Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#1 January Secret Agent

TITLE: Kinesthesia
GENRE: Young Adult

Meri came up with the Plan after she and Will tried to have sex.

She knew it would appall her grandparents - sex in general, anyway - and Will, who had his own reasons for doing things, said to her one day on the way back from school, "You're a girl."

"Unless you ask the boys in shop class," she said.

"Would you sleep with me? Everyone already thinks we're dating."

Meri considered it for a minute. "All right. My grandparents will be asleep by nine. I'll leave my window unlocked."

Her grandmother had forbidden this; she seemed to think Nazis roamed the Oregon coast, trying to sneak into houses through unlatched windows. Will turned dead white.

"No - I mean -" Then he took a few deep breaths. "Okay."

It didn't work.

They sat side-by-side on top of the covers of Meri's bed, and Meri, who had bothered to find reasonably clean pajamas for the occasion, said "Now what?" "I don't think I can do this," Will said, blushing up to his hairline. Meri thought of a number of responses to this, such as the fact that he'd asked, or that she was the one about to lose her virtue, but since Will seemed about to faint, she just said "Deep breaths." He rolled his eyes.

"That's not the problem."

He unbuttoned his trousers and jammed his hand inside.


  1. There's a bit of jump between the first stanza and the second. It seems Meri is still referencing the Plan, and not sex.

    I certainly like how practical Meri is.

    I like the Nazi line. Very funny.

    I got a bit confused between the "No - I mean", and the "It didn't work." I'm not sure what Will was trying to say, and at the "It didn't work", it was not immediately clear she's talking about their attempt at sex.

    I'm intrigued to find out what the problem is.

    Overall, I like the awkwardness of the situation, and I'd definitely read on.

  2. Oh, love this title! Very unique, and I'm guessing sort of apropos since kinesthesia is an awareness of body parts (in the simplest terms), and well...we start with body parts teens are all too aware of.

    That said, I think you can probably smooth the scene out a bit. You start with this Plan, then jump back to Will and her trying to have sex. Within that minor backward jump, we learn about her grandparents' feelings, get a glimpse of Will's desires (and fears), and spend time heading home from school and in her bedroom. We're jumping all over the place here, but not once did I get a good sense of why Meri wanted to have sex, and as she's positioned as the main character, it's her motivation that the reader most needs to understand if they're to follow her through the story.

    One suggestion of how to make this scene more active and smooth: skip the walk home from school, and don't mention the plan until the after failed sex. You can start with a (PG-13) sex scene, with Will climbing in through the window in sentence one and them fumbling around. If you end with him jamming his hand into his trousers after the snafu, you'll have a lot of intrigue still but you'll skip the jumpiness. Placing the "Plan" in sentence 1 might be how you intended to hook the reader...but the sex (or lack thereof) is actually more hooking because it's more prominent. Don't mention the Plan until you're ready to let the reader in on it. Otherwise, you risk pushing them out instead of pulling them in. Anyway, just my two cents. This is interesting!

  3. I kind of adore Will in this. The poor guy is even more nervous than Meri (performance anxiety?). This was both funny and irreverent. However, I'm not sure I'd pick up a book that opens on a girl and guy trying to lose their virginity, but that's just me. Writing-wise, I love it.

  4. This feels a little choppy to me. I don't feel much empathy with Meri right of the bat. I feel for Will because he seems to be having more human responses. I probably wouldn't read on at this point.

  5. I'm really wondering what happened after the last two sentences. They imply something drastic, as though he's actually a girl in drag or an alien or gay.

    Normally, knowing someone's age from the get go doesn't matter to me, but here I think it's important. Are they in high school? Middle school? There'd be a big difference here depending on whether they were freshmen or seniors (or even just sophomores).

    It's hard to get everything in 250 words (I know I had that problem), but when you start off with the Plan as the hook, I expect some inkling of what the Plan is, and pretty quickly.

    This is a great scenario (well, excluding the Plan which I don't know about). I wish I knew more about both characters -- as it is, I don't know enough about them to even guess at their motivations.

