Wednesday, July 15, 2009

7 Secret Agent

TITLE: Personal Effects
GENRE: Contemporary Young Adult

My cell on the passenger seat is like a bomb ready to explode. Or like one of those electric collars they put on dogs. But an hour up the Turnpike, I don’t even flinch at the passing trooper. I got away.

So many things could have gone wrong this week. Pendergrast could have demanded the money early. Dad could have wanted to glare while I handed it in. Shauna’s mom could have caught a whiff of us-up-to-something, and Shauna would have cracked before I even got out of town.

Now Dad won’t know I’m gone until tonight, too late to race after me. And this time I won’t be in range before he’s blown off some steam.


It felt good to hit someone.

I couldn’t say that out loud, but it was the truth.

After months of digging my fingers into my palms, weeks of going numb to avoid the fight, it felt amazing to let loose and beat the sh** out of someone. Even if I got banged up. Even if I got suspended. Worth it.

That first perfect punch was in slow motion, a hazy comet trail following my fist all the way to Pinscher’s face. One beat of frozen shock. Then his nose exploded with a crunch like smashing crusty ice with your foot. Blood flooded Pinscher’s mouth and chin, making him sputter, dripping red all over his crisp white shirt. Maybe the blood should have made me stop, or at least pause, but it didn’t.


  1. Wow.... I'm not sure.

    I think this is good, but I'm not sure if you need the beginning snippet right up front. I liked the part after the scene divider better.

  2. I remember this one from somewhere (here?). I see how you added in the top part (which helps for backstory). The second part is still very compelling to me- I wonder if the two parts should be flip flopped. Make sense?

  3. That first part totally confused me. How is her cell (phone?) like a bomb, or like a shock collar? I can't figure out what it's describing or telling me.

    I think I also need something to establish her age earlier. The genre says adult, but the references to her dad and Shauna's mom and her voice makes me think YA...but apparantly she's driving (although where's Shauna? In the car, sitting on the phone? In the back seat?) again, I'm confused.

    I think that comma after "tonight" should be an em dash. I'm not positive, though.

    Then you jump to something else (not sure what, since I'm already in a state of confusion). This first line is intriguing, though. (I'd put the second line with the next paragraph. I also think you need to take out the comma after palms and put "and" in there, since it's a compound clause that goes with "after," instead of being a separate clause or part of a list.)

    Does "banged up" refer to getting punched and beat up, or getting pregnant? Also, the two "Even if" incomplete sentences work because we're so tight in her thoughts, and that's how we think. But to me, the "Worth it" doesn't. I think you need the "It was" unless you move the phrase to immediately after the "out of someone" sentence.

    But then, your next paragraph backtracks even more. Try to keep your storytelling linear...tell us one thing that happened, then the next. I'd either re-write the last paragraph here so it's not narrative telling, but his/her thoughts instead...the kind of thoughts that would be going through his/her head afterward, reliving it--more POV. Or, move this paragraph up so we see what happens and THEN hear the thoughts she thinks afterward. (Or cut the punch detail.)

    Am I hooked? I'm slightly curious to know why someone was punched, but I don't know that it's enough.

  4. Never mind about the age thing. I must have seen the adult thing from #6. It IS YA, so you're good on that. :-)

  5. I definitely liked the second part better than the first. The first 3 paras confused me some. Maybe you can weave that into a later part? Yes, the conflict / fight scene was good. I especially liked "a hazy comet trail" description of the fist.

  6. This has a great voice and the second part here raises questions in my mind that would keep me reading -- What is he so upset about? What has he been holding inside? What led to the fight?

    The present-day frame at the beginning shows us that whatever it was was bad enough to run away from, and I like the sense of urgency in those first few paragraphs. I find myself wanting to read on to find out more about both strands of narrative -- the escape and the awful things that happened that led to the fight.

    Overall, this has a strong adolescent male voice and the promise of a complex narrative structure that will give the story depth.

  7. Love the crusty ice image. Found the beginning bit confusing - too many what ifs. Definitely should start with the violence, but then you need to get our sympathy for the narrator fast.

  8. I agree that the first segment is confusing. I didn't understand how the cell phone was like a bomb. What did the MC think was going to happen?

