Wednesday, March 7, 2018

March Secret Agent Contest #5

TITLE: Complex Solutions
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Whether I’m running to remember or to forget, it doesn’t matter.  

    When I open the front door, the October wind gusts in, wanting to sweep me forward, stirring the hunger in me. The hunger to feel my heart thrum, my muscles pulse, and my lungs burn.

     I shake myself out of my thoughts, crouch down, and lace my running shoes.

    Bailey sits on the mat, his feathery blonde tail brushing back and forth. I stand, zip my hoodie and grab his lead.

    Gram steps into the foyer, her flowered robe cinched tight. She tucks the morning paper under her arm. “Off for your run?”

    “Yeah, down to the beach.”   

    “You’re so much like your mom,” Gram says, her mouth quivering.

    Like my mom? How? My motivation? My stamina? Or the way I burn with intensity to feel something real, causing me to destroy?

     Stop. Running. The beach.

     I shove down the guilt and turn toward the door.

    “Is everything okay, Alexandra?” Gram touches my sleeve and I wince, the bandage underneath rubbing against my raw wound. She arches a brow. “You haven’t—”

     “No.” I stare at the crimson roses on Gram’s robe.

     Outside, the grassy hill is slick with morning dew as I slip-slide to the street. Lying to Gram churns my stomach, but I need her to believe things are better.  Or they will be as soon as I start to run, set my mind adrift and forget, before I have to face the day.


  1. I enjoyed the start. The first line drew me in. I would like to know what she "hasn't" done...or has done but lied to her grandmother about doing. I'd read on to find out more.

    The "Stop. Running. The beach." thing confused me a bit, though.

  2. This is a nice opening. You do well in showing the emotional state of the MC. I too was confused by the "Stop. Running. The beach." part then it came to me. She's mentally giving herself instructions to stop thinking about whatever it is she's thinking about and focus on running at the beach. Right? Well, because it has been pointed out twice, maybe you could revise this in some way. Make it clear that this is her mental direction - to herself. Also, I like the first sentence but it seems that it needs something. Sorry to be so vague. I keep turning it over in my head. I get it but it needs to be a punch of some kind. I don't feel the punch. But I do think your close. One other thing that slipped me up was your use of the word, "slip-slide" to the street. This might just be a 'me' thing but I had to read that three times before I understood. I did enjoy the read. I would definitely keep reading because you've already given me nuggets to follow and now I want to know the whys, whos, whats and all that? Best of luck!

  3. I really like this opening! The dialogue feels natural and I like the relationship between the two. My only suggestion would be to cut the paragraphs that start with "Like my mom?" and "Stop." I think it would be a lot stronger to go from "'You're so much like your Mom'" to "I shove down the guilt and turn toward the door. The other sentences just feel a little confusing and slow down the pace a bit. Good luck!

  4. I feel the same as other critiques. You've caught my attention multiple times. You might consider changing your opening sentence by removing Whether. "I’m running to remember or to forget, it doesn’t matter."

    I also think there are some things which slow down the opening. Like "shake myself out of my thoughts." I'd just have her tie her shoes. Even, "Yeah, down to the beach." felt like it slowed the story. I think you may have told where for a reason (for the reader to know) but if she does it every day, I'm not sure that's what she'd tell her gran. Those are small things, the overall opening catches attention.

  5. This is a very well crafted opening. Unfortunately, as an agent I see it a lot. So many of the queries and samples I receive start with a character running. I’d challenge you to try and make your beginning unique and find a way for your character to stand out from the crowd. You are obviously a talented writer and I like the fact that your character has a secret right from the start.

  6. Why didn't she tie her shoes before opening the door to the October air lol? That way she could just grab the leash and go. Poor grandma no wonder she has to cinch her robe so tight. (Sorry, just paid my electric bill, we don't let the cold air in longer than necessary ha). And I know my mind shouldn't go there while reading your passage but it did. Is there a reason she does it in that order?

    I am not crazy about the "Like my mom" paragraph..the whole "destroy" thing seemed awkward just kind of dropped there and forgotten.

    I think the writing is very good, but I just don't feel a hook yet. Maybe start with Alexandra doing something more intersting?