Wednesday, April 15, 2009

43 Secret Agent

TITLE: Clear Blue and a Million
GENRE: YA/Crossover/Adventure

On a map, Summerbrook is the first dot on the dunes in New Hampshire. For years, the under-30 population called our sleepy coastal village Slumberbrook. Before the Aruba event (as everyone in town still calls it), nothing exciting had ever happened here. The crime rate … well, there was no crime rate. It was so boringly peaceful that even the police and fire departments were staffed by volunteers. The closest movie theater was ten miles north; the closest arcade was three miles south. By 11 p.m., Summerbrook was the darkest spot on earth. There were only two things that attracted anyone to this little town – the Spark It Up Café where young, old and everyone in between gathered, plus an exquisite stretch of beach that the other coastlines envied.

Then, in April of 1999, the Bradley’s trip to Aruba changed everything and this little town was no longer just a small dot on a state map. What started as a couple of simple high school newspaper stories about the trip eventually morphed into a book … which became a best seller … then a movie. Unfortunately, I only got to publish a couple of short school newspaper articles before and after the trip. Mr. Elliott decided which stories ran and which ones got back-burnered and he suggested that I re-write the second article – the one after the Bradleys returned – until it was white-washed and boring enough to escape any attention – everyone but me agreed that it was the best way to honor Jack Bradley’s passing.


  1. Sounds like a lot of backstory here. It's well-written, but it doesn't hook me. Try starting with action and work this info in later if it's crucial to the story.

  2. I want to compliment you on your voice. It's unique and I found your writing interesting, even though it was all backstory. :)

    I'd be careful of all the dashes, though. They seemed sort of an easy way out of using proper punctuation.

  3. nDefinitely Cross-over. I wonder if kids would put up with all the telling, but as an adult, I found your description of the town great. Reminded me of Ocracoke at one time.

    While you hook me with the opening description, the second part needs tightening and a real hook of why to read on. No need to go into such detail about the book and all. The point is, he wrote a story for the school paper that got white washed to fit into the Slumberfield tradition. The rest of the info you can tuck in after you do a little action scene, or the reader (me) is going to lose interest.

  4. I'm not really hooked. Too much description and backstory for me in the first paragraph, even done well. And in the second paragraph, at first, I thought she was a Bradley and the story was going to happen to her, so that was confusing.

    I want to care about your character and right now the story is more about the town and the Bradley's.

  5. Sorry, but nothing drew me forward.

  6. As others have mentioned, the 'telling' and backstory has slowed down your story.

    You have a good voice, it is just a matter of determining which elements are most important to put forth for the reader to know at this point and then putting it forth in as few words as possible. For example, does the reader need to know that he had to re-write the second article?

    Although intrigued by the Aruba incident and what happened to the town, at this point, I'm not hooked quite enough to keep on reading.

    You can do it! Don't give up.

  7. "For years the under 30 population..." When I read that, I thought you meant the population of Summerbrook was under 30, as in 28 people lived there. I love how you said it was the darkest spot on earth after 11:00. Having come from a small town, I can relate.

    I don't have any sense what your story is about, though. We have an event that shaped this particular town's popularity among tourists but that doesn't tell me anything about your main character and what his story might be in relation to that.

    I'm afraid I'm not hooked.

  8. Like the others, I enjoyed your voice but I'd love something happening. Reads like an infodump at the beginning, and the only real part that intrigued me is Jack Bradley's passing.

  9. I like your idea with the small town description and Jack Bradley's passing, but there's something here that doesn't quite hook me. The narrative seems to be slightly passive, especially the 'gots' in the second paragraph. I think the description could work well if you made the writing stronger. Good luck!

  10. You have some nice sentences and this has promise, but I'm not hooked yet. Maybe cutting down on some of the backstory and getting a little quicker to Jack Bradley's passing.

    Good luck!

  11. I'm sorry. Just way too much backround information right up front.

  12. Firstly I agree with macaronipants "...the under-30 population" at first I thought it was a town of 30 people. After that, I got bogged down by all the description. On the YA side, I think you have too much backstory upfront and nothing's really happening.

    Sorry, not hooked.

  13. Not hooked.

    I don't know about your local bookstore, but there is no crossover section in mine. It's either YA or Adult. Not a big deal, but it bears mentioning.

