Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October Secret Agent #31

TITLE: Brittle
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

It's funny how much I always took my boring, traditional life for granted.

Looking back now, there's no way I’d ever go back to it. But that doesn't mean I don't miss the feeling of total safety. Or maybe I should say the feeling that everything scary in the world was “out there”, far away.

Because now I know how very, very close it really is.

My name is Sara Jacobs. Or Persephone. Or how about it doesn't even matter anymore. I was born in Andover, MA, a town that is...perfect. And boring.

Perfect like a New England postcard, like a rich Massachusetts small town where every girl is fit and carries Coach. Where every house is $400,000 and flawless. No chipping paint, no missing pickets on the bright white fences wrapping lawns that always look like they were just cut and never walked on.
And boring like a place with nothing to do, like a place with no alleys that doesn't really need police. No dark alleys, the kind that'd make you stop dead in your tracks and feel nervous for a second if you accidentally turned the corner and started walking down. The kinds of places that make you really appreciate safety.

I was born at the Holy Family Hospital. Yup, caring hands “with roots in the teachings of the Church and the Gospel message of Jesus” delivered me into this great world of ours.

I wonder if they would've put me back had they known how I'd turn out.


  1. Is $400 000 an expensive house in that area? I know the housing market is down in the US, so maybe it works, but where I'm from, that would barely buy you a small fixer-upper in a so-so area downtown, so I wonder if this is pricey enough to send the right message.

  2. I'm from the area, and houses in Andover are 700-800 for nice ones.

  3. Too much backstory. We can find out all this later.

  4. I'm not a fan of starting with exposition that "tells" how the mc's life has changed since the story started, so I don't really think this opening works. The most interesting bit is the mention of the name Persephone, but it feels like cheating, like you're throwing that bit in to generate interest.

    I'd rather see Sara doing something active to get to know her and the town, and I agree that 400K will get you a pretty modest house in Andover.

    Not hooked as the opening stands now, but the voice is nice.

  5. Good comments above. Always start with action. I'm willing to bet something substantial happens in the pages to come, something that will pull the reader in. Since you were limited by 250 words, we just haven't reached it yet. Start at THAT place, then let the backstory and description of the town come out naturally. The reader doesn't need to know everything immediately.

  6. I really like the narrative voice here, but agree with the others that the infodump elements could be woven in later and this opening could be strengthened by putting Sara into an action/movement scene.

    Best of luck!

  7. Thanks all. I love this forum atmosphere where we all comment on each other's stuff. Thank you!

  8. I loved the voice in this passage so I'd keep reading, but there were some places I think can be improved:

    1) The passage is really reflective and nothing happens. Maybe you can incorporate this same information but as it related to something happening in the story? Maybe show us this something scary that the MC has had a close encounter with?

    2) I suggest cutting the 400k from your sentence - its distracting and I dont think it adds anything. If you just say "Where every house is flawless" then I already get the idea that we're talking about people who have money.

    3) Near the end you mention alleys in two sentences right in a row. I think you can delete the first sentence "And boring like a place..." since you show this in the second sentence.

    Also, the last sentence was great and would keep me reading. Thank you for sharing your work and best of luck!

  9. I would keep reading. It is all exposition, but I imagine very soon something will happen. I'm intrigued.

  10. This is the kind of opening that immediately tuns me off - an MC chatting with the reader. After reading 250 words, I don't know anything about your story.

    Start with the story, on the day that is different, just before things begin to go wrong.

  11. I think you write well, and I like the voice in this passage. But I agree with the previous comments that you should probably start with something more active. I really did like the last three paragraphs, and wonder if it would be a good place to start (assuming it segues into some action).

  12. thank you ThAnK YoU THANK YOU all. Your advice reminds me of the little voice I ignored. If you are so inclined, I've posted the revised first 250 on my blog. I would love to hear comments. Thanks again, and good luck to all. I hope we all meet in PublishedAuthor-Land.

  13. I took a look at your blog and I like what you did with the first 250 words, but I was sad to see some things I liked from your posting here had disappeared.

    First what I liked in the revision:

    1) Awesome first paragraph - great voice.
    2) I have a much better sense of the MC's personality.
    3) It feels like something is happening here.

    What I didn't like:
    1) What is the MC getting from the attic?
    2) You lost the sense of foreboding and promise of fantasy. You do mention "ghosts" and "little monsters" but it doesn't come off as literal - this passage could easily be contemporary.
    3) I really loved your last line from the post here - it made me want to keep reading to find out what was so weird about the MC. And now, although I really enjoy the writing, I don't feel motivated to keep reading or find out what happens next in this story.

  14. Hay thanks AK for checking out the blog post. I see what you're saying, and I did a little more tweaking. I posted the whole first chapter on the blog. My site has the first 4 chapters (but still the old 1st chapter at this point)
    If I can help you out in any way, just let me know.

  15. I see this kind of “my name is” opening all the time, and for me at least, it never works. I want to cut everything before “I was born…” but even then I’m not confident what followed would not be more telling and no showing. I also have to warn you, YA UF is a hard sell these days. It has to be utterly original. And I’m afraid that having a protagonist who is the reincarnation of the goddess Persephone isn’t. Unless that isn’t what’s happening here, but that’s what it seems to be, and for a reader, seeming is all there is.