Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Secret Agent #37

TITLE: Wish I Was Here
GENRE: YA Romance

By the time I reached Isaac's house, the knot in my stomach would put Boy Scouts to shame. Asking me to come over after school, something I did automatically, was my second clue something was wrong. The first was him concentrating during our chem lab. Isaac Mason needing to think hard about science was like Michelangelo struggling to paint a fence.

I parked on Isaac’s quiet street. At mid-afternoon, with the nine-to-fivers still at work, the place felt like a ghost town. I used the spare key to let myself in.

“Is that you, Ana?”

“Who else would it be?”

“Did you lock the—?”

“I’m locking it now.”


I headed to the basement. Isaac’s adoptive parents had let him take over the space. It was filled with bookshelves lined with his numerous creations, many of which I couldn’t identify, but some were robots that could scratch Isaac’s back, open and hand him soda cans, and pick things up off the floor. One of them could probably defuse bombs if Isaac wanted it to.

A worn-out suitcase stood at the bottom of the stairs. A white T-shirt poked out between the case’s zippered teeth. The sight of it sent a shiver through me. Was he going somewhere? Without me?

“Isaac? What’s going on?”

He glanced up from piling notebooks into another suitcase. His movements were jerky, agitated. “I’ll make this quick. I don’t know how much time I have.”


  1. I love this opening! We know right away the mc and Isaac are close friends by the mc saying 'coming over after school' was something she did automatically. What's different today? The suspense builds and builds and the last line is superb, because it could mean many things. I really don't have much to critique, except to say I want to read more. Well done!

  2. I liked this last time I saw it, and still do. I do think it could be stronger without the first parg, though. That parg is an explanation of things that just aren't necessary.

    The stomach knot/boy scout line doesn't quite work and is written in two different tenses. There's no need to tell us something was wrong when it can easily be shown when the MC arrives. We can also see what a genius he is when the MC arrives and sees all the robots, etc.

    Just start the story with the MC arriving (parg 2). You'll raise more tension and suspense by not preparing us for what's to come, and what's already there will be stronger because we haven't been forewarned. Let everything come out as a surprise. Trust your readers to get what's going on without explaing it first.

  3. This pulled me right in! I love how solid the Isaac and Ana's friendship feels!

    I can totally see where Barbara is coming from about the first paragraph. Before we even get to the suitcase you have *plenty* elsewhere that signals unease -- "quiet street," "ghost town," Isaac asking Ana if she locked the door -- without also needing to *tell* us (i.e., with the Boy Scout knot, and so on).

    That said, I also differ from Barbara on that opening. I'd perhaps try starting with the MC arriving but then adding some (not all -- pare it down to what you MUST convey here) of the opening about the MC's uneasiness re the situation right after the dialog.

    Was also wondering -- the MS is marked as YA Romance, but this opening is heavy on suspense. Is there a thriller/suspense/mystery element to the story, too?

    Good luck with your revisions! I'd be excited to read more for sure!

  4. This pulled me right in. I agree with the comments about the first paragraph. And Brigid is right: parts of what you remove can be woven in when Ana speaks to Isaac and locks the door. You don't need to give us the tension backstory--you have enough tension happening in paragraph two.

    I enjoyed reading this and hope that things work out for Ana and Isaac.

  5. While the background being set up sounds like it might get interesting, it has more of a mystery or suspense setup than a sense of contemporary or romance (not that the genre specifically claims it to be contemporary). The term "nine-to-fivers" threw me out of the young adult feel a bit, though, and I struggled to get back into it. The without any narration around the dialogue, the setting falls out, and with it the ability to know if Isaac was in the room or if they were yelling (the latter being assumed, but with no inflections in the voice). I'm not saying dialogue tags are necessary since we know who is saying what, but if you added in the feelings and reactions of the protagonist as this is going on, we could deduce the rest a bit better, and we'd start building a connection with the character.

    The way the basement is described seems a bit too unfamiliar for someone with a key to the house. I did appreciate the follow-through though from the first paragraph to the robot creations. The added detail that the suitcase was warn out seemed important since it was mentioned, but the idea of the suitcase's frequency of use makes me more confused about the concern of our protagonist. I didn't see the need for the mention of the shirt being caught, either. We can tell from the scene (and the last line) that he's in a hurry, so the shirt detail just makes us see the character as a bit careless. Is that intentional? Also, he's in high school, right? Where are his parent(s)/guardian(s)? Would he be able to just up and leave so suddenly?

    Getting just the right starting point between exposition and the first inciting incident that kicks off the rising action is tough. For me, this one feels like it's not quite polished and ready.

    As I read this through a second time, though, I'm wondering if you dropped the first paragraph, if it wouldn't alleviate most of the disconnect I had.

    Overall, I'm interested in the plot, but I didn't feel invested in the character's plight, nor can I foresee how our interest in the arc we see developing is going to shift from Isaac to Ana. Again, though, I really think it's just a matter of getting the reader started at just the right point in the story. For me as a reader, this wasn't it, but I am just one opinion ...and I'm almost always a hard sell for YA, so keep that in mind, as well. :)