Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March Secret Agent #1

TITLE: The Quantum Chase

Cappie James stepped onto London’s Euston Square Underground station escalator, a battered leather satchel slung over one shoulder and a stack of books tucked under her other arm. The evening rush hour was on. The man standing in front of her hadn’t used deodorant for a while. The woman behind her reeked of cigarettes.

Church bells bonged gently. With a start, Cappie dumped the satchel at her feet and dug a phone from her inner coat pocket. She didn’t recognize the number, and her heart beat faster. It had to be Professor Carrington—disheveled hair, big brown eyes, shabby clothes, and muscular body—calling about the research assistant job Cappie had applied for. She took a steadying breath, then tapped the phone.

“Hello? This is Cappie James.” Good, her voice was steady, well-modulated. She sounded definitely intelligent.

“It’s me, Nic.”

A wave of disappointment flooded through Cappie. Not, in fact, the world’s most attractive archaeology professor, for whom she would practically kill to work, but a fifth-grade, four-foot-five headache. A book fell onto the stair behind her, and she scrambled to pick it up. The woman behind her shifted her feet, catching Cappie’s little finger.


Cappie flexed her finger and rose. The woman stared at Cappie with disinterested eyes. Probably she squashed whole hands, maybe stomped over bodies, on a daily basis.

“Are you at the house?” she said into the phone.

“No. I need help! Someone’s chasing me—“ Nic’s words were overwhelmed by a series of rapid clicks. Then silence.


  1. I AM HOOKED!!! I like the way Nic was introduced. Using the grade and height is clever instead of just telling me that he was 11-years old. I would definitely read on. This is good :D

  2. I loved this introduction to Cappie and the setting. Felt like I was there immediately. The only thing I noticed was there was too much space between when Cappie gets the phone call from Nic and when Nic shares she is being chased. I would have expected that someone panicked would have shared that immediately when she got Cappie on the phone, so I would just increase the sense/timing of urgency there.

  3. Yes, I'm hooked, too. Even the title pulls me in. I also loved the witty introduction of Nic.
    You've nicely set up Cappie's aspirations and situation.
    Does the woman who steps on her finger play a larger role in the story? (I hope so....)

  4. I like the setting and that something is immediately happening here. I almost think you can get away with starting at the phone call without the intro paragraphs since she says her full name on the phone and mentions the internship in thought when she's disappointed it's Nic. You could then add one line of setting somewhere in there.

    What Zigster said about the space between the call from Nic and his urgent words--this I also had trouble with. It doesn't feel urgent when all the body movement and the woman behind her. If it's necessary to show the woman I would move this to prior to the phone call. The way it reads now is like the events are out of order.

  5. Wonderful scene setting. I know the scene is London, the character's name is Cappie, her approximate age because she attends class, the time period because she uses a cell phone, and a little about the story problem, because of the fifth-grade, four-foot-five headache who calls in a panic and suddenly disconnects.

    My only suggestion relates to the woman behind Cappie who squashes her finger. The woman is very prominent as she takes up three precious sentences on the first page of this this short piece. Because this is so well written, I assume the woman is there on purpose and will prove to be important in the story. Consider adding one small detail of description that will help us identify her when we see her again. Instead of a disinterested eye, make it something a little more sinister or note-worthy. Or add some subtle identifying feature, that readers will recognize later.

    If I have misunderstood and this woman is simply scenery, either cut her out completely or limit her action to one simple line.

    Well done. I'm hooked.

  6. Oh yes, I'm hooked. I like how the opening briefly describes the setting around Cappie as it doubly works to give insight on Cappie like her disgust for the odors around her. We even learn about a possible love interest and her need to be impressive in front of said love interest. In short, we learn a lot in such a a small amount of words.
    I do agree with what other posters have said. While there is the urgency with Nic, we don't find out it's really urgent until the end. I think it's because of the way Nic just says "It's me, Nic." and then it follows with Cappie going on for a paragraph about something else before she finally goes back to the phone and finds out Nic is in trouble. So yeah, I would consider putting urgency in Nic's voice when he first speaks or at least let Cappie address him quicker. Still, how this passage ends urges me to read more. Best wishes on your writing!

  7. I am hooked. The first few paragraphs drew me right into the station with Cappie.

    I agree with the others, if Nic is being chased it should be more urgent, that's the only thing though. I'd keep reading.

  8. A small nitpick: the description of the crush-worthy professor doesn't present him as attractive, merely as slovenly. I don't get the impression that she likes him until she tells us that she does. Artfully disheveled hair, warm brown eyes, shirt cuffs carelessly folded up until you can see his strong, tanned forearms. Something that tells us how she feels about what she sees.

    Is Cappie American? Is Nic? If not, 5th grade isn't what Brits would call his grade in school.

    And I agree about the lack of urgency in Nic's voice. Other than that, I'm hooked.

  9. I like the setting, but I'd like to know the detail of whether she was going home, going to work, going to school, or what. I agree with the other comments about pacing. Nic would have called for help, first thing.
    Nice start.

  10. I thought the pacing was slow and that too much time was spent on the scenery. Everything was so slow and casual that, when Nic calls, there is no urgency or tension.

    Perhaps in the description of the station and her walk through it, you might create a different mood, one that compliments the type of story you're telling.

    Also, instead of focusing on her disappointment that it's not the professor, focus more on what a pain Nic is, how she's always getting in trouble, or sticking her nose in other people's business, or something that raises the tension. Or perhaps, as someone else suggested, you might make more use of the woman who steps on her fingers.

    Having said all that, this is well-written and I get the sense that you know what you're doing, so I'd have enough faith in you to give it a few more pages.

  11. I like this. I suspect she'll hook up with the cute archeologist and search for Nic through time travel or something.

    I'm not sure why it's YA. She's an adult. Why not New Adult or just adult? Is this romance? You need to pitch this as something beside YA. YA romance or YA fantasy would work, but it seems to me from this start that it would be just adult romance or fantasy.

    I like the way you tell us she's got a crush.

    I think you need work on the phone call. He should be frantic right away. She can think, "Shucks, not the cute prof. Only a little overly dramatic friend. Such a headache. What is it this time, NIc?" And he can scream that he's being chase.

    The book falling and the woman stepping on the finger don't belong in the middle of that action sequence.

    I would read on for a bit, hoping for some romance and adventure.