Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July Secret Agent #5

TITLE: The Spark
GENRE: YA - Contemporary

The phone rang pulling me from a particularly juicy chapter. I emerged from the insulating cocoon of fiction and answered dreamily, not ready to face the real world.

“Good morning,” trilled Lily, my endearingly chipper best friend.

“Morning,” I replied. The sliver of light seeping in through the dusty window did little to invite my enthusiasm, a bright reminder that I couldn’t read the day away.

She got right to the point. “So last night while you were tucked in with three hundred and fifty pages of inky fantasy, I was at a party on the riverbank.” That explained the noise I heard in the distance late last night.

“I went with Josie, who you should know is now going out with Keith. And Jessa was there too.” I bristled at the mention of my-would-be nemesis. I wasn’t the hating type, but Jessa Crawford sure was. Starting the very first day we had met, had she been able to shoot fire darts out of her eyes with me as her target, she would have.

“Kyle was there, oh Neeve,” her tempo slowed as if in reverie, “he’s so cute and I think he might…”

Her words faded as I wondered with alarm when did Lily become interested in parties and guys? Had she contracted something during her vacation to Niagara Falls? She and I bonded specifically because we had no interest in all that lameness, especially not when there were brave, gallant, and handsome heroes within the pages of a good book.


  1. "my endearingly chipper best friend"- You don't need this line.

    Overall, I'm a bit confused because Lily seems exactly the type to be interested in parties. I realize with it just being the first page that naturally I'm missing something, but I'm more confused than curious by her sudden personality change. Perhaps you're starting the story in the wrong place?

  2. A love for reading is a very good way to endear a main character to readers (especially if they are avid readers too) however, I wonder if phrases like insulating cocoons is a little heavy.

    If Jessa wants to shoot fire darts at your main character every time they meet, she is not a would-be-nemesis. She already is one.

    The conflicts between girls can be very interesting, though.

  3. I enjoyed the passage - I would keep reading. But I wonder if the stakes are high enough, the conflict unique enough, to stand out in the crowd. You've got three adverbs in the first three sentences, so you might consider rewording them. I loved the line about Niagra Falls!

  4. "my endearingly chipper best friend." I, on the other hand, found this engaging and thought, okay, this narrator has some spitfire and we'll get along.

    " not ready to face the real world." The story of my life...

    This looks fun. Romance is clearly on the way, as well as some Jessa warring.

    The threat of losing Lily to the in-crowd or the parties and boys is very engaging. Could this be played up a bit? Is Lily her link to the real world? Is Lily the anchor that keeps her in the real world and could this be introduced to us in this first scene?

    I think, based on what I see here, that this narrator could do it.

  5. I can see where this may be going. Romance and loss of a friendship that may or may not be reconciled in the end.

    But the opening is slow. Nothing really happens. The MC listens to her friend on the phone. She doesn't even take part in the conversation. There doesn't necessarily have to be any rip-roaring action, but we're learning more about everyone else than your MC.

    Perhaps this isn'tthe place to start. What is the problem, the thing that will set things in motion? Perhaps start closer to that moment.

  6. I love contemporaries and stories exploring frienship, I would keep reading.

    I think you're almost there with the opening lines, but not quite. I would like to know what type of book the latest chapter is from, which might show a bit more of why it's so engaging rather than to tell us in the second line how engaged she is. The second line weakens the opener for me.

    A would-be-nemesis is mentioned and I wonder if you can work in why the nemisis shot her fire dart looks. Even just a brief line to solidify why the MC has tension with the other girl will help root the character.

    I would watch your adverbs and see if you can use stronger verbs instead, or make sure your adverb is doing necessary work in those precious opening lines. Good luck!

  7. Agree with the slow opening part. I think that we need a introduction to the conflict sooner. You tell us that she's worried Lily is going to leave, but you haven't shown us why we should be connected to Lily, why we should care. The only thing we get, is the last line telling us their connected by books. Great idea, needs a stronger execution.

    Right now, I'm wondering why your MC isn't more anxious to be hanging up the phone and returning to her book, because that's what she seems to love so much, instead of talking to her friend.

  8. I'm wondering if you should restructure your beginning. I'm not really "hooked" by this first page, although I loved the line about her friend contracting something. I just don't understand what the conflict is, other than the fact our MC loves to read.

