Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #2

TITLE: Shinigami Eyes

It's not like I killed him, so why are they treating me like this? As if I'm a frigging convict being shipped away. At least I'm going to Tokyo and not some small village devoid of civilisation.

My cousin, Haruka—someone I haven't seen in nearly ten years—walks down the aisle of the train. She's still dressed in her navy blue skirt and shirt with a navy neckerchief that makes her school uniform look like a sailor uniform. I follow, pulling my large suitcase along behind me.

A shudder runs up my spine as I hear the soft patter of anxious and excited feet that bounce along at my rear. I force myself to focus on where I'm going, and ignore the small Japanese girl with long black hair swishing behind her in time with her bouncy steps and pretend she doesn’t actually exist.

"Can you believe we're here?" The small girl, Misa gasps. For the last ten years the six year old hasn’t aged, and refuses to go away. "I've always wanted to come back to Tokyo."

Haruka lets me slide into my seat first, taking the window seat, and I force my bag into the gap between my legs and the seat in front of me. I rest my head on the black and grey chequered headrest and push the earphones into my ears, turning the music up to block out all of the unwanted noise —namely the loud talking from the girl who's not meant to exist.


  1. I liked the promise of a story set in Tokyo. The opening hook is effective -- I want to know what the narrator did and why she's been sent away. I did think you might want to simplify the second sentence and cut one of the uses of 'uniform'.

    This was unclear to me: If the 'small Japanese girl' is behind the narrator, how does she know her long black hair is swishing? Even if this is something the narrator knows from past experience, maybe you can find another spot to include the info?

    A couple picky points -- I think you should add a comma after 'For the last ten years,' and consider switching 'the' to 'a' in 'loud talking from the girl who's not meant to exist.

  2. I enjoy reading books that are set in a different country, but there were a few problems that stopped me.

    The first line grabs you with a hint of some dramatic event, but the rest of this opening sounds more like MG drama than YA.

    "still dressed" makes it sound like Haruka's been wearing the same clothes for 10 years.

    A "shudder up the spine" is too creepy a reaction for a little girl's chatter.

    I'd say "behind me" instead of "at my rear" (which sounds like the feet are bouncing toward or on her backside).

    Could delete "and pretend she doesn't actually exist." "Ignore" covers it.

    If the MC knows Misa, why doesn't she just identify her right away instead of referring to her as the small Japanese girl? If the girl is behind her, how can the MC see the bouncy hair?

    Wait, what?? A six-year-old hasn't aged in ten years? The genre wasn't specified as sci/fi.

    The MC sits first, then Haruka. What happened to Misa, who seemed to be with them?

    The foreign setting and characters could be really interesting! Good luck.

  3. I think you write well and the hook to a story in Japan with a disgruntled narrator is interesting. I was a bit confused with the dynamic of being introduced to Haruka in front of the narrator right and then immediately being introduced to the little girl behind the narrator. Also, the opening might be a bit too dramatic. We're plopped right into the story but struggling too much to catch up.

  4. You caught my interest with the girl that hasn’t aged in ten years, but overall, it’s a hard read, in that I don’t know the ‘why’ of anything, and there are no connections. First, you offer some guy she did something to, (interesting) and it’s obviously bad because she’s being sent away, but I don’t know what she did. I could wait to find out if there was something to connect us to that man somewhere else on the page, but there isn’t, so the first line, to me, is more gimmick than story—a teaser that goes nowhere.

    The rest is 3 girls finding a seat on a train. There’s that one interesting line about Misa not aging in ten years, but who is Misa? Is she real? Is it only the MC who can see her?
    Then you tell us Haruka is her cousin, but nothing else about her. So I’m introduced to 3 different people, but not really told anything about them.

    I don’t know where the MC is being sent to in Tokyo – a relative’s home? A school? A home for incorrigible girls? Granted, you can’t get it all in on the first age, and you probably shouldn’t, but there should be a main focus.

    I think Misa is your hook, not getting sent away. That could come later as backstory. I’d keep reading for a bit longer, but if there was no focus soon, you'd lose me.

  5. Your opening sentence really grabs me. Who is dead? To make it even more impactful you could say "It's not like I killed him. Why are they treating me like this? It's like I'm a frigging convict being shipped away." The shorter sentences could help build tension and show agitation on the part of the narrator. But that's just a personal style thing. I like it either way.

    Misa intrigues me. Is she a ghost or is your narrator experiencing a form of early psychosis? If she is then I can somewhat understand the swishing hair without seeing it- it would be a hallucination she was used to and therefore had a strong memory of. But if not you may want to have the narrator say she can hear her hair swishing rather than have the reader think she can see it.

    Interesting piece!

