Wednesday, February 10, 2010

49 Secret Agent

TITLE: Practically Forever
GENRE: Young Adult Paranormal

Harold looks the same dead as he did alive—except for the near-decapitation thing.

I slap a hand over my mouth to stop myself from laughing, or maybe even humming along to an old camp song that's found its way into my own fully attached head. The shin bone's connected to the— Mom pulls me away from the sidewalk, trying to get me back to the curb. It's not funny. I know that even as I'm being dragged away, the laughter finally spilling out of me in loud bursts while men and women in blue with shiny gold badges look at me as though I've lost my mind. Maybe I have. Harold lost his a long time ago. Lost his mind and then his head. Might have been better for him if it had been the other way around.

"It's okay, Tiney," Mom keeps saying as she smoothes her fine blond hair away from her face. She hasn't cried yet, and I figure she's talking to herself as much as to me. I feel her shaking, our backs to the café and the blood and the late-night looky-lous.

My laughter is more like hiccupping now, and I feel like I'm going to throw up, which I guess is better than crying. But I'm not going to be on the news like this, some wuss of a vomiting, bawling sixteen-year-old kid who found a body outside her mom's restaurant at 1 o'clock in the morning. And not just any body.


  1. I'd read on to learn the MC's relationship with "Harold". One very very small thing, some of the paragraphs seem very...heavy. I wonder if you could break them up a little bit without losing the story? Get a little more "white space" in there? Good job overall, though!

  2. I'm hooked. Great voice. I loved her inappropriate reaction. The only thing that didn't work for me was the very last line. I'm sure there's more that comes after it about the body, but I don't think you need the sentence fragment. Either merge it with the sentence that comes next or maybe lose it altogether. Either way, I would keep reading. I liked this a lot.

  3. I liked this a lot especially "Late-night looky-lous". My one tiny nitpick would be that the MC doesn't feel 16yrs old. "Mum pulls me away" "I'm being dragged away" - I just get an image of a young child being pulled away from the horror scene.

    And when Mum says "It's okay Tiney." I first read this as she was smoothing Tiney's hair - there was disconnect between the action and the dialogue.

    But I was hooked and would read on to find out more about Harold and MC relationship too him. Great Job

  4. Fabulous voice. And I love your description of the mom -- very textured and light. Gives us a good sense of her without telling too much. I'd definitely read on.

    One question, though, how are the cops there already? This feels like it's the mc's first reaction, but if she found the body, wouldn't she have been standing around near it for a long time waiting for the cops to arrive? Why would she have that strange reaction so belatedly?

    Besides that, I love this. Good job and good luck.

  5. I'm a little torn on this - on one hand, you've got great voice in this & it's well written. On the other, your MC is essentially laughing at a guy who's nearly been decapitated, and it turned me off a little. Can you see if there's a way to make him/her a little more sympathetic up front? You get to it in the later paragraphs, but by then, I was already thinking the person was a little uncaring.

  6. I loved the first line! Her reaction is so odd that I would read on to see what kind of person laughs at a decapitated body. I'm suspecting Harold's identity has something to do with it. I hope I do find out in short order though, or she risks losing my sympathy. I'll put up laughing at dead people for only so long.

    Very engaging voice overall, though.

  7. I really liked this, but agree with Gem. I thought the character was like 6-8, not 16.

    Love her reaction to the dead body. It's quirky, which is awesome.

    Great job.

  8. This author has a great voice. While the opening line is one I've read before it hooked me into reading on further.

    There's a lot packed into these 250 words - setting, the personality of the character, pacing, good sentence structure.

    I really enjoyed the humour and fast pace of this entry.

    The sentences that really impacted me - "Harold lost his a long time ago. Lost his mind and then his head. Might have been better for him if it had been the other way around."
    AND "And not just any body."

    One minor, minor nit-pick - I'd start a new paragraph after your character starts singing in her head. It would strengthen the action of her mother pulling her away from the scene - a mental pull for the reader, a physical pull for the character, if you get what I mean.

    The ending left me wanting to know what was so special about the body so I'd have read on if there'd been more. Great work! :-)

  9. Wow. I really want to read more. Great start. The MC's hysteria is very evident, and I think pretty psychologically real. Good job.

