Wednesday, January 14, 2009

31 SECRET AGENT

TITLE: The Amnesia Door
GENRE: MG Fantasy


Change had never done Belle Ravenna any favors. Moving from one coast to another last year had meant change: a new school, a new house, and no friends. But maybe the start of eighth grade would give Belle the chance to reinvent herself, finally become the person she wanted to be.

Someone knocked into Belle as she picked up a chocolate milk. Ashleigh. Belle's corndog slid off her fries. The stick end landed in the ketchup.

"I hate it when the nobodies just stand there," Ashleigh announced to the lunchroom in general. She paid for her salad, no dressing, and bottle of water.

"I hate it that you think you can just walk all over me," Belle told her corndog.

So much for reinventing herself. All that had changed since last year was her grade.

"$2.60." The lunch lady didn't look up as she held out her hand.

Belle handed her three dollars. "Have you ever wondered if maybe life should be different from how it is?"

"Change." The lunch lady handed the coins to Belle.

Belle stuffed them in her pocket, picked up the tray, and stepped into the lunchroom and its chaos. Students swirled around her, each one darting to a table filled with friends as Belle stood there. Alone. It was as if everyone else was flying while she slogged through water.

31 comments:

beth said...

*waves hello* I'm the author of this one. I am really looking forward to any comments anyone has.

One thing I'd like to mention: everyone always thinks of Bella from Twilight when they read the name of my protag, but Belle Ravenna is a play on the myth of Bellerophon, upon which this story is loosely based. Just wanted to throw that out there.

I look forward to everyone's comments! I'm off to comment on other people's now :)

Sarah Erber said...

I liked it!

Good tension, and conflict right off the bat. Great dialog, so...I'm HOOKED ;)

Aspiring Writer said...

Now you've scared us off.
Kidding.
I like this, and not because you preemptively introduced yourself.
Love the first line.
After that, I think you hammer the "change" theme home too much. Pull back a little, IMO.
The cafeteria scene is great. Brings back all of my horrible cafeteria memories.
When the cafeteria lady says "change," I loved it, and if you had weeded out some of the prior evocations of change and reinvention it would pack a greater punch. Don't hit us over the head with it.

Angie Frazier said...

I love how she talked to her corndog instead of Ashleigh :-) Definitely made me want to read more.

Angela said...

Muahahaa...I've seen this before!

I think the first para is a bit info-heavy, and I wonder if you could condense it into a one liner about it being a new life insert it later, like before the reinventing herself line.

Someone knocked into Belle as she picked up a chocolate milk.

It would be good for a tiny bit of setting info through Bella's observations & nerves so we know she's in a cafeteria. Until we see the word, 'lunchroom', this could be a mall food court, or at home and Ashleigh's her sis, right?

Right off the bat I'd show her in the lunch line, showing her trying to act confident as the sounds and smells of the lunch room go on around her. What she notices can play up her nerves and heighten her anxiety over where to sit later.

Anyway, just some thoughts. I'd absolutely read on--she's a great character, and her question to the lunch lady sets her out as a 'big thinker' and refreshingly different. :-)

ink wench said...

I agree that the first paragraph could be scaled back a bit, but other than that, I thought this was great. Love the interaction with the lunch lady! Love the talking to the corndog!

Good luck!

Jarucia said...

I mostly find myself drawn to this start. The brakes hit when I got to Belle's philosophical question for the lunch lady. Had a very different feel from the tone you'd already presented. Would be curious how that gets reconciled.

judall said...

I liked it. Great voice.

I particularly liked that she talked to her corndog. It showed a lot about the MC.

Great writing.

Sheila said...

I love your title and you've done a great job of setting the scene for this character. Lunch lady saying, "change" was a great line, too.

Already, I'm hoping that nasty girl who bumped into her gets a little payback. Good job!

Anonymous 64 said...

I like the lunch room scene. I also like the unique voice and quirkiness of your MC, but at the same time you've managed to capture her in a way lots of kids, and adults, can relate to in a new situation-unsure of themselves and feeling invisible. Good luck!

Sarah Jensen said...

I liked it a lot. I remember 8th grade, and lunch. Not a fun place.
Great voice.
And I didn't think of Twilight. Your Belle stands out as her own person.
Hooked.

Megs said...

Belle Ravenna is a play on the myth of Bellerophon

-----------------------------

I wondered if it's really important to have the name that similar to the original. My first thought before glancing through the comments was her name sounded a bit dramatic.

I didn't initially think about Twilight, but then I'm not a Twi-fan. ;]

If people rag on you too much about the similarity to Bella (or whatever), I don't think there would be any problem just changing the name.

People have been writing stories loosely based on myths for ages - take the many incarnations of Beauty and the Beast. No need to closely associate with the myths. If people know the myth, they will recognize the themes (w/out the close name) and appreciate the story. If they don't know the myth, that doesn't mean they won't enjoy your story. I've never heard of the myth, but I enjoy this start. The writing is tight and clean, and I'm hooked. Nice job<:

inkspatters said...