  9. The opening is a little slow. Also Lily's persona seems exactly like the one who wants to party. If your MC is surprised she should be thinking that when she first hears that Lily went to the party and tells her gossip. Show her disbelief at Lily going and spice up the conversation. "You went to a party?"

    Good work otherwise.

  10. I agree with comments that the opening could be improved. Your dialogue is pretty good, but the descriptions sometimes seem forced (e.g., endearingly chipper). I like the fifth paragraph best.

  11. I don't know about this beginning. The content, for me, is fine - but the way it's handled feels clunky.

    Speaking as an avid reader, and someone who's been friends with avid readers all throughout high school, Neeve comes off as standoffish. To shun parties in favor of books is one thing; to seem of the opinion that books are so much better than everyone else's life choices, and that anyone who goes to a party is worth derision? Not so sympathetic. I don't know. I'm guessing this is a facet of her personality that's going to undergo some transformation, but it still grates.

    Also, if she's going to be alarmed at Lily's sudden interest in the party scene, it should occur the second Lily brings it up. e.g. - ""...fantasy, I was at a party on the riverbank." That explained the noise I heard in the distance late last night ... but wait, when did Lily get interested in parties and guys?"

    I'm also a little concerned about dry voice. "endearingly chipper," "insulating cocoon," "as if in reverie" (a tempo can't be 'in reverie', so that's a misattributed descriptor, I think) - this makes it jarring when Neeve uses terms like "all that lameness." Also, I can't hear a teenager speaking the phrase "tucked in with three hundred and fifty pages of inky fantasy".

    Also a bit of a comma issue upfront - "phone rang, pulling me".

    For this one, I'd take a good look at where exactly you want the voice to fall. I have friends who speak pretty formally - but they're consistent about it. If you want her to speak with the elevated voice of a legit book geek, cool - but 'lameness,' etc. might have to go. This also might go over a little more smoothly if it were in third person.

    Best of luck.

  12. Overwritten a bit for my taste, and er, somewhat slow. I needed something more to hook me ...

  13. Love drama! Couple of concerns: Wouldn't she know if her friend went to a party the night before--if they're best friends. Seems like they would have already had that conversation. And there was lots of names thrown out there for me to think about. Just my thoughts. Good job, overall!

  14. I'm not sure where this is all. The last line makes me feel like this book is going to have a moral... parties and social life= bad, reading=good. If that is the case, be very careful with that. Even if your audience is the reading type, morals never go over well with the YA crowd.

    The writing is pretty solid. A little grandiose at times. You could tame it down a bit. I also feel like you are setting the MC up to be a little too perfect. Hopefully she has her flaws.


  15. Like the idea...some concerns about how it's handled though.

    Maybe put a hook in the first sentence to let us in on what this story is about? As it is, I'm confused.

    Maybe more about what the juicy chapter is it a cookbook? an erotic novel? something else? This is a great spot to show us more about your main character.

    I don't think people trill words and adverbs are unnecessary.
    This is a friend? She rubs it in like that?

    Keep at it, though, and let us in a bit more where this is going...

  16. The others have covered the starting point and character stuff. I like the MC and would read on.

    Just a couple technical nits. You don't need a dash between "my" and "would". I'd contract "first day we'd met" especially since it's immediately followed by another "had". I think "Oh Neeve" should start a new sentence (I get that she's probably gushing, but it just doesn't look right).

    I'd want to know right away why this is different from the typical misfit agonizes about fitting in and finally ends up with a cute boy story. Back cover might have told this, but I'd definitely want to see it in her personality too.

  17. I like the main character and her infatuation with books. It's hard to tell from the title where the story is going and it leaves me wondering what the "spark" is since this isn't fantasy. I'm intrigued.

    I think my main concern with the writing is that it is a little overdone. Examples: "insulating cocoon", "endearingly chipper", "little to invite my enthusiasm", "brave, gallant, and handsome", "her tempo slowed as if in reverie." Just "cocoon", "chipper", and "handsome heroes" would do. The way this is written can be tiring for the reader because you pack so much into every sentence.

    It reminds me of a MG book where the MC tried to sound and act like a character out of a Jane Austen novel. It wore me down and by the end of the book I wish that the author had toned down the Austen influence. As with that book, I think that a lighter touch would work better.

    From this excerpt I envision a character who is on the young end of YA (like 13). I'm wondering who your target audience is?

    You have a beautiful style of writing and set up your MC's personality very quickly in this excerpt. I would just put your writing on a little diet.