Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Secret Agent #23


“Time to crawl out of your cave, Sasquatch.”

Sunlight flames red across my eyelids. “Isaac, cut it out!” I grumble as my brother yanks open the other bedroom curtain. My eyes flicker open and I glimpse a wedge of serene blue sky through the window. With a groan, I roll over onto my stomach and pull the pillow over my head.

“Mom told me to make sure you’re awake.” Isaac’s muffled voice penetrates the feathers. “She had that look she gets when she’s frazzled, so I wouldn’t test her. Anyway, you don't want to show up late on the first day, do you?”

He flops down on the bed next to me and grabs the pillow. I glare at him as he tucks it behind his neck and leans back against the brightly painted wall. He’s wearing his typical school attire – ratty jeans and a black T-shirt imprinted with a UFO and the words I Want to Believe. “I mean, aren’t you like, uh, sooo excited?” he continues. “It’s your senior year, after all.”

I turn over on my side to face him, propping my head up on my hand. Senior year. One more year of classes that range between dull and coma-inducing, punctuated only by moments of pure terror when the teacher’s gaze sweeps over the room in search of her next victim for forced participation. One more year of carefully-maintained invisibility – or if not invisibility, at least relative anonymity (invisibility is tough to pull off when you tower over most of your classmates).


  1. I thin sunlight flaming red across eyelids when just being woken up is a little too dramatic for an everyday morning and threw me at first. Also, the younger brother isn't reading totally authentic to me. Would a young kid use the word frazzled? If he's Charles Wallace-y he might, but I didn't get that about him, elsewhere. And then I wasn't sure what you were going for with the "aren't you like, uh, sooo excited" line of dialogue. Is he making fun of her? Didn't quite scan. But I'm very interested in where you're going, here with the whole tallness/Sasquatch thing!

  2. I like the voice in this, but I would hesitate to start with the guy waking up. It seems I've hear this is a no-no for most books.

    However, I would continue reading, because I really like the line about Sasquatch and the paragraph at the end about his last year of high school and towering over his friends. The voice would keep me reading.

    Oh-also, I assumed this was a male protagonist, but I don't see where you actually tell me.

  3. Funny, I assumed it was a girl.

    I thought this was a slow opening, in that when I finished reading, all I get is that this will be about a girl who is overly tall. There’s no hint of any SF here, or of any other problem. Pehaps try to hint at those things in some way.

    I did think the opening line was being spoken by the MC, and was thrown by the second parg. I had to re-read to figure out who had spoken and who was who.

    You might cut the first sentence of the last parg and move it to the end of the parg., otherwise she’s just staring at her brother and not saying anything the whole time we’re reading her thoughts. If you move it to the end, she has her thoughts then rolls over and says whatever it is she’ll say to him.

  4. I'm on the fence with this one. Starting the story with the MC waking up is a bit played, especially when combined with the first day of school bit.

    The writing itself is strong, and while I agree I don't have a gender pegged for the MC yet, I don't have the brother pegged as younger either, so neither his characterization nor the MC's gender bothered me.

    I'm left wondering what is so special about this particular morning that you chose to start the story here. Perhaps it occurs outside the first 250, but without some hint of something to come, it doesn't leave much of impression on me. I've always heard to start your story as late as possible, as close to the inciting event as possible, and there is nothing to indicate anything out of the ordinary afoot.

    Good luck to you.

  5. I also think/thought the MC is a girl, which made it feel weird to me that her brother was in her room waking up. I know if my younger brother had come into my room and started opening curtains, etc (even on Mom's orders) there would have been a lot of yelling (and maybe some throwing of things) going on. If the MC's a boy, then it makes more sense to me. Either way, maybe you could try and make it clear to the reader?

    Good luck.

  6. I agree with the others about the opening being a little slow. Perhaps start a little later in the story where we learn what makes it SF. Good luck!

  7. The writing here is fine, but nothing happens, so I'm not hooked, sorry. Starting with the MC waking up is a very overdone trope, especially if nothing exciting happens immediately. I don't think you need any of this page. Where does your story actually begin? Start there. And as others pointed out, I don't even know what sex your MC is. Sorry that sounds harsh, as I said the writing is fine, and quite possibly your story is riveting later, but we need to get to that riveting part sooner.

  8. The waking up on the first day of school is too cliche to hold my interest. I like the details like the brother's UFO shirt, but I think you should find another place later in the day to start your story.

  9. I thought it was a bit too convenient to have the younger brother make reference to it being the first day of school in such a - oh by the way info coming - fashion. The detail of the shirt I thought was well done. I might ask for a more overt reference to how it is SF. The references to 'Sasquatch' as well as the flopping down on the bed made me think this was a younger brother-older brother scenario as it would be a bit strange for a boy to walk into his sister's room and crawl onto her bed. I do find it funny that other commenters assumed it was a girl MC with no evidence to support that. It shows how much of our own world-view we bring to what we read. I almost get the impression people are offended when the MC is not a female. Very strange.

  10. I can see that you want your story to start in "the ordinary world," which is a classic beginning that many how-to books (like Christopher Vogler's Hero's Journey) recommend. And that can work really well to contrast with your characters getting thrown into the adventure of the story. However, I'd recommend setting your character's ordinary world with an extraordinary situation, or the characters themselves revealed as extraordinary. You're on the right track, but you still need something interesting to happen that engages the reader and compels him or her to turn the page. Good luck!

  11. Unfortunately, this opening hits on several big points on the YA cliché checklist:

    ✔ Waking up
    ✔ Getting ready for school
    ✔ First day of school

    Stretch a bit and figure out a different way to open this story in a way that makes us want to read more. Because right now it sounds like a whole lot of other YA books about disaffected/snarky teens who just want to get through senior year for various reasons. Make yours stand out.

  12. Thanks everyone for your comments! They were incredibly helpful. I've jettisoned the whole first chapter and started the story closer to the action.