Wednesday, February 10, 2010

43 Secret Agent

TITLE: Triumph
GENRE: YA, dystopian

When the NavSat device on Sara’s wrist bleeped, indicating she arrived to her destination, she skidded to a stop. She pulled the headphones from her ears and dashed up the main stairs into an austere looking building, nearly bumping into a man who was painting over an ugly graffiti next to the main entrance. She’d never been here before but it only took a second to take in the crowded lobby.

Sara passed a cop in a black uniform hurrying out a tramp who was obviously intent on badgering passers-by for money or ration cards. She saw how the tramp was thinking about stealing the officer’s wallet from his back pocket but then changed his mind not wanting to risk imprisonment, or worse, a beating.

Avoiding the crowds, she sneaked to the right into the toilets. She shrugged the knapsack off her shoulders and placed it onto the counter. The video camera in the top right corner was broken and, judging from the smell, so were the toilets.

She pulled a bundle of clothes out of her backpack and changed from her cargo pants and a black turtleneck into a more professional outfit in apricot color.

She hated apricot and constantly complained about the color to Corey but he insisted business women wore pastel colors which gave them an air of efficiency and professionalism. She donned a pair of glasses and combed her long hair with her fingers. Lastly, she put on a pair of awkward high heels that always gave her blisters.


  1. As much as I love YA dystopian, these first few paragraphs don't hook me. It's too much telling and not enough of the action. Perhaps if you could introduce a couple of lines to dialogue to break it up? Or actually show the internal dialogue of the tramp instead of telling us how she "saw how the tramp was thinking"?

    Good luck!

  2. This didn't quite cut it for me. I felt like I was dumped into the middle of this scene without any idea of its significance. Also, it seems like you're focusing more on the scene than giving me a sense of your character. IMO, you might achieve a better hook by bringing out Sara's voice right away rather than using impersonal action.

    A few phrases tripped me up as well: "sneaked to the right into the toilets," (sneaked seemed out of place) and the sentence about the tramp.

  3. Not hooked. Too much telling, description and not enough character voice.

    The majority of this reads like a list of she's:

    she did this. She did that. She did the other thing.

    I think your structure could be made to flow better.

  4. I liked the set-up of the scene and of the character who's moving much to quickly to do more than notice snippets as she jogs past. Little details--the graffiti, the bumming for ration cards, the broken toilets--all give me clues about your dystopian world.

    The first sentence of the last paragraph is good in telling me how she feels about the change of clothes, but the rest of that paragraph doesn't give me much that I need.

    I might read a little more to see what sort of building this is and what Sara's going to do there.

  5. I stopped reading on line one. I have no idea what a NavSat device is and am not willing to keep reading to find out what it is.

    YOu can't start something--even if it's scifi--introducing concepts that are not familiar to the reader. It's a total turnoff.

  6. Not hooked. Felt like the voice was distant and was given too many passers-by and not enough of the MC. By the time I learned she hates apricot it's too late.

  7. The NavSat didn't bother me, but when she skidded to a stop I wondered what she was driving and then I decided she was walking, but I never felt 100% sure if I'd gotten it right.

    I particularly liked the last two paragraphs, but I think you could put the rest of this deeper in her pov by showing what the building looked like a bit more and how she saw the tramps thoughts--that's a cool detail I'd have enjoyed understanding better.

    I would read a bit more.

  8. The strength of this entry is it's setting and world-building. Lots of detail and set-up about the place your character is living and working in.

    But having said that there's little else in the opening. I'm curious as to Sara's goals. Is she really involved in the business or is it a cover for something else? What she doing in a neighbourhood/business district she doesn't seem familiar with (because she needs a NavSat to find her way there)? Does she normally work in places she needs directions to find? What is her job?

    I was also left with the question - what is the conflict of the story?

    Hints need to be dropped to keep the reader wanting to turn the page. Even though the length of the submission is short, something should tweak the reader's internal radar as having the potential to be a problem that the character needs to resolve.

  9. I'm with the others on this one, too: I'd rather know more about Sara than what she's doing. Characters sell books. Characters are what make us care about everything else in a story.

    Good luck with this. I'm all about YA dystopians and would love to see another great one hit the shelves:)

  10. This doesn't hook me. The writing needs a bit more of a polish (eg. you are missing a word in the first sentence - I think you need 'had' before 'arrived') and there's a lot of telling instead of showing. Instead of austere-looking building, why not actually describe the building? Is it grey stone with small windows? What makes it austere? And when you say 'a more professional outfit', I wanted to see the outfit. There's a lot of variation in what is considered a professional outfit, especially for women, and I think seeing what Sara thinks of as professional would have told us a lot about the character.

  11. I think there's potential here, but it's extremely rushed. COuld be too much telling and not showing. I understand the need for a brisk pace, but there is room to bring the details alive and keep it moving quickly.

  12. There is nothing in the first 250 words to hook me -- it seems she is just arriving at work for a shift. There's action but there's nothing to draw me in and convince me that I must keep reading.

  13. I could have felt more interested in this than I did.

    At the last, I started to guess that this might be leading to an interesting plot, and the world it seemed to be set in would probably interest me; however, I did not feel a need to keep going.

    There were places where the writing could definitely have been more concise. Even shaving a few words here and there can make an MS feel much cleaner and tighter.

    I liked the mention of the shoes giving her blisters. It gave me the sense that she'd done this sort of thing before and that she isn't a professional female but playing that part.

  14. I really like the setting, but the writing needs a bit more polish. Not sure why she pulls her headphones "from her ears" and that could have just been "she pulled off her headphones", "austere looking building" can just be "austere building," "tramp who was obviously intent on badgering passers-by" could have just been "tramp who was badgering passers-by," "hated apricot and constantly complained about the color to Corey" could have been "she hated apricot and complained to Corey," and I don't think you need the "Lastly" in the last sentence.

    Still, I think there's a good setting and some tension here, so I'd read on.