Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January Secret Agent #29

GENRE: YA Fantasy

As long as I can remember, the ocean has represented something unattainable. It mocks me, a luscious blue reminder of the pieces that are missing. I’m not a sunny beach girl, obsessed with spending my afternoons and weekends perched on a strategically placed towel. In fact, why we continue to live in San Diego is a mystery. Whenever I ask Mom she just gets this vacant expression on her face and clams up, a definite sign she’s hiding the true reason.

To be honest, when I stare out at it I’m filled with pain. The leg I lost years ago twitches and burns in an invisible memory of what changed that day. It only happens near the sea and my doctor claims it’s mental, that I see the reason for my loss which, in turn, becomes pain. It’s such a weird sensation—shooting agony in a limb I no longer have. I should be thankful, that I do realize. I’m alive. I survived. What else can I ask for?

Fat raindrops pummel the car as I watch my classmates filing onto the bus. My Biology class is taking a field trip to the aquarium and while that makes me nervous on its own, it isn’t the reason for my clammy palms. The uneven, puddle filled parking lot worries me and I adjust my prosthetic leg restlessly. Ten years and I still haven’t gotten used to its foreignness or found a way to be graceful.

“Are you sure about this, sweetie,” my mom inquires.


  1. I like this start. Your protag stands out and I'm a big fan of the ocean.
    But I'm a bit removed from the action. Is there a way you can show her feelings for the ocean, as opposed to stating them? Example: When I was in second grade, I learned the ocean takes up 2/3 of the earth. There's twice as much of it as there is land. We learned that, thanks to global warming, the ocean grows a little higher every year. This fact used to frighten me whenever we'd go to the beach - the way the waves sucked and pulled at the sand, as if there were greedy creatures in there clamoring for more room, who wouldn't give up until they'd won their battle against land.
    When I was in second grade, they did win. At least, against me.

    You'll obviously do a much better job but as an example, I hope this helps!

  2. I feel like there's a piece of information missing, something which could help build the tension right off the bat: why would she even ask her mom why they live in San Diego? It's a strange question. Are they in the habit of moving around? Are they originally from somewhere else? Most people live where they do because it's where their life is: jobs, friends, family. Does the MC not have these?

  3. I care for the narrator and her unease but I would like to hear more of it from her own mouth. As it is, she has a unjustifed attraction to the ocean plus a wariness at walking on uneven pavement. But I am not sure what her problem is yet - is she resentful of losing a leg? is she bitter about not being able to join her classmates without fear of drawing attention to it? And why does she resent San Diego? I need more focus until I can get into her head but there is something in the gentleness of the prose that makes me think I would definitely be there if only it was more clear.

  4. I see your genre is YA Fantasy, so I'm really intrigued how this will play into how your narrator lost her leg. I already feel connected to her, and I'm curious, so I'd read on. The first 250 left me a tad confused, though. It seems she's staring out at the ocean in the first paragraph, but then she's watching her classmates load the bus for the field trip in the third. Is her school near the ocean? If it is, it would seem that seeing the ocean would be a daily occurrence. Also, I'm not sure about your first sentence. If she associates her lost leg with the ocean, I don't know why she'd see the ocean as unattainable. Personally, I'd consider starting with your third paragraph. Ground us in your main character's situation and then introduce the ocean element. Readers will be very curious for the explanation, and it would keep them going.

  5. I'd suggest cutting the first two pargs. and start with the third, that way, the reader is immediately involved in the story. And without the first two pargs., you'll have plenty of room to work in her fear of the ocean.

  6. Sorry. I didn't finish. You'll have plenty of room to work in her fear of the ocean in a less abstract way.

  7. Just Another YA AuthorJanuary 18, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    Cut the first two paragraphs (that can be worked in later) and start with paragraph three.

    Oh, I see Barbara has already suggested the same thing. She keeps doing that. I swear we aren't the same person.

  8. Beautiful writing. I agree with the others about cutting the first two paragraphs. Where I really connected to your MC was the third, where the scene begins, because I'm being shown who she is and what she feels rather than being told who she is and what she feels in the first two paragraphs. Very nice prose, though.

  9. Not all of San Diego is on the beach, and there are many reasons for living in a particular place, so the comment about why the MC lives in San Diego seems odd.
    I agree with those who say that you should cut the first two paragraphs and start with the third. Don’t tell us about her fear of the ocean, show us by weaving in examples throughout the story. I was intrigued by the fact that she has a prosthetic leg, and she’s still nervous about it, although the interaction with her mom in the last paragraph seems young for a YA. Unfortunately, I’m not hooked.