Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January Secret Agent #50

TITLE: Jacked
GENRE: Young Adult Fiction

My stepdad steered his blue Ford pickup into the circular driveway at Molly Rainer’s home. “Now, that’s a nice outhouse,” he touted, with his usual country twang.

Before our excursion, he clocked several hours on a Los Angeles neighborhood-watch site researching the area. In addition, to get the true lay of the land, Richard pulled the satellite view, convinced that any neighborhood outside the Miracle Mile district might be infested with inner city gangs or hidden van rapists.

Therefore, being the ultimate stepdad--or red-neck zealot, whichever you prefer--he tried to make sure I would be safe from harm. “After all,” he’d told me earlier, “L.A. is nothin’ like Searcy, Arkansas”--his native town--or “Poverty Point, Louisiana”--where my brother and I were from.

I liked my mother’s choice of men this time. Richard trumped Dad in countless ways, and, although he could be a little overprotective at times, he proved to be a thoughtful man who loved his family.

We got out of the car and headed for the entrance of the manicured white stucco mansion that Molly simply called her “place.” Motif hedges, alongside pink and white rose beds, screamed “They’re rich!” while Richard gleamed with pride, extra pleased with himself, as if, just this once, someone at the drive-thru window filled his order with expert precision.


  1. I find the opening confusing because I am not sure who is speaking. Is it a young male or female? Also, the justaposition of the pick-up and down home country attitude with satellites and (even knowledge) of the Miracle Mile does not seem to fit. It seems someone unfamiliar with LA would assume Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, Malibu or the Hollywood Hills would be "the" place to be. Miracle Mile is more closely associated with Chicago. There is the kernel of a story here but I am not sure what it is going to be about - moving to a new place and the anxiety inherent in that? A relationship between stepchild and stepdad? Country boy/girl in the big city? I need more focus in the opening lines just to center the target.

  2. Hmmm - reading the former comment makes me confused about the Miracle Mile because I don't know what that is.

    However, if I had not read the comment I would not have been caught up in analyzing that.

    I get they are going to Molly Rainer's house in L.A. - not their house- right?

    I think, despite coming from a small, one has the ability to use satellite imagery on computers via google maps. That's not out of place.

    I lie the entry and think it has a nice flow and voice.

    Only a few nits -


    Therefore, being the ultimate stepdad--or red-neck zealot, whichever you prefer--he tried to make sure I would be safe from harm.

    He tried to make sure I would be safe - ultimate stepdad or redneck zealot?

    Something like that - safe to me means keeping one from harm - therefore no need to add * from harm * - that's implied.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck!

  3. Love! The only thing I would change is the part about how he is a good man who takes care of his family. You already showed that (and very well too) for her to stop and say it pauses the flow. I know little of her character but it didn't go with what you already had there.

  4. Okay. It reads smoothly, but I have to reiterate the first commenter's confusion. I've only heard the Miracle Mile in terms of Chicago. There are a couple of words that clunk, and one of them, per the 2nd commenter, is the "Therefore." I think it is an issue of who is telling the story, but it's a pretty formal tone for a young narrator. Words like "touted" (which, used here, isn't incorrect but feels a bit off because its normal usage is quite different). "Motif hedges:" Not sure what that is or how a kid from Poverty Point, Louisiana would. The line "I liked my mother's choice of men this time" made me think Mom's been around the block a bit--were you aiming for that? I ask because the only comparison you make is to the narrator's father.

    Things I wish I knew: Why does the narrator know the name of the home's owner? Why are they there? Buyers, obviously, but why and how do they find themselves house-shopping in such a tony area? I know these things are probably about to be revealed, but a few hints in the first 250 might be helpful.

  5. I like your opening. It's funny (I chuckled) and I want to keep reading. It makes sense to me that he knows a few things about the area because he was researching it online. I do agree with Janice about removing the "good man who takes care of his family" part since it already shows. Great job!

  6. I'm going to start with the low-hanging fruit: '...a nice outhouse,” he touted' I don't think 'touted' is the word you want to use here. Dialogue attributions should be invisible, something the reader glances over and ignores, absorbing the information. You can never go wrong with 'said', or if you want to spice it up 'drawled'.

    The dialogue starts off alright with the outhouse line, but you get a little too expository with '“L.A. is nothin’ like Searcy, Arkansas”--his native town--or “Poverty Point, Louisiana”--where my brother and I were from.' It just comes off as narration butting in. No one is going to say the city and state in the same breath when talking about places. The narrator is going to know the state when the city is mentioned if she grew up there.

    I'm not sure why Richard would be gleaming with pride at someone else having a well manicured lawn. That bit just struck me as needlessly confusing. It was like you stuck two separate thoughts into the same sentence.

    It may just be me, but I don't find the opening interesting. I'm not really caring that someone has an overprotective step-dad or that they pulled up outside a nice house.

  7. I agree about "touted."

    I think you need more of a hook in the first sentence.

    I was taking "outhouse" literally until I kept reading...

    I don't really know what the Miracle Mile is, but it didn't bother me.

    I am intrigued by what they're doing at the house, so that's good! And I like the analogy at the end.

  8. I think you've built some interesting characters here. It's obvious you've put some time into their background stories, and I'd be interested in hearing more about them.

    The problem is that the opening has more "telling" than "showing." I would recommend showing the characters in action at the beginning and letting the background stories come out naturally later instead of having so much narration up front.

  9. Your descriptions are written with so much voice! I wish I could paint a character in this way, nicely done :)

  10. I agree with the touted. Lose it.

    I also got snagged up on the outhouse. I took it literally until I read further. Then I had to go back and read it again and liked it.

    I would keep reading further. I'm not exactly sure what's going on here, but I don't feel that I have to in just 250 words. As long as the scene cleared up shortly hereafter, I think it's a good beginning.

  11. This feels slowed down by somewhat iffy details and parenthetical observations and quips...I don't see how the satellite view would allow for any detailed conclusions about the neighborhood's safety, the "therefore" paragraph has an awkward, stuttering construction to it, and "he proved to be a thoughtful man who loved his family" struck me as an unnaturally mature--even stiff?--observation. I couldn't get myself involved in the story because of the unnecessary complexity of the language...

  12. Thanks so much to everyone that took the time to give me feedback. This was a great experience for me, and I am excited about the re-write. Thanks again...