Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #18

TITLE: Dirty Secrets
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Cigarette smoke smothered me as soon as I walked through the door. You're not supposed to light up in restaurants in Pennsylvania, but Milo's shouldn't be called a restaurant. It's dirtier and grubbier than the coal miners who drink there after their shift - - and if Dad doesn't start back to work again soon the two of us will be moving upstairs into the one-bedroom dive Milo calls an apartment.

Patty, the bartender, called out to me from behind the dirt-stained bar. "Hey, Matt. I hear it's your birthday. When you're old enough I'll give you a blowjob."

I felt my face flush and knew in an instant I was probably as red as the vinyl covering the barstools.

"Relax, silly," Patty said. "It's a drink." She and a bunch of the guys around her laughed like crazy after that one.

I eased past them to the corner where Dad sat. He acted as if he hadn't heard any of this. He's in his own private hell. He could be at Heinz Field watching the Steelers play and he would be alone.

I shook his shoulder. "Come on, Dad. We gotta go home. Grandma and Grandpa expected us to be there for supper already."

He chugged the rest of his Iron City and stood. He left a twenty. Didn't ask for change.

S***. How many beers?


  1. Wow -- strong voice!

    One tiny suggestion is to take "dirt-stained" out of the Patty sentence. The description slows the pace for the lead-in to her zinger, and we already know the place is dirty from the first paragraph. "Dirt-stained" seems redundant only one paragraph later.

    I already like your mc and would definitely read more. Best wishes!

  2. Strong voice and strong writing. I already get a sense of the character and his meek situation. I would read on.

  3. nicely done! strong voice, setting, and characters.

    i'd remove "i felt" from this sentence: "I felt my face flush and knew in an instant I was probably as red as the vinyl covering the barstools."

    and reword, as in: "my face flushed. i was probably as red.."

    i'd read on!

  4. There is great voice here. Nice job. I easily picture the seedy bar. I don't really have anything to offer.I would read more. Good luck :)

  5. This was nice. Your MC has a voice, you've created emotion, mood, a bit of tension and suspense. There's no conflict yet, but this is interesting enough that I can wait a bit. I'd read more.

    Parg 1 - Cigarette smoke smothers him as soon as walks inside, and yet he doesn't gasp or choke. Show this. I'd cut the second sentence because it's explaining to the reader. The MC already knows what type of bar it is, and you've described it well enough so that the reader knows too. You don't need that second sentence. Just start the third sentence with 'Milo's restaurant.'

    I wonder why the 'two' of them would have to move. Later, we learn they live with the grandparents, and it seems the grandparents are supporting them now, so why wouldn't they continue to do so. And if they're not, wouldn't all four of them have to move?

    Parg 2 - Cut 'dirt-stained.' Skywriter has explained why.

    Parg 3 - Maybe - My face flushed as red as . . . As is, you're saying something simple in a difficult way.

    Parg 5 - he 'was' in his own private hell. - to keep it in the right tense.

  6. This had me sympathizing and laughing. Great start. I ditto the dirt-stained bar. I slid out of the story here: "...the one-bedroom dive Milo calls an apartment." Is Milo the owner? I only say this because then we meet Patty and that many people right off the bat can be confusing. Maybe just allude to the one-bedroom above Milo's?

    I'd continue to see what's in store.

  7. "It's dirtier and grubbier than the coal miners who drink there after their shift." This line made me uncertain I was going to like the mc. Yes, coal miners get very dirty. Sorry, I have a weakness for people who aren't afraid of hard work. It was just a visceral reaction. One where I said aww out loud. I think either eliminating grubbier (seems redundant, anyway) would make it sound less if a judgement on coal miners, or dirtier than the coal miner's coveralls.

    Dirt- stained, at this point, also seemed redundant.

    I would continue to read. I'm interested in seeing why dad is in his own private hell. I also love the unusual setting for YA — a smoke filled bar/restaurant.

  8. An edgy YA, yay! There is enough here to keep me reading if I'm interested in what this story is about (aka, query/pitch) but not quite enough so that I'd HAVE to keep reading (if that makes sense). I still don't know the personality of the character yet and I'd like to. The only indication of personality is when he turns read at the mention of a blowjob. This makes me think he's more shy, reserved. Maybe geeky? But that could still be wrong.

    This could benefit from more voice.

    But I think you're off to a good start, I'd be curious to see where you're taking it. Good luck!

  9. Strong start and I can see a mountain of problems approaching the MC. You established the scene very well. I'd read more (and that's quite something because I usually don't read contemp.)

  10. You’ve done a terrific job establishing the character’s voice here. The details about the grubby bar are also well-placed. I get the sense that this poor kid has a lot on his plate, and I’m already worried about him. I’m struck by the panic of your last line here too – very believable. I would read on if this came in to me!