Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#4 January Secret Agent

TITLE: The Whip-Slip
GENRE: YA Fantasy

I was running from vampires.

No. Werewolves.

Maybe robots. Or aliens. Rabid monkeys? Perhaps genetically modified tomatoes? Any of these pursuers would be better than running from the Waltham High School Cornhuskers - worst field hockey team in Codde County, New York.

In their defense, they weren't after me because of an insult to their athletic abilities. I had, in fact, given their captain hives and a nosebleed.

In my defense, it wasn't my fault. It was Hers. Left-Hander, as I called Her. My significant Other. The squatter in my brain that liked to hurt people.

Some people deserve it. No one but me could hear Her, of course. The rate you're going, everyone deserves it, I answered. /I should not be running from bullies at sixteen!

I hurried along my usual path to and from school. I normally ran to school; combination of a testy secondhand alarm clock and the added tick-tocks of cooking frozen breakfast burritos on an outdoor grill (also secondhand, courtesy of our neighbors.) My guardian, "uncle" Trenton, wouldn't spring for a microwave. Or stove repair.

Across the street from school, I cut through the backyard of the first house in a suburban set. I avoided the mutt standing guard behind the second house and leapt the fence to the third.

"Come for tea, Thea?" Mrs. Grisham asked me from her lawn chair. She was my oldest and only friend, ever since we admired the same hippo vest at the local thrift.


  1. I really like this! I get a strong sense of the voice from the first few paragraphs, especially "The squatter in my brain that liked to hurt people."

    The sentences "In my defense, it wasn't my fault. It was Hers" reads like it was the female captain's fault, but I understood it once I got to the last line of the paragraph.

    Nice detail about the guardian as well. I'd read on!

  2. The beginning is great. I always like references to rabid monkeys. :)

    I also was confused by the "It was Hers" line, thinking it was the captain's fault, so I would move the squatter line to there.

    The details we find out tell us a lot about Thea's life, but they feel very natural to me. I already like her.

    I would definitely read on.

  3. I like this a lot. I get a strong sense of her voice and it's also funny, which is always a plus to me.

  4. I love this! I love the voice - very funny. I'm also interested to learn more about this other personality she has, or whatever "Her" is. It's an interesting shift from your typical fantasy.
    The only thing I found a little off-putting was that you start the story declaring that she was running from vampires, werewolves, etc., and when I found out that she wasn't, I have to admit I felt a little tricked. I think it might be kinder to your readers to start with her saying that she wished she was running from those paranormal creatures. That way you don't set up the disappointment of learning that she isn't actually being chased by those beasts. But otherwise, I really loved this!

  5. What Christine Arnold said.

    I thought the werevolves, vampires, aliens etc. added nothing to the story.

    Multiple Personality Disorder?
    Should make for an interesting read!

  6. Love this. It really is a nice step away from the usual YA fantasy.

    And the voice. Wow. There's no other word for it.

    Great you dumped us right into the action too.

    I would read on.

  7. I agree with the others about the beginning. It was off-putting and made me feel cheated. Other than that, cool concept and great voice.

  8. I didn't feel cheated by the beginning because as soon as the narrator starts revising, it's clear that every statement is provisional.

    That said, I'd find something else to use than rabid monkeys (28 Days Later) or genetically modified tomatoes (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes) since those are more references than jokes. Of course, if you referenced Night of the Lupus I might relent.

    I like the voice of the MC a lot, but find some of the transitions/explanations confusing. As others have said, the first "Hers" seems to refer to the captain. I would separate your answer to her so it's another paragraph. I would cut "to and" from the "I hurried" sentence.

    Why shouldn't she be running from bullies at sixteen?

    I would read on. A lot of delicious questions posed in the opening that call for answering.

  9. I'm a bit leery of a book where the MC has a squatter in her brain that likes to hurt people.

    The logician in me doesn't know why you would buy frozen burritos if you don't have a microwave or working stove, instead of, say peanut butter and jelly and bread.

    But I'd read on to see where this is going.

  10. I agree with everybody else--I felt tricked by the list of paranormal creatures and thought Her was the captain at first (just move the squatter sentence before Left-hander). Just thought I should also point out that until I read the name Thea, I thought the MC was a boy.

  11. I love the voice in this! Wow, great job. I, too, felt tricked at the werewolf vampire thing and didn't understand how they connected to the field hockey team. I did like that genetically modified tomatoes phrase, is that a hidden reference to that movie, "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?" :)

    The only thing that bothered me was that I didn't really understand why Thea was running away from them, but that wouldn't prohibit me from reading on.

  12. At the end of the first para, I thought she was actually playing field hockey. Bummed about the lack of paranormal pursuers. I felt as if I wanted to know more about the squatter. I don't really understand, "The rate you're going, everyone deserves it." Maybe all that will become clearer later.

    Love the voice.

  13. The opening was a let down, because there were no monsters after all. Then I imagined her (except I imagined it was a him) on the playing field. When I learned she was running from bullies, I wondered where they were. No one seemed to be pursuing her. And if she was in the middle of a chase scene, why is she telling me, the reader, all this stuff about her life? Why isn't she looking over her shoulder to see where her pursuers are? Why isn't she wondering if she'll get away, or will they catch her? Why isn't she wondering why they're always after her? Those are things I, as a reader, want to know. For me, this was 250 words of - this is the situation folks. It's all explanation and very little story.

    Perhaps put us in the moment and let us see the chase. Surprise us with the voice in her head instead of telling us it's there. Let us see her family situation when we see her at home. Give us a story instead of a one-sided conversation.

  14. I didn't mind that she wasn't running from paranormal creatures. I thought you revealed quickly enough that she wasn't. I was another one who thought 'Hers' referred to the captain. I also thought 'The rate you're going...' was being said by Her, not Thea at first.

    Also, there's a lot of telling going on here. You tell us in the first five words that she's running from a group, but nowhere in the rest of the 250 do we get a sense of the chase. How close behind her are they? Are they armed with their hockey sticks? If you want the chase to suck people in, I think you need to focus more on it and less on incidental details like the breakfast burrito and hippo vest. Just for the first page at least.

  15. I think there's a lot of good going on here, but I'd need to read a little as I'm on the fence about. The thing that hangs me up, is the bait and switch in the beginning. I don't like it when writers that do. It makes me a suspicious reader. I think its really important for a writer to build trust, first, so that later, when something questionable arises, we'll give them the benefit of the doubt, rather thinking, "here we go again." But this is my only critique. The rest is very interesting.

  16. I agree with prior comments. Pick one potential alternate foe and fold it into the sentence about what the MC is actually running from, i.e.: "Fleeing a pack of rabid werewolves would be better than running from the Waltham High School Cornhuskers..." Delete everything before that sentence and just start from there.

  17. Hey, Secret Agent here! In my slush, I see a lot of novels about vampires and werewolves and robots and aliens and probably even monkeys, so the beginning, while good for a quick laugh, threw me for a loop. Is this fantasy? Am I actually going to be reading about vampires? Meh. I’d cut that, but that’s just me. I’m not sold that this character is running for their life and I don’t feel the tension of the chase. When I’m about to get pummeled, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about breakfast burritos…

  18. You definitely have a fun voice, but I did not feel rooted in the scene. I didn't mind the bait and switch at the beginning, but did think it went on a bit too long. I'm also confused - is she running from the field hockey team or is she running because she's late to school? And how do you give someone both hives and a nosebleed? I like the idea of "squatter in my brain" it's an intriguing premise and something that I haven't seen much of in literature.