Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #21


Every bone in my body warned today would be the start of many regrets. Nightmares of a black fog shredding me to mere atoms devoured my sanity. I grasped for normalcy and drove to school, wanting to return home before I’d even left the house. After arriving, I stood in front of my locker, feeling him stare at me…again.

“Somebody’s crushing. Look how he watches you.” Tara said, batting her lashes his direction.

“You’re impossible. Stop ogling,” I barked, smearing gloss across my chapped lips. He watched.

“Come on Raeni, let me set you two up.” Tara paused while contemplating. “But you can’t talk about your stupid nightmares. No one likes hearing about death.”

“If you weren’t my best friend, I’d choke you right now.”

“Grouchy?” Tara’s mouth went crooked. “You need to socialize. You’ve been withdrawn since last year. I still can’t believe you quit cheerleading.”

“Believe it.” I hesitated, his glare pierced my personal space. “Why does he always watch me? It’s creepy.”

“Shush. He might hear you,” Tara snapped.

I peeked over my shoulder at Anath’s model physique. Strong arms swooped through the straps of his backpack as he walked toward me. Dark curls caressed high cheek bones and his brown eyes locked onto mine. His lips parted. After two months of transferring to Elverado High, he was finally going to speak to me.

My heartbeat quickened. I tucked my long hair behind my ear. Life in Southern Illinois looked less bleak, unless he found me crazy.


  1. I'm not hooked. Although I like the general situation, it seems like bad/prophetic dreams about death are overused and the prose wasn't as polished. (Or rather it felt like it was trying to hard.) You use good strong verbs, but too many of them makes my lips pucker like the Kool-aid is too strong, ya know? Slow down, don't try so hard. That first and second sentences were especially awkward. As was the last. In between has promise.

  2. You're excerpt is intriguing. It seems like a classical tale of a girl wanting to be normal even though she clearly has unique abilities that suggest otherwise. Well done with establishing conflict early on.

    I did have some issues reading a couple of your sentences.

    For example:

    Sentence 1: "Every bone in my body warned today would be the start of many regrets."

    I feel like this sentence needs the word "me" in between "warned" and "today." That's a small detail. There are a few other spots like that in the story, but I would suggest simply reading the whole excerpt out loud to yourself.

    Also your main character seems a bit quirky, which I like. Expand on her character a bit more in the first sentences. Her quirkiness makes her a lovable character. Maybe add more of her voice when she describes her vision. There are a lot of prophecy themes in stories which is fine, but the best way to sell them is to give them a unique voice. Expand on the prophecy description and her reaction to it using her words.

    Your main character seems dramatic so that will dictate what words she uses. If you go with her being that way then your vocabulary for this character seems fine to me. Add more, but be careful with adding too much that it slows the story.

    I believe this is an excellent start. Just add more flavor/voice.

    Hope this was helpful (and grammatically correct)

  3. I think you have some interesting things going on here. We get a sense of the history between these two friends, but I feel like there is some info-dumping going on here in the dialogue. Think about the things these two already know about each other - like that she's been withdrawn for a year. Is that something that would be said? I think you could cut that and just keep the "I can't believe you quit cheerleading." This lets us know that there's been a change.

  4. You've caught the voice of a high school student well, but I think you could delete your first sentence and lead with the second. I would drop "mere atoms" and say "to pieces" or have the fog tearing her apart.

    On your first tag, you have a typo. " you," Tasha said, ...
    Just a suggestion, but maybe introduce the boy when you say he watched. I want to know at that point what he looks like.

    You are telling some in p3 when you say she pauses to contemplate. You can show that with her reaction and never mention the pause. I agree with Summer, you could cut the sentence about being withdrawn.

    I'm curious what's the deal with these nightmares and if she knows she is different. At this point, I would turn the page to find out what's going on.

  5. This doesn't work for me. I found the dialogue to be very forced and unrealistic. You're trying to ram a whole lot of backstory into a small space.

    I'd scrap the whole first paragraph - It doesn't flow, it's all tell and it doesn't add anything to the story.

    Don't tell me she drove to school - show me - "Somebody's crushing. Look how he watches you," Tara said, nudging my elbow and nodding down the corridor.
    I sighed as I closed my locker. How had it taken my best friend so long to work that out? Anath was always watching me!

    Then move to when he is approaching her - get rid of all the tell about nightmares and cheerleading in the middle.

    When he's walking toward her you could add in some emotion - let me know how she's feeling. Does she find him watching her creepy (as indicated earlier in the dialogue) or is she excited and interested (as indicated by the heartbeat quickening and life looking less bleak)? Needs to be one or the other!

  6. The voice doesn't read "YA" to me - it feels more like "adult trying to write like a teenager," which is far more common but unfortunately doesn't sell as well :-\ The scenario is good, but I think you could tighten the dialogue a lot.

  7. I like the first line, it's strong. The second feels a bit melodramatic. Maybe it's the "devoured my sanity" which is INTENSE. From that, I would expect the rest of the entry to be manic, she is consumed by this creepy metaphorical fog, but instead we get school. So maybe a scaled back word choice--pecking away at sanity?

    AS for comments on dialogue inauthenticity, I think it's likely due to presenting a few too many plot details through dialogue. We are all so tough on first pages, but you really don't need to get all the backstory in on the first page. Tara recapping the MC's nightmares and quitting cheerleading seem more for the reader than natural discussion between friends. If the dialogue is a little more natural, you can work in the backstory--MC still has a cheer team pic up in her locker and she quickly shuts the door.

    I also think it might serve this intro better to have a glimpse of the staring guy right after he is mentioned. Is he nearby lurking, or is he down the hall? "He's staring at me...again," you can keep this and show us the character standing & staring, or just show it with out the telling line. You could show her turning her back, talking to her friend and have her describe how it feels to be stared at. That creepy fog could come back since you've already set that up well.

    Good luck!

  8. THe opening parg seems way overdone to me, and says almost nothing. First every bone in her body is warning her the day would be the start of many regrets. How was that happening? You don't go there, so it's just an empty statement with no relationship to anything.

    Then sentence 2 has nightmares devouring her sanity and yet she doesn't act insane in any way, and you don't show us her nightmares, so again, it's a statement that goes nowhere and means nothing. Perhaps just start at school with him staring.

    Then as someone else said, she first thinks his staring is creepy, and by the end, she's hoping to connect with him. It should probably be one or the other. SHe might change her mind about him later, but probably after some kind of interaction with him.

  9. The first paragraph threw me a bit, but I think it was really the dialogue that gave me pause. As others have suggested, focus on how close friends would greet each other and talk about boys, and let the background details come through later. The way I read this, Raeni’s “It’s creepy” comment about Anath was just a product of how she’s presenting herself here (in keeping with her “stop ogling” comment above), and was not inherently contradictory to her interest in him, so that didn’t bother me.