Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #46

GENRE: YA thriller

It's a law of nature that sooner or later my older sister will hook up with another handsome psycho who's totally out to do harm, and I'll have to break them up.

School's out for the summer and we're dragging our butts through the 93-degree woods by Donner Woods Road, picking berries for one of Mom's famous pies.

"His name is Geoffrey Whittington, the Third, and he's one of the richest men in town," Cort says in a dramatic voice.

I plunk a handful of berries into the pot and go into lecture mode. "I knew it. Sheesh. How many times do I have to tell you this? I don't care if his name is Geoffrey Whittington, the fourteenth. You have to stop choosing boyfriends based on their bank accounts. Check out their criminal records first."

From the way Cort stops picking berries, gives me a sappy smile, and her eyes go all dewy, I can tell she's a goner already. Case closed.

She stands in the shade of a cottonwood tree like a movie star. With the late afternoon sun shining down through the leaves, she looks almost angelic. Of course, she's not, and I get a weird premonition that we're both in for danger with this guy around.

On second thought, I'm not going to let this case get closed so easily. I just have to figure a way to get her attention.

Something snaps in the brush near the path and I turn to see who it is.


  1. I think the first paragraph is definitely grabbing, and at the end I want to know who's lurking! My main comment would be that the second paragraph kind of pulled me out of the moment that the first one set up. I think if you switched it with the third (or even cut it and drop a few of the details from it into the beginning of the fourth paragraph) it may keep the suspense higher and flow a little better.

  2. The first line works but when you start the second paragraph, it feels choppy. Almost like you cut something out. I like the voice though and think the last line pulls you in. Best wishes!!

  3. I love the voice of your MC and the clear relationship she(?) has with her sister. Perhaps her sister can mention her name or there can be a dress detail to give us a clue as to the identity of the voice. Most of your sentences are very strong, but a few could use some tightening. "From the way Cort stops picking berries, gives me a sappy smile, and her eyes go all dewy, I can tell she's a goner already" is just a hair too wordy. As is the dialogue when she goes into lecture mode. I don't think you need all three exclamations (I knew it, sheesh, how many times)before getting to the point. I can tell this will be a fun read!

  4. I actually like the first to second paragraph. I'm not sure how else you would transition. The first paragraph wasn't so much in-the-now as a tone-setter for the book, which I don't mind. I agree with Laura above about that sentence--it conflicts with the familiar mind, going from a prepositional phrase straight into all those comma sections. Splitting it into shorter sentences might work better, like, "Cort licks one of her purple fingers with a sappy smile. Her dewy eyes promise it. She's a goner." (Also, I've heard you shouldn't use "starts" or "stops" when it can be avoided.) I'm hooked, though!

  5. Nice voice. I found it very readable; I thought it flowed nicely. I'd read on and I don't normally read a lot of YA.

    Just a couple minor things - I'd like to know sooner if the narrator is a boy or a girl. also, JMOHO, Cort seems like an odd name for a girl.

  6. I thought this was a decent opening, but it could be stronger if you let the scene play out, rather than chatting with the reader.

    You might cut the opening parg because it's not part of the story. It's the writer saying, "Listen up, reader. This is the situation before we get started." The MC already knows everything she's saying, so there's no need for her to say it.

    There are lots of spots like this throughout the excerpt. It's the biggest problem when doing first person, but if you cut them out and make the same information evident through action, dialogue and description, you'll make this much stronger.

    ANd since this is a thriller, you might work a darker tone into the opening to set a mood.

  7. This is a solid opening, and I like the voice. I think it would be more effective without the main character's overview in the first paragraph, though, since we get a pretty clear sense of her sister's taste in guys from the dialogue alone.

  8. I like the voice too. I actually think the first sentence makes the story interesting, because we can tell her sister is going to get into some trouble. Great start for a thriller.

  9. I love the first paragraph. Totally drew me in, but the second didn't hold me as much. The voice is great, strong, but I'd like to know earlier on if the mc is male or female.

  10. I'm intrigued too. I like the banter between the siblings. The opening line is almost there, but it seems like it might need a little rephrasing or tightening. Some of the phrasinggave me pause as not sounding YA to me. Perhaps something more casual, like hot instead of handsome, and instead "one of the richest men in town" something about being loaded or uber-wealthy, or just sub in "guys" for "men." Something that will show the personality of the character a little more.

    With the description of her standing under the tree, I think you can pick the movie star or the angelic descriptor, but you probably don't need both. I like the angelic a little better given the follow up, whereas the movie star reference doesn't have any other supporting details.