Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October Secret Agent #1

TITLE: Moon's Child Rising
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Somewhere in the space between sleeping and waking, Selina felt her hand move a pen across paper. Then the pen stopped and fell from her grip. It clacked against the linoleum floor, the noise dispersing the remnants of her daydream. The classroom came back into focus and with it, the nightmare. She couldn’t believe this was happening, not during the very last class of her very last day of high school. Twenty pairs of eyes who normally looked right through her as if she didn’t exist were suddenly fixated upon her, waiting for her next move. The undivided attention was terrifying.

For the millionth time that year Selina squeezed her eyes shut and desperately willed something magical to happen. She visualized opening her eyes to find herself transported out of the classroom and lounging in the shade of the great oak tree growing behind the school. It didn’t work of course, it never did, but she couldn’t help but believe that the next time it just might.

Magic hadn’t solved her problem, and Selina was fresh out of any other ideas. She took a deep breath of air, gripped the sides of her desk, and let out the most forceful scream she could muster. It wasn’t the most obvious tactic to get out of the spotlight, but it had worked before.

“Detention! Right now young lady and don’t dawdle on the way,” squeaked Mrs. Riley, taking Selina by the elbow and leading her outside.

Selina looked up at her teacher, thankful to be sent away.


  1. I really like your voice here and you've got a lot of great hooks that would keep me reading. Things like - she's hoping the magic will help, but has it ever before? Not something you need to answer now, but rather something that makes me want to know more. And why is everyone watching her? And what good does detention do on the last day of school?

    The one thing I see is that this could use some tightening. For instance She took a deep breath of air. If you cut it to say She took a deep breath, the reader will assume it was air.

    Take another look and tighten the prose, and I think you have a great, compelling opener

  2. There's a lot to like here and questions I would read on to have answered. One thing I'd like to know now, on this first page, is why everyone is staring at her. All we know is that she wrote something while she was daydreaming. That doesn't seem like it would draw anyone's attention. Did she do something else involuntarily or had she done something odd before the daydream started. Some hint about that would make her embarrassment more real and her extreme measures to get out of class more understandable. I liked the voice. The writing felt clean. (That might not sound like a lot, but to me its huge. There was nothing I tripped over and nothing that felt overwritten.) I'd keep reading.

  3. I liked this quite a bit. You especially did a great job establishing the setting and the MC's emotions. I did wonder if the nightmare was finding herself in a classroom/situation she despises or if something happened (or she suspected something happened) while she was daydreaming. Being caught sleeping in class would certainly be embarrassing enough. Just one small thing you could clarify. My only real confusion was why she'd be sent to detention if it's the last class of the last day of school.

  4. I wondered why you're keeping the problem a secret? She obviously knows what the problem is. (She couldn't believe this was happening.) So why not tell us what 'this' is?

    In my mind, you're keeping the secret intentionally to string me along, which bugs me as a reader. I'd be more inclined to stick with you if she said what the nightmare was. Is she suddenly going to shapeshift, or become invisible? Or maybe it's something more mundane, like she has to use the facilities?

    Regardless, if you say what the problem is, the reader gets a sense of what your story is about, (Oh, cool. Shapeshifting!)and you still have the hook of 'why' it's happening. As is, this story could be about anything, and for me, not knowing makes me want to pass.

  5. I love your first paragraph. I would work on the second to last sentence though.

    Is there a way you can connect the daydream with the second paragraph on magic? I'm wondering why there are two different things happening here.

    The last sentence is telling. Have Selena give her teacher a smile or something simple like that to show her thanks.

    I would read on. Good luck!

  6. Intriguing start. I'd keep reading. The one thing I tripped up on is that she screamed her head get out of the spotlight? That seems like a surefire way to become the even-weirder girl. As a writer, it strikes me as something you needed her to do to get her to leave the room rather than what she would actually do (i.e. duck her head down or look away or just pick up the pen). I mean, all she did was drop a pen. And if she did scream like that, why would her teacher immediately send her to detention? Wouldn't she try to find out what was the matter?

