Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#50 January Secret Agent

GENRE: YA Paranormal

I always thought books were boring and a waste of time, not dangerous. But anything that caused Melissa to approach me was far from harmless.

"Have you read this, Mitch?" Melissa said, shoving a book in my face.

The paperback filled my vision, so close it blurred. Fantastic. An encounter with Melissa was the first item on my To-Don't list. I leaned away from both her and the book, and bumped into the wall.

"Uh, no," I tried to keep the annoyance out of my voice, hoping to avoid a confrontation. "I'm not really into books, Melissa." I just wanted to throw my stuff in my locker and head home. Instead, I was surrounded by Melissa and a bunch of other girls, about to pass out from the perfume overload every time Melissa tossed her hair.

"It's so amazing!" she said, either not hearing me or not caring. "You really have to read it. Here." She thrust a paper at me, the black stone on her bracelet falling over her wrist. "I'm starting a book club. You should join." Melissa had a smile plastered across her face, but her eyes were hard--predatory.

Did she just ask me to join her club? I looked down at the book. Lure. The combination of the title and the way Melissa was acting creeped me out. Plus, I couldn't figure out why all these girls were with her.


  1. Is Mitch a guy or a girl? Also, who doesn't like books!?!? Crazy person! (haha!)

    I honestly don't know what to make of this excerpt. A bunch of girls cornering da protag and forcing a book upon he/she/it. Not the most interesting start.

    But, despite da protags loathing of books, I did feel bad for his/her/its lungs.

  2. Dangerous books sounds like a lot of fun. I had trouble getting into the scene, possibly because I wasn't sure where it's taking place. What's the setting? I was also unclear why Mitch immediately assumed that Melissa was doing something dangerous. I got the sense that he dislikes her but not that there's anything to fear, except for maybe at the end of the passage. I'd read on a bit to find out more about the book.

  3. The writing is good, but I was confused as to whether he actually liked Melissa or not. He says he liked her, but he also seems to want to be nowhere near her, and it seemed there was a bit of sarcasm in his tone, so maybe he really doesn't like her? I couldn't tell.

    The 'perfume overload' sentence could be rephrased. I kept reading it as the girls being about to pass out, even after I knew what you really meant.

    Perhaps also add a sentence or two that would make Melissa stand out. She seemed a bit geneic here.

  4. The first two lines were fantastic! Love it.

    The sentence which confused me was the "An encounter with Melissa was the first item on my To-Don't list."

    I don't like the phrase "to-don't list". Perhaps it's because you wouldn't have a "to do not" list. Doesn't sound right. Maybe a "Don't do list".

    Other than that - very nice.

  5. The start, with "anything that could make Melissa approach me was far from harmless" makes me think it's going to be about something dangerous, something to do with the book. Then in the next paragraph, it's like Melissa & the To-Don't list are the important things, like it's more interesting that she's trying to talk to him.

    It also feels kind of awkward. If he doesn't want to talk to her, then the way she kind of launches into mid conversation, pushing the book at him, doesn't quite fit.

    I feel like there would be an interesting story here, but I would need to see more than this bit to get in to it & want to keep reading.

  6. I assumed Mitch was a guy, especially with the perfume overload (which I loved, btw). I like the idea of a dangerous book, but I'm not sure this is the best place to have started your story. Didn't hook me completely.

  7. Funny how people's opinions can be so different. In my humble opinion, I really didn't have any of the problems noted above. I loved it. Mitch is a guy's name to me. I liked the "To Don't List" line and agree that the first two sentences are strong. The relationship with Melissa isn't clear but you only have 250 words here, so to get more into it so soon might have come off as an information dump early on. Also, I get the impression that this is the inciting incident, so it probably would be a good place to start your story. Hard to tell with only 250 words, but I liked it. The unanswered questions I have only made me interested to read more.

  8. If this is the inciting incident, it doesn't seem strong enough, dangerous enough, or conflicting enough.

    It felt too young for YA

  9. I think the first two lines could be restructured to give the word "dangerous" a little more omph. Also, perhaps we don't even need them. They are Mitch "seeing into the future" in a way. Start with Melissa shoving the book into his face. And make it clearer why he thinks it's dangerous

    But really, you may not need to start with this. Start when things start getting, well, dangerous

  10. I was confused whether the protagonist was a girl or boy too. The beginning wasn't all that original either with the mean girl coming up and trying to play nice. A book club sounds sort of boring so I don't think I would be enticed to read more. Now if I was in a book store would I finish the chapter to see if it got exciting? Maybe. The writing is good, just starting it off in a unique and exciting way is something to work on.

  11. Seems like a good second chapter or later in the first chapter - but not the place to start. Not enough here to make us get to know or care about the characters, and we can't even tell if the main character is male or female.

    I'm guessing there's a good book here, but it doesn't grab the reader the way I think a first page needs to.

  12. The pacing is good and I like the voice of the MC so far. The writing could be tweaked to be a little more active for even more impact.

    Curious but not quite hooked, I'd probably read on another paragraph or two to see if I'm really hooked.

