Wednesday, April 15, 2009

46 Secret Agent

TITLE: Some Strange Magic
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Even after he was dead, my father’s obsession with magic continued to color my life. He hadn’t been dead so long that I didn’t have many memories of him, but my strongest were of sleight of hand and illusion. I still had a perfectly clear picture, even at seventeen, of being four and my father reaching behind my ear for a coin, myself laughing in delight.

Those were good times, but they weren’t enough to erase this.

Mom was gesturing towards the windows of our two-year-old sedan, the one we’d bought when we still had money, and giving commentary on our new home. She’d gone into super-mom mode, just like every time she talked to me since her therapy “breakthrough.” She had her happy face on. The one she used to give me the message that she wasn’t resentful her husband had spent every last dime we had on a stupid hotel and then gotten himself killed.

She didn’t have to be bitter if she didn’t want to. If it made her feel better. I was embittered enough for both of us. “There’s the Capital Building,” my mother chirped.

I glanced up at the bulbous golden tower high atop the Capital Building of my new home. “Wow.” It probably sounded as hollow as I felt but she didn’t say anything. She never said anything about my moods. Probably something the grief counselor had told her to do.


  1. I liked this so far, but I was confused by the first sentence of the last paragraph. Is the Capital Building her home? Is the golden tower on top of the capital or on top of her home?

    I'd read more to see what happens next.

  2. Good premise, but a lot of backstory right away. Is it possible to give this to us later? I love the concept of the father she has recently lost and the mother dealing with grief.

    A few small things ... I was confused by the double negative in the first paragraph. Also, the wording of the last sentence in that paragraph is awkward: "my father reaching behind my ear for a coin, myself laughing in delight." The "myself" tripped me up.

    In the last paragraph, the last two sentences were slightly confusing because of negatives again. "She never said anything about my moods... the grief counselor had told her to do." The grief counselor can't tell her to DO something that is NOT done. Does that make sense? It might be better to say: "She never said anything about my moods. Probably something the grief counselor warned her against doing." (That was just an example. I'm sure you can come up with better wording!)

    Hope this helps/makes sense and good luck!

  3. Not Hooked. I did like the first sentence. There is definitely too much backstory.

  4. Sorry, not hooked. Goes on too much and I think you could tighten.

  5. I love the insight into your character. especially the 'sounded as hollow as I felt.' Excellent.

    But I don't know if your MC is a girl or a boy. I understand they are moving, but are they moving into the capital building? I think you mean for capital to be just one of the many sights Mom is describing, but you haven't given us anymore so the Capital stands out like a sore thumb. Maybe add a could things when you say she is 'giving commentary on our new home' i.e. 'giving commentary on the history of our new home, the statue of the founder, the remains of the first log cabin, etc.... I'm sure this probably is anything like your story, but you see what I mean... give us some flavor of where they're moving to.

    I also wondered if some of the back story couldn't move to a little later.

    Good job. I'd read on.

  6. Hi - I like the idea for this story. The category, title, and the fact dad was a magician hooked me and I'd keep reading.

    I'm not totally sold on your opening, I think the second paragraph is a bit awkward. I wish you would have described her face rather than calling it her "happy face".

    I do think this has a lot of promise. Good work.


  7. I liked your first and third paragraphs a lot! Great voice!

    A couple of setences did confuse me though. When you say 'this' in the second paragraph, what are you referring to exactly? The line 'She didn't have to be bitter...' also didn't sound quite right to me. And one last thing--in the last paragraph, you need a comma before but.

  8. I think this story has potential and I like where it is heading. I can see the groundwork for some interesting conflict.

    However, I felt the writing could be tightened up a bit.

    Here are some examples:

    Even after he was dead, my father’s obsession with magic continued to color my life.

    Even after his death, my father's obsession...

    He hadn’t been dead so long that I didn’t have many memories of him, but my strongest were of sleight of hand and illusion.

    Try: being more specific. This is an ideal spot to slip in the fact that he'd been gone 2 years (or however long). The reader will acknowledge that the dad isn't forgotten and that this boy may still be struggling with losing his father figure.

    I liked this line: She’d gone into super-mom mode, just like every time she talked to me since her therapy “breakthrough.”
    It says a lot and has voice.

    Good luck!

  9. I liked this, but there were a couple sticky things for me. "They were good times, but they weren't enough to erase this." You don't need this sentence. It detracts from your rocking first paragraph.

    "Mom was gesturing towards..." is passive. "Mom gestured toward (no 's')". Also, she's not gesturing toward the window, but the view beyond, right? Lastly, the fact that they are angry and resentful and embittered makes them seem heartless to me. And I don't want to read about heartless people.

