Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #5

TITLE: The Ramp Less Traveled

We sat around the breakfast table chasing our boiled eggs around the plate when my father declared: 'I have made a decision.'

I groaned. He may as well have grabbed my hair by the roots and dunked my head under water ten times. His "decisions" invariably drowned me in more misery than I already suffered.

Before we could interrupt him, he said, 'I have decided to send Mili to IIT for her education.'

'What's IIT?' asked Saurav, before gulping down half-a-glass of orange juice. My dear brother could dredge up the name of his kindergarten girlfriend on demand, so I doubted he'd forget his alma mater, as he was pretending to do.

'Don't be silly, Saurav,' said Mummy, rapping him on the wrist. To my father, she said, in her usual honeyed voice, 'Are you sure about putting Mili in IIT? She may not be able to handle it.'

'I know,' Papa said. 'But Mili must learn to stand on her own two feet and not depend on her mother for everything. An engineering degree will change her life for the better.'

He set down his fork and turned to me. 'What do you think, Mili?'

Apart from the teeny little problem of having no brains for IIT or any college whatsoever, I thought Papa's plan was quite brilliant, actually. I'd merely have to sign up for engineering, move in to the campus hostel, and within a few days they'd discover me hanging from the ceiling fan.


  1. Hooked, although Saurav's question about IIT threw me a little. Why would he ask that?

    On the whole, though, I thought this did a great job of introducing characters and still focusing on a central issue. Oh, and did I mention that last paragraph was perfect? Because it was:)

  2. The last paragraph was excellent and drew me into the story. I want to turn the page and see what happens :)

    This submission has some errors sprinkled throughout, like the colon and around (and around) in the first sentence and I would trim the sentences down. For example, no need to tell the reader how many times he would dunk Milli’s head under the water.

    Tighten it up and by golly, I think I would read more.

  3. Loved this! I know a lot about her family, how she felt from just this page. Great job.

  4. I thought Saurav was a bit of a strange boy's name -- unusual to the point of making me trip over it a little.

    I like the voice here, though I wish you didn't "dumb" down your protag as much since she's clearly got some snark in her.

    Also, IIT sounds like a thinly veiled reference to MIT :D

  5. I found this opening slow. I like the elements, but they're weighed down by extra words.

    Are the boiled eggs an important detail? Is there a reason it doesn't just start with the "I have made a decision."

    Then "before we could interrupt" contradicts the paragraph of reflection that comes right before it. I would get rid of "I groaned" and then also the "Before we could...he said" to move faster.

    Then when Saurav says What's IIT - is this important? Do we need to know Mummy talks in a honeyed voice and raps Saurav on the wrist. Or the more important question is Do we need to know this right now?

    I would rather get straight to Mummy saying "Are you sure? She may not be able to handle it" and then Papa's response.

    Then the last paragraph is awesome. I'm not sure this one would be for me, but I might keep reading to see where it goes.

  6. I liked the description of chasing eggs around the plate. I was lukewarm on this one until the last paragraph and then I wanted to read more.

    I stopped at "Saurav" because I wasn't sure what kind of a name it was, how you would pronounce it etc. It was a bit distracting for me.

    I'd like to learn more about Mili

  7. The last paragraph certainly hooked me in and I was interested in the situation you are setting up.

    I felt like I was starting to get an idea of the relationships of these people.

    I just wondered at the relevance of some of the detail like the eggs. Just wondering if you could start the piece with the father making his declaration.

    Good luck with this.

  8. I might have started with dad's comment, "I have made a decision." I love the next paragraph about how the protagonist groans (any teen with a father like that TOTALLY feels that way).

    The next bit of dialogue needs to be much shorter, tighter. Save some details for later.

    Last paragraph is great. I'd read more.

  9. The name Saurav pulled me out of the story. I think you can cut a lot of the excess details out and have a cleaner, more direct story that fits with the MC's voice better. Love the last paragraph. That alone would get me to keep reading.

  10. The best part of this was definitely the last paragraph. It was insanely snarky and funny. You started to loose me a little but that hooked me for sure. I'd keep reading.

  11. That first line made me imagine boiled eggs on tiny legs racing around the rim of the plate, trying not to get eaten. I don't think that was your intent.

    What does IIT stand for? Yes, it's a school, but the acronym is used enough that I wanted to know. In the last paragraph we learn it's a college or university, but until then, I don't know, and it skews my perception of both Mili and Saurav.

    How old is Saurav? Not knowing more about IIT, and the reference to his kindergarten girlfriend, left me with the impression he's young, as in early teens. Which doesn't track with the impression that IIT is a university or college.

    It's "my father" through the first half, and then suddenly he's "Papa" - choose one and stick with it.

    The last paragraph is nice, showing the reader volumes about Mili and being snarky and funny at the same time.

  12. If you're going to have a character ask what something (important) is, that the reader is also ignorant of, answer the question! Or, don't have the question. :)

  13. Loved the last paragraph, and on the strength of that would read on. The preceding ones, not so much.

    How do you chase boiled eggs around a plate? Scrambled maybe....

    The names stood out for me too, and I'm imagining this set somewhere like Malaysia or the Philippines or that this is an immigrant family.

    Maybe loose some of the detail this early on. You want to hook the reader, and bogging down the action with unneeded detail doesn't help with a hook.

  14. Like the others, I loved the last paragraph.

    My concern with this is the age of the protagonist. The genre says it's YA. Then she's calling her mom "mummy." Then her dad wants to send her to what seems like a university. In the end, I had no idea who this girl was in terms of her age group.

    Also, the brother's name Saurav. Is there a reason for it being so out there? I mean, out-there names can work in fantasy, but so far this doesn't seem like a fantasy. Plus, Mili is a normal sounding name. Generally, siblings have similar names -- I mean this in the sense that parents won't give one kid a plain name and another a made up name.

    And him pretending that he doesn't know IIT, despite the fact that he went there himself. I totally don't get that part.

  15. Thank you all for the comments.
    Just to clarify a few points:
    This is an Indian family I’m talking about. Saurav is a common boy’s name back home. Also by IIT I mean the ‘Indian Institute of Technology’.
    Saurav asking ‘What’s IIT?’ though he is a graduate from that college is just meant to show him being an annoying brother.

    I will revise to make my opening better based on the comments here. Thanks again, everyone!

  16. GM, based on the interaction with the family I never would have guess Saurav is older than our MC.

  17. Oops , ok so that’s a huge issue there. I’ll keep that in mind when reworking. Thank you!