Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #44

TITLE: Becca's War
GENRE: YA historial fiction

“Be careful,” I snapped. Some people just needed to learn manners! Kensington Station was crowded and I was close to the tracks. I almost lost my balance as someone jostled me. Then I felt a hand on my elbow to steady me.

“Sorry, Miss.” I looked up at a tall young man, who grinned at me and doffed his hat.

I nodded at him and straightened my own hat, which he had knocked astray by his carelessness. At least he’d apologized. I turned back to see that Papa and Gramps were still in the same argument.

“Mark my words,” said Gramps, as his train pulled into the station. “There is going to be a war.”

I shivered, and not just from the chilly air. I’d been hearing this talk for weeks and it always terrified me. I had heard Gramps talk about the Mexican War often enough. It didn’t sound like something that I wanted to experience. I looked around for something to take my mind off their discussion. Not far away, the young man who had bumped me was standing near the train that would take Gramps and Gran home after their visit. He saw me look at him, swept his hat off, and bowed deeply, a huge smile on his face. Then he stood again and winked at me.

Well, I never! Mama didn’t like me to come to Philadelphia because she said that all the young men were forward, but I always thought that was just Mama. Now, I wasn’t sure.


  1. I find this piece intriguing. I think a little more description, some sensory detail will make this pop. I also got confused for a moment in the last sentence because I thought it was her mother that said that. I'm assuming the MC is thinking it. Bes of luck!!

  2. You do a great job of setting the scene, I found it very easy to visualize.

    The first paragraph felt a little awkward to me, particularly in the last two lines. Be careful of cause and effect and showing and not telling. For example, I'd revise the last two lines of your first paragraph to:

    "Someone jostled me and I almost lost my balance. A moment later I felt a handy on my elbow steadying me."

    In paragraph 5, be careful of more telling instead of showing. We can gauge that the MC is terrified by her shivering (would "shudder" be better here?) and I'd rather see her terror through her actions than be told she is terrified.

  3. This reads to me MG in terms of writing style, lots of telling/scene setting, etc. I love historical fiction, though, and I'm curious about where it's going.

  4. I love historical fiction! There are some intriguing things going on here.One thing that stood out to me was that I didn't understand why she said the boy was forward. I didn't see his actions as forward personally, he seemed to be just being polite. I also felt like there needed to be more tension here. How is this war going to affect her? Where is she coming from? Aside from the meeting with the boy (which wasn't very tense), I'm not sure what the conflict is going to be.

  5. I agree with Michelle above about the cause and effect, and being careful to show and not tell. Perhaps a line at the beginning to tell us the time and place? For example: Philadelphia 1847.
    I haven't seen many historical novel with the Mexican-American war as a backdrop and this sounds intriguing. Also I think you could add a bit more historical detail to set the scene even more vividly. Good job!

  6. This is a good story, but needs more show. The part: "Some people just needed to learn manners! Kensington Station was crowded and I was close to the tracks. I almost lost my balance as someone jostled me. Then I felt a hand on my elbow to steady me." Show this rather than tell.
    Also, some of the words/phrases seem too modern for me.

  7. If he doffed his hat, he took it off entirely. I assume he tipped it to show respect?

  8. I thought you did a nice job of setting up the situation. My guess is we are on the verge of WWI, and that the war with Mexico was Grampa's war. And then we have the introduction of the man who will be a love interest.

    You might show the first parg. Set up the scene by showing us a busy train station, then let her be jostled and show her stumble. SHow someone grabbing her arm. Show her hat being knocked askew. Showing always offers the reader more than telling.

    You could also add more atmosphere by adding context clues. A description of the station can pull the reader back to whatever time frame this is. What type of hat is the man wearing? That simple fact can tell us if he's wealthy or working class, as well as when this takes place. Using some well-placed description eliminates the need to tell the reader certain things.

  9. I'm intrigued. I like that we open at the train station, and think there's room for some additional description here to give us a really great feel for the time period. The first paragraph felt a little off to me; as a couple of the comments have mentioned, you might consider reworking that a bit to show us how busy the train station is, and then how the run-in with the man plays out. Overall, though, I enjoyed this!