Thursday, July 17, 2008

#96 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

Genre: Fantasy

Title: Behind the Waterfall

“Hang them from the moon!” Lissa cried as she stamped her foot and glared at her mother.

“You sound just like your grandmother! I wish you wouldn’t say that, you don’t know what it means,” sighed Lissa’s mother, brushing back a loose wisp of graying, coffee-colored hair. “I’m sorry, Lissa. You go to Grandma Fern and Grandpa Ed’s almost every year and the arrangements have already been made. You always loved it there before.” Lissa ignored the weariness in her voice.

“But I’m older now. I am not a baby any more and Grandma Fern treats me like one with those stupid fairy tales of hers. I’m a teenager and I certainly don’t believe in fairies. Besides, I want to stay here where my friends are…” Thoughts of her with her two best friends beside Nicky’s pool and the following sleepovers at Jen’s spurred her anger. “It isn’t fair!”

Deep lines etched across her mother’s forehead and a hint of tears in those green eyes, so like her own halted Lissa’s tirade. The darkness in their color told Lissa that her mother was very angry. Lissa idly wondered briefly if her own eyes, which were the same color green as her mother’s, were so candid. Not really wanting to upset her mother further, Lissa was momentarily silent, hoping to see that softer green color that came with her mother’s smile. Lissa knew she wouldn’t win the argument.

A big bear hug told Lissa that her mother considered the matter settled.


  1. I thought it was a good start. The relationship between the kid and the mother felt real. There wasn't much of a hint that it's going to be a fantasy yet, except for the mention of fairy tales. But I'd read on.

  2. A couple of times the characters say things the other already knows, e.g. "you go to grandma fern and grandpa ed's almost every year", "I'm a teenager".

    I'd also cut down on the adverbs, "idly wondered briefly" was a bit much.

    But you've set up the conflict right away, which is good.

  3. Yes(ish)

    I like your writing style, and the characterization here is strong.

    If there are any nitpickiness.... I saw "Grandma Fern" and immediately suspected that the grandmother is some kind of fairy... which shifts my attention away.

  4. Sort of.

    I liked the conflict up front, but I didn't feel like your teenager spoke "teenager language." It sounds like you're trying hard to get information about the fairy grandmother across to the reader in dialog. Why not in internal thoughts or just a sentence or two out of dialog? I think that might work better. Make your dialog real teen dialog, and the voice would come through better for me, characterizing Lissa more.

    But I love a good "faerie" tale and would probably read a lot more.

  5. I think the dialogue suffers a bit from the "as you know, Bob" problem (the characters are stating things that they each know well for purposes of exposition). I think you can get across the ideas of Lissa not wanting to go to Grandma's, being a teen, and not believing in fairies in other ways.

    It's also not clear how the bear hug settles the argument, or in which direction.

  6. I think this has potential, and I would read on, however I have to agree with the dialogue problems.

  7. No, sorry. Too much time spent describing the character's physical attributes and not enough on the story. This is MG, right? The voice is definitely MG.

  8. Not really. Lissa's voice doesn't come cross as "teenager" to me-- the sentence construct seems much younger as does her word choices. Also, there's several grammar issues peppered throughout this section.

  9. No. A lot of telling about how Lissa dislikes her grandparents turns me off. I'd rather see how her Grandma Fern treats her in action. Lissa also doesn't sound like a teenager. With all her whining, she feels under ten.

  10. This one isn't working for me.

    Lissa seems closer to ten than teen--for me this was due to whining, dialogue, and ending an argument (which doesn't seem resolved) with a hug.

    I also think the dialogue seems unrealistic when characters state things they already know about each other.

  11. I probably wouldn't read further. I don't like the way it jumps between both POVs and some of it feels overwritten ("Deep lines etched across her mother’s forehead and a hint of tears in those green eyes, so like her own halted Lissa’s tirade.") Also, Lissa doesn't really sound like a teenager.

    It's probably the right place in the story to start. It just needs a bit of rewriting to make it easier to read and more engaging.

  12. I don't think I'd keep reading. There's a POV glitch in the very beginning. You start with the mother's dialogue, and a description of her. This set me up to believe we were going to be in her point of view. But then Lissa speaks and thinks a few things, showing me that it's actually her point of view.

    Also, in the last paragraph and sentence, you use Lissa's name probably 3 times too many. "She" would suffice just fine for several of those. Stating her name over and over is distracting.

  13. Sadly, not hooked.

    I really liked the dynamic between the mother and daughter, the conflict is there, but I don't think it's engaging enough for me to read on. There's no indication of anything interesting happening.

  14. What color are the characters' eyes? ;-)

    Sorry, not hooked. I think there's potential here (sounds like a good setup for a magical adventure at grandma and grandpa's), but I thought there was too much (sometimes repetitive) physical description and the dialogue was "off." (As others already have mentioned, the "as you know, Bob" problem -- which is very, very sneaky sometimes -- is a bit worrisome.)

    I liked the description of the mother's hair as "graying, coffee-colored" and the way Mom brushed the hair away from her face. :-)

  15. Sorry, but no. At this point, I have no real idea what the story is about. I'm not even sure what the fantasy element it, but assume it must have something to do with fairy tales.

    It feels like the dialogue is being used to set up your story, rather than moving your story forward.

    I'm guessing Lissa is 13 since she stresses that she's a teenager. So this is more an mg, I think. But it doesn't really feel like a teen to me. Most teens I know are very self-involved. I think Lissa would be completely focused on herself, her need to be treated fairly, to be allowed to spend her summer with her friends. I don't believe she'd think about her mother's feelings, nor do I think the color of her mother's eyes being the same as her own would suddenly prompt her to consider her mom's feelings.

    But don't get frustrated. Keep writing it. Write several more chapters. This feels like a very early draft where you yourself are still learning who your characters are. Keep writing the book. It's very common for writers to cut the beginning chapters of their early drafts.

    Good luck.

  16. Not hooked, sorry. I love the opening line of dialogue, but you lost my interest from there with the argument and way of explaining back story to the reader via dialogue--it just feels over done to me and contrived.

    I think it has potential (and again, love the opening) but needs work.

    Good luck,


  17. Sorry, not for me. The title and this opening make me feel like it's going to be a cliched fantasy kid-goes-through-a-portal story.

    The first line was great, though.

  18. No. I thought your MC was nine or ten until she said "I'm a teenager." The dialog just didn't ring true to me, and the descriptive paragraphs, like the second from the end, felt a little artificial too. Sorry to say, not something I'd continue reading.

  19. Thank you all for your comments. I see I have a lot of rewriting to do on this! It's really geared to a younger audience, even though the MC is 13. It is a fantasy-kid-goes-through-a-portal story. Of course, I could always turn it into a dream, but I thought that was just as cliched, and, since magical elements just don't exist in the real world, there has to be some transition to the other, whether it be through a game, a tree or across a river. I'll have to think about that, too. Don't forget that you are not the audience that I am trying to attract, though I realize that it does have to attract a publisher, which it has already done. They have already requested a rewrite. With your help, I see where I have to make changes. Thank you all very much, especially those that took the time to comment, and good luck to everyone

  20. Best of luck with the publisher! :)