Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Adorable Editors Winners #8

GENRE: YA literary thriller

I believed in the healing power of parking garages. There was kind of a compartmentalization about them that inspired the deep breaths that the folks here at Counseling Services were always asking me to take. If I were hanging out by the cool concrete pillar of a parking garage, I’d be the only one asking the questions. There’d be no questions in response to my questions, as was Dr. Roy’s modus operandi for the last few minutes of our sessions. No one in a parking garage would want to know how I was doing—everyone is either huddled in a car or hurrying toward a door.

Everyone but me. I liked to stand back by the pillars and watch. I liked to know I was the only one watching.

“When would you like to have your next appointment, Mitchell?” asked William at the front desk. They never said anyone’s last name out loud here. It was a privacy thing. I appreciated that.

“Oh, I don’t think I need to make one,” I said.

“Your mom was here earlier today.” William tapped his pen against the side of his keyboard, which was the sort of excessively loud “thinking” tic that a person who didn’t have to stop and think very often would make. “She asked me to make sure you scheduled one. You’ll have to take it up with her and Dr. Roy if you want to terminate your therapy.”


  1. Your opening line is very hooking, but the opening paragraph was a bit of a mire for me -- especially 'I’d be the only one asking the questions. There’d be no questions in response to my questions, as was Dr. Roy’s modus operandi for the last few minutes of our sessions.' I get that this is about his therapy, but I didn't get that until I'd read all the way through and then started again.

    Otherwise, I'm interested in the set-up -- a strange boy in therapy. I'd probably read on.

  2. I like this because I like this kid. Great thought patterns. Love that he likes to stand back and watch other people. He likely has more figured out than those around him, even though they think he needs therapy. Sort of a favorite theme of mine.

    My one question is that this says it's a thriller. This is a very quiet opening for a thriller. I wonder how quickly we see action and if this bit were moved to after an action scene. Hard to say without reading a bit more, but overall, I'm hooked.

  3. AWESOME first line. Definitely pulls me in. The only thing that slightly tripped me up - I thought he was in the parking garage when suddenly William is asking him a question from the front desk. I know you have this line: "If I were hanging out by the cool pillars..." but when I got to the second paragraph, to me it read like he was out there that second, watching. Could just be me! But maybe just a tiny line someplace to make it crystal clear he misses the parking garage and isn't currently in it?

    But seriously, that's a tiny thing and wouldn't stop me from going on. I'm quite interested in the things you've set up for your MC internally, and would certainly turn the page.

  4. I love this first line, and I'd read on.

    However I'll echo what others have said: the rest of the first para is quite clumsy and could do with streamlining to read better and make it clearer; and I also think you should make it clearer from the start where he is.

    With a little smoothing out and cutting down to simpler sentences, this would be great.

  5. Hi, there! I'm definitely intrigued, but have a few thoughts that might help to make this even stronger. :)

    The first paragraph: I had to read it a couple of times before I understood. I loved the first sentence, but got a little tripped up on the second one (this is a totally minute detail, but I think the second sentence would flow better if it read "There was a kind of compartmentalization…" instead.).

    For some reason, on the first read, I thought the narrator was a counselor—like, maybe his *coworkers* were telling him to take deep breaths because he was stressed out, or something? Another thing that made me think that was the line, "If I were hanging out…I'd be the only one asking the questions." This made me think he'd be the only one conducting a counseling session in the garage. It was only in the next sentence that I realized I'd misread! I think a tiny tweak would help clear this entire thing up: perhaps cut "only" from that sentence I mentioned above, and italicize the "I'd"—that way the emphasis is on him asking the questions, not the word only. (Sorry, that was super wordy to say something small.)

    I was a bit jarred by the transition to the front desk—I thought he was standing by the pillars in the paragraph just before, watching…stuff.

    One last thing: maybe include a detail about why he has to be the one to make his own appointment. I was wondering why his mom didn't just make the appointment for him! :)

    Okay, sorry, I know that's a lot—but I really do find this opening intriguing, and I would read on. :) Hope this is helpful, but if not, just remember how subjective critiques are! When in doubt, trust your gut and your most respected critique partners. :) Good luck!

  6. I get the feeling like I was supposed to be captured by the randomness, but it left me looking for the exit ramp instead of a parking spot.

    I think it should just start where the story starts, rather than the whole parking lot thing. Besides, it made me think the initial setting WAS a parking lot. Then I discover the narrator is actually in some kind of office…apparently a shrink’s office

    Unfortunately, the fact that the narrator is forced to see a shrink against his will is not enough to keep me turning the pages. I do, however, LOVE that the narrator for this YA is a boy. Not enough boys in YA. Good luck!

