Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July Secret Agent #2

TITLE: Life Illuminated

I hate the sound of crashing metal. Screeching tires. Brakes. I hate rain and dark skies and the smell of cheap beer. I might be the only guy who hates beer. It's been a year since I've had a beer.

I hate groups.

I hate my life.

The thing is, I took all those stupid alcohol prevention classes that our school offered. But that crap happens to someone else. I didn't know anyone who died. And the one thing everyone knows, but the court system couldn't prove, was that the accident was my fault. But since I was found not guilty on some little technicality that dad's Brooks Brother's suit wearing attorney dreamed up, I'm a free guy. Now, if I could just turn my brain off then I'd be able to just move on.

But I can't get the night out of my head.

It's burned on the back of my retinas where I have to look at it forever.

It spins in a circle, a video playing in my head that I can't turn off.

Mom keeps telling me it's okay. Just move on with your life. You can't change the past; you can't go back and change what happened. There's no reason to keep thinking about it, stressing over it, replaying the moments in your mind.

But I can't make it stop. It's why I'm spending the summer at the Youth of America Center for Scientific Development.

I want another chance.


  1. hmmmm all this information seems like it oculd be revealed in the story. I recommend starting with some action, maybe being dropped off at the Youth of America Center and show us how he reacts to the people there, then down the raod you can get all that stuff in about how Dad bailed him out from going to jail and stuff.

  2. Hooked!
    I agree with the comment above, however this still works in engaging the reader... because I just want to know more about that night!

    Good luck!

  3. Hooked. Maybe. I liked the first paragraph, but the two short paragraphs after it didn't seem to relate to either the first paragraph or the fourth.

    Also, while I agree with mepurfield about the benefits of starting with some action, I also agree with Raven that this already works pretty well. It's more of a John Green opening, and in contemporary fiction especially, that often works.

  4. Quasi-hooked. I like the opening 4 sentences, but the next two (about beer) ruin the paragraph, IMO.

    The digression into the alcohol prevention classes would have made me stop reading except I knew there would be only 250 words. It's inconsistent anyway to say the court system couldn't prove fault but MC got off on a "little technicality." My sympathy for MC evaporated at this point.

    Yet I'm quasi-hooked because of the Youth of America Center for Scientific Development. I would keep reading only to find out what that is and what MC is doing there.

  5. I agree with the first comment that the beginning could be a little tighter, but also agree with the others that you have enough of a hook to make a reader want to keep reading. In the first paragraph you have three sentences with the word 'beer' which is a bit of a repetition, but that's easily fixed.
    I'd keep reading.

  6. Hooked. A few muddled parts like the back and forth on the alchohol classes and on his court case, but overall very strong. Love the last line.

  7. Love, love, love the opening. And I think a less-is-more approach would work best here. Here's what I would do: Make it into a prologue of sorts. End it at "It spins in a circle, a video playing in my head that I can't turn off." Then get us into chapter one and right into the Youth of America Center for Scientific development, and fill in the cracks in the story from there. You've got a great start here--now just keep that energy going, keep the narrative moving forward (rather than stalling out with older details) and you'll be all set.

  8. I like your MC's voice and I am intrigued by his situation. I was empathizing with his guilt until the bit about getting off on a technicality... that put me off him as a sympathetic character.

    I am very curious about the Center, and would read more to learn how it relates to his inescapable guilt.

    Nice opening!

  9. Hooked. I really love the voice. It seems authentic and it makes me want to read on. Good luck!

  10. Hmmm..not sure if I'm hooked or not. I was hanging with you until "But since I was found not guilty on somt little technicality that dad's Brooks Brother's suit wearing attorney dreamed up, I'm a free guy." I found that sentence a little too "tell-ish" for me. I think if you lifted it completely from the paragraph that it would work much better. It's reiterating something we already know, I think you can delete it.

    I'd also remove one instance of the word "just" from the last sentence of that paragraph.

    I'm also not certain where things are going. The genre isn't listed as paranormal, but with him spending the summer at a Scientific Development camp, because he wants another chance, my mind immediately goes to the paranormal end of things. Is he going to have his memories erased? That sort of thing. If it's not a paranormal, I wonder if there might be a better name for the camp.

  11. I think many of the one line paragraphs can be melded together because even though I know you wrote it that way for dramatic effect, it's a bit too much. Also, something about the second paragraph confused me, I think it's giving too much detail too quickly. But I definitely get a sense of the MC's emotions right off the bat, which is good.

  12. I would keep reading because:
    1) I liked the voice.
    2) I'm curious about what happened in that night.
    I think I would be more hooked if this wasn't like an internal dialogue all along, and that something happened in the moment.
    HTH, and good job! :D

  13. The MC is guilty and angry. I could feel it and I'm curious what he would do to turn his life around.

  14. Mostly hooked.

    REALLY hooked on last sentence!


  15. Great, punchy voice. Even though there's backstory, the voice and the way your narrator reacts to the things s/he is telling carries it and makes it work. Good stuff.

  16. I AM HOOKED!

    Definitely, absolutely, quite completely hooked. MORE PLEASE!

    The opening paragraphs are absolutely stunning - don't change them! The ending paragraphs are also phenomenal. The only part I would suggest changing is the paragraph about the alcohol prevention classes. That was the only part where you lost me. Too much information too soon. The rest of your prologue is teasing, tantalizing, drawing the reader in to find out WHAT HAPPENED???

    My suggestion would be to eliminate completely that paragraph.

    Great job overall - I hope this gets published soon. Put my name on the list of buyers when it does!

  17. I like the twist at the end, the "America Center for Scientific Development." I appreciate the voice in the rest of the excerpt, but some of it seems a bit generic. But when we get to that part, it's a terrific hook. The title has enough mystery for conspiracy nuts, and to hang a story on.

  18. I'm hooked by the fourth paragraph. The first three seem a bit too hysterical. But I would still read on.

  19. This was a really intriguing beginning and I get the relentlessness of living with what this character has done.

    Am wondering if you need to get get rid of some of the later detail to move the story forward more.

  20. Thanks everyone for the comments and for taking the time to read. Greatly appreciated!

    The author.