Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April Secret Agent #5

GENRE: YA Thriller

I didn’t actually see Lucky get stuffed into the trunk of the cop car. But Greer did.

“Kenny, get up. Come on.” She tugged on my right hand where the knuckles were scraped raw from the parking lot pavement. I could see Greer’s cheeks, shiny with tears from the streetlight. The smell of exhaust still hung above us and I could hear rustling in the bushes from the field mice collecting their dinner.

“Ow! Ow!” I was pretty sure I had a couple of cracked ribs.

“Will you get up? They took him. I saw them. Did you see them?” She paced above me, her voice a tinny wail in the dark. I rolled onto all fours, and accessed new pain points. Then Greer’s voice came low and soft. “They put him in the trunk.”

She wasn’t making sense. But then she was Greer, and Lucky wasn’t going out with her for her sense-making.

I pulled myself up using the handle on my brother Ben’s, Dodge truck. The truck the three of us had been “borrowing” all summer, to hang out here at Strathmen Park. “I wonder why they took Lucky and not all of us,” I said, surveying the park for witnesses.

“It wasn’t like that. Like a real arrest. Something’s wrong.” Greer was like a frenzied shark in a small tank. Back and forth, back and forth. She was making me dizzy.

The cop who’d made a dent in my kneecap with his boot had asked me, “Where is it?”


  1. Really strong writing. You might consider backing up and letting us see the entire scene unfold, though. It would be an exciting opening to witness Lucky's abduction. As is, this feels (to me) like the end of the first chapter rather than the beginning.

  2. I think this could be tightened in spots. There's some passive voice and also spots where we could be deeper in the MC's voice. Ie, instead of saying "I could hear, I could see" just tell us straight out. "The bushes rustled" "Tears streaked her face"
    But i'm intrigued and would like to know why the cops shoved their friend in the trunk

  3. It's definitely an intriguing opening with some strong writing, and I'd be interested to read further. I'm enjoying the voice, too - I love the "Lucky wasn't going out with her for her sense-making" bit.

    The mention of your MC's cracked ribs took me out a bit, though. Every move s/he makes is going to be very painful, and it will be tough for him/her to breathe, let alone speak in complete sentences. If the MC is going to be doing very active things in the next couple of pages, it might be better to write in less restrictive injuries.

    Other than that, I agree with Betsy - it would be interesting to start the story a bit earlier, but that may just be personal preference on my part. Great job, and best of luck!

  4. Love the opener: I didn’t actually see Lucky get stuffed into the trunk of the cop car. But Greer did.

    I admit, I wasn't sure if Lucky was a person or a dog until the I saw the word arrested, so I'm assuming person. That could be all me so feel free to ignore this suggestion, but maybe some clarification like "they took him, they took our friend."

    Overall I like the pace and tone and would definitely keep reading!

  5. There are some problems for me in this beginning, but I think I would keep reading because I love a good mystery and you’ve already shown one is coming.

    My problems with this beginning are this:

    1) I’m confused about who is who in this opening. Lucky, Greer, Kenny, Ben all four names are used and other than Ben is the MC’s brother I’m not sure who is doing or saying what.
    2) I’m assuming the MC is a boy with the name Kenny (I think that’s the MC’s name), but I could be wrong. The problem is I don’t know either way.
    3) There are some awkward sentences that really tripped me up like “then she was Greer, and Lucky wasn’t going out with her for her sense-making”. The last part makes me trip over the words.

    There are some really good points to this opening too. We know exactly what the initiating event is right off the bat. Someone was stuffed into a police car’s trunk. Also the cop wanted something, which is why he asks “where is it”. Great setup for what is about to happen.

  6. Maybe.

    I admit I felt confused about who was who as well. I LOVE your intro - it's amazing.

    Then I felt like I could not tell Greer from Lucky from Kenny, and it felt muddled.

    I liked the idea of showing us Lucky getting stuffed into the trunk.

    Good luck!

  7. Love the first line. Love "But then she was Greer, and Lucky wasn’t going out with her for her sense-making."

    You have a strong voice, and I like it. I would definitely keep reading.

    I wasn't as confused as some people seem to be, but I think it's an easy fix. Instead of saying she tugged on my hand, say Greer. That way we have a person for your pronoun right away.

    Also I like the sensory details in that paragraph, but they'd be stronger if you took out the words see, smell and hear. Show us, don't tell us.

    I think you picked a great place to start. I agree that you might want to tone down you MC's injuries though. Cracked ribs are so much fun, until you want your character to move again.

