Wednesday, April 15, 2009

35 Secret Agent

TITLE: Getting Real
GENRE: YA (Commercial)

I have been sitting in the lobby of the Hotel Le 123 Elysées (in Paris, France) for the last hour. It's half passed nine and we still haven't gone to dinner, a point of contention between my stomach and my family. Instead I have watched the giant wooden grandfather clock tick and tock and gong and bong until everyone in the vicinity of the lobby was well aware another hour had come and gone. Though most of the guests milling around on their way in and out didn't seem the least bit concerned by the late hour, with my seven year old sister passed out in my lap and my Mother frequently checking her watch it is clear time is passing us by, and not in a good way.

Every few minutes Mom gets up from besides me on the green suede couch and asks the concierge to ring up room 447 again. He politely obliges and though she turns her back away from me I can hear her hushed arguments as she makes empty threats to my Father (the words she uses typically result in the popular American colloquialism, "Pardon my French"). It's just another night in the Reynolds family.

It didn't matter much now, but we did have reservations at eight for the Brasserie down the Rue that we read about in the travel guide Dad bought us at the Charles De Galle arrivals terminal when he picked us up yesterday.


  1. I'm wondering if maybe this could start with a little more action?

    I want to know why the family is sitting in the lobby waiting, and obviously late for something.

    I'm assuming the Dad's doing something?

    I do like the bit about the clock though!

    Good luck!!!

  2. I'm not quite hooked. Part of it was the distracting spelling and grammatical errors. My Mother and my Father shouldn't be capitalized, " half passed" shoud be "past". etc.

    I also felt like you were trying to push the French too much. Maybe you could say Brasserie down the road instead of "Rue". Also try to include Paris in the sentence instead of using the parentheses.

    I do like how you say "Pardon my French"--a funny touch.

    I just don't feel like I've gotten to know the MC.

  3. I don't mind backstory. I think it adds to the appeal of characters and settings, but it still needs to be interlaced with some tension. I didn't feel that here.
    Sorry, not hooked.

  4. You bring the sense of bored waiting alive. This is good. However, you probably don't want to create that sense when you are trying to draw your reader in at the very beginning. Use that talent later in the book to toy with pacing.

    I also wonder why they don't march up to the room and confront the father? Why keep ringing him?

    You've managed to make me read slowly--which is good. Make sure you use that talent when you need it.


  5. I liked the beginning. I'm one of those who gets cranky when I'm hungry so I could identify.

    But then it began to drag. I liked the bit about the mom on the green couch- I "saw that" very clearly, but eventually I was overwhelmed with detail and just wanted the story to get going.

  6. Me, too. I could have used a bit more of a hook. Your writing is interesting. It needs a little TLC with spelling and grammar. The last sentence/paragraph is overlong. Aside from all that I'd continue to read another page just to see if anything will happen.

  7. I agree with others that this has potential, but I wasn't quite hooked. Cutting down a little on the description and getting faster to the conflict/tension might help.

    Good luck!

  8. I agree with the other posters. Maybe you could start this story when the tension and conflict kicks off, or is obviously about to kick off. One thing that caught me was so many long sentences- maybe some of them could be split into smaller ones.

    Overall, though, I found the writing smooth and see a lot of potential here. "Pardon my French"- great addition of humor.

  9. I think this has great potential. Maybe shorten some sentences and cut out a tiny bit of the description. No need to have Paris, France in parenthesis if you're going to mention Charles de Galle two paragraphs later. Or perhaps, 'the Parisian Hotel Le 123 Elysees'.

    I like her little sister on her lap and the concierge politely obliging. Some great, great details here.

  10. A stronger hook in the first paragraph would draw me in more. I think there is promise in the voice but the opening didn't really work for me as a hook a well as it could.

    A couple of mistakes -- half-past rather than half passed. Gaulle not Galle.

    Good luck!

  11. You immediately brought me into the scene, however, there are some issues. You don't need to specify (in Paris, France) in the first sentence, and you need to check your spelling. Also, I didn't get that the dad was in the room. I thought maybe mom was arguing with him in the lobby about whoever was in room 447. That needs to be clarified. Loved the "Pardon my French" line! Good stuff here. Polish it.

  12. I'm not entirely drawn in here. I think there are tense issues... I don't mind present tense, but there's something not right in the first paragraph.

