Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January Secret Agent #32

TITLE: Game Changer
GENRE: Contemporary YA

“Hey, Emerson—you’n them boys are gonna take the championship this year, right?”

Milton’s oldest and everywhere, Harold Z. Barnes, spit on the ground and pointed a dripping pump nozzle at me from across the gas station.

“Or die trying—yes sir.” I smiled and squinted through the bead of sweat that squirmed from my eyebrow and dropped to the front of my t-shirt, while I waited for the gas pump to tick and squeal its way toward a twenty dollar bill.

“Atta boy! We’re countin’ on you.” Mr. Barnes never missed my games and always showed with his face painted in Grover’s colors—half maroon, half orange—and my number in white on each cheek.

“I know you are, sir. I’ll be throwing for you this season.”

He turned to the man at the next island, “That boy’s somethin’ else. Sure is. Best damn quarterback Grover’s ever seen. They call him ‘da Bomb’ because of that arm he’s got.” The man at the island
smiled and nodded, polite and pretending it was all new information, until Mr. Barnes twisted back toward me. “Hey, your brother still working at your daddy’s shop?”

“Yes, sir. We’re both there for the rest of the summer.”

“Good. Gotta stop in, have him look at my clutch.”

“I could take a look at it for you. Just bring it in. I’ll be there until six today.”

“No offense, Adam. You got the magic on the field, but that little brother-uh yours got it in the shop.”


  1. Great job on the voice for Mr. Barnes. Very distinct. I also got a feel for Adam -- a polite boy, friendly.

    There were some punctuation problems that pulled me out of the narrative, but overall, this is a nice job, and I'd continue reading.

  2. There's something about this that makes me think of a scene in a Twilight Zone episode with some old guys chewing the fat at a gas station. I guess that means you've painted a good picture for me. :)

    I wish I could read a little more to see if you have started at a good spot or not.

    Good luck!

  3. I like the tone you've set. I would suggest tightening this to:

    I squinted through the sweat squirming from my eyebrow while I waited for the pump to tick and squeal its way toward a twenty dollar bill.

  4. You've done a good job with tone and dialogue. I really get a sense of the "Harold Z" just by the way he speaks. I don't think your opening two lines are the best they could be - there isn't much tension, suspense or intrigue. I thought "Milton's oldest and everywhere..." was a bit awkward and difficult to understand. (I understand "oldest," but I'm not very clear on "everywhere"). The scene overall is well drawn - I got the impression of a small town gas station from a time gone by.

  5. I forgot to mention - I see that your genre is contemporary, but something makes me feel that the town, or the gas station at least is stuck in the past, somehow.

  6. Great writing! I love your imagery and phrases like "waited for the gas pump to tick and squeal its way toward a twenty dollar bill." I don't get a strong sense of who Adam is yet other than a polite young man with a good throwing arm, but maybe you're about to get into it right after the last line here. A little bit of interiority here--his opinion of Mr. Barnes's face-painting habit, or his reaction about getting bragged over--could help, if you were inclined to add it.

  7. You write well and I get a good sense of the characters, but there's no hook that makes me have to turn the page. I probably would keep reading for a little bit because I do like it, but I'd want some sense of conflict soon, though perhaps there will be some rivalry between Adam and his brother.

    I agree that this does feel like it's set in the past, but perhaps it's just the small-town setting.

  8. I feel like I'm in the hands of a solid, confident writer, but I don't necessarily feel like I'm on deck for an interesting story...I have very little intuition for Adam beyond what Mr. Barnes has to say about him (and that's more about his physical gifts than his personality). Maybe there could be a hint of contrast between Mr. Barnes' perception of Adam and Adam himself, some interesting hint about his real character revealed in Adam's narration? That would help me be a bit more curious about this town and these folks...