Wednesday, May 13, 2009

44 Secret Agent

TITLE: On the Beam
GENRE: Young Adult

If people were colors, I’d be pastel pink. In a family of whites, I’d stand out. Unfortunately for me, my family glows in the dark. My mom sold her first software design to Microsoft when she was 22, and her sister Allie won an Olympic gold medal. Did I feel pressure to overachieve? Um. Do Crocs make your feet sweat?

Mom never cracked the whip on me because she identified. While she was acing SATs and shopping for Jessica McClintock prom dresses, Allie had already flipped her way into endorsements, home shopping appearances, movies, and an unfortunate reality television stint. Still, the obligation to invent, cure, or save something weighed on me. By 15, my only noteworthy accomplishment was that I could shove a pound of licorice in my mouth at once. Now, I do have two spleens, but Mom gets credit for that because my organs were her handiwork, after all.

For a few bloated days every month, I decided I was a mutant, destined for nothing special. But the rest of the time I believed in my genetic potential. So being me was either thrilling or depressing, depending on the time of the month.

My chance to overachieve hit when I was at my lowest point. Did I succeed? I’ll tell the story and let you decide. But I warn you, in places you may want to thump me on the head. Great genes don’t make people immune to bad decisions.


  1. I'm so hooked. The opening paragraph cracked me up. Great voice. I really want to read the whole story and find out what her success is.

    However, the bloated comment made me cringe. I wanted to thump her on the head for that. I don't know if that reference is necessary. It does nothing to help her story and might put boys off from reading on.

  2. This one's a toughy. The first few sentences reached out and grabbed me, but then it was ruined by the "um, do crocs make your feet sweat?"

    My first thought was crocodiles, not the shoes. Somewhat mood-ruining.

    The comment about Allie flipping her way into a lot of good things would make more sense if the "Allie won an Olympic gold medal" were changed to something like, "Allie won an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics" therefore setting up the reader to be prepared for Allie flipping her way onto TV.

    The 'few bloated days every month' threw me off the track for a moment; if the allusion is to menstruating, then it should be more clearly stated; 'bloated days' makes me think that the days themselves are swollen, not the narrator.

    I just got told off by Nathan Bransford in one of his blog posts about rhetorical questions in queries, and it's put me off them altogether. The "Did I succeed?" thrown into the mix in the last paragraph takes the whole thing apart. And I dislike the tone the narrator is taking with the reader. This is basically having a stranger tell you their life story. You don't want some girl coming up to you and starting a conversation like that, you'd think they were crazy and move away.

    The ending line was fantastic.

  3. I enjoyed this up to the point where you address the reader directly. But that's just my personal taste, I just don't care for that. Overall, I like the voice and the character who feels pressure to achieve. I like that the pressure comes from high achieving women in her family. And I love the last line. I would read on.

  4. I enjoyed this and would be very interested in reading more.

    The Crocks statement made me laugh. So very true!

    The bloated part threw me a bit, but I'm sure you explain yourself further on. -if not you might want to do it here.

    Otherwise, you have me hooked.
    Good job!

  5. I like the voice but wanted to know a little more about the mc.

    There's a lot of information about the mom and her sister. Is it essential to know all this in the first two paragraphs or can it be eye-droppered in as we need to know it?

    The last paragraph didn't work for me--addressing the reader.

    I did, however, like the last line. Knowing nothing about the story other than what I've read, I'd consider making this the first line of the book. I think it's the most compelling sentence on the page.

  6. (I wrote this comment before reading any of the others.)

    44 - Mostly hooked!

    I don't actually know if Crocs make your feet sweat, so that fell flat for me. The first two paragraphs worked for me (except for that - and why did Allie win her medal? With 'flipped' I'm thinking gymnastics but 22 seems really old for that sport.)

    Paragraph 3: come on, let's get to the story.

    Paragraph 4: oh, NO, don't start TELLING me. Augh. The first and last sentences could work, but not the stuff in the middle.

  7. I liked the idea of a colour comparison, but I only got it the second time around. At first, I though, why would I want to read about a character who would choose pastel pink? That's not very exciting. Plus you may have just turned off male readers a little.

    And I was under the impression that her family could be compared to the colour white. So when you said they were glow in the dark, I was like "huh? I thought they were white."

    I liked the writing but didn't like the attempt to reach out to second person. If it's in first, I'd like to pretend to be the narrator. I don't want them to break down the fourth wall and talk to me.

  8. I love this girl! She comes to life immediately and ,as with any teenage conversation, you have to''keep up''. As a book for young adults , it will be a great read!

  9. I love this. Character pulls me in. She's facing something that every girl faces: how can I be me and be original? I like how you dive in and address the female issues.

    I want it to read: Do I feel pressure to..because that question seems to be in the present.

    If I were an agent...

    Too bad I'm not.