    Thank you for sharing.

  6. On a line-edit level, I think you need to rearrange the second sentence, it just seems like two entirely different sentences smooshed together and doesn't flow right. Also you've buried the dialogue near the end: "I don't think I can do this"... needs to start a new para.
    On a big picture level, I'm definitely intrigued and I like the writing, but i think you're trying to cram too much into the first page to be really 'hooky' - I'd prefer to take things a bit more slowly and get a little more context on Meri and Will and why people already think they're dating, what age they are etc, before diving into this scene - I think it'd have more impact then. Just imho.

  7. I have to agree with what K. Cooper said. Starting with the Plan throws off the flow of the scene. It's a tease, and I'm interested, but when you move past it so quickly, then it isn't really earning its place in the first line.

    Beyond that, I'm really intrigued by the story. More motivation and detail about Meri might be nice--maybe in place of the information about her grandparents? The fact that she lives with them is interesting, but the fact that they don't want a boy climbing in her window isn't very unique.

    Thanks for sharing! You people are brave :)

  8. OK, this just seems a tad bizarre to me. Maybe it's just charmingly quirky, and that would become apparent on the next page, but at this point I'm almost too alarmed to turn the page.

  9. I also would like to know more about Meri and Will. When you say Meri "considered" sleeping with Will, I want to get inside her head and know what the arguments for and against were in her mind. When Will asks her to sleep with him, I want to see his nervousness.

    Also, I'm going to agree with those who say you should leave the Plan for later. The jump backward feels awkward, especially because "it" first seems to refer to the Plan and then turns out to mean something else. If you decide to keep the beginning basically the same, for the second sentence, I would rewrite it to read, "She knew that if she had sex, it would appall her grandparents, and Will, who had his own reasons..." Etc.

    I'd keep reading, but I would want more on the characters really soon.

  10. What everybody else said. I especially think we need some clues to the characters' ages. Normally I would not care about knowing this within the first 250 words, but something about the writing has me picturing them as very young, 12-13, and considering the context we need to know if that's not the case.

    The Nazi line had me questioning the time period and wondering whether this is set in the past. If it's not, I'd like another small clue/detail to make this clear.

    I liked this line of Will's: "No - I mean -" Then he took a few deep breaths. "Okay."
    It made me think he didn't actually expect her to accept, and I'm wondering what he really meant by his question. I'd probably read on to find out what it was.

  11. Well, what a certainly outlandish (and I don't mean that in a negative way!) opening we have here! I have to say, though it almost embarrassed me to read it (I'm a bit of a conservative!), it sparked my interest in some level, this funny situation of two people who can't have sex. Having said that, I'll say what concerned me now.
    When I first read it, I was thoroughly confused because we keep jumping back and forth between scenes. I felt the first line was meant to draw me in and keep up my attention, and I felt a bit played right there.
    I also didn't get a feel for the characters (except the grandma). The dialogue and the situation was just very bland and forthright. The "Would you sleep with me" feels as if it just came out of nowhere.
    Overall, I'd read on just to understand the situation more. But not a bad start!

  12. For me, I felt that the writing is strong but the pace is too fast. I agree with others about the plan. I don't understand how it connects to the opening. This doesn't feel YA to me and I'm not sure I could read a whole book with a MC quite this flippant. I would read more to find out where this is going.

  13. I agree that there are some pacing issues here. I actually do think the "Plan" is a good opening line, but we should get more hints to its actual nature before jumping into the sex-scene-that-isn't. Also getting a good idea as to why Meri decides sleeping with Will is a good choice would help in better understanding her character. And be prepared, because there are some conservative people out there who still believe that a girl's virginity is sacred and will be very offended by this concept (I'm not one of them, FYI).

    As an aside, I'm kind of surprised at the people who don't understand what's going wrong in Will's pants, but maybe they didn't have awkward sex in high school? ;)

  14. This piece comes across as quite choppy to me. You start after they've tried to have sex, then go back to when he asked her, before jumping forward in time to after they've tried but presumably before Meri comes up with the plan. I would prefer if you picked a scene and let it unfold. If the asking scene is important, develop it more. If it's not, and I suspect it isn't since it's done within a few sentences, start with the bedroom scene and let it flow without any mention of a plan to start with.

