Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#3 January Secret Agent


It's debatable whether or not a person weighs less on an airplane. My honors physics teacher gave us the question as an extra credit assignment last year, one of those last ditch efforts to raise our grades at the end of the semester. As expected, my friend Noah jumped into the assignment. The rest of us didn't bother. What was the point of competing against the smartest kid in the class?

Noah concluded that mass remains the same, even if actual weight may differ by a decimal or two. Nothing extreme. Yet, as I descended toward the Logan Airport in downtown Boston, I felt a difference.

But it had nothing to do with being in an airplane.

When I left to visit my dad in southern Utah at the beginning of June, I'd packed my suitcase full of size fourteen jeans. Now, along with thin layer of red dust from my hiking shoes, my bags carried only size eights.

As the plane touched down on the tarmac, I skimmed my fingers lightly over my upper left arm, still surprised each time by its thinness. I used to hate wearing short-sleeved shirts, displaying my arms that jiggled like Jell-O with the slightest twitch. But today I proudly wore a pale pink tank top with lace edging, one my dad's girlfriend helped me pick out. I almost didn't try it on at the clothing boutique, but the soft fabric was too irresistible. She'd been right; it looked great on me.


  1. I really love the first paragraph. It's very unique. My only concern is that the question asked is a little too simple for an honors physics class...that's debatable though.

    I would suggest combining the last and first sentences of the next two paragraphs to read as:

    Yet, as I descended toward the Logan Airport in downtown Boston, I felt a difference that had nothing to do with being in an airplane.

    Missing an "a" in "along with A thin layer of red dust".

    I love it, overall. Nice job.

  2. This caught my attention immediately and I personally can't wait to read more.

  3. I like the start of this passage. It made me anticipated something bigger was coming that would be relevant to this information. I also really like the imagery in the last paragraph where she skims her arm. Great opening!

  4. I found this very interesting. I related to the character and was intrigued with where it was going. The one question I felt I would have liked answered here was how long she was gone. I'd also like to be closer in her head. How does she feel about leaving her dad? About going back to (I assume) her mom? etc.

  5. That first sentence stops me: How is it debatable? It should be a fact, and therefore provable.

    And, so, I stopped reading for a few minutes to go do some web research. If I was reading this in a book, I would've stopped and tried to figure out what exactly you meant and how a fact might be debatable.

    That being said, I read on and I really like your writing. The voice is relaxed and assured, and there really aren't any extraneous details. There are words I might take out (like "too" in the phrase "too irresistible"), but then we're getting down to personal choice/style.

    I would definitely read on.

  6. I think the first sentence would have more punch if it was actually framed as a question: Does a person weigh less on an airplane?

    Otherwise I like this.

  7. Love it. Fantastic beginning, and I'm eager to read more. The only thing I'd suggest is deleting the word "proudly" from the last paragraph - you don't need it, and it's stronger without it.

  8. I really liked this! It's very simple, yet it says a lot. I like the way you SHOWED the reader that she got thinner, not told us right away. I also loved the little science bit, even if it didn't totally go along with the action.

    It was easy to read and enjoyable to read.

    I'm definitely hooked!

  9. The writing is smooth and the story is one that would be of interest to many readers.

    I wonder why the story begins with a physics question. I realize it has something to do with weight, which I assume this story is about, but a question to be debated creates a distance. The effect is that the reader is now intellectually considering something outside of the MC's world instead of getting drawn into her life.

    The other main reason for my not being drawn in is that the beginning is back story, and a back story that seems to lead elsewhere: physics class, Noah, she not being the smartest kid but in an honors class. When I got to the jeans sizes, I felt as if I had been going down the wrong path.

    If you start with her feeling her thin arms or the soft fabric and just mentions the jeans sizes at the beginning, it may be more effective. Just a thought.

  10. This is good, but I think the start can be tightened. You spend two paragraphs telling us about the weight on an aeroplane debate, then tell us 'It had nothing to do with being on an airplane.' It kind of negates the previous two paragraphs. I think you could tie in the idea that people weigh less on an aeroplane with your MC being on an aeroplane after losing a lot of weight more quickly and effectively.

    Does that make sense??

    As I said, this is good and I'd read on.

  11. I really liked this! The reader definitely gets a feel for the character right away - excellent job on the voice!!

  12. I agree about the opening. It's more distracting than helpful. The idea seems to be that she feels/is lighter. You could have her simply think "I wonder if people weight less on airplanes?' Then say she felt lighter and go into all the weight loss stuff. Or you might just begin at "When I left my Dad . . ."

    The rest worked well.

  13. Also, just FYI - Logan Airport is not in downtown Boston. It's outside the downtown area on an island.

  14. I really like this one. The voice is great. I agree that you should clear up how long she's been gone, though. It says since the beginning of June, but I think a "Now, X months later" type of thing would help.

    I would definitely read on. I'm hooked.

  15. I agree with Yat-Yee entirely, and with almost everyone else regarding the opening.

    That said, though, I'd keep reading. Nice work!

  16. Love this. I'd definitely read on. I like the physics opening, assuming it will figure into the rest of the story. If it's only here to get us thinking about weight, then I'd vote for another opening. My hope is that the physics continue throughout at keast as a literary theme.

    Hope this one makes it to print - I'd love to read it.

  17. This is really wonderful. I, for one, adore the misdirection of the first paragraph. It's intriguing and has the reader thinking about weight right away, so when we learn of her dramatic weight loss, the news has even greater impact. Brilliant. I'd love to read more.

  18. Hey, Secret Agent here! It’s really weird. I’ve personally wondered whether I weigh more or less while flying. I tried asking a flight attendant one time and they had no idea. I like the physicality here, but I think that the shift from the Noah thing and school to present day on the plane, then the jump back to moving to Utah a few months ago…those are all quick cuts and the chronology is disorienting. Too much too soon? Really ground us in the present moment to start.

  19. I like the opening but agree with the commenter who said the first sentence might work better as a question. Since the opening is leading to the narrator's thoughts about her own weight loss, I feel like we need to be more in her head in the first two paragraphs. The transition between the first two paragraphs and the last three bumped me out. I feel like she should be thinking about how people are going to react and if her new size is going to change her life in some way. A few small points:

    -The sentence "Yes as I descended..." made it seem like she's only thinking that she weighs less on the descent. What about the rest of the flight?
    -The sentence "I'd packed my suitcase full of size fourteen jeans..." is a nice way to show she's lost weight but it gives the impression that she didn't pack anything but jeans

    I think your writing is nice and would read on.