  6. Hm, not sure I'm hooked. The first line is good, but I was a bit confused after that. There's a bit of overwriting "She's still dressed in her navy blue skirt and shirt with a navy neckerchief that makes her school uniform look like a sailor uniform", "Haruka lets me slide into my seat first, taking the window seat, and I force my bag into the gap between my legs and the seat in front of me".

    Also, I get the feeling that the girl Misa is imaginary (or a ghost or something), so then this line: "...with her bouncy steps and pretend she doesn't actually exist" doesn't really make sense, because as I understand it, she DOESN'T exist. You could say, "...and pretend she doesn't exist - which, I remind myself, she doesn't" (okay, that's not great, but hopefully you know what I mean).

    Also, careful with your grammar - there's a comma missing here:
    "The small girl, Misa gasps."
    That should be: "The small girl, Misa, gasps." It's a small mistake, but to me, the first 250 words should be word-perfect. They're the first - and maybe only - thing the agent/editor/reader will see. ((Which is not to say, of course, that the rest shouldn't be perfect, too!))

  7. I may be a bit confused as well but it seems that Misa is a ghost, yes? I'm intrigued by a lot of things in these initial paragraphs the "not like I killed him" line, the potential ghost girl, the Tokyo story (yay diversity!). So this is a lot and I'm intrigued as noted but I'm a bit confused.

    It's stated twice that Misa shouldn't exist but she does seem to or at least this is the narrator's core belief?

    Who's the 'they' in the first line? I like that there's not a lot of exposition upfront but would like slightly more details on the first page. But I do feel settled into this world because I know they're headed to Tokyo and are on a train in Asia heading there. So some slight clarifications could tighten this up a bit more but it can sometimes be hard to get a clear sense of intent from 250 words.

    Great job and I am hooked.

  8. You have a nice strong opening paragraph that intrigued me right away. It lulls a bit between then and when Misa talks. I'm a bit of a sucker for paranormal/supernatural stuff, so the idea of a girl who does age (Is she dead? Is she some kind of immortal being?) has me hooked.

    Other than the hook of the girl who doesn't age, there isn't a whole lot going on in this opening. Knowing the backstory (who, what, where, etc.) isn't as important to me at the beginning of a story as the conflict that will propel the intrigue. So if you could find a way to have a little more happening than just her finding a seat, I think that would be an improvement.

    But overall, I would read on. Good luck!

  9. I like your concept here, and the setting and tone. Immediate intrigue--good!
    Yet when the girl is walking down the aisle, I lose track of who is where, and if there are two girls or one or three and a ghost. I suggest really honing in on that part and making clear who is a ghost.
    Nice work! Thank you for sharing.

  10. The setting and characters immediately hooked me, though overall I'm a bit puzzled at what's happening.

    The opening has a ton of potential. I think some momentum is lost when the character asks herself the questions, so how about simply:

    It's not like I killed him.

    That's a great first line that pulls the reader in. I want to read the second line after that. Since we don't yet know who "they" are or how they are treating her, the question tacked on kind of loses steam.

    You could then go right into the rest:
    >The [name them--a group? her family?] treated me as if I'm a frigging convict. Shipping me away [how does the character feel about this?]

    Also, maybe you could orient the reader to where they are currently--are they in Japan and taking the train to Tokyo? Is your character Japanese? If so, then would she name another character as also being Japanese? That identifier may not be needed at all if you give context to the setting.

    I'm also intrigued by the girl who doesn't age but I'm unsure if this story has a paranormal bent or if this is an expression. The shudder seems off as a reaction to seeing a girl, but if we know she's a ghost girl, that makes sense.

    The other thing to consider is whether this is the right place to start. Would it work to start the story after they are done traveling? Only because transportation scenes are often not the most engaging starting points. Stepping off the train maybe.

    Good luck, it sounds like the start to a fantastic story.

  11. I really love your opening paragraph! And the idea of Tokyo as a setting is appealing. But the switch in the second paragraph to Haruka, her cousin, feels a bit disjointed to me. I want to know more about why she's going to Tokyo. By the time we get to Misa I'm not sure what's going on.

    Some of your descriptions seem a bit awkward: "She's still dressed in her navy blue skirt and shirt with a navy neckerchief that makes her school uniform look like a sailor uniform."

  12. Opening in Japan, and on a train, feels really fresh and different. That pulled me in immediately.

    I see that you're trying to reveal information slowly and organically, which I like-- you're avoiding an info dump. That said, this may be a bit *too* confusing. I'm guessing Misa, and perhaps Haruka, are either hallucinations or ghosts? Explaining why they haven't aged in ten years? It's okay to leave your reader scratching his or her head for a little while, but you may need to resolve some of this a little more clearly, and soon.

    But a super unique opening. I'm curious to see where it goes.