Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January Secret Agent #3

GENRE: YA Fiction

When the bell on my communication device awoke me from my after-school nap with a fluttery clang, I picked it up. Still exhausted from my last assignment that saved the mayor from kidnappers, I’d barely glanced at my geometry assignment.

“Miranda Cunningham, go to Shangri-La-La, ten o’clock tonight, and go alone.” The deep male voice gave me directions to my next assignment for New York Futures, an cool e-zine for teens like me.

“Can’t you guys give me a little break?”

“I would, but there aren’t too many sixteen-year-olds who can flit back and forth between New York City and Kroy Wen.”

He hung up before I could protest. Yes, yes, my alternate universe ability was the standard answer my editor loved to give. There were even fewer of us willing to take assignments with little or no prep and who had investigator training, which my detective dad had provided—before he disappeared.

A minute later, my school disguise of glasses, T-shirt, ripped jeans and sneakers lay on the couch beside me. I pulled on my red leather mini-skirt, yanked my red hair out of its rubber-band hold and fluffed my fingers through my long tresses. At the door, I stepped into thigh high red boots and stepped into the street.

With five minutes to spare, I emerged from the crossover subway on the south side of Kroy Wen. This highly dangerous underbelly of the city was sometimes visible if you knew where to look and kept your eyes open.


  1. Ooo, a YA detective piece. Very cool! This was a good intro, but with a few tweaks I think can be even better. First sentence read a little weak to me, I think because it started with "when". Maybe it would read stronger if you just started with it happening. IE "The bell on my communication device woke me from my after school nap with a fluttery clang."

    Second paragraph should be "a cool e-zine" not "an cool"

    I think the voice got stronger the further into it we got. Loved the "Yes, yes, my alternate universe ability..." line. Would love more of that. She seems slightly annoyed at the assingment, but I would like more internalization from her about it. Does she dread going, does she hate her job, does she live for this kinda thing, etc.

    Last line confused me. "underbelly of the city was sometimes visible if you knew where to look and kept your eyes open". Is it an invisible part of city? I wasn't sure what you meant on that part.

    Intriguing opening. Best of luck!

  2. I like the voice in this piece. The narrative sounds like a spunky, zippy sixteen year old girl for sure. Just to zero in on one issue, you have an overabundance of first person pronouns and possessive adjectives in this piece. Almost every line of narrative has I, my, or me, (and sometimes multiples thereof) and it quickly becomes distracting. This is a writing issue not too complicated to fix with some sentence restructuring.

    In terms of plot and character, it moves fast, but I get a good sense of the MC, her position, and her world.

  3. This reminds me of Veronica Mars but with fantasy elements. You might want to change your genre to YA/F or YA/SF if it has more science fiction in it. But it sounds like a fantasy to me. I'd like to see the world she goes to mentioned sooner because that's intriguing. Your first line is one of the no-no's---waking up but I think it works here only say woke me instead of awoke. And would someone say a cool ezine to herself? Think about what you'd say if you got a homework assignment you didn't like, what would your thoughts be? It feels like the there aren't too many sixteen-year-olds line is for the reader's benefit. Maybe change it up a bit. "You know you're the only one I have on staff who'll go into Kroy Wen." Or something similar. How is Kroy Wen invisible? Why is it she is the one that can see it? I'd read more. Good luck!

  4. This looks like fun! A feisty teen detective goes undercover in an exotic setting, with a dash of fantasy thrown in. The set-up is fully explained. I like the side-hook of her missing father. I agree with Tabitha that this could be tightened up a bit by cutting the personal pronouns. Also, if I could offer one more suggestion, the dressing part could be much tighter. For example:

    My school disguise: glasses, T-shirt, ripped jeans and sneakers. Red leather mini-skirt, red hair yanked out of its rubber-band and fluffed. Thigh-high red boots. Ready to roll, I stepped onto the street.

    Something like that. I’m sure you could do it better, but I hope this helps! Nice work!

  5. I agree with Kathleen that the genre should probably have a fantasy or sci/fi identifier of some sort, as alternate universes definitely qualify for one of the two. And maybe clarify (with just a bit of tightening) what her job actually is: Is she a detective or a reporter? If she's working for an e-zine, that sounds like she's traveling to get the scoop on something, not going undercover to spy. And I think once you've cleared this up, it'll make more sense why she's dressing so visibly. As a ginger, I know from experience that having red hair draws attention enough on its own without adding red leather minis and thigh highs. :) But if we know she's supposed to be drawing a certain kind of attention, that will seem more natural. Good luck! This is a snappy, intriguing beginning!

  6. Very intriguing opening. Young girl with skills and moxie. Nice!
    I agree with the above commenters with the tightening. For example the first two paragraphs have the word assignment three times.
    But I would read on from here.

  7. I like your main character's voice a lot. Cool e-zine. Love it! This is really fun. I would love to read more. Here are some ideas:

    I would shorten your first sentence- it has a lot going on between 'communication device' and 'fluttery clang'. Also, high school kids crash after school or flop down on their beds rather than nap. That's more for toddlers! Last assignment? I don't know who this person is or anything about him/her so moving right into saving the mayor from kidnappers is abrupt.

    Long tresses. That's the way she might describe someone else, but most people don't think of their own hair that way.

    You use the verb 'stepped' twice in one sentence. Replace one with a different verb.

    Crossover subway- that sounds interesting!

  8. I think opening with your MC waking from a nap isn’t the strongest way to start, as it’s quite overdone and not unique. It’s also not the most exciting thing to spend your first 250 showing Miranda getting dressed either. Miranda’s voice shines through from the first page, with a bit of sass and humor thrown in. Although the voice and tone, at least from this limited sample, sounds like it’s teetering on the YA/MG border. I was a bit confused about the phrasing of the school disguise: is she not really a student and the jeans disguise her as one? Or is the red mini-skirt the disguise, in which case it seems like she’d stand out? Also, the title sounds a bit more like a fun MG to me than YA.