  8. I liked this, but I had some issues...

    First, I'm not sure I dig the way you tell us that Lucky got stuffed in a trunk and Greer saw .... and then Greer says Lucky got stuffed in a trunk and she saw it. I think you could pick up after that point with the dialog.

    Also, couple of syntax issues: "shiny with tears from the streetlight" sounds like the streetlight gave her the tears.

    Something about the arrangement of the last sentence bothers me... maybe it's because that's information he should be telling Greer?

  9. I probably wouldn't read on, mainly because I'm as confused as some of the other commentors. The chronology of events appear skewed. We start with a statement that Greer saw Lucky get stuffed in the trunk, and then at the end of the 4th paragraph, Greer says "they put him in the trunk." Redundant.

    Then at the end we find out a cop is responsible, the POV character got kicked by the guy, and yet these kids are standing around chatting. And the car with Kenny is now... where? You have a past/present/past structure going on here and I don't think it's working.

  10. This is an intriguing situation and it should be scary and tense, but I feel like I'm being told it from a remove, rather than being immersed in it. It would be more dramatic if we were right in the moment with the MC, rather than having it explained after the fact.

  11. On the fence about being hooked.

    I like the opening line. However in the short space of 250 words you have used 4 names. At first I felt disconnected who Greer was and this 'She', as when I read Greer I instantly thought male.

    What I think isn't working is the injuries and your MC's reactions to them.

  12. I really like the first line. It's a great opener. But like the others, I got a little confused at times. Also, some of the dialog felt stilted/not realistic. I think that it could be edited a bit.

    Overall though, I would keep reading. I would hope in doing so I would get less confused, but I want to find out what's going on. I'm curious.

  13. Hmm. I'm kind of on the fence with this one. It was actually a solid yes for me until that last line.

    A cop roughed them up, stuffed Lucky in the trunk and took off, yes? But there's still a cop there with them? Why would the kids be having a chat and assessing the damage they just sustained if a cop is standing right there? Or is this all the same cop? Is the cop car with Lucky inside still there?

    I like the premise, but, as you can see, I'm confused on the details :\

  14. I get it and like it.

    I'd definitely read on.

  15. I love the first sentence, but the rest of your writing is not as strong. Show us the details Kenny's experiencing rather than telling us that he saw, he heard, etc. Also, the third paragraph fell flat. Show us how he feels through sharp pains when he moves, a sharp catch of his breath when he inhales too deeply.

    Also, you have too many names in too short a space. Since his brother's name doesn't need to be mentioned at this point, don't name him until later.

  16. Nice opening. Despite Kenny's injuries (and I agree that if he's going to be doing some physical stuff later on, these need to be minimalized) he doesn't seem all that shocked/upset about Lucky being arrested. Should he be outraged? Were they doing anything that would warrant an arrest? And in the aftermath of the arrest/beating would he really notice the sounds of mice in the bushes?
    Also, I think brother Ben can be struck from this opening - too many names too soon.
    Think the 'frenzied shark' bit could be deleted and just have her pacing making Kenny dizzy.
    Would read more.

  17. The opening line absolutely hooked me! Excellent!

  18. I liked this. We start right in the middle of the action, and there's a mystery introduced right away.

    You might rephrase the few sentences you have with 'could see' could hear' by eliminating those words. Since he's the MC, we know it's him seeing and hearing everything, and you'll also eliminate the passive voice.

  19. I also wasn't sure this was a person or a dog being put in the trunk. I felt that instead of moving ahead with the dialogue, we needed more information about what just went down.

    I think it can definitely start here, because I liked the details you gave about Kenny's raw knuckles, the smell of exhaust. I think the idea of hearing mice (unless it's a big piece of this) distracted me. I was looking for wind rustling leaves sort of noise, the kind of detail that I know would be there in the obvious silence after a car has left.

    The dialogue from Greer worked. She's obviously freaking out, so I think repeating herself shows that she just can't believe it. But the line that starts "She wasn't making sense" seems wasted. It could be telling us some very important info about what just went down. Kenny would be thinking about it too, wondering how he missed it.

    Then he would pull himself up, but all the details about who owned the truck and how they'd been borrowing it weren't key to what just happened. When Kenny does begin to think about what just happened, it took me a second to figure out that the cop was not still there.

  20. I think the set-up is great and the problems are just with the execution. Everyone has covered the crits I would make but I wanted to emphasize to the writer that it is a scenario that would definitely make me want to read on.