Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#7 January Secret Agent

GENRE: YA Paranormal

Headmaster Looper sucks.

If I was a different kind of girl I'd spray paint that on his car, on the front of the school, and on his face. But since I didn't aspire to spend my junior year in juvenile detention, I'd have to make do with laughing my head off at 11:49 when he'd slip on a glop of mashed potatoes and bust his butt in the cafeteria today. Remembering my dream made me momentarily forget how hot and sticky I was from riding my bike two miles to school.

11:49. I loved when my dreams gave me an exact time. Mostly, I could only pin-point time of day--morning, afternoon, evening. For whatever reason, I'd looked at the clock while I was in the dream. So, I planned to be front and center for the show.

My dreams always come true. It was the one awesome thing about me. And I don't mean like if it was my one and only dream to be a pop star, I'd practice, cultivate an image, and before I knew it, I'd be the next tabloid princess with mediocre talent. No. If I dreamed that Headmaster Looper would slip on mashed potatoes and fall in the middle of the cafeteria, then he would slip on mashed potatoes, bringing embarrassment to himself and joy to everyone else. A giggle bubbled up into my throat--and I do not giggle--but I couldn't help it whenever I thought about what was to come.


  1. I like the voice a lot.

    I think your sentences in the second paragraph are too long though, especially the second. If you could stop that one after 11:49and break it into two sentences, it might be more effective.

    I'm not sure what riding her bike to school has to do with the rest of the opening. I don't think you need that.

    Just a few nitpicky things... In the last paragraph, it should be It "is" the one awesome thing about me instead of "was". Also, I'm not sure you need "before I knew it" in the last paragraph.

    Overall, I really like this. If you can just tighten it up a bit, it will be even better. Great job. I'd keep reading.

  2. I definitely want to read more of this. I really like the character's voice. You did a good job of giving us a sense of who she is by having her tell us the things she wouldn't do.

    I'm really interested to find out why she hates Headmaster Looper. Obviously, we don't need the reason in this bit, it add some suspense. But I hope you tell us later on and it's not just a teen hating authority type of thing. Which I don't think it is.

    The only thing I found a little odd, and maybe it's just me, but she mentioned riding her bike to school. Which means she doesn't live there. But when I think of headmasters, I think of boarding schools. I'm not sure that's a term exclusively used for boarding schools, but it's what I think of and it kind of threw me off.

    But I really liked this and want to read more!

  3. This definitely piqued my interest, but there are a few things to nitpick at and one big picture thing that has me nervous about reading more. The big-picture thing first: She's talking about something that will presumably happen around lunch time, but now it's the morning. That means we have like 3 hours to cover in these first chapters before we get to this humiliating event. Unless there's something really interesting that happens in those three hours, this might lose its momentum. And since it's her dreams that come true, and she only dreamed of the humiliating incident...well, I'm wondering if the next few pages won't be a lot of waiting for the dream to come true (i.e. waiting for the plot to get moving). Maybe I'm reading way too much into this, but I've seen a lot of openings that start with a hook like this--that something preordained is going to happen--and then they fall flat on page 2. That's something for you, as the author, to think about. If something interesting and plot-driving does happen before this 11:49 dream comes true, well ignore all of this. However, if it doesn't, if it's a lot of ordinary life stuff, then I wonder if you need to start this book actually in the cafeteria at 11:48, when she's waiting for Looper to fall.

    As for the nitpicks: "If I was a different kind of girl" should be "If I were a different kind of girl" (conditional tense). YA teens don't often say "juvenile detention"; it's known as juvie (get that voice in there). And if she doesn't giggle--she says she doesn't--then why does she...giggle? Seemed an odd contradiction.

    I would read on to see what happens though, as the writing is strong and the premise is very interesting.

  4. I like the MC, but I'd start with a more active event. Maybe start with her standing there, watching it happen and then think back on the dream and how it was so much better in reality... or something. You MC sounds cool though.

  5. I love the humor and timing in the second sentence. "and on his face" is perfect.

    I'm really interested in the scenario here and how it's going to build up into some sort of conflict. As it is, I see a power, but no conflict. I agree with Jenn that having the action of Looper falling and then recalling that it was something she had dreamed would make for a more immediate opening.

    The last paragraph takes me a bit out of the story. Partly, it has to do with the repetition of what we already know is going to happen. Partly it's that I think that her precognition is apparent, so the description of the pop star dream seems needless and off-topic.

    I'd read forward a few pages to see whether conflict was forthcoming, though the more I write, the more I think Jenn and K. Cooper have it right: Start with the event. Bring the dreaming in as a corollary, or as an explanation of, but bring us into the action.

  6. It's a clumsy beginning - and it at first had me thinking she was going to orchestrate him slipping on the mashed potatoes. I'd rework the first two paragraphs and condense them - and leave out the "Remembering my dream made me ..."

    But I'd keep reading.

  7. I liked the beginning of this a lot. At first I didn't understand why 11:49 had to be added, but then it was realized. I liked her, a secret daredevil, and could relate to her in that level.

    But the last paragraph just turned me off completely. It was all just pure telling. I was starting to be happy because I was piecing together that this girl dreamed things and they came true, but when it was directly stated it just totally cut off my excitement.

    But I would keep reading on, purely from the MC's voice.

  8. I like the voice, but I agree that the last paragraph should be cut. It's just telling us what we already know. I was also a little confused by the time jump between the first two paragraphs.

    But your main character sounds like fun, and for me as a reader that's the most important part. :)

  9. Nothing happened. Your MC talked.
    And all we learn in 250 words is that your MC's dreams come true. You could get that across in four words. My dreams come true.

    Perhaps start the story in the caf at 11:45, that way we get to see Looper's fall, and it comes as a surprise. After it happens, then she says her dreams come true.

  10. I have to agree with Barbara and Sara J. Henry. Clumsy seems like a good word to use. Though the voice has really great potential and I love a good dreams to reality story, I think the story might be better served if you actually start IN the cafeteria scene.

    Watching the principal walk in and hit the potatoes (or whatever else happens) and slip in the dream/prediction stuff as it's happening. I don't want to hear that the guys going to fall, I want to see him in the act.

    This way the things that are slowing this opening down (how her dreams show the time, how she doesn't like the headmaster, etc) can be slipped in while the reader is more engaged. Same goes for the opening sentence--I think there's potential for a really funny/shocking opener to bring us into the scene.

  11. I also think you have a lot of potential in the story, but a rewrite with close attention to what is necessary and in what order you tell the story would help.

    One example is that you bury the great, "my dreams always come true" line four paragraphs in. I'd be tempeted to lead with this rather than that the Headmaster sucks.

    I'd likely read on for a few pages to see wheer this was headed and to see if the story smoothed out a bit.

    Keep working on this great idea.

  12. Hey, Secret Agent here! Clean writing. The “remembering my dream” line threw me, until I got that she foresaw seeing Looper fall in her sleep. I’m not that riveted by the conflict of hating one’s principal. That’s a pretty well-worn path in YA. I’m curious to see what her other dreams are, and if they’re all sort of silly like this one (another reason to maybe not start with it) or if they do come with higher stakes.

  13. I like the writing but was confused a bit as I read. At first I thought the MC was going to drop the mashed potatoes to try and get the headmaster to trip and I was wondering how that's possible to plan so precisely. Then I learned that it's in the dream, which will come true, but I was already confused. I like the premise, although the voice seems more upper MG than YA to me.