Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July Secret Agent #48

GENRE: commercial YA fiction

The hydrangea bush at the corner of Main and Spring was bursting with bluish-lavender blossoms. I sat in the car, waiting for the light to change and realized the huge fists of flowers were the same exact shade as Trent Jackson's eyes. I know, it's an impossible color for eyes. I'd never seen anything like it before he started at our school last year. Last year Trent arrived and stopped all the girls at Creekside High School dead in their tracks.

See, we've all gone to school together since our moms sent us off to kindergarten crying. They were crying; we were wondering what bad thing was about to happen to us that had them so upset. We still haven't found out.

Then we got to high school and Trent showed up. He was the first new male student our age in years, and we were all trying to figure out how to get him to ask us out. I was in no position to make a play for somebody like Trent last year. I still had braces on my teeth. But over the summer the braces came off, and I finally got my figure.

And Stephanie Miller got Trent.

Stephanie's a senior, and she's never had an awkward phase as long as I've known her. She sailed straight from being the cutest little elementary-school kid to being the first girl in middle school to get her boobs to being the head of the cheerleader squad without even breaking a sweat.


  1. I like the voice.

    A few small comments:
    - I would change "was bursting" to "burst"
    - "..he started at our school last year. Last year Trent arrived.." redundant. I might say something like "I'd never seen anything like it before he started at our school. When Trent arrived last year, he stopped all the girls..."
    - I don't think you have to say "our age" in the third paragraph. It's kind of an awkward sentence.
    - In third paragraph, I would say "then" instead of "last year" because you've already established he came last year and the phrase is over-used in this piece.
    - Look out for tense changes. Your MC "sat" (past-tense) in the care but Stephanie "is" (present) a senior.

    Maybe in that last paragraph, tweak the word choice a bit to let us know how your MC feels about Stephanie. We know she's a touch jealous, but does your MC like her anyway or hate her?

    I'd read on.

  2. I love "fists of flowers" and also the kids wondering what could be so bad about kindergarten that their parents would cry about. And, I had a version of Stephanie Miller in my class, too. So, I could identify right away with your MC. Love it and would read on.

    Just one small nit...I physically rolled my eyes when I read "the same exact shade as Trent Jackson's eyes." Just seems so cliche and easy. Maybe go for a different, more inventive, segue.

  3. I like how it starts off on-stage in the setting where presumably the story actually starts. I feel like I want more on-stage action in this section, though--it veers a bit heavily into backstory. Is there is a way to pull in some more real-time action before weaving in more backstory?

  4. I can definatly relate to the awkward stage she went through and living at a school like that! And I love the discription of eyes in the first paragraph, it's something you don't see too often and the colour I can picture easily. Nice job, it even made me smile about the kindergarten stuff. I'm hooked!

  5. Maybe start with the MC's problem to hook the reader. A lot of agents don't like to read about setting first.

    Also, there's a lot (99%) of telling here. Maybe show her in action?

    Personal preference, I hate the word, boobs. Seems a negative term IMO.

    Not hooked...put some of this back story in later. Right now, put us in the middle of the MC's dilemma.

  6. I thought you had a great opening paragraph. Busts of blossoms and fists of flowers were great visual images, as well as good turns of phrases.

    But then, instead of telling the story, you start telling us all the stuff that leads up to where you're starting. You really don't need it. It's all backstory, and all it does for the story is prevent you from telling it. Tell us what is happening now.

    If you look at the piece and ask yourself what happened in these 250words, the answer is - a girl thought. You don't have to start with whiz-bang action, but the story should move, and this doesn't.

    Maybe give us different info. Where is she headed or coming from? What was her last encounter with Trent? When is her next one? Put us in the moment, not the past. Save the backstory for later.

  7. I really like your story line (from what I've seen), but I think you might consider some word/phrase revisions. For example, I really like your second paragraph as its quite funny, but for some reason the first sentence doesn't seem to flow as smoothly with the latter two sentences. Just something to consider:)

  8. I liked this a lot.

    Small point -- Maybe in the second paragraph, instead of they were crying, say "they cried" and then instead of we were wondering, say "we wondered."


  9. I'd keep reading, but I'm not entirely hooked. I'd like to see some action instead of just her thoughts.

    I don't remember much about being 5--do all those kids remember seeing their mom's cry? I think I might just skip that part to make it more authentic.

    I like the last line!

  10. Great writing, but not a great beginning... as noted above. Perhaps you can work all this info in between some dialogue or other "action"? That said, I liked the voice. And I really liked "...and I finally got my figure. And Stephanie Miller got Trent."

    I was a little confused who the "they" were in the second graf ("They were crying"). It was clear on the second read through but could maybe be made easier to get.