  10. I really liked the voice in this--and the irony. I'm hooked enough to read further.

  11. Love the first line . . . and the voice that shines through. I also love the last line. Personally, I don't care if it's a fragment or not. It has impact and also speaks to a deeper mystery yet to be revealed.

    Overall, I'd definitely keep reading. Oh, and only because it was paranormal, until the last paragraph, I thought Harold was a) a ghost, b) a zombie or c) some other paranormal thing. See what happens when I make assumptions?

    Great job.


  12. I liked the voice and I'd definitely keep reading. Keep up the good work.

  13. I liked it, but was a little turned off by the laughing. Didn't read it as hysteria, though I know that's what you were going for. Just a little something more, like hand over mouth to stop from either laughing or vomiting would have done it for me. Then I'm there.

  14. Very nice writing.

    The laughing stopped me at first, but the more I read, the more I thought she's insane. Then I read more and changed that to hysterical. Little drops of information making me reasses your MC. I like that.

    I don't have a problem with Mom dragging her 16 yr old away from a dead body. Or with the 16 yr old needing to be dragged away.

    You do seem to have a timing problem with her finding the body, the police arriving and her reaction. Unless the cops were eating at the restaurant at the time.

  15. Hooked. I really love her odd reaction and the song. Made me laugh. Great voice.

  16. I though this was a strong opening. I liked the wit even amongst the darker storyline "lost his mind and then his head."

    Would keep reading.

    Wondering about Mom smoothing her own hair away from her own face? At first I assumed she was comforting Tiney, but on second read wondered if this said something about their relationship? That she wouldn't try to comfort her hysterical daughter?

  17. I am hooked. I loved the camp song thing. I got hung up on the mom smoothing her own hair - I think it would be more realistic if she was touching and comforting her daughter instead. Also if the daughter feels her shaking then it implies that the mom has her arms around her - but then how could she be smoothing away her own hair?

    I would absolutely read on. The voice is great. Oh, and to me, the laughter is very real - I read it as hysteria.

  18. Not sure about laughing about decapitation. Would like to like her more or at least admire her a little.

    How can you lose your head and then your mind?

    Maybe, Mom smoothes fine blonde (female vs blond for males) away from her angular face?

  19. Voice here is excellent. I'd definitely read on. However, from your description, it almost feels like the laughing is funny ha-ha instead of an inappropriate reaction due to nerves. I think I'd try and insert some thoughts (more of them) that make it clear she is not thinking this is funny.

  20. Thanks, all. It's great to get so many immediate impressions.

    Tiney's relationship w/her mother is strained, and is an important part of the story, so I mean for it to appear strange that the mom wouldn't be comforting Tiney physically at this point. Perhaps I could word that section better, however, so your points are all well taken.

    And Tiney has been waiting in the car, which is why the response seems delayed. I know now I need to make that clearer earlier. So thank you for the comments about the timing being off.

    Again, many thanks. Very helpful.

  21. I'm torn. You've got voice, which is really good, and you certainly are starting with an interesting incident. However, if I came across the decapitated corpse of someone I knew, my first (or even twenty-fourth) instinct wouldn't involve laughter. Probably wouldn't come close to that. So I have a hard time understanding how she's fighting a laugh at a time like this.

  22. Hooked. I thought this had a lot going for it, particularly the clever, interesting writing.

    The only thing that threw me off was learning your character was female. For some reason, she seemed male in my mind, but that's a subjective thing, I think, and probably just me.

    The laughter didn't bother me. It seemed it was due to hysterics and it was a nice change from the typical reaction. And I think it helps pull the reader in, because even if you don't get why she's laughing at first, you still want to know 'why' she's laughing.

  23. This was very good -- I expect that the relationship between the protag and the dead guy was somewhat strained for her to be laughing. I liked the voice and thought it started well -- enough to keep me reading.

  24. Great first line.

    I liked the last two lines too.

    I reallly liked how she was aware that her hysterical reaction was inappropriate, but that she was powerless to do anything about it.

    I would certainly read on.

  25. I'm afraid the first line didn't work for me - I think it's a little gimmicky. After that I thought the repeated head jokes were funny, but then, based on the last paragraph, I guess I was supposed to take these as someone who is actually covering for being upset? I found the mix of emotions confusing, and wasn't sure what I was supposed to take from the opening.