Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January Secret Agent #17

TITLE: The Secrets We Keep
GENRE: YA mystery/thriller

Apparently, marriage must suck.

That’s the only logical conclusion I can come to right now.

It’s going to be another long night. So far, he’s criticized her career, her cooking, and her hair. What’s next? The way she breathes? They’ve been at it since ten and it’s now way past midnight. Tonight’s fight between my mother and Neal is shaping up to be epic.

You would think I’d be used to it by now, since it happens almost every night. Well, except for the nights my stepfather doesn’t bother to come home until three or four in the morning.

His surly voice carries from their bedroom next door. I catch snippets here and there – his words sound more venomous than usual, even for him.

“–nothing but a cold, empty shrew,” he hisses.

“You never give me a chance,” my mother says, pitifully trying to appease him. “Please calm down…you’re going to wake Lyndsay.”

Too late for that.

Neal’s answer comes a second later, in the form of a book or a shoe that smacks the other side of the wall above my head with a loud thwack. I jolt as if struck.

“Great,” I snarl through gritted teeth, “now, he’s throwing things.”

My stomach twists. I clench my pillow until my hand cramps, wishing these walls weren’t so damned thin, wishing I could get some sleep, most of all, wishing he would stop torturing her. Why does he treat her this way? She doesn’t deserve it.


Must’ve been a drawer this time.


  1. Even though this is a thriller, the first line really made me crack up. I know you probably don't mean to start this off funny, but the opening line does come across a bit humorous. Perhaps you could reword it just a little, maybe using a different word than "suck" because it just gives a joking connotation. Other than that, this sounds like a promising MS.

  2. Hey there! I like this opening a lot and am very curious to see how the thriller aspects play out. I love the voice coming through -- your MC's reaction to the fight shows us a lot about who she is and how she thinks. Nice job!

    A few thoughts to help tighten:

    For the opening line, I might cut the word "apparently" and just say "Marriage must suck" to make it punchier.

    There's a little bit of redundancy in the third paragraph. I'd reco tightening to something like this to get rid of the repetition (it's going to be a long night / they've been at it since 10 and it's now past midnight/ tonight's fight is shaping up to be epic -- these all tell us similar things.) Maybe something like this:

    They’ve been at it since ten and it’s now way past midnight. So far, he’s criticized her career, her cooking, and her hair. What’s next? The way she breathes? Tonight’s fight between my mother and Neal is shaping up to be epic.

    But again, overall I really liked this. Best of luck and hope my comments help!

  3. I, too, love the opening line, and agree it would work better without the "apparently."

    My sense is the Lindsay has a sort of black humor take on the world, so I think leading with her voice sets the tone, and would imagine the cover, blurb and other clues would set me up for mystery/thriller to come. Perhaps nasty Neal meets an untimely demise....

    You might consider deepening the connection we have to Lindsay by making her reactions more intimate. "I jolt as if struck," is a bit observational. Maybe something like, "I jolt and instinctively duck, though he hasn't managed to put anything through the wall...yet." Cut the dialogue and go straight to her stomach clenching. We might feel ourselves more in her skin that way. Just a thought.

    Great start! Good luck with your story. :-)

  4. I agree with the comments above that he opening could be tightened up and stronger. If this is mainly a mystery, then I think the current tone works well, but if there's a big thriller element I think it would be great if there was sort of an ominous tone from the start. As it currently is, it sounds like this fight is normal, and if it's normal then I don't sense anything dangerous looming. I know it's just the first 250 words and it could be coming soon, but maybe you could start with how this fight seems different than all the rest. Then we still know right away that they fight all the time, but we also have a better sense of the larger conflict.

  5. Great opening lines. The descriptions of the fight and the view inside the character's head are solid. The dialogue doesn't seem to have the emotional intensity to match though - especially the step dad's.

  6. Great, voice-driven opening line that feels authentically teen. I’m not sure that “empty shrew” sounds entirely authentic though from the stepfather, as shrew isn’t much of a commonly used modern term. But I do like the use of “hisses”—he seems like a snake in more than one way! This dark humor seems like a good fit for a thriller, and intertwining that with suspense as the story progresses could be great. I’m not getting much mystery or suspense from the sample, so I’d make sure that comes into play soon from the first chapter, as it’s so important to the genre.

  7. I really like your opening and agree with several of the previous comments. The only thing I'll add is I have a question about how violent this stepfather gets. It struck me as okay when he was slamming things around, but at the end I was uncertain whether he was actually physically abusive. In which case your MC's sort of dark humor would't work for me. Overall, I enjoyed reading it. Good luck!