Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February Secret Agent #5

TITLE: Shades of Adrian Gray

This is how the story ends.

A room with a view: three walls coated with tacky wallpaper and a fourth with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the bay. Hardwood floors that clatter against heels, crafting echoes that bounce amongst the rafters. The hum of fans keeping the air circulating. Brisk and chill and making everyone shiver.

Not that I think anyone minds. Helps keep the corpse from smelling.

It ends with an audience. Fifty guests stuffed into crisply pressed suits and a room so cramped even sardines would dial up their union reps. Uncomfortably shifting to get warmer. Noses sniffling into Kleenex. Chairs creaking louder than their joints, and I swear I'm the only non-family member there who's not also a member of the Geriatrics Society. I thought Adrian had more friends, but apparently their contracts all came with a 'til death' clause.

It ends without anybody noticing. Sure, all eyes are on the mahogany coffin. Only the best for the Grays' little prince. Closed casket though. Even their money couldn't fix the wreck the accident made of his face. The priest drones on about some dead kid who sounds like a candidate for sainthood. Doesn't sound like Adrian to me.

It's a far cry from happily ever after. Not that I figured a house in the suburbs was ever in the cards. Two closeted teenagers do not the epic romance of our time make, even without a drunk driver taking out one of the protagonists early into Act One.


  1. Really nice writing. Great scene/mood setting. I'd keep reading.

  2. I like your biting commentary, and unique peek into a young gay man's mind.

    I like the beginning which is the ending and I know this kind of writing will make me laugh (at the inequities in life).

    Your style is practiced. I'd read on. I'd also like to know if Adrian has a portrait on the wall and if Dorian figures in the story. Somehow I think falling apart is already in the cards.

  3. I love this. I'm hooked, I'd read on, and I really don't have any other comments! ;-)

  4. Great writing, but I have to admit it went on a bit too long for me. Another paragraph or two of this and I'd give up. I want something to happen. It doesn't have to be anything big, someone coming and saying hello would be enough. I just need something to break up the long monologue.

    And I wonder what it is that nobody is noticing. You never say. But perhaps that comes up later? Hopefully, not too much later.

    The writing would hold me a bit longer, but as I said, if the monologue didn't end soon, you'd lose me.

  5. Definitely hooked. I really liked this beginning, although I'm already prepared to be sad.

    The floor clattering against heels was the only awkward phrase for me. I had an image of the floor coming up, rather than shoes coming down.

  6. Really liked his POV. Little lines like "Doesn't sound like Adrian to me" really catch my attention.
    The repetitive "it ends with" is distracting. I know what you're going for. I'd say it twice (your first line, and then 'it ends with an audience'. Cut the last one.
    The last paragraph is great- you give just a hint of backstory without distracting from the current scene.

  7. The sardonic tone in a funeral scene puts me off - and you are so going to have to work hard to pull off a book starting with a dead best friend/boyfriend ... partly because it's been done brilliantly by other YA writers, at least one very recently. Not that it can't be done, but it's a high bar.

  8. Great first line.

    I admit, I do not like books that start: at a funeral; someone driving to a destination; the MG standing in front of a door waiting for it to open. However, this funeral intrigued me. One word, "closeted", had me hooked.

    I liked the snarky tone of your protag. I liked the descriptives. But, I agree with others that the narrative may be going on for too long.

    I'd continue reading.

  9. This is a very dry and sardonic monologue with several clipped sentence fragments which sets the tone of your MC's voice. I like it, but as the others have mentioned, it would be difficult to continue reading if this kept up further.

  10. I really liked it. It brought up a lot of questions that would make me keep reading (why Adrian's friends didn't show, why he's not a candidate for sainthood,etc.).

    The only line I don't love is the first one, and it may be simply because you've set it off by itself, so that it stands out more and stops me.

    Very well written! I'm sorry I don't have more feedback. It worked to make me want to see where the story goes. Best wishes with this!

  11. Thank you for all the comments and critiques! I really appreciate them!

    @Melinda - Thank you! I know the mood I went with is potentially off putting to some, so its good to hear when it works for people!

    @Locksley - Thanks! Its the kind of writing I like to read, so it just winds up in my stuff whether I like it or not. I don't think its spoiling anything to say that if you enjoy the beginning line, you'll probably appreciate my last line of the book being 'And this is how the story begins.' There are allusions to Dorian Gray, but nothing overt. Painting will play a part in the story, but I hesitated to make any direct parallels. I think of the title as more of a thematic homage than any direct attempt to link the stories.

    @Marieke - Haha, thanks! Don't worry, that's all the comment I need! Can never hear that enough!

    @Barbara - Thank you very much for your thought on that, its something I really worried about when entering this. The actual action starts literally with the very next line, so all in all I'm not too worried about it, but having never done a contest like this before, it really made me appreciate how much and how little the first 250 words are all at the same time. As for what nobody really notices, the story that's ending at the funeral is Evan and Adrian's love story, essentially. Adrian is dead, and this is how their story ends. It ends without anybody noticing is Evan referencing the fact that nobody at the funeral knows there was even anything between Evan and Adrian to begin with. I hope that becomes clear quickly in the next page or so, but now I'll see if there's any way to make that line immediately clear from the get go.

    @tarak - Thank you! My beta readers hated me for this book, so I think that means I did it right. We'll see. Jury's still out. And thanks for your critique of the hardwood floors line, that one's actually been bugging me the last several read throughs and I couldn't quite pin down why. It is the image of the floor coming up!

  12. @susansheehey - Thanks for the thoughtful critique! You’re absolutely right about the repetitiveness, I worried about it myself. I'm now thinking of changing 'It ends with an audience.' to 'An audience: fifty guests...' and then keeping 'It ends without anybody noticing,' instead. That way I describe the ending in terms of the setting and the audience in the same way, and keep the repetitive 'it ends with' to directly refer to the story itself? Does that work better?

    @Sara - Thank you for your comments! And yeah, I worry that the sardonic tone will be too offputting for many, but at the same time I think its very much Evan's voice at this particular moment, so I'm at a loss on how to tone it down without cutting his character and his emotions off at the knees. As for the subject matter, which recent book are you thinking of that starts off this way? I'd like to at least be aware of it, though I hope mine is different enough to stand out. Thematically, the book is more about the importance of support systems and how the weight of secrets can crush you. It's not about grieving for Adrian as much as its grieving for someone nobody else 'close to him' even knew he had a relationship with, and how much that changes things.

    @Betsy - Thank you! I always worry that my MC's sound the same, so with this one I put a lot of thought into making the narrative style and flow different from my usual, so I'm ecstatic to hear you think it gives a good sense of his character off the bat. I'm working on ways to introduce some action a little earlier to break up the narrative.

    @Lori W - Thanks! No worries, any feedback is more than enough!

    @Secret Agent - Thank you so much! I actually share your wariness about beginnings with funerals and such, so this was a definite gamble on my part. It just felt like it was where the story needed to begin, but that doesn't mean I'm not nervous about if it works the way I meant it too.