Wednesday, March 11, 2015

March Secret Agent #48

TITLE: Complex Solutions
GENRE: YA contemporary

Amanda pulled back on the door handle with one hand and gripped Bailey’s leash in the other. Ugh! The seismic pounding in her head was rendering her dizzy.

Her grandmother appeared at the top of the stairs. “Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” she asked.

“Yes, I’ll be fine.”

But she wouldn’t. True, that blasted, evil migraine had returned, but it was the nagging, taunting voices beneath the searing physical pain which were more troubling…and they wouldn’t be dismissed with medication.

“I’m sure my medicine will kick in soon.”

“Okay, see you shortly.”

Amanda set off with her yellow Lab for his morning walk. The September sun wove its brilliance through the leaves, enchanting the path to the beach. Falmouth, Massachusetts was gorgeous this time of year, a stunning palette of rich earth tones, set off by the crystal blue water of the sea. But in Amanda’s world it was depressingly black.

Why wasn’t it me? They had everything to live for. As she walked, Amanda gazed down at her Sasquatch –size feet. She felt the despair and loneliness welling up again. The voices hissed inside her head. Come on…you’re out here by yourself. Finish it this time. You’ve got nothing to live for. You won’t last at this new school…you don’t fit in anywhere. She felt around in her pocket. It was there. It was always there. But she’d promised she would try. Plus, Gram was waiting for her and…well, Bailey needed to go.


  1. I liked the early introduction to the dissonance of the piece. "Yes, I'll be fine." / But she wouldn't.

    We're introduced to big stakes, quite quickly.

    Some of the details of the description of the locality are exquisite. Might be good to see them more through her eyes/reaction.

    I would like more of the particulars of a migraine. It is possible it is both sides of her head, or more classically just one half. It is possible it was preceded by an aura. Something that made it clear she experienced migraines, not a random headache.

    Sasquatch –size should be Sasquatch–sized feet, although this great an exaggeration seems out of place.

  2. Beautiful writing, characterization, setting, and tension all on the first page. As someone who has suffered a few migraines in her life, I don't understand how anyone would voluntarily walk a dog while suffering something that's usually debilitating. Maybe give her just a headache? That issue aside, this is a great first page, and I would keep reading.

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  4. Agree with the other comments on the migraine. I know many people who have them and it's pretty impossible to do much. But your descriptions are lovely. You really ser the scene and did a great job setting up potential stakes.

    Good luck!

  5. I like how you introduce tension and pique curiosity as to why she is living with her grandmother. Since she has a headache/migraine, maybe you want to shift the order and tell us her impression of the day first (depressingly black) and then give us the objective description since otherwise I'm wondering how she could appreciate the sun until I realize she doesn't. I am intrigued by her thoughts and the voices in italics and a little confused. I like the tension and uncertainty but want to be slightly less confused.

  6. Your writing is lovely, and I'd read on for that reason alone. But there's a lot going on here, and I think you might be able to streamline. There's a migraine, some voices, the dog, the gma, worrying about too big feet, a reference to people who died, a reference to suicide and a reference to something in her pocket. It's a lot to take in at once. A lot of loose strings. I'd like to see one central tension driving the scene.

    I'd echo what others have said about migraines. When I've had them, I can hardly even see. There's no way I'd be walking a dog.

    However, all that said, like I mentioned, your writing is so strong and my interest is piqued so I'd read on to see how these things come together!

  7. Love your writing, it has great flow...I would like to see a stronger hook, I would almost start it with

    “I’m sure my medicine will kick in soon.”

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  9. I liked how you begin with a mix of dialogue and description that helps to move the action forward. I think you found a nice balance that gives information through the words without having it seem awkward. What I would caution against is an overuse of double adjectives in your description:

    blasted, evil migraine
    nagging,taunting voices
    searing, physical pain
    (the above three are in the same sentence so that makes it even more cumbersome)
    rich earth tones
    crystal blue water

    I think some economy in their use would serve to liven up the opening and make it flow even more. A promising start that makes me want to read on.

  10. Intriguing. I'd read more. I'm not sure what's going on, except that she may be contemplating suicide. But that's why I'd read more. Because I want to know what's going on. I do agree with Daniel about the overuse of adjectives, and I've a feeling that her migraine is not a real migraine, but a result of the voices in her head. If that's the case, then not acting as most people would with a migraine may not matter.

  11. This is some pretty dark stuff right off the bat! I'm sucked in, though, because you have a compelling voice and setup. I'm a bit confused as to whether the voices are her thoughts or a mental illness like schizophrenia. Was the medication for the migraine or the voices? I appreciate her willingness to put herself out there despite these fairly pressing limitations--migraines aren't easy to walk around with!--but I do wonder why she is forcing herself out and why her grandmother let her go alone. Maybe she has been feeling cooped up and a bit smothered by her grandmother's concern and she needs to get out and be alone for a little while? Maybe walking the dog is a very small and manageable task that gives her a sense of accomplishment? Having more concrete motivation there would make the situation a bit clearer.