Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July Secret Agent #48

TITLE: Out of the Shadows
GENRE: Middle Grade Fiction

The thing that set Solomon apart from everyone else wasn’t the four inch scar that ran along the left side of his bald head. What really set him apart was the fact that his was the only black face in a sea of white faces.

Miss Anderson shook Solomon’s hand and welcomed him to sixth grade at Mt. Pleasant School with the same smile that had won me over when I’d been the new kid two weeks earlier. She walked past the blackboard and placed her hand on a scratched wooden desk by the window. “Right here, Solomon. I need to run a few of your papers to the office, but I’ll be right back.”

Even before Miss Anderson’s hand left the door knob and the door closed, my stomach started to tighten, and my heart began to beat faster, anticipating what was about to happen. Clint, a kid who always looked like he needed food because he was so skinny, jumped on top of his desk and started beating his chest. Not to be outdone, Billy did a handstand on the window ledge, his feet banging lightly against the Glass.

Jason, however, just stood and stared at the newest class member. “Hey, new kid, betcha can’t touch the ceiling if you stand on the teacher’s desk.” He pointed to an old gray, metal desk in the back corner of the room.

Solomon smiled, and his smile seemed to fill his whole face.


  1. I'm not entirely sure if Clint is trying to make a racial joke or not. Maybe if he hooted I'd be a little more sure? Or made faces with his lips sticking out, or some other more overtly racist action? I'm just really confused as to why the MC's heart tightens or whatever. Is this a race story, where everyone but the MC is racist? The second sentence seems to imply that, but I'm not really feeling the racist vibes, and since you need the racist vibes to set up the conflict for your story, that's a problem. I'm not feeling the strength of your conflict!

    I like Solomon's smile at the end though.

  2. Great opening paragraph, and a narrator who is a new kid himself.
    Two questions:
    Are there no girls in the classroom?
    Do you need the 'always' in the description of Clint? I'm not sure a new kid would say that.

    You've captured the absent-teacher mania!

  3. I also wasn't certain if you meant the kids' actions to be racially motivated or just rowdy. (or Clint's is but the others' aren't, or...)

    Also, I sense the MC's separation but I'm unsure of its cause --because he/she is new or something else? This is just the first page though...

    I liked Solomon's reaction and would keep reading.

  4. The premise sounds great! I am concerned that you switched points of view. It seemed to be third person but then in the third paragraph you said "my stomach started to tighten" which is first person. Also if this is first person and it is his first day, he wouldn't know about the other students. I know that is a lot of critism, but I really like where this story is going.

  5. I too was a little thrown by the point of view, because going into it I thought you were doing third person, but turns out it was first. That being said, I really liked this. I'm just a little confused about the kids' actions (as others have commented), are they meant as racist or are they just having fun while the teacher's away? But I bet if we keep reading past the 250 words, we'd find out. I know I'd keep reading.

  6. I'm hooked. I want to know more. Simple as that. Writing is clean. Lots of unanswered questions, from the scar to the sea of white faces.

  7. I actually don't think there's a pov switch - but I could be wrong too. I'm assuming the MC is NOT Solomon, but someone else in the class who is also relatively new & got bugged on his/her first day too. That's the way I read it anyway.

    The only part that I found a bit odd was the teacher leaving the room - seems a bit unlikely - but I bet it makes for a fun scene! I'd read on. :)

  8. Unless this is historical I did not read racism into this at all. It would be absurd. Anyone who has been in a middle school classroom lately would know that the faces staring back at you are a miniature world. In fact, even in the most out of the way areas, it is the white faces that are actually becoming less common. Multicultural is in so I would need to know if this is a look back at a different age in which case it might be interesting. I did like the POV of the MC being somewhat set apart from the action which is happening. It shows him as an observer and a chronicler who obviously will have some significant interaction with Solomon. That is not always seen and I liked it here very much. Just the fact that he sees so much tells me a lot about his character and yet you haven't said a word about him really. (or have him say anything about himself yet other than he was a new kid). I find that a very subtle and rare tact and I appreciate it very much. Nicely done.

  9. I read it the Jemi did, with an unnamed character as the narrator describing Solomon and then his/her unease when the teacher left. I remember the rowdiness that would occur when a teacher stepped out or we had a sub haha.

    When the narrator mentioned anticipating what would come after the teacher left, I thought the kids were going to start picking on Solomon. Not because he's black (though possibly, since he stood out for that) but because he's the new kid. I assumed the MC's unease stemmed from experiencing heckling himself when he came into the classroom.

    I would at least like to know the gender of the MC if you don't name him/her right away. You could easily say "...with the same smile that had won me over when I’d been the new BOY/GIRL two weeks earlier."

  10. Great opening sentence! I was also a little thrown by the POV and had to re-read. Be careful not to repeat "door" in the third para.
    Good luck!

  11. I already love Solomon, which is an important accomplishment. I want to read more...

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  13. Love how you slip in little details about our narrator ("same smile that had won me over when I'd been the new kid 2 weeks ago"), and I like the setting here. I wondered about Glass being capitalized. Between that and the kids acting rowdy I almost wondered if this was a specialized classroom/school or something.

    Overall, I want to know what happens next!

  14. I'm not sure where you are going with the opening sentence. The "only back face in a sea of white faces" sets us up for a racist/bullying story. At least that's what I am expecting.

    I don't know why your MC would have a tight stomach and fast heartbeat simply because a few clowns in the room are fooling around. I guess I was expecting something bad to happen with that set up.

    But maybe this is the effect you are going for... ?

  15. I love this. I expected some attack on Solomon when the door closed, and was more than pleasantly suprised to find out the kids were just horsing around. I wonder if the standing on the desk is a trick or just a dare, and I can't wait to read on! In one line, the last one, you sold me on Solomon.

  16. I read the comments above, and this is still one of my favorite entries. I love the fact that this is clean writing and that I was instantly engaged in a suspenseful moment that didn't try to throw me face-first into too much action.

    Although I don't think, due to personal taste, I'd read through the whole book, I would definitely keep reading up to and past the point that is written here-- And that is huge, because I am neither a big fan of middle grade or contemporary.

    Good job!

  17. I like this. I'm assuming you're describing the same "initiation" that the narrator went through two weeks ago. It could use a bit of tightening, but overall I got a great sense of 'absent teacher' and kids setting the new guy up for a fall. I didn't read this as racist, so I'm not sure about making the first paragraph such a statement of his colour.

  18. i love the first sentenc - the scar across his bald head! that alone makes me want to read more. and my stomach tightens too when miss anderson leaves the room.good work!

  19. Hmmm... okay...

    I don't know where this is going so it's so hard to judge the plot line. Your writing is good. Clint's voice could stand out a bit more. As far as your writing that's all I have to say. I guess I was just a bit nonplussed.