Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#15 January Secret Agent

TITLE: The Space Between Voice and Persuasion
GENRE: Young Adult Contemporary

I hunch over, flipping through the vinyl albums in front of me. The room is crowded and small and a burnt vanilla scent permeates the air. I hear footsteps behind me, which shouldn't startle me since the floor seems to creak at the slightest movement, but fingers of heat still climb down my spine. I pretend to focus on the album cover in front of me, holding my breath, hoping the stranger behind me isn't an employee eager to offer assistance.

"Uh," someone mumbles behind me. "I think you dropped this."

I suck in the smoky air and turn around to see a tall, wiry boy, dressed in skinny cords and a tattered t-shirt. His loose auburn curls shade his face, obscuring his eyes. My cheeks flush as I notice he's holding the wrinkled flyer I had pulled from my mother's trunk--the only possession of hers I was able to find in Grandma's house.

He laughs as he inspects the flyer. "Wow. This is a bit retro isn't it? You should show this to the owner, Mike. I think he'd get a kick out of it. This ad was probably made before you were born."

I gulp and snatch the flyer from his hands. "Before you were born too," I say in a more snarky tone than intended.

Holding his hands over his head, he leans against the crowded bookshelf. "Didn't mean to upset you."

He extends his large hand towards me, "I'm William, by the way. First time in here?"


  1. I like this. it draws me in, I'm curious about the kids in a record store, but I also don't know her name. I don't know much about her emotions.

    Also "fingers of heat" from footsteps? That sounds a little over the top

  2. I agree with Chelsey in that her reaction to someone behind her in a record store seems too tense/wary. Other than that, I really liked this. I'd read on.

  3. I agree with the others about her being too wary, but just one thing to add - I think it'd be better if the second sentence began with 'The record store' rather than 'The room' - there's no reason to keep this information back, and then the reader would get a clear picture of where she is right away.

  4. I like this as well.

    In this sentence:
    "I hear footsteps behind me, which shouldn't startle me"

    I was expecting something like "because I know no one is at home" or "there are lots of people in the record store" and the floor creaking explanation didn't quite fit.

    You've set up some good material: her mom, and why she's no longer around and why she left nothing for her child; the boy in skinny cords; and how the flyer fits into the story.

    I would be interested to read more.

  5. I was zooming along enjoying this until I reached his loose auburn curls - this is what I would mark as RNA: Romance Novel Alert! Please, never ever ever describe a male as having loose auburn curls.

    Watch use of hands/hand in the last and next-to-last paragraph.

    I'd tighten this so you could get a bit more in the first page.

    But I'd read on, fer sure.

  6. I really like this, though there were a few phrases that seemed a little overworked. It was also difficult for me to tell where the MC was at first and I had to read it twice before I realized it was a record store; at first I thought she might be DJ in a club. I'd keep reading.

  7. This didn't quite pull me in. Actually after reading it, it still doesn't. I'm not exactly sure where this character is at, what she is doing, and I was even confused about her gender in some parts. (Sorry, the "Mike" threw me off).

    I think, though slow, this would be the beginning of a nice friendship that could advance to something more. Unfortunately I don't quite feel that "spark" between the characters that would excite me to see the tension or "chemistry" between them. Ah, well.

    I always like a good description, however, and I think you had plenty of those to keep me considerably pleased. :)

    I would read on, but only to see how the MC reacts to William's introduction.

  8. I agree with making the location clear from the beginning and with the "fingers of heat". The way I interpreted the latter was that she already knew who was walking up behind her and she had a crush on him.

    I like the way this is written. It's slow, yes, but the scene is immediate and interesting. We know what the girl seemingly wants -- to find more about her mom using the flyer as a guide.

    Nitpick: There should be a period after "towards me" in the last sentence.

    I would definitely read on.

  9. I agree with what everyone has said so far (re: needing more motivation behind her jumpiness, give us setting sooner, etc.). I would also add that I think the opening paragraph could be made stronger if the sentence structures were switched up a bit. Starting each with "I..." gets repetitive and works against the natural flow/movement of the action taking place. Also, though easily fixed here, it makes me wonder if it's a writing habit/preference that's going to grow even more obvious, and maybe annoying, through the rest of the book.

    All that being said, I really like the premise, and this opening does make me curious about this girl and what her deal is with her mother. (And about the boy too, always the boy. :) )

  10. I liked this and thought it worked well. I did get that she was in a record store, but agree saying 'record store' rather than 'room' would clarify for the reader right away.

    You might cut the 'which shouldn't startle me' phrase. It adds nothing.

    I didn't have a problem with her being overly wary. I assumed she had something to be wary about, which I would learn about later, after all, she's a teen looking at records rather than cd's. Something's gotta be up.

    Overall, it was really nicely done and I'd definitely read on.

  11. I think you have nice, descriptive writing, but this opening didn't really work for me. The whole first paragraph is very spooky, and then all the tension fizzles into an ordinary encounter with a teenage boy. Plus, while she could have valid reasons to be tense about someone walking up behind her, 'fingers of heat' is an extreme reaction when her next thought is "hoping the stranger behind me isn't an employee eager to offer assistance."

    This sentence really confused me: "the only possession of hers I was able to find in Grandma's house." I had to read it multiple times to figure out whether 'her' was the mom or the grandma. I think it's the grandma, but I'm still not entirely sure.

    The dialogue seemed stilted to me and also seemed to dump a lot of info.

    In the last paragraph, where does the bookshelf come from? I thought they were in a record store.

    I found the introduction in the last paragraph to be awkward.

    Despite these comments, I think you have a real talent for descriptions

  12. Hooked. I especially love the title. It was the title that made me stop and read this one.

    I think the others have given you some great advice, so I'll only say ditto. But just so we're clear, I'd definitely read on:)

  13. Not hooked

    Things that took me out of the story:
    seem to creak or creak?

    fingers of heat?

    sentence with fingers of heat runs on; not sure what fingers of heat have to do with a creaky floor.

    burn vanilla or smoky air; which?

    she couldn't see her cheeks, only feel the warmth

    separate her action/description in one paragraph and his in paragraph 3

    before you were born sounds adult, not YA

    so what's in the flier? feel a little toyed with here. Getting ready to stop reading because I know nothing about the problem and little about the MC and the boy is unappealing with his auburn curls.

    But these are things easily fixed and the premise of her mother's trunk holds a lot of appeal. Maybe concentrate more on that?

  14. Hey, Secret Agent here! Good tension in this scene and, even though I don’t know entirely what the flyer means, I know that Mom is a touchy subject. I like the Empire Records vibe. Good dialogue!