    But I'd keep reading.

  7. I'm definitely intrigued. Not quite sure I know why everyone was staring at her (she did more than just fall asleep in class I presume?). I agree with the previous comment that the screaming thing just seems to make things worse and that the teacher seems negligent for not showing concern. Unless maybe we find out this happens a lot, or more details about why she's so mortified.

    I like the writing, and I definitely would read on. Good start!

  8. I read this twice - The main question is would I keep reading, and the answer is yes. Some of the writing could be tightened, and also, I had trouble suspending my disbelief for parts.
    Be careful about unneccessary words - (paragraph 2: "She visualized opening her eyes to find herself transported out of the classroom and lounging in the shade of the great oak tree growing behind the school." - if she is lounging in the shade of a tree, the reader can assume she's out of the classroom. Paragraph 3: "She took a deep breath of air" - is it possible to take a deep breath of anything other than air?)
    Now for my suspension of disbelief - If the scenario happened in my classroom, I would not immediately send a student to detention, especially not on the last day of school, unless it had been an ongoing issue, or the student would not stop screaming (thus disrupting the other students and being defiant to the teacher.) My school doesn't even have ISS/detition available on the last day of school. Why does Selina think screaming will solve her attention problem? Was she writing anything in her half-sleep state? Overall - I think the opening is intriguing, but needs a few more details to make it more believable.

  9. I agreed with a few of the things said above... mostly about her screaming in order to be removed from the classroom - then again, we don't know all that much about the character yet, do we... Maybe she's done something like this before? Other than that, really, I found it very interesting and would definitely keep reading.

    Also, I was under the impression she was experiencing "automatic writing" (where her hand is possibly being controlled by another being/entity, relaying some message from beyond or another place) in her in-between waking and sleeping state, and she was afraid that someone had noticed that... and, of course, the pen falling drew their unwanted attention. Thus, magic caused the problem and she hoped magic would solve it. I could be reading it wrong, though.

    In any case, great job. Good luck!

  10. Hi, author here :) Thanks everyone for the feedback! I just wanted to clarify a few things:

    1) Heather N. Riffle is correct - Selina was writing something in her daydream/trance state without being aware of it. Since this is written from her POV, I tried to still show this even though she doesn't really know she was doing it.

    2) Everyone was staring because its pretty weird for someone to be writing without being aware of it. Selina doesn't know why they were staring - she just assumes she did something weird while daydreaming (which has happened before).

    3) Selina screams to get out of the spotlight because she knows she will be sent to detention (I mentioned that this tactic "had worked before").

    4) This isnt the first time that Selina's teacher has seen her doing something bizarre and she sends her to detention to get her out of the classroom because shes afraid of her. There is also a history of Selina being dealt with in this way.

    These are just the first 250 words and so not all of the things everyone is looking for fit in - but the questions you all have are addressed in the rest of the chapter :)

  11. I really like the 'automatic writing' hook....which is what you were going suggestion would be to make it more obvious to the reader since that's our first look at Selina: she scares kids (and her teacher!) by trance writing...and she's so out of control that she thinks screaming is a solution. Quirky, interesting character: I think it's better to show this up front rather than make the reader speculate, even though of course you'll answer those questions later.

  12. While the writing is quite pretty, for me, this falls into the trap of being too mysterious. Selina’s been daydreaming but we don’t know what of, she appears to be in trouble but we don’t know what for, etc. Oddly enough, I felt that this airy, not-quite-reality opening might work better for a contemporary YA “issues” book than an urban fantasy, which I feel as a category is much more frank with the fantastical. As it is, this feels like a loner-girl-finds-out-she’s-special fantasy story, which I see day-in and day-out. The most intriguing thing was her screaming, but the way the teacher seems to take it as a matter of course hints of the disorder-explained-by-magic trope, which is a pet peeve of mine (although Percy Jackson has it and that hasn’t hurt that series, so I’m likely in the minority). Also, and this is a more general just-so-you-know, naming a character any play on Selene in a bit clichĂ© for books playing off moon mythology.