Wednesday, January 23, 2019

January Secret Agent #16

TITLE: Stronger than Poison
GENRE: YA Romantic Suspense

Nerves twisted my stomach into an origami crane. My eyes followed the gallery owner’s nimble hands flipping through my most precious possessions like they were the morning newspaper.
            “Hmm.” He paused. “How would you describe this one?”
            My half-chewed-off fingernail dropped from my lips. I peered over his shoulder. Red and black paint splashed across the canvass. I’d debated on whether to include that one. It was a result of a recurring nightmare. I opened my mouth to answer when my phone buzzed in my pocket. I always at least kept it on vibrate for emergencies.
            “Sorry,” I said and glanced at the display, Will, my brother. I hit decline. He’d pestered me for the last week. I cleared my throat and motioned to the picture. “I painted it after an intense nightmare.”
            He nodded and pointed to the silver blur racing off the canvas. “Someone was shot?”
            I swallowed the lump in my throat. “My dad. He was killed in action in Afghanistan.”
            “Your emotion is vivid here, not like the first few. They’re pretty but without feeling. This is more visceral, piercing, if you will. Reminiscent of Munch’s The Scream.”
            I flinched. That painting was the hell I tried to escape from.
The posh gallery even smelled artsy, a combination of the perfume of fresh flowers mixed with paint fumes. I sucked in a breath. These white walls launched more careers than anywhere else in Chicago.


  1. I like the intro! Your first sentence especially captures my attention. You're able to describe things vividly and pull the reader into the scene without using an excess of words. While the character's thoughts and setting are present, there doesn't seem to be a lot of emotional insight into the character. I understand that she wants to be an artist, but why? What makes it important to her? Right now I don't care about her dream enough because I don't know what's driving her.

  2. The origami crane and morning newspaper references are masterful and unique!

    Is canvas mispelled?

    LOVE the half-chewed fingernail falling from her (for some reason I’m assuming it’s a her, although I know it may be a him) lips! So good!

    I would eliminate the line about keeping the phone on vibrate.

    I love the MC’s movements in the fourth paragraph. They’re very realistic and easy to envision.

    The MC’s interaction with the gallery owner is very natural.

  3. Perhaps move your last parg so it's your first parg, so we get an immediate intro to the gallery.

    The rest could be tightened up a bit. The origami crane created an odd picture in my mind. Perhaps cut 'my eyes followed' and change flipping to flipped.

    Parg 2. Have the man say your character's name at end of his first line of dialogue, that way the reader knows who 'I' is.

    Parg 3. If her nails are half chewed off, they're still attached, so they can't fall. Cut the nightmare sentence because it's repeated below, and it makes more sense for her to say it to the owner than to tell herself what she already knows. Just say her phone buzzed and go straight to I'm sorry. The fact that it buzzed shows us she was cut off from speaking, and what comes after is unnecessary explanation to the reader.

    Parg 4. Will pestered her about what? If you're not going to tell us, just say My brother will. I declined the call. That will make us wonder about Will. Or tell us what he pestered her about.

    It'a lot, but it's small and easily fixed and will tighten this up.

  4. I thought the line about keeping the phone on vibrate in case of emergency to be kind of clunky. It seems too common a thing to need explanation.

    I also think "I cleared my throat" and "I swallowed the lump in my throat" appeared to close together, it kind of jumped out at me.

    Your character could be interesting!

  5. This is a really great intro! I would definitely keep reading.
    My one thought is how does a teen even get face time with a gallery owner who has launched major careers. Perhaps we’ll find out they’re friends and he’s more of an advisor? Not sure I find it believable that she would be trying to sell her work here.
    You don’t need to tell us you keep your phone on vibrate and you don’t need to tell us Will’s your brother. The first is obvious, the second isn’t trusting your reader to learn that organically in time.
    “My half-chewed-off fingernail dropped from my lips.” This feels a bit clunky and confusing. It sounds like she’s sputtering nail clippings while she’s talking to this guy which is kinda gross and distracts me from the scene.

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