Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#17 January Secret Agent

TITLE: D.A.P
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Without any warning, my mother rushed into our room at Monarch Boarding School for Girls and dropped a bomb. "I'm going to California, Jenna, and if you don't come, you're on your own."

Well, okay, not totally without warning.

She and Siegfried, her boyfriend-of-the-month, caught me sitting at my desk, sipping a diet soda, pretending to write my history essay.

Really, I was staring at my world history book and dreaming about going to Africa to feed refugees with my awesome teacher, Mr. Abrams. He'd been so kind to me, and I liked to pretend he was my father. Maybe because I'd never met my real one.

The only cool thing about our musty room was the window looking out over the circular drive. That ceiling-high glass gave me a view of everything that went on around the entrance to our dorm. If I'd checked, I could've prepared myself for disaster. I mean, nobody's mother drove 350 miles from her estate on Lake Superior to visit you during the school term except to give you bad news.

No one could have looked more out of place than my mother as she glanced around the room at my cluttered bookcase and closet stuffed to over-flowing. She brushed away invisible dust from my bedspread and perched on the edge as if she didn't want to catch something.

14 comments:

  1. I'm hooked.

    Not sure why. Maybe it's the combination of crazy mother, boyfriend of the month and MC with a crush on her teacher...

    Hooked - completely.

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  2. I like the concept, but I'm confused. Isn't she already living away from her mother? Does her mother want her to leave school. Of course, you probably explain that in the next 250 words.

    I really liked that she's pretending to write her history essay and dreaming about going to help refugees with her teacher.

    The sentence that begins, "No one could have looked..." doesn't sit right to me because it follows a sentence with "nobody's mother drove..."

    But I like the attitude that I get from the MC. I'd keep reading.

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  3. The phrase "dropped a bomb" is a cliche. It could be stronger if you described it a different way.

    If it's a boarding school, why does she have to go with her mom? Can't she stay?

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  4. This is a great setup - come with me or you're on your own - the character is thrown into making a fast, hard decision.

    I thought the long description about could have looked out slowed it a bit but i liked the window into the character of the essay stuff. also the 'our' room confused me as it read like it belonged to her and her mother - could just be me.

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  5. I'd get rid of "dropped a bomb."

    And not crazy about having "cool" and "musty" in the same sentence.

    I'd read on.

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  6. I am hooked. But I have a few nits to pick:

    - "my mother rushed into our room". Since we haven't met anyone else, it sounds like the mother shares a room with her daughter.

    - I have trouble with a mother who has a boyfriend of the month and is also a neat freak. Maybe you have reconciled those, but I'm thrown reading it.

    - I agree with others about "dropped a bomb" and wondering why she can't stay at a boarding school.

    Still, I'd definitely read on.

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  7. Mmm...not hooked, sorry. :(
    I do have my reasons, though.
    Firstly because I felt as if I've heard this story line before (by that, I mean, parent comes and drops a big plot twister).

    Her voice isn't particularly unique to me. I mean, she sounds typical teen, yes, but the voice seems to be adopted from every other book in the teen section of a library.

    The characterization here is fairly okay. I mean, it's cool she wants to go to Africa, but other than that she sounds the same as any other person to me. (Unique voice is a biggie for me!)

    Also it's the way these 250 words are presented. It's like Action, Where Action Originated/Reflection, then Continue Action. From reading multiple manuscripts that start off this way, I have a feeling that the rest of the chapters will be similar to this (but of course I could be wrong!). This kind of sequence I'm not particularly fond of because I peronsally prefer chornological order. This type of structure I would say is more like trying to hook me in so I'd stay and then explain the boring details afterward.

    Writing style wise, I mean, they're not bad descriptions, actually they're quite good, except that it's nothing exceptional. We have used phrases like, "Without warning" and "dropped a bomb". I like unique ways of phrasing thing.

    Why, I just came off as a rather picky reader, didn't I! Well, don't feel too discouraged because there are people who would read on & this is my opinion. :)

    Good luck!

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  8. I like the idea and it's an enjoyable read, but I was a little confused about a couple of things. I thought she was in a classroom - probably because she's at a desk and she's studying. I think the window view description slows the pace, and it doesn't really justify the whole 'not totally without warning' claim.

    Also, when she said she was dreaming about going to Africa with Mr. Abrams, I thought she had a crush. Then it turned out she saw him as a father-figure. A little creepy - perhaps you could make it clearer for the reader that it's NOT a crush.

    'Glance' is a little too casual, I think, for the way I suspect the mother is looking around the room, obviously judgmentally.

    I liked 'pretending to write my history essay'.

    I want to know what happens!

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  9. I do better with line by line editing, so here are some thoughts:


    Without any warning, my mother rushed into our room at Monarch Boarding School for Girls and dropped a bomb. "I'm going to California, Jenna, and if you don't come, you're on your own."

    The phrase “dropped a bomb” suggests that it was done without warning, so this is kind of repetitive. Also, as others have mentioned, this is a bit of a clichĂ©.

