Wednesday, November 4, 2009

5 Secret Agent

TITLE - Boxes
Genre - Women's Fiction

ARI (author's note: character has Down's Syndrome)

Phyllis said case it out. Look for the pizza and toilet paper and other things for Independent Living, which I’m not doing Independent Living now, but I will, and Phyllis says follow your dreams.

She waited on her green car, the hood of it, and smoked half a cigarette. Someday she will quit. That is her dream.

I picked up the little basket to carry. The toilet paper was with the tissues and pads. My sister uses tampons that I don’t like. She even took them to college, two boxes. She said, “Who knows what stores they’ll have in that podunk town.” Her name is Steffi.

You don’t go to the store just to look and I wanted to buy a Zero. It is backwards that the outside is white. It is still my favorite even though something bad happened with it. Me and Tanya were at lunch and a boy came and another boy. I saw those boys do barking at a girl once.

The boy said, “Dude. The Zero is eating a Zero. That is, like, for Saturday Night Live.”

The other boy said, “Dude, they should make a candy bar called Tard.”

The first one said, “Yeah, you should eat it.”

The other one said, “Shut the f*** up.” He did a kick and they laughed and my pocketbook fell which I was very mad.

I didn’t understand Tard but Dad said it is short for “retard.” He likes to tell it to me straight.


  1. The first paragraph is in 1st person. What does "Case it out" mean?

    The second paragraph is in third person Who's waiting on the green car and what does "the hood of it" mean?

    You go back to first person for paragraph three.

    I liked the description of the Zero candy bar and the exchange between the boys.

    9th paragraph--"He did a kick and they laughed and my pocketbook feel which I was very mad." This needs work--how about.

    "He did a kick and hit the table. They laughed when my pocketbook fell, which made me mad."

    I think you have an interesting MC here. With a little work, I'm sure she'll shine from the pages.

    Best of luck!


  2. Totally Hooked! You have perfectly captured the way a person with Down’s Syndrome talks, and I salute you. I can tell this is going to be painful and true and just great!
    Like the first post, I was confused by the second paragraph, but I’m trusting it will work out. I want more!

  3. The “author’s note’ implies you are not confident in your story-telling skills or the readers’ ability to understand the story.

    But I will disregard that unfortunate beginning. (Place smiley face here)

    I am not completely hooked but I am definitely nibbling on the bait.

    The dialogue is intriguing. Up to that point, I didn’t feel a connection and even though I am not a women’s fiction reader, this is interesting and I would read more to discover the plot.

    The second paragraph is confusing. I am not sure if this is Phyllis or the protagonist.

    After chewing the bait and swallowing, I find I am more than a little intrigued. Color me, mostly hooked.

  4. If the switching of POVs is consistent with the way someone with DS would think or talk, I think you nailed it. I also think that you don't need to tell the reader anything about the mc, because by that last line we know something is "wrong" with her.

    I get a good sense of the rhythm of the character here - but not what the story might be about. I know it's only a taste - I'd read more.

    Well done.

  5. Great job with voice. I'm beginning to picture this character already, and without telling me a thing, I have a glimpse at her family and life and her struggles. Good work. I'd read on, absolutely.

  6. Hooked. You captuted the voice and created a great character. I didn't see (and still don't see) the switch in 2nd parg. I read it as your MC telling us where Phyllis was as she (the MC) headed into the store.

    I'd also agree to take out the explanation that the MC has Down's Syndrome for the same reason Anonymous gave. You've written this well enough that the reader will get it, and coming in not knowing it right of the bat makes it a better reading experience, IMO. Very nice!

  7. You have a mix of present and past tense. I'm not sure which one it's supposed to be in, but I liked the voice!

  8. I don't know where the story might be going, but I like the voice and the scenario so much I almost don't care :D

    Definitely take the "author's note" out of the presentation -- if the reader doesn't get it by the end s/he is clearly not paying any attention.

  9. I love the voice--think you nailed it--but I'm afraid I would be worn out if I had to read an entire book written in this voice.

    Is this your main character or just one pov character?

    I read and write mg and ya books so I may not have as much patience as most adult readers have, so don't let me dissuade you. Very nice opening.

  10. oh, and yes, yes, yes, take the author's note out.

  11. This felt very real to me. As the child of a special educator, I found the voice very authentic. I agree with the poster above who said it may be hard to carry through an entire novel, but I suppose it all depends on how the plot progresses.

    Also, I'm glad the author's note was there for the purposes of this contest. My guess is that you do not include it in your actual novel because anyone picking up the book would know that they are reading about a MC with Down's Syndrome. But I found it helpful for this short excerpt.

    Nicely done.

  12. The women's fiction genre threw me. Maybe mainstream fiction?

    I like the cadence of the speaker but as Sally says, I might be worn out if I read a whole book in this voice. The reason for me is the use of "which"--I loved it for the character, but it was jarring. I also needed to know what some of the words meant like "case it out." I didn't understand what was going on.

  13. Hello,
    Author of this entry here! Wanted to let you know that the book is not all written from Ari's viewpoint.

    Authoress, is this allowed (to answer questions)? If not, would you please delete this comment? Thank you!

  14. This is a hard one to judge because the character is a bit hard to connect to. I am hoping that the story has depth and perhaps goes to some dark places but it is hard to tell from such a short sample. If the story is largely observational in this way, I don't think it would be very satisfying. I could be hooked. In cases like this, I would probably reach for the synopsis so I knew what kind of journey you were planning to take me on. With some stories you just have to hang in there for the big payoff.

  15. I wanna know where this story is heading! Nice snip.

    Happy Writing,
    A. McElfresh

  16. I like the voice well enough to read a bit more.

    Be careful of your mixed tenses. Some of this might be intentional because of the character, just make sure you are aware of when and why you choose to use past or present in each instance (which you might already be). It just seemed to jump between them a bit much for me.

  17. Interesting concept for a story. I'd pick this up in the store and keep reading. It's hard to tell now, with just this small snippet, what the story would be like. I do like the idea, I don't recall ever seeing a first person book with a person with Down's Syndrome.

    Good luck with your novel.


  18. Someone commented about not liking the author's note at the beginning. I assume that you put it there just for this contest. I thought it was appropriate for such a short entry.

    To me you nailed the voice of someone with Down's syndrome.

  19. I realise you're not going to put the author's note in your actual manuscript, but I still kind of thought it was cheating for this comp. I'm sure other people's entries would have been clearer or come across better if we knew a little more information. I always think the point of this comp (apart from maybe landing an agent) is to see if people are hooked on your 250 words alone, without any other information.

    I also would have preferred to come to the realisation she was different by reading the story rather than the author's note (showing versus telling). I think your voice is great and most readers would have figured it out by the end of the 250, because you do such a good job exposing it. We might not know what kind of disability the MC has, but we know there's some reason the boys are mocking her. So basically, I think you should have confidence in your ability as a storyteller and don't worry about explanations. :-)

  20. Re: the author's note -- point definitely well-taken! Thanks.

  21. I get that the character here has Downs Syndrome - and I would expect some of her comments to be tangential in nature (which you nailed, by the way). But this can be hard on the reader because of the (deliberately) rambling sentences and grammatical errors.

    The shifts of POV made this harder to read too.

    I'm afraid I read the first sentence three times and still didn't understand the second use of Independent Living here.

    Kudos to you for tackling this challenging subject.