Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September Secret Agent #20


The ducks on the wallpaper border quacked and shook their tail feathers at me.

“Susan! Hurry up!” My little sister Buffy pounded on the bathroom door and yelled again. The startled ducks fled into the corner.

“Coming!” I bent over the sink and splashed water on my face. I ignored the ducks, trying to forget that the last time they’d come alive was the day my father disappeared.

It’s not a portent. My eyes were playing tricks on me. That would teach me to stay up reading past midnight. I toweled my face dry and saw the painted ship’s sails billow as if the wind were rising.
I finished getting ready for school and hurried down the stairs.

“About time!” Buffy shoved my backpack at me. She grabbed her own and we ran to the car where Mom waited with the engine idling.

“She started right up this morning!” Mom announced.

“Good girl!” Buffy patted the car door like it was a dog.

Even if the ducks were a portent, which they weren’t, it probably just meant there was a storm on the way. Storms here on the North Carolina coast could be fierce, tearing at the beaches, snatching the sands away until the stilted beachfront houses crashed into the sea.

“What’s the forecast?” I asked.

“Sunny for the rest of the week.” Mom hit the brakes. Buffy screeched and I scanned the sandy road for animals or dead bodies or something.

Mom stared at me. “You’ve seen something, haven’t you?”


  1. I thought this was a really interesting opening. You got the fantasy aspect in, a bit of back story about dad, their financial situation with the car, and the fact that her family knows about her special ability, and you didn't tell us any of it. You showed it all through action and dialogue. Very nicely done!

    My only suggestion would be toward the end. After she asks about the forecast, mom replies and hits the brakes.

    First, the car never pulled away from the curb or driveway. Give us a sense of movement before she hits the brakes.

    Second, why would she slam on the brakes? It doesn't seem she thought anything of Susan's question because she answered it. If she is hitting the brakes because she suddenly realizes Susan must have seen something, perhaps have her not finish her sentence about the weather so we can see her sudden realization.

    ANd I loved Buffy!

    I'd definitely read more

  2. hooked. although i agree that the slamming on of the brakes was a bit disjointed. i LOVED the duck wallpaper coming alive. nice writing.

  3. I love the interplay of normal and weird, here. And I love that you wait until the end to show the reader that the kid's mother knows about the powers. The dialogue rings true and age-appropriate.

  4. I'd totally read on. This sounds like a fun and imaginative story. Also, the dialog is handled very well.

  5. I would read on. I love the fun images--the ducks in the wallpaper shaking their tail feathers, her sister patting the car like a dog.

    I think I would just like a teensy bit more evidence of the emotions happening. for example, when she says " I toweled my face dry and saw the painted ship’s sails billow as if the wind were rising," right after that I would like to hear her reaction to that--she just told herself the ducks weren't real and now she saw something else. Maybe something along the lines of "I shut my eyes and took a deep breath. -This isn't happening_." Except of course--way better than that :). Oh and you can probably loose the line "I finished getting ready for school," I think it goes without saying and it slows down the scene.

    Another time when some more emotion could be good, would be when her mom answers about the forecast. "'Sunny for the rest of the week.' Mom hit the brakes." I wish there was a description of her mom's realization why her daughter was asking. Just something like "'Sunny for the rest of the week,' mom said absently, watching the road. Then suddenly, she slammed on the brakes." Except way better than that too :). Otherwise it's not until the next line that I realize she didn't say it as she slammed on the breaks, but after.

    Other than that--great job and good luck!

  6. I like "patting the door like a dog" I like that the forecast is sunny--she's scanning for signs, bodies, (humorous) but not finding anything that could be what was portended. Nice job. I'd read more

  7. I really, really like this, love the ducks, love that the mother knows what's up.

    My only worry is that it seems a little more middle grade than YA.

    Still, I definitely would have kept reading.

  8. This was awesome, and I'd definitely keep reading. I love how the wallpaper came alive & like the secret agent, I loved the ducks.

  9. Loved it. Clear writing, nice pacing, good voice, lovely images.

  10. I liked this too, but my immediate thought was that it felt too young for YA. The duck border felt like a younger persons room. I'm afraid I raised a brow at that knowing it was YA. Sounds like you got a good nibble there regardless! Good luck! : )

  11. Love it, fun and different and well-written and easy to read, and *such* a nice change that her mum guesses what's up and it's not the usual big, dark secret.

    My only criticism would be to watch how often you use exclamation marks - almost every line of dialogue ends with one.

  12. Love this, especially the ducks! Barbara is right, you convey an amazing amount of information without actually telling us. Brilliant!