    Really, I was staring at my world history book and dreaming about going to Africa to feed refugees with my awesome teacher, Mr. Abrams. He'd been so kind to me, and I liked to pretend he was my father. Maybe because I'd never met my real one.

    You’re trying to disguise it with her daydreaming, I think, but this is basically an infodump to let our readers know that she’s never met her real father. The problem with laying out this fact so quick-and-dirty like is that I don’t know Jenna enough to care about her family issues (yet! But I want to!). I want to see who she is now, first. Think about it this way: when you meet somebody for the first time, do you normally start delving into your complete family histories right away? Wouldn’t it be a little off-putting/weird for somebody to shake your hand, introduce themselves, and then be all like “oh, by the way, I’ve never met my real father.” We need to get to know her a little better first—then we can get to how she came to be who she is.

    The only cool thing about our musty room was the window looking out over the circular drive.

    By “our”, I assume you mean Jenna and her roommate, but since the roommate hasn’t been mentioned specifically, this is kind of jarring; my first thought was that you were talking about her and her mom (which of course doesn’t make sense—hence why I was jarred).

    I mean, nobody's mother drove 350 miles from her estate on Lake Superior to visit you during the school term except to give you bad news.

    Even to give bad news, 350 miles? For reals? I think I’d just pick up the phone and call, personally. The fact that she doesn’t gave me pause, and pause is never a good thing to give your readers. Because every time I go “yeah, right” is one more time I might decide to stop reading.

    No one could have looked more out of place than my mother as she glanced around the room at my cluttered bookcase and closet stuffed to over-flowing.

    “out of place” is kind of vague; in what way does she look out of place? I think there’s a lot of potential for more description to flow in right here.

    She brushed away invisible dust from my bedspread and perched on the edge as if she didn't want to catch something.

    This line is great!

    Overall: I think there’s a lot of potential here. Your writing was very clean, and for the most part flowed well. Your voice was a little generic sounding, but definitely teen, so I’m feeling kind of neutral towards it. I don’t know that I was completely hooked, but I probably would have kept reading at least for a few pages to see how things start shaping up.

    Good luck!

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  10. When you mentioned that the mother dropped a bomb, I really, really wanted her to actually be dropping a bomb.

    I don't really understand the second sentence. Is what follows the opening paragraph going back in time (a really short-term in medias res)?

    The writing and the voice are good, but I feel as if this intro is too fractured. You could cut everything from the second sentence to "I mean, nobody's mother drove..." and not lose much while also gaining in narrative immediacy. (The rest of the details cut could be woven in later.)

    The last simile is too vague. Maybe, "as if she thought adolescence was catching", something that gives a name to the "something".

    As I said, the writing and the voice are strong, but I'm not hooked.

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  11. The opening sentence is a grabber, but then you go on to say, well it didn't really happen that way. Really what happened is this, which is all anticlimatic.

    There are other issues. As others have said, she's in boarding school. Why does she have to go? SHe's in 'our' room but there are no others. Her mother just came in and dropped a bomb, and she's describing her room. What's her reaction to what Mom has just told her? You're doing set up here instead of telling the story, but you don't need set up. You chose a great moment to start the story, now continue to tell it fom that point. Don't explain things to the reader. Just tell the story. If you do it well, the reader will get it.

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  12. I like the voice in the story and that you've immediately set up your character with a problem. A few comments:

    -I read the first paragraph as if the mom and Jenna share a room. It seemed like maybe they were at the boarding school because they didn't have any place else to go, not because Jenna was enrolled there.

    -The mom's statement is very melodramatic. I don't know her well enough to understand why she would make such a dramatic statement that simultaneously shows care for Jenna as well as utter selfishness.

    -I also thought that Jenna had a crush on Mr. Abrams and first. The transition to father-figure bumped me out. I think this would be something that's better to see than be told about

    -Assuming that Jenna does leave with her mother, I don't think we need such a detailed description of the dorm room. Is the big window important to the story? The clutter? Also, I didn't get 'musty' about the room. A big window would add brightness and, despite the clutter, it seems like Jenna keeps it clean since there was no dust on the bed. What's musty?

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  13. Hey, Secret Agent here! The writing flows well here. One thing to avoid, though, is to give us a really dramatic statement to start the sample off, then take it back (“Okay, not totally without warning.”) That feels like a trick. Also, how bad is this news if she’s already at boarding school? It’s not like Mom leaving makes her homeless… I know you want to include characterizing details, but I find the mention of Africa and the rambling about the dorm setting to distract from the action at hand. Pursue that instead.

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  14. I like the voice here, and I would probably read on. A couple of things, though: you keep saying "our" room, which was confusing. First I thought she was a twin or something. Even when I had a roommate, I said "my room" if she wasn't around or part of the conversation. Secondly, you start in scene, and then pull back and give us a bunch of background info. Stay with the scene and give us pieces of the info as we need it.

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