Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#43 January Secret Agent

GENRE: MG Fantasy

Hannah stood in the driveway, her face hot as tears dripped down her cheeks. It was four in the morning, dark except for the flickering orange light of a few streetlamps. The suburban lane was empty and still, and the only sounds were the chirping of distant crickets and Hannah's own broken sobs.

"I don't want you to go," Hannah said.

Mom crouched down in front of her so that their faces were level. She pushed back Hannah's messy hair and smoothed the purple pajamas that covered her small, six-year-old frame.

"I know, sweetie," she said. "But we'll still talk to each other on the phone. And you'll visit me every summer."

"Can't I--" Hannah hiccuped. "Can't I go with you?"

Mom's eyes darted to where Dad waited a respectful distance away. "When you're older, maybe you can come live with me. Okay?"

Hannah sniffed and wiped her eyes in response.

The airport taxi pulled up in the driveway, its bright headlights making Hannah flinch away. Her gaze fell on the garage door, where the light cast an elongated shadow of her own body. Next to it, Mom's
shadow looked weird. It was shorter than Hannah's, and her legs were doubled so that there seemed to be four of them. Her head had two points, like cat ears, and there was a strange, flickering second
shadow behind the first, almost like a tail flicking back and forth.


  1. Awwwwwwwwww :( Made me cry, I tell ya. That's definitely a dramatic beginning, especially for the MG level. Great stuff!

  2. Where is she going? Hooked ;-)

  3. Hooked. My only comment is that a 6-year-old main character is a little young for a MG. But I think this is well written and I would read more.

  4. I like the writing style, the scene was played out nicely and I want to read more. I just have a concern about the MC's age. But, maybe your just showing her this age and then by the next chapter she'll be a lot older? I don't know, but I would definitely read more!

  5. I thought this was very ho-hum until I got to the last paragraph. That's where you grabbed me. Loved it!

    As LMT said, 6 is too young for MG. A 6 year old MC is going to seem babyish to middle-graders. Perhaps up her age to 11-12. Or maybe the next chapter starts when she goes to live with mom 'when she's older.' If so, you may want to consider stating there.

    You might also want to reconsider tone and word choices. There are places where this reads like a report, rather than a story.

    6 year old frame - do you ever really think of people's bodies as frames? Perhaps end at pajamas or say small body.

    Wiped her eyes in response - you could end at 'eyes.'

    Headlights making Hannah flinch away - perhaps Hannah flinched away from the bright headlights.

    Write the way a child of Hannah's age would talk, not the way a writer writes.

    I'm hooked. I'd read more.

  6. I'm hooked. I bet you will make her older in the next chapter. Just a thought.
    Spooky ending.

  7. I like it. I'm presuming it's a prologue and Hannah's going to be older in the rest of the book.

  8. Yep, totally hooked. But I agree with everyone about the age. Kids read up so a 6-year-old is only interesting to a 4 or 5-year-old and those kids aren't reading MG. If this is a prologue, you might be okay as long as you don't lose readers on the first page.

  9. Hooked. I agree that this is most likely a prologue and the MC is probably older in the next chapter. I want to know why the mom has to go, where she's going and what's going to happen to the little girl, not to mention what's up with the shadow. Great opening scene!

  10. Breaking the hearts of those of us who have kids. This is great visualization. Definite showing.

    Great job!

  11. The POV wavers when you use 'Mom'. It moves the reader into Hannah's head, which is jarring.

    "Hannah sniffed and wiped her eyes" isn't as natural as the rest.

    Love love love the shadowy tail! I really want to know what happens!

  12. I'm part of the This is a Prologue camp, and think it works well as such.

    @trocadero: The POV doesn't waver -- just our assumption of it. There's no point to Hannah using Mom before Mom crouches. I agree, though, that I find the third paragraph a little jarring, but that could be fixed by saying "Hannah's mom" instead of "Mom." I sort of prefer that anyway because it creates a little distance between the reader and the scene.

    I really like the last paragraph and the use of the kitsune (assumption made). I wonder if that means that Hannah will be partly of the spirit world as well.

    Nitpick: You don't need to say "flinch away" as people rarely flinch toward.

    I would definitely read on.

  13. I like it--great emotion going on. The age is a concern, but after reading this (especially the mom's 'when your older' comment) I'm not horribly concerned. I'd keep reading on the assupmtion that the book will pick up with her older.

  14. Hey, Secret Agent here! I’m not crazy with stories that start off when the protagonist is having a little kid memory. I just don’t think it’s as immediately accessible to readers. Why not start with the present day event that triggers this flashback? Whenever someone tries to describe such an emotionally charged scene, the danger is that it will become maudlin. This did go in that histrionic direction for me, with all the tears everywhere. Emotional intensity can be quiet and intense, not showy and demonstrative, and I actually prefer the former.