Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #32

TITLE: Blackbird
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy/Spy

I was halfway through the guitar solo for "Die Love, Die" when I first saw him, a twenty-something self-confident creep in the third row. I supposed the guy was kind of hot with his spiky green hair and strong, angular features, but something about him was making alarm bells blare in my head, loud even over the roar from my amplifier.

I don't know what made me notice him. There wasn't anything remarkable about the guy, really. Even the green hair was standard for this place. It was just that he was watching me. Actually, the perv was staring at me, which surely was why my heart was keeping time with the double kick drum. I knew Green Haired Guy had no clue that I was only sixteen, but it still creeped me out when old guys looked at me like that. I mean, the dude looked nearly thirty! Gross! I put him out of my mind and focused on the solo.

When we got to the breakdown, a dancy drums and bass part, I looked up. Green Haired Guy was right in front of me now, uncomfortably close to the edge of the three-foot high stage. His unearthly jewel green eyes were the only ones still on me. There was something about those eyes... intense and focused, too old for the rest of him. That was the only thing about him that stood out. Otherwise, he blended perfectly into the crowd.

Too perfectly.


  1. I would definitely read on. I don't think you need the first paragraph though. I thought the first line of the second paragraph was more of a hook.

  2. It seems like you're devoting so much narrative to saying one thing:

    A creepy thirty-year-old with green hair and intense eyes is staring at her from the audience.

  3. I agree with Elena. You spend three paragraphs telling us something that could be stated as clearly in one or two sentences. I would condense this and cut out all the extraneous detail so you can jump into the story a little sooner.

  4. I agree with the others. This is YA, you have to grab the readers attention from the first sentence. You didn't do that. The first sentence of the second paragraph was much better. But do get to the point quickly. You don't have to go on and on about how he looked. And don't say he looked in his twenties in one paragraph and then nearly thirty in the next. It threw me. Stick with the second one.

    Trim this big time and then I'll keep reading. :)

  5. I understand what the others are saying about condensing and cutting to the chase, but I enjoyed reading this, as is. Something about having a sixteen-year-old female guitar player as your protagonist is pretty badass :)

  6. I have to agree with everyone else. This didn't hook me because, while the green haired guy was interesting when you first mentioned him, you didn't stop mentioning him, and all that happens is a guy stares at her. As others have said, cut it to a sentence or two and move on with the story.

  7. I really liked this but I'm not sure why exactly she's unnerved by the guy staring at her. She's on stage, so I assume a lot of people are looking/staring at her. Maybe the guy's leering?

  8. I agree that this could be shortened some, but don't lose the details of a sixteen year old guitarist in a rock band. I used to play in a band, though, and I think you need more sense that she's actually playing. Like show us the strings under her fingers, or something like that.

    I would read on...I just hope though, that he's not a vampire.

  9. I enjoyed this. I would drop the twenty-something if you're going to say he's thrity--but I like the thirty gross line.

    Maybe pare this down a bit, but not so much that we loose the voice, which is strong.

    I'd read on to find out why he has unearthly green eyes and why he's staring her down and moving in on her.

  10. Thanks everyone for the comments! They were extremely helpful. I can certainly condense these two paragraphs into one. That's a simple fix that will get us moving a bit faster. To answer Blodwyn's question, no, he isn't a vampire, but I can see why you might ask.

    I can see I need to add a teensy bit more of why she's unnerved by the guy, which will reveal more about her character and the tension here (and I can address Blodwyn's suggestion about adding more description of the playing at the same time).

    Again, these are simple fixes that will improve this beginning a lot! You guys rock!

  11. I disagree with most of the others. I liked this. There are strong and simple details (the music, the crowd, the stranger) and tension that push it along.

    I'd keep reading, because I hope we're about to find out about both characters as the tension turns to conflict.

  12. I like the title and that the MC is in a band, and I'm curious about the guy, but the writing isn't drawing me in.

    It seemed too repetitive and also contradictory to me. He's hot and creepy and green-haired--but not remarkable. She has no reason to notice him--except she does notice him and does have a reason: he's watching her in a pervy way. He blends perfectly in the crowd--except it can't be too perfect because she notices him. He's 20-something, and then he's almost 30. All of these contradictions weaken the character's voice and make it seem like you're not really sure what she thinks about anything. I don't know if she's creeped out because he's old or scared because he's creepy. However she feels about what's going on needs to be consistent and realistic; it's fine if it changes as the scene progresses as long as her feelings evolve in a logical manner, and I'm not getting the sense that they do here. Condensing this too just a few sentences as others suggested would probably eliminate all of these problems though.

  13. This feels very securely YA in terms of voice. And I don't think it needs to be condensed too much - it really fits with how teen girls think, and as a close narrative that works.

    You can tighten a little but nothing too drastic. I would change the first paragraph to:

    I was halfway through the guitar solo for "Die Love, Die" when I first saw him. A twenty-something self-confident creep in the third row. Kind of hot with spiky green hair and strong, angular features, but something about him made alarm bells blare in my head, even over the roar from my amplifier.

    I love the opening line by the way - the song title is fabulous. It's great indirect characterization that makes me love this girl already.

    The framing is great too. I would definitely keep reading.

  14. Thanks so much, SA, for doing this and for your comments! They were very helpful. I'm glad you found the song title effective. You're the first person to comment on that.

  15. Just something that threw me that I wanted to mention. I'm not sure what a "breakdown" is. I've played in bands since I was in high school (long ago) and I've never heard of a "breakdown." If you're talking about the instrumental part between verses, that's usually called a "lead break" or a "turnaround." If you're referring to the vocal chorus portion between verses, that's usually called the "bridge."

    One other thing that threw me, although others presumed it, you don't really specifically indicate that your lead guitar player is a female.

    Fairly confident writing, and I especially liked the placement of the last two words.

  16. Hey Michael,

    Just for clarification's sake, I'll say that a "breakdown" (a common term in hardcore and metal circles) is another name for a bridge, generally instrumental, without a guitar solo. You can read Wikipedia's (not quite correct) definition here.