Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April Secret Agent #49

TITLE: Persephone
GENRE: YA Science Fiction

These are the things I remember: the weight of my cat curled up on my chest; the honest-to-goodness last fast food hamburger I ever had; the rancid-sweet smell of Houston after a rainstorm; the girl who tried to befriend me the first day of kindergarten, and who I made fun of for her crappy haircut.

These are the things I don’t remember: what chocolate cake tastes like; the particular feel of being outside on a sunny day; my parent’s faces.

And it’s not even quite that I don’t remember them. If I really didn’t remember these things, that would be fine. I wouldn’t remember that I didn’t remember them, so I wouldn’t be bothered by the lack of memory. What I feel, though, is infinitely worse. I can sort of remember these things, but I know that my memory isn’t accurate. My parents’ features change. The sunny day becomes confused with exercising in the sun room. Chocolate cake becomes just another form of flavored tofu.

Maxwell, my wrist computer says, my own voice coming from its speakers, get a grip. There’s no point in obsessing over what you can’t change.

My name, for example. Maxwell Clerk MacLeod. Can’t change that and, despite what you might think, there is no good feminine version of either of those names. Maxie? Tried that for a micro-second in fifth grade and it took years for the echoes of Maxi Pad to die. And Clerk isn’t even a name, it’s the sound a chicken makes with marbles in its mouth.


  1. I like this voice, and would definitely keep reading. You have some beautiful sentences here.

    I did trip up a little over the sentence about Maxwell the wrist computer. After I read it again it made sense to me. I think even a wee change like replacing the commas after "says" and "speakers" with a dash would fix it.

    And the maxi pad thing made me laugh out loud, because as soon as I read "Maxie," I thought Oh Noooo!

    Nicely done!

  2. Ooooh, intriguing beginning. The wrist computer didn't trip me up, but I agree about laughing out loud about the names.

    I'm especially curious about how the MC and beginning here will tie in with your title.

    I can't find much to nitpick here, so if anything, the two mentions of her parents in these first paragraphs stood out to me. Maybe drop the bit about their features changing? I love that she can't remember their faces and that's probably enough.

    I would definitely keep reading!

  3. This is definitely an intriguing start to a story and the bit about Maxie and Clerk also made me laugh. The paragraph describing the wrist computer was a tad confusing to me with the description about it being her own voice... I would maybe reword that a bit more clearly.

  4. You write well. :) I have a few polishing suggestions.

    I am fairly confused about who she is, but I realize this is only the first 250 words & sometimes it takes a bit to establish that.

    Consider rewording the 3rd paragraph to make it stronger. I counted the word "remember" five times in that paragraph. "...I don't remember them..." can be shown till it's sparkling. -> "Glimpses of their faces flutter through my mind like a teasing feather, reminding me of my lack of solid recollection." Just something that shows how she can't remember and how it feels rather than telling these things.

    The fact that her parent's features change interested me. It actually made me take notice because up until that point there's three paragraphs dealing with her memory which doesn't necessarily show her uniqueness. Lots of people have memory issues. But her parent's features changing? Yeah, that's not so common. :) I'd definitely leave that in.

    I think this is great. I'd just smooth out that third paragraph and re-position a couple of those commas in the fourth one. :)

    Thanks for sharing. Good luck!

  5. There's a few nitpicks others have mentioned, but basically I just really like this. The first paragraph is lovely and evocative, it's all well-written, and you've introduced intrigue with several questions: her name/gender, her parents, where she is, how the past that we recognise became this future. Well done!

  6. First two paragraphs flow well. Third one needs reworking to avoid overuse of "remember". Funny bit about name gender woes. I'd read on.

  7. You set up fairly quickly that things ain't the way they used to be. Nice. I suggest working on voice here, to really make it stand out. I'd also recommend cleaning up the prose to really tighten things up. You tend towards wordiness when it's not needed. Sometime less is more. Love the wrist computer!!

  8. I really like this. While I agree that the last paragraph is funny, it doesn't fit with the rest of the opening page. The MC goes from talking about things she can and can't remember to trying to change her name. This was jarring for me.

  9. Thank for sharing and nicely done.

    I am really liking the balance of sadness and humor. My favorite moment was with the wrist computer. I did have to read it twice, but the confusion could be cleared up by putting the dialogue in quotes.

    My only real critique would be that I was a little shocked in the last paragraph to find out the MC was a she (maybe the chocolate cake should have tipped me off.) For some reason the voice read male to me. Maybe put some kind of indicator earlier on?

    I would definitely read more so I could find out more about this world that has created so much distance between the present and the memories.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. I really liked this. The only quibble I have is with the third paragraph. As someone else posted, you have the word remember five times in that paragraph. I wonder if this paragraph is necessary - at least at this point in the manuscript. I think it undercuts the beautiful prose of the first two paragraphs.

    "my own voice coming from its speakers" is a bit awkward. I'd try to rewrite it, or maybe just leave the dialogue in, but bring out the fact that the computer uses her voice later on.

    Loved the last paragraph. I'd definitely read on.

  12. Great set up, and I love the voice. I'd definately read more!

  13. I enjoyed this one. I agree with others that the shift from sadness to humor goes a little quickly for my taste, and I think the Secret Agent's suggestion to work on voice would help there. Perhaps by injecting a little of that humor into the sadness?

    It's probably coming right up, but I wish I knew whether the world has changed significantly, or if it's more the MC who has changed significantly, if that makes sense...

  14. I really like the voice here. I'm guessing the word remember is used intentionally so many times, but I do agree with the others that the repetition doesn't quite work. I like the sentiment though, with what is described as being remembered. Maybe play with the phrasing a bit. Good luck!