Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October Secret Agent #29

TITLE: Across Borders

Standing in the middle of the London Gatwick airport Tessa looked at the Departures flap display. In half an hour she was leaving for Slovenia. She remembered that the Slovene word for ‘thank you’ was ‘hvala’, she knew that the country was in the Mediterranean but despite that it could get very cold there, yet she had no idea what were the colours in its flag or whether you could buy marshmallows there. With her luck, probably not.

Dad’s hand squeezed her shoulder as he looked at her concerned.

“Be careful, sweetie. And if you need anything, call me.”

“I will, Dad.” She wished more than anything that he and Mom would come with her instead of sending her on vacation all alone, but Mom had just returned from the hospital from her latest cancer treatment and she needed to rest.

“You’ll have fun at Nona’s place, you’ll see. And you’ll be back before you know it,” Dad was saying.
“I know, but …”

He hugged her fiercely and she poured all her thoughts and unspoken wishes into the hug.
“I love you, pumpkin. Have a safe trip and send Nona our love. Tell her that next time we’ll come too.”

That lightened Tessa’s mood a bit. “Love you too, Dad.”

Next, she was being dragged towards the security line by her cousin and losing sight of Dad in the crowd. Seventeen-year-old Alyssa was going on a three-month trip across the Continent and Tessa would travel with her till Italy.


  1. I'm a bt confused by this. The punctuation needs work, and it's London Gatwick, not 'the London Gatwick'. I've never heard Slovenia referred to as a Mediterranean country - eastern European or Balkan - and I don't see why they'd be changing planes in Italy. Unless they're flying to Italy and then she's getting a train...anyway it seems an odd place to start the story.

  2. In addition to Keren's comments, at first my only thought was, "who sends their kid on vacation to Slovenia alone. You may want to mention she's going to Nona's first and then say where it is. Is Nona a grandmother, aunt?

    You might have a good story here, but I can't tell from your beginning.

    Good luck, it's the hardest thing to get right. I've tried different first chapters for the last year, and all I can do is hope I finally found the right one.

  3. I think the moment where this story begins is wonderful. There is an energy, an excitement, a rush with travel--airports, train stations, piers, whatever. Good place to start. Perhaps elaborate on what exactly Tessa's thoughts and unspoken wishes are.

    The first paragraph is a nice setup, but it definitely needs editing. Missing punctuation (missing later, also), the 3rd sentence is a run-on sentence and the 2nd part isn't connected properly to the 1st part (fault of the word 'yet').

  4. Seems like maybe you have a little more research to do, but I like it! I'd definitely read on.

    I like a run on sentence personally :)

  5. I liked Tessa, and am worried and curious about what will happen on the trip and vacation at Nona's.

    I suggest you look at the longer sentences and see if you can break them up into smaller bites. I think that will help strenghten this snippet.

  6. Ditto on the "vacation" and punctuation comments. I'd also add that I saw several instances of passive voice that weakened the narrative I thought.

    I'm afraid I wasn't hooked by the opening either. It kind of read like a laundry list, rather than giving us tension or a strong question the reader will want answered by the end of the story.

    Hope this helps!

  7. I actually liked this one and would read on. It could use a bit of tightening, but the longer sentences didn't bother me. Good job!

  8. I didn't feel much of Tessa in this piece. It seems mostly Dad. How does Tessa feel about this trip? We get the one line where she wishes her parents were coming, but that's it. Is she scared, nervous, looking forward to the adventure? Does she get along with her sister who'll she'll be travelling with? And if she's leavig her sister in Italy, do we even need the sister?

    Perhaps start wih her getting off the plane in Slovenia, that way, she's alone, which forces you to dwell on her character, or if she's going to meet someone on the plane, start there. But try to get us into her head a bit more, rather than in the heads of the other characters.

  9. Awesome first paragraph!

    What follows could benefit from some tightening. While it's necessary to know that she'll be visiting Nona, the pace slows until the last paragraph when her cousin's dragging her through the security line.

    Keep at it, you're on the right track.

  10. My major question is why is the story opening here? Do we need to see the airport? Why can’t it just start in Slovenia? Also, since it’s a MG, I assume Tessa is younger than 14. While I can see parents being alright with a 17-year-old guiding their child through a flight and to her grandmother’s waiting arms, I’m shocked they would be happy for the two girls to go on alone beyond the airport. Or maybe I’m misinterpreting the last line? In any case, aside from that aspect, there isn’t anything here that is different from any other visiting-grandparent-alone MG out there.