Wednesday, March 10, 2010

27 Secret Agent

GENRE: YA fantasy

Alessandria slouched in the airplane chair, making herself inconspicuous out of habit. Her old earbuds in, she tapped her foot absently to the fuzzy music. Like most of her possessions, her mp3 player was second-hand, knock-off brand, and in rough shape. She held a worn book open in her lap, a familiar activity for her, but her mind was uncharacteristically elsewhere: Italy. The very name sent a symphony of thoughts and feelings through her. I can’t believe I get to go back. It’s crazy how it feels so different this time.

“Whatcha reading Alex?”

Alessandria turned to look at her friend next to her. “Virgil’s Aeneid, how about you?”

“Isn’t that a little intense for a summer break?” She poked at the open page of Alex’s book and then flashed the front of her own book, “I’m reading ‘Hearts of Horror’. There’s a mysterious zombie lover. You should read it when I’m done.”

Alex chuckled as she wrinkled up her nose. “Um, first thing Kristy: eww. And second: technically this is still school.”

Kristy flipped her blonde hair over her shoulder. “You need to lighten up. It’s a semester of study in Italy. There has to be some sort of vacation involved too, right?”

“I know,” Alex held her hands up in surrender. “I just don’t want the professors to start thinking ‘Well there’s that High School Student, slacking off again’.”

A snort of laughter came from her friend. “Look around at us ‘college students’.” Kristy used her fingers to make quotation marks in the air.


  1. YA isn't really my cup of tea, but this is a good hook. I'm curious why Alex is going *back* to Italy and why she was there the first time.

    I'd shift the first person in the first paragraph to match the third person in the rest of the piece. I know it's her thoughts, but it stands out too much. Easily fixed.

    Good job!

  2. The opening paragraph really sets the stage. I feel like I get what kind of girl Alessandria is. Agree about the first person thought--perhaps italics there?

    I was pulled out by a few little things--like the phrase "turned to look at her friend next to her" read awkwardly. Maybe use Kristi's name to avoid using "her" twice?

    Also didn't feel like Kristi would poke the book if she were a high schooler, nor did I feel that Alex's statement "Um first thing, eww." felt in keeping with the girl you painted. Sounds a touch Valley girl and not like the intelligent person you set me up for--though her second sentence works.

    Overall well done. As for a hook--not sure there is one in this segment for me, but I'd read on. To see what happens in Italy, especially if the jacket copy was intriguing.

  3. You've got a good framework here, and you bring the reader in nicely, but I found a few things jarring.

    "was second-hand, knock-off brand" unintentional rhymes in prose bother me, especially since the rhythm of this is close to a rap lyric.

    I agree that the switch from third person to first in the end of the first graf is a problem I (also, that it's easy to fix).

    Also, the dialogue is a little actiony.

    Alessandria turns to her friend. (dialogue)

    Alex chuckled (dialogue)

    Kristy flipped ... (dialogue)

    Alex held up her hands ... (dialogue)

    A snort of laughter ... (dialogue)

    Nothing's wrong with it, but it's a lot to process. I feel like one action per character in that sequence would be enough. Any more than that and I get distracted.

  4. I agree with John on all counts. You do have a good story and you've got my interest, but it feels too choppy. It would all be easy to fix the flow and get this humming along. Good luck!

  5. The beginning of this hooked me in, but seeing as it's a fantasy novel, I didn't get the feeling of this from the piece.

    I think you need to establish the fantasy setting/theme right from the start. At the moment it reads more like contemporary YA.

    The girls were realistically drawn, but I thought there might have been a bit too much 'conversational dialogue' that didn't really move the story along.

  6. You have established the setting really well here - some great descriptions.

    But I wanted to meet William right from the start - in the first paragraph. Am wondering if you could swap paragraph one and two and make more of the emphasis on William rather than the setting - and give us an emotional connection to William earlier. In the last paragraph you give an indication of what all this means to him, but I wanted to know a bit earlier.

    A great job of setting up the story.

  7. The scene is cute but shows us Alex is going to do something--how about she's already there doing it?

  8. I think this might be too ordinary of an opening - two girls on a plane chatting.

    Perhaps give us a hint of a problem, or a hint of the fantasy, or both. Maybe try to create a bit of conflict or tension?

    Also, I wondered if they were high school kids or college kids, since they are mentioned as being both, and I wondered who 'her friend' was. Why not tell us the friend's name when you first introduce her?

    This may not be the best place to start. You might consider starting at the moment things go wrong, or become strange.

  9. I had the same thought as Barbara - this isn't a very compelling opening. There's a hint of interest when you mention Alex is going back to Italy, but the two girls chatting about books doesn't hook me. I get that you're establishing character, but I personally would prefer more of a hook at this point.

  10. 250 words worth I haven't stopped reading. You'd be going to Hollywood on American Idol for me.

  11. The dialog is more than a little choppy here, it definitely disrupts the flow of the scene. I don't see a real hook, hook here, but the voice isn't bad. I would keep reading on for a little bit to see where it goes.

  12. The dialog is more than a little choppy here, it definitely disrupts the flow of the scene. I don't see a real hook, hook here, but the voice isn't bad. I would keep reading on for a little bit to see where it goes.