    The other confusing part for me is that there is no context for the list of things that went wrong during the week. Give me a sense of who this character is, then I'll care about what went wrong in his life.

    The fight description, though beautifully written, seems to come out of left field. Why is the MC so angry? Why should I care that he clobbered this guy? There is a lot of action in this fisrt page but little context. I need a reason to care about your character.

  9. okay... I am hooked AFTER the stars... the first part doesn't do it for me at all.

  10. I found this pretty confusing. I'm not sure if the MC is male or female. As others have said, it jumps around a bit.

    By the end, I'm not sure I like the MC, and that's a problem for me - might not be for others.

    I do like your voice and you've got some great lines/images in here, but unfortunately I'm not sure I'd read on as is.

    I think the "It felt good..." line would make a great opening line.

  11. This piece does and does not hook me. It does hook me because, in an effort to contribute to this wonderful contest (which I've recently found and love), I read the whole way through. And I am hooked by everything after the stars. But, had I picked this up in a store, I wouldn't have made it past the stars.

    Here's why: the first part is made of so many could-haves and might-have-beens that I'm left completely confused. I'm not sure what the MC has actually done that could have gone wrong, but I know what didn't happen. Also, in your first paragraph, the two comparisons about the phone aren't the same. And I wonder, if the MC is so hellbent on escaping, why he doesn't ditch the cell? Or why his cell has anything to do with flinching at a trooper. When I begin a story, I want to know what's happening, not what didn't happen, and every word of that first page has to hook me and relate. So, these early paragraphs are off.

    However, you had me at "It felt good to hit someone." That's a feeling most can identify with (hasn't everyone at least hit their pillow when angry?) and it relates to what is actually happening in the story at that time. Then you have action. And all this comes together to make me wonder why the kid is in this fight. Plus, the focus on the MC (instead of mentioning a dad, mom, and friend who aren't in the scene) really helps me be in the moment and picture what's going on.

    Keep the fight and really get into your MC's head - without mentioning any of the dad/mom/friend stuff - so that the reader knows exactly what the MC is doing/feeling. Save all the dad stuff for later.

  12. Hooked by the second part, definitely. I'd cut (or move) everything before the stars.

  13. I liked everything after the stars. Great imagery. The last sentence worries me, though, the part of the MC not pausing at the blood when s/he should have. I like to like the main character in a book. If the next few paragraphs don't make me empathize with him or her, then I'd stop reading, no matter how good the writing is.

  14. Would definitely love to see it start at "It felt good to hit someone." That's where I became interested. I like the description of the fight. It's exciting and I'm wondering what has got this kid so angry. Although starting at the 4th paragraph, you'd have to get it in that this is a teenager.

    Everything after the stars hooked me and would keep me reading. Good luck!

  15. I am not hooked--I found the beginning confusing in a sloppy, rather than interesting, way. In particular, the phone = bomb thing started the whole piece off kilter and I couldn't keep up with all the names and info that came after that.

    I think this would have been stronger if it started with "It felt good... ."

  16. Hooked! I liked the voice, I liked the writing. The first part was a bit confusing, but that was one of the things that made me want to read on - so I could figure out what he was talking about. I thought it was clear he was running away from something/someone.

    It never even dawned on me that the 'cell' was a phone. (Must be my age.) I was thinking he was sitting on a train and was speaking metaphorically, that his seat felt like a prison cell because he couldn't get up and leave because the trooper was there. Regardless, I'd drop the "I got away.' It adds more suspense without it, IMO, and we learn he got away by the end of that section anyway.

    I wouldn't dump the first section. I think it gives us a clue as to why your MC is running away and why he is so angry. The last sentence of that section implies his dad was in the habit of beating him up.

    I loved everything about this except the "i got away."

  17. Thank you all for your comments - especially those that took the time to carefully compare the two parts.

    Apparently the present tense frame is not working for most. So...back to the drawing board on the frame structure. I submitted this section (in part) to test drive the frame and I am very glad I did.

    I appreciate all who took the time to read and comment (and thank you in advance for any who come by and comment after this post).

    And thanks Authoress for running the SA contest...