Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February Secret Agent #9

TITLE: Finding Sarah
GENRE: MG Fiction

Looking down into my lap, I didn't recognize my own hands, scrubbed clean, trimmed fingernails, and smelling of flowery soap. But a hint of the real me remained, the blisters. My fingertips stung, along with the memory of using my thin, dirty nightgown as a hot pad to lift the scorching window for escape. Had it really only been a few nights ago? I bet those firemen wouldn't recognize me now.

Shaking the memory away, I turned my attention to the long white sedan, for sure the nicest car I'd ever sat in. From the backseat, I could see two ladies talking outside. Each wore dark pants with creases running all the way down to their high-heeled shoes. The older lady twirled necklace-style glasses while talking to the younger lady, Miss Marilee. I'd first met her a few days ago, the night everything happened. She'd given me a juice box, some strawberries, and a peanut butter sandwich. I didn't say thank you. She probably thinks I'm rude.

Clicking shoes on the pavement pulled my thoughts back to the present. The driver's door opened. "Marilyn, we're all set. Do you have on your seatbelt?" Miss Marilee situated herself in the driver's seat.

"Yes, ma'am," I nodded.


  1. I like it, but think maybe the last two sentences in the opening paragraph aren't needed. If the blisters sting, we already know whatever casued it only happened days ago.

  2. This is a really slow opening. There's no tension or suspense or hint of what's to come. And your MC hasn't thought once about where she's going and why (which I'm guessing is the real issue here.)

    I know she's been in a fire, but that's all I know. Did her parents die? Is she going off to a foster home? Is she scared? Complacent? You have to give us something more than a girl with blistered fingers sitting in the back seat of a car.

  3. I must disagree with the above. I don't think you do need to give us more than that in 250 words! I liked this, and I'd read on.

    Only things I'd crit are 'She probably thinks I'm rude' - 'She probably thought I was rude/thought me rude'. And also the use of the word 'situated' - sounds a bit grandiose for such a mundane action. Other than that, I'm hooked : )

  4. I'm in agreement with Casper!

    I thought you had great story building here - and did a great job of "showing" vs. telling. Everything else, I'm sure, follows - which is why I think your first 250 words are spot on.

    I'd read on, and I'm not necessarily a big fan of MG - but I really enjoyed this.

  5. I liked this. Seems to be a good example how after something awful happens to you sometimes you tend to fixate on the small things--like the juice box and being thought rude. I would keep reading.

  6. I think you've done a great job capturing a southern voice (and that means "situated" works fine for me because I'm from the South and have heard the word use din that situation dozens of times).

    But, along with the southern voice, you seem to have stereotypical southern pacing - a bit slow. The pace doesn't bother me at all, but it might deter some readers, particularly MG aged readers.

    I wasn't a big fan of "I didn't say thank you. She probably thinks I'm rude." It sounds a bit too introspective for MG.

    Unlike the first commenter, I really like the end of your first paragraph. I thought it revealed backstory without telling too much.

    I really liked your voice and would definitely keep reading.

  7. HI
    aside from using 'situated' (didn't feel MG) maybe try plopped or cushed into the seat, this is a good MG try. I'm getting a feel for her life after the fire, but soon you'll have to write whats going to cause her to grow or change.

  8. On the fence with this one.

    The set-up: I'm thinking underprivileged child who has been in a fire and is now being removed some place by a well-dressed social worker. Not a bad premise, and one that promises potential conflict. But I did not get anything truly fearful or agitated or distinctive from this MC. Just a sort of looking back. I think you need to somehow stamp her more immediately with some discernable personality traits. Really get into her head.

    Marilee and Marilyn? Potentially confusing.
    Have Miss Marilee "situate" herself in the seat before the dialogue line.

    Thanks for sharing your writing, and good luck as you wrestle this story into its best shape.

  9. This character could prove to be quite intersting but I didn't feel the stakes were as high as they need to be to really capture my interest.

    I'm not a fan of books opening with people waiting for something to happen or thinking about what has happened. Let's get going and keep the instropection to a minimum especially right out of the gate.

    The MG's voice was on target, I felt. Just wanted a little more sense of self and a faster pace.

  10. It's a slow build up, but a good show of this girl's current situation. Is it enough to hook a reader into asking what's next? Not sure. These opening 250 words set a familiar situation - orphaned girl heading to foster setting. What might help the hook is to hint at what makes *this* particular orphan, or where she's headed, stand out from other stories told.

  11. I'm up for the ride. I don't know if she's orphaned or if I trust those who have her in the back of this car. I definitely want to read on to know more.

    One thing is she's in a car about to start moving, so that can be a problem. It's sets me up to think I'm in for a slow drive without much action. If you want her in the car, maybe she can be about to arrive somewhere; however, it's difficult to say w/out seeing the rest.

    Best wishes with this!