Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January Secret Agent #47

TITLE: Identity
GENRE: Young Adult

I can’t tell you my name, but I will try to tell you everything else. We don’t know each other. Think of this as a letter from one stranger to another. You’re here, reading this pile of paper. I’m not around. Imagine me as the creepy kid up in the tree, eavesdropping from a safe distance. Imagine me narrating my life in third person. Imagine me invisible. Imagine me in plain sight. Imagine me however you want. I don’t care.

It’s Monday afternoon, lunchtime at my high school. I sit at the usual picnic table. It’s a violent shade of orange. I nod to the three other people already sitting there. The benches wobble and squeak. One of them is broken. I shrug my backpack off my shoulders. I bend over and catch a glimpse of the table’s colorful underbelly. The chewing gum is disgusting, but it might be the only thing holding the table together.

I used to enjoy eating outside. Three or four kids play soccer. They used to just be scenery, but lately, the stupid soccer ball disrupts our table almost every day.

Someone should do something.

“What do you think, Abner?” says Ed.

Ed’s real name is “Edna,” but no one calls her that.



Lunch table conversations are a free-for-all. Everyone talks at once. It is easy to get lost. Abner blinks his way back and re-joins his friends. He’s like that. His mind wanders. Ed is usually the first person to notice and pull him back.


  1. I really enjoyed reading this. You give a great feel for the MC's alienation, and I loved the observations (the one about the chewing gum holding the table togehter made me laugh out loud). My only nitpic is the reference to Abner-is he the MC? I got a bit confused by the switch from first to third-person.

    Otherwise, nice job! And I would read on.

  2. I'm intrigued because the opening is different from what I usually read and that excited me. That being said, things actually get going in the 2nd paragraph. Perhaps it is best to start there? I'll be honest, I was very confused by the switch to 3rd person. Good luck! :)

  3. I like your narrative. It flows excellently, and your descriptions, especially the table being held together by gum, are very impactful. Even though the first paragraph is unique, I agree with the other comment about starting with the second paragraph. And even though I'm not sure what's going on, I'm compelled to keep reading (if I had the text in front of me).

  4. Not to be contrary but I absolutely loved the first paragraph and, especially, the first line. For me, that paragraph makes me want to keep going. There is the tease of a mystery or something forbidden coming because - in a world with no privacy anymore - why is it so important that I don't know the narrator's name? So, I loved that. I also loved the evocative imagery of something so simple as a picnic table. It really draws me right into the scene. "Violent shade of orange" is terrific description as is the chewing gum reference. It tells me the narrator has a sarcastic and teenage world-weariness that might make him/her interesting to listen to. Crits? I am unsure if I am listening to a boy or a girl. I was also confused by the switch to third person. I thought "Abner" was the narrator. So, I would clean that up. But, from the beginning, I would definitely keep reading.

  5. Yes, I'm with Happy Dolphin on that opening paragraph. It intrigued me and made me want to read on. I do agree with everyone else though, about the MC and POV. Is Abner someone else who is sitting at the table, because if not, we've just got the MC's name, don't we? I think it's safe to say that the last paragraph puts the reader in a bit of a muddle.

  6. I enjoyed this, but I would suggest cutting the first paragraph. The others have specific details, sensory items, scene painting, but the first is kind of empty. I'm hoping the references to the soccer ball are foreshadowing an encounter with someone connected to the soccer ball.

  7. Great first line. But how about condensing what follows?

    "I can’t tell you my name, but I will try to tell you everything else. Imagine me as the creepy kid up in the tree, eavesdropping from a safe distance. Imagine me narrating my life in third person. Imagine me invisible. Imagine me in plain sight. Imagine me however you want. I don’t care."

    Even edited down, the opening still creates a sense of the narrator's personality and raises questions that draw the reader on.

    I did wonder, though, why the narrator bent over to look at the underside of the table.

    The image of chewing gum holding the table together is an evocative one but the action of bending over doesn't seem to fit with someone shrugging off a backpack and sitting down.

  8. I really like the first paragraph - totally unique, great start. As you move into the second paragraph it's a huge transition. Any way you could connect them, like "Invisible at lunchtime, too..." or something like that, to make the transition smoother?

  9. I found the first paragraph to be too vague. It doesn't really tell me anything about the main character or where we are or why I should care about what is going to happen to the main character.

    However, I did enjoy the second paragraph and the description of the gum holding the table together.

  10. I agree with @onehand about editing that first paragraph, then moving on quickly to what's currently happening. The first line is good. It sounds mysterious and ominous.

  11. I liked the first line. I really wanted to keep reading, but toward the end of the passage the switch in voice confused me. I think its a great start. Thanks for sharing.

  12. My comment disappeared! Ack! I'll try to re-create.

    That "Someone should do something" comment, along with the first paragraph, is haunting! I like it! I'm getting a sense of 13 Reasons Why and Hate List in this.

    I would hate to see that first paragraph disappear. If the consensus seems to be that it starts at the second paragraph, could that first maybe be moved to the end of the 1st chapter (if it's short)?

    I'd definitely read on!

  13. ...oh, and like others, I was confused about the switch to Abner, and I thought--for a moment--that it was our protag's name. That said, we were told in the first paragraph that the MC's name wouldn't be told.

  14. I liked this entry, but did get confused my the switch to Abner.

    I personally, wasn't a fan of the opening paragraph. While the others have mentioned that it is totally unique, just in the past year, I've read several books that have similar beginnings where the narrator is talking about telling his/her story. It is okay, and I would read past it, but it seems to be a popular approach recently and I'd rather dive right into a scene.

  15. I really like your first paragraph, but you might be able to streamline a bit.

    Like several others, I found the switch to the second paragraph jarring -- but I think it was more the fact that the sentence structure changes considerably. It's much choppier than the first paragraph.

  16. I actually liked the simple and not-so-simple mystery of "I can't tell you my name, but I will try to tell you everything else." The rest of that paragraph spiraled into meaninglessness for me, but I think you could cut everything after that first line and then jump right to, "It's Monday afternoon, lunchtime at my high school," though "lunchtime at my high school" is a particularly generic description. The detached voice is the real hook here, and I'm intrigued, but worried about the narrator's attitude wearing thin before too long...

  17. That first line, along with your title, has me hooked! I'd love to read more.