  7. Love the first line!! It's the kind of quotable line that really makes readers sit up and take notice.

    But like the others, I got a little lost in the rest of your opening paragraph. Perhaps it would help to set off that first line as a paragraph by itself to make it really pop. And then, I'd like to see the whole counseling-in-the-parking-garage thing spelled out a little more clearly. Why are garages so healing? Why would he be the one in charge if he was in the garage, when he's not in charge in the office? Other than the fact that people leave him alone in the garage, I'm having trouble seeing what the appeal is. Is it the neat, white lines painted on the floor to give everyone a clear place where they belong? Is it the cold, grey, unadorned atmosphere that allows his mind to relax away from the colorful distraction of everyday life? Is it the way the cars line up neatly in rows, bringing order to a potentially chaotic space? Perhaps a bit more of that kind of reflection would help clear up the confusion.

  8. You have an amazing first line, but a bit of a disconnect in the following sentences. I’m not 100% clear why parking garages have healing power. When I think parking garage, I don’t think “compartmentalization.” (unless they are the crazy structures they have in Japan!) You’re hanging by a pillar, watching people and asking questions? Makes me think of some creepo in a parking lot bothering strangers. I don’t think this is what you mean at all. Most people (as far as I know), think of parking garages as stressful, transitory places that are a bit suffocating (masses of concrete, often underground/limited sunlight)… so I want to know why they are healing for the MC. The explanation isn’t working for me.

    Another place the logic isn’t quite working for me: “William tapped his pen against the side of his keyboard, which was the sort of excessively loud “thinking” tic that a person who didn’t have to stop and think very often would make.” This seems like a very long way to say he is mindlessly tapping his pen against a keyboard… otherwise I get a disconnect between a “thinking” tic and the 2nd half.

    Even though I find some of the logic & descriptions muddled, I like your set-up and the dialogue. This kid is in therapy, he wants to stop going, but the adults are policing him. I am with you for this set-up. I would read on, because I am curious.

  9. The first line is awesome. I'd set it apart.

    The parking garage was so painstakingly drawn that I began to visualize the character in one, even though he'd begun with "If I were." I need to get out of the internal monologue and into the reality sooner. Maybe you could go ahead and introduce the first question (When would you like your next appointment) immediately after "I'd be the only one asking questions."

    This is challenging subject matter. I'm interested in how things turn out for Mitchell.

  10. Very much like your first line. The healing power of parking garages suggests a person seeking a dark and lonely place where he isn’t recognized, where people intentionally avoid looking at other people. Garages are prescient of escape. Teenagers misunderstood by their parents and marginalized by their peers would find a parking garage appealing. But I’m thrown a bit by your genre because I have no idea what a literary thriller is. At this point I sense the literary focus but not the thriller aspect.
    Mitchell is in Dr. Roy’s office, being quizzed by the secretary, wishing he were in the parking garage where he is comfortable. Everything about the therapy irritates Mitchell. His mother is so out of touch with his needs that she visits the clinic but doesn’t communicate with her son. This is a young man trying to hold his head up in a dysfunctional world.
    I think you could pull your reader more quickly into the story if you present Mitchell in the clinic first and establish how dreary and out of touch the therapy is. Then let his mind wander to the allure of the garage. Overall, a very compelling beginning and a story that I think will resonate with teens.

  11. I liked the parking garage metaphor and the odd character who thinks one is calming, but liked Veronica Bartle's suggestions of how to be more specific.

    To make it clear where he is, you could say: "If I were hanging out by one of the parking garages's cool concrete pillars instead of at the therapist, I’d be the only one asking the questions.

    “When's a good time for your next appointment, Mitchell?” sounds more like what a clerk would say.

    “Oh, I don’t think I need to make one” doesn't sound like what a teenager would say, unless he's of age, in which case you wouldn't have the last paragraph.

    Interesting characterization, but no hint of the thriller part, except maybe for the mention of hanging out in a parking garage, which is a great place for dodging someone who's trying to murder you!

  12. The opening line was great, but after that I struggled to work out where we were, why we were there, and the relevance of the parking garage (that was mentioned too many times for my personal liking - but I dislike repetition).

    As a first page I would be unlikely to read on as I don't get any feel for where you are trying to take me. So the guy is in therapy - so are lots of people. Give me a reason to think his reason is unique and I am going to want to read about it.

  13. The opening line intrigued me, but then the story lost its appeal for me.

  14. I was going to make a suggestion similar to MM Chandler's for establishing where the MC is at the beginning. The problem is that we find out that he isn't in a therapy session either. When we catch up with his actual location, he's at the counter, talking to the receptionist. Maybe if we saw him in the session and heard the doctor's questions instead of being told about the doctor's habit for the end of the session, everything would be clearer.

    My other problem is that I don't understand his relationship to parking garages. We get his reasons for liking them, but how did he come to be connected to them in the first place? Does he have a part time job as a parking attendant? Does he live or work in a building with a garage? I guess I'm wondering how the idea of parking garages as healing spaces come to him in the first place.

  15. I thought this was overwritten. You use a lot of words to show your reader that the MC doesn't want to make an appointment, and there is so much packed into many of those sentences, I had to stop and reread to get what you were saying, instead of just reading to enjoy the story. Perhaps simply the sentences for easier reading and clarity. That will give you more room to get the main plot idea into the opening.