Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Secret Agent #33

TITLE: Racing the Nightmares
GENRE: MG Contemporary

All kids are afraid of something: the dark, nightmares, kissing a girl for the first time. Me? I'm afraid of monsters. Not the ones under your bed or in your closet. The monster I'm afraid of isn't in my head, or make-believe, or the stuff horror movies are made of.

My monster is in the mirror. I'm the stuff my nightmares are made of. And nothing I can do or say or think will ever change what I am, or what I did. It's because of me that my family moved to Connecticut, it's why Mom won't talk to me, and it's why I'm doing time in my Auntie Min's faded, blue kitchen.

I hunched over the wobbly-legged table, fake-reading my stock car racing magazine. Fake-reading because Auntie Min kept poking her nose in, as if she thought I was a juvie who might dangle live cats over the stove if she didn't check on me every two point five seconds.

I flipped a page, and my gaze locked on a picture of a car crash. My fingers went cold, my face numb. The racecar had been caught in the air, pieces flying off, a tire rolling down the track. I bent for a better look. I couldn't see the driver's face, and I was kind of glad I couldn't, but sick curiosity made me keep trying. No doub he hung on to that steering wheel, facing near-death whith his eyes squeezed shut.

The picture reminded me of my nightmares.


  1. Great opener. Not into cars, but even though--I was interested. It really drew me in to the story. (Like the bit about dangling cats.)
    Good Luck!

  2. Interesting. Bone chilling actually. I'm thinking the voice sounds very YA. Not sure about the leap from present to past tense.The first two pars felt a bit jarring in the present. I feel more led into a story with the past tense. This is very original. Good luck.

  3. The typos were distracting and when you revise, make sure you spellcheck. I think the story idea is great and will appeal to teen boys.

  4. I'm definitely interested in a story about a kid who did wrong, especially if he/she is under 12 (middle grade age). Especially because we can see the regret forming, but not in a preachy way. It's intriguing!

    You've got a great voice started here, with dangling the cat and two point five seconds. Those kinds of details show us a lot.

    I'd be wary of opening with a generalization, especially because I can't imagine a kid would want to read "all kids" do X. "I'm afraid of monsters" could be a really cool opening sentence!

    I agree that the tense change was a tad jarring.

    "My monster is in the mirror" at first made me think the monster was something appearance related, like anorexia or acne or some strange physical disease. You could possibly just skip it and say "I'm the stuff my nightmares are made of."

    Do we need to know the kitchen is faded and blue? Maybe there's a more important adjective that can show us how the MC feels about the kitchen. Cramped? Hot? Infernal? Stodgy?

    Do we need "gaze locked on"? Would his/her fingers really go cold at looking at a car crash? People drive by real car crashes all the time and even though they slow down to look they don't get the chills from it (at least, I don't).

    In the last line, are the "nightmares" actual nightmares or are they the character's past? I'm guessing we'll find out on the next page, but this might be something you want to make clear.

    I'd definitely love to learn more about this character, and you have a good character-based hook here.

  5. Oh, NO! I assure you my manuscript does not have the typos. I had to type this manually from a tablet because I couldn't cut and paste from my document.

  6. My eleven-year-old son liked it, and would read on - so well done!

    We both would like to know what it was he did or becomes, and what the connection to the car accident was.

    Good job.

  7. This hooked me! You did a good job of telling us the MC’s situation and his feelings about it. Love the dangling cat line! It’s hard to imagine what a 12/13-year-old could have done that’s that horrible, but I get the idea it has to do with the car crash, and if so, his reaction to the picture seems reasonable.

    I wondered about the tense change, too. Present tense would work. Maybe lead your third paragraph with: “At the moment, I’m hunched…”

    Nice job!

  8. I don't read MG, but this sounded more like the opening to an adult horror than an MG contemporary. Because of that, I wanted to read more. Telling a story of the evil, scary kid from the evil, scary kid's point of view? More, please.

    I may have extrapolated more than you meant to give us, but that's just me!

  9. While I like the direction of your opening, the writing feels somewhat overwrought. You are belaboring what is otherwise a fine point--we don't need a couple paragraphs of dread, where a couple sentences will do.

    Lines like "I'm the stuff nightmares are made of" come off as hyperbolic at this early stage, particularly because we yet don't know anything about your main character. And "The picture reminded me of my nightmares" also just hits too hard too soon.

    Trust your reader to follow you with a couple good hints. Your opening lines are tantalizing enough that we'll want to find out what your MC lives in fear of... which you can explain more of later on.