Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Secret Agent #48

GENRE: Contemporary YA

I remember when my dad and I used to communicate. I'd hear the
front door open and squeal, "Daddyyyyy's home!" then run directly into his
waiting arms. That doesn't happen anymore. I'm lucky if I mumble, "Hey,"
when he gets home these days. Lately I've tried to figure out when our
whole deal started sucking.

First thing I came up with was when my parents split almost a year
ago. They sat my older brother Mike and me down at the kitchen table on a
Tuesday night for dinner. Mike and I knew something was up. We never ate
at the kitchen table during the week. I will never forget the look on my
brother's face as my parents fumbled through their announcement that ended
our family.

"This is hard to say, I --" my mom choked.

"Come on, Liz, don't be so dramatic. It is what it is," my dad said
to her. Mr. No-Feeling turned, looked at us, and said, "Look, mom and I are
getting a divorce. It has nothing to do with you two. We just don't love
each other anymore."

My mom immediately swooped in to add some heart to the situation;
it's what she always did. "My God, Mike, you act like this is a damn
business transaction. And it does have to do with them; they're part of
this family." I remember she let her head fall forward, and we all watched
her cry. None of us comforted her.

It haunts me.


  1. Ooh. This is good and made me connect to the MC's emotions right away.

    Good job and good luck with SA!

  2. This has a strong voice; it pulled me right in. From this opening passage I would guess the book is more character-driven than plot-driven. The situation of a broken family isn't unique, but I feel like I'm really in the protagonist's head, feeling the same feelings. Good stuff!

  3. This is all back story. You can't start with just back story. You need to at least weave it with a current situation and action.

  4. Yes, agree with Holly. Either start with the break up or lose the back story.

  5. Not hooked, sorry. It's all back story. I'm not left with enough questions to keep reading.

  6. OH man, I love it. I'd keep reading, definitely.

  7. I agree with the folks who find straight backstory upfront unappealing. Also, the dialogue does not feel real unless her dad is just a big jerk. Good luck, though.

  8. Powerful beginning. I like the character and how she's trying so hard to be tough. I sympathize with her right away, and I'd definitely keep reading just to hear what she has to say. Well done.

  9. I'm throwing in another vote for cutting the backstory. Nothing has actually happened so far, we've only seen memories. For that reason, I'm not hooked either.

  10. I have to agree with the comments about this being mostly backstory. I also wonder why, when you go into the past to tell us about the divorce announcement, the MC refers to her father as Mr. No-Feeling, but would she have thought of him that way back then? It seemed like she loved him a lot before the divorce--at least that's what you say in the first and second paragraphs. I'm also wondering why the MC and her brother didn't comfort their Mom.

  11. I want to like this, but it feels a little cliched. Far too many kids have sat through this scene for it to be effective, unless there's something different about it or we already care about the characters.

  12. The last line definitely got me, but the next one better pull me back into the present.

    Good luck.

  13. I'm not a fan of this type of teen-angst YA. It's overdone nowadays. Anyone who is a product of divorce, like me, knows this reads in a realistic way, so that's good. But I just feel like I'm about to read something I've read before. And didn't enjoy.

  14. What do I know about your character? He/she has a brother Mike and divorced parents.

    I don't know if it's a he or a she, although it feels like a she. I don't know her name. I don't know where she is or how old she is. The story hasn't started yet.

    The hardest thing about writing in first person is not talking to the reader.

    What is her problem now? That's where the story should start.

  15. I want to like it more than I do, but right now it does feel a bit cliche. Start with action. Oddly, I don't care for the first paragraph at all, but the last two, esp. the last line have a better grab factor.

    If you are willing to work on it, I think it has potential.

  16. I'm afraid I wasn't really pulled into the story; while I did believe the character's emotions, I felt like this was mostly back story. I rather start in the present and then learn the backstory later.