Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February Secret Agent #31

GENRE: Contemporary YA

Absolute freedom.

That's what stood in front of me while I lingered at the bottom steps of the school. I rocked back on my heels, nervous about starting fresh and experiencing life without someone watching over my shoulder.

"So, are you ready to do this?" Alec, my best friend, took my hand to guide me up the steps. Orientation started in less than five minutes and I stood frozen unable to move forward.

I took a deep breath and nodded.

New Orleans School of Creative Arts, NOSCA as I soon found out it was called, was antiquated on the outside, but when we walked in we were transported into a state-of-the-art building.

Our steps echoed through the hallways, the heels of my boots click-clacking against the immaculate slate floors. Other students rushed past us. I caught glimpses of guitars slung over shoulders, drumsticks being used to play air drums, and dancers with bags tossed across their bodies. This was a haven for anyone and everyone that loved art.

"Where do we have to go for orientation?" I asked Alec; he was my guide. Between the two of us he was more organized and prepared.

"Down this hall and make a left." He nodded down the hall.

The auditorium was breathtaking.

It reminded me of the theatres in New York. He wasn't on Broadway, but for him just being able to perform in New York was enough. I admired that about his uncle. Alec had the same passion for theatre.


  1. There are a few little inconsistencies that bug me in this. In the first paragraph, the MC rocks on their heels, but in the second they are unable to move. If they're rocking, they're not frozen. Also, the MC is "nervous about starting fresh and experiencing life without someone watching over my shoulder." Based on this passage, that's exactly what Alec is doing.

    I also didn't like "The auditorium was breathtaking." I would take this out and describe the auditorium. You start well by comparing it to the theaters of NY which would make a great description, but then excerpt gets confusing. From "He wasn't on Broadway" until the end doesn't make sense to me. You lead with a pronoun that apparently describes Alec's uncle, although he isn't mentioned previously. Moving from a description of the auditorium to Alec's uncle on Broadway makes me think there was an editing snafu and a sentence or two is missing.

    The sentence "This was a haven for anyone and everyone that loved art" is unnecessary. You've done a pretty good job describing the assortment of students at NOSCA in the previous sentence.

    I wouldn't keep reading this, but I think you could turn this into a stronger opening with a few edits.

  2. I think you've started this too early - nothing really happens so I'm not gripped. Either that, or we need to feel her apprehension at starting a new school a lot more to make it more exciting.

  3. I actually liked this, but I'm assuming something exciting is going to happen soon, especially with that awesome title.

    I would keep reading, at least until the end of the first chapter. Great job with the emotions, btw. I felt connected to the mc. :)

    Good luck!

  4. LOVE the title. I think you have the voice for YA, but in the next few sentences there needs to be something interesting that will keep the reader hooked.

  5. I would start with the paragraph naming the school. It needs edited for clarity.

    ‘Our steps’ and “heels…clacking’ says the same thing.

    The sentence, ‘I caught glimpses of guitars slung over shoulders, drumsticks being used to play air drums, and dancers with bags tossed across their bodies’ needs broken up. Cut the word, ‘being’.

    Although you need to tighten your words and some puncuation, this submission creates interest and I want to go on :)

  6. I like the voice, I like the title, but I agree with Girl Friday - I think you may have started this too early. I've absolutely no sense of what's going on and why I should care.

    The writing is absolutely there though - especially if you tighten it and work on the things point pointed out above. If you can I think this would be great!

    Good luck!

  7. Really sorry, but to me this doesn't hold the reader's interest. Too much showing, not telling - and nothing happening.

  8. but what is the problem the protag faces? Is she afraid she won't measure up? Worried her pantyline is showing? In competition with the person she's with? In love with the person she's with? Give us something to get behind.

    And in the first line, or second so we know what the story's about.

    Has potential, just needs work.

  9. There's a lot of telling. "Alec, my best friend." "NOSCA as I soon found out it was called." "This was a haven for anyone and everyone that loved art." "Between the two of us he was more organized and prepared" and "The auditorium was breathtaking" are examples.

    It's hard to do a lot of showing in 250 words, but I think that you could show us at least one of these things, through action and dialog & description in the first passage. Maybe show us that the MC and Alec are best friends, by showing us something they do together.

    You're trying to accomplish too much with place, setting, characters, etc. by telling us up front in the first few words.

    I love performing arts student stories, so this definitely has potential, but needs showing.

  10. I'd have to agree with Penelope. When writing keep out the 'was,"

    The title is wonderful and you do have the talent to write a showing story. Clean it up a bit and you'll have a strong beginning.

  11. I'm with fiction writer. What's the problem? Where's the conflict and tension? We need to see at least a hint of it, I think.

  12. The paragraph I like best is the one where she's in the school seeing the other students. Nicely done. Minor thing: everyone *who* loved art versus everyone *that* loved art?

    If her initial conflict is fear about starting a new school, you can up that emotion. Maybe don't give her the safety net of Alec as a guide. Have him be late and not show or something. I don't know; I suspect this is going to be an interesting story, but you can up the tension.

    The title, as others have pointed out, is great! Best wishes!

  13. I agree that this could be tightened and improved through 'showing'. I'm okay with nothing major happening yet because there's the sense of potential excitement. But she feels like an observer, an outsider. Why didn't she (she, right?) already know it was called NOSCA? What is her artistic passion? She doesn't seem to identify with anyone she sees. I'm totally baffled by that last paragraph. But I'd still keep reading because I love performance art stories.

  14. Okay, you had me completely intrigued until the last short paragraph. I bet you cropped to get to 250.

    How about: The auditorium/theater was breathtaking. It wisked me back to a Broadway stage, to Alec's performing uncle and Alex. He'd make it.

    I'd read on with the fix in mind..

  15. Fresh lease on life - that's nice, but with no conflict to hook, it doesn't compel a reader to keep going. You lost me on the last paragraph with mention of the uncle. I read 3x and still went "huh?" Sorry.

  16. Try not to start the book with the characters waiting for something to happen. Already be in the moment.

    I need a sense of conflict rather than anticipation.

    The voice is good, though. I felt her excitement.

  17. I felt confused. I thought she was leaving school, ready to embark on the rest of her life. So when I then discovered she was *starting* school it really threw me and I had to go back and re-read.

    I think you need to put the name of the school right at the start of the piece to ensure you don't throw your readers - or maybe start at a different point.

    Also, the rest of the passage seemed in direct conflict with your opening phrase, "Absolute Freedom". It just didn't feel to me like she felt free.

    I think with a bit of editing this can be a really good piece. :) Good luck.