    Paranormal would have to happen fairly quickly in the coming segment to keep my attention.

    Thanks for sharing.

  13. I liked some of your phrases: "...her eyes were hard - predatory." and incorporating multiple senses into the opening. I also liked the voice of your MC.

    However, I wasn't quite hooked. I feel disconnected. The opening paragraph is telling me this is a dangerous encounter but it doesn't feel dangerous as I read it. Melissa just feels like someone you avoid because she's annoying/insistent/fake.

    The way I read the perfume overload sentence makes it sound like the girls are being overloaded by the scent instead of your MC (which is what I assume you wanted).

    I was interested in knowing what the black stone on her bracelet ends up representing/being in relation to the plot.

    Thank you for sharing and best of luck.

  14. The premise sounds interesting, and I'd want to read more. However, the voice threw me off. I really thought the MC was a girl, but then we get the name "Mitch."

  15. It's nice to read something from a boy's POV for a change, especially one who's not interested in books or scared of girls. I think the writing needs cleaning up in places: You need separate paras for all the dialogue. The name 'Melissa' is repeated too much. A little description of Melissa might be good.

    I also think you could make the first para more punchy. 'Boring' and 'waste of time' are pretty similar, I think one adjective would do. Perhaps something like: 'I always thought books were a waste of time. Turns out they can be dangerous.' And the second sentence is slightly clunky, shorter would be better.

    Perhaps with the line: 'I just wanted to throw my stuff in my locker and head home.' you could just add a few words on the end about what/ who Mitch is heading home to? It would give us a bit more insight into him.

    I'm not sure why the title would freak him out. And the last sentence is a bit limp, perhaps substitute 'following her' or 'hovering round her' for 'with her'.

    Despite all my nitpicking I'm hooked and would read on!

  16. PS Reading the comments, I'm confused that anyone would think Mitch is a girl, to me it's 100% a boy's name.

  17. PPS Sorry! Just to say, on rereading, the dialogue paras are okay, they just seem a bit buried.

  18. I like the premise, but I kept wondering why he didn't like Melissa. A short explaination would help the reader understand the mc better, I think.

    I'd read more the see where this is going.

  19. I think this is a cool idea.

    Just a few things:
    - I had no doubt Mitch was a boy.
    - I like the To-Don't List
    - I would take out the Melissa when he says "I'm not really into books"
    - I thought the opening could have been stronger and I second GirlFriday's suggestions for it.

  20. The writing is good but as a guy, I have a little trouble getting interested in a conflict about joining a girl's book club. If there was a hint that the book, Lure, is amazing because of some supernatural effect--like if Mitch felt his hands reaching for it as if magnetized, something he couldn't control--then I'd be more interested. The only danger hinted at so far is that the book gave Melissa a reason to approach him. I'd like something more urgent, compelling, daring.

  21. I, too, would like something more urgent, compelling, or daring, though I think part of my reaction is the phrasing in the beginning lines.

    I'm all for starting with the second paragraph, which gets immediately into the action of the moment (even if we don't understand the relationship between Mitch and Melissa).

    How old are these characters? At any age, I suppose, Melissa's actions might come off as creepy, but especially if we're talking high school.

    Also, why is Melissa so adamant about Mitch joining when she obviously doesn't care about him (evidenced by the plastered smile). By the way, I suggest cutting hard so that her eyes are directly and only predatory.

    I'd say this is clearly the inciting incident. He's given the book and that book will be the cause of all of his problems.

    Overall, I'm not hooked. I don't see what's at stake, mostly because I don't really get a sense of either Mitch or Melissa. The Pod People vibe is tangible ("I couldn't figure out why all these girls were with her.") but not enough for me.

  22. I liked this. And contrary to a few others, I think this is a great place to start. The inciting incident doesn't have to happen in the first 250 words, but we do have to get a sense of who the MC is, the setting, conflict, etc. That's all here and there's a believable voice telling the story. Good start, great premise - I'd definitely keep reading.

  23. I really liked this, but I had to reread the first two lines - love the dangerous book idea, but there were too many negatives to keep up with effortlessly.

    Loved the To-Don't list. Needs a period after "Uh, no." since it's followed by an action tag. I'm wondering if the black stone is significant.

    I enjoyed the way the reader and the MC are equally confused at the end. Great fun - I'd like to read more.

  24. I sensing a good concept here and some interesting voice. One problem I have, though, is a feeling of repetition. It feels to me like every sentence stars with I. It builds of feeling of repetition into the text.

  25. Hey, Secret Agent here! You see what I mean about books being central to plots in books? Especially books with powers? This is the second entry to rely on a book. But I digress… As I said on another entry, this writer tells the reader about the creepy feeling going on, but they don’t actually create a creepy feeling in the reader. I tend to be much more creeped out when I see something creepy happen on the page, not when the author tells me that something is creepy and that I should be creeped out. There’s not enough character development here, for either Melissa or the protagonist, for me to really get into this as written, unfortunately.