Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #8

TITLE: Misery, Company, and Missy Malone
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Missy Malone hung the laundry in the hot Florida heat. She blinked as her salty sweat trickled in her eyes. Why can’t we have a dryer? she thought. Who hangs clothes on a line these days?

“Missy?" called Gladys, peering out the window. "You almost done?"

Missy grunted. “Think of the devil, and she will appear.”

Gladys was Missy's aunt and an Army veteran. She served during Desert Storm in the early nineties and lived her life like she was still in the military. She gets up and run one mile each morning. She takes Missy camping but calls it “going to the field”. And if you ask, “What time is it?” She replies, “Zero six hundred,” or “twenty-one hundred”; instead of “six o’clock or nine o’clock.”

"I know you hear me," Gladys bellowed from the window.

Missy flashed five fingers twice signaling she'll be done in ten minutes. She placed the last of the wet clothes on the line. "This better be right," she mumbled. "God knows crazy-woman will have a fit if it isn't."

Trousers, dresses, and skirts on the third line? Check. Blouses, shirts, and underwear on the second? Check. Sheets, towels, and pillowcases on the first? Check.

That’s how Aunt Gladys wanted them hung. She wouldn’t have it any other way. “Dress right dress!” she said. “Organization is the key to success.”

“Chow time, twelve-hundred.” Gladys shouted from the kitchen. “Don’t be late.”

Missy glanced at the pink and purple Barbie watch on her wrist. I have thirteen minutes, she thought.


  1. I wasn't hooked, but it had more to do with my general boredom for all things contemporary. I did like your voice and characterization, but it just doesn't sound like a story that would interest me. I love your title, however. I'm trying to think of something you can change that might've made me want to continue...I thought the way you introduced the state was clunky. Maybe if you didn't use the "speak/think of the devil" cliche. And I wanted something a little more than the usual military stereotypes for the aunt.
    Still, this is all mostly preferences, so the Secret Agent could very well like yours best! :)

  2. I'm already drawn to the obvious teen attitude of your character :)Definitely nailed the voice. But when she's mumbling I'd add 'under her breath.' or muttered to herself. Not every time, just on occasion. But that's my personal preference of course.

  3. The MC's voice is good. I think you could leave out the details about Gladys until a little's a bit of an info-dump right at the beginning. In the fourth paragraph you changed to present tense. Then it changes back to past. I am curious about the last sentence. I want to know what she has 13 minutes to do.

  4. As writers we are often cautioned not to begin with dialogue, but I think it might work to do that here, then mix in showing Missy's actions. Why can't we have a dryer? Missy Malone thought while she hung laundry...

    I agree that instead of explaining who Gladys is through narration, maybe Gladys could say something that reveals her military background, and then one line of narration can fill in that she served during Desert Storm.

    I would also suggest moving on pretty quickly from the laundry since we read books to escape things like laundry :) You've established that Missy thinks it's archaic to line-dry laundry, and that shows us something about Gladys too. So you can move on to something that will move the story forward.

  5. You've done a great job establishing the setting and characters right at the start here. Gladys is a fun character to read about, and I'll bet she was fun to write, too!

    I am a little confused about how old Missy is. She seems like a teenager at most points, but she also wears a Barbie watch and acts like a military lifestyle is the worst thing in the world.

    Also, this is more minor, but the description of Gladys slips into present tense when the rest of this is written in past tense. It was a little jarring to read through the time jump.

    Good luck with this!

  6. I think this piece is a diamond. The reason is simple the voice is good. I like the characterization of this piece. And I grew up in Florida with a grandmother who still used the clothes line. I want to read on, because I want to know the deal with a teenager wearing a Barbie watch. Why is Missy living with her Aunt? Where is the mother and does the watch have something to do with this. I want to read it. This is great! :D

  7. Great character names! I like that you’re establishing the relationship right up front, but I wonder if playing around with the order of the paragraphs would give you a little more punch here. Personally, I loved the “Trousers, dresses, and skirts…” line—maybe you could move that up to the first paragraph, then show us the exchange between Gladys and Missy, and bump that the background info on Gladys down a bit?

  8. Aunt Gladys is what drew me in. You've portrayed her as an interesting, quirky character.

    I did wonder about the MC's age. The Barbie watch made her seem younger than a teen.

    You could cut the parg describing AUnt Gladys because you do show her military background later, in the last few pargs.

    Small nit - say she hung the clothes 'on the line' in the hot, Florida heat.