I like this, I'm already interested in what happens to your character, and Ashleigh (I want bad things to happen to her). But, the change theme was overdone in my opinion.

Secret Agent said...

There are some really nice moments and phrases in here - poor old Belle! And I like rotten Ashleigh! You have a sensitivity to nuance (eg the lunch lady not even looking up)and what language is doing, which is great. The concept is (I'm sorry) not a terribly new one - girl moves and is subsequently lonely/left out - which could hold you back with this, but I'd read on a little to see where you go with this.

beth said...

Secret Agent:

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I am so happy that you commented!

And your hesitation about Belle being the new kid and the not-newness of that topic is fine--although Belle's internal conflict is about fitting in and finding friends, her external conflict is much more action packed as she discovers magic and its consequences in a way that (I hope) is much much much more unique than the typical New-Kid-at-School story.

So thank you for the encouragement--you have greatly bolstered my confidence in this work and its readiness for submission!

John Zeleznik said...

I liked this more than I thought. I'm always hesitant with the whole "mean girls pick on the new girl" angle but you do a nice job of hooking me with the little details.

I've had mornings like the one Belle is having!

I'd read more just to see what happens.

Siobhan said...

I really like this. It has that nice, universal MG appeal to it, in the writing and premise. It's just the kind of book I picked up when I was in middle school. And of course I'd be very excited for the magical intrusion on Belle's normal life that would whisk her away from all this pre-teen cattiness.

Anette J Kres said...

I’m on the fence…
Because I care about Belle and her struggle and I like the scene you’ve painted here, but you almost get too philosophical right off the bat. I mean, philosophical is fine, but I’d wait awhile before throwing it in. I like her comment to her corn dog.

Anonymous said...

There is an awful lot of food mentioned. Do you own a restuarant? You're trying to make us hungry right? Actually, this 'Belle's corndog slid off her fries.' doesn't sound right to me. Also is it necessary to mention Ashleigh's salad? If Belle told her corndog, then shouldn't she have said, "I hate it that she thinks she can walk all over me."? Cause really I didn't see the corndog at fault for anything. And Belle moving to a new town is similiar to Twilight. If it hadn't been such a hit, it wouldn't have made in difference. Otherwise I liked!

Barb said...

Hooked! I liked how you kept the 'change' theme going. And showing what she had on her tray and what Ashleigh had, tells us a bit about who each of them is. I got a good sense of both girls without any description at all.

You might want to mention which coast she is on, since east coast and west coast are so different.

Sally Apokedak said...

Hooked.

Love the corn dog/french fries compared to the salad no dressing. And then when she asked the lunch lady the deep question and was invisible and inaudible to the woman, you hooked me.

The last line was wonderful.

Ann E. Bryson said...

I like this, but I do think it could use some work. There are a few awkward phrasings--like someone mentioned the corndog part. I had a hard time picturing it.

I'd definately read more.

Lori said...

Almost hooked. The language needs to be a little tighter, IMHO, and not quite so melodramatic right off the bat. Also, I think the backstory stuff (the bit about her moving) should be woven into the story at a later point (perhaps through dialogue) than shoved at us right in the first paragraph.

Amber J said...

See, even after I read your comment at the beginning, you've still got me thinking Bella from Twilight because her interal struggle is the same as your characters. If you know that comparisons are going to be made right away and you are okay with that then that's fine. But I'd watch out for that since that's immediately what I thought of and it stuck in my head. That's a sad fact too because the writing was really solid.

Like everyone else, Ashleigh was great for me, loved her character and similarily the speaking to the corndog also caught my fancy. I'd give you some time with this because I liked the writing but I still worry about the automatic association with Twilight that I put on it from the beginning.

Bethlene said...

I would read a little more to see if you present us with more than just a move/change in life as a conflict. Not quite hooked yet. But the promise of fantasy interests me along with the unique title.

Julie Butcher-Fedynich said...

I thought the corndog was named Ashliegh for a sec. Might want to rephrase that.

Trish said...

Yes, I loved all of it. I'm hooked.

Suzette Saxton said...

Because you started with such a great contemporary scene, I would read on just to discover the fantasy element. Good job, Beth! :)

danceluvr said...

I like how Belle "fights" back but only to her corndog instead of the girl who bumped her.

I'm not sure I understand "last year was her grade." Was it supposed to be "her" grade, the grade in which she shone, or what?

I also like the description of her standing while the others flew around to their friends.

I'd read further.

mjb said...

Love the title (I'm a title person). I am drawn to the character and there's some good writing, but the premise seems a bit stale. I would read at least another page or two.

lilianamama said...

I probably would have started with Bella bumping into Ashleigh straight off. Then go into things not changing. I did like the "Change" comment from your lunch lady. Also, it's a nit picky thing, but using the name Ashleigh as the drama queen cheerleader antagonist has so been done. You've got an unusual enough (dare I say "Preppy") name for your heroine, you need to set off Ashleigh with either an even "Preppier" name or with something drastically normal in comparison. IMO, of course.