Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January Secret Agent #14

TITLE: Isla's Inheritance
GENRE: YA urban fantasy

“Are you still worried about the skirt, Isla?” Sarah asked as we clambered out of the battered hatchback. The street was so densely packed with cars we’d had to park half a block away, but as soon as I cracked the door open I could hear the music thumping.

I nodded, plucking at the hemline. It wouldn’t go any lower.

“But dah-ling,” she drawled in her best—not very good—Transylvanian accent, “you look delicious! Bwahaha!

Ryan snorted a laugh, and she swatted him. He shrugged and slouched toward the house with his hands in his pockets.

My cousin Sarah and I were in the last year of high school; our invitation to tonight’s Halloween party had come from several of my older cousin Ryan’s friends, whom Sarah had befriended in her own right. At first Ryan had been annoyed about it, but he’d long since resigned himself to his vivacious younger sister charming her way into people’s good books. And onto invitation lists. It helped that she was a cute redhead.

Ryan had decided to come at the last minute, so his costume was a pair of faded jeans, a black t-shirt featuring a cartoon skull, and a sticker with the word “ZOMBIE” written on it in thick black marker. He’d used grey eye-shadow to put smudges under his eyes and had spiked up his black-dyed hair.

I wondered whether, if I’d held out on deciding to come for long enough, I’d have been able to wear something comfortable too.


  1. Lori A. Goldstein (@_lagold)January 16, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    I like the first paragraph a lot. Sets an instant image in my mind. I can hear the music thumping as I read. I'm wondering though if you could start with just one line about your MC, then have that 1st graph as your 2nd. "I yanked on the hem of my skirt as I forced myself out of the car. It was no use. It wouldn't go any lower."

    I'd also love a very brief glimpse of what the change is and why the story starts here. I'm not one who *needs* that on page one, but most readers seem to want it, so it's something to consider.

    The paragraph "My cousin" was a bit confusing to me. On first read, I was confused as to who was who--I might have read to fast but I didn't get that Sarah was Ryan's sister; somehow by the time I got there I thought your MC was the sister and the cute redhead. Clearly on second read, not, but if anyone else is mixed up on first read, you might want to reword. If not, chalk it up to just me!

    Good luck!

  2. Just Another YA AuthorJanuary 16, 2013 at 10:22 PM

    I love the way this starts, but then you lose me in the paragraph that begins with "My cousin Sarah..." It's too explanatory and that pulls me out of the moment. I'd rather it keep moving forward.

  3. I really liked this! I wasn't confused by the paragraph explaining their relationships. I know people shy away from backstory and infodumps; I think this works here and gives context to the scene. If many more people point it out, maybe consider streamlining it, or showing their relationship through dialogue, as long as it doesn't get hokey (like "hey cousin, isn't senior year great?") I like the setting here, and Ryan's costume description showed a bit about his character. Good luck with this!

  4. I like Stephsco's comment about showing the family relationship through dialogue, because I was drawn away from the story at that paragraph as well. I do like how you've started your story arriving at a Halloween party. So many spooky possibilities about what's coming next. Your description of Ryan is great, but I think you can add a little bit of your MC's voice at the end--like, "Figures he'd drag out his decision to come so he didn't have to dress up." You catch my drift. I think you're trying to do that w/ your last sentence, but it felt very clunky. Just a quick quip from your MC is all you need. And maybe another tug on her hemline to remind us she's wearing something extremely uncomfortable. Good luck!

  5. Your words created a picture in my head right away. You used nice strong verbs throughout, and every word seems like the perfect one!

    Although others talked about your backstory paragraph in a bad way, I have mixed feelings. I struggled with backstory too, but others kept commenting about it so I removed it. Even though yours didn't cause me any problems, you might want to consider removing it too. I'm sure it would strengthen your story even more.

  6. I thought this worked until I reached the last three pargs, and like some others, was taken out of the story. Every time you stop to explain something, the story stops. Sometimes it's necessary, but most times you could just as easily get the same info out through action and dialogue.

    Parg 5 could easily be shown once they get inside and interact with the other kids.

    Parg 6 could just be reworded so that instead of it reading like she's telling the reader, have it read as if she's thinking about what he's wearing. The same for the last parg.

  7. Definitely hooked. There was an iffy moment when I struggled with the Transylvania line, but the moment she added, "Bwahaha!" you had me laughing and hooked on the voice.

    I did feel the subsequent paragraph about Ryan was a tad...distracting?
    Something about Isla's costume had left me confused, and I was anticipating clarification at that point. But like I said, I was hooked on your voice by this point, so I would have kept reading, and I expect would have gotten less confused as things went along.


  8. I like it, it's nothing wildly out of the ordinary (yet), but it reads easily and sounds like it's going to be fun. The last para made me smile.

    I think you could tighten up a few sentences here and there and perhaps rearrange the beginning to make it punchier. Consider something like:

    'I plucked at my hemline. It wouldn’t go any lower.

    “Still worried about the skirt, Isla?” Sarah asked as we clambered out of the battered hatchback. The street was so densely packed with cars we’d had to park half a block away, but as soon as I cracked the door open I could hear the music thumping.

    I nodded.'

    - That way you begin with your MC straight away, then go onto her friend and the street. Just a thought.

    The main thing that stood out to me was the para starting 'My cousin Sarah...' which is a big old info dump. It's not very long, so it don't bother me *that* much, but it's still clunky. See if you can't weave that info in a bit more subtly, or simply shorten it.

    But like I said, I'd read on. Good luck!

  9. The voice, though nice, sounds too young to be a senior in high school. Most teenage girls would be pulling their skirts higher, so you do a nice job showing that the MC is not your typical teenage girl. Much of this strays into info dump territory, particularly the last three paragraphs. I wonder if it might be better to start when they’re already at the party. This doesn’t stand out enough to hook me, unfortunately.