    Now why am I not hooked? It's all backstory. Nothing is happening. So unless you had a very enticing blurb, I would have already put the book back on the shelf after the first paragraph. Sorry.

    I did like the title, though.

  14. Sorry, but not hooked. 200+ words of this is just backstory and infodumping, and nothing is happening that effects the present until the line Unfortunately, I only got to publish a couple of short school newspaper articles before and after the trip. That's actually where I think your story begins.

    Good luck!

  15. I think adults looking for a book as much about a place as about character might be drawn in, but I don't think this works for YA.

    As others have said, it is a lot of looking back and backstory. And the voice seemed slow and distant for a YA. And some of the word chocies didn't feel teen, especially the "under-30" comment - I didn't mistake it for population, but it didn't feel like something a kid would say.

  16. I felt there was far too much information dumped in these two paragraphs, and the paras could be split up. In order to catch everything and understand what's going on I'd have to read it over more than once, which, I guess, isn't very hooky.

    I especially got tripped up with the second paragraph. It seemed as though the MC is the one who wrote the articles, but he/she refers to them somewhat if someone else wrote them. Then, toss in back-burnering articles, rewriting, before or after the Bradleys left (or was it returned?), white-washing, and Jack Bradley dying, and I end up having no idea the MC is talking about.

    The first para seemed okay. I liked that para overall because it set up the scene/location nicely.

    By the end, I gather that a 'new in town' family causes a stir, and the MC writes some articles about them, causing a scandal. This sounds a bit familiar, so I'd probably pass. Now if the MC's voice was a bit clearer and showed more personality I might read on, but as it is I'd have to say I'm not hooked.

  17. I agree with most of the comments already. It's a lot of backstory and focus on the town and I just don't know if YA audiences will get into a town they've never heard of. But it's really well written and I love the voice.

  18. I felt hooked by your voice in spite of the overlong paragraphs.Is Bradley's death important? I want action, not something boring like the town. Keep at it and good luck!

  19. I liked this.

    I suggest you break up the paragraphs. I've heard and read agents lamenting about eye strain and it is true, the big blocks of print are harder to read.

    Breaking the print up also highlights impact sentences- such as the one about being the darkest spot on earth. As another person said- great sentence.

    Here's my suggestions. Take out the 3rd sentence- it disrupts the flow and you are about to explain that nothing exciting happens in a much better way- darkness, no theater, etc.

    Also watch the clauses beginning with that. For example "an exquisite stretch of beach, the envy of all the other coastal towns."

    "It was so boringly peaceful volunteers ran the police and fire depts." Tightens up the sentence, moving the paragraph along faster.

    So we can get to this incident that I do want to hear about.

  20. I also think this feels older than YA. First of all, you're talking about the "under-30" population, when most YAs would have little to do with 30% of that group (Under 20s might work). Also, the timing of it -- looking back to 1999 from what seems like the present -- turns your narrator into a much older character, and lacks the connection for teens.

    Besides that, it's a lot of set up and I'd want to know more about the Aruba Event sooner.

    Not hooked.

  21. This has too much backstory and I'd like more information that relates to the plot or at least gives a clue where this is going. It seems a little older than YA to me. I'm confused over who actually turned the stories into a book, etc. I'd read for a couple of pages to see if something happens.

  22. Ok I got it; it was a deathly quiet place.

    I did like this line though.

    By 11 p.m., Summerbrook was the darkest spot on earth.

    Liked that a lot.

    I was confused about the writers of the book and our MC. Were they the same?

    The meagre hints of future action in the back story didn't hook me though. Sorry

  23. Sorry, this is like Slumberbrook -- oops, Summerbrook -- to me. Boring.

    You're telling us, not showing us. You're giving us a summary instead of a story.

    Now I realize that this technique has been used successfully, but for me, it isn't working.

    But keep working.

  24. Definitely event first or maybe, use your 2nd paragraph, "April of 1999, our quiet, peaceful town changed." Now I want to know WHAT changed?

    Also, *smiling* I don't think a coastline can show envy, unless the coasts are alive in a fantasy world. As a fantasy writer though....that kicks my mind into gear! Imagine if the coastline could speak, could feel emotions. OK, I'm off to start a new short story!