  10. I loved the part about her family glowing in the dark. It really shows how "bright" they are (pun intended).

    The licorice line is great, too! I love your voice and your humor. But I'm not crazy about the narrator talking to me.

    I'm hooked and laughing.

  11. Your voice really comes across as a teen. I laughed at the crocs comment. I'd keep reading.

  12. I liked the crocs comment. Loved the image of glow-in-the-dark family.

    I'd read more.

  13. I'd definitely read more. Though, I think the last paragraph would be strengthened by cutting it to simply read: "My chance to overachieve hit when I was at my lowest point, and unfortunately, great genes don’t make people immune to bad decisions." Or if that's misleading, something similarly short and sweet.

    Great job and good luck!

  14. Ok.... this feels a little too hurried to me. I'm curious and would read on, but not entirely hooked.

  15. Ah, I love it! The voice is sharp, witty, and totally entertaining. The overshadowing syndrome for siblings is used a lot, but you manage to pull it off in a way that still makes me want to keep reading. Can't see any obvious problems at the moment.

    Good luck, and happy writing!

  16. I think I might be getting burnt out trying to do these all today (so I don't forget to finish later), but I'm not hooked. I will say that I LOVE the voice, but what you present here as a premise leaves me feeling rather "eh". The last paragraph reads weird for me when the protag starts talking to the reader. I've seen it work, I just don't feel like it does in this case. I think the biggest turn off is I feel like this is going to be a story about an ordinary girl doing ordinary things and at the end coming to the conclusion that that's all okay with her. Which is fine in life, but kind of boring in fiction.

    Like I said though, I may just be fried from the previous 43 submissions.

  17. I'm hooked. Definately want to know what happens. But I do have to say, take out the MC speaking to the reader. It doesn't really work. Although, I did think the "You may want to thump me on the head" comment was very funny. :D

  18. I love the voice though I am drawn towards sarcasm :) Love the first paragraph

  19. I loved your voice and totally got your sarcasm. Great job!!

  20. I liked the first paragraph but became dis interested after that... Didn't like addressing the reader either..

    Thanks for psoting.

  21. I'm hooked!

    There is so much potential in the story already. I like the fact that this girl is aware not only of her own shortcomings but also the tension between her mother and aunt around the issue of achievement.

    I read the bloating as relating to the two spleens, but I see others thought it was related to her menstrual cycle, so maybe that needs a little clarifying.

    But again, I think there is so much to like here--I get a really good sense of this character from the voice and from the few details you have chosen to give the reader in this brief section.

    This is great--I hope I get to read more!

  22. There's so much of this to love. But it didn't pick up for me until half way through your second paragraph. I'd get rid of the first and start over. I don't think you need the last para, either. Too much telling.

    I'm hooked!

  23. Sorry, I guess I'm not your demographic. I was not hooked. Your opening paragraph was intriguing, but I checked to see if this was s.f. or fantasy when you said the family glowed in the dark. I don't know, do Crocs make your feet sweat? As I said, potentially the wrong demographic.

    Unless her mother genetically engineered her two spleens, her father had a hand in that. Having two spleens would not make her bloated once a month. Trust me, I know as I don't have two of any unusual organs and I do have the other problem!
    I personally really dislike stories that have lead ins like your last paragraph. The only one I've ever enjoyed was Rothfuss' "Name of the Wind". But that could just be me.

  24. I like this! Great voice. The only thing that got me was the colors...could you say "if my family was white...?" I think it might make more sense that way. Good job.

  25. I am hooked! i LOVE your voice - and why is everyone SO confused about the bloated comment?? hello...period! and any teen would know that crocs totally make your feet sweat :)
    i love your wit and i wish i were an agent - i'd sign you immediately. good luck!

  26. I'm hooked because I like the voice quite a lot. In reference to annie (above me) I think that if the character's period doesn't have anything to do with the story, then I'm confused why you'd waste precious first page space having the character whine about it?

    I immediately thought it was like the premise of the YA book, CYCLER, where the MC turns into a boy for a week a month? (or maybe it was a superhero -- something like that.)

    Not a fan of the use of second person "you" near the end. Also, I'm afraid telling me, as a reader, that I might want to thump your MC on the head makes me think the MC will be stupid. Why would a reader be excited to read about a dumb MC?

  27. There's a lot to like, but a lot that confuses too. The 'whites' thing is unfortunate I think, because I thought it meant they were black - still not sure. And then the blaoting is really confusing. And the spleens. I'd like something to happen in the first four pars, not all this telling. But there's something there...

  28. I'm actually quite interested in this one. I want to read more, even though this feels like a prologue to me.

    You had me at two spleens. :)

  29. written without reading above comments

    Ok so I'm a bit confused about the two spleens, but I figure that will come out later.

    The voice was clear, the humour was great and I liked the set up so far.