Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #4

TITLE: An Uncommon Blue
GENRE: YA Sci-fi

There are three unspoken rules in high school rugby.

1. Your team members are family.

2. You support your family.

3. This support must be shown periodically with an affectionate slap on the butt.

After four years as the starting right winger, I had almost gotten used to this.

Almost. At least I no longer felt the urge to bloody my teammate’s nose when they tried it. But in the middle of the hall? No way. During school hours my glutes were off limits.

I whirled around to explain this to whichever of my idiotic team members was behind me, only to find myself face to face with an attractive redhead.

“Hey, Bruno,” Drea said with a smirk. “Ready for the test?”

I opened my mouth but no sound came out.

Even with her super-short hair, Drea was stunning. Before last summer she’d often been mistaken for a boy. But that all ended when puberty hit. With both fists.

I recovered from my embarrassment enough to nod.

She leaned against the lockers. Her face reflected the light from her blue palm as she twisted an earring. “History should be a breeze compared to pre-calc. I wanted to stab myself in the eye when I got to that section on antiderivatives.”

I grunted and fumbled with my combination.

Without warning she came up close and spoke in a half-whisper. Her hair smelled like coconut. “I know someone that likes you. If you hurry up with that lock, we might have time to talk before the final.”


  1. Love this! You had me at Rugby and the male point of view. Definitely would read on. Great tension between the hero and girl.

  2. This is nicely done. The list makes a lot of white space early on, so it drew my eye in, and then reading the list was pretty amusing (especially #3) so I was very happy to keep on. You've got a fun narration that's easy to get lost in.

    A grammar nitpick -- I think "teammate's" should be "teammates'" since it's more than one person giving the offending slap.

    Yeah, that's about all I've got critique-wise.

  3. This is well-written, and we get right into the story. I'm not getting any sci-fi vibes, but I can wait for that, provided it turns up quickly.

    What stood out to me was Bruno. To me, Bruno sounds like a girl. I'm not getting any sense of maleness from him at all. At one point, I even went back to reread, thinking this might be about a lesbian relationship. Perhaps reconsider your word choices and sentence structure. The voice comes off (again, to me) as that of a female writer rather than a teenage boy.

    Aside from that, I thought the opening worked. You've introduced two interesting characters and stuck them in a situation.

  4. I'm curious on the Sci-Fi label since this reads straight contemporary.

    I really like the first line and the list. The first line after, when it says "I had almost gotten used to this," what is "this"? The list? The team, or the butt slap? The following section when it says "when they tried it," I assume this means the butt slap, so maybe say that rather than "it" to keep us in the loop. I'm sure there are dozens of creative ways to say butt slap :)

    Another nitpick, he sees "an attractive redhead" and then the next line "Drea said." So he knows this attractive redhead, she's not a stranger. The set up felt a little off. It sounds like she's a stranger but she's not. Attractive redhead reads older to me, so maybe that descriptor can be dropped for something more direct.

    I'm wondering if you can fit a science fiction element in somewhere here. Any detail of the setting or what takes this from contemporary. Just a small detail or two can really help to establish time/place/era/genre.

  5. I love some of the language you chose. Very engaging. My favorite line: "With both fists."

    My biggest tip would be the ubiquitous "show, don't tell" rule. Instead of saying "she was stunning," describe what she looks like and SHOW her stunningness through describing his reaction to her. Instead of saying "Without warning she came up close and spoke in a half-whisper. Her hair smelled like coconut," SHOW the lack of warning in his surprise when he is suddenly engulfed in the smell of coconut. Maybe he rears back and knocks into her, and then gets super more embarrassed. Whenever you can, show, don't tell. This will probably make your manuscript considerably longer. ;)

    Also, be mindful of your POV. How narrow do you want it to be? If it is really strictly from Bruno's POV, he wouldn't know she suddenly moved in close until he noticed that she was at his ear. Just like he didn't know who was behind him slapping his oh-so-toned rugby glutes until he turned around.

    Tip numero 3, details. You can say volumes about a character with one small detail. For example, she was twisting her earring, but what kind of earring? If it's a diamond earring, the reader knows she's rich. If it's a flower-shaped earring, readers will suspect she's kind of girly. Etc.

  6. I really liked this. Bruno's voice is interesting and something I'd definitely keep reading. I also love the male POV because that's not something that's done often enough and you do it so well.

    I'm also intrigued about the "blue palm". I will say I'm having a hard time visualizing that, but I don't know that it isn't a problem that would be solved with more in depth information about the book the further you read, you know? Your genre says sci-fi, so I'm assuming she's an alien or something. Lol.

    But all things considered I think this page is very well written and definitely hooks readers. I really liked this a lot.

  7. I am loving this POV. The voice is amazing. I love the hook. I love the list. I think it works well for this piece. Good luck :D

  8. Really loved the voice on this one. Not just engaging and a bit witty, but also felt authentically "YA" (at least, to me who has not been a teenager for quite a while . . .)

    My only nitpick would be that "I whirled around to explain this to whichever of my idiotic team members was behind me, only to find myself face to face with an attractive redhead." - the "attractive redhead" makes it sound like it's someone new whom the MC hasn't met before. That's obviously corrected immediately afterward, but it threw me off my stride for a bit.