sensory details, but I agree with the other comment that some of your sentence could read more cleanly.

  3. Hi there! I agree that starting with a high-stakes event is hard when we haven't developed a relationship with the characters. (Not to mention accurately portraying the maelstrom of emotion--and shock--in play in an event like this without it feeling forced.) That said, if Jeremy is literally *vanished* after this accident, the actual accident is a workable hook--but I'd refocus and sharpen it so the disappearance is where our attention is.

    If that's not where this story is headed, I'd look at where you can start post-accident that works. The accident may have been the backstory that puts your MC on the journey he needs to take in your MS, but what triggers him being active (as in protagonist-active. Start near whatever event that is. :)

    Good luck with this!

  4. A few others have said this, but I'll chime in as well-- it is risky to begin with a car crash since we aren't invested in Tripp or Jeremy, so readers may not really feel any emotion yet. Maybe consider backing up even a few minutes before the crash, let us see the two interact or joking or something that shows us how close they are. Then we're more likely to care that they're hurt.

    Also, if he's calling 911 and then the cops are already there, that feels a little confusing. Maybe revise that a bit.

  5. Interesting; needs tightening. For instance, "He moved closer, his heart pounding, hoping Jeremy had been thrown safely from the car [like he had]." You don't need the last phrase.

    "The ground was littered with glass and dented beer cans. The fruity scent of the [spilt] beer that smear[ed].ing" If the beer was smeared on the glass (avoid gerunds), then we know it was spilled.

    "... enveloping the night air made him want to retch." I don't think that works. It might blot out the night air, or hang in the night air, but I don't think it can envelope.

    I am curious about his missing friend.

  6. Your POV is very distant which is creating more of a "watching from far away" experience rather than a "inside his head" experience. Try to remove some of the narration and telling, and focus instead on what he is seeing and thinking. I think your reader will be more engaged this way.

    And I agree that this needs to back up a little if you want us to care about these characters before the accident.

    Good luck!

  7. This is an example of starting in peak action—rather than in action. Starting in peak action is a problem because something huge is happening to the MC but we haven’t seen enough just yet to really care. Also, there are a lot of extreme descriptions that at times are removing me from the scene—does beer smell fruity? Would the metal truly be twisted like a pretzel? Although, I am able to visualize the scene these descriptions are coming off as contrived and breaking the otherwise really strong flow you are establishing for this story. You’ve done a nice job conveying the panic the MC is feeling for Jeremy and creating a question in the reader’s mind as to where he might be.

  8. Starting with action is always good, but when it's such dramatic action, it's jarring to be thrown right into the scene without any introduction to the characters. If you want us to care about the MC and empathize with his panic, we need to know him a little, and have seen his relationship with Jeremy. Otherwise there's no reason to care that he can't find his friend.

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