Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #6

TITLE: Alien Prep School Conspiracy
GENRE: YA science fiction

When Gil and Lew came to my dorm room with the idea of stealing the physics final, I normally wouldn’t have considered such a dumbass move. It wasn’t that I had any moral objections to cheating or stealing. An “A” in one class, even Jeffrey Taylor’s, just wasn’t worth the risk of getting kicked out of prep school.

But these were special circumstances. I had opportunity, thanks to Gil and Lew. I had motive, thanks to a shitty physics semester. And I had an ace-in-the-hole, thanks to hooking up with a pretty freshman in Mr. Taylor’s classroom.

It was snowing by the time I reached Maple Street with its tidy cottages. The white stuff clung to the branches and powdered the sidewalks, sweetening the already cloying New England charm. It made me want to puke.

I slipped to the back of Mr. Taylor’s small Cape. Gil was waiting for me near the backdoor.

“Door’s locked.” His breath was visible in the cold.

“I’ll open it,” I said.

Gil gave me a classic Gilbert and Lewis vacant look. The two of them might as well have been brothers, both with Nordic good looks, several inches over six feet…and not too bright.

I took out my tension wrench and wide-tipped pick.

Gil’s jaw went slack. “I’ve seen this shit on TV, Marc. You’re going to pick it?”

“Yeah, if you shut up and let me concentrate for a minute.”

The doorknob turned loosely in my hand. Broken, so, I’d only the deadbolt to deal with.


  1. I found myself wanting to know more about the narrator and less about Gil and Lew. What is really motivating him to steal the physics final? Marc seemed too intelligent to risk getting kicked out of prep school because of a bad semester, as mentioned.

    I read he wanted to puke over the New England charm, but I didn't know why. Does he hate living there?

    I think if you can show the reader more about who Marc is, this sample will really shape up! Good luck in the contest!

  2. I found myself confused and having to read the first two paragraphs over. If you could cut down on the names, that would be helpful so that we can spend less time figuring out the mechanics and enjoying this guys voice. Which I really liked.

    A couple of times I thought maybe the voice slipped:
    "both with Nordic good looks." Would a snarky guy say this? and "So, I'd only the deadbolt to deal with." That sentence seemed oddly phrased. Is it missing a HAD?

    Also another nit, why capitalize Cape?

    If you can tighten it up and just make it a little clearer, this would be a hooked for me.

  3. I think, perhaps, you have to make his motivation clearer. In parg 1, he could care less about getting an A. He's more concerned about being kicked out of school. In parg 2, he suddenly would like to get an A (that's his motive.) So the whole reason for breaking and entering and burglary doesn't make sense. And if he gets caught, he's probably going to get kicked out of school anyway, because he'll be in jail. As written, the logic doesn't work, I think.

    You could use a transition between pargs 2 and 3.

    Gil gave me a classic Gilbert and Lewis vacant look. This says Gil does the looking for the both of them.

    You might also show him picking the lock. He says he's going to pick it, and then the doorknob turns without him having done anything.

    I think if you give him a real, logical reason for doing this, it can work. As is, I just don't buy it.

  4. I think this read pretty easily and the pacing felt right, as well as the story seems to be starting in the right place. I got hung up on Jeffery Taylor's class since it seemed odd to call a class by a teacher's first and last name. Also, the MC is not named but the friends are; maybe Gil could say the MC's name to introduce the character (is the MC's name Marc? I see that later, but I think it would work better as the first line Gil says. "Marc, the door's locked.") I agree that Cape shouldn't be captialized if you are talking about a cape cod style house

  5. I liked the voice, but I wanted to know a bit more about the "special circumstances" that motivated Marc to take such a big risk. His friends don't seem too bright, from their description, so what specific "opportunity" did they provide Marc with? I like your title and would keep reading.

  6. Great pacing. I don't have a problem with not knowing more about your MC in your first 250 like some others have commented. I assume we'll get to know him later, and really, it kept me reading because I immediately liked your MC due to his great voice! Love that he's stealing something in your first 250!

    Although I can see how "Nordic good look"s might be slipping out of voice, it also painted a very vivid picture. So, I liked it.

    Only thing that threw me was "I had opportunity." Perhaps you could say "the opportunity" and "the motive". Reads smoother to me.

    Awesome job and I would definitely read this! :)

  7. I would read more just to find out what's so SciFi about this. As is, it reads like contemp. to me. But I liked the voice, so I'd give it a few more pages.

  8. Your main character has a terrific voice here, and I already like him. As it stands, though, we get a better picture of his friends than we do of him. We know he cuts to the chase, but he doesn’t seem the type to suddenly decide to cheat.

    There is certainly a lot of excitement as you dive right into the action, but the story does feel rushed – especially for a guy who seems to be fairly pragmatic when it comes to making decisions (as pragmatic as a teenage boy can be, at least!) If you can slow things down and give us some more build-up to the break-in, I would definitely read on.