Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September Secret Agent #41

TITLE:   Mirage

Paul Wilson deleted the memory of seventh grade like a blurred shot from his camera. The “Weird and Weirder Wilsons” taunts were history. He had a different picture in mind for eighth grade with his older sister Abby going to another school. And a summer in Arizona gave him weeks to perfect his new image. Paul knew all about images and the best light for everything. Everything, except himself. Starting today that would change.

“I’m off,” he told his aunt on his way out of the ranch house kitchen. He slung his camera strap over one shoulder and his backpack over the other.

“Take water,” Aunt Penny reminded him.

“Got it.” Paul held up the water bottle she had given him along with a lecture on D&D (dehydration and death). He stashed the water in his pack.

“Be back in two hours, Paul if you want a riding lesson before dinner.”

“Okay, sounds great.”

“Watch out for snakes!”

“Sure, no problem.” That’s exactly what he hoped to find along with tarantulas and a prehistoric-looking Gila monster. Inhaling bone-dry air, Paul headed toward the desert beyond the stables and grinned. Nothing like that in North Carolina.

Something red slithered beneath a tumbleweed. He froze. A snake, two feet long, with a black head and red-and-yellow-banded body rustled the brittle bush. Paul raised his camera, focused, and took three shots before it disappeared.

Perfect. He stashed his backpack under a towering cottonwood tree near the corral.

After a few experimental shots he’d come back for his pack.


  1. Nice pacing and fun voice. There could be a few typo/grammar corrections here and there but overall I enjoyed it.

    I'd read on for a few more pages to see if the story hooked me.

  2. I like anything with Gila monsters, but I don't know what's going on here. "Starting today" refers to what, the first day of 8th grade? The summer in Arizona? Why would taking photos constitute perfecting his new image? Why the lecture on water when he's only going outside for two hours? No snakes in North Carolina? He has to focus the camera?

    I'd like this a lot if it focused on what he saw and how dangerous the snake was. Right now I'm confused about what's going on. If it's just a kid from N.C. taking photos of the desert in Arizona, I'm probably not going to read much more.

  3. I think this would be oh-so-much stronger if you showed him out there amongst the creatures rather than dialogue and telling.

    Keep revising...

  4. I agree with Carolyn...put us out there with the critters from the get-go. I realize the opening sentences are supposed to set the stage for his conflict and what's to come, but that can be weaved in later.

    Also, as it is now, this has two parts: he's talking about school, then grabbing his pack to go take pictures. At first I thought he was heading to school. Too disconnected.

    I do like the details about photography and how Paul knows about "images."

  5. The writing needs some smoothing out; it's hard to tell sometimes what you mean because your sentences are constructed poorly.

    I like the idea of the kid wanting to reinvent himself; that's a classic trope that appeals to most kids. But this could definitely use some punching up, some interesting dialogue or setting or concept to hold our interest.

  6. i like the concept that he's trying to reinvent...also like the "D&D" speech. i'd keep reading to see what he's up to next!

  7. I love that he froze at the snake to take pictures instead of fear. Made me laugh.

    But I did get confused because I thought it would be the first day of school or something, and then it was just him out for a picture-taking walk.

    Sounds like a fun story, though. Best of luck!

  8. I didn't mind the first paragraph, though I thought it could be trimmed, but after introducing the concept of reinventing himself over summer, you have Paul off taking photos in Arizona. If the story is about his summer, I'd start with him walking out the door. If most of it is set in eighth grade, perhaps you could focus more on the idea of him reinventing himself on his walk.