Wednesday, November 4, 2009

3 Secret Agent

GENRE: Young Adult Fantasy

Lulled by the words being read aloud in her English class, Brissa Harlen lay back in her seat and let her gaze wander outside, towards the tree line at the end of the field. She stared, sleepy and beginning to dream, unconsciously admiring the brilliant colors of the leaves that were already beginning to change. Her mind slipped outside the bounds of the classroom, to her family’s forest, away from all the drudgery of school.

She didn’t mind her English class in particular. Actually, it was one of her favorites, but the late morning warmth, combined with the gorgeous colors that called to her, was making the day impossible to bear.

In her mind, she began to mix her colors to imitate a particular shade of amber glowing from one of the trees when her attention was very subtly, but steadily, engaged by a slight shimmering that kept growing, until it morphed into a group of gorgeous butterflies fluttering together, almost in formation. She sat up in her seat, trying to get a clear view of the butterflies. Pale green and gauzy, infinitely delicate. Brissa was overwhelmed by a sudden desire to run outside and play amongst them, whirling around in a dance. She saw herself, in the woods, her long black hair blowing softly in the wind, a long pale dress to match the butterflies, barefoot. It was completely out of a hippie handbook and the image was comical enough that she laughed out loud, abruptly interrupting the reading that the whole class had been intently listening to.


  1. Sorry, no. The writing's fine, but daydreaming in class is just not exciting enough, and there is nothing distinctive in the character to get my attention, either. Also, not quie thrilled with the title. "Reluctant Acceptance" sounds awkward and uncomfortable, not interesting.

  2. I agree with Momwoman. Sleeping and/or daydreaming in class isn't very interesting.

    This first sentence of paragraph three is way too long. I didn't understand the bit about the "shade of amber."

    I did like the "Hippie handbook" line.

    There isn't enough here for me to connect with the character and I have no idea where this is going.

    Good luck


  3. The writing is good, but I do have to agree this particular scene as a starting point doesn't work, not for me anyway. I love your description, but I got confused with what exactly was happening with the glowing and the butterflies, did she do this or something else magical? Or is all just a daydream?

  4. I agree that the writing is good. I like the flow of the piece...but, again like the others, I'm not hooked. I want to dive into the action of the novel, but a daydream doesn't allow me to do that.

    Questions I had: is she a painter, and that's why she daydreams the way she does? Or is she a witch and really 'mixing colors'?

  5. I was also a little confused by the daydream and the butterflies. Did she make that happen? If she did that would be awesome! I'd say work with this a little more, try different beginnings that might work better and draw the reader in faster. Good luck!

  6. I agree with the others about a daydream being a slow opening, but she is startled out of it by the end, and if you did some heavy cutting, these three pargs, could be whittled down to just one. The daydreram would become only a sentence or two, and you wouldn't have a daydream opening any longer because it would give you room to get into the story.

    Parg 1 her thoughts are wandering off to her parents' forest, yet that isn't what she thinks of. She thinks of explaining that she really does like English. Cut the whole 2nd parg. Anything that is an explanation for the reader can usually be cut.

    The butterfly image is nice but could be so much stronger pared down. For me, the problem is that you've used a lot of words to say very little, which makes this drag. Cut it down and look at your word choices and sentence structure. Choose nouns and verbs that work for you. Change generic words like 'group' (of butterflies) to something more specific and vivid. (bouquet of butterflies.) Give it another revision or two.

  7. By the time I got to the last paragraph, I didn't care about the main character at all or see anything that sparked my interest. You obviously want the reader to sympathize with her desire to be outside. Unfortunately, all the writing felt to me was. . .niceness.

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  9. My interest grew the more I read. I thought you evoked an interesting magical moment even your character didn't understand.

    That being said, I thought the hippie reference and her laughing about it was off. If she really doesn't know what's happening, I wonder why she isn't focused on the mystery before her more than on the comparison she thought up.

    I also think it advisable to stay away from passive voice in the opening sentence. You might make the daydreaming work if you show her wanting to be anywhere else first or trying to stay alert--maybe yawning, pinching herself to stay awake, checking the clock (or position of the sun if they didn't have clocks), letting her eyelids drift shut, only to snap them open and sit up straighter. That sort of thing.

    I don't know. Still might not be enough. Readers have to believe there's something at stake, not just her being bored.

  10. I thought your writing was good, but to keep the action moving and bring readers into your story, you might consider condensing all of that action you presented here into half the words and add more to give me a stronger reason to continue reading.

  11. The writing seems solid, but I don't feel I have been sufficiently hooked into the story. Character and voice are pretty key in YA and I don't have a really strong sense of this character.

  12. I love YA, so I'd probably read on because I love witch stories, but I wasn't grabbed by the opening.

    Happy Writing,
    A. McElfresh

  13. **It was completely out of a hippie handbook** -- I liked this line.

    Watch the -ly adverbs; you use quite a few here.

  14. You have a beautiful, lyrical style, and I *think* you're using it early to create a dream-like feel. Then we get to the hippie-handbook and we're jarred into a more realistic world. My guess is the latter is the voice of the rest of the book and that if we had more than 150 words, we'd see that.

    Maybe you just need a different opening.

    Or perhaps you might consider that your voice is more geared toward adult fiction. Just a thought.