Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Secret Agent #30

TITLE: The Ones
GENRE: YA Soft Sci-Fi

The minutes didn’t crawl in Mr. Sykes’ Physics class, they zombie walked. Each click forward of the clock’s second hand was a painful, hunched jerk forward. I glanced up again to see what progress we’d made toward the 11:15 bell. Not enough.

Sighing, I pulled a long curl in front of my face to study the ends. The sun had bleached them from the blah brown of wet sand into dry yellow—my hair was way overdue for a trim. I tried to remember how long since my last cut. A year, maybe? It had to have been before the funeral.

A few rows ahead of mine, Nico Payne kicked his foot up to his thigh and began adding to the blue ink scribbles on his Vans. Behind the dark bangs that had fallen into his eyes, he squinted in concentration.

God, he squinted great. He’d had that exact same expression on his face the first time I saw him. I’d walked over to Joe’s Italian Ice one hot night this summer and there he was, staring up at the list of flavors like he was contemplating the meaning of life instead of Peaches-N-Cream versus Bada Bing Cherry. One look at the guy and I felt my guts swirl like a chocolate-vanilla twist.

Maybe if I’d had a clue he was transferring in as a junior in September I would have walked up and introduced myself. Hey, I'm Mina—I’ll be in your class at Grove. But knowing me, probably not.

11 comments:

  1. I had to read "zombie walked" twice, but I wouldn't change it, the description works.

    Your ice cream paragraph is outstanding -- really, this whole submission shows confidence and is well crafted. Excellent!

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  2. I agree with Skywriter--great stuff here! The small physical details are superb--the twist of hair that she examines, the squint on Nico Payne's face. I can really see these characters. Very strong opening, and great voice!

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  3. I like this a lot. Only one comment- cut the "that had fallen over his eyes" phrase. I think the line reads better without it.
    Good job and good luck.

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  4. Very nice writing and opening sentence. In parg. 3, you might say – A few rows ahead – and cut ‘of mine,’ because that's assumed, And then maybe say Nico kicked his right foot up to his left thigh, or indicate in some way that you’re talking about both his legs. As is, it reads as though it’s one leg, and left me going ‘huh?’

    I wondered how she could see him squinting if he was a few rows ahead of her, since his back would be to her. And the ending sentence doesn’t work because you say, probably not, and there’s no probably about it. It already happened and she ‘didn’t’ do it.

    It’s a slow opening. I can assume Nico will be a love interest but there’s no hint of a problem or any sci-fi here. I can’t guess what the story is about. But the writing was good, so I’d hang on for a bit more.

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  5. I really liked the opening sentence and its connection to the second hand's "painful, hunched jerk forward." I also thought your description of Payne was very effective...I can really picture him and his effect on Mina. I'd keep reading.

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  6. Sorry, but when agents are generous enough to tell us what they're looking for, it's not a long narrative on passive, inner thoughts. Inspecting split ends will put agents to sleep. This can't be your inciting incident/plot catalyst. Find out what that is and then hit us with it. As it stands, there's no tension here.

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  7. Zombie walked made me smile, and I'm intrigued by the cute boy and especially the funeral, I want to know who's it was. However I feel like you could cut this down a bit, perhaps a sentence or two less about the clock and her hair, and I don't think the last para is very punchy. I'd really like to get a hint or two of the book's sci-fi elements, and if you smoothed out some of the earlier stuff you could maybe fit that in. But I'd certainly read on to see where it's going.

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  8. The phrasing is nice and there are some great metaphors, but one important thing to remember is that when your characters are bored, your readers will probably be bored, too.

    Staring at the clock waiting for the bell to ring is a common trope used in YA lit, and even though it's phrased nicely, it doesn't overcome the fact that it's been done to death.

    I'm sure there's another place where you could start the story that is more interesting than a girl staring at the clock and picking at the split ends on her hair.

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  9. Hi, all. Very grateful for the feedback, thank you. If any of my fellow writers check back in, I'm wondering if you feel this revision would still have too much clock watching/inner monologue to open with:

    The minutes didn’t crawl in Mr. Sykes’ Physics class, they zombie-walked. Each click forward of the clock’s second hand was a painful, hunched jerk forward. In the desk next to mine, Nico Payne had long ago stopped paying attention. Behind long, dark bangs, he squinted in concentration at the blue ink scribbles he was adding to his Vans.

    God, he squinted great. He’d had that exact same expression on his face the first time I saw him. I’d walked over to Joe’s Italian Ice one hot night this past summer and there he was, staring up at the list of flavors like he was contemplating the meaning of life instead of Peaches-N-Cream versus Bada Bing Cherry. One look at the guy and I felt my guts swirl like a chocolate-vanilla twist.

    Mr. Sykes rose behind his desk at the front of the room. “Before God,” he said, his voice raspy with age, “we are all equally wise, and equally foolish. Albert Einstein. Had Mr. Einstein seen these test scores, however, I'm afraid he would have to agree that some of us are a good deal more foolish than others.”

    The test. I let go of the long, blah-brown curl I’d been twisting absentmindedly and straightened up. I usually didn’t worry too much about getting good grades--I just got them. But that exam had been a killer.

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  10. I like the revision. But I'd suggest that you still include just one line that references her not having a trim since the funeral.

    The mention of the funeral immediately raised questions and had me curious to read on to find out whose funeral it was.

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