  15. I love this and here's why:

    1) You immediately start with action, and a controversial subject to boot - teenage sex. Whether people like it or not, they will talk about it. That's very good.

    2) No back story. Awesome. The little details we get: she lives with her grandparents in Oregon, she takes shop class (which tells a little something about the character, too), are all very well woven into the action.

    3) We get a sense of both characters right away. And I love the MC because of the uniqueness. I can't think of one book I've read lately where the character considers something like losing her virginity for a second and then relents. Fantastic!

    Good work, I want to read more.

  16. Liked the hook here, but the writing kinda jumped around in time a bit and made me lose track. I think you have an intersting premise though.

  17. The plan. You start with it, so that's where the focus should be--the plan after failed sex. What is the plan. Why has she devised it? What does she hope to gain by it?

    On the other hand, the non sex scene was good, so perhaps start there, then go on to the plan.

    I get a good sense of who Will is, and even Granny. Your MC is kind of bland. We need some motivation and emotion from her. Is she flattered of offended when Will asks. What's her motivation for saying yes.

    It does jump around a lot. Perhaps tell it in a linear way, in chronological order.

  18. If this were a submission with my boss...

    I'd make note of the break in logic in the beginning. You start the second sentence that it would stun her grandparents and Will and then you start the dialogue with Will and all mention of the Plan is forgotten.

    Why not just start with "Will, who had his own reasons for doing things"?

    The last sentence: He stuck HIS hand or HER hand? If he was trying to show HER something, I thought it'd be HER hand. But maybe if I knew what came next, it'd make more sense.

    I do like how we're right in the middle of the action and things like "everyone already thinks we're dating" makes me curious.

    I'd keep reading, but these slip-ups in the first page make me wary. Make sure your manuscript is in its best possible shape.

    * Please note I'm only an intern. Not any sort of authority. I just wanted to participate in these because I think they're (the SA contests) fun!

  19. First off, I love short & sweet titles. One or two words, MAYBE three. So the one-word title made my heart smile.

    I also liked the Nazi line. I laughed. :) The overall tone is good; matter-of-fact. Meri seems like a fairly straightforward girl. I like straightforward people for main characters.

    That jump from appalling her grandparents to Will and his reasons for doing things was pretty confusing, though. You were talking about the Plan, and it seemed like you continued that in the second para, but you switched mid-sentence, to Will. It didn't flow with the previous.

    Overall, I'd read on. I like the tone, and I like Meri so far.
    Good job, and good luck!

  20. Secret Agent here! Here, I'd love to be more in the heads of the characters. I found myself plunged in but without much idea of why they're doing what they're doing or what it means to them. That might be a character-development opportunity for you.

  21. Wow. I have so many questions - which is a good things because I would keep reading.

    I would fix up those first few paragraphs. They jump scenes too quickly.

  22. I liked the pace of this excerpt and the voice. I'm a little thrown by the quickness with which Meri agreed. It's a big decision to make and she doesn't seem to have given it much thought. Maybe if we could be more inside her head...

    I did not like the Nazi line. If this is set in the present, Meri is unlikely to grandparents who were alive during WWII, unless maybe they were children. Unless the grandparents were personally affected by the Nazis, it seems like a bizarre connection to make. It would be more likely to imagine pirates roaming the Oregon coast than Nazis, especially because, despite all of the horrific things they did do, Nazis weren't known for sneaking through unlocked windows at night to terrorize people.

    I do like the awkward situation between Meri and Will and would be curious to read further.

  23. I would have kept reading this one, although there are some problems. Mostly the author needs to slow down. Let us know what it is in your female character's head as she considers it. What tips her over the edge. And then we need more description--what does she look like, what does he look like, what are the sights, sounds, smells around them. But a fun concept and the last line is terrific.