Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #37

TITLE: Phoebe and the Wanderers
GENRE: Young Adult

He kissed me.
(And, no, you haven’t skipped a bit — that’s really where this all began).
He kissed me and my heart — which was already pounding at the shock of
his appearance — clocked the kind of speed known only to astronauts
during launch.
There’s never anyone else at the lake — ever. I was alone in that
sheltered hollow in the woods, when he popped up right before me, with
not a twig-snap or crunch of gravel to warn of his approach.
I should have hit him. I should have pulled away. I’ve done the
self-protection course at school: this was clearly an invasion of my
personal space. But his lips were soft and smelled faintly of peaches
and, since I turned sixteen, my status as one of the never-kissed had
been bugging me a bit. So, I let him kiss me. And, if all kisses are
going to be like that one, then I’ll be up for many, many more.
It was like he triggered some sort of thermonuclear chain reaction
just beneath my skin. Had I been wearing jewellery, it probably would
have melted.
When he drew back, I could barely inhale, let alone speak. Instead I
took a good look. He had light brown skin, and darker brown hair that
fell in loose curls to the collar of his baggy white shirt. His nose
was long and straight and his dark eyes shone like tree sap weathered
by the sun.
I’d never seen him before in my life.


  1. Interesting! You seem to have a good sense of your narrator's voice.

    How does the narrator know the kind of speed astronauts know during launch? (It's implied she does have personal experience with it if she's comparing the kiss to that limited sphere of knowledge.)

    In that same paragraph, can we get that he's a stranger? Otherwise it takes us a little while to figure it out (which is confusing, because I thought for a while this was her long-lost lover of some sort).

    I know this is just the first 250 words, but I'd expect that really, really fast after this we get a pretty good excuse for why this happens. My skeptical eyebrow is twitching (and I'm not 100% what sort of message it is sending that when a strange man who jumps out of the bushes and kisses you it is actually quite pleasant) and if I were reading this in a bookstore trying to decide to buy it or not you'd have about a page to convince me there was a good reason before I put the book back.

    Hope that helps! Good luck!

  2. I get a bit confused with this. The aside at the beginning slows down the narrative for me. Plus, I don't feel like it is as out of the blue as you want it to be.

    That said I do like the way she notices him after the kiss--the physical reactions are good--noticing his smell, and her heart racing. You have some very good descriptions.

    I think I'd like to see a bit more reaction from her in the first 250 words, does she stumble back when the kiss is over? Is she angry? I get the shock during the kiss, but afterwards, a bit more reaction would be good.

    Good luck!

  3. I found the aside at the beginning jarring. I felt it threw me out of the narrative, and that's not a great thing for a second line to do.

    Aside from that, it's certainly an interesting opener. I found it a bit hard to connect with, though, mostly because I really didn't understand the narrator's reaction to the whole thing. This guy she doesn't know just pops up in the middle of the woods, grabs her, and kisses her? (Honestly, I was not a huge fan of this. She's a teen girl alone in the woods who's gotten jumped by a stranger; she definitely should've hit him in my mind.) Even if she's going to go along with it and decide it's fine, I'd expect far more shock initially. She doesn't know this man (boy?)! Instead, she came across rather blasé about the whole thing, and it seemed unnatural to me.

  4. I liked the aside, honestly - it gives a good sense of your voice - but there were too many hyphens all in a row in the first few sentences and it made them difficult to parse. I'd try to keep the aside and re-write the other sentences so you have at most one other hyphen in this excerpt.

  5. I love where you're going with this. However, the abundance of em dashes at the beginning might be a little much. I'm also a little confused... Did he just sneak up and kiss her, or had they been staring at each other after he had secretly approached? Definitely a big fan of the instant attraction though and I'd love to read more.

  6. There was something about the writing here that put me in the frame of mind to accept this situation. I suspended my disbelief, so nicely done!

    I loved the heartbeat/rocket launch analogy, as well as the thermo-nuclear chain reaction under her skin.

    The only thing I question is why you're telling all this after the fact. It seems it would be an excellent scene to show as it happens.

  7. This is certainly an interesting hook! The description of the kiss ran a tad long for me, and I still don't know how I feel about her kissing a stranger, but it's well written and I'm definitely intrigued enough to keep reading.