Wednesday, January 13, 2010

19 Secret Agent

GENRE: Contemporary YA

When I was little I thought my grandfather had an important sounding name. I call him Pop, but his name is Mr. George Mastrick. It always sounded like a banker or business guy's name. I'm sixteen now, and I know the only important things about my Pop are his fists. They're big and they hurt. But I'd never tell him that.

I even used to think my name, William Mastrick, sounded like I was somebody who mattered. My Pop decided to rename me Bull when I was five, said he didn't want me getting any crazy ideas that I was someone special, that my name was something special. He said I wrecked everyone's life when I came along, like a bull in a china shop. The name stuck.

I know I look like him. Not from any pictures or anything. We're not the kind of family with photo albums or sentimental trash. There isn't one photo of me till I hit kindergarten, and it's the school photo anyway.

When my mom's drunk she loves smacking me in the side of the head and telling me how much I look like him. "Look, you two have the same color green eyes," she says. It comes out like this though, "Luh, yeww tewww hah the say culah gree eye."

Pop has always hated me, no doubt. We stay out of each other's way unless he wants to beat the crap out of me.

Then we spend some real quality time together.


  1. I like the first two paragraphs; they have a strong voice, and interesting questions draw me in. Then I got confused by the third paragraph -- doesn't he know what he and Pop both look like? Why would he need pictures?

    The shift to the mom was a little abrupt, and I was wanting something more thoughts about the abuse. The mom's drunken dialogue didn't work for me.

    Overall, I'm mixed. The writing is strong, but there's a danger in having the first page be all about hitting/smacking/beating the crap out of the MC, IMO. Others may disagree. Good luck!

  2. I'm in two minds about this. I agree with brendao that the writing is strong. My only reservation is that it's very bleak. I'd like to think that things will get better for the MC.

    I'd probably want to read more because I want to know where you're going with this.

  3. My greatest concern is that this is all backstory. Nothing has happened to the MC. I can't get hooked by backstory.

    Also, the tense is a little off. It seems to be both past, present and future.

  4. Dark, creepy opener. I have a great sense of this character and want to know more about him. It is a lot of straight backstory, though. I wonder if you'd want to bring the present in sooner and layer the backstory a little more into the story?

  5. I'm with Secret Agent--there's nothing here but backstory. Put us in scene and show us some of this or wait until later and put us in a scene up front.

  6. I like the flavor, but did get a little info dumping for me. Maybe blend in the back with the present.
    I don't mind the bleak, the dark. You can't have good without the bad. I wasn't quit into the I know I look like him but in pictures...I like the way they don't have pictures because the parents dont care enough to do so, but it makes me think the MC hasn't seen his dad in a while, and we know that isn't the case.

  7. Since you started with him and Pop, I expected you to lead me to them in the present, but instead, we moved on to mom.

    As others have pointed out, you're getting lost in the back story. Perhaps after the second parg. you could move us into the here and now. Where is he today and what is his problem? (aside from getting smacked around, since that is 'normal' for him.)

    The writing's good and you've created a nice voice for your character. Just get us into the world he's living in now.

  8. I like the writing style and opening, but the tenses threw me a little bit. You start with "when I was little," which would indicate the past, but then use the verb "is," which indicated the present. You say "his name is" (present) but then say "it always sounded" (past). Because of this, I can't tell whether Pop is dead or alive.

  9. I'm hooked-Dark and edgy! I would read on. I like that we know mom is a drunk and Pop is a jerk.

  10. I like the writing and voice, but it's all backstory. I agree with the SA's comments. If you don't start with some action soon, you're going to lose your readers. Couldn't you show the mom drunk, smacking him on the side of his head, instead of telling us that. I did like the description, but even though you used dialogue (and I loved it!), it still off as telling.

    I like the last line and the sarcastic undertone.

    Good luck with it!

  11. Hooked! Yowza. The last line of the excerpt is perfect. I'd like to know where this is going.

    I do tend to like being grounded in the beginning of a story, as others have noted, but I don't think it's necessary. The book I'm reading now starts with about this much back story before I know anything about the present.

  12. Such a strong voice! Love the part about his fists being the only important thing about him!

  13. Begin in the place that is different, I think, I agree that this is mostly backstory. And while it may be interesting backstory, I don't feel connected to a character yet. And I'm not sure I want to yet, either. I don't know him well enough to feel bad for him with is drunk mother and abusive grandfather.

  14. I found this very intriguing, and though I'm going to agree with the general trend in comments that this is a lot of backstory and you could pare it down, it does convey a wonderful voice. I'd read on.

  15. Geez, this is depressing. Not the type of story I read, but I recognize it's good. Good writing and great voice.

    Good luck!