Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March Secret Agent #27

TITLE: Vision
GENRE: Young Adult

I heard the tired groan of the ancient floorboard too late. Now, I was hunkered down behind my nine year old daughter’s tulle swathed canopy bed. My Glock 17 sidearm was, as usual when I was home, locked in my biometric gun safe in the master bedroom. Jackhammer heavy rain pounded the concrete moat surrounding our normally safe brownstone.

Slumbering peacefully, we were startled awake by the sound of movement. We rushed to check on our daughter, hopefully snoozing soundly in her bedroom down the hall, and not perilously sleepwalking as she had so often before. When we reached her doorway and saw her cherubic face, her long lashes dusting her cheeks, and the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest, we momentarily relaxed, until, through the brief quiet of a lull in the storm we heard an intruder stealthily opening drawers and cabinets downstairs. I couldn’t imagine what he could possibly want, but I knew from experience, if he was brazen enough to come into an occupied house in the middle of the night, he would have no difficulty killing for it. I silently berated myself for not having the foresight to grab my weapon when we heard the noise. I should have known better.

“I’m going to get my gun”, I declared to my wife Lara who was huddled next to me with our daughter Shelby, now awake, and taking cover with us behind the legion of fluffy stuffed animals shielding her bed.


  1. I'm a little thrown off by by this being listed as YA, when the protagonist is married with a 9 year old child?

    Also, the sequence is off for me. We start with him crouched behind the bed, then the next two paragraphs go back and explain how he got there. I don't think you need that. Just keep with him behind the bed and show what happens next.

    Good luck!

  2. This does not read like a young adult to me. A family with a 9-yr-old? Will this have some grown-up subject and eventually the main character will be the child? I am lost.

  3. Hi and thank you for commenting. This is the prologue which is in the father's voice and takes place 9 years earlier. The rest is from the point of view of a 17 year old.

  4. I guess I'm really confused now. Who is the seventeen year old supposed to be? If it's the nine year old hiding behind the bed 9+9=18.

    I don't know where I read it, but I once saw that prologues and epilogues don't sit well with agents and editors. That aside, maybe this scene could be places somewhere else in the book as a brief flashback of the seventeen year old?

    If it really needs to be here, however, I think having a change in voice (this is the Dad's voice and you say the main story will be from the teen's perspective) might be super confusing.

    Not that I'm a grammar queen, but I also see a few comma mistakes in the last paragraph. Good luck with your project!

  5. I agree with A Little Push that the sequence confused me a bit. We started behind the bed, then we were slumbering peacefully. It pulled me out of the story to figure out that it was going back in time.

    Also the changing back and forth between "I" and "we" was confusing until the last paragraph when you explained he was with his wife. So they both got up to check on the daughter? (Small item, but wouldn't just one typically get up and check on things?)

    In the last paragraph, "declared" seems loud for the situation. Maybe "whispered" could work?

    Good luck!!

  6. I'm not sure a prologue with an adult male works for YA. I think that would be a tough sell. Is there a way to work in what you want to show through this prologue in a different way later in the book? If anything, writing all this out as scene has probably devloped the backstory nicely. I would suggest starting with the MC and elude to the past in snippets as necessary. Start with the current action in the story.

  7. ^edited to add: I think any adult prologue would be confusing (not just male) in a YA book, unless maybe it was the MC who had time traveled and it was their future self? Something like that might work.

  8. This is a book about past lives. At the end of the prologue the father dies. His death and his prior lives are important to the story. I have thought about taking the prologue out totally and possibly doing as you suggested and sprinkling it in throughout the book, but people who have read the complete manuscript wanted it to stay where it is. I am torn.

  9. The whole past lives/Prologue might make more sense to a reader who has the benefit of a book blurb or an agent who has the benefit of a query letter. As it stands, for this format, it's confusing.

    As for the rest of the opening, I was really bogged down in all the language: tired groan, ancient floorboard, hunkered down, tulle swathed canopy bed, biometric gun safe, Jackhammer heavy rain, concrete moat, normally safe brownstone. And that's only in the first paragraph. There really doesn't need to be that much description. It takes away from the scene. It would be better to use this space to build the tension of the situation rather than to pepper us with details.

    Also, the 3rd sentence in the 2nd paragraph is nearly 50 words long. That's 1/5 of the entire excerpt. Don't worry about her cherubic face or long lashes or rhythmic breathing, and instead focus on the parents' reactions, the daughter's reaction, the fear and frustration of the moment. Readers connect to emotion not detail.

  10. This one is not sucking me in. Sorry.

    you are starting with flashback. I heard the sound too late. Now you're in your daughters bedroom and you're tell me what happened in the past (five minutes is still the past). You heard the groan too late.

    The second paragraph is all flashback.

    Why not write this as a scene?

    I jerked awake. Rain was pounding the roof. Was that what woke me? I heard a sound a in the hall.

    My wife woke, then. "Susan!" she said. Our daughter had been sleepwalking lately. Last time we'd found her in the kitchen cutting tomatoes with a sharp knife.

    We hurried to the hall to check on Susan. She was fine. Asleep in her bed. That's when we heard the intruder downstairs. And, oh dang, there I was in my daughter's room and my glock was back in my bedroom safe.

    OK I'm leaving out the rich details. But my point is that you can paint this scene and it would be much more dramatic than telling it in flashbacks. We want to see what he sees and feel what he feels. When you tell us about it later there's not as much tension.

    Anytime you go backward, you lose the forward momentum and you risk losing your readers.

    I don't know where the story is going, but you have some good descriptions--the rain is nicely done. I like the gun and the safe. Keep working on it.

  11. Ack. Sorry for all the typos. I'm typing fast.