Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April Secret Agent #47

TITLE: A Complex Solution
GENRE: YA Romantic suspense

     With my hand poised over the knob, I stared at the door to room 104. My thudding heartbeat was the only sound in the silent hallway. Yesterday, I swore it was the last time. But here I was, late again. I just couldn’t make it here without a detour.

     I blew out a breath, pulled back on the doorknob and poked my head in.

     “Come in, Lexi,” said Mrs. Conti, a petite, stylishly dressed woman, who wore her dark hair in a bob. She had a soft, pleasant face and smiled as I closed the door.

     Eighteen pairs of eyes turned towards me as I took my seat in the back. I kept my head down, crossed my arms over my chest and sank low in my seat. Steadying my breath, I tried to imagine that the wave of whispers rolling through the room had nothing to do with me, the freak-girl who was late again. Could they see through me? See my scars? I wasn’t going to be friends with any of them, but I had to get through my time at this place. I’d made a promise and I had to keep my word.
    I sat with my head bowed for twenty agonizing minutes, counting the seconds to the bell.

    At the end of the period I jumped up, but before I could run out, Mrs. Conti appeared at my desk. “Tomorrow, can you be on time, Lexi?”

     I tugged my sleeves over my thumbs and winced. "Yeah."


  1. Oooh, super compelling. I really want to know why she's always late. I don't really have ideas for what you could do better. Nice job!

  2. While there's a great sense of tension in the scene (she clearly doesn't want to be at school and there's a deeper issue than her being late) and the setting makes it clear where she's at (modern day), I'm not clear on the stakes. Is there anyway to include it earlier? Even if it's just a glimpse of the deeper conflict of the book to catch and keep the reader's attention, I think it would really take your first page over the top :)

  3. For me, the most compelling part is when she enters the room and then says 'I made a promise and I had to keep my word." I'm hooked there. The opening the door part is all right, and I like how you say she couldn't get there without taking a detour-- that raises all kinds of questions for me as a reader. But I wonder if there isn't a way to crank up the tension in the opening paragraph when she tugs open the door? Maybe you could move Mrs. Conti's line to after the paragraph where we see Lexi's reluctance to enter the room? (Just a thought).

  4. I think you've done a good job dropping us into Lexi's world. We hear her voice--full of caution and angst.

    I wonder if we knew more about the "promise" if that could clue us into stakes. Do we need to know Mrs. Conti's stylishly dressed? I'd cut that. If it's an important detail, add it later. What's immediately important is the protagonist and her goals and conflicts.

    Good luck!

  5. The setting seemed really unclear to me. I hear Lexi's angst and feel her anxiety, but because I have no idea what she's getting herself into, the history, the reason, the conflict up ahead, I need some grounding details to get me into the scene. I kept reading, trying to assure myself this was a high school contemporary classroom, but again, wasn't sure because her being there seemed optional. You have a big story you're developing, try grounding the reader in a few contrete details so the intensity can build the way it's supposed to. Good luck!

  6. I like this! I found it very compelling. I did think there was too much description about the teacher. I would cut some of that. It felt like a college classroom to me. Maybe because there would be consequences if she was regularly tardy in high school and this teacher seemed okay with it. If it is high school, I would add something about consequences or why she could get away with being late with this teacher. That would be more descriptive of the teacher than her appearance. I think the detour and promise comments are just right for a first page. Very intriguing. Well done!

  7. My thought is to perhaps start somewhere else. You do create a sense of mystery, and have me asking questions, but nothing much happens here. The questions are why is she late, and where does she go on her detours? My thought is that would be the place to start - on her detour. Show us where she is and what she's doing. And perhaps tell us why, although that may be better left unsaid and used as your hook. It would involve the reader in a scene where the mc is taking an action, rather than sitting in a classroom where nothing happens, and where she does nothing. It would also introduce us to the problem, (OMG! She's a cutter. Or she's popping off to other wirlds, or conversing with a ghost, or she just can't face going to a class where everyone hates her.) Whatever it is, it will be more compelling than 'I wonder what the problem is,' which is the question we are left with now.

    Start the story on the day that is different, and as close to the inciting incident as possible.

    1. Sorry. I do know how to spell worlds.

    2. Thanks so much Barbara. You are describing exactly, my original opening, where she pushes into the bathroom and yes, cuts herself in all its' gory detail, because she can't make it to class with the anxiety and pain tearing her apart from the inside. I was advised in other critique forums to show a little more of her emotions, her observations, before showing the cutting incident which seemed too dramatic to start off with. So, I'm not sure where to go now... Thank you for your comments, though.

    3. Perhaps start just a tad earlier. Maybe start with her in the stall, thinking about the reasons why she's doing it. Nothing long, maybe a few sentences, a short parg or two, and then go to the cutting. Don't know if it would work because I don't know the story, but it might be worth a try. Personally, I think your instincts were right the first time around.

  8. The most compelling line was "See my scars?" That hooked me. I see by your comment above what those represent. I'm with Barbara. Maybe your initial instinct was right. Start with cutting. Or, maybe its aftermath.

    Also, and this is probably nitpickig, you start the whole thing with a prepositional phrase. I always get feedback that says to avoid that.

    Nice work.

  9. This is good. But I think it could be better. This is just a personal preference (although some may be like me) but I think the first sentence can be rearranged so it doesn’t start with ‘with’ and it gives it a much stronger line.
    Also, I need a little more from Lexi. There’s some suspense there as she comes into the room late and when she mentions the scars but I think it needs just a little bit more to really capture the readers’ attention. I get she’s the new girl and she’s late. But why is she always late? And how does that coincide with her scars? Are they fresh ones? Old ones? Is she always late because she’s adding new ones to herself every day? If so, then is she worried that the blood will seep through the bandages and sleeves and fall to the floor, exposing her secret? From the last sentence it sounds like the scars are new since she winced but a little more depth into her thoughts is needed, I believe.

    What is this scene trying to tell us and not tell us to make us really wonder?

    Thanks for entering!

  10. Great job describing what it feels like inside Lexi's head - the angst is strong. However, I had no idea what triggered the emotion. In her detour, is she meeting someone before class? Or stopping to visit a grave? This could lead to a million assumptions. After mentioning the scars, I also had no idea these were physical scars, I was thinking figurative scars - which could also fit... I think that with more details, this could be a jaw-dropping start.

  11. I really want to know more about the detour and the promise, Lexi's rock and a hard place. Isn't it interesting how we sabotage ourselves when faced with uncomfortable and difficult situations? We tend to call attention to ourselves when that's the last thing we want. Wait-I've got it! Lexi hides behind the attention, her tardiness, when what she really needs/wants is attention of the helping/concerned kind. Just a thought.

    I hope you do revisit your original opening. I'd wager there's something there that originally sparked this story. You might find some interesting answers.

    Keep at it!