Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #2

TITLE: Wilderness
GENRE: YA Contemporary Fiction

There are certain people in the world who magnetize trouble. My BFF, Mia Belmont, is one of them.

Right before Mrs. Whitman’s funeral, I'm pacing outside Dean Foster’s office with all-over bad feeling. Mia’s managed to stay out of trouble for months…and now suddenly I get an urgent text to meet her here?

The possibilities for trouble are endless and usually random, and Mia’s always got a stellar excuse. Mia used to skip class to cram last-minute for tests, but she’s gotten better at managing her time. The last time she cut class was in October, when that stray cat gave birth in the friendship court. Even Dean Foster admitted he couldn’t fault her for caring about a creature in pain.

I hoped whatever it was now was something like that, a minor infraction, like maybe she parked in a faculty spot because she saw a bird drop out of a tree.

I pace and pace as the halls empty out and students dash off to the church for a funeral nobody expected.

Pretty soon the halls are so empty I can hear my footsteps echo in the large wooden hall.

I can’t be late for Mrs. Whitman’s funeral. Just thinking about a funeral makes my hands shake, but out of all the founding families at Thornegate Prep, Mrs. Whitman’s is one I can’t skip. Her scholarship saved my life.

Why or how she died remains a mystery. All they told us is that she had a condition that deteriorated rapidly. Rapid deterioration. Is that


  1. I love the voice. And both the teacher and the best friend seem like interesting characters. I think I need a little more of a buffer between these to intros, however. Sometimes heavy exposition at the beginning can work (especially with a voice as good as yours) but switching topics without any action or scene in the middle makes it feel like a laundry list of stuff you've got to get through before the real story starts.
    Still, I'd totally read on.
    (Oh and I'd cut one of the "pace"s.)
    Great job!

  2. The "magnetize trouble" at the beginning made me pause. I get what you're going for, but I feel like "attract" would be less awkward. Personify? I also think the first sentence would pack more punch if you took out "There are".

    I don't think the sentence about Mia cutting class to study for exams is needed. You can get more action into the opening if you skip that. I actually think you can combine the second and third paragraph and shorten them - it just feels a little clunky with the exposition.

    Consider rewording either "halls" or "hall" in the third paragraph from the bottom.

    It's definitely an intriguing start.

  3. I like the first paragraph. But jumping from her pacing outside the office because of the text from Mia, to the funeral for Mrs. Whitman was kind of big jump. Maybe work on that transition.

  4. On first read, the quick tense changes threw me off a tad. Not because they're grammatically wrong, but just because there's only a few sentences in the present before we jump to past; it was easy for me to forget the story started in present to begin with. Maybe changing "I hoped" to the present tense would help?

    Some interesting things going on here between the funeral and the friend in trouble, both with some mystery behind them. I do agree that the transition between the two could be a bit stronger; it's got to be stressing the MC out.

  5. You've started with your MC waiting, and at the end of the 250 words, she is still waiting, so nothing happened on this page.

    Perhaps you could start at the funeral, or at a point where something is either happening, or just about to happen. You can show us her friend's quirky behavior when her friend actually shows up. It's not necessary to tell us before hand. Don't explain your story. Allow it to happen.

  6. I agree, this opening might work better either starting at the funeral, or beginning with Mia exiting the office and showing us through dialogue why she was called into the Dean's office. That could be an active way of setting up the story rather than the MC pacing and contemplating. I feel like the story is here, but this opening isn't quite as engaging as it could be. Starting a different place might be the answer.

  7. I liked it. I like how it started. Mia is intriguing to me. My question is, why the dean's office? What was going on there? Overall, I would keep on reading because the voice intrigues me. Thanks for sharing your writing with me.

  8. I'm intrigued by your characters and can tell that there's an interesting situation brewing, but this opening isn’t quite working for me. We’re given information about Mia and the funeral, but the transition between the two topics feels rushed, so I didn’t come away with a strong enough impression of either to be completely hooked. There's a lot of potential here, though, and bringing Mia into the picture up front, as some of the other comments have suggested, might allow you to weave action/dialogue and backstory together for a really strong opening.