Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Secret Agent #24

TITLE: Greetings From The Miracle
GENRE: Young Adult

Charlene shows up late. How late depends on when you start counting. If you start fifteen years ago, when she loaded me into an infant seat and went off to rob Jake’s Deli with my father, then late can’t cover it. Grammy always said her girl Charlene was never cut out to be anybody’s mother.

But if you start counting fifteen days ago, when Charlene was released from the women’s jail up in North Jersey, a girl like me starts thinking. Fifteen days to come and get me? Not so bad. Especially if I count all the times I was sure she’d never show up.

But she does --knocking on Big Foster’s door like she’s right on time. I let her in, thinking there’ll be a social worker behind her. There isn’t. Only Charlene, whispering, “Get your things now, Dee Dee. We’re leaving.”

She hugs me quick, as if it’s our once-a-year Christmas visit and the guards along the wall have coughed up enough holiday spirit to look away for two seconds. In prison there’re lots of rules for visiting your mother, like no touching and no wrapped presents. At Big’s, my foster home, I have one rule. Don’t call me Dee Dee.

“I go by Deena now,” I tell Charlene.

She isn’t listening. Her eyes dart to a rusty Buick running at the curb. A boy, not much older than me, sits in the driver’s seat.

14 comments:

  1. LOVE this. Great voice, great way of introducing backstory and providing an inkling of what Deena has been through the past 15 years without making it feel like an info dump, b/c you start right with the action, her mother coming to sneak her away. I would definitely keep reading.

    Small nitpicky comment: I got thrown slightly in the first sentence by the tense "depends on when you start counting. If you start fifteen..." I think both of them should be "started". Minor thing but it just felt a little off in a sample that was so otherwise spot-on.

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  2. Yeah, I like this opening a lot. The voice is well-crafted and the writing is polished. Agree with Jill Elizabeth's smal edit, tho. And I might also suggest cutting the "Grammy always said" line. I think you convey this elsewhere, here. And it puts a hair too much space between the two starteds.

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  3. This was interesting and I’d read more. But you start with backstory, with the MC talking to the reader. I don’t think it really hurts you here, because it’s short and interesting, but if you started with Mom knocking on the door, you could generate more mystery. When you mention the yearly visit, the reader will get that Mom was in prison, and without knowing the back story of the robbery, you’ll create even more mystery. The reader will wonder why Mom was in prison—a reason to read on—as well as why she is there now, and why is the car running? Did she break out, or was she released, did she commit another crime, and who is that boy in the car? Lots more reasons to read on.

    It’s good as is, but could be better without the back story.

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  4. I love this. I'm hooked and ready to read more. Love the organic way you wove in some backstory with what the rules were in prison and what the one rule is now. Also interested to see how the boy at the steering wheel plays into all of this.

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  5. Yeah - what Barbara said . . . It's back-story but you made it work and I like it a lot. Creates tension and you have introduced 3 characters without confusing the reader - Kudos.

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  6. I liked this a lot. The voice was gritty, honest and authentic. Your first 250 words gave me a good sense of Deena's low expectations for her mother, her grammy's more responsible and practical nature and Charlene's egocentric and thrill-seeking ways. I would want to read on to see if my predictions about the boy in front seat were true.

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  7. I love the voice. It reminded me of Sorta Like a Rockstar. I am hooked.

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  8. You hooked me. You've got voice, character, conflict, backstory--even romance?--in the first page. Nicely done.

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  9. Great opening! I would definitely read more :)

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  10. Despite not generally being a fan of contemp YA, I thought this was really good. You manage to get in a bunch of information without it feeling like an info dump, and the first para is fantastic. My only crit would be that the first para sounded off in the present tense. I think all the instances of 'start' need to be 'started'. Good luck!

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  11. I like this, but agree with Barbara about cutting the backstory and leaving a little mystery. The first two paragraphs didn't really grab me, but I was intrigued by the rest.

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  12. It's usually not the best idea to lead with backstory, and in this case the mix of tenses make it extra confusing. We don't know the when of this. Charlene being late has nothing to do with anything that comes later and it tries too hard as a device. It's comes across as artificial.

    The story starts to get interesting in the 3rd paragraph, so you might consider starting at the point where her mom arrives to come get her. That's where I got hooked.

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  13. I would say that this has a strong opening if it weren't for the tense confusion I faced upon first reading. It starts in present tense, but then we get into a flashback with past tense. At first I thought it was a mistake to be in present, but I suspect the whole story is written that way.

    Present tense is difficult to do well because it's not how we naturally think or speak. That means writers must pay special attention to consistency and accuracy in tense when they use present.

    Otherwise, the writing is pretty strong and gives a good feel for the main players and their past in only a few paragraphs. So pay attention to tense and revise the first sentence or two so it isn't as confusing, and you'll have something solid.

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