Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #46

TITLE:  Scandal City
GENRE: Young Adult Contemporary

New York City—it’s where true social monarchy began, despite the shit they tell you in your history books. It's where the largest parties are held and only the prettiest girls are invited. Everybody knows these lean, mean girls; they walk around Manhattan with their glimmering, glamorous eyes—skinny wrists covered in glittering gold jewels. They are the new generation of degenerate, Manhattan society queens. No matter where they’re going—the marketplace, the Hamptons, the dive bars that they scheme their under aged ways into—they always don the newest, most chic lace-Armani dresses, and they always, always reek of top-shelf gin and Chanel #5.

New York City is where the biggest fights are started. It’s where street kids in Brooklyn beat each other up for skipping turns in Double Dutch, and where the mole people get into full on brawls over nickels and dimes that fall between them. It’s where class warfare dawned and where Manhattan’s elite families destroy anyone and everyone they feel the need, in order to excel to the top of the social chain.

New York City is where all of the rich kids are privileged enough to party and play whenever, however they please. It is home of such cultural phenomena, as: Andy Warhol and the pop art movement, Studio 54, The Godfather, the Yankees, and of course, Lady Gaga. It’s home of over eight million, known as the melting pot, spread strategically across a total of five boroughs. Can you guess which one is fairest?


  1. Good setting, and you write well. I think a first page contest may be at a disadvantage to you because I'm guessing that it'll take a few pages to get to your main character and the heart of the story. Still, I like that you made New York a strong character in itself, and I would read on to see where you take me.

  2. Like Lanette, I liked the description. It's well-written and really sets the stage.

    However, I think it goes on for too long. You can get away with these long, drawn-out introductions in adult literary fiction, but YA generally moves faster. Would it be possible to streamline this a bit so we can get to the MC and the scene more quickly? I like to see at least the start of a scene on the first page, but that could just be me. It's your story, of course, and you know it better than anyone.

    Good luck!

  3. My feeling is that since this is YA, you can stop with the first paragraph as far as the setting goes. I'm hoping your characters will be some of these lean, mean girls, because that is YA gold.

    The second paragraph is both too specific (not all your readers are going to know who the mole people are and you're not telling us) and the last sentence in that paragraph is very vague.

    The last paragraph also might be above the reference level of your audience and it's not as immediate and NOW as it should probably be. Again, for the genre, the cultural references perhaps need to be more current than the pop art movement.

    So... Can you start your story after the first paragraph maybe? I'd love to know who this worldly, cynical narrator is.

    Good luck.

  4. I was intrigued with the first few descriptions (which would well done), but then I kept wishing that we could get to the action. Maybe trim some of the initial set up?

  5. Well written, but too long. It needs to get to...something. I have no idea what this story is about except that it takes place in NYC. And from the descriptions, it seems the narrator doesn't care for the city or the people living in it.

    The last sentence (the question) threw me off. I don't know what I'm supposed be guessing is fair.

  6. Thinking along the same lines as the others -- the first lines pack a fantastic punch and sucked me right in. But by the end of the second paragraph my attention drifted away.

    I think this is because the opener seems so clearly a character's/narrator's close POV, but the rest reads much more like an omniscient narrator's POV. I really want to find out more about the close POV narrator. The omniscient narrator, not so much.... That's b/c the omniscient narrator isn't saying anything to me that builds out this specific NYC story world, but rather, describes things ppl not even in New York are familiar with. This is especially the case by para 3.

    I bet you can tighten this up by cutting 30% of the words but still making your point. FWIW, I'd definitely lose the list in para 3 ("such cultural phenomena as...") --b/c, what action or characterization is it advancing or foreshadowing? It seems very random. Along these lines, unless you're shooting for a particular era I'd reconsider the "of course, Lady Gaga" reference as by the time you're done with edits, shopping around, etc., who knows what LG will be up to and what sort of cultural shorthand she will convey for the purposes of your story.

    Hope this is helpful!

  7. I like the smart, cynical style of this! You have a very distinctive voice.

    I agree with others though that it goes on a bit long. The third paragraph seemed unnecessary, and the details are so specific that it pulled me away from the overall description of the city and its people (Andy W., Lady Gaga, etc.) Also, I am not a fan of asking "you" questions directly to the reader, "Can you guess which one is fairest?"

    Your writing is very strong. Best wishes!

  8. I loved the first paragraph. The other two lost me. Judging by your title, I'm guessing the first paragraph is going to be the most important anyway. Maybe drop the others, and get to your characters. If the other two are needed, they can be worked in after we've seen some action.

  9. Agreeing with a lot of the other comments here. I really enjoy the language. It reads very Forties Noir with a modern twist. I'm expecting a hard-boiled YA detective to come out of the shadows...

    I don't know how the second paragraph maps to the first and third, however. The mole people are a nice contrast to the society queens, but I'm wondering if it should show up later. Like the others have said, I really do want to find out who our narrator is within these 250 words.

    But I loved it overall and would absolutely read more.

  10. This opening definitely sets up voice/attitude.

    I'm reading so much potential for visual scenes, with images that are evocative of some other works. Bonfire of the Vanities and The Devil Wears Prada come to mind--but because I don't meet a main character right away, I'm floating above the story without a connection.

    I wonder if you might be introducing New York City from the perspectives of three characters?

    The sentence that includes "excel to the top" made me stumble. This might be unfamiliar slang or part of your character's voice. I have never heard excel used as a synonym for climb or rise.

    You've created an interesting world. I'd love to read more--but please ground me by giving me a POV character. Good luck with this story!

  11. Nothing happens here and no one is introduced, so I have no one to connect with, not even the city itself, because the things you mention come from different time periods.

    At first, I was willing to go along with it until the Chanel #5, which was bigger in the 50's and 60's than it is now. (I had assumed we were in the present.)

    You snatched me back in the second parg with Andy Warhol et al, because then I assumed you were going for a '60's setting, but then you mentioned Lady Gaga and lost me again. The reason - there's no connection to the things you're mentioning. I'm not getting a sense of time or place. It comes off more as a ramble than a trail that will lead somewhere.

    In the end, I don't know what the story is about. I don't know who it's about. I don't know what time period I'm in. I don't know where in NY I am. There's nothing to cling to.

    I did like the different approach, but I don't think you're pulling it off. Perhaps limit all the things you mention to things that are specific to not only the time period you're in, but that are also specific to your MC and plot.

  12. This title is terrific, and you nail the description of the Manhattan mean girl. I’m afraid that I left this sample not knowing anything about where your main character fits into the social strata she/he describes, though. You throw out several cultural references, but perhaps you can wait and mention specific figures/landmarks/etc. in relation to your main character, so we understand why they’re significant.

    If you can show us your MC going through a New York-specific experience rather than telling us about New York, we’ll understand much better who she/he is and why the city plays such a central role in the book.

    I would also recommend leaving out recent pop culture references like Lady Gaga, which date the book and may not be relevant down the line. Just a heads up!

  13. I echo a lot of what's been said in that the writing itself is strong but there's so much description there's not a lot for the reader to latch on to in terms of character.

    So I agree maintaining the first paragraph and cutting the remainder. As a native NYer the words "street kids" and "mole people" kinds of rings off for me. Kind of stating the divide but that may be taken certain ways by certain people especially if you're referring to a more "urban" environment.

    If NYC is the setting and it's key that this gets out why not have the reader see the narrator experiencing NYC rather than just discussing it? Just a suggestion.

    Again, really solid voice.

  14. This doesn't read like a novel, it reads like an essay about the wrongs in NY city. Despite the poetic language, I wouldn't read more unless an interesting PERSON shows up in the next paragraph.