    The other thing is nothing interesting really happens...

  13. I wasn't hooked. I got the waiting and bored feeling loud and clear. You showed that very well, but nothing's happening.

    I am wondering if maybe you should consider re-evaluating your beginning? Is this really where the story starts? Just a thought.

    Good luck.

  14. Like some of the others, this dragged too much for me as an opening page, because I'm not yet invested in these characters. But there does seem to be something here that works.

    So, if you were in my crit group, I'd suggest reworking the beginning to get the reader more engaged before going for this scene, which in some ways should drag (with the boredom and waiting), but doesn't make a very dynamic opening. Keep working at it. :}

  15. Sorry, but not hooked. Waiting to go to dinner isn't really a strong hook, IMHO. Plus, the first person present tense really irks me as it feels kinda juvenile since that's how we're first taught to write as children.

  16. I like this. I'd keep reading. I'm curious to know what's up with her dad.

    I'd be careful, though, because many of your sentences are long and wordy. The first paragraph is also a bit clumsy because you flip back and forth between past and present tense. It's not wrong, but it just doesn't flow well, either.

    There are also several small typos that tripped me up: "my Mother" should be "my mother" or "Mother"; "seven-year-old sister".

    I hope this helps - good luck!

  17. I was really confused here. At first I thought it was just her waiting, then it was her and her sister and Mom so I thought the dad was upstairs, but if the dad were upstairs why would they wait that long and not go up, then the dad's with them, but i'm still not sure why no one goes up there to see what's going on with whomever they're waiting for.

    I did like the line "a point of contention between my stomach and my family" though :)

  18. I need a hint about what's in the rest of this book to keep reading. Not liking anyone in this story. Mum seems incapable of even feeding kids on her own. Dad, whatever he's up to for an hour and a half should at least tell the mother to go eat without him. I can read totally loser parent stories but the YA has to be more active maybe view things with humor. Too passive for me.

  19. Not hooked, I'm afraid. You're got some extraneous language -- "(in Paris, France)", for example -- and this seems to lack a certain polish. I'm also already annoyed with the mother that she didn't take her daughters to dinner alone.

    And annoyed with your characters isn't a great way for your readers to start your book.

  20. I'd like this a little better if you could come up with a distraction or stealing crackers from a bar, or people walking by licking ice cream or better yet, ambulance sirens, blaring.
    I wonder if a girl would think room 447 instead of our room again...maybe hs'e just that way.
    The best of luck with it...semi-hooked

  21. I like the setting, but the writing is a little rough. Some tightening/eliminating the run-on sentences would help to bring the voice out more. I also think this scene goes on longer than it needs to.

    And I wonder why they didn't just leave the dad and go to dinner by themselves, but maybe there's an explanation.

  22. Sorry, I'm not hooked. I just couldn't care about the MC and others, although their predicament is horrendous.

  23. I liked your voice, but I think this needs work. I think the (Paris, France) thing is unnecessary. I think the word 'Elysee' would make most people realise that they're in Paris, and if not, you drop enough other clues in the text for people to figure it out pretty quickly.

    Also, I've just written a piece in the airport too so I'm going to point out a very few nitty things. It's Charles de Gaulle, not Galle, and there's not one arrivals terminal. There's several terminals that service different airlines, so I would just write 'Charles de Gaulle airport." If he's picking them up, then they've obviously arrived so you don't need to say 'arrivals terminal.'

    I too am wondering why they didn't just leave without the father, or why the mother didn't go up to the father's room and bang on the door.

    Having said all this, voice is usually the hardest part, and you have this (I loved the 'pardon my French' line) so with a little work this should be really good.

  24. Sorry not hooked.

    You painted a clear picture of a disgruntled family, but lost me with the overlong sentences and the misspelling of passed/past in the second line.

    A bit of polishing would go a long way to tightening this up.

  25. I'm curious as to why the father lives in a hotel in Paris and they are visiting. However, I had difficulties with the parentheses and why they didn't just leave without him and tell him they'd meet him there. I might read a couple of pages but there are a couple of errors (passed nine, etc.) that made this feel not ready.

  26. Even though I'm a francophile, this story didn't do anything for me I'm afraid. It doesn't seem to be on any kind of path, which is just boring. Sorry, not hooked.