Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Hook the Editor #4: WISH I WAS HERE (YA SF Mystery)

GENRE: YA SF Mystery

When Ana’s best friend Isaac hands her an invisibility pill he made, she swallows it to avoid being kidnapped along with him. Fighting her guilt, she must rescue Isaac before he’s forced to create another pill for the highest evil bidder. If she doesn’t follow clues he left behind and find him for the antidote within a week, she’ll remain invisible forever. That could mean insanity or death.

Isaac’s street was a ghost town when I pulled up to his house after school. As I used his spare key to let myself in, the knot in my stomach tied double.

“Is that you, Ana?” he called from the basement as soon as I stepped inside.

Since I knew his parents wouldn’t be home for an hour, I said, “Who else would it be?”

“Did you lock the—?”

“I’m locking it now,” I said with an exasperated sigh. Paranoid much?

I tramped downstairs. “I can’t believe you ditched last period. That was so unli…” My foot hung for a moment halfway to the next step. A suitcase stood next to the fire extinguisher at the bottom of the stairs. A white t-shirt poked out between the case’s zippered teeth.

“You going somewhere?” Without me? “Spring break is next week. Couldn’t your parents have waited a couple more days?”

“My parents aren’t going,” he said as I reached the bottom step. Another suitcase, this one filled with worn spiral notebooks, lay open on a wooden table in the middle of the room. Isaac’s tools, gadgets, gears, and metal parts from clocks, maybe, or engines, or who knows what, were shoved off to the side instead of taking their usual place at center stage.

“I guess traveling on your own is technically legal now and all.” I waited for him to say something. He didn’t. For a flickering moment I thought the bullies at school were finally getting to him.


  1. Great voice. And I like the way you show rather than tell the relationship.

    However, I wonder if you've started the scene just a bit too early. (William Goldman - he of Butch Cassidy and Princess Bride - suggests, Enter each scene as late as possible.) You've given no hint of the story question in the first 250 words/first page, and the conflict you do suggest - going without me? - is too petty to sustain more than a scene. That said, the way you present it - the "without me" not said aloud - is perfect.

    But overall, the voice and character are so crisp I want to read more.

  2. A few things:
    -You have 2 goals here: save him and get antidote. We really need one main goal for the pitch (and book). If there are multiple ones, they need to be connected (ie, I need to save Issac so I can get the antidote so I can stop the evil person etc...).
    -I don't think a t-shirt can stick out of a zippered suitcase, especially not enough for her to recognize it as a t-shirt.
    -Try to avoid emotive words like exasperated and instead, let the actions show the reader the emotion.
    -Otherwise, your excerpt is great!

    Good luck!

  3. Very exciting pitch! I love your first line. It hooked me instantly. Personally, I'd drop the last line, though. Just remaining invisible forever is already high enough stakes. Saying it could kill her only made me wonder how. Also, personally I disagree with the above comment because your two goals are already linked, she's gotta find Isaac to get the antidote.

    Your first 250 is great. I loved the voice and enjoyed the description of packing. I can also feel the main character's confusion very clearly.

    I think occasionally you use some extra words: you don't need "with an exasperated sigh" if you have "Paranoid much?" as they convey the same emotion. It's not necessary to cut them but it could make it a bit crisper. "For a flickering moment" is another example.

    These are minor quibbles! This sounds like a very enjoyable story. Your MC's voice is great and voice is always the number one thing I look for as a reader.

  4. The first line didn't grab me so much--I don't know who Isaac is so I wasn't sure whether this was typical or what. I feel it needs a bit more atmosphere and set-up before we get into the heart of the scene.

  5. This opener moves too quickly for me to get a grip on who the protagonist is or what this world looks like. This opener could be taking place in any world, between any characters. I recommend you slow down, give your readers a better sense of who Ana is, and ground them in this world before you introduce the inciting incident into the narrative.

    I also recommend giving this dialogue another look. It feels extraneous in places, particularly the exchange about locking the door.

    That being said, the premise of moving invisibly throughout a world is interesting. Well done!

  6. It sounds like your MC spends almost the entire novel invisible, which is intriguing and could open up a whole host of interesting problems and advantages. I wonder if you would consider making this a MG story? It reads more like MG (and referring to a kidnapper as evil sounds more MG than YA) and is a concept that I'm sure MG readers would absolutely eat up.

    Re: your dialogue, be careful about how often you use interrupted dialogue. It isn't something people do often in real life (actually stop mid sentence without continuing to speak) so when you use it make sure it's 100% believable. I personally would try to avoid doing it twice on the first page.