Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March Secret Agent #50

GENRE: Adult Contemporary Romance

Kat Chandler glanced down at her dark grey skirt and pink chiffon blouse as she walked up the sidewalk to the school’s entrance, and released a breath.

It didn’t matter that she was no longer that scrawny little girl with hand-me-down clothes and a hungry belly. Or that she was the principal of this school now. Nope. The first day of school still turned her into a bundle of twisted, knotted nerves, and after last year, she had good reason.

She scrambled for the keys in her briefcase and unlocked the school’s doors, her heart lifting a little at the sight of her home away from home. Then a loud metallic crash echoed down the empty hall. She jumped.

There it was again.

Setting her briefcase down, she strode toward the west wing, walking faster as the sound combined with children’s laughter. Oh, no. Over the summer, she’d arrived twice to find that vandals had spray painted lovely messages on the side of the building—messages she didn’t want Seaside’s parents to see.

She stopped before pushing the door open and reminded herself that whoever the culprit, they were just kids. There was no such thing as a bad kid, just a kid who needed something: time, love, attention.

With a hard push, she ran outside, seeing a blur of color vanish into the woods. “No! Wait!” She started to run, then stopped, grumbling a few choice words under her breath. She’d never catch them in these ridiculous heels.


  1. I think this is a really strong opening page. I got a good sense of the protagonist and have a feeling the first day of school is about to take a bad turn for her. I like the hint of past trouble for her as principal.

    By "lovely messages," I assume you mean the opposite, so I might rephrase?

    Also in the last paragraph, you might say "She gave the door a hard push and ran outside."

    Good luck!

  2. The second paragraph did a solid job of hooking me. Your writing had a good amount of tension and suspense.

    "She scrambled for the keys in her briefcase and unlocked the school’s doors, her heart lifting a little at the sight of her home away from home." Right here, I might describe what she is looking at. Just a second ago she was anxious, so what is soothing her? The orderly rows of orange-colored lockers, perhaps? The cool, clean-swept linoleum tiles of the floor?

    My only critique would be that the sound was coming from inside. For her to go outside, it would probably be cool and even more suspenseful if she was chasing the sound, following hints of someone just ahead of her. It was just a little strange for the sound to be inside and for her to go outside.

  3. I don't know if you need that 1st paragraph - I think it might be stronger if you started with the 2nd and included her name there. Good job though - you pulled me in!

  4. I liked this opening. I like the thought of the teacher being the one nervous for the first day back at school. I liked your voice, and your character intrigued me enough to keep reading.

  5. This intrigues me. I would definitely read on. I am loving the voice and the flow of the story. I am hooked.

  6. I definitely was rooting for this m.c. I think you are balancing the elements very well. There was something about the skirt and the pink chiffon blouse that felt dated. Perhaps find some choices that feel more now in terms of clothing.

  7. I agree with Jemi. The 1st paragraph could probably be cut.

  8. I like this set-up. However, I think you're trying to do too much in these opening paragraphs. Is it necessary for us to know right away that she was poor and now she's the principal?

    I was also a little confused with the descriptions. She's inside and she walks toward the west wing and then she pushes the door open. What door? The door to the west wing, I thought. Then she's outside so I was confused. Why not simply and just have her hear the kids before she enters the school? She could go around the corner and see them running into the woods.

    Nice start! Take this one needs to go through a critique group and it should be ready to submit.

  9. I love that you have humanized a principal. I remember growing up and thinking my principal actually lived at the school (night and day), but when I ran into her at the grocery store - shocker! - I realized she had a life, home, family outside of work.

    Keep going with this character and see where she takes you. I'd be curious to find out...

  10. This is an intriguing opening that definitely invites me to read more. The vandalism and her past experiences are some good hooks into the story.

    There are just a couple places where I'd either tone things down a bit or build them up a little more.

    In your opening you have the "wardrobe check" for the character. I believe this is unnecessary sine you do a great job of telling us about the character in the very next paragraph.

    Conversely, I don't feel there are enough details about the incident from last year, or about what the vandals wrote. A few more details might enhance the sense of dread we should be feeling along with her.

    All in all, a good start. Good luck!


  11. I like the premise: a principal shows up for a day of work and encounters a phantom hooligan.

    It might work a little better if you don't give so much information at the start and really stick to the scene.

    For instance, instead of going into her past, stay very focused on this scene, what is written on the walls, what she might be afraid of, what she wants, or doesn't want, etc. Maybe she could throw off her heels and chase after the runner.

    Keep at it! This could be a very interesting story.

  12. It's great that something is happening right away with a clear sense of setting.

    The first line feels like it's working a little too hard. I would suggest thinking of a line that really hooks. A comment or statement in close point-of-view that shows your character's personality or what she thinks of the beginning school year. Then you can show her walking into the school. Not every open line in every book is dynamic, but why not make yours? (just a thought!)

    I don't think you need the part reflecting on when she is poor, not this early. It will probably fit better later in the chapter or story.

    A few places you can omit physical actions; such as when she sets her briefcase down. Do we really need to know that? Or can you just show her walking toward the sound that she heard?