  11. Nice voice. I could see spending a whole novel with this MC.

    Others have already mentioned the things I stumbled over, so let me tell you what I especially liked.

    - 'fists' of flowers, great description of how hydrangeas grow

    -the way the flowers were the exact 'impossible' color of Trent's eyes. Being a fan of hydrangeas, I could exactly picture the shade you described.

    -the moms crying about kindergarten and the girls not knowing why

    -the last para descrip of Stephanie. I think most of us know someone like her.

    I would definitely keep reading.

  12. There is nothing specific in this that should make me want to read on: there isn't much tension, all I get from this is that it's going to be a "kids in high school" story, the opening sentence is pretty but does not grab... (and I know it's completely unfair because this is only 250 words) YET....

    There is something about the opening as a whole that has me interested and wanting to read on. And I think it's the voice. I like the main character already, and could envision myself listening to her for many more chapters.

    So, yes. I'm hooked.

  13. I liked this a lot. Your second paragraph was particularly great. Something I noticed, that I see from time to time, even in published books. Ending a sentence with a phrase and starting a sentence with the exact same phrase:

    I'd never seen anything like it before he started at our school LAST YEAR. LAST YEAR Trent arrived and stopped all the girls at Creekside High School dead in their tracks.

    I would watch out for stuff like that. (Example, I LOVE your second paragraph, but you do have the word "crying" used twice within a space of four words.

  14. Let me say that I love hydrangeas--just not in a first sentence. I really like your voice, I want to know more about this girl and Trent . . . but I feel like a teen might roll there eyes at flowers in the first line. Maybe not.

    The backstory may be too much, but I like knowing about her at this stage. Then I'll care what happens to her. Maybe keep some and infuse action?

    That said, I do like this a lot!

    Best wishes!

  15. Flows well, with evident voice.

    Who IS MC? Show reader a bit: of conflict, motivation, desire.


  16. I liked this. Just a few minor things: You repeat the words 'last year' twice with only a full stop between them. You need to cut one as having both is redundant. I'd suggest the first occurrence.

    Also, and this is really minor, in the third paragraph, the part about finally getting her figure came as a bit of surprise because it hadn't been mentioned before as a drawback. In the sentence about still having braces on her teeth you could add something about not having a figure (but much more well-phrased!), then the next sentence about the braces coming off and the figure arriving will flow better. At least in my opinion.

    Some might say there's too much telling to start the story (I haven't read the other comments yet) but you drew me in regardless.

  17. I like the voice and the character seems engaging that I would keep reading, but a lot of what you are telling us feels like back story before you start with the real action.

    Perhaps you could jump ahead?

  18. The first paragraph almost made me quit reading. I could care less about hydrangea blossoms (unless they're in my yard), and that whole paragraph is very disjointed.

    But your second paragraph lets your voice come out, and everything gets smooth, and I started getting pulled in.

    So great job with those...but you need a new beginning. I'm sure you'll find one. :-)

    (Oh...and make sure we get to the hook and the point of the book really quickly. This is all set-up, still, which is fine for one page, but it gets old really fast.)

  19. I'm partially hooked. I would keep reading because I like the MC's voice, but at the same time I feel that the situation is a bit of a cliche--a less cool girl envies a perfect one.

  20. Sorry, but I wouldn't read further on this one. I'm okay with a certain amount of "telling" if the narrator's voice is strong enough to support it, but this voice just isn't jumping out at me. Additionally, a gorgeous boy with eyes that are an impossible color is a VERY familiar device these days, so that was a turn-off for me.

    I did like the line about how the moms sent them off to kindergarten crying--that was fun, and the only true hint of narrator personality in this excerpt. I say that in revisions, strive for that kind of unique voice, those types of unique observations, and see where it takes you.

  21. I like this one. Nice voice; the wry humor is funny and appealing. My only comment was perhaps the voice was too old? Not sure exactly what age you're aiming at, but the main character seemed perhaps too experienced... but that may be circumstances. Hard to say with just a snippet! Overall, I liked it a lot and would read more. :)

  22. Thanks to ALL of you for your critiques. I appreciate your feedback SO much, I can't even begin to say. Even those who weren't hooked... (too bad DC fell into that category--wah wah waahhh...)

    Favorite comment: Jay! Love the bait & switch.

    Most heartwarming: TKAstle & Sarah M. You got it! :o)

    sorry for offending YAWriter w/the boobs... :o|

    Barbara & JP both gave me a lightbulb--Thanks for that!

    WriterT--Yeah. I like that phrasing better... Thx!

    All in all, this has been so helpful and encouraging. I plan to incorporate as much as possible now as I get in there & shape up those first 250~

    THANKS, Authoress!!!

  23. Oh! P.S.--Most encouraging shout out to Nina...

    I was v. much in the dumps when you posted. Thanks for that! :o)