Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March Secret Agent #15

TITLE: Wilderness
GENRE: Young Adult Romance

An hour before Mrs. Whitman’s funeral, I’m in chemistry class, staring down at a test. My heart sinks as I flip through the pages.

Mia looks about to cry. When I’d quizzed her at lunchtime, I was positive this would be a multiple choice test, and an easy one at that.

Oh, how wrong I was.

I look at the first question. Why do stars shine? Write a detailed paragraph about the elements involved and state three true things about each one.

It’s an essay test. A chemistry essay test.

Mia raises her hand to go to the bathroom. Mumbles something about cramps.

Dr. McCray hesitates. She’s not fooling him, but he nods anyway.

Mia’s out the door.

She doesn’t have cramps. I saw her go into the Dean’s office after lunch, and I never got a chance to ask her what it was all about. She’s upset about something more than this test, I can feel it.

I should follow her, make sure she’s okay, but what if I miss half the test? My scholarship depends on me maintaining straight-A’s.

Feeling guilty, I pick up my pencil.

Stars transform vast amounts of hydrogen into helium.

Someone behind me starts tapping their pencil.

Hydrogen is the lightest gas that feeds the sun.

Tap, tap, tap. Whoever that is, please stop with all the tapping. Great, now I’m blanking out. Think. Focus.

Hydrogen only has one proton and one neutron.

I get the feeling that left to herself, Mia might not come back.


  1. I really enjoyed this! You packed a lot of information about the characters and set up into this 250 without it feeling forced.

    It's a little bit choppy, but that also shows the MC's state of mind. I would read on.

    Good luck!

  2. Your MC's voice is very believable. I love being right there in her head and in the moment. This is very good and I'd definitely keep reading!

  3. I really like your character's voice, but the first thing that put me off was the telling, and because of it, I probably wouldn't read on. But I wish you all the luck!

  4. The voice is great and there is already tension on the page leading to more. I am a little stuck on the mention of a funeral in the first line and then nothing more on the subject. Maybe tie this back in somehow, or save mention of the funeral for another page? Right now it feels out there and isolated.

  5. I agree with Stephsco, we are told about this funeral and then left hanging. I was thinking Mia was upset about the funeral too until we find out the MC doesn't know why she is upset.

    I really like your voice though, and I was intrigued.

  6. I like the voice. I was under the impression that the funeral was a major focus, but since it is not mentioned later, then it must be a minor detail. If so, why mention it at all? Especially, so early? I would read more.

  7. I love the voice and the interspersion of chemistry facts. That works just wonderfully.

    I agree that the mention of the funeral seems out of place since the mc doesn't seem to have any more consciousness about it--which makes her seem cold and that seems out of character. After all, we know she's worried about Mia.

  8. This is a really choppy opening for me. I don't why the funeral was even brought up at this point since the test and Mia are the main focus. And I'm not sure why every sentence warrants its own paragraph. From "Feeling guilty" on I can see it. It makes sense and works perfectly for the break in thoughts, but the rest could flow a little better. Also, if the beginning flows in full paragraphs, the choppiness in the second half will stand out more (which is a good thing).

    I like the MC's voice, but I'm not hooked enough by the test and the friend. Maybe if I had the benefit of a blurb to give me a hint of what was to come, I would continue reading because of the voice, but not as it stands. Sorry.

  9. Like others, I wondered why you led with the funeral then never mentioned it again. Without the funeral, we're left with a chemistry test and a small mystery with Mia. That mystery seems to be your hook. Perhaps you could build on that more. My thought is you probably can't do much in this classroom setting, so you might consider starting somewhere else where you can.

  10. Love the voice. Very realistic to be distracted and worried about a friend when taking a test. This is something every student can relate to. I would definitely keep reading!

  11. I liked this a lot and I would keep reading.

    My one question is about why the main character saw Mia going into the dean's office but didn't know why.

    They quizzed at lunchtime and then I'm wondering why they didn't walk to class together. So I'm thinking this chemistry class wasn't right after lunch. They went to different classes. And the main character saw Mia going to the Dean's office. And she hasn't been able to talk to Mia since. But why didn't Mia tell her she was going to the Dean's office while they were at lunch? They aren't that close? Or they are close, but they don't tell each other everything the way my friends and I did when we were in school?

    So just with that one line, it feels off to me. I'm thinking good friend don't wonder why one goes into the dean's office. Good friends know these things. And they must be good friends if the main character knows mia well enough to know she's upset about more than the test.

    This is far more thinking than you want readers to do. That one line stopped me. Pulled me out of the story so I could wonder "If they know each other this well, why does one have a secret from the other? And why would you share with the dean before you'd share with your good friend?"

    That said, I think the writing is good. I know something about the main character--I know not the gender, but I know she is smart, a good friend, is going to college--that's not bad for the first 250 words. And I also know Mia is in trouble and someone has died.

    Yes, I'd read on.