Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Secret Agent #18

TITLE: Death in the Bayou

My heart jumps when I hear it. The deep rumbling rolls across the terrace and into my ears. John glances up at me with a hint of uncertainty in his eyes.

"It's going to be alright," I say as I pat his thin shoulders. I turn around and glance at my reflection in the windows to make sure I still look presentable. My dress looks fine, even though white makes my freckles show up too much. These shoes are cramping my toes and making my feet sweat, but I can live with that for now. I brush my hand across my shoulders to get rid of any stray auburn hairs that might have fallen out.

John is still staring down the long driveway toward the estate entrance, waiting. I turn him around to check his necktie. I don't know why I'm bothering. It's a clip-on so there's nothing to adjust. Nervousness, I guess. My fingers scratch through his scruffy blonde hair to make it look like someone combed it. If Mom were here, she'd pull a Kleenex from her purse, lick it, and scrub some imaginary dirt from our faces. I always hated that, but I wish she were here to do it now.

It looks like we're ready as we're ever going to be. The sound is getting closer as the seconds tick by. I hold John's hand as we stand side by side at the porch railing waiting to face whatever the future has in store for us.


  1. I really like the writing here, but am a little confused by the setting. I think they are on a terrace/porch of an estate, but I had to read it a couple of times to be sure if they were on the estate or looking at the estate.

    One minor thing: I'd remove the word "auburn". A person would never look in the mirror and say "look, my auburn hair is..." as they would already know their hair is auburn.

  2. I really like the voice in this. I don't know what's happening yet, but whatever it is, these kids are nervous about it. I'm guessing the mother is dead, or has left, because of her comment about wishing she were there to wipe their faces.

    I like her relationship with her little brother - she's very protective of him, and you show that with just a few gestures.

    Not sure I like the comment about the hair falling out. I don't know if a kid would worry too much about that - but I don't know her yet, so maybe. I realize you're giving us a picture of her.

    I'm hooked. Good luck with this.

  3. I like the tone and voice. Although the voice does seem a bit old for MG--sounds more like YA. But this is just the first page. I'd definitely keep reading. Good luck.

  4. Love the writing! There is just enough info here to make us intrigued to read on.


    Good luck with SA!

  5. I think you're getting a handle on the voice here, but there is too much description.

    For example,

    "stray auburn hairs" -- she wouldn't say or think the color of her own hair. Just "stray hairs."

    Just needs some tightening.

    Also, there is no such word as "alright." It's "all right."

  6. I really like the voice as well. I was a little confused about the setting, are they standing outside or inside?
    We learn quite a bit about the characters in just a couple of paragraphs, which is great and really grabs my interest. I would definitely read on.

  7. I liked this. I'm presuming their mother's dead and they are waiting to be picked up by someone to look after them.

    I particularly loved the part about the tissue and the mother licking it and wiping their faces. I remember my mother doing that. Yuck! I hated it too.

    I would definitely read on. Good luck.

  8. I liked this a lot too. The only word I'd change is "presentable." That took me out of the piece for a moment as I tried to gage the ages of the kids.

    The last paragraph is gripping.

    Good luck!

  9. Writing in present tense always makes it hard for me to get into a story. Aside from that I liked the story so far. BTW, the word "alright" is not only listed in the dictionary, but is also accepted, as is, in Microsoft Word. I checked for fun.

  10. I like this but I think it sounds like YA, not MG.

  11. I like this first page. The mother not being there makes you wonder what happened to her, and the parallel of your MC to the mother lets the reader know they're on their own, and helps to build initial characterization of the MC. I'd read on.

    The middle two paragraphs, though, seem to be your way to describe the looks of the characters, which I would cut down. I think authors overvalue describing the physical appearance of the characters right off the bat. Plenty of time for that. Cutting it down would immerse us in the story more promptly.

    By the way, I'm thinking a train?

  12. I'd read on. Yeah, there are places where it could be tightened, but overall, you've created an interesting situation with an interesting character.

    I have no idea who these people are or what's about to happen to them, (and I'm so glad you didn't tell me by filling me in with a bunch of back story)but you stuck them in a situation where big sister is taking some action. And I'm reading on because I want to know who they are, where they are, what's making the noise and what's with the estate at the end of the drive. Hooked!

  13. We're 250 words in and I already know the MC's hair color and someone else's too. Just a personal pet peeve.

    The writing is solid, quite good, in fact, but there isn't anything that's really hooking me about the piece.

  14. I agree with the setting notes, just want to say that even though the description could be trimmed, I loved the physical movements you chose. I FELT uncomfortable and nervous reading it! And the line about the shoes was so evocative.

  15. I didn't think this read too "old" for MG, though the sentence length & construction indicates a higher reading level.

    I'm not yet hooked, but I want to be. I personally think an opening where the MCs stand around "staring" and "waiting" is a difficult hook. Still, I'm not turned off or bored, so I probably wouldn't put the book down, and would keep going for a few more pages because I like the voice.

    I say "I." I doubt that my personal MG reader, however, would stick with it. The denser paragraphs coupled with nothing really happening yet would probably not be enough to keep her interest. Perhaps a line or two more of dialogue between MC and John to better hook those who aren't just looking for "voice?"

  16. I liked the relationship between the MC and her brother. But what was the noise? Thunder? Also, their outfits give me the quick impression that this doesn't take place in present day, especially in conjunction with an actual estate. Is this historical?

  17. I liked the tension in this, and I'd read on a bit.

  18. I'd definitely keep reading. You have me feeling the MC's nerves and I have a great sense of where she is at the moment. A couple stray descriptions could be chopped, but nothing major enough to turn me away from reading.