Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January Secret Agent #21

TITLE: Transmigration
GENRE: YA-Paranormal/Mystery

As I plodded into the sunny kitchen, my bare legs prickling from the winter cold that had set in overnight, I waved shyly to my dad. With his back to the bay window, he simply bent down the corner of his newspaper to peek at me. A raise of his eyebrows was the best I got, and I was content. I didn't hear my mom come up behind me, simply felt her cold hand on my hip as she maneuvered me out of the way. She forced a smile, but couldn't hide her exhaustion as she slipped her earrings through the tiny holes in her lobes. And all I could think about was the Ripple Effect, the fact that I did this to her.
Life was like a giant ripple, or so I heard. One decision, one action, could affect everything that came after it. What I did today could affect my life twenty years from now. People referred to it as the Butterfly Effect. For me, it was about water. Even though I lived in the landlocked state of Illinois, my life was surrounded by this liquid substance. I dreamed about water. Feared it. I even built my life's philosophies around it. And I didn't know why.

I could see my so-called Ripple Effect in my dad’s gruff demeanor. I could live with it. But the heaviest of ripples were etched across my mom's face. Her nightly visits to my room have caused permanent bags to form under her eyes.


  1. I'm sitting on the fence on this one. For starters, you need to start with a more dynamic sentence. Start it with the subject and action verb. Don't start it with a passive. Rework it so that 'I plodded into the sunny kitchen . . . overnight, and I waved shyly to my dad.' That's much more dynamic. Something is happening at the get-go.

    The second sentence doesn't seem right. Maybe ' . . . he simply bent down the corner of his newspaper and peeked at me.' (Peered at me might be better. Peeked makes me think he's shy too.)

    You used simply twice in the first four sentences. Cut one of them.

    The rest of the 250 words is better and is definitely intriguing. I'd read a little further, but as soon as you start making more mistakes like I mentioned above, I would stop reading.

    Good luck!

  2. I am not a fan of the first paragraph. It felt disjointed to me, too much attention paid to their actions rather than orienting us in the scene. I feel like the story doesn't really start until paragraph 2, and maybe even the third. I'm intrigued at the mention of the ripple effect, but overall it left me with a lot of questions as to how the ripple effect is tied to this character.

  3. I actually like the first paragraph here. I agree with the first comment that the phrasing could be a little more dynamic, but I like how this immediately establishes a scene and how we get a sense of the characters and their relationship.

    I got a little lost in the second paragraph--I think it might be too much information at once. There's a lot of emphasis on the idea of the Ripple Effect, which is fine, because it sets up the fact that the narrator is dealing with some kind of consequence. But I don't understand how water plays into that--how does her obsession with water relate to the act that caused the Ripple Effect? (Aside from the obvious fact that ripples move across water). I think I might stick to the idea of the Ripple Effect here, and save her water phobia/obsession until a little later in the story so readers aren't trying to grapple with two different strands of information at once.

    Also, this might just be me, in the last paragraph, the phrase "her nightly visits to my room have caused permanent bags to form under her eyes" comes across sounding vaguely sinister. Since this is the mom, I assume that she's going in to somehow comfort or help the main character, but in most contexts where I read of "nightly visits," it's usually about a step-father or father who's been abusing the child.

  4. You've got some nice description here, but I wish I knew what the narrator did that's going to have so many ripple effects. It's hard to care about a MC when you know so little about her.

    Also, is a state really landlocked if it borders one of the Great Lakes?

  5. I'm not getting into this.

    Why bare legs if it's winter cold?

    This bothers me "the best I got".

    The mother is exhausted, and "I did this to her" = doesn't seem suspenseful.

    "My life was surrounded by this liquid substance" = what?

    Ripple Effect is a good concept, but I don't see this opening as one leading to that as a theme for the story.

    I think there could be something big here, but it's not coming across.

  6. I am interested in what is going on because I understand too little ...of what is going on. I am unsure if the girl is ashamed of something she has done or afraid of something going on in the house. She greets her father "shyly" but it is her mother who has a "cold" hand. Her dad has a "gruff demeanor" but so do a lot fo fathers. Is it sinister? scary? or is it just dad being dad. Did she do something to cause this? Why is mom making nightly visits to her room? I have too many questions provoked by the opening but it does not equate with suspense it equates with confusion. So, I think to revise it would be a good idea to make it more clear what is going on. Think of it as 3 sides of a triangle - mom, dad and girl - and make sure the lines connecting each point on that triange are clearly and sharply drawn. Then, the reader might be invested enough to go on. Also, a point - don't call the same pheonmenon the ripple effect and the butterfly effect. Stick with ripple effect. And, as has been pointed out, Illinois is hardly land-locked. Lake Michigan is just like looking out at an ocead and, in fact, it does connect with the Atlantic Ocean as it falls into the other Great Lakes etc. So you must lose that because it is just factually incorrect. With some cleaning up, I think it could be a very interesting beginning.

  7. I am curious to know what she did, but in a good way. I would keep reading, but I do agree with the others in that it needs a touch of clarity, tightening, and could benefit from some more dynamic verbs. With a bit of polish, I think you'll have a great opening.

    Oh and I'd lose the landlocked part.

  8. With all due respect to other posters, I didn't read any of this as confusing, only intriguing. And I think of "land-locked" as not fronting an ocean. As Anja mentioned, there are some sentences that could be more active (as long as you don't lose the overall tone.) AS a general rule, it's not a good idea to start with AS. ; )

    I thought this was VERY interesting and would like to read more.

  9. The idea at the root of this, our heroine's fixation on the rube-goldberg-machine-ness of life as it pertains to water, is really interesting, but it feels like you're being a bit obscure about it...if you could simplify the narration, not force your descriptions/synonyms ("liquid substance" rings false, "waved shyly" is a bit cumbersome, "my life's philosophies" is kinda fuzzy and not quite specific enough,) and make a clearer, more visually memorable 1-2-3-4 sequence of events in the beginning to trigger the discussion of the ripple effect, I think you'd be off to a good start...