Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #48

TITLE: Balancing Act
GENRE: YA Contemporary Romance

My ankle always let me know when it was about to rain. It would get stiff, and when I walked it would twinge something awful. Sometimes it even collapsed. At those times, it was best to let the pain win. At those times, I’d have to pull out the brace.

On Monday morning when I went to open my bedroom window to let in the fall air, the familiar weakness spiked through me. I took a step, and fell to one knee. I sighed and ran my fingers through my hair. So it was going to be one of those days. I stood and hopped one-footed to my closet, an air of gloom already surrounding me. I had gone almost two weeks without having to wear the stupid brace.

From the back of the closet, hidden in a jumble of boots and sandals, I pulled the brace. It was an ugly, bulky thing, black with ridiculously long laces and Velcro. I glared at it, as if it were the source of all my trouble.

As I sat down and cinched it around my foot, rain began pattering against the fir tree outside my window. I smiled grimly. My ankle was better than a weatherman.

I hobbled downstairs, my backpack slung over one shoulder and my favorite red suede boots covering the black monstrosity.

“Morning, dear,” my mom said from the kitchen as she poured some store-brand corn flakes into a bowl for my little brother, Michael. We didn’t have name brand food in our house.


  1. I like the voice and the feel, especially the aching of the ankle. It's hard to be sure whether I'd turn the page based on voice alone, but so far there's no action or situation that makes me need to know more. There probably is on the next few pages.

  2. The writing itself is clear and strong, and I like the voice. However, there's nothing that really makes me want to read on. I'm not saying you have to jump right into an action scene, but maybe just adding one or two lines that hint at some future conflict/action might draw a reader in more. :) Great voice though!

  3. The voice is distinct, but it feels very old or old fashioned to me. The fact that she's complaining about aches is part of it, but when she says it hurts "something awful" I am reminded of my grandmother. I don't know that a modern day teen would think/talk like that.

    I am interested to know what her injury is, but there's just not enough happening to pull me through. We have a sore ankle, rain, and breakfast. What will she be facing today or this week? What is weighing on her? Is there conflict (even if it's not the major conflict) with her mom or brother? I need the promise of more plot to pull me through to the next pages.

  4. There's a nice voice here though it reads to me like someone much older, not a teen. Bones signaling bad weather and letting air in through the window both feel like things older adults do or focus on. If this was historical it might work but the genre is contemporary and I just don't get a contemporary feel from this. Perhaps reshape this based on what a teen would focus on--like the suede boots covering the brace, maybe there is anxiety over whether kids will notice?

    It may also be that this isn't quite the right place to start the story. We hear all the time it's cliché to start a book with waking up and starting the day (I've personally written a cliché wake-up beginning). What's an engaging place to start where you can show your character with this same issue, perhaps fast forwarded to school where the brace is an issue and she has to make a choice whether to hide or expose it? I wish I knew more about the story, sometimes it's hard to suggest feedback based on such a short sample!

    Good luck!

  5. I agree that the mc feels older. Part of it is the words, part is the amount of time spent on describing the problem. I'd rather get real details of what happened to her ankle or see her deal with the day because of the brace.
    I did like her voice though. One question - would a normal boot cover up a "monstrosity"?

  6. The MC feels older to me. Right now there isn't a lot to keep me reading. Your first paragraph could be condensed to one sentence within the second paragraph to get things moving. But 250 words is so hard to share much! I am left with curiosity to what she's done to need a brace.

  7. I like the voice. It is clear and distinct. I particularly liked the sentence about not eating branded food and I am intrigued by what may have caused her to wear a brace but I have to agree that there isn't much of a hook to keep my interest piqued to make me continue reading.

  8. My thought is that you've started this too early. Everything that happens here is the stuff that normally happens every day. Start at the point, or just before the point, when things are different.

  9. The ankle is talked about like the pain the situation is past tense - does something happen that makes it better? Maybe try present tense? I've worn a leg brace - hated the damn thing - its awful when you're young. You can't "blend in" - you can't be "one of the kids" maybe approach the loathsome, but necessary, brace from that angle and it would sound more like a kid. And I want to feel the mc's pain, not listen to her passively talk about it.

  10. I agree with H G that perhaps the opening lines should be in present tense. I assume this is an ongoing phenomenon?

    I do think the prose could be tightened a bit here and there. When our narrator sighs, we understand her frustration, her pain. We don't need "So it was going to be one of those days." It's implied she feels this way! (Also, a small thing- but avoid fingers running through hair. This is a bit of a y.a. cliche and can make editors cringe- fairly or not).

    Unfortunately, I probably wouldn't read on. I pity this narrator, but pity isn't a strong, compelling feeling. She strikes me as a bit of a sad sack, world weary and beaten down. I'm not excited to spend time with her, and though I don't wish her ill, I'm not particularly eager to watch her struggle and succeed. If she faced her problems with more positivity, smiling or laughing in the face of what's obviously a major hardship, I'd be amazed by her resilience and charisma. As is, I only feel sorry for her.

  11. I like the set-up here, a girl who has a physical flaw and whose family doesn't have enough money to afford brand name food (or else has a frugal-on-principal mother) is going to have a romance.

    Need comma: "...and when I walked, it would twinge something awful."

    I'd delete: I sighed and ran my fingers through my hair. The next line shows her mood.

    The brace in closet sentence seemed awkward. You might consider: I pulled the brace out of the jumble of boots and sandals in the back of my closet.

    You need a comma after black, but you could use a dash to eliminate the previous comma: It was an ugly, bulky thing--black, with ridiculously long laces and Velcro.

    I'd put the rain pattering/ankle weatherman part right after "So it was going to be one of those days" and start a new paragraph with "I stood and hopped..."

    You might say "I hobbled downstairs to the kitchen", so you could eliminate "from the kitchen" in the next paragraph. (There are a LOT of prepositional phrases in that line.) You could also delete "little" and "Michael" as that info could easily be worked into the next paragraph or two.