Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May Secret Agent #34

TITLE: Open Minds
GENRE: Young Adult Paranormal

A zero like me shouldn't take public transportation.

The hunched driver wrinkled a frown before I even got on the bus. Her attempt to read my mind would get her nothing but the quiet of the street corner where I stood. I kept my face neutral. Nobody trusted a zero to begin with, but scowling back would only make the driver more suspicious. I gripped my backpack and gym bag tighter and climbed the grime-coated steps. The driver's mental command whooshed the door closed behind me.

Yeah, junior year was off to a fantastic start already.

Students crammed the bus, which stank of too many bodies baking in the early morning heat. I shuffled past the dead silent rows, avoiding backpacks and black instrument cases. Two years of being the Invisible Girl had taught me a few things. As long as I didn't touch an exposed arm or speak out loud, the blank spot of my mind would go unnoticed in the swirling sea of their thoughts. Which was great, until I needed a seat on a crowded bus. With a soft hiss of water exhaust, the bus lurched forward. I grabbed a sticky seatback to keep from falling on three girls deep in mental conversation.

Two senior boys leered from the back row. The whole bus was within range, so they knew there were no thought waves beaming from my head. Yet, instead of ignoring me, they stared like hungry sharks.


  1. Good. I'd definitely keep reading.

  2. I like how it starts with a phrase that sounds familiar and then quickly redefines it. Great job and I'd read on.

  3. Yep, I like this one too. I want to know more about what makes someone a zero or a whatever-the-rest-of-them-are. Definitely read on :)

  4. I was pulled into this story from the first sentence. Good hook! The voice feels real. Gave me the shivers. I'd love to read more.

  5. Love the concept and want to know more!

  6. I liked the touches of other-worldliness that are throughout this excerpt. It doesn't overpower you with the different type of world. It helps the reader stay somewhere familiar while still getting to know the sci-fi aspects you've added in.

    I'd keep going as well.

  7. I actually wished the first line wasn't so vague! I'm so drawn in by the following paragraphs where you show what being a "zero" is, and how no one can read her thoughts. If you started with something about that, and then tightened up the following paragraphs (there seems to be some needless detail), it'd be great. Either way, I'd keep reading.

  8. The first line actually turned me off. I thought I'd be getting a 'poor pitiful me' story. The next parg. informed me that wasn't the case. You might consider a new opening line.

    That second parg opened up some great possibilities. In a world of telepaths, here was someone whose mind couldn't be reached. But by the fourth parg. you were losing me. This wasn't a new situation. She had been dealing it with for two years. She already knew how she had to behave and react in order to fit in, and today was no different.

    So while you have an interesting premise, there's no problem. SHe's already handling the obvious problem pretty well. There's no hint as to what the story line might be.

    And if it's a story where she's going to be picked on because no one can read her mind, then it's just another bully story, which is ok for an MG but not YA. The point is, I don't know what the story line will be. I don't even have a hint, and since I don't know, there's nothing to pull me in. I wanted more. Perhaps try to work that in.

  9. I liked it, but I agree with Barbara. The first line is a bit vague, as I'm not sure if a "zero" is slang for something in your story that we'll learn later or if she's literally a zero/loser type character.

    Also, I'd consider removing the word "dead" before silent, as silent is strong enough to stand on it's own.

    Good luck!

  10. I liked the first line because it becomes obvious in the next paragraph that the "zero" has a double meaning. I think it's a fascinating premise, and it took me the whole 250 words to get comfortable with the fact that the MC resides in a world of telepaths. I'm okay with the fact that there isn't an inciting incident or conflict yet, because I'm finding this new world pretty darn intriguing. The fact that she doesn't fit into this world perfectly assures me there is trouble to come. It does seem like you've set up for yourself some pretty significant challenges -- how does a writer create dialogue for characters who don't speak? What kind of relationships develop when people don't typically hide their thoughts? I'd love to read more!

  11. I'm going to vote on the side that "zero" threw me. Yes, I did figure out that it has a double meaning, but "read my mind" also has a double meaning, and that's a bit much. I thought the driver was trying to read her expression, so the "quiet of a street corner" disoriented me. After reading it a couple times, I couldn't figure out what you meant and had to give up and read on.

    Now knowing what's going on, I think this is a solid opening event, but I wish I knew your premise earlier. Knowing there's a group of people called zeros and that there's a "blank spot" in her mind isn't enough to explain the set-up. When the driver commands the door shut, she could be a cyborg sending a wireless signal. Or a magic user casting a spell. There's very few lines that could only be explained with, "Everyone's a telepath."

    Also, just a thought, but why does the spoken word exist in this world? I can understand the written word, but the only purpose I can see for speaking out loud is entertainment and talking on the phone. And even then, it feels like live entertainment would dominate this world, because watching people speak aloud would be like listening to a second language rather than a native one.

  12. I am interested in this world and I'd keep reading to see how it worked, but I have to admit, I'm confused by this first page. I'm guessing the lack of "thought waves beaming from her head" is the reason she's a Zero? (Should Zero be capitalized if this is a term used in this world to describe a certain type of person?) I guess I'm also confused by a nitpicky detail -- is this a public bus or a school bus? Why are there so many school kids on a public bus? If she shouldn't be riding public transport, why is she? And is it the first day of school? If so, would they have their instrument cases already? Don't teachers check instruments out to kids after class starts?

    Despite all these questions, I'd keep reading. You have a nice writing style and I'm definitely interested in the world you're building.

    Best of luck!

  13. What I liked: Some interesting, original concepts at work, and the world building elements were worked in subtly.

    What needed work: Even though I realize her role will be explained, it feels like the narrator is too passive in this short sample. Perhaps that’s the result of being a “zero,” but I found myself not particularly interested in what was going to happen to her. She seems somewhat unlikable to me.

    Would I read on based on this sample? Yes, but with trepidation.

  14. I like the world you've created here and I would read on. A few things gave me pause though. Firstly, openings on the MC's first day of school seem fairly common. The SA didn't mention it so maybe you're ok but it didn't really excite me because I feel like I've seen it a lot before. Secondly, nothing much happens. She gets on the bus and that's it. Barbara hit the nail on the head when she said this isn't a new situation for your character. The world is interesting but world-building does not a story make. We need something to change for your MC. Perhaps that will happen with the goons up the back of the bus, but at this stage it's just another day on the bus.