    They can be mad, just give a clue why that is.

  10. I'm hooked. I loved the obsessed with magic dead father and your second paragraph really grabbed me. I think because it was so stark compared to the lengthier first paragraph. Also, Mom is very dimensional and plays well off the MC. Love your MC's voice. I didn't think there was too much backstory. It was just enough to intrigue me without slowing the action or the pace. I do agree with the others about the grief counselor though. Technically, you may be right but it just sounds odd to have "never" paired with "to do"

  11. Agree that there's too much backstory, but it seems like there's a promising premise in there.

  12. Yes, I'm hooked. One thing though - the "Mom was gesturing.." paragraph needs a little work. It could or should draw us closer to the setting and your protagonist, but instead it pushes us away. You could hop into the character's head and mix some action in.

  13. I really like your first sentence, but it gets dragged down by the rest of the paragraph. And then I was confused by the sentence "...they weren't enough to erase this." First I thought you were talking about what Mom was gesturing to, but that didn't seem to make sense. The whole paragraph about Mom and therapy slows down things even more.

    Also, your first sentence of your last paragraph confused me too. I had to read it a couple times to understand it.

    Hope that helps!

  14. Sorry not hooked. Too much backstory. Nothing's going on.

    I did like: She'd gone into super-mom mode, just like every time she talked to me since her therapy "breakthrough." She had her happy face on. But then it's back to backstory.

    I also like: It probably sounded as hollow as I felt.

  15. I really like this! It's one of those things that makes me wonder what has happened. How did Dad Die? And did magic have anything to do with it? I love magic, both real and imagined, both slight of hand and the powers of wizards and more. I would definitely read on!

  16. I definitely like the voice and the set up here. The opening paragraph is really intriguing and I definitely want to know more.

    My only suggestion is to start moving the plot forward a bit here. The "moving to a new home" plot is really cliche in the YA and MG genres, so I'd really love to know what else is at stake for this character.

    But again, I did like this, and would probably read on.

    Thanks for sharing!

  17. I'm kind of eh about this. I'm not hooked, and some of the details just seemed unnecessary and I agree the writing could be tightened up. I also didn't hear a distinctive voice.

    If you were in my cruit group I would suggest reworking the beginning to start somewhere to give more insight into the MC and let his/her voice grow stronger, as opposed to focusing on the family dynamic or need to move.

  18. I'm hooked. The voice is strong and the mother-daughter (or son?) relationship vivid. I also think a 'not' in the last sentence might make things clearer.

  19. I liked the premise of this and am definitely intrigued. However, I echo the comments that have been made about the back story dump. Start with the action and sprinkle the rest of this in later.

    Oh, and I'm pretty sure "Capital Building" should be "Capitol Building." The building itself is the capitol; the city it's in is the capital.

  20. No peeking at above.

    I liked the first paragraph, but found that it led nowhere.

    I found it difficult to get a sense of time after that. The mother's back story was kind of dumped in here.

    I liked the premise however and would probably read on

  21. I liked that first sentence- I was almost wondering if he was undead- a ghost or something. (and I like that) The second sentence needs work though-maybe too many negatives- maybe you don't even need it. Just jumept to "My strongest memories..."

    I like the break highlighting "Those...." but it ends with the weak word "this.'
    I suggest "present" ??

    Mom gesturing toward the window. I think you mean "out of the window." See, I thought she was outside the car gesturing at the car.

    Capital didn't bother me- actually intrigued me. But isn't it Capitol? (the o for the building; think dome; the a for the other use of the word,such as capial idea!)

  22. I would turn the page even though a lot of details slowed it down. I'm sure you could find places for them other than your first page. I liked your style. Good luck.

  23. I like the idea here, but not the execution. This needs polish and revision to focus on the important parts.

    Not hooked.

  24. This sounds like it could be interesting but I feel like there's too much backstory and telling and I'm not drawn to the mc on a personal level. But I think this could work with some editing.

  25. It needs to be tightened. The first line confused me.

    Check out this re-wording, "My father's obsession colored my life, long after he died--slight of hand, illusion, magic." 39 to 15 words--and it comes across stronger.

    Then maybe tell me what his father's hands looked like. Hands are very powerful character indicators. Your 'hands on' magic bits give you a wonderful opportunity here. Really neat,but right now it's sort of mundane?

    Then skip to the description of the new home. I guess that I'm saying a tighter job of editing.

  26. As far as I can tell from the page, this story will be about unrelieved sadness and various kinds of fakery. Not what I'm looking for.

  27. There are too many elements struggling against each other here. Magic is mentioned in the first paragraph, then never again. The hotel is a fleeting thought, and the capital building seems a bit random. None of it fits very well together. Not hooked.